Devil and His Story
and His Story
The sand was nearly hitting
the ground. Each speck, like thought, floated ambiguously through the air, casting
itself as an important thing. But then, just as quickly as it begins, its task
is done as it touches the floor.
"I do not think the sand
will slow down nor speed up by your constant glaring. But feel free to watch
your time slipping away."
It was his voice. His,
so deep and old, coming from nowhere suddenly, made me turn in surprise and
suspense, and for the very first time see what the Devil looked like.
He had on an old polyester
suit, ragged from wear, and a just a size too large. His beard was trim and
clean, full black hair, and eyes that were perfect, normal and black. The Devil
looked like a bum, a clean respectable bum.
"You look like you've
seen a ghost, my friend. Is there someone standing behind me that I should be
His mocking aside, I made
myself stand up off my knees. I had been kneeling for what felt like hours,
but in reality minutes at most. But I wasn't dealing in reality anymore.
"Let us make it quick
then, if you won't humor me. Anymore than you already have. What is it that
you want from me, what is it that you want that led you to calling on me?"
"I want...you to take
this all away."
"Take what away? Your
life? Is that it? You don't need me to kill yourself. By all means off yourself.
Surely you're not that much of a coward. Or am I wrong in thinking such thing?
"Do you have a disease
of some sort? A broken heart? A nasty headache? Speak up, my time is wasted
enough as it is."
"I want ... I want you
to take this pain away."
"Pain. Ah... and what
sort of pain might that be?"
"All of it. All of ...
everything that has ever hurt me. Everything that has gone wrong. That has made
me lose sleep, lose tears, lose my mind..."
"Calm down. I'm not your
psychiatrist, which I sorely recommend. So, regretted past actions, is it? I
see ... and what exactly did you have in mind?"
"I ... what do you.. mean?"
"How, exactly did you
expect me to take this pain of yours away? You must have something in mind that
you're dying to ask me to do for you. I'm no mind reader. At least nothing I'll
admit to you."
"I don't understand..."
"This pain of yours. How
do you want me to alleviate it? Do you want me to put you in a bigger house,
a better job, a more beautiful girlfriend? Give you more money than you'll have
the life to spend?"
"No, that's not it. I'll
still have those memories, these doubts, these worries...."
"Yes, yes I see. I see
clearly now why you turn to me instead of your friends: you're delirious."
He walked around me, over
to the bowl on the floor. He peered down into it, with his perfectly black eyes.
He didn't blink. Not once. Not ever. He saw everything, at all times.
"Yes... Your blood, I
assume. And the sheepskin with my name written with that blood 666 times. Candle
wax. Ashes from a burnt cross. I remember this incantation well. It must have
taken you a very long time to put together."
I glanced briefly at my
fingers, still numb from the pin-pricking.
"And I see you choose
to measure your wait for me, second after delicious second." He stared at my
hour-glass. Just taken from a board game, I watched the sand fall as I waited,
anxiously, hopelessly, for the Devil to come. And I saw then that the sand fell
no more. Less that half of it still remained in the upper half. Not a grain
fell, not a single grain came through the tiny passage in the middle of the
hourglass. I was growing fainter by the second.
"....Oh yes, back to your
pain. Memories you say. Worries and doubt tormenting you unceaselessly. So you
want me to ... make you forget these things. I'll give you amnesia then, and
put you in a better life. I'll even give you a better personality. Consider
it a personal gift from me..."
I thought about this,
but it didn't ring complete. No, it was only a diversion. The pain would still
linger, even if I didn't remember. The past was carved in stone, always there
if I would take a wrong look in the past. My mistakes would still exist, left
to torment me silently in my ignorance of amnesia.
I shook my head. Even
the Devil could not save me from this pain.
"Well then, you've....
wait. You want ... I don't know if I can. Well, yes of course I can, but should
I? That's an interesting question. Are you worth that kind of effort? Is your
soul that important to me...?"
"For what?" I asked weakly.
"Silence! I'm deliberating,
your opinion is of no concern to me. You seem to be... needy enough. And heaven
(ha!) knows you'll still be here whining if I don't do something. Very well,
then. I'll give you this chance, only once so you better have the fortitude
to act on it: do want me to change your past?"
I could only stare at
him. The Devil. My eyes were failing me, his face was becoming murkier and distorted.
"Or should I say, more
to the point: do you want me to send you back, and let you change your past
"Of course I can! Now,
"What do you mean, change
"I'll send you back. To
any point, any date. You can torment your worst bully before he picks on you.
Give yourself that pep talk you needed to get that crush of yours. Or maybe
you might take her for yourself. She couldn't have been that young..."
"I'm saying to you that....
no. Wait. I'll do even better than that. I'll show you just what I mean."
He grabbed my shoulders,
and his grip was rough and burning. He seemed to throttle me, without moving
a muscle. It all went white... the dizziness was overwhelming....
We stood at a bus stop.
It was a corner I vaguely recalled. We were downtown. If I didn't know any better,
I would have said that we just went outside.
"Remember anything? Of
course not. You're not here yet. But your bus is coming soon. Taking you and
your class to that science museum."
I remembered. The memory
crashed into the forefront with unyielding force. I was eight, or nine. It was
a class field trip. Nearly fifty kids piled into one long public bus, all clamoring
and talking about going to the museum. I was prone to carsickness. I rarely
rode in my parents car as it was, having to be pried and prodded into the back
seat....There were so many people. I got so dizzy then. But still, why did I
have to stand right behind her? Why did she have to stand, unwittingly, right
in front of me when I...?
"You see now. Your bus
is coming. It's up to you whether step on or not."
"What... what would I
"Have some imagination
for once. You can open a window for yourself, for starters. Maybe push her out
of the way. Give yourself a doggie bag. Whatever you do, you had better make
decide quickly, because it's coming, right over there."
I saw it. The long, gyrating
bus. Making so many turns zigzagging between the streets that I thought I was
going crazy. I didn't; the only thing that went wrong with me was not being
able to keep my lunch down.
It was starting forward
again. Coming to our stop.
"Tick, tick, tick....
your chance is coming up..."
The bus began slowing
down. Pulling into the curb. The door.....was right in front of me. I swear
I could see Roberto's head out the window. I could hear their... our voices.
The door opened.
This was my past! I was
a foot away from .... changing everything. No, changing one episode. One of
many. But they all hurt the same way.
I was going to do it.
My leg went up, as I eyed the black stairs going up into the bus. My heart raced
so fast I could feel the beats anymore. Then it all went white. My foot never
touched the step.
I would still have that
accident on the bus.
"Tsk, tsk. Not so fast.
We have a deal to make first."
The trip back shattered
me. My mind throbbed uncontrollably, recovering slowly after a vicious shaking.
I was on my knees. I was always on my knees.
"Now, What are you going
to offer me for the chance to fix your past?"
"What..." I was reduced
to a whisper. Weaker and weaker by the moment.
"This is a formality.
Everything, to the bitter end, has rules. Even me. You need to tell me what
you're willing to offer me, so that I can accept and send you back on your way..."
He did. A look of venomous
anger seeped into his face, but it quickly faded, replaced by an insincere smile.
"Yes? What is it?"
"There's too much. More
than one thing. I can't go back and change every thing in my past. Not that
you'd even give me that much of a chance, most likely."
So what if I could change
just one thing.... taking a grain of sand out of the ocean won't make it any
"Ah... I see... Don't
you understand. Maybe not, considering your state and the state of your fragile
mind. If you could change one thing, one crucial moment, something so important
that it changes who you are, then your life will be altered. You would have
faced a new set of decisions, a new set of chances to..."
"How important? How early
can this be? How can one thing change so much.... what's that important? My
first day at school..."
"The fight I lost when
I was just a little quiet kid...?"
"First time I wanted to...."
"Yes. Anything. Any time."
It all didn't amount to
anything. Every thing I remembered, everything that rushed into my mind. Those
were just episodes. Different tales with the same ending. I was still me and
nothing could change that, nothing could alter the fact I was who I was....
"My parents conceiving
"Why? What is this hesitation
for? I'm growing tired of you. You're wasting my time, and frankly, you're not
that important. Either you tell me what you want, or go on living your miserable
I had to choose. Choices
again. Always choices I had to make. And never right. Never made any that seemed
to go my way.
"Then I'm done with you."
He turned, stomped quickly
away. I fell to my hands, I was getting harder and harder to keep up.
"Have it your way. It's
your past to bear. Your pain to torment you." His voice was farther and farther
I closed my eyes. I couldn't
even answer to the Devil.
"Just say yes."
His voice boomed to me,
even as a whisper. His face was right in front of mine. I could feel his breathe
on my face. It was eager. Hungry.
"Say yes and you'll be
a better man. I ... assure you of that. You'll never regret a thing again. I'll
give you that chance. Don't waste all this effort you have put into this and
get nothing in return. That dream you've always wanted, told your friends about.
Dreamed of in the pits of your desperation. I'm going to let you change your
"I'm going to let you
fix your mistakes. Fix you. Just say yes."
"Don't be weak. You must
be sick of being weak. This is the most important choice of your life. Don't
let yourself regret it. Tell me what you want and its done. Just tell me what
you're going to give me. Just tell me."
"I want...." My voice
was hoarse, I was talking with a dry mouth.
"Yes.." His voice tried
to soothe me, calm me. Make it easier to agree.
"...for this pain to end."
"How? Tell me how." His
face must have been on the floor next to mine. I didn't have the strength to
look. He was egging me, demanding me to tell him.
"Yes. You do. How do you
want this pain, overwhelming pain, to end?"
His ears went up. I could
feel them get sharper.
My mind was all that I
had left. My heart was shattered long ago. And my soul.... I was talking to
the Devil, after all. My mind was the only thing that kept any hope alive.
So many memories. So much
to bear. Every cross I put together was another to put over my shoulders.
"I need... to stop.......with
"What do you want me to
do? Exactly!" A voice of desperation.
One voice like that was
My eyes opened very slowly.
Even the dimmest light blinded what seemed to like hours of darkness for me.
There was the bowl, so
patiently made with sweat, blood and tears.
And the hourglass. Sand
still falling, one grain at a time.
I was on the floor, in
as much physical pain as I had ever had to bear. But I held on. There was only
one thing that occupied my mind, one thing that really mattered at all.
The grain fell so slowly.
It spun recklessly, randomly, free-falling onto its brothers. It had no friends,
falling alone. Only the thought of rejoining its brethren gave it any sense
of direction at all.
Born violently from the
passage from above he falls alone in a completely unique way. But he always
falls. And will meet with everyone else eventually.
No matter what it does
it will always fall. And crash.
There is no escape from
this. It begins. It will end.
Only the falling is up
By Don Bernal
It was cold out that night.