by Andy Dibble

When demon gunk squirms up my neck and down my throat, I wish I didn’t play Deymons. I wish I leapt for a Vieuwscape experience scrolling through media feyds for vieuws of celebrities. You click, the fugue of headswap, and you’re Tjel on stage, singing your heart out—with none of the work to get where she got. Or Z-Marciano scoring the winning goal. Or Skryzyx riding that perfect high without the crash afterward.

When the demons in Deymons are up in you, you retch, sometimes in real life. They are many, and they are always around, like evil oil bubbling up. It differentiates into tissue and bone, normally only after finding an orifice. It’s disturbing how familiar it tastes, like meaty fingers.

Some players boast that they beat Dasharaakh, the muscley demon, by force. Or Adaranth, or some other. They lie. Your only hope is to get to the next fire: to run fast enough, to answer their riddles, to offer the right object, which is sometimes a part of yourself.

But for now, I could still shove Ixyon’s bony inner wheel into place. It pulsed faintly and burst into flame, blasting a hole in the swamp of forming flesh.

“Thank God.” Cynthia collapsed in relief. “They were up my ass. How did you know the combination?”

“The sigils in the lore at the last few fires.”

“Yeah, they had vieuws linked, but they didn’t make sense.”

One had ferreted us in the head of a merchant, who sold clay tablets with curses inscribed. He’d been worried his buyers would figure out he couldn’t read. In another, I’d been a prostitute washing in a pond sacred to a minor god of hygiene.

“I’m pretty sure the vieuws were a red herring. A few of the sigils matched the sigils on the wheels, and I guessed they had to be aligned in the direction of the Path.” When you play Deymons as long as I have, you develop a sense for which way’s forward even in the primeval dark between fires.

“Surprised no one figured that out sooner,” she said.

“I’m not. How many players bother to read?”

“Good point.”

Deymons challenges you to rise above the candy: You have to think. You have to read the lore. But only a tiny percentage of players are dedicated like Cynthia and me. Most only hang around to vieuw new demons that others took vieuws of. Then they flit back to scrolling the feyds.

“So how do you feel?” I still felt giddy. “We’re the first to beat Ixyon.”

“Major rep for you,” she said.

“Nah, tons of players have taken vieuws of Ixyon. Major rep comes from being first to take the demon after.” What people want most is new content to consume, a new vieuw of a totally new demon. Even being Tjel gets old after about forty-five seconds.

Cynthia rolled her eyes. Once I asked her why she played Deymons, if not for rep. I didn’t understand why, when she’s such a serious Christian. If God’s anywhere in Deymons, He’s very far away, like a vanishing point. She had blushed and fumbled for an answer. Eventually she said that Deymons is a picture of what a Godless world is like. Deymons is a world that’s radically against reality.

“So onward?” I said, still buoyed by our win.

“Let me get warm first.” She took off her manticore-hide gloves and splayed her fingers in front of the fire.

“Don’t take too long. Another crew could be beating Ixyon right now.”

She looked at me—up, away from the fire. “Mylo, the next is for me.”

“Oh.” I hadn’t thought of that. Deymons tweaks its demons to play off the weaknesses of players, and it has a way of alternating. Ixyon had been attuned to me, although the effect weakens after many player encounters so that each demon takes on a stable identity. But the next would be fresh, with only Cynthia imprinted on it.


Once Cynthia tried to render a vieuw of a vision of God by seeding AI with different theophanies from the Bible: God’s robe filling the Temple, descending doves and burning bushes, rebukes from a whirlwind, Pentecostal wind and fire, not wind and fire but the gentle whisper after. She wanted to overawe self-proclaimed freethinkers that bashed Christians for fun.

The AI-generated vieuws were intriguing. One—an ascent through concentric heavens in which every star had eyes—was even wondrous. But that was the problem. I could only appreciate it from the outside, even though I was living a vieuw. I don’t think I’m supposed to encounter God like I appreciate a work of art. For ancient people, none of this was art.

Cynthia had a precise idea of how the vieuw was supposed to be. “Seeing God overcomes and humbles you and crushes you with incomprehension, it remakes you and burns you from the inside.” I asked how she knew it was like that, and she said she’d seen God for herself. She told me this so frankly, I didn’t know what to say.

But I saw for myself what emerged from the darkness of the Path, among standing stones dense with inscriptions. I toggled my night vision ability in horror, but the darkness was visible, in deep violets and afterimages.

She was slight and cold. She wore a veil. In her right hand she carried a scepter and in her left a whip. Six-winged serpents formed from gunk and wriggled in the air. The thrash of their wings struck up such frigid blasts my cuirass of greater warmth felt as thin as the rough spun cloak of a new player. Her whip cracked, and all around us there was the rousing of many—striking at one another, clanging chains, crying out with voices of people I’ve wronged.

One lurched in front of me. Its skin and clothes hung in strips. Those scraps had been a suit, one of so many bothersome anachronisms that had percolated into Deymons. A tie swayed around its neck. It wore a chain, a silvery cross. Its face was decayed, a remnant of humanity.

I think it—or he—was my father, or was supposed to be. I hadn’t known him. My mom had said she met him when he was on a business trip, and then he was gone. I’m not even sure if she had pictures.

Deymons wasn’t always so personal, but there’s no reason why it couldn’t be. The Vieuwscape doesn’t just interface with goggles and haptic gloves. It’s up in your brain.

In a liquid motion he chained himself to me, to the chain that tethered all of them, generation upon generation. I shoved him away, or tried to, and cried out an invocation to repel low-level demons, but not these, not her. I felt foolish for reacting so much from fear.

I beheld the lady, vast and cold. I did not know her. But I knew this: She was no demon, not in the traditional sense of one bound by rules—easy to pass if you know the proper words or lure to cast or answer to a riddle. She was more basic than that, like the shadow of the Earth. If it decided to take a personal interest in your captivity.

I could not beat her, could not begin to oppose her. Maybe the seller of curses or the bathing prostitute—those ancient, those faraway people I’d been for a snatch of moments—could understand her, could get behind the art of her. She was not meant to be overcome—not by mortal means. She was there to remind us that no one ever beats Deymons. There’s always another fire, dimmer than the last. There’s help, but you always die alone.

Or, if not alone, in a parody of company.

The lady lifted her scepter, prying a desperate plea from Cynthia’s lips and mine, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

The cries of all the manacled dead harmonized, speaking with one voice. The lady’s voice: “Who am I?”

Cynthia yanked the chain that bound her to her jailer and said, “When she made us speak, it was from the Bible. Romans, chapter 7.”

“You know the answer?”

“She’s sin.”

This encounter was attuned to Cynthia, so scripture wasn’t surprising, but could it be so easy? “If you’re sure.” We only had one chance. Earlier on the Path, some of the demons gave you three guesses, but if we failed now, she would destroy us.

“You’re sin,” said Cynthia.

The lady cocked her head, considering. Or stretching the moment. She was unreadable behind her veil.

Until her whip cracked down and lacerated the skin from our chests. Vision dissipated like smoke. The cold was complete, like the night before man discovered fire. Like the end of the Path.

The dead swarmed over us and gunk squirmed inside. I remembered what I remember when I die: The darkness outside had always been the same as the darkness inside. My skin was just the thin membrane between, and no light shone through it.


We respawned at the Town, which surrounds a bonfire as huge as a volcano, the first fire of the game. It was warm, although it took a solid minute for me to shake off the cold nausea of death.

Originally the Town was a ring of mudbrick huts where you could buy talismans and other magic items, but an update gave player guilds the ability to develop real estate. So now the Town was dotted with anachronisms: a clocktower, a plant for capturing carbon from the bonfire, a lab for research into demonic DNA. Complaints from players that magic items could give rise to anti-scientific attitudes had been a factor in the change.

“I gave the right answer!” Cynthia ranted. “It was sin.”

“Don’t worry about it. We took vieuws of her, whatever she’s called. People will flip.”

We tried again and again to pass the Queyn, which is what players started calling her. Cynthia tried hamartia, the Greek word for sin in the Bible. We tried metaphors for sin and titles of old tragedies.

We did research. Apparently, some ancient kings chained prisoners of war to decomposing corpses, “bodies of death.” Although it was strange that Paul, the author of Romans, so stable in his faith, would write from a position of wretchedness and despair.

We never got further than the crack of her whip and cold dark death.

Cynthia took our failure personally after a while, like the AI that spun the game up were telling her she didn’t understand her faith. After a while, she gave up, said she was going dark.

‘Ur loging off?’ I messaged her.

‘For whyl.’

Everyone logged off to piss or eat or exercise, although some people have rigs with IVs, catheters, and other aids that did your biology for you. Some were altheiaphobes—afraid of reality—but staying logged off was eccentric as well. I’ve logged off from time to time out of curiosity, just to see if prolonged exposure to reality was as boring as I remembered it being. It always was.

‘Not like I plan traveling,’ Cynthia messaged. Staying home and logged in meant only a baseline level of carbon emissions that nation-states budgeted for, but people out in cars and planes emitted well above the baseline. Too much of that and the world would be in climate crisis all over again.

Later on, Cynthia messaged me again. She’d found a Bible-based church, more traditional than her old church.

‘Tradytional? Mean im going hell bc play Deymons?’

I assumed she thought my joke in bad taste because she didn’t respond, but a couple weeks later, she asked if I wanted to join worship service. They met over an archaic video conferencing platform my parents might’ve used, rather than a Vieuwscape domain.

She wanted to change me, and I didn’t know why when she’d kept her faith so close to her chest before. I messaged that I’d rather not. We didn’t speak, after that.


While Cynthia did Cynthia, I rode the wave of my rep. The more other players tried to beat the Queyn and failed, the more they thought I had the secret to beating her. In delaying I was building hype or handpicking the right crew. It helped that I’d been one of the first to scrape by a demon on another branch of the Path, a mammoth sea serpent that could’ve been adapted from any number of premodern cultures.

Gradually the circle of committed players around me decided to start a church. We figured that if we acted like Christians long enough and prayed and went to church like Christians, we’d have the inside track to toppling the Queyn. Cynthia was far more Christian than any of us, and the Queyn killed her just the same. But I liked having a following, so I didn’t question it.

We bought a lot in the Town, prime real estate that backed up against the bonfire. We had a chapel rendered with stained glass windows of angels, all slaying demons in exaggerated poses.

They wanted me to preach. There wasn’t much to it. Preachers promoted Bible verses in the feyds by excerpting a verse or part of a verse. It didn’t matter which verse or even if the words made sense, so long as there was a vieuw to click on. During service, preachers cast vieuws over their congregation, one after another.

Preachers arranged line-ups, like DJs. I could DJ.


That was what I did for several months, the bonfire light streaming hot through the stained glass, back-lighting me like one of the conquering angels. I kicked service off with vieuws linked in some of the Vieuwscape Bible Psalms. Each planted us in the head of an Israelite orchestral player for fifteen or twenty seconds, ancient Hebraic song reverberating in marble halls. Each was just long enough to draw people in, but not so long that people get bored.

I was known for offbeat line-ups. Some came for that rather than the Queyn, but even I had to include inspirational vieuws, or my following would be a cult crew before long. But I spliced in instrumentals from Ayilyam, a Tamil-pop crew trending in the feyds.

With pronged fingers, I navigated to Mark chapter 5 in the hypertext web of the Vieuwscape Bible, where Jesus casts out the demon Legion, which conveniently was also the name of a band trending. I plucked the vieuw linked from Legion’s “We r many” and cast it over the crowd.

We touched down in fugue, splitting and merging into many, like the Queyn’s winged serpents split and merged into her. There were boars with unicorn horns and trees trudging down the hill, uprooted in ghost images. The sun was a psychedelic noon of many eyes, all attuned to different spectra. Our voice was many voices, frayed and feuding.

We were Legion!

It was raw, and I got cheers. But no one tolerates being anywhere for more than about forty seconds. So I hit them with the next vieuw, when the cured man is “in his right mind.” It was surprising because Jesus cured the man after a long counseling session, like a therapist treating Multiple Personality Disorder. It was one of a body of vieuws that showed how scientific the ancient world was.

Anticipating the fugue of jumping heads, I stumbled at the edge of the chapel dais. But there was no headswap. The vieuw had fizzled, somehow.

Cynthia was coming down the aisle in a rough spun robe, not her manticore-hide gear. I was peeved, at first. Her interruption would cost me rep.

Cynthia tapped a janky wand against her shin. Under other circumstances I’d think it for warding off Vetalaaksha demons. They curse you with ad-vision if you don’t pay them a recurring fee. “That an adblocker?”

“Modified to jam vieuws.”

“You know, I was doing my thing here.” But I was glad to see her again. I told my congregation we were ending early this week. To Cynthia, “You could’ve messaged.”

“Considering how caught up you are, I thought you’d pay better attention if I ambushed you.”

Not sure I liked her tone. “What’s your point?”

“Read the passage that vieuw is supposed to be about.”

“OK.” I could read. I wasn’t most people, with the attention span of a goldfish. “‘They saw the man, posesed by the leygion of deymons, siting there, dresed, in his right mind. They were afraid.’”

“Does it say he had psych problems? Or that he thought he did?”

“He was possessed? That could just be another word for mental illness.” But I didn’t think it was.

“You think people would be afraid if all Jesus did was give him therapy?”

“But if the vieuw shows he was ill, why do the words say different?”

“The better question is, if the words say he was possessed by demons, why does the vieuw show different? It’s the Bible that’s the Word of God.”

I had my Sunday spectacle and my quest to beat the Queyn, so I wanted to tell Cynthia that God approaches us in different ways. Once He approached us through words, and now he approaches us through vieuws because it’s through vieuws that we are most ready to receive Him.

But I was a reader, one of a few. If the words and the vieuws were different, the vieuws weren’t just the output of AI ruminating on Bible verses. The AI must have been trained to make vieuws like these.

“You think there’s an agenda behind the vieuws?” I said.

“Definitely. Ever wonder why no one ever smells in the Bible vieuws, why everyone’s clean? The ancient world didn’t have sanitation like we do. They weren’t scientific or technological, not by a long shot.”

I thought that humanity had been scientific forever or at least as long as there’d been records written. But come to think about it, I’d never seen double-blind studies or statistics while researching the Queyn. If Cynthia was right, ancient science was only in the vieuws.

Why invent ancient science? Why pretend that Christianity was really a religion of science?

There’s a vieuw linked where Jesus calms the storm on the sea of Galilee, but he doesn’t say the storm was a sign from God or that it was the work of evil powers. He says, “R ur carbon emisions stil so great?”

“The vieuws are about climate,” I said. Because the Vieuwscape hadn’t been a response to consumer demand, not entirely. It had been subsidized by nation states that needed to keep people at home and on a fixed carbon budget, not burning hydrocarbons. Climate policy had struggled for decades in developed nations, in great part, because of opposition by the Christian right.

“But Christians aren’t climate deniers, not anymore,” Cynthia said.

“That doesn’t mean we haven’t inherited a Vieuwscape Bible that was composed as a reaction to Christians that were.”

She made a face. “That’s a lot to take in.”

“It sure is.”

“Hmm, how do you feel about time away from that Bible?”

“Logging off?”


This time, I didn’t tell her no.


Cynthia lived in a small city near the west coast of the United States. I lived in Nairobi. We were too far apart to consider traveling, financially or morally, so we met over the video conferencing app her church used. I was embarrassed when we first connected because she looked almost exactly like her avatar. Mine has a squarer chin and a slimmer build; its hair is in dreads. I’ve always thought the Vieuwscape a means of projecting a better version of myself without all the hard realities that are so difficult to modify.

My apartment is one room, no windows, four beige walls made of compressed plant fibers. I wanted to decorate, but Cynthia insisted I avoid shopping. I’d never shopped much before, even in the Town. Talismans are a crutch; they only work until mid-game. The only worthwhile gear is on the Path. But my body told me that if it couldn’t play Deymons and couldn’t promote itself in the feyds, it should be able to scroll through interminable grids of housewares.

I went for long walks along fields of yams being farmed by robotic harvesters. My grandparents had been farmers in fields like these, harvesting carnations and summer flowers for export to Europe. My great-grandparents grew yams, beans, or corn. They’d lived in villages that no longer exist and spoke languages that are no longer spoken.

I wondered if they could name the Queyn, though I had no idea if they’d been Christian. Certainly, they understood demons in a way I did not.

Cynthia and I read the Bible daily. We began with books Cynthia knew would interest me: Genesis for its grand cosmology and stories of the patriarchs, Job for Behemoth and Leviathan, the Gospels for miracles and exorcisms. Every time I wanted to skip to the end of a chapter because it was boring or difficult to understand, Cynthia reminded me that God intended those words to be there, no matter how boring they seemed.

The slow movements of reading seduced me in a way the Vieuwscape never had. I learned that the Leviathan in the Psalms has multiple heads, that Jesus did nature magic and read minds, that Ezekiel’s angels of interlocking wheels with eyes are far from how we imagine angels. After a while, we learned some Greek so we could read the original language of the New Testament. The Queyn was far from my mind.

I learned that Cynthia didn’t much care for the wonder of the Word, for sparks and gestures. Her eye was for how this verse or that supported doctrine. She would step through the Nicene Creed, “I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth…” with the same exacting slowness that I applied to Job 41 or First Corinthians 15. She carefully annotated the Creed with verses of the Bible that she believed evidenced each clause.

What I liked best in the Creed were certain phrases—that the Son will judge “the quick and the dead,” that we look to “the life of the world to come”—and I thought them better because I did not understand the reasons behind them.

One Sunday, I joined Cynthia at her church. Service followed rehearsed forms of standing and sitting and responding with certain words at the right time, even though we were all on camera. The hymns were in stuffy archaic English from before spelling changed under pressure to optimize content for search engines. I found myself thinking I’d feel closer to these people if we weren’t all in real life.

When it came time to confess the Creed, I think I was the only one who said nothing, because I didn’t know what parts I believed and which I did not. After reading a text as complex as the Bible, I didn’t understand why I was supposed to believe so simple a formula. It seemed a distortion, not so different from the vieuws linked in the Vieuwscape Bible. Why should all the Bible’s variety be flattened, like the carnations and lilies and all the summer flowers my grandparents grew had been plowed under to grow a monoculture of yams?


When I told Cynthia I wanted to log back on, she told me one man can’t change the Vieuwscape.

“But maybe I can change those close to me,” I said.

“We aren’t like other people, Mylo. Take the Vieuwscape away for a week, and most anyone will go stir crazy, go into withdrawal.”

“I have this relationship with the Bible now. You helped me with that, and I think I’m ready to share that with other people.” That sounded selfish after what Cynthia had said, but I didn’t think it was wrong for me to say it.

“I thought you had a relationship with God.”

“I do.” Although I wasn’t sure that I did. “Look, I’m not asking people to log off. I just want them to have the chance to read the Bible like we do.”

And I told her my idea.


I got a flurry of messages as soon as I logged in asking where I’d been. ‘Reyding,’ I responded. I got back a flurry of amused emojis. Others thought I was just that hardcore, cutting myself off like that. Like a saint on retreat. Reading was conditioning myself for beating the Queyn.

I put the word out: Come to the chapel.

I’d shared vieuws of myself before—of beating Ixyon, of my least embarrassing runs at the Queyn—but I’d always scrubbed my thoughts from the vieuw first. It’s already personal enough, sharing full sensory experience. Most don’t like your thoughts intruding on their own.

But now the vieuw could not be filtered because reading isn’t just repeating words on a page. It’s an imaginative act, a new creation.

I cast my vieuw of reading Romans 7 over the sanctuary. The fugue was less, just easing into a crisp memory.

I was alone, just me, my e-reader, and a mug of black coffee running warm down my throat. I read without hurry. I did not skim, as I once had, for links to vieuws. “For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.” And so, the Queyn ambushes players among inscribed standing stones. Later I read, “I am of the flesh, sold under sin.” And so, she carries a whip. She enslaves us. We say her words.

In a thrill of insight—the ecstasy of a thought unthought by others, or by only a few, or not for a long time—I understood what sin was to Paul.

Sin wasn’t just a red mark in a ledger of deeds, some demerit or lapse. It wasn’t even an affront to God—or not only an affront to God. I had to be careful. So far, my guess was just that: a guess, a hypothesis. Sin could be many things.

I turned to the original Greek, and reading again, if even more slowly, I understood that my guess was not a guess only. It had legs. Sin was, at the very least, a substantive thing because of the presence of “the,” a definite article. But the Greek article also functions to distinguish a noun as proper, which is why names in the New Testament commonly take an article. I had to think sin in Romans 7 wasn’t sin generically, but Sin—a literal agent of evil—of Flesh, the realm opposed to the Spirit.

I couldn’t remove the possibility that Romans 7 was just a vivid metaphor on sin, but Paul had been such a grounded, practical person, not prone to literary fancies. Sin was so active—deceiving, dwelling in the body, compelling it to evil, waging war—that I could not believe Paul conceived of it as anything but an actual entity, as it is in other antique texts like the Book of Sirach and the Greek Magical Papyri.

In truth, my uncertainty was the point. I didn’t know how Paul understood the supernatural. What we called supernatural. For Paul, angels and spirits were as integrated into everyday living as wildlife.

For Paul, I gather, Sin was a demon.

I cut the vieuw. After my mind had strayed where I’m not sure it was productive for others to follow.


Most left before the vieuw stopped. They had feyds to scroll through or were itching to run the Path. Reading—slow as it was—was not for them. I’d tried my best to show the magic of reading deeply, as grand conclusion, when it’s normally a grind. I hadn’t subjected them to my slog through twentieth-century German theologians and their abstruse ideas about sin.

Some stayed, though not so many as I had hoped. For them, vieuwing until the end was polite, or a duty of their faith, or just interesting enough not to dart away. But most that stayed did so because they thought my vieuw prologue to another run at the Queyn. This vieuw was a test. Or my revelation, however humble, would somehow stay her whip and scepter.

I wouldn’t deny them one more run, although I had already done all I needed to do. I didn’t need to beat her. I didn’t need to keep my fifteen seconds of fame alive, not anymore.

Cynthia joined us, wearing her manticore-hide armor. She even led our crew, after I encouraged her to. No one objected to me standing aside once I told them that she was the one the Queyn had imprinted on.

We faced the Queyn among the standing stones, shivering in the cold. The dead shambled toward us. My father shackled himself to me.

When we all cried out, “Wretched man that I am!” I think I could’ve named the Queyn. If only then, at that moment, I could’ve said that she was Sin instead of what she compelled me to say, fire would’ve smote her from the heavens.

Because now I knew the outcry was not Paul’s words—or it was Paul’s words, but Paul did not write of his own case. According to many scholars, he wrote on behalf of the first man Adam, whose name means man. “Wretched man that I am!” was Adam crying out on behalf of all humanity. And so, we all cried out.

But what do I know? Too little. Too much.

The thrill of her was lost to me, to all of us. We’d been through her sequence many times before.

To name her I would’ve had to have been the reader I am now, mature in my faith, but also fresh against the Queyn, facing her for the first time, alive in the horror of her.

And so, the moment was already lost.

The Queyn asked, “Who am I?”

Cynthia said that she was Flesh.

The Queyn cocked her head, raised her whip, and ripped us through.


Sometime later, after we logged off, Cynthia asked about my vieuw. “You were obviously building to another conclusion.”

I had been, but it was difficult to tell her what it was. “Once you told me you’d seen God for yourself, like fire from the inside. But how can you know what you saw was what the apostles saw so long ago, that it’s even the same God?”

“You would be sure, if you saw what I saw.”

She was confident, but I couldn’t stand on her confidence, not anymore. “I haven’t seen what you saw. So I’m not sure how you do it, how you build the connection.”

“You didn’t seem unsure in your vieuw.”

“No, I wasn’t.” I shouldn’t act like I was now. She wanted me to be honest with her. “I thought that if Sin is a demon to Paul, to the Bible, I thought about what that means for my faith. Because I don’t believe in demons.”

“You don’t?” she said. I’d never been this blunt about my unbelief.

“You do?”

“Of course I do.”

“Then maybe I do too. We’re a lot alike in our thinking. But do you think we believe in demons like Paul did, like those first generations of Christians? For them, the world was teeming with unseen powers. Curse tablets, talismans, and ritual services were all part of the economy, part of daily life, of a machinery we don’t understand any longer. What we call fantasy was powerful and mundane and a little wondrous—all at the same time. Today we only have fossils of that, in our fiction and games, especially after the climate crisis drew such a reaction against any idea that doesn’t mesh with established science. I suppose I believe in demons like I believe in dark matter or quarks, but that’s all, because we’re told to, because people we trust say it’s so.”

“What are you saying?” Her voice, at least, was calm.

“I’m saying if what it takes to be Christian is to understand the problem of Sin—Sin as a demon, not a doctrine—it might be that we can’t be Christian. There are too many centuries, too many worldviews layered between us—science and modernity and all the rest—for us to delve back to those ancient patterns. Or perhaps it is just very hard, that it requires an extraordinary act of imagination and empathy in order to dig so deep. I think maybe our failure to do that is why we couldn’t beat the Queyn.”

“So you think it’s better to just play at being Christian, like your congregation, to just be gamers and have no faith?”

“I think it’s possible that people have been playing at being Christian for a long time.”

She let out a long breath. “I think you and I have very different views of what’s possible.”

I wanted to get the rest out, if only to be clear. “When I read Paul, the Gospels, John’s Revelation even—there’s so much urgency. The Son of Man is returning soon! We need to get our act together and repent. It was supposed to be a matter of a generation or two, that’s all. Paul believed he was among those ‘who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord.’ If you could tell him that Jesus would take more than two millennia to return, he wouldn’t have believed you. We may claim the Bible for ourselves—if that’s what makes us Christian, I suppose we are—but I’m not sure it was written for us. It was written for those first generations that had rumors of Christ and tales of miracles on their lips.”

“So that’s it, we’re all damned, because we’re—what?—on the wrong side of history? God has no mercy? Is that what you’re saying?”

“I don’t know what God thinks.” I wasn’t sure I ever would. “What I know is that when I read the Bible, I don’t see doctrines. Not as often as your Creed suggests. I see histories and laws and stories and arguments. The doctrines we’re supposed to take on faith, Trinity and Incarnation and Original Sin, aren’t near to the text. You have to do all this theology to draw them out. I don’t need to tell you how controversial they were in the first centuries of the faith, and some of them still are. But fantasy, what we call fantasy—angels and demons and miracles—all that is there without controversy or theology, without any need to guess.”


Cynthia and I didn’t read together after that, although we messaged from time to time. I started a Bible study with a few of my congregation, but we were too like-minded for me to benefit much. I wanted to turn about in my head, but they wanted me to tell them the truth.

Eventually player complaints about how difficult the Queyn was filtered through customer relationship algorithms, and the AI that spun up Deymons scrapped her entirely. The demon that replaced her was a pollution monster with smokestacks and rivers of sludge. It got beat inside an hour.

I tried spin-offs of Deymons—where the fires are planets or lampposts in a dark city or floats in a parade—but I always went back to the original, despite its anachronisms. Deymons still connects to a part of the brain that is very old, a problem as old as predation.

The Path has no end, just like the work of reading has no end.

I pray that one day the two run together and I can read like those first generations, for whom demons and miracles and the power of God were powerful and mundane and a little wondrous all at the same time.

Andy Dibble writes from Madison, Wisconsin and works as a healthcare IT consultant. He has supported the electronic medical record of large healthcare systems in six countries. His work also appears in Writers of the Future, Diabolical Plots, Sci Phi Journal, and others. He edited Strange Religion: Speculative Fiction of Spirituality, Belief, & Practice. You can find him at, on Twitter (@AndyDibble2) and on Facebook (andy.dibble.12).

About the story, Andy says, “The inspiration for this came most from realizing that the Greek of the Lord’s Prayer reads ‘deliver us from the evil one’ rather than ‘deliver us from evil,’ that it has covert demonology. I realized that Romans 7 could sustain a similar reading. I’m also interested in how radically modern and premodern people vary, and how that impacts religious identity.”

“Deymons” by Andy Dibble. Copyright © 2024 by Andy Dibble.

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