What happens when the Devil meets a beautiful painter named Alene, contracts a hit man named Peter, employs a runner named Mario, and has thoughtful conversations with a lawyer named Harry? Chaos! As Harry makes his way to work one day, he falls down an elevator shaft, accidentally kills his boss, and has a soggy hot dog lunch in the park with the Devil. On the worst rainy day anyone has ever seen, the story climaxes as all the characters interact, and the Devil shows up to watch.
; September 2004
183 pages; ISBN 9780744306002Read online
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Title: The Devil's Day Off
Author: Bryant Arnold
CHAPTER 1 The Devil Was a Drop of Blood in Ink He floated effortlessly on the wind, his brilliant red wings arching out from his back on either side, hands folded behind his back and he looked down on the city with carefree amusement. The storm was rich black, powerful and utterly beautiful. Pure white light erupted as lightning burrowed through the clouds, thunder shook his heart, and rain bubbled on his skin. The Devil smiled as he swayed and bobbed and thought. How wonderful, how perfect the storm was in late spring, one of the last big storms of the season. These are the quality moments, when nature, the great God of Chaos himself, decides, arbitrarily, to wake. The Devil was the red eye of the storm and at its mercy as it slowly rolled across the land. The wind took him where it would, up and down and all around and he loved it. Water hissed as it washed down his skin and soaked his robe. Like a child, the Devil arched his head back and stuck out his forked tongue. The troubled city lay below him like a microchip, comfortably geometrical and from up here, clean. All cities are troubled, the Devil thought. All the good people were safely shut into their homes, safe and dry. No one came out. Many sat at their windows, peeking out from behind the bars to witness the storm, but no one was out to float in the rain. They were innocent bystanders, victims to the rain, apart and detached from it. How sad. A gust of wind and the Devil spiraled up and up into the clouds. He flung his hands out on either side as he spun and smiled. "Wheeee!" Without warning, waves of pleasure swept over the Devil. How sinful, he thought to himself, to be out enjoying the lovely storm with so much work to do. Dawn was breaking at his back. He turned with a thought and hovered, facing the brief radiance that burned hotter than Hades and was quenched by the weight of the rain. The low clouds full to bursting and the gloom triggered a feeling deep within the crimson giant, but he shrugged and whirled away westward. From his spectacular vantage he could see what his instincts told him through his skin–that the city was breathing to life. A dim glow, a faint reminder that the sun was rising, swept across the buildings with a wash of gray. In its wake, streetlights began flickering off and on and finally off. The streets were left in darkness only less severe than midnight. The gloom’s touch was felt through the alleys and subways like radiation. The human eye could not make out such subtle changes in the atmosphere but the Devil could see it like cancer choking the life from all in its way. The inhabitants of this hostile maze of blinding gray felt it, but only in the deep dark backs of their minds. Maybe hundreds or thousands of years ago mankind was more attuned to his environment but not now. Now it was called things like stress, smog, robbery, rape and worse. People made up reasons to look the other way. With a sigh and a shake of his head, the Devil rebounded from the visage of mortality and turned once again skyward. Swooping and soaring just below the cloud's bottom, the Devil flew with his back to the earth below while his bright red nose and horns plowed gardens through cumulus. His massive brow was battered with brand new virgin drops. Newborn droplets of life-giving water gave themselves willingly to skin as old as time itself. It was rare that the Lord of the Underworld allowed himself the guilty pleasure of putting his tasks off for a moment. But every moment of absence grew upon his flesh like the gray cancer below. He was not permitted such indiscretions or frivolities. He wanted the human race to fend for itself a moment longer. Perhaps if the human race could fly parallel to the skid plate of this mid-air moiling mist, it too could feel a moment of joy in what most people characterized as a ‘crummy life’. Joy and hope were all they needed to prevent a terrible fall. The Devil knew all about terrible falls. His eyes half-closed, gliding along the belly of the fluffy gray beast, the Devil listened to the heartbeat of the Earth, of Heaven and Hell, and his constant battle between them. He listened mutely to the silent conflagration happening all around him. It was a moment’s bliss purchased with his soul. He arced, swooped, and smiled aloud at the thought of “swooping”. The water was in torrential sheets now and swept west and north in great walls of natural force. With a fraction of the great power at his disposal, he tightened the muscles of his jaw and began forming something in the palm of his hand. It began as a small stain of light in his huge palm, then grew. It throbbed, grew, and pulsated with the rhythm of the thunder. Its argent was as pure silver as any lightning ever naturally formed. The tiny sphere of something expanded in his hand like a sponge, drinking full of the rain. His face was lit grotesquely, casting shadows within his deep-set eye sockets. His beard bristled and crackled with energy. A heinous but non-malicious grin took hold of his mouth and also grew. The power in his hand grew at last to a sphere roughly the size of a grapefruit but seemed more like the size of a golf ball in his huge fist. Without hesitation he cast towards it a thought, and it escaped from him at impossible speed. In seconds the glowing sphere appeared and stopped just below the clouds miles away. He clenched his jaw, tightened his forehead, and nodded. In the blink of an eye it rocketed towards him, hitting his chest and exploding without sound. The impact repulsed him back a few mid–air steps but did not harm him. Its force was greater than any mortal could comprehend, but he was unscathed. The Devil consumed the fire within him and was glowing. His skin was red hot and could have smelt iron with a touch. He clenched his fists and laughed. Slowly, a penumbra of light grew around his body in a Leonardo sphere. He heaved his chest and it grew to complete a protective invisible shell about him. With words in a language long since passed from the Earth he spoke and stopped. A brilliant rainbow in a complete circle danced upon the outside lip of the invisible sphere like the rings around Saturn. It shone more steadily and vibrantly than any illusion ever created by the Creator himself. Oblivious walls of rain passed over him without touching a hair on his head. He nearly cried out with jubilance but could not break the spell. He extended his powerful sphere extravagantly until his laden heart could stand no more. The Devil crossed his hooves and sat like the thinker in the pouring rain in the middle of the sky, inside his sphere of bliss, listening to the sounds of life. A moment, then two drifted by. He resisted gravity to remain where he was, but became distracted by a sound. At first he thought it was his imagination but he instantly remembered not having one. A moment passed again and with it a breeze that sang. “A breeze that sang?” he thought. It was too early in the day for impossible things to begin happening. There it was again. As soon as he tilted his head and adjusted his hearing it was gone. But was it a song? It was at the very least a sound. Yes, definitely a sound, but a sound unlike any he had ever heard before. The sound was more like music, but music is a thing he was familiar with and could snap his leathery fingers to and bob his spiny forehead to the beat of. This was clearly something much less obvious. Why would music prefer to be unobvious and reproachful, he wondered. He closed his eyes and heard it again, the sound. The Devil stopped doing whatever it was he forgot he was doing at that moment to listen to the sound. It flew past him, or rather he past it. Swiveling round, he caught the sound by surprise and was nearly blasted out of the sky by its power. It shook his soul as he spiraled from the sky like a wounded bat. With the bubble of force surrounding the Devil, he slammed into roughly the sixteenth floor of an apartment hi-rise, ricocheting back into the upper atmosphere. He floundered in the air for a moment, but was soon under his own power again, before gravity could enforce its law. Gravity took one look at the Devil and decided to look in another direction and pull an otherwise harmless flowerpot off a nearby windowsill. The hairy-chested scarlet beast shot upward with a speed that was against every law in the book. As though the sound barrier were a mere speed bump, the Devil sliced through the air, rain, and wetness to the spot of the sound and he was pissed. There it was again, stronger than before, but this he was ready for its auditory intrusion. Melody, cadence, structure, rhythm . . . the words slunk from his brain as the 'music' washed through his amber flesh to his heart. The pocket of tangible sound became clearer and softer while staying comfortably off in the corner out of the spotlight. Up and down the melody went, soft, then hard and slow, then fast. It was indeed music. It was indeed the most bloody amazing music the Devil ever heard, and it was trapped in a tiny pocket of time and space high above a sleeping gray city that hated its own guts. The Devil would remember that wonderful, perfect, spring morning shower as the first day he ever almost cried. It was as though echoes of ancient harps were reaching out to his soul, touching his blood-red ears through the murk. The rain hid the tears he wasn’t crying from prying eyes and he was glad. Who knows who or what might be looking in on him? Memories flooded in on him, carried, no doubt by the storm, they washed down his body with the rain, but clung to his skin and seeped into his pores instead of boiling away. He floated in space and clung to the music and the memories it brought for as long as he could. But like all things, the squall was breaking down–losing its power and with it, this sphere of timeless music was collapsing like a perfect soap bubble. But there he remained like a stony red statue, even after the storm, now just a miserable rain, had moved on; he sat in the sky, alone. He didn't know what to do, hadn't a clue. He looked down on the city: a shiny wet coat hadn't helped its aesthetic value. A cold wind blew in and a few signs of life could be seen below, braving the wet bitterness and the early hour. Boredom, like the memories before, overwhelmed him. By God he had never been so lethargic, so uninspired, and he had been so happy a few minutes before. He was as hooked as any heroin addict or boozer. He was normally a sad giant and normally did not mind. Normally he felt generally sad about everything, but now . . . His mind wandered. Below a man rushed to his car, a uselessly soggy newspaper over his head, his imported leather shoes were ruined. The Devil knew this man, he knew everybody like they were his own children. His name was Scott, a middle-management drone, who lived in a cubicle somewhere. Generally, he was happy. He had an ex-wife, a girl friend, five kids and a clot in his neck that was about to break loose and cause a stroke in the next couple of hours–or so the Devil guessed. He moved his eyes onward. A young couple, teenagers, their wet hair slicked back, ran and splashed in puddles along the street. Their names were Jack and Jill and their friends thought it was cute. The Devil gave them a toothless and tight-lipped smile. They were on their way to a place Jack knew, where they could be alone. This time would be the first time for Jack, although he had told Jill differently. This time would not be the first time for Jill, although Jack didn't know that. Jill also knew it was going to be Jack's first time, but he was cute so what the hell. “What the hell,” the Devil thought. He shrugged his shoulders and the clot in Scott's neck dissolved. The sky was clearing and the Devil thought to move on when the music again touched his ears. The same unreal sound wafted lightly in the breeze. But now it was at a distance, and different-almost casual. He twisted his large bat-like ears, hoping to zero in on the source. He bobbed along unevenly in its wake, following its trail to a drab apartment building, a depressing monument to concrete. Here, in this place, he heard it stronger still, and it was a voice sung in the back of the throat. The Devil lazily circled the building and found it, or rather, her. An arched window framed in lighter colored brick and mortar firmly held a wooden frame of a window. The glass was slightly tinted in a transparent greenish way and was wavy and uneven near the bottom. Soft, yellow light from inside shone out and made his chest glow orange. The curly, black fur on his chest stood out while his massive hoven legs dangled numbly below him. The Devil’s yellow eyes grew bright and wide, giant black pupils grew smaller as his forked tongue whipped out autonomously to moisten his dripping eyebrows. She was a slight elf of a woman, tall and thin–beautiful. The Devil was captivated by her elegance. She had smooth skin, which had seen the sun, and dark brown hair down to her waist. The Devil floated there, just out of her sight and in plain view of anyone on the street that cared to glance up. The tune resonated casually from her throat as she hummed. She had heard it, the song he had so desperately tried to hang on to, the melody that had escaped him like sunlight through glass; the rhythm the cosmos itself had kept a jealously guarded secret. This song she absentmindedly hummed.