Last Night

by Danny Judge

Last night—I suspect—I met the Devil.

I don’t mean that I met a woman whose soul harbored nothing but contempt for me: not for the man that I am, but for the simple fact that I am a man—a hurtful, conceited waste of oxygen.

I don’t mean that I met a pusher whose sole intent was to sell me my death—to feed me a line of poison that he knew was more than I’d bargained for: but he’d do it just the same, never relenting in his quest for the almighty buck.

I don’t mean that I met a drifter or a con-man or a rapist or a robber or a thief or a callous killer or a smiling liar or a soulless sociopath, concerned only with drafting vengeance on the pure—fueled only by its resentment for the world and the good it suspected to dwell within it.

I simply mean that I met the Devil—last night:

The bridge was silent, formidable; night had fallen. The distance looked awesome—not in the contemporary, disposable, fickle sense of the word, but in the antiquated sense—it inspired awe in me as I considered the enormity of feeling nothing. No, not feeling, exactly—there would be no feeling at the end of this leap—the enormity or lack thereof of ceasing to exist, that was a notion that filled me with wonder.

I grasped the metal crossbeam, balancing on the concrete barrier—narrow, but stable enough to serve me well in the short time that I would require a foothold. There were streetlights on the bridge. They—like the barrier—provided just enough nourishment to see me through this endeavor comfortably—at my own chosen speed.

The physical act of dying didn’t interest me. I was contemplating the after. The beyond. The deep. I couldn’t see the deep. Somehow I knew that I couldn’t so much as dream of it. But I was profoundly curious. I stuck one foot out over the drop—I held it, studying it as one might study a fly on the wall before swatting it. That’s when the Devil walked up behind me.

He didn’t touch me or talk to me—at first. He simply stood next to me and watched. He seemed curious, like me. He was the Devil, all right—unapologetic, unabashed. From his jagged horns down to the cloven hooves which marked the end of his menacing, blood -red legs. His eyes—cold and black—were level with mine as I perched atop the concrete barrier. He was tall—the Devil.

After a minute, I lowered my foot to the narrow ledge.

“What’s it like?” I asked.

“I imagine it’s cold this time of year,” he said, noncommittally. His fangs jutted over his crimson-ink lips—settling neatly back in place after he spoke.

“No, what’s it like after I die?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never died.”

“Oh, yeah. Well, can you tell where I’m going to go when I die, then?”

“The back of a truck, I suppose. Then to the morgue, then on to a tacky, obscenely pretentious hall, of sorts, in which your living friends and relatives will congregate to observe your body. Then, of course—”

“Never mind.”

“I’m merely an onlooker; I’m as curious as you are. I hope you don’t mind if I stand here awhile. Please, continue.” His dispassionate black eyes flicked down to the icy water below. His tail swayed behind him. Not haphazardly like a dog’s; it swayed with smooth, fully acquainted grace—like an indifferent housecat’s tail might.

“Okay, I suppose,” I said.

I lifted my foot again, holding it over the icy water. I tried to consider the absence of light. I tried to wonder about God, and death—and, of course, the Devil—but I could only think about….

“I think I’m going to go have a drink,” I said. I dropped my foot and carefully climbed off the partition. “Do you want to go have a drink?” I asked the Devil—more to be polite, than anything. To be honest, I hoped he didn’t want to come with me—I had enough cash on me for two or three cocktails, and I wanted all of them. He didn’t look like he had a wallet on him. But he only shook his head dismissively.

“No, I think I’ll stay. Pity you decided not to fall; I was anxious to see where the light ends,” he said, almost ruefully. He smelled strongly of sulfur. I was very glad that he would not be joining me in the hotel bar now. He would have embarrassed me.

“The light?” I asked, despite my waning interest.

“Yes,” was all he said.

I started walking away, then I turned back to him. “Aren’t you supposed to offer me a deal? For my soul?” I asked.

“Yes, I’ve heard that rumor,” said the Devil—he gazed at the black water without looking back at me. “I’ve no cause to make deals.”

“Okay—well, see you around, then.”

“Yes, I think you might.”

I’d recounted this to several people in the hotel bar—they hadn’t seemed interested. I’d shrugged and finished my drinks.

I met the Devil last night. I’m almost certain—you can never be unequivocally convinced when it comes to strange matters such as these.

Danny Judge is an up-and-coming writer who’s currently working on his debut novel and a self-published collection of short stories.  He prefers War and Peace over Ulysses and once chewed and swallowed six saltines in a minute, which the Internet claims to be difficult. He lives in Iowa with his wife, Sarah, and their gigantic two-year-old son, Jack.