A small short story I’ve been tooling around with: A Work in Progress that was abandoned a few years back. I think I am going to try and pick it back up.
The Devil lived lonely on the top floor of the Chrysler Building. In the Devil’s House was the Devil’s Kitchen, the Devil’s Bed, the Devil’s Radio, and sitting lonely and cold atop the Devil’s Cold Fireplace was my lonely Soul. I wanted it back.
Exit Frying Pan
The Devil’s House looked nothing like I imagined. I don’t quite know what I was expecting, maybe a little flair. Brimstone, or Maroon Velvet, or the tortured Souls of the Innocent. I didn’t even know I was in the right place when I dropped down from the roof of the Chrysler and through the window. This place looked like it belonged to a Brownstone family in Brooklyn, not to the Lord of Hell, the Fallen Angel and the Morning Star.
The Devil’s Kitchen had a GE stove and a brand-name ice-box, his bed was an colonial four-poster, his radio was playing something baroque. His fireplace was warm with embers. The only thing I was right about was my small soul swimming in a jar above the Devil’s hearth.
It was quite like a fish, and swam around its jar like a fishbowl. I don’t know if it recognized me, but I recognized it. There was a hole in my chest that needed it back.
I went to grab it, having to stretch a little to put my fingers around the bowl. When I had just started lifting it a Voice behind me said, “That’s not yet yours to take”. It sounded like sulfur jazz.
With that, I was pushed into the devil’s open hearth, catching only a glance of the angel-wing band around his finger and a small whiff of cinnamon aftershave. I fell for far too long.
Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil so that he could play his guitar. At the age of 27 he died alone in his room. The Devil came to collect.
I made my deal the same way he did, alone at a crossroads on midnight in a new moon sky. I wanted to forget my pain. I was 22.
I don’t remember his face, I just remember the Cinnamon and the Voice. A voice that burned the nose and a smell that tasted of chocolate. He told me that 10 years without pain was not a fair price for my soul.
I asked if he needed more
He said it was too much
I said I didn’t care
We made the deal.
I didn’t feel the pain anymore.
I didn’t feel the pain for 10 years.
Then the day came when the Devil would collect. I was ready, I had sold everything I owned and said my goodbyes to everyone left I ever loved. I waited in an empty room for the Devil to come and take me to Hell. He never did. I waited there until they turned my water off and my stomach shriveled to the size of a raisin. Though I wasted away and my lips were cracked and dry I did not die.
The Devil never came.
I went to jump off the roof.
I didn’t die.
So I took matters into my own hands. I found where the Devil lived, I found where he kept my Soul. If I wasn’t going to be collected and if I couldn’t die, I damn well wanted it back.
So I tried to steal it from the Devil.
The following is an excerpt of a work-in-progress novel. Please let me know what you think!
In the deep in the wasting corpse of industry an angel on a billboard burned. No one had touched this area of town in 15 years and this billboard was no different, a failed product line from a dying company. The top of it had already burned and coalesced into the smog, making the silhouette of this angel seem as though she was diving upwards into Hell. I listened to it burn in the wind-whistle silence of abandoned buildings. I sat and watched and listened.
I thought about checking the surrounding buildings for squatters to warn them of the possible danger. If I did I’d be shot. Even in plain clothes I look like a cop and there are days that looking like a civilian would be a blessing. I was born with a stern face and a conceal-carry permit. I’ve never been a civilian.
It was still early morning as I made my way through midtown. I hit the traffic, and people’s windows were open in the humid heat to play out their choice of early-morning talk-radio. I listened to the usual rhythm of dispatch at dawn; fender benders and last-call cleanup. After stopping to get some coffee at a drive-through I languished in the traffic, enjoying the rest after a hellish night.
Everyone out here was rushing to work or to wage, and when everyone else wanted to get there on time I was just happy just to have some. It was a rare moment in between paperwork and cases where the city was quiet only for me.
Reverie is rarely kept for long, though. A call from dispatch.
“Julia, My dear.” Was my answer, less formal than the precinct liked.
“Hey Mikey, Misha has a need for you” But I had known Julia since I was a PI.
“As quickly as you can” Figures.
“Let the Chief know I’m running lights from midtown”
“Be safe, Detective”
Its easy for a man to feel powerful when all he needs is some flashing lights for a sea of people in their own little worlds to part and give way. 40 minutes of traffic was made into 10 minutes of glorious speeding. Public Service has its perks.