"You don't look like a demon", I said. Because she didn't. She looked vaguely familiar. Like a girlfriend of an acquaintance, or one of my wife's social media circle.
I had a vague feeling I was being punked in some obscure way.
"What in my hell, do you know about what demons look like?" she asked in response, with a flash of anger that gave me pause.
"Well you know", I scratched my head, "all fire and scales and stuff. Not like, well, this". I waved my hands in her general direction.
"Fake news dude. You need to stop believing what people in positions of power tell you about people not in power. That's lesson one for you if you want to get into Heaven.
Start thinking for yourself."
"What about the Commandments and that? I feel like God is pretty big on the whole believing what you're told about what to do."
"Grow up, bud. That's for kids and idiots, to learn the basics. Real-life is waaaaay harder than that.
Case in point, a demon materializes in front of you, and instead of taking that information and working with it, you're questioning what demons should or should not look like."
She raised an eyebrow.
"You really think that's the right question at this juncture?"
"Well, there's no need to be rude", I pouted. "This is my first time having a spirit manifest. So enlighten me, o shiny demon, what is the right question?"
"The right question is, given as you say this is the first time this has happened to you in your like, what, 40 years...."
"Really? Fuck, dude. Moisturizer! That can be lesson two."
"God hates dry skin?"
"Everyone hates dry skin, come on. Except Dove maybe. Good for business. Look, we're getting off track here. It's the first time.
So why does the big man feel that right now you need a guardian anything? And especially why a demon and not an angel."
I paused expecting something further. Eventually, the silence pushed words out of my mouth.
"So....", I tried, "why does God think I need help?"
"Well, I don't know yet!", the demon said in exasperation. Suddenly she leaned forward and looked me square in the eye like a gumshoe in an old cop movie.
"What the hell are you plannin' buster?"
"Planning? I not planning anything. Look can we start over? I'm a bit confused, and to be honest talking to you is making it worse I think. I'm Hal. What's your name?"
"Like the angel?"
"Yes, I share the same name with someone more famous than me. You're named after a shit computer in an old movie so I'd pipe down, you haggard young man."
I looked around the cafe I was in. No-one seemed to be paying attention to us.
"OK. So let me recap. You're a demon, you look like a librarian, you've appeared out of thin air but no-one in here has even batted an eye. But you don't know why."
"Yes. Fuck you. Yes, because I don't want them to, and no not yet."
It took me a few seconds to unpack that, and in that few seconds, Gabriel took a sip of my Ristretto.
"Should guardians not be a bit nicer? You seem to have just insulted me, and not really helped me that much."
"Yeah, but I'm a demon. Are demons historically nice?"
"You told me to think for myself. I've never heard of a guardian demon."
She actually smiled at this. Her eyes flashed, and in the black holes of her pupils I lost myself and any doubt of her claim to be a demon. The dreamy state I'd been in faded.
My heart started to pound.
"You're learning. That's good. I pride myself on results and a quick learner really helps. So no, I'm not nice. A lot of guardian demons are. I just don't care about what you think."
She finished my coffee and smacked her lips in satisfaction.
"Love a good coffee, me. Can't get it in hell. The water all boils off before you can do anything. Bloody awful frankly."
"So", I said returning to her earlier prompt, "if you don't know why what about the sending of a demon and not an angel?"
Gabriel smiled wickedly, and my pounding heart sped up even more.
"Well champ, angels are good for keeping good people on the straight and narrow. They are innocent little souls. No imagination for the sorts of things really bad people can do."
I nodded for her to go on.
"Demons, like me, we get the really nasty cases. Bad people who really need help. Sort of a send a thief to catch a thief type deal."
"But I'm not a bad person!", I protested.
She glared at me.
"Or, if you let me finish, the really tough tests for good people. So if you are a good person, then something really bad is about to happen to you."
She gave me a wink and stood up.
"Come on. Let's go find out what it is."