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The Devil and The Moth
Russell T Flint

 

A Spring day in early May; a chaffinch on the roof singing its heart out, bees appearing and pollinating the air looking for nectar, the trees covering the road with a procession of cherry blossom, red, green and auburn leaves returning to barren branches after a harsh Winter and the sun bringing a smile to tired faces. Amongst all this newborn energy Peter sat on the patio enjoying a cup of tea and reading an Andre Gide novel ‘Strait is the gate’. He had found it in his local Red Cross shop which had a book sale every Wednesday and you could buy a paperback for under a pound, which for Peter was a bargain and meant he could spend more money on cigarettes, his solitary vice in life
It was mid-afternoon and Peter put his novel down and imagined what the next week would bring. He had been on benefits for the last six months and was strapped for cash. His mate John had given him a hundred quid to look after his house while he took his family to Spain; an opportunity Peter could not afford to miss. He would live there and food was provided; homemade soup, mince, pork chops, lasagne and some chicken. Also there was the full Sky package on the television which meant Peter could watch the History Channel, MTV2 and the football. This appealed to Peter as he did not have a television at home as he could not afford to pay the license fee.
There were three bedrooms, a dining room, a study, a living room, a couple of bathrooms and a well kept garden. This was indeed the height of luxury for Peter, so as he drank his tea he was pleased with himself and was looking forward to the coming week, when suddenly he was startled by a bulky black raven which landed on the garage roof above him. He glanced up at it and was slightly disturbed by its menacing presence and close proximity. The raven stared at Peter with it deep eyes which were like the bottom of a mud pool, and then it stretched its wings like a canvas and a portal to a different world, a world of shadows, strangers and fear. Peter tried to ignore it and then it just flew away as quickly as it had made its presence known and he watched as it perched itself on the chimney of the house next door.
Mildly perturbed, Peter picked up his book and empty cup and went inside to the kitchen and decided to cook some dinner. But as the hours passed this raven like a phantom dominated his sensitive consciousness. ‘Was it a sign?’ he thought anxiously. He had always been a little superstitious and the unwanted arrival of the raven had left a tinge of trepidation in his mind. Later on that night, after a couple of hours on Facebook and an episode of ‘Kings and Queens of Great Britain’ on the History Channel, he retired to bed remembering to double lock the front door and close all the windows.
The bed he was sleeping in was a double with a wooden panel at the back. The room had a table with a couture lamp next to the bed. There was a chest of drawers with golden handles and a mirror attached to the top, so as Peter lay in bed he could see himself across the room. He turned the light off and the darkness through the gaps in the window blind was visible. Sleep came quickly but it was not restful. Many dreams formed but the one he found most disturbing was brief and frightening: he was talking to his father and then the phone rang and so he answered it. He heard a dark and dusky voice pertaining to be the Devil and it said
“Come back to me Peter, come back to me.”
Peter in the dream immediately and instinctively replied,
“I believe in the love of Jesus Christ.”
And as soon as he said this the voice let out a piercing and unnerving scream and the phone he was holding began to melt until it had dissolved into a putrid brown pool of puss on the floor below. Then Peter woke up, jumping forward in shock at what he had just seen in the dream. He was sweating. He looked at the clock, it was three thirty in the morning. Trying to relax and telling himself that it wasn’t real, Peter got out of bed and went downstairs to have a glass of juice and a cigarette to calm his nerves. For the rest of the night he stayed up and watched BBC News 24 to take his mind off the nightmare he had experienced.
As the dawn broke Peter began to feel more comfortable and he made himself a light breakfast of toast with some jam. He was glad to see the sunrise on the horizon and the chorus of birds that welcomed in the morning with such glee. The local newsagent opened at six so Peter took a stroll down and the cutting air freshened his constitution.
When he returned he noticed on the back door a large moth which had planted itself in the middle, just above the handle. At first he took no notice of it and left it alone.
Once inside he sat in the yellow armchair and reached for his book and began to read. He was at the part in the story where the lead character confesses his love for his cousin and the intensity of the narrative and the prosaic and elegant style of writing engaged Peter tremendously.
After a couple of hours the doorbell rang. Peter was not expecting any visitors. He went to the front door and saw through the tinted glass that it was the old lady from across the road. She was wearing a long grey overcoat, red gloves, a red neck scarf and a Russian hat, like something out of a Pushkin poem. Peter opened the door and she smiled at him and passed him a container.
“There you go darling, some soup to keep you going.” she said in a soft and alluring monotone. He took the container out of her hand. “Think it’s going to rain today. Look at all those clouds,” and she pointed to the sky.
“Yes probably,” replied Peter, trying to get rid of her. “They’ll be enjoying the sun in Spain. Wish it was me. It never stops raining here.” Peter looked at her curiously.
“Anyway I’ll let you go. Got some fish to catch” and she grinned and Peter was sure she winked at him. “Bye, and if you want any more you know where you can get it.” she called out to him as she flitted down the path like a sparrow.
Closing the door behind him Peter went to the kitchen and placed the soup on the top shelf of the fridge next to the lasagne and returned to his book. The day passed incongruously and if it wasn’t for the novel he was reading, Peter would have struggled to occupy himself. In fact the house with all its luxuries was losing its appeal and he could not help but feel that there was something eerie about his new abode, as every time he passed the stairs to the main bedroom he was conscious that there was a presence there, supernatural or not, watching him.
Dinner was quick and easy; some pasta with chopped pork and a sauce from Tesco’s.
Rangers were playing Hibs that night so he sat down in front of the television and watched most of the second half. At about eleven he began to ready himself for sleep. He showered, brushed his teeth and tried to relax, but after his dream of the previous night, he was apprehensive. Finding a Bible in the study, he placed it on the table next to his bed, hoping it would bring an undisturbed and peaceful sleep.
However, it had little effect and his sleep was immersed in the trembling realms of nightmares. Pulling large eels out of his body, being chased by black wolves, snakes crawling over his skin and onerous laughing and painted faces were what greeted him on the other side of his subconscious. When he awoke he felt nauseous and what he had seen and felt while dreaming seemed so real to him, even in the early hours of daylight. He wanted to curl up in his bed and not do anything, he was depressed and anxious and was becoming more and more aware and suspicious that something in the background was watching him in this house.
Eventually, after becoming fed up of moping in bed, he managed to get dressed and have something to eat. He was perturbed when he opened the back door and there was the moth, still clinging on. Having never seen a moth so big, he was amazed by its eyes which were protected by camouflaged shutters, acting like armour against any unwanted attention. Remembering the Spanish film “Pan’s Labyrinth” where the moths and insects were fairies, it crossed his mind that perhaps this thing in front of him was actually of such ilk, a sprite or a messenger of spirit.
In order to take himself out of his mind and its heinous, overactive thoughts of trepidation and doom, Peter decided to take some bread and feed the birds outside, who were singing like a choir of angels by the patio. He tore at the bread and sprinkled little bits on the gravel below as if he was sowing the ground with a seed, which would magically preserve his sanity, which he felt at the moment was being sorely tested. A blue tit and a robin came down from the wall and in a friendly and appreciative manner, pinched the bread and flew away. Peter was glad of their company.
Once the bread was finished, he took the keys of John’s car and thought he would take a drive to the nearby town, go to the bank and perhaps do some shopping. He put the alarm on and then climbed into John’s Renault Clio, which was clean and smelt of peppermint, and drove south along the main road. Lambs were in the fields, flowers were showing their exuberant colours, herons were fishing in the estuary and the air smelt of Spring. Nevertheless, Peter was oblivious to all of this as his mind was asking him questions. ‘Why was he having such bad dreams?’, ‘Did the woman next door want to have sex with him?’, ‘What is that moth?’ and ‘Are things going to get worse?’
As he was driving along he suddenly realised that the moth had removed itself from the back door and was now climbing up the arm of his green jacket. Somewhat intrigued and surprised, he let it climb as far as the lapel, where it stopped and positioned itself just under his chin. He wondered if perhaps this moth or fairy was sent to protect him. He let it sit there as he was frightened to kill it or remove it in case he was cursed or condemned for committing such a callous act. Maybe she was a portentous omen, he even began calling her his Queen.
Once he arrived he parked the car next to the canal where a group of ducks were feeding. His first port of call was the bank where he stuck a cheque in his account and he found it quite amusing when the teller asked him who his friend was, pointing to the moth at the top of his jacket. The moth was quite visible as he walked about the quiet streets and he felt proud and liked the fact that she was there with him. Next stop was the supermarket to pick up some fruit, a bag of apples and a couple of bananas, as he always felt hungry before he went to bed and a piece of fruit usually settled his stomach.
After an hour he returned to the car and she was still there below his chin, why he did not know, but it endeared in him a sense of love for this creature who had adopted him. So much so then when he got back to the house, he placed his jacket on a chair, not wanting to disturb her and by her side he placed a rose which he had taken out of the vase on the kitchen table and a shell he had found in the bathroom. These were tokens of his admiration and gratitude for the moth and for whatever reason she had chosen to befriend him.
As the day ended and the night began to draw in, Peter was overwhelmed with foreboding. Late in the afternoon a robin had flown into the house and in a panic was darting from room to room. Finally he let it out the front window. He felt it might be trying to warn him. Also he had found an old tarot deck under a purple silk cloth in a draw in the study. His ex-girlfriend had taught him the meaning of the cards and he had taken them downstairs and given himself a couple of readings. He asked the pack about his general wellbeing and he picked the Moon card as well as the Three of Swords. He knew that their meaning was not fortunate. The pack emanated a strange negative and possessive aura and after a while Peter became tinged with their darkness. Therefore he put them back where he had found them under the cloth and tried to forget about them.
As the night wore on he became more restless and despondent until around midnight, when he walked through the main hallway, he could feel within his spiritual self something calling and beckoning him to come up the stairs. Alarmed at these thoughts and alone in this house, Peter took a deep breath and tried to compose himself. He thought he was going mad.
“Ask the Tarot, ask the Tarot” a voice in his head kept repeating, so again he fetched the tarot pack and he spread it out in front of him on the wooden table in the kitchen. Then he told whoever or whatever was there and calling him to reveal themselves through the Tarot and he took his right hand, which was shaking a little, and picked the first card he touched. Slowly he turned it over and to his horror he saw it was The Devil card and he knew then that Satan was at the top of the stairs waiting for him.
Panic and fright immediately set in and he wanted to flee, to get away from this damned house as quickly as possible. This was too much; if he stayed here too long God knows what would happen. So for the first time in about twenty years he said The Lord’s Prayer which he had leant as a youngster at primary school. Then as calmly as possible, he went to his room and started packing his belongings ready to leave. His blood was rushing round his body in a manic state of fear, sweat dropped and dangled from his forehead, images of death and hell pervaded his mind, his hands were becoming dreadfully cold and all he could think about was running out of the house and to keep running until he collapsed.
Trying to get a grip on himself and his mind, Peter zipped up the bag and hurried down the stairs, still conscious of the evil presence around him. He went to take his jacket and saw that the rose and the shell had been dislodged and were now residing redundantly on the floor below. There was no sign of the moth. He did not have time to look for her and think about where she was. His jacket now on, he set the alarm in a hurry and bolted out the door like a racehorse at Aintree. As he entered the street, he saw the old lady from next door still wearing her red gloves and neck scarf. “Leaving so soon?” she asked with a laugh that conjured up an image of witches dancing madly round a fire. Peter ignored her and walked as fast as his feet would carry him towards the other side of town where his flat was situated by the railway station. Looking up into the sky, he saw that there was a full moon and in the corner of his eye he caught the silhouette of a moth following him down the road.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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