Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The Devil has Shining Eyes by Anand Modha


The house stood on a hill, and watched them approach with a preternatural relish. In its guts, a corkscrewing spiral drilled ever downwards, churning the earth to a fine meal, going ever deeper. It waited, as it had for so very long, for another visitor.

A fine rain had come over the crest of the valley that cupped the house. By the time they had reached the door, all of the group had a fine sheen of water on their clothes. They were eager to get inside, and begin patting themselves dry.

Once inside, the dry smell of dust plumed up from their feet, as everything within seemed untouched for years. Faint scratches of dust where people had walked were scored into it, but they could have been from years ago.
They’d heard of the house at a local inn. One night, after they had suitably pickled their livers, a strange old man approached them. He was missing both a leg and an eye, and had the face of someone for whom misfortune was a common bedfellow. He asked them to buy him a drink, and in return he said he would tell them of a way to get rich. They would have bought him a drink without the incentive, but now they were stupidly eager. As he supped his pint, he told them of house, on a hill, cupped in the horse shoe of a valley, which had a staircase. This staircase, he said, went down past where the dwarves were scared to mine. They went down into the abyss, and at the bottom, there lay a treasure so wondrous that even God feared to pluck it from its place. On the back of a beer mat he sketched its location, and the men eyed at one another hungrily, eager for the next day to come.
They split up, and searched the building, creaking sheets of dust falling from in between floorboards, and finally one of the men shouted that he had found it. They congregated in a large circular room, near the centre of the house. A devil’s chimney rose upwards, and from the ceiling hung a pendulum, slowly swinging. Beneath it, a wide staircase began to wind its way downwards. They looked at one another, a began to bicker who should go. Now that they were there, excitement and greed had given way to fear. They drew lots, and the candidate was chosen. A young man, 24, with soft brown hair that sat in curls on his head. Steeling himself, he took a torch from one of his companions, and gingerly began his decent into the blackness. He asked them to shout to him, but quickly the light from above grew dim, as did the voices, and soon the only light was that from his torch. He placed his hand the right hand side wall, and dragged his palm across it, as if the stone would keep him alive. As if the stone gave him a place.

The closer we get to salvation, the more our place in hell seems set.


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