21 Years and 2 months
There’s no such thing as a dull love story to those who are in it.
They had met in an ethics class at their university.
The first date was at a Thai restaurant close to campus.
It was a rocky tumble into love. Neither of them was what they imagined their spouses would be.
Their first kiss was in the car after their second date.
They married on a spring about two years after and had a child by the winter.
The girl grew up in the reverie of her childhood where she dreamed many dreams.
A dream of an occupation that she saw as her fairy tale.
A dream about a husband that’d be her prince.
And a dream about a family that’d be her happily ever after.
The tomorrows came slow, but the yesterdays piled on quick. Before she knew it, the child had already realized many things she had imagined and dreamed. And she had long forgotten or abandoned many that she didn’t.
But all of these were the threads that made her no longer a child.
Perhaps the child-her wouldn’t approve of the venue for the moment she once dreamed of.
She may also not approve of the soon-to-be husband that was supposed to be her prince.
But what does a child know?
This was better than anything that the little girl could have imagined because all of this was real. And she and her soon-to-be-husband had traveled their own journeys to get to this moment, right here and now.
A small, unspectacular room with a TV and a bed. There surrounding Suzie and Jay were their closest friends, parents, and a minister.
The silky sunlight seeped through the curtained windows.
Flower petals blanketed the room. They’ll have to be cleaned up sooner than later.
There were tears. There were waves of laughter. It was humble but a heartfelt ceremony to celebrate the union of the young lovers. A story no one else would know. No one else would care. But no one else needed to know. And no one else needed to care.
“Beautiful,” Satan muttered to Beelzebub. “Absolutely stunning.”
The two devils stood outside the room and peeked through the small rectangle window on the door.
Beelzebub watched as Suzie’s father helped her stand next to her soon-to-be husband. Her shaven head covered with a snow-white gown.
Surrounding the devils were a few nurses who were oblivious to the otherworldly beings. The nurses sniffled and held back tears as they stood by just-in-case or until they would be needed.
“You should be happy,” Satan remarked. “This is all because of you”
Beelzebub had no response. No emotions. He simply peered with a dead gaze.
“I feel you don’t have the heart for this anymore,” Satan went on. “I don’t think you believe in what we do anymore.”
A bait of sorts, Beelzebub figured. He stared at Satan in his form of an aging man who’ve relaxed a bit too much on his landbound boat. A shrine of beer bottles piling somewhere.
“Remind me. What are we doing again? Specifically, why are you here?” Beelzebub sharply asked. “Are you out of work? Do you need a temp job? Shoo. You’re classing the place up.”
“I’m here to make sure you bring her home. To finish what you started. Keep your special child with us and away from Him,” Satan spoke gently with a soft smile.
“What do you think that I started? What do you think happened here?” Beelzebub looked deeply into the dead eyes of the devil.
Satan searched for his words a bit.
Suzie kissed her now husband. There were cheers. And as if the moment was already due to be faded into the past, the nurses scurried in and with the attendants cleaned the room.
“That. You made that happen,” Satan remarked. “Just a merry-go-round from one moment to the other. But you gave her a moment that’ll define her eternity. No matter what your intentions were you decided that moment for her.”
The door opened. With the nurses, the attendants begin to leave one by one.
A man stopped in his tracks and buried his face into his hands.
“Why,” the man broke into tears. “Why our girl?”
“Stop. Hold it together,” A woman tugged on his arm. “Don’t let her see you cry. Let our daughter have this.”
An almost eerie silence engulfed the hallway as the room emptied. Only the newly married couple remained. The husband sat on the bed next to his wife and held her hand. They whispered to one another. Hugged. Kissed. Whispered some more. Their faces lit with a special smile saved only for the moments of true peace. The couple embraced again until the husband stood to leave. She stared at him as he headed for the door. He held the door open and stood there for a moment to stare back at his wife. She nodded to let him know that it’s okay. He closed the door behind him. He waved on the other side of the door window. She waved back and then stared even long after the husband had disappeared from sight.
Her world began to spin. Nausea. Fatigue. She crumbled into her bed.
After retching, Suzie couldn’t help but laugh.
How ludicrous. She thought.
How selfish. She chided herself.
Marrying someone in this condition.
She was happy and yet gutted.
“You’re the one who will take credit for this. But allow me to show you the grace of finishing the work,” Satan gently placed his hand on Beelzebub’s shoulder. “You can be there to greet her when she comes home.”
Suzie ran to the bathroom. The little she had for breakfast gone with a flush. She clung onto the toilet bowl with barely enough strength to keep her head from dunking into the water. A small regret came over her that she asked to be left alone so that her husband could see the family off and grab a small meal for the two of them. But even in these worst moments, there was a comfort that she was alone through it for once. No one else’s sorrow, pity, and well-being weighing over her.
As she managed to take the few steps back to her bed, Suzie saw him. The devils were and are still angels. Divine beings had a comforting presence even as a surprise. Satan had shed himself of the old man from Burbank retiring to Florida look. He was now somewhere between the ideal image Suzie had of her husband and a father figure.
Something she may have imagined from her childhood.
“Hello,” He spoke calmly with a soft smile.
“Hi,” Suzie crawled into bed. “You’re not him are you?”
“Who?” Satan pointed up. “Him?”
“Of course not,” Suzie laughed. She coughed. Then laughed some more. Satan laughed with her. “I’ve given up on Him doing a damn thing about anything a long time ago. Then again, maybe it says a lot more about me that I’m getting visits from the devil.”
“You’re not Beelzebub,” Suzie said as she pulled up her blanket. “He’s too chicken shit to come see me I think.”
“Perhaps,” the man graciously smiled. “Or perhaps he would be in too much pain to see you like this.”
“So, chicken shit. And so who are you, good sir?”
“I won’t insult your intelligence. I am his brother—”
“And you want my soul or something right? Then I can live? Be happy?”
“Uh huh. Beelzebub! Get in here!”
Startled only for a moment, Satan gave a defeated smile.
“Beelzebub! You chickenshit! Beelzebub! If some asshole’s going to take my soul it should you, you piece of shi—”
Beelzebub appeared beside Suzie.
“I’m dying! You stupid ass—” Suzie yelled before succumbing to violent coughs.
“Hey. I’ve been well. Y’know,” Beelzebub drabbled on. “Work’s work. Life’s fine. How are you? Yes. How’s cancer? You don’t look so good. Must not be so good, huh? Yeah, that cancer thing. Kind of a doozy.”
Suzie dug deep and found the energy to give Beelzebub the finger.
“I think you can go now,” Beelzebub shooed the other devil with his hand. “I got my girl.”
“And I had a whole speech prepared,” Satan shrugged.
“Fuck you too, mister,” Suzie said after catching her breath.
Satan chuckled and gave a knowing look to Beelzebub.
“Do whatever you want. Find your happiness. Isn’t that the point?” He whispered into Beelzebub’s ear before disappearing.
A silence as the other devil disappeared.
Beelzebub sat beside Suzie.
Another pause. They sat in silence. A tear trailed down Suzie’s eye. She quickly wiped it away.
“Fuck you. Where were you?” Suzie broke the silence. “If I were to give you my soul, would you be able to save me?”
“Have you ever seen a firework at Paris? All that preparation. All that anticipation. Boom! All of that magnificent gunpowder glory,” Beelzebub fluttered his fingers in the air. “Then gone in a flash into the void.”
“What? What are you talking about? Is that supposed to be a metaphor or something? I’m trying to sell you my soul, dumbass. Mr. Devil. Asshole.”
“Fuck you, man! Seriously!” Suzie succumbed to her coughs again.
“You, seriously, got to stop that. Look, I’m sorry I’ve been gone. I’m here now.”
“Do you even know what I did today?”
“Yes, I saw the whole thing. It was… it was nice,” Beelzebub answered with a smile.
“You did?!” Suzie didn’t seem to know how she felt about that fact. Beelzebub didn’t seem like he knew how Suzie felt about it either.
“So, I was about to ask. What’s it worth? I’d like to know what living is worth to you. What does it mean to you?”
“What? Living… living… means that I’d get to live. I’d get to be there for him. Have a life together…” Suzie took a moment to compose herself. “…start a family together. What are you talking about, Beelzebub? I don’t understand.”
“That sounds like it would have been marvelous. But who knows, maybe you two would have gotten divorced and grew to hate one another. Fight over the kids. Fight with the kids. Wish the kids were never born. All that nonsense.”
“But I’m not even going to have the chance to find that out myself. I don’t even have a choice in the matter. What is wrong with you Beelzebub? Do you not want my soul anymore? Isn’t that what you guys do? Oh shit…” Suzie’s eyes widened with her realization.
“I’ll always welcome your soul,” the devil smiled.
“Did you know?”
“Do you remember that day at the lake when you wanted to kill yourself? Or how many more times after that?”
“So what? Why are you bringing this up now? Are you trying to say I’m a hypocrite? Or that I’m just going to want to die again so it doesn’t matter when and how I die? The point is that I’d like to have a choice! Did you know?!”
“Do you have a choice right now?”
“Shut the fuck up and answer me!”
The two stared at one another. Suzie’s eyes were moist from her tears and yet boiled with anger. Anger from the unwanted inquisition. Her pride had already been swallowed. Anger from the sense of betrayal. From that one friend who knew her at her worst. At her moments that not even her husband knew about.
“Did you know? Did you know this would happen to me when you convinced me to go chase after him?”
Beelzebub didn’t answer. He pondered for a moment. But that was enough of an answer for Suzie.
“You win,” Suzie tried to grab the devil but had to pause to catch her breath. “…You win. Why do that to him though, Beelzebub?”
“I’ll let you figure that one out,” the Devil finally spoke after seconds that felt like an eternity.
“Fuck you, Beelzebub.”
“Can you save me or not?”
“I can,” the Devil gave a warm smile.
“Then do it! Just take it! I’m giving it to you!” Suzie couldn’t help the tears from flowing down. “Just let me be there for him. Let me live.”
“You sure? This is one and done type of thing, sweetheart. You’re either on one side or the other.”
“Yes,” Suzie tried and tried to wipe away her tears. “Yes, please. Oh, God. Just do it. Don’t let me leave him alone.”
The door opened.
Michael waited for Beelzebub at The Center. Other patrons had long cleared out and Binkle had given up if the archangel wanted anything else than the single juice box he had ordered hours ago.
Beelzebub entered and only gave a slight glance at the angel before heading to the bartender.
“A Salty Dog. Make sure its neat. If it’s not, then I’ll have you serving a sorority house because apparently, those are the only types of drink you know how to make,” Beelzebub ordered.
“…rough day, boss?” Binkle started the cocktail right away.
“Why did you do it if it was going to make you so miserable?” Michael asked. “Why Beelzebub? Even when I warned you not to see her. Even when I’ve asked you to stay away. What had she done to deserve this?”
“The same thing that any of us had done apparently; the sin of being born,” Beelzebub gave Michael a wink.
“It’s a gift.”
“Uh-huh, tell that to the kids getting flayed alive somewhere as we speak. Are you going to go save them, Mr. Archangel? I’m sure they’re screaming for even some ass in a spandex to come to save them right now. Three. Two. One. They’re dead. Tell them it was a gift,” Beelzebub sipped on his drink.
“At least Binkle gets to keep his job,” Beelzebub raised his glass to compliment the bartender.
“You know that’s not how it works,” Michael remained stoic.
“No, that’s exactly how it works. My bar. My rules. Got a problem? Get out of my bar. Oh you mean how it works in the cosmos created by the All-Mighty Dad,” Beelzebub downed his drink and motioned Binkle for another.
“And why shouldn’t that be how it works? Why shouldn’t we just help one another be better?” Beelzebub questioned.
“They can. We shouldn’t,” Michael answered.
Beelzebub chuckled as he sipped on his new drink.
“Dejavu, eh? O’brother mine?” Beelzebub stared at his murky drink. “How many times have we had this conversation? For how many millennia? We can’t even figure that one out. What’s the point of us?”
“That’s for us to figure out. Their lives are for them to figure out.”
“You’ve been fed so much horeshit that it’s starting to come out of your mouth, Michael. In fact, I would say that’s all been coming out of your mouth for a long while now. Let’s wash that out. Have you ever tried a White Russian? They’re fantastic. And I mean that both ways if you know what I’m saying,” Beelzebub winked again at Michael. It was not, surprisingly, the record amount of how many times Beelzebub winked at Michael in one meeting.
“That is the way it is. You ask for more of something that simply isn’t there,” Michael sipped on his juice box.
“And yet, we were designed to ask for more,” The Devil retorted.
“Maybe we were created to see if we can be more,” The Archangel dissented.
“You’re miserable to talk to you know that? Did anyone ever tell you that, Michael? You’re a terrible person to talk to. What kind of ass-backwards, circular logic is that?”
Michael sipped on his juice box.
The final slurps of a dying juice box echoed through the bar.
“She believes she understands why you did what you did. I’m sure he’s thankful as well to have had the chance to be with her. To be by her side until the end,” Michael told Beelzebub.
Beelzebub mumbled under his breath and ignored his brother’s existence.
“I can see that you need some time alone,” Michael walked over and placed his empty juice box on the counter. “But I came because…'”
“Are you still here?” The Devil snapped.
“Asshole,” a familiar voice cut through as a patron walked into the tavern.
Beelzebub spun his head toward the voice and then snapped back to Michael.
“Seriously?! You didn’t let her in? Or was that HIS decision?”
“I just came to say goodbye. Michael was nice enough to let me come here,” Suzie gave the angel a smile. “He just wanted a chance to speak to you privately first.”
“Well, I’ll be damned. That’s very un-Michael of you,” Beelzebub told his brother.
“I’ll be waiting outside. Don’t take too long,” Michael told Suzie as he grabbed another juice box left on the counter for him by Binkle. He headed out and gently closed the door behind him.
“So this is the bar,” Suzie said as she sat next to Beelzebub.
“And you’re the girl,” Binkle said as he carefully studied his boss’s ticks and demeanor.
“This is the bar,” Beelzebub rested his face on his hand as he observed Suzie. “You decided to go to the other place?”
“Isn’t that what you wanted me to do?” Suzie shook her head at Binkle who held up a juice box and a wine bottle for her to choose from.
“I didn’t want you to do anything,” Beelzebub answered.
“Something sweet and tangy perhaps? Sangria? Lemon Drop?” Binkle asked Suzie.
“Do you know that they put your taste buds in your anus? Did he tell you? As a person coming from up there I feel like it’s my civic duty to let you know,” Suzie pointed out.
“Look at this girl. She’s been dead for minutes and she’s already playing the heaven card,” Beelzebub spoke with disdain.
“Yes,” Binkle answered. “…And I’ve grown to change my diet to fit my new changes. I didn’t find it funny then and I don’t find it funny now. I don’t think anyone will. Who knows why that was done. Let’s now drop it and never speak of it again and if we can turn back time and change the past maybe we can make sure it’s never been done. Because everytime something touches my tongue I just have intense and intimate fear of what it would taste in the afterlife of its natural journey. In some sense, it’s been a fascinating and life-changing experience that has oddly made me a better human. What about a whiskey-neat then?”
“Seems a bit unoriginal and cliche for this moment,” Suzie thought for a moment. “Moscow mule?”
“Moscow mule,” Beelzebub nodded.
“Moscow mule,” Binkle agreed.
The three shared the cocktail that was made from three different businessmen with three different failing products who by fate combined them all and gave it a random name. It was a hard drink, with a pinch of tartness, a little sweetness, all tied together with a little kick served in a copper mug that could become toxic from the acidity of the drink itself.
They talked of many nothings and nothing of pertinence regarding Suzie’s death.
Like friends that met just for a reunion and knowing they’ll never see one another again when they each leave through the doors and leave their old lives behind in that room, the three just wanted to have a moment of where everything was good and nothing of consequence would occur.
Crafting a moment that’d be a perfect memory.
Like a photograph of smiling faces. Forgetting all that’s before and after.
When Michael came back into the bar, Suzie knew it was time for her to go and left without any complaint. Neither the bartender nor the devil tried to hold her for any longer either.
The girl, the woman, gave the devil, the friend, a hug.
She whispered a word or two into the devil’s ear.
The devil said nothing back.
She looked back one last time with a soft smile on her face before the door closed behind her.
Soon, only the gibberish from the TV and a small clatter from Binkle doing his daily chores for the bar remained.
“You, alright boss?” Binkle finally asked.
“I had a weird dream,” Beelzebub answered solemnly.
“What’s with that tone?”
“What? I said ‘okay.'”
“Yeah, but your tone. Don’t—don’t try to pretend that you didn’t have an odd tone.”
“I mean… it’s just… you’re the devil and first…”
“You guys dream? And second…”
“Like what the hell, man? We talk about dreams now? Isn’t that a bit…” Binkle held his tongue.
“A bit what?”
“Nothing boss. Just a little gay. Just go on.”
“I dreamed of a horse…”
“If you laugh dipshit, I swear I’m going to put a pimple right in the lip of your tiny dick. May I continue? Is that alright with you?”
Binkle saluted and begin wiping down the cups.
“Where was I. Yeah. The horse. It was lost in a forest. Scared. Tired. And knew that death was imminent.”
“Uh huh,” Binkle raised a wine glass up to the light for a quick inspection before wiping it a bit more.
“After wandering about for a while, it suddenly stood still. Just still in the fog of dusk. I knew right away it had reached the point of no return. It was exhausted. The horse was deciding whether to keep on or just give up. Rest. Just lay down and die peacefully.”
“And what did it choose?” Binkle placed the rag on the table and looked at Beelzebub.
“I don’t know. I was watching the horse from the sky or something. And I could see what it couldn’t see. I could see that there was such a simple way it could have went to be free.”
“So did you help the horse?” Binkle asked.
“No, I woke up.”
“What do you think happened to it?” Binkle picked up his rag again.
“Who cares,” Beelzebub finished his cocktail.
“I bet the horse does,” Binkle took the empty cup.
“But what does the horse know?”
End of The Devil and Me
About 21 Chrome Tabs Open
1 Cup of Diet Mountain Dew and 2 Empty Bottles of Water on the Desk.
I feel a bit bleh about the ending. And it’s not something I can change without changing the whole nature of this project I think.
Do you guys remember how and why I began this project?
It was supposed to be an unplanned, just-go-with-it, warm-up, sort of story that just spun out of a dumb chatter I was having with a friend.
But it sort of took over my writing life. And then my life, as it seems to in recent years, kind of fell into chaos with a lot of fire I needed to put out.
What you see is basically what I had written months ago. It was a quick write. I just wasn’t very happy with it. It sat there staring at me asking me why I had created it. A little mutant wondering why it was born.
Then I spent my writing time working on Chronicles of the Otherworld and my next novel.
Distance can be the cure sometimes.
But the short story nagged and nagged to be finished (which obviously should have been finished earlier than this) and I felt way more pressure for the finale than I ever should have. Who really cares but me?
But that’s the thing. I care. I’ve learned that I at least have to be happy with it.
I’ve always had an idea where the story would go, how it’d end, since the first episode. But I just felt so off about the ending when I actually wound up writing it.
Part of it was due to how much the story had changed and evolved and morphed in my mind as I kept working on it.
And part of it was due to how much of this could have benefitted from having a proper preplanning stage and an editing phase.
There were a lot of issues I had with the lore that I developed. Minor stuff none of the audience would care about.
With Satan’s character.
And how, most interesting for me as the writer, what I thought would work in my mind just didn’t work in execution. At the end of the day, that’s going to be my biggest lesson and homework out of this.
Not that I haven’t experienced that before.
But trying to understand exactly why it didn’t work here.
I wanted each episode to have their own individual vibe to reflect that specific point of Suzie’s age and life. That kind of stuff just works a lot better when it’s planned. At least for someone like me.
But I suppose all that was part of this writing experiment and exercise.
It was grueling.
It was annoying.
It was a little disappointing for me personally for a few reasons.
But I enjoyed it.
That’s writing. That’s this craft’s equivalent of taking a couple of hits and learning from them.
If I were to ever go back and really flesh out this thing, I’d probably consider redoing certain arcs of Suzie’s character and adding a few more chapters in. There were few storylines that I cut that I wonder how it’d have been to add.
And definitely keep the numbers, lore, and whatnot details more consistent.
I really wanted to just let this project fly the way it wanted to fly and had an odd battle in my mind of not wanting to comb through it.
Also, to be clear, I’ll probably never flesh this story out. It is what it is and it is what it was intended to be.
Okay. Enough rambling.
In the end, the biggest change I’ve made to the ending is that Suzie ends up meeting Beelzebub in hell. Originally, Beelzebub simply hears about what happened to Suzie via Michael. I was essentially against the idea. But experimenting with that little change eventually made the ending feel right for me. It ended up being what I needed to start the domino effect of finally releasing this finale. Sometimes cheese is the right ingredient.
I’ll let the audience chew on that and decide which would have been better.
To those of you who’ve stuck with it till the end, thank you very much.
Sorry for the delay.
See y’all next time.