Prodigal Son

“We won’t be able to hold them off for much longer, sir.”

The tired old man rose from his chair and walked over to the window, his hands folded behind his back.

“I know. Your people did their best.”

In the distance, another police car went up in flames and the masses of rioters gathered outside the gates rejoiced. It reminded him of home.

He sighed. “I remember it all, now. Dad was right. I should’ve never left.”

“Sir?”

“I’m not from here,” said the old man. “But I didn’t remember. But it’s all coming back to me, now.”

The other man didn’t respond. He didn’t know what to say.

“My father–my real father–is not of this Earth. I was raised in Hell.”

“Oh. Oh… kay.”

The old man ignored him. He’d become accustomed to responses like that. So many people hated him. And for what? He’d done a great job. A tremendous job, in fact. And some really great people understood that and loved him for it. But it wasn’t good enough. He couldn’t stand being challenged or hated.

“I had a good life there. Had everything I could ever need or want. And I threw it all away because I wanted to see what it was like to be human.”

“And what’s it like?”

He chuckled. “It’s terrible. Dad warned me not to go but I insisted. I knew better than he did, I thought. I said ‘Dad, I want to rule their world,’ and he said ‘No you don’t, son. No you don’t.’ And I didn’t listen. I should’ve listened.”

“I’m… I’m sorry sir, I’m afraid I don’t understand.”

The old man turned and looked at him. “My father is the devil. I am a son of Satan. I didn’t remember until now.”

The other man said nothing, but his face said everything. He was getting very concerned.

“I see how you’re looking at me there. I can hear you thinking that I’m crazy but I’m not. ‘Oh, he’s losing his mind. He’s going senile. He’s crazy. What do I do?’ Shut up and listen, that’s what you can do. It’s all true.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Dad told me I would have to live a full life, starting from a baby. I couldn’t just start out in an adult human body. It’s no good! You don’t learn anything. You don’t learn the hard lessons that make you understand that being a human sucks.

“He put me with a rich family. Back in 1946, it was. Great time to be here, lemme tell you. There was opportunity. Not like today. They all want something handed to them, these people. They don’t want to work for it, like I did. I made my own wealth. I never relied on them. I’m a self-made man.”

“Yes sir.”

“Oh, shut up,” said the old man, scowling. “I know you think what everyone else thinks, that I was just a spoiled little rich kid who had it easy.”

He slammed his fist down on the desk. “It wasn’t easy. I worked hard.”

The other man opened his mouth to speak and thought better of it. He just stood and listened, trying not to betray his discomfort with his face and body language.

“Dad used to tell me–my real dad, I’m still talking about–he would tell me, ‘You’re gonna fail. They’re gonna hate you. No matter what you do.’ And I didn’t listen. He even sent prophets to get the people ready for me. They got on the airwaves and people watched and listened to them for hours every day. Hours. And the people were fooled. They were conditioned. Turned ’em into my little soldiers and they didn’t even know it was happening. Took seventy years before the time was right and the stage was set. Few years earlier nobody would’ve taken me seriously. They’da laughed me outta town, lemme tell you. Not so much, by then. The people were ready.”

“And you did it, sir. You won.”

“Stop trying to kiss my ass,” snapped the old man. I know you’re just humoring me now. And I don’t care, because you’ll see soon enough. It’s going to be the biggest scandal you’ve ever heard of.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Anyway, I was the best. I had a lot of good people on my side and we did a tremendous job, but then the people turned on me. They say I created the division, but it was already there. I just gave it a voice. That’s how you gain power. Let the people fight amongst each other. That’s how it works. They stopped fighting and turned it all on me, though. Oh, I know dad’s probably pleased with how it all turned out. How it all went to shit. But I wanted to be good. I even started quoting the Bible and telling people I was a Christian, just to piss him off. You know, that’s how you rebel when you’re from Hell. But I think he liked that, too. He loves lies. He invented the things, you know.”

“Satan is known as the father of lies, sir.”

“You’re damn right he is. And I’m sure he’s very, very proud of me right now. But I wanted a legacy I could be proud of. I wanted law and order. I wanted the people to worship and adore me. I wanted them to build statues of me that little kids would see for years to come and say ‘Daddy, who was that?’ And daddy would say ‘The best leader ever, of all time, son. Show him some respect.’ I didn’t want this chaos. It’s taken all the focus off what a great job I’ve been doing and I hate it.”

“Sir, if I may, perhaps it’s best you surrender to them now. If they break in and try to take you by force, you could get hurt.”

The old man smiled. “My most faithful protector to the end. I’m gonna make sure you’re well taken care of when you go to Hell. I’m gonna give you a real good job where you can do whatever you want. It’ll be great.”

“Yes, sir.”

“It’s time for me to go now. Tell them I escaped through some top-secret escape tunnel or something nobody else knows about. They’ll hunt me for years but they won’t find anything because I’ll be gone. I won’t be here. At all. Understand?”

“I… I really don’t, but I’m trying, sir.”

“I know you are.” He walked over and put his hands on the man’s shoulders and looked into his eyes. “You will understand, though. I just never could get used to this whole human thing, even after years of being one. I don’t get it. I don’t like it. I thought I would, but I don’t.”

He took several steps back and smiled; took one last look around his office. No, not office–throne room. He was a misunderstood king, and the stupid peasants who weren’t as smart as him were revolting because they didn’t know what was best for them.

“I’m going to go, now,” he said. “Goodbye, until we meet again in my father’s kingdom.”

The old man’s skin began to glow, getting brighter and brighter with each passing second until it began to crack and peel. The other man could feel the heat radiating from his master and snatched the fire extinguisher off the wall.

“Don’t bother,” said the old man, now fully engulfed in flames but seemingly unbothered by it. “Let me burn.”

With a loud poof, he turned to a cloud of ash and collapsed into a pile on the floor.

The other man stared at the lifeless black snowbank that had once been the great man he’d pledged his life to protect. He saluted. “It was an honor to serve, sir.”

Fists were pounding on the northwest door now, so hard that the room’s windows and the paintings hanging on its wall rattled.

Come out and surrender, you coward!” called a muffled voice. “It’s over!”

“…face justice!” he heard another angry voice shout.

“Fascist! Time’s up!”

He removed his pistol from its holster and pressed the barrel to his temple. “Hang on, sir. I’m coming with you.”

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