Follow the Devil / Follow the Light

Part Six: Setback

This is part six of Follow the Devil/Follow the Light. Read all the previous parts here.

Setback

 

The Devil’s Piss operated out of a derelict quad-engine Boeing 707 that had crashed years ago along the southern edge of the forest. Ripped from the hull due to extreme turbulence, the left wing rested a hundred yards from the place of impact. The missing flight deck was replaced with double-doors stolen from Versailles post revolution, and the bar itself ran the length of the hollow fuselage with seating first class to coach. The narrowing length of tail was barricaded off from patrons for interrogation and cold storage. Mounted lamps with green shades, in need of dusting, offered the plane’s only illumination. Totems from earth were haphazardly nailed to the interior paneling: a braid of human hair, a crochet coaster, a license plate from Wyoming, a taxidermy black bear shoulder mount with a missing eye, a bamboo fly rod, a baby doll, a signet ring. The cabin windows were shut, and (in addition to the totems) every square inch of wall was plastered with articles and headlines retrieved from earth:

Troops Attack and Crush Beijing Protest: Thousands Fight Back, Scores are Killed

US ATTACKED: Hijacked Jets Destroy Twin-Towers and Hit Pentagon in Day of Terror

HINDENBURG EXPLODES: 30 Die in Crash of Airship

DIANA DEAD

Son House sang “Dry Spell Blues – Part One” from the horn of a Victrola gramophone loud enough to drown out the noise of inebriation. An eel hung suspended in the jade water of an aquarium hijacked by colonies of algae. The bartender, an ogre-like behemoth with pustules for arms, was obscured by cigarette smoke as he scrubbed the bar hard enough to strip varnish. Nine demons caroused and nursed drinks at the bar, Morte Magari among them, stirring six ounces of gin and tonic (no ice) into a vortex with the claw of its middle finger. A lime wedge spiraled around the glass’s maelstrom like a sinking ship.

A sip from the glass. “Watered down again,” Magari bemoaned.

“You know how it is,” came the bartender’s irksome reply. “Never quite able to replicate the distillation process.”

“At least give us a dram worthy of our defiance,” the demon shouted at the ceiling in petition to an absent god. Magari was sour after Joe’s stunt with the axe and had chewed off a bit of inner cheek at the bar just thinking about it. The plan, for now, was to level blame at The Engineer. There were forms to submit when disputes arose among the demons, and Magari was happy to oblige if it meant a visit from the Ministry of Compliance. It could see The Engineer now: tooling away on that blasted Abacus, making repairs for another round as authorities arrived. Mordecai was a hopeless bureaucrat, legalistic to a fault, but thorough.

“Hell ever better?” A woman’s voice to his left.

“God’s wounds,”[1] Magari cursed.

The bartender flipped the Paramount “Electronically Recorded” shellac record to Side B on the Victrola. One of the infernal patrons threw back a shot of whiskey, returned the glass upside down, pushed a single denarius across the bar, and walked out with a swagger. Magari looked up to stare at the eel and his new acquaintance in the glass reflection of the aquarium.

“That bad, eh?”

“Bug off.”

“Only making conversation. It’s Morte Magari, right?” The demon sat on the stool to Magari’s left, no pretense of social distance, and set a large Italian leather briefcase at her feet. She crossed her fingers to stretch both arms across the width of the bar until her knuckles cracked like shelled nuts. Her eyes, black onyx, were cave-like chasms. Her body was illustrated with scars, a typography of esoteric spells sometimes drawn with the razor point of a knife, other times rendered out of thin air by disembodied necromantics. The effect was rumored to be quite painful, but this, of course, only elevated one’s esteem in Hell. Magari had heard of such demons but had never met one in person. “Skins” they were called, purveyors of witchcraft, servants of the devil Gerasene.[2] The mutilations had a life of their own. Formed unconscious words. Formed symbology. Sometimes Latin. Sanskrit. French. Reliably English. Were prophetic. Were gibberish. Were silent vessels on a sea of skin.

“I’m not company,” Magari said after a swallow from the glass.

“And why should you be,” the demon responded, “a reputation like yours rooted out like a truffle, slandered over the airways by Canker and Abscess swine. You must be livid.”

“Again!?” Magari spat. “I sicced lawyers on their hides.”

“Not enough of them apparently. Besides, A.N.T.I 106.2 was granted libel law exemption in Parliament. Any pretense of unbiased journalism went the way of the sea cow and trilobite.”

“What’s their angle now?”

“That your frequent liaisons to Earth have exceeded protocol, caught their limit.”

“My plot is still en route. Who else is on the roster for public shaming this week?”

“Azrael, the simpleton. A few others,” the Skin continued without breaking her verbal stride. “Got the eyes of the gov’ment on you now. It’s all over Samizdat. Friar Giardia’s on the case. Another call for abduction reform as per usual.”

“He would be. Any details in the broadcast?”

“About what?”

“About the boy … er, subject … er.” Magari brought a fist down on the bar, hard, angry the detail had slipped like an insect from its mouth.

“Hey!” the bartender shouted with an aggressive wave from a pustule arm. “Take it easy over there. Need another drink, no problem. Otherwise, don’t spook paying customers. Got it?”

“I AM a paying customer,” Magari countered. “Now employ those barnacles that kept you out of Lucifer’s Royal Navy and get me another round.” The bartender, eager for another denarius, ignored the slight and turned to his apothecary of bottles to fetch more gin.

“So it’s a male this time,” the Skin continued. “What have you got planned for him, eh?”

“You have no right to inquire.”

“You have no right to be sloppy. We lost privacy with paradise you know.”

“I know, I know,” Magari moaned, resting the elbows of its stick-like limbs on the bar in a mournful pose. “Insufferable. How tiresome. This rent veil. This Musée du Grotesque.”

“Well, you’ll just have to be more careful next time, eh? If there is a next time.”

“If there’s a next time?” Magari didn’t appreciate her knowing tone. “What’s your business anyway?”

“This and that. Arms dealer mainly. White Market. Underground. Need anything?” She hoisted the briefcase onto the bar, aligned the six-digit combination, and pushed square tabs to disengage the silver locks. They flipped open on sturdy springs. The briefcase housed eight pistols in a variety of calibers, poison vials, darts, grenades, and a coach gun with removable double barrel.

“Never taken an interest.” Magari explained. “There’s no finesse putting blood on the walls like that. I like victims close enough to see the eyes dilate and the pulse quicken. I like watching the blood pressure rise on a victim’s carotid artery, the involuntary twitch of a leg, the groping panic of a hand, the dawning realization that my grip is indeed his death … and death will not be merciful. Call me a Romantic, but there’s nothing quite like the intimacy of a kill in close quarters.”

“I sell knives too. Interested in those?”

“Less maintenance with these,” Magari said, admiring the steeple sharpness of its claws.

“Very well.” With a disgruntled sigh, the demon closed the briefcase and returned her arsenal to the floor. “It appears my business with you is purely supernatural in nature.”

“Oh no you don’t.” Magari said with a nervous laugh. It scratched varnish off the underside of the bar and scooted over a bit on the stool. “I’ve got the curse of enough righteous blood on me as it is.” One never wanted the conversation with a Skin to stray from the merely pragmatic. You had to be disciplined on this point. Firm. No telling what unwanted prophecy might arise en medias res upon the epidermis. “The sales pitch is over,” Magari continued.

“Very well. Just hoping you could clear something up is all.” The demon stretched her arms out across the bar again. More shelled nuts. Odd. She took a deep breath. Exhale. Another. Exhale. “There I was,” she continued …

“We’re done here.”

“… oiling the barrel of a .30-06, when my hand … this one … starts to tingle something awful. It always starts pins and needles.” She took another deep breath, savored the tale like a sip of agreeable port.

“Goodbye. Wrong address.”

“Then it grows … births a bit of pain beneath the skin until I feel it like the sharp edge of rusted metal or broken glass.” She raised her right hand like someone about to recite the pledge of allegiance. The letters were English, but they were random, backward, their meaning illusive.

“I have no interest in your oracular tripe,” Magari replied dismissively. Though in truth, the scrawls had received a furtive glance. “Check, please!” came a shout to the bartender.

“Look at the aquarium,” the Skin commanded.

“There’s been a mistake.”

“No mistake. That’s legit devilry if I ever saw it.”

She turned her rigid palm toward the bar. Magari looked over to find the words now inverted on the mirrored surface of the aquarium. The eel maintained its static undulation in the pear-green sea. The other demons, ambivalent to the crisis, carried on with their revels and songs. The bartender poured a drink for himself with a steady hand as the other held a soiled dish rag against his hip. Bourbon on the rocks. The pale moon of her palm held three words, carved like bloody runes on slate marble, legible even here in the dim claustrophobic light of The Devil’s Piss:

 

Water Nymph

 

“I’m a water nymph.”

“A what?” Joe asked.

“A water nymph,” Nora said. “Mom told me about them last night before bed. She said they live in Lake Washington and help fish avoid trawling nets. They rescue lost children and sailors during storms, mend leaky boats, teach people how to swim, and show otters how to hide from shark bullies. Think that’s true?”

“No,” Joe said like a brother.

“Mom doesn’t lie,” Nora replied. “She also said they wear di-a-phan-ous, that’s the word she used, di-a-phan-ous white gowns like the one I’m wearing now that let them swim faster than dolphins. Their hair looks just like mine,” she said, admiring the blonde auburn of her tresses, “and they breathe underwater the same way we breathe. Isn’t that great?”

“Yeah, great,” Joe said unimpressed. “So that’s what you’re gonna be then?” The children were playing make-believe in the backyard. Paul had built a fort in a tree next to the retaining wall that separated the Muggeridge lawn from Interstate 90 and the congestion of cars that flowed like weary salmon in and out of downtown Seattle during the daily commute. Nora sat on the edge of the fort to swing her legs like a runner six feet off the ground.

Joe, the stoic paladin, carried a shield he had cut from a cardboard box emblazoned with a red cross he had painted by hand and a long branch whittled to a lethal point with his father’s pocketknife. There hadn’t been time to ask permission with goblins roaming the premises and gryphons tumbling from the cold metallic sky. The knife rested, blade open, on the weathered gray planks of the tree fort. Joe would forget to bring it inside at dinnertime, and rain that evening would bring the first signs of pit corrosion and rust to the blade.

In addition to her di-a-phan-ous dress, which, in truth, was nothing more than a $2.00 hand-me-down from Goodwill, Nora carried a short wooden bow that shot suction cup arrows with varying degrees of accuracy.

“Don’t ever shoot at anything living,” Mother had disciplined.

“Not even trees?” Nora had asked.

“Not even those.”

“Then what’s the point?”

“Exactly,” Mother had said.

Nora and Joe never inquired if Wendy’s prohibition included imaginary creatures, so they aggressively shot at the goblins, satyrs, dragons, and centaurs that occupied their backyard kingdom. Such threats were just as real, just as living as the Pierce brothers three doors down who threw rocks over the retaining wall, or Trevor Fleming who shot squirrels in the head with a pellet gun.

A wooden sword was strapped to Nora’s hip and a pink sweatband with the words “GIRL POWER” covered her forehead. Nora had also persuaded Wendy (after much deliberation) to let her borrow a mother of pearl necklace from the keepsake jewelry box on the bedroom dresser.

Today’s adventure took Nora and Joe into the Lost Crypt of Heldred. Joe had drawn a detailed map with black marker on a grocery bag (the closest he could find to parchment). Within the crypt, they would face the undead Blue Drake Wizard and his hoard of Zombie Chihuahuas. The children had had a fearsome encounter with a chihuahua named Peanut at a church potluck two months ago. Since that time, the breed was the “go to” villain in all their games. The Drake Wizard had trained at least four hundred canine minions to mine a rare purple diamond deep in the bowels of Heldred. Trespassers were magically embalmed on sight, and Joe and Nora agreed the Chihuahuas would detect intruders with ease on account of their sizable ears. Water nymphs and paladins would have to tread lightly if they had any chance of surviving the Drake Wizard’s domain.

“So, what’s the plan?” Nora asked.

“If we get lost in there, I need to know what special powers you have,” Joe said. He inspected the tip of his spear, checked the flimsy shield for worrisome signs of wear.

“I just told you,” Nora said. “Weren’t you listening?” She hadn’t anticipated the sudden call for a résumé.

“Those all had to do with water. There’s no water in Heldred.”

“I also fly.”

“Do not.”

“Do too. Mom said so. Water nymphs fly … but only girl ones.”

“Why can’t boy water nymphs fly?”

“They have no elegance. And they aren’t royalty.”

“Whatever.”

“It’s true.”

“Okay, it’s true. Now what?”

“We enter the crypt.” There was a dynamic shift in Nora’s tone. “We face the Blue Drake Wizard and remove his curse on our land. His spell has destroyed our gardens, taken our babies, made it so sick people never feel better, and outlawed singing in public. I’m trying not to be scared. Are you scared Joe?”

“Paladins never get scared.”

“Never?”

“Not First Rank Guild members.”

“I’m scared for you brave paladin.”

“Stay together. We’ll be just fine.”

With that, Nora and Joe Muggeridge experienced sudden transport, one hour and fifteen minutes away from Issaquah, Washington and into the dark crypt of their imagined world. Goblins were hewn where they stood, pit traps were disabled, treasure from the avarice of antiquity was hoarded, and a halfling bard named Oreo was rescued from a flea infested dungeon. In the end, the curse was thwarted, and many a loyal Chihuahua gave its life in defense of the Blue Drake Wizard’s keep. “Dinner time,” from Paul back in Issaquah brought Joe and Nora up from the crypt and into their backyard sanctum. The two ambled over to the house as the smell of meatloaf and corn on the cob wafted across the yard.

“You know, you’re a pretty good water nymph,” Joe said.

“Told you so,” Nora replied with a grin.

 

* * *

 

Hello Mr. Percocet.

Joe dry swallowed two tablets and thanked his past self for having the foresight to stow a bottle in his back pocket. Ten minutes, maybe fifteen, and he wouldn’t care where he was going or where he’d been. A stupid smile would beset his mouth, breathing would slow, and the blissful dumb of oxycodone/acetaminophen would envelop his senses. The forest and underbrush around him began to thin out, and Joe was hopeful he had finally reached the end of this infernal wood.

There was a trail to the south, beyond the dried riverbed where he had met The Failed Artist. “Wanna join me?” he had asked.

“You mean, do you want to join me?” came the reply.

“Sure. Whatever you want.”

“I don’t think so. It’s time to explore what’s out there, beyond this prison of my own making.” The Failed Artist had looked over at the white willow tree. “I’m keeping expectations low. But any experience on the road, good or ill, is better than none at all. That’s something a Beat poet would say.”[3]

“I get that.”

And they went their separate ways. Joe along the trail south of the clearing. The Failed Artist westward in step with the twisting path of the riverbed. With a blithe forgetfulness, she swung the length of rope from her noose like a lasso. Joe thought he saw her skip like a girl playing hopscotch before losing her behind a veil of foliage. The Failed Artist had many adventures of her own. She traveled to the Parthenon of Misanthropic Idols, crossed a frozen lake with a doppelgänger in pantomime beneath her naked feet, slogged her way through the Bog of Vanities, and eventually confronted Shinigami,[4] the very demon who had prompted her suicide in a perfect recreation of the bathroom where it had happened: water pipe, noose, gloss red tile, and all. But that’s not our story to tell.

Joe lost track of time as he walked. The forest path presented a series of zigzags and double-backs, steep inclines, and hazardous descents. The crows had stopped squawking long ago, and if there was any wildlife to survey in this stretch of Douglas fir it remained well hidden in burrows and dens. It was the first time Joe Muggeridge had ever been in a nature so unnatural, so divorced from the cues one expected from the forests of Earth. It wasn’t even a shadow of a former self – more like setting for a stage play, or the unfortunate finale from a second-rate magician. He had been approached by several demons along the way: a swarm of vampiric pixies, a ravenous posse of werewolves, a depressive golem. All of them had turned tail the moment they saw the inverted cross on Joe’s forehead. It told them Joe was marked for diabolism. Marked for death. To lay hands on this soul was to court a most unwanted hex.

Joe was about to concede defeat, when he heard (like the forest itself) the imitation of a laugh. The cadence was unmistakable, and only one pair of vocal cords was worthy of it: Morte Magari. Joe turned to see his dread antagonist, guide, and only hope of seeing Nora again, cross-legged on a large moss-covered rock. A wooden signpost pointed to a dizzying array of destinations. The place names were written by hand, legible, illegible, palm smeared and weathered by rain, places Joe recognized, and places Joe was certain he’d rather not go. He couldn’t believe how silent the demon’s approach had been. Magari had materialized from thin air.

“Bravo!” The demon clapped its hands in mock tempo. “Quite a show back there I must say. You give new meaning to the phrase taking matters into one’s own hands … or should I say axe? Expect a bill from The Engineer by post. Fury-smacked he was.”

“Like I care,” came Joe’s terse reply. “I did what I thought was necessary. I played your impossible Weltschmerz.”

“Indeed, you played your part well enough to merit unwanted media attention from Plague and Mail. One down. Two to go. So, what’s next for Joe Muggeridge?”

“After all that,” Joe said, looking back at the trail behind him, “I’d settle for ignorance.”

“The purveyors of justice on earth make the best citizens in Hell,” Magari replied.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“We’re all about justice down here. More than you humans realize. Everyone gets their fair-share-what’s-coming-to-them-comeuppance.”

“What alternative is there?”

“Our Enemy is a grace peddler.”

“I don’t know what that means.”

“That’s why you’re here.”

“No. I’m here to see my sister.”

“I never like citing the theologians of the Enemy, but ‘we are each our own devil, and we make this world our Hell.’”[5]

“So the Christian hypocrite gets a heaven, while the rest burn in Hell?”

“Goodness me no,” Magari replied. “Christians are our best administrators and architects. They build entire retreat centers, fellowship halls, Ten Commandment memorials, and summer camps in His name down here. They’re more cavalier about who goes where and who deserves what than most. A.N.T.I. 106.2 sells most of its airtime to itinerant preachers and faith healers peddling prayer cloths. Nothing like a self-proclaimed prophet or militant nationalist to set the church back a few centuries. The Nazarene wasn’t wrong when he warned, “Not all who say to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom.”[6]

“And it all just goes on forever?”

“That is beyond our knowledge,” the demon confessed. “Some devils say yes. Others contend for purgation. Divine glory is sometimes fire enough to rouse stubborn souls to paradise. Mount Tabor. The road to Damascus. We debate this annually at the university. Impassioned claims are made. Orthodox, apocryphal, and anecdotal evidence is cited by our most prominent theologians. How to reconcile the promise of eternal punishment with the intimation of universal reconciliation advanced in the Enemy’s texts.[7] Not that it matters. The end result is always the same: Calvinist and Arminian fisticuff until security arrives. The mercy of Origen and McDonald – dismissed by staunch Infernalists before it can get a word in edgewise. Whatever the outcome beyond The Terrible Day,[8] we resent our present dispensation all the same.”

“I still don’t understand.”

“Hell exists as much for the redemption of souls as for their damnation,” the demon said.

“So, the universalists are right,” Joe said.

The demon laughed. “The invitation to abandon Hell is rarely utilized: unmerited mileage points no one bothers to cash in. Just think of the mad kings, psychotics, and vain despots we’ve got down here,” the demon continued. “Sycophants and scoundrels. What to do with Josef Mengele still devising experiments. Where to house Vlad the Impaler as he sharpens another skewer. Ahab. Stalin. Mao. You think wills like that are remotely pliable postmortem?”

“Why not just rescue them against their will?”

“Love coerced is no love at all,” the demon replied. “You of all people should know this. Speak truthfully, if there’s any right you believe in, it’s the right to choose.”

“Go on.”

“Yours is a generation that cannot reconcile its embrace of absolute liberty with its rejection of absolute value. Tell me, if the goal is untethered freedom, why must all endings be self-actualized? Agreeable? Happy?” Magari could barely evict the final word from its mouth.

“And what is Heaven then,” Joe wondered. “The absence of justice?”

“It’s unfortunate fulfillment,” Magari replied. “Grace eclipses all finite notions of equality. The tirade of Right-Wing fascist and Marxist alike doesn’t play on the streets of Elysium. Those streets are gold, metaphorical or no, for a damn good reason. There’s nothing to hoard or bitch over in a realm of such wild native abundance. Its citizens are enamored with the divine, full of wonder, learning, curiosity, mirth, and a litany of other virtues I dare not mention aloud. No culture war. No moral panic. No self-righteous hand wringing. Hatred achieves the impotence of an insult at the sun. The “other” becomes a brother, a sister, a reflection of the Self one already happens to love. It’s like the old lyric: No regret / And no grievance there.”

“Sounds like bullshit to me,” Joe said.

“So glad you feel that way.”

“And what’s all this you’ve been saying about some Nazarene? You mean Jesus, right? The same Jesus my mother mumbles about in church?”

“Say His name again and I leave you dead on The Schismatic Marsh.” It took Magari a spell to regain composure. “He’s being crucified every day you know,” the demon continued at last. “When the world doesn’t feed, clothe, or visit him in prison, it drives in the nails. His passion is perpetual. Severe enough that one day He’ll simply end it and restore the cosmos with the same voice He used to bring it up into being. We demons are certain of this. We feel it in the trembling marrow of our bones, in the legion-house of collective memory.”[9]

“I’m not proud of what I did back there,” Joe said.

“In the company of The Violent Against Goodness, you unleashed your own legalistic tantrum. Tell me, were your actions just? Did they uphold the good?”

“I have no idea,” said Joe. “That’s why I let them go.”

“Precisely. There is no one worthy of such, how shall we say, administration. No mortal at least. The Abacus is no different than your systems of justice on earth. To confront oppression is to become oppressor yourself.”

“Then what hope is there?” Joe asked in all seriousness.

“What hope indeed, in a world where the weed grows ever among the wheat.”[10]

Mr. Percocet was doing his work now. Joe remembered the terror of the Weltschmerz, writhing bodies like hooked worms, the battalion of British infantry, The Failed Artist, but he couldn’t conjure much reason to care. The drugs ran quick.

“So why me?” Joe asked.

“Why not you? There I was, inflicting my usual menace on one of Seattle’s homeless souls, and there you were, video game-induced and headed home from work. Past Empyrean Coffee and the E-Z convenience store. Now there’s a cliché for the era, I thought to myself. Facsimile of a generation. Just your average know-nothing … Joe.” The demon savored the name like a sweet morsel in its mouth.

“Minding my own business was enough to earn your interest?”

“Yes.”

“And nothing more. No past offense?”

“No.”

“A random target.”

“Not random. Like I said earlier, I’ve known you your whole life Joe Muggeridge. My selection did nothing to diminish the will of Providence.”

“Providence! You sound like my catechism teacher when you talk like that.”

“Who says I’m not?”

Joe recalled his seventh birthday with Nora. There was the blue wax drip of fast burning candles on a sheet cake. St. Michael’s angelic robe sunk ankle deep in white frosting. Nora used the knife to cut slices worthy of a diabetic response. Wendy and Paul sang to the children with tired faces after a forgettable workday. The light outside signaled the orange-gold arrival of early autumn.

“Say the word, and I whisk you back to the Seattle from whence you came. Look at it this way. At least this is real. Unscripted. Off the algorithm. You can’t say the same for most of your life.”

“No,” Joe recanted. “No whisking for me. I’m not giving up.” He couldn’t tell if the resolve was genuine, or a mere side effect of the drug. “Two more Weltschmerz trials or whatever you want to call it and I see Nora, right?”

“Correct.” And Magari sprang from the rock, tackled Joe Muggeridge to the ground like a linebacker. Magari’s claws exerted just enough pressure to let Joe feel their razor potential. The strength of the demon was uncanny.

“Just keeping the nature of our relationship clear.”

“Crystal. Now get off me.”

Magari complied and began to scurry southward along the same path Joe had followed before their reunion. The demon paused twenty feet or so up the trail and raised its head like a wolf catching scent. “Strange. Did you know it was this way? Questing by instinct, were you?”

“I was just trying to get out of this forest. Is the second Weltschmerz as bad as the first?”

“I like surprises enough not to tell.”

“You would say that.”

“Ready for another metamorphosis to rival Ovid?”[11]

“Like I said, I just want to see Nora.”

“They’re one and the same.”

And with that, demon and twenty-something assumed a swift gait toward the perimeter of the forest. Each had their reasons for such a pace. Joe: renewed in his intent to find Nora, his fears pacified by the opioid that flowed through his bloodstream. Magari: driven by his nefarious plot (by the marquee, standard transport, corpse included), but equally dismayed by the Skin’s unsolicited prophecy.

Two more to go, Joe thought.

Two more to go, Magari thought, and the girl is mine.

As the Fates would have it, the bottle, ten white pills of medicinal bliss, fell from Joe’s back pocket where Magari had tackled him, and Addiction (Joe’s reliable consort) had failed to notice. The slim orange bottle, his secret stash, was now hidden under a gray canopy of deer fern. It remained hidden for several years until it was swallowed whole by a lichen worm indigenous to Hell’s only old growth forest.

Goodbye Mr. Percocet.

 

* * *

 

Seven years after Nora’s death, in the glory and gloom of Advent, Wendy Muggeridge made confession at St. Mary’s, resumed her place in the pews after a long absence, and received Eucharist from Fr. Rowling. As the host was placed on her tongue, a vision, Pietà, came to her mind. Virgin Mother. Crucified Son.

Like Wendy, the mother of God had lost a child.

            “I am a servant of the Lord.”

She had not recanted her Magnificat.

 

Like Wendy, the mother of God had mourned her child.

             “Let it be with me according to your word.”[12]

A child (a water nymph) who would rise again.

 

 

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COMMENTS


One response to “Follow the Devil / Follow the Light”

  1. Kevin Leach says:

    Powerful. Quotable. Most insightful. There is so much in the brief interaction between Magari and Joe:
    “Our Enemy is a grace peddler.”

    “I don’t know what that means.”

    “That’s why you’re here.”

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