I wake to find the devil sitting near my bed.
“Good morning, Jeff,” he says.
I rub my eyes. I am, obviously, delusional. Phantoms of evil don’t just appear next to your nightstand, ready for an early morning chat. I blink. He’s still there, not some horned, fork tongued little imp with a pointy tail but a shadow made corporeal, the embodiment of the abyss. He sees my confusion and, presumably, my fear. “The classical image of the devil is all wrong,” he tells me, “What most people in Western society picture when they think of the devil – the red skin, the horns, the pitchfork – they’re thinking of the baphomet. Cute little critters, kind of the labradors of the underworld, but not true devils.” He sighs. “It’s not that I’m jealous. I’m really not. There’s more than enough fear to go around – let the little guy have his moments, you know? It’s embarrassing more than anything. How would you feel if someone mistook your dog for you? That’s what it’s like. Recognition, Jeff. Acknowledgement. It’s not just people who care about that stuff.”
I feel ill.
“Everyone talks about using the Lord’s name in vain,” he goes on, as if we were old friends talking over a beer, “and I get that. I mean, I like to push the big guy’s buttons more than anyone and the name thing made for great material. It really drove him nuts.” He chuckled to himself. The devil sat next to my bed and chuckled to himself about how he likes to piss off God. Of course he did. “The thing is, Jeff, no one ever cares about using my name in vain. Now, I’ll stop you before I even get there. That probably sounds like a crazy thing for the most hubristic being in history to say. The reality of it, though, is that all these crazy people are running around doing awful, terrible things to one another – to innocent people, Jeff – and they’re doing it in my name! How do you think that makes me feel? I’ll tell you, it’s not pleasant.”
My mouth creaks open like the gate into Dis and I say, “Well, you are the devil,” because I am an idiot. The devil chuckles to himself again. I assume that this is when I die. And yet…
“Fair enough, Jeff. I guess it comes with the territory. It’s just frustrating. I’m sure you can understand that.”
“Yes.” Of course I can understand that. He chuckles again. He’s a chuckler, the devil.
“Well, I mean, I am the devil for chrissake. The point isn’t that I’m Glinda the Good Witch. It’s that, even though I’m the devil, I’m not such a bad guy.” He sighs and looks around the room like a little kid about to say something naughty. “Do you like your boss, Jeff?”
Not what I was expecting, but I’ve seen the movies and I need to be careful here. I don’t want to get hoodwinked into becoming the devil’s sidekick or replacement, so I tread carefully. “She’s okay, I guess,” I say. Smooth. Real smooth, Jeff.
“Would you want to work for her forever?”
“Really? Wow, that’s nice. Must be a good gig you’ve got. Good for you, Jeff.” He reaches over and pats me on the shoulder and my shirt bursts into flames where he touched it. “Oh,” he says as I pat the fire out, burning my hand, “sorry about that. I’ll send someone to take care of that for you.”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s no problem,” I say. No fucking problem, Mr. Devil.
“Anyway, it’s not even that God is an awful boss, just that I don’t want to work for him forever. So I told him, ‘Hey, I don’t like the way you’re running the business so I’m going to start out on my own’ and – well, we all know how that went. And now I’m the devil. I’m not a terrible guy, Jeff. It’s really just business. And now all these assholes are doing terrible stuff in my name and it’s no good. No good at all.”
The devil, sitting next to my bed, shakes his head and looks out the window at the rising sun.
“Well, Jeff, thanks for the time. I really appreciate it. You’re a good listener – not everybody is. It’s time I got going so-”
“Is there anything I can do?” I ask, trying to buy just a few more moments on this earth.
“No, no. This is just how things go, but it’s nice that you asked.”
“I’m sure everyone does,” I say, breathing hard.
“You know, you’d be surprised. Not that many do. Alright, it’s time-”
“But I’m not ready to die!”
The devil looks at me like I’m the crazy one.
“Well that’s good, I guess. I mean, I’m not here to kill you.”
Deep sigh of relief. My ass releases its clench just a little bit. “What? Really?”
“Yes,” he says, sounding hurt. “You think I came to kill you and just wanted to have a nice chat first? That’s some cold shit, Jeff, even for the devil.”
My jaw settles neatly into my lap.
“No,” he continues, “I’m here for Dave, across the hall. You know the guy?”
“Oh,” I say, unable to muster anything else.
“Real dick, that guy. Well, it’s business time, as they say. Thanks for the chat, Jeff. I’ll catch you around.”
The devil gets up, steps away from my bed and disappears out of the room. I hear the front door swing open and then close. The lock bolt drives home.
“Good morning,” I say to myself, “What in the Hell was that?”
This story was inspired by Duncan Sheik’s ‘Good Morning!’