The Devil. The most notorious of Tarot cards. You can always understand the Devil Tarot card as representing issues of power and control within yourself. But every once and a while, the Devil appears in his typical form. The Devil is the ultimate antagonist. A terrifying, horrible creature, hell bent on distruction. A creature who wants nothing more than to slip your tender soul into his pocket and whisk you away into the shadows.
Tarot cards are wonderful instigators and prompts for creative writing as Corrine Kenner’s excellent book, Tarot For Writers, explains. She’ll show you exactly how to get your creative writing juices flowing with a deck of Tarot cards.
I’ve written the story below with your typical run of the mill Devil in mind. Have you ever danced with the Devil and lived to tell?
Dancing with The Devil
Walking down a country road going nowhere really. Nowhere is about the only place I’ve ever been. It’s amazing the things you see when you’re no place. As the old sayin goes, everywhere I go, there I am. So at least I see myself. I hear there are people who can live their whole lives without really seeing themselves.
There’s not much to me anyhow. Gramma says I should steer clear of a heavy breeze, lest I get blown across the golden fields to where the earth presses up against the sky. That’d be a sight, me blowing and tumbling across the fields like a little ragamuffin. Tumbling the same way I’d roll on sweet wet grass, only this time I’d be flying through the sky. Sometimes I imagine getting caught up in a heavy wind and blowing smack into the setting sun. Feel the rays of the atomic heat as I get closer. Tumble head over heels ‘til I just fizzle up into a burning ball and explode.
I’ve felt that kind of heat before. Not regular heat like on a day where you can’t jump into a cool mountain lake fast enough. The kinda hot that burns every molecule and makes your blood boil in your veins. Heat where your bones glow red and your skin peels right off.
I know how it feels to dance with the sun. Dancin with the Devil as my gramma called it. She should know. She’s seen him up close, face to face with the wicked creature. Looked into the hollow eyes of the beast. She sent him away back in ’42 and bore a scar on her cheek to prove it. Gramma said he’d be back. Back for me.
Told me never to let down my guard. Wherever I walked he might be right there, spying on me. I’d walk up my driveway where he liked to hide the best. Sometimes I saw the little devil peering out from behind a tree with those glowing orange eyes. He would stand real still and motionless as if I couldn’t see he was right there. Like a chameleon he’d change his color. Shape shifter, he’d stand with one skinny arm out like a branch, drool piling at the edge of his mouth. Watching him out of the corner of my eye, he’d think I couldn’t see. But I knew he was there.
Singing my favorite songs as I walked along to let him know I wasn’t scared. “Rain drops on roses and whiskers on….” I saw him dash under the bridge.
The bridge was an old wooden thing constructed from the trees that surrounded it. It didn’t look as if it could hold the weight of a child let alone a truck. Yet a red and white pickup would pass over it each day and night.
Watching from my peripheral vision, he dashed from the tree to the shadows under bridge. He did a little dance down there. I know he did. Gleefully kicking at the water and splashing stones. He danced at the sheer pleasure of thinking I was his. Slipping over mossy rocks he’d boogie down. Every day I crossed alone and waited for him to place his slimy fingers across the wood and rise up. Meet me eye to eye. Dance with the devil. He never did anything there on that bridge.
The day I’d become a woman was an important one and not for usual reasons. He would now be able to smell it on me and I had to get ready. He’d be coming soon. That night I marched down to the pine trees next to the river. I sensed he was nearby.
The moon was full and the woods were alive. Alive with more than just animal creatures I mean. There’s energy out there both good and bad. Even the good stuff can be scary if you’re not used to it, so you’ve got to be careful.
The full moon meant I didn’t need a flashlight and the landscape was drenched in milky pale reflection. I’ve always preferred night to day. Daylight is so luminous; you can see everything too clearly. At night your imagination roams freely into every dark corner and crevice. The evening looks like a black and white movie where you can star with the stars. The night will envelop and protect you.
The grove of pines who stood beside the river were powerful and an army of fireflies twinkled in the shadows. The mountain river rushed by me to those places I would never get a chance to see. I sensed he was near and didn’t want to waste time.
I carefully followed my gramma’s instructions and reached into the bag of sea salt she’d given me. It was pure, like I was and would offer protection. The salty crystals sparkled in the moonlight as I constructed a white circle around myself. As per her directions I’d gathered every cobweb from the corners of my home into a black cloth. I spread the cobwebs around my circle as if to sprinkle fertilizer upon a magical garden. The whistling wind had stopped. The crickets ceased their chirping. All was quiet. I knew he was close.
Reaching into my pocket, I pulled out a small box and opened it. Inside rested a dead fly that’d met an unhappy fate upon my bedroom windowsill. Pulled my cotton dress over my head, I took off my underwear. Naked, I stood in the circle of salt, under the trees, next to the river. He would dance with me but only once.
Through the silence I heard him approach. In the past when he followed me I would pretend I couldn’t see him. Tonight I would look straight into his eyes.
I quickly swallowed the fly that had lain upon my windowsill, black smudge in the setting sun. I gulped it quickly to avoid getting the taste of it on my tongue. I was not a girl in the habit of eating dead insects and probably never would be.
His form came swiftly through the field across the river. Normally he could be a skinny or hideously fat creature, whichever he wished. Tonight he approached in the shape of a young man. I could see his blue eyes sparkling in the murky darkness. His eyes normally glowed red or orange but tonight they sparkled like the river he glided over to get close to me.
I stood calmly. My heart raced but I stayed composed. We finally faced each other. Eye to eye. He ran his hand down the side of my cheek. His hands were large, so large they enveloped the whole side of my face. He stroked my skin; thumbnail pierced my skin and blood spilled across my cheekbone. I too would bear a scar.
“You are so beautiful,” he purred in a voice forming deep within his belly. Not the sound of one voice but a thousand voices murmuring together. His breath smelled of vanilla. The inviting smell that drifted out of those brown bottles in gramma’s kitchen. I’d once tried to sip a bottle of extract. She told me it wouldn’t taste as good as it smelled. Impossible I had thought. It hit my tongue, bitter and awful. She was right, but then again, wasn’t she always right?
I half expected his mouth, which smelled so sweet, to taste like the bitter extract had. It didn’t. He gathered up my face and kissed me. His tongue licking up the blood that slid down my face. His hands traced my arms from my shoulders to my elbows and pushed me down to the ground. Foolish little devil. I was not the silly schoolgirl I must have appeared. He had been stalking me, watching me since as far back as I can remember, but I had been watching him too. I had been preparing.
He positioned himself over of me. The soft pine needles brushed on my back and I looked up at my sister, the moon. She watched with her patient silence. I felt her energy radiating upon me and suckled it as a newborn baby suckles her mother. He inserted himself painfully into me. It felt as if a hot fire poker was forced into me. I burned hot, my flesh melting. Frantically, he writhed upon me. It was now or never.
Gathering every ounce of strength in my twelve-year-old body I spoke directly to this devil. I looked straight into his eyes so he knew I meant business.
“North south east west
Spiders web shall bind him best
East west north south
Hold his limbs and stop his mouth
Seal his eyes and choke his breath
Wrap him round with ropes of death!”
As the last words escaped my lips, silver ribbons began floating from the ground. Attached themselves to him, he began to scream. The silvery tape pulled him off of me and singed his fake leathery human skin. He hung in the tree before me. Helpless to break free, he changed form. He turned back into that troll form I knew so well. The form that danced under my bridge was now helplessly suspended.
I walked over, pine needles stuck to my back and looked at him. Anger glinted in his orange glowing orbs that had sparkled blue just moments before. I opened my mouth up wide and a thousand flies flew out at him. Must have been less than thirty seconds but seemed an hour I stood regurgitating those insects upon him. Rushing out with such force, tickling my throat, it made my stomach sour. The flies crawled about covering his entirely. He appeared one giant pulsating entity, trapped within the silver web.
The shadow to my right jerked suddenly and I jumped out of the way. A black spider the size of a rusty old VW scurried over to his pulsating organism. Her enormous fangs were thrust into my demon, my devil. She began to suck his blood and his life away.
I began to dance. I would finally be free. Satiated, she quickly scurried away into the shadows. The silver strands floated down from the trees and disintegrated. The remains of my demon, my devil fell to the forest floor.
Quickly scooped him up, I placed him into my black bag which had held the cobwebs. I ran to the river and began to chant. Letting his sandy remains fall through my finders and into the water. . .
And away he went. Down the river to those places I would probably never see. That was okay by me.
I had seen enough.
Illustration above is courtesy of James Elliot Butler from Reflections in a Landscape.