ICHTHEOLOGY

‘Trial Mix’, I just perfected it. It’s got corrupt judges, ambitious, heartless D.A.’s, lazy public defenders, repeat offenders, not a shred of unadulterated truth in the whole shebang. And look here”, said the devil, “in every bag, usually at the bottom, a couple of systemically-corrupted former innocents!”

As he said this, Satan showed me a shiny, pure white morsel before popping it in his silver-tongued pie-hole.  I declined when he shook the bag in my general direction, turning back towards the shallow sea of men’s souls, and cast my line. I quickly reeled in a young soldier who had thrown himself onto a grenade, thereby saving his squad from sharing his fate. I measured his soul, knowing it was a keeper, and placed it in the live-well with the children I had hooked earlier. Their souls were mine, but only because they had not had a chance to sin greatly enough to attract a throw of Satan’s net in their direction.

I don’t usually fish with the Devil, but the winds of war had schooled the best and worst of man together in a killing frenzy; there were souls enough for both of us. I pulled up a general, who had died on top of his mistress after giving the order that resulted in my bounty of afore-mentioned fingerling souls.

“More your type”, I said and threw him into Satan’s flame-decaled cooler. He looked at me over the top of his Jaguar-brand shades.

“He didn’t know there were children in that building.”

“He didn’t know there weren’t,” I shot back. “And the fighters were gone long before the air strike.”

He shrugged, took another swig from his ever-present bottle of Moet & Chandon Imperial Rose. A man of wealth and taste indeed. Even in the wife-beater undershirt and checkered shorts, he had an air of sophistication.  Closer inspection revealed his sick sense of humor, as the wife-beater was made from the souls of actual abusive husbands, arms and legs woven together. Tormenters now tormented by eternal contact with his acrid-smelling, scaly skin. The fabric that constitutes his shorts is a subject I prefer not to ponder. But they wiggled a lot, and I could hear muffled screams and moans.

Just then our lines tangled, in the wreckage of a car struck by a missile. We worked together to free the line, and I took the kids and mother for myself. He held the shriveled soul of the driver, a suicide-bomb coatmaker, clearly unhappy with the division of bounty.

“Let me have the mother too. She knew what he did.”

“And she knew she was trapped, no way out. She kept her kids safe as best as she could. She’s mine.”

He relinquinshed his grip. “Ah, no matter. This fellow here bequeathed me a lot of ‘children’. Everyone he fitted for a TNT Tuxedo. So keep the biotch.”

His cackle was made all the more pervasive by the sudden quiet. The combatants had agreed to a ceasefire.

“Well, that’s it for fishing”. Guess I’ll see you at one of the medical tents?”.

“Not today, they’re all yours, my lord. Gotta little thing to finish up in the Alps.”

“You ski?”

He shook his head as he picked up the cooler, tanning lotion, and a stringer of damned souls I had not noticed before. “Plane crash. Buncha high-finance types headed for a summit in Davos, hit a summit instead. Mine, every last one”. No argument from me. He continued, ” Gonna make me some Corporate Crullers. Bloated, sugar-coated, super-rich, yet totally non-nutritional.”

He turned back to me, “Why you save souls is beyond me. They are so-oooo much better eaten fresh.” And he vanished in a puff of sulphuric smoke, the echo of his laughter fading. The smoke swirled and became one with the fires from the battleground.

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