Screwtape the Third: Verse and Versity

[…] uh, Wormsap?”

” … mmmuh-hmm …”


“[urp!] Y-y-yes, Master Screwtape?”

“”Daffodils, Wormsap? Daffodils?!? You’ve been in my office for eons, with a perfectly good lava flow to view, and an infinity of viewing screens showing an infinite number and variety of contract leads, sitting here like a dead stalagmite watching a water fountain and daffodils! What in pluperfect heaven is going on here?”

“R-research, Master. And desensitization.”

“Nice try, imp. There’s always honeysuckle!

AAAAAAHHHHHggg .. g .. g .. gg!”

“One good torture deserves another. You were telling me about this research!

“Y-y-y-y-yessir. Research. I need to describe my r-research. Screen 335tu0ai99bis47, sir.”

“What about it?”

“I-it’s showing a movie that’s very popular topside right now. About an 80-year-old teenager …”


“Yessir. Common ploy, to present one of the more, ah, enduring aspects of contracting for a residence here at Hadean Estates Luxurious Living, such as, when appropriate, suffering the physical and emotional agonies of being a teenager for all eternity, as something to be enjoyed, even aspired to. Of course, the movie doesn’t mention acne, or mastu …”

“Your work?”

“Yours, sir, of course.”

Ach! Virtue!”

“Brown-nosing! Not.

“You were saying …”

“Yessir. This teenager goes around in a spider suit making a mess of things, and it’s supposed to be a secret who’s actually in the suit. Well, the secret’s gotten out, and the kid commissions a magician to make everybody forget that they know the secret. Except, of course, his aunt, and his girlfriend, and this one, and that one, and the magician gets all confused and bebothered and winds up, instead of fixing things for Mr Spidey, opening up the gates to all these alternative universes and making things a whole lot worse!”

“You mean better, do you not?”

“For the topsiders who made the movie and are raking in a fortune right now, it most certainly is better. Especially when they don’t tell you about the plot of the movie, which is incomprehensible when you try to read through it. You just have to pay up to go to the theatre or log on to the streaming service and see it. ka-CHING!

“Sounds like a standard H.E.L.L. topside operation to me. What does the fountain have to do with this?”

“You don’t recognize it, sir?”

“Why bother?”

“It’s at one of the principal topside institutions of higher education in our subregion, sir.”


“An institution that stands for knowledge, logic and reason in human society, yes? So who are the most avid customers for this spider movie, which makes a mockery of all these things?”

“The students at this institution?”

“And all the institutions like it, sir. Correct. The students to whom the institutions have to sell courses, or they fail as the businesses they are, their propaganda notwithstanding. Students who will reject logic and flock to fantasy whenever logic and reason tell them things they don’t wish to hear.”

“You mean, like, how stopping global warming means them, and means them giving up the energy they need to stream movies?”

“Precisely, sir. Consider the magician in the spider movie as a metaphor for this. A neurosurgeon, the embodiment of logic and reason and science. He hurt his hands, tried to get them fixed, got an answer from science that he didn’t like. His response? To throw over science in favor of a power that doesn’t exist, but gave him the answer he wanted. Which you can do in the comic books and the movies, and use that to teach our future customers that they can demand fantasy in real life, or it sucks. How many universes does His Sublime Lowness Lucifer hold sway over?”

“One. One world, one unity, one sphere of existence. Uni: one. Verse: transformed into. One is enough. Just ask him, if you dare.”

“N-n-n-no thanks, sir. He, like the rest of us, perceives one universe. There is no evidence, no reason, to consider the existence of any other. Nevertheless, Master Screwtape, the existence of such additional universes is a question that is taken seriously at these institutions of higher learning, even among the scientists who, by contract, are to reject anything that they cannot perceive.”

“Profitable conversation, Wormsap. Where there is profit, knowledge, logic, and reason don’t stand a chance. Elementary, and a core principal in your H.E.L.L. Marketing Manual.”

“Yessir, of course sir. And this is why I spent all that time staring at the fountain.”

“Ye – essss?”

“As I said, it’s at one of the principal topside institutions of higher learning in our subregion. A university. I remember, and I’m sure you do too, some years back topside time, when all these institutions raced to call themselves “universities” instead of “colleges” or “academies”, to market themselves to the world as encompassing the universe of education, instead of one small corner of it like these “college” schmucks. When you interrupted me, I was working out a plan to assign topside agents to infiltrate university marketing departments, present to them the prevalence of the multiverse idea among their present and future customers, and among their own academicians, and sell the idea that “university is no longer big enough!” I was imagining a new race among these institutions to brand themselves:


“[…] Wormsap?


“One word. You’re welcome to join me in uttering it.”



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