After many decades of dedicated service, following the disgrace of his predecessor in 2016 and the latter’s recall to Hades for failure in office (and for ingestation by the next generation), Screwtape has been promoted to High Demonic Resident in Europe from his position as Chief Resident for the Balkans, where he had spent many happy years fomenting mayhem, corruption and economic collapse. As a coming senior demon Screwtape had been able in 2015 to secure the appointment as Chief Demonic Resident in the British Isles for his nephew Tapeworm – nepotism was one way to survive in the devil eat devil underworld.
Not for many years had Screwtape had the mundane role of contending for single souls, now he was scheming for millions. Such sweet power and awesome responsibility. He was a falling demon to watch all right.
Around the table in an anodyne office in Rome are gathered his subordinates, the Chief Demonic Residents for the various regions of Europe and supporting Directorate Heads. Needless-to-say, suppressed tension is the dominant mood in the room as a consequence of their peremptory summons to this meeting only minutes before.
Screwtape rapped his tail on the table. They weren’t his chosen team yet, too many were his predecessor’s appointees and many were resentful of his promotion above them. They would need to be dealt with, but subtly and carefully lest they band together to destroy him. Be firm, be tactful, take control, focus them on the greater threat that was common to all, then pick them off one by one.
“I have been summoned to report on developments in Europe to His Majesty Below, who is most unhappy at the apparent shortcomings in His cause in Europe. He fears that the Enemy has, after so many decades of our advance, unexpectedly wrested the initiative from us, and His Majesty Below believes this is down primarily to failings among His senior management in the field.”
He had their sole attention now; you could tear the atmosphere in the room (not that one was necessary for its occupants) with a talon. Who was for the Great Final Descent? Who would Screwtape scapegoat; after all had he not decades before sold out his own nephew Wormwood to protect his own career? There was no loyalty here, just a balance of fear as always.
“His Majesty Below regards the Year of Our Enemy 2016 to be our worst for decades, arguably since 1945, and, even then, He had in His wisdom arranged a contingency plan so that while one project ended in delightful cataclysm and harvested myriads of souls, another was on the victors’ side and for further decades advanced our cause around the world. When that collapsed nearly three decades ago we had already two more maturing successor initiatives, so that following the failure of the Black and the Red, we have the Green and the Yellow-Starred Blue to roll out, as well as reinstalling a proven old favourite imported from our Middle Eastern Directorate.”
He looked around the room. He knew that many here loathed their rivals from the Middle Eastern Directorate, considering their primary strategy crude and unsophisticated. Bloody and savage certainly, fanatical and utterly ignorant without doubt, undoubtedly effective too, but not intellectually satisfying. Crushing the soul from without was all very well, destroying hope was fine, but twisting the soul from within and persuading it to corrupt and imprison itself willingly was the highest achievement, the very pinnacle of devilish skill. And we in Europe, and our offshoots in North America, are the intellectual elite of our cause. Have we not persuaded so many that we and our Enemy don’t even exist? Our greatest success of all, the gateway to ultimate triumph.
“You know what that means comrades, what’s at stake? Do we want to be made subordinate to the Middle Eastern Directorate? You know they aspire to run the entire worldwide organisation.”
The Chief Resident for the Low Countries and High Representative for the EU Initiative, Maggot, erupted, “It’s Tapeworm’s failing. Forty years of effective deceit and work lost in a reckless gamble by his agents in the UK. He’s too inexperienced for that role… We largely controlled the government, every organ of the State and most of the media, and he got impatient, thought a Referendum would destroy the remaining opposition. He under-estimated the Enemy’s strength and now we’re lost, just trying to rescue something from the wreckage with our remaining strengths in Celtic grievance and the media and intellectuals…”
A hollow laugh tittered around the room. Intellectuals, our favourite and easiest targets, always the first to respond to the right words and incentives… And as for media types, their vanity was so easy to use…
Tapeworm looked frozen, fearing his uncle’s reaction. I’ll deal with him later, but Maggot’s the bigger threat. He has his own patrons Down Below. I need him out.
“Perhaps Maggot, but you misjudged Agent Cameron’s renegotiation completely. You were complacent and didn’t put enough effort into constructing a meaningless set of promised reforms that would have given Tapeworm and Agent Cameron something to use at home.”
“Not fair Screwtape. Tapeworm and Agent Cameron said nothing more needed to be offered, that it was in the bag. And then they panicked and invited over Agent Obozo from America to tell the natives what to think. They might as well have invited former Agents Napoleon or Hitler. Totally counter-productive, I’m not taking the rap for that…”
“You forget your place Maggot.” You could feel Maggot’s colleagues edging their chairs away. “Your agents failed us, they were your choices. A drunk, a halitosis infected lunatic and the rest of that incompetent crew… Is that the best you could find? Rank amateurs compared to former Agent Delors and the others.”
Maggot’s temper was beyond the point of all control now. Good, you’re a fool, so easy into my trap.
“How dare you Screwtape! We’ve bankrupted most of Europe, made most of them lose hope, embrace despair, are reviving ancient hatreds, Sweden’s collapsing, they all the loathe the Germans again… And the Russians too… Why we’ve even got a little war raging in the Ukraine that could boil over into something much more destructive at any minute. And now, with the help of our colleagues from the Middle Eastern Directorate Christian civilisation is at its most vulnerable since the tenth century…”
So that’s your game is it Maggot? To advance yourself you’re working with them? Screwtape looked around, some of the others realised it too. Maggot was lost now, his support was withering by the second, you’ve had it too easy for too long and are guilty of underestimating our Enemy and, even worse, your colleagues. It’s all recorded on Spiritfile, to be forwarded Down Below shortly.
Calm it down. Seem the rational, the reasonable, one. “Those achievements belong to your predecessors and your colleagues in the Eastern European departments, especially Necrosis, our Chief Resident for Russia. You neglect the fact that I myself was in charge of the Balkans for many years.”
He nodded to Necrosis, a recent supporter counting on Screwtape’s patronage for future advancement. Yes, Maggot was almost fully isolated among his peers. Now to sever his support from the Middle Eastern Directorate and from the Transcontinental Project Departments like the Climate Change and Refugee Initiatives, the Feminist Future team, the Gender Chaos Group and the Pre-Natal Genocide Advocacy unit. All powerfully influential given their huge success over preceding decades and hitherto sponsored by Maggot’s Directorate.
“I do wonder if our Enemy is getting the measure of our EU strategy. Resistance is growing on all fronts and if we suffer one more defeat on the scale of Brexit it will be a write off. It’s perhaps too obvious, too political and easy to identify. Far better are the deeper societal changes that are impersonal, gradual, difficult to resist because they’re like airborne viruses. Perhaps we should prioritise in terms of resources these projects… We have after all our agents at the head of the Catholic (our generous host today) and Anglican churches, most of the political parties and professions, the universities and in the schools, the major charities, national government departments, the media… Our struggle against the traditional family proceeds apace, education is largely corrupted, and now geronticide and eugenics are back on the agenda, something we thought lost forever in forty-five. And portraying mass population invasion as helping refugees was a work of genius by Sepsis and her team…”
The Head of the Refugee Initiative glowed a brighter red with pride. Yes, another to be recruited to my retinue. Who knows? She’s less than half a millennium old and very well preserved indeed, and that sort likes an old devil with some very ancient tricks…
Maggot wasn’t going to go down without a row, his temper was too far gone for that. “That’s rubbish Screwtape. The problem’s the English speakers, it’s always them at the bottom of everything. 1588, right through the 18th century, 1815, 1918, 1945, 1989 and now 2016, they always kick against us first and hardest. After a century of hard graft we’d finally got our agents at the top of the UK and USA, and in a few short months they’re blown away… And what’s replaced them? A daughter of a servant of the Enemy and a maverick who no one understands, but who clearly had huge support from the Enemy’s followers and whose chief strategist is perhaps the most dangerous counter-agent we face? What’s being done about them?”
Keep digging Maggot, you’re making this too easy. “Do you doubt His Majesty Below’s strategy and the competence of his other servants?” The room was so cold now that no thermometer could register it. “These are temporary set-backs only. Already our agents in the USA are working quietly to twist the President’s thoughts, his vanity and emotional temperament make it possible. The new Prime Minister is much more closed, harder to read, but we are not without hope, but we may just have to wait her out. What’s another five years to us?”
“Now, enough talk. I want you to prepare briefings for me within 24 human hours setting out current positions and project updates, and at least three options for future strategy, so that I can prepare for my audience with His Majesty Below.”
As the others faded from the room only a disconsolate Tapeworm remained. Screwtape smiled a mirthless smile at him. Maggot would not survive his audience with His Majesty Below.
With thanks to CS Lewis.