Conversation With Temptation

"You know the most beautiful thing about being a Tempter? No, seriously, please, put down your little plus sign. Please, sit. Let's talk. Let's have home tea. It's civilised. Oh, and it's on the house.

"There, now, that is so much better. You have to admit, the reason why I'm so good at offering temptation is that I know what people want. But this is not the most beautiful thing about being a Tempter, oh no. I'd love to tell you what it is, because it will make you laugh. Biscuit? No? Suit yourself. I'll have a Jaffa cake. Gorgeous. I love your human indulgences, especially these.

"Now where was I? Ah, yes, the deliciousness that is my job.

"This is the thing. I care about you all. Simple as that. Oh, don't look at me like that. Think about it.

"This is the thing about my job. I provide a freelance service. Summoned, I come. I offer you Temptation. You take it. Your soul goes to me when you die. It says so right there in the contracts you all write up for me, which you sign so melodramatically in your own blood - a nice flourish, but unnecessary. A thumbprint in ink is quite sufficient.

"And now here's the trick. All of this ... is on you. It is entirely your decision.

"I may offer Temptation - but unlike some ... zealous types offering you Paradise, I don't attempt to cram it down your throats at gunpoint. I don't have to actively walk among the people, recruiting. I don't even have to feed regularly. Just the odd lost soul, every few months or years or so.

"It's the easiest job in the world, being a Tempter. It does not involve any sort of material outlay whatsoever, and the overheads are staggeringly small. I don't have to manifest in some place marked by Evil, or start sending out MP3s that summon me by my name when you run them backwards or that play subliminal messages to fill your minds with sexually deviant thoughts or whatever.

"No, I don't have to roam around snatching people off the street and drag them screaming down to my lair. Not when you all so readily just ... walk up to my door, smiling, with your eyes wide open.

"All it takes is one moment of entirely human failure, frustration, fear, anger, lust - oh, I love the ones driven by lust, that heady tang of such sweet bitterness. And it isn't me that sends you those irksome little stumbling blocks on your road to Apotheosis. As a species, you all do this to yourselves.

"Or you forget that you're natural creatures and you get a disease or suffer an accident - you know, what you call "bad luck," but some of your more brutish and less cultured types would call "karma," although I'd find it very hard to be forgiving of a man or woman who calls it karma if your kid is born with spina bifida, and if you felt tempted to lamp such a person right in the chops, who'd blame you - I'd be sorely tempted to do it myself, tell the truth. Top up?

"Point being, everybody is human, everybody makes mistakes, and everybody fails sooner or later. And I come in when, once in a while, you get some human who fails most spectacularly, who - how you say - screws the pooch, humps the bunk, fucks things up beyond all recognition. Someone for whom the taint of being a loser seems chronic, lurching and stumbling from one crisis to another, never able to put a foot down right anywhere. Someone who just can't do right for doing wrong.

"You call them losers. I call them light refreshments. Hors d'oeuvres. Aperitifs. Snacks. Speaking of, sandwich? They're delicious. Very well. Never say that I am an ungracious host.

"But then you get the banquets. The high flyers. The ones who rise so high, and who thus have so far to fall. The ones who call themselves "too big to fail," and who set themselves up above the rest of you. They all have the same sweet, terrible flaw. My flaw. My Temptation. The one I could never resist, or so they say. Now these, when they fall, are the ones that can set me up for decades. One of those comes along, and you won't see me roaming the streets for years.

"And right now, your society is apparently riddled with them. In fact, you have too many of them, all straining and sweating there at the top, all crammed together on a rarefied throne meant for one at the very most. When they fall, they are all going to fall. It will be raining buffoons. You'll see.

"And here's where it gets interesting. Once again, like the act of summoning me, all of this is entirely your fault. This has never happened in the entire history of your species - but perhaps it is something inevitable, in a closed system where you cannot go anywhere any more, where you have finally infested every single corner of your precious little world. You've got nowhere else to go, so you all finally come back to where you started, and now you're almost at the breaking point where either you all start pruning your populations back, or the environment rejects you and prunes you all back for you.

"And I'm going to offer you one tiny piece of advice. It won't be the former that you have to worry about. It's the latter, because I have it on good authority that the latter is what is happening right now. It started some time ago, and it's begun to show the first symptoms, right under your noses.

"But that is not my problem, you see, because if you do all disappear, I'll cease to exist myself. I only exist because of you. Why would I kill off the only species that needs Temptation? That needs me?

"Only humans ever suffer temptation to the extent you do. Animals, well, they want something and they'll take it. They don't hesitate; they just do it. No concept of sin, you see.

"It takes consciousness and a concentration of abundant stupidity to create the conditions for beings like me to exist; and boy, you as a species have set a standard for stupidity that the universe will find a tough act to follow.

"Yes, if I do disappear, I'll be very sad about it - until I cease even to feel sad, or feel anything at all - but I accept my role, as I accept my nature. Speaking of which, I must now take my leave to answer a call of Nature.

"It has been very pleasant talking with you, and you have been such a gracious guest, but I must now show you the door I'm afraid. I've just got an urgent call from a young nun. Well, I think she's a nun, because she's religious but she has one hell of a habit. I quite enjoyed your visit. Please, do call again any time. Goodbye."

And to hear this conversation in my voice ... go here and follow the link.

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"And if we have unearned luck, now to scape the serpent's tongue, we will make amends ere long. Else the Puck a liar call ..."

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