That devil on my shoulder
Had become bolder as I got older
He used to come to me in my sleep
In nightmares that’s seemed
More a warning than a dream
“Read that again, Emma.” Allen said. He was in the kitchen preparing a snack while I sat in the living room and read to him the first paragraph of the book I had recently completed, Hope. I had long lacked the confidence to make myself vulnerable by sharing my writing, so reading out loud that first paragraph felt like a small triumph, and Allen was a non-judging and safe ear.
Allen was only slightly my senior, someone who’s life was in crisis and who I had opened my home up to. He was a man who had lost his way and my friend Lisa and I were giving him couches, food, friendship, and encouragement as he fought to get his life back, cleaned up, himself off the streets, and steady employment. I’ve always been one to open my home up, and it’s not a loss, even when it backfires…and it was about to.
I started to read. “Evil has many faces and few of them are what you’d expect. You can’t see the bony, twisted demon hovering above its victim, manipulating situations like the arms and legs of a marionette. Evil prefers to be seen as a friend, something trusted. It likes to be thought of as safe, so that you find yourself inadvertently inviting it into your life, arms open, embracing it. Evil is also patient. It’s like a snake that finds its way into your home through a crack in the floorboard, slithering in the shadows until it finds a place to hide – under your bed, or inside your cupboards – where it will lay unmoving, unblinking, educating itself about its prey. It’s a poisonous gas that drifts into your breathing air through an open window, undetected and invisible, until you unknowingly breath it into your lungs and exhale it, so that it has not only been inside of you and passed through you, but has now become a part of you, and you of it.” I read out loud.
Hope was 450 pages long and I had written it in a two week furor of inspiration and determination. It was science meets religion meets fiction meets edge-of-your seat excitement. I made non-human main characters out of demons, angels, God and the Devil. My guardian angels were Bjorn and Art, two people I have loved and lost …I made them warriors in a realm beyond what our eyes can see…and I turned depression, anxiety, and suicide and addiction into little demons and as the reader you were able to see their faces. It was an artistic way for me to illustrate the battle I imagine takes place behind the scenes. It was an encouraging way to celebrate the lives of people I have lost along the way, and keeping them with me even though they were gone. It was a fun way for me to identify and give face to my biggest enemies, those enemies I have personally wrestled with in life: Depression, anxiety, and suicidal, that little rat bastard addiction.
Depression was a bulbous, sloth-like spirit that would latch on to it’s victims and melt into a cloak, heavy on their shoulders, so that they found them self wearing it like a garment. Suicide was a particularly malevolent, two-faced demon. It would haunt and bounce around behind Hope as she faced her giants…Suicide almost looked like a stuffed animal, a harmless little smiling thing skipping behind Hope, it’s hands innocently hiding behind it’s back as it bounced behind her, just an idea…it seemed like something that would offer solace and comfort were you to pick it up and embrace it, but if you did, suicide would reveal its other face, just a black gaping abyss, a face of nothingness with screams of torment and anguish.
“I like the way you described evil, Emma…” Allen said to me. “It’s true. Evil does want you to think its your friend…I have something to tell you…about that….”
“Oh really?” I asked him.
“I’m a demon.” He said.
I laughed at him. “What, Allen? YOU ARE NOT A DEMON. You are just a man that’s feeding the devil on his shoulder more than the angel on his other…you are a work in progress….”
“No, Emma.” He said, his tone serious. “I’ve chosen this. I’ve chosen perpetuate chaos, not stop it. I am a demon….”
I shrugged off his self-deprecating comments and continued to write.
Shortly after this interaction, Allen, this man I had been helping who I considered a friend proceeded to rob me of everything I had ever worked hard for. I came home one morning to a cleaned out apartment. He had taken everything… From the spare change in the jar, to the Christmas gift I had been excited to give my stepson, to computers and laptops, including the laptop with Hope on it…Hope, 450 pages of unbacked up novel, with my heart and soul written between every line, gone before I even had a chance to finish proofreading it.
Hope was stolen by a demon?
Is that the definition of irony?
They say truth is stranger than fiction and I’m inclined to agree…