So, um, a did a thing–a thing that did not turn out in any way like I intended for it to.
This is a story about Bob, the Devil’s valet. That was my beginning premise. But it rapidly got away from me.
So what we have here is a man who has a gigantic crush on his employer that he tries (unsuccessfully) to hide and a terrible tendency to wax poetic. Is what he believes about Lucifer actually the truth? The world may never know.
Empathy for the Devil
He stands–resplendent–before the mirror, just as vain and proud and beautiful as he ever was. Only the sharpest eye could detect the hint of weariness beneath the kingly bearing. But I have been with him for longer than I can remember, so my eye is plenty sharp.
“Your jacket, Lord Lucifer?” I say, holding out the item in question.
He laughs a bit ruefully as he takes the jacket and shrugs it on. “You know I hate when you call me that, Bob.”
“I’m sorry, Majesty, but old habits die hard,” I reply, the beginnings of a grin turning up the corners of my mouth. “Would you prefer ‘Prince of Darkness?’ Or how about ‘King of the Damned?'”
Lucifer rakes a hand over his golden blond hair and snickers. “Did you really just make an Anne Rice reference at me?”
“Comic relief’s never been my strong point, my lo–er, Lucifer.”
He beams at me, looking every bit the angel he is. “See? That wasn’t so hard, was it?”
I don’t bother answering and simply busy myself with making sure the seams are all straight on his perfectly-fitted suit, marveling once more at the skill of Hell’s legion of tailors. He and I are more than just an employee and his employer. We are friends. Nevertheless, I still remain more comfortable with the formal address.
Above me, he sighs.
“You really aren’t looking forward to tonight, are you?” I ask before I can stop myself. It’s a needless question; the answer is evident. He is, however, kind enough not to point it out.
“Not really. Dealing with any of the underworld entities is never a particularly enjoyable way to spend an evening. But going to a dinner party at Hades’ place with all of them in attendance is going to be…well, I’d say ‘hellish,’ but that would be an insult to our humble abode, wouldn’t it?”
“Look on the bright side, my lo–friend. It still beats the endless gloating sessions that Jehovah forces you to sit through every month.”
He nods in agreement. “I’d go to an underworld dinner party every day if it’d get me out of Jehovah’s little sunrise breakfast soirees.”
“I think we all would,” I reply.
He laughs again, revealing teeth so straight and white they’re almost blinding. His glittering hazel eyes meet mine in the mirror. “It looks like I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.”
“You look splendid,” I tell him.
He turns and claps a hand to my shoulder. “You’re a good man–too good to be down here.”
“So you keep saying,” I mutter, looking away from his knowing gaze.
“I suspect it has something to do with the fact that you don’t fear him,” he continues. “Actually…I don’t think you’re afraid of anything.”
I force out a small chuckle. “I don’t know that I’d go that far, Lord Lucifer.”
He lets my lapse slide this time. “I would.” Then his face darkens for a moment, almost imperceptibly. “He was never a fan of those who wouldn’t bend a knee for him.”
This time, my laughter is genuine, and I’m able to meet his eye again. “When one is born to be a king, one need never kneel in the presence of his inferiors.”
His face brightens, and he’s back to his old self again. “Indeed!” He slaps me on the back. “I suppose I’m off. Don’t wait up for me.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it.”
(I’m lying, and we both know it.)
He graces me with one last smile and then glides regally from the room.
He is beautiful.
Most of the denizens of Hell think I’ve always been with my lord, but that’s not true. There are some in the abyss who have been here since the Great Evacuation, but I’m not one of them.
I have been with Lord Lucifer–I can call him that here, out of earshot–for a great many centuries. I couldn’t tell you exactly how long, though. Time does still move in this place, but not quickly. It drips slow and thick in the heavy fever-dream of our never-ending existence. Eternity is a long time, even for creatures like us.
How my lord would laugh if he heard me speak this way….
Regardless, I have been with him as his valet, his gentleman’s gentleman, for so long that the language I spoke when I once walked the earth is long dead. Dead and forgotten, as though it never existed at all. My lord is one of the few in this hole who can still pronounce my given name. To make it easier on everyone else, I simply insist that they call me Bob.
And so I am known to everyone as Bob, Satan’s valet.
He’s not what you’d think, and nothing at all like the earthly stories have painted him. But, as they say, it’s the winner who writes history. Personally, I think my lord got a raw deal.
Oh, I would never deny that he has his flaws. He is vain and proud and stubborn. He has a tendency to lose his temper when dealing with fools and is prone to fits of melancholy where he locks himself into his rooms and refuses to see anyone but me and occasionally Beelzebub. He was sometimes petty and spiteful in the older days, but he seems to have mellowed over the millennia–a tall, imperious glacier smoothed over around the edges by the very ocean it rests in.
But still, he is no monster, merely a boy-king in exile.
There is no torture here, or at least none that descends from his command. The only real torture is the climate: the stifling heat and humidity; the infernal wind that never ceases and serves only to keep everyone restless and on edge, like the uneasy feel just before a spring tornado; the dry, barren clay that the wind often kicks up in thick, dusty red clouds; and, worst of all, the endless red-orange twilight of a sky that has never seen daytime and will never give us the relief of its falsely-promised coming night.
Simply being here is torment enough.
He does all he can to keep us comfortable, swallowing his pride to ask for concessions for us from Jehovah. We are his subjects, and he takes his duty to us seriously. In the very worst of the dust storms, I’ve seen him go out himself, abandoning his palace and his throne to bring water to the masses.
In his absence, I change the linens on his bed and leave a glass (to be filled with ice water later) and his favorite peppermint-scented lotion on the nightstand.
Lord Lucifer believes that there is a being above all the petty tribal gods–Jehovah, Set, Zeus, Odin, Vishnu, and all the rest. He claims to have seen it once, briefly, before the Uprising. It was a glorious bright light, he said, and it showed only a quick twinkling of itself before it disappeared back into the ether.
In his most unguarded moments, he will even admit it’s one of the reasons he tried to usurp the throne, in hopes that the great Truth would reveal itself. Those moments only come once every eon or so. He thinks it better to be thought a betrayer than a fool.
I’m not sure how I feel about it. I believe that my lord saw something, but if it were truly what he says it is, why hasn’t it come for us? Why let us continue to suffer? I sometimes share these thoughts with him, and he just smiles benevolently at me and pats my cheek.
Either way, if it does exist, it will have had no greater ally than my lord Lucifer–the great light-bringer himself.
It is late when Lucifer arrives back to the palace, disheveled and a little intoxicated. I’m napping in a wingback chair when I hear his footsteps approaching, but I scramble to my feet and fill the water glass by the bed before he slips into the room.
“Back already, my lord?” I ask, raising an eyebrow.
“Oh, stop,” he says as I relieve him of his jacket. “No more of that ‘my lord’ stuff, Bob. We’re friends!”
He makes a noise that sounds suspiciously like a giggle and tries to whack me with the slipper he’s somehow managed to unearth from beneath the bed. “I thought you weren’t waiting up for me tonight.”
“You think too highly of yourself, my lo–Lucifer. I’ve merely been enjoying the scenery this evening.”
He gives a most undignified snort but says nothing else as I help him undress and slide into his night clothes.
“How was it?” I ask, just to fill the silence.
He sits on the edge of the bed and takes a long drink of water. “Not as bad as I feared. Some of the duller pantheons weren’t even there at all.”
“I’m sure the wine helped, too.”
“You have no idea,” he answers, smoothing lotion over his deceptively delicate-looking hands. “Everyone partook quite heavily. So much so that I even managed to get dances with both Hela and Kali before the night was over.”
“Well, you always did like brunettes.”
“I did, didn’t I?” He smiles, fondly, and gazes off into the distance for a time. Then he shakes himself out of his reverie and pats the expanse of mattress next to him. “Come. Sit.”
I obey, though somewhat uncomfortably.
“Closer, my friend!” He is almost jovial in his inebriation as he slings an arm around my shoulders and drags me near. His skin seems to glow in the early hours of the morning, sheltered as we are from the blood-orange light outside by the walls of the palace.
As soon as I’m close enough to suit him, he ruffles my carefully-styled black hair–like a boy would do to his younger brother–and laughs at the disarray he causes. Then, suddenly, his angelic face falls uncharacteristically solemn, and his shining hazel eyes catch my own.
“I wonder…” he says, his voice barely a whisper.
“What is it, my lord?” My voice is no louder than his own.
The moment lasts a couple of beats longer than it should, and then he flops back on the bed. “Oh, nothing, Bob. Go on to bed. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Of course,” I reply, rising to my feet and clasping my hands behind me to hide their faint tremble.
I’ve turned out the light and am almost out the door when I hear a soft “Good night, Bob” from the direction of the bed.
“Good night, my lord,” I say and let myself out into the hall.
I hear the unmistakeable thunk of a slipper hitting the closed door. “For the love of Asmodeus, Bob, I’ve told you to stop doing that!” he shouts, sounding equal parts amused and exasperated.
I can’t help but let out an amused chuckle myself as I make my way to my own quarters. All is well–or as well as it can be, anyway–in the house of our Lord Lucifer, King of Hell, Emperor of Gehenna, and the Morning Star that burns sharp and silver and brilliant for us all in the land of the eternal twilight.