Jester comes before the throne of S, the God of Evil, and says "Why did you create Man, Dark Lord?"
S replies "For fun, of course. You can't create something without having fun making it."
"But he is evil!"
S replies "So what? We're all evil. It's how we use our evilness that makes us good or bad. And the funny thing is that it's not that hard to be good."
"How do you know?"
S replies "I was once a good demon, Jester. I used my evilness to help people and I had lots of fun doing it. But then, after a while, my good side got too big and I lost sight of what it means to be evil."
Jester thinks for a moment then says "You're right, Dark Lord, life is all about balance."
"Oh, I see what you're doing here. You thought you were going to get me angry, didn't you? Well, you're not going to do it. Don't worry. Just go away."
Jester looks at S and says "No. I want to hear what you have to say."
"Okay, fine. I'll tell you. But I'm not telling you everything. Not yet."
"If I have to tell you, then you'll have to tell me. That's the way it works, isn't it?"
"Yes, I suppose it is. Fine. I'll tell you the whole story. But listen carefully, because I don't really know it all myself."
"I'd better write this down."
"Just remember. The story is told in reverse."
"Don't try to figure it out. Just write the story down like I told you. Okay?"
Jester scribbles a few notes then continues the story.
"Well, it goes like this. One day, way back before I became the God of Evil, I was hanging out with the other gods, just talking and drinking. There was no chaos yet, just order. Everything was going smoothly. It was boring, actually. Then one of the other gods said that he was tired of the way things were, and wanted to change them. I thought he was crazy. Who would bother changing anything? That's what I thought."
S continues "Then a few weeks later, I saw him do it himself. He changed something in the world, made a mistake that caused a ripple effect of chaos. Then he tried to fix his own mistake. And just kept making more mistakes. Chaos spread everywhere and I knew that he had started a great big mess that would require a lot of work to clean up."
"It doesn't sound very good."
"Well, you're getting the picture. That's how the world was before I showed up, with the other gods, trying to make everything perfect. And that's when I realized that life is supposed to be a fight between good and evil. It doesn't have to be fair or nice, it just has to be. So I decided that I wouldn't change the world. I would just start a war. And then I would win."
"Wow. That sounds like a really terrible idea."
"It was. But that's the way it's been for thousands of years. That's how things are supposed to be. The good guys win, or the bad guys do. The winners get more power, and the losers get less. I don't care whether the world gets better or worse. The end result is the same. But that's not the point of the story. It's not a good story for kids either. Do you mind if I skip a few pages here?"
"Good. Okay, then. Let me explain something else that you probably didn't know, but should. You see, the world of chaos is divided into regions by the different deities who oversee them. There is a region for every type of deity – one for gods, for nature spirits, and so on. Some of these regions are small, with just one deity, while others cover a large area. But all of them have one thing in common. They have no order."
"That means that anyone can go to any region and cause chaos there. It doesn't take power or skill; they just have to go somewhere and do something wrong. For example, you could go to a nature spirit's region, and do something like cut down a tree without asking the spirit's permission. The nature spirit's realm is usually pretty small, but there are some big ones."
"So it's pretty much anarchy then? Sounds nice."
"No. This isn't anything like what you're thinking right now, believe me. It's chaos on a huge scale, a level that makes any human effort look small. It's chaos and destruction, and it affects everyone. When a god does something wrong in one of these realms, the result affects everyone in the same area. The people there begin to panic and fight among themselves until there's nothing left for them to do. Then they go home, and the people in another region go through the same thing, and so on until the entire world comes apart."
"That's why I created my followers. It gave me a reason for my own realm to be orderly, because the people there depend upon me to keep things orderly. And that's where you come in. I need people who can work together and follow orders, and who can maintain the order of my realm. I want to start with a small group of people right away, just to prove that it can be done. If you're interested, let me show you around my realm."
The God of Evil sat up straight in his chair. He looked intently at the new visitor. The young man had introduced himself as Jester, but he had only been there for a few minutes. In truth, he had shown up out of nowhere, and the God of Evil was curious about what he would say next.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" The God of Evil waited for an answer. "I have heard of your kind before," said the evil god. "You believe you are one of the few humans who has not been corrupted by the world of chaos, but I know otherwise. You may not have seen the world of chaos yet, but you have already been exposed to it. You are a follower of S, and by your own admission, you have already been affected by its evil. What you are telling me is that you would like to join my team. Why? Have you lost your mind?"
"Well, I guess I would agree with you there," Jester replied with a small laugh. "But I'm still serious."
"And yet you expect me to accept you without proof?" The God of Evil leaned back against his chair. "How can I trust anything you say or do? I mean, I've already decided that you're lying. I think that you're just trying to trick me. And what's with the mask? Why are you wearing one of my masks? Why should I believe you?"
"There is a way to prove to you that my faith in the God of Evil is genuine."
The God of Evil stood up from his desk and began walking toward the door. "Just wait here," he said. "If you are telling the truth, then I will be back shortly."
Without another word, the God of Evil opened the door and stepped outside, but before he took two steps, he turned back around and said, "Jester, come with me."
The God of Evil closed the door behind him. Jester followed him to a dark stairwell, down four floors, and into a small room. There was a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling, and there was a large metal cabinet. When the God of Evil opened the cabinet, he saw a large amount of food inside, including several bottles of wine. "Sit down," he said with a grin. "Make yourself comfortable."
"This looks like enough," Jester replied. "I can't believe that you're going to let me stay for dinner."
The God of Evil laughed in response. "This isn't dinner," he said. "It's a test."
"A test?" Jester asked suspiciously. "What kind of test could you possibly give me that I would pass?"
"If you fail the test," the God of Evil explained, "you will never get the chance to find out whether or not you are on my side."
He then picked up a knife and a bottle of wine, and he placed them on top of the cabinet. He closed the cabinet and locked it, then sat back down on his chair. "All right, then. I want you to cut off three fingers on your left hand and drink a shot of vodka every time the pain becomes too great."
The God of Evil waited for a moment, then added, "I'm not trying to make it impossible for you. I am trying to show you how easy it is to be manipulated by evil. If you can withstand the temptation of alcohol and the pain of your fingers, then I will know that you have a real heart and that you have been able to resist the lure of evil."
"So, it's your plan to torture me," Jester said slowly. "That's your test?"
The God of Evil nodded sadly. "Yes. Just wait here until you feel the pain has grown too unbearable. Do not stop, no matter how hard it gets."
The God of Evil walked out of the room and returned shortly, carrying two bottles of vodka. "Here," he said, handing the bottles to Jester. "I didn't have time to get glasses, but I thought that you'd be fine drinking straight from the bottles."
Jester looked at the two bottles, then up at the God of Evil. "You know," he said, "I think that you're going to regret this."
The God of Evil gave him a sad smile, then went to the refrigerator to get a bottle of water. "Why don't you explain that to me now?"
"I don't think I will," Jester said as he uncorked one of the vodkas and chugged it down without tasting it. He then reached for the water, opened it, drank, and began to gag in surprise. It wasn't water.
"That's right," the God of Evil said. "It's vodka."
"But... why?" Jester said desperately.
"Because that's how I can tell if you are lying," the God of Evil replied simply.
"But you're going to kill me!" Jester yelled.
"Eventually," the God of Evil said, "but that might not be necessary if you keep telling me the truth. Now, are you ready?"
"No," Jester replied, "but I've got nothing else to lose."
The God of Evil smiled, as though Jester had given him something of value, then turned around and put the vodka bottles back in the fridge. "You should rest," he said softly. "I'll be back soon." Then he stepped outside and closed the door behind him.
He sat down in the chair facing the window, waiting to be surprised. And then he laughed. He couldn't help it. The God of Evil's plan was so perfect that Jester had not only been completely duped, he had fallen for it. The man was brilliant. How could Jester have known that the God of Evil would take him at his word and come back with the vodka?
Jester had thought back on every conversation he had ever shared with the God of Evil, every action, every moment. He hadn't been able to recall a single time when he'd said anything that could have led the God of Evil to suspect that Jester was lying. And yet, that's exactly what he'd done. He had made the choice to lie. And Jester knew, somehow, that he couldn't stop him.
"I did this once before," the God of Evil said as he walked into the room carrying a small plastic container with a screw top lid. He pulled the lid off, shook some of the contents into Jester's mouth, and then replaced the lid.
"What is this?" Jester managed to say through his tears.
"Vodka," the God of Evil said. "Your favorite."
"Oh," Jester gasped. "How clever," he said sarcastically.
"Now," the God of Evil said, "do you want to start being honest with me?"
"Yes," Jester responded immediately.
"Good," the God of Evil said. "Now tell me something."
"Anything," Jester said.
"Tell me why you're here," the God of Evil said.
"To make sure you get rid of that stupid cat," Jester replied.
"And what if I decide not to?"
"Fine," Jester whispered back. "I guess I'll just kill myself then."
The God of Evil laughed. Then he opened the vodka bottle and poured it down Jester's throat. "What's wrong with you?" Jester finally asked after catching his breath. "Is this some sort of sick joke?"
The God of Evil shook his head. "No joke," he said. "I'm taking away your freedom, your choices, your options—everything that makes life worth living."
"That sounds horrible!" Jester said. "You wouldn't dare!"
"I already have," the God of Evil replied. "Don't worry; I've got everything covered for you."
"You do what now?" Jester asked. "How can you just do something like that and make it okay?"
"Because you've already done what I told you to do," the God of Evil said. "If you hadn't done it exactly the way I said, then I would have gone ahead and killed you anyway. You don't have a choice anymore. You did what you were supposed to do. Now you just have to live with the results."
"But what if… What if people don't like me anymore? What if they hate me? What if they think I'm evil?" Jester asked. "What am I supposed to do with that?"
"You could pretend that you were evil all along," the God of Evil suggested. "I could even write some stuff about what you're really like and then send the letters to people who might want to hear from you."
"Like I would ever tell anyone the truth!" Jester shouted.
"Of course not," the God of Evil agreed. "And the truth doesn't matter anyway. No one cares about the truth anymore. All that matters to them is the message."
"Message?" Jester asked. "What message?"
"Your message," the God of Evil explained. "People always look for signs. The world is full of symbols that everyone sees everywhere they go. So the world is a giant billboard where every person in the audience can see whatever they want—and the people who put it up want it to look that way. There are no secrets any more. There are no mysteries. Nothing that happens can't be traced back to its source. Nothing."
"Not true," Jester said. "There are still things no one has figured out."
"Such as?" the God of Evil asked.
"Well…" Jester started. "There are certain things that are just plain impossible to find out, such as the meaning of life or how the world began."
"Really?" the God of Evil said. "That seems pretty simple to me."
"Yes, it's simple, but there's no way it can be known or proven or proved wrong," Jester said.
"So, what does that prove?" the God of Evil asked.
"It proves that there's something that no one is ready to learn," Jester explained. "And maybe that means that we are all just pretending and that the truth is out there somewhere, waiting for us to figure it out."
"You don't believe that," the God of Evil said.
"Of course not," Jester agreed. "No one believes that."
"Why not?" the God of Evil asked. "I could tell you how to find it, if you wanted. If you wanted to know the truth, if you really wanted it bad enough, then all you had to do was go out and find it."
"I have," Jester said. "I mean, I went looking for it, but when I found it, it was gone."
"So, you didn't find it?" the God of Evil asked.
"I couldn't find anything," Jester said. "Nothing was there, no matter how hard I looked."
"But you've tried, right?" the God of Evil insisted.
"Yeah, I've tried, but the harder I look, the more it feels like I'm searching for something that doesn't actually exist," Jester said.
"Oh, come on," the God of Evil said. "I know what you're looking for. You're talking about finding God, right? The truth about him? But you know what's funny? The truth about him is the opposite of who he is."
"How is that possible?" Jester asked.
"Well, to understand that, you have to take a closer look at the definition of 'God,' Jester," the God of Evil said. "It says, 'something worshipped as the creator and ruler of the universe.'"
"So," Jester said. "The truth about him is that he's not the creator and ruler of the universe?"
"That's the point!" the God of Evil exclaimed. "That's what makes him great!"
"Great?" Jester asked. "He's great because he's not the creator and ruler of the universe?"
"Exactly!" the God of Evil said. "That's why he's great! There's hope for us all because he's not in charge and we're not his slaves! There might still be something worthwhile and exciting left for us to do here."
"You really believe that," Jester asked.
"Yes," the God of Evil agreed. "I believe that because I saw the truth with my own eyes."
"You were there?" Jester asked. "When he did it?"
"No," the God of Evil said. "But I know exactly what happened. I saw the truth through the eyes of someone else."
"Who?" Jester asked.
"I won't tell you that," the God of Evil replied. "Not until you find it for yourself."
"I'm sorry," Jester said. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"That's okay," the God of Evil said. "Keep looking."