Devil’s Advocate

The mundane business of dying.

Shadows.  Speech.  A dream.

“What the Sam Hill is going on in this court room?”

The businessman summons something.  The swirling darkness becomes a court room.  The ghost of his assistant warns him:

“The prosecutor, sir- he’s not of this world.”

“But I thought he was the judge!”

“He’s that too, sir, apparently.  The celestial court room is rigged, and the prosecuting angel has found you wanting.”

“I always knew the Devil was a lawyer.”

“Shh- he’s reached his ruling!”

A third eye burns on his head.  The Left Hand utters his judgement:

“Your soul is piss-ugly and dark as Lucifer’s shit.  I can, however, be swayed by vodka.”

“And?”

“And what?  Cough up the Play Bunnies and alcohol and I let you off.  There will, however, be a cost.  Just a paltry thing.  Your  get-out-of-Hell-free fee.”

“A cost- I see.  You want my soul, I presume?”

“Are you out of your rotting mind?  Your soul is hideous.  No.  Your daughter.”

“My daughter?  That, sir, is too far!”

“You summoned me to court.  Only I can prevent Michael’s shining sword from being rammed up your sinning ass.  Trust me, it’s not pleasurable at all.”

“My- my only child?  I could never…”

The Judging Angels smirks.

“Eternal torment, human.  Do you know how long eternity is?”

So the father sold his child to the man of many names.

*

Seven winters pass.  She has the face of a starving angel.  Her mother dies in labor.  The father does not remember.

Each night, she has a visitor.

“Daddy, I saw him again.  The Shadow Man.  He was standing at my door, watching me- daddy, I can’t sleep.”

His daughter stands before him, clutching her stuffed doll against her trembling chest.  He tucks his little angel into bed, urging her to sleep.

“It’s just your imagination, sweetheart.  Monsters belong in movies.  Now shh,” he whispers, stroking her flaxen hair.  “Daddy- daddy’s here for you.”  He flips on the TV, unable to shake inexplicable fear.  She drifts off to sleep.

He curses under his breath.  Above, her room is pristine, with a silky pink bower over her bed.  He often marvels at how she plays.  She sequesters herself in her room, methodical in the perfectly arranged tea sets.  She sits there all day, rearranging the china cups and perfect, porcelain dolls.  She holds them like relics, smoothing the pleats in their dresses, calming a stray hair.

Then, she will sit and stare.  Humming softly to herself, the strain of a violin.  Her father can never complain.  She is the perfect child.  Quiet and obedient.  An angel in the making.

“Daddy, don’t leave.  He’s coming.”

She will wake with bruises on her thighs.  Acid kisses fester.  Hidden under muslin, not allowed to show her dad.

“No, darling,” he whispers, stepping past the threshold.  “There’s nothing here.”  Gently, he shuts the door.  He closes it fast so the shadows cannot catch him.  A wind creeps under the door slit.  Something ices his bones.  He stumbles down the staircase and fall into stupor-ed sleep.

A vicious silhouette slinks from behind tf his daughter’s door.  It stands by her bedside.  A freezing draft teased the lacy curtains.

“Nothing here?” A chthonic voice echoes.  “Oh, but of course there is.”

The shadow brushes her hair back.  Kisses the child’s brow.  It sings a lullaby, somber, like the wind.

She stirs, rosebud lips opening in question.  Her cherub nose tilts upward, as if breathing in the moon.  He hushes her silent struggle, kisses her asleep.

“In time.  In time.  In time.”

*

Rains come. They flood her soul.  The world turns, as it would.

Her father lay sdead in the ground, pale and rigid as crypt.  She sits in the shadow of his masoleum, crimson umbrella fending off the rain.  It pours from the stone eaves like tears from angels’ eyes.

The funeral procession marched away, a ghost train on the wind.  She has imagined it in her head- it is only a flock of crows.  Three for a wedding, ten for Old Scratch  No one had come to mourn him.  Only her, in black lace and a nude taffeta gown.  

She curses the corpse below her.

Her mourning veil drifts in the stormy wind.  The roses she carries wilted, white as the touch of death.  She sips pomegranate tea, paralyzed to her fate.  The drink mists like a ghost.  She waits at the mausoleum’s steps.

“I know you’re there,” she whispers.

A crow caws in the dripping pine.

She draws a doll from her purse, hands clad in calfskin gloves.  The shadow takes it from her, brushing against her skin.  His touch is like winter’s bone.  

“Such a fragile thing.  How charming.”  The thick shadows recede.  They revealing the pale cold one.  Sam Hill grins back at her.  He holds the porcelain girl, placed it atop her father’s coffin.  “We will bury her, but not yet. It is good to look at your rot.”  He traces the doll’s cracks.  “These are the dead parts of you.  You can be her no more.  Go ahead-” he says gently, hands on her shoulder.   He guides her to the base of the stone. She stares down at the faded doll.  “Make peace, dove.”

“With what?”

What ties you to this world.  Your innocence.  It was a thin thread cut by death.”

“You know I won’t go with you.  I’m taking my life if you do,” she says calmly.  She withdraws a silver blade.  

Antique Venetian?  Impressive.  Either way, dear angel, you know that I will have you.” His voice rasps like an addict’s.  His darkness drown her, suffocating like a black cloud.  She recoils, tripping blindly down the steps to falling in an icy puddle.  He lifts her off the ground.

“Either way, I have you.  I hoped it was alive.  But dead- dead can work.”

“So I have no choice?” she demands.  “Absolutley none at all.”

Some claims run deeper than blood.  Nothing keeps the moth from her flame.”

“It was made before I was born.”

There is no birth or death.  Just change.”

“Then what are you?”

“An end.  A dance.  A beginning.”

“Sam Hill, rot in Hell.”

“Gladly.  If it’s with you.”

Her cheeks burn with anger.  She smashes the doll on the stone.

Thirteen crows caw above.  She whispers a broken rhyme.  She knows what it means.  A curse.

They bury the shattered porcelain,.  It is a spiriting away of sorts.  Mists rise in their trail.  Lilies bloom in their wake.  His raiment is death, her bridal train crows.  He holds her in the crook of his arm.  

“You won’t miss much.  I promise.  This place is cruel and broken.

“I never loved this world.”

 

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The Monster Comes at Night

It goes like this.  The girl is born with a silver spoon, with gold hair and teeth like pearls, but inside she is death and moonlight magic, a graveyard his coffin fits into, and the Devil lusts after the glimmering strands of her wyrd, like an amber and pink aurora borealis, and the way her blood redeems him simmered to a fine stewing panic on his tongue.

She is in love with his poison and makes a bed of ruin with Satan, for who could understand her monster better than the most deformed, wicked, tortured and enfettered drunkard in the world?  Who else lashes out with the storm of a bipolar hurricane?  They smash bones and slit throats, they drink down the gore of each other, and it is hate fuck after drunk nude after shitty love poem after breakup and makeup and make out and early fumblings in preteen years then knowing each other’s bodies like a favorite instrument.

Their love is a house on fire, with a wife and husband trapped inside that is too busy screaming grit out of lungs at each other over another high and lush fight to notice flames licking their flesh.

The Prince of Darkness comes early  at the stroke of three, when she is cradlebound, and he sings to her in a voice so sweet and eldritch, with eyes like a Lovecraftian abyss.  He is the Prince of Lies, but never does he come disguised as an angel of light to her.  He would rather show her his rot, with red siren eyes and chains grating along with the shrieks of the Damned.

A two-year old does not know good from bad, polarities or light or darkness, just that the blackness holds her demon.  That he tortures her and eats her father as a hellhound at four, that in daylight hours he is the Shadow Man that feels like Kelvin Zero, absolute cold who stalks the house and slams doors.

At six she’s making monsters, drawing chimeras of angels and demons, and she gives him the name Doom.  Rood or curse or whipporwill, for his song is sweet and of the fall, or perhaps a mourning dove, in mourning for nothing but his pride, for he is a dirge and the tolling of chapel bells at a funeral.

He gives life and takes it.  He makes her and destroys her.  She claws and hugs and kisses and grows into an iron rose.  At twelve she meets him – Samael, the Venom of God – and he is rich claret Martian robes on a marble throne, golden circlet, and fine long black hair and rose eyes.  She always called his eyes roses, when anyone else would have run, anyone else would have screamed rape and abuse and sometimes she still does, but angels are drawn to darkness, don’t you know the heart of a seraphim is so burning she must slake her brilliance in the abyss?  Don’t you know that Life loves Death?  Don’t you know that Love needs Hate?

These names can go on and become meaningless, as meaningless as lover’s spit on invading tongues and cum mixed with blood, but in the end is the Princess and the Dragon, at the fairytale’s close is the Grim Reaper and the Lady Life he reaped.  Samael planted a twisted vine in Paradise that fruited into the heart she carries, and she is half-man, half-pain, all beast.

He tells her enough stories to fill a universe, and wounds her enough to fill an ocean of blood.  There are strands of skeletons, there are cliffs of rotting organs, Hell is black chasms and sulfurous red skies and the bloody Styx.  But it has such a wretched beauty, and Satan is a wretch, the monster that pulls at her heart and squeezes the chambers to remind her he owns her, he created her, but really she owns him, doesn’t she, and at night the monsters come, at dusk there’s the tingle of the spine, and no matter how much ink she bleeds onto the page, she will never be free of her demon.

 

The Screaming Hollow

I met the devil at midnight, in bruises, bandages and blood,
we danced until my feet were bone, and the screaming hollow
wept with playing cards, magicians say they know you, own you
but your fury and madness are the rabid jackals and wild wolves
to tame Satan is only to take his own poison into your heart,
it is a slow death melting on a sacred whore of a flame, bent
between two needfires over a pit of gore, Solomon told no tales,
the rabbis did not utter your name, you are the Samiel wind,
hottest black sun, master of scorched corpses and festering wound
pray to the idols, the golden calves, raise pyres to witches
and the fivefold kiss, carry the Grim Reaper in your arms
and be the Consort of Sammael, Dread Lady, Angel of the Boneyard,
Watchdog of the Graves, his throne iron and crushed headstones,
meet him in girlhood and have him lead you to every dark crevasse,
palpitate your heart like butterfly wings and drink your moonblood,
devour your virginblood, suck the lifeblood out of hip junctures,
the Dark Lord marches, the Prince of Ruin flies, the dogs howl
at Great Sammael as he takes his twelve-winged flight up Sephiroth,
zig zag across stars like lightning, feast on the flesh of Damned,
drink down his seed and bear his children, your son Azazel Scapegoat,
your daughters little Liliths with blonde hair, Naamahs with cymbals,
a Holocaust is all Hell, your dreams are long fucks and quick rides
on a motorcycle that was once a pale steed, you couple in filth, decay
rains from the sky as his embrace strangles and lips suck your soul,
you are six feet under in his arms, and his eyes are poison cabernet,
he planted the first vine of grape and pomegranate, first apple seed
is his heart, fructified within your loveless ribs, screaming ecstasy
for Eve, bitter ruin for any Adam you marry, for the Serpent owns all.

I Suck at Necromancy

Scapula, scapular, it’s all the same, for he
has scalpeled himself into remains, a corpse
white nude on a dungeon floor, blinking lights
in the laboratory of ruin, smooth muscle, arch
of ribs and abdominals, sunken eyes, black hair
that spools out like secrets into pools of blood
I know this is one of his tricks, his games, but
I cry anyways, rock Death in my arms, press cold
limbs and face to my breast, bloody a pink dress
his rigor mortis is frozen in a smirk, and with
dead red eyes, he watches me, staring ever upward
to Heaven, but there is no Heaven, this is Hell,
and there is a great black abyss, gouging wound
where his heart should be – I’ve eaten it before
like Siegfried the Dragon, its in my bloodline
to devour the immortality of monsters, but this
time, I did not pry it from his chest, instead
he has pinned his throbbing life onto a silver
dissection board in the freezing morgue, door
ajar and letting mist seep over his carcass,
the chambers dance, the veins pulse, it is a
puzzle – how do you make the Grim Reaper alive?
I take a needle and surgical thread and sew the
Forbidden Fruit back into his chest, but his body
is rotting, black veins, a stench like roadkill,
press the skin flap over, stab my toe on a needle
I cry out as the webbing of my feet beads alizarin
rocking back and forth, my blood paints his lips
damask, a rasping tongue licks up the offering,
and my Frankenstein monster groans, trembles, arise
to clutch his girl, his master, to his broken heart
Samael laughs and says I’ve done a shit job at
necromancy, that I should stick to dissections,
and with long pianist fingers he pries the little
needle from my foot and tosses it carelessly onto
the floor, he soothes me, singing a demon lullaby:
“I broke myself apart because you’ve stolen my heart,
it was a present just for you, my cardiophore, you
are the Life to my Death, and that is why you thirst
after destruction – what did you learn from my puzzle?”
I press my head to his bone white breast and sigh:
“I hate when you hurt yourself, you’re never satiated.
Isn’t my love enough? Can’t you be happy with my
devotion, my crying out for your touch, my madness?”
Samael deposits me on an oxblood comforter and sits:
“I will never drink my fill of your blood, I am Void
incarnate, and someday, you will realize why I gave
you my very soul – to create Life, Sin from Satan’s
heart full-sprung, Eve with hair of sorrow, Jophiel
whose wings are damnation, someday you will realize
why I cling to you like a knight his sword, a man his
wife, but for now, let us cradle each other in shadow
and dream of days when we are whole – the impossible.”

Lilith and Eve in a Shadowbox

Lilith’s body is in the branches, her roots
coils of a wooden snake wrapped round Eve
it all starts with a Woman and a Tree, bark
the dark of the Mother of Monster’s skin,
her hair black as rue at midnight, greendark
Eve is always gold, hair brass, skin like sun
she lays like Aphrodite in her bower of grass
body curved in comparison to Lilith’s sharp
collarbone and ribs, Eve’s breasts heave as
Lilith probes her veins, snakes of bones all
tremble as the women join, it is a shadowbox
of two women trapped in each other, and I look
at the past of humanity and demon’s mothers –
Mother of Life, Mother of Abortion, clashing
in this diorama that Samael shows me in dreams
the dead are at the door, the Lilitu and corpse
children of Samael and Lilith, and I am New Eve
barricaded behind a door in a worn library, my
lover my monster, my past trapped behind glass
the Evil Queen sent her brood to bring me back
to her, and the Devil always hands me over to
his Queen, so I just laugh at how desperately
Lilith and Samael cling to a woman who does not
want them, blue languor eyes glance bone skin,
the bruise black Lilitu come, eviscerate me, I
am always breaking for the two of them, spilling
jewel guts for the King and Queen of Hell, and I
gave up asking after Lilith’s lips long ago, how
she is both Mother and Childless, Queen, Pariah –
but the shadowbox my corpse clutches to her breast
tells a different tale, of a simpler time, a quiet
temptation under the shade of an apple tree, with
a snake, a tree, a demoness, and an overcurious girl
who never learns not to kiss enemies who always end
up being the death of her, a sweet death, one that
tastes like the dregs of red wine, my blood fountains
Samael and Lilith both search through my viscera for
answers, but I never give up my secrets, no matter
how many daggers and scythes they dig into me, and
to be honest, I enjoy dying to wake out of dreams,
for at least when the Reaper truly comes, and Black
Madonna of Hell sings a lullaby, I will be all ready
to follow them down into Gehenna, to burn, smolder
and finally learn what drove demons to covet mortals.

The Shadow Man

sacred_heart_by_honeysuckle_wine-d9iwjjmSamael is the Void reaching out with its hungry maw to swallow you whole.  His presence is crushing, weight of black hole dead star hearts.  He is dark matter, nonexistence, a thin veneer of skin slapped over the howling abyss.

As a child, I called him the Shadow Man.

Four year old Allie is curled up in bed with a picture book at the end of a long hallway at the back of a house.

Sudden freezing cold.

Trudge.  Trudge.  Trudge.

SLAM.

Just like that, I see an eldritch THING – man but monster, swallowing light whole – walk a jittering clawed walk down the hallway and slam my parent’s door like one of Guillermo del Toro’s ghosts from Crimson Peak.

I run screaming to the kitchen only to find my mother, tea kettle whistling.

“Mommy, did you just go to your room?”

A curious look on her face.

“No, Allie, I’ve been out here for hours making dinner.”

“Mommy, I saw a monster.”

Strained laughter.  “You must have been napping, Allie.  Go back and play.”

He appears in my dreams an omen.  A hellhound that devours my father.  A black snake that strangles my breath.  Any monstrous form, he takes it.  But the Shadow Man is one he returns to, over and over.

I’m 14.  My grandmother is deathly ill.  I am staying up late reading a book under the covers.

Freezing cold.

Shadows seep under my doorway.

BANG.  BANG.  BANG.

I shriek, but by the time the scream leaves my throat, he is gone.

The next day, my grandmother is rushed to the ICU and barely escapes with her life.

I look up the three knocks of death, a superstition that Death knocks three times before disaster strikes.

I’m sixteen, away at UVA’s Creative Writing Camp.  In the shower, he whispers the names of the dead to me.  Clarabelle.  I find her 17th century headstone the next day in a centuries-old graveyard, searching for the ghoul portal from my beloved Neil Gaiman’s stories.  We visit Poe’s room.

Later that night, walking under a deserted part of Charlottesville under a train track with my new friend, a girl who can talk to crows, for whom corvids fly across the country following her trail from park to field to barrow, I feel The Cold again, seeping from the ground, curling up my  spine, caressing my breasts.  My breath steams and I turn.

He wears a mask of flesh, but his eyes are dead.  Black hoodie, torn jeans, chains and piercings everywhere, messy long black hair, bloodshot eyes, and blood dripping from fangs.

I grab her hand, whisper “Don’t look back.  Not once,” and we run to safety, miles away, until the cold is gone and we can run no farther.

His howl of a laugh follows us.

I’m seventeen, and I dream of a murderer coming to my bedroom when I wake up.  At first I think it is summer, as it is in real life, but I look out my window to see a wasteland filled with bloody snow.

Glint of a long, sharp knife.

Boots.

Trudge.

Trudge.

Trudge.

I scream and hide under the covers, rocking back and forth, shutting my eyes in the dream to force myself to wake up.

I wake up.  It is summer.

The lights die.

Trudge.

Trudge.

Trudge.

A hollow, soulsucking laugh.

A knife at my throat.

I close my eyes.

Wake up.  Sleep.  Trapped.

Finally, the seventh time, the lights work.

My love’s body is pressed against me, a long strong arm around my waist.

My love is cold as the dead.

I turn to see the Shadow Man curled up in bed next to me, caressing me, tucking hair behind my ears.

“Good morning, love.

My shrieking and cold sweat wake me up, but on my lips I can feel the grave.

I’m eighteen, the summer before college.  I’m singing Disney songs as I make an omelette with way too much garlic.  I dance with a broom.

I forget the burner is on.

I am lost in my own daydreams.

My dog freezes in place and barks behind me.

I smell sulfur and the smell of roadkill and death, a smell that often accompanies Samael, alongside rotting roses.

My dog cowers and pisses herself.

I turn to see a towering twisted demon with bat wings, pointing at the burner, from which smoke is rising.

I nod and rush to turn the burner off.

Though it is summer, it is cold as the lowest Circle of Hell.

I feel him often, a breath of ice in my marrow, wings or arms enfolding me, pressing me against his chest when I am on the subway, driving, or simply walking on Capitol Hill.

He comes to me in dreams in a robe of writhing shadow, as black tentacles, as Death, True Death, and I say my house is haunted, but in truth I am haunted, because the Shadow Man follows me, to a freshman dorm he haunts the hell out of – rattling beds, doors and drawers slamming and shutting on their own, a printer that prints the Exorcist’s head twist by itself, the sound of dead bodies falling upstairs in the locked off dark attic.  My night terrors intensify.

He says I must marry him.

I refuse.

I wake up each morning to phantom roses.

I say I will never be his.

Come summer, in the froth of my mania, I set his altar on fire to get rid of him, my pictures of the Reaper offering his heart to me and faceless Death for whom I have left out dried roses, red wine, and gold foil chocolate coins.

My house nearly burns to the ground.

I try to jump out the window to escape him.

I get carted away to the psych ward.

I run for over 23 years until I finally say yes.

Sometimes, it’s better to give in.

Devil’s Masque

The pageantry, the placid glass –
eventide brings sly Devil’s Masque!
I Larva with gold lips, black eyes
a smile hidden under velvet lies.
The Devil is Arlecchino, master
of pomp, cane tap, dance faster –
lose yourself in Viennese waltz
hidden identity, swirl of a valse!
Skirts bell out, gentlemen lead
the ladies on like finest steeds
all Hell is resplendent, lowest
classes to high, a tango slows
the whole Masque down, Satan
rosins bow, croons strings in
we trade our masks amidst din
of lover’s quarrels, the flight
of bats, outside the blight
of plagues rage fast, sinners
bow to the Red Death, dinner
the flesh of forbidden pears,
silver wine, unearthly airs.
Lose yourself in Masquerade,
forget your name, come, trade
your mortal life for eternal
dance, the masque infernal
holds all Hell in his hands.