11 Sep

There are not so many ways of trying to describe the noise made by Sister Mary as she disappeared in a puff of sulphur and smoke so I’ll resort to one I’ve already used and describe it as akin to the sound made by a child popping his young and flexible cheek with a mischievous finger. And she was gone in an invisible instant.
“Where…?” asked Bernard, confused and feeling as if his brain was about to explode.
“Where’s she gone?” Satan helped him by asking of himself the question that Bernard needed answering. “Where’s she gone? That’s easy, that is. She’s not been so reprehensible a sinner as the book recorded so I’ve had to boot her out. We only have the worst sinners here, folk like yourself, so I’ve relocated her to Heaven with all the fairy folk and classical choirs and sweet smells of primroses. She’ll be all right there. She’ll fit in and end up making daisy chains by the mile and sitting on nice puffy clouds for eternity. But all this raises a question…”
“I want to go to Heaven!” gabbled Bernard.
The devil shook his head and grinned crookedly, almost dementedly, thought Bernard. “No can do,” he mumbled. “No can do indeed. You’re in the book as one of the very worst of sinners, so intent on being good that you were terribly bad! You broke the prime rule of life, you did, and that’s to pass your genes onwards and upwards if you possibly can, and you possibly could. You had all the right components to fertilize a thousand fine ladies, don’t you know, and you not only failed to fertilise even one of them, you absolutely refused. Just like that! No, you said, it’s sinful to enjoy such activities of the flesh… so you didn’t. And that puts you at the top of the pile along with my own girlfriend.”
“You’ve got a girlfriend?” gasped Bernard, completely at a loss. Here he was, exchanging words with the symbol of absolute evil and that symbol had a girlfriend? How was that possible?
“You’d know her as Mother Teresa,” grinned the blushing face of Satan. “Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and what a sinner she proved to be! And she doesn’t like me all that much, you know, but she’ll get used to my little ways sooner or later. Everyone does. Eternity’s a long time not to, if you see what I mean.”
“She’s here?” Bernard was truly shocked by the boast. Not only had his favourite icon of goodness found herself in Hell, she was the devil’s own girlfriend? Everything he’d always believed in was rapidly being turned upside down and inside out!
“She was bound to,” confirmed the horned monstrosity. “But that doesn’t help me with you. I’ll tell you what, let’s take a peek in the looking-glass.”
“The looking-glass?” stammered Bernard.
“You’ll see yourself better if you look in that,” nodded the devil. “It’s always best to know yourself well. Come on, it’s not so far and I think you’ll quite enjoy it.”
Bernard found himself following the tail-swiping grinning figure of ultimate evil, down a long flame-lined corridor with columns of sulphurous smoke rising high into an unseen vault. There were fire-lit alcoves on both sides as they went, and in some of them Bernard could see shadowy figures, in ones or twos, almost lost in the red mist that seemed to pervade all of Hell.
They were soon at the end of the corridor and when they got there Satan pushed a gigantic curtain to one side, revealing a room that equalled many a cathedral in the magnificence of its size and the almost sacred atmosphere that hung in its air like a tangible thing.
“This is my place,” murmured Satan, sounding proud in the way that a newly-wed young woman sounds proud when showing her new home to friends or even strangers for the very first time.
“Come,” said the Devil, and Bernard followed him to the far end of the gigantic vault. “The looking glass is this way. I think you’ll like it. You might even be impressed!”
When they got to the far end of the vault Bernard could see that it’s wall, reaching apparently endlessly upwards and what he thought seemed as wide as a football field, was a gigantic mirror.
“Fun, isn’t it?” smirked the Devil. “Now, if you don’t mind, take a little look into it. At your own reflection, not that you’d have any kind of reflection in a bog-standard earthly mirror, being dead. But in this one … well, what do you see?”
Bernard couldn’t help screwing his eyes up and staring into the depths of the mirror, and as his eyes focussed on his own reflection he gasped.
He was a baby, new born with the umbilical cord still attached and hanging limply from his navel. And he was stark naked, like new-born babies are. Like some incestuous monstrosity, the sort of person he had always truly hated, he found himself staring at his new-born genitals.
“Lovely, aren’t you?” cooed the Devil.
Then, still staring, he saw his own mother pick him up with an expression of disdain and as she looked at her new baby she gazed with malevolent horror at hos tiny penis.
“Little Barnard, son of mine,” she whispered – and he recognised that hiss, he’d heard it so many times before, all of his childhood until the blessed woman had died of malaria in an Asian jungle whilst trying to save some endangered beast from hunters. “That’s a very naughty thing, is that … I’d cut it off if I dared and turn you into the sweetest little girl ever born, but they’d probably lock me up for it and I don’t fancy being put behind bars for amputating so silly a piece of flesh…”
“See,” grinned Satan, “how you are and who you are?”
“Is that it?” muttered Bernard, miserably. “Why are you showing me this?”
“So that you understand your sin,” murmured the Devil, “so that you can see all the whys and don’t blame me for being here! But wait, there’s more … a great deal more.… Take another look….”
©Peter Rogerson 11.09.16


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