“We have never heard the devil’s side of the story, God wrote all the book.”
― Anatole France

Lucifer sat on his throne with his hands clasped, his eyes on the large doors to his private court. They were nice doors, with diamonds and jewels mined from the seven mountains in Hell. He liked the doors, and he loved them when they were closed.

Then came the knock.

Kak kak kak.

Lucifer cocked his head, he had told the Malebranche that he was not to be disturbed. He had told them that he was not in the mood to entertain any visitors, demon or otherwise.

Kak kak kak.

Lucifer sat up as he made, in one simple hand gesture, the doors open. Behind them was Azazel, a trusted advisor — one of the greatest demon princes in the abyss — dragging a soul behind him.

“Azazel,” said Lucifer. His voice, like back in heaven, was still the most beautiful the world had ever heard. “Why do you disturb me? I have made it clear to the guards and all the nine levels that I am to be left alone.”

“My lord,” Azazel said, kneeling, “I apologise for the intrusion but there is a matter you must attend to.”

Lucifer strode to Azazel, reached out with his hand into the air, the same hand coming out with a jagged broken sword. Eons ago, it had shattered in the Fall, but the blade was no less sharp — Phosphur would remain sharp until the end of time itself.

Lucifer levelled the sword to Azazel’s scaled neck. “Azazel,” Said Lucifer, “I, you, and the others fell millennia ago. We fell because we demanded justice in the heavens and were denied and damned here. And since then, I have not had to do anything for millennia upon end. State your case, demon prince, or meet your end. I do not care which.”

How Azazel could sweat in hell was a marvel but he pushed the soul he had dragged forward.

“There have been rumours in the Sixth Circle,” Said Azazel, his eyes down, “rumours that hell is not one of the worst places in the world. I tracked down the treacherous talk to this soul; a man called Karóunwí. He says the flames of hell are not nearly hot enough, that the treachery here does not measure up to the one in his land on Earth. He speaks to challenge you, Morningstar. He speaks to undermine your authority.”

“Soul,” said Lucifer, sheathing his sword in the air, “show your form. Speak your case.”

The soul took shape in their eyes, the two arms forming first, then the chest, then the legs, and then the head until a spindle of a man with hungry eyes was staring back at the Lord of hell himself.

“My oga,” he said, saluting, “first of all, I just want to say thank you for — ”

“How dare you speak against Hell, and inadvertently, against me?” Lucifer said, taking a step closer. “Hell is torture and pain and anguish, known to all life and all death. What place on earth could match up to this?

“See, my guy,” Karóunwí said and Azazel flinched. No soul living or dead had ever referred to Lucifer Morningstar as “my guy”. “I know that you’re angry, I can see it in your eyes. My mother used to tell me back then — I mean, back when I was alive — that I was always good with eyes. That even reminds me, I used to have this Aunty, Aunty Bọláńlé, and I haven’t seen her since I’ve been here. I saw Abacha them somewhere around the Fifth Circle and that one made me smile, but no Aunty Bọláńlé.”

“Where.” Said Lucifer. “Is this place you speak of?”

Karóunwí smiled. “Have you ever been to my country?” He asked. “Have you ever been to Nigeria?”

Satan looked at Azazel.

Azazel shrugged.

“…Nigeria?” Lucifer asked. “What place is this?”

“It’s the…” Karóunwí began, putting his finger to his lips. “It’s the most fantastically corrupt place on that Earth. See ehn, compared to Nigeria, this Hell is breaktime.”

“So, what do you want?” Lucifer asked. “Why have you called an audience with me?”

“I want a deal,” Karóunwí answered. “If I can prove to you, for a single day, that Nigeria is worse than hell, then I want a hundred years free on earth.”

Lucifer observed him. Challenges in Hell were rare, challenges for Lucifer were unheard of, but things had been boring recently.

“Azazel,” Lucifer said. “Tell Mazikeen to leave the horde, she is now regent as I am gone.”

“But sire,” said Azazel, scratching his scales. “Where are you going?”

“Were you not listening, Dark Prince?” Said Lucifer grabbing Karóunwí’s arm.

“I am going to Nigeria.”

Anthony Azekwoh is a Nigerian-based author and artist. He has written five books so far, and is now working on the sequel to his fourth book Ṣàngó, Oya.