Devon Washington sat on a box of preformed hamburgers opposite the unit's door, unable to stop shivering despite the heavy coat he kept within to stay warm when he had work to do inside. He tried not to look at the face peering through the door's small, film covered window at him, mostly a futile effort. He knew about the thing on the other side. Even though a part of him was hardened to terrible things, fear coursed through his veins. One glance into the all-pupil eyes in the hall outside turned some of Devon's blood to ice, just like the water on the floor. If something opened his veins the blood inside him would have been brighter than normal, but there was no way anyone could know that.
"You did very well, Devon," the being spoke. It looked human to a casual observer. The sound of the voice gave it away as much as the eyes to anyone focused. The words slipped from between pale lips with the tiny echoes of bugs feet while they investigated a container filled with rotten meat. The creature intended the sound to be that way, for effect. Indeed, it could have named the exact mausoleum where it originally heard such a thing, only to store it in memory to be reproduced on future occasions.
"Why are you still here? I didn't do anything all that bad, and I did what I did to be left alone. That was the agreement." Devon spoke with volume to get his emotions under control. His voice didn't conjure any grotesque associations. His will and resolve returned somewhat with the physical action of producing the communication. He had done something instead of sitting paralyzed with anxiety and foreboding. He spoke.
"I'm still here because you crossed the line. Man. You hurt an innocent child."
The creature smiled. The teeth behind the lips were perfect, pearly whites, but there were bits of uncooked flesh trapped between the canines and bi-cuspids on both sides. The fact that the flesh obviously belonged to a white person did not reassure Devon in any way. One more little trick accompanied the sight. Washington believed he could smell acute halitosis.
The dark skinned cook stammered, unprepared by the creature's statement and disgusted by the sensory perceptions that were not entirely real. "I didn't hurt anyone. All I did was get the kid in some trouble at school. It wasn't a big deal. And this was supposed to be the last thing I ever had to do."
"That you can sit there and say that false accusations don't hurt anyone shows so much about your character. A man went to the electric chair because of you, because you bore false witness; you lied. Now an innocent little boy has faced accusations of vile behavior, once again because of something you did. This story is going to follow him around, in his juvenile record, for the duration of his stay in this great state. Maybe even longer. And the only thing you can think about is going free. You haven't changed a bit."
The truth of the accusations penetrated the cook's consciousness like a fish hook. He felt psychic pain reverberating inside him as the words about the little boy echoed in his thoughts. While Devon heard the words as they were spoken, saw the entity's mouth move while pronouncing each syllable, he heard it all as his own thoughts while he huddled on the box. He felt remorse inside him, deep pain that he once again acted against the good and pure to save himself. He prayed.
The evil thing wearing the guise of a man uttered contempt. It issued forth in no language, but translated into English before arriving in Washington's awareness. "So now you beg forgiveness for spreading your filth in the world. It's so easy for you. All you have to do is ask and you are forgiven. That man was so much greater than this world deserved. That He gave up his life for the like's of you absolutely astonishes me. Even as you grovel internally, He has already forgiven you. You humans just have no idea how lucky you are."
Devon began to shed tears before the evil presence finished speaking, but he still heard it all. "No I am leaving, Devon Washington. Thank you for your help. In the days and weeks to come the true depth of your actions will become clear to you. You were not beyond saving, this time. We still have high hopes you will cross the line and wind up so far away from grace even your messiah won't listen. You have it in you. We're proud of you."
As suddenly as the horrifying being had appeared and driven the cook into the freezer it disappeared. Devon heaved until a thin stream of bile spewed from his mouth down to the floor. The seconds began going by again. He could tell because normal sound returned. The sound of the freezer kicking on set wheels inside his mind into motion. Light slowly refracted until the ice on the floor looked white and clear again. The creature was gone.
Washington stopped weeping, but he knew the remorse would be a long time departing. He never meant to harm a child in any way, and he managed to convince himself the task he found at hand would not do so. He buried the pain of his own false accusations in a crevice in his memories so he could accomplish what needed to be done. With all the secrets pulled aside he felt all the pain he caused the child, even though the little boy had barely suffered from it so far. Devon hoped the principal of the school would find the compassion to buck regulations and bury the incident so Mark Thompson would completely forget it ever happened, but it was too small a thing for the principal to be concerned about, Devon was sure.
Devon Washington received nothing from the forces of evil. He did not take contracts to perform services in exchange for goods or favors. Complicated applied to the situation very well.
From a very young age Washington perceived the world differently from other human beings. He saw things other people did not see. He heard them and smelled them too. He thought of all the bad things as devils, just as he thought of the good beings he saw as angels. The differences between the two strains of Washington's metaphysical perceptions could not be easily described with words such as good and evil because his experiences went beyond the reaches of logic and normal language, but while describing the bad as evil was not easy, and was too shallow, he knew it would be incorrect to use any other term. It should be noted that "perceptions" is really the only good word with which to refer to Washington's experiences; nobody else shared the experiences.
Over the course of his long life Washington pieced together a lot of knowledge that could not be learned from any books or in any classrooms, at least not any he knew about. As far as he could tell real angels were sinless, virginal human women. Children came in a very close second in purity, but their free will had not been given enough rein yet to demonstrate the depth of their inner goodness. The world had plenty of good men, but none Washington ever encountered struck him as even remotely holy on a divine level.
It really wouldn't surprise anyone who knew him that some of the things Devon Washington believed to be true were not, and some of the things he did not believe were very true. The fact that all the devils were the same being had completely escaped his attention, owing to the fact that he placed too much faith in his own perceptions. He also mistook the angelic for actual divine entities. Delving any further into Devon's mythology is best left for another time.
The long vicious cycle in which Devon Washington found himself trapped did originate with a bargain he struck with the devil while he was still a very young man. The terms of the agreement in no way included the exchange of his undying soul for anything. In practice the agreement worked out a lot closer to such an arrangement than he thought possible at the time he made the deal.
Over the course of his life Devon Washington decided that deals with the devil's different faces were always the same. He assumed evil always wanted someone with clouded morality and sight such as his to arrange for an innocent human being to suffer hardship, because that was the only infernal arrangement he ever encountered. He started off by agreeing to help convict a man of murder in exchange for absolute mastery of the guitar.
Devon Washington cherished an electric Les Paul that he inherited from his father. It was the only thing his father left him. When one day one of the devils that he had seen occasionally throughout his life appeared to be open to communication, Washington decided to discuss the subject of a deal with it. He calculated that he could live comfortably forever with the money he would make from being a world renowned musician. He approached the discussion carefully.
Washington would have rejected the devil's proposition entirely if every detail had been known at the time of the agreement. An agreement was reached in which Devon testified falsely against a man in a murder case, but the devil made it seem very much like the man was guilty before Devon agreed. The devil told the truth after the man was convicted of a murder he did not commit, a truth that very much made that man a victim as well.
Devon's conscience ate at him after the jury decided to sentence the innocent man to death. One morning, having arrived at the truth of the matter because of the devil's gloating, Washington decided he could not live with himself if the state executed an innocent man because of his own false testimony. Devon got dressed in nice clothes, looking ahead to being booked for perjury.
Before Washington could get into his car he was shot in the head by the convicted man's brother. The bullet entered Devon's skull through his left eardrum, and also damaged that part of the responsible for hearing. The attack left him completely tone deaf, although still able to hear very clearly. He would not perceive anything he heard for almost eight months however, for he lapsed into a coma. During that time the man he testified against was murdered in prison and the man's brother was convicted of attempted murder. Washington would have a considerable burden of guilt to bear for the rest of his life and would never be the musical super star he had wanted to be.
Not long after regaining consciousness from the coma Devon realized that his reality had changed significantly. Devils stopped by to chat with him on a regular basis, or, rather, direct their speech at him. He couldn't communicate in return or he would have been committed to a mental institution faster than a Port Allen crackhead could cross the Mississippi River on payday. Evil was delighted that Washington had not died, for he would have done so in state of grace and been free forever. Instead of going to heaven the young man, still only in his twenties, was subjected to mental torment whenever the devil got bored or had some plan in mind.
Devon Washington had a strong psyche and deep spiritual beliefs, so it took a couple of years for him to break. It took twenty-six months, in fact, of seeing, hearing and smelling a devil that the rest of the world could not perceive before Washington couldn't take it anymore. He just wanted it to stop, to be left alone. Not only did the power of evil have a lot of things to say that could be considered real downers, but Devon's angels seemed to avoid him with great alacrity during those visitations. He not only could not meet angelic women, but they practically vanished from his life altogether. After that he began entering into very trivial agreements in exchange for periods of his life in which he would be undisturbed by any unholy entity.
Not until he agreed to get a little boy in trouble did Washington ever agree to anything he personally found egregious. It was supposed to be the last thing he would ever do for "a devil," but as the events of the night showed that was not to be the case. He had not carried out his end of the bargain to the letter. The mess for which Mark Thompson was to be accused was supposed to be extremely nasty and objectionable.
In the end Devon decided not to carry out the devil's wishes to a tee. The entity's visitation had not been surprising, although the discussion had been. Devon expected to eventually hear about failing to include filth in the scene, but not so quickly. He didn't hear about that at all, and was instead confronted as though he had done exactly what the devil hoped for. He was deeply shaken by how serious the encounter had been, and concluded that he had been entirely correct about the level of protection children receive from God and His son. The things the entity said revealed to Washington that he could very well have fallen far from grace if he had sinned too deeply against innocence.
Devon picked himself up from his seat in the freezer, feeling his old bones creak and ache as he did so. The cook was in his late forties, and consoled his own suffering with the knowledge that the older he got the closer he came to eternal peace. He opened the door of the freezer and set about leaving the restaurant to go home, as though nothing had happened. He wasn't looking forward to the moral discomfort of learning more about the child and the false accusation, but he had to admit his curiosity was peaked.
The back of the kitchen reeked of blood. Devon could see gradually vanishing footsteps that ended abruptly at the back wall. As always they resembled melted spots in the shape of a goat's hoof that appeared to contain miniscule living creatures unless examined directly, in which case they disappeared more rapidly and emitted faint traces of sulfur fumes in the process.
The bulletin board on the back door sported a brand new certificate Washington couldn't help but notice on his way out. It read:
He hadn't sold his soul for an eternity of torment, Washington mused, it just felt like it. He wondered if anybody who may have considered hell could be a bad joke had pondered just how horrible a joke could be. After stepping outside and locking the door Devon noticed a body beside a car in the parking lot. He could see a large pool of blood around it, and didn't have to look closely to notice chew marks. He walked to his car, got in and drove away, having decided the corpse was not his problem, if it was really there.Devon Washington
Second Place Winner
∞Elysium Cooking Contest∞
for his own new recipe
★Little Boy's Head Drizzled in Chocolate Sauce★
[To be examined for errors that may have occurred during digital transcription process at a later time. As I mentioned in the long lead up to the release of this chapter, I decided to significantly alter my approach to A Mist of Blood Red Goauche. Efforts to force the work to adhere to the confines of normal reality would have resulted in disaster. The original Chapter Seventeen was discarded because it was too mundane to be enjoyable. Chapter Eighteen was rewritten with the intent of making the reader's entertainment the highest goal.]