Thursday, September 18, 2008

Devil in the Gray Town

Below is a brief excerpt from my book Conversations with C.S. Lewis, Chapter 10: Devil in the Gray Town. The book features a series of imaginative discussions between C.S. Lewis and a contemporary atheist.

This chapter is set in Lewis's imaginary world. The book is written in the first person from the perspective of the atheist, Thomas Clerk. "Jack" refers to C.S. Lewis, as that is what he preferred his friends call him.

I came up with the devil's name "Flubgose" based on the names of two devils, Glubose and Slubgob, in The Screwtape Letters. "Flub," of course, suggests to botch or bungle, which is exactly what Wormwood and Screwtape do in Lewis's fine little book ...

Wherein I am separated from Jack, wander deeper into a gray town, meet a dragon, and have a surreal conversation with a devil.

I wandered through the gray and lifeless town for what seemed like hours. I thought it would get dark, but this place always seemed to hover at twilight. Finally, I spotted a structure different from the others. It was tall and looked like an office building. A broken lamp post near the entrance flickered yellow light on and off.

As I approached, I noticed a crooked sign hanging over the doorway: "All hope abandon ye who enter here ..." Still sulking over my outburst with Jack, I shrugged and entered the building.

I was in what appeared to be the lobby. A large, curved concrete counter - unattended - dominated the room. Papers were strewn about on the floor as well as the counter. Before I had time to examine the room more carefully, a shrill voice spoke from the speaker system overhead.

"Clerk, Thomas, follow the black line. Patient Clerk, Thomas, follow the black line."

I looked around and noticed a black line on the floor. It went as far as the counter, then stopped. I followed it and as I neared the counter the dark line extended itself several more feet, around the counter. In this manner, after wandering through this dingy building for some ten minutes, I arrived at an office door. The nameplate read, "Flubgose, Devil First Class." I stared at the closed door for a moment, then it creaked open.

Tentatively, I peeked inside. A concrete desk, littered with paperwork was on one side of the room. Seated behind it, reclining in a swivel chair, was what I can only describe as a cartoonish-looking devil. I estimated it was between four or five feet tall. Its dark red leathery skin contrasted sharply with the drab grays of the concrete desk and largely unadorned walls.

I did notice a framed photograph, askew, on one wall. On it was a photograph of what appeared to be the same devil as the one in the chair before me, though in the portrait he wore a black bowtie and a fiendish grin. At the bottom of the portrait were the words, "Tempter of the Month."

The devil looked up at me and smiled. As he leaned back in his chair I thought I caught a glimpse of a long tail.

"I am Flubgose," he beamed, speaking in a quick staccato voice (bureaucratic, I thought), then remarked nonchalantly, "Devil First Class. You are Clerk. And you have a dragon on your head."

"Excuse me?"

"A dragon - you have one on your head. Sit down." He began to chew on a cigar, a subtle smirk on his face.

Copyright © 2008 by Robert Velarde. Al rights reserved.

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