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The Line That Divides

By Eachdayaflower

When the Devil was three, he wrote me a letter. The letter said hello, I am writing to inform you I am now three years old. (It was a surprisingly well-written letter). My birthday was a grand affair, the letter continued, with flaming candles and flaming cake and a variety of flaming entrees. There were three kinds of sulfurous soda, three kinds of biscuit, three kinds of pitchfork games to play involving pinning tails on donkeys and watching children burn. The best thing about getting older will be the larger number of these types of things.

Next year will be four, and the year after, five. Imagine when thousands of years have passed, and the variety of sodas alone will astound everyone who attends. When I am ten thousand years old, he said, I will throw an enormous party. I will have ten thousand different types of piñatas come alive and gallop all over Hell. I will have ten thousand buffet tables filled with ten thousand different types of pastry, ten thousand of each. And oh, there will be soda – ten thousand different types, in ten thousand different varieties of packaging. I prefer glass packaging for my soda – it is easy enough to make down here with the embrace of fire and sand. If humanity cannot provide me with ten thousand different types of soda, I will make them burn. 

When I am one million years old, said the Devil, I will need the entire surface of the Earth upon which to throw my party. I will display my knickknacks upon the Continental shelf. I will fashion my party hats – one million different styles – from France and England. Those are stylish places. I will make one million bonfires, each using one million trees a piece. I will let them burn.

I will let you all burn.

That is what the Devil wrote to me when he was three years old.


When the Devil was ten, he wrote me again. I am older now, he said. I have seen many things, like how leather shoes are made, and the passage of time and how it flows. I am not so naïve.

Life is not all piñatas and soda and buffets and burning children. No, it's not all fun like that. It's not all parties and games. There's some serious stuff happening, and I want to be serious. I want to make clocks for a living, and leather shoes. I want to note the passage of time. I want to construct a new calendar, to write nursery rhymes about important issues affecting the world today, to write books and burn them unread. 

I want to feel important.

When I take away your libraries and burn them, when I take away pandas and polar bears and make your South Pole one tiny speck of ice upon which not even one penguin can balance, I will feel free. I will feel important. When I replace your rain forests with ornate grandmother clocks covered in gilt, all dinging and donging and telling a different time, we will see what you know about how time flows. We will see what you know about passages. 

I will be a master craftsperson. I will build a billion clocks with my own hands and burn them all. I will make ten million pairs of leather shoes and force you to live by eating only them. I will write a million books of nursery rhymes and novels and poetry and essays wherein I reveal the cure for cancer, the cure for ennui. I will burn them all. I will not throw one party. 

I will be serious.


When the Devil was 15 – well into his 15th year – he wrote me a letter. I am in love, he said. You have never been in love, he said, so you don't know. No one has ever been in love but me. So I will tell you what this is like. 

I was walking beside the river of lava. I was murdering cattle to make leather shoes. You cannot make leather shoes without murdering cattle, and besides, it is a task I enjoy. 

I am good at murdering cattle. I excel at making leather shoes.

I was walking beside the river of lava when I caught sight of her house – She showed through the window. A certain She, so capitalized and thereby set apart, unique. Her beauty is emphasized by the curve and length of the capital “S”; my burning heart slides over its silky spine, next hurls over the hump of lower-case “h,” then enters the curving eddy of “e“and comes to rest in that cradle at its base, exhausted. This is how I feel whenever I see Her – indeed, this is how I feel whenever She enters my thoughts, which is every moment – and so she is She. 

Her hair is a powder-puff in shape and consistency, divided down the center with a ruler every morning so as to honor symmetry. It is pale lavender, almost white, like a specially made variety of cotton candy. There are two pretty combs made of wrought gold holding Her hair so precisely at each side – they are adorned with a phoenix on one side and a dragon on the other. They long to meet at the back of Her head and battle, but they cannot escape the hold of Her hair. And so they strain, and this keeps the hair pulled back nice and tight.

She loves all things logical, and exact. She loves mathematics, dancing the mazurka and the quadrille and the Dandiya Raas, ironing pleats in sheets and curtains, baking, removing stains. She loves to be clean, and cleans Herself fastidiously throughout the day, like a cat. She will only wear glass clothing, for She doesn't want the taint of dust or dirt against Her skin. I cannot say I blame Her – glass is easy enough to make down here.

She does not speak; She performs her tasks on a strict schedule, with clockwork precision. She is like a clock: a tall, golden, ornate clock I wish I'd made with my own hands. I cannot make a clock as fine as She.

I go to her cottage every day. I sit outside and peer through the walls and watch Her endlessly cleaning Herself, arranging fire into flowers, baking pastries of such a sophistication and complexity that they cannot be eaten. And dancing, dancing, dancing, that maddening dance I watch her dance all day but can never join. For She is dead, and I will never be. The line that divides us will never be breached. She dances her patterned dances alone; I stand outside, face pressed against her window. I burn.

This is what it is to be in love.


When the Devil was my age, he wrote me a brief, thoughtful letter. 

I am getting older, he said. You know that this is a pain. It is a nuisance. Time flows – I understand the flow of time. But sometimes I do not flow along with it. Sometimes I get caught in an eddy, a whirlpool, and I spin around and around in dizzying circles and I do not advance. Sometimes I get trapped in a tidepool, and there is lethargy and nothing and ennui. Sometimes I go backwards while the rest of the world moves forward. There are spaceships and battle robots up there and there are pitchforks and flaming cakes down here, just like there were twenty years ago. Is that progress? If there are no battle robots, I think we both know the answer to that.

I am getting older, but I do not, always, advance. 

I have learned to make clocks and I have learned to make them well. I have learned to murder cattle to make shoes, and I make some of the best. I have learned to love a girl, a mazurka, a quadrille. I have learned about fire and sand and the ways that they embrace to make a soda bottle, a window, a dress, a heart. I have feared burning and I have also feared that burning would stop. 

I fear most of all that that burning will stop.

I am getting older, but I do not, always, advance.

Do you?


When the Devil was older than me, he wrote his last letter to me. I was tired of hearing from him, honestly, and I think he sensed that.

I have taken away your panda, he said. I have taken away your polar bear. There is nowhere for your penguins to stand, and your rainforests have all turned to clocks. I do not think you've noticed,though they ding and they dong all day – I do not think you'd ever visited the rain forests for yourself, or seen your Antarctica, or watched your panda as it went about its business. I do not think you've seen much, and you do not miss what you have not seen. You do not ache, you do not burn. You plod; you chew your cud a thousand times, you do not care if it's all the same. 

I am not important, but I am serious.

I can never set you aflame. You are a wet rag, you clod. You are a lump of mud. 

I am older than you now, and I cannot look up to you anymore. I can only look down, as if through binoculars backwards. 

I will not hold parties. I will not murder cattle and make leather shoes. I have finished with clocks. I will open a disco. I will watch her dance, dance, dance her maddening dances. You will hear from me no more, any of you. You wet rags, you clods. You lumps of mud.

You will never burn.