A short story about the last devil on the shoulder, Bedlam, and an unlikely Angel companion, Remedy.
Bedlam stood tall and crooked before an arched window. His long fingers wrapped around one another behind his back, sharp nails pointed at the ends, a smoky red hue beneath them. His stretched shadow slithered across the floor, a floor that started dark, faded to gray, and then ended in shimmering porcelain. His mismatched eyes, fiery orange and egg white, scanned this vast empty room.
His fellow devils long ago gathered here twice a year. The Council would call meetings, demand they discuss their most pressing matters and ask that everyone ‘keep up the bad work.’ Bedlam more than once skipped the meetings. He twisted black lips in thought of that now.
Bad work. Bedlam scowled. His sharp eyebrows drew inward to form a jagged line across his forehead. His pock-marked face stretched thin across hard-angled bones. His chin, naturally pointed at the end, jutted outward as he drew a deep breath.
A sound—so inhuman, so terrifyingly monstrous, that it caused even birds to stop their singing— erupted from him and filled the valley below and sky above. Three times he made this cry, a call for his brothers to come. When the echoes of the final rumble dissipated, he hung his head. His red-tipped hands held his face. Smoldering drops of lava tears dripped between his fingers. They hissed as they kissed the floor beneath his blackened feet. The acrid scent of sulfur drifted through long, narrow nostrils.
“Do you ache for them?”
A voice that sang in sweet chimes reverberated off marble walls. Bedlam halted his crying and looked away. He returned his hands behind his back and faced the window. Outside, the massive cardboard flap of a box flipped back and forth in a breeze while rain flooded the concrete beneath. Bits of trash, much larger than Bedlam, floated in quick streams. “It is well for us that we have sanctuary in this place that is not here.”
The Angel did not reply, not right away. Her delicate footsteps tapped against the floor as she approached. “When you look out there, do you not see the hills and trees? The gentle river? I see our kingdom as it once existed. Pristine and beautiful.”
“I have no need for beauty.” Bedlam glanced over his shoulder.
Her lavender lips turned upward, and her sapphire eyes—which very well could be made from actual sapphires—twinkled like stars set within. Her milky skin appeared more alive than even humans’. It shimmered in a dance of every color of the light spectrum, almost as though she were the very source of rainbows. “Does it ache for you to be alone?”
Bedlam scoffed. “You Angels all look the same. How do you tell one another apart?”
“The same as you or the humans, I suppose.”
He held his hard expression and turned away. “I quite prefer to be alone. Solitude is an uncomfortable wonder in which I find great strength.”
“Then tell me, Devil, why did I find you crying?” She stepped closer.
Copyright © 2015 by Sophie Giroir