This flash fiction was inspired by Shannon Wendt’s (@wordswendt) #liblit prompt of June 18, 2012.
He seemed to be talking to anyone who would listen.
“Everyone thinks the devil is just one guy—one big red guy with horns on his head and cloven hooves for feet.”
I don’t usually talk to men while waiting for my latte, but I had to chuckle. I turned around. “What do you say he looks like?”
“He could look like anyone. He could look like a barista, for example.”
The barista handed me my coffee and started laughing and berating the customer. “Now, Luke, stop spouting your supernatural, demonic, bad mojo gibberish. You’ll warp this sweet young lady’s mind.”
“Oh, thanks! But I’m probably old enough to know better!”
I smiled at being called “young.” My hair recently had grown out from its formerly brilliant auburn to a natural silver-gray color, and while I am of course devastatingly beautiful, any reference to my youth is strictly historical.
I turned back to the man called Luke, now awaiting his iced chai. I confided in a conspiratorial whisper, “You know, the barista does look a little devilish.”
The barista looked up and laughed. He really was devilishly handsome, very tall and buff, with a pointed goatee, gold earring, and a finely detailed tattoo poking out of his shirt cuff. The tattoo was a swirly, mesmerizing miasma of yellow and orange flames, travelling all the way from his hand to his neck, where it peeked out of his collar. But his grin was wide and friendly.
Luke took issue with my appearance-based comment. “My point is that the devil doesn’t look like we expect. And it’s not just one big, bad guy.”
“You mean he has ‘minions’ roaming around, serving coffee, driving taxicabs, teaching school, programming supercomputers…?”
“No, I’m not talking about mere minions. I’m talking about demons. They can be anybody, anywhere.”
We gravitated toward a table. He held the chair for me and introduced himself simply as Luke. “Hi, Luke, I’m Jez.”
“Pretty name. Unusual.”
“That’s why I like it,” I smiled. “So what is the purpose of these multiple demons, and how will we know when we see one?”
“That’s just it. We won’t know. We can’t tell the difference, because they use their powers to blend in with society at large.” He was starting to sound serious.
“But there is generally so much evil in the world, do they really need to waste their powers on ‘blending in’? A demon would, by definition, be consistent with the nature of the world around us. We expect evil. We accept evil. We probably don’t even notice evil anymore.”
“And that’s their doing!” Now he seemed a little excited.
“But what is their purpose? What do they ‘get’ out of creating all this evil muck that sucks us in and makes us slip and slide around, losing our way, losing our moral compass and just plain getting stuck in the mire? Are they going to rescue us?”
“No, they aren’t. And that’s a very apt description. Sounds like you might have a little experience?”
“Well, Luke, I could hardly get to this advanced age without some experience!” I grinned. A wide and friendly grin. “But to get back to the point, what is their purpose here?”
“I don’t know what their purpose is. I only know what they do.”
“And what do they do?” I looked deep into his eyes, which caught glints of the sun, making them turn from light hazel to a warm golden color.
His eyes roamed my face. He moved back from the table abruptly and stood up. I moved quickly, standing, facing him. The barista moved in one quick swoop and stood behind him. We towered over him front and back; he cowered below. In one quick flash, he was gone.
My barista friend looked me up and down, nodding appreciatively. I checked my appearance in the mirror that covered the back wall, noting with satisfaction the long red hair, the perky breasts, the firm midriff and thighs. I was refreshed.
“I guess all I needed was a cup of coffee.”