It’s New Years’ Eve on the last year of people sufferin’.
Here’s how it goes. One day, late in December, everybody suddenly wakes up knowin’. Some people take a little longer, but not that much.
This is it, they realize.
After this, things are easy.
And there are people who just go into denial immediately because they can’t have things that good. And there’s more than a few think it’s freaky and terrifying and that maybe the whole world’s going to die. There’s some of the Saved who think they’re going to Heaven and some of the pretty-certain-I’m-damned who’d be shocked if they were. There’s old white guys in suits and ties that don’t know what to make of it, except that they’d better do any killing they’re wanting to do in a hurry just in case January 1st is too late.
“Couldn’t it have waited until the new fiscal year?” they grumble.
“This calendrical thing—so outdated!”
And there’s plenty of people who are angry ’cause the gay people will be happy, or the women, or the men, or the black folk, or the white folk, or their parents, or their children, or whatnot.
But for most of them, it passes quick. Even for people who hate others more than they love themselves, it passes quick.
There’s this kind of magnanimous feeling that they fall right into. Yeah, there’s some resentment that the world’s turning sweet and they’ve still got to share—
That they’d let those people into the New Year—
But in the end, what with the New Year and all, it’s easy to be gracious. It’s easy to say: well, good. At least they won’t come crying and stomping to me about their problems any more.
And there are fathers and mothers who shed endless tears for the children who didn’t quite make it, and fathers and mothers who weep in joy because their children will. And there’s this thing in late December where people mostly stay off the roads, they stay at home, they only work if they love their job or if they can’t keep the electricity on till the 1st in any other way. And each death that happens in those last few days is a tragedy, just as unwanted deaths always are, but people maybe make a bigger deal of it now.
There’s a big speech on television near the end by the President, who takes credit for it all and gives most humble thanks to God.
And in his spacious home the Devil’s nodding off on his sofa, and he’s listening with half an ear, and the other half’s listening to the generator, because his whole house is powered by suffering, you see. He gets his main power from the agony of children who are sick or in unpleasant hands. He’s running hot and cold water from Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, and he’s got all his servers drawing straight from North Korea. (Because you need a very reliable source of suffering to keep servers up all the time. You can’t just use Syria or Tranquility Bay and hope that there’s never a little pause when everyone there’s all right. That’s bad system management, even if you’re the Devil.) There’s little things too, like, he’s got a cup warmer to keep his coffee hot that’s running on Firefly being cancelled, and he’s pleased with that, because while it’s not much suffering compared to the whole North Korea thing, he really hates cold coffee.
And he’s sitting there, amidst the stuff he’s bought from people’s shame and agony, in a house that’s running on pain, and listening just to see if, you know, the perfect New Year actually happens. If, for once, the humans’ dreams are right.
And it’s with this kind of peculiar self-satisfied little grin that he listens as it becomes a new day, and his generator spins down.
He’s not sad. His whole house is broken—heck, there’s a new episode of Firefly coming on his television right then—but he’s not sad.
He’s snorting. He’s saying, “About time.”
And he’s happy.
He’s always known—even though no one really believed him—that that pain he’s been using was someone else’s fault.
And the generator’s gone, and it’s a Happy New Year for everybody, even that guy over there who nobody really liked.
Things are easy now.
Just have to remember to write the right year on your checks.