Here I am, kicking off a new series for October 2022 in celebration of fall. Last year, you were invited to join us for Total Monster Makeover. This year brings yet another adventure, this time hosted by none other than the Devil himself… Enjoy this short story and additions over the course of the month.
It was an uneventful autumnal Thursday. I was raking for the third time that season to clear the tendrils of brittle plant detritus that kept sidling over from my neighbor’s knee-deep leaf pile of a yard. A gaunt silhouette of a bearded man wandered by, walking a dapper white Westmoreland Terrier. The dog circled three times and pooped before proceeding to bury the evidence by flinging yet more leaves onto the steaming pile with rapid sweeping motions of his hind feet in a grandiose orchestrated dance. As the dog-walker bent over to scoop up his spoils, the dog stared at me intently and winked, amber eyes gleaming from behind his furry facade. It was not a friendly kind of a wink, mind you – more one of those somewhat sinister I-know-something-you-don’t winks. Then the dog opened its mouth and addressed me.
“My dear Jonathan Menkhir, it is a pleasure if I dare say so myself.”
Taken aback, I stared at the dog. The gaunt man stood unmoving like a statue, caught perpetually in his hunched position firmly gripping his unappealing prize, eyes staring unblinkingly ahead. The dog cocked its head to the left quizzically and spoke again.
“Surely you heard me, fellow Jonathan. What, have you never seen a talking dog before?” The Westie’s yellow teeth flashed an unnervingly wide toothy grin.
“You… you can talk…” I muttered, letting loose my grip on the rake handle. The rake fell to my side releasing a spurt of leaves upon its pillowed landing.
“Why yes, my dear lad, and so much more…” The dog’s eyes twinkled. “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Beelzebub Lord of the Flies, Abaddon the Destroyer, Lucifer the Shining One…”
I just stood there, motionless and unresponsive, soaking up my circumstances. I can’t believe I’m talking to a dog, I thought. The words the dog spoke fell haphazardly along the wayside of my mind because they were meaningless in comparison to the messenger, at least in that moment, and they didn’t fit my image of how the devil would appear.
“You would probably best know me as Satan.” The dog sat pointedly and smiled, eyes still fixated on me. He had a proper air about him and seemed almost noble but in a forced snake oil salesman kind of way. At least, insomuch as a Westmoreland Terrier could seem both gentlemanly and conniving.
I finally found my voice buried deep within my throat and coughed up a response. “Oh, OK, I guess. So what brings you to these parts, um, Satan?” It wasn’t the best-articulated thought, but given that I had suddenly found myself talking to a somewhat prim and proper small purebred dog claiming to be the devil, that wasn’t surprising.
The dog stood and wagged its tail. “I wanted to make you an offer, my dear Jonathan. ”
“I am not interested in bargaining with the likes of yourself, Satan,” I retorted, surprised by how clearly the words fell from my lips and how quickly I seemed to adjust to the fact that I was talking to the devil as a small white dog as if it were nothing extraordinary and this was just another mundane Thursday afternoon. I guess I was better rehearsed in this comeback than I’d expected, having neglected the faith in my adult years after leaving many of my childhood fears behind.
“Come now, I know your heart’s desire, and that would be to see your dear Chloe again.” The devil dog wagged his tail again. “I can make that happen, you know.”
Chloe, my mind flooded back to the love of my life, my high school sweetheart, my college pen pal, my beautiful bride who had died nearly two years ago due to complications with the pregnancy. We had met through theater, having played opposite one another in Fiddler and becoming inseparable after. We had only been married for a little over a year after finishing college and moving into this house together when she had become pregnant with our first child, a little girl we had planned to name Abilene. It should have been the happiest time of my life, but it had been ripped from me prematurely. There wasn’t a day that passed without my thoughts returning to my beloved Chloe, I missed her with all my heart and soul.
Seemingly reading my thoughts as they overflowed my eyelids and trickled down my face, the dog grinned again. “Why yes, dear Jonathan, you can be with your beloved Chloe again.” His tail wagged even more feverishly.
Shaking my head, I spoke. “No. That you cannot do. Do not tempt me with your lies.”
“My reputation is unearned, my dear fellow. I mean you no ill intent.” The devil dog cocked its head to the left again. “If you wish to see your dear Chloe again, all you need do is come with me.”
“What, to Hell?” I asked, offended at the mere implication that my precious Chloe was doomed to such a dreadful place. “What do you take me for?”
“Not to Hell, my dear Jonathan, to Purgatory,” the dog stated matter-of-factly. “It hasn’t been that long since her passing and the decision is still being weighed, as one might expect. We request your… input… on some matters.”