So The Devil Has Challenged You To A Fiddle Duel
I need help here.
I appear to have embroiled myself in a fiddle duel with the Devil.
And you're worried about how this competition will affect your amateur status on the fiddle circuit?
Oh. So what are you worried about then?
I'm worried about losing.
I can't actually play the fiddle.
Seems a bad thing to duel someone with, then. One of the worst things, in fact.
How did this happen?
Well, a guy gave me this fiddle. And I took it because, hey, free fiddle.
You'd be an idiot to turn down a free fiddle.
Good, good. You're made nothing but winning moves so far. Carry on.
And then the guy asks if I'd like to enter a fiddle duel. And I say no, because I can't play the fiddle. But then he says that if I win, I get a second fiddle.
Double your return. I like it.
But there was a catch.
I can imagine. So, without asking a lot of the hard questions you normally should ask when entering a fiddle duel, you signed a bunch of forms with this guy -- who it turns out was the Devil -- which promised him your soul if you lost said fiddle duel.
Does this happen a lot?
All the time. The fiddle industry profits hugely from duels like these.
According to the FRA, the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a fiddle is a good guy with a fiddle.
But why is the Devil involved?
Well, that gets back to what the Devil really is, doesn't it? See, the Devil shows up in most major religions, where he's pretty consistently depicted as Evil, and the opposite of God, and usually up to some shit.
Like fiddle duels?
Oh, he's got a few things going. The main thing is that he's a big fan of souls, and if rumors are true, not keen on giving them back. Like I say, he's got a few ways of getting them, though fiddles are a recurring theme. Leading theologians -- who are all apparently Southern musicians -- rate his fiddle skills quite highly.
So I'm fucked.
Not necessarily. You could try learning the fiddle really fast.
Is that possible?
Let's find out together! How many strings does this fiddle have?
OK. So that mean a fiddle can make four notes, which means that at any given moment you have a one in four chance of playing the right note. Now let's say a fiddle song contains 20 notes.
I don't think that's right.
Let's go with it. Now, if I know my probability ...
... that's four and, uh ... 20 makes ... 24. Hmmm. OK. If you just play notes entirely at random, you have a 24 percent chance of playing a perfect fiddle song.
That's actually pretty good.
It is surprisingly high. So it seems the fiddle is an easy instrument to play. OK, do you have the chance to practice a bit?
I think so.
Try it out, then.
*awful, calamitous noises*
That sounded awful and calamitous.
It was both of those things.
OK, I've got a better idea. Right now, you still have a soul. So what you do is trade your soul to the Devil for fiddle skills.
Won't I be equally fucked, then? And why would the Devil even give me fiddle skills if it helps me win a fiddle duel?
Like I said, he's always up to some shit. He loves selling things in exchange for souls.
But even when I win, I'll still have no souls and two fiddles.
Hmm. Good point. Can you change the stakes of the duel to get a soul instead of a fiddle if you win? It doesn't have to be a good soul. Just some jerk's soul.
Wait. Is the Devil right there?
"HUGE, HUGE FAN OF YOUR WORK, BUCHOLZ."
What do you say, Devil?
You infernal fucker. Fine. OK, scratch that. Put the other guy on.
I'm so fucked.
Nah, you're fine. Here's what you're going to do instead: You're going to find someone to take a side bet on the Devil.
Who's going to take that bet?
Wall Street. You're going to go to them and buy what's called a Soul Default Swap. This is effectively an insurance policy that pays out if the Devil is unable to make payment on a soul-based contract.
But the Devil won't lose. And he's got, like, an infinite number of souls.
Not quite. Maybe 100 billion people have ever lived. Even if they all went to hell, which seems probable, the Devil's pockets aren't bottomless.
He also apparently wears khakis.
But if I can't beat him, what's the point?
You're going to tip the Devil off to this scheme.
I'M ALSO LISTENING IN.
I was counting on that. Here's the deal. Devil, you get the same Soul Default Swaps. Then you agree to raise the stakes of this fiddle duel to 200 billion souls or whatever, and then you throw the duel. This idiot gets his soul back, plus a few hundred billion others. You both get a huge chunk of money. And Wall Street gets hosed.
And they're just standing by for this?
HANG ON, I HAVE THEIR NUMBER. HERE. TALK.
*talking on the phone in background*
So did you get that thing I sent?
YES, I GOT IT.
What'd you think?
CAN WE NOT TALK ABOUT THAT NOW.
OK, it's done.
That was quick. Didn't they need you to sign some papers?
Yeah, the papers showed up really fast. This is a pretty amazing phone.
Looks a little chunky, IMO.
And did you read those papers they made you sign?
Not as such.
Well, I'm sure everything will be fine.
Hey! The Devil just walked off. He says he's pulling out of the fiddle duel.
Can he do that?
Am I going to stop him?
Probably not, no.
Seems like he'd get angry about that.
So I'm off the hook! I've got my soul and a fiddle. I still suck at it, but that's OK, because again, free fiddle!
This might be a good time to point out one of the other critical features of a Soul Default Swap.
Oh, can we not?
Well, the other half of a Soul Default Swap is that you have to pay a premium.
Which is ...
Well, let's see here. Wall Street gave you quite a good rate, on account of the fact that the Devil wasn't likely to go bankrupt. Which means you only owe ... $70,000.
How can I afford that?
Hmmm. Well, technically I am running a fiddle school with you right now, so you might qualify for student loans.
This is why the Devil pulled out of the duel, isn't it?
Sure, sure. The Wall Street guys probably sold him three or four souls in exchange for the tip. They weren't using them.
So I'm fucked again?
Congratulations! You are now no longer in a fiddle duel with the Devil. Should you desire any further help, please consult our guide, So You're In A Fiddle-Unrelated Duel With Someone Worse Than The Devil.
Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and expert on probability. His first novel, Severance, is incredible and available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Apex Books. Join him on Facebook or Twitter.
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