In a graveyard, a condemned man confessed his sins to the Devil, and made him shed tears. The Devil cowered, not wanting his momentary lapse of strength to be noticed. He imagined he would hate the man, would easily tear him to pieces and not feel a thing, but as he knelt beside him, both were consumed by the shared sadness of a journey which had taken so much and left so little.
Surrounded by sepulchres and idols devoted to the dead, reminders of the decimation they had left in their wake, they both remained silent and still. The man was haggard, yet taut and sinewy, his cheeks hollow and devoid of life. He felt a tiredness like he had worked every day of his life, yet the condition of his hands told otherwise. They were clean; his nails were well-kempt and precisely trimmed. Not a speck of dirt could be found in the creases of his palms. His eyes expressed a fire that once burned too bright within him, unaware that it would flounder and die as soon as the fuel was consumed. What remained was nothing but ashes and embers, neither burning nor extinguished, simply in a state of existing.
The Devil recognized that fire, but he had forgotten from where, and so he continued to look down at him. Pity and sadness seeped out toward the desiccated creature which lay before him. The man shifted his body weight unto a gravestone, his weariness becoming more and more evident. The name and inscriptions had long since faded, and the flowers left for the dead had turned to dust.
Despite the dark maroon light that enveloped all, and the winds that carried in them the echoes of dreams, the thick ashes remained strangely weighted down, as if waiting in anticipation for some moment of catharsis that would never pass. Perched atop the gravestone was a hooded figure with spread wings; a lone effigy and reminder of the beauty that had once permeated this world, yet its features were so heavily enveloped in dust that the shadows cast across its concealed face revealed a demonic truth that even the infallible angels could not withstand the end. Even the feathers on the wings were so eroded and malformed that they looked like cracked bones jutting out in all directions. The image chilled even the Devil, and he did not understand why at first. The winged statue precariously held in its hands a sword pointing downward, with the tip just barely above the man’s head.
After years of running, the man seemed to have finally surrendered. After graveyard upon graveyard, the man had finally stopped, and the Devil wanted to know why. He wanted to know why the man chose this spot, why he ran if he was just going to stop and why he looked so empty. Yet, the man did not even look at the Devil. He was not weakened or terrified by the Devil’s visage, but instead by his surroundings.
The world was awash in a layer of congealing blood, which even in the darkness revealed a lifeless landscape. It was a nightmare, with gravestones stretching as far as the horizon and structures erupting from the defiled earth which appeared as gaunt and haggard as the man himself. The man seemed as though he had come to some untold realization as a lone tear ran down his cheek. A tear that cut through the dust that had begrimed his grey face and told of depths of sorrow deeper than any pit the Devil possessed. When the man eventually turned to face him, the Devil knelt beside him, tilting his head quizzically.
For a moment he saw what the man could see. Hatred flared and swelled within him like thick black smoke. This creature, unfit even to be called man, had taken so much and left so little, and for all the pain and suffering had created nothing worth taking to the end. Nothing of value that would survive his demise, and for that, he had destroyed both humanity’s and the Devil’s domain. Angered, the Devil turned to the man, ready to rip and tear until his being was no more. But he was only met with those same sorrowful and tired eyes. The Devil realized that this man was no hellion, he was just a man that had made the wrong decisions. Millennia had passed, so long that even the Devil had forgotten, but that night, kneeling next to that man, the Devil remembered.
The Devil remembered the same fire that was once within him, his own grace and his own fall. He remembered being cast out and stripped of everything, forced to persevere out of a desire to return to what he once was. An ungodly desire, which had resulted in only torture for so long that he had forgotten his goals, and who he once was.
The man was shrouded in the unclear shadows cast by the statue’s wings. The Devil watched over him in silence, coming to understand the creature before him. Cool tears steamed off the Devil's hot skin as he came to the understanding that he could only see himself in this man. He cowered his head, ashamed of the sensations in his heart. The tears shed by the Devil were not tears of hatred, or of anger, but rather, tears of empathy.
He understood. He knew what it was like to realize that everything is worth nothing once you look back and see the cost of your actions. The Devil was used to judging and reaping the souls of the damned, but for once he wanted to forgive, because he knew the cycle had to be broken.
In a graveyard a condemned man confessed his sins to the Devil, and made him shed tears. Through the veil of tears, the Devil fixed his fiery gaze on the man, grimaced and said,
“Get up, in a few hours it’ll be morning and you’ll be out of my reach. Try again. And this time do it right. Because next time, there will be no next time.”