Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Welcome to Three Word Wednesday, where my feet are cold and the Devil's lips are warm.
Twelve cities had fallen in answer to the Devil's robust appetite. White pillars cracked, giants slabs of rock split in two, libraries and city halls crumbled. Tennis courts caved in, elementary schools half gone, and this was only the beginning. Humanity scattered like ants looking for a new hole, but even the running dogs knew nowhere was safe. I sat up on the bridge and watched black smoke over Detroit turn into starless night, chewing on the wind as it whipped around me.
"You, my dear, are a feast for sore eyes."
I knew he'd come. I pretended not to look -- it's best, anyway, if you look at the Devil out the side of your eyes. He comes in more clear like that. I also pretended he hadn't said "feast" instead of "sight." I grunted and didn't say anything.
"Things have been rough lately. Work is very hard." He sat next to me, swinging his legs in the air. He didn't hold on to anything.
"I feel for you," I said.
"I know you do. You are the very kindest and most compassionate of all my children."
It was hard to say which of us had conjured up the most sarcasm, but I would give it to him. He always won, of course.
"So where to next?"
He laughed. It sounded like the rushing river far below us. "Did you think I would just tell you?" He put something in my lap. "Here. I got this for you."
It was a teddy bear. Its stitched eyes were frayed, its brown fur bald in patches. An ear was stiff from constantly being chewed. Well loved, this teddy bear. I wondered about the child who had owned it.
"No, thanks. I'm not nine anymore." And I dropped that bear, straight down. It flopped and jerked in the wind, but then it was gone. It was hard to see, but I assumed it had hit the dark water and sunk.
"No, you're not. Not a bit." He didn't look at me now, not even out of the corners of his eyes. He leaned over and kissed me on the cheek, and despite myself, I leaned into his lips, the only warm thing out here, as if his kiss was a charm I could wear, or a benediction.
He stood. The entire bridge swayed, nearing destruction, and yet he didn't. He cut a dark shadow against darker shadows. "Atlanta," he said. "If you must know."
And then he was gone. I waited, feeling the bridge quiver, a foal on new legs that would never stand again. I stood myself, adjusted my cap, and tested the wind. "Atlanta," I muttered. "Yeah, they'll never see that coming."
And I dove off the bridge, soaring south over a city it was too late to save, the screams of the already-forgotten at my back. A thirteenth chance. Well. Thirteen always was my lucky number.