Good old Terror House Magazine continues to publish some of the best short fiction being written today (including my own absurdist writing), and it’s my pleasure to recommend another story by one of their contributors, Adrian David‘s “The Visit That Wasn’t.”
The story is a short parable riffing on the saying “the grass is always greener on the other side.” Visitors to the protagonist’s land keep telling him how terrible and crummy the place is, and instead brag about the greatness of their home.
The glowing talk of the visitors’ homeland churns away in the mind of the protagonist, until he finally decides to pay a visit. What he finds depresses and angers him: nuclear war, corruption, violence, declining birth rates, normalization of pedophilia, famine, depravity, etc.
Feeling cheated, the protagonist returns to his own home, and realizes how much he took it and its charms for granted—but there’s a twist (I recommend reading the story, which takes about three minutes, for the full impact; twist revealed below).
The protagonist is, it turns out, the Devil, and Hell is his home country.
The story makes for a piquant bit of biting social commentary. Here is a particularly damning excerpt:
Under a veneer of supposed “liberal democracy,” fascist, totalitarian regimes were brainwashing the masses into buying inimical propaganda. The autocrats ruling the land played the fiddle while the citizens were dying, thanks to blatant callousness.
The strings were pulled by massive corporations who pitted people against one another for basic resources like food, water, and oxygen.
Absolutely no room existed for freedom of speech. Dissenting voices were muzzled and the media deteriorated to the lapdog of the ruling classes from being the watchdog of democracy.
The junta had taken over the streets and the mobs terrorized the people. The justice systems weren’t able to handle the massive surge of criminality.
The “liberal democracy” that David depicts is a bit further gone than our own, what with perpetual nuclear wars and famines (we haven’t quite gotten there, and it’s a testament to the terrible power of nuclear weapons that the world’s nations have seen fit not to use them since 1945), but he accurately depicts some of the major problems we face today: mob rule, oligarchic corruption, the commodification of even the most basic resources, the assault on free speech, the dishonest nature of the press, etc.
On one point will I disagree with David: the Devil would—and likely does—feel right at home in our world. It’s the world his lies and deceit helped to create.