Sunday, April 21, 2013

Ruth Long Week 43: The Devil's Adversary

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Picture 2

Ruth Long’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: The Devil's Adversary

I took a long drag off the oxygen tank as I looked across the table. Pretty face, sweet curves and shameless expectation. Some folks just couldn’t be content. No matter how good their fortune, they always wanted more. And that’s how they ended up sitting in this back alley dive with me.

A wrinkled waitress with eyes beady as a rat’s shuffled over and slopped some coffee into my chipped cup. The amber liquid looked toxic and smelled burnt but since I knew it wasn’t going to kill me, that road having been long ago mapped out for me, I slogged the down the sludge and waited for it to knot up my gut real good before getting down to business.

I cleared my throat and leaned back in the chair. “So, you want to be an actress, that right? And you come to me ‘cause you heard I can make things happen.”

She nodded, blonde curls dancing down her spine, peachy mouth fashioned into a picture perfect smile. “Yes, ma’am, I do. Name your price and I’ll pay it.”

They all said that, every last one of them, their faces full of hope and hearts empty as a government brain trust. A howl of laughter tore its way up my esophagus and out my thin blue lizard lips, winding me like I’d run a marathon, and I had to take a couple more hits off the blasted tank.

Scowling at the source of my discomfort, I said, “You’ll pay, girl, but not the way you think.”

The smile slipped for a moment. “You want something other than money for your services?”

“That, I do. Seems only fair, seeing how I can provide you what no one else can.”

Reality always brought them up short, like a pimple in the crevice of an ear or nose, hideous and unsettling but mesmerizing in its own grotesque way.

I could see she was thinking it over, well, much as a spineless nitwit could think. Wasn’t nice to characterize her like a wart on the frog of life. Not much humanity left in my old bones this late in the day. Better move fast if I wanted to get this last soul in the hopper.

I gave her a bitter taste of what was to come. “You want to see your name in lights, my pretty, the price is the death of your parents.”

A startled cry fell from her beautifully botoxed lips.

“You want to upgrade to the A-List celebrity rating, that’ll cost you your health. You’ll still be completely gorgeous on the outside. Your insides, however, will be rotten as trichinosis riddled pork. Won’t kill you, just keep you in excruciating pain, but hey, public accolades make a comely nursemaid.”

She sat there twisting peroxided locks round her spray-tanned hands and mulling it over, like we were discussing the merits of higher education or social activism, and all the while, my blood was becoming dusty chalk in my veins, parched and merciless as sand in an hourglass. But in spite of the agony, I would fight for her with my last …

… I floated to the ceiling, weightless and boneless, and folks gathered around my body but blondie backed towards the exit. Smart girl, for moments later an ambulance arrived and a paramedic strode in.

He pushed through the crowd, gruff and heavy-handed, grasped the collar of my coat and hauled me out into the alley. As appalled onlookers watched, he stripped off his gloves, grasped my throat with his red right hand, and turned my corpse to ash.

The crowd gasped in surprise and horror, but I smiled, well as much as was possible without skin, because incineration was the punishment meted out to those who stole souls out of the devil’s pocket, and it was a price I gladly paid, day after day, in this fist fight called life.


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A reader by birth, paper-pusher by trade and novelist by design, story-telling in my passion. If you enjoyed reading today's story, please consider checking out my blog, joining my creative community or participating in the madcap twitter fun @bullishink.



  1. I love the way you draw people, give us those little details that helps our brains fill in the faces & personalities. The snarky voice is wonderful too! Nice!

  2. I love this. This is the perfect example of what a short story should be -- mesmerizing and surprising. Well done!