If Jordan Fletcher wasn’t happy, it was only because he needed something else-someone else or someplace else. All his life, happiness had been just one step around the corner. He’d spent his life chasing around that next corner...and the next and the next and the next.
Jordan never realized that all the time he’d been hunting happiness, someone had been hunting him.
Shirtless, Jordan Fletcher kicked back on the lounge chair on the sunny deck of his new house at SunRiver, basking in the high desert beauty of Central Oregon. He’d always longed to have a special place of his own. Now it was his—and no one could take it from him.
Jordan’s wife, Diane, sat five feet away reading her novel, but it may as well have been five miles. They inhabited two different worlds. He found it easier to avoid conversation, since it usually ended up in a laundry list of ways he’d let her down or things she wanted him to do. High maintenance, he thought. He breathed in the scent of fresh pine and contemplated the mountain peaks framed by the huge blue sky.
She can’t accuse me of blowing it on this place.
“I’m walking to the store.” The voice from behind startled him. Jillian? It didn’t sound like the voice of a little girl—maybe because his strawberry blond daughter was now seventeen. “Okay,” Diane said weakly, eyes not moving from her novel, the story of a life far more interesting than her own.
Jordan looked disapprovingly at his daughter’s skimpy outfit. He started to grumble something about not talking with strange boys, but by then she was gone. She seemed always to vanish these days, outrunning his words. Jillian never asked permission for anything anymore. Half the time she never told them where she was going.
He looked over at fourteen-year-old Daniel, his hair in a stiff black bang against his pale skin, earphones permanently attached to his head. He sat under a desert pine, still pouting because his best friend couldn’t come with him and he was stuck with the family. He wore his perennial black T-shirt featuring some rock singer, with an embossed “Hail Satan;” blood spurting out of the words. Daniel gazed at a magazine Jordan didn’t recognize, probably about computers or vampires or who knows what.
Jordan stood restlessly and ran his hand across the smooth deck railing. He looked at the tennis courts where he could barely see someone practicing serves. He watched carefully, trying to figure out if the guy was good enough to beat him. Finally he turned around and studied the house, his latest symbol of success and happiness. The shutters screamed at him.
The builders had installed the wrong shutters. He’d left a message and hadn’t heard back from them. He wouldn’t let them get away with it. Still though, the place was beautiful.
Wait till Hal sees this. It makes his mountain chalet look like a bungalow. And Matt’s little beach cottage? No comparison. I’ll buy a barbecue and have it going Friday night when they get here. A few cases of beer on ice. Everything’ll be perfect.
Jordan went inside to get his briefcase off the shiny oak dining room table. He pulled out the new monthly sales figures. He’d gone over them already but wanted to study the numbers again. He returned to the deck and settled back in his lounge chair, sipping lemonade.
Yeah, it was true. He’d outsold everyone. He’d come out on top again.
I can borrow a little more, get that ski boat. No problem.
It felt great.
Yeah, great. Everything’s great. It doesn’t get any better than this.
My newly assigned subordinate Squaltaint,
I’m recording these instructions, despite the misgivings of my assistant Obsmut, who believes it’s too risky.
As you’ve heard, there’s been a reshuffling of the chain of command in your geopolitical sector, precipitated by the removal of Ashtar for his reprehensible acts of disloyalty against Lord Beelzebub. I’ve been assigned to command your region. You and your cadre of six tempters now fall under my authority. So do all your current subjects, including the vermin assigned to you, Jordan Fletcher.
In our kingdom’s multilevel marketing structure you have now come in under me. I will be the beneficiary of your successes. I will also be held responsible for your failures. Make sure there are none.
Since I have vested interests in your success, I’ll offer my keenest advice and monitor your progress. I’ll aid you in deceiving and destroying Fletcher. Together we’ll share the spoils of victory.
I’m a master of strategy and tactics. In my letters, I’ll tutor you in the fine art of deception. I’ll begin with Foulgrin’s Basic Training, or if you prefer, Temptation 101.
These half-spirit, half-animal hybrids who inhabit this planet, our planet, are an endless source of fascination and frustration. They’re such creepy little things, misshapen balloons of flesh, bloated bags of liquid and alloy. Grossly inferior to spirit beings, they should be our servants—yet the Enemy would have made us theirs!
As you deal with Fletcher or any of them, remember in the end they are but raw material, to be used by us against Him or by Him against us. They’re weapons to wield in our jihad against heaven, that oppressive citadel called Charis.
Never forget the reason we revoked our citizenship-to establish the new and greater realm of Erebus, that mighty domain of which hell is but a junkyard, a ghetto for human slaves. (The Enemy claims we shall one day join them there—I think not, but if the worst proves true let’s first do all the damage we can.) Our kingdom is being built each day with the bony bricks and bloody mortar of the Enemy’s precious image-bearers—including your cockroach Fletcher.
Picture it, Squaltaint: The sludgebags are caught in the crossfire between Erebus and Charis. Skiathorus, what they call earth—that festering wound, that canker sore of the cosmos—is the battlefield where two rival kingdoms vie for the allegiance of puny men. The delicious thing is, the vast majority of them don’t have a clue about the raging battle. How can they prepare for a battle they don’t even know they’re in? And how can they win a battle they haven’t prepared for?
Foulgrin’s rule number one: Keep them in the dark.
The central question is always this—how can we exact revenge on the Enemy? It was He who evicted us from our rightful dwelling, He who chose the sludgebags over us. He made ours a government in exile, driving us out to the hinterlands of the spirit realm, where we have no place to call our own until we colonize Skiathorus.
What can we do to inflict pain on this Creator who at first glance appears untouchable?
Intelligence gathering yields the answer. The Carpenter gave it away when He asked that vermin Paul, “Why do you persecute me?” Well, who was He persecuting but Christians?
There you have it, so simple it’s elegant: To persecute them is to persecute Him. By striking out at them—and at all his weak and vulnerable image-bearers—we kill the Enemy in effigy. Better yet, we actually inflict harm on Him.
In and of themselves the vermin are utterly insignificant. But because the Enemy places such value on them, they become immensely useful to us.
Delightful, isn’t it? As you hatch your plots for Fletcher, Squaltaint, never lose sight of the big picture.
As you’re doubtless aware, I’m known throughout Erebus as a highly decorated agent of Beelzebub. Indeed, from time to time I’ve traveled with the Master himself and served as his confidant. My sage advice and counsel to field workers is legendary. You’ll find me far more accomplished than Ashtar.
Count yourself privileged to be the recipient of my advice. Know that many would give their right arm to receive my counsel. Know also that many have given their right arms when they failed to heed it.
Despite Obsmut’s reservations, my sending letters to subordinates has many advantages over our conventional communication. Something vital gets lost in oral transmission, and you can never fully trust the messenger.
I have before me your résumé, Squaltaint. I see you’ve had only mixed success with the thirty-eight sludgebags assigned to you in the past seven centuries. No less than six of these became Christians, and only three of those did you manage to derail from serving the Enemy.
My standards are higher than Ashtar’s, and my tolerance for failure lower. Trust me when I say it is in your best interests to serve me well. Sit at my feet and learn, or you will lie on my plate and be devoured.
The scientist must know the lab rats or he will not be able to use them to greatest advantage. Guided by my keen eye, you will come to understand your human prey. You will learn to stalk them, developing the keen instincts of the predator.
Submit immediately detailed information on Jordan Fletcher. In my next letter, I’ll advise you concerning my strategy of team temptation. Bear in mind I may pay a visit to the field at any time. Unannounced.
To get you started, here are Foulgrin’s Rules of the Sting:
1. Never lose sight of your goal-Fletcher’s enslavement.
2. Find just the right bait, tailor-made for him. Be sure the hook is well hidden.
3. Use as many lures as you can. He may pass on one but bite on the next, or spend his life moving from one to the other.
4. Make him promises and actually keep a few now and then, so he doesn’t catch on to the setup.
5. Tempt your prey with what he wants to have, but give him what you want him to have. Lure him, coddle him, reassure him all will be well, even as you fatten him for Lord Satan’s altar.
If you’re somehow unfamiliar with my past campaigns and decorations, you should review the attached sixty page vita, which summarizes a smattering of my accomplishments over the millennia. Attached also are Foulgrin’s 66 Rules of Temptation, an acknowledged classic. Read, marvel, and obey.
We are forging the only sort of alliance that works in Erebus, a coalition of mutual self-interest that keeps our house from being divided against itself. For both our benefits you must deceive and destroy Fletcher.
When talking to you, I explain, clarify, and enlighten. When talking to the sludgebags, I hide, eclipse, and obscure. You must be honest with me and dishonest with them. Never get it backwards. I eagerly await your first report.
Remember, Squaltaint, while the vermin have successfully exorcised demons from their daily conversation, they’ve failed to exorcise us from their daily lives.
We always work best in the dark.
Your indisputable Superior,
This is an excerpt from Randy Alcorn's book, Lord Foulgrin's Letters.