With the Demon Alone

I had a demon and I named him “Alone” and his baleful empty eye frightened me and his long grasping fingers terrified me. He lived in a closet where I could hear him stomping about restlessly, sulkily, whenever I was by myself in my room. So, I made sure that I almost never was.

Being left only made Alone worse, and he’d begin to act out even when I had a friend with me. Even if she slept with me in my bed, I couldn’t pull her close enough or whisper in her ear with enough fervor to drown out Alone scratching pitiable, insistently, inevitably at the door.

“You’re not coming into this bed,” I said out loud one night, just a few days after she’d left me. No one else was around, just him and me. “You’re not sleeping here. You stay in your closet.”

He stopped his scratching and howled like an animal. I couldn’t move for revulsion. But the cries didn’t stop. I picked up the clock on my bed stand and hurled it at the door, not at him but at the door, and his howls only grew louder, galvanized by my response.

I resolved to finally be rid of him, this sore on my happiness, this blight on creation, abomination of my bedroom closet. I picked up the heavy brass lamp by the side of my bed and brandished it. I crept to the cracked door, peering in. His brand of darkness was always darker, Alone’s, so it shone black against the charcoal gray of my room, unlit and empty.

His howl had died to a snuffling, a rasping. It occurred to me it had been ages since I’d gotten this close. I hooked one finger on the edge of the door and pulled. It slid uncomfortably, grinding on the carpet, as though the wood refused to turn or had forgotten how with disuse.

And in the darker darkness of the closet there stood the Demon, cowering. He hunched, he scraped long arms on the wood of the closet, deep gouges worn into the wood on the door jamb. His baleful eyes, stared, glowing liquescent and lit the room in a dull sickly pallor. I hadn’t laid eyes on him since he was born, when he was small enough to wrap in a sheet and tuck away in my closet. By God he was mammoth now, like a bear tortured to stand on its hind legs by unscrupulous trainers.

“You’ve been here all along,” I said. “Only you.” And his long simian mouth raised its corners into a parody of a depthless animal grin. Again, I hated the thing. So I raised the end of the bronze lamp. I thought, “If I don’t kill it now, no one will.”

Clumsily, in the half-light he caught the lamp at its shaft and we turned, me unable to bring the instrument down on its desired target, hopelessly outmatched in strength with the demon. But I kept pressing down, my bare feet leaving the carpet of my room, standing on my toes trying to muscle the metal to the top of its oblong head. And we danced. Around and around in circles, him resisting, just enough, me pressing on the massive thing, sweat beading on my brow. When my chest was fit to burst, when my hands stung from digging into the finials at the top of the lamp, I collapsed onto my bed. If it would take me, it would do it now, and hopefully quickly. I couldn’t live with Alone any longer in the recesses of my room, forever waiting.

As I lay there panting in the darkness, awaiting the metal tang of the lamp splitting lined brow, awaiting the girth of the heavy creature to fall on me, enveloping me, ending me, I felt a pressure at the end of my bed. Its eyes were closed and the gray of my room had surrendered to inky black, so I didn’t see but felt the massive creature gingerly lift itself to the bed. One massive paw, then another, curling like a dog at the end of my bed.

The bed creaked, the bowl created in my mattress by its pressure was well-defined, but not as I had expected, as though the thing had someone shed some of its form for the occasion. Here it was, coming to bed. It breathed a human breath, heavy with exertion but not dissatisfied. It sounded like it was sleeping, or meant to. It sounded like it had found its place.

My head circled and I found my pillow with my forearm and rested against it. “It isn’t real,” I thought. It wasn’t real, this thing. But it was here and it was mine. Whatever it was I had made it. And fear of him had made me.

That night the scratching ended, replaced by breath like a rolling tide.

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