Demon in the Stairwell

I got home from work last week and there was a demon in the stairwell. ("...unicorn in the rose garden"... what? Is there an echo in here?)

What order of demon it was, its rank and title in the Hierarchy of the Damned, I know not. In fact, it was a caterpillar. It was a small blob of absolute black, moving along the tile floor. Starless night black, devouring-all-light black, black as the Pit, fuzzy around the edges -- it could be nothing but a demon. I guess a caterpillar had wandered in under the door.

I immediately realized it was a demon, but one must not rely on appearances. The next morning it was gone. When I got home from work, it was there again, but apparently dead. The next day it was gone again. Then alive, industriously working its way along the molding. There is nothing in that corridor for a caterpillar to eat. Don't they die if they're not constantly eating? I think I read that.

I don't know what demons eat either. Maybe it drank the ichor of damned souls when it was off on its infernal tasks, and only spent evenings crawling down my hallway, two inches per minute.

So which was it, dear reader -- the demon or the tiger? The question cannot be answered. If you are so foolish, the answer spreads out, making fantasies true and facts whimsical, until you are lost in a maze of things you must or must not believe. Some people live in a universe all demons and caterpillars, and their souls I pity.

In pity, too, I scooped up the demon and the caterpillar together and tossed them both out onto the lawn. Maybe it'll find something to eat. Maybe tonight it will again be on the stair, that little black blob that isn't there, and there and again through Eternity. And if so, dear reader -- have pity upon my soul.

-- November 2, 1998.

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