story of Hell; based on Steven Brust's "To Reign in Hell"; written in 2007, revised 2018
Satan sat in his big, onyx chair, swirling the wine in his chalice.
What to do, what to do, he thought with a heavy sigh, gently nudging the platinum crown. It was still coated in the black carbon set on by the fires in which it was forged. There is so much to be done when nothing exists. I don't even know where to begin.
He rose to his feet and paced the main hall. Ever since Satan had fallen through The Rift, things had been pretty dull, not to mention lonely. Lilith opted to remain in Heaven with Lucifer, even after their little rendezvous in the forest, and Beelzebub, though still very alive in Satan’s mind, was long since dead. The new “angels”, it seemed, weren’t coming along as well as the ancients had. They knew nothing, not even their own names.
Well, isn’t this lovely, Satan scowled "It’s like a whole plane full of idiots. Michael would get along great with these infantile beings.
It had taken eons for him to completely rebuild his tower on the new plane. In this realm, the energy that composed the angels and gave them special abilities was minimal. One had to build from the raw materials that They, those from the outer planes, had indirectly supplied.
Satan swallowed the last sip of wine in his chalice and walked over to the large window that overlooked his garden. His pale-white skin glowed in the sunlight, just as it would have for any of the angels, but they would never notice unless they had seen the new breed. These beings were dark, like the moist, nutritious dirt they had risen from. Though he had never made contact, Satan watched these people wonder around in his garden every day, trying to understand the world around them and their place in it.
He scoffed as he watched a young girl wander into his garden and sit under his apple tree. She seemed puzzled, more puzzled than the others. More thoughtful and curious. Most of the beings who found their way to his corner of the realm only stayed long enough to see that there was nobody there and nothing of interest. Or, occasionally, they stood still long enough for an apple to fall on or near them, sending them running back the way they came, grunting and gesturing about the horrors that had befallen them beyond the gate of Satan's garden. This girl, however, seemed different.
That’s odd,Satan thought to himself, they usually don’t stay that long. He placed his chalice on a nearby table and quickly descended the spiral staircase that pierced through the center of the tower, and entered his garden to see that the girl was still there. She turned to see him standing at the edge of the garden and smiled. She was naked, as was everyone but Satan himself, and had long black hair. He wondered if she understood that she was naked and how those who were clothed felt about those without. They who remained above insisted on clothes, even if it meant only being scantily clad, as a means of propriety. He wondered if the clothed looked unfavorably on the unclothed out of pure envy. The freedom that nudity represented wasn't lost on Satan, but the dangers of walking around with naught for coverings, with the whole world able to touch all of you, were more than he could bring himself to accept.
But I suppose that, when you're unaware of the dangers around you, you act as though you are impenetrable, Satan thought. I'm not sure if that's the best plan any warlord has ever had or a crutch for the feeble-minded to stand on.
Satan smiled back at naked girl. She stood up and reached for an apple, like an infant begging for his pilfered toy. He looked up at the apples and then down at her.
“Those are not for you, dear,” he said soothingly, “Run along now.” She looked at him with sad, penetrating eyes for several moments and stood to leave. He watched her clumsily walk toward the gate and shook his head.
If you knew the horrible things that have happened and all of the evils of the world, you would wish you could be stupid again, thought Satan, but he couldn’t get those horrible, saddened eyes out of his mind. He wondered if she knew what it was she had wanted. Perhaps she was just hungry for the crisp, sweet fruit of the tree, completely unaware of the other effects of the apples. "He", the great creator who remained above with They, thought that this was the best way to give the new realm all of the knowledge they would need without the terrible plight of giving it all at the same time, before the new "angels" were ready. Satan often pondered if His reasoning was sound or if this was His way of side-stepping the whole thing. Placing the tree in Satan's garden was cruel to the new "angels" who feared Satan's gate, and not telling anyone, including Satan himself, when they would be ready was worse. What was he to do if they finally figured out how to ask for one? What if they came to him, thin and weary and begged for an apple from the tree? Who was he to say no? He had to make the call.
“Wait”, Satan called out to her. She turned and watched him pluck a shiny, red apple off of the tree. “Here,” he said as he tossed it to her. “Your funeral.”
A broad smile spread across her face, a silent 'Thank you" as Satan understood it, and took a big bite out of the apple.
He sat down under the tree and gestured for her to sit down as well. She came over plopped down beside him, still munching the apple vigorously. He waited for her to slow down before asking, “So, what’s your name?”
He hadn't realized how that question must have sounded. Names hadn't become important yet. The world was too small. Even more so, she hadn't been given a name. It was as though he was asking her to name herself using only what little she knew of the world and whatever knowledge the apple might have bestowed in the scant minutes leading up to his question. Still, she didn't seem afraid or offended by the question. She simply stopped and looked at him, her cheeks still full of the sweet fruit, golden juice dribbling down her chin. From amidst the trees, a bird called out a high-pitched shriek to its mate, and that made up her mind. She thought for a moment and nodded, “Yes, that’s it. My name is Eeeeeve.”
Satan chuckled. He knew she just tried to mimic the sound of the bird’s chirp so as to use it for her name, but ultimately decided that it wasn't his place to judge. It seemed to him that there was no wrong way to name someone or something that had yet to be named. The big He in the sky hadn't even named his creations, and if Satan was to remain among them, he needed to know what to call them.
“Eve, eh? My name is Satan,” he said, offering his right hand. Eve pondered his proffered hand and put her own right hand out in the same fashion. He chuckled and waved her hand away.
“Ah, forget it,” he said, “That’ll come later.” They sat under the tree and talked, occasionally pulling an apple down to eat, and this went on until the sunset. By nightfall, Eve knew all about Heaven and how the world was created, but Satan refused to send her away. He knew of the dangers that lurked in the darkness and offered Eve safe place to sleep within his little corner of the world. She gratefully accepted and followed him into the tower. He took her upstairs and showed her to his bedroom where she settled herself into Satan’s bed while he prepared his chair in the main hall to be his bed for the night.
“Thank you,” Eve said and she walked back into the bedroom. Satan nodded and continued fluffing his pillow.
It wasn't long after he had finished turning his throne into a great resting place and set his crown on a nearby table that a little voice echoed behind his ear.
“Satan”, the little voice called out to him, “What are you doing, Satan?" He briefly looked around, unfazed by his inability to find the source and fluffed his pillow again. He had encountered small fey like these before except, without Him looking over their shoulder, their natural tendency to be playful and cause trouble had begun to shine through. Most of their antics were benign, even funny, but why this one had come to him in the night piqued his curiosity.
“Redecorating,” he finally said sarcastically, “What’s it look like I’m doing?”
“It looks, to me, like you’re denying your inner-most desires”, the voice replied. “You shouldn’t waste such moments like this.”
Satan thought for a moment and smirked.
“You are a little daemonette, aren’t you? A little bit of the mischief, come to my rescue because I haven’t jumped into bed with this girl. Is that it?”
The ugly, little fairy flitted around a bit and finally said “Its prophecy. You must…” She trailed off into a whisper as she hovered closer to his ear. Satan laughed. He had never heard of such a ridiculous prophecy before in his life.
They would never stand for it, he thought, trying to push the idea out of his mind. The big Him especially, after everything we've been through.
The fairy fell silent but beckoned him with fey magics. It wasn't long before Satan’s mind fell to chaos. His mind raced with excuses for why it was totally okay for him to join her. After all, he hadn't been charged with watching over the new "angels." He'd simply been cast out of the above and landed among them. If They above really cared about these little fledglings, they would be here to watch over them, to comfort them, and to teach them how to be real, functioning people. And, with that thought, he marched up to the bedroom where Eve lay, still awake, and locked the door behind him.
The next morning, he awoke to the sounds of birds chirping. Eve was gone.
Uh oh, Satan thought, checking under the sheets and on his own body for blood. He wiped his mouth and looked at his hand, expecting to see Eve's blood, but it was only his own sweat.
Well, he thought, it wouldn’t be the first time…
He got up, dressed himself, and peered out the big window of his tower. Something didn't feel right. He just couldn't fathom why she would have crept away in the night. Certainly the fruit had blessed her with some knowledge, but she hadn't given him any reason to believe that she had been ashamed of their relationship, however brief it had been.
There she was, sitting under the apple tree again. He breathed a sigh of relief and smiled.
“So, this is your little piece of Terra?" A deep voice said from behind him. "What do you call this place, anyway?”
Satan's smile turned wry. He shook his head and replied, “Nehellania, after one of They who fell. Just ‘Hell’ for short...”
The greater being nodded with a look of satisfaction, eyeing the large, onyx throne.
“Hell,” he said, “I like it.”
Satan nodded and looked down at his feet, uneasy with His ability to not just look like but actually be anything he wanted to, including a long lost friend whom Satan missed dearly.
"So,” Satan started, ”What brings a…big, important guy like you down to a place like this?”
The man turned and looked Satan in the eye. It was then that Satan realized that He knew what had happened and was very displeased.
"You just couldn't handle it, could you?" He said. "I thought you might take this little 'opportunity' to improve yourself. Maybe start anew. But it would seem that you just can't stop meddling."
Satan stared at him incredulously for a moment to gather himself
"Oh, I'm sorry. I was unaware that Micheal's big foot kicking me through the rift was a symbol of my promotion to 'nanny.' Perhaps, if you'd like them to stay in line, you should--"
The being disappeared in a flash of light, and with that, the tower began to sink into earth. Satan, who had previously been unaware of the depths which he could sink, began to panic.
“Wait! No!” He screamed as he frantically ran from one side of the tower to the other. He stopped and looked out the window to see Eve kneeling down next to a small, green serpent. “Eve!” he cried. He watched at the window until a young man holding one of the apples walked up beside Eve and touched her on the shoulder. She looked up at him lovingly and smiled.
“What!?” He scowled at the passing window until it was no longer in sight.
The tower continued to sink until nothing but blackened fields and blood-red skies were all that could be seen through the magic-protected window. Satan immediately missed the plush greenery of the realm he had just been booted from. He even missed the unintelligent life forms that had been placed and, seemingly forgotten by Him.
"Eve," Satan sighed. He definitely missed her. The only being he had connected to since his expulsion from Heaven was literally a world away. Some part of them knew that they could never truly be together, but it was nice to play pretend for a short while.
Perhaps this isn’t so bad, he thought,I can live down here for a while, at least until I figure out how to get back up there.
Satan sighed and sat down in his big, onyx chair. He gently balanced his crown atop his horns, opened a nearby bottle of wine, and tipped it over his chalice. A single drop fell from the lip of the bottle. It was the sound of the drop splattering against the inside of the empty chalice that drove him into madness once more. That's how he tells it, anyway.