Posted by: The Amoeba | February 26, 2009

Where The Battle Rages

A couple of weeks ago, I had an opportunity to sing a verse of a Negro spiritual in the church that Quilly and I attend. I got through it without damaging anybody’s ears, I think. But one of the lines I was given to sing bothered me then, and still bugs me now. It claims something for God that doesn’t seem to fit with the stories we tell about God and God’s conflicts with The Dark Side. Perhaps this tale will tell you what my problem is …


The scene is the Inferno. All around the Prince of Darkness, ice swoops in howling gale-driven pellets; lava plumes punch their way through the drifted snow in fountains of fire and steam and noise. Wind-tossed souls groan under the endlessly-repeated encounters with frozen rock and molten. But none of this can be heard over the blare of Hell’s sound system, which is playing – of all things – gospel music …

When the hosts of Hell assail, and my strength begins to fail,
Thou who never lost a battle, stand by


“Yes, sir?”

“How many times do I have to tell you, don’t call me Sir! Who the Heaven do you think I am? Paul McCartney?? Speaking of noise, find me the miserable demon who authorized that … that … PTAH! on our loudspeakers. I want that creature here. NOW!”

“My lord?”


“It is here.”

What’s here?”

“The creature you’re seeking. It’s here.”

“Where? I see only you and me.”


You… ?!?”

“I did no such thing. You did.”

“Did NOT!”

“Did. Satanic Majesty’s Request 2475JW856, dated …”

Gimme that!”

“Paper copies in triplicate are filed in 17 separate secret stations scattered throughout the nine levels. And that doesn’t count the 23 supercomputer nodes on which the .pdfs are stored, sealed with seven seals each. If you tried to find and destroy all these copies, s… my lord, all Hell would break loose.”

“Think you’re a pretty funny hobgoblin, don’t you, Screwtape? And just why would I put out an order like this?”

“Because, according to Appendix iiB of the cited SMR, you were impressed by how the Americans used what they persisted in calling ‘music’ at places like Gitmo and Abu Ghraib, and thought that our clients would accrue similar benefits from the experience.”

“Well, I repent myself of that op…”

Yrch!! My lord! Language!!

“Save the PC gambit for the rooks, Screwtape. I tell you I repent myself of that opinion. REPENT REPENT REPENT REPENT!! Turn that garbage off! It’s driving me crazy!!

“Well …”

“‘… we are in Hell.’ I’ve heard that one for an eternity too. Perhaps you haven’t heard this one. As efficient managers, Screwtape, you and I should not have to subject ourselves to the instruments that we apply to our worthy customers in order to ensure ourselves of their efficacy. Or am I to infer that your efficiency has become compromised, and I am to seek another for your posi … Ah, that’s so much better. There’s something utterly restful in the random screaming of the damned. Nothing to make me think of that lying, cheating, misleading, micromanaging son of a …

“My lord?”

“‘Never lost a battle’, he says. What does he think this is?”

“The pits?”

It’s my victory, you scumbag! I wrested this domain from his oh-so-omnipotent hands! I created this world and filled it, and made it possible for smart-mouthed little demons to scurry around in it setting up loudspeakers and supercomputer networks and piles of forms in triplicate that I have to plow through to sort out your petty schemes. As if I don’t give you enough work to do topside. I did all this. I! So long as I am here, his claim on the world is without form and void!

“Yes, my lord. Speaking of supercomputers …”

“What about them?”

“You have heard of virtual reality?”

“I told you I have to plow through your bloody forms! Including the ones detailing all 4,582 of your recruitment strategies that utilize some form of IT. But if this is a beg for more hardware and bandwidth, the answer is NO. Not until we get that shipment of CEO souls we’ve been promised from the big corporations. Their lives as they know them are over, but they keep denying us their labor, when we are in crying need of it. I just don’t understand.”

“That makes two of us.”

“And what is it that you don’t understand, oh mighty Screwtape?”

“How we know that we’re not just a level on his Wii?”

“Because … because … no. He wouldn’t. He wouldn’t …!?!

  – O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2009 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
All opinions are mine as a private citizen.



  1. Well, dear, the battle isn’t lost. It still rages.

    And how do we know we’re not just another level on his Wii — and would it make a difference if we knew? Although it might change our thoughts on life after death.

    Dang. Lost another life! Re-boot.

  2. Clive Staples Lewis forgives you, I’m sure.

  3. That’s one hell of a battle, then, Q. Most generals and historians would have shifted its classification to “war” ages ago, with myriad battles and no end in sight. Which, since the fight is against our own selfish, asocial impulses, makes perfect sense.

    The notion of a God with a Wii is even more frightening that that of a Satan who manages by screaming. 😉

    Doug, I’m hardly the first to, um, borrow from Lewis’s underworld. Since Lewis was something of a kleptomaniac himself (the whole concept of The Chronicles of Narnia, and many of the characters in the Space Trilogy were lifted out of Tolkien’s body of work, then mostly still unpublished), I reckon turnabout is fair play. Ironically, the Screwtape Letters, I read (as well as the Space Trilogy), commemorated Tolkien in one way or another. This may have led Tolkien to reject both Lewis’s sanctimony and his church … Tolkien remained a Catholic despite bucketloads of Lewis’s Church of England proselytizing.

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