r|A|i|N

United States of America

"ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which i will not put."

Message to Readers

i've been working on this for over a month and four thousand words later i'm done... holy shit. kind of meant to be toying with spiritual ideas a bit? i don't know. i wonder if anyone will read this all the way through but if you did thank you so so much. please tell me what you think, where i can improve. eager for feedback. thx

pondering nihilism with the devil by your side!

August 20, 2019

FREE WRITING

21
    i met the devil one afternoon.  he didn't look like much.  he told me i looked very pretty.  i told him thank you, although you couldn't expect much from someone who had no looks at all.
    "what's your name?" he asked.  he was very polite about it, all of it, and though he had no visual etiquette i almost thought i could almost see a neat set of hands folding into his lap; and a suit made of wool or cashmere that was draped finely across his shoulders; and other nice things, things you'd expect from a man like the devil.  but i think it was merely assumption, because when i really tried to glimpse such things i couldn't, and he remained solidly invisible.
    "amy stop," i said, in response to his question.
    "what did you say?"  (his face must have leaned forward politely with eyes confused and polite, although it didn't).
    "amy stop."  i enunciated.  he might have been hard of hearing.  you could never tell with old men.
    "a very pretty name."
    i smiled a little, before remembering that "stop" wasn't a very pretty last name at all.  in a rush, i explained - "it's not my name.  i mean, not really.  i used to be 'evans' before mum changed the papers.  it's my stepfather's, and i don't like it much.  i mean," i giggled.  "what kind of a name is 'stop'?"
    "a very valid point," said the devil.  at this point i could tell i liked him, because he used words such as "valid" and put "very" before almost every word he said.  i was pleased at him.  he was smooth on his feet - he complimented my hair most flatteringly, and i raised a self-knowing hand to explore the elegant curls that decked my forehead.
    "can i ask you to dance?" asked the devil.
    "excuse me?"  
    it was an odd offer but one that sounded natural to his lips, and the second doing that occurred to me was to say "yes" without complaint.
    "but you must be courteous," the devil said with a smile.  "that's how your mother would teach you, isn't it?"  he extended a hand - yes, perhaps there was a hand - and i obliged, gripping his fist with my fingers.  i curtseyed and he bowed, and then we embarked on a beautiful waltz.  the gentle silence that had been endured thus far was replaced with easy music.  i wondered what the tune was, but i could not hear it all the way.
    "tell me about yourself," the devil told me invitingly.  "you are a very lovely girl, amy."
    "thank you!" i said with slight exclamation, and i began at once to tell him all about everything - "i'm a very funny girl, or so mum tells me.  she likes me very much.  my friends do too.  my stepfather likes me, i think, but he's very concealed about everything.  i don't have any brothers or sisters, but i wish i had a little baby so i could dress her up.  i'm very polite with strangers, but occasionally i slip up and mum gives me a little kick and i remember to be polite again.  we live in a grand estate, decorated with all kinds of things.  i'm a lucky girl.  that's what people tell me: that i'm rich, and that i should be thankful.  but i don't think i'm very rich.  my friend jane has a house that's much more extraordinary than mine.  it has lots of trinkets and things."
    the music rang around me as i spoke, still faintly unintelligible.  the devil lifted his ghostly hand and i twirled around in a circle.
    "that was a very succinct explanation," he said.  he smiled at me, with white teeth.  i noticed the teeth for sure, even through his confused form.  "answer some questions for me, won't you, amy?  for small talk's sake."
    "oh, yes," i said.  "i'm good at answering questions."
    "quite," said the devil simply, with another little grin.  "tell me: what are your world views?  your opinions about things?"  it must have, indeed, been for small talk's sake, for he was so casual in manner that i felt easy in answering.  when i repeated the question, however, confusion arose.
    "world views?" i said blankly.  the words meant nothing to me; in fact, they were frighteningly meaningless.
    "world views," the devil repeated, and he pronounced every consonant (he probably thought i was hard of hearing too).  "views, that's to say, opinions, about the world."
    "the world?"  i had never considered anything so vast.  "well, it's a very big place," i offered hesitantly.
    the devil laughed very loudly.  "such statements would be considered facts and not opinions - although sometimes it's hard to distinguish.  if you dig deeper, amy, you will understand these things."
    when adults told me to "dig deeper", they were referring to shutting me shutting my eyes for a long period of time and sitting by myself in the time-out chair.  mum said that thoughts could stew when one did this "digging deeper", and i didn't believe her, not really.  but i wanted to be polite to the devil, who was just making small talk, so i stopped dancing, and i shut my eyes and wiggled my toes and thought.  after a while, i opened my lids again.  to my surprise, a conclusion was fresh in my mouth.
    "your opinions about the world, amy?" asked the devil.  he had been straightening his tie and tapping a foot vaguely to the music, waiting.
    "oh, i like the world," i said, this time with no hesitation whatsoever.  i took his hands again and we continued waltzing.
    "do you?" said the devil good-naturedly.  his voice was without surprise.  "what makes you think so?"
    "well, all sorts of things make me happy," i replied, and my voice lightened as i said so.  "the trees.  the sun.  the birds that sometimes fly around and leave feathers everywhere.  my friends, too."
    "what are your friends like?" asked the devil conversationally.  "are they nice?"
    "very much so!" i replied enthusiastically.  "margaret and sarah are great.  they're very nice to me and i enjoy their company and we're just wonderful friends.  jane is trickier, because i'm so jealous of her.  but i do like her in the end."
    "you're jealous of jane?" asked the devil, and his eyes flashed with concern.  "but a very pretty, privileged girl like you!  why are you jealous?"
    "she has lots of things," i confided.  "she tells me that her grandmother has plates made out of pure gold."  and i sighed, for pure gold sounded so wonderful at the moment that it consumed my every thought.
    "such extravagances must be very nice," the devil sympathized.  "and you wish you could own such things?"
    "do i wish!" i exclaimed as the picture flashed yet more perfectly in my mind.  "sometimes i wish i could just steal them from her, so that i could have them instead."
    "but a girl like jane should not deserve such poor treatment!" reasoned the devil, as we swayed to the patterns of the background music.  it was growing louder in my ears all the time.  "amy, you are not being fair!  jane must be a wonderful girl."
    "she's not," i said, and then i wished i hadn't, because this was one of the times that mum would kick me for my ill manners.
    "not?" repeated the devil, arching hazy eyebrows.
    "well, yes, although i wish i hadn't said it so bluntly," i admitted.  "but she's not all too friendly with me, jane."
    "not too friendly?  but surely she doesn't have better things to do than hang out with a pretty, polite girl such as yourself?" said the devil, again with deep concern.
    "oh, she does.  she has tea with her cousins all the time," i said, and i found a bitter, almost spiteful note in my voice that i had not expected to arise there.  "jane, with her gold plates and tea parties.  and she never has time for me."  i found that i was glowering at the ground, my hands clutching angrily at the devil's as i envisioned it: jane, drinking from a fancy cup as a superior smile poised on her lips.
    "that's horrible, amy," said the devil, and he looked as though he meant it truly: his eyes (which were big and dark, although i hadn't noticed before) were full of sympathetic concern.  "jane mustn't be too good a friend."
    "she's not!" i said for the second time, more loudly and with a strong treble.  the music to which we were waltzing was growing louder still, from an easy and quiet melody that i could not distinguish to a moderate anthem with a clarified beat, drifting in the air around me.  "oh, i wish..."  but i cut myself off and stayed silent, and there was nothing but music for a full minute.
    "if you would allow me to interrupt this conversation, lovely though it is," said the devil, with every good manner, "i think we were talking about world views, just before you told me about the unjust temperament of your acquaintance jane."
    "yes.  go on then," i said, though i remained glaring at the floor, and i clutched his hand tighter still.
    "amy, come on now!  don't be so surly," said the devil, laughter back in his voice.  "we were having a pleasurable conversation.  allow us to continue."
    i bit my lip as i remembered my manners.  "i'm sorry."  i said it truly.
    "we were discussing world views," he reminded me again.
    "yes," i said.
    "you told me you loved the world."
    "oh yes.  i did."  the thought brought less enthusiasm now.
    "can you tell me more about that?  assuming that your position on the matter has not changed."  he smiled, and i realized that his teeth were pointed as well as white.
    "i suppose it hasn't," i said.  i thought back to what i had said before.  what was it?  about the trees and the sun.  they were rather beautiful, i reasoned, as i drove jane from my mind.  "i like the outdoors," i said.  "the birds are nice.  the trees.  the squirrels that hop around and collect nuts.  i like the sun too - although sometimes it can be very hot."
    "hot?  is it uncomfortable?"
    "yes," i said wisely.  "and you get sunburn, which gives a terrible itch."
    "how awful."
    "it is," i said.  "and sometimes you get sweaty.  and it's all salty and it covers you, all of you, particularly your forehead.  it can drip into your eyes."  i thought about this for a moment - the sweat that often plastered my clothes to my back like glue, making them stink horribly later.  "maybe i  don't like the sun," i decided.
    "no?"
    "no.  it's too hot."  and a spark of agitation flew inside of me once again, as i envisaged the sun in all its painful glory.
    "oh.  i see.  well, i guess we're back to world views then."  a faint, sympathetic grin from his cloud-colored teeth.  "i was asking you, just now.  can i ask the same question again?  you must forgive my redundancy, amy.  what are your world views?"
    "i don't know!" i said, and anger flared in my chest so suddenly that i was unnerved by it.  the music was drumming loudly in my ears.  my head ached.  i aimed a kick at the ground, which greatly hurt my foot.  what had happened?  what had become of my manners?  i attempted to see sense, but unwilling tears burned in my eyes.
    "amy," said the devil, in a voice of focused calm.
    "i don't know!  i don't!  what more do you want me to say?" i shot at him.  i was being impertinent again; i knew this, and yet i did little to make up for the fact.  my face flushed hot.
    "your world views - "
    "stop asking me the same question!"  my voice rose to a projection.  "why are you so interested, anyway?  world views!  i'm tired of it."  i threw my hands away from his and stopped dancing abruptly.  i clutched my aching head and dropped to the floor, sitting down hard on my knees.
    "amy," said the devil again.  he did not sound at all angry; on the contrary, his voice was slow and relaxed.  "music such as this is meant to be danced to.  it's growing louder all the time; you can't ignore it for long."
    "i don't want to dance with you," i muttered.
    "then we'll talk instead of dance.  see what that does to you."
    i didn't know what this meant, so i just nodded, pressing my hand into head again.
    "if you don't want to talk about world views," said the devil, "we don't have to.  we can talk about anything you want to.  just tell me what and we'll begin."  he folded his hands into his lap.  he wore gloves, i noticed - soft satin gloves the same color as his teeth.
    i didn't want to talk about anything, but i closed my eyes and tried to muster all the courtesy i still contained.  the first question that rose to my lips was, i knew, straining on impertinent again: "why are we having this conversation?"
    the devil grinned once more, black eyebrows perched high on his clear forehead.  he said simply, "you're a clever girl, amy."
    "what?"
    "i told you that you were clever.  most people merely ask how or when or where... but to you, it is a 'why'.  insightful."
    my fingers dug deeper into my forehead as the waltz thundered in my ears.  it was so hard to pay attention to his words.  "what do you mean?"
    "what do you think i mean?" he asked slyly.
    the music was painfully clear now.  i could count the time in my head.  1, 2, 3... 1, 2, 3...  "i don't - i mean... something about world views," i mumbled, without really knowing what i was saying.
    "but you're misleading me, amy," said the devil with affability.  "i thought that you didn't want to talk about world views."
    "i don't," i said again.  1, 2, 3... 1, 2, 3...
    
"and yet you mention it," he probed.  when i failed to answer, he continued, "if we talk about the world as a whole, we arrive at a very different topic.  something much more difficult.  much more fascinating.  give it a try for me, amy.  talking is a pleasure, you know."
    "the world as a whole?"  my head throbbed.  1, 2, 3!  "i can't... this damn music... "
    "your head hurts because you stopped dancing," said the devil, and i realized that this had been his prediction.  "it's common, amy, believe me.  stand with me now, and it will go away."  a satin hand was outstretched.
    "i don't want to dance with you," i said again, staring at the hand.  1, 2, 3!
    "ah," said the devil.  "but, when it comes to this, you really must.  you're counting to three as we speak."
    i wanted to argue, but the words stopped short of my mouth.  1, 2, 3!  i took his hand and stood up.
    "curtsey to me."
    i did so, then put a hand on his wool-laden shoulder.  we swayed to the music, and instantly my head felt better, lighter, the ache receding from my temples.  the music continued to flash about my ears, but it was tamer now, my perspective clearer.
    "better?" he asked.
    "yes."
    "back to the world?"
    "back to the world," i agreed.
    "we had just agreed to talk about the planet as a whole," he reminded me.
    "right," i said.  "what does that imply?"
    "i'm glad you asked," said the devil, and he explained.  "when you answered me earlier about your opinions on the world, you were merely thinking about your little corner of it - the pleasure of the sunshine, your troubles with jane.  now i was wondering what you thought of the world, not merely as the pocket that contains amy stop, but as the wider picture.  the universe is vast, amy - you said so yourself.  there is so much that is beyond the mundane regularity of one's life.  and this glimpse of the world is ready for your thoughts."
    i smiled a little at him.  "but why would my opinion change?  i still like the world, regardless of the lens through which i am looking.  i'm very happy here."
    "well," said the devil, tweaking slightly at his black mustache, "there are many people on this planet, and not all are as fortunate as you.  after all, there has been extensive suffering on earth, no matter how beautiful a place it is."
    "that's pessimistic," i said, staring at him.  "what makes you think there has been so much suffering?  i really don't see why you think that."
    he smiled pointed teeth.  "i was merely inviting the idea.  what matters, once more, is what you think."
    "i think you're wrong," i said at once.
    "naturally.  and as for why?"
    "well, i love the world!"
    "and yet so many people don't, amy.  so many people don't love the world.  why do you think that is?"
    "i don't know," i said.  the music that had been played remained quiet, although, for an odd reason i couldn't quite distinguish, there was an intensity to its patterns now.  "i suppose i'm fortunate.  some people are poor, or... or they suffer bad deaths."
    the devil nodded his pointed chin.  he looked thoughtful.
    "but that wouldn't make me hate everything," i said, "because not everyone is poor, or suffers a bad death.  the rest of them - of us - are all perfectly content - "
    "come now, amy," said the devil, interrupting.  "even those who are healthy and rich aren't perfectly content.  are you?"
    "what've i got to do with anything?" i asked.
    "you qualify as a person on this earth."
    "you told me to think outside my pocket of the world.  i'm not relevant to this conversation," i reminded him.
    "on the contrary," said the devil, "i think you're the most important factor to this conversation.  answer the question, amy.  are you happy?"
    the music was intensifying in my ears still more, becoming stronger, somehow more important.  i thought.  i did so love the world, i had just told him so!  and yet the thought of jane and the blister of sunburn was so present in my mind, and the defiant "yes" that had risen to my lips became stuck on my tongue.
    i looked over at the devil, and he was smiling slightly, now twirling his mustache in his gloved fingers.
    "well, what do you want me to say?" i asked him, and i glared into his ink-colored eyes.  "that i'm not happy?  that i hate the world?  why are you telling me this - why are you asking me?"  a note of anger was creeping into my voice again.  "you're putting words into my mouth, and i don't like it!"
    "amy!' said the devil, at once shocked.  "i have no say in what you think.  i was asking you a question, and that is all!"
    "then fine!" i snapped frustratedly.  "i'm not perfectly content!  and sometimes life isn't what i want it to be!"
    "so what does that do to your argument?" the devil asked unaffectedly.
    "i don't know!"  the background tune was becoming too much once again.  i disliked what he was saying - what i was saying.  i sat down on the floor again, my body a crumpled heap, and pressed my fingers over my eyes.  a drum thundered in my ears, and i found myself rocking slowly back and fourth, defeated by the pattering of the music and the thoughts that circled my brain.  the devil stood and looked down at me, still with an expression of complacence and good nature.
    i'm not happy.  i'm not happy.  the thoughts in my head ached and swirled, ached and swirled until they swirled too far.  i sat up a little, my fingers sliding down my face, eyelids peeling away from my irises.  i was not dumbfounded or upset when i next spoke.  in fact, the words were calm - 
    "so there's no point to anything, then.  so it would be better if we didn't live."
    for the first time in the conversation, the devil paused to look at me, full in the face.  how fantastically black his eyes were, how they bored into mine.  "does that make sense?" he asked at last.
    "it does," i said readily, "because then people wouldn't suffer.  they wouldn't die.  they wouldn't have friends like jane or get sunburns."  i found myself standing up again, and my words matched the rhythm of the music.  "they wouldn't be tortured or diseased or disordered.  if everything must die, it's better not to live.  to avoid the agony of dying - "
    " - and the agony of living," the devil finished, his mouth a gaping hole of pleasure.
    "yes," i said, and i was startled by how quickly i said it.
    the devil pressed further.  "and does that mean that death is pointless and meaningless?"
    "yes."
    "and that to be born is to be dying?"
    "in a logical sense, yes."
    he straightened his tie with a satin hand.  "and that therefore, by means of all of the arguments that you have just affirmed, one could reasonably say that life itself is meaningless?"
    and then the same thing happened all over again - my throat prepared the answer, but i found that i could not give it.  i stood poised, with my mouth open, with a faint smile on my lips, with my hand in the devil's hand and my arm on the devil's shoulder.  i stared at him, and he was so very clear to me with his pointed chin and white teeth, his white gloves and wool suit.  we looked into each other's eyes at that moment, and his were dark and mine were wide.
    "i don't... "
    "but you've said it yourself, amy.  you are not content with the life you're living."
    he squeezed my hand a little, but i found my grip on his fingers rapidly loosening.  something was wrong here; something was off.  my hands slid away, and i took a few steps back.  i stared at the ground, and for some reason my eyes again stung with tears.
    "amy."
    i did not answer.
    "come here, girl."
    silence.  i could not think of what to say; i didn't want to think anything at all right now.
    "amy, you know full well that this kind of music can only be danced to."
    i frowned, and something slid back to place in my mind.  "no," i said quietly.
    "what?"
    "no.  i'm not dancing with you anymore."
    the devil laughed, but he sounded cold.  "amy, you don't have a choice!  we established that."
    "i do have a choice."
    "if we could just keep talking about this - "
    "i'm not going to have this conversation!" i said, and suddenly my voice was very loud indeed, forceful and heated.  an explosion of words burst from my mouth.  "you've been leading me into this, all this time!  you've been making me think things i don't want to think!  you've been guiding me, you've been... messing with my mind!  i'm going back, i'm going back to where i was before, to how it was before!  you can't make me dance with you if i won't do it!  this whole time i've just been doing what you said!  but now i'm going back.  see if you can stop me."
    the devil laughed again, and he laughed loud and hard and cold.  there was something so oddly rehearsed in his tone, and, with a sickening jolt in my stomach, i realized that he must have done this many, many times before.  
    "do you really think that you can go back, now you've seen me?  do you really think that you can once again be little amy stop, the young girl who envied jane and didn't like sunburn?"
    but his words didn't register, and so i glared at him aimlessly.
    "tell me, amy - how old do you think you are now?  how much time do you think has passed?  how long have you been dancing with me; how long have we been having this conversation?"
    i stared at his devilish face.  who was he, really?  no being of solidity or land, it was clear.  and then i found myself wondering whether or not he was real.
    "right," i said, my mind barely on the conversation.  "i'm going.  i've got to - "
    he was protesting, and i didn't hear it.
    the music that had been there since the beginning still pulsed in my ears.  it was now uncharacteristically calm.
    i stepped back again, my foot treading on air.  i turned around, away from the devil.  never had anything felt so boldly important as this.  everything felt wrong, and now everything would be right.  i stepped toward the ending of it all, and clear drums sounded in my ears.  my pace was fast.  i had barely walked seven steps before the music swallowed me whole.

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  • August 20, 2019 - 3:54pm (Now Viewing)

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15 Comments
  • loveletterstosappho

    okay i thought i commented on this when i read it yesterday but i guess i forgot to actually post the comment before closing out of the tab, so here goes again
    i love the way you've taken a common saying and built something so sharp and masterful out of it. all the commenters have talked about how much they love your characterization of the devil, but i'm also a huge fan of the way you characterize amy; her eagerness and naivety in the beginning, the way she becomes more stubborn nearing the end, it's amazing. some of my favorite lines are "at this point i could tell i liked him, because he used words such as 'valid' and put 'very' before almost every word he said. i was pleased at him. he was smooth on his feet - he complimented my hair most flatteringly, and i raised a self-knowing hand to explore the elegant curls that decked my forehead," and "'oh, yes,' i said. 'i'm good at answering questions,'" and basically all of the dialogue, especially in the beginning, because of the way it characterizes amy. two other things that you did very well were the introduction of jane and the amy's transition into not cooperating with the devil ("i frowned, and something slid back to place in my mind. 'no,' i said quietly").


    3 months ago
  • Mentally Absent

    Awesome! At first I was like, "Four thousand words?! I don't know if I'll read this..." but actually it was captivating! Loved the devil's character, he is so deceivingly charming.


    3 months ago
  • Mentally Absent

    Awesome! At first I was like, "Four thousand words?! I don't know if I'll read this..." but actually it was captivating! Loved the devil's character, he is so deceivingly charming.


    3 months ago
  • -writinginhopesofsomeday-

    I've just finished the piece and the comments and it seems they've said all I want to say:( Still, I'm in awe of the thought put into this piece. It's wonderful and melancholy and lovely all the same, setting it up high on my "favorites" list.


    3 months ago
  • Blotted Ink with a Broken Quill

    Fantastically amazing


    3 months ago
  • Kenny

    Hey, you expressed interest in joining my reviewing club! Here's the link:

    https://writetheworld.com/groups/1/shared/123846/version/237614


    3 months ago
  • shallow water

    i would actually be willing to read so much more of this wow


    3 months ago
  • r|A|i|N

    haha thank you


    3 months ago
  • weirdo

    *clears throat*

    HOLY SHIT!!!
    this is definitely now one of my top five pieces i’ve read on wtw. the characterization of the devil is absolutely amazing and i definitely like it better than the way that he is typically portrayed. i love the way that you make the devil a gentleman and overall nice (but not kind at all) then overtime show his true intentions by the way that he skillfully manipulates amy. this is amazing, as is all your writing

    can i like borrow your writing brain? i promise i will (not) give it back


    3 months ago
  • r|A|i|N

    thank you so much!!


    3 months ago
  • New York_dreamer

    This is amazing!! Such a good read and I actually liked that you took the time to add in detail and make it longer. The devils character is one that fascinates me, and makes me want to read on. I love this! Keep up the good work! :)


    3 months ago
  • rainandsonder

    fantastic piece! the way you characterize the devil, have him flatter and talk with amy kindly to dance with her and lead her down a path she doesn't want to go down, is fascinating to read; equally fascinating is that the devil isn't outright evil here--- he doesn't tell her to steal or cheat or lie, but rather lets her mind wander to dark places on its own with a little guidance. rather than being some evil that you can defeat, he's something more terrifying: a voice in your mind that you can't get rid of. i also loved the way you wrote this piece; simplistic but well-written to match the voice of the narrator. the only critique i have is to maybe make it more clear that the narrator is supposed to be getting older throughout-- was she supposed to be a child at the beginning? also i love how you used the music here, the repetition of "this music is meant to be danced to". again, really great work!


    3 months ago
  • Juliana

    Wow, I was completely captured the whole way through. Great job!


    3 months ago
  • r|A|i|N

    thank you so much! wow, i really appreciate the read. i was kind of afraid that no one would want to take the time for such a long piece, but it means a lot that you did.


    3 months ago
  • luluwrites111

    Wow this is amazing! I love the banter between amy and the devil, but also as it gets more serious. You describe the devil perfectly, as amy doesn't see him, exactly, but certain traits and things he wears or does. It gives me a sort of Wrinkle In Time vibe, but more philosophical. It was totally unexpected, and I was hooked from the beginning. Lovely! Daring and lovely! :)


    3 months ago