parable of the devil in the glass

I was finishing my second glass of wine at the bar. Perhaps i was slightly drunk. But when i looked into the bottom of the glass i saw a hideous face, all screaming mouth full of sharp teeth and tiny, rage-maddened eyes staring back at me. At first i was shocked, and then after a moment i recognized it: the visual incarnation of a mental process. I knew this devil. It was the howling face of a mocking creation. Its message was that happiness might be for others, but it was not for me. “You will strive for happiness,” promised the devil, “and it will turn to pain. If you do attain it, it will not be for long; it will vanish, and i will be waiting, and you will hear me shrieking with laughter at your defeat.”

This revelation that i had a personal demon bent on my psychic destruction brought a strange reaction. “Well then,” i replied, “that’s fine, i believe what you say, but you will never get to hear me beg for mercy, you will never see my spirit broken by my fate. I will never give you the satisfaction of admitting that you have defeated me.”

It may be an odd thing to argue with a condition of one’s own existence, but it made me feel better.

I could feel the defiance rising in me again as i looked into the glass. I know what to do, i thought, and shook the lees round inside the glass to break the image up. But it recomposed itself quickly and perfectly, still horrible. So then i tried drinking off the last of the wine, but when i set the glass down i could see it still. So i looked away and laughed, and tried to concentrate on the dance floor and the music. Still it was there, but it didn’t seem to matter as much. Then, just as an experiment, i stared directly at it until my eyes blurred, but that was also temporary. Whenever i could see clearly, the demon was there.

Finally i gave up trying to be rid of it. I could still it see there, out of the corner of my eye, but life rushed in around it and filled up the empty space it had created. As my field of vision widened, my demon came to seem more and more insignificant: a tiny face of howling fury trapped inside glass.