Follow the Devil / Follow the Light

Part Four: The Just Abacus

This is part four of Follow the Devil/Follow the Light. Read parts one, two, and three here.

Just Abacus


On the morning of March 24th, 2001, five years after the death of Nora Muggeridge, Cancer made its rounds through the suburbs of Seattle. It entered room 542 at the Millwood retirement home, visited the classroom of Ms. Frye at John Muir Elementary, breezed past security on Microsoft’s Redmond campus, and interrupted the nap of a Labrador named “Chewbacca” before arriving at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Paul L. Muggeridge. It was disguised as an envelope: test results that had somehow beaten the requisite phone call from the office of Dr. Boudreaux.

Paul had complained for months of back and abdominal pain. Wendy had insisted he visit a doctor. Had Paul known a malignant tumor was assaulting his pancreas, he would have been more receptive to his wife’s counsel. Nonetheless, he eventually scheduled the appointment during his lunch hour, drove to Providence Seattle Medical Center, and feigned interest in an Entertainment Weekly until his name was called by a nameless intern. Dr. Boudreaux stared at her clipboard, ordered tests, and thanked Paul for stopping by. The visit was less than ten minutes. $139.64. With insurance. A trip to the lab, and Paul drove back to work. No reassurance. No reason for alarm.

So, when Cancer arrived via post, Joe watched his father sit at the kitchen table, eyes fixed on the notice. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

“Nothing for you to worry about.”

“Can I help?”

“Just be you.” Paul looked up at his son. Forced smile. What Joe said next was inevitable as it rose from the heart of an eleven-year-old boy.

“I don’t want you to die too.”

The silence intensified until Paul left the room just as Wendy had that first Christmas without Nora. Joe could now hear his parents talking upstairs in their bedroom. Wendy used the bedside phone to call the doctor’s office. Inquiry. Confirmation. Half-hearted apology on the other end. Hang-up. The hum of human speech continued until an audible cry broke into a series of unrestrained sobs. The grief was so earnest that it made Joe feel embarrassed and then feel guilty somehow. A half hour later Paul and Wendy descended the stairs. Swollen eyes. Flushed cheeks. Joe looked away, stared blankly at the junk mail that had accompanied his father’s death notice. Gutter Cleaning. Asian Cuisine. Spa Therapy. Buy one get one free. Valid only at participating locations. Offer expires May 31st. No substitutions. No refunds. Fathers included.

“We’re going out for coffee,” Paul said. A declaration of war. Five minutes later the three of them were in the car. Off to Espresso Paradiso to indulge in a caffeine fix.

When they got there, someone had parked a Toyota Highlander across two spaces. For the Muggeridge family, this meant an additional five minutes to find parking elsewhere. It felt personal, a violation of their time, but the owner of said Highlander had his own problems: an exasperated father of four trying to order drinks for his children as they circled his feet like a brood of Tasmanian devils.

Joe couldn’t know the man’s plight. So he did what most do. He hated said owner of Toyota Highlander, called him the devil of his bad day. And as Joe stared, unblinking at the vehicle’s hunter green finish and “Coexist” bumper sticker, he wished for the laser vision of Krypton to slice the vehicle in two. Two trips around the block gave Joe time to imagine a heroic confrontation.

Hey! he would shout, entering the coffee shop. Who’s the bastard (he’d learned this word only recently) who decided it was a good idea to take up two parking spaces? My sister’s dead and now my dad’s good as dead too!

He imagined sympathetic looks from fellow customers with their laptops and lattes. An apology from the manager. Drinks for free. He even imagined the various ninja routines he would employ on the culprit as Wendy approvingly sipped her macchiato.

Reality was less dramatic. They parallel parked across the street and jaywalked to the front entrance. Highlander Man emerged from the store just as they arrived. Paul held the door for him.

“Thanks. Got my hands full today.” The children pulled mercilessly at their father’s clothes. Joe wasn’t sure the man’s pants would get to the car higher than his ankles.

 Daddy. Where’s my doughnut? Daddy. No sprinkles?! You said sprinkles. You never listen. Never. Ouch, JEN-NY! Daddy. Get your own doughnut. You licked my doughnut! No, I don’t want it. This cider is too hot. They always make it too hot. Daddy. Why couldn’t we go to Zoom Coffee like the Petersons? Daddy. Why couldn’t we? I hate you Daddy.

“Sure thing,” Paul said sympathetically. “Hang in there.”

“Bless you.”

The man said more than he knew.

Espresso Paradiso was bustling. One table free. Three or four patrons tried to harness the convenience of laptops boasting a three-hour battery life. A few others were steeped in conversation. Books on every subject were in wide distribution. An elderly woman read a print version of The Seattle Times. Mom and Joe secured a table. Dad ordered. Five minutes later, he joined them with an americano (no cream), double shot macchiato, and hot chocolate.

He placed a small napkin in front of Wendy before setting her drink on the table. It reminded Joe of the white surrender flag he had seen in old Road Runner cartoons. Mom and Dad stared at each other as Joe scooped whipped cream from his cocoa with a straw. For a moment, they were together. They were safe.

Grace comes in many forms, and it was a grace that Paul, Wendy, and Joe had no idea how rapidly the pancreatic cancer would metastasize. Cancer arrived by post, acute symptoms arrived weeks later, and summer plans of backpacking along the Pacific Crest Trail never materialized. Driving home, Wendy Muggeridge looked in the rearview mirror at her son in the backseat. She remembered the twins’ birth. The matching onesies Paul’s mother had made. First crawl. First walk. First Christmas when the range of the possible stretched out before them all.

“You’re my best,” she said, a phrase she hadn’t used in years. Joe met her eyes in the rearview mirror as he clutched his hot chocolate with both hands. He could have remained silent, sulked as eleven-year-old boys are inclined to do.

He broke convention.

“I know,” he said, and smiled.


At the foot of the mountain, a forest of dead pine trees slouched in congregation. Branches hung in brittle suspension as a sea of gray needles littered the forest floor. Pinecones impeded Joe’s travel as they crunched beneath his feet, remnants of life in a lifeless wood. Magari had traversed the mountain path with the sure footing of a cat, beckoned Joe impatiently during their descent, eager to arrive at their destination. The Weltschmerz. First sequence.

Reaching the wood, Magari led Joe through columns of trees to a clearing where the forest had made room for an Abacus. It was identical to the ones found on Earth, save for its immense size and method of calculation. Mahogany beams stood fifteen feet high, the scaffolding secured by taut ropes. In place of beads, thirteen bodies were strung up among the wires. Black numbers in crude calligraphy were painted onto their foreheads. Number Five hung at the topmost, hands red sodden from the stubborn pressure of the horizontal beam. The feet of Eleven were crushed far below, toes twisted in back-bent agony. The rest took up positions along the vertical cables running top to bottom like floating hangmen. Blood ran from each of them, followed the grain of the wood, dripped rhythmically onto the forest floor. Cries of lamentation began as soon as Magari and Joe entered the clearing.

“There is no one just,” said Three.

“Ease my pain,” Eight wept. “Forsake the others.”

“Death comes equally to us all, and makes us all equal when it comes,”[1] hollered number Ten, body twisted in painful deference.

“What is this?” Joe averted his eyes. Trauma stamps an indelible mark on the wax of the human heart. For Joe Muggeridge, this was such a moment. This was such a mark. For the rest of his days, whenever the idea of justice or equality was discussed in polite conversation, the Abacus would infiltrate his mind uninvited. Looking up, he saw an assembly of oil slick crows perched high in the forest branches. They stared down at Joe like feathered jurors in a court of law.

“The Weltschmerz. First sequence,” Magari replied.

“What does this have to do with Nora?”

“These are the Violent Against Goodness,” the demon explained. “The first in our tour. You yourself said you could administer proper justice and judgement. Complete this task, and you’ll no longer wonder why your ancestors slaughtered heifers to Apollo, why scapegoats perished in the wilderness, why Americans nurse pistols in bedside drawers, or why astrology persists among Wall Street executives. This is the sum of justice by human means.”

“What other economy is there?” Joe wondered aloud.

Economy. Your choice is telling.”

“Where would I even begin?”

“Carte blanche. You are passive observer no longer.”

A control platform governed the coordinates of each man and woman hanging from the Abacus. Gears churned, pipes hissed, levers mewed through their appointed tasks as a smokestack bellowed black profusion. The throw of a switch, the turn of a cog, and the victims slid up and down on their respective cables. At present, the mechanism was operated by a gnome. He wore an olive cap, blue shirt gone to periwinkle, and trousers the color of weak tea. A white beard ran the length of his body like a waterway as a cigar smoldered between rows of crooked teeth. Abandon the cigar, the poor hygiene, and the gnome was ripe for corporate merchandizing, a ready-made template for action figures and garden kitsch.

“The Engineer,” Magari said, pointing to the stout creature as it scurried about next to the controls. “He’ll explain how to deal with our unlucky thirteen.”

“Er … okay,” Joe replied. “And what about you?”

“I’m here to watch. The Romans had their colosseum. I have The Weltschmerz.”

“You’re really something.”

“Better something than a fool like you.”

“Shut up,” Joe said. “This isn’t justice. Horror show … but not justice.” He ambled up to the platform, climbed five steps to where the gnome was standing, and cleared his throat to announce his presence. A violent pull upon one of the levers, scattershot dissent from the victims in reply, an alarming belch of smoke, and the gnome turned to face him.

“New recruit?” He removed the cigar from his mouth, blew a smoke ring into the atmosphere, and looked past Joe to the demon beyond. “One of Magari’s?” The gnome raised a hand in salute. “Hello Magari, you pissant son of a bitch. I’m guessing the lad has had no training. Another amateur ready to have a go at the Abacus.”

The demon made no reply.

“What’s this about?” Joe asked.

“Well, it’s like this, see,” the gnome said. “Everyone wears the same clothes they wore in life. Same haircuts. Same Social Security Numbers. That one right there, for example, lucky number three. Prison guard. Still got a badge. Credentialed. Maybe pets come here too, though come to think of it, been ages since I seen a dog. People live out lifetimes making tax forms and microplastics, glitter and packing peanuts, still productive, industrious, but sterile all the same. They subsist through generations, each one brimming with forgettable coitus, lawn maintenance, and story problems. Cyclone wallows up. Rain plummets down. Unhappy affair entire. Won’t find a single drink not watered down. Beer or brandy. Don’t matter which. They have no ambition, err, what’d you say your name was?”

“I didn’t,” Joe replied.

“Well, Mr. Ididnt. They don’t care to get some either. Ambition, I mean. Over time … but what is time here? … they turn inward enough to eat themselves. Horrible sight really. No one can remember who painted the Sistine Chapel or who invented picnics. No one’s up on philosophy or philosophical enough to find out. Innovation flies the coop. History is as old as last week and not a day older. Conversation is an ever-bore, make no mistake. We’re not going to the theatre down here Mr. Ididnt. There’s no music. No poetry.”

“No poetry?”

“Not even a turgid line from Mr. Dryden,” The Engineer replied.[2]



“But what is this,” Joe demanded.

“What … this?” the gnome returned his gaze to the Abacus. “This is what you make of it. Some do better than others, but it’s misery all the same.” He stepped away from the controls. “The so-called activists are the worst. Liable to kill ‘em all. Too much Marx and Pinker on the resume. Utopia’s a bitch. But who’d listen to a gnome with nicotine on the brain and cancer for a pair of lungs?” He fell into a spasm of violent coughs. Composed himself. “Nobody, that’s who,” he continued. “You’re by no means the first Mr. Ididnt. Just follow the directions and keep your politics out of it.” The Engineer pointed to a metal sign stamped to the exterior of the rig:

Abandon the pretense of rights for me.
When grace is the method, all souls go free.

Joe couldn’t make sense of it. “Reads more like a riddle.”

“No less a riddle than the human nature,” The Engineer replied.

The gnome stepped aside as Joe mounted the platform. He refused to look at the bodies strung up like bloody dolls. Silence fell over the prisoners as the Abacus assumed new management. It was wrong to call it hope. Welcome diversion, perhaps? Novelty? They’d happily take a rookie over The Engineer’s judicious sadism.

“You’ll need to look eventually,” the gnome said, noticing Joe’s aversion. “First rate sinners up there. They don’t think so, of course, but who ever does? Up there’s your Swindler and Pederast. Liar and Adulterer. Idolater. Suicide. Murderer. Misanthrope. Vandal. Gossip. Coveter. Thief. There’s even a fella would cut up animals for sport. Poor steward that one.”

“Gossip doesn’t sound so bad,” Joe replied.

“You’d be surprised where it can take you, Mr. Ididnt.”

“How does it work?” Joe asked perplexed.

“Simple enough. Adjust the controls like you seen me done and administer justice as you see fit. Better to lie than murder? Glutton a dozen doughnuts than play the bigot? Gossip rather than steal? Closer to top or bottom, the more painful the penance. Five and Eleven been in dire straits long enough. May as well let the others have a round. Hell ain’t much, but it’s always fair.”

“Sounds easy enough,” Joe replied. “Deranged and immoral. But easy.”

“That’s how it is down here.”

It took a moment for Joe to notice a dedicated lever for each of the numbered positions on the Abacus. He had no idea what the other knobs and pulleys were for. He didn’t care. The first sequence of the Weltschmerz made him an unwilling and yet strangely culpable participant. For the good of finding Nora, Joe Muggeridge now stood before an expression of devilry, a device he would never devise on his own. And yet, here he was, asked to throw a few slot levers if it meant finding a sister lost to the grave, asked to pass indiscriminate judgement onto thirteen strangers. Never was an individual less qualified. Was this, as Magari had suggested, the sum of justice by human means? Must it comprise such a harrowing arithmetic? Guillotine or nothing? What possible alternative could render the immodesty before him obsolete?

And why create such an apparatus in the first place? Magari seemed less and less likely the sole architect of this plot. Joe now believed other intelligences were involved. A collective infernal will perhaps? The Worm King? The Engineer before him? Certainly not divine. If this was divine justice, Joe’s flirtations with atheism would go nuptial. He paused before the contraption, unwilling to participate, unable to look away.

“I’m not doing this,” Joe said aloud.

“Excuse me?” The gnome’s patience evaporated.

“I was instructed to follow Magari. Everything else has been revisionist, including this Weltschmerz or whatever you want to call it. This belongs in a gulag. If you think I’m going to … “

Joe was interrupted by the cold point of a dagger pressed against his side. The gnome turned the steel ever so slightly to let Joe know he was serious. Cigar smoke swirled, a continuous hum emanated from the control panel, and a captive audience of prisoners and crows waited to see what would happen next.

“Refuse and I stick you,” The Engineer promised. Joe felt the warmth of blood. Perfect, he thought. Another wound to match my forehead.

“Better choose wisely.” The gnome edged the knife point deep enough to merit an earnest yelp.

“Okay, okay,” Joe relented. “Take it easy with that. It’s not every day I find myself in a Kafka play.” Joe had read Kafka in high school, the only author to make an impression in his Sophomore Language Arts class. In the Penal Colony had been a welcome dose of the macabre after laboring through Great Expectations and My Ántonia. How impossible to foresee its striking resemblance to his present circumstance.

“So, coercion or nothing. Is that about right?”

“A little motivation never hurt.”

“Tell that to my ribs.”

“You’re not going anywhere … and Magari’s with me.”

“I have no illusion of friendship with you two.” Joe said, grasping the sudden impasse. “Which one’s the child molester?” His first selection on this peculiar scale of justice was self-evident. Pederasts be damned.

“Contestant Number Seven,” The Engineer replied, keeping the knife close.

“Does he have a name?”

“Not anymore. None of them do.”

“Bastard,” Joe replied callously.

“If you like. You don’t know the half of it.” The Engineer leaned forward eagerly, impatient to see what Joe would do next.

“He abused children?”

“Indeed he did, and it’s your right duty to do something about it. How’s that for influence? Making a difference? Never convicted in life. Lived out his days on a steady pension aboard a yacht in the Florida Keys. Kept it quiet with –”

Joe pulled the seventh lever. A gearbox churned, pistons sputtered, and the machine adjusted the coordinates of Joe’s victim. The prisoners swooned in unison. The crows voiced approval.

Number Seven inched northward. Body splayed to the limit of joint and limb. “Please,” the man winced. “I can explain. Uncle abused me as a kid. Parents and school counselor didn’t believe me. Went on for years. It’s no excuse, but it’s all I knew. Gave me power. A sense of control. Please. Whatever remorse I lacked in life, I’ve more than made up for it on this demonic device.”

“Explain that to your victims,” Joe called out from behind the control panel. An awareness of his own volition began to surpass his initial anxiety. The same fulcrum that slows motorists to observe the car accident, the unspoken glad that wasn’t me one feels as paramedics haul off the body, informed Joe’s actions now. In a moment of unfettered judgment, of his own rightness in the face of another man’s appalling wrongness, Joe Muggeridge finally looked up at the Abacus to see his handiwork. The Violent Against Goodness. The Weltschmerz. First Sequence.

It was then that the true nature of the Abacus revealed itself. For as Number Seven began to move topmost, Nine lurched in the opposite direction as well.

“Wait,” Joe panicked. “I only pulled the lever for Seven. Why is Nine moving like that?”

“No sin exists alone,” The Engineer replied. “Seven may indeed be our resident rapist, but Nine was a swindler.”

“Swindler,” Joe replied. “So what?

“They’re one and the same.”

“They’re not remotely the same.”

“To steal innocence? To amputate the organ of trust in a child? To demean the private dignity of a human body? To molest a child is to swindle by another name.”

Exasperated, Joe pulled the lever again. The hands of Number Seven pressed against the horizontal beam until its mahogany yielded an audible snap from the man’s fingers. A scream eclipsed the control panel’s sustained dissonance.

“Where’s the murderer then?”

“Number Three.”

“Does Swindler go back to where she was then?” Joe asked.

“Only one way to find out,” The Engineer replied, enjoying himself.

Joe pulled lever three. Sure enough, a marriage of respective sins was replicated as Ten joined the company of Three.


“Murder is the brother of Misanthropy.”

Another lever.

“To Steal is to Covet.”


“Adultery is falsehood.”

“What the hell,” Joe replied in dismay.

“Sin is sin. It’s only the consequences that manifest by degree,” The Engineer replied. Angry protests came from the hanging cohort. The crows were euphoric. Wings flapped in concert. Feathers seesawed from the sky to land like black fronds on the blood-soaked earth. Lights skipped across the control panel as smoke billowed up from the dark interior of the device. Joe wanted a large cartoon mallet to end such misery for good.

“Incompetent hack!” one jeered from the Abacus.

“Ship him to DIS.”

“Give him a number up here with us,” another suggested.

Joe eyed the metal sign.

                        Abandon the pretense of rights for me.

                        When grace is the method, all souls go free.

“Where’s the shutoff switch?” he asked.

“There is none,” The Engineer seemed disappointed, as though the game was about to end sooner than he had hoped. “Don’t tell me you’re giving up already. Come now, where’s your sense of justice? Some hack away at this for hours, days at a time, determined to get it right.”

“Then a release switch,” Joe continued, ignoring him. “Whatever lets them off that thing.”

“All of them? Even the child molester you were so cruel to just now?”

“Yes, dammit, all of them.”

“I don’t think so.” The Engineer reasserted his knife point in Joe’s side. “We play to completion. Isn’t that what you do on your little consoles and screens back home, Mr. Ididnt? Aren’t there silly achievement trophies to obtain? Time trials to gloat over? Screenshots to share?”

“You don’t know me,” Joe replied.

“I know enough. Your sense of justice is like your appetite: resolute until it is pacified with pizza and a bout of indigestion.”

Joe scanned the platform for his escape. A large bin next to the control panel contained an assortment of makeshift tools. Why hadn’t he noticed it before? Shovel. Garden hoe. Post digger. Rake. A pair of hand saws. Two handed axe. Steel axe head. Hickory for a handle. He’d have to be quick about it. Joe spun away from The Engineer’s blade, retrieved the axe with both hands, navigated the stairs with a single leap, and sprinted toward the scaffolding ropes that held the Abacus in place.

“What’s this about? Come back here!” The Engineer roared.

Joe threw his entire weight behind the axe to bring it down onto one of the ropes. It snapped, whiplashed through the air like a running garden hose gone berserk, and all thirteen prisoners fell liberated to the ground. They looked at one another in astonishment, wrested themselves from the ropes, massaged wrists, ankles, and stared at Joe in disbelief.

The Engineer retrieved a blunderbuss from beneath the control panel but pulled the trigger too soon. The shot dispersed the crows in a confusion of squawks and lost feathers. It shrouded the control panel in smoke.

“Come back here!” The Engineer howled. “You belong up there you know. I’ll string you up with the rest of them when I get my hands on you. Come back here Mr. Ididnt. My Abacus is eternal. My Abacus is perfection. My Abacus is just. My Abacus is never conquered!” He fumbled about with the flintlock mechanism and powder horn. Joe didn’t give him time to fire another shot.

“Get out of here,” Joe said to the prisoners. No further persuasion was necessary. Everyone made a mad dash for the cover of forest, dispersed like deer under the sudden crack of thunder.

Dropping the axe, Joe sprinted away from the Abacus and its jubilant captives, away from The Engineer, away from Morte Magari, who had observed the drama like an ambivalent spectator.

“Have all the fun you like,” Magari called after him, “but don’t forget the pyre. The cathedral. The cave. The typewriter. It only takes one to diminish the good, Joe Muggeridge. You hear me? It only takes one to diminish the good.” Joe didn’t look back.

“Go on then, run. I’ll catch you soon enough,” Magari said with a dismissive lilt of its hand.

And deep down, Joe Muggeridge knew it was true.


Joe tried to put as much distance between himself and The Weltschmerz as possible. He tripped several times on uneven terrain as the trees threatened to catch his clothing on either side. He saw faces, grotesque and gnarled, in the furrows and knots of trunks. Roots became bodies. Branches took the form of wasted limbs. He thought of Nora and his dead father. He thought of the Abacus victims, liberated by his own hand, scot-free from their bloody internment, running like dogs through a dark wood. There was desperation in their eyes, certainly, but something akin to gratitude as well. Joe Muggeridge had a scar on his forehead as permanent as the number that marked each victim of the Abacus. A sudden equal among them. Equally forlorn. Suffering it all. Joe Muggeridge ran a foot race of his very own. Directionless. Seemingly defeated. Thinking the entire way …

If my father is a corpse

If justice is only power

If “being” is only brain

If the goal is a grave

What am I?



The broadcast tower for A.N.T.I. 106.2 was the tallest freestanding structure in the industrial sector of DIS. The flip of a switch, the hum of ozone, the crackle of a blown speaker, and amber vacuum tubes illuminated a small studio. Two blunts smoldered in an ashtray. Food wrappers, newsprint, bottles, and aluminum cans covered the floor. A wall sized painting of a Guernica mouth screamed the radio station’s call letters into a microphone. Thrift store lamps occupied two corners of the room as a couch sagged between them like a dead elephant. A table with microphones, mixer, transmitter, receiver, CD cassette turntable, speakers, and an impressive python of knotted cables stood by a bay window overlooking the grim city. Two demons slouched over the table on bar stools. One retrieved his blunt from the ashtray and took a drag until embers went fire. Exhale. A bloom of blue smoke.

Abscess: What in the hell is Hell coming to?

Canker: Our “Rant of the Week,” top of the five, live, and undignified, here on The Canker and Abscess Show.

Abscess: You mean The Abscess and Canker Show.

Canker: Piss off.

Abscess: Report yesterday that the Ministry of Corrections is easing sentences on all felons’ virtue signaling, intentional or no. Our discredited Minister of Compliance …

Canker: Mordecai by name.

Abscess: … spoke at a press conference. Situation handled he says. Not worth the public fuss he says.

Canker: Course he did.

Abscess: Our PR Blunder of the Week.

Canker: Imagine. Some sap in for charity and rather than sit out his sentence gets the dim idea to share his slop with another inmate when no one’s the wiser.

Abscess: What next? Hold the door for prison guards? Volunteer for mess duty and a bit of mindless clerical work in Infirmary?

Canker: Wait, wait, it gets better. Pressed by media outlets prisoner says, and I quote, “Not sure what came over me. Tired of the same old, I guess. What’s the point of forever if forever’s just more of the same?” Contrarian this one. Certifiable.

Abscess: Bullocks I say.

Canker: Ship ‘em back for re-education. Crash course in Faber’s Merits of Misanthropy. Which reminds me, you read the recent column in Samizdat?

Abscess: And if I say no?

Canker: Then you’re a hack not worth spit on my show.

Abscess: Piss off.

Canker: Apparently, there’s talk of yet another amendment to the annual Lurid Festival.

Abscess: Politicians at it again.

Canker: And all over our little stunt.

Abscess: I’ll remind listeners of the folly that was Prográmm 987RB a few years back.

Canker: You refer, of course, to the prohibition of Molotov cocktails within city limits and the moratorium on ritualistic drug use after curfew.

Abscess: Magical thinking.

Canker: Delusion, you mean. Anymore and it starts looking like Heaven around here.

Abscess: Tax dollars at work. Imbeciles and ingrates.

Canker: Well, this one’s worse by my reckoning.

Abscess: Not possible.

Canker: By some logic I can’t figure, been decided humans what feel mistreated by us demons can appeal to the Ministry of Corrections and, I kid not, obtain damages for torments not becoming their crimes.

Abscess: What next? Representation in our lawless courts? Equal status visas comparable to Luciferian Horde Rights? What angelic possession has taken hold of our unelected officials?

Canker: This one’s begging revolt.

Abscess: Vigilance comrades! As long as the Good tries to draw all things to itself.

Canker: As long as Heaven’s Tyrant seeks to advance the mandate: “All in All.”[3]

Abscess: We must resist this aggression.

Canker: This injustice.

Abscess: This scourge on our way of life indomitable.

Canker: This ascent into slavish compliance.

Abscess: What are schools these days I want to know?

Canker: Enemy propaganda. The mere holding of so-called sacred texts, the reading of said texts for educational purposes, and the official rationale that such texts are easily subverted toward chthonic ends: all lies from the State. Burn thy Bible and Bhagavad-Gita while you still can.

Abscess: Think of it. Caring more for human rights than our own.

Canker: Granting undue privilege to souls here by their own volition.

Abscess: Boils the brain.

Canker: Cooks the nerve it does.

Abscess: Any rationale given by our benevolent leaders?

Canker: Right here plain. Says one administrator: “There’s a fine line between futile terror and utilitarian respect. In the interest of provoking the latter among inmates, our power must be absolute, total, even if it means the humans get a perk now and then. Ultimately, we’re in control. Rest assured, our policies of discipline and punishment agree with the doctrines expressed in our founding documents.” Section 43T-127E for skeptics up for weekend research. 

Abscess: And there you have it.

Canker: Evasive rhetoric compliments of Run-o-the-Mill.

Abscess: And finally, in what is perhaps the most scandalous headline to merit ink …

Canker: But first a word from our sponsor.

Abscess: You call that a transition? Well, go on then, self-proclaimed professional radio host …

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Scott writes: “I was tired of taking the Doc at his word. Where’s the freedom in that? Why should he know better? Thanks, Flim Flam! Your products gave me control of my health … and my life.”

Cynthia writes: “Flim Flam is about self-empowerment. They give consumers the knowledge and tools they need to make powerful life choices in the privacy of their own homes. And the best part of all, their products are the most eco-friendly in the business.”

Read these, and countless other testimonials, in our free brochure shipped with every order. At Flim Flam, we believe it’s time to deregulate the faux profession of the professional class. Call our toll-free number 1-800-REALMED today. That’s 1-800-REALMED. Operators are standing by.

Abscess: Flim Flam Industries, one of the many proud sponsors here on The Abscess and Canker Show. And for our final story of the hour, an op-ed piece in Plague and Mail from Friar Giardia citing ten demons by name, Khare Azrael and Morte Magari among them, for their persistent meddling in human affairs. REFORM ABDUCTION POLICY NOW reads the headline. I have no idea what necessitates something as banal as abduction reform, but I’m sure our leaders are corrupt enough to find out.

Canker: And devise the necessary forms. It ain’t government without paperwork.

Abscess: Right. So they make rules to amend the rules to make us look as though we’ve done broken the rules.

Canker: Sounds about right.

Abscess: Assault I say.

Canker: How’s that?

Abscess: To our very being and way of life. To our self-given and governed freedom.

Canker: Truth.

Abscess: And so, I ask again, fellow Infernalists, given the dark display of evidence my colleague and I have brought before you tonight … what in the hell is Hell coming to?



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

  1. Interesting how we question the medical professional. Mankind wants to put everyone on trial, especially God. It makes me think as I too question the professionals. It makes me pause at my arrogance though I am afraid I still doubt them. Thank you for this thought-provoking work.

  2. Jim Meals says:

    Part Four provided a strong contrast. Joe’s childhood memories of his father’s cancer were very powerful. The trip to the radio station was an absolute delight.

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