BLOCH, ROBERT Ė THE DEVILíS TICKET in THE SKULL OF THE MARQUIS DE SADE 1965 Pyramid Books.
A very imaginative short horror story in which a man doesnít†† sell his soul to Satan, but pawns it to him, with terrifying consequences.† Hector Vane is the man, and he is an impoverished artist, literally pushed to the brink of starvation by a lack of respect for his talents. He is reduced to hawking his masterpieces around various pawnshops. He is convinced that they are worth thousands, but he expects to get next to nothing for them. He is therefore happy when a pawnshop proprietor offers to take his soul instead, and leave him with his artwork. The pawnshop dealer makes a strange deal. If Hector will paint someoneís portrait for him within eighteen months, and brings it back with his pawn ticket, Hector can have his own soul back. Hector signs a normal pawn shop contract on the deal, and gets his ticket. As he arrives home, he finds out from his wife that he is suddenly rich and famous. His work has been snapped up for a gallery display, and he quickly becomes one of the biggest richest celebrities in the business. He also attracts many exciting new models, and takes to one such woman as his new muse and inspiration, though he never feels able to capture her beauty on canvas to his liking. He clearly neglects his wife for this mysterious new woman. Hector forgets to do the Devilís requested portrait until only days before the deadline approaches.† He is not worried as he can nominate any existing painting instead of painting a new one. Alas, the woman he has been a seducing get jealous when Hector refuses to leave his wife for her, and she burns down his studio, destroying all of his as yet unsold work. He now has no work to sell to the Devil.† Hector hits on a novel solution. He paints a portrait from memory of the devil himself. He takes that to him.† The Devil has planned that any soul given to him must be the one he takes, but as he already has his own, he canít take anything. He admits that Hector has beaten him. He now needs only one thing to let Hector go. He asks for the pawn ticket. Alas, Hectors wife has thrown out the coat, which had the ticket in the pocket. Time has run out. The Devil takes Hectors soul on the spot.† A good story that plays cat and mouse with expectations about how things will end, though it leaves little doubt that poor old Hector is doomed from the outset. A stylish little horror fable.† http://mgpfeff.home.sprynet.com/bloch.html
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