by Kris Green
They placed the stones evenly apart forming a complete circle before hammering each one into the earth. Walking in-between them, they stood only a moment forming the circle, stones and bodies, in a reverential awe knowing everything was ready. Then they withdrew save one.
He placed his hands over the top of one of the stones. The small debris of dust rubbed off flaked it in between his fingers. The hooded friend placed the crying animal in the center of the circle. The wind rose, and he looked over to where it came from expecting something to try to deter what was coming.
The hillside was bare. The ancient paths had been grown over a thousand-fold for centuries. The two long intersecting highways forgotten by any physical beings. The others, whose voices could barely be heard carried by the wind, still chanted as they disappeared into the night.
He felt a weird sense of exhaustion come over him as his eyes threatened to close permanently in between each long blink. Arguing for this right had taken more energy than he had planned. Now that the time had come, he lowered his head resolute and walked into the center of the circle. The animal seeing him, whimpered thinking salvation was at hand.
The atrocity he had to commit would scream out into the unseen realms as flesh bore against flesh. Blood wailed out to anyone that would hear it. He didn’t waste time with pentagrams or any symbols. Considering them to be as powerless as anything else. It’s not as if crosses summon God. The act, he considered, would be what could draw the attention of the other realm.
The act is what would be incline the ears of the other realm. When his hands had been drenched in blood, he lifted the knife and allowed the tears to come. The tears rubbed the blood, smearing it across his face as he steadied himself and waited.
There was no wind or cry or outpouring of noise. No galloping steps or screams to illuminate the door being opened. But as the man saw the figure appear, he knew the doorway had been opened. The presence’s shadow cast long in the moonlight as the figure moved between the stones before leaning against one of them.
The man turned trying to find the end of the shadow and outline of the presence, but the darkness kept everything shrouded.
“Hel… Hello?” The man said.
“What is it you want?”
The man cleared his throat. He did not consider how much fear he would possess in this moment. He trembled before snapping his head back and forth. The shadow was thicker than of the man that began to walk out the shadows looked as if there was armor or something lining the presence’s skin. As his eyes followed the shadow to the presence, the creature, the eyes staring in at him glowed red only for a moment before fading.
“Don’t I know you?”
“I… no…. um… I am….”
“I don’t care for your name.” His head cocked to the side looking into this frail soul. “I know you. Er… used to… I suppose time is the funniest of things. Your grandfather or is it great-grandfather sought me out. Hardly believe it was yesterday. Time is truly an oppressive thing for the likes of you. Like little ants scurrying to your doom generation after generation.”
He didn’t speak. The presence, the beast, who stood before him, leaned against one of the pillars and let out a small yawn. He lifted his finger and rolled it in the air, “Come on with it. I have all day, but I’d prefer not to spend it with you. Humans haven’t come up with anything truly original in millennia.”
Then looking at the pile of lifeless flesh in the middle of the circle, he shrugged, “Nice dog.”
“I want to be free,” The man said, “I want to be free like you.”
“Like me.” The presence laughed and the man wondered if this were being were manifest physically or just some corporeal entity come to this place.
“You don’t know what freedom is?”
“Are you not free from God and all his tyranny?”
“Free?” The presence laughed.
“You do as you please. Not bound by rules or any religion. You don’t have to suffer the consequences of your actions because you answer to no one.”
“You think I answer to no one? And you think this makes me free?”
“Am I not a victim of my own actions – me and my brothers?”
The man’s lips pursed as the presence no longer leaned but straightened and then, the first hard crunch on the ground, he braced knowing this force of darkness was approaching him.
“You are free.”
The man’s barely heard voice quavered. He wondered if it weren’t from the cool air now coming down the hillside that had caused him to shiver a little and regretted it thinking this devil would see it as weakness.
“You answer to no one for your actions.”
“You think all actions have no consequences?”
The man said nothing.
“You think I am free of penalty? Does not every action have its reaction?”
“I want to be free.” The man said.
The devil laughed. His finger rose and as he pointed at the man, “Your eyes will open now, and you will see.”
The man looked down at what remained of his dog. He turned away and could hear a soft chuckle among the steps now sounding like it was walking around him.
“Do not turn your gaze away.” The presence spoke. “Look.”
The man turned his face to see the remains and while the dog was surely cold, he could still hear its small whimpers as the one he loved and trusted turned against him. Somewhere far off, he could hear hammering. He turned to look but only saw in the dog’s eyes a moment he hadn’t seen but looking now at the motionless dog, he knew the dog had looked to him in the moment of its final agony and cried out for salvation.
As the man’s heart began to pound heavily, memories started flooding him. At first, he thought the cries were his own, but they echoed from some near distance. Actions that in the moment were justified, his mind scrutinized as if it were an outside observer. Tears began to pour down his face as the man fell to his knees. Words spoken in haste begged to be taken back as the full burden of his guilt came upon him. Each comment nailed into him with a pounding clang.
When guilt falling, full-weighted on him, he found himself crying out for anything, anyone to come to him. Anything to save him. Was this freedom? He let out a loud groan before crying out knowing that even he had asked to be free, he did not realize the depths of his bondage. In the fiery night, he saw the cross rise from among the pillars and realized the salvation that he needed was not from the presence of the shadow lurking among the stones but rather from the cross perched and peering down upon him. The cries he had heard were from the agony of the crucified savior. The hammering was from the nails that pierced the skin to shed the blood of eternal salvation. His eyes opened looking upward crying out for the salvation of this broken savior.
The fire burned inside his heart and began to cough soot as he felt the guilt of each deed one by one leave him. Tears poured freely as he felt something else begin to grow inside of him, stretching out as if trying him. When the silence came in the night, his heavy breathing slowed, he looked over at the presence and despite the vague of hate he now felt for this presence, he had to ask.
“Why did you make me one of them?”
“You wanted to be free.”
“I wanted…” his voice trailed off feeling the words coming not from his own mind and heart but from somewhere new inside, “I had wanted your freedom.”
“My freedom is not freedom. You said, little mortal, ‘I want to be free’. So, I made you free.”
The devil laughed then looking at the man’s peaceful face as the understanding raced across it.
“Yes.” The man laughed too. “I am free. Freer than ever, but why did you make me one of your enemies.”
“I give it a year. Maybe two. You will begin to walk like them, even talk like them. That freedom will fade as it finds conformity. Conformity turns boring quickly. You might be something to look out for little boy, but in a year,” the devil shrugged, “Maybe two, you won’t be a threat to me at all.”