• Vol. 09
  • Chapter 07
Image by

The Better Devils of our Nature

When I moved to Berlin, I saw the devil all the time. I saw him in all the places you’d expect to see him. I saw him amongst his people. He wore an array of faces and he liked to give me the thumbs up.

In the early years, I got lost all the time. Stopping to ask for directions, I was told things like:

The secret police searched my family’s house, they even took apart the leg of ham that hung in the pantry. 

We were at a student party when we heard they opened the borders, and we all went, all of us. We danced all night. 

My mother was high up in the party. We didn’t get privileges. Well, only like a banana or something. She killed herself when it all ended. 

I was good at sport so I went to a special school where we were allowed to listen to music from the West and every day they gave me a red pill.

In Berlin, I learned to never not wear a scarf and swim naked all year round. I learned to air the room and drink curative teas.

I still saw the devil, although less often, and looking more sad than bad. Trudging round Schlachtensee. Getting turned away by the security at Teufelsberg. I would have asked him how he was but I was deep in conversation with friends. We were having the kind of conversations that continue long after you stop speaking, that go on even if you don’t see each other, even if it’s for years.

Today, I saw the devil again. First time in ages. There was a small boy hanging from his wrist. A German lady was telling him off for throwing crusts of bread into the communal compost bin. 


The Better Devils of our Nature

I waited around, hoping for a word. I wanted to tell the devil I was leaving and I wanted to say thank you. Sometimes any company is better than none.

In the end I gave up. The German lady wasn’t stopping any time soon. You could tell she would still be at it when the new flood came, when the waters devoured the earth, when all of human civilisation sank beneath the seas.

‘Do you want rats?’ She was saying. ‘Is that what you want?’

The little boy was wearing gold shoes. A demon crawled down the wall.