Short story: The Devil’s Seat

A story inspired by our Devil’s Chair review from Monday, here’s a Friday read for you, written by your friendly neighbourhood Eyeball. Have a fab weekend everybody, and be careful what you wish for:

church, religion, christian, christianity,abandoned, ancient, church, creepy, england, evening, folly, haunted, henge, landmark, landscape, medieval, norman, pagan, ruined, ruins, sacred, uk, old church, creepy church, creepy old building, old religion,  mossy, algae, ruined, forest church, gloomy day, overcast day, english weather

The Devil’s Seat

I clench the arm rests with a shudder, skin prickling at the cool air. My feet and legs are numb. I feel slightly sick. How long have I been sitting here now? The church is old and full of shadows, even as the moon passes a cracked window, my eyes still haven’t adjusted. Shadows become small crouching imps, the rats stop and stare at me with no fear at all. Why would they fear a human silly enough to sit here all night long, their bare arse pressed into a seat that is no doubt riddled with woodworm. Can woodworm burrow into flesh? I shift uneasily at the image of the wriggling creatures gnawing against my skin, shivering. I thought that hell was meant to be warm, but I’m not there yet. The visitor I’m expecting has not arrived, and surely time is running out now. How long remains until dawn? The storm that was threatening earlier has returned, giving the summer solstice air a very electric charge.

A rat or a large spider scuttles across my foot. I nearly leap into the air, but control myself. I have to stay put. I cannot leave the chair from midnight until dawn. That’s the rule in the legend. But it’s so dark. I haven’t sat this still for this long in my life. I think of Harry and Sarah, and strengthen my resolve. It also said you have to be naked for this to work, so I even took off my watch just in case. And like an idiot put it inside my shoes rather than somewhere I could actually see it. I have no idea how long I’ve been freezing my arse off, waiting here for the Devil himself.

Can you tell I’m desperate?

The moon slides behind a cloud and in the open church door I see a tall dark form, a huge creature is out there, watching! I see a flash of bright eyes and a sharp mouth – but as the moon reappears there’s nothing there. I barely got a scream out, and curse myself. That’s why I’m here, idiot. I should welcome the monstrosity, whatever form it takes. That’s part of the fucking test, after all. I’ve been here for so long…the thunder rumbles above and the air is both metallic and chilly, it’s harder and harder to breathe in the weird humidity.

church-and-storm-1366989155Jjh

A splinter works into my wrist as I fidget now, trying to keep warm. Must remember what to say, remember what to do, when he gets here. When I get what I want. I want this. I want to do this. I grip the arm rests and whisper, “I command thee, Satan…” I whisper it over and over now, keeping my eyes tightly closed, “I command thee, come to me, come to me now…”

I take a single breath, and I’m abruptly aware that the rats have gone silent. Even the woodworm I imagined chewing away beneath my bum have gone deeper into the wood. Hiding. The air is freezing now, and a fetid reek of old shit and sweet rotting meat fills my nostrils.

When I open my eyes the huge dark figure is standing over me and…

“I demand my right to one request,” I say immediately. I’m almost impressed I got the words out. Fucking hell…

The huge figure stoops, and looks almost normal. I can’t take my eyes off of his eyes and face. He’s beautiful. Not…not at all what I expected. Not quite male or female, but definitely The Prince of Lies. The Lightbringer. God’s favourite angel, come to solve a big problem for little old me. It’s very very hard to speak now.

“Oh really, little one?” he shows no expression beyond possible mild amusement. He says, curtly, “You truly demand something of me?”

“I…I invoke the power of Saint Catherine to compel you, Lucifer, to grant me one wish tonight before the sun rises.”

The shitty sweet stench intensifies, and my eyes brim with water. I want to vomit, hold it down with an effort. “I invoke the power of St Catherine!” My voice croaks in the tense still air.

“Yes, yes, little thing,” and he caresses my cheek, smiles charmingly even as flies begin buzzing around us both. I want to scream. His touch is electric, painful but i want more of it desperately. “Tell me your deepest desire?”

“I wish…” I struggle to get all the words out. He’s looking at me like I’m an edible snack.

“Speak, dearest,” he purrs, leaning in right to my mouth, ready to kiss. Kiss, really? I push the thought away. I have to do this.

“I wish that my uncle would pass away so that I can inherit my parent’s money and look after my sister and little brother and also so he’ll stop hurting us all the time,” I blurt out at last, unable to take my eyes off his sharp, gleaming teeth and the purplish tongue briefly glimpsed inside.

“Do you wish this, little one?” he asks one more time.

“I wish this. I give my consent to this.” I whisper.

The Devil grips me hard then, pulls himself over me, pinning me to the chair. I’m enclosed entirely by a kiss deeper than any I’ve ever experienced, I’ve never tasted anything like his mouth, I can almost overlook how much he reeks. It’s…divine.

Then the smell changes from shit to the disgusting body spray my uncle uses, and I blink and try to fight it, the horribly familiar odour almost propelling me from the chair, but he won’t let me up, he never lets me up…

demon

Then I’m falling, and the Devil’s stench returns. Tears roll down my cheeks. There’s a soft, almost sympathetic laugh. One more caress along my lips, and I hear thunder and lightning and a deluge of rain begins to thunder like cannonfire on the rotten church’s roof.

I suppose I sleep then. I don’t remember what else he did or when he let me go. I’m know I’m utterly exhausted and only just heard the storm passing right overhead and the violent snarls of rain and wind crashing outside.

When I wake, my neck aching, Lucifer is gone. My face still burns where his fingers touched me. his handprint also seared onto my bare thigh, my mouth tastes thickly metallic. I spit several gobs of teeth and blood onto the sodden floor, shivering like crazy. I’m still in the chair and it’s daylight now. The summer solstice has come and gone. I slowly, awkwardly get to my feet. The old church is cracked all over. Everything is soaked through. I retrieve my clothes and pull on wet pants and jeans and my jumper, spitting another tooth into the destroyed floor. My mouth paid the price for sealing the deal, but a little dentistry will be a small price to pay for getting rid of my disgusting uncle.

I pull on my sodden boots and squelch back to the village, shocked at how deep the floodwater is. Pausing to catch my breath at a stile, I snort a short, shrill laugh. I can’t believe I met the Devil. Spoke to him. In the cold – very cold – morning light it seems unthinkable that the old legends about the church and St Catherine’s chair were even true. But I did it. I can’t wait to get back and see what came of it. It’s usually just a fifteen minute walk across two fields, but I have to take several detours to get back, and slide into the mud more than once. The rain really came down last night and the paths are like rivers. I’m really dying for a hot shower, hotter tea and some dry clothes. Then I’ll forget my uncomfortable night with the Devil ever existed, as long as he kept up my side of it.

I reach the village border, and am assailed by flashing lights. Emergency services. People everywhere, crying and calling out. I rush forward then, kicking flood water as I go.

flood village 2

“Wait!” one of the emergency service guys, maybe an ambulance person, grabs me as I splash toward the village street, trying to reach my family house.

“Where’s Uncle! Where’s Sarah and Harry?” I demand.

“Where do you live?” he asks. I tell him.

“You’d better come with me, little one. What’s your name?” he grips my shoulder.

“Andrew,” I mutter. “What’s going on?”

“I’m so sorry, sonny.” The ambulance man says, and steers me towards the police, who take my information and tell me the news. I sit in another chair, wrapped in a blanket, trembling and dripping as the grim-faced policeman explains.

“Your house was hit by a tree last night, it brought down an electrical cable. I’m afraid, they didn’t survive. Your Uncle, as well, was found in the garden beneath the tree. I…I really don’t think any of them suffered. I’m sorry.”

I don’t take it in at first. I can only picture my little brother and sister as I left them last night, tucked up cosily in bed as the storm started outside. I’d told them a story, and promised them I would solve all our problems. Then I’d slipped out to meet the Devil.

I lift my head and see the ambulance driver watching me from the village entrance. I think, just for a second, that his eyes glimmer with an obscene, gleeful beauty.

Then I sink to my knees and throw up.

Story copyright Haunted Eyeball – please email TheHauntedEyeball@gmail.com for reuse requests or message me via Twitter @HauntedEyeball. Thank you.

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750ish words: ‘Animal’s Theory about the guy next door’

750 words written in 20 minutes.

Joanna K Neilson

Consistent writing does take the fear out of the process, the crippling perfectionism that can kill a first draft, let alone the minowwing idea that promises to grow into tasty words and yummy stories. So before I kill that metaphor entirely…here’s a quick story, minnow sized actually, written in 20 minutes on one of the most inspirational writing sites out there – 750words.com.  The site tracks you keeping up writing at least 750 words a day, and it’s a good way to break through any starting nerves, any hesitation can be fought through and replaced with sweetly random connections coming together. Or, you know, a rant about how mad, irrational and crappy you’re feeling at that particular moment. Lately I’ve been doing the fiction more than the internal angst, though that’s still there. Weirdly, it’s easier to fill the 750 words remit by writing a story, than by rolling around…

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Review: Aberrations edited by Jeremy C. Shipp

Aberrations
Aberrations by Jeremy C. Shipp
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A strong and all-too short collection here, with Aberrations ranging from shocking and surreal, to scary and even heart-breaking. Not a duff story among them, although particular standouts were, ‘Bug House’, ‘The Hounds of Love’ and ‘Bus People’. ‘Goat Boy’ by Jeremy C Shipp also requires a re-read or two, as he continues to push the boundaries of surreal and disturbing storytelling. Most of these would also make excellent TV episodes, along the lines of the much-missed Masters of Horror. Strongly recommended for any fan of the frightening, horrific and bizarre.

Also, that cover is brilliant.

Money Well Earned by Joseph Nassise
The notorious Mothman is a very usual case for a professional hitman, and his hunt doesn’t pan out quite how he expects. An effective and genre-bending story with a slick resolution.

*Bug House by Lisa Tuttle
Eeeew. Gross, horrible, and excellent. Some deeply unpleasant, squelchy body horror gets superbly carried off, more by suggestion than graphic detail, and it’s all the more icky for that. You came here for uncomfortable, and now you’ve got it. Shudder.

The Thing in the Woods by Nate Kenyon
The first of two ‘couple hit monster with their car’ stories in this collection. With its domestic abuse aspects, there’s a dash of Stephen King in its DNA, but this is very much its own beast. Fighting to survive can bring out the best and the worst in people. It also refuses to easily answer who you should think the real monster is. Great writing.

Survivors by Joe McKinney
This deals with the human cost and emotional fall out following a worldwide zombie holocaust. A soldier revisits old and painful memories of someone he tried to save. Emotional stuff that doesn’t skimp on the gore, as well as adeptly handling the character’s post traumatic stress and survivor’s guilt.

The Hounds of Love by Scott Nicholson
The toughest, most rewarding story here. Disturbed, nightmarish, and extremely sad, it’s very hard to read (content-wise) and yet utterly compelling. You’ll need a strong stomach for the quite graphic description of animal cruelty, yet if you stick with it the payoff more-than compensates. Deftly delivered and brilliantly written, with complex layers of darkness. Love is truly all around.

Goat Boy by Jeremy C Shipp
It’s about a goat boy. Who, er…well, he….look, just read it, ok? I’ll get back to you. Maybe you can explain it. Because this was great. Yes, I liked it. Huh? No, I did. Supreme surrealism as always, recommended despite the inevitable head-scratching. I may have to re-read again. And again. Strange relationships get pulled through every possible dimension. There’s a goatlike-man, who…look, let’s just go with it.

Tested by Lisa Morton
The second ‘couple hit a monster with a car’ story from a very different viewpoint. This time it’s all from a male perspective. After a dreadful car crash in an isolated spot, a mild-mannered husband has to dig for his long-buried courage in order to make it through a terrifying ordeal. A very solid survival story.

Bus People by Simon Wood
A totally accurate portrayal of the population one generally encounters when using public transport, albeit taken to gruesome extremes. Marvellously grotesque, displaying a fine eye for the freakishly uncomfortable. Bus journeys really are just like this. Highly recommended.

Beggars at Dawn by Elizabeth Massie
A former soldier confronts his guilt and trauma after surviving the trenches, receiving support from an unexpected quarter. This is a gentler story about the healing of the human spirit, and it feels noticeably different to the rest of the stories in this collection, but it’s effectively written and well worth a look.

From Hamlin to Harperville by Kealan Patrick Burke
A very famous fairy-tale gets a disturbing modern update, although it’s really more of a ‘what happened next’ piece. Can a monster really live as a human? Can they ever escape what they are and what they did? Creepily effective, and fully in the spirit of the original children’s story.

View all my reviews