Once upon a time in Russia there was a very nondescript KGB spy called Putin. He had expensive tastes and supplemented his meagre spy income by driving a cab at night. His passengers were often drunk and either vomited, pissed or shat in his cab; soon, he hated everyone and thought, This can’t go on. If I’m to be rich and feared as a supremely powerful dictator, I need help – but who from? The solution came to him in a flash: Satan. He falls asleep at the car’s wheel to the smell of vomit. He dreams.
He sees himself lighting a candle in St Basil’s Cathedral, and hears his prayer of supplication to Lucifer. Out of the intense darkness an old priest, smoking a cigarette and wearing a cassock covered in ash, approaches Putin, who stammers, Are you really …
Yes, I’m Lucifer, he says as he unlocks a heavy door. They descend into an ancient crypt filled with the bright light of flaming braziers. Lucifer leans forward into the flames, and lights the cigarette in his mouth; his skin smoulders.
Putin sees glass demi-johns stored on shelves. What are these?
They are labelled.
Putin reads: Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, and Genghis Khan. Something like a tiny hurricane twister is swirling inside the jars. Are they trying to escape?
Lucifer laughs. They pawned their souls for power and lost all moral sense.
Do they get them back? Putin asks.
Lucifer almost chokes with laughter. They failed to achieve my ambition of destroying God’s world; so they remain here everlastingly trapped in their unrequited rage. I’ve been watching you for some time Vladimir, and I think you might be the man to realise my dreams.
What do you want me to do?
Create hell on earth.
Putin wakes to find Lucifer sitting next to him in the taxi. A drunk staggers towards the car and pisses on the windscreen. Lucifer points at the drunk who explodes. The windscreen wipers clunk as they push fragments of bloody flesh aside.
Wimp, Satan chuckles. Shall we visit your mother?
You know where she lives?
I have a test for you.
She’ll be asleep at this time of night.
All the better.
Back in the crypt. Lucifer shows Putin a demi-john.
Is that my soul?
Yes, you passed the test; your mother never knew what was happening.
I didn’t know I was capable of doing such a thing, Putin says, crossing himself.
Compassion? Stop that nonsense. Crossing yourself is pointless. God doesn’t give a shit about you. Listen. You will provoke the West over and over again as you try to bring the USSR back to life. America will destroy Moscow with a nuclear weapon. You will retaliate.
You really want to destroy the earth?
It’s better to reign in hell than serve in heaven. So we’ll make hell here. It’s too late for second thoughts, Vladimir. Remember, I have your conscience in a jar.
© Phil Cosker 2022
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.