Randall and I sat beneath the yellow-stained lights as shadows of moths flickered past us. In the distance, we could see our friends running to and fro as they battled whatever evil the world had spawned for them today. The world, it seems, knows no end to immediate evil.
We were tired, though, and, as we sat, a demon came to us.
He was a polite sort of demon with a melancholy demeanor. He asked to join us, and I remained silent.
“Sit, my friend,” Randall said.
The demon sat. He looked uncomfortable, suspicious. He was not used to being greeted by people. He was not used to being allowed at their tables.
Randall’s table is welcoming to anyone.
“Thank you,” the demon said. “You have something that I want very much.”
It seems that in his travels, Randall had acquired the devil’s coat. The demon has come to bring it back. The demon was not the devil’s servant. The devil is not some great master. He has no command of the demon. The demon just wants the devil’s coat.
This devil, though, is not your ordinary everyday devil. The devil is not some seducer, some king of lies. No, this devil tells the truth. He is the devil of certainty.
“One day, you will be nothing,” the devil had said.
The devil is dead, by the way. Telling people they are and will be nothing, it has a way of making them angry. Angry people make harsh decisions, so the devil is dead.
And Randall had his coat.
“What will you do with it?” Randall asked.
“Keep it from him like no mortal man can do,” the demon replied.
That’s the funny thing about being nothing. There’s little you can do. The devil and the demon, though, they’re not nothing. They outlive people. Even dead, the devil will be back. The devil is a thought: a terrible, all-consuming thought. Those things don’t die easily. Not like people do.
The demon is tough like that, too. He outlasts people. His promises, should he choose to keep them, can reach further than the promises of mortals. Mortal promises last only as long as they live to wag their tongues.
“I promise I will keep it from him,” the demon said.
Demons lie like this. They do it all the time. As much as the devil is defined by truth, demons are defined by lies.
Randall considered. He held the devil’s long coat in his arms, and he weighed it. I never touched the devil’s coat, but it looked both heavy and warm. I wonder if it brought comfort to the devil as he wore it. It looks like it would.
Cries called out from the distance. Something had happened to our friends, and - with them so far away - victory and defeat sound the same. We didn’t stand and the demon didn’t offer to leave. Outcry has grown so common that it’s not worth commenting on.
“I choose to believe you,” Randall said.
He handed the devil’s coat to the demon, and we said our goodbyes. The demon was so polite. Except for the lying. That’s not very polite, but at least it’s dependable.
It was a long night. We drank. We sang. We told stories. It was a good night. There should be more like it.
Randall is gone now. He’s gone to greet the nothing the devil always said was coming. I hope, though, that the devil will lend him his coat. Nothing can be awful cold, and that coat looked so comforting.
I’ll miss you, Randall Samalot. You were brave.