Friday’s Short Story: Sacrifice

storyteller It had been made quite clear during the interview process that if I wanted to climb the ladder at Timely Holdings I would have to be prepared to make certain sacrifices. It was also made clear that if I didn’t want to climb the ladder then I had no place at Timely Holdings. So yes, I told them, I wanted to climb the ladder and therefore sacrifices would be made. In fact, I was all about sacrifice, I told them. Had I not put that in my personal statement, about sacrificing? No? Well I certainly meant to. After the stuff about focus, innovative solutions and working well as part of a team and also on my own initiative. I got the job.

So when, at the end of my first week my line manager strode towards me in a goal-orientated way, me being the goal and his orientation being spot-on, and told me that I would have to work on Saturday, who was I to argue? I was on the first rung of a ladder that was going to take me all the way, baby.

Which is why I sacrificed my weekend. Which is why I was sitting alone at my cubicle at 2pm on that Saturday afternoon when Satan strode towards me in what I had grown to recognise as a goal-orientated way. There were a number of things I found surprising about this. His appearance for one. I was not expecting Satan to look quite so much like Satan. I assumed he’d look like a bank manager, or a sexy girl, or even an evil child. I expected a disguise. I didn’t expect him to be seven foot tall, and bright red, with legs like a goat’s legs. I was about to ask him what he wanted when he asked me the exact same question.

“What do you want, Sean?” he asked. His voice was surprising in that it sounded exactly as you’d imagine Satan to sound. He’s very mindful in that sense, I think. He’s totally in the moment, totally inhabiting himself. He really couldn’t give a fuck.

“Sean, you have made a sacrifice, and summoned Satan himself,” said Satan, which was handy because I’d been having trouble connecting the dots for a moment there. “What do you want, Sean?”

“I want to climb the ladder,” I said.

“Specifically, what would you like?” said Satan.

I didn’t need any time to think about the question.

“I would like a bigger desk,” I said.

He smiled, and nodded, and strode away from me. It was strange watching him go. It felt like he walked for miles and miles. I watched him move with poise and purpose until he was just a dot on the horizon, even though the room was only around twenty-five metres long, with no windows or horizon to speak of. That’s the power of evil or whatever, I suppose. It really messes with your sense of perspective.

When I came to work on Monday I had a bigger desk. Visibly bigger, with more room for my elbows. Not only that, but my PC’s monitor was definitely bigger than I remembered it. That’s the beauty of making a deal with the devil, I thought to myself: the unexpected extras.

Over the course of my early career I made several sacrifices. I sacrificed my social life, and got a lovely new suit. I sacrificed a friendship with a colleague who crossed the line into business rivalry, and got a promotion. I lost count of how many scruples and/or principles I sacrificed, but for each one Satan would ask me what I wanted, and each time I felt that I was conquering another rung of the ladder. I was making the ladder my bitch, and climbing the shit out of it. Yes, my vocabulary had suffered, but I considered that a sacrifice worth making, and so did Satan.

Possibly with hindsight I hadn’t taken into account that it’s still called “climbing” when the ladder is headed straight down.

It got so I couldn’t see something that somebody else had without wondering what I could offer Satan in order to get it for myself. I gave him my health, my happiness, the best years of my life, and oh boy, you should have seen the car I was driving so believe me when I tell you it was worth it, but there was always more to acquire. Was I becoming dependent on Satan? Was he perhaps a bad influence on me? I couldn’t say for sure. It’s very easy to play the “victim” card but I do think that he was enabling me, and that can be quite psychologically damaging.

Which brings me up to date, really. I can’t remember when the goat thing started happening, but I have a vague recollection of Satan telling me it was absolutely necessary for me to sacrifice a goat at midnight every night if I wanted the sun to rise the next morning. And you know what? Damn right I wanted the sun to rise the next morning. It’s rising on you, isn’t it? It’s rising on my asshole Dad, wherever he is. It’s rising on Sue Barker so yes, thank you, I want the sun to rise on me too, so yes, actually, I will sacrifice a goat every midnight if that’s what it takes. Goats are not cheap, and when they scream it sounds disturbingly human, and oh boy they look small but you would not believe how much blood they pump out when you stick the ornately-carved ceremonial dagger into their stupid neck. What with procurement, the deed itself and then the cleaning up afterwards, it’s pretty much a full-time job but that’s the nature of success.

Sacrifices have to be made.

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