To Our Own Devices
Kelly was rambling in a lush meadow south of Killarney when he tumbled and fell headlong into the demon’s lair. As demons go this one was unerringly civil and greeted Kelly as a long lost uncle might.
“Faith! ‘Tis Kelly is it not? You’re a welcome sight. Have a nip with me,” the demon exclaimed and offered forth a chipped mug filled with a peaty distillation.
“Well met,” Kelly replied, extending a hand to clasp the bone-cold of the demon’s drink. He tipped the chill cup and let it burn blessedly down. “Ahhhhh. That’s a swell number.” He saluted the demon with his mug. “I be Kelly. One of a million. But only meself. To what do I owe this pleasure, sir demon?”
The demon snorted delightedly, blue flame flitting from his nostrils to singe the long, pointy, blood-stained beard that framed his hollow face. “Kelly, Kelly. No wonder your fame precedes you like the savor of me mum’s lamb stew. I’m no sir. You’ll not be talking to the likes of Maxwell’s demon in these here parts. We’re plain demon folk that plots our mischief as it pleases us. Have another try,” the demon offered, refilling Kelly’s mug.
Ever a sociable guest, Kelly hoisted the drink. “Faith,” he toasted with a smile, then wiped his lips before continuing. “Whatever the need, whatever the circumstances, the pleasure’s mine. What can I do you for, your infernalness?”
“Only your company for a few moments. Then I must return to business. The diabolical consumes us these days. No rest for the wicked in these troubled times.”
Kelly grunted his keen assent. “Aye. To be sure. Trouble afoot. You sure I cannot help?”
“Faith, me very mother! Kelly, your presence is our succor. You provide our purpose. Without you all would be lost in immediate victory. The struggle is all. Surely, you know that?”
“It may be. I take little notice. My aim is to others. A gain for all and nothing for meself.” He tapped the demon’s mug. “Except the sustenance that allows me to ramble, tumble and be of service. ‘Tis only natural.”
The demon refilled his mug. “To nature.”
Kelly saluted. “Our better ones. Though I make no personal distinctions.”
“Aye,” the demon assented. “Better natures. Me sworn enemy and bitter love.” A molten tear appeared at the corner of the demon’s cat-like eye and then dropped to the damp hard packed earth where it sizzled for a brief moment.
Kelly patted the corduroy breeches at the demon’s knees. “Faith, you mustn’t despair.”
“You know it to be so, though I do fret. To war is to breathe for me brethren, and I ken less and less of your ways and wonders, Kelly.” The demon motioned to a corner of his dark lair where amid piles of gnawed bones there lay an astonishing assortment of smart-tech: phones, watches, glasses, clothing, tablets, laptops and more.
Kelly shrugged. “Toys and tools. They change nothing. Leave us to our own devices. We will always meet you halfway, poor soul.”
“That is why you are legend, Kelly. You truly ask nothing of yourself. You serve all and hope for the best. You fear nothing—not even entropy.”
“Pshaw. Thermodynamics is a child’s bogeyman. Quantum relativism a witch’s wart at midnight. Metaversal mechanics a pocked pixie.” Kelly dismissed them all with a wave. “The here and now. ‘Tis simple. Complexity is to desire. To control. You’ll not find me there. Help is a hand—at hand.”
The demon stood. He was three-quarters the size of Kelly, though his shadow blacker than the singularity, towered over them both. He kicked at a gleaming laptop with his cloven hoof. “Strange and heartbreaking that you have no enemies, Kelly. I would have sold my soul twice over to make war upon you—with rocks, blades, guns or Denial of Service attacks. And you would only open your arms wide to my aggressions. You’d assist in my assaults. You can see why I grieve. Why I despair.”
“Aye, my good demon. You suffer. But, I cannot. The lot of us will share the same heat death. Only then is it to mourn. Fill me cup once more and let us toast. Then I must get to roamin’ once more.”
The demon poured the draught. They clinked cups and raised them.
“To your devices,” the demon prayed.
“And nothing for meself,” Kelly added, his smartphone buzzing in his pocket.