Here's how it started.

The demon stood at the crossroads and watched me approach. "We have returned," it announced.

I studied it as I pulled to a stop. It looked like many of the images and sculptures unearthed throughout history, the youngest of which was around twelve thousand years old. One head, torso, two arms, two legs. But its proportions were elongated, which added a strange, ethereal grace to its motions. Tawny hair defined a widow's peak before it fell straight, past shoulders to the middle of its back. Bronze skin, tilted amber eyes, and ears that rose to sharp points on both sides of its skull – it possessed a horrible, perfect symmetry that was literally inhuman.

It wore a shirt and slacks of simple cut, no sleeves and cuffs tucked into boots that came just below its knees, no jewelry. Muscles glided in sharp definition beneath its skin as it shifted its balance and stared up at me.

"About time," I chided, my elbows rested on my thighs as I returned its gaze. "Where have you been for all of recorded history?"

"Asleep," it replied. "We needed time to adjust to the changes our innovations created in the world."
"In other words," I returned, "you screwed up the planet so much even you couldn't survive, so you buried yourselves until you could survive the pollution you left."

The demon frowned. "We did not anticipate the interrelationships between our technologies until it was too late. But now," it shrugged off past failures, "we are back, and ready to resume our affairs, wiser for our ordeal." It studied me again. "You are human."

"Genius," I retorted.

A smile curved its lips as it nodded. "From the look of things," it surveyed my truck, "your breed has developed well. How fare our other experiments?"

I leaned back in my seat. "If you mean the other races," I translated, "a fair number have flourished in your absence. We've even figured out how to use some of the stuff you left behind. That's how this works," and I patted the truck's steering yoke. "We learned what those spires are for, and how to tap into them." I waved a hand at a slender obelisk in the distance. Easily a mile away, it stretched above the trees until its spire passed in and out of view with the drifting clouds. Thousands of such structures dotted the world, even in the middle of the oceans.

The demon nodded. "A credit to your breeding," it allowed.

"No," I countered, "to our stubbornness. We may not be able to build them, or make roads that last forever," I nodded at the smooth lanes that stretched away from the crossroads, "but we kept at your records until we translated them, and then built machines that can use their power. We cleaned up a lot of the mess you left behind, the toxic zones and mutations, until the world became tolerable again."

"As we anticipated," the demon acknowledged. "You fulfilled your purpose well. Now, we will expand on your efforts, and bring true perfection."

"Uh-huh," I grunted. "And what place will we have in your perfect world?"

It blinked. "You will continue as you have, stewards of the planet, looking after trivialities while we transform and transcend. What other arrangement would there be?"

"And if, while transforming and transcending, you screw things up again, it's our job to clean it up while you go back to sleep?"

"Why do you think we made you?" the demon asked.

"You may have made our ancestors," I reply, "but a lot's changed since then. We'll share the world with you, but we've worked too hard and bled too much to just hand it over to you, with no guarantees you'll share any new advances, or turn it back into the hellhole you left it before."

"Amazing," and its tone sounds as though it means the word. "You really think you can challenge us, when after all this time you can't even equal our most basic creations?"

I slid the contents of the scabbard in my driver's door, and lay it across my lap. "I don't know," I hedge, "but we'll find out if you force our hand. It doesn't have to go that way."

The demon shook its head. "If all modern races show the same intransigence, I'm afraid it will go that way. I think I'll make an example of you."

Its eyes glowed, and pain wracked through my body. My heart hammered against my chest, my lungs felt wrung out, and my skull was suddenly two sizes too small for my brain. I squeezed a profane cantrip between my teeth to clear my head, balanced the muzzle on the window-sill, and fired.

The demon stared in disbelief at the hole that smoldered in its chest. "I just woke up," it protested, before it sprawled on the road.

"Going to be interesting times," I muttered to myself as I drove the rest of the way to town, the body in the bed of the truck.