Winston began typing at his outdated, boxy computer, staring at it myopically. I waited impatiently.
“What was it like being human?” Dramien asked suddenly.
I had no idea what to say to such an abrupt, bizarre question. So I said, “What?”
Dramien was walking around me like he was sizing me up. Apparently I was a rare specimen and an exciting study in humanity. “How did it feel to carry all that weakness and frailty with you all the time?”
I was a middle class white kid from a middle class, overwhelmingly white suburban area. I hadn’t dealt with racism much as either victim or perpetrator, but I was starting to think that I was being unfairly judged based on inborn characteristics that were beyond my control. I was surprised at how unpleasant it was.
“I can’t imagine existing with all that pent-up capacity for failure looming over me,” Dramien continued. “It’s no wonder so many of you kill yourselves.”
“Yes, because demons are so perfect, aren’t they?” I replied with a sarcastic grin.
“Maybe not,” he admitted. “But you’ve got to admit we kick your sorry asses all over this pit. Demons have strength. Humans are sloppy piles of worry and pain and misery and they’re too weak to get past any of it.”
I glanced over at Winston. “How do you work with this guy?” I asked him.
Winston, still looking at his computer screen way too closely, shrugged. “I’ve learned to ignore his anti-human tirades,” he said.
“I’ve also cut back on them in his presence out of respect,” Dramien added.
“Respect?” I said incredulously. “You hate humans, but you have respect for Winston, of all people?”
“Oh, great, now you’re both making fun of me,” Winston said quietly.
“Mr. Phelps is more enlightened than the rest of you,” Dramien explained. “He understands his limitations as a human and has accepted them. Even though his entire species is despicable, I respect him for being able to come to terms with that.”
“We enjoy a unique working relationship,” Winston summarized dryly. “I think I found your guy,” he added, tapping the monitor.