Friday, February 10, 2017

The Demon and the Bookstore

Part 1, The Demon's Tales
Part 2, The First Sinner's Story
Part 3, The Second Sinner's Story Prologue
Part 4, The Second Sinner's Story
Part 5, The Last Sinner's Story

As much as she loved all of these stories, she was haunted by the lack of more stories in Hell.  Consumed by the reports of books and movies and plays on earth.  So many stories that one could spend a lifetime reading and watching and still not know them all.  The Demon had long ago exhausted all the stories in Hell and they only trickled in as fewer and fewer people read books.

Now, there are demons who stay in Hell to watch over the sinners, and those who leave Hell periodically to tempt people and create new sinners.  Or just to create havoc.  Depends on the demon’s personality.  One of these was a friend of our Demon— at least as much as demons have friends— which they don’t.  She begged him before his trips to bring back books.  Any books he could find.  After all, it’s not like demons pay for things.

Her friend never did.  Just as demons don’t have friends in our sense of the word, they don’t bring back gifts when they travel as we do.  Actually, they don’t give gifts at all since one of the things that makes a demon is supreme selfishness.  He thought the request was rather odd and a bit perverse.  So through the centuries, hearing more and more of the piles of stories on earth, (And then came movies!  And video games!!  Every day there were more and more stories.) she became more and more determined to escape Hell, reach earth, and read every book and watch every play and movie she could find.  To master video games.  To immerse herself in fiction of every sort and kind.

But escaping Hell is no easy feat, even for a demon.  She had a job to do that she must report to everyday.  She had responsibilities.  Not to mention the many safeguards put in to keep people in.  Without which there would be thousands of escapes every day.  They’d learned that within the first few souls that had come to Hell and two of those were still missing to this day.

She was patient.  For 2 centuries she prepared.  She knew she would need things to take with her.  Music to soothe the murderous beast at the gate.  A coin for the ferryman to be taken across the river.  Other tolls and bribes to be paid in one sort or another.  For 2 centuries she did favors, took on extra shifts, did various dirty work, and collected items.  A flute, a violin, a lyre, none of which she could play, since there is no beautiful music in Hell.  A coin.  Various other troublesome gifts.  Until finally she had everything she needed and set out on her adventure to escape Hell.

It was some adventure and several times she nearly didn’t make it.  Her music, no matter the instrument, only served to rile the beast, not soothe it to sleep.  The ferryman declared her coin no good.  Another demon she had paid beforehand decided he should up the price.  And finally, alarms went off and she had to run for her life or risk getting caught and being punished.  Chained and tortured as one who sins against good.  She would risk becoming human.

At the last moment, near her escape, they did turn her human.  But against all odds she still escaped and being human went from curse to blessing.  As a demon they could track her.  As a human, they could not find her unless she sinned.  And being so familiar with what those infractions were, she lead a blameless life.

The next problem was learning to survive on earth.  She’d never eaten something before.  She’d never slept or dreamed.  At first dreaming frightened her.  She woke up in cold sweats, dreaming she was back in Hell and trying to escape.  She woke up and after calming down she realized what she’d done and started to laugh, which greatly disturbed the other inhabitants of the homeless shelter she was sleeping at.  But she was so delighted.  Her own mind had begun to create stories.  She never knew that could happen.  It was wonderful and she meant that in the original sense of the word, in that it filled her with wonder.  It seemed all creatures on earth spent some time asleep, and all of them created stories, down to the last lark and katydid, they dreamed.

Now on earth she understood how so many humans wound up in Hell.  There were the greedy, the selfish, the liars, and the hypocrites. Those who did not help their fellow humans.  Those who ignored the cries of the oppressed, or worse, were the oppressors.  She did not try to save them.  To attempt it would alert Hell to her.  It was dangerous to be either too bad or too good.  She simply lived quietly and did what she could to help others, even if it meant a little less reading time.

In the end she found a job in a small bookshop that sold both new and used books.  It was in a tourist town and during the summers they were busy and during the winters she had unlimited time to read.  She went to the movies every week or sometimes more.  She bought season passes to the local theaters.  She bought a computer and all the consoles and played through the story mode of video games.  She learned that it was true, there were more stories than any one human could read or watch or learn in a lifetime.  Lifetimes were also a new concept for her.  The idea that eventually she would die and the stories would go on without her.  It made her read and watch and play as much as she could.  Time was short.

I won’t tell you where she is.  It may put her in danger.  But I will tell you that there are a few signs by which you can recognize her if you look.  She is more hairy than you will be comfortable with.  Her eyes are a bit more black than you’ve ever seen in a real person before.  The irises a little larger than normal eyes, just enough to make you shiver, not enough for you to realize why.  You will fear her for no reason you can think of at all.  You don’t need to.  In truth she is better than you because she has been so much worse than you will ever be.  It’s a strange sort of logic.  She will not harm you.  She will not lead you astray.  She has only come for the world’s books.  She has no need for you.

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