“Danny and the Devil”
by Earl Isbell, aka Llux
“Surrender your Soul, Mortal.”
Danny was never a physically impressive man. By that, I mean Danny was no hulking brute. Nor was he especially tall, or in possession of impressive musculature. Danny stood at average height, with hair as black as oil. Danny tipped the brim of his cowboy hat up; also black, with no sissy sequins or silver frills. Danny was no pretty boy either. His tan skin was nearly cracked from the sun, and his eyes had a hard look to them. Their color was hard to make out, over the shadow of his hat in the harsh light. But, if one looked right up into them, they would look like swirling gray clouds in a frosty blue. His eyes didn’t lie—his soul was cool by nature. Almost icy. Almost.
No, Danny was never a physically impressive man, especially next to the gigantic figure in front of him. Now there was a beast. A hulking brute, with a fiery red mane, blistering brown skin, adorned in spikes and piercings everywhere and standing at 9 feet tall. Danny’s neck craned backward slightly just to look him in the eye. The sun was behind the monstrous behemoth, eclipsing it totally from Danny’s view. It was hot—but it was always hot in the desert, so that shouldn’t have been a surprise. But this was a much more intense heat. The kind of heat you feel when you bring your face 3 inches away from a blazing campfire. Sweat beaded down Danny’s brow.
“Surrender your SOUL, MORTAL!” the figure in front of him repeated. The reason Danny felt so hot was because this figure’s mane was literally fiery. The monster, 6 feet away, blazed, casting a glow on Danny, yellow but fading towards orange as it approached the borders of Danny’s silhouette. The thing was quite literally a Devil—black, jagged horns from a face with a blunt muzzle, hollow yellow eyes, and a red glow that screamed of dripping evil emanating about him. With the sun behind him, it was like when a red corona of light surrounds the moon during a total eclipse. The only darkness here, however, was spiritual darkness; the dusty black of Danny’s long, full-body coat; and the long shadow cast behind Danny by the Devil’s glow and the setting sun.
“I can see your fear by your sweat.” The Devil spat, drips of acidic yellow lava sizzling on the parched desert landscape. “But you do not need to fear. I offer you an exchange. Anything you want—your wildest desires may be granted to you, in simple exchange for your soul.”
Danny stood, his legs slightly spread, his arms hanging at his sides with a slight tension that comes from total readiness. The adrenaline pumping through his system was like a rushing river through his veins. But Danny remained still, keeping himself on the verge of the fight-or-flight reflex, nearly in suspended animation, except for his breath, which was even and steady, but deep. The Devil was wrong. Danny was not sweating because of fear.
“Surely there is something you want…” The Devil swept his arm out to the side, revealing its 7-foot span, and held his palm over the cracked earth. “I can grant anything…” the gnarled voice of the beast rumbled out like thunder during a stampede, but his words sounded of the sweetness of temptation. He had done this many times before.
“Money?” The sand underneath his hand swirled up towards it, like an inverted dust-tornado, with a faint whistling sound that carried just a small hint of screaming souls. The sand burned like blown glass, then a yellow glow streaked over it as it became a pile of gold coins that was easily 8 times the volume of Danny’s unimpressive body.
“Women?” The gold turned into swirling sand again, and formed the specter of a stunning woman blowing a kiss with a wink. But Danny could still hear the small, unsettling tone of souls crying out in unimaginable suffering.
“Fame? Power? Strength? Immortality?” The Devil showed Danny visions of every imaginable vice or comfort known to mankind. But Danny’s stone expression finally angered him.
“CHOOSE, MORTAL!!!” The Devil roared, his thunderous voice echoing across the barren landscape, and with each echo, the sound of suffering seemed to resonate more and more. Danny stood still, until the monster lunged, bringing both massive arms, tipped in gnarled, black claws that grew outward from the wrists, scissoring downward at Danny.
Danny ducked, throwing his coat back with his arm. In a blaze of steel, glinting off the sunlight, Danny drew a pair of daggers and dove under the Devil’s arms. Danny would not sell his soul.
Danny kicked off one leg, putting himself behind the Devil’s back, and then landed on the other, coiling and springing off of it until he had leapt above the Devil’s spine, and in one determined motion, drove both blades in at opposing angles.
The Devil reared, and Danny was flung through the air, his hands just barely losing their grip on the blades. As Danny’s hand trailed in front of him, and he flew backwards, he saw something happen that was unlike anything he had ever witnessed in his life. The Devil spun around with a speed that broke the sound barrier, and the cracking noise of his movement was echoed by the snapping sound as the Devil’s claw severed Danny’s right hand. His mind slowly began to fill with blinding screams of agony, but his consciousness was moving so fast that the screams inside of him had not yet managed to escape his lungs. But right at that moment, Danny saw something else. A blindingly brilliant third figure emerged, as though a lens flare from a sunbeam, and it emerged wielding a sword that was at least 7 feet long.
This figure was recognizable to Danny in an instant, which happened to be all that Danny had. His mind was still moving faster than a stallion, and he watched as the two supernatural beings moved even faster. This new figure was an angel.
The angel was bathed in white light—white, with blue around the edges of his form. His feathery white wings had the most blue glow to them, and they propelled the figure toward the Devil with speed even greater than what Danny had seen a moment earlier. The desert was too far from civilization for anyone else to hear, but Danny heard a cacophony of sonic booms as the two figures fought.
The Angel smashed into the Devil like a comet falling from the sky, tackling him with his might shoulder. The Angel was at least as tall as the devil, in roves that seemed to be made of a material simultaneously more movable than a coat of water and stronger than a coat of diamond. In fact, it looked as though it were made of diamond, and Danny could hardly see what happened as the sun reflected off the Angel in flashes, and the flames of the Devil spiked in flares.
The Devil skidded across the desert floor like a dog, barely catching himself on all fours, but the Angel was already in the middle of another attack. The sword, with its staggering reach, looked mightier than the mightiest claymore wielded by the ancient berserkers. It sliced through the air—though unlike the demon’s claw, it sounded as though it were singing, a heavenly chorus of voices in unison. It careened toward the Devil’s head, and looked set to slice it in two.
The Devil, however, threw itself backwards, narrowly dodging all but the edge of the blade, which sliced across its face in such a way that it was clear a horrible scar would mar the unholy muzzle for the rest of eternity. With a horrifying shriek, overlaid against a roar as the the monster had two voices and not one, the beast threw itself backward. Danny had an ear for music, and recognized the sound as a flatted-5th—the Devil’s Chord. A wreath of flames appeared behind the Devil, and it disappeared into the fiery portal, as though retreating back to the depths of hell.
As the need had subsided, Danny’s mind began to finally slow down. Everything started getting foggy—the fight between good and evil had taken only 2 seconds, but the blood flowing from Danny’s right arm was causing him to lose consciousness. All he could see was the Angel, smiling at him, and he heard a heavenly voice.
“Your refusal to sell your soul so impressed heaven, that I was sent here. As for your hand…” Danny looked to where it had fallen. It was gone. “The Devil snatched it up in spite and anger. There is only one way to substitute.” The Angel proceeded to move toward Danny as Danny finally lost consciousness.
When Danny awoke, he was alone, laying on the naked desert soil in the middle of the night. He immediately looked at his right arm. There, at the end of his wrist, he saw the familiar shape of a hand, sheathed in a black leather glove.
Danny staggered to his feet, still a little light-headed. Looking at the blood-soaked ground around him, he was not surprised. But as he gazed upon the faint shadow of himself in the moonlight, a chill rose up his spine. He drew a trembling breath, and removed the glove, still looking at his shadow, only to see that his shadow came to an abrupt end at the end of the wrist. He looked at his actual wrist, and there it was—the hand of his shadow, attached as a replacement for his own hand.
Danny’s eyes widened. The hand seemed three-dimensional, but was not composed of anything like anything he had ever seen. It was almost like the hand was made of smoke, though it was half again more solid. He reached toward a cactus, which was all he saw nearby. His body, however, responded more dramatically than he intended.
His arm flashed towards the cactus, and his hand drove into it. It was embedded into the cactus, destroying it exactly half-way. The rest of it was corroded as though by some strange third substance to fire and acid. He clasped his hand, and was able to tear out a portion of the cactus, when he noticed something else—his shadow had risen from the ground.
Made of the same stuff as his hand, from what he could see, his shadow formed an unsettling visage of a doppelganger, mimicking his motions on the other side of the cactus, flanking the cactus like a mirror. It still did not possess a right hand, however, so the empty stump, drawn toward its body as Danny did to examine the piece of cactus, had not made contact with the plant. Danny stared at it for a moment, then decided to experiment.
Danny reached into his coat with his other hand, his shadow mirroring his movements. He pulled out one of his daggers, and slightly to his surprise, the shadow drew the black form of a blade as well. Danny looked thoughtfully for a moment, digesting the situation, then decided to try one more thing. He swung his left hand across him, slicing off one of the three tops of the cactus.
The shadow followed suit, and the other top of the cactus fell to the ground, severed. Though unlike the clean slice Danny’s blade had dealt, the piece of cactus in front of his shadow was somewhat singed, just like when Danny had thrust his right hand into the plant. Danny put the dagger away, then put the black leather glove back on. His shadow returned to its rightful place at Danny’s feet, harmless. Danny looked around, then headed for the next town. Danny had one thought in his head, clear as day. He was absolutely sure about this one thing—the Devil with the scar on his face was going to face judgment day early. And Danny was going to be the judge.
When Danny got to town, he entered the saloon. After ordering a drink, he noticed a couple of bad seeds approach him with drawn blades.
“We don’t allow strangers to walk out of this bar with their life,” the grungy leader of the pair said. “And you’re outnumbered.” Danny realized there was no other way out of the situation, and then began to remove his glove.
“Outnumbered? No sir, I’m afraid you’re mistaken.” It was then that Danny realized that it was his destiny to slay many kinds of devils.