Funny Stories

The Devil and the Saint 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 g-go yourself?"
"No!" replied the Devil, "That light is the light of an awakened man. My propaganda minister has his claws full inciting religious wars, racial hatred, pussy envy and the attractions of game shows and anal sex. Anyway, my smooth tongue, wicked sense of humour and boyish good-looks would be a dead giveaway. No, you will go and if you succeed I may overlook your recent failures. I may even let you handle my new advertising campaign."

"Advertising c-c-campaign, master?"
"Big G". Twelve souls locked in a house for three weeks while the whole world votes which one to evict. The winner gets 500 million pounds and gets to rule the world for a week. They'll do anything for their fifteen minutes of fame; lie, cheat, sleep with their own mothers, and endure days of verbal and mental abuse from complete strangers. Now take this bag of tricks and bugger off!"

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 strong points.
The Prince of Darkness’ boot connected sharply with his servant's scaly bottom, and the next moment the reluctant emissary found himself hurled violently upwards. He rolled, he tumbled, he spun, tightly gripping his travelling bag of tricks; up through the mephitic vapours and mists, until he was roughly precipitated into the dazzling light he had glimpsed from Hell.

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.
Beelzebub, who invented snake-oil salesmen, had not missed a detail of his servant's impressive ensemble. From his hand made Gucci shoes, through the razor-sharp creases in his cavalry twills, to his Armani blazer and 22ct gold, Rolex wristwatch, the satanic imp was every inch the epitome of 21st century American style and probity. The discerning nose of the Saint however, was not fooled, and twitched involuntarily at the odour of brimstone that emanated from the hellish huckster. Yet he, too had a sense of humour and did not want to disillusion this child from Hell.

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.
"You have something to sell?" asked the Saint with a kindly smile.
"N-n-not s-s-ell, sir, g-g-gifts."
The radiance of this man was altogether too unsettling and made his head swim.
"Gifts!" exclaimed the Saint. "You are most kind."
"B-b-but not from me," stammered the imp. He had no intention of taking the blame if his master's plot failed. That's the sort of team-spirit that prevails in Hell. "A g-g-good friend sent me."
"A friend?" murmured the Saint thoughtfully. "Does he know me? Where are these gifts?"

"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!"
But the Saint was chuckling softly to himself. "No, my friend, I hear the croaking of toads and the chatter of monkeys and the north wind whistling through empty tenements. Is this your gift? The hypocrisy of the world of men in a bottle?"
And the imp, raging in his black heart and growing uneasy, watched as the Saint dispersed the flatteries with a wave of his hand.

"It w-was just an experiment, your holiness!" blustered the imp.
"A somewhat childish one," retorted the Saint with a laugh.
"I have other gifts."
Now the imp released his master's traditional temptations from their bottles. False humility, followed rapidly by self-righteousness, bigotry, greed, envy and vanity. But the Saint only smiled in his calm fashion and the temptations disappeared in a swirl of angry smoke and were no more.
Now the imp became desperate; he spread a veritable cornucopia of tasty temptations before his victim—every dish laced with the most exquisite pleasures self-indulgence could imagine and seasoned with the aroma of a thousand forbidden fruits. The Saint remained unmoved. The imp gave a sudden yelp of anguish as Beelzebub, who was of course watching from below, squeezed his hellish credentials in a fit of pique.

The Saint, who by now had fathomed the plot and the play, nodded sympathetically.
"In pain, are we? Can I help you?"
"Just a—t-twinge from an old wound," replied the imp, writhing in agony. He shuddered and tried desperately to collect his scattered wits. He had come to corrupt, not to be saved. Beelzebub would have his nuts on a plate and degrade him to the lowest Hell if he even so much as thought of redemption.
"The air here is an excellent restorative," said the Saint kindly.

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.
But the imp was unaccustomed to such rarified conditions and coughed into his silk handkerchief. The pure light burned his beady black eyes; it dazzled the murky thoughts that drifted in the void between his horns. The clamour and the noise of his cosy home were missing; this silent peacefulness were unbearable to him. 'Beelzebub—you, y-you lousy bast—' he muttered. But his satanic master was in constant touch—in a very real way—and merely tightened his grip on the demon's throbbing genitalia. The imp stared wildly into the kindly eyes of his victim.
"I—I have brought a friend." he croaked.
"A friend?" asked the Saint.
"A—y-young la-l-lady friend," the imp replied. "She is behind that tree; shall I fetch her?"
"By all means," said the Saint.

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.
She was sex on a stick. So bewilderingly, delicately lovely that the Saint stepped backwards in surprise. A movement not lost on the Imp who bared his fangs in a leering grin and rubbed his hands together. Her diaphanous dress clung deliciously to her tanned thighs and swelling bosom and her long, dark hair framed two smouldering eyes which regarded the Saint with undisguised longing. She was like a heavenly virgin arrayed for her bridegroom, subtly holy yet wickedly moist. An adoring devotee ready to throw herself at the feet of any Saint and transport him to paradise. Only her perfume; cloying and sweetly corrupt, spoiled the spell. That was the one flaw in the Devil's enchantment; the unmistakable seal his satanic nature had stamped upon the cock-hungry little slut.

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 victory.
"At bloody last!" he roared inwardly, triumphantly recalling the nursery rhymes he had heard when he was an imp-in-arms on Beelzebub's knee; tales of desert hermits who'd had their very souls sucked out of them by lithe-limbed young sirens not half as hot as this sensuous beauty. You have to remember that the imp was a complete stranger to virtue. Satan had one use for women and one use only, and it wasn't washing the dishes. The Hellish messenger licked his lascivious lips with his leathery tongue and lost himself in visions of the naked saint cavorting on a bed of writhing adders as Beelzebub's secret weapon sucked every last drop of virtue from his lily-livered soul.

But the Saint turned to him with reproof in his piercing eyes:
"Young man," he said softly, "I do not know by what tricks you have brought this young woman here, but she is so very lovely, she must be protected from unworthy hands."
"The sly old perve," muttered the grinning Imp to himself. "I would most willingly leave her between your—er—in your hands, Your Munificentness," he replied smoothly, "She will be only too eager to serve you in your—er—h-holy devotions."
"On the contrary," replied the saint. "She will make an excellent companion for my wife."
"W-w-wife!" spluttered the demon. Outrage and alarm were blended in equal measure in his tone. The imp trembled from the tip of his horns to the soles of his sulphurous feet. This man was unholy. A fraud; openly revealing his weakness for a mate.
"My darling," called the Saint, "We have a visitor."

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.
"My SUPREME succuba!" He bellowed. "The Queen of Seduction and Mistress of Unholy Vice degraded to a common kitchen slut?! Imp!" he commanded imperiously, "give him the greatest of all temptations, and if you fail, you can kiss more than your arse goodbye!"

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.
"My most exclusive sample, Sir. In here is the power to give you dominion over every force of nature. Here—take it!"
"No, thank you," replied the Saint.
"Just watch me, Sir," continued the Imp. "I will first demonstrate some of the lesser powers, such as massive earthquakes, tidal waves, stock market crashes and a really devastating world-wide AIDS epidemic—"

"—A most unpleasant bottle," interrupted the Saint, and stopped the Imp from uncorking the phial.
The Imp stared dumbfounded at his victim and then realised that his eagerness had revealed his true intentions. He trembled from horn to heel at the thought of what Beelzebub would do to him.
"Only in the hands of the evilly intentioned," he blustered. "In y-your h-hands all would be well. Think of the g-g-good you could do!" He stumbled over the word as though it were an impassable obstacle to his vocal chords. "No more d-disease, no wars, no misery, no death, riches beyond imagining!"

"And no life," added the Saint quietly. "Changelessness is as bad as chaos."
"B-but, most honoured sir, think! You could change the world for the b-b-better." This word seemed to give him almost as much difficulty as the previous one, but he struggled bravely on. "You could become the b-b-beneficent emperor of the Earth. Worship and applause from every tongue. Obedience from every creature. Everyone would love you! Your k-k-kind, k-kindn, kindne, ne, ne, your iron will—would rule every mind and every heart."

"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 man."
"But," continued the Saint, "has he acquired all this honestly?"
The imp winced, then in a flash of evil cunning replied: "Sir, he may have obtained some of his, er—treasures—from thieves, but in a thoroughly honest manner."
The Saint, who appreciated the imp's subtlety, sadly murmured: "Alas, few men can resist the Devil's blandishments," adding aloud: "Would you make me a thief, too? I will now reveal a little of MY magic to you, and then you can tell me if I should take up your Master's kind offer."
Then, in that high place, where the fragrant airs brought peace to the heart and joy to the mind, the Saint challenged Beelzebub through his imp.

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?"
There was no reply. The imp had vanished. Only the faint odour of sulphur and cheap aftershave revealed the small salesman's disappearance.

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.
"You're warped! Hopelessly warped!" he yelled, and kicked the poor wretch down into the deepest pits of Hell.

© 2005. Mercedes Dannenberg. All rights reserved.

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