Job: A Fairy Tale of God, Satan, and Us

by K.D. Azariah-Kribbs

Once upon a time, there was a man called Job. And one day, Job bought a lottery ticket.

Now, Job did not do this thing because he was a lazy or a greedy man. Job simply felt, as many do, that he should be provided for without having to labor and earn his bread by the sweat of his brow when there are so many who have so much more than they need.

So Job slipped some money from his wife’s purse, and before she could ask him where he was bound, he let himself quietly out the door, went to the store at the corner, and bought the ticket.

And immediately and quite strangely, the simple act of buying the lottery ticket made Job feel that things were now somehow changed. Of course, he did not know whether he had won the lottery or not. But somehow, the sun seemed brighter and warmer when he came out of the store.

***

Now, at this same time, the Heavenly host had assembled to present themselves before the Throne of God, or at least all those were gathered there who cared to come.

For there are always those who, given the choice, prefer to remain in Hell.

And Satan, who at this time still occasionally appeared before the Throne of God, came to call. Satan always made sure he arrived late to these gatherings so that he could make something of a grand entrance. He ignored the angels standing to attention on either side of the great golden archway and pushed open the massive doors of living arcwood bound in black iron and strode before the Heavenly Hosts in a great dark cloud of sooty flame and sulph’rous black smoke, the brazen light of his entrance reflecting in wavering sheets of fire from the golden pillars beside him and backlit by the magnificent lapis lazuli sky far behind, for he knew the beauty of gold and fire set against deep blue and utter black, and in Hell he never got to display himself in such a way, for there is no sky in Hell.

He did not march more than a few steps into the great throne room, for he feared that the gilded gleam of his engraved armor might be lost in the constant light that flowed from the Throne of God in the center of the chamber, the great burning light that was Him. Or some of Him, anyway.

Satan remembered that Light as the first thing he saw when he came to be. He had once heard a man say that in Him was no darkness at all. From out here, it very much looked like it.

But Satan knew that was a lie. For he knew from his own experience, from long ages spent standing before the throne and gazing into that Light, that much, very much indeed, was hidden deep and dark within. Faces not born, landscapes not trodden, seas not plumbed… For in that Light was all that was, and all that would be, and all that had been, and all that could be. In that Light was Being.

So Satan stopped far from the throne so that the magnificence of his skillfully wrought armor might be seen to best advantage. The armor was engraved by the finest craftsmen in Hell, and it illustrated his own long history, beginning with the story of the Great Rebellion, continuing with building his kingdom in Hell, and ending with his subjugation of Earth and his corruption of mankind. Only his own creation was omitted from that history in inlaid gold and carved bronze.

He glanced carelessly to the left and the right, letting his burning, haunted eyes linger on his cousin angels arrayed in nine vast circles about the throne. He saw the hunger in their eyes.

Fools. He had seen further into that Light than any of them.

But he was through with all that. Let them look on in hunger, if they would. Let them ache for more, lean closer to the Light, try to see further, deeper, and—and never be filled. For you could never see to the end of it. There was no end to it. No matter how deeply you gazed, there was always more, and you never got enough. Here, in the Kingdom of God, you hungered constantly.

And they called him a tormentor? In Hell, nobody went without their full portion. In Hell, nobody ever asked for more.

“Satan!” The voice from the throne staggered him, but only a pace, for he had taught himself to be prepared for it. “Where do you come from?”

“From going to and fro on the Earth, and from walking up and down on it.”

“Have you considered the people of the Earth, how there is now no love or regard among them for me?”

“I have seen this.”

“How is it, Satan, that the people I have made stand on the rock I have made and under the sky I have made, that they breathe the air I have made and drink the water I have made, yet have no love for me?”

“Do the people scorn God for naught?” Satan asked. “Surely it’s because you let the wants and the ills of the world fall upon them. You promise so much, yet you give so little! Do you not let the people you have made make war on one another? Do you not let the strong you have made prey on the weak you have made? Do you not let the idle prosper and the diligent toil only to enrich the taskmaster? Do you not let the water you made drown their fields, the rock you made open beneath their feet and swallow them up, and the sky you made fall upon their heads? For they have heard it said that you are great and good, yet you suffer these things to happen to them. They believe that if you were good, you would stop all these ills. But you do not. And so for this, they do not love you.

“But if you put forth your hand and blessed them with all the desires of their hearts, then they would say that you were great and good, and they would love you, and they would trust you, and they would revere you and worship you.” Satan looked aside at his cousins, still staring into that Light. He wondered if they had heard anything of his speech.

So the Lord said to Satan, “Go down among them then, and bless them with those gifts that seem best to them. Give them all they desire when they desire it and then let us see what happens.”

And with that, Satan turned, and, looking down on the Earth from far above, he set his eye upon Job and decided that he would start with this man.

***

And so it came to pass that Job won the lottery.

Job called the number on the back of the lottery ticket just as it said, he went the next day where they said to go, and he signed all the papers. Then he got on the Metro’s Red Line and went up to Bethesda because he believed that a lot of rich people lived in Bethesda, and he went walking up and down Wisconsin Avenue downtown until he saw a door with a brass sign on it that said Money Management. He went in and four hours later, he was finished.

Now, Job was not a greedy man. In fact, he had a very charitable heart. The government had taken half of everything, but he was sure the IRS would do all sorts of good and charitable things with their cut, feeding the poor and so forth. Job didn’t resent any of this. He was glad to help.

Next, Job bought himself the best dinner he could find, and as he sought out a hotel he stopped by each of the three beggars at the plaza above the Bethesda Metro station and gave them each a hundred dollars. One of them blessed him and asked for more, and two of them cursed him and asked for more.

And that night, sleeping high above the traffic on Wisconsin Avenue, Job had a dream. In his dream, he heard a voice, and the voice said that from now on, he would have whatever he wanted; he would never hunger, never thirst, never want. Every stone he touched would become bread, every pool he touched would become wine, and his hand would flow with gold.

In the dream, Job said, “This is just and right, for I have suffered enough.”

No voice replied to Job, but it was no matter.

***

Under Satan’s invisible but skillful guidance, Job’s investments prospered, and before very long he was among the richest men in the world. He owned companies he had never seen making products he could not imagine in factories he had never visited. He provided work and livings for thousands and tens of thousands, and the wages he paid were among the highest, even for the most menial laborer. He had houses, palaces really, on all the continents of the world, and he now rarely slept in a bed that he did not own, and rarely ate a meal that was not prepared by his own staff. He made provision for his wife and son, and he provided for his brother’s and his wife’s families, and for the boy at the shop who had sold him the lottery ticket.

Job learned that it was good to give, and he appreciated the letter he received from his son once every year at Christmas.

The lottery money had been but the beginning, for, guided by Satan’s careful hand, Job’s wealth had gone on to create much greater wealth, so that now Job could scarcely spend it all.

Job founded charitable institutions to feed the poor and to heal the sick. He founded hospitals and schools and endowed colleges and universities.

And in time, Job began to ponder the great questions. He decided that the real problems men faced today were but little changed from those that had troubled man since the beginning: sickness, poverty, hunger, greed. So Job hired wise men to assist him and he gave his wise men the task of solving the problems of hunger and pain and want. Satan directed all Job’s plans and works so that none of them failed to ease pain and poverty, reduce want, and increase comfort and joy in the world.

Job found he had great influence with politicians, and he swayed their actions and policies with magnificent contributions, so that he changed the very law of the land, supposing his own answers to the great problems were as good as the ones anyone else had tried. And as it happened, they were even better, for Satan ensured that they were better.

Job’s life was unending luxury. His floors were paved with carnelian, his windows glazed with carved and polished crystal, his walls of rosewood and marble all inlaid with gold; and each room was built around a garden so that the air was continually scented with jasmine and ginger lily. He filled his houses with beauty: women of unmatched loveliness, fine art, musicians of unrivaled talent, dancers of elfin grace, all strolling at ease about the fountains that splashed idly by. All mankind wondered and shared in Job’s creations of beauty, and all were grateful for the wonderful parks and reserves and galleries that Job had prepared for them in every city.

But it was not enough. For despite his charity, not all lived in luxury, and Job was troubled.

Even more was he troubled by the fact that there were those who would deface the beautiful sculptures he had erected in the wonderful parks he had built near their homes.

He need not have been puzzled.

For there are always those who, given a choice, prefer ugliness.

And Job dreamed a dream. He stood on the summit of a great mountain, and spread out below him were the kingdoms of the world, and in each of them was some work that he had done: a school he had endowed, food he had provided, a hospital he had built, a park he had designed, leaders he had guided. And in each of these places, the wise men of the world considered the problems of the world and how they might be solved once and for all, all because Job had made it possible for them to do this. He looked over his works and was pleased, for he wanted the people to have everything good, and they had done so poorly without him.

Job wanted to look on his work and find that it was good, but a voice spoke to Job in his dream and said, “You have done much, but you have not done enough. If you would be everything to your people, then you must give them everything.”

He answered, “If all the world looks to me, then I will provide for them all. This is right and just, for they have suffered enough.”

And no voice answered Job, but it was no matter.

***

Eventually Job became the richest man in all the world, and all adored him.

His researchers developed machines that drew energy from the very space about them, and Job sold these devices to all the people of the world, so that none were cold or in the dark. His farms produced crops planted and tended by machines that fed the world. Those who could not pay the trivial cost Job asked for food and warmth and light received these goods freely in exchange for trivial work for Job, so that soon all received their food and warmth and light from him. Job owned properties that, combined, rivaled the empires of Alexander or Caesar, and he let his people live on them freely. Still he gave his money far and wide, and still he shaped the policies of governments that he now effectively owned, for so dependent had they become on his wealth that, eventually, Job himself became the government of a grateful world, and all its leaders merely his servants. And any who would work, worked for Job joyfully and were regarded as heroes. And those who would not work handed to Job what wealth they had and gratefully accepted their leisure from his hand, and no one begrudged them that.

There was now scarcely a life on the planet that was not touched by Job in some mighty and benevolent way. All were schooled at schools he had endowed. All were healed in hospitals he had founded. Either through employment or charity, Job found himself at the center of all the world’s works, and all came more and more to expect more and more from Job.

And Job obliged them all. He had resources enough and to spare, and no matter how much he spent, still more wealth came to him, because Satan made it so. Great veins of gold and silver and iron and copper and precious gems were found on his lands, his croplands always yielded beyond the dreams of men, and his forests produced timber so wonderful and plentiful that it was rare in all except the quantity that he gave to his people.

But still it was not enough, for there was so much more yet to be done. He increased his good works until there was no poverty at all but for those who refused his aid, and there were none that hungered except those who refused his food; nor were there any who did not receive healing when they were sick or comfort when they were distressed except those who refused his healing and comfort.

For there are always those who, given the choice, prefer hunger.

***

And still Job prospered. All gave their lands to Job in exchange for his stewardship of their lives and wellbeing. His artists devised new entertainments for the now idle masses; for no one had to work any longer except those who still wished to work, so well had Job’s wise men devised machines to tend mankind, and to feed him and care for him and clean after him and build his shelters and factories. All were at leisure, except Job and his wise men and Satan.

But there was more to do. So Job devoted all his resources to the last great problem that still haunted man, and was soon able to announce that all would live forever in the Paradise that Job had created for them, for his wise men had developed a potion which vanquished aging and sickness and death. And all took this potion and became immortal, except for those who still wished to die. And soon enough, those who wished to die were gone, and then none were left except those who adored and praised Job for his great benevolence and asked him what he was going to do next.

***

Presently, Satan became a little concerned that God was willing to let this experiment continue. After all, had Job not re-created what amounted to Paradise, including the very Tree of Life itself? And had not God cast fallen mankind out of the Garden of Eden precisely to prevent mankind having the fruit of that tree, which gave them eternal life? Now they grew it for themselves.

And then there was the matter of souls—it had been a little while now since Hell had received a new one. And surely God was missing the few pitiful souls he had once managed to collect from time to time. But God said nothing, and as the name of God was never heard in the land, Satan was content.

***

One day a woman put a book in Job’s hands, and he sat beside a fountain in a perfumed garden, and he read. And in this book, Job learned that once, a very long time ago, a serpent in a tree had offered a woman a gift, and this gift would make her and her people as gods. Of course, she accepted this generous offer from the serpent.

As Job sat in the perfumed garden meditating on what he had read in the book, a delegation of his people came to call on him. And at the end of the delegation, as always, they left Job with but one question: What will you do next? There should be more.

But unless the people could tell Job exactly what it was that they wanted, he could do no more for them than what had been done. Yet they knew only that they hungered, and that whatever they were given, it was never enough.

But what more could they possibly want?

Then Job recalled the story in the book the woman had given him in the garden. In the story, the serpent said that mankind should most want to be as gods. Job considered this and decided it was so. That was the one thing his people still lacked. They must be as gods.

Job announced this to his people, and one and all they acclaimed him wise and correct.

He put the question to his wise men, and they eagerly set to work on this new problem, the matter of how to be as gods.

But when his wise men returned to him the next week, Job knew from their long faces that this time they had disappointing news.

“Alas, Job, we cannot make the people more like gods than they already are. We lack this wisdom. We have examined all our writings. We have consulted all our wise brethren. We have interviewed serpents. None has this secret. If there were ever a way to do this, that way has been lost. We cannot make men as gods.”

Job waved them away dismissively, for he had already come to the answer himself. “And what is a god? If we wish to be as gods,” Job said, “…then there must be a God for us to want to be like. Else we should not have known what we lacked. Why should we want for that which was not? And therefore, as God can do anything, this God could certainly make us as gods. And why would God withhold this thing from us? Therefore this God should make us as gods.”

Job’s wise men acclaimed him the wisest of them all. Job sent a message to all the people of the world commanding them to seek out God and to demand of God that they be made as gods.

And that night Job dreamed that he climbed to the highest tower in his most magnificent palace and he looked down at the world beneath him. And a voice spoke to Job and said: “Job has saved his people from famine, plague, and even death. What is Job, that the people gather beneath him under the shadow of his wings?”

Job said, “Who do the people say I am?”

“What would they name the one who has built the houses you have made and crafted the healings you have made and defeated death itself? All worship is yours.”

Job said, “These words mock me. To be as you say, I must be more than I am.”

And no voice answered Job, but it was no matter.

So Job woke, rose from his bed, and went to the top of the highest tower in his most magnificent castle, and he raised his fist against the sky and he spoke. “If you are truly God, then do this! Make us as gods! This is right and just, for we have suffered enough!

***

After a time, God once more assembled the Heavenly hosts before him, and Satan returned, again fashionably late, but in fact anxious to report to God about the experiment on Earth. Satan stood before the Throne of God in a simple black hooded robe that trailed behind him over the polished floor of the great hall, and he kept his eyes low rather than try to gaze into that terrible Light on the throne, that Light that shone as if there were nothing else that mattered.

God spoke to Satan and said, “Satan! What have you learned? Have you blessed the people of Earth with their hearts’ desires? And what now do the people love or worship?”

Satan raised his face and threw back the sable hood. “As you commanded, I have given one man among them all the gifts of his heart’s desire, and I have multiplied those gifts manifold. And this man has distributed his wealth among all the world, and he has solved all the world’s ills and removed all the world’s curses, the curse of the ground and the curse of pain and even the curse of death imposed by you yourself after I tempted them to disobey you, so long ago. Surely, you must be horrified by this! For have they not by their hand and in defiance of you restored Eden to Earth?”

“Have they? What I have cursed, I have cursed,” God replied.

Satan paced the polished floor restlessly. “When I tempted them so long ago, I promised them that they should be as gods. And now…! Look! Now, they no longer toil, they no longer suffer. They are surrounded by leisure and beauty and comfort. And yet—they want more!”

“And what more do they want?” God asked.

“They want to be as gods. Have you not heard their blasphemous cry to you?”

“I have heard the cry come up out of the Earth. But I answered it two thousand years ago.”

“Then there must be something more to want,” Satan said.

“What more is there to want? Tell me, Satan. You stood in the Light once. What more did you want that I would not give you when you rebelled against me? What more do you want?”

Satan was caught off guard by this question. He looked around himself at his cousins.

But no, still they stared at that Light emanating from the throne, still gazing into what they saw in that Light. And for each of them, he knew, they saw something real, and something different. Their looks of burning desire and want and longing disgusted him.

“What do I want?” Satan folded his arms and glowed with a defiant smoky blaze. “I want nothing.”

Of course Satan knew that was a lie.

“All right,” Satan said. “I want to want something else. Something other than you.

***

Satan did not return at once to Earth, nor did he return to his own kingdom in Hell. Instead, that night he wandered the fields of Heaven, though invisibly, for outside the throne room, he was forbidden to be seen or felt. But he could wander, and he could see.

He stayed away from the cities and the villages. Too many candles and lamps, each of them lit from that Light on the Throne.

He wandered along the plains of Heaven near the foot of a low range of hills, the scent of hay and bread and beer drifting across the fields when he strayed too near a village, brewing and baking all done by lights kindled from that Throne.

Soon the Moon rose, pale and full and round, so much greater than the moon that shone over the Earth, reflecting that same Light from the Throne, and Satan turned away from it and wandered through the deepening night into a forest. Near the edge of the forest at the foot of the hills, he found a young woman sitting alone beside a stream.

He well remembered this young woman, for she was the very last of humankind to die after Job’s wise men had discovered the secret to immortality on Earth. Satan had attended her death personally, whispering to her that she alone would be the last to suffer the curse of God, her life cut short without pity, and soon she would lie in a cold, dark, unknown grave and her name would be forgotten on the Earth forever, and it needn’t have been this way, but this is the way God would have it, unless she took the cure that Job offered her freely and so lived forever.

He had seen a terrible hunger in her eyes as he whispered his cold, dark truth to her. He had seen the anguish for more, the longing that had haunted her great dark eyes as she lay breathing her last in a warm and well-lit hospital room all alone, for she was the sole patient remaining there, and the doctors were anxious for her to hurry up and die so that they might put away their tools and join the rest of mankind at their leisure.

Satan made sure she knew all this. She might still, even then, have become well and immortal, yet she refused to take it from his hand.

So he had done his best to make her death as miserable as he could, hoping she might curse God for abandoning her. But she simply longed and ached and desired, and then eventually she stopped breathing. And then, in an instant, she was here.

Now, here she sat on the mosses covering the rocks along the bank of a clear, cold stream, the moonlight glimmering on her bare, dark shoulders. She had a bit of bread in her hands that she had been given by a young man who baked such loaves in a brick oven in a village nearby. The fire in that oven had been kindled at the Throne, of course. The baker had told her that you could learn about how a little leaven leavened the whole lump when you ate this bread. And sure enough, when you ate of it, indeed you saw a little further what was in that Light on the Throne, and a little more of that Light was in you, for the Light had fed the grain as it ripened, and the Light warmed the oven where it baked. And now the Light, a little more of it, was in her. And she would always hunger for more. She would never be filled.

Satan could smell the light in the bread. You ate that, and you just ended up hungry for more. That was the way it was here. In Heaven, they always whispered, “More, more.”

So the young woman at the waterside took a small bite of the bread, and you would think she had seen something, something you might see while staring into the Light on that Throne, a landscape in the leaven. He saw the same hunger he had seen in her eyes when she drew her last breath on Earth. Now, she was in Heaven, in the great unending landscape that began in the Light on that Throne. And he could see that it was still not enough for her. He could see her restlessness.

She dove into the water where it deepened into a pool. Lithe and sinuous as an otter, flanked by bronze-colored fish, she drove under the chill water like a voluptuous flame, and then she rose and burst through the surface into the air scattering droplets wide under the moonlight like a handful of silver coins flung carelessly away to the starving.

To see her beauty was to instantly desire her and to despair of never having her, of never knowing her, of never being able to possess everything that she was; and to fear that you could never be finished with her once and for all.

Once, he had put out the light of Paradise with a woman much like this.

She swam to where the stream shallowed and widened, and she stood on the bed of the stream, her dark skin jeweled with the water under the moonlight. The cold water drained down her back and legs from her heavy long black hair, the glimmering water clinging and twisting in a stream down the deep curves of her back and waist like a writhing silver serpent.

She cupped her hands and caught a handful of the water of the stream, and holding it up before her eyes, she looked at the reflection of the light of the moon and the stars in that water. She drank, as if she drank the moonlight itself in the water, and still she wanted more.

She turned from the stream and dashed quick as a gazelle from the forest and across the plains toward the hills. The landscape around her glowed as she passed: the Light on the grass waving under the breeze; the glint on the rocks, their crystal faces glittering like stars fallen to the ground. And when she got into the hills she rose up, and naked as she was continued high into the wooded valleys until she ran up above the forests into the fields of snow that bordered the slopes of the high peaks. She stopped and stood there as snowflakes drifted down to gather in her hair and on her shoulders.

He remembered what the snow felt like on bare flesh here, before the corruption had come on him. He shivered to see it now.

She would do this forever. Whatever she did—explore a jungle or a desert, climb a glacier, eat from the fruit of the forest, dig a jewel from out of the earth and tie it round her throat with a chain of braided gold threads—everything she saw and did she saw and did in the Light from that Throne, and doing it, she saw further into that Light.

And it would never be enough.

They were well made for each other, she and the Light. She would never stop wanting, and it would never stop luring, and they would never be filled, either of them. It all went on forever, and you would chase it forever, and you would have more and more of it forever, but you could never finish having it. It was exhausting.

And Satan would hate it forever. To offer you everything, and yet to leave you always knowing there was more to want—that was cruel. When you had it all and still you hungered, and there was only one place left to go for more…

And with that, Satan remembered Job and realized that he had made a terrible mistake.

***

Satan hastened back to Earth and he stood on the rooftop beside Job as Job looked out over the world he had shaped into his Paradise. The man lifted his arms, heavy with his jeweled robes, to the night skies and cried aloud, “If you are God, then do this! Make us as gods!

So, it had all come back around to that. The very thing that Satan had offered them so long ago.

Well, one of them was God, once, and when He was on Earth, Satan sat and spoke with Him in the desert. He was cold and hungry and weak, and when it came to it at last, finally, He just died.

So be it. You have to give them everything they want. That was the deal.

Satan passed his hand over Job and blighted him so that the wealth he had made was gone in an instant, the cures for disease and death he had made all failed in an instant, the wisdom he had discovered vanished, and so also that of his wise men and his councilors. The houses he had built fell, the schools and hospitals he had built crumbled, the foundations he had established collapsed. Job and all his people, those who weren’t crushed, were left broken with nothing but ruin, and in the dark watch of that night, Satan stood on the roof with Job and listened with satisfaction as the cries of despair, so long silenced, were once more heard in the night, as the first voices began again to curse God, only lately remembered, for abandoning them.

Satan was content and knew that he had very narrowly avoided disaster. For these miserable souls seemed to want everything. But it would certainly not do for them to discover where they could find it.

As it happened, he needn’t have worried about that.

For there are always those who, like himself, would rather want something else.



K.D. Azariah-Kribbs grew up in the hills of east Tennessee, a place where twilight starts early and lasts long. He studied geology in school, but when that didn’t answer the big questions he went back for medieval English literature. That didn’t quite do it, either. He traveled widely as a prospector, decided southern India has the best climate anywhere, and now writes speculative fiction in Maryland, where it’s easy to speculate about how things might have been otherwise.

Copyright © 2018 by K.D. Azariah-Kribbs.




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