[MISC] Nine-Tenths of the Law
Dave Van Domelen
dvandom at eyrie.org
Tue Mar 28 13:37:17 PDT 2017
Nine-Tenths of the Law
copyright 2016 by Dave Van Domelen
"...and by the scribing of this sigil, the pact is made."
Ben felt stupid. The guy he bought the book from online swore the
spells really worked, but when you're buying a PDF of a book on the internet,
the idea of ancient magic being a thing is...well....
"Hello, Mister Casey. How may I help you?" Ben felt himself say. The
words came out of his mouth, but he wasn't the one trying to talk!
"Um, testing?" Ben said, making sure his voice was still his voice.
"Ah, my records show you're a first time client. There's bound to be
some disorientation the first time. You may find it helpful to hold your
phone up and pretend this is a regular conversation. You can call me
Chad...not my name, but my language doesn't even use the same physics as
"Oooookay, Chad? You're a demon? A demon named Chad?" Holding up the
phone helped a little, which should have been ludicrous given that how the
conversation was happening was probably the least weird part of the whole
"Well, we prefer to avoid the D-word these days. I'm more of a talent
agent, I won't actually be fulfilling your contract, just matching you up
with an appropriate Possessor and negotiating the details."
"How is there a centuries-old spell for contacting a de...otherworldly
talent agency?" Ben asked.
"Oh, it's like call forwarding. Used to be, that ritual put you in the
right frame of mind to interface with whatever member of my race was 'nearby'
and interested. We can resonate with your brains...I don't know enough to
the science to really explain it, so 'magic' is as good an explanation as
any...and make you do things, say things. We can even make it so you have no
awareness of it happening, although obviously doing that right now would
defeat the purpose. But that kind of power is awfully tempting, and it led
to a lot of...abuse. To our shame we didn't do anything about it for
centuries, just excused it as a few bad apples. A 'demon' is one of us who
abuses the possession ability, just like a 'warlock' is one of your people
who abuses us, as I understand the translation matrix," Chad made Ben's
shoulders shrug apologetically. "We ended up shutting things down entirely
from both sides, a lot of books were hidden or burned, knowledge suppressed,
that sort of thing. Now we're just starting to get the diplomacy going
again, we have a big First Contact event planned for a few years from now and
"So, did I violate an NDA or something?" This was getting really
creepy, as if he was being expected to have read the EULA on a program and it
was coming back to bite him.
"Not yet, but there will be a hush-hush clause. As careful as everyone
was on both sides, some of the old knowledge is still out there, some of the
'spells' still work. Most don't, most were replaced by fakes that seem
plausible but do nothing. But we needed a stopgap to keep everyone happy
until the big unveiling, hence my 'talent agency'. We know how the spells
work and make sure we're the ones to pick up the phone, as it were. It
mostly goes the 'we do things for you' direction, because while it's possible
for a human to learn to project into our world, it's very very hard, while it
comes naturally to us. And if it sounds like I'm reading off a script, I
sort of am, sorry."
"Ah, no problem. Just a second, if I'm going to carry on both sides of
this, I'm going to need something to drink."
"I'll hold," Chad made Ben's head nod.
Having grabbed a beer, Ben sat down and picked up the phone again.
"So...how does this work? What's the penalty clause if I talk about all of
Ben's voice laughed in a very un-Ben-like way. "Mostly they think
you're insane and you get to spend a while in a psychiatric institution. We
can make you seem insane if we have to, but we'd rather use the carrot than
the stick. Happy customers are quiet customers, that's basically the agent's
cut. The talent will have their own demands, usually centered on
experiencing things the possessor enjoys. My job is to find a combination of
experiences that works best for everyone, and since ALL of your sensations
are alien to us, I can usually find someone who you can work with. For
instance, one of my best people loves the taste of peanut butter, but if
you're allergic, we'd need to find a different possessor or a different
bargain. Another can't get enough of looking at cats, so really easy to
place. What were you looking for 'magical' help with?"
"Well, there's this gi...woman I'm interested in...."
Ben felt his face assume a stern expression. "Ah. Romance. Just to
make things clear, any contract you make only allows for one of my employees
to possess YOU, in part or in whole, with or without memory of the events.
We do not take over non-participants, that's demon territory. Nor will I
refer you to someone who will do that sort of dirty work. Now, if she wishes
to be possessed as part of your romantic entanglements, I can provide you
with a more reliable ritual for her to contact me directly."
"N-no, she doesn't even know I'm interested. Well, I'm pretty sure she
doesn't know. I HOPE she doesn't know, because if she does then she's
ignoring me on purpose," Ben blurted out.
"Ahhhh, yes. Well, fortunately for you, 'work up the courage'
possessions are actually pretty common, relatively speaking. Several of my
employees are quite good at subtly supporting you and supplying the right
words and actions when you're at a loss. Some wag before my time dubbed it
the Cyrano Job. Now, what sort of approach are you most comfortable with,
since you'll need to keep it up after the contract ends? Dashing,
respectful, puppy dog eyes...."
This story was inspired by a Tumblr thread on the idea of "consensual
possessions." I originally wrote it for the Amarillo College literary
magazine, hence the 2016 copyright date and the generic setting. Only the
top three short stories got printed, I wasn't in the top three, so I decided
to post it to RACC in 2017.
I considered reworking it as an ASH story, but too much of it depends on
being set in a world where magic is not widely accepted as real.
More information about the racc