The giant, leather-bound ledger opened with a creak and a small poof of dust. The slightest hint of brimstone wafted up from the brittle, yellowed pages as the notary turned the book to face John.
"Sign here," he said gravely as he indicated the proper spot with a bony finger, "And here. Enter your address here. Do you have two forms of identification?"
John handed him the papers, their edges curling slightly from the perspiration on his hands, and was handed a heavy fountain pen in return. He hesitated for a brief second, biting his lip, but leaned down and signed the book. Nothing changed. The Notary placed the contract in front of him. "You'll need to initial at the bottom of each page; it's clearly marked."
Ink met page after page, until John reached the last sheet. Its full signature line seemed a far horizon, something almost unreal. John’s hand shook a little, but only a little, a weakness he tried to imagine was from the increasing weight of the antiquated pen. He signed the final page. The Notary flipped the contract back to his side in one short, efficient motion. He produced a large brass stamp seemingly from thin air, and pounced it once on a large red ink pad and then onto the contract.
One more stamp, and John's fate would be sealed. "Your hand, please."
John wiped his sweaty palm on his pants leg, and placed his hand on the desk next to the contract, facing up. The Notary stamped his seal against John's skin, and though he tried to be gentle, he knew that John would scream when the sigil burned down into his flesh -- and he did. They all did. The Notary closed his eyes as the smell of scorched flesh filled the room, and when he opened them again the mark on John's palm was already fading from sight, though it would always be there, unseen beneath the skin.
"I think our business here is done," The Notary said.
John could not hurry away fast enough.
Note on origin:
My best friend was oddly obsessed with becoming a notary public. I have no idea why. It's not, to my thinking, a very exciting thing to be, but it became a cherished dream for him. Hey, man! No judgments here! I dream of being painted as an old-school freak show bearded lady. We all have weird dreams. Anyway, several years ago my friend made his dream come true, and I wrote him this very short story to congratulate him.
What? You don't gift your friends with short fiction to celebrate their successes in life? Why not?