‘Take your time,’ she replied, ‘I’ve got heaps of it. And you, I fear, far too little. You are only a man, and men grow old. I do not. You are a man, and men grow weak, as I shall never grow weak. You are an old, weak man, and your mind begins to falter, whereas I can know the history of the world with each passing day. You are a shadow, whereas I am the shadow. Do you fear me now?.’
Horton lifted his eyes to meet the fiend. His gaze did not falter.
‘I notice you started going to church. Is that because of me? I’m flattered. But can you not think, my dear Johnny, that a chance meeting with the devil was perhaps not the best of reasons for becoming such a God-fearing man. You’re closer to me than you ever were to Him. Why not fear me, instead?
‘Johnny, you are a man, and created by God. Is that not what you believe? Don’t stare, darling, it doesn’t suit you. Not only are you created by God, but, accordingly, you are created from Him, just like the earth, and the ants that crawl upon it. You are mortal, the ants are mortal. Does that not make God mortal?’
Horton’s gaze did not falter.
‘Johnny, Johnny, Johnny…of us both, who is the expert here? Let me tell you about your God: He is a senile old fart, whose mind has grown feeble, and the minds of his creations along with it. He has grown weak, just like you and everything else. Johnny, He has grown old, and I – I alone – grow into my prime in this dark age.
‘Do you fear me now?’
Horton’s gaze never faltered.
‘I see your stubbornness belies your age. Very well, Johnny, rosin up your bow. Play your fiddle hard. Hell has broken loose again, and – once again – I am dealing the cards.’