[Note: This is yet another short story I wrote a few years ago and never got around to editing. Well, ’tis the season to post it. Although I swear my style got better. Really. Eventually I also started editing. Like, really. I swear. *sigh*]
It was Christmas, celebrated all around Earth – and in Heaven, of course. As for elsewhere…
If you believe for a single second that the devils don’t celebrate Christmas, you are, well, right, actually. They keep very quiet about it. Not even a mouse would dare speak about it to the Almighty Fiend, Lucifer. The sole exception to this unspoken rule had happened a few years back on the occasion of a Satanically spiked MTV “Merry Christmas” video which had seemed like a good idea for a few hours. Until it became obvious that it had been a pointless endeavor – those who watched MTV regularly had been mostly unaffected, those who didn’t had had their opinions on the low quality of the station confirmed and, generally, it had been a fruitless fiasco.
You didn’t talk to Lucifer on Christmas. It was the same as going to him on Easter, patting him on the back and saying “There, there, mate. Anybody would have thought that killing Jesus was a good idea. I mean, the heroic self-sacrifice was just a fluke because God is a—nrghya” (Lucifer would never let you continue).
On this particular Eve, the devil was walking on Earth through a snowstorm he had just conjured around an airport. It cheered him up to see other people despair. However, his spirits were considerably dampened when saw a familiar figure come towards him. He was beautiful, this newcomer, so much so that those who saw him forgot their lives and left their bodies willingly behind. He would have been such a useful ally, but the bastard had stayed faithful.
“Malach HaMavet,” Lucifer said, the Hebrew words rolling off his tongue naturally, not a twitch of his eyebrow betraying any emotion. “The angel of death. What do you want?”
“Good evening, Lucifer, light-bringer. I have a shorter name. It is Azrael, as you well know.”
“We haven’t been on familiar terms since nearly the dawn of time.”
“Even so, we used to be friends. And as such, I am here to warn you.”
“Warn me? Of what? Is there any way in which I can possibly be on worse terms with the divinity? Are you launching an attack now, of all times?” A cold, biting wind that would have frozen the heart in the chest of men blew threateningly against the angel of death. Azrael did not budge.
“I am here to tell you that, should you not stop doing evil deeds, you will suffer the Wrath of Heaven mightily.”
Lucifer was not impressed. “Oh, really? As opposed to being invited over for the holidays, as I am now?”
Azrael shrugged. “Metatron is the usual envoy, but you and he were never close. So they sent me. I was told that my coming was more appropriate.” He cleared his throat and tried to do an impression of the angel who was the Voice of God. “Oh, cease the wrongdoing on the night of the Nativity, for much wail ‘n woe will fall upon thou if thou shalt not.”
“More ‘wail ‘n woe’ than being sentenced to eternal hell, Malach HaMavet?”
Azrael sighed, acknowledging defeat as a messenger. He usually only saw people once and he didn’t have to awe them. “The greatest minds in heaven drank too much punch tonight. This really is a warning. Stop doing evil things.”
“Fuck off, angel.”
Azrael shrugged and left. Lucifer made the snowstorm just a bit stronger before he realized that his heart wasn’t it in anymore and left to find something better to do.
Two hours later he was in Japan, enjoying the fact that the majority of the population had no clue what Christmas was supposed to be about and celebrated it by giving each other gifts. Lucifer had ensured beforehand that most people would received things they hadn’t wanted at all and now he was reaping the fruit of that endeavor. While smiling upon a young woman who had opened a box that contained a fetish nurse’s outfit only to burst into tears, he felt footsteps behind him and turned, his smile turning into a frown.
“You stick to tradition, don’t you, Lucifer? People tend to call me Gabriel now.”
Modernized pronunciation? He wasn’t impressed. “Same difference. What do you want?”
“I… am the Ghost of Christmas Past,” Gabriel said solemnly. Lucifer studied him for a few seconds, trying to determine whether the angel was taking himself seriously. His only connection to the Nativity of Christ was…
“No, you’re not,” the devil said. “You’re the Ghost of Conceivity Past.”
Gabriel gave a little embarrassed cough. “It’s called ‘Annunciation’.”
“So I have heard.” Lucifer almost made a tasteless joke about what spirit had actually impregnated Mary, just to see how the angel would react to it, but then decided against it, seeing that Gabriel had decided to perform a miracle. The angel had waved his hand around and they were transported into the past, on the Eve of the actual birth of the Son of God. Lucifer sighed. Oooh, he could definitely see where this was going. He’d read his Dickens. And to think that all he’d wanted for Christmas was mayhem and to be left alone…
“Behold, oh, you, Archenemy of the World,” Gabriel said in his pleasant voice which grated on Lucifer’s nerves. “On this most holiest of nights the Messiah is born and He-”
“Is there a point to this, Jibrail?” The archangel paid him no heed.
“-through His sacrifice will purge the world of sin-”
“He didn’t do so well, actually. Sin still exists. I’m in charge of it.”
“-both the mortal world and the underworld now getting a chance at redemption. Be joyful, Lucifer, for He is your savior, too, and on this most holiest of nights, God is willing to grant you forgiving if you’d only repent and return!”
Lucifer made a gesture as if to take a cigarette out of a pack while he listened to Gabriel go on. He lit the non-existent cigarette with a non-existent lighter, inhaled air through rounded lips, then blew some very real cigarette smoke in Gabriel’s nose, making him cough and splutter.
“Bad bye, Jibrail. I’m out of here.”
“There’s worse to come, Lucifer! You cannot escape!”
“Fuck off, angel.”
Deciding that the only place where he could escape Heaven was probably in his tower in Hell, Lucifer resigned himself to reading bad poetry for the rest of the night. He hated Heaven. He really did. He’d have preferred to be out and about messing things up, but they were being difficult. Still, horrid poetry was a good past-time.
Between the Holy Christmas and the Evening Star,
I hopped with my family into a nice, red car.
And because my wife has no sense of direction,
I’ll guide myself by a solar erection.
Lucifer penned a praising letter to the author. It would convince the man that he was a genius and needed to be acknowledged as such. Sheer evilness. He loved himself.
Outside his tower, demons paused in whatever they were doing as a flying sleigh flew down from the general direction of the sky and rushed in the sound of bells towards the tower. With the insight only allowed to those under tyrannical rule since the dawn of time, they scattered in all directions, hiding in fear, leaving hell empty for once (except for the sinners, who found themselves not tortured for the first time they could remember).
In his inner sanctuary, the Archenemy looked up to find that he had a chimney. And through the chimney came a tall, thin man with a Byzantine hairstyle and a long, red coat, a huge sack on his back.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” Lucifer muttered. “Nikolaos of Myra.”
“They call me Santa now,” the man answered.
‘Not with that slim waist and haircut they don’t,’ Lucifer thought, but didn’t say it out loud. “Fancy to see that you really act as a gift-giver! But, say, why aren’t you actually delivering gifts to kids? It’s the night for it.”
“I deliver spiritual gifts, Lucifer, light-bringer.”
The Archenemy burst out laughing. “I’ll call you Santa, alright. The anagram suits you well. You’re evil. Poor children everywhere dream of food and hot chocolate and warm clothes and you give them the right to carol. Smooth, Heaven. Real smooth.”
Santa Claus didn’t answer that. Instead, he did what he had been sent to do. He waved his arms about and the air was purified, smelling of a Christmas Tree instead of fire and pain. Lucifer felt a pang of joy in his heart and heard the sound of the angels singing in heaven again. For a few seconds, he remembered his old life, as God’s favorite, walking through the world, shining stronger than any other being ever created. He remembered the glory and bliss and rightness of it all. With effort, he pushed it away.
“I hate you,” he declared.
“For this one night, Lucifer, if you should seek redemption, you shall find it. This is God’s gift to you on the occasion of His Son’s birthday.”
“I still hate you.”
“Good bye and a Merry Christmas to you! Ho, ho, ho!”
Santa Claus disappeared up the chimney, then the chimney disappeared, then Lucifer waved the fresh air away. If he was correct in his assumption, there was only one more person to face. Well, he wouldn’t make it easy for them, whoever they were.
It was an unusually cold day for Mars. Not that Lucifer cared much. The atmosphere wasn’t breathable, being composed of 95.32% carbon dioxide, but, again, Lucifer wasn’t paying enough attention to give a damn. He just wanted the bloody Christmas over with already.
He saw the third person coming. “You’ve got to be kidding,” he said.
“Happy holidays, Lucifer!”
“Jesus of Nazareth, am I sorry to have killed you.”
Jesus smiled blissfully at him. “That’s alright, dear one. It had its place in the great scheme of things.”
Lucifer lit a particularly noxious cigarette and kept it burning through sheer force of will, contributing his own share to the toxicity of the planet’s air. “Precisely.”
“Look around you, friend,” Jesus said. The devil wondered why heaven was always so buddy-buddy with everyone. He didn’t feel himself to be Jesus’s friend at all, except in the sense that everything he ever did was twisted so as to be for a divine purpose. But that’s heaven for you. “If you had your way, Earth would look like Mars. This is the future that you long for, that you strive for. Is this what you want?”
Lucifer looked around at the barren lands, the toxic atmosphere, the quiet of a complete lack of life. It was empty and unexciting, no fights were necessary over this piece of rock. He threw away his cigarette and lit himself another one. “Yes.”
“But this is death, empty, barren! It’s abandoned and no souls are to be had.”
“Good. That will stop my troupes from getting distracted while training for the next battle with yours.”
Jesus and Lucifer looked at each other for a long while. The devil challenged Jesus with everything he had to say something about Scrooge, redemption and so on and so forth. The Son of God accepted the challenge.
“I am the path – come and you shall be saved,” He said.
“Do you know that joke they have?” Lucifer said, conversationally. “About me and you as computer programmers?”
Jesus shook His head and smiled even more. He seemed to be radiating joy and happiness. The devil thought that nobody had a right to be as overinflated with cheer because it was their own birthday.
“We fight to be the first to create the best software ever. The battle is very tense, we’re neck to neck, doing our best to type faster and win. However, when we’re nearly done, the lights go out. When they’re back on, I start retyping everything, but you win two minutes afterwards. The moral?… ‘Jesus saves’.” The Messiah started chuckling with just a bit too much mirth for the humor of the joke, Lucifer felt. “Your obsessive-compulsive soul-gathering is the laughing stock of humanity. Jesus saves, indeed. You can’t get your eyes off of me. If only you could save the devil, eh?”
“The moral, Lucifer, dearest, is another one.”
“That you are known to be a bit… sloppy. Not paying attention.”
“Come and I will save you,” Jesus intoned. It sounded like a song.
“What? That’s a half-assed attempt, Son of God. You could have done better. But the result would have been the same. See you never, hopefully.”
Jesus left. Lucifer blew out some more smoke, then realized the trial was over and he allowed himself to feel smug. The magic of Santa Claus, Jesus and Christmas, combined with that of “A Christmas Carol” hadn’t been enough to save him. Nothing ever would.
Lucifer went home on Christmas Day, feeling actually happy. Heaven had fucked off, the Nativity was over and things could go back to business as usual, more or less. Sure, there was still a bit of holiday to deal with, but that was going to end soon.
He opened the gates of Hell and found it… empty. The damned were peacefully comforting each other, out of their tar pits and torture devices. That was just wrong. Lucifer growled. Looking up into the world, he saw that his devils were not there, either. The world was uncommonly peaceful and safe.
He cursed and swore, pushed the damned back into their tar pits, screamed and raged for his subjects, but they had all been hiding ever since they had seen Saint Nicholas as Santa Claus descending in a flying sleigh. For a very good reason, it seemed to them as they felt Lucifer’s rage no matter how far they were. They disappeared even deeper into their nooks and crannies, or they tried to blend in even more when they were hiding in plain sight in all the corners of the world. They’d eventually have to go back to hell, but all of them thought it would be best if they were to be the last to slip in, unnoticed if possible.
Lucifer went to his tower, blowing smoke like a train engine and plopped into a chair, ready to plan something horrid when he saw the letter on his desk.
Divine plans always succeed, regardless which possible outcome you choose. We appreciate your allowing the world to spend this holiest of nights in peace and happiness and thank you profoundly. The world appreciates this as a truly silent and holy night. What evil may have been caused was soon fixed by our people, whom you so graciously allowed to interfere.
Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year,
Jesus Christ, John Milton, Douglas Adams, Gabriel, Azrael, Santa Claus, Mulla Nasrudin, Terry Pratchett &al.