Sunday, 30 October 2016
The Most Trying Of Days
It was a hard life and Shem was still scumbling about in the middle of the hottest day of the year. His mother had finally kicked him out of the hut; so fed up with his lazy, good-for-nothing ways was she.
She knew that he was a lost cause, she had learned from experience. She once gave him money to buy a cow and he came back with a few stones, and not magic stones, and nor was there any story linking this substitution. He simply shrugged his shoulders. When she asked him to paint the outside of the hut she found him asleep on the roof, having made himself a fort out of the dust sheet and paint pots.
She now just wanted him out of the hut and didn't care where; she knew that wherever he went he'd be perfectly safe. And on this day Shem would be put to the test.
Shem cared not where he walked and just walked regardless. He had no desires, life was just something that happened to other people and that was all right by him. As long as it didn't infringe on his doings then he wouldn't infringe on theirs.
Today it was obvious he wasn't looking where he was going for he had crossed the boundary into the Cursed. Named because it was inhabited by many Spirits, Sprites, Jinn and Ifrits who would enjoy nothing more than playing tricks on the unwary or destroying those stupid enough to cross over.
One particular Iffrit called Z_A_ sensed Shem immediately. He was particularly boastful for a lesser Iffrit, (who had once let it be known that it was his great Uncle who had once tempted Our Lord on his day of doubt when he had wandered across the dessert). Z_A_ vowed to better that feat by pushing Shem over the edge completely.
The first that Shem realised that something was following him was not the great heavy footfalls behind him, nor the rasping, humid breath on his neck, nor even the unholy stench of sulphur that surrounded him. It was only when the creatures bulk cast a shadow over him did Shem finally acknowledge that something was indeed behind him.
Rather than act alarmed or frightened (which would only have fed Z_A_ quicker and hastened Shem's own demise) Shem simply shrugged his shoulders at the twelve foot tall, red scaly behemoth that now towered over him.
“I have come to grant you anything, Oh Lord.” Z_A_ intoned. “You are the thousandth soul to cross my path and I have it in my power to grant you many wishes. Want and you shall be satisfied. What doest though want?”
Shem shrugged again and… yawned… “Never trust a demon.” He muttered.
“I AM Z_A_!!!” The Iffrit shouted, enraged. “Tenth ruler of U__P; fourteenth cousin to Y__R, no mere demon my Lord. And I have everything in my power to grant you ANYTHING, should you just want!”
“I dunno.” Shem replied, trying to think back to what his mother said to him. He nodded to himself when he remembered, turned his back on the demon and carried on walking.
“WAIT!!” Shouted the demon “WAIT! Surely there must be something that you want?”
“Nope.” Shem replied, still walking.
The demon was a wise if not impetuous sort. He was not going to be outdone by this mere mortal! (especially one such as Shem…) He would never be able to live it down. There must be something that could be used against him.
But he had never come across someone like Shem before, whom even the Lord himself could not cure when his mother had petitioned him with prayer. (The Lord was patient but not that patient)
Z_A_ spent hours listing the things that might appeal to Shem's better instincts, his higher purpose and then tried plumbing the depths of depravity to appeal to his baser side but all that did was create snickers in him.
Now the boundary of Cursed was not only for the benefit of wary travellers but also for the Daeomon-kind as well. They were not allowed to trespass over the boundaries or old spells would be broken and no deamon in their right mind would forget such a thing and had Z_A_ been concentrating more he might have realised that Shem had been walking in a circle and they were almost back to the border again,.
Z_A_ was just in the middle of describing a particularly nasty scenario involving an Ass, thirty virgins and a great tub of grease when he suddenly screamed as they crossed the border. In a flash of crimson smoke there now stood the most beautiful woman Shem had ever set eyes upon.
“Oh my Lord. I can not thank thee enough, I have been accursed these thousand years. I can never repay thee; suffice to say I am yours and all you need do is...” She hadn't even gotten through her first sentence than she realised that Shem was already half a mile away. Shem was only thinking of his stomach which now growled at him; supper was almost ready.
“Wait my lord.” She shouted at him, eager to thank him and love him for all he had done for her. Shem was oblivious to her plight, he was glad that she was free but didn't understand why she still needed him. If she insisted on staying with him he could always lie to his mum that they were betrothed (just to see the look on her face!)
“My lord, wait! There are rules to our meeting! We still need to….”
They were almost home and Shem could smell his mothers cooking; it was mutton stew, one of his favourites.
“My Lord – you must wait! You need to invite me over your threshold, invite me into your life before you step over, otherwise I will revert back to deamon-kind again!”
Shem couldn't hear her for all he could sense was the herb dumplings, the thick rich gravy. She tried one last gambit in desperation.
“Let me help you forget your cares between my breasts, wrap you between my legs and never let you go.”
Home was just on the horizon and he could see smoke wafting out of the chimney. The garden fence was just up ahead. He opened the gate, thinking that his mother would be surprised with his new girlfriend; but when he looked behind him there was nothing there, just a faint mist. He had crossed the threshold without inviting her in.
His mother stood at the kitchen door and scolded him.
“Stomach got the better of you, did it? Well, you're still too early!”
Shem sighed and yawned. There was time enough for another nap after all.