It was 2am, on a cold autumn night, when I first met the Devil. Earlier that evening, I stopped at a gas station to fill up, when I noticed an ex-lover in a car with her new man. They looked so happy, laughing and touching. I quickly drove off before I could be noticed. I spent the rest of the night obsessing, wondering if I was right to have let her go, to let any of them go. I second-guessed every choice I had ever made, and couldn’t help but feel that I was destined to always choose poorly. I tried to reassure myself that it was all in my head; I had a lot of good things in my life, so obviously, not all my choices sucked. I figured I’d call it a night, and start tomorrow anew, but once in my bed I just tossed and turned. My mind would not stop racing. I got up, looking for something to eat, but all I had was cold hard-boiled eggs, and that was not going to hack it. I put on my socks and shoes and my jacket, then I went out looking for some grub.
I found a diner still open. The place was empty, a waitress named Alice greeted me with a forced smile and way too much eye-liner. She sat me at a booth and I ordered a coffee, it’s not like I was going to sleep anyway. With the menu before me, I became lost in my thoughts once again. Overwhelmed with sadness, and feeling lost. I felt a tap on my shoulder, and turned expecting the waitress, but instead saw a man who was way too awake, way too happy for this time of night.
“Hello, friend! I couldn’t help but see that it’s just you and me, mind if I help you occupy this seat?”
His smile was so big, I couldn’t refuse him. He sat down and took off his hat. He looked like Don Draper from Mad Men, or otherwise from the 50’s. A well-tailored grey suit and a matching fedora. Slick black hair with just enough grey to give him character.
“So tell me, friend, how goes your night? Why up so late, out for a bite?”
I smiled just a bit at the silliness of his words. “I just couldn’t sleep, nothing at home to eat, so why not?”, I said. He was staring at his menu, eyes squinted as if he’d forgotten his glasses. His eyebrows raised, as if he’d found what he wanted, then he placed the menu back down.
“Yes, hard-boiled eggs are fine, but there’s finer. I really am glad that I chose this diner.”
My back tightened up and my posture straightened. How did he know about the eggs? “Eggs?”, I questioned.
“Yes, eggs, they come with my meal. But I think I’ll just ask for a side of oatmeal.”
I sighed and smirked. How paranoid am I? Alice hadn’t shown up with my coffee yet. I looked around, tilting around to be as obvious as possible that I was becoming impatient, but she was nowhere to be seen.
“Service, so late, with nobody here, you’d think it’d be great.”
I turned back, starting to get frustrated. “What’s with the rhyming?”, I asked. He tilted his head, as if not sure what I was talking about. “The rhyming, you rhyme all your sentences!”, I snipped.
“No need to yell, that’s quite absurd! But fine, I will tell you why I rhyme my words. I’ve been on this world a bit longer than you, and in that fair time I’ve learned things you must do. Stand out from the crowd, speak not softly, nor loud, and do all that you can to be remembered somehow. If I sing when I speak, well then, that’s quite unique. Hence, my words will arrive where I want them to reach.”
“Dude, no offense, but are you ok?”, I nervously joked. I scanned again for the waitress.
“What is it you seek?”
“The waitress!”, I replied. Wasn’t that obvious?
“No, David, what is it you seek deep inside?”
My body seized up. I couldn’t move. I never told him my name. How did he know? I slowly turned to face him; fear gripping my insides. “Who.. told you my name? Who are you??”, the words barely came out.
“Come now, Dave, try to be brave. Your life I am here not to hurt, but to save.”
Fear turning to rage, I slammed my hands on the table, “WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU??!” He just sat there, with a smile that was no longer pleasant. The fluorescent lights in the diner started to buzz and flicker. Half of them went off completely, and the diner looked like something I’d seen in horror movies. My blood ran cold, and my lips mouthed the words, “the.. devil.”
“If that’s what you must call me to accept what you see, well then, you will get no fighting from me. Now then, where were we?”
“What do you want?”, I sheepishly asked.
“Ah, yes! Exactly, my thanks. What should I do for your life to advance?”
“I.. I don’t understand,” not that anything would have made sense to me at that moment. I mean, c’mon, it’s the Devil in a darkened diner!
“David, please, I’m here as a friend; I want to find a way for your torment to end. Tell me what it is that you want for your life. Is it a new car, or a beautiful wife? Perhaps some children of your very own, and a big, spacious house you can call a home? Just say what you want and I’ll make it be, you’ll get nothing but goodness from a friend like me.”
“But.. you’re the devil! I didn’t believe in you twenty minutes ago, but I’m sure not going to give you my soul now!”, I defied.
“You people have no clue of what really happens, you all think I’m here with some sort of.. entrapment. Think of me as a genie, you’ve nothing to lose; your life will be granted, as always, what you choose.”
“So you don’t want my soul? ..what’s in it for you?”, I pondered, feeling an unexpected sense of calm.
“I can’t tell you all that there is to know, just know with no doubt that I’m friend and not foe. I’ve only one option, and that is to give, for it is by giving that I’m allowed to live.”
He still wore his smile, it never left his face. I couldn’t believe that this was the devil those crazy bible-thumpers always went on about. This guy didn’t seem evil, sans the darkened diner and whatnot. His words were soothing, and he seemed to genuinely care about me. He wasn’t asking for anything in return, he just wanted to give me something.. for nothing. For nothing? Would he die if I refused him? Would he hurt me if I refused him? Why would I refuse him? I’d have my own genie! Here’s my chance to finally do something good. I no longer felt fear, it was replaced with excitement. So many things I could ask for!
“David, friend.. tell me, have you made a choice? Whatever you’ve chosen will surely make me rejoice.”
“It’s not exactly the easiest thing, to pick out of anything. But yes, I think I know what I want. I just want the world to be a better place, for everyone.”, I modestly answered. It felt good to not focus on myself, to use this opportunity to make the world a better place for everyone. How awesome am I?
“Are you sure, dear David? THAT is your thing? Wouldn’t you rather have diamonds or platinum rings? How about your ex-girlfriend, I could bring her right back. Are you sure that you wouldn’t rather have that?”
“No, sir. I’ve made lots of bad choices, here’s my chance to choose right. I choose for everyone, not for me, not tonight.” He smirked at me, and I smirked back. It was silly, I know, but I felt cocky. He reached over and placed his hand on mine, the lights came back on, and Alice showed up with the coffee. “Oh! I didn’t know you were expecting a guest. What can I get you to drink?”, she asked my new friend.
“Nothing for me, thanks; there’s nothing I need. I have what I came for, so now I must leave.”
He stood up and put on his hat. He slid his finger across the brim as he caught his reflection in a window. Still smiling, he turned and gave me a wink before heading out the door. I stared at my coffee, feeling happy and proud. I heard the door close behind him, then suddenly bust open again. Perhaps he’d forgotten something? I looked up and two masked men had burst into the diner. They were armed, one went for Alice, knocking her towards the ground. I instinctively leapt out of my seat to help her when I heard a loud pop. I couldn’t breath and I collapsed to the floor. The men started yelling at each other, then they ran out. I could see Alice, she was fine. She rubbed her head, then noticed me and crawled over. I felt warm. She was sobbing, her makeup a mess. Someone needs to teach her how to put on makeup.
At first I heard sirens, then everything went bright. I had only one comfort, that I finally chose right.