By Seb Reilly
The Devil wore a blue dress and put lipstick on his face.
“Isn’t this what you want?” he said.
It’s funny; the Devil wasn’t what Johnny expected. He looked like Johnny’s wife, he sounded like Johnny’s wife, but he wasn’t Johnny’s wife. He was the Devil and Johnny knew it.
“Am I sexy?” the Devil asked.
It was tough for Johnny; there was nowhere to go. Trailers aren’t wheelchair friendly and it’s not like Johnny could get up and walk away.
Johnny figured he’d refer to the Devil as a she, as that’s how he saw things. It certainly made it easier to get his head around.
The Devil leaned forward and put her hands on Johnny’s knees. He hated that, it made his feet itch. Shame he had to leave them in a hole in the ground back in Iraq; he could really do with them now.
“Shall we get you ready?” the Devil asked.
“I don’t feel like going out,” Johnny replied.
“My feet hurt.”
“What feet?” the Devil said.
She reached for his belt.
“I said no,” Johnny said.
The Devil stepped back and smiled.
“Okay,” she said, “we’ll stay in tonight.”
Why’s she being so nice? Wasn’t the Devil evil? Perhaps it’s all a plan to get rid of his suspicions. Johnny considered the possibility that he was wrong, that it really was his wife.
“Shall I take my dress off for you?” she asked.
Nope, definitely the Devil. Johnny shook his head.
“It’s fine,” he said. “I just want to sit for a while.”
“Whatever you say,” the Devil replied.
His wife would never have been so nice. She was always screaming and fighting, that’s what he remembered. That’s the woman he loved, but ever since he got back he’s been stuck with this impostor. He wasn’t sure at first as she still looked the same, but now he’s convinced. It’s the Devil.
“We’re out of cigarettes,” the Devil said. “I’ll go to the store. You want anything?”
The Devil smiled at Johnny with her red lips, trying to tempt him.
“Just some beers,” he said.
He dropped his eyes. Sometimes it was hard to look at his wife’s face; she didn’t seem the same with those different, caring eyes. The Devil kissed him on the forehead and went out to the car.
Johnny waited until she’d driven away then wheeled himself backwards and opened the closet. Ever since he was discharged he’d been asking her to take his gun from the top shelf so he can hide it in the sock drawer, but she’s still not done it. Even his wife wouldn’t be that stupid. Unless the Devil did it on purpose, of course. Maybe she knew what he’d do.
Johnny spent a lot of time training his arms in the hospital to make up for what he was missing, and now he was glad. He put the brake on and lifted himself up, supporting his weight on the arms of his chair. His stumps flailed about as he swung his body back and forward until he felt the shelf against his thighs.
Johnny forced himself up onto the remains of his legs. He reached above and grabbed the next shelf, hanging by three fingers, and lifted himself higher. His other hand took hold of the next rung in his ladder.
“Two more,” he said.
He remembered his training, those pull-ups, and tensed his arms as he slid his hand onto the next shelf. Sweat was pouring down his back and his stubby legs wiggled below him, connecting with nothing. In his mind he could feel his feet waving through the air, imagining his shoelace getting loose, but when he looked down they weren’t there. They never were.
Johnny strained as his muscles burned. The Devil would be back soon and he had to get it before she walked in. He reached the top shelf and stretched his fingers out. All his weight was now hanging on his other wrist, connecting with the closet through a few fingers. He wished he still had both his thumbs. He forgot about those; shame he always seemed to remember his legs. He pushed his hand further, shoving bits of clothing out the way. They didn’t matter now. Nothing mattered unless he could get rid of the Devil.
He felt cold on his finger. He slid it over the handle and coaxed the gun towards him. He had to be careful; it was always loaded. He got around the grip and pulled it back, bringing it to where he could see it with his good eye.
Now he had to get down.
Johnny’s other hand was ripping from his body, it hurt so much. He lowered the gun to tuck it into his belt but before he reached his waist the trailer rumbled. He knew that engine sound, it was his old car. The Devil was back.
Johnny swung back and forward a few times until his body was away from the closet and let go. For a moment he fell through the air.
It was beautiful.
There was no pressure, no pain, he was flying. He didn’t look to see his chair approaching him, nor how he’d land. He just felt. For the first time in a long time he could feel something.
It’s probably not Johnny’s fault but when he landed the gun went off. He only knew because the bullet went through his guts. The freezing heat cut open the scar tissue and tore what was left of his insides out, and then it stopped hurting.
The door opened and Johnny just sat there. The gun was still smoking in his hand and his belly was soaking red but he smiled at the woman that walked in. She would be the last thing he would know but that was all right with Johnny. She was his wife, his love, and she was stunning.
“You idiot,” the Devil said. “I wasn’t finished with you yet.”