(Continued from Part 1 which can be found by clicking here. )
The soft light of morning, along with some rhythmic sound, called me awake. My eyes fluttered open as I stared at the familiar ceiling of my bedroom, realizing the distinct feel of my own bed. I slowly parted my lips, tongue running out to wet their cracked and dried exterior. As if summoned by one of its symptoms, my head began a dull throb that was only accentuated by the soft, constant sound of a leaky pipe dripping in a stead succession. I had my fair share of intoxicated evenings, but this one had taken the cake. Slowly, a smirk came across my features as I recalled the demon that had been devised by my large volume of drinks. I gave a soft chuckle before letting out a long, relieved sigh. Hallucination or not, the box had to go. Better safe than sorry. In fact, that whole back room that had been so precious at once could be auctioned off. Yes, that was the first thing I would do today, get all my unwanted junk together and haul the lot out to the auction house, right after I fixed that leaky pipe. I was surprised I had let it get so out of hand in the first place with the rate it was going at. Besides, last time the pluming needed work-
It was then that I remembered that, in the old style design of the house, I had no bathroom attached to my bedroom and the nearest pipe was an entire hall length away.
Perplexed, I sat up, eyes instantly widening at the sight of the devil sitting on top of my dresser, hand under his chin and a bored expression slapped across his features as he parted his lips in a steady succession, letting out a flawless imitation of a leaky faucet.
Slamming against my headboard only allowed for about six inches more of space between him and I, but no distance could have been too short. A small smirk slowly fell across his features as he uncrossed his legs from beneath him, jumping forwards onto the floor.
“Rise and shine, Lonny boy! Were you going to sleep the day away?” he teased as he came to lean on one of my bedposts, head tilting to the left as he looked over at me. “Oh, I severely hope it’s the drink that makes you look that way! I’d avoid a mirror if I were you, might just break!” He turned away from me, clacking nosily out of the room and down the stairs.
I just sat there, eyes wide on the doorway. It was the shock of last night all over again; however, I mustered the strength to follow after him cautiously. To my surprise, the house was in a complete state of disarray with chairs in the foyer not pushed in, random clothing articles draped here and there as if my house had been the site of some wild frat party. Plates and bowls that were half full on the counter; apparently he had been just as clueless as I on what exactly it was intending on eating.
As I ventured out after him, I stole quick glances around my house, realizing that my keys along with my wallet were missing from atop the shelf near the door and that my mail had been scattered about; a few personal letters that had been opened were now discarded on the floor. I stopped suddenly as I realized some dark matter had been spattered about my door, rimming the handle as well. Blood. It had to be blood. I hesitantly stepped forwards before reaching one hand out, swiping at it. No, too sticky. I gave it a sniff; it was chocolate.
I finally found him standing in the entry way, awkwardly pushing down one leg on a board that he seemed intently focused on. So, I just stood there for a few long moments before finally realizing he wasn’t paying attention to me at all and this, for some reason, seemed to summon a bit of courage in myself. I watched him as he shifted his weight back and forth, observing just how strange of a beast he was. It was then that my mind had the reprieve it needed to focus and, in that flicker of thought devoid by fear, I became curious to what exactly he was.
“So…, um, sir, what-,” I cleared the cowardice from my voice, “What do I call you?”
For a long moment he didn’t answer me as he seemed intent on the floor board under his right hoof. He was pressing on it, brow furrowed as he watched it closely. He suddenly stopped once before pressing down on it again. Then, a second time. Finally, when he pressed his weight on it again, the board creaked. Finished in his task and pleased with the results, he finally turned his attention towards me.
“Well,” he said thoughtfully, “what you monkeys seem to be able to pronounce is…hmm, well, you can call me Phos.” Finding something funny, he smiled to himself before saying“ It’s what Mary called me too, though she more frequently called me an aggravating little bastard but,” he flicked a hand into the air with a chuckle, “speak nothing but good about the dead.”
“Phos,” I repeated with a bit of hesitance. That was definitely not what I expected. Something along the lines of Lucifer, or of Hellspawn would have been more fitting. Something longer and with more than one syllable at the very least.
Playing with the board one final time, he had returned his gaze back towards him, hands on his furry hips. For a long moment, we were both just silent as we met eye to eye. It was an awkward, shared silence though, and Phos seemed just as unsettled as I. He turned to look about the house. I felt compelled to say something.
“So, y-you knew my name. You know, back there…just a few moments ago.”
“Yep,” he answered, twitching his nose.
“I…well, how did you know t-hat name?” I squeaked.
“Cat told me,” Phos answered plainly
“Oh, I-…excuse me? The cat? What cat?”
“You’re cat, Ninny. Big black one. Has a bit of a stuttering problem.”
“My cat….told you the nickname? The one that I hate?” I was a little bewildered.
He sighed, tilting his head as he looked towards me as he shrugged. “You shouldn’t call her fat, all I’m sayin’.”
I didn’t quite know how to respond to that, both confused that he could talk to my cat and that that she apparently understood what I was saying enough to know that I called her fat. As I contemplated this, a few more moments of silence passed between us again. Phos sighed, looking back and forth before finally turning to me.
“So, got any cattle out back?”
“No,” I asked hesitantly, worrying that this was some sort of trick question as I lived in a well spaced, but also well populated urban area.
“Oh…..chickens, perhaps?” His tone seemed a little hopeful.
“No…no chickens,” I answered.
“Oh,” he grunted with a frown before he turned away, slowly stalking through the downstairs hallway, looking in and out of rooms for things he hadn’t yet disturbed. He finally turned into the bathroom. I hesitantly followed behind.
As he began rummaging through drawers, I stared distantly at the back of his shaggy head. It was a disarming view of him, really. His ears seemed a little too large and floppy behind his gigantic horns which I began to wonder how his thin neck could possible support. Not having to contend with that unnerving gaze and hellish smile, my mind had been freed to wander over his countenance and, more importantly, his purpose. I didn’t have trouble as I had already figured out, with little hesitation, that he obviously was some other worldly beast, however, what he was doing here (other than unrolling and squeezing the toothpaste unevenly back into its tube) was quite a mystery to me. For some reason, it just didn’t feel as though I’d unleashed some great evil in the world unless it was an evil with OCD who intended to upset every little corner of the universe, starting with my own.
I really hadn’t wanted to ask the question out loud, but it was a wonder that had begun to bubble over in my mind. Taking in a deep breath, I finally steeled my resolve. “So,” I called out to him, keeping a little ways back just in case. “When are you going to get to the whole… being evil…thing? The damnation and such,” I asked cautiously, my voice trailing off as I lost what little confidence I had mustered. “I-I mean, not that I am rushing you, er- sir. I just was wondering what your…plans were for the world, and all. Now that you’re free for a day.”
“Damnation?” he mumbled over his shoulder, not seeming too interested in the conversation.
“Well, yes. You know, being evil and all that. The-the tormenting souls, and condemning the world sort of..thing.”
“Oh, that,” he called back over his shoulder as he removed the toilet paper from the roll and placed it back on backwards. Giving a pleased grin towards it, he stood back to face me. “ You know, there’s not much variety in your humans. Every time another one of you gets the box, it’s always the same thing. I’m getting tired of explaining this, but for the sake of brevity and your curious mind, I’ll say it again. That’s you’re department, Lonny.”
He grinned widely. “Yes. Well, or should I say, the department of your species,” the devil answered with a wafting roll of his wrist. “All those nasty little delicacies are of their doing, I’m afraid. Well, I’m not afraid of them. In fact, I’m rather amused. Humbled by, even.”
The confusion that spread across my face must have been evident, because the devil rolled his eyes and shook his head, attempting to turn away from me and end the conversation there; however, I wasn’t about to let that go.
“What about the….you know…the whole, supreme evil deal? The master of darkness…..the…devil thing.”
“Ah. That,” he seemed to understand exactly what I mean. “Loose translation, I’m afraid. You see, the word had a little bit of a rough time being passed through the centuries. Not the devil, a devil.”
“Oh, I- what?”
Giving an annoyed sigh as he loosened the top off of the vitamin bottle, he turned slowly around.
“A, not the. One of many, that sort of thing. You’re a history buff, you look up the word origin. Devil was a term for a sort of annoyer. Satan, which I have been called more time that I can count by you unimaginable lot, means and adversary. In general, not one.” Groaning, he turned around to seat himself upon my sink, crossing one thick leg over the other, readjusting his leather pouch in the process (which my memory now recalls was quite bulbous after having seeming rather flat the night before). “ Now, your understanding of the devil, as I understand it, means mayhem, damnation, utter chaos and the likes. Large scale tyranny and the crumbling of civilization; that sound about right?”
“Yeah,” I said confidently enough.
“Plagues? Possession?” He tilted his head a little, eyes narrowing.
“Well, yeah, of course. ” I had become almost excited by this time, thinking that I was on the right track and about to goad the old goat into doing something interesting.
He turned his head upwards and to the side, wafting me off with a hand. “Not my department, Lonny Boy.”
My eyes narrowed on him, a confused look overtaking my face. He looked back, noticing my expression. One clawed hand came up to cover his face, muffling the incoherent mumbling that followed after. Finally, after giving another sigh, he turned around to me, crossed his arms over his chest and gave me a good long stare.
“I went too fast for you, and obviously was a little too vague. Let’s try this for, hopefully, the last time. I don’t do any of those things. Not the death and damnation. No possession or mass scale chaos. None of it.”
It was slowly sinking in, but I needed some sort of clarification.
“Two men. One thing. ‘Nough said,” he answered definitively with a snort.
“Plagues?” I asked meekly.
“Germs. For the love of all, what century am I in? Did you go through another dark ages or something?”
I ignored his comment and quickly continued, not really enjoying what he was suggesting.
“B-but serial killers and being influenced by evil, a-and getting possessed? And there’s a million terrible things that can’t possibly-“
“Sorry, squirt. Hate to disappoint you and all but, once again, that’s you’re department. Humanity has seemed to corner the niche market on nasty” he chuckled.
“Wait, so you’re not going to do anything like that? No, fire and brimstone? No screaming or walls bleeding, or being scared out of my mind?” I muttered.
He looked away, almost seeming ashamed. “No,” he answered quickly. “I do…other things,” he said with a pause, eyes looking back and forth at the pile of clothing, “Like this!” He reached out quickly snatching a pair of socks. He grinned at me as he pulled them into separate hands, dropping one black sock back to the pile before letting disappear behind a closed fist. He quickly opened his hand, having made the sock disappear into thin air. He gave a triumphant chortle at my bewildered look, mistaking it for awe. “That’s right. And it’ll be gone for weeks!” he snickered.
I, of course, wasn’t impressed at all by this. Annoyed, perhaps, but I thought there was something I was missing. I thought perhaps he was lulling me into a false sense of security, lying to me before he let me have it, so to speak.
“What about, you know, opening the box and all? Letting you out. Isn’t that some crime? I mean, you’re going to do something to me because of that, aren’t you? Condemn me to eternal suffering o-or drive me insane?” Phos, by this time, was now rolling his eyes and looking perpetually annoyed. He muttered something under his voice before he turned back to face me completely.
You humans and your little morbid fascination,” he snorted, “Can’t please anyone these days. Just not the same. Before it was a little sheep frightening, chicken eating, and a manic laugh and it’d send them running for the hills. Now you can’t get anywhere unless you’re murdering someone, doing something all creative to. Can’t just kill a man straight out these days or-“
“Ah ha! So you have killed someone!” I interjected quickly.
“I- what? No, no, no. I don’t do any killing or whatnot. Far too messy and not half as fun as driving you out of your minds. What I said was that you can’t get any attention these days. All those serial killers and dictators shoving you out of the limelight with their over the top antics. Not any gigs left for us other kinds anymore.”
“Jobs, Lonny. Jobs. You’re a thick one, aren’t you?”
“I know what you meant but, I…well, how is frightening people a job?”
“How is it not a job? Sharpest tool in the shed here. Right, listen up because I’m getting sick of having to explain things to you. Us other kinds kept you humans from getting too out of line. Rhymed, that one did,” he said with a toothy grin, smugly shifting his weight to his other hoof. “Anyway, so we’d come over, scare the knickers off of you for doing things wrong and, in the mean time, get whatever you left behind. Funny how people forget their coin purses when they think they’re going to get cursed or something. And precious family heirlooms aren’t so precious as the weight of your hides when you think they’re in trouble either! ”
“So…you scare people off and, what, pilfer their houses? Never heard of that one before.”
“Well, I suppose the stories only carry the important things over. The juicy parts, you know. Makes for good stories when you through fleeing from damnation or being torn part, but the bits about how John returned home and couldn’t find his favorite pocket watch are less impactful, if you know what I mean. Still, it was a good living. Getting this here and there, and normally a good meal, too! Had to know how to do it right. Oh, those were the good ol’ days.”
He turned away from me, trotting noisily off through the house as he began once again messing my display cabinets and pressing his nose up against the glass to insure marks. All the while, I stood there silently, just watching him dash from corner to corner doing abhorrently obnoxious but rather meaningless things; a scuff on the floor that would have to be buffed out, a licking the paint off a vase, chewing the corner of a tapestry while bending a precious blade.
I sat myself in a chair as he danced around, making annoying noises and tilting the picture frames on the wall so that they were ever so uneven. I couldn’t help but just watched, fixated on this thing was so terrifying and, yet, not at the same time. It didn’t make sense to me, not one bit, and I spent hours just watching him ghost from point to point in my house. It was a sort of stupor I had entered into, both from the situation and the words that had passed between us that I still struggled to understand when all around me were pieces that begged to differ. I had spent my life collecting these things, beliving firmly that there was some great evil, some guiding hand that tainted them and, that by just possessing, I might be able to glimpse and understand. It was the belief in something more than what Phos seemed to suggest.
The clacking of his hooves as they dented the wooden stairs barely fell on my ears as I gazed towards my priceless collection of beheading swords on the wall. It just couldn’t be like that. There had to be something more than-
“Wooo! Look at the thighs on that one!” came the sudden crowing boom from the upstairs.
Jolting in my chair, I spun to look up the stairs before I took up after them, wondering what in the worlds the devil could possibly be yelling at. As I entered the upstairs foyer, I felt my heart sink to see the back end of Phos facing me as he leaned forwards with his head against the glass of a partially cracked window. One hair hand rapped against the glass again.
“Stop walking, fatty! You’re rattling the china in the-,”
I had closed the space between Phos and I before I realized it, knowing that the window of my house looked out over a distant walking trail that was quite popular at that time of year. My hands were on his shoulders as I scrambled to pull him back.
“What- you- shhhh!” I pulled him to the side, looking down at the trail in time to see a rather familiar round faced woman look around at the house. “Jesus, if Mary even thinks that was me she’s going to shoot me.”
“Shoot you?” he gave a snort, “I’d be more worried about getting eaten if I were you.”
Mary just looked around before finally continuing on her way at a rather brisk pace, thankfully, as I shut the window and slumped my elbows on the frame. Head bowed forwards, I lifted it slight and found that both the devil and I were nearly shoulder to shoulder in the small space in the narrow hallway, his face no more than a foot from my own. The sheer sight alone of his face in that much detail sent me up against the adjacent wall (not that the smell was any less alarming, mind you).
It was the odd silence and the wide grin on his face as he just unnervingly stared at me that forced me to say something. For a lack of other things, I just motioned to the window with one hand.
“A-and what if someone would have seen you? I mean, you-you’d have been hard to explain and-,”
“Oh, quit worrying your pretty head, Lonny. No one’s going to see me. Got a sort of technique for that. I’m quick,” he grinned.
I shook my head.
“Quick, sure, but still,” I leaned down to gaze back out the window, watching the semi busy trail full of joggers, some already in garb for the night to come, at distant intervals. “I mean this window is pretty bare and I don’t think you-,” Phos was no longer standing at my side. Confused, I fell silent and began to look around. The house was silent as I strained to listen for his clacking hooves and, yet, there was nothing. I slowly made my way down the hall until I finally came to pause at the top of the stairs.
“See?” Phos yelled, suddenly standing right behind me, which caused me to tumble forwards down a few stairs, barely catching my weight on the railing. The devil laughed as he followed me down, patting me heavily on his shoulder.
“Oh, so you like that, do you, Lonny boy? Well, I’ll just keep that in mind.”
“Don’t have to be seen when I don’t wanna. Little perk of mine. Makes for a bit of jealousy with the others,” Phos gloated.
It was then, for the first time, his use of the word others finally soaked into my head, sending a bit of a chill down my spine.
“Others?” I asked. “There’s more of…you?”
“Of me? Well, only one of me, Lonny. Broke the mold with perfection here!” he snorted. “ But, others? Sure. I said a devil earlier didn’t I? Plural. Many. You know, I’m starting to worry about you, Lonny. Passing out can do funny things to a person’s head. Giving you the benefit of the doubt here.” He turned and walked back up the stairs, moving to the window once again to look back out of it. “Lots of us other kinds. Big ones. Small ones. Some who could fit in a bread box and others who might find the ocean a bit tight.”
“So, there’s more here? More of things like you?”
“Hmm?” he muttered, seeming lost out the window before he turned to look over his shoulder at me. “Oh, here? Not really. Few that hold out still, sure. Lots used to be here though. Lots.” He turned to look back out the window. “It’s where you get all those stories from, Lonny. Fairytales and whatnot. ”
It was the first time that my heart had left in a good way, the entire time when I heard him say that there had, indeed, been others there before. It was a revival of my beliefs, the fluffing the hope that there was something much more grand going on behind the scenes.
“So, not just things like you but, what, more like…err…dragons and werewolves…well, they were here but they left?”
“Sure, there were lots more other kinds, but yeah. They left. Wasn’t really much we could do to contend with what was going on.”
“What…what went on?”
“Outsourcing,” he answered with a disdainful tone.
I nearly laughed, but the sheer sound of the devils voice caused me to hold it back.
“Like I said before, Lonny, people got all creative on large scales. Started going above and beyond, or so to speak. Burning, raiding…making examples of their own villages, plotting behind the scenes to do horrible things and blame others. Downright overwhelming, if you ask me, but it worked.” He sighed as he stood back from the window, tapping the ledge before turning around to face me. “Couldn’t keep up with the competition. That plus the fact that people started getting fed up and wise, forming little hunting parties. Started making trophies out of us. Was just plain degrading in the end and all over not a pretty thing. So, to save our hides and look for work in other places, most of us other kinds just up and left. Went back to the old bump and grind as you’d say.”
I’d never actually say that, but I understood his point well enough to know what he meant. It wouldn’t have taken a genius to realize that there was obviously some place that these ‘other kinds’ were going to as Phos had mentioned them leaving a few times now. I looked over the devil, who seemed quite pensively picking his nose as he gazed of down the hall. I cleared my throat and gave a soft smile.
“So, you said you, the other kinds, just left. Where exactly did you leave to? I mean, where is it that you go?” I had, before this conversation, distantly thought he went back into the box every year, staying in some sort of altered reality there till the next, but I was obviously wrong in that assumption. In memory of the start of this, my eyes glanced towards the stairwell and down towards the living room where it still sat. However, when I glanced back, I found only a thick green streak on the wall where Phos had been standing.
I instantly spun around, expecting that the beast was going to be standing behind me again. However, much to my dismay at the time, he wasn’t there.
“Phos?” I called out timidly. “P-phos?” There came no response. Even though I had just learned that the beast wasn’t going to do anything horrid or ghastly, there was still that feeling that one gets when watching a horror movie and knowing that the bad guy is going to pop out from some dark corner; however, this was real, and the fact that he didn’t need a dark corner to pop out of did nothing for my nerves. I found the narrow halls suddenly too narrow and instantly made my exit of them and headed for the stairs.
In retrospect, I should have seen it coming and going for the stairs was a poor idea. Never the less, it happened. I was on the fifth step down when the devil was suddenly next to me, his feet balanced on the thin railing, with his hands on either side of his face and a terrible garbled yelling coming out of his mouth.
The stairs were suddenly in front of my face, then out again, then back in again and, if I would have to think back and guess, it was the fourth from the bottom that pain took a back seat as I came limply sliding onto the floor. Unlike before where everything had simply gone dark, this time I distinctly remember Phos’ voice calling my name with a particularly uncertain tone and, from where I was laying, the sight of two large green eyes that gazed out from the darkness below an end table; Ninny had obviously made her hiding place underneath the sturdy piece of furniture, and her normally portly body seemed double the size as she remained, terrified, as everything ghosted into unconsciousness.
So there’s part two! Only about 1,500 words left to go on the next post, so it will be a short little quip of a read. Thanks for taking the time to check it out. While I don’t feel like this is a great story ever written, I am in love with the idea of Phos and the relationship that could exist between these to characters. As always, feel free to post critiques, ideas, hints and whatever else you’d like. I welcome each and every ounce of feedback since I know I still have a lot of room for improvement. In fact, the whole reason I post my longer works on this blog is to stay motivated, maybe make someone smile, and to learn where I can improve at. So, while this may not be a master piece, I figured I gotta start somewhere, right?