The Devil and the Saint
Mercedes Dannenberg tells a devilishly tall tale about skulduggery in low places
|BEELZEBUB—or 'the guvnor' as
he is affectionately known to his myriads of minions the world over, and
under—glared malevolently at his favourite imp and pointed his claw
at a thin beam of light which had dared to penetrate the obsidian darkness
of his dread domain.
"There!" exclaimed his Satanic Majesty petulantly, "See?"
The imp shaded his burning, yellow eyes from the intense light and looked fearfully at his master's frowning countenance.
"Not another 'simple little task', Your Magnificentness?" he asked in a quavering voice.
Beelzebub smiled. It was not a pleasant sight.
"I'm bored with all these bent politicians, gay bishops, arms dealers and pop stars. We haven't lured a decent saint here for five hundred years. The Prince of Darkness scratched his handsome cheek and his grin grew wider.
"I want you to put out that damn light. It's doing my head in!"
"G-g-go upstairs?" C-c-climb all the way up there?"
quailed the imp. "C-c-couldn't you send your propaganda minister—or
"Advertising c-c-campaign, master?"
The 'tricks' Beelzebub gave his terrified servant were the very essences
of the vices, corruptions and sins that he had long ago mastered and
turned to his own account. Vanity, greed, envy, fear and hate were all
that were necessary to drag the average man or woman down to Hell. But
this time he added four irresistible ingredients to the imp's armoury:
fame, power, money and sex. One or two were usually enough to snare
all but the most saintly victims. If they didn't work, pride always
finished the job. Unfortunately he had overlooked one small detail:
this soul had overcome all temptations, otherwise he would never have
revealed his great light; a light so powerful it even managed to penetrate
into Hell. That's the weakness of Evil; thinking is not one of it's
Slowly the Saint awoke from his holy meditation, his irridescent mind
still afire with the celestiel glories he had witnessed in his trance.
He opened his mild eyes to behold a suave — and immaculately dressed
stranger—bowing obsequiously before him.
The imp, fondly imagining that his disguise concealed his hooves, black
shifty eyes and even blacker heart, introduced himself as a commercial
traveller who wished to present the Saint with some free samples of
the rare and desirable wares he had to offer.
"Here," replied the imp, pointing to his bulging patent-leather briefcase. He mopped his brow and started to feel more at ease. He took in the Saint's gentle eyes, smiling mouth and trusting manner. 'This idiot will be a pushover', he said to himself. He would begin with small temptations. Absurd of the Guvnor to give him such a big bag. One, or possibly two temptations would have sufficed for this gutless wimp. Confidently he uncorked a small vial of vanity and wafted it under the Saint's nose.
Immediately the air was filled with the melodious sounds of flattery
and approbation. One particularly beguiling female voice acclaimed the
Saint as the holiest of men; godlike in his powers and filled with the
greatest of wisdom and begged him to let her worship him—naked.
Soon thousands, then millions of voices, poured forth a paen of praise
the like of which had never been heard on Earth before. And the Saint
listened and smiled until the imp thought; 'What a dipstick!' Then aloud,
he cried: "All the world acclaims your greatness! How your magnificence
dazzles them, your worship!"
"It w-was just an experiment, your holiness!" blustered the
The Saint, who by now had fathomed the plot and the play, nodded sympathetically.
It was true. The scenery was imbued with a golden light that penetrated
every leaf and flower, and the very air sparkled with a vibrant life
that quickened the mind and filled the heart with joy.
The infernal messenger drew himself up to his full height of five feet two inches with a triumphant smirk and introduced his master's secret weapon.
Now, as she swayed seductively, pulling up her dress to reveal the inviting mound between her slender thighs, the saint
looked so admiringly at her that the imp let out an exultant cry of
But the Saint turned to him with reproof in his piercing eyes:
Never before had the imp beheld such beauty as the queenly woman who now approached them. The sorcerous charms of Beelzebub's busty babe were utterly eclipsed by the golden sweetness of the Saint's wife. Here was no sly, cunning wench, revelling in her wanton witcheries, but a shining, open countenance, harmonious proportions and quiet strength and innocence. Her gentle glances caressed the mind with an indefinable peace, her voice quickened the very air with it's lively gaiety and her smiling blue eyes broke through the veil of the demon's cunning and exposed his black heart to the magic of her purity. The Imp ransacked every nook and cranny of his chaotic mind in a desperate search for some way to corrupt this woman; for it was well known in Hell that a really bad woman could turn the best of men into a crack-addicted sex beast with a flutter of her eyelashes. But one glance from those shimmering blue eyes turned the demon's blood to ice and he knew that he had failed. He watched miserably as the Saint's wife led the mincing succuba into the house.
And Beelzebub, who had not missed a moment of the action unfolding
above his dread domain, broke into a stream of the most malodorous curses.
Now this was to be a truly great trick; to create a comprehensive enchantment
until the victim yielded. He was to offer total power over an entire
world and everything in it. The Imp pulled out a huge, red bottle and
launched into his best patter at breakneck speed in the hope that this
temptation would finally sweep the Saint into Hell.
"—A most unpleasant bottle," interrupted the Saint,
and stopped the Imp from uncorking the phial.
"And no life," added the Saint quietly. "Changelessness
is as bad as chaos."
"Stop!" cried the Saint. "Enough!" The bubble of power does not interest me; thrones are the footstools of fools and crowns corrupt. Your bag contains some very strange samples which smell strongly of sulphur. Can your master really give all the world to me, and is it his to give? It is a very great deal to offer; yes, a very great deal."
The imp laughed complacently. "Sir, my master is a very generous
Without warning, the Hellish Huckster found himself transported into a vast region illuminated by twin, dazzling suns whose radiant countenance filled all the sky. His bat-like ears throbbed painfully to the swelling sound of mighty symphonies never heard on earth; rivers of molten light swirled around him and stabbed his burning eyes and his Hellish senses reeled as he began to tumble, hoof over horn, through region after region of such beauty that his black heart threatened to pop out of his gaping mouth. Finally, form vanished altogether, to be replaced by a golden space; an imperishable heaven of spinning stars, rushing galaxies and worlds without end; uncountable. Now, trembling in hoof and claw, he drifted, far beyond Beelzebub's aid—a very small, frightened little devil, his infinitesimal cunning forgotten, his paltry bag of cheap tricks blown apart by the greater magic of the Saint; scattered through a hidden cosmos where entire galaxies fiercely flared, above, below and all around, to be swallowed up in the twinkling of an eye by the even greater Sun they circled.
Now the symphonies dwindled to a low melody and a profound stillness entered these heavens; for the Saint was immersed in his paradisal meditation and into all that golden space stole a great peace. His mind soared ever higher and the poor imp somersaulted after him amid a cataract of glories no mortal eye had ever seen. But all the bewildered myrmidon heard was a cacophonous thunder that tormented what remained of his scattered senses while his bulging eyes watered from the searing light that beat upon them. All the virtues of this purified cosmos could not sublimate this carbonised moth, who flailed about in abject misery, bewailing his misfortune and calling out for his master, Beelzebub to save him. But his Satanic Majesty could not hear; for the gulf between them had become so great that all the Devil's cunning could not solve the mystery of his servant's disappearance.
Meanwhile, the crescendo of peace had attained its perfect equilibrium; all the melodies drawn into one, crystalline chord of sonorous sweetness—each star an echo of its gentle power, until all that vast space was glorified with the divine name of God. But the terrified imp was reduced to a drifting cinder in a boundless ocean of light, a pitiful mote of soot whose temptations had diminished to their proper proportions, still gripping his tawdry bag of cheap enchantments, utterly lost in the cosmic empire of the Saint's holy meditations. Then the spawn of Beelzebub beheld the activities of wisdom; for the Saint now meditated upon the purpose of Goodness and it's radiance flowered before the imp's astonished gaze. Through the luminous empyrean emerged a celestiel architecture which harmonised all things into a divine unity. He beheld the spinning designs that order the suns and planets and beheld such riches that all the temptations of his master became the trash of a beggar's idle dreams. All this cosmic wealth so dazzled the eyes of the poor imp that he became totally blind and, groping wildly for a footing, at last discovered a firmness beneath his hooves. At once the ethereal enchantments vanished and he found himself sprawled inelegantly at the Saint's feet, his immaculate suit in tatters and his cheap spells dropping to the ground from his nerveless fingers.
"I believe you were going to sell me something?" asked the
Saint kindly. Something about laying the world and all it's rich and
varied possessions at my feet? And all—" he paused and smiled,
"—Given in friendship out of the boundless generosity of
your master's heart, so long as I do not oppose him. I wonder what happened
to those that accepted?"
Beelzebub was not a happy bunny. He'd just had a very unsatisfactory interview with three Supreme Court Justices who had been specifically instructed NOT to uphold Row versus Wade and now his propaganda minister had informed him that they had run out of Gay Bibles (again).
He glared at his quivering servant with a malevolence that any self-respecting
tyrant would sell his soul to possess. To his discerning eye, the regions
through which the imp has passed had almost straightened his distortions
and imparted a sanctified odour which his master found extremely disagreeable.
He glanced up as the tattered suitcase and it's crumpled magic tricks
that had followed the imp's precipitate descent, now landed with a splash
in a pool of steaming brimstone; a pool in which his servant had so
recently delighted to wallow.
© 2005. Mercedes Dannenberg. All rights reserved.