Somewhere on the beach outside my home, I met Lucifer, strumming a mandolin and thumbing his goatee at the roaring waves. It was a windy day, bitterly cold and gray, and Lucifer, dressed in a greatcoat and heavy brown wool trousers, seemed only to find warmth in the music he played. He beckoned me as I passed, though I tried my best to avert his gaze.
"You know how this goes. I've got an offer you can't refuse, and you have something I can't do without."
"You'll save my wife and grant us a long, happy marriage in exchange for my soul." I said, nodding, looking out at the sea. Off in the distance, a pair of jagged black outcroppings were smashed with frothy water.
"That's the most common arrangement, yes."
I turned back to the fallen angel, and saw he was wounded with frightful scars on his face.
"I thought you were supposed to be handsome."
"What an awful thing to say to a person."
"Where did the scars come from?"
"I fought the good fight. You know, between Heaven and Hell."
"Of course not. I've got a supplanter in the throne as we speak."
"Then what do you need new souls for?"
Lucifer set down the mandolin. "The usurper decided to install himself as God. Megalomaniacal bastard."
"You should have stayed there yourself."
"Then I'd be God and Hell would have a new Satan. It never ends; I can't be in two places at once. In fact, I prefer to spend most of my time on the mortal plain. Human lives are so banal it's a welcome reprieve from my day-to-day job."
"What if someone takes over Hell while you're gone?"
"I'm prepared for that eventuality. Purgatory keeps most of my souls, sort of like contract soldiers. They can't leave without serving their term, but they never resist my power, lest they have someone worse take over."
"Quite the life you lead."
"So God is dead?" The shock of such a realization failed to hit me. I felt oddly peaceful.
"God's been gone a long time. His name never stays the same for more than twenty years."
"But you keep replacing him."
"No, there are other players. This is the first time in millions of years one of my legions rebelled."
"What other players?"
"Yaldaboath is the only one you have a name for, I think. Some of the Hindi deities, if that means anything to you."
"So who is God supposed to be, then?"
"The Creator. He kept things in line for a long time--longer than you can imagine, even if you might have a number for it. But he got old and fuddy-duddy, and there was a power struggle, and yadda yadda. Him and I were partners."
"But you rebelled."
"Nah," Lucifer picked his instrument from his boulder perch. "I promised him I'd restore order to things. Unfortunately, he died not long after that. It's hard to restore order when the very definition of order has passed on."
"Where did God go when he died?"
"Nowhere. He was at the top. When he died, that was it. Oblivion."
"Don't get me started on that guy." Lucifer started playing again. "Tell you what, I'll give you a freebie. Your wife is fine, and you get to go to Heaven. All you gotta tell me when you get there is if billions of years of fighting is worth it. Last time I was there, it looked a lot worse than my home domain."
As the notes danced into my ears, I looked back out to the sea, to the outcroppings bashed by the depths. I heard them for a long time after, but the moment I looked back, Lucifer was nowhere to be seen. I headed home to my wife, and I wondered if there was such a thing as infinity, and if it mattered either way.