Richard Kadrey: Devil in the Dollhouse

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Richard Kadrey Devil in the Dollhouse
  • Название:
    Devil in the Dollhouse
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  • Жанр:
    Ужасы и Мистика / на английском языке
  • Язык:
    Английский
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Richard Kadrey


Devil in the Dollhouse

T e Unimog bounces down a shattered freeway that looks like a set from Crackhead Godzilla Goes on a Bender and Fucks up Everything. Exit signs and overhead lights are melted to slag. Buildings along the edges of the road look more like the stone skeletons of giant fish than settlements. We have to inch our way down and then back up collapsed overpasses like arthritic grasshoppers.

And it gets worse. This thousand-mile-long ribbon of shit? Technically, I own all of it. All of Hell is falling apart and one of my jobs is to put it back together. But not today.

Let’s back up and get a look at the big picture.

There are just as many assholes in Heaven as there are in Hell. The only difference is the ones in Hell aren’t slick enough to hide it. Therefore Hell is a kingdom of assholes, and thus the Devil is the king of the assholes.

Hi. I’m the Devil. No, seriously. I used to be James Stark or sometimes Sandman Slim, but then the Lucifer 1.0 pissed off back to Heaven and stuck me running Hell. I thought that was the worst thing that could ever happen to me. That was three days ago. Today things got worse. Today I’m in a truck convoy heading somewhere I never heard of to find some place that scares even these evil fallen-angel pricks. Plus, I can’t eat the lunch they packed for me. I never could stand unicorn salad.

Here’s how it all started: I was hanging out in Lucifer’s library-my library now-when a bookcase opened and two Hellions came in, looking at me like I was a two-headed rattler in the reptile booth at a Texarkana side show.

“So, this is him,” said the smaller Hellion.

“I guess so,” said the big one.

“He doesn’t look like much of a monster.”

“He’s the monster who kills monsters, so naturally he’s a lesser monster.”

“He still looks like any other mortal to me.”

“You know I’m standing right here, right?” I said.

The smaller Hellion raised his voice, like maybe I was hard of hearing.

“I was saying that you don’t look like much of a monster.”

“I look better covered in blood. You never saw me fight in the arena?”

Big Boy shook his head.

“Merihim there is a priest. He can’t go. Me, I don’t like to go. Fighting for fun doesn’t make sense to me.”

“Trust me. It wasn’t fun.”

The smaller Hellion was in sleeveless black robes. Every inch of visible skin was tattooed in sacred Hellion script, like he’d been mugged by the tiniest graffiti crew in the universe. Big Boy looked like the Hulk’s runt cousin in rubber overalls. Dangling from his thick leather belt were enough vicious-looking tools to give Torquemada the vapors.

“I’m Ipos,” said Big Boy. He hooked a thumb at the tattooed squirt. “He’s Merihim.”

I recognized the names. Samael, aka Lucifer 1.0, left me a note with their names. They’re a couple of his spies and sometime advisors.

“Hi,” I said. “I’m the Devil.”

Merihim nodded. Pursed his lips.

“Yes. That’s what we’re here to talk about. You’re not, entirely, quite Lucifer.”

“Then you better tell whoever is Lucifer, because I’m living in his palace, wearing his clothes, and peeing in his shower.”

“Yes,” said Ipos. “You have all the trappings of Lord Lucifer. And you certainly have the title.”

“What you lack is the belief,” said Merihim.

“I seem to remember killing Mason Faim and stopping a war with Heaven.”

“And those facts are what earned you the title. But the title is a thing of the mind. Belief is a thing of the heart. And that you don’t have.”

“Not yet,” said Ipos.

“In a conversation like this when someone says ‘not yet’ it makes my balls ache. You know why? Because that’s where the knee is going. Because ‘not yet’ means I have to do something and it’s going to hurt. Am I right?”

“Your balls are very wise indeed,” said Merihim. “But you need to see our problem.”

“You need to see mine. I don’t care.”

Ipos held up one of his big hands.

“We’re here to help you become what destiny has led you to.”

“To become the Lord of the Underworld.”

“Don’t call me ‘Lord.’ I don’t like it. So how are you going to do it?”

Ipos said, “There’s something Samael was going to do before he left us. A kind of quest.”

Perfect. Not only does Samael stick me with Hell, he leaves me to clean up his last job. And I know him well enough to know that this is one he didn’t want to do.

“Fuck you both. I never wanted this gig. One of you can play Lucifer. How about you, preacher?”

“I’m a simple priest, unsuited for a life in politics.”

“What do you say, Mighty Joe Young?”

“I’m head of maintenance. Your palace would fall apart without me.”

“Well, I’m not Sir fucking Galahad out looking for adventure. I’m a schmuck who wants to go home.”

“You have to be alive to do that,” Ipos said.

“Not all of Hell is willing to accept a mortal as Lucifer. Considering that you are going to be with us for quite some time …”

“Forever maybe.”

“You might want to consider ways to minimize your chances of being murdered.”

“Not being killed is pretty high on my agenda. What kind of quest are we talking about?”

Merihim idly picked up a book from a nearby table.

“It’s really more of an exorcism. Not much more than clearing out a haunted house.”

“Maybe a bit more like a fortress,” Ipos said.

“With a coterie of unpleasant residents doing mischief with travelers.”

“What’s a coterie?”

“A somewhat large group.”

“How large?”

“Some say an army,” said Ipos. “But a minor one.”

“Why didn’t you say so? It sounds completely reasonable.”

“Good.”

“No, it doesn’t. I was being sarcastic.”

Merihim frowned.

“You don’t do it as well as Samael.”

“My wise balls are telling me to pass on the offer.”

“But they know you can’t.”

He was right. If I’m going to survive I need some juice, and the fastest way to get that down here is to kill something.

So now here I am, bouncing along in a truck with concrete shocks surrounded by a Hellion legion that smells like a fish-market Dumpster. I’m not usually the dragged-along-for-the-ride type. Usually, I’m the one doing the dragging, but I’m a little out of my depth here. Like Marianas Trench out of my depth. I fought in the arena long enough to know that sometimes the best strategy is to shut up, go along with the game, and make sure that someone is standing in front of me when the tentacles hit the fan. So far though, all my Cool Hand Luke plan has gotten me is a numb ass from sitting and a ringing in my ears from the engine noise. Worst of all, the unicorn is starting to smell good.

U p ahead, the whole world is on fire. Our three-truck convoy is off the freeway and in open desert plains following a narrow winding road to fuck all.

“Ah. The first ring of suffering,” says Geryon, the scholar. “Henoch created three before we reach the Breach. They’re designed to break the spirit of anyone approaching.”

“I thought we made the suffering. We don’t do the suffering.”

“If you think Hell isn’t Hell for every creature in it then you’re blind, False Lucifer.”

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