Let’s talk demons…and not just the personal kind. Although, that kind of demon is much worse in the excision sometimes.No. Let’s talk real-life, 100 percent factual, malicious and malevolent presences that slide into the cracks of all things deemed “normal” and routine. The goal of a demon, it’s one true calling, is to snatch what’s good and thriving and bring it down to the cancerous level; to consume it’s quality until its a husk to discard at the base level.
And so there must be opposition to this of course. Humanity is a frail thing. True, it is full of resilience, but ultimately if often falls prey to the whims of forces mightier than it. And those forces are so very many. Therefore, opposition to the demonic forces, an ally to humanity, most come in the form of…angelic means (as far as using terms of little meaning go anyway). Angels, known also as those simply working towards the sign of right and for the unselfish motives to further existence and propagate the good, are the ones left to fight against the dark forces. Or rather darkerER forces. No one said Angels had to be of a cloth of pure white, after all.
Because, what does it mean to be angelic? Demons are easy to recognize. We see in their eyes that look that freezes us inside, and if not that, we can tell from their ill humors and behaviors that bear no hope of concealment. Yet, how to recognize an angel? Why is it that good never seems to advertise? We have to find our saviors through a wade through a seemingly homogeneous mixture of lessons and blessings. It’s tedious. Yet, oh, to find such a soul that works tirelessly to find meaning in the ash, and bring out the gems that lay hidden there. To have such a being on your side makes you wonder how you ever did acknowledge, and give precious effort, to the shades of grey between the light and the dark.
I didn’t think I could feel more morose after my first day on the job with Dee, but now it was day two and I felt such a languid melancholy in my bones that dragging myself alongside him to find some distraction in the way of lunchtime offerings seemed the most oppressive task of all. Dee probably thought himself gracious in allowing me to choose our eatery, but it felt to me just another deferred decision. I didn’t even feel that my judgement was worthy of this small matter in the state my brain wallowed in currently. It was actually even more pathetic than if I had been just a normal guy who had no appetite. I was a demi-god who could travel anywhere in the known world to find any kind of food known to man to quench my grief, and I didn’t even know which direction to turn first.
With such great power, I decided that since fast food was going to give me a solid weight of guilt in addition to digestion woes, we could go one step up with the relative comfort food of the family friendly chain restaurant.
We were seated in the back of the restaurant, under a street sign that said “If you parked here, you’re toad!” with a picture of a cartoonish witch directly below the text. There was also a bicycle tire on the wall, and a movie poster from the Wizard of Oz. I could tell they were trying for a loose theme here in the corner near the restrooms.
Our hostess left us with menus, and then disappeared. We had missed the middday crowd, and so the restaurant was in the state of calm before the storm that was the dinner crowd. Dee and I looked across the table in our separate booth seating, and I shook my head with disbelief that I was dining with Death in such ironic scenery.
Dee smiled, in the usual light mood he carried, and rolled his eyes at the broomstick they’d suspended overhead our corner seat.
“Well, at least it should be easier for you to believe me when I reiterate that we aren’t the bad guys in this,” he said.
“Yeah. I would have never imagined that the grim reaper was the knight in shining armor to the dying, but that long-legged guy is definitely got a much creepier thing going on that you do…no offense,” I added as our server approached, and we ordered both drinks and our meals in one go of things.
“Undoubtedly more creepy,” Dee said when the server had left. “It’s because he’s a fallen angel, and has had the whole of time to perfect his sinister look.”
A fallen angel, eh? That was a new one, I thought.
“No need to get skeptical now, Jorge,” Dee said. “If there are demons like Azazal to contend with, it’s only logical to have angels there for him to go up against in his efforts to offer sweeping damnation to the world at large.”
“And so we are angels?”
“Sure,” Dee said, thanking the middle aged waiter who brought our drinks along. “That’s a good term for what we do. We take the souls of the dying into ourselves, offering them a safe location to be stored until they move to another cycle or place where salvation might be possible on the next ending, and then we release them to where they would best thrive or at least learn something this go around.”
Put this way, it did seem that we were providing a valuable service to the ones we were cutting chords on. I’m sure they didn’t see it as all too charitable an endeavor since they had to lose their life to move on to the next realm, but I was beginning to see things in a relative way of thinking.
“So, I’m guessing this Azazal dude is not so sincere in his purposes for trying to wrestle the necklaces from us?”
“You guess correctly,” Dee said. “If we are offering a sort of absolution to find meaning, satisfaction, and enlightenment with the human life after however many tries it takes to find these things, then Azazal and his kind are working to take these opportunities away. Thus, leaving the dead no other alternative than damnation; another word for soulless non-existence.”
Our server had returned, and so we paused, not even very dramatically, as he placed a burger and heap of fries in front of me and a grilled piece of salmon and brown rice in front of Dee. Once the server had left, Dee stabbed a fork into his salmon with a twinge of an emotion I’d never seen on Dee’s face; annoyance.
“Couldn’t have picked somewhere near the coast, could you?” he asked, disdainfully bringing a portion of the filet to his lips.
I was going to snap back something at him about picking the restaurant himself if he was going to be picky, but I heard a glimpse of something just behind his lips. It was a weary sort of dissatisfaction thing that he couldn’t put into words, but it was there all the same. I thought about how Death had been doing the Death job for eternity, and how much of a bummer that was, especially with someone like tall, dark and freaky Azazal on your heels the whole time.
“So how often does a demon steal a soul out from under us? And what do they do with them anyway when they get them…besides throw their true owners into a lake of fire or whatever?” I asked, determined to make the most of my fried potato fare, as I brought one to my mouth.
“Well, no matter how organized this all may seem to a newcomer, as you currently are, there are some flaws.”
I didn’t even smile as he said this, although the urge to shout “a-ha!” at him was overwhelming.
“I don’t exactly have a way of knowing who is going to bite the dust during the day besides the vague dreams at night that I also experience and the inklings I get in the process of collection that sometimes direct me to the next destination. And so, when a demon gets a soul before I do, I can tell I’ve lost something, but I don’t get to know what it was or its potential was. It sets back the process of actualizing existence as well, as you may well guess.
“And as far as what the demons do with the souls they get…well, they do what we do. They ingest them into themselves. But whereas we digest the life and seek to find it a home beyond us, the demons sit upon the soul inside them, tear at it, take every bit of nutrient from it, and leave what’s left to a bardo of limbo that even I have no idea where it manifests.”
Why did we keep trying to have these awful soul-sucking conversations over food times, I wondered? Not even fried potatoes could taste good with news that demons were a more real and more dangerous form than any vampire or monster ever cooked up could be. I didn’t want to ask any more questions, and Dee looked so tired that I felt bad in asking him anything more than how his food tasted. We finished our late lunch in silence.