Lucifer's Last Laugh

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Chapter 2: My Lieutenants’ Tales

Melchom advises me that I can choose three lieutenants and that I will also have at my disposal three hundred demons.

The lieutenants pose no problems. I know immediately whom I want. First, Asira, about my age give or take a millennium, very good at observing human behavior, tireless, ingenious and loyal. Second, Canda, one of the older devils, somewhere around eight hundred thousand years, crafty, devious. And finally, Dusana, a couple of hundred thousand years old, brilliant, perceptive, fond of humans and indeed of all mortals.

The four of us have worked together before. Hundreds of occasions, really, but most notably when we constructed a thorough needs assessment for the Broctowany tribe of Southeastern Bengal about twenty-five hundred years ago.

I access the three of them and, within seconds, gain their agreement to join me on the mission. We agree to meet after I have my required interview with Father.

I approach Him in the ancient manner, performing proskynesis, licking the tips of his talons whilst utterly prostrate.

But Lucifer is in a mood that I might describe as gloomy if it were not a sacrilege to think so. In any event, He is out of sorts.

“I may have to extinguish all of humanity if their behavior doesn’t improve.”

“You can do that?” I am surprised. Lucifer is the gentlest of devils and has devoted several million years to the betterment of the human race.

“Of course. I almost did it once before. You know the story. Big flood. Everybody drowned except for Manu, Ziusudra, Noah, Utnapishtim, Atrahasis and their families.”

“But there are seven billion humans now or so I’ve been told.”

“Numbers don’t matter. I can firestorm them all into oblivion in a matter of milliseconds. Oh I might keep the odd Hottentot or Hopi around just so the species continues but really humans are most annoying. Nothing but parasites. And by far the worst parasites this poor planet has ever endured.”

“Perhaps I will uncover something redeemable about them that will cause you to change your mind.”

Lucifer snorts. “Not likely in America. But enough of this idle tergiversation. I am depending on you to be crafty and cruel, not be an apologist for the unspeakable. To that end, I’ve decided to grant you the power to understand science.”

I am astonished. “But no devil can understand science or wants to.”

Lucifer gives me an exasperated look. “That’s because I removed that power from all of you. To understand science is to be both distracted and depressed. Who wants to be around devils like that? But I can give it back whenever I want and I am doing so for you but just for the duration of this mission. You won’t understand enough to actually become a scientist. That would be too cruel. But you will be able to absorb all the scientific theory necessary to arrive at a balanced assessment of America and Americans.

“I am going to give you two further gifts,” Lucifer continues. “The first is hatred.”

“But, O Merciful One, you have eliminated hatred from our …hearts. Why give me this now?”

“In order that you understand humankind, my son. You need to realize how despicable they are. Otherwise you cannot report objectively on them.”

“And the other gift?”

“Fear.”

“Father, devils fear almost nothing. Why should I be so burdened?

“Because, my son, fear is what drives humans. Again, you cannot give me a clear picture of them unless you understand the core of their corruption. It’s an easy matter to give you these gifts. All I have to do is install an amygdala in you.”

“What about Asira, Canda and Dusana?”

“They have no need of fear and hatred, nor of an understanding of science. Only you, as the team leader, will receive these gifts.”

“Father,” I say tentatively, because I already have an odd prickly sensation on the tips of my wings that I think might actually be fear, “as I was undergoing indoctrination, I noticed the absence of two old comrades,

Barbariccia and Graffiacan. May I ask where they are? Perhaps in suspension?” I say this last, hopefully.

“I am afraid they have been obliterated,” Lucifer says sadly.

“But I did not think that was possible. Are we not immortal?”

“No one and nothing is immortal, Loki. Devils can be destroyed but only by a blast of enormous energy. Before your time we lost a couple to monumental meteor impacts. More recently, Barbariccia was hanging around Hiroshima at the wrong time and Graffiacan made the mistake of taking too close a look at the Bikini atoll when he should have been composing poetry in Malebolge. But I have replaced them with two new, reasonably serviceable devils, Draghignazzo and Farfarello. That’s one of the many disagreeable characteristics of modern humans. Inadvertently, they have created the technology to destroy us. But onto business.”

At this point Lucifer outlines for me his immediate plans for humankind. For obvious reasons (my solemn oath and the fact that Father now scares me shitless) I cannot reveal what those plans are. Suffice it to say that they are diabolical.

Then we turn to the Rules of Engagement.

“Which are?” I asked.

“You may incapacitate or kill any human that gets in your way but don’t interfere with humanity’s future unless you get the go ahead from me.”

“Father! You have never given one of us such latitude before.”

“Well, you have it now. It’s gloves off and hands on time, sonny.

Now begone. You have a deadline of five years. You will make periodic reports to Melchom who will pass on to me anything he thinks is valuable.”

Lucifer rises to His full, terrifying height. I tremble, bow, and skedaddle.

Asira, Canda, and Dusana meet me at my newly refurbished palace where I offer them hearty quaffs of Devil’s Brew.

Asira manifests himself as a huge goat with the head of a hippo. Canda appears as a medium-sized spider with four of his legs resembling those of a wolf. Dusana, as usual, has a beautiful woman’s face atop the body of a winged sow.

I tell them about the powers Lucifer has given me and we immediately get down to business.

“Asira, you take the American East Coast, Canda, the Midwest, and Dusana, the South. The rest is mine. Your mission is to observe only. No interference at this time. I expect reports in person once a week. Get a sense of what’s on Americans’ minds, if anything. Assess their technology. Pay attention to social class, religion, race, and so on. I’m assuming theirs is not a monolithic culture but aside from differences, they must have some things in common to be called Americans.”

“And what will you be doing?” Canda asks.

“I am to incarnate myself as a wealthy writer who is interviewing important Americans for my next book, my last having been the hugely successful international best seller, Hitler: Hun or Hindu? My current project, untitled as yet, is intended to be an exploration of evil. Any questions?”

They shake their heads in unison.

“Then off with you. After a few days, once you all have established routines, I will arrange our meeting times.”

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