A story about love and death.
|THE VEIL OF LOVE: MEMOIR OF A DEMON
I was human once; mortal. I don’t remember the name that I answered to then, but it is of no importance now. I lived a quaint, uneventful life devoid of spectacle and lacking in promise or any potential for improvement. And yet I was completely content; happy even. I lost my dimly remembered parents in a horrific accident when I was very young and therefore spent most of my childhood being apathetically passed between foster homes. All of my extended relatives disowned me in an eager haste and I had very few friends. Yet none of that bothered me; I was entirely appeased by my few meagre endowments. I lived alone for many years in a small, sub-standard apartment which I rented on the minimum wage salary of a construction job. I was in most respects a naive, idealistic fool; deluded by the vitality of youth and still enamoured by the sensations of new experience.
I was nineteen when I met her. Her name was Lilith. We were at the public library. I remember the musty scent of old literature: of tattered pages and inked thoughts. The struggling fluorescent lights gave a pale hue to her skin as their imposing brilliance proved a dim irritation to my struggling vision. Our eyes met across the room and at once I was entranced. Though I tried I could not seem to look away: I could not tear my eyes from her captivating face. She returned my stare for sometime; occasionally diverting her shy gaze with a flush of red across her pale cheeks and yet always raising it again to meet mine.
Eventually, from some uncharted cavity of my soul, I drew the courage to approach her. With every agonizing step my tongue tangled. Practiced words dried upon my desolate lips and left my mouth a cold, dead wind. She remained quietly by herself at a small wooden reading table near the library’s entrance. The small expanse of beige carpet that stood between us seemed an impassable gauntlet. Yet I continued to persist. When I finally reached her I simply stood there in awkward silence like an illiterate idiot. My heart pounded in my chest, beating out a manic rhythm upon my rib cage. Cold sweat trickled down my brown and moistened the palms of hands.
I turned to make a shameful retreat when she raised her head and smiled widely at me.
“Hi, I’m Lilith” she said melodically as she extended her delicate hand and I took it with a little too much enthusiasm. I still remember the soft skin of her faultless palm and the way it contrasted with the coarse imperfection of my own.
The following months were a blur of mirthful days bleeding through the barriers that divided us until we became intimate friends. We spent every free hour enwrapped in each other’s company where we talked about everything. As we confided our most guarded secrets the unlikely bond we forged only continued to strengthen and thrive. And I, like a fool, feel deeply and irrevocably in love with her.
Everything about Lilith enthralled me to the point of soft delirium. I found myself needing her company more than I needed air. I would have given everything that I valued for one blissful night with her. Though now that I recount these sentiments they seem unavoidably imbued with the tasteless affliction of cliché. Not a moment passed without thoughts of her invading my mind. I closed my eyes and saw only the reflection of her face against my eye lids. I was hopelessly afflicted with the brand of intense, obsessive love that I have come to understand many mortals experience in their lifetime.
When we were apart I was overcome with an insufferable agony: a desolate loneliness: a searing pain that washed over me in waves and drowned me beneath the murky water as I desperately gasped for air. I no longer felt content or comfortable with my own company: the solitude that I once favoured became caustic and tiresome. The simple possibility of seeing her again sent an electric current of excitement surging through my limbs. I began to hope and dream of a promising future: of red roses, white dresses and gleaming rings: of us entwined and entangled. Dull renditions of love songs that I formerly hated began to play incessantly through my head.
And so one night, unable to contain the feelings that assailed me any longer, I resolved to tell her. I remember that night vividly; it is forever etched into my vision like the imprint of a sun that long ago shunned me. We sat together on the hood of my battered car in a small deserted park and looked up at the starlit sky, reverently tracing unnamed constellations with our youthful eyes. The scent of freshly cut grass and recent rain against the tarmac filled the air, giving it life that it formerly lacked. There was a mild breeze that gently stung our exposed skin like the arrows of cupid as it lifted the tips of her dark hair to form a subtle halo. I turned to her, with my fragile heart pounding fiercely beneath my chest, and said softly
“Yeah” she replied as she turned to face me with a smile.
“I… I’m in love with you. Desperately and hopelessly in love with you”
The piercing look on her face: the arrangement of lines against her complexion; the gaze of her hazel eyes; the shape her mouth formed, it was unmistakable. It was horror and revulsion. I felt myself implode as the world around me disintegrated into a chaotic frenzy of aggravated ash. The lush grass seemed to wither into a sickly yellow blanket and the few trees seemed to wilt and retract to the char of blackened limbs.
“Sorry. I’m sorry. I think you should take me home now” she said and submissively I complied. The drive home through the sparsely occupied city streets was filled with an awful silence that thickened the air with unrelenting tension.
I called her seven times the next day, the phone seemingly fixed to my needy grip. Until eventually, unable to ignore my annoying persistence any longer, she answered.
“Lilith! We need to talk”
“No we don’t”
“Please, just give me a few minutes of your time” A few drawn out seconds of silence disrupted only by mild static passed as I awaited her reply to my desperate request.
“Fine, but make it quick”
“Okay, listen. I’m really sorry about what happened last night. It was a mistake. I know that now and understand that you don’t feel the same way. Do you think we could just forget it ever happened and continue to be friends?” another long painful moment of silence passed as with my breath held I waited on the other end of the receiver for the sound of her disembodied voice. The clock on my apartment wall seemed to tick with unprecedented volume; taunting me with impatient suspense. Eventually she spoke
“Look, I’m sorry, I am. But now I know how you feel about me I just… There just isn’t a place for you in my life anymore. Please don’t call me again.” She said and left me with the cruel repetition of a dial tone.
I cannot describe to you the pain I felt; it was insufferable, the worst I have ever felt in my entire life. It was like a thousand living blades writhing through my torso, cutting though organ, bone and sinew as they slowly tore me apart from the inside out. I was left in a state of indescribable misery; of desolation so intense that it filled every facet of my being. Everything that I valued: everything that I wanted and desired, had been stripped away. Nothing else retained even the slightest semblance of meaning for me anymore.
I wallowed in this wretched state for near on a week, dangling by the single thread of failing sanity that I managed to retain, until I could not stand it anymore. So I did the only thing I could do: I used the only reasonable method for alleviating my torment: I sold my soul. I cut the devil’s number into my flesh with a kitchen knife and screamed his name.
“I’ll make you a deal.” I said “I will give you my soul if in exchange you release me from this pain”
I heard a whisper, as though someone had pressed their heated lips against my ear and spoken softly.
There was no elegantly penned contract to sign in blood, no kiss with a demon to seal my pact, no archaic ritual at a cross road. Just a whisper.
It rushed over me, jolting up my spine and tingling every inch of my skin like a burst of ice wind, and then I was empty: delightfully numb. There was no misery, or pain, or regret, or doubt, or conscience, or feeling; just an endless expanse of vacant space. I felt at peace, like an infant cradled in the warm arms of his devoted mother.
That’s when my apartment began to shake uncontrollably. The light suspended from my ceiling swayed violently until the globe blew and descended in a rain of shattered glass. The room was left bathed only in purple shadow and dim light from the window. I looked down and watched a crack spider web across the linoleum floor beneath me. Only one appeared at first, and then another and another until the floor took on the many lines and indents of an elderly man’s face. For an instant I would have sworn I saw one of the larger rifts form the outline of a sadistic smile filled with gleaming dentures. Soon the floor began to fall away piece by piece: inch by inch and like a gaping mouth the lightless abyss opened up beneath me. I fell…
I fell into hell.
For me it took on the appearance of a dilapidated and unaccountably depraved hospital in a state of utter disrepair. The smell was of bile and death; of rotting meat and shit. An oppressively searing heat filled the air, flameless yet more potent than the inside of an industrial incinerator. The scorched beige walls seemed to forever peal like the petals on a wilting flower and the ceiling seemed on the verge of collapsing yet never did. It was sparsely lit only by the widely spaced flickering of burning medieval torches that cast a ballet of frightening shadows across the walls and floor. The desolate halls seemed to stretch on forever and were filled only with the echo of piercing screams. This sickly hospital hosted an endless series of rooms; each home to some horrific torture, the details of which even I hesitate to divulge. Unlike most of those damned to the underworld I did not scream, or plead, or cry: not a single tear ever graced my cheek or single complaint pass through my lips. Much to the displeasure of the haunting eyes that burnt their impression into the contours of my back I did not falter or fall apart.
I spent decades, perhaps centuries, in hell. Or so it seemed when there was no way of measuring time. I was horrifically tortured and I in turn tortured others. I inflicted an equal, if not greater, amount of suffering as that which I endured. Eventually every last fleck of residual humanity left me and I was awarded a status normally reserved only for fallen angels: I became a demon, baptized in spilt blood: a monster feared even by his accursed brethren. I was filled only with hate; pure and incorruptible. It did not distort or twist my vision like human hate but instead awarded me a perfect clarity and lifted the veil of love that had formerly blinded me. I attained a measure of faultless sight that few will ever know. I became infamous in hell. My unholy name graced the jealous lips of every demon and the fearful cries of every damned soul. Upon my allocated lot of perdition I brought an impressive reign of terror and animosity.
Until one day Lucifer looked upon me in awe. He appeared to me soon after, materialising from a haze of smoke and an erratic flash of source-less light. I was not the least bit impressed by his clever theatrics. I did not kneel in reverence, respect or fear as demons were expected to do in the presence of their dark father. He took my hand in his ghastly grip before speaking.
“My beloved son, you make a father very proud. The darkness in you is exceeded only by my own. I have a special task for you: an honour given only to my most valued acolytes. You will ascend from my infernal kingdom and re-enter the mortal world. You will be my instrument on earth: my right hand. You will cut a swath through the plague that is humanity and they will know suffering the like of which they can sparsely imagine. Do you agree to this task?”
At this point all remnants of my former life had been exiled to the realm of distant memory and I had been remade into a terrifying monstrosity: the fearsome ghoul of horror stories that lurks in every lurid alley, behind every closet door and beneath every child’s bed. I was the reason you fear the dark: I was the haste in your step, the tremble up your spin and the superstitious glance over your shoulder. I was hell embodied. Perhaps this was done to me by others and perhaps by myself, but it is of no importance now.
In response to the devil’s proposal I simply smiled widely and nodded.
Lucifer’s cindered wings briefly fluttered as he affectionately looked upon me with the mesmerizing grin of gleaming angel’s teeth. He waved his wraith arm towards the illusionary roof and like a magician’s sparkling wand it opened a window: a blurred portal to the world above that rippled like a pool of disturbed water. I looked through this window and gazed upon the earth. I saw humanity in all its glory: the war, the famine, the oppression, the hate, the intolerance, the corruption: all of its innumerable flaws. The world presented like a rotting apple: deceptively red on the surface but degraded and wrought with atrophy beneath. I was to be the worm that devoured it. I saw it for the sickly thing it was.
Yet in spite of this and what I was, impelled by some undying spark that suddenly shone upon me with blinding brilliance, I…
…Loved the world.
And I wanted, more than anything else, to save it.