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Home page > English > Short Story > The Devil

In the sitting room of his cosy lemon yellow cottage Father Ainsley Crocket was relaxing in an over stuffed sofa gazing out an open bay window at his perfectly manicured rose garden. The rainbow of flowers nodded gently in the balmy breeze and as he sipped his lukewarm tea he was thinking that life was simply grand. Sure he was pushing sixty and arthritis was starting to cripple his hands (particularly in the colder months), but the beachside town of Somerset was surely the perfect place for an elderly man to live out his final years in peace.During the day the fresh, salty scent of the nearby ocean gently stroked the tiny town. And at night, when human activity subsided, one could be lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves pounding on the beach and against the rocks at Doomby Point.

There were only about five hundred residents that called Somerset home. Most of them Anglican and there were but a few that couldn’t trace their family back to the first inhabitants of this seaside Eden. Which was why the mansion just built overlooking Elizabeth Lookout at the end of Ainsley’s quiet street was a matter of some concern. Why someone with enough money to erect the sprawling mass that looked like some type of modified medi-evil castle had built it in Somerset was a mystery he intended to solve.

All day truckloads of furniture and removalists had been busy as bee’s in a hive, but still Ainsley had caught not a glimpse of the people who were moving in. Evening was approaching swiftly, as it always did on the coast, when a sleek black Mercedes crawled down the street towards the lookout and he knew without a doubt that it must contain the new residents.

He rose and hurried down his darkening hallway to the front door, hoping to reach his gate and get a look at them before they went inside and was rewarded for his effort. A man in skin tight leather pants and a billowing black silk shirt had just stepped out of the car. He opened the passenger door and a woman wearing a skirt

that looked more like the handkerchief in Ainsley’s pocket and a shirt that showed more skin then it covered stepped elegantly from the vehicle.

They stood for a moment and gazed at the house before opening the iron gates that surrounded the property. A large sable coloured dog bounded out and jumped up to put two huge paws on either of the man’s wide shoulders in an exuberant greeting and the man laughed. He shook himself free of the animal and Ainsley noticed the dogs glowing red eyes. Probably just a reflection from the light that shone out front of the church that separated the two properties but he leant over his fence to get a better look. The dog saw him and started to bark savagely in his direction. Ainsley quickly made a great pretence of checking his mailbox and felt guilty about being such a nosy parker. But he’d seen what he needed to. Those people definitely didn’t belong here and he wondered what on earth had made them decide to move to his sleepy little town.

The next morning he was awoken by a strange rhythmic thumping sound that seemed to shake the very foundations and he quickly shook off sleep trying to establish the cause of it. It was music. But music like he’d never

heard before in his life. The drums pounded like a jackhammer and electric guitars wailed producing a noise that had no hint of melody or rhythm that his ears could discern. But the worst of it was the unearthly voices grunting and screeching like a horde of demonic entities fighting over a lost soul in an insane parody of song. Not that Ainsley had ever heard a horde of demon’s. And he hoped that the horrible grating music was the closest he ever got to it. It gave him the same skin crawling feeling as when someone ran their fingernails down a chalkboard.

The ‘music’ continued till half past ten. When it finally finished he’d already called the young priest that was being trained to replace him and arranged to have him work at the church today. Father Thomas was always eager for experience and Ainsley had a splitting headache. Besides, if there were any great problems he was right next door.

After a frugal lunch of baked beans on wholemeal toast he’d just settled himself at the bay window with a steaming mug of tea when he heard the iron gates of his neighbours property opening. He raced out into the garden and pretended to pull at the non-existent weeds all the time throwing inconspicuous glances towards their house.

The man, resplendent in an expensive black jogging suit led the dog on a leash and the woman followed closely after locking the gates.

As they reached his property Father Ainsley decided what to do. He walked to the fence and called out,

"Hello. Welcome to Somerset. I’m Father Ainsley Crockett." He offered a hand to be shaken and suddenly the dog, a sable coloured boxer, lunged for him snarling savagely and he fell backwards into his prize winning Morning Glory.

The man leapt his fence and assisted him to his feet."I’m so sorry Father! Xothmog is terribly protective of us."

Ainsley looked at the beast that was being restrained by the woman who was sniggering and trying to hide it by turning her head.

"I’m Samuel Black and this is my wife Alexei. It’s a pleasure to meet you."

Recognition suddenly dawned on Ainsley.

"Not the Samuel Black?" he said while knowing that this handsome man with long black hair and piercing green eye’s was indeed him and could be no other. "Why on earth did you move to Somerset?"

"Varmint broke up last year and I decided to retire. I made more than enough money and this seemed like such a nice peaceful town."

Varmint had been the number one heavy metal band of the eighties. Samuel Black was the notorious lead singer who’s drunken drug hazed escapades had graced every newspaper and tabloid magazine in the world for at least ten years. Ainsley vaguely recalled an article that claimed a hotel manager in Sydney broke down a door only to be confronted with Samuel and company holding some kind of black mass. And now this man was is neighbour.

"But Somerset has nothing to offer you." said Ainsley.

"We don’t even have a pub."

"It sounds like you believe to much of what you read Father. I haven’t done half the things I’ve been accused of by the press. Surely a man as intelligent as yourself realises half that stuff is made up." Samuel replied, the friendly tone of his voice now edged with anger.

Alexei suddenly lost her struggle with Xothmog who was over the fence in a bound and went straight for Ainsley’s throat. As the dog’s front feet touched his chest and knocked him down a strange feeling like electricity started to flow through his body and he heard a horrible voice in his head.

"Don’t make trouble here God boy. You’re in way over your head and I’ll lop it off quite merrily if you give me half a chance."

Samuel had quickly hauled the animal off him before it got a chance to do any damage, Ainsley lay on the ground in shock unable to believe what had just happened. Xothmog was straining at the end of his leash growling ferociously, foam dripping from his black muzzle.

"I’d better get this dog home.", said Samuel. "Sorry Father. I’ve never seen him like this."

After they left Ainsley rose on shaking legs and went back inside. The voice he’d heard was repeating over and over again in his head and he could only think of one explanation. The dog was a minion of Satan.

He didn’t sleep well that night. Didn’t actually ever think he would again. When he looked in the mirror the face that looked back at him seemed to have aged ten years overnight. His blue eyes were sunk in black circles and he could’ve sworn his hair looked thinner and whiter. Ainsley knew he definitely couldn’t handle this on his own so after breakfast he put in an urgent call to the Archbishop and sat down by his bay window.

The music started five minutes after he sat down and just as Ainsley was thinking about calling Thomas again the phone rang. It was the Archbishop.

"Ainsley, are you okay? I was told it’s urgent."

"It is Father. I have some rather distressing news I’m afraid. Samuel Black, that rock star from Varmint has moved to Somerset. In fact he’s my neighbour."

"That’s unfortunate for you Ainsley but I hardly think it concerns the church."

"On the contrary it does Father. And it’s not him that’s the problem. It’s he’s dog."

"His dog?… Are you sure you’re okay old boy?"

"I’m fine, but the dog…this is hard to say…to put into words." Ainsley paused for few seconds. "His dog is a minion of Satan. I know it sounds strange but I’m almost sure of it. You see…"

That was as far as he got before the Archbishop cut him off.

"Ainsley, I’ve seen a lot of things in my time, but I really feel that you’ve been working to hard. Why don’t you give Father Thomas more of the load? In fact I’ll call him right now and I want you to take a month off starting today. And maybe you should give some serious thought to retiring a year early."

"But Father…"

"No arguments Ainsley." said the Archbishop firmly, "I will come down to see you in two weeks. Ring me if you decide to go on a vacation. Actually I urge you to go on a vacation. Now I must go. Goodbye Ainsley."

"Goodbye Father."

Ainsley hung up. He was on his own. In a way anyhow. God was with him and he was positive that this was His way of letting him know that He thought Ainsley was the only man for the job. He looked up at the cross on the wall.

"I won’t fail You." he said aloud. And he meant it.

It was later that day while he was spraying his beloved roses for aphids that he heard the iron gates down the road opening. Samuel and the dog strolled up the road and he stood at the gate and waited for them to reach him."I know what you are?" he said to the Xothmog when they’d drawn level with him. Samuel thought he was talking to him.

"Excuse me?"

"I’m not speaking to you. I’m speaking to the evil beast you might think is a dog. But maybe you know. Yes. I bet you do." said Ainsley.

"Father I think you’ve had enough sun today. Or have you been into the communion wine?"

"That’s Catholic you fool."

Xothmog, who had been quiet for the first time in Ainsley’s presence, suddenly decided to relieve himself. With one leg cocked he sent a stream of urine through a gap in the fence, soaking the priests shoes and trousers.

It burned Ainsley as if it was fire.

"Aaaargh. Get that beast out of here!" he yelled. "I’m warning you! This community will not tolerate the likes of you. Leave town."

He limped back into his house, clutching his leg and whimpering at the pain. Ainsely remembered disturbing a wasps nest as a child and being stung by several of the wrathful insects and his leg now felt exactly as his arm had then. Worse even.

In the bathroom he removed his pants and stepped into the tub intent on washing off. As he looked down at his legs, Ainsley saw the marks shining like a new tattoo. Bending to get a closer look he was shocked to realise two pentagram’s had been burnt into his shins. One on each leg.

He was shaking again now but this time it was with anger. The marks and their shape made a mockery of his religion, his God…his very world. And as he looked at them something in his mind seemed to snap into place and for the first time in his life Ainsley felt bloodlust. It felt good. It felt righteous. And he knew exactly what he had to do.

In the bottom of an antique blanket chest at the foot of his bed Ainsley retrieved the old rifle and box of ammunition. His father, who had been a soldier during The Great War had left it to him and Ainsley had always thought it was for some sentimental reason that he’d kept the gun. But now he knew it was God that had stopped him. For the sole reason of killing His enemy, Xothmog.

"Thy will be done." he said. Then giggling madly he sat by the bay window and waited for the cover of darkness.

Just after night fell, while he was climbing around the fence that stretched to the very edge of the cliffs at Doomby Point, Ainsley doubted himself for a moment.

Surely God would’ve picked a younger man for a job this energetic if this was His will he thought. Then reprimanded himself instantly.

Who am I to doubt God’s will he thought, ashamed. Ainsley looked towards the house that stood sentinel over the sea and was pleased to note that the only lights glowing were towards the street at the front. The loaded gun was swung over one shoulder by a worn leather strap and the weight of it was comforting. Ainsley held it out in front of him awkwardly and started for the house, creeping in the shadow that the fence cast while keeping an eye out for the dog.

He was about ten feet from the house when a low growl behind him sent a chill down his spine as he realised that while he’d been hunting Xothmog, the dog had been stalking him. Terror hit Ainsley as hard as a dumper at the beach and he spun around and started shooting.

The first shot threw him against the fence and the rifle dug into his ribs where he’d been resting it but he was already pulling the trigger again before he could stop himself. Day’s later he couldn’t remember the noise of the second shot, only the sound of his ribs breaking.

It suddenly became very hard to breathe. Each inhale felt like sandpaper was being rubbed down the inside of his chest and every exhale he had to try and stop himself from vomiting. Ainsley wasn’t sure how much time passed before realising the dog loomed over him and forgot the pain, faced with his own mortality.

He looked up slowly and Xothmog was grinning a very undoggy like grin. Ainsley’s blood froze as he saw long canine teeth inches from his face and the pounding of running steps that rose out of the darkness seemed to match his racing heart beat for beat.

"Get behind me Satan!" he screamed as the dogs snout came closer. "You are an offence to me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of man."

Ainsley tried to raise his arms in a semblance of the cross but the dog swiped them away with one huge paw and the pain made him cry out in agony.

"I warned you God boy." The dogs mouth moved unnaturally as they formed the words and it now appeared to be sneering at him as it spoke.

"God has no place on earth. Here I am free to do as I want and you have no power over me. What were you thinking? If the Son of God had to put up with me tempting him on Mount Sinai how did you get the idea into your head that you could get rid of me.

I’d kill you right now just for the pleasure of it, however, I think that watching you go insane at your inability to rid your town of my presence will be far more satisfying. Take him home." Xothmog said to Samuel and the two huge islanders standing behind him, bodyguards, judging by their girth and the handguns they were now holstering at their enormous hips. They hauled Ainsley to his feet, unmindful of his ribs and proceeded towards the house with him between them, Samuel leading the way.

They helped him sit in a chair at his house and Samuel asked them to wait outside for him. When they’d gone he turned to Ainsley and said,

"Father, I know you don’t believe me but I really don’t want you to get hurt. Just stay out of the way. We’re not about to start killing townsfolk or trying to bring about Armageddon so please just leave us alone."

"What, you have a conscience?" said Ainsley sarcastically. "Have you ever read The Old Testament Samuel?"

"Of course. I was raised a Christian you know."

"Then I’d like to remind you of something in The Book of Exodus. ‘If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox must be stoned, and it’s flesh may not be eaten; but the owner of the ox will not be liable. But if the ox has the habit of goring people in the past, and the owner has been warned but has not kept it restricted, and it kills a man or a woman, than the ox must be stoned and it’s owner must also be put to death.’ You are guilty of harbouring ‘The Morning Star’ and therefore my enemy. Get out of my home."

Samuel turned on his heel and left.

Ainsley leant back against the cushions of the chair wondering why The Beast himself was in his town but before he knew it had fallen asleep.

He woke in the morning feeling like his entire chest was on fire. So after calling a doctor he unlatched the front door and went to bed. The doctor left, apologising that there was nothing much he could do for broken ribs and Ainsley took one of the strong painkillers he’d brought him and fell asleep again until just after lunch.

As he went through the painful process of making tea and a sandwich Ainsley noticed that the tablets had made him confused and light-headed. Sure the pain was gone but he felt like he’s head was filled with cotton wool. Vaguely he turned the kettle on over and over again before looking at the clock and noticing that fifteen minutes had passed, the water was most definitely boiled now. He made his tea and headed out to the lounge room then realised he’d forgotten the milk. Ainsley walked back to the kitchen and forgot what it was he needed the moment he stepped into the room. This happened three times. Finally, milk in now lukewarm tea, he seated himself in his favourite seat by the window and promptly fell asleep once more.

When he woke night had fallen and the pain had returned in full force but before he took more tablets he ordered a pizza and rang Father Thomas. He gave the young priest a carefully edited version of what had happened and asked him if he would check on him several times during the next day.

When he woke the next morning the first thing he saw was the Archbishop’s face looking down at him wearing an expression of extreme displeasure. Ainsley had fallen asleep in his chair after eating a few pieces of pizza and taking more pills. It took him a moment to realise that his robe had fallen open and his eminence was staring with unconcealed hatred at the twin pentograms burnt into his pale, wrinkly shins.

Ainsley hurriedly pulled his robe closed and started spluttering an explanation but he was cut off by his very angry superior.

"What is the meaning of those Father? Have you gone completely around the bend? Thomas rang me and said I should check on you but never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d find something like this. I can’t possibly let you work again and I think you should go see a therapist of some kind."

And still the Archbishop went on and on and Ainsley stopped listening knowing that nothing he said would make one wit of difference.

The next two weeks he went nowhere further than the front garden, and each day he saw that one of his beloved rose bushes had been set burnt to nothing but a black skeleton. Ainsley knew exactly who’d done it but there wasn’t a person in the world who would’ve believed him. So each morning he silently gazed upon the wreckage of his garden and the rage inside him grew until he went through the day sometimes sure he was just about to spontaneously combust.

Ainsley never saw Samuel or Xothmog and there was no way he could stay up at night and wait for them to enter his garden as the pills kept sending him into nothing short of a coma within half an hour of swallowing them. But the pain was getting less and he knew the time would come soon when he could face them again.

He had forty rose bushes in his garden and almost half of them had been destroyed when one evening Samuel and the beast came walking down the road. Immediately the rage that Ainsley kept pushing down into his gut threatened to overwhelm him and it was with considerable effort that he stopped himself jumping straight through the window and throwing himself at both dog and man. As they walked past, a beautiful purple rosebush called Spellbinder burst into colourful flames at least six foot tall. Amazingly nothing else caught alight as the flames crackled greedily and spun like a catherine-wheel. Within thirty seconds it was over.

Ainsley looked out the window in shock. The rose bush that had just been destroyed was very rare and the pride and joy of his garden. He felt a scream building up in his throat and vented it. Ainsley screamed and howled and vowed that he would bring an end to the awful game he knew was driving him to within an inch of his sanity.

The next night as the twosome approached his property Ainsley was waiting. He crouched in the remnants of his garden, dressed completely in black with boot polish smeared across his face. He had a machete in on hand and an evil looking pair of garden shears in the other. As the noise of their approach reached his straining ears he put one arm across his mouth to stifle the insane giggling fit that was bubbling inside of him.

It’s almost over Ainsley, he thought to himself. Just wait till they go past and attack them from behind.

He froze as they walked past, then counted ten footfalls before leaping up and running after them.

Of course they had known he was there and had turned to face his charge unflinchingly. It did surprise him however to see that they were on the footpath when he’d distinctly heard the crunch of gravel indicating they were on the road.

Ainsley paused, weapons held aloft, then screamed a wild battle cry while waving the machete and garden shears. They stood and stared, showing no fear. Xothmog’s eyes glowed hot and red, illuminating a small area on the path and neither of them so much as flickered an eyelash as Ainsley came running their way.

The priest who was no longer a priest managed four running steps before a garbage truck came speeding out of nowhere and knocked him into the afterlife.

Father Thomas who had been watching from the front of the church couldn’t believe what had just happened. He’d been keeping an eye on Ainsley since he noticed him crawl behind the burnt rose bushes dressed like a thief earlier that evening. And now one more unbelievable thing was to happen before the nights events came to an end.

As Thomas watched, Xothmog trotted to where Ainsley had fallen and sniffed at the crumpled body then, cocked one leg and pissed on the old priest’s corpse before turning to where Thomas was standing concealed and giving him a very undoggy like grin. He could’ve sworn that was followed by a wink. Then man and beast walked off.

THE END


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