Isidor Wellby is locked in a bronze box with a demon.
“It was the ultimate locked room and Wellby had but another half hour to get out, while the demon watched with an expression of gathering anticipation.”
Wellby has a deal with this demon to become a demon and gain all the powers he wants within reason. If he does well enough, he can become one of hell’s elite, one of the cadres.
“Everyone wishes to gamble on ending in Heaven. It’s a poor gamble, but there it is. I think you ‘re too sensible for that. But meanwhile we have more damned souls than we know what to do with and a growing shortage at the administrative end.”
He will gain all the powers he could desire, but he won’t know how to use them. Wellby has just left the army, his girlfriend has left him, and he has a limp.
Before he signs, he sees a catch clause, he will be required to perform a task at the end of the years, and if he can’t do it, he’ll lose his powers and become a normal damned soul.
“Wellby, with sad thoughts of his unattainable loved one, cared little enough at that moment for what would happen after ten years and he signed.”
And everything goes well for Wellby. His girlfriend comes back to him, his investments pay off handsomely, and he gets an excellent job. He has four lovely children and his life is perfect.
And ten years later he finds himself in that same bronze box he signed the deal in.
“You have only to get out, and you will be one of us,” said Shapur. “It can be done fairly and logically by using your demonic powers, provided you know exactly what it is you’re doing. You should, by now.”
He says his family will be confused at his disappearance and the dome says they’ll find a dead body that’s had a heart attack.
Wellby starts thinking calmly about how to get out of the box. He can’t dematerialize and the demon says he got in and out of the box. He can move through any dimension he wants, but he can’t move through matter.
Wellby sighs and says that at least he’ll have ten good years to look on and the demon assures him that he won’t have that. The demon said that nothing that happened was because of your deal, everything good you could have had without the deal ten years ago.
And then Wellby is gone.
The demon goes to Wellby’ s office and finds him. But Wellby doesn’t recognize him.
The demon gives Wellby his memories and Wellby explains what happens.
The room was not closed in the fourth dimension. It did not exist indefinitely in the past. You said you had created it for me. So, if one traveled into the past, one would find oneself at a point in time, eventually, when the room did not exist and then one would be out of the room.”
He had been allowed to move in the fourth dimension and so he went back to the moment he signed and didn’t sign.
Wellby lost the ten years, and so has his soul because he never truly signed the contract. But Wellby seems to remember that the demon told him that demon contracts never give you anything more than what you can make on your own.
“Wellby’ s eyes fell upon the photograph of his beautiful wife and four beautiful children, then traveled about the tasteful luxuriance of his office. “And I may even escape hell altogether. That, too, is beyond your power to decide.”
And the demon, with a horrible shriek, vanished forever.”