“So, “, I began, “Question one. Is there a destination – anywhere – that I can send you to that you would not be able to get back from?”
“Ah. Straight to the point. Something that I wouldn’t have expected from a linguist like yourself.” the Devil uttered and then continued. “No. There is literally nowhere in Space or Time that I cannot get to. I have been to every planet, in every galaxy, in every universe that has ever been created. From every Sun and star imaginable to those that have yet to be born. I have lived a thousand years under the surface of each planet. I know each and every atom of everything by its first name, even those things that are yet to be created or born.”
Looking me straight in the eye he added, “There is nowhere that you can send me that I have not been before.” With a wink and the stirrings of a smile he said “Next Question.”
So there was nowhere that I could send him that he couldn’t find, not even within time itself. I couldn’t send him on an unreachable task sometime in the future, he’d been there. I couldn’t send him on a task in the past, he’d lived through it all. This was something of a dead end. I would need to be much more resourceful than that to keep my soul.
“Okay then.” I began. “Question two. Is there anything that you do not know, within any subject, from any world, from any point in time whether historically or from the future?”
This question seemed to cover just about everything that could be thought of, on any subject, from any time period and from within every known place in the universes!
Surely this would shed some light and hopefully point me in the right direction!
“A most worthy question.” He said. “Let me see.”
“I know every language that there is to know, from those that have been lost over time to those that are yet to be created by future generations. Artistic creations of every form I do on a daily basis. I know the lyrics to every song imaginable. To every poem and every book. I can tell you the mathematical formulas for everything under this Sun and every other sun in all the universes. I can recite the history of each grain of sand on every beach on every world. There is nothing that you can ask me that I would not have the answer to. Nothing.”
Wow. This was going to be tougher than any other exam that I had had before. That was for sure! Nothing that he didn’t know the answer to and nowhere that he hadn’t been before. What were my possible choices here? He had made it clear that this was definitely winnable by either of us and not completely rigged yet somehow, the answer wasn’t coming. I couldn’t see a way out.
And then it hit me, the one question that, if phrased correctly would give me what I needed to know.
“Question three.” I blurted in a rush, “In the past when you have lost this type of task, what were you asked to answer or perform that made you lose?” I had him! If he had to tell me the truth, then he would need to tell me exactly how others had beaten him in this contest. Not exactly sporting of me, I know but hey, my soul was on the line, not just a few hundred bucks! Whatever it takes to win, I thought to myself.
A grin appeared on his face that stretched from ear to ear. “So to be clear and concise “, he began “ your third and final question is what task have I not been able to perform or what question have I not been able to answer previously that made me lose a soul?”
“That’s right, oh – and by previously I don’t mean just in time. I mean every other time that you’ve had this wager with somebody for their soul or any other time that you’ve been asked, regardless of collecting souls! ” I answered, feeling like I was finally onto a winner and hoping that he wouldn’t make it an invalid question as it obviously was a combination of more than one question into one sentence.
“Well, “, he began “in essence, I have never been given a task that I couldn’t complete or asked a question that I could not answer, and with that - I will now give you the final hour of contemplation as per the contract arrangements. You now have one hour in which to think of a question which I cannot answer or a task that I cannot perform. Choose wisely.”, and promptly vanished.
One hour. One measly hour is what I now had. No second chances, no phone a friend.
Seriously, who would believe me anyway? Millions upon millions of thoughts went through my head and quickly discarded. There was nowhere that I could send him physically either in the past or in the future that he had not been to before. There was nothing that he was not an expert in, even in things that had yet to be created – anywhere!
The hour went by in a flash, like I really needed to say that. Thought upon thought of useless information flowed through my brain, like I even had a chance and yet somehow I knew that there was an answer. The Devil himself had assured me and if you can’t take the Devil at his word, who could you trust?
With a crash of thunder and blinding light like lightning, the Devil reappeared. Self-possessed and in full control he sat on the edge of my desk with his bulging arms crossed. A huge grin across his face as he stared straight into my eyes, into my very soul. A soul that would very shortly belong to him regardless.
“So “, he uttered “The hour is up. Your allotted time is now complete. The three questions have been asked and fully answered without any guile or lies. The compact is now done and all that remains is your final question or task. Which is it to be, oh Master Linguist? Ask or Command?”
“Well “, I began slowly, trying to catch a little bit more time, “Clearly Ask is not an option as you have so clearly stated that there is nothing about any subject that you do not know.”
“That is correct.” He answered. The twinkle in his eye not diminishing at all. “So I assume that you will be giving me a task that I cannot complete? Shall I bring you the moon from a distant universe, to be held in the palm of your hand? Or perhaps make the love of your life fall madly in love with you? Immortality? Wealth? Fame?”
“No. Nothing so grand. There’s only one thing that I would ask you to do.” I said, “Pretty much what I wanted you to do from the very start.”
“And what would that be – oh my illustrious, linguistic master?” the Devil asked sarcastically.
“I command you to …. Get Lost!”