By Wes Parish
I was worried. A small-scale temptation job, meant to gradually lead the target into deeper and deeper self-deception, until they got hopelessly mired in deceit on smaller and larger scales, I had fluffed it up, because I had felt sorry for the target. Even at this low level, one is not supposed to feel sorry for the five-year-old who resists and at the last moment, blurts out that yes, he did take the bikkies, and yes, he did eat them up, and yes, he is sorry.
I was in disgrace — aren’t we all? Even in the very depths of the nothingness that embraces us after the Boss got us kicked out of Upstairs, we still try to maintain some sense of hierarchy, and I felt ... displaced from my ... obvious ... place.
An old friend — I suppose I can borrow the human concept? — came to talk with me, and we wandered the levels, gazing out at the places where the souls were face-to-face with their deepest failings, their most deep-rooted shames, and made to feel the loss of hope — since they would no longer be able to correct them.
“Your failing,” my ‘friend’ said, without a trace of pompousness, “is not unusual. I suppose you know that you are not the only one who has let prey slip so easily. And for such reasons. Nobody else is to know this, but we did lose fifteen agents in the human world last year. The foe is strong, and we lose many such, unprepared spirits who begin to think in ways that mimic the human animals.”
I was astonished. And even worse, I began to feel sorry for my ‘friend’. Noticing my fires dampen, he immediately added, “It seems to be an occupational habit — err, hazard, isn’t it?”
Then, as the fires flamed inwards from the region where reality infringed on Hell’s outer boundaries, he added, “You should not worry. You are not the only demon who has had to face his inner humans. We lose those who succumb to that temptation and some even become positively angelic, a danger to the rest of Hell. I cannot pity you ... and don’t pity me!”
It was too late...
About the Author
Wesley Parish is an SF fan from early childhood. Born in PNG, he enjoys reading about humans in strange cultures and circumstances.
His favourite SF authors include Ursula Le Guin, Fritz Lieber, Phillip K. Dick, J.G. Ballard and Frank Herbert.
Wes lives in Christchurch, NZ, is an unemployed Java and C programmer, and has recently decided to become a mad ukuleleist, flautist and trombonist, and would love to revert to being the mad fiddler and pedal steel guitarist.. "Where oh where has my little pedal steel got to ... ?"