When the Devil showed up to troll Tanith’s blog, he hadn’t planned to read it.
It was his goal to speak his point, succinctly, and block it in with obstacles to dispute. He said,
“Everybody knows if you sell your soul
You’ll be loaded down with treasure.
Just what kind of wickedness is in your heart
You don’t want a life of pleasure?
“A man’s got to live and a dog’s got to die,
When you’re scrounging in the gutter
It makes Jesus cry
So take care of yourself and
Sell your soul for treasure.”
The Devil knew, when he wrote that down, that even if she left it someone else would take a swing. And he knew that that’s what matters—getting people thinking about whether or not to sell their souls.
He got two birds with one stone, too.
The more people talk about the Devil, after all, the less they talk about Tanith.
And it would have stayed that way, too, if the Devil hadn’t gotten bored one night.
He doesn’t have to read replies.
He’s the Devil.
But one night, you see, he got bored. And he went back to Tanith’s blog to see what people had said.
Now it’s the oldest lie that the Devil does tell that your words can reach him down in his Hell, but he’d forgotten that one of Tanith’s regular readers was his daughter.
And she said, “I’ve gone Red,
I’m a Commie now,
Just call me Comrade Mara
And tell me how
You can sell your soul
Without controlling the means of production?”
The Devil got mad, and a little bit sad, and he regretted not insisting on homeschooling his daughter. Nevertheless he made a game effort to reply.
“lol …” he said. “I’d just requisition it from the Party.”
Now, you might think that other readers would hesitate to jump in on a conversation between the Devil and a communist, but only if you’ve never read a blog.
There was Margot with the telling point: “Yeah, and wait in line for seventy years only to find out that all the souls were shipped to a different afterlife.”
And Steve and Ginger, who hashed out in a twenty-post thread that the communists, being atheist, had probably never formally regulated the soul.
And after a while, Mara herself, who inaccurately characterized his argument as “ad hominem.”
So the Devil tried again, a bit more formally now. He said:
“You can say what you will, but it’s a human right,
Unarbitrated by the law
To give up what you’ve got when it’s Devil-sought
In exchange for wealth and pleasure.
“Innate to the body, innate to the soul,
It’s always been that way
And I’m not a troll.
Don’t tell me you don’t know
That it’s right to hunt for treasure.”
And the argument went on long into the night. People mostly took the Devil’s side, for a couple of reasons. First, they thought it was kind of daring and counterculture to do so. They’d never sell their soul themselves, but they liked to think that other people should. Second, Mara was a communist demoness, and nobody in America takes communist demonesses seriously. We like our demons to be larger versions of ourselves, here in America. We want our ultimate capitalist democratic Christian devil, more ruthless than our tycoons, more corrupt than our politicians, living his life every day by scripture and by damn having the demons vote on rigged machines to back it up, in America. So a communist demoness is a little bit like a Prohibition demoness or a Nixon apologist demoness.
Not a bit respectable.
We’ll still fight someone like that. But we’re Americans. We can’t very well respect a devil backing a stupid idea.
Tanith didn’t post much when this happened.
Some of that was a frisson of supernatural awe. It’s not every blogger who gets comments from the Devil. Most bloggers only get comments from the Devil’s payroll, or from those automatic spammers that from time to time he shits.
But most of it was just—
That kind of “what do I say?” sense that can trouble a person, on those nights.
And because she hadn’t said anything, the Devil kept on reading her blog, intermittently, over the next few months.
Sometimes he’d post, and a bunch of the regulars would jump on him. Or sometimes Mara would post, and he’d make sure to bring up her many inadequacies as a person and a demoness.
And one day, Tanith wrote this.
“The word we have for someone who buys the intangible—the traitless, the ill-defined, the ephemeral sensation of satisfaction carried by the inconsistent belief that we have obtained a thing that we cannot define—is ‘fool.’
“I find myself wondering if the Devil hasn’t trapped himself in a pyramid scheme set forth by his Creator.
“I find myself wondering if it’s anything more than a confidence game, this business of buying souls. If it isn’t all backed by the dubious goodwill of the various divine and temporal institutions that have chosen, for the nonce, to pretend that that concept has value—
“A value that is fundamentally unsustainable, a spiritual tulip market, relying on the metricization of our own unquestioned assumptions.
“So I’d like to ask the Devil
If he’s sure it’s on the level
And just what he thinks he’s buying
If the Devil don’t mind.”
Some people say that that actually reached him. Others think he just got distracted by the pressures of being buried in ice at the bottom level of Hell and decided to stick to more generally pro-Devil blogs.
But he didn’t argue, and in the end that killed him.
The Devil can’t live if he doesn’t keep posting.
If you get to make your point—
Even just once!—
He withers away.
So there’s a new Devil now, just like there always is, just the same as the one before him. He’s red and he’s mean. He’s been as cold as ice from the day that his mother bore him.
But there’s one thing changed.
He doesn’t buy souls.
Not this one.
Not any more.
You’re supposed to give this Devil your soul. He doesn’t buy: he asks. You’re supposed to give it to him; and a lot of people do.
Freely, freely, and with brightness; so they say.