The Modern Fable

One day a young man was walking alone on a beach.

Suddenly in a puff of smoke, there stood before the man The Devil himself.

"You have led a hard life," The Devil said, "and I wish to ease your pain."

The young man stood still for a moment. "Ease my pain?"

"Yes. You were born poor, and your parents died when you were very young. The orphanage mishandled your case, and your foster parents were very cruel to you. You never even learned how to read. You have no real friends, no home, no job, and -" the Devil clicked his tongue while examining the bag the man was carrying - "five empty soda bottles to your name."

"I live my life as I live it, I don't make any excuses. Now if you don't mind, I need five more of these bottles if I'm gonna get any food tonight." The young man continued walking.

The Devil followed closely behind, hands behind his back. "What if I could offer you the comforts of the world? All of them, whatever you desire. Food, money, a warm bed, women .."

The young man kept walking, scanning the beach for bottles.

"I could give you powers beyond your wildest dreams. You would be the most respected man on the face of the earth."

"Leave me alone. Dinner's served in an hour, and the manager don't like stragglers. Unless you want to help me find bottles."

The Devil rolled his eyes and snapped his fingers. There in front of them appeared five bottles. The young man peered at the bottles for a minute. Then he turned to The Devil.

"You think this is a game? I struggle to survive. You just snap your fingers and your desires are fulfilled. How pointless is that? Do you even have a struggle? I clean this beach, the manager buys me dinner, it's that simple. I sleep on the beach, I wake up on the beach, I clean the beach. It's not terribly easy, and certainly no one ever thanks me for it. For awhile, I didn't think there was any point to living. But I haven't given up yet. I am completely resolved to kick your finger-snapping ass with my hard work. So you can take those bottles and your powers and your comforts and shove them! The sun's almost down, I gotta get back to looking."

Before the last word left his lips, another puff of smoke appeared, and then no one was there. The bottles were gone, too. He was back by himself on the beach, alone. He stood for a moment, considering all he had forfeited - and he smiled sadly at his human condition. He resumed his march down the beach, slowly picking up any bottles he found.

"I don't understand it!" The Devil seethed to Mephistopheles. "It used to be so easy! They all just gave up their souls for a taste of it all. But now, you can't convince this generation to do anything for their own good!"

"There, there," Mephistopheles offered sympathetically. "These young kids today, they don't think they're owed anything like the generations before them. It's almost as if they all know the going rate for souls these days. It's a bear market, that's for sure."

"All of this philosophy! Existentialism, post-structuralism, deconstructionism, postmodernism - metaphysics used to be the simplest thing to overcome! You think therefore you are! I could blow that perception out of the water in seconds flat! Now they're all suffering for themselves. They don't even trust themselves to do good with the powers. They question everything. Hell, half of them last year thought I was the next David Blaine doing a hidden camera special. Little bastards."

Mephistopheles chuckled to himself. "Well, Master, it's true what they say: evil is not the same as cool."

The Devil sighed. "Wanna hit up the Bush twins? I hear they're itching for another chance at Ashton Kutcher." Mephistopheles smiled and nodded, and two ascended back to Earth, where the garden of delights awaiting them had never looked so thin.