tl;dr These normally go at the end of the story, but I’ll make it easier for you this time. This is only a social experiment. Would you give up the most important thing to you and give it to someone else to help them forever even if you don’t know what that thing you’re giving up is? Just answer yes now with your name or no down below!
It was the weekend before Fourth of July 2017 and I was headed down to Ruby’s At the End of The Pier in Huntington Beach, CA with my girlfriend and several other friends to eat and do some fishing. Thank god my best friend, Rodney, lived within walking distance, because the place was unbelievably packed. The smell of sun tan lotion, sun screen, beach foam, and salt water filled the my senses and relieved much needed stress just with the fact it was present. I needed this mini-vaycay. We were going into third-quarter at work and down on goal, so everyone was feeling the crunch. Shit rolls down hill and the bullshit was thick right now. None of that mattered today, of course, as the sun kissed my face and stroked my hair, letting me know everything would be fine. Not even the wind seemed to blow this day, knowing not to ruin such a perfect time.
As typical in this area of California, but not quite as crazy as Santa Monica, all kinds of vendors and street performers were out and about trying to make a quick buck. Everything from caricature artists to palm readers lined up with tables are just shouting out they were doing it. Huntington Beach Police are notoriously over aggressive so I don’t know why anyone would really want to risk the unrelenting beatings, but they can’t be everywhere at once and if you need money, then you need money I guess.
Cinthia (yes spelled correctly as she is 100% pure wasp descendant), my girlfriend, was chatting up with her friends Toreene and April about all the shopping they were going to do while “the boys” enjoyed their fishing after we ate. I was half tuning everyone out, including Rodney and James, as I was taking in the sights and enjoying myself, while simultaneously trying to keep my fishing equipment from spilling out all over the street or smacking people because of the density of the crowd. We were approaching the pier when I was suddenly pulled out of my self induced trance.
“…and you? What about you? Would you help?!” a happy go-lucky, almost sing song voice called out to me. How I knew it was for me I can’t say. There must have been a hundred people around me at the time, but I knew…I just knew this voice was directly at me specifically.
“Uh…I’m sorry, but help with what?” I asked, moving away from the group. At the time I didn’t think it odd there was a direct path to where the voice came from. Not one other person was walking in a manner which wold require me to alter my trek to this new destination. It just seemed right and normal. I saw before me a man, perhaps late twenties, not much older than myself, smiling at a table holding a clipboard and pen out to me. His auburn shaggy hair shone brightly in the sun and his skin was lightly sun kissed, unlike most gingers you’d see. He was smiling, but…I don’t know, something didn’t seem happy for him. Like something was missing.
“Oh, it’s just a social experiment! Would you be willing, right now, no questions asked, be wiling to give up the most important thing to you, even if you didn’t really know what that thing was, to help someone else out forever?” he asked again, in that same sing-song voice with a saccharin personality.
“I don’t understand what you’re asking, dude. Help someone forever? Most important thing to me?” I asked in a fog of confusion.
“Joel!” I heard my girlfriend call out, causing me to turn my head. Everyone was coming back over to me through the rest of the crowd, looking a little irritated.
“Hey, man, you know how Ruby’s gets. We’ll be waiting hours just for a fucking burger if we don’t hurry up. What are you doing?” Rodney questioned me.
“Sorry, this guy caught my attention. Wanted to know if I’d give up the most important thing in the world to me if it would helps someone out forever,” I explained to everyone.
“It’s just a social experiment,” the guy said once again looking at everyone, “So, is anyone willing to do it? You would be giving up the most important thing to you, even if you didn’t know what that was, but it would help else forever!” Everyone just kind of looked at each other in confusion and bewilderment at such a question.
“I don’t get it,” April stated, shaking her head.
“Oh god…is this going to be put on YouTube? I’m out,” James stated and waved to us as walked to the pier, “I’ll get us a spot to fish!”
“Yeah…if you don’t know what it is, then why would it matter, then?” Toreene asked in a way that she didn’t really care what the answer is.
“I…guess I would…I mean…that does make sense when she puts it that way…” I said half-halfheartedly.
“Oh, so you’re willing to give me up?!” Cinthia asked in a fake angry voice, teasing me.
“I assure you, it wouldn’t be you. No offense, but you may be the most important thing to him now, but not the most important thing to him completely,” the man chuckled. That chuckle…did not seem odd, forced or scary. Just an every day laugh at a small joke which wouldn’t be out of place for anyone.
“Screw it, sure. I could use some good karma!” I said, putting my things down and grabbing the pen and clipboard. There was a line for my printed name and signature. Not much to say about the paper or what was written on it. Pretty much exactly what the guy had said was what I read. With a shrug, I filled it out. Handing everything back to the man, I did feel a quick chill and couldn’t breath for a second, like something sucked my breath for a split moment in time, but nothing else. I don’t think I even noticed it at the time.
“Uh…uh…okay! Thank you!” the man said as he put the clipboard away and began to fold up the table and left in a hurry as I collected my belongings.
“Huh…I was the only signature on that paper…” I remarked off hand as we made our way down the pier to Ruby’s.
“He only needed one signature? For a social experiment?” Toreene asked, scrunching up her face in annoyance at such foolery.
“Maybe he’s sampling how many signatures versus time in different areas?” Rodney asked, not really caring by the way he asked it.
“Who cares? As long as he didn’t give me up!” Cinthia stated, punching my arm playfully. I made a mock painful face at her and gave her a quick kiss.
The rest of the trip was uneventful for anything else concerned. We had gotten our food, caught some fish while the girls shopped and went out to dinner at a chain further in town to avoid the crowds. I dropped Cinthia back off at her place and prepared to sleep deep and long well into Sunday morning. I’ve learned recently Ruby’s burned down…I hope this had nothing to do with this day…
I’ve never been one for nightmares or night terrors, but I had the worst dreams all night long. There is one which sticks with me the most because of how vivid it was… I was floating in…nothingness. That’s the only way I can describe it. Darkness would be something. Smoke would be something. A hole would be something. This was NOTHING. If you’ve never experienced it before, then you are lucky because it is one of the most horrifying things you can ever know. That’s not the worst part about it, though. In this nothing was something. I don’t know what it was, but it was fear and terror beyond what this nothing was creating. Agony and pure pain accompanied it. Screams came from inside my own skull until I realized, in my nightmare, *I* was the the one screaming from it all. I couldn’t wake up. I couldn’t stop it…and then I was awake.
I don’t remember waking. I don’t remember slowly opening my eyes. I didn’t shoot up in bed in a cold sweat. I wasn’t breathing heavy and jumping out of the sheets. None of it. I was just…awake, in my bathrobe, holding my coffee cup and staring into the black depths of my own reflection. How long had I been awake? I still don’t know. I chalked it all up to the stress and then being in the sun for so long the day before and got dressed.
I called up Cinthia to see what time she wanted me to pick her up for another day out, but she said April found out her boyfriend blew her off the day before not to spend time with his family, but to hook up with another girl, so she and Toreene were going to spend the day comforting her. I’m not made of stone, and I know how women can be, so I told her I understood and tired to call Rodney. No answer. Multiple times. Oh well, his loss I guess. James always worked Sundays, so he wasn’t going to be available to do anything.
This is when I noticed things on my life beginning to change. I suddenly had no interest in going to church. The people in my life, including Cinthia, began avoiding me. Even people outside of my life began avoiding me. When I would go to a restaurant, I’d be ignored until I made a big scene and even then the waiter or waitress would act like they didn’t see me. Doctor visits would result in me being ignored as well until I made a point to say I was there and needed to be seen. I couldn’t explain it. My clients wouldn’t call me back. My boss was off my back, but I also wasn’t making my commission. While everything wasn’t falling apart, I wasn’t happy and things weren’t great. They…just were. Like me in a state of simply existing.
The nightmares continued. That’s why I sought medical help at first. I was worried I had some kind of trouble with my brain…maybe even cancer…but that turned out to be false, thankfully. Psychiatric help didn’t help, either. I always though these shrinks wanted to find a way to help you. They don’t. At least not me. They simply acted like I was just…there. Again, this is how I felt. They offered little to no advice like removing caffeine from my diet and other silly things. No drugs to help. No life advice to give. Waste of money.
This has continued for almost a year now. A few weeks ago I was in the Westminster Mall when I noticed a familiar face. It was that man from Huntington Beach! He was in a nice looking outfit, talking on his cellphone with a brief case by his side as he sat on a bench. He was smiling and laughing every so often as he talked. I cautiously made my way over to him as he ended his conversation. He seemed to confused at first as I approached him, and then nervous once he must have realized why he recognized me. I put my hands up in a none threatening way to let him know I meant him no harm, which seemed to calm him.
“Hey, what’s going on?” I asked, standing a few feet from him.
“Oh, yeah, you…you’re the one who helped me with that…social…experiment…right?” he asked, a hand on his brief case now.
“Yeah…so…how’d it go..?” I inquired very curious and ready to dive deeper into what exactly the point of that day was for him. His smile, this time, and his eyes, seemed genuinely happy, unlike before. Something about him seemed so much more real and present and the last time I saw him.
“Oh, it went great. I really appreciate it. If you, uh…don’t mind…I…uh…I have to get going,” he said abruptly as he nearly jumped to his feet and began walking away.
“Hey, hold on…just what was the social experiment about anyway? I know what you asked, but I don’t get it. What was the point?” I asked rapidly, needing to know.
“It’s…you wouldn’t understand or believe me. It’s cool. Like I said, it was just a social experiment. Why would you believe you gave up a soul, anyway?” the man asked me slowly, looking me directly in my eyes.
A soul? What was he talking about?
“A…soul? Give me a break. What? Are you saying you’re the devil?” I laughed the best I could at such a moronic statement.
“No. I’m not the devil. Neither was the one I gave up my soul to,” the man said matter of fact, taking a few steps towards me. That’s when it finally hit me. That’s what was missing in my reflection. That’s what was now present in this man’s eyes unlike before: Spark of life. I wasn’t dead. I wasn’t a zombie…but the nightmares…the horrible nightmares and the fact i always felt like I was simply just present now made sense. I didn’t go to church because there was no point…what soul did I have to save if I didn’t have one?
“Then…but…I don’t…” I sputtered, until I was finally able to form a sentence, “My soul…if you’re not the devil, then who…what?”
“Oh, I’m human,” the man smirked and chuckled, “So was the person I gave my soul up to as well. I’m not the first and you won’t be the last. This has been a long time coming, ever since the first person sold their own soul to the devil almost six thousand years ago. It was the only way out of the contract. The one without the soul is the one who goes to Satan for all eternity. Right now, that’s you. Good luck. Find another sucker’s soul if you want to avoid your fate. Ta-ta for now!” With that, he turned and walked away. I was left too stunned to speak. Too stunned to do anything really.
tl;dr So, this is just a social experiment: Would you give up the most important thing to you, even if you didn’t know what that was, in order to help someone else out forever? Just say yes with your name or no down below.