Mr. X was sitting in his office when Satan entered and gently sat in the chair facing him. He spoke with great dignity: “I am Satan. I have come to buy your conscience, with your agreement of course.”

Mr. X stared at him in surprise. Satan certainly looked like a very ordinary man. He took his spectacles out of his pocket, put them on and turned to Satan and asked: “Do you have any documents to prove your identity?”

Satan politely put his birth certificate on Mr. X’s desk and said: “One can’t do anything these days without some sort of ID”

Mr. X picked up Satan’s birth certificate and studied it carefully. It seemed genuine and had all the information he needed: Satan son of... It was signed and stamped as well. Mr. X put Satan’s birth certificate on the table and said: “I am afraid I must inform you that I do not have a conscience.”

Satan burst out laughing, he laughed for a while then suddenly said in a serious tone: “Many people think Satan doesn’t exist. But you can see for yourself that he exists and he is sitting in front of you. Now, you say you haven’t got a conscience, but you are wrong.”

Mr. X studied Satan’s birth certificate once more and said: “Your birth certificate is quite genuine but, what can I do, I don’t have a conscience to sell you.”

Satan stood up and said cheerfully: “Very well then you won’t lose anything in this deal. I pay you £.... and you sell me what you haven’t got, and I...”

Mr. X interrupted Satan: “You can’t be serious, £.... for nothing? This is not right.”

Satan sat down, folded his arms and said: “You needn’t worry about that. All I want is your conscience. My money, your conscience.”

Mr. X suddenly began to think about this proposition carefully. As he thought of his salary and his bank overdraft his eyes were drawn towards Satan’s birth certificate. He suddenly said: “I agree.”

Satan’s eyes filled with satisfaction. From his briefcase he took out a form and a bundle of notes. He gave the form to Mr. X and showed him where to sign. Mr. X looked at the form and saw the sentence: “In return for £... I sold my conscience.” He quietly signed underneath the sentence and took the money. He had a good look at the notes to make sure they were not counterfeits.

Satan gently put his arm around Mr. X’s shoulder and said: “Don’t worry they are real; we have a lot of money.” He then put the signed form back in his briefcase and left the room. Mr. X sat down and thought to himself: “Perhaps I do have a conscience!” He quickly picked up the telephone and rang his wife and asked: “Darling, what do you think: do I have a conscience?”

And, as usual, his wife reeled off noisily: “If you had a conscience you would come home straight after work every evening, if you had a conscience you would...”

Mr. X put the receiver down. A smile appeared on his lips. A few minutes later he telephoned his boss and after the usual formalities asked him: “Do you think I have a conscience?”

His boss replied angrily: “If you had a conscience you would have performed your office duties properly, and if you had a conscience you...”

After a few seconds Mr. X realised that his boss had put the receiver down and all he could still hear was “if you, if you, if...” He then noticed that Satan had left a thick black note book on his desk. He picked it up and started looking at the pages. He was astonished. The pages were filled with names of those who had sold their conscience to Satan. His heart was pounding. He quickly turned the pages and looked at the names, many of them familiar: eminent politicians, famous clerics, distinguished doctors,... , his boss, and his wife too! He put the notebook down, leaned back in his chair and taking a deep breath muttered to himself: “Very strange, very strange.” At this moment his office door opened and Satan walked in again: “I am sorry, I left my notebook here.”

“Yes, you did. Here it is.” Replied Mr. X looking quite happy and handed the notebook to Satan with a great deal of respect. Satan took it and went towards the door but, before leaving the room he turned around and said: “In fact I hadn’t forgotten it; this is my tactic. I just wanted you to feel better by reading it. This is my style. I want everybody who deals with me feel happy about it afterwards.”

Mr. X was just going to say: “It is a wonderful method.” But Satan had left the room laughing out loud.

Mr. X touched the notes again and felt the pleasure running through his veins. He thought, “So, this is how the Great do it. What can one do?”

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