It was a Tuesday afternoon in May and I’d headed to the library in a bad mood. I’d been working on a set of figures for my boss with the windows open, a gentle, warm breeze wafting into the room. It should have been a pleasant task, the figure-work notwithstanding, but for Nora and Dennis next door, always at each other’s throats. On this occasion it seemed to be due to Dennis taking an afternoon off, when in Nora’s opinion he ought to be grafting. “Money doesn’t grow on Trees!” I heard her shouting. It wasn’t helped by them both being heavy drinkers, and closing the windows didn’t make much difference. I had to get away.
At the library I gave what I hoped was a pleasant greeting to the woman on reception. She reminded me of a pug dog and looked through me as if I didn’t exist. I headed upstairs to the reference library, further annoyed. There was just one other person there, a down-and-out type reading The Sun, having chosen to eschew the nearby pile of ‘erudite’ newspapers.
I went to an interesting section on ‘supernatural’ subjects: ghosts, UFO’s, angels, demons and the like. Perusing the shelves, I noticed a large tome with Demonology in red gothic lettering on the pale blue spine. There was no dust jacket. Seating myself on a comfortable chair, I began to read. Well, seems there was something called The Lesser Key of Solomon, an anonymous 17th century ‘grimoire’ apparently, that included the ‘conjuration of demons’ in a section called Ars Goetia.
Well, they weren’t pretty, that’s for sure! Many demons were depicted as mixtures of different animals, often riding other animals too. One demon had a lion’s face and mane, surrounded by five horse’s legs. Another had the body and feet of a raven but with human arms and angel-type wings. My concentration was interrupted by a fart from the tramp’s direction. Then I noticed a bookmark made from a thin pink parchment; on it, a local telephone number written neatly in fountain pen ink. Another loud expulsion of wind from the tramp’s backside made me replace the book and head out of the library, having decided to ‘borrow’ the bookmark in the meantime.
Back home, I didn’t feel like working. I sat at my desk looking at the pink, almost translucent, bookmark and the phone number. It couldn’t do any harm to call it, I thought. I could always say it was a wrong number.
The number rang many times – no answerphone obviously – but just as I was about to hang up, a male voice answered. The voice had an odd, whispering quality as well as a distinctly foreign accent, Russian perhaps? Without greeting, the man repeated the number on the bookmark.
“Hello,” I said. “I found your number on a bookmark. I know it’s silly, but I just had to phone it. Sorry, er, I hope you don’t mind.” There was a long silence. “Hello, are you there?”
“Yes, you are interested in demons?” whispered the man without preamble.
“Er, well, not particularly. They’re just myths, aren’t they?”
He gave a quiet laugh, “Come to my house. We will talk. My name is Alistair.”
So, I found myself driving to a rambling house down a country lane not far away. It was a warm and peaceful evening, a relief to leave my neighbours shouting at each other again. Maybe I should call the police before one of them killed the other? Alistair answered the door and I stood in awe. He was about six feet three tall, dressed in a Chinese-style smock, embroidered with red and golden dragons. His head was oval and quite bald. His lips and nose were thin and his eyes, the palest blue. He waved me through to a book-lined study and strode over to a table with a teapot and fine porcelain cups with strange symbols on them. “Tea? I’ve just made some.”
“Oh, yes please, white, no sugar.”
“Take a seat … please.”
I sat in a sumptuous leather armchair and he put my tea down on a small, ornate table nearby.
“Well,” he said, “you found my bookmark and something led you to me. Yes?”
“Er, I suppose so.”
“Well, I feel you have a problem. Yes?”
I told him about Nora and Dennis, the neighbours from hell.
“Well, I’d like to introduce you to a friend of mine.”
“His name is … Lucifer.”
I started. “What? The Devil?”
He laughed. “No, that’s nonsense. The name in Hebrew, Heylel, means ‘morning star.’ It was twisted by the Christian Church. How can you have a good without an evil? That was their thinking.”
Well, Alistair explained to me that there were four demon kings: Lucifer, Baliel, Leviathan and Shatan. They ruled over eight Demon Dukes who in turn held dominion over no fewer than ninety demon servants. Far from being a horde of evil spirits, he told me they were more like a CEO of a company, together with his board of directors and workforce. All ready and willing to help out as required!
Well, each demon had a speciality, much like you’d hire a plumber or electrician I guess. Alistair said that a certain Zugola was renowned for quelling arguments and bringing peace. Well, blow me, just what the doctor ordered!
So right there and then Alistair took me through the rather convoluted process of contacting Zugola. First, I had to go to Lucifer, then to Duke Paymon, then to Zugola himself. In the first two cases, asking permission to work with the next demon down, so to speak.
In each case the system was to imagine a few scenes, such as green mist rising from a swamp at sunset, or a golden waterfall in the snow etc. These visuals, keenly sensed, apparently took me to where each demon lived, though in another ‘dimension’ of course, according to Alistair, but from where they would be aware of me. Then I spoke my request in a polite manner, trying my best to hide my nervousness.
“The demon will stand at your left side,” Alistair had said, but only once did I think I felt a presence. And maybe it was just coincidence but that was six months ago and ever since that visit I haven’t heard a peep from Nora or Dennis, just a smile and a ‘good morning,’ or a brief, friendly chat. And that ‘presence’ I felt, well, I turned and for a second, I thought I saw, hovering in the air, a silver shining star.
Featured in the book, The Window Crack’d and Other Stories: 40 Little Tales of Horror and the Supranatural
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