The devil called on Tuesday. I’m hungry, it said. Feed me.
You hung up–but a thing like that doesn’t stop a devil. It called back. And kept calling. Night after night after night until you couldn’t remember what day it was or whether you were dreaming or just sleepwalking through life. The only thing that seemed real was the gnawing in your gut, the tugging on your soul. When the crackling started in your head, you answered the phone because hearing its smoky voice in your ear was better than scorch marks on your brain.
I’m hungry. Feed me.
I can’t, you said, close to weeping now. Call someone else.
You promised, it whined and your ear popped at its pitch. So you went to a restaurant and stared at the menu. You’d given up meat in 2002 and sugar the following year. Soy went six months ago and you hadn’t touched a morsel since. The waiter came over and you sent him away, but he kept coming back. Just like that damn devil. You ordered: Starters and Entrees and Sides, can’t forget those tasty sides, and the food piled up and you opened your mouth and gorged.
The busboy looked at you funny and you said, What? I’m eating for two. He made the sign of the cross and you asked for the check and slunk home to wait. The devil came to your house, crawled into your bed, licked your lips and sighed. In the morning, it was gone and you were empty. Days passed and the phone didn’t ring and you thought, I fed it. It’s over. How thankful you felt then.
Until Tuesday rolled around and the phone rang. It was the devil. For you.
I want, it said. Don’t you want?
And you hadn’t desired anything, but now you did. That gnawing burrowed deeper, made things ache inside you.
Feed me, it said. You’ll feel better if you do.
But that was just something it said to trick you. You knew all about devils and their tricks. This wasn’t your first one.
You had tricks, too. Starving. Cutting. Burning. Because it was true: you could fight fire with fire–you just didn’t recommend it. The smell made you forget you were a vegetarian, then a vegan, then an ascetic. It made you eat.
I fed you, you said. Go away.
But it wanted more. It told you so. It called and called and called, begging you for sex, and your insides swelled and your body demanded release, but you knew how this story ended and you resisted.
If you loved me, it whispered, you’d do this.
I don’t, you said. No one loves you. No one wants you.
It laughed. If you didn’t want me, I wouldn’t be here. You called me, remember?
That’s not how it happened, you said.
That’s exactly what went down, it said. Now go to that truck stop–the one we love so much–and fuck until you’re full.
So you went to the truck stop and you fucked and fucked and fucked, and you forgot how empty felt and you remembered when last night was a promise you kept breaking, and you wanted to cry, but couldn’t because you’d broken that part oh so many years ago and not even the internet could find a replacement. When you ran out of men or they ran out of you, whatever, it was done, you drove home with grunts echoing in your ears, and the devil was there waiting and it followed you up the stairs and into bed and crawled between your legs, and licked and licked.
Do you like love? you asked the devil and it replied, I love love, and you fell asleep with the scent of brimstone in your hair. It didn’t leave for six days and when it finally disappeared, you had the most awful sunburn.
That Tuesday you almost looked forward to its call. You picked up on the first ring and the two of you chatted and it was almost pleasant. You wished it to hell–but respectfully so–and it giggled like knives on a whetstone and hung up. You sat there, holding the phone, wondering how long it’d be sated–not long–and what it would want next and how much more you could take and when it would let you go and how long could forever possibly last?
I’m tired, it said the following Tuesday. You’re exhausting.
Know what you need? you said, barely keeping the glee out of your voice. A nice dirt nap.
It wasn’t convinced, but you cajoled and it agreed to come over and try your dirt. You dug it a nice, deep bed in your yard, six by six by six. You stuffed a pillowcase in its mouth–the better to sleep with, you promised it– wrapped it in your stained sheets–tight like a pharaoh– and shoved it into the ground. You hit it with a shovel; you poured cement over it; you filled the grave and planted flowers–bleeding hearts and lilies of the valley.
You signed up for yoga on Tuesdays and German on Thursdays. Wednesdays you did laundry. Fridays you scrubbed your soul. You stopped eating meat, then dairy, then vegetables, then calories altogether. You threw out your phone, but that doesn’t matter ’cause the devil has your number. So you keep looking out your window and one day, you see the earth buckle and the house shakes and dirt flies and there on your doorstep is the devil. It yawns, stretches. It sees you.
I’m hungry, it says and your stomach rumbles.
Originally published in DarkFuse's Horror D’oeuvres. Reprinted by permission of the author.
© H.L. Fullerton (2014)