Second Chance

When Lucifer was invited back to Heaven to petition for readmission, he laughed — even as he chose his best suit and tie. Unfurling his long-unused wings and ascending, he mused that he was but a minion when he Fell. Now he was a ruler. What could Heaven offer him? But as he walked the shining white promenades, inhaling the incense fanned by Seraphim’s wings and basking in the ambient Grace, he was struck by how the mind kindly forgets the glories it deems forever lost. Sitting in the waiting room, sipping complimentary Ambrosia, Lucifer couldn’t stop stealing glances at the office door. His palms began to sweat.

A cherub opened the door with precise punctuality and ushered him inside. He introduced himself, inquired if Lucifer needed anything before they began, and then asked some casual “warm-up” questions. The script was unchanged since Lucifer’s time on the other side of that table. After the pleasantries came the only question that mattered in Heaven.

“Do you repent of your sins and come to the Lord asking forgiveness?”

Lucifer had no false modesty about his oratorical prowess. He had prepared an ode of contrition that could inspire men to form new religions of redemption, and make the Archangels themselves blubber with teary compassion. It almost seemed a waste to debut it to this fluttering baby whose name he had already forgotten. His eyes downcast, a penitent smile on his lips, he gave his answer.

“No, and no.”

Lucifer blinked. Words spun of gold got lost somewhere between his mind and his tongue, and raw truth — unbidden, undecorated and irretrievable — came out instead. This place! All his subtle talents, developed and honed in the long years since the Fall, counted for nothing in Heaven. The final bit of artifice, his own illusions, flaked away like charred skin. The cherub’s big eyes, the color of a clear noon-day sky, held bottomless pity.

“Thank you for your time.”

Lucifer stared at the objects in the tiny interview room, from the tasteful furniture and neat stacks of writing parchment to the way the color of the walls gently diffused light. The smallest things in Heaven were truly lovely. But they would never value him here. He could spend an eternity trying, with the same result. Even Heaven wasn’t worth that. “Thank you for your indulgence, little brother.”

Outside, he could feel Heaven rejecting him, its spaces folding away like a delicate sea creature recoiling its fronds. He expected the sudden wave of vertigo — he had felt it first when being cast from the only home he knew. A second time he Fell, his body gaining speed, his feathers bursting into flame, searing, curling black. He felt no pain at all this time.

This time he was falling home.