“Never can true reconcilement grow where wounds of deadly hate have pierced so deep…”
― John Milton, Paradise Lost.

They arrived on the grounds of what looked like a war-torn battlefield with bloodshed, noise and carnage all around. Lucifer stood unbothered as a man ran through him and butchered another that was right behind him.

No, it wasn’t a battlefield. This wasn’t a war. The men being killed were not soldiers; they didn’t have the hardness in their eyes, the grit every man of war had.

These were little more than students.

“Why?” was all Lucifer asked as men in camouflage cut down boys in school uniform like Iroko trees, raping the women, burning the houses.

“We’re in Borno,” Karóunwí said, sighing. “And as for why, well, it could be for a number of things: tribe, religion, the way they look, I don’t even know. But there are killings, hundreds every day, and nobody does or says anything; they’re more interested in that their Big Brother.”

A man fell in front of them, a bullet hole to his side, a large gash on his neck. He died then, choking on his own blood.

Lucifer crouched and observed the body. “Why?” He asked again, quietly this time; he wasn’t talking to Karóunwí. All those eons ago, he had rebelled. He rebelled because he felt like a pawn, a clog in the machine, nothing more than a toy. They gave their lives in service, the holy host, but where was the freedom in will? The freedom in choice? He knew it would happen even before creation and he let it happen regardless, but Lucifer, Satan, the Devil, was to blame for all the world’s evils. Still, even as he fought an unwinnable fight supporting an unwinnable cause, he at least knew why. As he fell from heaven, his white wings turning coal black, he held the why close. It was what bound his flesh together and gave him will to move, to breath, to come to Earth after so long because of a challenge.

He knew why and that why kept him through the bad times, and the other ones as well.

“Who is in charge?” Lucifer asked, standing. “Who is the ruler of this land?” Lucifer gave Karóunwí his hand, “Take me to him. Or her.”

Karóunwí took it, thought hard then they were in a large office with an old decrypt man sitting at the head of the table, the Nigerian flag waving high on the desk as aides whipped left and right.

That,” Lucifer said, “Is your leader?” He would have laughed if he had any humour left in him.

Karóunwí shrugged. “Yes oo,” he said, “this is him.”

“What does he have to say about the religious thievery, the sex crimes against children, the deaths?” Lucifer asked. “What does he have to say about the horrors his people live through, every day?”

Karóunwí paused and thought for a moment. It was a short moment. “Nothing,” he said, “absolutely nothing. We die, there’s an outrage at first and then the country moves on. Wash, rinse and repeat.”

“Can you not take him down?” Lucifer asked as he looked closer at the man, he was so brittle, so frail, like a gust of wind could blow him into the neighbouring country. “Is there not a system for a better leader?”

“Well, we call that democracy,” Karóunwí said, “It’s what put him there in the first place and for four years our country has suffered and suffered. But there were new elections this year and we had a chance, maybe, at a better Nigeria.”

“And so,” Lucifer said, “your people voted him out and brought in a more competent leader, seeing as he had failed you so many times.”

Karóunwí hung is head. In maybe shame, or disappointment, or maybe a familiar mix of both. “He ‘won’ the elections.” He said. “We have him for another four years.”

Lucifer said nothing but held out his hand as Karóunwí took it and they were outside Aso Rock. There they found a bench and sat down as people walked past them.

“Karóunwí,” said Lucifer, “How did you die?”

“Well,” said Karóunwí as he stretched, though he had no actual physical muscles to stretch, “I went out voting during our last elections; I wanted to make a change. Enough was enough, I said. So, I got up and went out to finally try my own best to change things. Sha, thugs came when we were voting, burnt the polling booths and somehow somehow, I got shot.”

“Oh,” said Lucifer, “and then you arrived in Hell.”

“No, no,” said Karóunwí, “I survived o, went to the hospital and everything, we thank G — good luck. It was just chance sha. And then the next day, after me and my wife, you know…” He looked at Lucifer, winking conspiratorially, “sha, the next afternoon, she made the best Egusi soup and pounded yam, she even got palm wine to add. I ate and ate well but if I hadn’t been so hungry I would’ve realised that something tasted odd in the food: she had poisoned me so she could run off with Pastor Philemon Joshua.”

“And then you came to Hell,” Lucifer said, understanding.

Karóunwí shook his head. “No o,” he said, “it turns out that the idiot didn’t even add enough of the poison and so I survived.”

“Then how did you get to Hell?” asked Lucifer.

“Oh,” Karóunwí said, “I was hit by a car. I tried, you know, giving my life to Jesus before I went but…”

“That never works.” Lucifer said, shaking his head.

“Yes,” said Karóunwí, “I know that now.”

Lucifer rested on the park bench as he watched the sun descend into the darkness. “Your day is over, Karóunwí.” He said.

“So,” Karóunwí said, leaning to him, his eyes wide, “did I convince you that this was worse than Hell? Have I won my hundred years? I promise to only use it to torment my wife and her family. I swear.”

Lucifer looked at him with endless eyes and stood up, leaving a confused Karóunwí behind without a word.

He entered the Void, alone, and in a blink, was in Hell.

***

While he was gone, Mazikeen had made Hell an even more torturous place, introducing new levels and making plans to make a franchise. Lucifer didn’t mind, or care, he waved all of the demons and demon princes out of his court and walked, slowly to his throne on which he sat, his two hands in front of him.

Nobody knows, truly, what transpired between Karóunwí and Lucifer, but what is known is this: on the day he returned, Morningstar demanded that not a single soul or demon was to disturb him. He was to be left alone under all circumstances.

And at the end of that fateful day, hell ran as usual with souls screaming and writhing in agony, but Lucifer himself was silent, and for a hundred dark years, he sat down silently on his broken throne with his broken sword by his side, and he kept his own counsel as for the first time in centuries, he smiled.

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.

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