Chapter 16                       Dance With The Devil         By Gunther Schwab                   Written in 1963.

 

 

SATAN SWITCHED ON THE MICROPHONE. "ASSEMBLY!"

He called.

Then he sat down and made himself comfortable in his big arm-chair,

and looked with a triumphant smile from one to other of his guests.

"We're at the end of our course of instruction, my friends.

I've put my cards on the table.

 Now you know everything – or nearly everything – and so you are my accomplices.

You've become the Devil's creatures before you've actually committed yourselves.

You'll understand that I do nothing for nothing.

All that now remains to be done is to draw up a formal deed of association.

As to the decision you'll arrive at, I'm in no kind of doubt.

 

"You've heard and seen how I and my assistants are going ahead according to plan

with the offensive against mankind.

The different stages of this plan are prepared very slowly, but I forget nothing;

there are no loopholes.

I hold a whole handful of trumps.

If atomic energy doesn't take the trick, then chemistry will do so;

and if mankind should escape the deadly grip of the poisoners,

it would still be threatened with hunger. If it should ever hit on the idea of saving its soil,

its water and its peasantry, I should finish it off with a thousand other little measures that

I have prepared. Mankind is lost and I let them dance merrily on the top of a volcano."

"The situation is utterly hopeless," said Groot, "so what else could they do?"

"Don't say that," said the girl.

"What might happen at any time, despite all the efforts of the Devils,

is that a man would arise who had the strength to summon humanity to action."

 

The Devil made a deprecatory gesture.

"I should use all the means at my disposal to show him as a fool, a criminal,

and an enemy of the human race. And the mob, guided by myself, would lynch him.

Don't worry, my friends, the world is mine and it is to me that mankind belongs."

"No ! " Suddenly Sten Stolpe, the poet, stood in the centre of the room, his arms upflung.

"No ! " he cried again – and yet again. "No ! "

The Boss looked him up and down in amazement, and there was malice in his smile.

"The poet is becoming hysterical," he said quietly.

Sten let his arms fall. He stood upright and alone; one man against the power of evil.

"Don't play the fool, Sten," said Harding. "Anyone who resists will never leave this house."

"Don't ruin us all," cried Groot.

 

Stirred to her inmost being, full of fear, and yet also with a feeling of joy,

Rolande looked at Sten Stolpe.

The Boss had ordered "Assembly" and from doors that were visible and invisible,

through the mysterious transparency of the fourth wall,

the various department heads entered the room. All the assistants and under-Devils came

and gathered round Satan, forming a half-circle behind him.

There was Mondo, that sym­pathetic, strangely likeable Devil, in the front row;

next to him stood the Stink Devil, the unassuming Grabbleskrit,

and all the others who had made their report during the past three days.

And never to be forgotten or overlooked, there stood Murdus­catu, the Devil with the death's head.

Sten looked from one to the other of these cold, malevolent and threatening faces.

A silence hung over everything. In a voice that was loud and clear, he again said: "No!"

"What do you mean by `No'?" asked the Devil sharply.

"You may have bedevilled every sphere of life, but so long

 

in millions of human hearts there is love and goodness and a desire for righteousness,

Satan can claim no right to the world."

The Devil gave a little laugh.

"Love, goodness and a desire for righteousness are very often put into the service

of so-called humanity. Under the disguise of humanity, I have set violence,

lies and commercial interests upon the thrones of the world,

and woe to him who seeks to unmask the fraud."

"All it needs is a thought, a word, a deed.

Then the Devil will be powerless."

"Man is too ill for healthy thoughts, too weak for a liberating deed,

and the word of truth is no longer understood by him."

"In every being Truth lives a concealed life. Man must be helped to find her."

"Nothing is more dangerous than that. I have killed Truth."

"Now we know on what it is that Satan has founded his dominion.

He has founded it on presumption and greed."

"And what can you set against that?"

 

"Humility and reverence."

"Humility is only practised by the wise; reverence only felt by the great;

the masses are as far removed from greatness as they are from wisdom."

Harding joined in. He was the Devil's man.

"You fool!" he cried.

"Do you think you can win even a single man for a programme that advocates hunger and rags?

 Promise them riches without work, gluttony, lust and degen­eracy,

and they'll praise you and follow you."

"The blessedness of breathing, the fulfilling of life, are inde­pendent of riches.

Does a tree need treasure under its roots in order to blossom?

Does a bird need a golden nest in order to sing?

Are you going to say that only someone who has stuffed himself full of food can be happy,

or that only the rich can be good?

That only the degenerate can love, and only the slave can have human feelings?"

 

Rolande turned to Sten.

"The guilt of man is immeasurable and almost inexpiable.

Why has the Creator permitted it?"

"Nature is patient, and full of infinite goodness;

She allowed us time to recollect ourselves and to be converted.

Instead of this, we've continued along the road to ruin.

Oh ! " he suddenly cried. "Why am I under the curse of being a man?

Would I were an animal, a tree, a wretched worm or a blade of grass on the wayside.

What does it avail us to be human, if we must die because of it?

All our knowledge does not weigh heavier than life itself."

"You are human, and the super-brain draws you downwards," replied Satan.

Sten turned to his friends.

 

"Rolande, Groot, Bob Harding – we still have life.

Who dares to speak of Paradise lost?

The earth will still be green, the bees will still hum in the flowers,

a thousand miracles of creation still speak to us !

We must seek life; we must summon it ! "

"I've put man to sleep ! " said the Devil.

"We will awaken him."

The Devil laughed.

"When you're faced with an enemy who's bent on your destruction

there's only one argument that's any use – that of the bigger battalions.

The invincible powers of money will destroy anyone who seeks to interfere with their profits."

"The number of the victims is greater than that of those who profit."

"Every man has for a moment some advantage from the pro­cess of human ruin.

Nobody will be willing to deny himself that."

"I cry out and millions will hear me."

"That will merely result in the death of millions, and then the hatred of misguided men will destroy you."

"Perhaps those poor dupes will have to die so that mankind may return to life – to true life;

the survivor of a single noble pair, would make possible the birth of a new human race."

 

"See what happens when you invite these masses to sacrifice their lives for the benefit

of those who survive them, Mr. Stolpe," mocked the Boss.

"I think that you'll not find a single one to follow you.

And even should there be millions ready to face the irrevocable catastrophe

which they themselves have brought about, it would avail nothing,

for I lead the powers of destruction.

Their ranks are closed and they are well organized against Man.

Deserted by all good spirits, man ends by standing alone and lost."

"Alone?" asked Sten, and it was as though he addressed the question to himself.

"Alone, do you say? We are not alone!"

Suddenly Rolande stood beside Sten, pale, resolute and brave.

Her heart was beating hard and her hands were pressed against her breast where,

beneath her dress, she felt the blessed grains of corn, the secret of life,

indestructible throughout the ages. Her gaze flickered.

"We are not alone," she said. "Behind us stands God."

 

"Never utter that name," roared the Boss, leaping up,

and a movement went through the ranks of Devils as though some terrible power

were pressing upon it.

"You believe, you madmen, that He will help you?

He who is humiliated, denied, insulted and spat upon a thousand times a day

by every one of your thoughts, by every word,

by every motion of your poisoned hearts, every action,

by your whole crazy, ruined, accursed world !

You think that you can expect something from Him? Did I not say to you that the Chief

had broken his staff over your heads, that it was He who gave me my commission

to destroy you because you have offended against His law?

It is His will that this monstrosity which is Man should be utterly annihilated.

Do you imagine that you can assert yourselves against this Will

and hope that in this crisis He will be at your side?"

 

"God will help us," said Sten.

"Say that word again and you shall go to Hell, wretched worms that you are!" fumed the Devil.

Sten remained upright and looked into the Boss's raging, dis­torted face.

He knew in that moment that he was not without fear and yet – perhaps because of this

– he spoke with resolution: "Once again, and a thousand times more, the name of God,

accursed demon ! God, God, God, will help us." It was like a conjuration, a cry for help,

an anchor of safety; the crowd of Devils round the Boss changed into a pack of wild beasts,

that showed their teeth and, with their hands ready to claw,

seemed about to hurl themselves on the two human beings.

 

The Boss urged them on, crying, "Seize them ! Beat them ! Into the prisons with them ! "

The Devils' dance of hate-filled, howling demons swirled round Sten and Rolande,

and yet it seemed as though some in-visible force held them back.

The Boss pressed ten bellpushes at once and from all the corners of the room new crowds

of devil-faces appeared. As they drew nearer, they increased the insane confusion.

Rolande and Sten stood in the centre, clinging to one another, terrified.

The girl sank to her knees, but Sten remained standing and raised

his arms in supplication to Heaven. "Is it true, Almighty God,

that Thou hast forsaken us because we have forsaken Thee?

Is it true that Thou hast judged us because we erred?

Yes, we confess it! We have trodden the laws of life underfoot.

 

We have made a mockery of Thy creation with every act of our degenerate world.

We have mocked at its wisdom and love. We have hated and resisted necessary suffering,

which is there to help to maintain the world. We have become the enemies of Nature,

although she has been the friend of all living things and of ourselves since the beginning of the world.

We have thought ourselves better than the best of her creatures and yet, through our own fault,

have become the last and most wicked thereof. We have stretched out our hands to take the crown

of dominion from Thy head and have presumed to seat ourselves upon Thy throne."

 

Silently Rolande had echoed every word, with her hands folded and her head bowed.

Now she raised her eyes, as though seeking her Creator who could not be seen

in the great expanse of Heaven.

"Hear us, Almighty God," she cried. "Hear us!"

Sten continued: "We humbly confess and repent that we have been guilty and have deserved death,

which, according to Eternal Law, must visit us as an act of justice.

 Even in our destruction, there is to be seen the goodness of Creation,

which destroys the sinner, so that Paradise may be restored.

Because we recognize this, we are ready to pay the penalty and to accept without demur

the execution of the judgement upon ourselves.

 

But, since Thy almighty power is love in all things, we know that it will once more take us

under its charge if we repent and humbly join ourselves to the chain of living things and

seek the place that has been appointed for us, the place that none may leave under pain of death.

"We have repented and submit.

Obediently, we will return home to the eternal sources of life, which we have despised.

We would be pure! We would be poor! We would be truly our-selves !

With Thy goodness and Thy help, we would endeavour to win back the simple, true life.

We would be the brothers of all things that live, from the blade of grass to the beast in the fields.

We will declare Thee Holy by declaring Holy Thy divine creation.

We beg Thee to forgive us, and to receive us again into the community of the living from

which we have presumptu­ously shut ourselves out. We will abjure injustice and return to justice;

and we know that Thou wilt forgive us, for Thy good­ness and Thy love for all that is just are boundless."

While the two human beings were praying, the mad Devils' dance had ceased.

Writhing in impotent rage, the Devils crawled about in the corners of the room while

the Boss lay outstretched and twitching on top of this weirdly moving mass,

his great mouth painfully gasping for air. Only Murduscatu, the Devil with the death's head,

had remained standing. Now he sank stiffly forward, then violently hit the ground,

his skull broke loose from the body and rumbled across the room.

 

"Almighty God," Sten continued, "forgive us and stand by us in this, our hour of greatest need.

We wish to serve life.

We are in Thy hands and we know that nothing happens save in accordance with Thy wise

and eternal will. Give us a period of grace to prove ourselves.

We wish to destroy the works of the Devil in this world; we wish to restore back into Thy hands

the apple that, contrary to Thy commands, we stole from the tree.

Take what is Thine, and forgive us our wickedness. Lord, have mercy upon us ! "

"Lord, have mercy upon us ! " echoed Rolande.

Suddenly there was a clap of thunder.

The huge Devil house trembled and the whole earth along with it. Under their feet,

the floor began to sway. A cry of tortured humanity rose up from the deep,

coming from millions of throats; the walls burst asunder, smoke and flames covered the world

— then, with a roar like that of thunder, the whole mighty building of the Devil collapsed.

 

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