"I was a profiteer," the voice was a watery croak "in the war of souls."
There was a gurgle and a smacking of wet lips.
"Do not bless me, for I could not stand it. I do not come to be shriven. I come because if I do not confess, then my sins will consume me. Perhaps it is already too late."
The night was silent for a moment, save for heavy breathing. Then a long pause.
"Every war has its profiteers. If you cast the conflict between Heaven and Hell into such a frame...but it is not quite a war of nations. Every church and sect has their truth, and all of them think their purpose is to save souls...to draft sinners onto the side of God...and they each work in their own way. Such confusion always creates opportunities."
A wheeze, wet and phlegmy, paused the speech.
"A war of souls...there is no territory. There are no soldiers. The ranks of the clergy, all they are is recruiters. They work to sell you on the good word. Sometimes they scare you, sometimes they entice you, but it's all to get you to sign yourself over to them. Like two used car salesmen, trying to get you over to their lot. In such a war, weapons aren't swords and bombs...they're ideas...pitches...marketing." Another gurgle. "Well, I made weapons. And I sold them to both sides."
Another cough, ragged and pained.
"Both sides. Hell. I was at Gutenberg's elbow when he set the type, and steadied the hand of the scribe as Muhammad dictated; I showed Smith those golden pages, and lent LaVey the typewriter to pound out his first draft...and ah, the rewards, as the Bibles flowed forth, texts holy and unholy, and how the souls flowed in...and me with my percentage. Well, it kept me in girls, I'll tell you that."
The cough racked into something like a sob.
"That was my sin, really. I had forgotten...forgotten my purpose. Then one day I turned on the news. I watched. And I didn't stop watching, for a long time. Till the dust settled on me, and the lights went out because I hadn't paid the bill. Then I crawled into a bottle. Because that's what I was supposed to do: watch. Watch over them, help them, guide them...and all I did was mislead."