"Coffee?" asked Baal.
"Ta." said Mugyal "Fancy a ginger biscuit?"
"Don’t mind if I do", said Baal.
The two demons had been friends for some time now, and tried to meet at least once a week for a coffee and a chat.
Such pastimes were not encouraged however, and it was necessary for them to be discreet. While not actually forbidden, it did not do a demon’s image any good for it to be known that they indulged in any sort of personal relationship - especially one that could be associated with positive emotions of any kind, such as friendship. Satan - Old Hob as the demons called him - did not care for such things.
"Baal", began Mugyal. "Did you attend yesterday’s hate-meet?"
"Actually, no." said Baal. "I intended too, of course, but I got caught up with some other stuff."
"Same here" said Mugyal. "To be truthful, all this hate and destruction is getting a bit samey."
"Yeah. Old Hob tries - he put’s on a good show and is just as violent as ever - still full of fury, and burning with hatred and all that, but, well, I don’t know. It just doesn’t impress me as much.."
"I know what you mean. I don’t think it’s him - I think it’s us" said Mugyal. "Maybe we’re mellowing."
"Yellowing more like" laughed Baal. He leant back on his rock, and curled his tail round so that it hung over his shoulder. He fingered his horns absent mindedly.
"You know I’d never say anything to upset you", began Mugyal, "but I think your horns are beginning to shrink. "
Baal smiled weakly. "I know," he said. "I’ve noticed it. I’ve tried sticking bits of brimstone on with treacle, but I haven’t been able to hide it very well". He waved the tip of his tail. "And this is far less flexible than it was. I used to be able to wrap it round my neck at least twice, now I can’t do it once. And the end is very floppy."
Mugyal nodded. "I’ve got similar problems. I sat on mine the other day. I bent the arrow bit out of shape, and it wont go back. It’s quite a problem."
"You’ve still got beautiful horns", said Baal.
"Thanks", said Mugyal. "But you’re just being kind. They have shrunk a bit too, I know. And my skin - it’s just not as red as it was." He looked down wistfully at a belly that was more pink than red.
Baal looked pensive. "You know what I think", he said.
"What" asked Mugyal.
"Well, to be honest," he said "I don’t think we’re really cut out to be demons".
"I know what you mean", said Baal, taking another ginger biscuit. "It was all very well, when we first started, torturing murderers, and grinding the bones of dishonest politicians, but the novelty soon wears off." He suddenly looked very ashamed. "I did something terrible the other day"
"What?" asked Mugyal, concerned.
"I let one off. I", stammered Baal. "I couldn’t bring myself to poke his eyes out". His eyes filled with acid, but he wiped the tears away quickly, and looked away.
"I’ll tell you a secret", said Mugyal. "I have let off several recently. I was meant to insert a multi-barbed pole into a rapist, and then pull his tongue out by the roots. Nothing much, just business as usual really. But he looked at me so sorrowfully, and he seemed so pitiful, that I just kicked him up the arse and sent him packing".
They sat silent for a moment.
"You know, if Old Hob finds out, he’ll have our guts for garters" said Baal.
"I know", said Mugyal. "But I can’t help it. My hearts not in it anymore. I know it’s wrong, and I know it is against the rules, but I feel sorry for them. I keep wanting… I keep wanting …." Acid tears ran down his face and burnt holes in the lace table mats that they always used on their coffee mornings.
"I think I know", said Baal solemly. "You want to …."
"I want to forgive them" screamed Mugyal, and buried his face in his hands. "Satan curse me and may my horns grow inward, I want to forgive them."
Baal sat silently, looking at his friend with great compassion.
Finally, he said. "You know, I feel the same".
He took a lace handkerchief from his bottom, and held it out to Mugyal. "Come on", he said. "Blow".
Mugyal blew his nose, and the handkerchief turned bright yellow.
"Better?" asked Baal.
Mugyal smiled, weakly.
"Yes." He said, then looking at his friend, "what are we going to do?"
"Well", said Baal. "firstly, we’re going to have another cup of coffee, and I’m opening that packet of choc chip cookies we’ve been saving. That’s the first thing".
Mugyal brightened a little at the prospect.
Baal continued, "The second thing is that we can’t keep doing things that we aren’t comfortable with. We’ve got to live with outselves - if you know what I mean. On the other claw, there’s no point trying to hide it, either. It wont take very long before Old Hob finds our that we’re not doing our quota of burning, gnawing and torture-fication."
Mugyal nodded in agreement. "You’re right. We’re damned if we do and damned if we dont."
"Very appropriately said." said Baal, "As I see it, we’re in big trouble. We can’t go on - and we can’t stop. We need," he thought for a moment, "we need a life line."
Mugyal looked at Baal. He looked into his green eyes. He was frightened - almost too frightened to talk. He made an appalling smell, and felt a little better.
"Baal", he said. "I think there is one".
"One what?" asked Baal.
"A life line. I think there is a life line. It’s something I remember from…." He seemed lost for words. "Something I remember. A sort of poem. Listen."
And as Mugyal started to recite the verse, Baal found that he recognised it too, and joined in
Our Father, who art in Heaven Blessed be your name May Your kingdom Come And Your Will be Done Everywhere like it is in Heaven Give us today our daily bread And forgive us our sins As we have forgiven And deliver us from our time of trial For yours is the power, and the glory And Old Hob will pass away Forever. Amen
Just as the two spoke the final word, Old Hob - Satan - burst in upon them, blazing with anger and full of the stench of rotting flesh. But the two friends had disappeared in a puff of lavender incense leaving behind two pink (very deflated) demon skins with a note pinned to Mugyal’s, containing only two words. "God Forgives".
Satan, looking at the note, exclaimed angriily "Damn and Blast!" He picked up the remaining Choc Chip cookies. "Oh well, at least they left these behind".
But as he put them into his mouth and started chewing, the chocolate turned into carob.