One Busy Demon
“Good morning, oh malevolent one.”
“Shut up, Phil.”
It was another warm day in Hell, making it two hundred forty-three thousand two hundred forty-two consecutive days where Phil documented that it was warm in Hell. As the chief scribe of the devil himself, this was part of his responsibilities, among many others. He was one busy demon, as he was also the pitcher and manager of one of the realm’s best slow-pitch softball teams, the Angels. He had gotten very good at ignoring the people who complained that the name was culturally insensitive.
The lord of the underworld sat at his desk, staring down at a three-dimensional holographic model of the planet Earth, scratching his red chin and scowling.
“What is wrong, Satan?” Phil asked. “Are you feeling blue?”
“Please stop making that joke,” Satan said in a thunderous voice.
“But it’s hilarious.”
“No, it’s not.”
“Oh, come on. Just because we’re in Hell doesn’t mean we can’t laugh. I mean, you’re feeling blue, even though you’re all red. Gosh, I crack myself up.”
“Do you remember why my last chief scribe was fired from his position?” Satan asked.
“Because he smiled too much.”
“And do you remember where that former chief scribe is positioned now?”
“In the latrines.”
“That’s correct. And yet you tell jokes.”
“Oh, I just want you to not be so glum all the time. Every day, it seems you’re unhappy. What gives? Does something specific have you down today?”
“These people,” Satan said, nodding at the slowly rotating Earth. “They’re making it far too easy for me.”
“Easy? Isn’t easy good?”
“No, Phil,” Satan said, sighing and putting his horned head into his scaly hands. “Do I want to dominate these people and make them turn away from my enemy? Of course. Do I want to fill their minds with things of the world and distract them from the bigger picture? You bet. Am I succeeding in that? Absolutely. And it isn’t even close. But it used to be so much more interesting. The chase.”
“There is still a chase, right?” Phil asked as he made notes in a tome about the day’s meal plan. Lutefisk again.
“Yes, there is still a chase,” the devil said, “but the opportunities are becoming more and more limited. Most of the people simply walk around oblivious to the world around them. They come pre-distracted. They are in their own little bubble, disconnected from the things my enemy would want them to seek. Instead of observing the world in front of their eyes, they spend most of their time staring down at those little transmitters they hold in their hands, watching or reading or doing who knows what. I still send demons down to possess people to deter them from following my enemy, but they used to put up a good fight against the little devils. The demons really had to work at it to break the person. Nowadays, though, people are just like, ‘Oh, I guess I’m possessed now,’ and it really doesn’t change anything because they’re already so disconnected from where my enemy wants them to be. Things have changed. This isn’t what I was promised. This isn’t the adventure I was told about. This is nothing but a fraudulent bore.”
“What? Who promised you an adventure?”
“It was…” Satan sat up and scrunched his crimson brow. “Now I don’t remember. It was who knows how many millennia ago. Humanity was so much more interesting back then. They were homogenous, but within their similarities was boundless diversity. Now they are just carbon copies of each other. Billions of identical souls simply floating about in the wind, allowing me to push them where I desire, with little to no effort. These people nowadays make most of their day to day decisions based on feelings and not facts, and feelings are so easily coerced. I don’t have to be mean and scary anymore. I don’t have to manipulate them deep to their core. At most, I just dangle something shiny in front of their face, and they do whatever I want them to. They don’t even know it’s happening. It is almost too easy.”
“But like you said, you get to sway them anywhere you want!” Phil said excitedly. “Isn’t that the point? You still get to win!”
“Win?” Satan said, laughing a deep menacing laugh. “When the game is so easy, it sure doesn’t feel like winning.”
“Feel?” Phil said. “What an incredibly human thing for you to think.”
Satan turned and scowled down at his chief scribe.
“Oh, come now,” Phil said. “You just need to laugh a little. Fortunately for you, I’ve been prepping for this for the last few years. One of these should make you laugh.”
“One of what?”
“One of these. I think you’ll like them. First off: a father was walking by a cemetery with his son. The father told his son that he can’t be buried in that cemetery. The son asked why. The father answered, saying he can’t be buried there because he’s not dead yet.”
Satan just stared at Phil.
“Okay, tough crowd,” Phil said. “What do you get when you cross a platypus with a steamroller? Any guesses? No? Okay then. You get a flatypus.”
Satan returned his head to his hands.
“Imagine that a flock of birds flies by in a V-formation. One of the lines of birds is longer. Do you know why?”
The devil sighed and shook his head. “Why?”
“Because that line has more birds in it.” Phil burst into laughter.
Satan rolled his dark eyes. “This is not what I need right now,” he said. “I need a challenge. Something to make the chase more interesting.”
“What can be more interesting than a good joke?”
“I don’t know, but if I hear one I will let you know.”
“Maybe I should see if my enemy would wipe most of the world out with a flood again,” Satan said, nearly smiling at the thought. “That was quiet entertaining to watch the first time. It would be nice to have another clean start to the chase.”
“I think your enemy promised not to do that again,” Phil said, flipping quickly through a large tome and pointing at a water-stained page. “Something about a rainbow or whatever.”
“Ah, yes, you are correct,” Satan said. “He did promise that, and he tends to be fairly good at keeping his promises.”
“That he does,” Phil said, nodding. “So, you’re looking for something that doesn’t kill everybody off, but gives the world just enough hope so you can have fun crushing it all again?”
“Exactly. Is that too much to ask?”
“But of course,” Phil said. “I mean, you already let the Cubs win the World Series, but I’m sure there’s something else we can do. We could get them to treat Pluto as a planet again.”
“We could make all of the world’s lawyers really sick.”
“Well then I’m out of ideas.”
“There must be something.”
“Wait… yes,” Phil said excitedly. “Yes! I have it!” He started to draw with a black feathered pen on a piece of parchment. After several minutes, he held up the parchment and showed it to Satan.
The devil looked over it and then grinned widely, nodding at his chief scribe. “You’ve done it, you brilliant little demon!”
“Thank you, oh malevolent one! I remember seeing something similar in one of the tomes, and I thought, wow, the price of the power of the air would certainly have interest in this one! It is so you! It is perfect! It is—”
“Shut up, Phil.”