by Arnold Snyder
A week later, Uncle Luke called a meeting at his house for what he said was the “bust-out crew,” which consisted of him, me, Brandi, and fellow weredevil Brent. I’d never met Brent before the lunch meeting with Uncle Luke at Donny’s Grill, and we didn’t say much more than a few words of introduction there. I was glad Brandi was going to be part of it, whatever it was.
I was having serious doubts about Uncle Luke’s plans to free all the humans from Hell. A hundred billion people? In high rises? Impossible. And where would the food come from?
I walked the mile from my house to Uncle Luke’s, trying to guess what exactly this meeting would be about.
Brandi, Brent and Uncle Luke were sitting in Uncle Luke’s living room drinking soft drinks and eating potato chips when I arrived.
“Unc,” I said, “is it true I was once a regular human being?”
“Yes, Sebastian, you were once a human being, created by God to live on this Earth, which you did, until you died and went to Hell, like all humans do. Same with Brent and all the weredevils. Now grab yourself a drink from the refrigerator and come sit down.”
“When did that happen, Unc? I don’t remember anything about it.”
“Long ago. Now, are you going to have a seat and join us or just stand there all day? Don’t you want something to drink?”
The best part about hanging around Uncle Luke was the never-ending soft drinks and potato chips. I went to the kitchen and got a ginger ale, then returned and sat down next to Brent on the couch.
“And Lola too?” I said.
Uncle Luke looked at me for a moment like he didn’t understand the question, then said, “Yes, your sister was also a human once. As were all of the children of the devils. The adult devils you see were all among the original Cherubim. But all the devils your age and younger were once humans who died and went to Hell. I got you all out of Hell by getting your souls into newborn devils. As soon as I had all the Cherubim out of Hell and onto Earth, I started working on getting the humans out.”
“I still don’t get how you got all the Cherubim out of Hell,” I said. “What kind of parents did my parents have?”
“Your parents didn’t have parents, Sebastian. Nor did yours, Brent. Nor yours, Brandi. Your parents and all of the Cherubim, including me, came directly to Earth as snakes. God granted us the ability to transform our appearance to either snake or human, not as any favor to us, but because he wanted to bring a plague of devils onto the planet to torment the humans. He thought it would scare the living shit out of humans if some of the people around them regularly turned into very large serpents.
But we learned pretty quickly to stay out of snake form when humans are in the vicinity. We had to learn human languages and customs on our own, but humans are simple to mimic because they’re really all just mimicking each other.
“Did I live here in Strait City?” I said, “back when I was a regular human?”
“Oh, no, that was long before Strait City existed.”
“How long ago?”
“Almost four thousand years.”
“Can I ask a question?” Brent said. “How dangerous is it, what we’re doing?”
“Very,” Uncle Luke said.
“On a scale of one to ten?” Brent said.
“I wish it were on a scale of one to ten,” Uncle Luke said. “Those are finite numbers and the consequences of our actions could be eternal.” He turned back to me. “I have a general policy against telling our devil children about their former human lives because they’re irrelevant. In your case, Sebastian, I’ll make an exception, just to demonstrate how irrelevant. Life on Earth was different when you were a human, Sebastian. You starved to death at the age of seven months. Starving to death is not a quick death—you were starving from the day you were born. You were starving in your mother’s womb before that. It took you seven months outside the womb to give up all hope. Your mother lived in squalor. She felt the same pain you felt. And starving is painful. It’s amazing you lasted that long. Then you went to Hell.”
“Just like that? I was a screaming starving baby for seven months and then I go to Hell?”
“It was a primitive world you were born into.”
“I was in Hell for four thousand years and I can’t even remember it? How could I forget that?”
“I don’t know, Sebastian. You and your sister are among the first devils we’ve created on Earth to reach puberty, and none of the weredevils have any memories of their prior human lives or their time in Hell. It’s just as well in my opinion. Those memories won’t serve you now.”
“What about me, Uncle Luke?” Brent said. “Was I in Hell for a zillion years?”
“No, Brent,” Uncle Luke said. “You were only in Hell for a few weeks when I got you out.”
“Where did I live?” he said.
“I don’t want to say too much,” Uncle Luke said. “I’ve probably already said too much. You died in a motorcycle accident in California about fifteen years ago. You were being chased by the police at the time. Very high speed. It wasn’t a pretty ending for you.”
“Are the cops who were chasing me still alive?”
Uncle Luke scowled at him. “That’s all I’m saying. I don’t know much more than that and I’m not going to look into it. I shouldn’t have said as much as I did. Violating my own policies. But as you can see, it’s utterly irrelevant to your current life and situation. Let’s change the subject. Let’s talk about our upcoming project.”
“Wait a minute,” Brandi said. “You have to tell me about who I was when I was a human,” Brandi said. “You told the boys, so you have to tell me.”
“I never should have said a word about this. My mistake. But just to be fair, you were a prostitute in London in the nineteenth century. You blackmailed a local merchant into marrying you and he poisoned you on your wedding night.”
“Yuck, that sounds awful,” she said. “But how did we get from Hell to Earth? Is this a different body than I had back then?”
Uncle Luke looked exasperated with this line of questioning. “This is for your ears only. All of you. I released—or I should say—I escorted your human souls to Earth and instilled you into a developing devil fetus in human form—the zygote that was growing in your mother’s womb.
“Now I’ve seen you pass from infancy to childhood to adolescence, and through your first snake transformations—and so far, none of you has remembered any of your origins. I’m hoping you’ll never remember.”
“I’ll bet I’d have some good memories,” Brent said. “What kind of bike was it?”
“That wasn’t a detail I paid attention to. But whatever kind of bike it was, it wasn’t worth two weeks in Hell. You’ve had some brief forays into the edges of Hell recently, forays that would measure out to a few seconds time all total. What would you think of spending a couple weeks in Hell, while being under the impression that this was your eternity and that there would be no reprieve?”
With his mouth agape, Brent stared at Uncle Luke as if frozen for an uncomfortably long moment, then said, “It would have to be a Harley.”
Uncle Luke threw a potato chip at him.
“Now, we are going to begin our project to get all of the humans out of Hell,” Uncle Luke said, “and you three are going to be my bust-out crew. We’re starting today.”
“Let me get this straight,” I said. “We’re going to Hell to get human souls to put into devil fetuses here on Earth? How do you put a soul into a fetus?”
“Not a fetus, Sebastian, a zygote. But you’re getting ahead of yourself and ahead of me, because that’s not what we’re doing. We’re taking a shortcut. I believe there is a faster method of saving human souls than the human reproduction process on Earth. So, the human soul we’re going for is a very special one. He understands humans on a deep level. Biology. Psychology. He can help us accomplish our goals much quicker than we could do it without him.”
“But humans are way dumber than devils, Uncle Luke,” Brent said. “I asked the other weredevils and all of us get all A’s in school and none of us ever studies or does any homework. Humans are dumb. How can any dead human help us? What’s so special about this first human we’re busting out of Hell?”
“You’re not really smarter than humans, Brent. You guys are just nerds. And this isn’t just any dead human we’re going for. We’re going into the deepest depths of Hell. We’re going to bust out Jesus.”
“Jesus?” I said. “Jesus is in Hell?”
“Yes, and if we can get him back to Earth, he can work miracles for us.”
“Jesus?” I said again. “The Jesus? Isn’t Jesus in Heaven? I thought Jesus was God!”
“No, Sebastian, Jesus is the son of God.”
“You mean God sent Jesus to Hell?” Brandi said. “His only begotten son?”
“Of course he did. He hates Jesus more than any of the humans he created, even more than he hates devils. I’m telling you that whole family is a damn soap opera. God takes this innocent teenage girl, a virgin yet, and he has his way with her. She has no say in the matter. The poor child. Her fiancé almost abandons her, but they’re in dire poverty, sleeping outdoors. They have a shotgun wedding, or the Roman equivalent. And here comes baby Jesus with all these magical powers. He’s God’s kid. He’s got God in his genes. God’s the one who invented this whole DNA system so he should have known the little bastard would have a lot of his father’s traits—including the power to work miracles. Omnipotence. Omniscience. It’s just science. Logic. But God hates the kid. On Earth, he has him set up to be tortured and murdered and sends him directly into the deepest region of Hell where his miracles won’t work, and he’s been there for two thousand years.”
“Geez, Unc, the nuns have it so wrong,” I said. “If they knew God did that to Jesus they’d be so mad.”
“Forget the nuns, Sebastian. They’re not part of this equation. If we can get Jesus out of Hell, he’s the only one who can help us figure out how to get the other hundred billion souls out, and where to put them all once we have them here.”
“And you think Jesus is going to create high-rises?”
“It’s logic, Sebastian. Science. But I’ll go with whatever ideas he has. He’s smarter than any of us and he may have some other solution that’s beyond our capabilities. He might have other planets available. Granted, I’ve only met the man a few times while he was walking the Earth on his last—most unfortunate—visit, but I recall him to be a man of character. I’m willing to bet that if we save Jesus, Jesus will save us.”
“How do we get him out?” Brent asked.
“It’s going to take all four of us,” Uncle Luke said. “He’s not just a soul. We have to save his physical body. And to do that, I’m going to escort you three to Hell in your physical bodies.”
“You mean our human bodies?” Brandi said.
“Yes, because Jesus is in his human body. Right now, in the deepest level of Hell, Jesus is in a never-ending loop. We have to wait until he finishes a circuit through the loop and comes out in his original body until we take him.”
“What do you mean a ‘loop’?” I said.
“He keeps experiencing the same violations to his body over and over, with the last violation returning him to his original human form, only to start the sequence of horrors again. And he’s been doing this for two thousand years. We’ll have to physically extract Jesus from the torture chamber where he’s captive, and carry him from Hell to Earth. That’s easier said than done. I’ll be shielding the three of you from all of Hell’s tortures. To do that I have to envelop all of you inside myself. I won’t be in a physical body. That’s the only way I can protect your bodies from the fires of Hell so that you can grab Jesus and we can get him the hell out of there.”
Go to Chapter Thirteen . . .