NEVER TRUST A DEMON

NEVER TRUST A DEMON – a dark fantasy

Miriam watched the writhing shape of the demon with unease. She had performed the spell exactly as described in the grimoire. She double checked her position within the chalk drawn pentacle on the floor. The lines were thick and unbroken, her feet anchored within its outlines.
“Let me see you,” she demanded, squinting at the amorphous figure before her. “I can’t talk to a blob.”
“Heh, heh, heh,” the demon rumbled in a pleasing basso profundo. The tone of the voice was unnerving, considering the nebulous shape of its source.
“Now why should I do that?” the demon demurred, shifting its shape. “You might not be able to stand the sight of the real me.”
“I don’t mean the real you,” Miriam replied. “Assume some solid form that I can talk to. You can do that, can’t you?”
“Oh, certainly, I can do that and more,” the soothing bass voice replied. “What form would you like me to take, Miriam?”
“You know my name?” she inquired, taken aback. “How? I never told you that.”
“Oh, we demons have our sources,” the demon replied, a hint of amusement in his voice.
“What else do you know about me?” she demanded.
“Well, let’s see,” said the demon. “Your last name is Price, you are twenty-seven years old and unmarried. You live alone. Your only friends, at least the ones you think are your friends, are the other witches in the Arnost coven.” He paused. “You ‘borrowed’ that grimoire from the coven library, where it is never supposed to leave. You summoned me through its pages, allowing me to access all the information the coven has on you. It’s a lot more than you think.”
The demon exhaled with pleasure. “Satisfied, my dear Miriam?”
Miriam was speechless. She knew she shouldn’t have taken the grimoire from the coven library. But the demon couldn’t know that, but it did. It seemed to know a lot more too. All she wanted was a special push for an Adam Brewer who she had obsessed on for the past three months. Adam Brewer who, to all intents and purposes, didn’t seem to realize she existed.
“I had no idea,” she said at last. “But never mind. I have summoned you and I need a favor from you please.”
“A favor?” the demon sounded amused again. “I’m not in the business of doing favors for mortals, dear Miriam. Why should I indulge you?”
“Because I have the power to bind you,” Miriam replied with some slight trepidation. “The spell that called you here also binds you to me until I release you, so you can’t leave until I let you.”
“Oh, is that so?” the demon said, and the note of amusement had disappeared from his voice. “What if I left? Right now?” There was an undercurrent of menace in his tone now, although the timbre still resonated in the room.
For a moment, Miriam wondered if she had missed something in the incantation. Then she caught herself. She had done it exactly as the book instructed. The demon was faking. He had to humor her until she reversed the spell.
“Let’s not quibble,” she said. “It’s only a very small thing I need you to do.”
“Does it involve a certain Adam Brewer?” the demon inquired with a flash of malice. The amusement had returned to his voice. Also, his form was solidifying, taking shape, changing into something recognizable.
Miriam watched, amazed, as a white rabbit resolved from the gloom, complete with top hat and tails. The rabbit stood on his hind legs and nibbled at his front paws.
“How’s this?” The demon said. “You like my new form? You asked.”
“A rabbit?” Miriam could not keep the disdain out of her voice. “Of all the forms you can assume and you became a rabbit?”
“Well, not any rabbit,” said the demon, wiggling his rabbit ears. “I am a special rabbit. Let me grow a bit and I’ll show you.”
The figure of the rabbit stretched and filled out until it was almost seven feet tall. He was no longer cute but terrifying, and he towered over Miriam like an ominous cumulus cloud.
The demon rabbit smiled, revealing a mouth full of pointed teeth. They glittered like daggers in the light of the many candles Miriam had placed around the room. She noticed for the first time that his eyes were ruby red, like drops of blood.
“There now,” the demon said. “That’s better. I was feeling a little cramped. Now, what can I do to Mr. Brewer for you?”
“I don’t want you to do anything to him,” Miriam whispered. “I want you to make him notice me. You know, like take an interest in me, sort of. Do you understand?”
“Perfectly,” the demon said, rolling his eyes. “How intense do you want me to make him?”
“Oh, not too much. Not over the top,” Miriam replied. “Interested enough to flirt with me and so on.”
“Well, that’s easily done,” the demon said, smiling again, “But I need you to come and stand by me while I set this whole thing up.”
“You mean, come over there?” Miriam was incredulous. “No way I’m stepping out of this pentacle, demon. Not even if you go back to tiny rabbit size. I’m staying right here. You stay over there and do your thing and then we can both be on our way.”
“What, you don’t trust me?” the demon said in an aggrieved tone. “That is the height of rudeness.”
“Why should I trust you?” Miriam was adamant. “I don’t trust demons. All you do is destroy.”
“We say the same thing about humans.” The demon’s voice was no longer deep and resonant. Now it was low and sibilant. “At least, we don’t pretend to be nice while doing it.”
“All I wanted was a favor from you,” Miriam protested. “I meant no harm.”
“Never trust a demon,” the rabbit replied, stretching out its left hind paw. He deliberately brushed it across the floor, erasing part of the chalk line, opening a gap in the pentacle.

© Bryan Knower – January 2018

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Sierra Madre Blues

Sierra Madre BluesSIERRA MADRE BLUES

veryshortstoriesSebastian Crist first noticed her when he parked his bike and walked down to the spring by the roadside. If he had not stopped for a drink of fresh water and a toke he might never have seen her up on the hillside. She lay curled up against a jumble of rocks some distance up the slope from the spring, seemingly asleep.

Maybe she fell. Maybe she was injured. What was she doing up here?

The sheer absurdity of someone out here in the remote wilderness of the Sierra Madre Mountains made him think he was hallucinating. Maybe he was imagining what he saw. He closed eyes for a few seconds, but when he re-opened them, the girl was still there. He realized then that something was very wrong. Wrong for him and possibly wrong with him.

He had stopped near a small culvert on Route 166, the old Sierra Madre highway from Guadalupe to Taft. A ghost road, haunted by coyotes and rattlesnakes. A road less travelled. Sebastian knew the road well. He had ridden it before, exulting in the feeling of freedom as he pushed the motorcycle around the bends on the deserted highway. The deep thrum of the Indian’s big engine between his legs and the shattering roar of his passage through the numerous cuts and gullies was like a balm to his soul and these days, his soul felt in desperate need of soothing.

Leaving his bike by the side of the road, he scrambled up the slope to where she lay, a sense of foreboding growing in him as he approached her. It wasn’t until he was within a few feet of her that he realized she was dead.

Her throat had been cut from ear to ear, a red gaping slash that grinned at him from beneath her chin like an obscene mouth. His stomach heaving, Sebastian fell to his knees, bile spewing from his mouth, burning his throat and nostrils as he wretched. Images from the nightmares that haunted his dreams filled his mind, tightening his gut until he doubled over with the pain. He willed the dead girl to go away but in his mind, she beckoned to others, the fey spirits from his past that hounded him, taunting him, daring him to react, to do more than run away.

He always ran, literally and figuratively. In every instance he left the scene in a panic, reliving the macabre details in the nights that followed, unable to understand what he encountered. He never knew if the encounters were real or just twisted figments of his imagination, and he told nobody. His prior arrest record took care of that and he had no illusions about what might ensure from reporting such an event.

It all began two summers ago, on an evening just like this one in the Arizona desert. Days after a desert rave, high on Peyote extract, seeing the colors of the rainbow reflected in the hot sand; amorphous shapes swirling around him, imaginary or real, ghosts of the future, phantoms of the past, all of them female, all dead, speaking silently to him, commanding him.

Time seemed to stand still and voices spoke inside his head, telling him about unspeakable things, asking him if he was ready. He struggled in vain against their hideous insinuations, fighting desperately for control over his slipping mind, alternately pleading and ranting at them.

What do you want? Why me? I don’t understand. Tell me. What do you want?

It is your legacy, they said. Why do you resist?

It was not what he wanted to hear, so he ran, fleeing the desert, sweating out the peyote in terrified hallucinations night after night, trying to convince himself that it was all a result of a bad trip. The fault of the peyote buttons.

He felt exactly the same now, the urge to run paramount in his mind. He fought it, squeezing his eyes shut again, hoping this was all in his head. It didn’t help. In the desolate landscape around him, there was no sign of anyone, savior or pursuer, an absence of anything but the two of them, Sebastian and the girl, alone and surrounded by silence.

The quiet was unnatural, a stepping out of time, a time where lips moved, a time where limbs beckoned, gesturing; a time for drowned ears, like a face underwater, everything observed through a watery lens, eyes open without goggles, all clearly obscure.

In Cuidad Juarez, the dead girl’s eyes had looked like that, opaque, unseeing, accusing.

Why didn’t you do something? Where were you when they were killing me?

He had denied responsibility. Vehemently.

Not me. It wasn’t me. I’m trying to help but you’re already dead. Please, I’ll do what I can. Poor dead senorita. Don’t look at me like that. I’m so sorry, but it’s too late.

Avoid the accusing stare, the marks of her desecration and his shame. So young, so innocent, just like this girl huddled among the rocks up in the Sierra Madre Mountains. He was too late for her also, just as he had been too late for the girl in Cuidad, too late to help, too late to prevent the shame, the tearing, the mutilation. He wanted to scream.

Why me? It isn’t my fault.

There was no escaping it. Every one of them different but still the same. Mouths open, the ghostly image of a silent scream frozen on bloodless lips, a record of final agony endured, the rictus of desperation morphing from the phantoms in the desert to the silent accusations of the girl in Cuidad. Same expression of surprise, desolation and pain, with Sebastian standing immobile, rooted, frozen in time and space, all the desperation of all the lonely souls robbed of life and love pressing him on that rocky hillside with the sunlight fading like the hope in his heart.

Alone. That’s how you died. Alone. A solitary journey. A solitary experience.

And he was a solitary man. Always had been. Often wondered why. Adamantly refused to face the answer. Even though a dead girl lay before him, he was alone.

Sweat dripped from his hair onto his forehead. He did not notice. It ran into his eyes. He blinked, trying to release the moisture, but his eyes stung.

Sweat or tears? I don’t know. I don’t care. What now? Why do I see dead people?

Perhaps it was time to change the status quo. In retrospect, everything had the clarity of clear glass. In Cuidad, he had not moved the body of the girl. He did not move this one either. She was fresh, like a newly killed deer, the strange sweet smell of blood strong in the air; an unforgettable smell. He had done nothing then, self-preservation his dominant instinct. He made an effort now, for monsters were nearby, watching him as he got his blanket from his bike and covered her with it, watching him as he made his way back down the hill and kicked the bike back into life, watching him as he sat astride his softly muttering Indian, contemplating what to do next.

In the desert, he ran from the collective consciousness that beckoned him. He had run from the girl in Cuidad too, run from faceless and unseen retribution, and he meant to run now, from the nameless something that waited up the mountainside for him. In spite of his sputtering resolve the specters called to him, tempting him, beckoning, like so many times before. And in the forefront was the girl he had just left. The girl on the mountainside. The girl with the red smile. A smile that implored with the others.

Stay. Stay and be part of us. We are the same. Come be with us.

He rode away then; the accusation of that bloody grimace imprinted on his mind like a ghostly afterimage, and in the very edges of his vision, a ghostly company rode with him. And with them the dead girl in the Sierra Madre Mountains, now part of that endless expanding circle, reciting the litany of something he still refused to figure out.

Bryan Knower 2014

DESOLATION SPACE: a poem of the apocalypse

desolation space

DESOLATION SPACE

In the lava lands of despair
A pale rider roams a blighted tableau
Seeking out the random detritus
Of discarded human experience
The silent satiation of an immeasurable appetite
Unquenchable and desperately ravening
The devourer of souls in torment
Merciless she, whose face no living thing has looked upon
Nor desires such, even in nightmare vision

In the lava lands of despair
Beyond the origins of the watchers by night
The horsemen of the coming apocalypse
Embrace the trauma of desolation space
Unbroken through the dawn of time
Wherein lies the terrible endings of all sanity
Ripped in shreds from the marrow of conscious thought
Ribbons of ideality, now corrupted
In the endless churning tendrils of deviance

In the lava lands of despair
Where the seeds of karma come home to die
Hope lies bleeding and broken hearted
Sallow in the face of shattered vanity
Victim of the crimson veil of pride
Offerings for the unspeakable and the unknowable
Who dwell on the crags and in the crannies
Populating the architecture of dismal everywhere
Even in the molten pools of carnal lust
Amid the decayed remnants of noble aspirations

In the lava lands of despair
Amongst the broken bones of vanished leviathan
Nothingness grows its creeping envelope
Subsuming all beneath the weight of eons
Time before time, the accretion of millennia
An infinite mobius loop of decadence
The siren call of temptation unfettered
Clamoring for relief where none may exist
Abandon hope all ye who wander here
Between the shadow walls and the gargantuan deeps

In the lava lands of despair
Where all may enter but none may leave
An express invitation to the armpit of perdition
Where the galleries of the behemoth of time
Unravel in all their endless multiplicity
Trolling the blasted labyrinth for benighted souls
Moldering husks of once shining idealism
Now strewn like dust in the debris of abandonment
Beyond redemption, or resurrection or revelation
In the lava lands of despair

Bryan Knower 2014