I used to think of karma as a kind of Autopay—your actions meriting points redeemable in heaven or hell.
But then, they stopped green stamps, so, I in turn, stopped paying it forward.
The way I see it, a huge impersonal system of retribution needs Karma Cops just to enforce it.
But these beings would not be guardians—just celestial civil servants sent by You Know Who to oversee Who Knows What.
It just didn't seem to add up, so...
I did what a lot of my generation dreamed of doing, but didn't—I went back to the land and started my own quiet revolution—growing pot and financing not a few military juntas.
I gathered my own rag-tag militia of malcontents.
Right now we're designing several mock-ups of military ICBM's for North Korea, so they can rattle their sabers and pretend, like Saddam, they have weapons of mass destruction—when in fact, they have squat.
Oh, I know it all sounds tawdry, but unless Screwtape's vacating his chair in hell, I'll have to raise as much mayhem as I can here.
—Otherwise I'll be bored.
"Simon, you can't be serious—the US will run you down like Bin Laden and—this is a best case—they'll lock you up in Guantanamo where the sun don't shine."
Eli's my second in command—but the power goes to his head sometimes and he struts around in military uniforms taken off the backs of dead Iraqi generals—and those duds didn't come cheap.
"Why not take me serious, my friend? I'm for sale to the highest bidder."
"Yeah, well if they start sending in those drones, I don't want to be party to your collateral damage."
"Nonsense. Costa Rica's off their radar and I'd think it'd cause quite a stir to violate another country's sovereign air."
"But didn't the Americans do that in Pakistan—fly in several helicopters and storm Bin Laden's compound?"
I fluff him off. "A mote to trouble the mind's eye."
Shakespeare's always my port of refuge in these storms and Eli always asks such indelicate questions.
Still, he has a point.
I'm in a most vulnerable position and could be the target for CIA death squads. The thought begins to worry me.
What to do—what to do?
I have it!
As insane as it sounds, I'll have Valdes summon the Devil for me. Valdes has taught me all the black arts, but he's so limited.
Ever since I can remember, I've hated being bored. I'd spend hours perusing books and challenging the limits of conventional knowledge. Now, even that bores me.
When I met Valdes, he opened for me the realms of the occult. My mind expanded and I was filled with enthusiasm to embrace it all.
But as I said, the man is limited. His only further use is to get me an interview with the Devil himself.
Valdes' eyes are huge as saucers.
"You are loco, Senor—it's madness to contemplate raising Lucifer himself."
"Well then, raise one of his lieutenants—I don't care—I want to strike a deal."
"You want to make a bargain with the devil?"
Valdes was shaking—trembling like a leaf. I despise weakness.
"Pull yourself together, Man—I just need you to be the medium—the intermediary. Summon whatever demon you please and then get the hell out. I'll deposit enough Euros in your Turks and Caicos' bank account to make it well worth your while."
"Very well Senor, but I must caution you—even we, the practitioners of the black arts, know all too well the horrors of hell. Are you certain you're ready to take this step?"
The man seemed to wilt before my eyes.
"Very well, Senor. Come to my hut at midnight—and come alone."
A few minutes before midnight, I was making my way along the moon-blanched path on the way to Valdes hut.
All of my learning and all of the volumes lining my library shelves had failed me. I knew nothing and was nowhere in the world. I needed an intervention—infernal or not.
Valdes opened the door and ushered me in. He had chalked a circle enclosing a pentagram on the floor and marked the points with black wax candles.
His eyes were huge and he was trembling and scarcely able to strike the match.
"Out of my way, dolt!" I pushed him aside and took the matches and lit the candles myself.
Valdes began speaking—not in Spanish, but in some strange tongue—chanting and pleading.
Suddenly, the room darkened, as if some great presence swept in. The candles burned with a feeble blue flame.
In the middle of the circle, exploded a white fire—Valdes shrieked and fled. As the phosphorous flare dimmed, I saw within the fire a figure in shadow.
"Who dares to summon?" an unearthly voice inquired.
"I do," I shouted, "I wish to speak with Lucifer."
The flame burned whiter and fiercer than the sun. "Impossible, mortal man. What is your desire?"
"I want knowledge of all things and power over the elements. I will become your servant, if I can become a god."
"And what will you give in exchange?"
"My soul," I whispered, already doubtful of my choice.
"Bare your arm," the figure commanded.
I did and an air-borne dagger appeared, hovering above my forearm. Shadowy hands reached up from the circle below and brought a silver chalice to catch my blood.
Then the dagger began carving, cutting deep into my flesh. The incisions continued until the chalice was full.
I looked at my arm and saw the inscription. Homo Fuge.
When I came to, a black presence towered over me.
"You need to sign with your blood, before we continue."
I took a quill and dipped it into black, congealed blood. I signed my name.
"And now the let banquet begin," the Voice declared.
Lovely goddesses pranced, depicting the Seven Deadly Sins. I was handed a chalice of wine.
"What is your name?" I asked the gigantic dark being.
"Mephistopheles," he thundered. "Do you like this spectacle?" He gestured to the pageant of the Seven Deadly Sins.
"Yes," I gushed, "I've committed every one of them,"
The wine flowed. The girls swirled. The music played.
The night was filled with music and devilish abandon. I committed every sin, over and over again—seven times seven and would have heaped up even more judgment on my head had the dawn not broken and the demons fled away.
I spent the day preparing a list of questions for Mephistopheles to answer and a list of places for him to transport me round the world.
I would demand invisibility and invulnerability. I would have him summon the world's beauties for my harem and the most evil of the human damned that I might inquire and learn their motives and acquire their lusts.
But above all, I wanted power and absolute control—now and evermore—to rule with an iron fist unyielding, unconscionable and entirely malevolent to the core.
Mephistopheles, however, stymied me at every turn. Yes, he yielded up earth's secrets, but refused to talk of Astrophysics or answer my questions about the universe's origins.
One day an old man passing in the street, spied me and saw into my soul. He warned me, prophesying my immolation. He held out a skinny arm in my direction, pronouncing my doom.
I ordered him consumed with Greek fire. His skeletal arms were turned to white bones in an all-consuming conflagration. In the end, not even ashes were left.
When Eli grew concerned, I assured him I was safe. I waved my blood covenant under his nose. He went white.
"Have you read this Simon—Do you know what it says?"
I scoffed. "It promises me immunity for seven long years and afterwards, a throne in hell."
Eli shook his head. "This is not poetical language—it guarantees you immunity for only seven days—it expires on the 4/20 anniversary."
I glanced at the calendar. It was April 19th.
"There must be a mistake," I shouted. Eli's face was overshadowed. I turned to see an immense pillar of fire towering behind me, but it gave off no visible light. It was a vortex of madly spinning winds and out of the whirlwind a voice spoke.
"You have until midnight, Simon—and then the contract is fulfilled."
"But you tricked me," I protested.
The great cyclone spun and lifted into the heavens amid a great babble of voices and mocking laughter.
I felt the sky above me harden and an iron lid clamp down.
"I'm doomed, Eli," I cried.
"No Simon, there's still time—repent."
I stared at him as if he lost all reason.
"I made my decision. Now, leave me to await my fate."
I watched Eli reluctantly obey and then I withdrew to my study—the place that had been my refuge and comfort—but the cheery fire and book-lined shelves now offered no solace.
The grandfather clock in the corner chimed the hour—six hours before my contract expired.
Was there no hope at all for me—no possibility of redemption?
How could I ask—how could I bend my knee to a God I mocked and deserted?
I forced myself to kneel down, to clasp my palms as I had in my youth, to lift my heart and mind to God.
My prayers rose no higher than the ceiling.
The walls were filled with shadows, with shifting shapes. Gargoyle faces stared at me from the wallpaper. The floorboards fell hot beneath.
I could sense the black roiling flames of hell rising to engulf me. I could sense the clutching arms of demons pulling at my clothes, pinching at my legs, itching to drag me down.
Again, the clock chimed and again I tried to pray, but my brain was feverish and racing—images flooded my mind.
I sought tears, but my eyes were dry—sorrow but my heart was hard—pity but my spirit was cold.
I heaped logs upon the fire. I turned up the lamps. I consulted my magic books—to no avail.
By the eleventh hour, I was desperate and terror-filled. The sky outside my window was filled with shrieks and groans and innumerable hordes of demon forms. I closed my eyes and saw red eyes. I looked at my feet and saw cloven hooves.
In my despair I cried out to heaven and reached for the Bible only to have it dissolve into a myriad of tear-soaked flakes and run through my fingers.
A wild thought occurred to me—my scrying globe by which Mephistopheles showed me the future.
I ran to the podium and clutched the orb—"Show me tomorrow," I commanded.
The globe filled with swirling clouds and twisting mists. Gradually, the vision cleared.
It showed my study the following day. Eli and Valdes hammering at my door. They broke it down and entered my chamber.
The fire in the grate was cold and gray. In the middle of the floor lay my dismembered corpse—torn limb from limb.