He turns to me with a sly look. To my surprise, his smile—even with those sharp fangs—is quite endearing.
“Job’s wife, I presume? Hallelujah! I have been expecting you for quite a long while,” says Satan. His voice is sweet. He must have sung in a choir in his youth, because in some ways he sounds as pious as my husband. “Shame, shame, shame on you,” he wags his finger. “You sure made me wait, didn’t you...”
And without allowing time for an answer, he brings a magnifying glass to his bloodshot eye. Enlarged, his pupil is clearly horizontal and slit-shaped.
Which makes me feel quite at home with him, because so are the pupils of the goats in the herds we used to own.
Meanwhile, Satan unfolds a piece of paper and runs his finger through some names listed there. Then, with a gleam of satisfaction he marks a checkbox there, right in the middle of the crinkled page. At once, a whiff of smoke whirls in the air.
Satan blows off a few specks of charred paper, folds the thing and tucks it into his breast pocket, somewhere in his wool. Cashmere, I ask myself? Really? In this heat?
Back home, when I would count my gold coins, this was something I craved with a passion... It would keep me warm during the long winter nights...
Then, without even bothering to look at me, Satan says, “I swear, madam, you look lovely tonight.”
For a moment I am grateful that my husband is among the living. Or so I think. Nowadays, influenced by the elders, he regards swearing as a mortal sin, as bad as cursing. He even plugs his ears, for no better reason than to avoid hearing it. But if you ask me, I swear: without a bit of blasphemy, language would utterly dull, and fit for nothing but endless prayer. Sigh.
Strangely, Satan does not frighten me that much anymore. And so, swaying on my hip bones, I strut out of the cave in his direction. I feel an odd urge to fondle his horns. Along the path toward him I make sure to suck in my belly, because in the company of a gentleman, even a corpse is entitled to look her best.
“No—not a corpse,” he corrects me, as if he has just read my mind. “A soul! That is what you are.”
“A damned one, too,” says Leila, cutting in.
And he says, “Aren’t we all.”
And she hisses, “Especially her. She is a nobody. She belongs with the dreamers among us; the losers.”
I figure she does not like me, and she does not appreciate competition. All smiles and giggles, she is batting her eyelashes at him while wiggling her heavy bust and advancing, somehow, in the mud, over her diamond-studded sandals.
Which in a flash, angers him. In spite of a visible effort to remain calm his face turns red, and he shakes his fist at her. I spot a dark feather wagging back and forth behind his neck, nearly tickling him, which is the first clue to what happens next: wings sprout from his back, and they spread out—monstrously massive—with an furious, ear-splitting flutter.
“Go,” he spurts out, no longer in control of himself. “Not now! I am busy here, can’t you see?”
“With her?” says the bitch, utter disbelief ringing in her voice. “Who—what is she to you?”
And he answers, mostly to himself, “First and foremost, she is a case study. An accomplice in my plans, even though she does not recognize it—not yet. When she does, I can use her. Therefore, she is a possible ally. Even one soul can tip the scales, change the balance of power and overturn things, up and down, heaven and hell.”
You can listen to this excerpt by clicking HERE and hitting the play button (under the cover image.)
My charcoal drawing, where the two female figures build up the male figure. Can you discover them?
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