“We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell.”
― Oscar Wilde

Karóunwí thought hard this time of the second place he’d show Lucifer.

They materialised in the middle of a living room where a group of men in formal traditional attire were talking, drinking, laughing. Women came in at intervals, refilling cups and bringing food.

“Where are we now?” Lucifer asked.

“Kaduna,” Karóunwí answered. “That man there,” he pointed at an old man dressed in white, “is going to get married soon and now he’s about to be introduced to his soon-to-be fifth wife.”

Why is this so special?” Lucifer asked. “Mortals get married all the time, I do not see how this proves anything, soul. You only have some parts of the day left.”

“Just watch,” Karóunwí said, his voice quiet. “You’ll see.”

In a moment, an angry looking woman came out gripping the hand of a little girl in a white tattered dress, her eyes wide and scared. The woman brought her to the old man who licked his lips and brought out his hands to hug the girl. She flinched and hesitated. The behemoth of a woman who held the girl pinched her hard across her back and the girl went into the old man and hugged him. He then carried her and put her on his lap as he stroked her thigh, smiling.

“I do not understand, soul.” Lucifer said, his fingers curling. “Where is the bride?”

Karóunwí kept his eyes on the scene. “You’re looking at her.” He said.

Lucifer cocked his head. “You mean…” was all he said.

“Mhmm.” Karóunwí agreed, nodding his head. “The family is poor, they don’t have anything — no cows, no farms, no nothing. But what they do have is a healthy supply of fine daughters. And their youngest, they say, is the most beautiful.”

“The child can be no older than twelve, soul.” Lucifer said.

Karóunwí smiled. “They don’t care,” he said, “‘if she’s old enough to bleed,’ they say. She’ll be married off to him and in return, he’ll give the parents money and cows and all the land they want.”

“In hell,” Lucifer said turning around to leave the room as Karóunwí followed, “there are no children. Innocent souls like that do not deserve the flames. No demon would ever touch such purity; they would perish at the sight.”

Karóunwí nodded.

As the light of noon hit their faces, they heard a mob shouting and screaming at the distance.

Lucifer asked Karóunwí, “There, what is happening there?”

Karóunwí spared a glance. “Well,” he began, “they caught a man having sex…”

“They do not allow it?” Lucifer asked.

“With another man.” Karóunwí finished.

“Oh.” Lucifer said as he watched. A man had brought tyres, another had brought petrol and another bound the men up in thick ropes, placing the tyres on them. They bathed the men in the petrol as they screamed and writhed and gargled.

“They will…” Lucifer was saying, but the words didn’t come.

Karóunwí was silent.

Someone lit a match and all was quiet. The birds stopped singing. The biting winds calmed. The whole world was still as it held its breath. Then the match was dropped.

The air was filled with their sudden tortured screams, as they struggled and writhed in the fire, their pleads heeding deaf ears. The crowd watched with eyes reflecting the fire, nobody making a move.

When the fire had quenched itself, the air was heavy with nothing but the smell of burnt flesh and burnt tyres.

Karóunwí brought out his hand. “We still have one more place left,” He said.

Lucifer took it without saying a word as they entered the Void.

“You know,” Karóunwí said, “when I was alive, my son, he was like that.” He wriggled his fingers, “He was…different. He wasn’t like the other boys and he told me — he told me one day about how he had felt about another boy in the compound.

“I was scared, I swear I was scared. I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know what to say. And I still don’t. One thing I know is this: I should never have taken him to that bastard Philemon Joshua to ‘convert’ him back. That was how he met our family. That was how he took everything away from us. From me.”

Lucifer did not look at him, he did not say anything. He just held out his hand.

Karóunwí wiped a rogue tear off his eyes. “Yes, it’s true,” he said, “let’s keep going.”

And they left the void.

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.

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.