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Part One: The Devil’s Doubt

There sometimes comes a time for men when they look above them

and see nothing but sky. It’s not as if they were expecting to see God,

perched upon a cloud and nodding wisely down at them. It’s not being

unable to find God in nature that really marks a crisis of faith, it is not being

able to find God in man. They will look into another man’s eyes and see

nothing but a cruel and petty reflection of those thoughts that fill their own

minds. Man always loses his soul when he looks into another man and is

unable to find anything but flesh. It is rarely as clear as this though. If you

would ask an unbelieving man what was the moment he lost his faith, he

would be unable to answer you specifically. Some might make up a story as

they try to justify the question to themselves. They might say that it was the

minute when a family member died, or when they realized that no God could

let mankind flagellate itself the way it does. This is pure fabrication, simply

threads of imagination knitting together a dream that isn’t quite whole. Faith

bleeds from an unseen wound, unnoticed until it is gone. Nothing is exempt

from the drain once the cut has opened. And this wound is more venomous

than most. When the body is wounded it will do everything it can do staunch

the flow. The body desires life. When the spirit is wounded, there is no desire

to heal the wound. If anything, it is desire itself that spills out with faith.

These are the thoughts that flitted through the mind of the Devil as he

woke up one morning. He lay in bed, sheets half covering his wretched
frame. Maybe he is more observant than man, maybe he is the same, but he

realized that this was the precise moment when he knew that he no longer

believed in God. Lifting a hand he stretched heavenward in silent longing. He

was light headed with the conflicting emotions of joy and sorrow. He turned

his hand around slowly, first this way and then the other, watching the

morning’s light dance around his fingers. He started to sit up, but slid back

into his bed after half an effort. The flicker of a smile pulled his lips tight,

pulled tighter into a grimace and then relaxed again. What a foolish thing!

What would people think if they knew! Why was it acceptable for them to

lose faith though, as if it were the most natural thing in the world? They

discard it every day as if it were old fruit. Why was the Devil, the thing they

hate more than anything, held to a higher standard than they themselves

were? Ridiculous!

Laughing self consciously, the Devil finally drew himself from bed. He

stared bleakly into the large mirror that was propped up unceremoniously in

the corner of the room. It had been there since he moved into the place a

year ago; he was never much of one to decorate. He watched as the image

of himself peered out of the glass at his own thin body. He was always rather

put off by the ideas people had of what he should look like. Over the

centuries they had imagined all sorts of beastly shapes: horns, hooves, a

goatee and mottled skin being one of the most prevalent. If people were

going to give animal attributes to him, why did they decide that the features

of a goat were the most evil and terrifying ones? Really, no imagination. In
fact the Devil looked like quite an ordinary man. There was soft black hair on

his head, arms and legs where they were supposed to be and a dazzling

smile for those unlucky enough to please him. He didn’t bear this form

because he found it easiest to walk amongst men, although that certainly

was useful. The Devil found it terribly ironic that the most evil shape he could

think of was that of man… a joke against God. Maybe a joke against himself

now. God was no more real to him than the coat tails of his dreams.

The Devil pulled on his clothes and proceeded to absently wander

outside. He made a grab for his jacket that hung by the door, accidently

knocking it off its hook onto the ground. He stared at it for a second, then left

it where it lay, walking out the door. Winter was just beginning to set in. The

season had decided it appropriate to put a chill in the air, although it wasn’t

quite enthusiastic enough to bring snow yet. The Devil was walking without a

specific destination in mind, which is the perfect activity for thinking deep

thoughts. Trotting down the rusted iron stairs that led from the back of his

apartment, he began to walk briskly down the least promising street

available to him. The one that led to nature.

Trees and houses marched solemnly past as he made his way away

from town. He had picked his apartment there as the location flirted with the

line between civilization and wilderness, right on the edge of town. The Devil

needs civilization for human company, just as he needs the wilderness to

avoid them. He was headed away from town today because he didn’t think
he could bear to have someone look at him. He was like everyone else who

carried a great secret, deathly afraid that the veiled thought might somehow

display itself clearly upon his face. Even if they couldn’t guess, what could he

possibly want with man at the moment? Would he ask for their pity? Would

he torture them as he once thought was his role? Why play the part when

the director isn’t watching? His wry smile flickered across his face once

more. He felt as if he had just been fired from a job that he had lived his

entire life.

The path wound its way around the final house and emptied itself into

a nearby forest. He had spent a lot of time wandering these woods whenever

a romantic idea was fastened in his thoughts. Romantic ideas always seek

seclusion from the people they romanticize about. The woods offered a

perfect escape from it all. The trees quickly thickened into a barrier

impassible to sight. Mere yards from the edge of town one could feel as if

humanity was nothing more than a myth. After the initial dense underbrush

the woods opened up dramatically into several large clearings. The Devil had

a favorite spot though, that was where he was going. His feet were carrying

him there automatically so as not to bother his busy thoughts with

directions.

Leaving the latest clearing he plunged into a deeper section of the

forest. The trees parted obligingly to his familiar presence as he sought his

tree stump. Whenever he came into this forest he made his way to this
gnarled stump that had weathered almost as much time as he had. No other

trees or vegetation pressed in around it, it was as if the forest had drawn

back out of respect. The trunk was as wide as a dozen other trees together

and at least ten feet tall, testimate to what an incredible thing nature had

once held here. It had been brought down to a stump long before the Devil

had lived here. He had visited it often on his wanderings, and was in fact one

of the main reasons he was now living in this town… but he hadn’t been to

visit it in awhile now. His absence had been could be blamed on his busy life

though and not from a lack of the romantic thoughts that always brought

him here.

Reaching the last sparse clearing before he reached his spot, he

paused. A bedraggled trail led whimsically away from the clearing that had

never existed before. It winded off to the side and industriously cleared

through a sizable barrier of brush. There was something unspeakably

charming about this path. The path existed in the face of such adversity, but

many things were able to do that. It not merely existed here though, it

seemed that it belonged here. If such a said could be said about a path, this

path was definitely content with the location that had been chosen for it.

Amused by these thoughts he took the path and followed its

meandering route. How can the path matter when the end does not? And

how can the end matter when the path does not… The Devil had lost his end

and his path. With God gone, maybe he was nothing but a man now. What
did men do when they lose their way? They sought help in other men,

generally. But who would stoop to help the Devil when he had fallen?

The path soon began a steep decline, dodging back and forth between

steep rocks. A valley suddenly revealed itself from where it hid. The once

menacing rocks that lined the path gently gave way to a rolling slope which

converged from all sides. In the very center of the valley stood a small

church, composed of logs and a small panel of stained glass embedded

humbly in the front window. The Devil laughed at what fortune had dealt

him. He couldn’t resist the irony, it was delicious. Increasing his trot he

hurried towards the church. Soon he was running, laughing at himself while

he stumbled the last few paces as he pulled up short before the door. He

reached for the door, but then pulled his hand back. The laughter ebbed

while he caught his breath. He reached for the door again laying his hand

against the rough wood. Again he withdrew, frowning at himself. These men

couldn’t help him, no more than a mouse could help a cat.

Turning his back to the door, he stood awhile in thought. Just as he was

about to leave however, the door opened behind him and the soft voice of an

old man issued forth. “Why do you hesitate to enter the house of God, my

son?”

The Devil turned and smiled. “I am not your son. Or if I am, then I am

the son who rebels against his father. You have nothing to offer me.”
“The son who rebels needs his father more than the one who obeys.”

Replied the priest smoothly. Those who find me are those who seek me.

Come inside.” Before the Devil could offer his rebuttal, the priest turned and

went back inside the log church. He left the door open as an invitation to

follow him. The Devil waited a bit and looked around him. What an odd place

for a church! So far from the city, it was a bird feeder where the birds could

not reach. It looked as if the building had been constructed slowly by hand,

each log painstakingly collected and assembled. So much work for so little

reward. If there was any reward at all… The Devil entered the church with

the morbid curiosity of a boy poking a corpse with a stick.

“Close the door.” The Devil obliged without thinking. He was past the

point of caring at the moment, only waiting to see what would happen next.

He looked about and did not see the priest however.

“Invite me to your den and hide? What do you want with me?” He

asked the musty air. The air considered for a moment, and then responded

“Step into the confessional, I am here to help you.” It was only then that the

Devil realized the voice was coming from a large partitioned confessional,

two doors and a blanket covering each one. Shining black boots could be

seen peeking from the bottom of one of the doors. This was all too much for

the Devil. Thoroughly beginning to enjoy himself he pushed the blanket aside

and sat down across from the priest. A small door opened in the barrier

between them so that only their eyes met.


“Tell me your troubles and God will hear. What you say to me you are

saying to him, and I will help you through his hand.” The Devil stared into

those gentle dark eyes. Shrugging he began in a sing-song voice as

compliant as a painted woman.

“Your kindness falls on deafened ear

When that which sits before you hears

A tale of fancy, wrought in sin

For I lost my God, my closest kin.

I once had looked on heaven’s spire

That height I dwelled before my fall

And saw the world through my desire

The world as it was in heaven’s call.

Ah, that dream I dreamt I now recall!

Of the empty seat on that white tower

No grace above with love for all.


The Devil alone holds any power.”

Part Two: The Devil’s Sins

“Ah, my son,” whispered the priest. “Your words are those of the lost…

but not the damned. You merely need someone to set you upon the path of

faith once more. Tell me, has something changed in your life recently and

given you these doubts?”

The devil leaned back and laughed. “No padre. Nothing ever changes.

The universe is as immutable as when it was made and it always will be.”
“Not always,” the aged preacher gentle chided. “One day the world will

end and god will judge us all.”

“I was judged a long time ago.”

There was a soft rustling as the priest shuffled out of the confessional.

The devil, staring out at him, found it difficult to say just how old the man

was. His wrinkled skin and colorless hair put him well over sixty, yet his

broad shoulders and clear gaze made it hard to tell which decade the priest

inhabited.

“What is your name, old man?” the devil asked, suddenly curious.

The preacher smiled, his wrinkles hiding his little eyes. “My name is

Daniel. What shall I call you, child?”

The devil snorted. “I am the Serpent, the Dragon, the Morning Star. I

am no child.”

“You are vain, sir. We are all children of god, even you. We all have

much to learn.”

“You can call me Iblis, priest. It’s a name I sometimes use.”

Daniel smiled once again. “Very well, Iblis. Will you pray with me?”

The Devil, Iblis, looked across the room at the plain, hewn wood cross

set against the far wall. He shook his head and turned away.

“I won’t pray to a dead cross. I never have.”


“It represents Jesus Christ and all that he sacrificed for mankind. For

me. And for you too,” Daniel reminded Iblis.

“Old man,” the devil thundered back, “I was by Jesus’ side when he

died. I heard him screaming when the soldiers nailed him to it, I saw the fear

in his eyes. He would’ve given anything, anything at all, to be spared.”

“Not anything, my son. Satan offered him a way out, but he knowingly

chose loyalty to god over even life.”

The devil ground his teeth, now slightly irritated. And irritated by a

human priest, of all things. “Jesus was a fool. He died for nothing. I will prove

to you, once and for all, that there is no god.”

“You cannot shake my faith, Iblis, I already know the truth,” Daniel

replied, slipping his arms into his robe. “You will too before this ends.”

Showing off suddenly pointed teeth, the devil crossed his wrists above

his head. Gleefully, remembering his old calling once more, Iblis stretched

out his arms. As he did so the whole church shook and rumbled, while red

light began to seep through the stained glass windows, forming shining

pentagrams on the walls. With a lurch, the entire church slipped down, into

the ground.

Daniel landed heavily on the pews a few jumbled seconds later. The air

was thicker and more sulfurous than it had been, and there was no sign of

the sky outside.


Iblis looked slicker, more feral now. With a quick gesture the church

doors sprang open, revealing a true hellscape beyond.

Stunned, Daniel unsteadily got to his feet and walked out of his tiny

church. The ancient building was now perched on top of a plateau of jet

black rock, with rivers and lakes of flame stretching out below as far as the

eye could see. In the distance, massive, black shapes like many limbed

spiders clambered about, skirting the pools of fire. In the air, smaller

shadows flitted from place to place, screaming like banshees all the way up

into the cloudy red sky.

“Welcome to the only church in hell,” Iblis said softly, coming up

behind the priest. “You, however, are far from the only ‘holy man’ here.”

Daniel closed his eyes and took a few deep, slow breaths before

turning around. Iblis grinned, showing off teeth that wouldn’t have been out

of place in a wolf’s mouth.

“So,” the devil continued, “if there really were a god, then surely he

wouldn’t have allowed me to cast one of his faithful priests and an entire

church into hell, right?”

Silently, the devil wondered if that question was for the priest’s benefit

or his own.

“You are the devil!” Daniel accused.

“Oh, jeez, thanks for noticing.”


“But how could you, of all… creatures not believe in god? You knew

him personally! You even rebelled against him!”

Iblis sighed and with a flick of his wrist shattered one of the intricate

stained glass windows on the church, the pieces blowing out into the void of

hell.

“Let me show you something, Daniel.”

The devil led his captive preacher to the edge of the plateau and

pointed down into the nearest lake of flames. There, chained naked to a red

hot slab of iron, lay a handsome young man with curly brown hair. Above him

three flaming vultures circled, taking turns to fly down and plunge their

bloody beaks into the screaming man. Daniel covered his mouth with the

back of one hand, trying to keep his meager lunch in his stomach.

“Who is that,” he finally managed to gasp.

“That is the real champion of mankind, not Jesus Christ. His name is

Prometheus, he was a titan. He’s been tortured like this for the past two

thousand years or so, every few hours his organs grow back. Then the

vultures devour them again. It’s pretty awful.”

“Why are you doing this?!”

The devil shrugged. “That’s the thing, isn’t it? He never did anything to

me. His only crime was perpetrated against a dead god, I just inherited him

when I took over management of hell. I don’t know… I guess it was just
easier to keep torturing him rather than setting him free. I thought about it a

few times, but I just never got around to it.”

“Let him go,” Daniel begged, unable to take his eyes off the grisly

scene. “This isn’t right.”

“No, of course not,” Iblis replied, bemused. “I am the devil. I’m

supposed to do evil things. But then, if there’s no god, what am I supposed

to do? What am I supposed to be?”

“Please, in the name of all that is holy, let the poor man go!”

The devil shrugged and waved a hand. With a final cry the flaming

vultures extinguished themselves and crashed into the rocky ground in a

splatter of blood. The red hot slab Prometheus was chained to cooled to

black iron and the entire lake of fire went out. The young demigod finally

stopped shrieking and lay silent as he recovered from his wounds.

“See?” Iblis asked, turning back to Daniel. “And I did this just to some

Greek legend. I’ve done a lot worse to the humans sent down here. Even to

kids. I did it because I’m evil and that’s my purpose. But I don’t think a real

god would let this sort of stuff go on under his nose. So, Nietzsche was right.

God is dead.”

“Nietzsche was right…” Daniel trailed off.

“Yeah,” the devil laughed. “Speaking of which, you should SEE what

I’ve done to Nietzsche down here. Ho, boy!”


Daniel shuddered and began clambering his way down the stony cliff

towards the recently extinguished lake of fire below.

“Wait, what are you doing?” Iblis called down, curious.

“You’ve got to stop torturing all of the souls here. I’ll help you set

everyone free.”

“I haven’t decided to go that far yet. I mean, there are some pretty

awful people down here.”

Daniel looked down. The cliff suddenly seemed to extend for hundreds

of feet below him. He gritted his teeth and pressed on. After climbing for

what seemed like hours, he reached a narrow ledge and collapsed,

exhausted. He had climbed a long way, but the ground seemed no closer.

“I didn’t bring you here to help people.”

Daniel jumped, almost toppling off the edge. The devil was suddenly

beside him.

“Then why did you bring me here?” Daniel demanded, shaken and

angry.

Iblis shrugged. “Boredom, I suppose. I was feeling a little aimless

today, since I found out there is no god and I have no purpose in life. You

know.”
“For the faithless, there’s only one way to see if there is a god or not.

Go to heaven and take a look.”

Iblis smiled and shook his head, as though chiding an infant. “It’s not

easy to get there. There were certain precautions put in place after my

rebellion. You have to go through purgatory now, and that’s a long route.”

“Even for you?”

“Even for me,” the devil confirmed.

Daniel squeezed his eyes shut and hunched forwards.

“What’s wrong?” Iblis asked.

“I want to get down. To the bottom.”

“To the bottom of what?”

“This god damned cliff!” Daniel roared, opening his eyes. With a start,

he realized that he already was at the bottom, his ledge was suspended a

mere five feet above the ground. Looking up, Daniel could see his poor

church only fifteen or twenty feet above him. Swallowing, Daniel jumped to

the ground and headed towards the huge dark crater where Prometheus lay

chained. The devil trailed along behind, now wearing neat, little, red shoes

that went click, click, click on the stone.


“Everyone needs something to believe in,” Iblis chattered on, “Even

me. Maybe especially me, eternal life can feel a little pointless without some

grand task or purpose. What are you doing?”

Daniel scrambled down into the crater and turned around to find the

devil standing between him and Prometheus.

“I’m checking to see if that young man is alright,” Daniel replied,

grumpy.

“I suspect he’s a little angry. He has been on fire and been eaten alive

for quite some time now. People tend to remember that for a while. Let’s just

blame the whole thing on Zeus, the kid hasn’t been keeping up with world

affairs anyway.”

Daniel trudged forward, trying to ignore Iblis. Under his breath he

muttered, “Bastard.”

“I heard that!” the devil shouted from behind.

Looking up into the bloody sky, the devil could see nothing beyond the

clouds.

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