“It’s happened again”, said the Devil, who was sitting behind an ornate, leather topped desk in what could loosely be described as his ‘office’.
The fact that it actually was an office gave it an air of corporate authenticity. The dark wood panelling on the walls and executive meeting area in the corner also helped.
A squeaky voice came over his desk intercom. “What’s happened again?”
“The thing. You know...with the power,” said the Devil.
The voice squeaked, “You shittin’ me?”
“No, Ralph. I shit you not. I could boil you, skin you, crush you, turn you inside out, make you wear fish-net stockings for eternity. I could even, at a pinch, make you implode, bit by bit, starting with your testicles. But right at this moment, shitting you isn’t on my list of ‘things to do today’.”
“That’s very nice to know,” said Ralph.
The Devil smiled. “I’m a nice-to-know kinda guy.”
Ralph sighed. “So I keep telling people. But lately, I dunno. I get the feeling you just don’t seem to be getting the respect you used to get. I think maybe we need some new PR or something. So what’s happened now?”
“Promise you won’t laugh?” said the Devil, with a hint of menace in his voice.
“I promise,” promised Ralph.
“I had a nightmare,” said the Devil.
A strange, stifled, strangled sort of sound came through the intercom. The Devil tapped it a few times and silently cursed technology. The strangled sound developed into a noise resembling a snigger.
“Was that a laugh?” accused the Devil. “ I thought I heard a laugh.”
“No, Boss...honest,” cried Ralph, who was by now squeezing his testicles in the hope that the pain would divert the crippling giggles which were about to overcome him.
“Ralph, are you squeezing your nuts again?” said the Devil, slowly.
“Can I help it if I like a little pain now and then, boss?” gasped Ralph, who by now had the laughter thing well under control. Although the pain would take a little more time.
“Very admirable,” said the Devil. “Now, about my nightmare”.
“Are we gonna do the patient/shrink thing again?” asked Ralph.
The Devil’s voice racked up a notch in satanic intensity. “Well…there’s always the torturer/screaming lump of bleeding flesh thing. We could do that instead, hmmm? Get your ass in here now!”
“Be right in,” said Ralph, and the intercom clicked, buzzed, coughed and was silent.
‘Well,’ thought the Devil, ‘I can’t say the old bugger didn’t warn me. He said one day it would happen and now it bloody well has. Oh, bollocks!’
Although there was a door in the wall opposite the Devil’s desk, Ralph didn’t use it to enter. A follower of the more theatrical style of appearance, he made his entrance with a puff of smoke.
Unfortunately he also brought with him the odour of bad eggs.
The smoke took longer than usual to disappear, the result of which was a loud coughing fit from Ralph, followed by the sharp realisation that something very nasty might have escaped from his bowels.
“You always do that!” complained the Devil, wafting the smoke away from his face. “Why can’t you just use the door like everyone else?”
Suddenly he sniffed the air. “ Have you farted?”
Ralph blushed and shrugged apologetically. “It’s an incurable medical condition. Runs in the family. I’ve tried everything. Sorry.”
Standing before the Devil was, quite possibly, the most attentive and hard-working PA he’d ever had. He was also the smallest, thinnest, smelliest and, without doubt the ugliest. The Devil waved his right hand lazily in the air and the last of the smoke vanished.
“Aaah, the old power’s not completely gone then,” said Ralph, trying to look hopeful.
“Not completely gone?” shouted the Devil and his face took on a truly terrifying look. His right eyebrow raised and a small drool of spit escaped from the right hand corner of his mouth. “I’m the bloody Devil, you imbecile! I can’t be without power. It’s not right. Not natural.”
Ralph was by now finding it impossible to restrain his bladder from pulling the plug on its contents. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d pissed himself.
The Devil saw the dark stain appearing on the trounsers around Ralph’s groin.
“Now look what you’ve made me do!” he said, exasperated.
“Made you do?” said an embarrassed Ralph. “You’re not the one who’s doing it! Would you please,” he said, gesturing to the stain. “ This is very uncomfortable.”
The Devil waved his hand again and the stain plus accompanying wetness and puddle all disappeared.
“Thank you,” said Ralph.
“Don’t mention it,” said the Devil. “Now, let’s get down to business. About this nightmare.”
“Tell me,” said Ralph, stroking the little box beard around his mouth. “ Did you have a happy childhood?”
“Look...if I need analysis I’ll bring Sigmund in,” said the Devil, lighting a very large cigar and creating some smoke of his own.
“Right…right,” said Ralph, frowning and trying to look concerned, caring and fascinated, all at once. He succeeded in looking worried and in pain.
“Don’t squeeze your nuts so hard next time,” said the Devil.
“I’m down to three squeezes a day,” said Ralph, jumping up and sitting on the edge of the Devil’s desk and crossing his legs. “Now…about this nightmare. I thought nightmares were things YOU gave to others. Does that mean you gave it to yourself?”
“No, it means that if you don’t shut up and listen, you’ll be up to 20 squeezes a day. Ok?”
Ralph’s testicles involuntarily retracted. “Ok,” he said, beginning to sweat.
The Devil took a deep breath, sat back in his seat and closed his eyes. “It all started with a feeling of shrinking.”
“What, like shoving your dick in ice?” said Ralph.
“Now why would I shove my dick in ice?” said the Devil.
“Well hell, YOU should know. I thought you wrote the book on sexual perversions,” said Ralph.
“Patience Lucy…patience..” muttered the Devil to himself.
“Who’s Lucy?” asked Ralph
“Lucy is me,” said the Devil,shrugging, almost apologetically. “ I’m Lucy. You know. Lucifer. It’s my real name. The one I use for official functions and meetings of national and international importance. Lucretia calls me Lucy, for short.”
“What, that Borgia woman?”
“Don’t talk about her like that. It’s her pet name for me. And mine for her, come to think of it.” The Devil paused and looked at the ceiling. “He calls me it, too!”
“He who?” asked Ralph, and then the penny dropped. “Oh....Him!”
The Devil flapped his right hand leisurely in the air. “Anyway, aren’t we getting just a bit off the subject?” he said.
Ralph shrugged. “Yeah, okay. So…you were at the shrinking bit.”
“Well, it was more like diminishing. And all my strength was draining away. It was a very uncomfortable feeling.”
“Mmmmm...I’m sure,” said Ralph. “Go on…”
“Then there was the fire and brimstone,” said the Devil.
“Well…it’s Hell and you’re the Devil. Fire and brimstone usually go with the territory if I’m not mistaken.”
“Oh, you’re not,” said the Devil, shivering slightly. “Only the fire was going out and the brimstone was more like an aromatic oil. You know, the one for headaches and pre-menstrual tension.”
Ralph frowned. “Shrinkage…loss of heat…cross-gender nasal confusion. Hmmmm.”
“Exactly,” said the Devil, opening his eyes. “ But that’s not the worst of it…”
“I figured there was more,” said Ralph, stroking his beard again.
“You figured right,” said the Devil, jerking his right thumb upwards. “ Then He turned up!”
“He who?” said Ralph.
“He Him!” said the Devil, looking upwards.
There was a pause during which Ralph was frantically trying to remember who lived upstairs in Hell, when the penny dropped. “Oh….Him again!” he said slowly, looking upwards.
“In person,” said the Devil, reaching out and grabbing a large whisky from thin air and taking an long gulp.
“Know what He said to me?” said the Devil, sucking on his cigar and blowing D-shapes with the smoke. “ He just walked up to me, cool as you like, and said, ‘Well, well…it’s a small world.’ There’s me shrinking and He says ‘it’s a small world’. I mean, what kinda thing is that to say.”
“Very inconsiderate,” said Ralph, shaking his head and thinking maybe, if this session with the Boss went well, he’d be nut-pain-free for at least a month!
“Damned hurtful,” said the Devil.
Ralph searched around inside his pocket and brought out a small cherrywood pipe, which he lit and let the smoke mingle with that of the Devil’s cigar.
“Mmmm....that all He said?” asked Ralph, puffing furiously to keep the pipe alight.
“Oh no. Not content with sarcasm, He looks me right in the eye and says, ‘Oh...not you too!’ ”
“Not you too?” said Ralph.
“The very same words,”said the Devil. “And you know,” he added, “I swear He was smaller than the last time we met.”
“Very interesting...” said Ralph slowly. “Very interesting indeed. Then what happened?”
“Then He said the damndest thing. He said,’If they don’t believe, we don’t exist.’
“Whaaaat?” said Ralph, starting to feel alarmed. “That’s a helluva thing to say.”
The Devil smacked his hand down hard on the desk top. “That’s exactly what I said. I said, ‘That’s a helluva thing to say,’ but He just shook his head and looked kinda sad. I never seen Him look that way before. Ever.”
“Then what happened?” asked Ralph.
“Then I woke up,” said the Devil.
“I don’t like it,” said Ralph, pointing at the Devil with his pipe, which had now given up the ghost. “I don’t like it one little bit.”
“Imagine how I feel, then,” said the Devil. “I’ve never slept a wink since day one…and I’ve certainly never woken up in my entire life!”
“You’re the Devil,” said Ralph. “You don’t have a life.”
“So how come the nightmare?” said the Devil.
“It’s a funny old world,” said Ralph. “Maybe it was more like a daymare. A waking bad dream. Or even a hallucination.”
“I’m the Devil, Ralph,” said the Devil, “I don’t do hallucinations. I just let others do them.”
“Remember that time with the funny mushrooms and those two blondes from accounting?” said Ralph, with a wicked grin.
“That was an experiment,” said the Devil, innocently. “And I only did it the once. It left a very peculiar taste in my mouth.”
“As I remember, you left a very peculiar taste in the blondes’ mouths, too,” said Ralph, his grin widening.
The Devil frowned. “You remember too much, my little friend,” he said and idly waved his right hand.
Panic attacked Ralph’s face for a split second and was gone.
“So how come the nightmare?” said the Devil.
Ralph had the passing, vague sensation of déjà vu, which he ignored. “It could have been a vision,” he said.
“A vision,” said the Devil, his eyes narrowing and a slight smile tentatively introducing itself to his face. “I like that.”
Ralph was on a roll. “Me too,” he said. “In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s time we talked to MoMo.”
The Devil smiled, showing gleaming white teeth, obviously brushed and flossed regularly, with no sign of dental work or gum infection. He got up from behind his desk, walked round to where Ralph was sitting, bent down and patted his curly locks. “Ralphie my old friend,” he said, affectionately. “What would I do without you.”
Ralph basked in the glory of his bosses show of gratitude.
Just then there was a knock on the door and in walked MoMo. Three times the size of Ralph in every direction and normally smiling like someone who knew most of what was ever going to happen. And some of what was never even close to happening.
This was understandable, given that he was a direct decendant of the last all-seeing Delphi Oracle priestess. Only he couldn’t tell all because of the strict union rules.
However, he could hint a lot. And sometimes tell bits of the whole truth. And even, on the odd occasion when threats, bribery and a warped sense of humour affected him deeply, he could issue a pretty damned good warning of impending doom – with money-back guarantee if proved wrong.
Only this time MoMo wasn’t smiling.
“Hiya, MoMo,” said Ralph. “As the barman said to the horse... ‘Why the long face?’”
“Ask me a question,” said MoMo, opening his arms, palms up. “Any question.”
“Oooh, I like this. Past, present or future?” said Ralph, excitedly.
“Don’t be a dipshit. Future, of course.”
Ralph thought a second. “Okay. Who’s gonna win the next World Series?”
“I don’t know” said MoMo.
“Haven’t a clue,” said MoMo, shaking his very large head.
“Whoa…..let’s back this up a bit, big boy,” said Ralph, jumping down from the Devil’s desk and looking up at his large friend. “You mean your mojo’s not working?”
MoMo shook his head and looked sad and confused. “Woke up this morning and there it was – gone. Sorry, boss,” he said, looking at the Devil and shrugging, helplessly.
“Ralphie, my friend,” said the Devil. “ Have I ever told you about The Eye of God?”