Devils Devils Everywhere

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					   Scott Lambridis ● scott@omnibucket.com ● 614.537.9070 ● 2125 Woolsey St Berkeley CA 94705




                     Devils, Devils, Everywhere by Scott Lambridis



       Monday, the end of the world, and only those with imagination survive its many

forms. I stare at the marble tile of my office building’s bathroom stall and see space’s

vacuum within its flecks. A stardust face emerges from the atomic shadow. I recognize

what some would call God’s image, and it is the universe parsed by a thousand billion

connections in man’s mind. My phone bleeps and I read “Hullo!” from Sam. I start

writing her back, but a message from my dad interrupts, saying “Pollo and cerveza!

Getting better.” I tell her to call me, but my shitty phone has no outgoing service in the

stall. I forget to write Sam back.

       A few hours later, I’m on my way to the bathroom stall again when a call comes

through as an Unknown ID.

       “Hello?”

       “I’ll make this quick, for now. Just know that I’ll be the one calling you for a

while. Maybe always. You’ll have an email address you can send stuff to, but it won’t

be the one you use now.”

       “Dad? What the hell are you talking about?”

       “I’m going Bond-style again. There’s no fucking way I’m spending the rest of my

life working for that bitch.”

       “So…”

       “So, I’m in Mexico now, but I’ll probably travel a bit and I’m not sure where I’ll

end up. Probably somewhere in the South Pacific. I’ll send you a ticket, obviously.”



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                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis



       “Okay, okay. But what about Sam?”

       “Sam? Sam’s not my child. You are.”

       “Well, yes, legally, she is.”

       “I have some things to take care of. You’ll hear from me soon.”

       “Okay.”

       “I love you.”

       “I know.”

       I enter the bathroom to pee, but sit down in the stall and stare back into the void

in the tiles. I pick out the shroud in the negative space again. What did Sam see in the

darkness when she thought of me? I might appear as a shroud, an idea of a form, like

the shadow outside the door. I would be faceless, but a face would gain form and light.

What rhythm of associations would she form, and are they dancing right now, above

her bed, circular, incessant but evolving shadow puppets? I fear she will grow up crazy

and fractured. And that I could help her now, but don’t. I have no idea what she’d see

in these tiles. I don’t know if she has places in her mind that she retreats to. Places with

fantastic possibility. Horrors that you can invent and then leave at any time. I hope she

does, since she had no choice in being here, where the simple horrors of small homes

grow and take up all the space.

       It was Christmas when I found out my dad had formally adopted her.

       “Big brother,” she yelled and hugged my leg as I entered their apartment. If I

was a brother, what was a brother? I smiled and said hello. Instead of waiting until the

morning, I gave her the phenakistiscope, an optical toy that creates motion cycles by

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Scott Lambridis ● scott@omnibucket.com ● 614.537.9070 ● 2125 Woolsey St. Berkeley CA ● www.slambridis.com
                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis



spinning a paper with drawings on it. We ate dinner and then Sam and I crafted a

monstrosity of a gingerbread house. It had fangs and spikes and impaled children and

our little family of four laughed until our eyes were raw and the icing smeared

everywhere, moist with holiday tears. “Dead children’s tears make an excellent glue,” I

joked with Sam as she gave my arm an Indian burn. I flicked her nose and she stuck her

tongue out. She hung on my arm and put bite marks in it, then hit me with her head,

rhythmically in three as I batted her head away giggling. She got a cellphone as a

present the next morning because all the other kids at school had them, but she didn’t

know that yet. My dad yelled at her to calm down and brush her teeth and go to bed,

then he went outside to smoke a cigar while Sam’s mom cleaned up the kitchen.

       “So what’d she mean by brother?” I asked.

       “Your father didn’t tell you?”

       “Nope.”

       “Well, it was a nice surprise, wasn’t it? Two years to the day since our wedding.”

       I went upstairs to check on her. It was late. I wanted her to sleep well. To think of

me well, of my visits, and not of sadness in her sleepward drift. I stood outside the

door, body pressed against it, hand on the knob, listening. I pictured Sam on the other

side, wondering how to react when the door opened, if she should play asleep or

waiting. No, how would she know? When I was Sam’s age, I remember my mom telling

me to wait until dad got home. At eight at night, when he dropped his briefcase by the

fireplace, I could hear my parents talking, but not the conversation itself. I was in bed,

but never sleeping. I remember every time I watched the shadow approach the slit

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                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis



under the door, and every creak beneath it. Then the twist of the handle and the

shadow stretched out and his hand gripped my sideburn, lifting me up, letting the

covers fall away with any sleepy cobwebs. In five minutes, my dad would leave. Not

another hair would have been touched, and the sideburns snapped right back. I would

be left to sleep, and this time sleep came quick. My imagination was always worse. I

was on the other side now, and I opened the door to Sam’s room.

       “Hey.”

       “Hey.”

       “You awake?”

       “No.”

       “Okay. Want me to go?”

       “No.”

       “Okay. Don’t take dad to heart. Just think how lucky you are that he’s softer

these days.”

       “Ha.”

       “I know. Don’t worry about him. There are far worse things out there.”

       Poor kid. All genes and no family. She was an artificial inseminate of an

unknown father before her mom met my dad. She’d need special care. I could see the

devils floating above her bed, like a rotating mobile above a crib. The edges of shadows

disappear when everything goes dark.

       “I can’t sleep. Can you tell me a story?” Not sleeping would be the tip of the

iceberg.

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                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis



       “Sure, but its not going to be like any of that happy crap you watch on

television.” She would need some real mental stimulation, not the candy coated wafers

that pass for children’s entertainment. “Evil’s in the eye of the beholder,” I said,

grabbing a flashlight and holding it up to my neck, hoping it would radiate the o-shape

of my mouth. I shoved the flashlight in my mouth and repeated with mushmouth.

“Weevil’s win we eye of wa weholda.”

       “You’re weird, brother.” She said, pulling the covers up.

       “Weird’s good for you.” I yanked ‘em back off her, blond strands fluffing in the

wake. She grabbed the covers back up. “Makes you not get weirded out about all the

truly weird shit out there.”

       “A-ha. You said a bad word!”

       “Quiet, you.” I grabbed a dark towel next to her bed and draped it over my head

like a hood. I turned off the flashlight. “We’re about to get serious.”

       The cloak, I said. What was behind the cloak? Billowing, steel gray, flowing too

loosely over what might be inside. If it was big, there must be some magic keeping the

fabric a suspended maze of folds. If there was not, I shudder to think of the form

beneath. The contours and content of its skin. The skeletal structure lending to such

dark beauty. And the head, what of the head? The gaping hole into infinity there just

beyond the shroud’s event horizon. What sort of mouth might lie beyond, always just

beyond, and what would it feed upon, if not your very soul? Would it even need to

crunch your bones, dissolve your skin, gnaw and strip your muscles? Would it even

need to consume your organs, your electricity, when it could feast on your soul itself?

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                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis



Yes, these things, I hope, they wonder when they see me, but they shall never see me, I

said, and jerked my face forward to scare Sam, who shrieked, and then laughed far too

loud. I laughed with her, but kept my voice low, hoping she’d follow. The white

bedroom door swung open.

       “Sam, no. Not the right time.” yelled my dad.

       “But I’m not doing anything. Nick’s telling scary stories.”

       “Enough. He’s not the one making the racket. Nicolas, let him sleep.” I kissed her

forehead, winked at her under the towel-cloak, and left. I pictured her playing with the

phenakistiscope when I was away.

       In the future, she’ll tell me that when she’s in bed, but with a light on, she can

open her eyes, just a sliver so they tear up, and she can play with her eyelashes and the

strands of light enter and form a row of galloping horses, and she can bounce them in a

rocking rhythm and watch them go round and round till tears begin to fall and her eyes

hurt and her lashes split and bend and crush the carousel. She blinks away the tears and

fragments and shuts her eyes and goes to sleep, but right now I leave my office’s

bathroom to text her. I want to ask if she ever used the phenakistiscope I got her for

Christmas, but a client calls me instead. Then Sam’s mom calls while I’m still on the

phone, and I don’t answer. Her voicemail consists of her crying and not making any

sense, and then a discomforting laugh before the computer voice takes over.

       On Thursday, I receive a CD in the mail that my dad told me to expect. The

burned CD-R is unmarked, in a clear sleeve. There’s no note. I stare at it on my desk,

but don’t put it in the computer. There are some things that a kid shouldn’t imagine.

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                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis



Things that make you doubt the soul. I’m web surfing at work to take my mind off the

CD, but not too far. I read a Scientific American article indicating that just one hour of

sleep deprivation causes an adolescent’s mind to work at the capacity of a child three

year’s her youth. I picture Sam staying up late into the night, either left to stretch the

limits of her bedtime while dad’s away, or else in her dark bed straining to hear her

mom on the phone. Her mom’s probably drinking wine. She’s probably on anti-

depressants. She’s probably laughing between sobs, like she usually does when she’s

scared. Sam will know the difference. She’ll be counting the chest heaves in rhythm,

four sobs, and one guffaw, four sobs and one guffaw, the rhythm of her mother’s heart.

       My dad’s hop-scotching between New York, Paris, Madrid, Mexico City, and

some undisclosed location in the South Pacific, and Sam is staring at the light under the

door wondering what form the shadow will take, and when it will come. If I was there,

I’d tell her a story and put her to sleep. I’d tell her about dad’s escaping from Romania,

but I’d tell my version, leaving out the motorcycle and the midnight graveyard escape,

past Communist sentries. He must have rolled the bike with the engine cut. I don’t

know, that’s all he ever told me, but I’d tell Sam more. Can you picture him bounding,

Sam? Across the borders? At first it was just a stride, but then, the earth started

accelerating, its spin powered forward, and yet his stride stayed the same length but he

now bounded, covered more and more distance, stretching time and space, bending it

around himself by simply jogging, and you can, if it would be helpful, imagine seeing

his legs and arms stretch out, forward, like rubber pulled into the distance, and that is a

good approximation of what was happening in the space-timescale you are used to with

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                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis



our earth. Everything can be different in your mind. You can bound anywhere.

       An hour later I get a text message from Sam’s mom. It reads: “You don’t have to

talk to me, but please talk to Sam. Dad didn’t even say goodbye.” I’m instantly flush

with anger, knowing that Sam’s mom hasn’t told her anything. But I’ll be damned if

she’s going to offload the responsibility on me. I wait a few hours, hoping she’ll be

alone, and call Sam.

       “Hi.”

       “Hi.”

       “Whatcha doing?”

       “Nothing.”

       “Nothing?”

       “Practicing my clarinet.”

       “Excellent. I’m sorry I missed the recital.”

       “It’s okay.”

       “How’s everything at home?”

       “Mom’s crying a lot.”

       “Has she told you why?”

       “Yeah.”

       “What’d she say?”

       “I don’t know.”

       “You should tell her to put you on a plane and come stay with me for a

weekend.”

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                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis



        “Okay.”

        In-between visits I always wondered if Sam would end up falling into the lost

place. My dad said she’d get pregnant in high school and that would be the end of her. I

wanted to cast a lifeline. Offer a rhythm she could move to. One that would shake the

hard line in her mind until it blurs and breaks and lets the impossible in while I’m

away.

        When my mom sold and emptied the house a few years ago, she sent me some

things to hold on to. I had a brotherly gift for Sam, and I brought it to her the week

before my dad called me, sobbing for the first time in my life about how he’d fucked up

and how she kicked him out and he was in a hotel. The call came in the evening while I

was at home, smoking and pacing on the balcony, but the week before I was in Sam’s

room and we were laughing as we’d laughed at dinner, all four of us and two bottles of

wine. I revealed the plush elephant from the plastic grocery bag. She was jumping on

the bed over and over, pretending she couldn’t get comfortable.

        “Here, for you,” I said, but she slapped the stuffed animal down, giggling. I

picked it back up, but she slapped it down again. It took a strong memory to know it

was an elephant still, and her slaps were in perfect time with her knees hitting the

pillow. “Quite it. Before dad comes in and yells at us.” I leaned the gray and black mass

between the wall and her pillow. Its arms and legs are attached like those of humans,

and it sat back with its arms out. It slumped a lot more than when it was on my bed.

“Look, it wants a hug.”

        “It’s crusty. Not cuddly anymore.”

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                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis



       “If only you knew where that thing came from. It’s older than me.”

       “I don’t care. Tell me a story.”

       “I’m trying, lady. My parents got this for me in a mountain village in Europe,

before I was born. Or someone got it for them, I don’t remember. But it was far away, at

the end of the world.” I pulled her covers up and flipped the light off. There are devils

in the darting shadows. Angels hide amongst them, improperly dressed. They keep the

devils moving, keep them on their toes so they don’t gather armies.

       “Do you know when is the end of the world?”

       “Right now it’s Tuesday, and it’s the end of the world somewhere,” I said. I

pushed the slumping elephant back up. It is abused and abandoned. It is mangled in

form and spirit. When we’re not looking, it shifts out of elephant form and continues an

ongoing debate with a second creature by asking if it has a soul. I have to have one,

don’t I, worries the creature covered in coarse gray hair, thick as triple-weight shag, as

it plucks the head off the biped and flecks it into his mouth. It repeats the question as

the crunch of powered folds, gum-like but in layers, toothless but strong, compress and

deform the head, still screaming, still agonizing with the last milliliters of air left it its

larynx. In certain lights it assumes the shape of shadows. The very idea of shadows. It

stalks its prey formlessly, stretching one of its five limbs and attacking in the moment of

confusion between shadow and wait, that’s not a shadow, but as it feeds, its fur pales and

reveals itself as glasslike slivers. Frustrated, it asks the second creature why it’s being

ignored. Don’t talk with your mouth full, and eat them whole instead of plucking them

apart, the second creature, says, except, of course, this is just the translation. They have

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                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis



supersonic emitters shaped like little drums, oily and moist like frog ears, that produce

pitches beyond our hearing. A soundless communiqué for all those without special

hearing, in which case it would be excruciating, so, you best not try. The first creature

shifts, and the floor makes a suctioning sound over the coagulated blood, thick as a

brick, a hardening swamp lining the floor. This is a healthy batch. I was beginning to

think there were none left, says the creature.

       A vine-like appendage creeps from the second creature, blood-red, but maybe

that’s just the coating, and makes its way through the air to a few struggling bodies

pressed together at the bottom of a large wood basin, then dips under the skin in the

soft fleshy beginning of the neck at the top of the sternum. It draws a shriek, and then

another, and a name yelled, and a tightening of human arms around each other, but

quickly the arms separate as the ribcage splits up under the force of the single, directed

shear. It cleaves bone and sinew and splashes a lover’s blood across her weeping face

and soaking, in a cumbersome splash, the rest of her torn shirt and skirt. The

appendage continues under the skin, splitting along its length, through the abdomen

where the human convulses up violently, kneeing his lover in the face, gurgling since

the split diaphragm left no force for drawing scream-breath, and then through the

pelvis and turning right under the caudal part of the thigh, leaving the scrotum and

penis dangling with the non-affected leg, and down past the kneecap that pops with

relieved pressure, and to the ankle where there simply isn’t enough meat and so the

appendage dives back up to the moist air, drinking it in, drunk with flavor. The second

creature then extends a series of long threads which dive in and attach to the split mass

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                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis



while it talks to the first creature. What would make you ask that? What would make

you ask about your soul? Of course you do, it says. They remain silent, feeding,

swaying with the pulsing screams that massage their earlike drums.

       (I wanted to tell Sam a story, but I squeezed the stuffed elephant and thought of

horrors beyond. I wanted Sam to see the horrors beyond, and to be okay with their

presence in her wandering mind. They were a shimmering vignette, faded oval window

and all, film crackling and desaturated sepia. Within the small circle, they were feeding

as I lay on the floor by the fire. Would she have similar visions, without the same

surroundings?)

       When Sam falls asleep the stuffed elephant transmogrifies and destroys the

world, and everyone in it, one by one, piece by piece, cell by cell. By the time she wakes

up, the world has rebuilt itself and it waits for Sam to fall asleep so it can destroy it

again. Its fur is matted with canine saliva, eyes and nose gnawed and scraped by teeth,

face crushed and compressed, insides leaking out in puffed cotton. I had an dog as a kid

who kept the elephant in check with nightly bouts of overzealous love. When I opened

my eyes back up, Sam’s covers were rising and falling in the 2/4 rhythm of sleep. She

needed more stories. In a few hours, she’ll throw her red comforter off in the heat and

hug the gray misshapen elephant, but by then I’ll have left and I won’t see her again.

       I got my dad’s sobbing call a week later, late night. It took an hour to establish

that they were in marriage counseling because they weren’t communicating, and he

was living in a hotel a few blocks away from their home. A child shouldn’t have to give

an elder advice on love. The next day my dad was back to his old hardened self. A week

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                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis



later he told me he suspected she wasn’t telling him everything. He told her, in the

counselor’s office, that he’d forgive any infidelity right now, if she just told him what

was going on. He checked her email account hourly looking for signs. He climbed the

hill to their home at night and tapped the house line through the garage by splicing a

tape recorder in the phone line and then listening to them while she was away. I hadn’t

called Sam yet. She was practicing her clarinet at school when my dad marched home to

catch his wife in his bed with her former boss. He called the guy’s wife at her home.

         “Mrs. Resnick?”

         “Yes?”

         “I thought you should know that your husband Jeff is here, in bed, with my

wife.”

         “Hmph.”

         “Did you know?”

         “No.”

         “But you’re not surprised?”

         “Not entirely.”

         “Well, I thought you should know. Good luck.”

         “Thanks.”

         It was on the audio tape he had digitized and burned to CD, along with the

lover’s conversations about taking him for all the legal money the state would give her

for the divorce and child support, so he says. He mailed one to her brother and to her

parents and his lawyer, before getting on the airplane.

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                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis



       I am strolling the windy aisles in the montly Alameda flea market, imagining the

many potential creative uses of old swords, goblets, lamps, figurines, and

candleholders, flipping each upside down to check the white ticket price as the term

antique pricks me in the eye again and again and I put the thing I’m holding right back

down and my phone rings.

       “Dad? Are you back in the country?”

       “New York, briefly, yeah. I’m on my way back to California. Just wanted to let

you know. The lawyer says despite California’s no-fault divorce law, I may not be in as

bad a shape as I think.”

       “Okay.” I walk away from the group and follow the sweet scent of kettle corn to

the outskirts of the open-air market.

       “I should probably think about this and see how it goes before becoming a

fugitive again. That was fine for my twenties, but I have you now and dammit, I like

California. If I need to leave, it’s always an option.”

       “Yes, true.” I’m pacing back and forth in front of the food stands, each vendor

flashing his smile and flipping his hands towards his booth as I look around.

       “I’ll call you when I’m back home.”

       “What about that guy.”

       “Oh, no one’s heard from him again. Crawled back to his wife I’m guessing. He

could talk the talk, I know, I’m an expert at the talk. He took her for a ride. She’s in a

world of shit now.”

       “Did you talk to her?”

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                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis



         “Her brother. They just let her out of the hospital. Drank a bottle of vodka and

half of her anti-depressants. Call you in a few.”

         “Okay.” As the sweet air fades I rejoin my group and fumble with each table’s

nicnacs. I want to send a gift, but not sure who to send it to. I pick up a hideously

caracaturized statue of emporor Hirohito from WWII. The vendor says it’s a light gun

receiver for target practice. It spins when you hit it. It’s $500. I want to send something

that seems thoughtful, but have no idea what thought. I back away from the table and

leave.

         I know he’ll go back over their apartment. I know he’ll try to be both consoling

and cold. In a week, Sam’s mom will be admitted to the psychiatric ward again, this

time for slashing my dad’s face with the champagne bottle she brought to his new

apartment as a gesture of amends only to find another woman there. Half-dads and

half-moms arguing downstairs while Sam tries to play her clarinet in her room. I watch

her listening, a mind’s vignette. I predict the conversation we’d have if I was there to

tuck her into bed.

         “Nick?”

         “Yeah?”

         “Mom said her soul left. Did it?”

         “She told you that?”

         “No, I heard it when she was on the phone. She said ‘You’re my soul, you have

to come back.’”

         “You shouldn’t be listening to those conversations. She shouldn’t have them

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                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis



with you around. You’re too young.”

       “But, was she right?”

       “She doesn’t even know what she means. Come on, sleep time. You look so cozy,

just close your eyes.”

       “Story, first? I can’t sleep without them.”

       “Fine. Just because I don’t see you much. It’s Tuesday, the end of the world.”

       I want to visit, but I don’t. I don’t want to answer the phone when her mom calls,

and that I hold to. I get a text from her mom. “Sam’s got her concert next week. She’d

love it if you went.” When I call Sam I’ll ask her how she is. She’ll say fine. If I press her,

she’ll tell me she did really well at her concert. She’ll say she loves music. I’ll ask her to

play something over the phone, but she won’t. If I was there she’d show me her

teacher’s comments from the recital that I missed. She has great rhythm. Then she’ll

pinch me in 5/4. I’ll ask her if she makes up her own songs and she’ll say she doesn’t

know how. I wonder if she’d be able to continue lessons when her mom’s money goes

away. I tell Sam that if she tries really hard, she can become more, that she can stretch

out her senses and hear all the world playing with her. She tells me she tries hearing her

parents fighting. I tell her to get her mom to give her permission to take a flight and

spend a weekend with me. She’ll say okay, but that’s all I ever hear. I’ll pull the covers

up to her chin and tell her that I’m studying cicadas. I tell her that they don’t have eyes

and arms and senses like us and so they’re incapable of inhumanity. In her mind there

is a room. A room filled with many things that I do not know. I want to walk through

the aisles and pick them up and see how much they cost her.

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                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis



       I tell her that the cicadas stay underground for years and years, and then need

escape, even if it kills them. They leave their underground home and devour everything

they can, and then they are pulled back into the soil. I tell her that the cicada’s

seventeeen year cycle is the same term of a husband and father before he must go out

into the world. I tell her I was seventeen when he left my mom, seventeen years after he

escaped Romania. With wings flapping, cicadas sound like devils, I tell her. Devils

everywhere, all at once. They are driven by the need for change, I tell her. They may

sound like devils, but they are not. And I’m not there to tell her this. If I was, I would let

her sleep and walk downstairs, and then I would vanish as a ghost, but my dad would

be there instead and he would be arguing with Sam’s mom. Sam creaks the door open

and walks to the bathroom. The pipes carry some of the echo, but never enough. Sam

knows they’ll stop talking if they hear him come downstairs. Her mom’s arms will be

folded and she’ll stare at her feet as if she hadn’t been talking at all. So Sam goes to the

bathroom instead. She strains his ears as she pushes her bowels, her mind like mine,

stretching out in direct inverse proportion to the size of the box around her. She

squeezes, and her eardrum bursts, she’ll swear it did. The pop, the shudder, the sudden

overwhelming presence of everything all at once, a billion cicadas crunching up from

under the soil, clamoring over each other, splitting and squeezing through chitin

enclosures, and then unfurling cellophane wings with all the plastic stickiness. The

billion of them, simultaneously, become a giant crescendo from flutter to agonizing rip,

the atmosphere itself overwhelmed and yielding, all the forest aghast in a silent holding

of its collective breath. Inside her ear was everything and anything. The way she

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                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis



processed sound itself revolted. Her cochlear hairs united in revolution. The rubber

band snapped, the mallus smacked the incus right clear through the stapes to the other

side of dawn. And then, like the cicadas next stage, the feeding frenzy at first morning’s

light. The defenseless insects devoured by anything in the vicinity, bird, plant, reptile,

amphibian, fish, mammal, until they’ve all had their fill and by dusk the still billions of

leftovers fall, dropping like stardust to coat the forest floor in its own temporary

exoskeleton, a green and brown growth spurt inspired. Sam cups her ear drum, well,

she cupped the outer ear of course, she couldn’t reach inside, but she wanted to,

dammit, she wished she could, though she didn’t know what to do if she could actually

touch it, but dammit, it was inside there, and she had no control and could do nothing

as the sounds of the mass feeding occurred, en masse, and then, after, still agonizing,

still all in the flash of only a few minutes while she sat on the toilet, the dropping, the

falling, the silence, no, not silence, just the sound of feathers wafting downward, and

then the growth, yes, the forest floor, soaking up and sucking in, and somehow so does

her brain, drawing the void towards itself like juices from the dry cicada vehicles, and

she swears now that her face feels pulled, her eyebrows lifted up, the hair on her head

tingling, her skin tightening around the eyes and it is pleasant at first, and then not

pleasant because it keeps pulling, taut, taut, taut. Would it stretch, would it snap, would

it tear? And yes, it does, in bits. Was the entire goddamn skull stretching? And yes, it

seems so, but the skin won’t stretch too far and so craters and valleys and rivers form,

just like the dawning of the earth, across her face and she bites her knuckles, able to

hear every cell’s stretching, splitting, and the areas where the skin thins out, these lines,

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                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis



these map-lines, this new grid made of the palest purple, they draw from the outside.

She feels the air, the molecules, the flow of atoms, even there sitting on her toilet,

reflecting the tile, yes, it wasn’t hearing, it was more, something much much more that,

even as she cringes and wants to hold her face, but unable to because it is excruciatingly

sensitive. She knows that it will have to end. She will have relief at least and not have

this need to scream abated. Downstairs the same conversation between her parents is

happening again, and Sam can feel it, wait, she can see it, well, not see, her eyes are

closed, but she can sense it, hear it, something, she had it all there in her head, a multi-

dimensional projection emanating out from the grooves in her face, and that’s when he

noticed that it didn’t hurt anymore and she would fall asleep, full on accusations and

denials. If I were there I would come in and flush the toilet as the sun rises, waking Sam

up. I would wipe the drool from her lip and stuff the tissue down to the spinning water

between her legs.

       “Come on, it’s late. The sun’s going to come up soon.”

       “Is mom asleep?”

       “I don’t know. I think so. Your mom’s going to need a lot of love from you, Sam.

I’m sorry I’m not going to be around much to help, but you know you can always call

me. For what it’s worth.” I drop her into her single bed, pull the blue comforter up

again. “Hey, Sam?” She doesn’t answer. I leave and close the door.

       It is Wednesday, the middle of the world, and I am crawling to the coffee shop

outside my office. My dad tells me he’s going to deliver the divorce papers on Thursday

since his wife has therapy on Fridays. I ask him what that means for Sam and he says

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                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis



“Nothing,” and that’s all.

       In the future, the next time I’ll see Sam again, it will be a Friday, at the end of the

world. We will have hiked to the roof of Europe, in the Carpathians. We will have taken

a trip together, mostly because I paid for it. I will suggest the hike to her over dinner. I

will have paid for her flight out to see me. I have been asking her for almost twenty

years, in increasingly long increments. We will have dinner together, I will have a

friend there, and we will be surprised by her.

       “You're way different than your brother described you as. I thought you'd be

fat,” my friend says. Sam scowls at me as I cut up my steak. When my friend goes to the

bathroom, I look up, really look up at Sam.

       “You're so civil,” I say.

       “What? What the hell did you expect?”

       “So, what do you do exactly?”

       “I’m a musician.” Put two things next to each other and the brain’ll make a story

that explains it.

       During dinner I’ll tell her about the trip we’re going to take together. She listens

quietly, attentively, with just a tapping of her fingers. Then she pulls out a plastic bag

and hands me back my old elephant. She tells me I wasn’t born on top of this mountain

we’re about to hike, but in a hospital on Long Island. I’ll tell her about a garden of

beauty and horror that the elephant-creature has escaped to. There are gardens, vast

and high, bioluminescent, and they will take you in, I say. You can’t describe the quality

of lush emerald green without cheapening it by using words used to describe other

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                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis



places that remind you of the emerald green here. It is green like evolution, green like

the opposite of sky, green like fairytales, green like sci-fi bio-carpeting. Green like the

smell of salt. Green like the brown kingdom in the inch between the grass tips and the

true earth. Green like the inch you sink when standing on it. Colors only describable

through other sense and imagined places, because that’s the only thing that can

compare with this.

       She asks if I want to listen to her play a song she made up. She plays a melody on

her clarinet and I see devils flapping round and round us overhead. When she’s done

she’ll request that we just go back to my apartment and abandon the hike.

       “Don’t you want to finish something, just one thing in your life?”

       “If I do, then what do I have to look forward to?”

       “How’d you get so smart?”

       “When did I have any other choice?”

       “Well, this is worth it. Do you remember what I used to tell you, tucking you in

with your big gray stuffed animal?”

       “A little,” she says, and then looks at her fingers tapping in 5/4.

       “You used to like those stories.”

       “That was a long time ago, Nick.”

       I will take her with me. We will cower together at the cornice, huddling against the

wind. I can see the glow. I leave Sam there and climb over onto the summit, towards the

mountaintop garden. I hear the patter of feet deep below the earth and slide my hand along

the silky blooms. Everything    glows. Grasses thread out and I removed my shoes to feel


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                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis



them between my toes. The petals become thicker and larger in less defined bundles,

and I take off my clothes to feel them. Sam listens and for a moment, my voice escapes

the wind and she hears her name. Inside, it is still. Ahead, the source of the blue glow. It

swells. I know Sam sees it too. I close my eyes, but keep walking. The bright light flares

through my eyelids. My retina is awash in activity. Bathing in the ghosts of sunshine, I

feel a new sense erupt around me, as if I have a new set of eyes that see only the space a

few inches from my skin, but with total clarity. It is beautiful and peaceful inside with

my eyes closed, burning bright, even as I move down the garden walkway. I reopen his

eyes, cracking them as slim as I can, not having the nerve to keep them sealed, and the

moisture that beads up on my eyelashes looks like a carousel of horses rising and falling

in 5/4 time, the sound of a clarinet driving them them forward. My skin warms, and I

can feel my cells. Every cell, every hair, and they are pulling apart. The skin I’ve been so

attached to begins to dissolve away. I’ll have all the time in the world to get to know my

step-sister, but I won’t need any of it. And then the carnivorous plant will take me in

and I will feed the gray and black beast that owns it and that was once a misshapen

stuffed elephant, but outside the world will only see the glow and the disappearance

and they will note the beauty that comes with true enlightenment. A place for salvation,

for anyone. What will Sam report, I wonder, to the village, as he climbs down and

regards the red sun as the waiting eye of her father, finally setting.

       Of course, this has all been a fantasia, and we both know it. And you, you will

say, yes, of course, two formless monsters, arguing about souls even as the children tear

tear through the flesh of filialty. No, wait, they, the parents, they were two biological

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                                                                                 Devils, Devils, Everywhere
                                                                                         by Scott Lambridis



distortions arguing about the soul even as they flayed the hopeless creatures trapped in

their temporary home. “When you know how to recognize them, the angels from the

devils, then you’ll see them too,” maybe, you will think I have said. And you will say

“Yes, that figures,” but it will not. But the rules have been broken and you will never

see this anyway, and that will not matter either. This writing is a failuer at being either

an illumination of fiction, or a cathartic fact-telling. What meaning do the events hold,

whether told right or not? We spend years in the ream of people and events, chronicling

these little nothings we call facts. We tell the story different ways, him, her, Sam, I. But

they do not absolve us. Not of our guilts, memories, fears, or hopes. Nor does a fiction

fix through fabricated insight the weight these events have yet feel only as a must.

Would they happen any other way, we do not know how we would be. You have come

no closer to us, nor I to Sam. It moves on. And this is how I’m going to remember it.

And maybe the elephent chooses to live in a bioluminescant cavern, and you will say of

course while I talk about cicadese even though I studied snakes. And Sam is still twelve,

and punching and biting in beat and you say yes, her rhythmic continuity mirrors,

mimicks, and mocks her family’s own incontinuity. And you wonder if the rhythm and

melody of a story have its own internal logic that vanishes immediately upon exit, like

the dynamic presence of music and self? And within this melody our blood pumps.

And with our hormones pumping with the weight of the fantastic we, together, will feel

the weight of what is there through the mass of what isn’t.

                                                  +++




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