I took a long time to get around to doing this week’s story, partly because I was waiting for a song title to cross my path, and then because I was waiting for inspiration. The Chuck Wendig Challenge was to find a song title at random and use it as the title. I reckoned the next one I saw was good enough for random. This was listed by someone as a favourite on their blog. It happens to be one of my favourites too. 1000 words including the title – spot on! You may find it connects with Hell Hath No Fury a few weeks ago. Contains two mild swearwords, one in French.
Sympathy for the Devil
“Non! Il n’est pas possible!”
“Of course it’s possible, you apology for a republican.” Luc stood up, upsetting the rest of the chess pieces as he turned away. “Same time tomorrow, then?”
“Merde!” his opponent uttered under his breath.
Luc grinned as he walked from the cell. The door slammed behind him and the sound of early nineteenth century battle filled the tiny room. He could hear the cannons boom and the screams of the wounded and dying as he mounted the stone steps, to be cut off as he turned the first spiral. Eternal Waterloo played behind him.
Luc skipped up the stair to the entry gallery, where he leant on the railing and gazed down at the souls in their first taste of the torment that had awaited them since time began. Hellfire and damnation, at your service. A red devil scampered up beside him, handing over the latest viewscreen, courtesy of the incumbents of SiVal. He matched the details of newcomers on the screen to the people scrambling around the orange-lit black rocks below.
“That one can be transferred to Eagles Cavern when he’s done,” he said, pointing at a chubby ageing rockstar with black hair, black eyes and a black past.
“Yes, your worship.” The little devil bobbed, noting the decision.
“O-oh, now there’s a good catch!” Luc’s eyes shone as he spotted a buxom woman with long blonde hair, too much make-up and a taste for Viking bodices. “I wasn’t sure we’d get her straightaway. Better put her somewhere soundproof, though. If she demands to see me, tell her I’m away on business.”
”For how long?”
“As long as you like. Best keep her guessing.”
“Your next appointment is due, your worship.” The red imp passed over a leather bag that chinked of coins.
“Where is he today?”
“I believe he is under the tree in the graveyard.”
Luc nodded and left the brimstone pit through an archway into a rocky, sandy hillside. Olive trees were scattered at pleasing intervals. A shaggy-haired man in his prime sat under one of the trees, playing cat’s cradle with some string.
“That isn’t strong enough,” Luc observed as he sat down beside him.
“They won’t give me anything thicker. Say I might hurt myself. Hah!”
“It wouldn’t do to have my guests attempting to end it all, you know,” Luc’s tone was conversational. “It would give the others ideas, and then where would it end?”
“It wouldn’t end, that’s the point.”
“Well, exactly. I wouldn’t be doing my job right if it did.”
“He’s got you framed just like he framed me, you know.”
“That old existentialist argument again? I’m only here because he designed me to do it?”
The young man shrugged. “The catholics say I came here because I despaired, not because I betrayed him. That’s a load of bollocks if you ask me.”
“You should. You should ask yourself why you got the job, too.”
“It’s not that bad a job, most of the time,” Luc admitted, “although it can be tedious.”
“Tedious! Give me tedious. All I can do, all day long, is sit around here and re-enact my last days. Ponder my omissions, my faults. Devise arguments for how it all went wrong, and why I shouldn’t have been given the blame. Doesn’t change anything, does it?”
“Well, at least someone got the message.”
“Yeah, didn’t get the title right, though, did he? Jesus Christ, Superstar, my foot. What about Judas was Robbed? That would make a good title.”
“Judas the Betrayer?”
“Judas the Fall-guy, more like.” He looked gloomily at the string pattern he’d made between his hands. A gentle ‘ting’ split the silence.
“Ah well, that’s it for today then. You want your silver?” Luc asked, handing over the money bag.
“Damn the money!” He grabbed it and threw it away from him, silver coins rolling down the hill and into cracks under the rocks.
Luc chuckled and left him to it. He reckoned he could skip Pontius Pilate today, since he’d had a double session with him the day before. Attila would be next, or maybe Caligula. Unless they were fighting each other again. Since both hated the same things they were in the same area. That would be fun, checking up on them and stirring things up a little more.
He strode through the rest of the graveyard, taking the left-hand arch. Before he could step into the swamp area, he heard a commotion at the end of the colonnade. Five imps dashed past to attend to the disturbance. Luc hesitated, his interest piqued. He had a small enclave of Nazis down there. Hitler, Mendel and Goebbels fell out with monotonous regularity, but then, that was why they were together.
Even for Luc, the tedium got too much at times. You’d think he could liven things up, add some devilry all of his own, but he was limited to inventing ways appropriate for each incumbent to suffer his or her own private hell for eternity. The worst were immersed in their own failures, the continual reminder of their downfalls, their inadequacies, their impotence. The run-of-the-mill mortal sinner endured fire and brimstone, or the frozen Eagles Cavern, or life on an eternal beach, with no suntan cream, no service and a poolside bar guarded by sharks. He had to make sure everyone had the worst possible time, day after day, week after week, if only such things existed. Monotony for him as well.
Some days were even worse. One of his red devils, the embodiment of Cardinal Richelieu, brought him a note with details of the latest arrival. “A lord, no less!” he exclaimed breathlessly, as he handed the screen to Luc.
“Oh, no!” Luc saw the name, and the squat, toad-like features. He thought for a few moments then smiled wickedly. “Put him in with Judas. It’ll serve them both right.”
Some days it is hard to have sympathy for the Devil.
(c) J M Pett 2014
I am reminded that apparently song titles are not copyright, but the lyrics are. Interesting…