"Talk of the Devil, and see his horns."
~ English Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases complied by William Carew Hazlitt
Then Satan answered the Lord, and said , Doth Job fear God for nought?
~ Job 1:9 (King James Version)
|Card XV - “The Devil” (Deviant Moon Tarot deck)|
Talk Of The Devil
It was another hot late afternoon in Damascus.
A group of swarthy boys were sitting on an old Persian rug in their accustomed place on a rooftop.
Omar Al-Hamsi was holding court as the other boys encircled him and listened intently.
Al-Hamsi was like an oracle.
He was an inveterate story teller and his young listeners were fascinated and spellbound by his tales.
The young boy was already growing tall with a bushy mane of black curly hair and onyx black eyes.
Omar Al-Hamsi was the oldest of the group at eleven years of age.
Then there was ten year old Yasir Karim who was a studious little boy with wavy black hair, hazel eyes and a pair of spectacles perched on his little nose.
Wadi Hakim who was also ten years old, a lively little boy with curly brown hair and bright green eyes.
There was Nadir Darzi who was eight years old.
He was a quiet and soulful boy with curly black hair and brown eyes.
And finally there was Misbah Darzi who was seven years old and the brother of Nadir - he was shy and reserved, and had wavy black hair and black eyes.
Every afternoon the little group gathered on the rooftop of Hakim's house to listen to Omar Al-Hamsi's stories.
It was like the Arabian Nights.
And all the boys were slightly in awe of Al-Hamsi's captivating tales of good and evil, morality and retribution.
Omar Al-Hamsi had the soul of a poet.
And a golden tongue that dripped honey.
The industrious storyteller swore fervently on the soul of his grandfather that his stories were not made up but true.
Al-Hamsi could make any falsehood sound true.
A career in politics stretched out before him.
But this afternoon was different.
Because Omar Al-Hamsi was telling a particularly dark story about a rarely seen hermit who lived on the edge of town.
The young story teller had captured the imaginations of his listeners once again and they were staring at him with wide eyed wonder.
"There is a reason why old Abu is rarely seen in the daylight!" Omar Al-Hamsi informed them all dramatically "Because he is the father of lies!"
There was an audible gasp among his little audience.
An icy chill ran down their spines.
They were fascinated and horrified at once.
This was not the usual tale that Al-Hamsi told them.
It was much darker.
There was suspense in the air.
"Abu is the Devil!" Al-Hamsi declared melodramatically.
Misbah's hand flew to his mouth.
There were several uneasy moments of silence as the young audience attempted to process the shocking pronouncement.
Abu Kader was a mysterious older man who lived alone.
Nobody knew much about him.
He was said to be a Maronite but nobody was really sure.
Abu Kader had lived out in the Syrian desert for years and was said to be insane.
He was rarely seen in public, if at all.
And nobody ventured near his abode.
The awkward silence was suddenly broken by Wadi Hakim's loud and reverberating laugh.
"That can't be true!" He exclaimed "My father saw Abu in the market three days ago!"
None of the boys had ever seen Abu Kader.
He was more of a shadowy legend to them.
Wadi Hakim laughed again.
Yasir Karim slowly shook his head at Omar Al-Hamsi.
"This is a crazy story!" Karim declared.
"All because old Abu is a madman!" Hakim added disdainfully "It does'nt mean he is the Devil!"
Al-Hamsi was narked by the treacherous incredulity of Wadi Hakim and he shot him an angry look.
"Wadi is right!" Nadir Darzi interjected "You shouldn't talk like that about Abu because he is a follower of the prophet Jesus! It's a sin!"
The other boys nodded.
"But it's true!" Omar cried "And his demons are in the form of the black Rottweilers that he keeps outside!"
"I am afraid of dogs!" Misbah shuddered.
"I heard about a church that is plagued by demons in the form of black dogs!" Nadir said in a tremulous voice.
Everyone had a supernatural tale to tell in the region.
It was the Middle East after all.
The seat of all the major religions and faiths.
"You should stop this nonsense right away, Omar!" Yasir Karim declared firmly "It's scaring everybody!"
Unperturbed by all the dissension, Al-Hamsi continued.
"It's all very true!" He persisted "And they say that any child who enters his house never emerges into the daylight! The Devil takes them back to hell with him!"
"This is too much now!" Wadi Hakim cried as he leapt to his feet "I'm going home!"
"And you can't prove it either!" Yasir Karim exclaimed.
"Come on Misbah, let's go home it will be dark soon!" Nadir Darzi informed his little brother.
But Omar Al-Hamsi was not defeated just yet.
"I can prove everything!" He suddenly informed them in resonant voice.
They looked back at him with a mixture of astonishment and trepidation.
|The Desert Dream (by eternalillusionist deviantart.com)|
They were distrustful of Omar but intrigued.
It was surly Wadi Hakim who spoke up first.
"I'll do it!" Hakim cried "Tomorrow you will be humiliated!"
Slowly all the boys nodded.
But secretly they were all terrified.
The Devil in Syria?
They had to see this for real.
"Allah will protect us!" Nadir Darzi declared.
"Then you have nothing to fear!" Omar Al-Hamsi replied with a knowing smile.
That night the boys slept fitfully.
It was due in part to the heat but it was also due to their mounting terror.
Dawn arrived too fast.
The boys all met outside Omar Al-Hamsi's house after morning prayers.
They were about to embark on a momentous journey and there was safety in numbers.
And they were scared out of their wits.
Little Misbah was clinging to his brother.
He had taken his fathers worry beads with them.
"Allahu Akbar!" Nadir Darzi muttered over and over again as the little group began their journey.
It was already blisteringly hot.
Omar Al-Hamsi was leading them confidently through the town with his head held high.
Only he knew if he were telling the truth or not.
He was keeper of the secret.
Wadi Hakim had been unable to credit Al-Hamsi's story.
It sounded far too fanciful to him.
And Hakim was just as afraid as the others - although he was a lot better at hiding it.
"We will all laugh about this later!" Wadi declared.
But the others were not so sure.
They were in no mood for mirth.
And they had no time to take in the sights of beautiful Damascus.
Time was evaporating before them in the glare of the sun.
Finally they reached the house of Abu Kader.
It looked deserted and woebegone.
A dilapidated bungalow on a stretch of barren land.
It was hard to believe that anyone actually lived there at all.
Finally it was becoming all too real.
The boys were frozen to the spot.
Secretly fighting the urge to run away.
"Allahu Akbar!" Nadir repeated again.
"I'm scared!" Misbah declared in a shaky voice as he clutched his brothers hand.
"Don't be afraid!" Nadir cried "Allah is with us!"
But they were all petrified.
It felt as if they were standing on the edge of the world.
And looking into the abyss.
This was no dream.
This was really happening to them.
"Who is going to knock on the door?" Omar Al-Hamsi demanded firmly.
So far he had shown little emotion.
But even his bravado was beginning to fade.
His little brave flag was already wilting in the hot Syrian sun.
It had evaporated before the horror they were all facing.
Nobody uttered a word.
Suddenly some dogs barked.
And all the boys (including Omar Al-Hamsi) jumped.
"Let's get out of here!" Yasir Karim exclaimed and rounded on his heels.
A couple of the boys turned to join him.
"I'm not going anywhere!" Wadi Hakim cried "We've come all this way! I'm going to do this!"
The sight of a cowering Omar Al-Hamsi had sufficiently revived the boy's swagger.
Wadi Hakim marched towards the big door as the others sheepishly followed him.
Before he could think about he was doing, he began pounding loudly on the door.
The other boys were standing a little way off now and clinging to each other in terror.
There was no reply.
Everything was deathly quiet.
No birds could be heard singing in the sky.
They were standing on the cusp of Hades.
Several moments of cold silence followed.
Wadi Hakim turned to the others.
"It's all been a big hoax!" Hakim informed them.
Suddenly the front door flew open and everybody jumped sharply.
A swarthy and skeletal man dressed in an old black kaftan was standing commandingly in the doorway.
Abu Kader looked unkempt and dishevelled and he had long straggly grey hair and a scruffy grey beard.
He had piercing black eyes and a weather beaten face.
"Suffer the little children to come unto me!" Abu Kader bellowed in a resounding voice.
Suddenly a large black raven squawked loudly from a spindly tree above them.
The Child Must Die
The London Maternity Centre, London
Victoria Havers was lying in her hospital room.
She had stopped screaming hours ago.
Havers had been given powerful sedatives and she was drifting in and out of consciousness.
She could barely make out the blurred faces of doctors and nurses surreptitiously inspecting her and talking in hushed tones.
Victoria could see her husband through the partially open door.
Gavin Havers was talking conspiratorially to Dr Anthony Michaels.
The older man smiled and put an affectionate hand on the younger man's shoulder.
"Traitors" Victoria Havers muttered.
She was an attractive brunette with vivid blue eyes and an abundant mane of dark brown hair.
Victoria Astley had briefly been a singer with some success before opening the popular Charly boutique in London.
Then she met Gavin Havers by chance on a train.
They were sharing the same carriage and got into conversation.
Gavin Havers was very persistent and love quickly blossomed between them.
He was tall and good looking with wavy brown hair and emerald green eyes.
Havers was charming and intelligent and whisked Victoria Astley off her feet.
Marriage quickly followed even though it was evident from the start that it did so without the blessing of Gavin's mother Cecilia.
Cecilia Denby had come from a well heeled Berkshire family.
Her marriage to the world famous scientist Edward Havers had been a respectable match and had produced one son.
But a sudden freak accident had left Cecilia a widow at just forty and Victoria believed that it was then that her character became warped.
The arrogant matriarch had been well provided for by her husband, but without another man in the house she soon began to rely on her son for everything.
She was domineering and demanding.
Victoria Havers hated her.
Cecilia had always been the third person in their marriage.
And Victoria wished her dead.
Now she lay utterly exhausted in a hospital bed.
It had been a particularly long and gruelling delivery.
But at last it was all over.
The thing was out of her.
And a new nightmare was just beginning ...
Victoria Havers had been overcome by such an overwhelming dread that she had been unable to leave the house for weeks.
She had become consumed by such inexplicable feelings of fear that her horizons had become narrower and narrower.
|fear (by blackcocktail deviantart.com)|
It was a bleak and forbidding existence.
And sometimes she sought relief in tears.
Victoria Havers was caught up in a maelstrom of powerful emotions.
She had fallen into a deep and dark pit from which she did not believe she would ever emerge.
Havers retreated further and further into herself and refused to see anyone or take in any visitors.
Most expectant mothers are filled with incandescent delight and positive expectation.
But not Victoria Havers.
From the moment she discovered she was pregnant, she had fallen into a profound depression.
It was both sudden and shocking.
She pathologically despised the fetus growing in her womb.
If she could, she would have had it aborted.
She would have destroyed it in her womb.
But it was too late.
It was living inside her and feeding off her.
A hideous dark thing sapping the life out of her.
And blocking out the light.
Victoria Havers did not have a history of clinical depression or mental illness.
And she had hardly ever been ill.
Her deterioration had been a gradual process.
It had crept upon her and caught her out.
Gavin Havers had done everything he could to make his wife comfortable.
He was an extremely successful pathologist and he and his wife lived well both in England and in New York where they had a plush apartment.
The couple had moved to their summer cottage in Berkshire for the duration of the pregnancy.
But nothing seemed to assuage the wretched woman's melancholia.
As the weeks progressed, Victoria Havers became more and more paranoid.
She was convinced that her husband and her mother-in-law were conspiring against her.
There was a vendetta against her and everyone seemed to be behaving oddly towards her.
As if they all knew something she did not.
Victoria Havers mustered up the courage to go into town one day.
But she felt like a total stranger with an alien growing in her womb.
Victoria Havers was now acutely sensitised and the pavement seemed to be heaving beneath her feet.
There was thunder in the street and every noise seemed to go right through her.
She felt threatened and intimidated by all the people rushing past her.
Victoria Havers was filled with an impending sense of doom.
And she could not explain why.
Suddenly the clock tower chimed loudly and a flock of crows squawked loudly overhead.
And a terrified Victoria Havers turned on her heels and ran sobbing home.
That night she was informed by phone that one of her oldest friends had committed suicide.
The news was shocking and unexpected.
Gavin tried his best to soothe his wife.
But he was unable to comfort her.
And Victoria Havers believed that she had taken a turn for the worse.
Her husband considered putting his wife in a convalescence home.
"It will only be for the duration of the pregnancy!" Gavin assured her one night "You need to be in the right environment. And the child ... is important"
"I'm not going mad!" Victoria pleaded with him "Why wont anyone listen to me?"
She could just make out the form of her mother-in-law at the door of their bedroom.
Victoria hated Cecilia Havers.
And she suspected that the feeling was mutual.
Cecilia Havers was inclined to be condescending towards Victoria.
The snobbish woman's contempt for her son's wife had always been thinly veiled.
It was obvious that Cecilia Havers believed her son could do better.
He was a leading pathologist and Victoria owned a little boutique on the King's Road.
It was patently clear that Cecilia Havers believed that Victoria was little more than a gold digger with her finely manicured claws in her son.
And now her daughter-in-law was being hysterical.
The disdain was very apparent.
Gavin Havers doted upon his mother.
They had a strong bond and Victoria always felt excluded.
Cecilia had bought him up virtually single handed since her husband had died in a freak skiing accident when Gavin was still a toddler.
And she mercilessly manipulated him.
But just lately, Cecilia Havers had thawed towards her daughter-in-law and the metamorphosis was very bizarre.
It was just another peculiar twist in the tale.
"Dr Shelley says your experiences are normal during pregnancy!" Gavin Havers soothed "They are just fancies!"
Victoria sorely wanted to believe her husband.
But he was no longer the man she had married.
And all her entreaties seemed to be falling upon deaf ears, as a mounting sense of foreboding intensified.
Victoria Havers was desperate for solace.
And she began to frantically reach out for help.
A desperate need for spiritual food was growing inside her.
So she began fervently reading the Bible and any spiritual text she could find.
God does not punish us.
Victoria Havers carefully put the book down.
We punish ourselves with guilt and shame.
For a brief shining moment, the pain stopped.
The old Catholic church suddenly entered her head.
She didn't know why but she felt a little better.
St Matthew's Catholic Church was calling to her.
The following day Victoria Havers made her way to town.
She was still badly frightened.
Yet she knew somehow that she would be safe in a church.
Nothing could harm her there.
And she had developed an overwhelming desire to purge herself of sin and to seek redemption on hallowed ground.
God would surely forgive her for her unbelief.
She recounted the Lord's Prayer as she walked purposefully towards the church.
"Our Father who art in heaven ..."
Nothing could hurt her now.
"... hallowed be thy Name ...."
Because she was being protected.
... thy kingdom come ...
And she was coming out of the darkness into the light.
... thy will be done ....
All the pain and anguish would soon be gone.
... on earth as it is in heaven ...
All Victoria Havers had to do was believe.
... give us this day our daily bread...
She had to have faith.
... and forgive us our trespasses ...
She had to trust that God would deliver her.
... as we forgive them that trespass against us ...
Because there was a purpose to everything.
... and lead us not into temptation ...
Everything would make sense soon.
... but deliver us from the Evil One ...
At last she was standing outside the old church.
Victoria Havers was a lapsed Catholic and as far as she was aware, her husband had always been an avowed atheist.
He was a cool headed pragmatist who had always dismissed religious belief as neurosis.
But something had vastly changed.
Just lately, the virulent atheist had acquired an interest in the occult and the supernatural.
He had begun spending time with unfamiliar people and a year ago he had even visited an excavation site in Egypt.
"It's amazing!" Gavin informed Victoria excitedly when he returned "The care the ancient Egyptians took over their passage to the after life! And the tombs were astounding!"
He was looking at his wife with flashing green eyes.
Something had happened in Egypt.
Something had happened in the darkness underground.
And Gavin Havers had been transformed.
It was all cloak and dagger now.
There were weekends spent at "alternative" retreats in far flung places.
Victoria Havers had attended a few of them with Gavin and her detestable mother-in-law.
But she had felt unnerved by it all and completely alienated.
The peculiar participants were very enthusiastic towards Victoria and she felt very self conscious as she engaged in practices she did not understand.
There were odd summoning rituals and breath work and Gavin Havers threw himself wholeheartedly into it.
Victoria was astounded by the change in her husband.
Once upon at time he hated anything to do with religious faith and had dismissed it out of hand.
Gavin Havers had always been the first person to denounce a believer.
And now here he was - deeply engrossed in supernatural activity with a fierce intensity that frightened his wife.
It was incredible.
As the weeks progressed, Gavin Havers became more and more preoccupied with his occult groups and ever more secretive.
At first Victoria thought her husband was having an affair.
Then she realized that something altogether odder was happening and that her husband was undergoing a major metamorphosis.
The realization horrified her.
And Victoria Havers did not like who her husband had become.
She no longer recognized the man sleeping beside her in their big oak bed.
It was not the Gavin Havers she had married six years before.
But that was then.
Victoria Havers entered the old Catholic church as waves of relief ran through her.
... but deliver us from the Evil One ...
But as she stood in the aisle she was suddenly overcome with revulsion.
A priest appeared at the altar.
|your hospital bed (by emo-cuddle-bear deviantart.com)|
He was a demon.
And suddenly there was blood everywhere.
It was gushing out of Christ's wounds on the enormous crucifix above the altar.
Blood was streaming out of the eyes of a weeping Virgin Mary at his feet.
An enormous pool of blood had appeared in the aisle and it was moving towards her.
"We drink his blood ... and eat his flesh"
Victoria Havers through back her head and gave vent to a guttural cry of desolation.
"I am damned!" She screamed.
And she wanted to tear out her eyes.
Victoria Havers was an abomination.
She pelted sobbing out of the church.
Her life was now an endless pit of despair.
... but deliver us from the Evil One ...
That night she overheard her hateful mother-in-law talking consiprationally to her son from the other room.
Victoria was standing behind the partially open living room door and listening to every word they were saying.
"She really should be in a convalescence home!" Cecilia urged her son "This child is an extremely important one! I don't need to remind you!"
"I know mother!" Gavin answered her sharply "But it's almost over now! Soon the child will be home with us and everything will change!"
"Indeed it will!" Cecilia Havers replied knowingly "The whole world is waiting for this child!"
Victoria Havers felt a chill run down her spine.
She looked down at her inflated belly.
She was carrying a monster in her womb.
Victoria would not allow them to send her to a "convalescence home" somewhere out in the back of beyond where she would be at the mercy of other freaks.
She was convinced that the baby in her womb was not a human child.
And the belief filled her with unimaginable terror.
A dark thing was growing inside her and it was already polluting the life around her.
It had nearly killed her coming out.
The agony had been unbearable.
Victoria Havers had almost screamed the whole hospital down.
She had never known such excruciating pain.
Now they had taken it away.
It was somewhere in the hospital now ...
The nurse had behaved as if she were holding a precious jewel.
Even then Victoria had thought it strange.
How silent the newborn had been.
"It's a healthy little boy!" Nurse Rigby informed her brightly.
Then she held up the mute baby to her.
And Victoria Havers fought the urge to scream again.
It was an ugly and scrawny little thing caked in blood.
A demon from the mouth of hell.
"Our son!" Gavin Havers declared jubilantly as he sat on the hospital bed and held his wife's trembling hand.
Victoria turned her back to the child.
Dr Anthony Michaels was looking triumphantly on.
"Don't be like that Mrs Havers!" He declared "Soon you will rejoice like the rest of us!"
There was an odd expression on his aged face.
He motioned to the nurse to give her more sedatives.
Victoria Havers began vigorously shaking her head.
"Come, come now!" Nurse Rigby chided her mildly "We won't have any more nonsense now! Soon everything will be just fine!"
Silent tears streamed down Victoria's face.
Her husband and Dr Michaels quietly left the room as the distraught woman swallowed another sour tasting cocktail with water.
The monster was among them now.
Victoria Havers would have to get away soon or she would become like the others.
That was when she noticed Gavin and Dr Michaels.
They were talking in hushed tones and smiling.
And there was an obvious connection between them.
The doctor suddenly put a reassuring hand on Gavin's shoulder.
They were all in it together.
"Traitors!" Victoria Havers muttered.
Shadowy figures passed in and out of her room.
Demons disguised as doctors and nurses.
For a split second she swore she saw Cecilia Havers.
The wicked woman looked down at her.
Victoria Havers would have to act soon.
She smiled darkly.
... but deliver us from the Evil One ...
Suddenly everything made perfect sense.
Victoria Havers would have to kill the newborn first
Then she would have to kill her husband.
And when she was done, she would have to murder Cecilia Havers.
Victoria Havers was feeling a lot better already ...
|Alone (by mirabiliaimages deviantart.com)|