I once heard that every warm-blooded species has its own devil; just as there is a devil of humans, there is a devil of wolves, and a devil of owls. They only appear among their own kind, and thus elude zoological study, but the results of their cruel pacts can be found in the depths of our world’s wilderness.

In my travels, I saw three-winged hawks that hopped in pitiful spirals, deer chained to trees by the knots of their own golden antlers, and coyotes who wore their teeth like crowns, licking ants from the soil to survive. I even witnessed chalk-white doves without eyes hunting alongside bats as though one of their own kind. Few among these poor creatures had shadows of their own, and fewer still had a pulse. Without the wisdom required to negotiate with demons, their souls were lost to terrible bargains.

I knew not which would be more merciful: to hunt them as game, and grant them the blessing of being served as dinner upon a righteous man’s table, or to allow them to complete their short, wild lives before the endless winter of damnation. I chose the latter, being inclined towards the Pythagorean diet, yet now I fear that, for once, this may not have been the most pious decision to make. I have learned to doubt many of the decisions that I made during those years.

In the same forest where I once witnessed these things, I later encountered the devil of my own kind. Admittedly, I sought him out- not to make a deal, but to question these monstrosities. “All these creatures were once so beautiful. How can you look upon the works of your own kin and not be disgusted?”

“I could ask the same of you, traveler.” He grinned crimsonly, baring teeth like toenails. “Surely you’ve seen what mankind has done with the animals entrusted to his care.”

“Yet I have rejected the cruel ways of mankind,” I declared feverishly. “I have washed myself clean of spiritual blemish in the blood of my savior. I have not partaken of the flesh of any once-living beast in more than ten years. I have accepted that sin is within me, and through grace, I have gained the strength to resist it. It is for these reasons that I can stand before you unafraid.”

He then laughed back at me with loud, yellow eyes. “If such things truly make you so righteous, then perhaps the world would be served better with you as one of its devils. Should you ever wish to trade places with one of us, and go about doing things your way instead, the offer is always open.”