by J.E. Allen
Weird Tales Contest Winner! 681 words.
|The devil sat in his dark, damp cave on the outskirts of Riverrun Forest. It was in a portion of the woods not even the rats would venture to, and the birds flew clear around like an invisible bubble surrounded his humble abode. He was the devil, a fallen angel wandering the land to suffer eternal loneliness. No longer illuminated in His grace, the sad decrepit creature had not felt love since God cast him to earth. He resembled a troll with green skin and a long white beard and a bald head. At one time he was an angelic figure, stoic and purposeful; a sentry at the Lord’s side.
He only felt a forlorn twang of happiness when he stared into the roaring hearth, and watched the embers dance to and fro. Sometimes, the flames would show him a story of warriors caught in a dance of blades on the battlefield. When he was sure God was playing a trick on him, the fire would tell a story of a man and a woman finding love, having children and raising a family.
These visions would send him in to an inconsolable rage, and the forest would tremble at his cries of anguish echoing through the trees. Chipmunks would dash away, floating above the tree limbs and the snakes would slither through the underbrush. The birds would take flight and the night sky would blacken, with their bodies choking out even a full moon’s light.
But tonight, for the first time, the fire provided him a vision of the future. The devil saw his own likeness, running through the forest with two children following close behind. He was smiling as he watched his offspring dodge tree limbs and large rocks jutting through their path. They did not yet know the forest, but he was training them how to hunt like any good father should.
They ran alongside the river, following the bank towards the roaring sound of a waterfall. As they rounded the last corner all three dove head first into the river. The two children managed to reach the surface and were treading water looking for their father, who was nowhere in sight. They looked at each other and began to panic. Suddenly, their father surged through the water and splashed them. When they wiped the water from their eyes they saw he had a large fish in his jaws, and they cheered.
They found their home behind the constant barrage of falling water. A cave, secluded and secure where his wife Mildred was tending the fire and kneading the dough for the night’s bread. Her face lit up as she took the fish to prepare dinner, and her huge smile softened his evil heart once again. It was pure happiness.
As the vision in the embers faded, the devil felt his heart turn ice cold once again. Where it was filled with love a moment ago, was now quickly overflowing with rage. His hands and jaw began to tremble as he could no longer keep his pain at bay. He grabbed his trusty short sword and sheath, and ran to the mouth of the cave roaring defiantly into the forest.
Tonight he was going to find his bride and bring her home. He whistled a special call into the night and his Firemare trotted into the clearing. As he mounted her he caressed her fiery mane. Pointed towards the human village of Dewar he spurred his mount and held his sword high as they flew off into the night. Speeding through the forest the horse’s hooves seared the leaves and pine needles underfoot, causing each step to illuminate and burn. He knew in his heart his new bride would learn to love him.
The devil woke the next morning, lying next to a burned out fire. Fish bones littered the dirt. He looked at the fire just as the last ember was burning out, leaving only a reminder of what could have been. A single tear ran down his gruff face as he rolled over and fell back asleep.