Periodically a new passage from one of the ten manuscripts in progress will be featured on this page.

Read below from a passage from FINDING DIMITRI in which the devil updates the seven deadly sins to the nine deadly sins in his own unique attempt to stay current. He does so on his Devil’s Blog, where he matches each sin to a member of an ill-fated media expedition exploring the Coppermine River in northern Canada.

As his eyes scanned a kluge of spam, one email caught his eye.

All the email said was: Hello, Marten. Visit the Devil’s Blog!

It seemed too much of a coincidence to resist, even if common sense dictated that it was likely to be a trap to harvest his computer, or worse, inflict a virus.

When he clicked on the URL www.thedevilsblog.com, the homepage revealed a dark red backdrop with just a hint of orange. The lettering in bold, black, gothic letters, announced, Welcome to the Devil’s own Home Page!

He clicked the word beneath— Enter.

What he saw next was a second landing page filled with an etching by Albrecht Dürer. Center stage was the image of a knight in full armor on a horse. A leering corpse holding an hourglass rode beside him. Behind them both was a strange figure with a boar’s head and a pick. The title written underneath was “Knight, Death and the Devil.”

But what most captivated Marten’s eye were two other elements.

The first was a little dog, trotting loyally beneath the knight’s horse with its head held erect and its ears splayed to listen into Death’s conversation. The dog was smiling, as if it were uncomprehending of the drama unfolding around it.

The other element that caught Marten’s attention was a stone plaque resting on a stump beneath a skull, with the inscriptions S. 1513 and the A above D—the iconic signature of the artist. This last struck Marten in particular because of his private reference to the A.D. Note. It seemed like a parody—one upon the other. A visual mockery of his own imagination.

Just beneath the etching was a brief quasi-epitaph—quasi because there was no date of death. 

Karl Grünenwald: Born: 1503. Worked in Spain, Italy and Germany with his brother Ferdinand. Served as military engineer to the Viceroy of Sicily. To honor his contributions, he was made a Knight of Devotion of the Order of St. John.

Further below, in small print, was a menu with only two options—one for The Nine Deadly Sins and the other for Three Poems.

Given the alleged source, Marten hoped there would also be a URL for Contact Us—the devil leaving his very own forwarding address, so to speak.

But none was forthcoming.

When he clicked onto the page with The Nine Deadly Sins, Marten saw the top heading, “Introduction.”

It explained that the Vatican had recently extended the Seven Deadly Sins to include pollution, obscene wealth, genetic modification, human experimentation, and taking drugs.

So The Nine Deadly Sins were just the devil’s attempt to “keep up and stay current.”

The text underneath read— 

The Seven Sins, largely the work of a fourth-century Greek monk, have become old and familiar to the point of being tiresome. The worn-out acronym SALIGIA stands for superbia, avaritia, luxuria, invidia, gula, ira and acedia. Or pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth. 

But the modern world has its own sins, most of which are yet more insidious than those of the past. No one needs an old-fashioned devil anymore when the world is going to hell quite on its own. And so the new devil—the devil of the Modern Era—has nothing left to do but reinvent a better world with a less conflicted, design. 

The sins listed below should, therefore, be understood as a platform to rationalize the need for a new world order.

Many modern individuals are infected by physical vanity just as so many were in the past, yet now with a greater emphasis on packaging and image. Moreover, modernity offers a great number of distinctive advantages for anyone seeking to wallow in this particular sin. Both media and the internet provide endless opportunities for personal display on a scale undreamed of in the past, even by the richest aristocrat. Our moderns will reinvent their breasts and their noses. When they get old they will do just about anything to remain young. Or else, they leverage their existing ‘good looks’ to climb up the social or career ladder, by flattering those who might advance them with their attentions. They may take expensive supplements for health improvements, or dress up as successful celebrity tarts, or rich athletic brats. In the pursuit of their vanity, those afflicted with this sin will neglect their children, starve the world, and corrupt those gullible enough to follow their examples.

Just as Marten began to take a few notes, a young woman’s face emerged. It seemed to flow like a shape in quicksilver from behind his laptop’s screen. The face smiled and blew him a kiss before dissolving back into his computer.

Yet worse, is modern-day career vanity. Individuals corrupted by career vanity have a knack for controlling their situations at the expense of other people. Like physical vanity, career vanity is also about packaging and self-invention. But career vanity cuts even closer to the soul than physical vanity and can produce callous indifference to competitors, family members and working associates. It can be at once dangerous and reckless, catty, ingratiating and cheap. And yet in its self-righteousness, it has all but established itself as a role model for most of the upwardly mobile modern elite and many of their would-be imitators. Career vanity is not infrequently combined with physical vanity.

Marten saw a young man’s face come forward and then dissolve back into the same quicksilver swamp.

Brutality has been around long before human beings walked the planet. In ancient times, it was often a way of life. In moderns, however, brutality has taken on some additional dimensions. Media routinely delivers up brutality as entertainment with an ease and fascination never before possible—so that little children can contemplate thousands of killings before they’re even old enough to read or write; while brutes can exist today with a cool comfort that was impossible in past centuries. You can encounter the brute in the bully next door, or in the apparently self-possessed woman of means. Beyond this, we see a rising rage among who want to dispossess anyone more privileged or educated than themselves. A brutality of contempt, prejudice and negation. This rage and its associated brutality is growing in the world and may well be on the verge of changing the course of history.

This time the Devil’s Blog produced a recognizable face. The image of Pierre Metrice arose from the quicksilver swamp, grinned at Marten with a malevolent, toothy smile, and then disappeared.

If the last century should be remembered for anything besides its banality and destructiveness, it should also be cited for the advent of mass-market sexual teasing. Never before has sexual innuendo been so pervasively woven into everyday experience, from fashion, to magazines and TV as a part of global advertising—quite often consumed with avidity by men and women who are sometimes even prudish in most other aspects of their lives. In this brand-aware genre of sinning, men seek out women as emblems of their social standing or leverage their power to harness women into sex. Conversely, some women lead the dance quite on their own, seeking out men of wealth and power by becoming the ultimate objects of desire. One might say that even against some formidable competition from the past—the Golden Age of Whoredom is actually now.

As he finished the text, Marten glimpsed a man’s coarse, angular face coalesce into a silvery, medieval mask, exposing a hopeful, dog-like smile. It seemed to be pleading for a better fate before it exploded into a series of bubbles over the quicksilver swamp.

Lust comes in many flavors, and one of the oldest and most poisonous is lust for power. In modern times, fed by media, this force has become an even more pervasive transgression. In its current form, Lust for Power is often masked behind feigned behavior pretending to be just the opposite, as power and popularity have never been more intertwined. It often corrupts the poor and envious. But it even more frequently consumes those who are already powerful and influential. It is of interest, therefore, to see how the powerful have created a new class of self-righteous defenders, eager to extend the reach of their own domains, and scornful of anyone less fortunate.

A woman’s image emerged from the neck up like the figure on a silver coin—aloof and minted—and then dissolved into the swamp until she became a phantasm of mist floating above it. She seemed to be sleeping as if the sin allotted to her never fully possessed her except as a caricature imposed by someone else’s imagination.

Indecision has been around and even documented for a long time, truly coming into its own with Shakespeare’s Hamlet. However, in recent years, indecision has assumed new qualities. Personal choice has broadened through wealth, research, self-help books and media exposure, and people living longer overall. There are inexhaustible amounts of information available for key life choices, while at the same time clarity about life goals and personal roles has faded into a sea of gray. So it’s no wonder that indecision and procrastination have become a self-defining lifestyle. Imagine, then, the force of indecision on third-world characters trying to emerge into modernity—for whom the choices are yet vaster and more confusing.

For a moment, and only very faintly, Marten saw the handsome, carved face of Jon Tiegreich taking shape. He looked compelling even in silver. He seemed to be asleep, yet on the edge of wakefulness. Then his face evaporated gently into the sunlight, escaping from, rather than receding into, a background that never effectively contained him.

Denial is the sin most descriptive of our age. When you can see so much that’s horrible, and with so many ways to counterfeit reality, denial may simply seem like pragmatism to many in the twenty-first century. Moreover, the current era offers countless ways to falsify and obscure the truth. Character has been replaced by Personality, just as Branding has replaced Poetry. When no one is encouraged to seek authentic ideas—but instead pursues a readymade series of images and sound bites optimized to ‘them’ as consumers—the chances are that no one will ever make the effort to separate truth from falsehood. Arising from this fertile field of opportunity, denial comes in many flavors and shapes. For instance, it includes a unique form of sinning when denial reconstitutes the identity of those who have witnessed the abuse of others. These individuals—who might otherwise carry the torch of truth within them—weaken their humanity by affiliating themselves with their fears, while inadvertently affirming the New Age of Lies.

Marten saw the contours of a face suggesting a cerebral, European count coalescing above the quicksilver swamp. Yet there was a formality to the image that seemed imposed rather than natural. It could have been the bad portrait of someone’s uncle lost in the middle of an estate, a token presence rather than a genuine character.

 

At no time has any era offered so much opportunity for delusional self-importance as the twenty-first century. Moderns routinely see extremes of poverty and distress on their TVs, entertaining them with conditions of crisis and horror in the comfort of their living rooms, while video games are addicting the young and not-so-young to impossible quests and battles. At the same time our average moderns are constantly encouraged to participate vicariously in the lives of those who are richer, more powerful, and infinitely more famous than they are. This leads to a mood swing between omnipotence and impotence, between feeling overindulged on the one hand, and feeling passed over and denied, on the other. As a result, many fall prey to a futile sense of responsibility in which a pervasive sense of guilt combines with an inflated sense of empowerment. An egotistical recreation of the truth into their own self-aggrandizing images.

A face with a large nose and an oddly shaped grin emerged above the quicksilver swamp. It seemed to lie supine as if it were resting on a bier before it receded into a bubble of light and vanished.

In the fitful present, with its boxy categories for success, genuine talent and a feeling of betrayal often become one and the same, making “next-generation superbia” all the more superb. We have seen how greed, has refocused the vision of many of the educated elite into self-congratulating cartoons. (GREED and ENVY aren’t among our “Nine Deadly Sins” because they figure into virtually every sin here.) We see a civilization peddling cheap cures, cheap art, cheap science and cheap souls. As a result, if you have more than a profit motive left in you, just affirming who you are often means being cast out. We know the feeling—at least by analogy—all too well.

Marten saw the face of an older man with a dark disposition quickly becoming a bewildered middle-aged man taking shape just above the quicksilver. The longer he looked at it, the more it became disturbingly familiar before dissolving into darkness.
*
While trying to collect himself over no fewer than three cups of black coffee, he did his best to round out the list of The Nine Deadly Sins and solidify his impressions. He wasn’t sure he got all the details correctly, but when he went back online to check, The Devil’s Blog wasn’t there.
In tone and perspective, the Blog seemed to be linked to the A.D. Note, revealing a more expositional outlet for the author’s oblique sense of humor—one, now, presumably inspired by a darkly divine presence.

Either way, it wasn’t very encouraging.

Given the allusions to both the expedition and its cast members—with Metrice and Tiegreich, the two members of the group Marten knew the least—he did the math.

There were nine “Deadly Sins.”

But there were ten in the expedition’s cast.

So if the Devil’s Blog were really a warning about the future of the expedition, the numbers didn’t add up.

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