“Do you even know what a demon is?”
Archibald Feeney had never considered himself an overly religious man, but he attended church every now and then, and read the gospel if there wasn’t anything good on the telly, and even said his prayers if there was a lull in his bedtime preparations. It was, however, still a bit of a shock to him when he ran face to face with his religion.
He had popped into the local pub for a fish and chips, having been late from work and disinterested in cooking. There might even be a pint in it for him, though he tried not to succumb to those urges too regularly. No more so than the vicar anyway, who stopped in every Saturday, as regular as clockwork.
It was while Feeney was nursing his lager and waiting for his meal that something came in and sat beside him. It was tall and lithe, with reddish skin that was only beginning to show signs of peeling from a mild burn. It wore no clothes, but its bottom half was clearly quite goat-like. The brown fur was matted and smelled of scorched barnyards, and the cloven hooves seemed to be slick with oil or something else dark and wet. The upper body was clearly masculine, though not particularly fit. The goat-man also had small horns jutting from either side of his forehead. This then, must be a demon, Feeney thought with astonishment.
The demon glanced casually at Feeney, gave him a short curt nod, then seated himself with some difficulty on the stool beside Feeney. He raised one finger at the barman, then stared down at the bar top and drummed his scalded fingers. Feeney stared at the demon, his bottom lip quivering slightly. Every few seconds a small squeaking sound escaped from him.
The barman returned and slid a pint across to the demon without seeming to notice the nature of his new patron. The demon thanked him graciously and turned slightly away from Feeney, attending to his drink.
Finally Feeney managed to stammer weakly, “Y-y-you’re a demon.”
“Oh great. Here we go.” The demon muttered to itself. It shook its horned head and turned back to face Feeney. “Look, pal. Is there any way we can skip this whole disbelieving horror thing? I’m not here to bother you, so let’s just go back to our drinks and we can both have a nice night.”
The demon made as if to turn away, but Feeney couldn’t simply leave it at that.
“But you’re a demon,” he said, a little more strongly.
“Do you even know what a demon is?” The demon asked with a tired sigh. He turned completely back to face Feeney.
“You’re personifications of evil!” Feeney insisted vehemently.
“Wrong,” snapped the demon with far more conviction than Feeney. He set his half-empty pint down on the bar and leaned over toward the man, resting his elbows on his hairy goat thighs. “We’re personifications of mistakes that have been made. Slights and wrongdoings and suchlike.”
The barman came by and slid the fish and chips over to Feeney, who passed him back a handful of coins without bothering to count them. The barman went away, still oblivious to the nature of his most recent occupant.
“So you’re saying,” Feeney explained slowly, “that demons are not evil.”
“Of course I’m not saying that,” the demon said irritably. “We’re the embodiments of wrongdoings, so yeah, some of us are pretty damned evil. No pun intended. All I’m saying is that not all of us are evil with a capital E. Some of us are just a little on the jerky side.”
Feeney nodded, though his expression was a bit glazed, as though the information were having difficulty reaching his brain.
“Look at it this way,” the demon paused to polish off the rest of his pint before continuing. “If I were to accidentally cut you off in traffic, that’d make me a bit of an arse, right?” Feeney nodded. “But if I were to have a few hundred innocent people executed because they disagreed with me, that’s quite a bit worse, right?” Feeney nodded again. “Good, you see my point. Both qualify as wrongdoings, but one’s a far cry from the other, if you get my meaning.”
The demon flagged down the barman for another drink while Feeney processed all this. His fish was beginning to get quite cold. Not that it had been overly warm to begin with by the time it had reached him. Finally Feeney managed to find his voice.
“Well then what kind of demon are you?”
“Remember that time you told yourself you were only going to have one pint with your friends, but then you got completely pissed and the next day you chucked up all over the inside of the confessional?”
Feeney grimaced and nodded. “It does ring a bell.”
The demon hitched a thumb to his chest. “That’s me.” He accepted a new glass from the barman and nodded his thanks before taking a long draught.
“Well that’s not particularly evil,” Feeney grumbled.
“Like I said.”
“That’s barely evil at all.” The man’s expression was a mixture of confusion and anger. The demon nodded, still sipping at his beer. “And why is it that I’m the only one who’s upset by this?”
“I’m your demon,” said the demon by way of explanation. When Feeney just stared at him, the demon sighed, polished off his second glass and continued. “I’m your demon. You created me. To everyone else I’m just some guy. You’re the only one who knows what you did to make me, so you’re the only one who knows what I am.”
Feeney was quiet for a long time. The demon had time to get halfway through a third pint before the man spoke up again.
“Then what do you want?”
“Me?” the demon asked incredulously. “Not a thing. Well… I tell a lie. I wouldn’t say no to another pint.” He flagged down the barman for “one for the road.”
“So you aren’t here for my soul?” Feeney asked with just a hint of nervousness.
“What would I do with your soul?” the demon scoffed. “No, I’m not here for your soul. I’m here for a drink. You were the one looking for me. Most people go a lifetime without meeting their own demons. Most people don’t want to. Seems like you were looking for the chance to make things right with yourself.”
Feeney sat in silence, staring at his untouched plate. The demon received and drank his last glass of lager and finally stood up. “Well, take care.” He tossed a small pile of crumpled notes onto the bar, though Feeney couldn’t say where they’d come from. “I hope you worked out whatever you needed to.”
As the demon headed for the door, Feeney turned and called after him. “What about angels? Are they personifications of good deeds?”
The demon chortled and replied, “Those guys are right bastards.” He left.
It was nearly an hour later that the barman came by and ushered Feeney gently out the door. “Time to close up, sir. Did you not care for the fish?”
Feeney assured the man that it had been fine, though he’d never touched it at all.
The barman closed the door after him, locking it and beginning to wipe down the tables.
“Seems that fellow had some personal demons to exorcise, didn’t it just?”
He was talking to no one in particular, but the busty succubus sitting patiently in the nearest corner said quietly, “Don’t we all, my love. Don’t we all.”