My dear Wigglesworm,
It’s been sweltering down here in the Lower Regions – you would think you were in the high summer of Boston, but no, it’s just hell. Anyhow, outbreaks of gonorrhea and florescent mosquitoes aside, things plod along as usual. But enough about the weather.
I note with some consternation that your charge has graduated from Harvard. How she managed this I am not entirely certain, given our strenuous efforts to achieve the exact opposite. Yes, we did a little grind of victory when she took a year off, but look what that did – she merely slipped further from our grasp thanks to the humiliation the disorientation produced! Again, the Enemy’s ways are clearly not our ways – curse his Heavenly Highness and his Unendurable Everlasting Sneakiness! I swear, He truly hits Below the Diabolical Belt! Not even our brightest philosophers can get their heads around his tiresome Divine Paradoxes. And now she has that awful little diploma, adorned with that noisome blinking “VERITAS” shield (which we can never seem to penetrate, and humans the world over venerate)! I am tempted to despair, Wigglesworm. Sometimes I look at my oeuvre, at my life’s work, and I must confess I am very near Despair.
We were doing so well! Do you remember those first dark days of freshman year, when her overweening arrogance wafted in sweet waves, producing responsive aversion in all those around her? Her mindless ambition, her directionless hunger for praise and affection and validation? She was all potential! Yes, there was all of that tangled morass of her “conservative Christian background” (we are working on that particular phrase – hopefully the Cliche Factory will get their act together), but here she was, un-moored from her conservative little country, eager to be seduced by “American” “freedom” and “liberalism” (whatever humans mean by these terms! – the UnLit. Critics are still working to establish exactly what, though I am personally skeptical that department will ever get any definitions straight – why those particular faculty are still on the University’s payroll is one of Hell’s Unfathomable Mysteries, as far as I’m concerned). She was so eager to throw off the shackles of parental control! – In short, delightfully corruptible, an ingenue of the first order. You even steered her clear of most of the Christian organizations on campus, as per my advice, fairly successfully, by making them seem “lame”, self-righteous and racially or culturally or economically segregated to her own self-righteous self.
However, even then, cracks were beginning to appear. It was collective hubris of the first order that made the Council of Diabolicals conclude the Enemy had evacuated the liberal spectrum of New England churches – the entire Second Council of the Diabolicals has now retrospectively determined this judgment was entirely wrong-footed (again, never underestimate the Enemy or his infuriating persistence!). That she went to church at all should have set your alarm bells ringing – indeed, I remember expressly forbidding you to let her go! “Oh, Nuncle Screwtape, it’s just an itty bitty ultra-liberal service! The sermon isn’t even ever longer than twelve minutes!” You do recall, of course, that Time is merely one of 88,9087 dimensions? All those Quantum Catechisms! – What was it the Enemy says of himself? “One day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day”?
I think He said this through that random fisherman he picked up along the way on which he built the church – it is so annoying when this happens! I mean, here we are, with all the best civil servants in the Lower Kingdom, laboring to understand dimensions, and then this burly bearded fellow who’s been catching fish his whole short human life goes and blurts that out and is handed the very keys to the Kingdom. I mean, it’s one thing to require us to keep tabs on highly educated people like your patient and one excellent ex-servant of Our Father, Saul of Tarsus (who nevertheless turned out disastrously good – cf. pretty much most of the New “Testament”), but fishermen? Come on! No matter, again – I digress!
I expressly forbid you to let her in a church! “But it’s only got old people in it!” you protested, when I pointed out your error. Wigglesworm, sometimes you exasperate me! Old people are some of the most dangerous Beings alive, particularly if they are in the Enemy’s Camp. Yes, we have caused Human Society to denigrate the elderly; but don’t you see, that was a product of the Dark Lakes of Distortion, and not a reflection of Actuality! We made them obsessed with youth, obsessed with appearance impossible to upkeep beyond the age of 30. We made them worship at the Temple of Eternal Youth. Hell, Our Father Below is old, and wise, and proud of it. The Enemy himself goes by the pretentious, typically self-aggrandizing title of “Ancient of Days” – do not underestimate old people!
Furthermore, there were all those dead people to reckon with! Remember, we are talking about New England here: its very name rank with the memory of headstrong warriors of the Enemy’s Camp, the ground littered with their headstones. We have only begun to grasp the power of the Enemy’s aged fortresses, which seems mysteriously derived from the simple presence of these graves. In fact, our Archeologists (particularly in the Anti-Catholic Department) recently presented a paper on precisely this phenomenon – it seems that hefty generals of the Enemy’s camp, such as that rigidly incorruptible failed tyrant, George Washington, or that annoyingly selfless self-promoter, Martin Luther King Jr, seem to leave impenetrable barriers to diabolic entry in the places where they have blasphemed against Our Father. It is most curious, and we are hoping to harness this power to develop a portable prison-house for our own errant devils. But I digress –
Then there was that whole very fruitful phase when she worshiped at the fair-browed Temple of False Art, ingratiating herself with all the “right” people, breaking commandment after commandment in the name of “exploration” and the seeking of “wisdom”, which we encouraged in everything but the Enemy’s Book. She was so far gone that she even entertained thoughts of transferring to the Second University, thinking that it would have been better to be celebrated there as a writer than panned as a critic in her assigned English department. I was particularly proud of the moment when, realizing with my not-inconsiderable insight that your charge is by nature a ladder-climber, we placed ladder after ladder in front of her, every rung a good intention – ladders of popularity, academics, sophistication, veneration, spiritual purity – chuckling with anticipation as she exhausted herself and bled her hands and feet dry, growing thirstier and hungrier by the minute, the ladders plunging, in reality, into the Flames.
Then, there was that sweet, sweet moment in which we relished victory – her near vanquishing, when her sweet flesh was practically touching the tip of my tongue – her despair so ripe, her corruption so sweet, her devastation so deep and broad like some diabolic hymn. We had destroyed her – we had severed her ties with her family, trashed her friendships to shreds, completely stripped her of every shred of self-worth and dignity, starved her soul with a combination of derision and shame.
But did you seal the deal? Did you obey my instructions to consume her immediately? Oh no, you had to go and simmer that soup, you had to go find that Onion and that Carrot, and etc, etc. We were already warned about the power of Onions by Dostoyevsky, Wigglesworm! You should have known better. Really, if the UnLit Department were not squabbling all the time, and would actually teach the moral implications of true and false fiction, we would avoid a lot of these spectacular failures! This was your fatal flaw, Wigglesworm. In your hubris, in your complacency, you did not guard over her struggling corpse. No! You were bustling about, keen to make it all “perfect”, whatever that means (that must have rubbed off from her! I have warned you never to pick up your charge’s characteristics!). You were eager to impress me, eager to cook me a delicious morsel that would satisfy my ravenous hunger. Well, my dear Wigglesworm, your kind consideration ensures that I will not go hungry. You robbed me of this girl, Wigglesworm, with your silly infatuation with the goodness of a meal and the preparation of it. You allowed yourself to enjoy the process, when in fact you should have grabbed hold of the ends and tore! Ah, my delectable Wiggie, I almost pity you in my shriveled kernel of a heart.
Anyhow, thanks to your negligence, the Enemy sneaked one “true” friend to your charge. I honestly did not see this coming myself. I had thought there would be none of the Enemy’s Camp in the Temple of False Art. I do not know why it is so hard to move with the Enemy’s omnipresence in mind. Perhaps he uses one of those starry Invisibility Cloaks of his to prevent other Beings from sensing it most of the time; whatever it is, we must constantly tack our sails to account for it even if the wind does not fill them, because His presence is always greater than we imagine. Oh, if only we could replicate the technology!
Anyhow, this “true” friend mediated with her and her enemies; also, despite her rejection of them, her family came flocking about (families always do this! Why, I cannot begin to understand), and then there was that whole damned business about her great-grandmother, who passed into the realms of gold when she was a prefrosh, interceding for her. Again this has something to do with the dead lying around – a total nuisance to our work! Because this entire network of communication is sealed off to us, despite the Virulent Wreckers in the Sillycon Valley of the Shadow of Death hacking away at it day and night, we cannot breach or intercept these messages. Believe me, it’s like trying to read Demotic without the Rosetta Stone.
Anyway, we do not fully know how this happened, but somehow, by the skin of her teeth, she was snatched out of our hands. Oh, what howling fury resounded in hell that day! How the Harpies clawed and screeched, how they tore at their hair! How the Crustaceous Crabs scuttled left and right and left and right, pinching our buttocks and nipping at our ears! How the larval lakes boiled, how the boat on the Styx creaked and threatened to splinter to shards! How our stomachs growled, at the loss of this precious morsel!
And now she is off in some untouchable realm (temporarily, but still), surrounded by that weird little cloud of buzzing insects that the Enemy calls “Grace” – and what’s more, she’s writing and drawing and filming and learning to govern her capricious tongue, singing songs and psalms and trying to be St. Peter and St. Paul and David and Isaiah and oldies of that ilk, as well as George Herbert and John Donne and that terrible mind that violated my psyche some fifty years ago now; silly and dark and bright and powerful and helpless, mourning and comforting and rejoicing and deliriously running around for all the world like some undiscovered child, and in short being fully alive and “truly” herself – and all through no effort of her own.
Oh the howls of frustration! What just really gets me is how utterly inappropriate her behavior is – like David dancing around half-naked like a wild thing at the head of a processional – there she is, standing in the white-hot sight of the Enemy, feeling for all the world like some white wizard’s only beloved daughter, a wizard who rules a far-away kingdom from a little rock with a Book (even though she’s just a nerdy fresh graduate, unemployed, napping in bookstores, in danger of becoming an illegal immigrant with a homeless bunny) acting as though she’s Blessed continually! In her hand is a bright sword, and she raises on her arm a shield – yes, that very stupid shield with “Truth” written on it in bloody Latin, of all things; and the sword is of course the “Word”, and she runs around talking about “Peace” and “Reconciliation” from Above – complete poppycock, of course – we all know, especially in the Academy, this world contains only War and Division! And she’s not alone, too, there’s a whole bunch of them, swarming around like little bleeping satellites beaming messages around about the University.
This – this was supposed to be our Great Failure*, Wigglesworm! This was our “Godless Harvard*“! What the hell? Where did you go wrong? And worse still, she’s graduating, and she has no fear, for the Enemy is with her? His rod and his staff, they comfort her? It’s just too much to bear. I swear, we were ready to turn on one another and eat, and I believe that’s exactly what we did. And do, my delectable Monsieur Wigg.
You are to report to my chambers at doom doom o’clock this afternoon. You may bring a cardboard box along with you, to collect your things. As you know, in hell, no poor devil is ever relieved. We are tired, but none of us ever retire. Errant devilings like yourself are customarily fired – efficiently and quite, quite literally. Don’t worry about your patient – I will be reassigning her to the far more sophisticated and very accomplished Derthcliffe. If you have any next of kin, which I sincerely doubt, since they are apt to deny you considering your fatal failure, you may write short notices to them. But hasten, and come to the Feast, my little one, my dove – come to the Feast, and I assure you, this time I will take, and eat.
* photos from the Harvard Crimson