Good Omens

Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, Good Omens
(London: Gollancz, 1990)

Crowley began to dial a number. ‘’S’okay, Duke Hastur. I wouldn’t expect you to believe it from me,’ he admitted. ‘But why don’t we talk to the Dark Council—I am sure that they can convince you.’
The number he had dialled clicked and started to ring.
‘So long, sucker,’ he said.
And vanished.
In a tiny fraction of a second, Hastur was gone as well.
For those of angel stock or demon breed, size, and shape, and composition, are simply options.
Crowley is currently travelling incredibly fast down a telephone line.
Crowley went through two telephone exchanges at a very respectable fraction of light speed. Hastur was a little way behind him: four or five inches, but at that size it gave Crowley a very comfortable lead. One that would vanish, of course, when he came out the other end.
They were too small for sound, but demons don’t necessarily need sound to communicate. He could hear Hastur screaming behind him, ‘You bastard! I’ll get you. You can’t escape me!’
‘Wherever you come out, I’ll come out too! You won’t get away!’
Crowley had travelled through over twenty miles of cable in less than a second. Hastur was close behind him. Crowley was going to have to time this whole thing very, very carefully.
That was the third ring.
Well, thought Crowley, here goes nothing.
He stopped, suddenly, and watched Hastur shoot past him. Hastur turned and—
Crowley shot out through the phone line, zapped through the plastic sheathing, and materialized, full-size and out of breath, in his lounge.
The outgoing message tape began to turn on his ansaphone. Then there was a beep, and, as the incoming message tape turned, a voice from the speaker screamed, after the beep, ‘Right! What? … You bloody snake!’ The little red message-light began to flash.

In this extract from Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, the demon Crowley (who was the original serpent in the Garden of Eden and has been living, in human form, amongst us ever since, greatly enjoying the increased comforts and convenience brought about by human ingenuity) is being confronted by his superior, Hastur, a Duke of Hell. With Armageddon and the final battle between Heaven and Hell imminent, Crowley appears to have mislaid the Antichrist and may even have ‘gone native’ among the humans. Hastur confronts Crowley in his apartment where the latter first claims that this is simply a secret test for Hastur, before hitting on the idea of using a call to his own answering machine to trap Hastur and make his escape. Later in the book, Crowley’s line receives a telesales call, allowing a furious Hastur to exit the machine, with unfortunate consequences for the call-centre staff.

by James Elder