This story is by Rachna Priyanka and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Having toiled for six days, God had filled the universe – Incandescent stars fizzled, earths revolved and moons orbited. He had created and sent birds and fishes to his choicest earths to fill skies and seas, and couriered also a few roaches and tardigrades just because they insisted till he yielded. Gargantuan Tyrannosauruses with some of their near and dear ones, too, found homes. None of his creations was less beautiful than the other and although most ate another, a weird and harsh design, it was all good.
It was six hours to midnight, the time when paradise and its exhausted creator would inevitably have to rest. Content, like any great artist after the completion of a long-envisioned masterpiece, God heaved a sigh. As he sat smiling inwardly, scratching an eternally white beard, and watching through the windows of paradise his creation blossom, in walked a nervous messenger.
“Lord, forgive me for being the bringer of this unhappy news,” he spoke hurriedly, “the Devil is snuffing out the stars.”
The messenger was young and had been recently recruited upon recommendations from his uncle who was profitably posted in the Cabinet of Divinity.
“Child, what are you saying?” God, skeptical as he was, hastily abandoned his previous post and moved towards the opposite window.
The inexpert emissary was right. An entire row of stars lay dead. Their cold cadavers incensed God.
“Ask the General to gather his forces,” nostrils flaring, he ordered the boy, “I adjure him to bring me the Devil.”
The Devil had a penchant for destruction and had always found delight in ruining the heavenly gardens and littering the holy pool. But sly and silky, always, he had been released either after a quick lashing or after spending a while in the solitary dungeon. No one wanted to deal with that nincompoop.
But this time, his mischief was unpardonable.
Used to escaping the gallows, the Devil had been overly careless in his vandalism. He had left a long trail of dead stars behind him.
“We’ll get the Devil!” cried the General.
“Yes, we will!” repeated his soldiers perfunctorily. Heads lowered and backs bent, they marched behind the General, looking like sugar-denied ants, queueing up for salt.
The Devil rested on an earth little way from paradise. Purple trees surrounded the glade where he reclined, listlessly, throwing emeralds and rubies to scare away pea-brained pigeons. Then, he heard the faint echoes of war cries directed at him. He was baffled as it was an occurrence utterly new. It took him a moment to realize what he had done to deserve such fuss. Remembering the pyres he had smothered, it hit him that he had gone too far. He had to abscond or he would have his slender neck in a noose. So, he ran. He ran from earth to earth, hiding and creating specious trails. Like a lunatic, he bolted, not even stopping to turn, and see if anyone was chasing him.
All this time, the General and his soldiers moved unhurriedly.
“Let’s stop for supper,” a soldier suggested. Thus, they chowed down a heavy meal rendering them more sluggish.
“Come on, move along,” the balding General cried half-heartedly for he couldn’t go much faster either.
In paradise, God paced to and fro muttering to himself.
The Devil ran a few galaxies before he stood panting. He had happened to catch a glimpse of the team of his gallant pursuers dawdle and thought if they can, I can. He landed on a vodka-ocean-hosting earth. Having drunk his fill, he napped.
The General grew uneasy. He should have found the rascal by now but that fool had proven crafty. Once, his troop marched into a Devil’s snare and another time, he lost his way all by himself. For a long time, the General had not been in a battle or a chase of any kind. He was due to retire ere long and was considering spending his time in the vineyard with his grandson. Therefore, this pursuit had left him gasping for breath and wishing he had retired voluntarily. Meanwhile, a few drunk soldiers murmured blasphemous wisecracks.
“What’s common between the General and a fairy?”
“Minimal gravity,” and hee-hawing they went.
A tear marooned the General’s eye.
A seraph-soldier, sharp and sinewy, had had enough. Her sloppy mates and incompetent leader infuriated her. She brusquely pointed out to the General the failing decorum and spirits of the cavalry. The old General looked helpless. His entreaties to garner a serious demeanor, and rouse a sense of duty, disappeared among the troops like light within a black hole. A few soldiers had already deserted and he was afraid to use stricter disciplinary measures lest others leave too.
The seraph-soldier gritted her pearly teeth, clenched her fist, and placed a well-packed punch. The General lay, looking lifeless. Silence fell.
The Devil’s snores vibrated across the ocean and caused a few quakes.
God withdrew to his chambers, fuming.
With the new, unrelenting, somewhat inexorable General, the troop marched without a word of dissent.
“No one rests, eats or drinks till we find the Devil,” she yelled, “if anyone as much as considers desertion or spinelessness, I won’t even let his or her tortured spirit depart.”
The troop was divided into four, each headed with the most responsible leader, one of whom was the new General herself. These four search parties moved in four directions and dimensions.
The Devil, still in his drunken slumber, was unaware of this mutiny. He dreamed of creating his own heaven, complete with a jacuzzi and hot tub.
God grew agitated but he wasn’t one to scream or shout when sullen. Instead, he calmed himself by creating a few storms and hurricanes of various builds and sent them across space. A few earths perished, a few survived, and some had to start all over.
The Devil’s snores were, now, audible far and wide. Unsurprisingly, one of the search parties traced the source of those crass, loud roars. Stealthily, they surrounded the planet.
However, despite their muted steps, a few foolish, smug soldiers chuckled and woke the Devil.
Do not panic. You still have a chance. It’s a smaller army than you had witnessed. The Devil parleyed with himself. If you can only escape before they multiply. Think. Think.
The blockading troops saw the sky turn bright with glitter. Glasses of wine materialized everywhere. Intoxicated mermaids and mermen emerged from the oceans, dancing to the beats of lascivious music. Soothing, silvery fog filled the air and the viewers gaped at the blurry feast that ensued below.
The Devil’s deed was done and before the fog flitted away, he was long gone. During this period, the other search parties had arrived.
“You are all a disgrace to God. Why he created ignoble creatures like yourself, I will never know,” the General spat, “I hereby condemn you to eternal fire.”
She created the bottomless inferno and sent them down there to be perpetually fried and roasted.
The Devil didn’t dare stop now. He created ghost planets and rogue comets to mislead the troops, all the while looking for a place that was obscure yet sustaining.
God suppressed a yawn and checked his pocket watch. Dejected, he looked out of his window and cursed his worthless army.
The Devil was far from safe. The new General was determined and unwavering. He could sense her troops closing in on him. He was fatigued and could run no more.
But he found an earth – neither too big nor too tiny. Pure azure skies mirrored the crystal-clear waters. Colorful beings intermittently spotted the endless verdure. Rays of golden sunshine filtered through serene copses. He liked it.
I can’t run but I sure can hide, the Devil thought.
When the General reached this earth, she knew it held the Devil. Her forces, now fearful, straight-backed, and serious faced, looked left, right, north, and south. Yet, they could not find him.
For the Devil created men and women in his own image and filled the earth with them.
Minutes ticked away and with seconds remaining, the General tried to search across longitudes and latitudes but was hounded away by the Devil’s minions in ways so barbaric that her troop, as well as she, didn’t dare turn around.
Finally, came midnight. And God, with his heaven, rested…
… and so, he rests.