“Why not?” I asked, exasperated. “Why can’t I promote a demon to Devil? Seems like it would come naturally to them.”
“It’s kind of complicated,” Gus said, apparently hoping I’d take him on his word that it was a bad idea.
“So explain it to me,” I pressed.
“There should be a human in charge,” he said. “Even the most brutal Devils have held some kind of fondness for the living realm. They’ve kept it from being overrun or destroyed by the demons down here in the pit.”
“Hell can actually take over the planet?” I asked.
“Theoretically, yes,” he replied. “Bits and pieces of the underworld slip back and forth to the living realm all the time, but a full-scale invasion is possible. It’s even been attempted several times. One was particularly close, but it’s never been successful. And it’s usually the Devil himself who stops it.”
“I don’t get it,” I said. “Isn’t the Devil in charge down here? Doesn’t he run everything?”
Gus smiled. “You’re American, right?”
“Yeah, but what does that—”
“So you’ve got the President, right? And let’s say he’s a Democrat, so he’s got the support of the Democrats, but not all of them, because they may disagree on the finer points of policy even if their approach to them is similar. And most of the Republicans don’t support him. The Green Party and the Libertarian Party and the Socialist Party and all the other independent parties don’t support him. And then there are the masses of voters who haven’t declared a political party whose affiliations may be spread anywhere. The President is in charge. But that doesn’t mean he has control of everyone. His constituency’s allegiances are diverse.”
“So the demons have political parties?” I summarized blandly.
“We call them factions down here,” Gus said. “Some proclaim overt allegiance to the Devil, some just to our recently retired devil. Some want change or reform of some kind. Some want rebellion or mutiny. There’s lots of different groups with lots of different motivations. You’re in charge, and with the powers our recently departed friend has left to you, you’re the strongest thing down here, but only just. It’s a tough gig keeping law and order in the underworld and protecting the land of the living from the threat of invasion. Put a demon in charge and you may have law and order down here, but you might also have demons burning the living world to the ground.”
I heaved a weary sigh. I did not want this responsibility. But it was sounding more and more like a bad idea to give it up.