“We’ve arrived, Mr. D. The boss told me to wait around for whatever you’s need, so… I’ll just wait for you up at the corner.”
“Yes, Carl. Very good. But perhaps you will help me—just to retrieve something from my bag?”
“Of course, Mr. D. Want me to grab it for you?”
“Yes, if you would be so good. In the red bag I have a new cell phone. It’s right in the box—brand new. And right next to that is a solid brass sphere. Could you just pull those out of the top and bring them to me?”
Carl exited the car and popped the trunk. He opened the crimson leather physician’s duffel and pulled out the cell phone box. It was still wrapped in cellophane, brand spanking new. The box was matte black—aside from an upside-down triangle symbol centered on the lid; the glossy deep-red shape appeared to be a logo or brand imprint.
Carl lifted the cell phone box out of the bag. The box had an odd and cold feel to it. He heard buzzing—as if listening to the sound of an angry swarm of bees behind a wall of ice. Beyond the muffled buzzing, Carl heard whispering.
The brass sphere was easy to locate, neatly laid on top of a silk bathrobe. Carl tried to pick it up—it was a small, trifling thing—but was surprised to find that it was heavy. The sphere couldn’t have been more than five inches in diameter; just eyeballing it, he figured it ought to weigh maybe a pound and a few ounces. What it actually weighed was closer to twenty-five or thirty pounds. He put the slim box in his pocket and used both hands to pick up the sphere. He was about to lug it around to the rear passenger side when he bumped into Karjiel, who was standing right behind him.
“Oh, Mr. D! You gave me a start. Here’s your, uh—”
“Thank you very much,” Karjiel said as he effortlessly plucked the sphere of out of Carl’s hands, as if it were a baseball.
The driver went wide-eyed, figuring he didn’t understand something about the small brass globe’s operation. “Jeez. You’re a buck, Mr. D.”
Karjiel remained stone-faced. “And the phone, Carl.”
Carl pulled the cellophane-wrapped black box from his jacket pocket and held it for a moment, listening to the buzzing, feeling the cold, unable to simply hand it over.
“Carl. The phone.”
Despite the strange magnetism of the object, Carl nodded and surrendered the phone to Karjiel, still unable to look away from the black box. Karjiel dropped both the phone and the sphere into the overlarge pockets of his monkish ensemble and ambled toward the gilded entrance of the Park Avenue apartment building.
* * *
Morgan-Amber stared simultaneously into the camera above her computer. She always had a great view of herself no matter where she looked. She was in the midst of a livestream, and had facetuned herself to the point where it looked like she wasn’t facetuned at all (this had taken about an hour and a half), and this worried her a bit. The goal was to facetune herself to look exactly as she would naturally. And she did a good job at it. Still, she worried. She did cheat a bit and blur a few scars and blemishes, but other than that, Amber-Morgan had used the tool to look like Amber-Morgan. Maybe it would have been better to facetune so that she didn’t look the slightest bit fake.
She ran her fingers through her bleached-blonde hair and continued her livestream YouBoub vlog—Just the Tipz. She couldn’t remember what she’d just said, as she was worried about an old acne scar. She could have left that less visible, at least. “Okay, like, I’m not saying that I’m not down with mumblecore, I’m just saying that, it’s like hip-hop lifestyle, right? You know, like bubblegum that’s cotton candy but then it’s all chewed up and it’s not like, like, cotton candy anymore. Nam’ sayin’? That’s the vibes it gives me, kay? And I just want to, like, thank TripleTaaties69 for that vury, vury important question about Dubine, which for y’all not, like, educated… is the biggest city in the United Anal Emirates.
“Okay, like, now, I’m going to teach you how to use the mirror. I know what y’alls thinking—but Morgan-Amber, I’ve been looking into the mirror every day, just like you you, many, many, many… many, many times every day. And you’re right. Except, you haven’t looked into this mirror…”
Morgan-Amber held up a common circular clasp mirror—nothing special about it. “This, like, is, like, the Twerk-Glimmer Selfie-Bomb. It is infused with Kardashian pheromones through a very aspific, like, infusion process of infusion. Now, y’all want to be on the lookout for fakes. ’Cause the real-real, I mean the realrealreal, TGSB—’cause you know I’m all about that abbrev, laideeeez—comes with an Exuberator Nozzle. The Exuberator Nozzle goes in your nose and makes them nasty boogies smell just like flowers. Have you ever seen Kylie Jenner sneeze? NO. ’Cause she can’t anymore ’cause she uses this.
“So, why don’t y’all bitches go out and buy this TGSB before your man picks up a fly ho’ with a bleached butthole who got wise and knows what to buys? Anyhow, if y’all like this video, hit subscribe for updates. Y’all can check me out on Facebrook, Twit-Tier, Instapic, Clik-Clak, and you know I’m all about that new app Dummy-Buns! Hit me up. Morgan-Amber out.”
The second Morgan-Amber Darjaneika turned off the camera, she stared into the selfie screen of her iPhone, futzing with her hair and puffing out her lips. Karjiel Donomak materialized behind her. When she finally noticed Karjiel, she jumped.
“Jesus Fuck! What’s your fuckin’ problem, spookypants?”
“Though you know not the hour, nor the speed, I am delivered to you, Morgana, in your hour of need,” he rasped back.
“Whatever Captain Fatrz. You, like, fuckin’ scared me,” she said, looking back into her phone’s selfie-view and wiping a bit of red lipstick from the corner of her mouth.
“You should take care to remind yourself to be fearful only in the face of what is truly frightening. I trust you’re still… eager to complete the contractual portion of our agreement?”
“You don’t need talk—no talk—urrrgghh! You are frustrating me. Stop talking like you’re doing a high school feces paper.”
“Do you mean thesis paper?”
“Guuurrrl, you at an eleven and I’m gonna need you to bring it down to a four, mmmkay? So... let’s try this again. What does that mean?”
Karjiel sighed and massaged his temples with his long thumb and skeletal forefinger, exasperated, “Ms. Silberberg, you are the one who contacted me. Do you have what you promised?”
“Shh,” Morgan-Amber whispered. “Don’t use my fake name.”
“A self-loathing Jew. How original,” Karjiel mused. “Do you have it or not?”
“What? My soul? You were serious about that?”
“I will fulfill my end of the agreement, Morgana, as soon as you give me… your due.”
“Your doo? Like my doo-doo? That’s fuckin’ gross, dude.”
Karjiel sighed. He noted the accoutrements of faux-privilege that adorned the woman’s apartment. The dazzling accumulations of a life of idiocy, the epitome of that life, surrounded him. Materialistic chintz, worthless plastic, rouge, balm, cylindrical containers of varying sorts of facial decor. This was what confronted Karjiel and the world—enough crap to fill and sink a full-sail ship. Not a single book in sight. Not a single thing to indicate legitimate artistry. Literal tons of nothing.
He had a mean headache brewing. “If you complete the process,” Karjiel said, “I give you this.” He removed the unopened box from his robe and held it up to her. “Guaranteed to bring you as many followers as you could ever want.”
“Ohhhkaaay... So... no weird sex stuff? I kinda expect weird sex stuff. They say, like, something about a thing being too good to be true and, like it prob’ly is. So like, you want my soul and that’s fine, but I’m not down for weird sex stuff.”
Karjiel breathed with effort as the migraine intensified. “How... how could you possibly infer that anyone was asking, from you, for this weird sex stuff, as you say?”
“So no on the sex stuff? And no dookie?”
“No fuckin’ scatplay. No poop, you moron.”
The gall of this mouth-breathing imbecile was unbearable. One more chastisement from this brat and he’d have to cave in her skull. But alas, there was a job to be done; a transaction of import. “No. I will require no… poop.”
“Dealsies,” Morgan-Amber said. Karjiel extended his arm to shake on the dealsies, but the young lady only looked at him as though he were an alien.
Who on earth parented this insect? “May I ask you one question, Miss… S?”
“I, like, guess.”
“What do your parents do?”
“My mom is a professor somewhere in Morningside Heights and Dad is a phonetic accountant.”
“Do you mean forensic accountant?”
Morgan-Amber blew a raspberry and rolled her eyes. “Boring. Where’s my phone, bruh?”
Karjiel stared her down. His gaze was stony enough that the young lady attempted to reign in her petulance.
“It will be delivered. First, you’ll hold this sphere. You must hold it aloft for no less than one minute,” he said as he palmed the brass globe, presenting it to her. “If you can do that, the phone is yours.”
“That’s… pretty weird,” she said just as Karjiel held out the wrapped phone package with his other hand. Morgan-Amber marveled at the sleek look of the package, her eyes dug into it like hooking suckers from a parasite, desperate to taste its technological yield. Its allure, too, came partly from the sound and flavor that the black package seemed to emit. It instilled in her a certain sense of euphoria. She reached out to grab for it, but Karjiel pulled back the hand holding the black package just as he drew the brass sphere closer to Morgan-Amber.
“Can I at least see it?”
“I’m sorry, you cannot. We will conduct this deal in good faith. If I don’t give you what I promise, then our contract is invalid, and I don’t receive your consideration in the trade.”
“Can you speak like, normal? I don’t understand your words. You mean if the phone isn’t what you say it is, I get to keep my soul?”
Karjiel nodded. Morgan-Amber laughed and said, “A soul isn’t a real thing. It’s like—like stuff that church-people made up. I mean, I’ve never used it, so... I don’t even care.”
“Good. Then this trade offers little risk to you.”
“Yeah, I guess so,” Morgan-Amber said as she held out her hand. “Okay, hand me the ball thing.”
Karjiel handed her the brass sphere and she almost dropped it. It was bizarrely heavy, considering its perceived dimensions.
“Very good,” Karjiel said. “Now, would you point me to the water closet while you hold that out for the required amount of time?”
Morgan-Amber strained and groaned, holding the sphere up with both hands and struggling as hard as she could to do so. She nodded toward her door. “Do you mean the bathroom? Out my door, two down on the left.”
Karjiel nodded his head as he slid the packaged phone back into his robe and exited her room. “Keep it up, Morgana. You’re almost there.”
* * *
The bathroom was immaculate. It was neither overdone, nor over-wrought with gold. No baubles, no gaudy-glitzed trifles. In fact, the wallpaper, the brass, and the hand-crafted molding appeared to be a little younger than Karjiel.
He left the water closet to roam the apartment. Once out in the salon, he observed the pictures hung upon the wall. One of them depicted two kindly-looking adults standing tall and proud behind six youths. He examined the family photo and noticed a child who bore a great resemblance to Morgan-Amber.
The spacious apartment was on the forty-second floor. There were numerous framed diplomas in a credential-themed layout atop a credenza and a piano so clean it reflected the cityscape, filtered through the window walls. Karjiel figured Morgan-Amber to be the child of nouveau riche philistines; yet the elements of this room suggested otherwise. What went wrong?
He waved his hand, and the piano’s keys tinkled as if invisible fingers ran arpeggios along the ebony and ivory. Authentic ivory, as the managed state of decay of the yellowing keys implied the authenticity of the material. He couldn’t decide what was more pleasing; the effortless telekinetic cluster of notes or the well-tuned melodious piano itself.
Karjiel moved his hand again, opening the wall-sized sliding glass door which led to the balcony. He took advantage of his exclusive access to such a view. He looked out at the city—at the tall skyscrapers that towered like Goliaths over the smaller skyscrapers and the even smaller buildings that dotted the streets between.
A tobacco pipe drew itself out of his pocket, levitating past Karjiel’s navel. He grasped the stem. The pack inside the bowl ignited itself; beyond that, he did the work—inhaling on his own. He cast his gaze over the throng of commercial enterprises. The tourists running amok, busied and manic with commercial or consumer frenzy. It reminded him of Bucharest.
* * *
As the sphere chittered in her hands, Morgan-Amber was just stuck. Yeah, frozen. The brass sphere glowed, shone bright. Like it had a light inside of it; but at the same time there was no illumination. A trick of the eye. A trick from the sphere. It glowed. And she couldn’t move.
A snap sounded. The globe split into two hemispheres. It was half-hollow but for a three-taloned gold claw attached to a small mechanical arm. Her senses screamed at her to drop the sphere. The chittering, rattlesnake-like sound grew louder. In her head? In space? She didn’t know. The talons shot into her wrist, burrowing with crazed animal jerks that ripped her flesh. Blood sprayed everywhere. She screamed—ohmugawdohmugawdohmugawdohmugawd—or tried to… no sound came out. The sphere closed, but a small porthole remained through which the sucking talons still gnashed, still exsanguinated.
Morgan-Amber heard a voice—do you give it up? Do you give up your soul for the thing you’ve been offered?
The last thing she remembered before passing out was saying: “Yes.”