Divil Get Behind Me
(Rejected by The Penny Dreadful magazine, June 2014)
I can’t keep my eyes in front of me, because there they are, plump, peeking and dying for attention. Of course, I can’t turn my head either, just in case I catch a glimpse of that terrible grin from the corner of my eye and lose whatever composure I’ve managed to maintain for this long. I’m probably shaking wildly, people are probably staring, that’s alright, I’ve opted to close my eyes entirely. You can’t scorn a man for giving his eyes a rest at this time of the morning.
That was a mistake.
If there’s anything more dangerous to a man than his own sight, it’s his imagination, and that all too familiar warmth was enough to snap me out of my phony slumber. I need to try and find a spot on the wall that I can concentrate on for the next few minutes. It won’t be for much longer, I’ll get off this damned thing at Harcourt and walk from there. Why didn’t I just charge my phone last night? Just squeeze the yellow bar, keep your eyes on the wall as if it’s the morning paper, and for the love of Christ don’t stare at her tits.
A high-pitched “woo!” at the back of the LUAS is its way of letting me know that it’s here, that it’s watching with those wide, loony bin eyes, and grinning that terrible grin. I’m the only one that can hear it though, so when the tremor finds my spine, my entire body shakes, and those squeezed up against me click their tongues and crease their brows.
It’s been following me for two days now, ever since I opened the window. What a fool I was to go messing around with that arcane poison. A fool with a dream maybe, but that doesn’t make my actions any more human in nature, there’s better ways of making your dream a reality than messing around with books, daggers and capes. Now I’ve this to deal with.
Sometimes it takes the form of a scruffy black dog, sniffing away at my ankles, never falling behind me in the crowds on the streets. Other times, well, I’ve only seen it take this form once last night, but it appeared to me as a nebulous cloud of silver smoke, right above my bedside locker, urging me in a thousand ancient tongues to plunge into the night and steal the bodies of the uncorrupted. Mostly though, it just takes the form of a young Little Richard.
Harcourt. I slip through the jammed tram and count my blessings as soon as my feet hit the ground, for some reason I get this mad idea that I’ll be able to just walk away from it, that it is limited by the same earthly restrictions as the rest of us are. No, not this foul beast, I’ve learned enough these past two days to know that.
I’m practically kicking up pavement in my frenzied haste, more concerned with being seen by co-workers or friends in my current state than with the fiend catching up with me. I keep close to the walls as I hurry down the street, keeping my head straight, never crooking it or looking behind me. Then, seemingly from out of nowhere, young ones.
They’ve just turned the corner and are now walking in my direction. I can suddenly feel hot breath on my neck and whispers, god awful whispers in my ear. They must be sixth years on their way to school, this is wrong. I bite into my lip and keep my shoulders stiff, maybe if I keep my eyes closed again, I won’t say or do anything and they’ll just pass on by. Nope.
It came from my own mouth this time, I howled the devil’s howl. The girls are laughing and rubbernecking me now as if I’m some kind of freak show. I’m not a freak show, I just need help and you two young, voluptuous strumpets have no idea what I’m going through. You have no idea what my nightmares look like, my sexy, sexy nightmares. God damn it, Pat, listen to yourself for fuck sake. Keep moving.
When I finally make it to the offices, I’m panting and sweating bullets. And as if the day couldn’t get any worse, Pauline calls me to her desk and tells me that Trevor, my boss, wants to have a word with me in private. I do as best to clean myself up, wiping the slime from my face and taking a long slug from a bottle of water. You’re golden man, you can do it.
“Howaya Pat, how’s she cuttin’?”
“Grand, Travor, Grand. And yourself?”
“Ah, sure you know. Here, Pat, you’re a sound man and I’m going to spare you the sugar coating. You’re not the type of fellah to listen to polished shite. Do you have any idea why I called you in here?”
“Eh, maybe, Trevor. I know I’ve been a little bit…”
“I want you to bend me over this table, Pat. I want you to bend me over this table and reach deep inside of me until you find the heart I thought I’d thrown away years ago, that hidden organ that seems to beat whenever you are near.”
Did I just hear that? Did I make that up in my own head? There he is. Trevor seems frozen, awaiting an answer, and standing behind him is that cosmic devil, a pencil-thin moustache framing a sinister smile.
“Ehm, sorry. What Trevor?”
“The e-mail, did you send the e-mail for me yesterday?”
“Oh, yeah. I did and all, sir. I did that yesterday”
Trevor looks behind him to see what I’m staring at, but finds nothing. Only I can see it.
“Jesus Christ, Pat, get some sleep tonight, will you? Right, I’ll talk to you later.”
I stride to the toilets, pushing past people trying to greet me with a “good morning”. No, it’s not a good morning, it’s a shite morning. It’s a fucking nightmare of a morning. “Woo!”. I need to get out of here, I need a release, I need to scratch an itch. Then, suddenly, I know what to do.
When I hit the cubicle, I unzip myself immediately. This may be the only way to keep it away. It feasts on my carnal lusts, it plants thoughts into my head, it is trying to brainwash me. I sit myself down and close my eyes. If it wants to live in my brain, I’ll make sure I’ve cleared the gash. The cache, cleared the cache. I wonder why I didn’t think of this sooner, I’m almost enjoying myself, and that malevolent wail seems to be fading in nothingness. It’s as if I’ve just been given a shot of morphine for a dire, endless agony. Then I feel the wind on my face, and hear the sound of a crowd emptying onto the streets from a tram. Then I hear laughter, shouting, berating. I don’t want to open my eyes, but if there’s anything more dangerous to a man than his sight, it’s his imagination.