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Hell on Wheels

By Richard Kirk All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Humor

Hell on Wheels

Welcome to Hell.

Far below the mortal world, where the souls of the damned are tortured for all eternity the kingdom of Hell lies.  In this place of unspeakable evil all of mankind’s deepest, darkest nightmares are brought to life in terrifying, gut wrenching reality.  There is no escape from the horrors that lurk within this flame-drenched pit of despair and there is no use praying.  If you had thought of that earlier you would not be here.  However, Hell is not all bad, at least not for the people who actually work there.  For those dedicated few who keep the infernal wheels turning, usually by cracking large whips, Hell is just another place, no different from any other city in existence.  Also, like any other city in existence there is the inevitable social hierarchy, with the people at the top and the people at the bottom.  However, the people at the bottom, though more numerous than those at the top, are not the emphasis here.  It is that select crowd who occupy the upper echelons for whom we are interested in.  As a matter of fact, it is the very peak of the social order for which we will be turning our attentions to.  The Dark Lord Himself, the crowned prince of evil, the original fallen angel, Satan, or Lucifer, or the Devil, or Beelzebub, he has many names, but Satan is as good as any.

Since being ejected from the holy splendour of Heaven by God and forced to rule the Underworld Satan has made quite a name for Himself and ironically He has the “good” religions to thank for that.  Ask any evangelist to talk about their beliefs and he or she will devote half of their time to praising the name of God and Jesus Christ and the other half condemning the foul machinations of the malevolent Prince of Darkness.  Satan Himself could not have wished for a better publicity campaign.  The people of earth were regularly reminded of Satan’s evil ways and He does not have to lift a talon.  However, at the time we join the behoved one He was doing more than lift a talon, he was lifting an entire hand, raising his glass.

‘To evil!’ He boomed.

‘To evil,’ chorused the small group of friends Satan had gathered for this little impromptu drinking binge.  Sitting around the small table, which was loaded with numerous and varied alcoholic beverages, ashtrays and tobacco tins were Lillith, Adam’s ex wife and co founder of the Vampire race, Azrael, the artist whose conscientious objection during the Holy Wars earned him an eternity of Damnation and Gerald, Satan’s assistant.  The reason for their presence was simple; to drink copious amounts of alcohol, smoke inordinate amounts of hash and listen to Satan’s drunken bragging.  If there was one thing Satan loved more than causing destruction and mayhem on a biblical scale it was boasting about it afterwards, preferably over a goblet of something very strong and extremely alcoholic.  He was a colossal show off and loved nothing more than regaling His underlings with tales of His self confessed greatness and this is exactly what He was currently doing.

‘Hah!’ He boomed, His voice having a very boomy quality.  ‘Remember the time when I appeared to a couple of simple farm girls and caused all that hysteria?’

‘Yes Satan,’ replied Lillith.  ‘Salem, Massachusetts, right?’

‘Right!  Caused all sorts of bother I did,’ said Satan proudly.

‘The Salem Witch Hunt they called it didn’t they?’ continued Lillith.

‘Yes, ha hah!  Got many a young strumpet sent My way I can tell you,’ as He was saying this Satan rubbed His hands together in memory induced relish, thinking about all the young souls He had the opportunity of corrupting.  His talons sounded like demonic maracas, clicking along with the movement of His hands.

‘Fascinating,’ said Lillith, who was absentmindedly stirring her drink with her index finger.  The only drawback to being invited over for drinks by Satan Himself was that you were almost certainly going to be subjected to the same tired old stories that His Demonic Majesty always spun out at these functions.  It was almost like being bored to death by an over zealous uncle who believed that as he found his stories interesting then everyone else would.  This also meant that it was rather hard to let Him know that He was spinning the same yarn for the umpteenth thousandth time, eternity can be a dangerous thing.  However, while Lillith and Azrael were reluctant to inform Satan that He was boring them senseless, his assistant Gerald obviously felt stronger about the issue.

‘Err; I do believe that you have regaled us with that tale before Master.’

‘Have I?’ asked Satan, temporarily removed from His nostalgic storytelling.

‘Frequently,’ replied Gerald.

‘Oh, well.  What about the time when I was summoned by those…’

‘I fear that we have heard that one as well Master,’ interrupted Gerald.

‘Really?’

‘I’m afraid so.’

‘Oh,’ Satan looked decidedly crestfallen.  He always assumed that His subjects enjoyed hearing about His unholy exploits, He certainly did.  Looking around the table He realised for the first time that no one seemed to be paying attention to Him; Lillith was staring into nothing with her finger in her drink and Azrael was doodling on a napkin.  Gerald was paying Him attention but it was not the kind of attention that He enjoyed.  Satan did not like being corrected, interrupted or told He was wrong and the more He thought about Gerald’s insolence the angrier He became.  This, coupled with the vast amounts of evil smelling alcohol He had consumed did not make for one happy Prince of Darkness.  In one swift movement Satan swung His large muscular arm around in an arc until it connected with Gerald’s head.  There were two loud thumping noises; Satan’s fist hitting Gerald on the head and Gerald’s head hitting the table.  If this was not enough to rouse both Lillith and Azrael from their respective states of boredom then Satan raising His voice certainly was.

‘Insolent demon!’ He roared.  ‘Have you no respect?  I am your Lord and Master and you will not speak to Me in such tones.’

‘Forgive me Master,’ said Gerald, rubbing his recently walloped head.  ‘I was merely…’

‘You were merely forgetting yourself Gerald.’ interrupted Satan.  ‘Don’t let it happen again.’

‘Of course Master.  Although I was merely pointing out that you do not seem to have any new stories to tell us.’

‘What did you say?’ growled Satan, His fist raised, ready to coach Gerald some more in the fine art of humility.

‘It’s true Satan,’ said Lillith.  ‘We’ve all heard your stories of corrupting the innocent and possessing the weak.’

‘You have?’

‘Many times,’ nodded Lillith.

‘Well why didn’t anyone tell Me?’ whined Satan.

‘You know how hard it is to tell you some things.  We just didn’t want to upset you.’

‘So you’re all bored of My stories?’ said Satan petulantly.

‘Well you have been telling the same tales since the Holy Wars.’

‘That’s true Satan,’ agreed Azrael.

‘Oh how would you know Mr artist?’ scoffed Satan.  ‘You spent the entire Holy Wars hiding out at your place painting.’

‘Well we’re only trying to help,’ said Azrael sulkily, who was burdened with the fragile sensitivities of your average artist.  Not exactly a useful factor when you have been banished to live in Hell for all eternity.

‘Well, what would you rather I talk about then?’ said Satan, nursing His wounded pride.

‘Something new and exciting Master,’ suggested Gerald.  ‘Preferably something that we have not heard thousands of times before,’ he added under his breath.

‘What?’ demanded Satan.

‘Nothing,’ said Gerald.

‘I don’t have to prove Myself to you people,’ snorted Satan.

‘Of course not,’ agreed Gerald slimily.

‘I’m as powerful as I ever was.’

‘I’m sure you are.’

‘I am!’ shouted Satan, going red in the face.  Well, redder in the face.

‘I do not doubt it Master.’

‘I could possess anyone I wanted whenever I wanted.’

‘Right you are Sire.’

‘I’ll prove it you right now,’ boasted Satan.

‘That really won’t be necessary.’

‘Don’t you think I can do it?’

‘It’s not that Master…’

‘So you don’t think I can do it?  Right!’ Satan pounded His enormous fists on the heavily laden table, making several bottles rattle against each other, got up and stormed across the room.  He stopped by a large, ornate mirror and beckoned His guests to join Him.

‘Right, I’m going to prove to you all that I am as powerful and as evil as I always have been.  Pick a soul in the Scrying Mirror and I’ll possess it, no problem.’

‘Any soul at all?’ asked Gerald.

‘Any soul at all,’ bragged Satan.

‘This is stupid,’ said Lillith, who went back to the table for another drink.

‘Never mind her Master,’ oozed Gerald.  ‘I shall pick a suitable soul to challenge Your Highness.’

‘Good, and make it a hard one.  I love a challenge.’

‘Oh I assure you Master, it will be a hard one, a very hard one indeed.’

When Satan awoke He had the royal family of hangovers putting up residence inside His skull, which was very odd indeed considering He never usually got hangovers.  One of the benefits of living in Hell is that agonising pain is not really an issue, not if you happen to be the crowned prince of Evil that is.  However, now that Satan was currently inhabiting a body that was not His own He was completely susceptible to the normal, human physicality’s.  Consequently, His head was throbbing, a lot.

‘Ggrrngh,’ said Satan, uttering the classic noise used by people the world over when they realise how much their head is pounding after a night of heavy drinking.

‘Urrrrr, where am I?’ slurred Satan, who was playing up to every cliché in the Morning After Handbook.  As His conscious mind swam back into line He began to remember choice segments of the previous evening.  He remembered planning a sophisticated soiree with a select group of His closest friends but settling for a boozy night of boastful revelry with His mates.  He also remembered chewing over old times and He remembered…

Oh bugger, thought Satan.  I didn’t?  Did I?  But He knew all to well that He had.

‘Oh bugger!’ said Satan aloud, then He stopped.  Something was different; something was not quite right and when He next spoke it became all too clear what was wrong.

‘My voice,’ said Satan to Himself.  ‘What’s happened to My voice?’

Satan was starting to get worried, especially as His memory of the previous evening was returning in ever more rapid clarity.  He now remembered boasting that He could possess anyone He wanted and he remembered that Gerald…

  Gerald!

Would he?

Could he?

Why that…

‘RRRAAAGH!’ screamed Satan, His voice momentarily returning to its former glory, something He was not expecting.  Once the shock of that had vanished Satan’s suspicions began to grow in number, multiplying exponentially.  Why had Gerald been so interested in Satan proving Himself?  Why had he been so quick to suggest a random possession?  And how did he choose so quickly?  All these factors pointed towards a conspiracy, with Gerald at the epicentre, although Satan could not be completely certain.  However, if He knew that at that moment Gerald was watching Satan via the Scrying Mirror with malevolent relish and Machiavellian delight His suspicions would be one hundred percent confirmed.

Sure enough, Gerald was indeed watching events unfold and he was loving every minute of it.  This was his form of sweet revenge for countless years of abuse and humiliation.  Satan was not a good boss, not even by Hell’s standards, and although He may have been an effective and powerful Prince of Darkness this did not mean He had people skills.  Choosing a career where your basic daily duties involved torturing and punishing the souls of the damned did not usually come with pamphlets entitled “Improving Your Bedside Manner.”  Consequently, Gerald had been subjected to incessant verbal and physical abuse during his tenure of employment under the Infernal Lord and needless to say it was beginning to get a tad irritating.  This is why for months now Gerald had been secretly plotting the overthrow of Satan with the intent of replacing Him with himself, a crucial element in any power shift conspiracy.

Gerald had left nothing to chance, he had thought of everything.  He had been planning this grand scheme of exquisite revenge for far too long to let something foul it up now.  He had ensured that Satan would be easily manipulated, plying Him with drink and narcotics and he had fixed it so that Satan could not get back into Hell, bribing the gatekeepers and boat drivers of the River Styx.  He had also slipped something rather special into one of Satan’s many, many drinks.  It was a small but extremely potent concoction that Gerald had acquired from one of Hell’s numerous magical practitioners, which when ingested disabled that person, no matter how Satanic, of all magical activities, including the simple Return To Hell incantation that Satan was now cursing the absence of.

Gerald cackled maniacally as he watched his former employer try every trick and incantation that He could think of but nothing was working, nothing would work.  The only way that Satan could get back to Hell was for the spell to be reversed and the only person who could do that was either Gerald or the shopkeeper who he had purchased said spell from but that was not very likely.  Somewhere down a grubby looking alley deep within the infernal twists and turns of Hell was a small shop that was closed for the foreseeable future.  Inside was a small brown stain on the floor that had once been the shopkeeper; Gerald had left nothing to chance.

‘Go ahead you blundering oaf!’ he snorted derisively, as he took his glass of brandy from the table next to him and gave it a self-satisfied swirl.  ‘It will do you no good.’

Gerald was right, it was doing no good: Satan had been trying every magical chant, phrase and gesticulation He could think of for the past twenty minutes and all it was doing was making Him angrier and angrier.  With an extremely irritable growl He eventually gave up and decided to find out exactly where He was.  Cursing Gerald’s foul name to the bowels of His back garden He took a sweeping look about His surroundings.  He appeared to be in some sort of alleyway and wherever He was He was alone.  His head still felt like a troll was tap dancing inside it and His mouth felt like the underside of a Styx riverboat.  He rubbed His hands over His eyes to try and make them focus properly and was surprised at how small and weak His hands looked.  Gone were the menacing black talons, replaced by odd looking flat nails that had enough dirt under them to pot a rubber plant and His skin, once a deep shade of the reddest red was now a dirty pink.  He was not impressed, and He became even less impressed when His gaze travelled from the hands all the way up the arms.  Whoever He had possessed had the dress sense of a Hell Hound and Satan had always prided Himself on looking presentable.  Just because He happened to live in a cesspool of filth and depravity did not mean that He should demean the title of Prince of Darkness by looking scruffy.

As Satan continued to survey His internal surroundings He was becoming ever more despondent.  It was not looking good; dirt encrusted nails, shabby clothes…

And what was that smell?

He sniffed the air and immediately wrinkled His nose.  He felt something prickly and felt His upper lip to investigate.  It was a moustache, and it was connected to a beard.  Correction, it was a highly unkempt moustache that was attached to an even more unkempt beard.  Satan looked down to see a tangled matt of brown hair protruding from under His line of vision and…

No!

While all this was going on Gerald had wasted no time in implementing Phase Two of his nefarious scheme.  He had called a press conference and invited all the movers and shakers from the world of Hellish Affairs, as well as the media and anyone else he felt should bear witness to his rise to power.  Azrael and Lillith were there of course, mainly to see if Gerald had the Hells Bells to pull such a scheme off.  They had acquired themselves seats right at the back of the conference room and were watching with mild interest.

‘Do you think it’ll work?’ asked Azrael, as members of the press filed in and took their seats.

‘Don’t care,’ said Lillith.  ‘It doesn’t matter who runs this place so long as I get my souls.’

‘Ah yes, how is the Army coming?’

‘Pretty well,’ replied Lillith with more interest.  ‘Getting some good numbers now.  You wouldn’t believe how many people out there actually want to be vampires.’

‘Mortals,’ said Azrael in the same tones that someone would use to dismiss a child’s errant behaviour with the word kids.

‘Tell me about it,’ nodded Lillith.  ‘Of course by the time they realise what a bloody mistake they’ve made, no pun intended, it’s far too late and who am I to try and put them off?’

‘Good point…’ began Azrael but he was interrupted by Gerald’s sweeping arrival into the conference room.  There was a ripple of murmured conversation from the gathered press officials that died away as Gerald stepped up to the large and foreboding podium.  He had with him several sheets of paper that Lillith instantly recognised as a speech.  She sighed heavily, leaned back against the wall and folded her arms across her chest.

‘He’s going to be ages,’ she complained.  ‘I left someone on the Draining Board and I don’t want them completely dry by the time I get back, they’re no fun that way,’ she added with a wicked glint in her eye.

But Gerald was not about to let this moment slip by without enjoying every single self-important moment.  This was where he assumed Absolute Power; he had taken care of everything.  He had heard long ago that power can corrupt but Absolute Power would corrupt absolutely, he certainly hoped so.

‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ he said smarmily, addressing the room as a whole.  ‘Thank you ever so much for attending and on such short notice as well.  I’m sure we all have things to be getting on with.’

‘You could say that,’ whispered Lillith to Azrael.

‘But I assure you,’ continued Gerald.  ‘That I have called you all here for a very good reason, a very good reason indeed.’  He cleared his throat and shuffled his papers in the way that newsreaders do to seem busy and important and then he placed his hands on either side of the podium top with a little more flourish than was necessary.

‘I have called you all here to inform you of a change, a change in management.’  This statement sent puzzled looks and hushed fragments of conversations coursing round the room, except for Azrael and Lillith who just wanted Gerald to get on with it.  As the volume grew somewhat Gerald held up his hand and motioned for quiet.  He waited until every pair of eyes in the room was back on him, apart from Lillith’s, who was fidgeting in her seat, desperate to get back to her dinner.

‘As some of you may or may not have been aware, our Lord and Master, The Crowned Prince of Evil Satan has not been well for some time.’  The murmurs started up again, but louder this time.  Gerald allowed himself an internal pat on the back; he knew that no one would dare speak up and say that they had no idea Satan was unwell, they would not risk looking uninformed in front of their peers and rivals.  Azrael and Lillith of course knew this to be a complete lie but they had to admit they were mildly impressed; it looked as if Gerald was going to pull it off.

Before anyone had plucked up enough courage to ask a question out loud Gerald pressed on.

‘Now I know this news may come as a shock to some of you but let me assure you all that everything is well in hand and our beloved Sovereign is being well taken care of.’  If anyone had looked closer they would have noticed Gerald gripping the top of the podium quite hard indeed.  He obviously did not like referring to Satan in such flattering terms but he knew it to be a necessary evil.  At that moment an uncertain hand was raised by a demon three rows back from the front.

‘Yes?’  said Gerald invitingly.

‘Err…yeah…I was just wondering who’s going to be in charge while His Infernal Majesty is away?’

‘An excellent question,’ replied Gerald.  Finally, the moment he had been waiting for.  ‘I have here,’ he said, brandishing a very official looking document, ‘a temporary contract signed by Satan Himself proclaiming that I, Gerald Lickspittle shall rule in his stead until such time as He sees fit to return.’

A mixed atmosphere filled the room, consisting of quiet awe sprinkled with mild suspicion, held by those with more backbone than the others, but no one questioned what Gerald had just said, and even if they demanded to look at the temporary contract that Gerald had held aloft they would not have been able to tell the difference between Satan’s actual signature and the expert forgery that Gerald had spent months perfecting.  He smiled to himself as he left the podium, pleased with a fine piece of pulling the wool over a lot of people’s eyes.  I have, he thought o himself, pulled the whole sheep.

Gerald stepped off the stage and headed towards the back of the room where he noticed Azrael and Lillith getting up to leave.

‘Oh hello you two, I didn’t expect to see you here.’

‘Yeah, fascinating, bye,’ mumbled Lillith, as she half sprinted out of the door.

‘What’s her problem?’ asked Gerald, thumbing the direction of where Lillith was up until a few seconds previous.

‘It’s dinnertime,’ replied Azrael.

‘Ah,’ nodded Gerald.  ‘So?  What did you think?’

‘Well, you really got into to it didn’t you?’ admitted Azrael.

‘This is it my boy, my Finest Hour.’

‘Well I hope for your sake it lasts longer than an hour,’ and with that Azrael turned and left.

My boy?

Honestly.

Satan was mortified, speechless.  Well, not speechless.  He always seemed to have something to say about everything, and He certainly had a lot to say about what He was now seeing.

‘How could this be?  What will I do?  Who have I possessed?’  Unfortunately the question to answer ratio was stacked very heavily in favour of the questions and it did not look like any answers were going to be coming round the mountain any time soon.  Upon discovering His collection of rank facial hair He had taken in the rest of the human vessel that He was currently squatting in and He had found something far worse than a thousand lice infested beards.  He seemed to be sitting in some sort of wooden cart and His lower half was obscured by a filthy old blanket, which when He removed to inspect the rest of His new body is when He made the heart stopping discovery.

He had no legs!

Well, that was not strictly true, He did have legs but they stopped rather abruptly at the knee and His grimy trousers were tied up with bits of twine.  He decided not to look for too long because it was far too depressing and the smell that erupted from underneath the blanket was the same smell that had been troubling Him since He woke up.  It was overpowering to say the least, and this was a severe understatement.  It felt as if He had taken His entire nasal system and left it overnight in a bucket of battery acid.  Needless to say it was not pleasant.

After the initial shock of discovering that He was drastically lacking in the leg department Satan decided that it was time to find out what the poor wretch He was living in looked like.  He took hold of the pavement and dragged Himself along a few yards.  Moving was easier than He expected but He now knew why this mans fingernails were so embedded with dirt and grit.  He manoeuvred Himself out of the alleyway and into what looked like a high street.  As soon as He emerged from between the two buildings people began crossing the road to avoid Him and especially His smell.  People pretended not to notice Him and this was very strange for Satan, as He was more than used to making His presence felt wherever He went.  He lurched along the pavement, watching people step around Him and generally try to be as far away from Him as possible, as He looked for a reflective surface to show Him His new face.  He did not have to go far before He came across a furniture shop that had a display of mirrors in the front window.  He edged closer to the shop front until He was able to get a good view of Himself.

The sight that met His eyes was quite possible the most pathetic thing He had ever seen, and being the Almighty Ruler of the Dominion of Hell he had seen some pretty pathetic things in His time.  The thing that was staring back at Him was, for want of a better word, human and the wild and untamed facial growth that must have been home to at least several species of parasite indicated that it was male.  Satan sat back down in His dishevelled little cart and thought the situation through.  Gerald really had done his homework; he had picked just the right kind of person to slow Him down.  The little maggot must have been planning this for weeks, months even.  He had just started to revel in the thoughts of what He would do to Gerald if He ever got back to Hell when the owner of the furniture shop swung open the door and glowered down at Him.

‘Hey you!’ barked the shop owner in a more than disdainful tone.  ‘What do you think you’re doing?  Be off with you before I call the police!’

Satan blinked, dumbfounded.  No one had ever spoke to Him like that before, no one.

‘Are you addressing Me you foul, worthless mortal?  Hold your tongue before I…before I…’

‘Before you what you loony?’ sneered the shop owner.

Damn!

Of course, He was unable to do anything to prove that He was Satan, Dark Prince of the Underworld, which was a shame because this impudent piece of mortal filth was really asking for it.

‘Believe Me my small, insignificant human whelp, were I myself I would smite your sorry carcass off the face of this planet.’  The shop owner stared for just a fraction of a second, taking in what this smelly, decrepit nomad had just said to him and when he was confident that it was an empty threat he got even angrier.

‘Look you, just get out of here and don’t come back, I don’t want any trouble.’

‘Oh I assure you if I had My powers I would inflict more trouble on you than you ever thought imaginable.’  The fact that this legless wino was so articulate and threatening him with such ferocity was unnerving the shop owner so he decided to take matters into his own hands.  He took hold of Satan’s cart and pushed Him down the street.

‘Why you insolent piece of excrement!’ roared Satan as He wheeled down the street, ‘How dare you manhandle the Lord of All that is Evil!  I swear I shall have My vengeance upon you if it takes a thousand lifetimes!’

Bang!

He came to an abrupt stop when He hit a brick wall and the jolt forced Him to stop spewing His frantic threats.  He leaned against the wall and attempted to gather His thoughts, not an easy task He had to admit.  It was then that He noticed something nagging at Him, a desire of some kind but an unfamiliar one.  He felt it within Him but had no idea what it was or how to appease it and as He was thinking this a man walked by and tossed a coin into His lap.

Satan picked up the coin and examined it closely; He then promptly hurled it at the man who had given it to Him, making it bounce off the back of his head.

‘I do not need your pity you pathetic stain of a human!’ shouted Satan at the now very bewildered man who was nursing the back of his head.

‘Err…I’m sorry, I just thought…’ began the man.

‘You thought what?’ bellowed Satan.  ‘You thought I would actually be grateful for your miniscule pittance, you snivelling toad.  I am The Fallen Angel, His Infernal Majesty and you will bow to Me!’  All this was too much for the poor man who out of one act of kindness was now being yelled at by a foul smelling creature who had an uncannily large vocabulary.  He did not know what to make of it so he decided not to, and so he started to walk away, quite faster than normal.

‘Do not turn your back on Me, mortal scum!  I have not finished with you yet.’  Satan dug His already battered fingernails into the pavement and started after the man who was rapidly increasing his speed.  It was safe to say that Satan was not having a good day and He was going to take out His frustrations on someone if it killed Him.  He pulled Himself along in jagged spurts, slowly gaining on the man who obviously did not think that this bizarre man with no legs was too much of a threat.  When He was back within earshot Satan resumed His torrent pf verbal abuse.

‘Come back here you fetid pile of putrescence!  I shall be sated, I shall have retribution!’  Satan did not take His bloodshot eyes off the man who was now looking nervously over his shoulder almost every minute.  With a quick course change the man turned off into another street.

‘Do not think you can escape!’ shouted Satan at the retreating figure.  ‘I shall find you wherever you hide and when I do I will destroy…no, not there!’  The man had reached a steep hill and was now getting further and further out of Satan’s reach.

‘Not uphill, you bastard!  My legions of darkness, they have legs and if they were here…’ but it was too late, the man was gone.  In one last attempt to incite terror into the hearts of mortals He called up the hill, just in case the man was listening.

‘I’ll get you on the way down, you elusive mortal.’

After that brief scene of causing a lot of people to stare bemusedly at Him Satan sat back in His cart and pondered on what He could do to the man if He ever ran into him again.

Kill him, said a voice inside His head.

No, torture him, then kill him, said another voice.

How about burn him then kill him?  asked the first voice.

Nah, torture’s better.

Burning can be torture, ventured the first voice.

Not the way we do it, reasoned the second voice.

I still say we should burn him.

Torture.

Burning.

TORTURE!

BURNING!

One of the drawbacks of being Satan, Prince of Darkness was that whenever there was a battle of conscience it was not a struggle between Good and Evil because there would most likely be an official enquiry if it were discovered that Satan had a good side.  It was quite literally a struggle between Evil and Evil, which actually took longer than your average Good vs. Evil dust up.  Both sides were as evil as each other and neither wanted to back down so any internal conflict took a lot longer than normal, and this was what Satan currently had to endure.

So we’re agreed, we torture him, burn him, torture him some more and then smear him in meat paste and feed him to the dogs, right?

Whose dogs?

Shut up you.

While this was going on Satan could not escape that nagging feeling He had been having on and off since He awoke in this mortal nightmare.  It was as if His new body was trying to tell Him that it needed something, but what?  However, He did not have much time to think about it, as His thought process as well as the raging inner turmoil going on in His head was interrupted by someone calling His name.

Intrigued, He began wheeling Himself toward the source of the noise and when He rounded a corner He was both delighted and disappointed.  Because there, on a street corner, was a wild eyed man with a Bible, preaching the word of God, sadly not someone who could help Him out of this predicament.  Ordinarily He would just ignore such people, branding them as simple fools but today had taken its toll and He was feeling particularly vindictive.  He moved Himself in for a closer look and as He expected this man was spending more time talking about Him than God.  Satan could never understand why people who were supposedly against everything He stood for spent so much time talking about Him.  On the surface it would appear to be quite flattering, if they would just stop getting so many things wrong.

The man was gesturing erratically and pointing a jabbing finger at anyone and everyone while he tore into his Fire and Brimstone routine.

‘And if you do not repent your sins you will be cast down into the seven fiery spheres of Hell…’

‘Eight,’ said Satan.

‘And…pardon?’ said the man, stopping dead in his dogmatic tracks.

‘There are eight fiery spheres of Hell I’ll have you know,’ stated Satan in a very matter of fact way.

‘How do you know?’ asked the man, now intrigued by this obvious poor wretch who thought he knew a thing or two about The Bible.

‘Because I told the builders I wanted eight, that’s why.’  Satan was beginning to enjoy Himself and the man was so engrossed in this new line of conversation that he had left his arms in mid gesture.  He returned them to his sides and fixed Satan with a highly patronising smile.

‘My son…’ he began.

‘I am not your son, I assure you,’ said Satan, very relieved that this was true.

‘I merely meant…’

‘I know what you meant you sad puppet of a man.  If you insist on dragging My name through the mud you can at least have the decency to get the facts right.  What would I want with seven spheres?  I mean that’s just silly.’

The Bible toting man was now utterly befuddled; he had not got a clue what this raving derelict was on about.

‘Just who are you?’ he enquired.

Satan drew Himself to His new full height, which was considerably less than the day before and looked him squarely in the eye.

‘I am Satan, Lucifer, Prince of Darkness,’ proclaimed Satan in what He hoped was as dignified manner as it sounded in His head.

A brief pause, and then…

Laughter.

The assembled crowd, as well as the man had erupted into fits of hysterical laughter.  One woman had to lean against a lamppost to stop from falling over and the erstwhile speaker had dropped his Bible in order to hold his sides.

This did not please Satan one bit.

‘I am The King of all that is Evil and you will all stop mocking Me!’  Satan’s bloodshot eyes were darting from one chuckling person to the next but no one was paying Him any attention, they were all crippled with hoots of shrieking laughter.  Eventually the man regained his composure, picked up his Bible and dusted it off.

‘Ah my friends,’ he said, wiping a tear from the corner of his eye.  ‘This poor man is living proof of what a life of sin will bring you, nothing but despair, destitution and delusion.  Embrace the word of God and avoid a life like his.’

Satan had heard enough, what was the use of baiting some random preacher if He could not prove who He was?  He turned His cart around and set off back round the corner, muttering to Himself all the way.  Not caring if He got in anybody’s way Satan made His way back down the high street, cursing Gerald’s name once again and watching as His Revenge List got bigger and bigger.  He was passing an open doorway when…

It hit Him.

That smell.

He had never smelled anything like it before but his body seemed to know what it was and it liked it, it needed it.  This smell brought that nagging feeling galloping to the forefront of Satan’s mind and now all He could think about was finding the source of such an intoxicating aroma.  He looked around this way and that, sniffing the air, trying to locate where the smell was coming from and suddenly He saw it.  On a counter in the shop that He had stopped outside, there it was.  He squinted and carefully read the label on the bottle.

Methylated Spirits.

He had no idea what that was but every fibre of His body was screaming yes, yes, yes!  His body was telling Him that He needed some of that; He needed it as soon as possible and He even found that He had begun to salivate involuntarily.  He wiped His mouth with the sleeve of his grubby jacket and wheeled Himself into the shop, as if it was the most normal thing in the world.  As soon as He was over the threshold the place went dead, everyone in there stopped what they were doing and looked at Him with a range of expressions, all of which could easily be tied in with disgust.  The bravest employee in the shop ventured forth, trying to not to make eye contact.

‘Err, excuse me but what are you doing?’ asked the lady, very uncertainly.

‘I must have a bottle of this strange blue liquid,’ replied Satan flatly.

‘Aha, and what do you need it for?’ pressed the lady, suspecting she knew the answer already.

‘My body keeps telling Me that I need it so be gone with you and allow Me to finish My task.’

‘Ah sir, you see the problem is…’ began the nervous woman.

‘The problem will be all yours if you do not leave Me be!’ said Satan, raising His voice just a little.  He was far too preoccupied to give this interfering mortal a real telling off so He continued in His quest to satisfy the now hollering desire to be very near the blue liquid.

‘But…’ tried the woman one last time.

‘Leave My sight at once!’ erupted Satan, fixing the now trembling woman with a murderous glare that would be hard to top even in His true guise.  This was sufficient to send her scurrying back to where she had come from, leaving Satan to help Himself to His bounty.  He loaded as many bottles into His cart as He could fit and then turned around to leave the shop.  Another plucky employee decided to play at being a hero and ventured out round the side counter.

‘Err…sir…’ he stammered.

‘WHAT?’ screamed Satan, His patience having not even bothered to come to the mortal world with Him.

‘Nothing.’ squeaked the man very feebly who could not get back round the counter fast enough.

Satisfied that He would not be challenged again Satan left the shop and headed down the nearest alley.  As soon as His cart came to rest He wrenched the cap off one of the bottles and took a series of long, glorious gulps.  It was bliss, like a party in His mouth where everyone was maiming small puppies.  His body sagged with visible relief as wave after wave of blue liquid flowed down His throat in delicious succession.  Before He knew it He had completely finished off one bottle so He tossed it aside and was about to open the next one when a pile of rags He thought was just part of the scenery began to move.

Satan edged back, prepared to defend His newfound best friend at all costs but the movement did not result in anything threatening.  Instead an equally dishevelled looking old man arose from the bin bags and pizza boxes and fixed Satan with an enquiring glare.  Both men gave each other a look that implied there was more going on than what appeared on the surface.  Satan placed His remaining bottles of Meths underneath His rank blanket out of sight and wheeled in closer for a better look.  At the same time the other man did the same and Satan was shocked to see that this man had been stricken with a similar fate as His, he had no legs either.  They both moved cautiously towards each other, wheels squeaking and puzzled looks on both their faces.  They were now inches from each other, searching eyes looking each other up and down.

They made eye contact.

And realisation dawned.

‘Oh God,’ sighed Satan.

‘Go to Hell,’ said God.

‘Wish I could.’

- January 2003

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