Seven Devils | Teen Ink

Seven Devils

August 25, 2014
By GreyGirl ELITE, Pohang,Kyungbuk, Other
GreyGirl ELITE, Pohang,Kyungbuk, Other
170 articles 122 photos 391 comments

 Desmond awoke from an uneasy sleep with the strong conviction that he was being watched. He lay still for a moment, his skin crawling and prickling—waiting for the residue of his nightmares to leave him fully awake, alone, and sane. In general, Desmond erred on the side of nonchalance if not apathy, but he had had strange dreams the night before and they left him with an unaccustomed sense of his own mortality. After a moment, when Desmond’s eyelids began to twitch, willing him to open his eyes and begin his day, he realized he was fully awake. Yet the eyes were still on him—pouring over him, boring into him. Desmond was not sure how he could tell so certainly that he was being watched, but there was no doubt in his mind. He wondered if Anna, this month’s diversion in the bedroom, had let herself in somehow, but she was never this quiet. And the eyes—no they couldn’t be hers-- vacant, contact-inlaid. These eyes—these eyes were something else. The room was silent but for the sluggish beat of his heart. He lay there for a beat and a breath, his eyes still closed. Maybe—no certainly—he had drunk too much last night. That was probably it. Now that he thought about it, he’d taken some pills at the party last night too. Probably too many. Not sure what they were… His mind wandered. Come to think of it, he didn’t remember much of the party—barely even remembered staggering home. Desmond supposed he would spend the day sleeping off whatever was wrong with him, watch a little TV, order something in—maybe call Anna over later, and then go out and party again if he was feeling up to it. This was the daily rhythm of his life, and though in truth Desmond was becoming bored by it, he lacked interest in doing anything else. His eyes itched to open, now, lids struggling in spastic spasms against his wishes. He scrunched them shut and then thought better of it. He was just hung-over. Nothing new in that. Nothing to fear other than a bad headache and a tender stomach. Nothing that couldn’t be remedied with a cup of coffee and a few aspirins. What the hell. Desmond opened his eyes and for a moment, he was blinded by the morning light—harsh and yet sallow as only the last days of summer could be. His vision cleared, but the light still buzzed unpleasantly in his eyes. He had already forgotten his strange awakening, the eyes. His mind was on getting up, making coffee… And then he saw it. There was a thing in his bedroom. Sitting at the end of the bed. Long limbed and jagged toothed, with yellow skin and a yawning mouth, it grasped at the bed-stand with almost clownishly long claws. When it saw him, it let go of the bed, perching on its bony back legs. Desmond froze for a moment. It was so impossible, so laughably unrealistic. His eyes saw, but his mind refused to understand. He looked at it apathetically for a moment, waiting for the mirage to go away, for his head to clear. But the apparition did not disappear. It still perched at the end of the bed, its fingers, more bone then flesh, reaching, reaching for him. Desmond stared at it, at first in frozen shock, but increasingly with morbid fascination. Desmond noticed after a moment that his high school class ring hung loosely on one of the devil’s pale fingers. It unnerved him. He waited for the creature to rush at him, to attack, but it stayed where it was until an uncomfortable stretch of minutes had elapsed. Finally, his initial shock wore off, and he decided what he really needed was a cigarette. He had been smoking them since he was sixteen, and cigarettes were old friends. There was a pack beside his bed, and he fumbled for it, never really breaking eye contact with the little beast. . It was absurd. Like waking up and finding Mickey Mouse squeaking in the kitchen or Godzilla tearing down his roof. Absent mindedly he drew out a Marlboro and lit it, strangely calm. Somehow, the thing seemed familiar, even in its fantastical strangeness. Desmond stared at the little creature, contemplated it. Monster? Certainly. Alien? Perhaps. Banshee…goblin…hobgoblin…gremlin—whatever it was, it was ugly as sin. It swished its body, suddenly exposing a long, pointed tail, all bone and skin. Devil more like. Having settled on a term, Desmond felt vaguely satisfied, much as the first explorer to see a lion must have felt a rush of pride as he classified the fearsome beast Panthera Leo. Put a name on it, and if it wasn’t yours at least you got the credit for it. He’d have to catch it, he realized. Desmond wondered if it was fast. He didn’t like the idea of running about his apartment with a laundry basket and a vain hope of catching the beast, but what was he supposed to do? Call the police? He couldn’t. There were things in his apartment, things that would get him in trouble. And he’d rather keep them—and not get an arrest warrant for illegal substances. So, then what would he do? He wondered if he would be able to catch it by himself. Desmond suddenly realized he had no one. His family was but a faint memory, a stain on his past. His friends were no more than partners in indulgence. His lovers were never permanent and rarely actually in love. In truth, he was alone. The devil twitched excitedly, as if sensing Desmond’s upset and revelling in it. Desmond curled his lip at it. He needed to catch that thing. Whatever it was saw his cigarette and its eyes lit up. It hopped down onto his mattress. It scratched along the sheets, climbing towards him, its hands grasping. It reminded Desmond of himself in a way, it always seemed there was something he wanted, and usually someone else had it. Perhaps it could be baited. “You want this don’t you?” Desmond asked the devil. “I bet you’d climb in a box for a cigarette.” The devil did not reply but stretched its hands out farther than ever. Desmond agilely climbed out of bed, pulling the blanket away with him and revealing a second devil, snugly wrapped in his sheets at the foot of his bed. He swore. It was one thing to have a devil on your bed, but another to have it in your bed. It was a grey-skinned, flabby beast that awoke only long enough to sprawl further across his mattress before burrowing falling back into sleep with a sour grunt. Desmond noticed in disgust that it was wearing one of his flannel pajama shirts which pooled about its frail frame. Well he supposed, two shouldn’t be any harder to bag then one. “Come on,” he muttered to the first devil who was still fixated on his cigarette, “Let’s get you a cigarette.” His had been the last one in the pack, but there were some in the kitchenette. It hopped after him to the kitchen, its arms still out-reached, grasping. Envious little fellow, Desmond thought, bemused. The initial horror of his uninvited guests in his house had worn off. He had seen stranger things when trashed than these beasties. But then there was a third one in the kitchen. It lay bloated amongst the pillaged remains of what had been in his refrigerator. The devil was deathly skinny except for its swollen belly which bulged painfully from its slight frame. The creature looked too full to move, but even as it saw him, it dribbled a bottle of chocolate milk (Desmond’s favourite drink, damn it) down his throat. Well, one more couldn’t hurt. Desmond kicked at the devil, but it was too absorbed in its gluttony to care. The other devil snatched the food from his cohort but seemed more interested in possessing it than actually consuming it. This was getting out of hand. Desmond looked about him for a solution to his problem, but failed to see one. And he still needed his coffee. So, he stepped over the two devils and made his way to the stove. With the coffee on, Desmond sat down at his table, watching the little devils idly. He began to think less and less of getting rid of the devils and more and more of coexisting with them. There was diversion in their danger. When he had finished smoking his cigarette, he flicked the ash at the devils and made his way to the bathroom. The devils followed him, the first one quickly, the other sluggishly. The slothful one was apparently still in bed. When he got to the bathroom, Desmond slammed the door in their twisted, bony, faces. He sighed heavily and turned on glanced into the mirror. For a moment, he was absorbed with himself. I look good, he thought proudly, mussing his hair and posing in front of the mirror. He imagined himself, rich and famous. Maestro Desmond and his Dancing Devil Freak Show. The money would flow in on a river laced with excellent alcohol and pretty women. Something moved in the corner of the mirror, and Desmond suddenly became aware that there was another one, sitting on the towel rack. It was just as ugly as the other three, but it was stared at itself in the mirror with such a prideful expression that Desmond supposed it considered itself the most handsome devil in the world. He swore at it, and tried to swipe it off, when he heard a rustling in the bathroom cabinet. Angrily now, Desmond tore the cupboard open. There sat yet another devil (there were five now! he thought panicked, five!). Anna kept a few of her things in the bathroom for when she stayed over—lipstick, a change of clothes, and the devil lay obscenely in a twist of her underwear, a leer upon its face. There would have been a time, perhaps even yesterday, when Desmond would have found the devil’s blatant lechery amusing. But now, it filled him with loathing, not so much for the devil’s defilement of Anna’s things, but because he had a sudden and uncomfortable realization that he was far too much like the hideous creature. Desmond stared at it for a moment, the devil stared back, unabashed. After a moment, it gibbered. Behind him, the other devil was still absorbed with itself in the mirror. Slowly, it pulled its lips with its fingers into a concave grimace that must have been an approximation of a smile. There was a scratching at the bathroom door. Suddenly, Desmond was frightened. What was I thinking? I need to leave. He wasn’t sure where he would go or what he would do, but the animal instinct deep in his mind told him that this was no longer a game. It had never been a game, really. Desmond pushed open the bathroom door, and the devils greeted him with squeals and screams. Ignoring them, he ran to the door to his apartment, not before seeing still a sixth devil greedily rooting through belongings in his closet. The apartment was overrun, infested. It hadn’t seemed so bad to have one creature, or even two. Even three had been alright. Desmond had not considered what a threat even one of them could be until he found himself outnumbered and overwhelmed. He fumbled at the door-knob and flung open the door. The seventh devil was waiting for him outside. It was bigger than all of the other devils combined, and it blocked his escape with a huge, scaly body. It took Desmond a moment to realize that the devil wore his face—it was stretched and distorted into monstrous features, but it was undeniably his own. Desmond screamed, and tried to back away, but all six devils were behind him now, capering in delight, their bony fingers pulling at his legs. If he went forward, he would suffer one devil’s wrath, but if he went back he would be overcome by the horde behind him. There was nowhere to turn, nowhere to go. The devil with his face lunged at him, sinking its long, needle-like claws into his arms. Desmond fell to the ground, and the other devils swarmed over him, pulling him down into an oblivion of sheer white pain. He tried to scream again, but he found he could not. --- Desmond awoke from an uneasy sleep, unable to breathe. As he lay choking and gasping, tearing at his throat for air, he realized he was alone. There was only him, him and the pills that lay dissolved and powdery, deep in his belly. But in truth, it was not the pills that were killing him, nor the devils that had haunted him. It was himself. As his last breath tore painfully through his lungs, Desmond realized that the devils had been quite real. They were the envy in his hands, and the laziness in his bones, the gluttony in his stomach and the pride in his head, the lust in his heart, and the greed in his eyes. He had birthed them, nursed them, cherished them for years. And in the end, they had been his undoing. As his vision began to cloud, Desmond fought to live. He had seen himself for what he was, for what was inside him. For the first time in his life, he wanted badly to change, to live. But death was upon him, spasming through his veins and twisting down his spine. In the end, there was no white light, no chorus of angels that marked Desmond’s death. There were only the seven devils, waiting for him.

The author's comments:


“We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell.” –Oscar Wilde

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