Chris Galvin brings a new light to September
Sympathy for the Devil
by Chris Galvin
What the hell? Jill sat up amidst the twisted sheets and reached for Dan.
“What? What’s wrong sweetie?”
“Sh. You don’t hear it?”
“What? I was asleep until you…”
“There! Someone’s in the room,” she whispered.
A faint sobbing, nearby in the darkness. Running his hand up the curve of the lamp, Dan found the switch and flicked it on. The sound ceased, followed by a hiccough and a few stifled sobs.
A wordless look passed between husband and wife, then Dan slid his eyes towards the nightstand and back at Jill.
He’s right. It’s coming from the drawer. God, it’s right beside me! They stared at the drawer, as if it were about to explode.
“Don’t!” She grabbed Dan’s arm as he reached across her towards the drawer.
Ignoring her, he pulled it open. “Just a bible!” He wasn’t whispering now. “But why’s it wet?” Lifting it out, he almost dropped it when the wailing began anew. The pages, rippled with moisture, stuck to each other as he opened the book. Flattened between some verses, a small purple man with red horns rubbed his eyes with his fists and squinted up at them.
“Please! Don’t slam it shut on me.” The purple man sniffled, and wiped his nose with his index finger. Dan placed the open book on the nightstand.
Who are you? And how’d you get into the bible?”
“I’m Mephisto. I’ve been stuck here for ages. They wrote me into their story, gave me such a bad name. I’m really not a bad guy.” He sat up crosslegged. “They wrote so many lies. I never did half those things! Everyone hates me now. I can’t even get out of this book. Look at me! I’m purple for god’s sake!”
“You’re—you’re the devil?” Jill shuddered and leaned closer.
“I am Mephisto. They call me many names, take the names of my forefathers in vain.” He closed his eyes. Another tear squeezed out. “Now people hate me. They don’t know a thing about who I really am. It’s all gossip. Rumours. They just talk, put me down. They hate me.” He paused to wipe his nose. ‘It really hurts my feelings!”
“But you buy people’s souls! You gave Eve an apple and took away Paradise. And poor Faust, you killed off his dear Gretchen’s baby and her family. You—you even cheated God with an ace up your sleeve for those poor souls on that Spanish train.”
“Sure, I’ve taken a few souls, but I’m just a guy trying to make a living. An honest living. Never tried to hide it. I always tell them first. Faust knew exactly what he was getting into. Eve? She took that apple because she had a right to knowledge. God sticks a tree of knowledge and immortality in their garden, tells them they can’t have any? Damn! That’s evil! I just wanted Eve’s soul, but god wanted to keep them like pets. When they found out the truth, he got all pouty and threw evil into the world. But they revised the story when they wrote the bible. Next thing I know, everyone blames me for all the evil, and I’m confined to this book. I’m just another guy you know, trying to make a living.”
Jill prodded her husband’s back. “Close it Dan. Close it!” Without taking his eyes off the little man, Dan waved at Jill to pipe down.
“He’s the devil, Dan.” Her voice rose on the last syllable. “Close the book. Don’t let him out.”
Dan shrugged. “It’s the bible, hon. How could anyone climb out of a book? Geez.”
Mephisto dried his eyes and inflated his chest. “Exactly. I can’t get out. How can I stand up for myself if I’m stuck in here? He rubbed his horns, leaving two bare patches where the velvet flaked off. “Aieee! I’m molting” He wrung his hands. “The stress, the stress!”
“God, close it Dan. That book is evil!” Reaching over his shoulder, she slammed it shut.
Whadja do that for? Geez, Jill, that poor guy. Didn’t you hear him? He’s been wronged. Everyone hates him.” He reached for the book.
“Don’t! Just put it back in the drawer.”
Dan glared at her and carried the bible over to the desk, pushed aside the hotel’s monogrammed writing paper and placed the book squarely in the center. Muffled whimpers drifted out from between the pages. Jill lunged, grabbed the book, pushed open the sliding window and flung the bible like a Frisbee, out into the night.
The pages riffled and fluttered in the breeze. The devil slid out of the book, plunging to the pavement nine stories below. He landed with a sickening crunch just as Dan poked his head out the window. Not a soul in sight. The book hung open in the branches of a tree.
“You’ve killed him! You crazy?” Dan cupped his forehead in his palm.
“I…I didn’t. I just threw the book out the window and…and…a man can’t live in a book! It was just a nightmare. It’s over now. Let’s get some sleep.” She sat on the bed and slid her legs under the comforter. “Come to bed, hon.”
Dan leaned out the window again, the cold air raising goosebumps on his bare chest. He looked at the dark blotch below. “I can’t believe you killed him. He’s around for millennia, since before time began, and you just threw him out the window.”
“He was evil. Forget it.” She flipped over onto her side.
“We should call the police.”
“Ridiculous. You gonna tell them a purple devil fell out of the bible? They’ll have you committed.”
“We can’t just ignore him and go to sleep.”
“I can.” She pulled the pillow over her head. Dan pulled it off again. “You are evil. Mephisto didn’t do anything to you. He just needed someone to listen, and you threw him out the window. You murdered him.”
“Yeah and now there’s a little less evil in the world.” She yanked the pillow back and buried her head underneath it.
Dan paced back and forth between bed and window, looking down at the dark shape and back at his wife’s still form.
The hotel manager awakened suddenly from a dreamless sleep. An icy breeze rippled the drapes. Reaching to close the window, he glanced out at the parking lot. The sprawled body in the reserved section caught his eye.
Damn! Not again. What a mess. Third time this month. Gotta take those bibles outta the rooms. He sighed and reached for his trousers. Crap. Where’d I leave the key to the tool shed? Crap!
Finding it under some papers on his desk, he went out to the shed for the shovel and a wheel barrow.