Follow the Devil / Follow the Light

Part Two: The Worm King

This is part two of Follow the Devil/Follow the Light. Read part one here.

The Worm King

 

It was a vast subterranean cathedral. Flying buttresses rose hundreds of feet as the spires of two belfries fused themselves to a ceiling of obsidian. Gothic columns ran the length of the nave drawing the eye upward to a series of transverse arches. The cathedral was built centuries ago to channel the exquisite rage that had accompanied the harrowing of Hell — so exasperated were the demons by the emigration of souls en masse to paradise.

After much deliberation, CODA[1] had selected the architecture of the Middle Ages for desecration. Specifically, the Tours Cathedral. It was built to the exact specifications of the original, christened in blood, and then abandoned to the whim of whatever devil elected to have at it with pitchfork and halberd, chainsaw and musket. The vandalism proceeded in earnest for a fortnight until the damned grew bored and went home. Graffiti and piss still covered the organ, the walls, and was strangely pronounced around the tomb Charles VIII and Anne de Bretagne had commissioned for their children. The stained-glass windows that hadn’t been destroyed in the revelry depicted scenes from Marquis DeSade’s 120 Days in Sodom, the sacrifice of doves, the death of godless martyrs, and a sardonic depiction of the Virgin Mother giving birth to a stillborn lamb. For readers eager to point out the chronological discrepancy between Christ’s harrowing and the Middle Ages, let it be known that on the eternal plane all history is present.

In the center of it all, hobbling the way children mimic crabs on the beach, The Worm King moved a stack of books from one end of the nave to the other. This was taking him considerable time, as the books were to be carried on his torso. Orders from CODA. No explanation. There never was. The books carried titles like:

The Problem of Goodness: Agape and the Will to Power
Empty Heaven and Its Hymns: The Nonbeing of Paradise[2]
My Twisted Perversion: One Year Among the Followers of God
Flatulence in Heaven? An Ontological Incongruity

It would take months for The Worm King to finish his charge. There had been time to make the necessary calculations, and a veritable library loomed at one end of the cathedral. The Worm King liked numbers. Four volumes, on average, per trip. Fifty-two volumes per day. Three hundred twelve books per week given the six-day Crowlian calendar. Several thousand books remaining. The Worm King sighed loud enough for his weariness to echo up into the darkness of the dome. He had worked tirelessly for the past five days. The thought of protest crossed his mind, but the work was preferable to last year’s Lurid Festival. Here there was solitude and the rarest of all luxuries: silence.

The Worm King was ambivalent to the porno-violence that enamored his brothers. While they teamed like wolves, The Worm King contented himself with his wodewoos and bats, his pharmaceutical jars of pickled organs, his talismans and trinkets. Canker and Abscess may have greeted each holiday with radio broadcasts of smut, but The Worm King remained unimpressed and indoors. Mind you, he wasn’t beyond masochism. Like the others, he frequently employed various surgical instruments on his person for the sheer delight of it, but there was a distinct quality about The Worm King, an introversion that differentiated him from the rest of the rebel angels. After the initial foray on the Tours, The Worm King had become its de facto caretaker. The lofty nave intrigued him. The colossal wreck enchanted him. The cathedral was his own, and no one ever bothered to inquire about a deed.

A marble altar, split into thirds during the raid by demons with jackhammers, drew the eye from any vantage to the center of the chancel. Its broken trinity rested directly below a wooden cross, and though the cruciform had been inverted, the mild Christ decapitated, both objects retained their intrinsic power. The Worm King was unnerved by these objects, but too superstitious to do anything about it. News of Modernity’s deconstruction of Christian symbolism had not yet made headlines among the damned.

The Worm King was unloading the last book from his torso when it happened. A flash of light (Tedium / Damascus) and a ball of energy exploded outward from the center of the chancel. Light now emanated from above the broken altar, washed the Tours in an illumination that seemed to breathe with each ebb and flow. The Worm King fell to his side, cursed, and rubbed the temporary blindness from his eyes. Residual orbs appeared before him until he blinked them away.

There. Before the altar. Two figures. And a third beside them? No. Only two. The Worm King abandoned the crab walk and assumed a gorilla-like gate across the cathedral’s transept to where the two figures stood.

“Trespassers! Out with you!” He slammed his fists upon the ground, hard enough to crack one of the tiles. His blood ran hot. Visitors meant hospitality. Hospitality meant idle chatter. Idle chatter inspired cheap alcohol and migraines the next morning. The Worm King would have none of it. Not with CODA breathing down his neck. Not in his sanctuary. Grabbing a book from the ground (Rage as Virtue: Politics, Activism, Subversion) he threw it wildly at Joe and Morte Magari. Joe reflexively ducked, but the volume threatened no one. It hit the stone wall behind him with an impotent thud.

“Bloody out,” The Worm King protested. He then pointed a calloused finger at Joe. “If he’s not marked, I eat him alive. Hang his intestines like a garland I will. Make of his meat a most excellent supper!”

“Quiet Worm,” Magari said. “Such a salutation is beneath even you. I had feared Acheron would select a different waypoint, but these halls are a logical choice. More than fitting for our new arrival.” The demon turned, observed the crucifix behind the altar, and made the sign of the cross like a pious Christian. “Hail! King of the Jews,” it said, with a laugh that occupied the empty halls.

“Whatever you’re up to Magari, you’ll find no welcome here.”

“No welcome needed. Only passage and provision.”

Vexed by the intrusion, The Worm King scampered over to an unkempt assortment of hanging ropes. They ran the length of the nave and attached themselves to the narthex by a series of fixed wooden pulleys. The ropes smelled of kerosene and sawdust. He pulled on one of them until the two center doors reluctantly opened. The sudden motion disturbed a colony of bats who circled the nave only to resume their stations in the triforium and clerestory. Beyond the open doors, light from an immense fire flooded the cathedral floor.

“Provision made. Now off with you.” The Worm King pointed to the exit.

“Keeping up the place I see,” the demon said, unwilling to go quietly. It turned from the wounded Christ and shot a grievous look at the Tour’s custodian. “Do you still admire the work I did on the baptismal fount? Some days I still hear the screams. And what illustrious new industry is this?” Magari inquired after the books. They rose like towers of Babel, high as the gallery.

“None of your business.” The Worm King averted his eyes, lowered his head like a dog caught on the couch.

“Nothing too humiliating I hope,” the demon chided, “not for a demon of your distinction.”

“It’s not your concern. I’ll call out my wodewoos,” The Worm King promised unconvincingly. “By Baphomet, I will.”

“Hear that, Joe? We’ve only just arrived, and the Worm makes idle threats.”

“I mean it. You have no right … ” The Worm King said, lacking confidence.

“I have every right.” The demon produced the scroll of runes written in Joe’s blood. “It’s all here. CODA sanctioned and approved.” The scroll, so encoded with Gnosticism on earth, was little more than a bureaucratic permission slip in Hell.

The Worm King rushed up to where Joe and the demon stood, snatched the scroll from the demon’s hand, and began to read.

“What are you doing?”

“Looking for loopholes,” The Worm King confessed.

“It’s CODA, you fen-sucker. Their legalese puts even the most conniving of the American lawyers to shame. Note the watermark adherence to section five paragraph forty-seven regarding the dimensional travel of Homo sapiens. Verify the six runes, not five, not seven, rendered by my own hand. Authenticate the extraction license authorized Seattle, Washington for this calendar year. The reference to article thirty-three from the Book of Common Petulance, the use of human blood forcibly removed, and the excessive — albeit thorough — condemnation uttered over one ‘Joe Muggeridge’ are all accounted for.”

The Worm King began to pace back and forth, visibly crestfallen. The scroll’s mandates included him somehow, and Joe pitied the creature as a fellow peon in the pecking order. Like Joe, The Worm King was now subordinate whether he wanted to be or not. Nietzsche had spoken truthfully on this point. Power, the law of the boot, made Hell and Earth perfect equals.

“As for the scarification, the human bears Peter’s cross,” the demon continued. “More than adequate to ensure he doesn’t become another meal for the likes of you. Everything’s in order. Just as I said.”

Joe reached up and touched his forehead. The blood had dried. The cross, a thinly visible scar. He couldn’t fathom why it held such significance. Symbols were symbols as far as he was concerned, making the cross on par with a corporate logo, a meme. So what if Americans were more inclined to prostrate themselves before a Starbucks Mermaid than a Crucified God.

“You appear to be right,” The Worm King said.

“Now do as the scroll instructs and arrange our provisions.”

“There isn’t time! You see what I’m up against.” The Worm King gestured toward the books. A tortured scream came from the galilee just beyond the southern transept. “Now look what you’ve done. Gone and upset the children. Off and made me forget their dinner you have.” He returned the scroll to Magari. “Have to harvest outside if this one isn’t handy,” he said, glancing at Joe. “Poor dears. Now let’s see. Fifty pounds each. Minus fat and bones.” The Worm King began running the same calculator in his head that he used on the books. “Fifty times three. Wee extra for the alpha. Two hundred pounds should do it. Tricky, but not impossible. I tell you Magari, the humans arrive thinner every year.” Satisfied with his math, The Worm King scurried off on all fours to pacify the ungodly sounds coming from the galilee.

“Quick about it,” the demon called after him. “We have business.”

“What’s he doing?” Joe asked, not sure he wanted to know.

“Making supper. All flesh being equal.”

“That’s sick.”

“There, there, Joe Muggeridge. Are we so different? Do not your politicians endlessly advance the ideals of absolute equality – distinctions of nature be damned? We simply take their thesis to its logical end.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

The demon pressed him further. “Do you know that the human bicep is comparable to filet mignon? That your anatomy produces tenderloins and ribs as succulent as the ones derived from pigs? If flesh is flesh, as your modern philosophers insist, then your privileging of one bit of meat over another is as arbitrary as mine.”

“But it’s not the same!” Joe exclaimed, appalled by the demon’s reasoning.

“Prove it.”

“People aren’t animals.”

“No?”

“I mean, we are. At least, I think we are. But murder is counterproductive. Species are hardwired to protect and preserve their own.”

“Say that without irony after your twentieth century.”

Joe was silent.

“If it’s all subjective, it’s all lawful.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You like tomato, I like tomahto,” the demon said dryly.

Disgusted, Joe turned his gaze to the columns rising above his head. After several moments, he began to see past the desecration to the cathedral itself. The architecture was better suited for human worshippers than wanton devils. It occurred to Joe that (in its earthly state) the Tours represented generations of Believers. The Busy on Sundays. The Religious. Children carried lanterns, a processional cross. Parents sewed vestments, sculpted stone. Grandparents quarried rock, set cornerstones. Great grandparents saw initial plans, offered prayers, and mustered enough faith to believe in a sanctuary they would never see. It made him wonder how such a miracle could have emerged from the “Dark Ages” his teachers had warned him about. A strange melancholy consumed him. It was the same sadness that allows children to cry over crushed flowers, broken jars. It was the sadness people know in youth but abandon with age. The last time Joe had been in a church of any kind was for his grandfather’s funeral: a Methodist parish with congregants who still remembered World War II, the Hudson Motor Car Company, and the sound of Eisenhower’s voice on the radio. It was nothing like this. “How did we get here?” he asked, astonished.

“Why not tell me?” the demon replied. “It was your impassioned swan dive that brought us here.”

Joe remembered falling. The demon’s claws at his back. His lungs searching for oxygen. The unconsciousness he had welcomed with open arms. There was nothing after that.

Meanwhile, The Worm King was attending to a liturgy of his own. After a long hiatus, a clatter of chains suddenly came from the galilee. A human voice shouted unintelligible protests, no doubt pleading for his life. Snarls and shouts followed. The Worm King hummed an evening vesper in praise of his lord. The shrieks varied in intensity until they were finally silenced by the concussive weight of a mallet hitting steel. The smell of wet copper and sweat now hung in the air. An iron bolt was thrown in its lock, and The Worm King emerged from his death dealing. He was soiled with blood, horn to toe, as he wiped a formidable hatchet clean on the rag that covered his waist.

“Always a sacrament,” The Worm King remarked, “the spilling of blood.”

“By the marquee,” the demon said. “Standard transport. Corpse included. No excuses.”

“Yes, yes,” The Worm King assented, “You shall have thy corpse. And a lovely little mandrake at that. Now, for the last time, leave me be!”

“This is madness,” Joe said.

“This is mercy,” The Worm King growled, eying Joe’s limbs like a thwarted butcher. He dropped the hatchet, resumed his requisite crab walk, and headed back toward his monument of books. As far as he was concerned, Joe and the demon could see themselves out.

“Adieu, Worm King,” the demon called after him, “And don’t be late.”

“Yes, yes. Be gone!” He had already begun compiling another stack of books onto his bloody torso.

Morte Magari descended the chancel and headed for the narthex. Joe followed. They proceeded up the nave, past The Worm King’s labors, to the two wooden doors the pulley system had opened. Joe read the following chiseled into the marble archway:

 THERE IS NO KING IN ISRAEL [3]

“A warning?” he inquired.

“Our reality,” the demon said. Light from the fire beyond the doors pulled itself like a tide into the nooks and crannies of the cathedral. The fire beckoned Joe with its light, eclipsed his better judgment. It promised what all fires promise: revelation. It demanded what all fires demand: sacrifice.

“What’s out there?” Joe asked.

“Only what you need to see.”

They proceeded through the cathedral doors to the unmistakable sound of singing, but this was no comforting hymn or canticle. It was a formidable tune, divorced from the pentatonic scale or the genius of Bach. It was a music one perceived like color as it moved across the air. One might be tempted to call it “ethereal,” but it possessed none of the passions, human or divine. Reality, the demon had said. Funny word. Left to his own devices, Joe mistook the singing as a sign of approaching cherubim, when it was in fact a demonic madrigal. He rationalized Morte Magari’s abuses, was ready for more if it meant finding Nora among the dead. He devised all manner of moral equivalence to explain The Worm King’s conduct; never mind that this same demon would have gladly eaten him whole. Joe Muggeridge even failed to see the two stone angels on either side of the entrance, regal sentries, weeping into their hands.

 

Cave

 

Outside it was raining. Only it wasn’t outside at all. Rain fell from the cave’s vaulted ceiling, dripped from massive stalactites to cut anabranches into the sandy floor below. Dense fog sifted the droplets to a fine mist. It reminded Joe of the marine layer that settled over Seattle for months on end. Weekends on the pier. Welcome solitude.

Joe inspected the rain on his hand and was thirsty enough to see if it was potable. Salt water. It rained salt water down here. He noted several waterfalls far in the distance, stromatolites as tall as cell phone towers, rock formations that defied geometry, and a series of foot paths that appeared to lead up and out of the cave.

Having just emerged from the Tours, Joe observed the two square belfries on either side of the entrance: the Flamboyant Gothic accents as incomparable for Joe as they would have been for the pilgrims of 1547. By some miracle, the stained-glass window on the cathedral face remained intact. It had either been too high for the demons to reach, or a deliberate counterpoint to their apostasy. The entire cathedral was a sprawling negotiation between what was once good and a presiding evil, what was once brightness turned to disarray.

The cave reminded Joe of the pulp novels his father would read. Welles and Burroughs. Howard and Dent. Lost world. Primordial keep. Most of the rock was obsidian, but the floor was white sand, wet from the falling rain. Joe half expected some chimeric claw or the eye of Polyphemus to emerge from the network of adjoining caverns. Nightmares assumed shape, and Joe was certain he had been here in dreams.

The entire cave was illuminated by a pyre that burned forty yards or so from the Tours. Joe had never seen anything like it. The bonfires from his pyro-fraternity days at the University of Washington were fleeting shadows by comparison. The fire rose high as the cathedral, emitted no smoke, and was impervious to the rain. By all accounts, an imposing furnace.

Further inspection revealed the presence of a great stack of books within the pyre, as impressive as The Worm King’s charge. More surprising still was the fire’s utter lack of progress: the books would not burn. Among the flames, unblemished spines and crisp pages remained as unread as any new bookstore copy.

“Why aren’t they burning?” Joe asked.

“Anything that reflects His light is impervious to our methods,” the demon replied. “The pyre is our monument. An aspiration if you will. Like one of your creeds. If we were truly free, this fire would incinerate every poem and prophecy, every syllable and sacrament. His tyranny prevents it, of course, so we commit these books to the pyre. Just for the hell of it.”

Joe tried to make out the titles among the flames.

“Feel free to inspect them. The fire is quite cool.”

Joe was the face of doubt.

“Try me. It’s all wonderland here.” The demon was like a Parisian who (having seen the Louvre one too many times) indulges the tourist anyway.

Joe moved close to the blaze and, feeling no heat, mustered enough courage to plunge his hand into the fire. He reflexively winced but felt no pain. The miracle would have confounded back home but was strangely appropriate given Joe’s journey thus far — what with the demon, the tunnel, the harpies, the Tours. He stood for a moment in disbelief, arm half-devoured, before grabbing a thin leather volume. Drawing it from the pyre, he inspected it closely. There was no singe, no ash, nothing to suggest the immolation Joe had plucked it from. Opening at random, Joe began to read:

To attain any assured knowledge about the soul is one of the most difficult things in the world … [4]

Baffled, Joe returned the book to the pyre and reached for another …

Happy are those / who do not follow the advice of the wicked, / or take the paths that sinners tread, / or sit in the seat of scoffers; / but their delight is in the law of the Lord, / and on his law they meditate day and night.[5]

And another …

A fourth in disbelief …

Tell all the truth but tell it slant
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind — [6]

Joe threw the book back into the flames. The pyre welcomed it with a burst of anemic intensity.

“Is this a joke?”

“All of Hell is a tickling of the humors.”

“I’m serious.”

“So am I,” the demon said.

A persistent tapping now came from the other side of the fire. Joe followed the circumference of the blaze to investigate. Perched on a 19th century roll-top desk was an Underwood typewriter. Its type bars struck a piece of paper with staccato-like rhythm as a dulcet bell tolled with the arrival of each margin. When the page was complete, it fell from the rollers, landed on a burgeoning manuscript, and a new sheet emerged from the black interior of the Underwood No. 5. The typist, invisible to Joe’s eye, was a tireless scrivener as the cylinder smoothly responded to the rapid throwing of keys.

Cautiously, Joe picked up the ream. The “i” jammed with the “n” and the typing ceased. Joe held an unpunctuated list in his hands — no poetry here — a record of his fears, regrets, habits, and secrets. It was all embarrassing. All shameful. All fodder for his colleagues at work. Or worse, the Internet. There were events Joe had forgotten long ago, decisions he had made last week. There was a review of the incriminations the demon had made in his apartment, behaviors that would lose him his job. If Sarah had read the first page and no further, she would not have slept with him last week, and the few friends he did have at work would have reassessed their judgment in friends.

Joe’s face fell as he thumbed through the exhaustive report. Every page gave witness to a depravity that hid behind the cheap smile of his “good person” status. Here was documentation of the curses he flung at fellow motorists, knowing they couldn’t hear him. Here was his emotive reflux toward opposing political views. Republicans for Voldemort. Here was the envy he harbored toward the success of strangers. Matthew. His boss. Bastard. Here was the gaze cinema had trained him to employ toward the opposite sex. The women he objectified. The women that scrolled across his private screens. While none of these acts qualified as “sin” in Joe’s mind, they weren’t qualities he wanted out in the public record. With no “Clear History” feature (so generously provided by his web browser), Joe moved to toss the volume into the flames.

Mid-stride toward the pyre, a strange compulsion overtook him, a sudden and irresistible urge to eat one of the pages, a gastronomical “take back” of crimes and misdemeanors. Joe took the first page, crumpled it in his fist, and ate it. The page melted in his mouth, roused taste buds, and slid down his gullet like cream. The immediate sensation on the tongue was sugary-sweet, a syrup worthy of pancakes, followed by salted caramel, a hint of bourbon, finished off with a delicate bouquet of citrus and almond. Joe took a second page, a third, a fourth, only to dispatch them like the first.

“Do you intend to eat the whole ream?” Magari interrupted.

“It’s delicious,” Joe managed between mouthfuls.

“It pains me to confess it, but nothing, not even your record of ill repute is beyond redemption.”

“Let me finish.”

“Your stomach, to say nothing of your soul, can scarce keep such mercies down. We have more pressing business.”

“I want to finish it.”

“No,” the demon hissed. Joe ate a fifth page and begrudgingly took the remaining manuscript over to the pyre. His appetite had made him forget the ineffective nature of the fire entirely.

“More than will. More than fire. To true repentance you must aspire.” The rhyme was so uncharacteristic, as though the demon had spoken a truth it could never possess. Undeterred, Joe dropped the damning chronicle into the flames.

“Nice try, but absolution is never so easy.” Magari seized Joe’s arm and began to drag him toward one of the many paths that led away from the Tours.

“If I can’t eat the rest, let me try and destroy it somehow.”

“Leave it to His mercy, or I leave you to the mercy of the Worm,” the demon said, glancing up at the Tours. The threat was enough to end Joe’s tepid resistance. The Worm King’s hatchet, a fearsome deterrent in his mind.

“You mean God, don’t you?” Joe inquired.

“I mean Creator. First Cause. Prime Mover. To speak His name is to infect my mouth.”

“What assurance do I have that no one will find it? That no one will know?”

“No more assurance than they had,” the demon said, pointing at the pyre of books.

“That’s not good enough.”

“It’s all you have.”

Joe pulled his arm free from the demon’s grasp and began to follow. The pyre would have to suffice for The Sins of Joe Muggeridge. The demon set a brisk pace as the vast hollow stretched out before them. The cave was a conquering abyss. Gogmagog had swallowed them whole.

If Joe had given the manuscript a parting glance, he would have seen it in the company of Augustine’s Confessions, Wilde’s De Profundis, Teresa of Ávila’s The Interior Castle, Aurelius’ Meditations, and Pascal’s Pensées, unconsumed in the ever-burning fire. And as Joe followed the demon, his guide, Morte Magari, lines from Dickinson, the fourth book he had drawn from the pyre, remained fixed in his mind:

The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —

***

Cathedral and pyre at their backs, the demon led Joe up the chosen path until they reached a steep plateau. There, in the darkness of the cave, stood thirty or so human souls. They were chained to the ground in rows with shackles bound to their left ankles. One restraint was empty. The Worm King’s harvest perhaps? There was no way to know for sure. Using light from the pyre, the prisoners employed their bodies and limbs to cast towering shadows onto the obsidian walls. Sexual acts to make the Kama Sutra blush were a reoccurring favorite, but the humans also busied themselves with scenes of scatology and violence. Along with the rain, bawdy sound effects enhanced the shadows with convincing menace. A uniquely base or pernicious shadow was met with applause, and jubilant cries rang out from the imprisoned throng.

Joe’s attention was drawn to an amused elderly man with a waist-length beard. He, along with the companion to his right, had ingeniously depicted a brood of vipers savagely devoured by a thunderbird. The man laughed until he was punched in the face by the prisoner to his left. This only encouraged his innovation, this time a crude depiction of coitus reminiscent of locker room graffiti. There were shouts of delight, and a few in the assembly stopped what they were doing to watch how the old man would culminate his shadow play.

“The prize!” one exclaimed. “He has clearly won the prize.” The prize, an enormous paper hat made of newsprint, was being worn by an elderly woman three rows from where the man was standing. They were all well advanced in years. Not a youthful face among them. It took Joe back to the summer he had worked at the retirement home in Bellevue. The summer of green Jell-O and bedpans. The summer of Benny Goodman and BINGO. From the shadows on the wall, Joe had taken them for rowdy teenagers. Vikings. Vandals.

A prisoner snatched the hat from the woman’s head. She bawled in protest until a neighbor’s heel struck her foot. “Never fair,” she howled as the hat made its way back to the man. “I earned it, and it hasn’t been five minutes. There’s a five-minute rule. Five minutes!”

“Shut up,” a voice said. “He’s the better artist. A real statement that is. It harkens back to our Minimalist Period.”

“Insufferable critic,” the woman rasped.

“It isn’t even real paper you know,” a second voice remarked. “Conspiracy, I say!”

A third voice from the crowd: “And it’s not egalitarian! I’ve said it for years. Hats for everyone. It’s only fair.”

“Him wore the prize yesterday, and it ain’t half as good as this.” The voice’s owner immediately conjured a rival shadow on the wall as obscene as the winner’s.

The elderly man stamped his foot. “Pass along. Pass along,” he cried. “Why the delay? Jealous as my dead wife, you are. Curses to every last one of you.” Despite the initial banter, the hat was eventually delivered to the old man, and the prisoners resumed their prodigious work. The hat covered the man’s eyes entirely and drooped below his ears like a cartoon admiral. He didn’t seem to mind. Like a ship at sea, Joe watched the hat bob up and down above the crowd as shadow after shadow appeared on the obsidian wall.

“Who are these people?” Joe asked.

“The first of the damned you are permitted to see. In life, they chose the pornographer for a mind. The harlot for a muse. The regions of science and philosophy, literature and history, have little residence here.”

Joe observed the scene until its vulgarity became a tedious bore. The redundancy of the shadows all but negated their illicit intent.

“Have you seen enough of the old and their wisdom?”

“Yes.”

“The wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered.”[7] The demon turned and began to ascend a near vertical incline that led up and out of the cave. Joe followed but had to stop several times to catch his breath. During one such rest, he looked back at the Tours.

“It’s beautiful,” he said, knowing it was true.

“A splendid ruin.[8] Worthy of our defilement,” the demon said.

“No,” Joe retorted. “Beautiful in spite of it.”

With a dismissive grunt, the demon returned its attention to the path. Wails of weird orgy now rose from the imprisoned crowd. Pleasure intermingled with pain until Joe Muggeridge was eager for a change in scenery.

“Are they always like that?”

“Attractive prospect, no?”

“Not if I can avoid it.”

“Then keep climbing,” the demon said.

 

 

COMMENTS


2 responses to “Follow the Devil / Follow the Light”

  1. Stephen Waggoner says:

    I’m so disturbed and enlightened all at once. Glad to have a guide through this unnerving hellscape.

  2. […] This is part three of Follow the Devil/Follow the Light. Read part two here. […]

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