Lords of Creeping Things

Lucifer and Beelzebub sit in the shade of an apple tree in Hell, holding court over the creeping things. Their muted wings fan out, blemished from the fall with dark spots like a sooty owl, yet no the less imposing and majestic. Their thrones are curling wood and deer bone, and they are dressed in severe monks robes, Lucifer a pale cornflower blue, Beelzebub a soft rusted red. I come bearing gifts for the two Kings, out of the gates of hellfire – sinner’s souls to be judged.

“I hope these are pleasing to thine eyes,” I murmur in a lilting cadence, kneel, and lift the basket of cocoon-like silky souls, little trembling terrified fetuses like silkworms, freshly tortured from the fires, up to where Lucifer holds golden scales, and Beelzebub ministers with a feather and a rosy red apple – a white bloom still attached at the stem.

I dare not look them in the eyes, but their mouths bespeak trembling maws opening to swallow cities whole into the planet’s fiery bowels. Lucifer’s mouth curves into a sharp smirk, the left curl of his lip betraying a lion fang, and Beelzebub smiles wanly, like sunlight strangled by roiling gray storm clouds, anemic white.

Both of them, cold starlight. Lucifer a yellow star, Beelzebub a white dwarf.

“These are sufficient,” Lucifer murmurs, taking a single delicate soul and putting it in the middle bearing of the scale. Beelzebub places the white angel feather and apple of a heart onto the other side bearings. The golden scale twinges, then, balances between feather and apple.

Beelzebub and Lucifer share a knowing look. “Pure,” Beelzebub pronounces, then gently cradles the soul. He kisses its forehead, and it turns into a scarlet pimpernel butterfly, to flutter away to Heaven on new wings, emerged from pupa into angel soul.

They weigh the next soul. The feather rises, the apple of sin falls, and then the scale rests its final judgment.

“Damned,” Beelzebub declares, takes the pupa, kisses it again. It turns into a worm, then burrows into Hell’s  soils.

Lucifer’s wings fan out to brush against me. “Let us weigh your soul, Alcifer,” he teases.

“I cannot fit on a scale.” I am nervous. He pulls me into his embrace with the crushing gravity of a neutron star and Beelzebub closes the gap, their judgment instruments and my basket of souls put down on a raw granite outcropping. The two are twin silver and gold stars burning me up into incinerating delight, teasing my skin with plush lips and hands like violin strings. I am the delicate grimoire of vellum they are writing, and as they pluck a melody on my flesh, working in arcane ways bliss in carnal sin, I feel the change taking over. Suddenly, Lucifer is covered in thousands of wings and eyes, and Beelzebub is a storm cloud of insects like a locust plague. These airy forces converge around me and I find myself a terpsichore within their smothering, demonic immersion.

I dance in the storm of the kings, dry bones rattle from the dirt under my feet, the worms hail their gods, the butterflies escape up a Jacob’s ladder to higher ground, everybody struggling not to drown!

Then, a ripping sensation on my shoulder blades, and out sprout dragonfly wings. Beelzebub and Lucifer sing, praises and Holy Holy Holy is the Worm, Holy Holy Holy is the Wasp, Holy Holy Holy is the Beetle.

Then, they are back to their monks robes, spent, and we lay in moss and grass beside the pool of penitence, where the candles float of lost – or found – soul tallows, and the moon is waxy light upon our flesh. They laugh, caressing my wings.

“Unexpected,” Lucifer murmurs, kissing my cheek.

“Perfect,” Beelzebub, king of creeping things, whispers, nuzzling my dragonfly wings.

“What does it mean?” I ask, hesitant.

Beelzebub and Lucifer share a knowing look – the kind only husbands of millennia are capable of understanding.

“The dragonfly is the wolf of the insect kingdom, a hunter supreme,” Beelzebub says laconically.

“You must hunt for justice,” Lucifer says with determination. “You can fly now, and you must reach God’s Throne, kiss his Light, and steal some of that glory for the downtrodden, broken, and bruised. God is not equal in the love he gives for his humans, but demons are. God plays favorites, Death is the great equalizer, and demons support those fallen on hard times. Steal His Light, and make immortal those on death’s beggar alms. Give people hope on dragonfly wings.”

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