A delicate hand extended from a void. It reached out and flicked the ash off the burning ember. It retreated back beneath the veil of darkness, the orange glow of her cigarette burned in the blackness like a winking sinister eye.
“Now that’s something I have not thought about for a long time,” she exhaled and drown the light with fresh smoke. She leaned forward, rested her elbows on the dining room table and brought her face into the light. The harsh glow of the incandescent light made her look more pale than usual. Lines crisscrossed this way and that about her face, wrinkles that signified many years lived; that demanded respect. Her brow was heavily lined, markings of what I assumed was a permanent furrow. Creases surrounded her mouth, but there was no laugh marks. Nothing about her made me think she had laughed even one day in her miserable life.
Yet despite the years, despite the things she had done to her body, there was an intoxicating beauty behind her weathered face. She had high cheekbones, and a certain impossible symmetry to her features. If you ignored the grey streak and frizzles, her hair almost looked healthy. But her most striking figure was her eyes. Mismatched eyes. One a crisp, clean blue, bluer than the clearest day in the best weather on earth. Her other, a deep incandescent red. It burned with an intensity that made me shiver.
“What do you want to know?” she asked me, her arm resting on the other, holding the cigarette between two fingers.
“Well, I…” Before I met her, I had questions. But upon seeing her, upon reading between the lines (figuratively and literally), all my questions were answered. I instantly understood His draw to her. Now that I was here, now that I saw her, I didn’t quite know what to ask.
She took another pull from her cigarette; two burning red eyes stared back at me.
“I guess I want to know what He’s like.”
She laughed – a bitter laugh, there was no joy in it. There was experience behind that laugh, and pain, I thought. Most of all, pain.
“What’s to know?” she stopped her outburst as quickly as it started. “Ever read the bible? It gives a pretty clear representation of Him.”
“But I want know what He was like…” I mulled for a moment and added: “…Before”
“Before he sent You Know Who?” She stared into the ash tray and flicked her cigarette again.
“Before that,” I answered. “Before the Fall.”
“Oh, he was perfect.” There was an air of sarcasm in her voice, and I probably wouldn’t have caught it if she didn’t wave her hands in the air and roll her eyes. “He created the universe, and with spoken word. He said it, and it existed. Nothing could rain on his fucking parade. For someone with such an aversion towards humanity’s ‘shortcomings’ he sure is prideful.” She took another pull from her cigarette, the red glow stared at me.
“He changed, after the 7th day,” she continued. “He was a different person. He wasn’t the one I had loved and labored with.” She stopped for a moment, staring at nothing in particular, her mind remembering some distant memory.
“He was controlling. A new set of rules seemed to pop up all the time. We angels didn’t like it, we all talked about it, we all wanted to bring it up with Him but he had reached omniscience. Self-proclaimed or legitimate, I’m not certain which, but something had changed. After He created –“ she made eye contact from across the table, “–you.”
“So what happened?”
She snuffed out her cigarette and reached into her pocket. Producing a new pack, she tapped out another and lit it. My grandmother’s three-packs-a-day-chain-smoking had nothing on this broad, I knew. She’s been smoking since the day she was cast out.
“You know the story,” smoke exhaled from her mouth as she shot it off to the side, away from my face. Her manners struck me as queer; she had even offered me a cigarette before. “A third of the angels ‘rose up against him’ and he banished us to Earth where we made our ‘hell’ and awaited our day of judgment. Kinda fucked up that he sent us ‘demons’ to the same place he made you guys, don’t you think?”
I didn’t have an answer, that wasn’t why I was there. “I’m not here to answer your questions. He cast you out, then what?”
“Then he went on a vengeful, spiteful and maniacal spree. Have you read the Old Testament? That shit’s not made up you know. As I’m sure you’ve seen, the Holy Spirit is very real, and the bible is straight from His mouth, so to speak.”
“But that was to keep the sinners from sinning. To keep us from being wicked. To keep us from being you.”
She laughed again, a deep and hearty laugh. Intoxicating, like her features. Despite however many millennia she had been smoking, there wasn’t a hint of raspyness.
“Oh, my dear friend, he has you wrapped around his finger, doesn’t he? I suppose if you think that, there’s no telling you otherwise.” She took a pull and exhaled again, waving the smoke out of her face, the lines on her face seemed to deepen in the light above the table. Her features seemed to sag a little more. The Devil sighed deeply, and looked exhausted.
“Here’s the truth,” she offered, interlacing her fingers on the table top. “He and I didn’t see eye to eye, I sought freedom, He sought bondage. I sought choice, He sought control. I sought understanding, He sought perfection. We waged as ex’s do before he sent You Know Who. Manipulating and bickering over nothing. The difference is I always give a choice. Are you familiar with the book of Job?”
“Of course, I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t familiar with most everything biblical.”
She furrowed her brow, demonstrating how the creases in her brow came to be. “And how does that strike you? How does it seem to you, that He should let his life be destroyed? That his business be scattered, his house destroyed, children murdered and wife abandoned? Does that seem like grace? Does that seem good to you? Is that not vengeful? Is it not wrath?”
“But he awarded Job with twice the kids, twice the fortune and a wife with twice his previous’ character for his faith.”
“And where was Job’s choice?” She asked, almost shouted, and threw her arms to the side. She looked around the room, as if addressing a large crowd. No doubt she had hoped for a crowd – planned for it in the end, but all she got was me. “Do you think Job wanted his children slaughtered? Did he want his wife to leave him? What kind of fucked up baggage did he have afterwards? You can’t just move on like nothing happened. He most of all should know that.”
“But he sent Jes –“
“Don’t say his name.” she snapped at me. “Don’t you dare mention his name to me. I may be defeated, but I will not suffer indignation.”
I shifted in my chair uncomfortably, the harshness of her voice was that of nightmares. And would, despite achieved paradise, continue to haunt my dreams for a great amount of time that followed.
“He sent You Know Who,” I corrected. “To die for our sins, to die for your sins as well.”
“And what sin did I commit?”
“By wanting a choice? By wanting to avoid being a mindless drone, capable only of worshiping the ground he walks? Hardly seems like blasphemy to me.”
“You still have a chance,” I leaned in, under the fluorescent light. “Repent, and accept His son as your lord and savior. Accept him into your heart, lest you be cast into the Lake of Fire.”
“I will not allow Him the pleasure of using His child as His tool.” Her eyes raged with enough intensity to make me shrink back into my chair. She crushed the burning cigarette in her hand, yet didn’t seem to notice the pain it should have caused. “Why is it the children are always the ones who suffer? Job’s children were killed. You are all children of Him, yet you all suffer. His child suffered the greatest and worst forms of death you have had the brilliance to come up with. Where is His suffering? Where is His pain?”
She slammed her palms onto the table and stood up. Her features deepened more than ever. Flames had replaced her eyes, her right burned with a brilliant blue, the other, a red wroth with rage. “I will not repent for sins that do not exist. I will not suffer that indignation while he refuses to repent for the atrocity He let our child undergo for the likes of you!” Her finger protruded and pointed at me from across the table accusingly. She was still standing, breathing heavy now with an intensity that almost made me believe her. It made me want to believe her, to side with her and bring her case to The Almighty.
Tsk, Tsk, entered my mind, His thoughts. Knowing the answer, I closed the folder and put away my pen. At this point she sat down, her arms were crossed, she looked off into the corner of the room.
“He doesn’t even have the courage to come and see me, after all these years.” A tear fell down the side of her face, her lips trembled. One of her delicate hands wiped the tears off her face. “I cannot forgive Him for what’s been done. For what He sacrificed.”
I put my paperwork under my arm and regarded her. She looked frightened, and utterly destroyed.
“That, is where you and He are different. There is an out, there is forgiveness for you if you can forgive Him.” She continued to stare off into nothingness, “The way I see it, you have one final choice. You can choose the Lake of Fire and death. Or you can choose to repent. You can choose to see your son.”
She looked back at me, tears already drying on her face, her features seemed somehow lighter, less heavy. Younger. The intensity in her eyes was gone. She looked unsure, stubbornness has always been her best and worst feature, and now it was beginning to wane. Was her stubbornness something that attracted Him? What part of her character was flawed, and when did it change from a quirk to a sin?
“I’d like to try, but I don’t know how.” She finally said, her voice had lost its grandiose and full resonance. She sounded less like the Fallen and more like a child.
I sat back down at the table.
“Here,” I said, taking her hands in mine. “Let me show you.”