Banjaxed (The Apprentice Demon)
So, what really happens to us when we die?
The most thrilling day of my life was the day I was murdered.
The sun was bright, blessing the morning with spring warmth that foretold summer. The trees were newly leafing, and the scent of blossom filled the park.
‘Do you want another game, John?’ I asked.
John smiled a little ruefully ‘two defeats are enough for one morning, Alan’ he said, packing his bowls away. ‘Besides, I’m going to my son’s house for lunch, a rare treat these days.’
It was such a lovely morning that I was reluctant to return to my bachelor pad. ‘OK, I’ll just practice on my own for a half hour.’
I took a deep, satisfying breath of the scented air and looked around. The only other people present were three youths huddled on a bench in an arbour their hoods up, their faces down. They had a conspiratorial air about them resembling mediaeval inquisition monks in conference except for the billowing pall of cannabis smoke.
I turned my back on them and sent my jack out, watching carefully to see how it ran. I followed it with by my first bowl and was pleased as it slowed and stopped less than a foot from its target. I stooped to pick up my second bowl. It wasn’t there.
‘Hey, granddad, I want der watch, innit.’
I turned to see a young lad maybe fifteen or sixteen standing a couple of feet away scowling from beneath his hood, holding my bowl. I smiled at him, remembering my own wayward youth. ‘You’ve got good taste lad,’ I told him, holding up my left arm to better display my pride and joy. ‘This is thirty grand’s worth of un-fencible goods’ I said, ‘it’ll get you caught so fast you’ll be dizzy.’
He jumped at me then and I saw to my horror he was swinging the bowl at my head. Too late I raised a defensive arm, my sixty-nine-year-old reflexes being far too slow.
Two pounds eight ounces of lignum vitae crashed into my cranium; I felt a dull thud then searing pain filled my entire body as I sank to the greensward. My vision faded away as a wave of weariness engulfed me, but I could still hear. An excited voice cried ‘Yer’ve topped ‘im Jason, let’s fuck off quick.’
‘Hiya Alan, welcome to the hereafter.’
I sat up; the pain gone. Before me, sitting cross legged two feet above the turf, was a creature that was a cross between a pixie and a leprechaun. ‘Who the devil are you?’ I asked, unable to comprehend what I saw.
‘I’m Banjax, your guardian demon.’ He smiled, ‘I’ve been looking after you all your life.’
I looked around me, bemused, the park was still there only more so. Every plant was more vibrant, more colourful than I had ever seen them before. The grass glowed iridescently, and the birdsong held a more joyful note than I’d ever before heard.
He was speaking again. ‘By the way, we don’t use the word devil here, it encourages a negative image and upsets too many snowflakes.’ He ginned at my puzzlement, ‘please, Alan, do move away from your body, it looks awful, and you don’t need it anymore.’
I glanced down at myself and grimaced. I did indeed look ugly with my gaunt yellow/white face and blood oozing from my nose and ears. I moved a few yards away and turned my back on it. So, I was dead, and this creature was my contact in a hereafter that I’d never believed in. If he was a devil come to escort me to the eternal flames, he was a lot friendlier than I had expected.
‘I’ve heard of guardian angels, Banjax,’ I said, ‘but guardian demons? That’s a new one on me, have you come to take me to hell, then? ‘
His laughter tinkled like a silver windchime ‘Hell? There’s no such place mate nor is there the religious folks idea of heaven either.’
‘What then?’ I was truly puzzled.
It works like this: There are several categories of people and certain types of guardian looking after them. The good folk have guardian angels. The bad ones get demons. After a year with me, we see where you’d fit in best.’
‘So, I’m an apprentice demon, then?’
‘Yes. We demon’s fall into three classes: Lucifer class they look after the wars and famine, you know, the heavy stuff. Then there is the Beelzebub class, they look after the real nasty people, the murderers, rapists, politicians etc.’
‘Which class are you, then?’ I asked.
‘I’m Mammon class, I look after the greedy buggers like you, the conmen, grifters, gamblers, prostitutes et al.’
‘I was a good conman’ I told him proudly. ‘I never robbed the weak or destitute like some. I stuck to the greedy sods with more brass than brains.’
The grin on his ugly face was huge, making his head look like a busted watermelon. ‘Oh, give it a rest, Alan, you’ll be telling my you were Robin bleeding Hood next.’
I grimaced ‘No, I had class, that’s all. I mean, why rob a poor mug when you can rob a rich one? I did well, and never did a day in jail.’
‘That’s because you always listened to me, Alan. Every time I whispered in your ear you did as I suggested. I was so proud of you.’
‘It was you?’
‘Yup, I gave you the idea of selling that swamp in Brazil as prime building land to those idiots who thought they were robbing you.’
‘Wow, I made a million and a half from that, even though I had to live in Spain for a while.’
‘The thing is, now you’re dead, you can join me and have fun spreading the buggeration factor for a whole year before we have to move on.’
‘Yes, take that little shit who just killed you, we could introduce him to an undercover copper he believes is a fence.’
‘Won’t his demon warn him?’
‘Yes, but he won’t listen. And your ex-wife who buggered off with your best mate and a pile of your money, we could dream up some cool stuff for them.’
So, I became an apprentice demon. For the next year, we visited buggeration upon my enemies. Bad investments, STD’s and income tax inspectors were standard reprisals. My ex got special treatment. A dead cat under her floorboards. The stink left her on the brink of despair. Every time she thought she’d located the smell we moved the corpse. Exasperated, they moved to a new house at huge expense, then we sent then a plague of rats. Banjax got a female demon to phone, asking for her partner in a slinky voice. That drove her into a fury that was usually reserved for me. She went at her new man until the poor bugger could take no more. He packed his bags one night and cleared off, forcing her to sell the house and work for a living for the first time in her life. Boy, was I having fun!
Banjax and I spread buggeration far and wide, mischief and mayhem were our watchwords.
I was dreaming up fresh skulduggery one day when the light suddenly faded to nothing and I heard Banjax wailing.
It started to get light again and I could hear voices. Then I saw a pale blob which slowly turned into a white-coated man peering down at me. He turned to someone behind him ‘I think he’s wakening’ he said. ‘Miracles do happen.’
I was bemused ‘Where’s Banjax?’ I asked.
The man ignored me and continued speaking to the person behind him ‘He’ll be very confused for a while, just ignore what he says, these cases take time.’
My head felt like an anvil with an enthusiastic blacksmith working on it. My blood start to boil. ‘Confused my arse,’ I croaked ‘where’s my guardian demon?’
The man bent and shone a torch into my eyes then turned and started talking medico-babble to the person behind him.
For three days I came and went and then one bright morning they took several wires and tubes from me and sat me up. I was alive.
Eileen Murphy, a lovely Irish nurse, oversaw my recovery. She explained that I’d had a fractured skull and a severe bleed on the brain, that I’d been in a coma for a year. ‘You died three times on the operating table she said, ‘but somehow they brought you back again.’
I closed my eyes as despair shuddered through me. I didn’t want to be brought back again; I was having too much fun with Banjax.
‘So, I’ll live then?’
‘Yes. They had to work like demons on you, Alan, and personally, I thought you were totally banjaxed, but you’ll be OK.’
When she said this, I knew my guardian demon was still with me, putting words into her mouth.
‘Banjaxed indeed’ I said feeling happy once again.