by Gordon Brown
God is dead and we killed him. As for the Devil, in those final days the Devil was scarcely remembered.
None spoke of the Devil and so the Devil scarcely appeared. Only once in a great while would he step out onto his lawn, standing pale in the morning sunlight, blinking his great, bat eyes in silent disbelief.
Once upon a time his yard would have been a necropolis of misfired Frisbees and ill-cast tennis balls. We had dared each other to go up there. In superstitious whispers we egged our friends to knock on the door. Ask to step around his slobbering three-headed hound and past the wrought-iron gate. And some people had – or so it was told. The ancients of a more barbarous age. Heathen sixth graders who feared neither man nor angels, who smoked cigarettes under the bleachers, who knew where lite beers might be found. They had gone up the long, obsidian driveway and knocked at the bleeding door. Had rung the bell which resounded with a mournful, brassy peal that echoed in the twisted, unseen halls. And the door would crack open and a single clawed finger would beckon them in, never to be seen again.
Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.
It was written on the door mat – everyone knew this.
But that was all long ago.
We see him now who he’s become. For who he’s always been, perhaps.
Short. Frail. Tinges of white sprouting in his thinning widow’s peak and in that drooping goatee. Bags under those reptile eyes. His wings are limp and tattered, mostly hidden now under that threadbare bathrobe. His fangs are yellow from coffee and cigarettes. He has money troubles – his investments haven’t done well.
All in all, just a lonely, twisted old creature with nothing left to hang onto except his house and his pride. And even those are falling apart.
Hell is empty. All the devils are here.
Sober, most of them. Or in rehab. Or with honest jobs, three kids, and a mortgage.
Abbadon has started a solo project. Mammon made it big on Wall Street before he OD’d on a speedball in a Manhattan penthouse. Asmodeus just kinda disappeared. Cerberus, loyal to the end, is out back, buried under the rose bushes. And even God didn’t make it.
If the Devil takes any pride in that he certainly doesn’t show it. We meet up once or twice a month at a bar for a few beers. He makes a big show of trying to pay – always leaving it long enough before I say, “It’s fine, it’s fine. I got this round.”
He swears he’ll get the next one. The next one. The next one.
“Sure,” I tell him. “Sure.”
We talk about politics. Sports. Girls.
I ask about dinosaur bones and he says he’s tired of digging up the past. So we talk about something else. Music. Rock-n-roll. And how come no one plays the fiddle anymore?
I’ve had a bit much and so I light up a cigarette. Ask Old Scratch if he wants another, but he says no and eases himself up from the bar, swaying on his cloven hooves.
“Really oughta be going,” he says.
“Thanks,” he says.
“I’m praying for you,” I say.
The Devil laughs.
It’s good to hear him laugh.
Gordon Brown grew up in the deserts of Syria and now lives in the deserts of Nevada. Since his arrival in the New World, he has been published in Danse Macabre. Gordon spends his free time looking after his pet cats, of which he has none (fortunately, this leaves more time for writing).