ENCOUNTER WITH THE DEVIL
by Thaddeus Rutkowski
You dirty rat,” I said. I was talking to the devil himself. I spoke without trepidation, even though I was addressing a creature with horns and a pointed tail. “You don’t have a monopoly on evil or sin,” I said.
The earrings he wore started jingling. “I wish it would snow sometimes, here in hell,” he said.
“Not in this circle,” I said, “or in any circle of your infernal underworld.”
“I made my fortress strong,” he replied, “to keep out twerps like you.”
I could feel my neck starting to burn under my collar. Maybe I was on fire, but that was impossible. How would I get out of here—could I find a handcart and drive myself out of heck?
I doubted that mode of transport would get me very far; I’d still be a rat in a maze. The prospect of losing my way filled me with trepidation. I’d have a better chance of breaking out of jail in a Monopoly game.
Satan’s earrings jingled again as he shook his head and laughed. “You won’t make it through the storm,” he predicted. “Snow is coming. I feel it in my bones.”
“What kind of infernal landscape is this?” I said. “I thought there was only a lake of fire down here.”
“Trying to understand this fortress is the sign of a twerp, not the sign of the beast,” the devil answered.
I could feel my cheeks starting to burn; no doubt I was embarrassed. It would be impossible to live down my encounter. I wasn’t going to drive Satan away, and I wasn’t going to escape on my own—I couldn’t remember where in hell I’d left my handbasket.
Thaddeus Rutkowski is the author of the innovative novelsHaywire, Tetched and Roughhouse, which were finalists for a Members’ Choice Asian American Literary Award. He teaches at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn and the Writer’s Voice of the West Side YMCA in Manhattan. He was awarded a 2012 fellowship in fiction writing from the New York Foundation for the Arts.
Image credit: Rex Diablo