One thinks little of the swarm of variables.
As much as we process and analyze, we never really see the world in that “big picture” format that we tell ourselves.
The metrics of mortality are so clearly marked. Delimited.
No one thinks of the devil in a fashion borne of logical integrity. This red-skinned, pitchfork-holding monster with cloven hooves and a tail. What fool signs a contract with something like that? Faust was an idiot. It’s a clear a concept as the devil is transparent in his intentions.
But life does not push a contract across the table like some stern-faced lawyer, sitting there with some big ledger and a stack of papers. It is not when you are down and depressed, or when you’ve had a bad day. You don’t talk a man off a ledge, or over it, unless he’s on the ledge to begin with.
The devil isn’t an idiot. That we believe he is takes my mind to the movie Layer Cake. “It is only very stupid people who think the law is stupid.” It’s that prevalence of belief that we know more than we do. It’s a way of rationalizing how fucking brilliant we are.
When the sound came roaring, I didn’t have time to think about it. It wasn’t a deer-in-the-headlights moment. I didn’t freeze and have some deep introspective moment. I didn’t see my life flash before my eyes and see some old memory of when my grandma so-and-so bought me some cheap toy on a random Saturday morning.
I heard the roar an engine. Tires tearing across the pavement like a fucking army running from a dragon. The only strange element at that moment was how compressed all the sound was. That weird doppler effect seemed to coalesce and slam into my ears like a storm of hornets with megaphones.
The devil isn’t some sad trickster. He’s not some slimy politician trying to sell you the idea that his policy isn’t going to fuck you five years down the road when you’re trying to decide whether you should pay bills or indulge in the luxury of clean water.
The devil knows that humans are weak and broken things.
The contract came to me in verbal form.
Standing there in a suit that looked like he’d been bargain shopping, a half-smoked cigarette in his hand and a plume of smoke rising up as he squatted near my body.
I could see the blood pouring out of me. I could feel the lights going out. The sound of my careless murderer as little more than an echo as the vehicle started up again and sped away with some part of the frame dragging on the ground.
The devil doesn’t ask you if you want to sell your soul. That’s the biggest problem we have as humans. We think that a question like that is something straightforward.
That same dumbshit mentality is what lets people think that cops have to tell you that they’re cops. The world is built on lies by liars.
The devil, however, isn’t a liar. He’s just smarter than we give him credit for.
“Do you want to live?” he asked.
What a simple question. So basic. Ask it to anyone and they’ll say yes. Those who say no don’t understand the question. Those who are lying on a now empty stretch of city road with the pointy ends of their rib cage gently hugging the wrong side of their spine…well…who says no at that moment?
You don’t think that life might mean disfigurement. You don’t think about the potential loss of mobility. You don’t think about the fact that you might be mostly a vegetable or not be able to fuck anymore. All that falls away and your mortal coil screams like a petulant child who has had their favorite toy pulled from their fingers.
“Do you want to live?” he asked again as he let his cigarette drop and crushed it beneath his sneakers.
Jesus, I thought, a cheap suit and sneakers?
My answer was a gargle of blood and broken teeth being transmitted on a tongue that was either swollen or bitten in half.
“Do you want to live?” he asked again.
The devil doesn’t ask you for your soul. He asks you if you want. And at that moment, you say – even without saying it – that you’d give your soul for it.
You part your lips and between a small cascade of bloody mucus and pain so intense that you can’t even tell what hurts, or what parts of you are even still connected, you say…