Past Lives: Trade


Never can true reconcilement grow where wounds of deadly hate have pierced so deep…

― Paradise Lost, John Milton


Once upon a time…

No, that’s not right. Let me try again. There are many different stories about how the demons came to be, and no two are the same. When I was a little girl, a time that now seems impossibly long ago, this was one of the many I was told. Whether you believe it is up to you; whether I believe it… ah, no comment.

Demon was not always a word synonymous with evil. In the days when it was said the gods still spoke to us, they were envoys, merchants, ambassadors. They spoke on the occasions that the gods themselves couldn’t, gave each and every one of us the piece of the heavens we were yet to reach.

Some say it was a god who gave mankind music. Some say it was a demon.

They made offers, traded with us wearing faces of impossible beauty, their prices fair and those offers made only when sorely needed. The gods looked upon them as children, and the demons looked to us as friends.

The gods, however, hadn’t reckoned upon their creations sharing the frailties and follies they called their own. The demons watched us, watched our earth, and began to fall prey to jealousy. Each time, after their deals were done, their business concluded, they had to return to the heavens, to where the gods were. They envied our free will, our lands, the concept of love, none of which they had themselves; the leashes they were kept on by the gods began to feel tighter around their throats than ever before.

The clincher, and the thing that finally made them move? The demons discovered boredom. While waiting for us to call them, they found themselves seeking entertainment, wanting the feel of soil beneath them.

A whole species never has the same opinion. It was not all of them – though it was by far the majority – and not all approved, but, some time after they had begun trading with us, they started to plot. They plotted to take the earth from us, to have our lands and our freedoms, to walk our landscapes and call them their own.

They failed. Whether they were betrayed by some of their own kind or the gods really were omniscient, their plans were discovered. Uncaring that it was not all of them, that their scheming wasn’t universal, the gods took each and every demon’s wealth and exiled them to the strange, in-between place – not Heaven, Hell or Earth, but an insubstantial place of clouds and emptiness. Some call it Purgatory.

Now they could no longer visit the gods in their celestial paradise, the demons turned their eyes back to Earth. However, the gods had already warned humans of the demons, and the demons found that they were unwelcome on Earth, too.

Left with no-one to trade with and no purpose in life, the demons became resentful. Twisting events, they told themselves that the humans had caused this, had tempted them in order to cause their downfall; that they had sought to gain their riches. Despair became resentment, and the demons began once again to trade.

This time, they rarely ever crafted themselves the beautiful faces they had worn to greet us before; now they wore their hate openly and proudly, their prices always too high and their offers borne of sadism. They preyed on us, took from us our loves and our lives, and smiled as they did it. They watched us suffer, and laughed, thinking it perfect vengeance. There are good demons, perhaps, those who still want to repair bridges, but I’ve never met one.

That is how they say the demons that we know today were born. Believe it if you like; when you put it in the form of a tale, it almost makes sense.

A story told to List by Melinda, in a dark office.

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