There is a bar where the devils rendezvous every Friday night to boast of their exploits and unwind after a week of destruction. The atmosphere is pungent with lies, most of which are true. Couples perch on bar stools, or groups of three and four lounge about, and into the wee hours of the morning, perversities are praised, blasphemies blessed, and toasts to the utter disfigurement of God’s image in man are made in hellishly eloquent prose.
One night I slipped in and sat with my face to the corner at a table shrouded in darkness. And I listened in rapt attention to story upon story, like a rubbernecker on the freeway where every mile marker has flashing lights and blood-stained asphalt. It was fascinatingly horrific, to hear how tiny transgressions, over time, could be used to so mar a man, that he himself was unaware of the monster of immorality into which he had been transmogrified. And, as the hours wore on, within me, despite the horror, a strange calm set in. A sympathy arose. A sympathy for those victims of subterfuge whose lives were left in shambles while mine was relatively unscathed.
Finally, I had had enough, and was about to make my exit, when a certain devil raised his voice to tell the story of a man he knew. This man, said he, was a parade example of what blessed evil could do if it bides its time, and begins demolition of the soul not with a hammer but a feather. For a million soft blows are a better weapon than one swift strike. He told his tale, and every fiend listened with a knowing smile, and cover my ears and scream a thousand no’s in my head, I could not escape the fact that I heard the details of my own biography spilling forth into the room.
When he finished, amidst the erupting applause, I skulked from the bar to drag my corpse homeward, delirious with shame, filled with self-loathing. And toward the silent heavens I looked for some hint of mercy, some sparkle of hope in the blackness. I saw none, but, how I know not, I nevertheless dared to believe that behind the sable veil perhaps there was a god who might someday take pity and make something out of the nothing that I had become.