Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "A Man is Known by the Company He Keeps" (without using the actual phrase). (01/31/08)
By JoAnne Potter
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It is now, at long last, time to settle your fate regarding any future you may have as my apprentice. Following your dismal failure to recruit the last patient you were assigned, I have been understandably reluctant to permit you another. The world, however, becomes increasingly our territory as time passes, and opportunities for permanent recruitment of humans not only easier, but more plentiful. We take in new converts at such a rate that it may begin to tax even our abundant resources.
I have decided, therefore, to give you another chance. Do not mistake that this opportunity results from any skill or success on your part. Circumstance alone dictates it and, should you fail, you will get no other. Instead, you will no doubt squirm to discover relegation to serving Our Father Below in disgrace, a fate you must understand would be less than pleasant.
Note that we begin with this patient in exactly the same place as the last, with his associations. You did not take this phase of recruitment seriously enough last time and, if you again neglect it, you court repeated failure. Certainly, you have plentiful opportunities to nudge him into connections that distract him from the Enemy’s whispers. You do not even have to urge him into anywhere as crassly obvious as a tavern or a gambling house. His work place or his family easily provide enough influence. In fact, they expedite the process because the man is not on guard in these situations. He will trust his mother’s smile or his co-worker’s generosity, mistaking their simple emotion, which we can so easily turn with a murmur, for the Enemy’s most potent weapon. My gorge rises even to think of the detestable four-letter L-word. He cannot be allowed to discover that emotion and the L-word are not the same thing. Always, Wormwood, push your subject toward emotion. It will defer him from the blasted influence of the Enemy and will prevent him from recognizing humans already in our camp.
In addition, never underestimate the power that rests in peripheral opinion. At this stage, your patient still cares what other humans think about him. To secure their good opinion, sometimes even from nearly perfect strangers, he will accept associations whose actions will lead him straight into the arms of Our Venerable Master. The man’s desire to belong, to be thought well of, is very strong. Use it, and let the human nature we have so successfully cultivated do the rest.
Remember, Wormwood, be ever vigilant for independent thought, for even a moment of regret or doubt. Pleasure, confidence, and comfortable camaraderie are your allies. You may let, even encourage, your subject to rest in them, but you, my fragile apprentice, may never rest.
Your affectionate uncle,
(With apologies to C.S. Lewis)
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