I'm not sure if it's the noise (loud, but hollow like off- stage thunder) or the smell (of brimstone) that catapults me from sleep. The first thing I see is Peter Cook in a black cape and square sunglasses, at the foot of the bed, coughing and waving his hands in a vain attempt to disperse thick, white smoke.

"Mr Cook!" I say. "What are you doing in my bedroom at 4am?" Pause. I've just remembered something: "Mr Cook, what are you doing dead in my bedroom at 4am?"

The figure waves away some last wisps. "I am not Peter Cook."

"You're not?" It's dark. "It's Jonathan Ross, isn't it?"

There comes aweeping and awailing and agnashing of teeth. Then: "One guess left."

Why doesn't he just tie me up and burgle the place? "I give up."

"A clue. The Stones say I was around when the Blitzkrieg raged and the bodies stank."

Get a life. This midnight caller is simply proof that care in the community isn't working, he couldn't possibly be ...

"The Devil?"

"Well, it's not Avon calling."

I stifle a laugh. "Why do you look like Peter Cook?"

"You tell me. It's your dream."

Oh. I see. Recently I've been having these conversations with God in my sleep and now ... J'accuse: "I thought you were half-man, half-goat."

The Devil sits on the bed: "No, that's Rolf Harris."

I stare. The Devil removes his sunglasses to reveal eyes that burn inferno-red. He hesitates, then gives them a rub: "Conjunctivitis."

I cast Andrew a sideways glance. His breathing is even, he's dead to the world. I could gaze at him till dawn's first blush but the Devil demands my full attention. "To what do I own the pleasure?"

"God's slur on me. Suggesting I'm responsible for Aids. And you printing it in the column. As Gospel, so to speak."

"You've nothing to do with Aids?"


"Then who does?"

The Devil lies back, examines the ceiling: "I'm not the one who claims to be all-knowing. I don't have every answer and I don't tease by pretending that I do."

This time I don't bother to smother my amusement. "And why, pray, should I believe the Prince of Lies?"

Satan is offended. "Prince of Lies! That's bigotry. Myth. A Sun leader. You're a gay man. You know how the ones who condemn you create and spread an image, a stereotype, and don't bother with facts or understanding. They need you to be alien, to maintain ignorance and division and power, to frighten people. Saying Prince of Lies is like saying queer or pouf. Shame on you for not checking the label."

Fabulous. I've insulted the man who made Linda Blair projectile vomit. I can't apologise. My mother would kill me. So I venture a weak joke. "Better the devil I know ..."

Grumpy Devil: "You'll be telling me I look Divine next."

Andrew stirs. The Devil takes note: "Cute."

I lose it. "Leave him alone."

The Devil seems genuinely hurt. "John, I'm not about to hurt him. I'm the gay man's friend. I understand."

I sneer: "You are? You do?"

"You've heard the Pet Shop Boys 'It's a Sin'?"

"I'm gay, remember?"

"You know what the sin is?"

"Of course."

"Is it a sin?"

"I'm gay, remember?"

"A lot of sins aren't sins. They are just desires disapproved of. They have no moral dimension. Morality is man - and your friend God's - manipulative work. It is imposed. For instance, homosexuality ... what can I say? Men just can't help acting on impulse.

"But I carry the blame. I'm the bogeyman." The Devil stands. Outside, light is consuming night. He turns to me: "And you're the bogeyman, too. That's why homosexuality and I have a long, linked history. Take the Knights Templar. Nice boys. Really. Give you the armour off their backs. And what are they accused of? Devil worship and ..."

"Man lying with man."

"And kissing the Devil's ring. A very gay image. That's but one example of our bond. There are thousands." Hmm. He certainly has dress sense, a flair for pleasure, and a way with words. He also has all the best tunes. "We are the same. Despised. Feared. Cast out. I am the Devil you know. Literally."

"What about good and evil?"

The Devil shrugs. "Good? Ask God next time. I say it's a dictatorship that pretends to be benevolent."

I'm confused. I reach for Andrew's hand. Squeeze tight. The Devil is by the window, fading as day floods the room. A creature of the night. Another cliche, another bond.

He tilts his head to the light: "Just think for yourself, John, all right? Question assumption."

I call out: "What do you really represent?" He twirls the cape. His voice starts strong, becomes an echo: "I am what I am/I am your own special creation."