I first met Beelzebub when I was having a cup of tea at the pease pudding market stall in the city of Norwich, Eastern England. Considering Beelzebub is one of the most notorious arch-demons from Hell, meeting him wasn’t all that dramatic. I just thought he was a somewhat eccentric older fellow (most likely in his mid-sixties judging by his appearance). Wearing a three-piece suit and looking very dapper, he simply came up to the stall, stood beside me, and ordered a cup of tea.
What caught my attention first was that, just like me, he clearly liked his tea strong. He said to the girl behind the counter: “A cup of tea, please. But leave the tea bag in. I like it strong. And no sugar, devilish stuff…”
Now, the reason I like to have a cup of tea at the pease pudding stall on Norwich market is simply that I live in Norwich, a city situated in the county of Norfolk, eastern England. And a nice strong cup of tea there costs you 60p. But it’s not about saving money for me; it’s more that I don’t care for Starbucks and other plastic “paradises” that serve up fancy beverages.
Anyway, after ordering his cup of tea, the old chap (who later informed me he was Beelzebub) turned to me and said, “It’s been a long time since I mixed with humans on the upside.”
“Okaaaay…” I said continuing to presume he was somewhat eccentric, which was fine by me as I my motto is “give me the eccentric over the ordinary any day.”
It was then that he introduced himself.
“Beelzebub, at your service,” he announced, then offered his hand for me to shake, which I did.
“I’m Doc,” I replied, “Doktor Snake.”
“Yes, I know,” he said. “I came here especially to see you. I’ve read your books, you see. You’re no more than a middling writer, and could certainly do better if you tried a bit harder, but that’s by-the-by. The important thing is you’re the kind of scribbler I need to get my message across to the human race, which, let’s face it is in a sorry old state.”
By now I’d pretty much decided he was not just eccentric, but plain mad. Not that that bothered me as another one of my mottoes is “give me mad over the ordinary, any day.”
So I asked him what his message was for humanity.
“Good question,” he replied. “In a nutshell my message for your fellow homo sapiens is to show them how to save them from themselves.”
“Makes sense,” I said. “All the problems in the world are of our own making.”
“Precisely,” said Beelzebub.
After sipping some more tea, he said it was time to get down to business. He had a leather briefcase, which he opened just enough for me to see it was full of cash. “As you can see, it’s full of the spoils of Mammon… replete with filthy lucre. As I understand it, such pieces of paper are a great obsession of you humans. And I imagine you are no exception to this.”
Beelzebub then laid out his deal.
“Now, if you Doktor Snake are prepared to transcribe my message to humanity, I can pay you handsomely for your trouble. How does that sound?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I’m pretty busy and have been lucky in that I’m quite well set up.”
In fact, I had in the past suffered terrible poverty, but had turned that around with books and various internet businesses that have made me sizable sums. So while a case load of money had it’s appeal, I wasn’t exactly in dire need of it.
“Ah,” said Beelzebub, “the lure of money is not enough for you. Highly commendable, I must say. But perhaps being the one to bring the greatest story on Earth to the world might catch your fancy?”
“I thought the greatest story ever told was the Bible – Jesus’ life,” I replied.
“Well, I will concede that you humans do consider the cheap pulp fiction of the Bible to be profound and world-shattering. But I have to say it was a pretty poor show. God didn’t spill the beans in any meaningful way. If anything it was a shoddy user manual for humans, and thus you have the problems you have today.”
“So you think you can do better?” I asked.
“I know I can,” replied Beelzebub. “I can provide a user manual that will get humans out of the mess they’re in. And you, my dear chap, can author it.”
To be fair, when Beelzebub put his deal to me, it caught my fancy. A user manual to get humans out of the mess they’re in seemed pretty unique to me. Not something you turn down.
Of course, I didn’t believe the old fellow purporting to be Beelzebub really was the arch-demon. I just thought he was spinning a colorful yarn; or was plain crazy.
Either way, I liked him. And let’s face it, most people you come across might be very nice, but are more-often-than-not, plain dull.
So I told Beelzebub that, yes, why not, I’d be up for helping him create his user manual for human beings. Plus, of course, the case full of cash Beelzebub was offering held its appeal.
“Jolly good, that’s settled then,” said Beelzebub. “Glad to have you on board. I had a feeling it would be right up your street.”
He then pulled out a sizeable wad of cash from his briefcase and handed it to me. “A token of good faith,” he said. “A down payment for services rendered.”
With that, he gulped back the last of his mug of tea, and said, “Time I was going,” and offered me his calling card, which I took. The card read:
MR. B BEELZEBUB INC
“Demonising the world, soul by soul…”
Call: 0666 666 666
“Call me on that number, day or night,” he said, “and I’ll be in touch soon regarding starting work on our user manual.”
He secured his briefcase, spun on his heel, and was gone, disappearing through the labyrinth of Norwich market.
I counted the money and it amounted to a grand in cash. Not bad for a chance meeting on Norwich market over a mug of tea.
Anyway, I thanked the young woman manning (or rather “womaning”) the pease pudding stall, and walked over to the nearby motorcycle park where I’d left my bike. I gunned the v-twin engine to life and headed for home on the eastern edge of Norwich.
Once home, I ensconced myself in my armchair, fired up my vape pipe, and mused on the curious meeting with the odd fellow who called himself Beelzebub.
Clearly he wasn’t “all mouth” in that he’d given me a grand in cash for his proposed project. But he was presumably a fantasist with money and delusions of grandeur, or at least, delusions of devilment. But as I say I’m quite partial to eccentrics. If nothing else they make the world or more fun place to live in.
But at that point, I never once entertained the notion that the old fellow might really have been Beelzebub, Lord of the Flies.
That however was about to change…
Two weeks went by with no word from Beelzebub. I felt a tiny touch of guilt as I’d accepted the grand he gave me and it didn’t seem right that I hadn’t yet started on his literary project – the user manual.
I considered phoning the number for Beelzebub Inc on the calling card he gave me. But decided against it on the principle that he’d get in touch with me when he was ready.
In the meantime I amused myself by doing some research into the legend of Beelzebub and the copious amounts of literature that surrounds him. Not because I gave any credence to the old chap’s claims that he was a prince of hell. No. It was a good excuse to read up on a fascinating subject.
Beelzebub, it transpired, is typically depicted in legend and literature as a prince of hell, with Satan as ruler. Many demonologists, however, consider Satan to have been dethroned by Beelzebub who headed a revolution against the ancient leader of rebel angels and wrested crown and scepter from him. Either that or they consider Satan to be the nominal ruler of the infernal kingdom with Beelzebub holding the reins of government.
With this in mind I thought it rather amusing that the chap I met claiming to be Beelzebub had commissioned me to assist him in writing a user manual to help humans get out of the mess they’re in. It seemed a tad altruistic for the usurper of Satan. And besides, from what I could see, the denizens of hell all appeared to have been warring among themselves for supremacy of the hellish kingdom. So it didn’t make sense that one of the dark lords wanted to actually help humans become better people.
I could only imagine that Beelzebub had somehow reformed and wished to share his new-found enlightenment with humans, rather than torment them and seize their immortal souls for eternal damnation. Of course, he might simply have wanted to outwit God in the supremacy stakes by penning a more user-friendly tome than the Bible.
But such musings were beside the point and no more than a mere amusement. I didn’t really believe that the old chap I met at the market was really a supernatural being from the nether regions. Such a notion was preposterous to say the least.
Anyway, a couple of days after I’d contemplated such fancies I was relaxing in my armchair, reading and toking now and then on my vape pipe. It was around 10pm and I was considering fetching myself a decaffeinated coke (as caffeine plays havoc with sleep if you drink it at that time of night) when the doorbell rang.
I thought, “Who could that be? A neighbor perhaps?”
So I went to the door and was confronted with a chap, probably in his mid-fifties, wearing a chauffeurs’ uniform, complete with peaked cap.
“Doktor Snake?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“I’m Matt Black, Mr. B’s man, his chauffeur,” he informed me. “He’s awaiting you in the motor car.” He pointed to a vehicle parked nearby.
I looked over and saw that it was a large black car – a Daimler, no less. I couldn’t help but think such a fine and expensive vehicle would get the neighbors across the road talking.
I looked at my watch and said, “It’s getting rather late…”
Matt Black smiled somewhat weakly and said, “Mr. B told me to tell you that we’ll only take two hours of your time tonight, and we’ll have you back home by midnight.”
As Beelzebub had already paid me a thousand pounds in cash, I decided it would be churlish of me to complain about turning out – even if the hour was somewhat late. So I said, “Hang on a jiff while I get my coat.”
Once prepared for any nippiness the night might throw at me, I followed Matt Black to the Daimler. He opened the back door for me and I hopped in. Beside me in the back seat was Beelzebub, looking dapper as ever, but this time decked out in a beige suit that had a hint of the colonial gentleman about it.
“My dear Doktor Snake, ” said Beelzebub, “terribly sorry to turn you out at this hour, but I was seized with a desire to give you an illustration concerning the human condition, which is central to the user manual we plan to compile. It won’t take long. We just need to drive into the center of Norwich – which will serve as ‘anytown’ as the situation is the same wherever you go.”
With that, Matt Black started the engine and we sailed towards the lights of Norwich. I had no idea what was in store, but at least I was now getting to work on the job I’d been commissioned to do.
The drive into Norwich city center in the Daimler was largely uneventful. Making conversation, I asked Beelzebub where he lived.
“Oh, I’ve got a little country pile in Hertfordshire, not far from Hatfield, and a flat in London, of course,” he replied.
“So did you drive up here today, then?” I asked.
“No, no,” he said. “I’m staying at the Sprowston Manor Hotel, not far from you. It’s not bad as places go. Good food. But far too many jumped-up hoi pollois staying there for my liking.”
Clearly, Beelzebub was something of a snob, I thought, but didn’t comment out loud.
He was also a mystery. A man of means, certainly. But quite mad. Still, Beelzebub and his project were a welcome diversion for me. The life of a writer, which is how I earn my crust, can be somewhat prosaic. You might write fanciful tales, but you are also chained at your desk all day, which is about as romantic as working as an administrative manager at some insurance firm. The upside being you don’t have a boss and you can turn your daydreams into a substance of sorts. But that’s about it.
Anyway, once we arrived in the heart of Norwich, Beelzebub instructed his chauffeur Matt Black to park at the Colegate car park just inside the inner-ring road.
“It’s an interesting part of town,” he said. “Very atmospheric and not far from Fye Bridge where about 350 years ago they used to duck witches in the River Wensum. The idea being that if the poor unfortunate girl survived she must be a witch and was duly burned at the stake. If she drowned, of course, she was considered innocent of diabolism. A fine example of the human condition if ever there was one. But that’s not the example I want to illustrate to you this fine evening. That will come shortly.”
Once parked, Beelzebub told Matt Black the chauffeur to “Stay here with the Daimler, we won’t be gone long.”
He opened the car boot and took out a large briefcase. Then we walked along St. Georges St, past the art college, and up Exchange St to the Haymarket, which is close to the market square where I’d met the alleged “arch-demon” some two weeks previously. The city center wasn’t very busy. A few people were out and about, theater-goers and mid-week revelers going from pub to pub for the most part.
Beelzebub stopped outside a row of clothes shops and gestured for me to look over at a soup-stall for the homeless. Clustered around it was a gathering of poor unfortunates with no fixed abode.
“The presumption you modern humans make is that everybody should have a home,” he said. “But once nobody had a home. They roamed the landscape hunting and gathering. They were self-sufficient, and no doubt happy because they were living according to the dictates of nature..”
I presumed this was going to be the promised illustration concerning the human condition.
Feeling a distinct nip to the air, despite the summer night, I buttoned up my coat, then said: “But things have moved on since then. There’s the comforts of civilization, which OK, you need to have a degree of affluence to benefit from, and sadly there are those that fall through the net and aren’t able to have the luxury of a roof over their head. But any decent person would want to help them.”
“Ah, but the point is,” continued Beelzebub, “they don’t need help. If their forebears could live contented lives under the stars, why can’t they?”
“Well, like I say, it’s different now,” I said. “You can’t go hunting and gathering – you’d get arrested.”
Beelzebub was having none of it, and with a smile just short of a wicked grin, said: “The question is would they be happy with a roof over their heads and money in their pockets?”
“I should think they would be!” I said, a little haughtily as I didn’t care for his brazen contempt for the group of hard-done-bys.
Beelzebub took me by the arm and said, “Let’s find out, shall we? This will be a thought-provoking illustration of the human condition.”
With Beelzebub leading the way we went over to the group of homeless people. And I have to admit I wasn’t overjoyed at the prospect of getting too close to them. I’d heard stories of them roughing people up if they didn’t like the look of you, or they thought you’d got an easy life compared to them.
But there was no going back. We were now standing right by the soup stall and all of the gathered homeless were looking at us, no doubt wondering what we were doing there. Some had suspicious looks, most likely due to Beelzebub’s decidedly patrician look and get up.
“Hello, my good fellows and sweet ladies,” he said. “Now, I’m sure you’re all wondering what my companion and I are doing here. Well, I’ve got an opportunity for one of you. All above board, I should add. But it could prove a real boon to the right person.”
“Oh yeah,” said one young burly fellow. “And what’s that, then?”
Beelzebub smiled. “I’ve got a million pounds in cash for any one of you truly prepared to take it.”
Turning to me, Beelzebub whispered, “The operative word being ‘prepared’”.
At that point the burly young fellow said, “Fuck off.” Which to be fair, was to the point.
But then a young woman with nose-piercings and a downtrodden expression chimed in: “Don’t take the piss. Our lives are bad enough as it is without toffs like you having pervy pleasure at our expense. So yeah, fuck off.”
Others in the group started shouting at us, and I began to feel decidedly uneasy. The situation, I felt, could turn violent. And I started to wonder if I’d made the right decision accepting the commission from Beelzebub.
Just then, one of the older homeless chaps said, “Whack the cunt one!” I could understand his perspective, but didn’t fancy being on the receiving end of a whack.
But then Beelzebub seemed to grow in stature and his eyes took on a commanding look, which made the crowd of homeless people back off a few paces.
With something of a menacing tone to his voice, Beelzebub addressed them again. “I’ll ask you one more time. Is there one among you prepared to accept £1,000,000 from me?”
The young woman who had spoken before marched forwards. “I’ll take it. I’ve got nothing to lose. But if you want weird sex you’d better be serious about the million quid.”
One of the homeless towards the back of the group said, “Fucking slag…”
Beelzebub waved a hand dismissively. “If you are prepared to take me up on my offer,” he said, “I can assure you there’s no sex, weird or otherwise, involved. See it like winning the national lottery. You don’t have to do anything to get the million other than just take it.”
“Alright,” said the girl, “give me the million then.”
“It’s in my briefcase,” said Beelzebub. “But I suggest we walk over to the taxi rank over there and send you to a hotel with the money – as you might find that carrying one million in cash around leads to unwanted attention. And once you’re at a decent hotel you can start planing what you’ll do with the money.”
The girl saw the sense in this and accompanied us to the nearby taxi rank. Beelzebub opened his briefcase to show her the cash and unsurprisingly she was more than a little wide-eyed.
“Fucking hell,” she said, “you weren’t joking.” But then a look of suspicion clouded her face. “How do I know it’s not forged? You could be a money launderer.”
Beelzebub laughed. “I can assure it’s genuine currency. But why don’t you take one of the notes and buy something with it in the Tescos over there – they’ve got scanners to check high denomination notes.”
“OK, I will,” said the girl and marched over to the Tescos store clutching a fifty pound note from the briefcase.
“A sensible girl,” said Beelzebub. “It’s always wise to look a gift horse in the mouth.”
Five minutes later she returned smiling, and with a carrier bag stuffed full of cigarettes and booze.
“Ha, ha,” chuckled Beelzebub, “I see you’ve got your priorities in place.”
He then handed her the briefcase and wished her luck as she climbed into a taxi cab – on her way to a new life.
It struck me as an act of genuine kindness, albeit it an eccentric one. And I said so to him.
But Beelzebub shook his head grimly, “On the contrary, giving that girl a million pounds was an act of cruelty…”
Once back in the Daimler, Matt Black the chauffeur fired the engine to life, drove us out of Colegate car park, and we made for my home via Ketts Hill.
Curious, I asked Beelzebub why he considered giving the homeless girl a million pounds in cash was an act of cruelty?
He leaned back in the plush leather backseat, thought for a moment, then said, “Before I gave her the money, I asked if she was truly prepared to take it. Well, I knew fore-well she wasn’t. Thus it was an act of cruelty because it was clear to me the money would do her no good.”
“But the girl was homeless, so at very least you enabled her to get a home,” I protested. “And if she invests the money wisely she’d be able to live in modest comfort off the interest.”
Beelzebub smiled wryly. “Indeed,” he said, “that’s what the wise person would do – so long as they were prepared for affluence. But the vast majority of you humans are programmed to self-destruct when they gain large sums of money. Their subconscious minds see to it that they keep shooting themselves in the foot until they revert to poverty.”
Somewhat skeptical of this line of argument, I asked him who it was that “programmed” them to self-destruct?
“Themselves,” he said. “They self-program the level of affluence they feel they deserve. But when I say ‘self-program’ I don’t mean it’s all down to them. Parents, relatives, friends, environment, and various other factors contribute to said programming. But essentially, they do it themselves.”
I mused on this as the Daimler hummed along the Plumstead Road. Then I said, “But you make it sound like we are a computer with all that talk or programming. I think there’s more to us than that.”
Beelzebub laughed. “Quite so,” he said. “Humans are far more complex than the primitive computers you are all so wrapped up with today. I merely used the term programming as a convenient metaphor to describe a vast intertwining process. But essentially, you humans have set patterns installed in your subconscious minds and these are played out in your lives. They shape your reality and determine the life, and indeed the level of affluence, you will get. Unless, of course, you consciously change the patterns and programs.”
“So are you saying the girl was pre-programmed by such things as family, environment, and events, to be homeless?” I asked.
“I am indeed,” said Beelzebub. “And thus her subsconscious will see to it that she fritters away the million until she is back at square one. Or, at least, I shall be most surprised if this does not prove to be the case.”
Somewhat downcast at the thought, I said, “A depressing state of affairs all round.”
“My point exactly,” said Beelzebub. “And one of the reasons why I hired you to help me create a user-manual for humans so they can use their mentation systems to run their lives to greater advantage. As I say, God in his ‘wisdom’ didn’t see fit to provide a decent operators’ manual for humans. So it’s no wonder they spend so much time in poverty and misery, or indeed, mercilessly killing each other, and otherwise floundering helplessly in the vast and often malignant sea of humanity.”
We fell silent for a moment or two. Then Matt Black, the chauffeur, broke our reveries. Turning his head round briefly from the driver’s seat to Beelzebub, he asked, “Have you noticed how smoothly the motor car is running, Sir?”
“Yes, indeed,” replied Beelzebub. “The local fellow you found seems to be something of a wizard with vehicles.”
“Yes, Sir,” said Matt Black. “Good mechanics are hard to find these days.”
Beelzebub turned to me. “Fine old machine, this one,” he said. “A Daimler Double Six, 5.3 litre, with all leather seats. Imported from Japan. I’ve always favored Daimlers as my mode of transport, going way back to the days of Harry Lawson and the manufacturing plant at Coventry.”
Although my knowledge of the automotive industry is rather limited, I did recognize that Beelzebub was referring to the early 1900s when Lawson acquired the rights in the UK to Gottlieb Daimler’s engines. He wasn’t that old. Sixty-five at most. It was clear that the fellow calling himself Beelzebub was taking the whole “arch-demon” charade to the limit. But there we are, everybody has their foibles.
By now we’d reached the woods on Plumstead Road – on the eastern outskirts of Norwich. Nearly home. So I quickly brought the subject back to the homeless girl by asking Beelzebub how his user-manual for humans could help her?
“Well, you see, it’s essentially a manual of black magick, or if you like, a book of results – a way of operating your life according to will,” he said. “This, of course, is something God, his son Jesus, and their various acolytes, do not care for, and go as far as proscribing in pretty draconian terms. God might have given humans free will, but he never planned on them actually using it… indeed, giving them free will was in your modern parlance no more than PR.”
Somewhat taken aback, I said, “So let’s get this straight, you want me to help you compile a manual of black magick?!”
“That’s it in a nutshell,” he replied. “But bear in mind, it will be of great benefit to humankind, and will, in fact, further the evolution of homo sapiens. And you will have the satisfaction of being chief messenger as you will be putting it into plain English.”
At that moment, Matt Black pulled the car up outside my home. It was five minutes to midnight.
“Well, old chap,” said Beelzebub, “we’ve got you home in less than two hours.” And as I got out of the car, he added, “I’ll be in touch soon. Have a little business to see to down under. But I trust we’ve given you something to think about this evening.”
As I closed my front door, I heard the Daimler pull away, and I wondered what I’d gotten myself into…