Lucifer's Last Laugh

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Chapter 31: The Final Tale

How shocking to the rest of you to learn that National Security Advisor Cherry Churchill (now possessed by Alecto) shot the Reverend Bagwell P. Wilcoxon three times in the face with the .45 that she always carries in her purse, in the process (and I assume, not by accident) horribly maiming and permanently disabling Presidential Advisor Professor Pantagruel R. Smith.

Her eminently plausible explanation? The reprobate Reverend was about to knock off President Presserwesser.

Baggie had requested and received an audience with the president. When he arrived in the oval office, Gil, Cherry Churchill, and P.R. were there, too. Enraged, Baggie threw himself at the president only to be blown away by C.C.

Mumbling almost incoherently about killer bugs, P.R. was carted off to a padded cell in Bethesda by White House paramedics.

As you and I, along with Sidney, JoeL, and Matt Scott jet to Washington, D.C. on the Supersonic XK-19 (an aircraft usually reserved for large contributors to Presserwesser’s party), we watch the president address the nation on Ultra HDTV.

“My fellow Americans, so sinister a plot against your government has now been unveiled that I am now declaring martial law. This intrigue was hatched by Baggie Wilcoxon and the infamous Super Christian terrorist Boola Boola Shakhur, aided and abetted by legions of their deluded followers. Because Super Christianity bears such a strong, though mildly distorted, resemblance to all other forms of Christianity, I am outlawing Christianity and declare Reformed Paganism the established state church. However, Jews, Jains, Buddhists, Ba’hai’s, Mormons and Muslims, indeed all non-Christians, may continue to practice their cults without fear of hindrance by my government.

“Having just converted to Reformed Paganism myself, I hereby appoint Mr. Gil Gamesh (sometimes known as Apollonius of Tyana) to be my Chief of Staff. And in the spirit of PR’s teachings, I henceforth renounce war and the threat of war and urge y’all to embrace along with me all of our fellow living creatures.

“As something of a minor footnote, meat will no longer be served at White House functions, although I encourage everyone to smoke and drink themselves silly.

“God Bless America and the World.”

Tip-top, I think, but where is Boola Boola?

As we fly to Bolling Air Force Base, I take the first opportunity to step into the nicely appointed rest room and teleport to Lucifer’s palace.

After the customary obsequies, I glare at Father who regards me with amusement.

“Everything is going to hell in a hansom cab,” I say. “Our plans are not working out.”

“Your plans anyway, Loki. Mine are doing just fine.”

“Have you deceived me once again, Father?”

“What do you think?”

“Look, I know humans are by and large a despicable lot, Americans especially but there are millions of good humans. If this is a prelude to exterminating them all. . .”

“You don’t give a fart in a fig tree about humans, my son. Just one in particular.”

“Even if that’s true, isn’t one extraordinary human being, one whom I happen to love to distraction, worth preserving the entire species?”

“‘Loco Loki’ I’m going to have start calling you. That’s the most ridiculous argument I’ve ever heard. Aside from that, what good would it do you to hook up with this human? In a few years she will be house moss.”

“Then why not grant her immortality? Like you did with Gilgamesh and Enkidu? As a favor to me?”

“Since when do I owe you any favors?”

My three gullets dessicate as I broach the next request. “Or you could make me mortal.”

“I have other plans for you. You’re to play a key role in managing humanity’s demise.”

With an uncommon display of dignity I draw myself to my full height and look Father straight into His multiple eyes. “In that case, I resign.”

Lucifer gives out a whoop of laughter that causes the subterranean chambers of Hell to reverberate mightily. He simultaneously slaps His middle knee six times with a giant wing.

“Resign? Do you know what you’re saying? Devils can’t just resign. Now, if you don’t watch out I will put you back in suspension until this is all over.”

“You terrify me, Father, but I refuse to yield. Either place me in suspension or allow me to return and save Margarita’s life.”

Lucifer leans back in his throne, an even broader smile on his face. “You are a whippersnapperish whelp, aren’t you? Very well, I will at least give you a chance to save your miserable mortal inamorata but you realize that you might very well be dispersed to detritus? If Boola Boola depresses the nuclear trigger quickly enough there is no way you can teleport out of there fast enough to avoid destruction.”

“Could you be destroyed by such an explosion?”

Father shakes his enormous head. “Of course not. I have the power of immediate atomistic dispersal as do all the Co-Created Beings. But that is not a power I can grant to you or any other devil.”

“So any CCB can withstand a nuclear burst.”

“Unless prevented from dispersing by another CCB. But that is not going to occur and doesn’t help you anyway.”

“I don’t care as long as Margarita survives.”

Lucifer shakes his huge head. “Loki, you lamebrain, you realize that you are in danger of becoming what you despise most.”

“And what is that, Father?”

“A hero.”

I return to the XK-19 toilet, pondering Father’s words. Being more or less invulnerable, I have never needed to demonstrate courage. Flavescent with fear, I contemplate a universe without me and find it unbearably unpalatable. Father is right. You, Margarita, are as evanescent as egg whites, as transitory as tea leaves. Why should I risk my invaluable individuality, my enduring essence for you or anyone else?

On the other hand, I now feel free to betray Father because He seems to want me to do so perhaps in order that He can betray me.

Upon landing at Bolling, we are whisked to the White House Situation Room where Asira, Canda, and Dusana have aloondrumed into, respectively, an automatic pencil sharpener, a USMC coffee mug, and a TV remote control. In the Sit Room are gathered the president, National Security Advisor Cherry Churchill/Alecto, Gil, and National Intelligence Director Hank Himmler.

“Shakur’s in Schenectady with a nuke and several vials of Ebola 666 that he got from some deluded Super Christian general,” Himmler says to me, “and if I’m not mistaken, you are responsible.”

Himmler’s perspicuity again amazes me and again I wonder if he is a demon somehow overlooked by Melchom.

“Not entirely. After all it was you and Reilly here who blackmailed Cherry Churchill into an attempt on the President’s life, implicating P.R. Smith and foiled by you. But P.R. outsmarted us all by giving Boola Boola access to both nukes and Ebola 666.”

“How do you know all that?” Himmler asks with some wonderment.

“I have my sources.”

Presserwesser turns to Cherry Churchill. “What did they blackmail you with to get you to agree to assassinate me?”

“Threatened to reveal the fact that I spend ninety thousand dollars a year on Ferragamos.” Alecto has access to Cherry’s memories, of course. “But, Mr. President, I never really went along with their plans. I saved you, remember?”

“And put P.R. permanently out of business,” added Himmler.

“Still, Mr. Himmler, I must admit there is some truth in what you say. Without my meddling, Boola Boola would not be a threat to anyone.”

I do not mention that for awhile I was puzzled by Shakhur’s curious demonstration of independence. He is a Null Five. Therefore, I control him completely. Except I don’t. But I have suspected why this is so for some time now.

I turn to Matt Scott. “So far we seem to have managed to change the past. How did you say the Schenectady thing went down in your time line?”

“Well, for one thing, we were certain that Teddy Teawater accompanied Boola Boola to Schenectady and probably helped him detonate the nuke.”

“Not the case now.”

Matt looks puzzled but continues. “For another, he blows up you along with himself and approximately sixty-five thousand Schenectadians but not before he releases the Ebola 666 virus which quickly spreads across the globe and wipes out three-fifths of the human race in a matter of weeks.”

“I don’t know what you two are talking about,” says Presserwesser, “but we’ve evacuated most of Schenectady and its environs. Shakhur is practically by himself there.”

“Then there’s no time to squander if we want to have a chance at saving the last few thousand stragglers. I need to go there and try to talk Boola Boola out of this.”

“No,” you scream. “I’m not losing you now. We’ve only been married seventeen hours. I am the lead investigator in the Shakhur case and it is I who will go to Schenectady and face down Boola Boola.”

“No, Margarita, this is something I must do.” I lay a gentle hand on your neck and simultaneously squeeze your carotid artery, jugular vein, and vagus nerve, rendering you instantly unconscious. As you slump into JoeL’s diminutive but waiting arms, I remove a computer disk from my inside suit coat pocket and program it to record these last few seconds. “Here, Sidney. If something should happen to me, give Margaret this and take good care of her.”

“I will.”

I hold a quick teleconference with Asira, Canda, and Dusana.

“We’re going with you, boss,” says Dusana.

“No, you’re not,” I reply. “No sense in putting all of our lives at risk. Head on back to Hell and give Father my regards.”

“How the hell can you get to Schenectady in time?” asks a desperate Presserwesser.

“Gil and Dr. Churchill will explain,” I say and vanish.

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