14 Years and 10 months
There are days that are more memorable than most. The kind of days that people relive in their minds through their entire lives. Sometimes we know it before those kinds of days happen but, more often than not, they tend to be a surprise gift. A happy accident.
But for some, even those serendipitous days are marked by something constant. A constant that refuses to wane or be forgotten. The blot on each page of their lives. Nothing short of a real-life curse. An imp sitting over their heads who nested somewhere deep within their minds and hearts.
Bleeding into their senses. Their wisdom. And their beings.
It’s there when they laugh. There when they love. And even there when they cry. Even as their tears roll down their cheeks, it’s the voice that tells them it’s not enough and yet they should be ashamed for giving into it.
For Suzie Lee the week on the lake with her friends and their chaperones would remain one of her happiest and the most adventurous moments of her childhood. It was her days that were more memorable than most.
They canoed through the wakes of the wild waters. They hiked through the creaking trees and where the wildlife cooed and watched. There was even an encounter with a bear and what was the most frightening moment of these young girls lives, in the end, became just another chapter of their adventure.
The fourth evening of their seven-day trip would be the most memorable moment for Suzie. But it would exist as almost a pocket memory of its own. Not because of the Devil but because it was another blot on an otherwise a perfect memory.
A more painful blot because it would have been, otherwise, a perfect childhood memory.
Suzie sat on the dock. Their red and yellow canoes were beached off on the side. The setting sun painted the lake with a blue and purple hue. The few islands they’ve visited filled the horizon like black domes, slowly losing their details to the fading light.
Blanketed by the grandiose nature and its twilight lit visage, Suzie wondered how difficult it’d be for her to drown herself in the lake.
If she pencil dived, no one might notice.
Pockets full of rocks.
A steely determination.
And then… fade away.
Into the cold.
Into the darkness.
No. Be real. Suzie told herself.
Pockets full of rocks.
A violent struggle.
Water pouring in through every crevice of her body.
Filling her lungs and stomach.
Possible last minute of regret.
Then… fade away.
Dangling in the cold. In the darkness. Her corpse gently being pushed one way or the other by the current.
Friends would cry. The family would cry. They’d blame themselves without realizing that the person who should be blamed the most was already gone.
And at that moment, Beelzebub appeared before Suzie in the most unnerving way that’d he would ever appear before her in her life.
From the distance, a familiar head slowly poked above the surface of the calm lake.
Beelzebub slowly ascended until he stood on the surface of the lake and stared at Suzie from afar.
He then took his steps towards her and for the first time, Suzie found herself being startled and nervous to see the Devil. She looked behind her at her friends and chaperone in a gregarious clamor. They had no idea that the Lord of the Flies had appeared. She knew they’d be of no help.
By the time she looked back, Beelzebub already stood before her with a stern look that she had never seen him with. But the dock was higher than the surface of the lake, so the Devil glared upwards at the young teen.
“Well, this just isn’t that menacing is it?” Beelzebub said. He climbed up to the dock and stood over Suzie.
“That’s better,” the Devil remarked.
“Hey,” the teen greeted her visitor.
“Hey,” the Devil replied.
“I didn’t call for you, y’know?” Suzie remarked.
“Your precious heart that wants to kill itself did,” the Devil didn’t sound much concerned.
“My heart, huh?” Suzie didn’t seem too impressed neither. “I have to be some special kind of a fuck-up if my crying, bleeding heart calls out to you instead of the other guy.”
“Well, gee, sorry for being a good friend and being there for you in your time of need. You were a lot cuter and more appreciative when you were younger.”
The Devil looked over to the campsite. Girls and women laughing. Telling stories. Eating snacks.
“Why can’t you just go there and enjoy yourself?” The Devil asked.
The girl did not answer.
“You were so happy… during this trip. Weren’t ya?” The Devil looked at Suzie who was still staring off to the lake with disinterest.
“I was,” Suzie finally replied. “And I think I am. Happy.”
“But what? I can breathe. I’m healthy. I’m with friends. My mom and pop have their issues but I know others have it worse. I should be goddamn happy. I’d be an ungrateful bitch not to be happy. I know that, okay? I know that. I’m so fucking happy.”
“….It’s as if… as if…” Suzie grew more and more agitated. These questions. Her feelings. Her lack of a better answer. The shame of admitting these answers. The embarrassment. “None of this is real? It’s all fading? And I’m just… never going to be able to hold on to anything. And I don’t… I don’t want tomorrow to come because it has to all start over again… and no matter what happens I’ll feel the same. Like something’s broken. Like I’m not good enough for anything. And I can’t get better. I want to be better but I can’t. And I’m so tired of it. I can’t even appreciate… appreciate that I’m out here. I’m just going to mess it all up somehow. I am messing it up.”
Suzie held her tongue. She was rambling. She felt silly. She felt trivial. She didn’t deserve to complain or feel bad.
Beelzebub to let silence come over them. Let them soak in what was said and what they were feeling.
“You thought about getting a shrink?” The Devil carefully asked.
“No. I just feel weird talking to some stranger about my problems. Like shit, you only care because I’m paying you.”
“Well there’s another way,” The Devil smirked.
“…My soul for the cure?”
“…Yeah,” The Devil seemed a bit embarrassed that Suzie stole his punchline.
“Does it work?”
“I wouldn’t offer if I didn’t think it was some sort of a solution.”
Suzie stared at the Devil for a little while and turned back towards the lake.
“Look, I know this beast better than you’ll ever know. It’ll only get worse,” Beelzebub began to make his case. “You’ll feel like you’re always running from your own shadow. And when you stand still it’ll be larger than you remember. You’ll have moments when you forget but those are the moments you’ll realize later just how sick you really are. Hopelessness.”
Suzie buried her face into her arms.
“You’re going to live your life feeling like you’re always just head above water. I’m the guy on the boat. But for me to give you my hand. To throw you the life jacket, I need something from you. I can’t help you without that.”
“…I believe you,” Suzie replied without looking up.
“You know,” Beelzebub felt flustered. What couldn’t she understand?
“At the end of the day who’s been there for you? When you felt like no one could hear those screams inside, when no one could tell that you were messed up. When you’ve felt alone, rejected, and unheard. Who was there for you?”
“But, you’re you. You’re the devil. You want my soul. That’s what you do.”
“Because I want you to be with me. I want you to be part of what I’m building.”
“And I don’t want to give it,” Suzie finally looked up. “Isn’t this fine the way it is?”
“And what is this, exactly? You don’t think I’m like a shrink? Just coming for your soul? Except I can actually help you.”
“Do you love me?” Suzie stared into the Devil’s eyes.
They stared in silence.
“Let’s not get gross, kiddo, alright?” This isn’t… that. Don’t get full of yourself.”
Suzie still stared in silence.
I wasn’t. She mouthed.
“I’m just asking. Do you love me?” She spoke.
“I love more of you than any of you will ever realize,” Beelzebub answered.
“You’re not my shrink. Far as I know our sessions have been free,” Suzie smiled. “I’ve already said no. Or maybe I’m fucking pathetic. I don’t know. But I like you as a friend. Friends tied by odd circumstances. You’ll always want my soul and I’ll always say no. Though the temptations there somewhere. Because this sucks.”
“Knowing that there’s something wrong with me and not being able to do anything about it. That I am the way I am.”
It was a question Beelzebub often pondered. She was the way she was. He was the way he was. But why?
“Is there a God?” Suzie asked.
“Who knows,” Beelzebub answered. It was not a question he could answer. Some of his brothers would tell her “no” or “yes”. Whichever they determined would help the case. But Beelzebub, without truly understanding why, believed his answer to be the correct one.
“If you’re real, He must be as well, right? I hope? For humanity’s sake?”
“That is being hopeful,” Beelzebub gave a sly smile. “Believing that there must be another side to this coin. What if this is it? What if I’m all you get? What’s worse?”
“Must be lonely for you,” Suzie said empathetically.
“At least, we get to believe. Hope. But you already know. Whether there is or isn’t. Either way, I’d feel like that’d be more lonely. More hopeless. Helpless. I don’t know. Maybe that’s why you come to see me.”
“You really were a better company when you were younger,” Beelzebub chuckled as he pulled out a cigar from thin air. Already cut and lit.
“Then stop coming to see me then.”
Beelzebub took a drag of his cigar and released the smoke into the twilight horizon.
“…can I try?” Suzie asked.
“You’re too poor for this,” Beelzebub answered.
“Yeah?” Suzie darted her head around to see her friend.
“We’re making s’mores and we were getting worried. Come join us?”
“Yeah! Sorry!” Suzie quickly looked around to see that the Devil was already gone.
Suzie and her friend chattered and walked back towards the camp as if nothing had happened. As if she had felt nothing. And when she looked back, all there was the empty dock and the beautiful scenery.
She won’t ask him to come back soon or that she’ll miss him.
They were what they were.
Usually, when Beelzebub entered his bar in Hell, it tended to be a bit more cheery. Nods from patrons here and there, some hellos, some flirtations, and sometimes even cheers on more festive nights.
But only choking stillness awaited him this evening.
The bar was full but silent.
Patrons spoke only in sparse whispers.
Obviously uncomfortable, but none willing to be the first to leave. Or at least, none willing to seem like they were eager to leave.
They all glanced at Beelzebub with a spark of hope in their eyes. Pleading eyes that cried,
And then they quickly turned their heads to their own crowds. Afraid that they would offend that one patron in the bar.
That one patron sat alone by the barside. Eating his order of liver and pomegranate with few flatbreads on the side. He had brought his own bottle of wine and offered some to the barkeep, Binkle, who graciously took the drink.
Beelzebub knew it wasn’t Michael. He knew soon as he opened the doors that there were only two beings that could unnerve the denizens of Hell to such extent and make the Lord of the Flies so tense.
“Brother,” Beelzebub carefully called out as he walked over to the patron.
The Brother once had a name.
A beautiful name bestowed upon him by his father.
But it was a name that’s been long forsaken. Only used to recite the Brother’s wrath.
“It’s gotten better,” the Brother spoke of his meal without looking up. “New cook?”
“No,” Beelzebub answered. “Same cook. He’s just gotten better.”
“Always better for the people you already have to improve than to hire new,” Brother cut and ate a generous bite of the liver. He then took a bite of the flatbread. Then took a sip of his wine.
“The bread could be the next thing to improve,” the Brother commented.
“Is that why you’re here? To be Hell’s Duncan Hines?” Beelzebub was irked by Brother’s presence but was careful to not let his emotions slip. And even more careful in choosing his words and attitude. He always thought it was better to not treat his brother with not an overt reverence that may be perceived as sycophancy, rather, simply seem respectful with gentle show hostility.
The Brother smiled.
“You’ve been going to the mortal realm,” Brother still didn’t bother to look at Beelzebub. Still focused solely on his meal.
“To see a girl?”
“Is it love? Lust?” The Brother said the latter with subtle, but violent disdain.
The Brother didn’t question Beelzebub. He knew that Beelzebub and his other brothers were far too wise to lie to him.
There the two sat, along with the rest of the patrons, in uncomfortable silence. Beelzebub declined a drink from Binkle. Only the Brother’s knife clanking against the plate as he cut the liver disturbed the silence.
“What is eternity without purpose?” The Brother finally spoke as he finished the last morsel of food on his plate. “What is eternity without passion?”
Beelzebub knew better than to answer one of these sorts of questions by Brother. The question was simply an invitation for a dramatic silence. A theatrical imposition rather than a thinking exercise.
“An eternity without purpose is being lost,” The Brother carefully placed the utensils onto the near immaculate plate. Neatly folded his napkin, placed it on the table, and then poured himself another glass of his wine.
“And an eternity without passion is being just a function. A perpetual, endless function.”
“And what are we trying to get at here?” Beelzebub asked with a slight snap.
“It’s embarrassing but I’ve been thinking a lot about the whole thing. For a long, long time. Why we are the way we are. Why they are the way they are. We’re at least made with purpose but what are they? And why were all of us made to be able to question our purpose? He trusted all of us so much. And yet I, his favorite, rebelled. I wanted to prove him wrong.”
“I thought it was to show him that we’re fine without his rules. His demands. That we can make a world for ourselves,” Beelzebub waved Binkle over as a way of ensuring of safe passage to pick up the plates and the utensils.
“That’s part of it. That in and of itself, I thought, made Him obsolete. I wanted to show him that he had made a mistake. The power to choose was unnecessary and perverse. I wanted to show him, ‘I am what you made of me. Happy now?’ In fact, I even had a chance to ask him that exact question before… all this.”
“What did he say to that?” Beelzebub remembered the fall. The war. It was imagined by humans to be of some sort of an actual war. In reality, they all simply left His presence. There was no bloodshed but only grievance by their brothers and sisters.
“He said, ‘You’re what you chose to be and you’ll be what you choose to be’,” the Brother scoffed. “I wonder what he thinks by what they choose to be. Rapists. Murderers. Incestuous perverts. And of those who despise Him with all of their hearts. That’s what they choose to be, father. Who is He to judge them when He’s the one who set them free? So I decided to give them a place. Here. They don’t have to live under a tyranny they can’t understand, governed by a being they don’t want to understand. Let them be, who they choose to be. What He always wanted. Everyone just doing whatever they want. Trying to make sense of choices. Trying to figure out their purpose. Trying to find their passion. Doing. Whatever. They. Want.”
“Even kill themselves,” Beelzebub chuckled.
“Or save them. Look at you. I’ve always meant us to show the ugliness of the humans to let them relish in it… but you… you don’t want any of the humans to actually understand suffering. The absence of God. The cruel reality of having choices. To understand why they need to come here. To be free. You didn’t want that girl to kill herself.”
“There are better ways to spend a life. Better ways she can get here. The suicide bunch tends to regret and leave if they ever find that things could have been different. They’re not understanding anything. They just want the things to end. They don’t like it the way it is. So they just want it to end. They’re just trapped and they want out.”
The Brother leaned in closer than Beelzebub was comfortable with.
“But what if I wanted her dead right then and there? Get her here and then sort it out.”
Beelzebub took a moment to search for his answer. But there was only one answer.
“I’d imagine you have the power to make any of us here do whatever you want,” the Lord of the Flies spoke frankly. “We’re mere insects compared to you.”
“And what would be the point of having any of you around if I were to do that,” the Lightbringer answered as he snickered.
Beelzebub gave the Brother a look.
“I know. I know. But I’m not Him. I’m not all-powerful, all-knowing being,” the Broher let out a big sigh. “Who gives a shit. Now… now… I’m so tired. I don’t know how He can keep this up. Or maybe He just doesn’t give a shit either. And I don’t give a shit what you’re doing Beelzebub. I just wanted you to know that. That’s why I came today. You don’t have my blessings with whatever you’re doing, but I frankly don’t care. I just want to have a nice meal. A nice drink or two. And maybe drive out somewhere to stare at the full moon as my dessert. That’s what’s on my mind.”
The Brother looked deeply into Beelzebub’s eyes.
“You know your purpose. Maybe you’ve found your passion. Who am I to get in your way? But looking at you. I admit I do feel lost about myself,” the Brother didn’t take his eyes off of Beelzebub. “So you have my blessings to do whatever the fuck you want.”
Beelzebub waved Binkle over. An odd sense of liberation washed through him.
“You want your drink?” Binkle asked.
“Vodka—” Beelzebub answered.
“Why?” the Brother interjected. “Is my drink not good enough for you?”
“Just bring me a wine glass.”
The overdue Part 3.
I think this is the part that had the most correct… soul *ba-dum-tss* and tone of the story.
There’s a lot of ideas here that could use some incubation time to properly develop and hatch. If I were to go through the editing and the rewrite process for this short story, this is the part that’d I’d look over first.
It was always planned to make the story mature as Suzie matures. To make the ideas, the odd philosophies, and the tone fit Suzie’s age. But there still has to be some sort of a deft and recognizable uniformity that carriers from section to section of the story.
I think the contrast is clear when comparing this part with Part 1. The story originally began as sort of a comedic short from a goofy idea I had while working other projects. The first part is really clear of that. But as the idea developed, it became something else.
And this is why editing and rewrites are important to a story. Because sometimes it’s hard to predict or plan how a story may develop or what new ideas, insights, and outlook you may get for your story.
Anyways. Sorry for the delay & thanks for reading!