M Durand's story "Five Stories In Which The Devil Appears" from issue forty-five of Neon Literary Magazine.

I

A woman is walking to her car with a bag of groceries. Her young daughter is waiting inside the car. The woman has instilled in her daughter a powerful fear of strangers. The daughter thinks a strange man will try to kidnap her if he sees her sitting in the car alone, so she has been hiding awkwardly crouched on the floor behind the driver’s seat waiting for her mother to return. Her mother allows her to do this because she is also a very fearful person and her fear has given her many strange habits. When she thinks too much about her daughter’s fears she always comes around to thinking about her own and this distresses her greatly so she has learned not to think about any of it. The daughter has found a toy car under the driver’s seat. She has several toy cars but she only plays with them in her room and this isn’t one of them. At the same time it looks familiar. The woman unlocks the door and her daughter pops up out of her hiding place, relieved. As the woman opens the door she sees the toy car in her daughter’s hand and is confused because it is a replica of her own car, the one she is now entering. She asks to see it for a moment and her daughter goes to hand it to her. For a child’s toy it seems incredibly detailed. They both notice the tiny shape visible in its back window. It looks like the Devil. Now the woman is pulling into her driveway without any clear memory of driving home. Her daughter is about to get out of the car but she stops her and tells her to stay in her seat. She thinks she has seen the Devil in the kitchen window. He’s gone now. She waits and after a few seconds the Devil reappears, staring out. The daughter wants to go inside, she hasn’t seen yet. The woman tells her they can’t go inside right now, just stay in the car and behave, play with your toy. It’s not hers, of course, but now that her mother has called it hers she feels as though she owns it. And so she does. From inside the house, the Devil watches and waits. In the car the woman also waits, also watches.

II

The beach is deserted except for me. I watch the waves. The Devil rears up out of the waves directly in front of me, far away. I want to turn and flee but I don’t want the Devil to know I’m afraid. Once when I was young a large dog came running toward me, barking. I knew I couldn’t outrun it so I shouted NO! GO HOME! in the deepest loudest voice I could muster, and it stopped chasing me and wandered off. NO! I shout now, trying to find that voice again. The Devil tilts his head slightly. I close my eyes and shout GO HOME! When I open them the Devil is gone. I wait for him to come back but he doesn’t. At first I laugh. At first I’m relieved. But soon and for the rest of my life I will look back on this incident and wish the Devil were right there in front of me again, so I could know for sure where he was. There was great peace in that certainty, I will soon realize. I will never know such peace again. For the rest of my life he could be anywhere.

III

She likes to put on her parents’ clothes when she’s home alone. It’s funny and exciting. She has found a funny shirt and funny pants but she needs a funny tie. Where are the ties? She remembers one with a fish on it that would be perfect. She pushes her way to the back of the closet. The Devil is back there. Quickly she pulls some sweaters off a shelf and drapes them over the Devil, covering his face. Later maybe something will need to be said or done but she is busy now, this is a project now. I need a tie, she says. Where are you, tie?

IV

He came to her hotel room to sign the divorce papers, but things got weird and now they’re fucking. He is fucking her from behind so she can’t see the horrible face he always makes. This is the way they always did it. Can’t you just close your eyes, he used to ask. I like to have them open, I like to see. But you can’t see anything when I’m behind you, how is it different? It’s just different. You’re impossible, you know that? Not said lovingly. Said like he was thinking about hurting her. Sometimes he was. Now they’re finally calling it quits, but now now what they’re doing is fucking. Both of them thinking this is the best it’s ever been. But neither would ever admit that to the other. This is how they are. Someone is knocking at the door. It’s the Devil. She knows it’s the Devil but he doesn’t. This hotel room was supposed to be empty over an hour ago. The Devil needs to use the room for something. Ignore it, she says. I am ignoring it, he says. Good. Fine. Good.

V

Once upon a time a boy was running in big circles on the playground. Other children were playing in groups or at least in pairs but the boy was shy and he preferred to play alone. He had a vivid imagination and in his imagination he was a helicopter, flying low. He circled and circled and made helicopter sounds and was content. After a while he started to feel a burning in the back of his throat. He kept running in circles but he wondered if this was how it felt just before you threw up, because he never had. And indeed the burning feeling rose in his throat and came into his mouth and his stomach contracted and a sick belching sound came out of him, and he felt something else come out along with it. He stopped running and looked at the ground all around him, for he thought he had seen a small spiny object fall from his mouth. He looked all over. He retraced his big circle but there was nothing. For months afterward he wondered and worried about the object. He knew no one would think it had been real so he kept the story to himself. Summer ended and he went back to school and in the end he decided he must not have seen anything after all. His imagination maybe was too vivid. He maybe would try not to get so lost in there. But in fact it had been real. What no one knew was that the Devil had died that summer. For three whole weeks there had been no Devil in the world. Then, and I don’t know why, the egg of the new Devil had come out of that boy’s mouth on the playground. It dug fast with its spines and it went down into the ground and hatched there. And since that day the Devil had been growing, underground. But that was many years ago, and the new Devil is not so new and has been full size for a long time now. He spent his growing years inside the ground but now he goes wherever he wants and does all kinds of things. He doesn’t remember where he came from and I hope he never finds out. I don’t know why but I hope he never does.

*

M Durand lives in Western Massachusetts and is a musician, artist, and/or writer whenever time permits. He plans to add “filmmaker” to that list at some point. As Kaivaus he self-released his first album, June Plus, in 2016; his second album is almost finished, he hopes. He is @foggy_fossil on Instagram. He is always looking for collaborators.

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