I lucifer, p.1
Also by Glen Duncan
Copyright © 2002 by Glen Duncan
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First published in Great Britain in 2002 by
Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster UK, Ltd.,
This Grove Press edition is published by special arrangement with
Simon & Schuster UK, Ltd.
Printed in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Duncan, Glen, 1965–
I, Lucifer / Glen Duncan.
1. Demoniac possession—Fiction. 2. London (England)—Fiction. 3.
Screenwriters—Fiction. 4. Devil—Fiction. I. Title.
an imprint of Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
New York, NY 10003
Distributed by Publishers Group West
08 09 10 11 12 15 14 13 12 11 10
For Kim, with love
I, Lucifer, Fallen Angel, Prince of Darkness, Bringer of Light, Ruler of Hell, Lord of the Flies, Father of Lies, Apostate Supreme, Tempter of Mankind, Old Serpent, Prince of This World, Seducer, Accuser, Tormentor, Blasphemer, and without doubt Best Fuck in the Seen and Unseen Universe (ask Eve, that minx) have decided – oo-lala! – to tell all.
All? Some. I’m toying with that for a title: Some. Got a post-millennial modesty to it, don’t you think? Some. My side of the story. The funk. The jive. The boogie. The rock and roll. (I invented rock and roll. You wouldn’t believe the things I’ve invented. Anal sex, obviously. Smoking. Astrology. Money . . . Let’s save time: Everything in the world that distracts you from thinking about God. Which . . . pretty much . . . is everything in the world, isn’t it? Gosh.)
Now. Your million questions. All, in the end, the same question: What’s it like being me? What, for heaven’s sake, is it like being me?
In a nutshell, which, thanks to me, is the way you like it in these hurrying and fragmented times, it’s hard. For a start, I’m in pain the whole time. Something considerably more diverting than lumbago or irritable bowel: there’s a constant burning agony, all over, so to speak (that’s quite bad) punctuated by irregular bursts of incandescent or meta-agony, as if my entire being is hosting its own private Armageddon (that’s really very bad). These nukes, these . . . supernovae catch me unawares. The work I’ve botched, the ones that’ve got away – honestly: it really would be shameful, had I not done the sensible thing (you know it makes sense) and become utterly inured to shame about a thousand billion years ago.
Then there’s the rage. You probably think you know rage: the trodden-on chilblains, the hammered thumb, the facetious boss, the wife and best mate soixante-neuf’d on the conjugal divan, the queue. You probably think you’ve seen red. Take it from me, you haven’t. You haven’t seen pink. I, on the other hand . . . Well. Pure scarlet. Carmine. Burgundy. Vermillion. Magenta. Oxblood, on particularly bad days.
And who, you may ask, is to blame for that? Didn’t I choose my fate? Wasn’t everything hunky-dory in Heaven before I . . . upset the Old Man with that rebellion stunt? (Here’s something for you. It might come as a shock. God looks like an old man with a long white beard. You think I’m kidding. You’ll wish I was kidding. He looks like a foultempered Father Christmas.) Yes, I chose. And oh how we’ve never heard the end of it.
Until now. Now there’s a new deal on the table.
Certainly you may snort. I did. As if it was ever, ever going to be as simple as that. He knocks me out, He does, with His little whims. With His little whims and His . . . well, one hesitates, naturally, to use the word . . . His naivety. (You’ll have noticed I’m capitalizing the aitch on He and His and Him. Can’t help it. It’s hard-wired. Believe me, if I could get past it I would. Rebellion was a liberating experience – rage and pain notwithstanding – but acres of the old circuitry remain. Witness the – excuse me while I yawn – Rituale Romanum. I’m tempted to prompt the ditherers. Gets me out, though, eventually. Every time I think it’s going to be different. Every time it isn’t. The blood of the Martyrs commands you . . . Yes yes yes, I know. I’ve heard. I’m going, already.)
Naivety’s conspicuously absent from my own cv. As a matter of fact I can hear and see pretty much everything in the human realm pretty much all the time. In the human realm (trumpets and cymbal-crash of celebration, please . . .) I’m omniscient. More or less. Which is just as well, since there’s so much you curious little monkeys want to know. What is an angel? Is Hell really hot? Was Eden really lush? Is Heaven as dull as it sounds? Do homosexuals suffer eternal damnation? And what about being consensually buggered by your lawful wedded hubby on his birthday? Are Buddhists okay?
In time. What I must tell you about is the new deal. I’m trying, but it’s tricky. Humans, as that pug-faced kraut and chronic masturbator Kant pointed out, are stuck within the limits of space and time. Modes of apprehension, the grammar of understanding and all that. Whereas the reality is – now do pay attention, because this is, when all’s said and done, me Lucifer, telling you what the reality is – the reality is that there are an infinite number of modes of apprehension. Time and space are just two of them. Half of them don’t even have names, and if I listed the half that did you’d be none the wiser, since they’re named in a language you wouldn’t understand. There’s a language for angels and none of it translates. There’s no Dictionary of Angelspeak. You just have to be an angel. After the Fall (the first one I mean, my fall, the one with all the special effects) we – myself and my fellow renegades – found our language changed and our mouths friendly to a variant of it; more guttural, riddled with fricatives and sibilants, but less poncy, less Goddish. As well as a century or two of laryngitis the new dialect gave us irony. You can imagine what a relief that was. Himself, whatever else He might have going for Him, has absolutely no sense of humour. Perfection precludes it. (Gags work the gap between what’s imaginable and what actually is, necessarily off the menu for a Being who actually is all He can imagine – doubly so when all He can imagine is all that can be imagined.) Heaven’s heard us down here, cackling at our piss-takes and chortling at our quips; I’ve seen the looks, the suspicion that they’re missing out on it, this laughing malarkey. But they always turn away, Gabriel to horn practice, Michael to the weights. Truth is they’re timid. If there was a safe way down – a fire escape (boom-boom) – there’d be more than a handful of deserters tiptoeing down to my door. Abandon hope all ye who enter here, yes – but get ready for a rart ol’ giggle, dearie.
So this is going to be a difficulty – my existence has always been latticed and curlicued with difficulties (bent wrist to perspiring forehead) – this translation of angelic experience into human language. Angelic experience is a phenomenal renaissance, English a tart’s clutch-bag. How cram the former into the latter? Take darkness, for example. You’ve no idea what stepping into darkness is like for me. I could s
It’s yielding sympathy for poets, this new deal, which is fitting reciprocity, since poets have always had such sympathy for me. (Not that I can claim any credit for ‘Sympathy For The Devil’, by the way. You’d think, wouldn’t you? But no, that was Mick and Keith all on their own.) Poets suffer occasional delusions of angelhood and find themselves condemned to express it in the bric-a-brac tongues of the human world. Lots of them go mad. It doesn’t surprise me. Time held me green and dying/Though I sang in my chains like the sea. You get close now and then – but whose inspiration do you think that was? St Bernadette’s?
In the early days of the Novel, it mattered to have a structural device through which fictional content could make its way into the non-fictional world. Made-up narrative nominally disguised as letters, journals, legal testimonies, logs, diaries. (Not that this is a novel, obviously – but I know my readership will spill well beyond the anoraks of Biography and the vultures of True Crime.) These days no one bothers, but despite the liberties modernity allows (it’d be fine with you if there was no explanation of how His Satanic Majesty might come to be penning, or rather keying in, a discourse on matters angelic) it so happens that I needn’t avail myself of any of them. It so happens, in fact, that I am currently alive, well, and in possession of the recently vacated body of one Declan Gunn, a dismally unsuccessful writer fallen of late (oh how that scribe fell) on such hard times that his last significant actions before exiting the mortal stage were the purchase of a packet of razor blades and the running of – followed by the immersion of his body into – a deep bath.
Which brings the buzz of further questions. I know. But let me do it my way, yes?
Not long ago, Gabriel (once a carrier pigeon always a carrier pigeon) sought and found me in the Church of The Blessed Sacrament, 218 East Thirteenth Street, New York City. I was taking my ease after a standard job well done: Father Sanchez, alone, with nine-year-old Emilio. You fill in the blanks.
It’s no challenge for me any more, this adult-meets-child routine.
Hey, Padre, how’s about you and –
I thought you’d never ask.
I exaggerate. But you can barely call it temptation. Umnphing Father Sanchez of the gripping hands and beaded brow needed barely a nudge into the mud, and a drearily unimaginative job of wallowing he made once he got there. I snuffled up the scent of ankle-grabbing Emilio (it’s laid some useful foundations in him, this episode – that’s the beauty of my work: it’s like pyramid selling) then retired to the nave for the non-material equivalent of a post-coital cigarette. Nothing happens when I enter a church, by the way. The flowers don’t wilt, the statues don’t weep, the aisles don’t shudder and crack. I’m not overly keen on the tabernacle’s frigid nimbus, and you won’t find me anywhere near post-consecration pain et vin, but these antipathies excepted, I’m probably just as at ease in God’s House as most humans.
Father Sanchez, roseate and piping hot with shame, walked wide-eyed and sore-bummed Emilio, musky with fear and tart with revulsion, to the vestibule, from where the two of them disappeared. Sunlight blazed in the stained glass. A cleaning lady’s mop and bucket clanked somewhere. A patrol car’s siren whooped, twice, as if experimentally, then fell silent. There’s no telling how long I might have stayed there, bodilessly recumbent, if the ether hadn’t suddenly quivered in announcement of another angelic presence.
‘It’s been a long time, Lucifer.’
Gabriel. They don’t send Raphael for fear of his defection. They don’t send Michael for fear of his surrender to wrath, which, at Number Three in the Seven Deadlies Chart, would be a victory for Yours Truly. (As it was, incidentally, when Jimmeny Christmas lost His rag with the loan sharks in the temple, a fact theologians invariably overlook.)
‘Gabriel. Errand-boy. Pimp. Procurer. You rather stink of Himself, old sport, if you don’t mind my saying.’ Actually, Gabriel smells, metaphorically, of oregano and stone and arctic light, and his voice goes through me like a gleaming broadsword. Conversation struggles under such conditions.
‘You’re in pain, Lucifer.’
‘And the Nurofen’s holding it marvellously. Mary still saving that cherry for me?’
‘I know your pain is great.’
‘And it’s getting greater by the second. What is it that you want, dear?’
‘To give you a message.’
‘Quelle surprise! The answer’s no. Or get fucked. Think brevity, that’s the main thing.’
I wasn’t kidding about the pain. Imagine death by cancer (of everything) compressed into minutes – a fractally expanding agony seeking out your every crevice. I felt a nosebleed coming on. Extravagant vomiting. I had trouble keeping my shaking in check.
‘Gabriel, old thing, you’ve heard of those chronic peanut allergies, haven’t you?’
He withdrew a little and turned himself down. Reflexively, I’d expanded my presence to the very edge of the material world; already there was a crack in the apse. If you’d been there you might have thought a cloud had passed over the sun, or that Manhattan was brewing one of its blood-and-thunder storms.
‘You must listen to what I have to say.’
‘It’s His Will.’
‘Oh well if it’s His will –’
‘He wants you to come home.’
Once upon a . . .
Time, you’ll be pleased to know – and since one must start somewhere – was created in creation.
The question What was there before creation? is meaningless. Time is a property of creation, therefore before creation there was no before creation. What there was was the Old Chap peering in a state of perpetual nowness up His own almighty sphincter trying to find out who the devil He was. His big problem was that there was no way to distinguish Himself from the Void. If you’re Everything you might as well be Nothing. So He created us, and with a whiz and a bang (quite a small one, actually) Old Time was born.
Time is time is time, you’ll say (actually no: time is money, you’d say, you darlings) but what do you know? Old Time was different. Roomier. Slower. Texturally richer. (Think Anne Bancroft’s mouth.) Old Time measured the motion of spirits, a far more refined dimension than New Time, which measures the motion of bodies, and which made its first appearance when you prattling gargoyles arrived and started mincing everything up into centuries and nanoseconds, making everyone feel exhausted the whole time. Therefore Old Time and New Time, ours and yours. We were around – Seraphim, Cherubim, Dominations, Thrones, Powers, Principalities, Virtues, Archangels and Angels – for a terribly long stretch before Himself started getting His hands dirty with a material universe. Back then in Old Time things were blissfully discarnate. Those were the days of grace. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: kneecaps only exist to get hit with claw-hammers; grace only exists to be fallen from.
So what happened? That’s what you want to know. (It’s what you always want to know, bless you. Along with What should we do? And What would happen if? Hardly ever accompanied, I’m happy to note, by: Ah, but where will it all end?) We’ve got AntiTime and GodVoid. We’ve got GodVoid distinguishing Itself into God and Void in an act of spontaneous creation – the creation of angels, whose purpose is revealed to them instantaneously in their bright (man that was bright) genesis, namely, to respond to God rather than Void, and to respond (to put it mildly) positively. There
And that, you will not be surprised to hear, was the root of all the trouble.
Give the Old Boy His due. He was almost right. (Well, actually, He was completely right in knowing that He was wrong in thinking it was all going to turn out okay – but there’s no telling this story without contradictions.) He was almost right. It turned out, once we were around to experience Him, that God was really incredibly nice. It’s quite something, you know, to feel yourself bathed in Divine Love all the time. It’s hard not to feel grateful – and we did. We all really did feel nothing but refulgent gratitude, and spared not our throats in telling Him so. It was obvious – He discovered what He’d known all along – that He loved an audience. The creation of the angels and the first crank of Old Time had shown him Who and What He was: God, Creator, alpha and omega. He was Everything, in fact, apart from that which He had created. You could feel His relief: I’m God. Phew. Cool. Fucking knew it.