Art, Books, Experimental, Hauntings, Poims, short-short, Young Adult

Were I the Reflection within the Mirror

Were I the Reflection Within the Mirror

Were I the reflection within the mirror,
So skillfully,
So tastefully drawn, by time
And circumstance,
To stand erect and aloof, contemplating the contour lines
Of a face drawn and haggard
By the ravages of age.
I could dance amidst the tick-tock
Magic of days,
Wander through the empty, labyrinthine halls
Of SELF,
Scream at the lonely hours hissing by
In somnolent reverie; and wonder, oh wonder, Where truth ends,
Reality stops,
And reflective illusion takes the reigns…

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Art, Fiction, short-short, Uncategorized, Young Adult

The Chartreuse

NOTE: It has been pointed out to me, by a well-known true crime writer, that the word I actually was trying for was “chanteuse.” Chartreuse is a bloody color. I don’t care. I like the othe word better. This is a dictatorship, where a mad king is allowed to go unclothed before the world.

I have a Weimar-era chartreuse hanging from my wall.

She has short, curly, presumably blonde hair, a horseshoe-shaped bottom lip, with no top lip to interfere, and a pert nose. She has large, striking eyes, but the eyebrows could not be said to arch overmuch. They are thin, possibly penciled-on.

The bottom lip sags, exposing perhaps a bit much of the lower row of teeth, which are perfect and white and top pristine pink gums. The ears are not exposed; the face itself has the quality of the pan or shovel-faced feature, going down to a pert chin with a sort of sharp edge to it, nonetheless. It could not be described as a thin face, nor are the cheekbones overly high.

The eyes are large electric diamonds, radiant with energy and sudden flashes of enthusiasm. This is accentuated by the set of the mouth, the heart-shaped thin upper bow that would all but disappear if not for the ruby red lipstick so carefully applied. Inevitably, she will pop a long, thin, cigarette in a wooden filter into the corner of that mouth, with one lace-gloved hand, and intone that “Ze cabaret iz dreadfull zis evening, ja, mien liebchen? Dahlink, let us to ze biergarten prozeed!”

Her costume is obviously spangles and silk, fishnet stockings and miles of velvet; spiked leather heels and a short crop as accessory. Her loose blonde curls could be topped by a bowler or stevedore; but, most likely, it is a top hat. Her costume has a little bow tie. (She must certainly, at one edge of her mouth, have a painted beauty mark,)

Her thighs are thick and thunderous, legs long and muscled, arms too heavy; her body milk white and powerful, exuberant; a Valkyrie hailing atop a winged horse, fording a fjord, flying over the frozen, icy earth, wreathed in the glory of the rising sun.

I want her badly to live; can even hear the first few words of her heavily-accented broken English. But she exists only as a few printed brush strokes on a little canvas square, resting atop a thumbtack pegged into a dismal wall.

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A comic.

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Art, Books, Conspiracies, Cults, Experimental, Fortean, Mystic, New Age, Short Stories, short-short, Spiritism, Weird, Young Adult

Aliester Crowley’s Prank

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Alien Abduction, Art, automatism, Books, Contactees, Dreams and Nightmares, Fortean, Ghosts, Hauntings, Holographic Universe, Monsters, Mystic, New Age, Spiritism, UFOs, Ultraterrestrials, Uncategorized, Urban Legends, Vampires, Weird, Young Adult

When I First Saw the Demon

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I was thirteen years old when I first saw the demon.

It came to me in the darkest watches of the night. Waking up from slumber, I found I couldn’t move. I knew I had been away, somehwere, in a place that was dark and grey and dead. Upon coming back from that dismal, horrifying place, I would slowly open my eyes and see the immense form, the hooded shadow that a man has described as “blacker than the black.”

When it first came to me, it was invisible. I could feel it crawl over me, and the feeling was both overpoweringly exhilarating, erotic, and terrifying. I could feel it press down upon me, could feel its weight as the bed creaked up and down heavily…

I awoke that night in a panic, and had to be rushed to the hospital emergency room.

A year or two later, I saw the demon.

I awoke and it was there. Blacker than the shadow which surrounded it, with a hood like a medieval monk. Burning red eyes, and NO FACE. Immensely long fingers, twisted tree branch-like. Curling. Someone has described the horror of having those long, twisted fingers reach out and touch you. I can attest to the fact that this is correct.

I awoke, screaming, my mother running into the room while I implored her “Can you see it? Can you see it?” I had broke the paralysis in terror. After that, I passed back into sleep.

The last horrifying time it visited me, I was in a childrens’ hospital. In my dreams, I was visiting the same grey, dead place, the same melancholy, dark world of rocky, muddy ground, dead trees, yawning caverns, and deep, filthy wet. I awoke, and the Hooded One had come again. Immense, dark, a being that could be seen through, but who was also distinctly defined–I could nearly make out the folds in his cloak. His long, claw-like pointed fingers were in my face; his eyes burned red in the darkness of his hood, but THERE WAS NO FACE.

As hideous as this phantasm was, standing beside it was a being so utterly beyond the pale of what could be considered “real” that it seemed to have escaped from some psychedelic nightmare. A twisted, starved body, like the body of a greyhound dog or even a starved old nag, and long, crooked,preying-mantis like arms that culminated in long, skinny, skeletal white fingers; like the bones of a skeletal hand. Perhaps there were four fingers.

The neck was a skinny branch. The head was huge, oversized; the mouth was a twisted, psychotic, slit-like grin stretching from one side of the huge head to another. But the eyes! They were the huge, black, almond-shaped eyes of the extraterrestrial abductor, the visitor.

I could not move; I could not scream out. I was paralyzed with fright, and could not breathe from the crushing weight of absolute spiritual terror suffocating me. Finally, I must have lost my mind, for I bolted up in bed, screaming more violently than I had ever screamed before or since.

It was almost as if, in sheer terror, I had left my body, and was outside myself, looking at myself. It was not me screaming, at this point; it was simply my body performing a motion to purge itself of some toxin.

I then fell back on the pillow, passing out. My last memory of that nigth was of a hospital attendant rushing into the room with a flashlight. “Oh, I heard this individual say, “he’s just having a nightmare.”

When I awoke the next morning, it was with a massive headache, and virtually no memory that anything unusual had even happened at all.

It took several hours before my memory was jogged, and the terrifying events of the night before started flooding back into my consciousness.

It was maybe a year later, when I was out walking with a relative, that I had my first close-encounter UFO sighting. Rounding a corner of an abandoned lot, across the street from a field and coming into the entryway of an apartment complex, my relative looked over at a strange, hovering object across the street, and asked, “Hey, what’s that?”

I turned, telling her, “it’s a helicopter.”

“Yes,” she said, “but it’s not making any noise.”

Sure enough, the huge, cigar-shaped object was hovering over the field across the street, near a huge radio antenna. Lighted brilliantly on each end, with a strobing, lightning-like blue flash on top, it went up, silently, at a 35 degree angle, before exploding into scarlet light and shooting into the stars. It moved faster thn anything I had seen before, or since. It was, quite obvioulsy, a legitimate, bona-fide UFO.

“That was someone a little off course,” I remember joking. “Like, about 35 million light years…”

Since then, I have had many, many paranormal experiences: visions of beings holding scrolls with strange symbols; episodes of missing time; bizarre, vivid, and often precognitive dreams; bodily scratches; beds that bounce as if some invisible entity were standing at the end, kicking them. And, of course, communications with SOMETHING else, via automatic writing, art, etc.

It was decades before I learned others also had similar “Night Hag” or shadow person experiences, or experiences with the “Hooded Man,” and Preying -Mantis entities. Some of these people described experiences not just similar to my own, but EXACTLY like my own, to the T. You could argue such experiences are simply hallucinations, but, then, explain why all of these people, throughout the history of the “Night Hag” phenomenon, have all had the same experience.

It has been many decades since I have seen the “Hooded Entity,” as far as I can remember. I expect to see it again some day, perhaps, I think, when I finally go to join that mysterious OTHER in the misty veil.

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Art, Books, Fiction, Short Stories, Young Adult

The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allen Poe (Retold by Tom Baker)

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The stark white lips of the judges moved, speaking hideous things. However, I couldn’t hear what they were saying, nor could I see their dark, hooded faces; only their lips I could see.

Upon the table in front of them, seven golden candles provided light. At first, I thought this comforting, but, soon, the evil sentence was laid down, and I swooned, and darkness and insensibility descended upon me like a cloud.

I awoke as I was being carried forth by powerful hands. What was happening to me? I felt myself fall back to insensibility again, and, when I awoke once more, I was in a dark and troubling place.

I came to, and, my eyes quickly adjusting, I reached out with one hand and found a pitcher of water and loaf of bread beside me. These I took greedily, as I was parched and famished. I then turned my attention to my dark cell.

I got up slowly and went to the wall, carefully placing my hand upon its uneven surface. The heavy masonry was pitted and cracked in several places, and I suddenly realized how I could ascertain the dimensions of my cell. I tore a fragment of cloth from the garment they had forced me to wear, and stuffed it in a chink. Then, marking that as a place to begin and end, I slowly, carefully, went around the wall, feeling the uneven surface with my hands as I went, counting out the paces.

(You may think this ridiculous, but, really, for some reason, it seemed of the uptmost importance to me.)
Finally, I came back around to the filthy bit of rag. Aw, fifty paces! And, calculating from that I came to the conclusion that I was in a prison cell that was some fifty feet wide. Elated at this, I soon resolved to cross the slimy, disgusting floor, and began to do so when, for some reason, I became entangled in the ripped portions of the garment I wore.

I fell flat on my face, and would have broken my nose I suppose, had a mysterious discovery not prevented me from doing so. For, though my miserable, aching body lie prone on the floor, my chin, nose, and forehead were suspended over…nothing. Apparently, I had stopped just short of falling into a sort of stone pit–just by sheer luck!

In a moment, I had secured a loose piece of stone, and thrown it down the pit, hearing it go down, down, trying, as best I could, to sort of sound out how deep the pit might have been. It was a short interval before I heard it crash below. Then, I heard a curious scuttling sound.

So, this was the fate the cruel monks of the Inquisition had in store for me, eh? I rolled over on my back, breathing in and out heavily in the stifling air, and soon found myself unconscious. When I awoke, the same pitcher and loaf were beside me, and I took them greedily again, being much famished and dying of thirst. I then realized they must have been drugged, for I grew drowsy.

When I again came back to hellish consciousness, I found my situation horribly changed. I was bound, head and foot, to a wooden rack, a huge sort of bandage wrapped all around me and secured to the frame. Only my left arm, up to the elbow, was free. I soon realized there was a pot of meat beside me which I could just barely reach and get to my mouth with my left hand. But now there was no pitcher.

I smiled at this through cracked lips. The meat was very spicy, and so I realized part of my new torture was to be fed spicy food, but given no water to slake my thirst.
 
I then heard the scuttling.
 
Rats–thousands of them! They must have come up from the circular pit! They were scurrying all about, and I was horrified and repulsed to see their beady eyes shining in the near darkness. I say near darkness because now there was a weird, glowing light that provided illumination to the scene! And how terrible a scene it was!

The images of devils and demons, obscure tortures, and hellish retribution–the fantasies of the deranged monks of the Inquisition, were painted on the ghastly walls, as high as the ceiling (which was, I should estimate, some forty feet), giving testimony to the deraged beliefs of the sadistic men who had formed these horrible dungeons of terror and pain. I was at first chagrined to see that I had grossly underestimated the size of my prison, and wracked my brain as to how this could have been possible. Also, I saw now that far from being a prison of stone masonry, my death cell was, indeed, formed of what seemed to be iron plates. Curious, I thought. But I did not ponder it long.

Looking above, I saw what I took to be an imge of Father Time, holding his scythe. However, in place of the traditional scythe was what appeared to be a long, sleek pendulum, like one would find in a great clock. I could not at first believe it, but, as I adjusted my eyes to the weird sight, I realized that the pendulum held by Father Time was no mere painting upon the wall, but a real and actual pendulum, swinging to and fro, and seemingly coming closer to me, closer and closer, slowly, oh so slowly…

I saw that the curved end of the thing was as thin and sharp as a razor. Slowly, oh so slowly it swept to and fro, coming down…down…down…

…Soon, it would be on top of me, and then, with one fell swing or swoop, would slice me in half, leaving me dying in a torrent of blood, in an agonizing and hideous death few men could ever imagine!

Down it came, closer and closer. I struggled against the great bandage that wrapped me in solid as a mummified body–to no avail! Closer swept the pendulum, closer and closer!

I felt my mind begin to crack. I blacked out.

When I came to, the thing was even nearer to me! The terrible rats that crawled up from the pit were crawling all over me, waiting greedily for my death, biting and scratching me with their little rodent snouts. It was then that an idea came to me.

I struggled to reach the very spicy meat that the cruel judges had left, stretching out in agony with my one arm. Finally, I got a handful of the stuff, what was left of it, and I began to rub it across the great bandage.

This greatly excited the hungry rats, who began to gnaw at the bandage as the hellish pendulum swung ever more near.
The pendulum was now so near that I could hear it swish across my chest. The rats began to nibble at my bonds, and finally, I felt them come loose! I struggled and strained, and, with a terrible wrenching, and with the razor-sharp blade of the pendulum just inches from my chest (it had actually swept a few of the rats away with one stroke), I managed to break free of my bonds and roll out of the way just in time!

A moment later, and I would have been cut in two by the pendulum, and suffered a cruel, painful death.

My suffering was not over though! No, for the demonic faces on the wall began to glow a fiery red, and the heat in the chamber became unbearable. It was as if I had died and gone to Hell! The eyes of the painted demons and skulls began to glow, and I realized there must be some sort of great, terrible furnace hidden within the walls.

But, as if this were not enough, those walls soon began to slide inward, closer and closer, meaning to push me into the pit, to fall to my death. I retreated from the walls and the terrible heat, my hands going up before my face. I turned in panic, stumbled, fell–

My face was inches above the pit. I looked down into the darkness, which I could now see more clearly due to the terrible flame of the demonic eyes in the paintings. I could not believe what I saw down there!

Oh those cruel judges! How could they? The walls grew closer and closer, the heat grew more and more intense–

It was then that I heard a shouting and commotion from somewhere above me. Oh! Merciful God, the walls began to slide back, the searing heat cooled, and I understood from the mingled voices that the army had entered Toledo. They had captured the Inquisition! I was saved! I was saved!

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Art, Books, Dreams and Nightmares, Experimental, Fiction, Hardboiled, Short Stories, short-short, surreal, Weird

Love Child

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I was lying in bed, in a large, dirty room, with a tall, foreign-looking woman with a surgical scar.

I saw this scar when I raised her blouse. It crept from her lower belly to the top of ner pudenda. I put my mouth on her cunt, through the filmy lace covering of her sheer panties. She told me I was sweaty. I replied in kind.

I was over at this couple’s apartment. Maybe we were all high. I suppose I shouldn’t admit to something like that. We were watching an enormous, antique tube television set with a bullet hole in the center of the screen. I told them, “I like the way the cracks in the glass radiate out from the central bullet hole.” Which did not sit well with them, so I had to explain what I meant by “like.” Not “like.”

People come and go. Sisters or best friends. I stupidly sit in a corner of the room, watching people in and out the door, whose relation to the enuing scene is obscure to me.

Children playing with castoff toys, trolleys and plastic scooters bought from thrift shops. Unattended, weaing shitty diapers and ignored. Lost in a world they create through play, inured to pain.

I walked here past a park. And I must have been high, because I looked down at the Christmas display and decided it was a minaiture golf world of weird totem animals, carved, sinister clown heads, and griffons and magical animlas transforming over a deep, resonant growl. The loudspeaker, which logically should have been playing Christmas tunes, instead seemed to blast forth damaged music that sounded as if Johnny Cash were being tortured by a black metal ensemble doing rockabilly covers. Curiouser and curiouser.

I walked up the sidewalk, perpendicular to an immense hill, which, I took it, was some sort of metaphor for my struggle in life. “Walk a mile in my shoes?” I laugh to myself. I was thankful I didn’t have to try and find the apartment after dark; I could never have managed it.

Sitting on the couch, watching Japanese cartoon movies with an experimental score. Lost in the depths of my inebriation, I actually mistake this music, for a moment, for my own. I look over, the girl I was with and her boyfriend have disappeared from the front room. I can guess what they’re doing. (I had lain in bed with the tall, foreign-looking woman, surrounded by empty beer cans and other detritus, telling her that if she rolled over, she was going to have a mess on her hands. Whether or not this particualr blossom of memory transpired before or after I went looking for the errant couple…)

The children were left unattended. I guess they figure moi as the defacto sitter. Not my bag.

I went through the occult collection of rooms, finally discovering a huge bathroom. Everything was that perfect, peach-colored sunset shade of natural, peach lighting, fading down into little washes of grey. They couple were making love somewhere just out of reach. My vision screens them out.

The foreign bird is lying on top of a sink in a position one would have sworn was excruciatingly painful. She is either passed out or dead.

So I begin to make love to her. Because, I assume, she is dead.

A mirror over the sink reveals the hideous, rubber visage, the burnt-out eyes of a soulless, mad creature. I am looking at the image of myself when a phrase comes into my mind:

LOVE CHILD.

I’m not sure what this supposed to mean. I find an old drawing of a girl I use to know. I begin to manipulate it until her unfinished skin looks ancient, seamed; scar. The tattoo on her chest reads:

LOVE CHILD.

…And if there is a clue as to what, if anything, the preceding has meant, it is probably contained in that tiny phrase.

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Art, Books, Fiction, Humor, Short Stories, Urban Legends, Weird, Young Adult

Sewing the Devil’s Shroud

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Once, there was an old woman much given to boasting and gossip. She sat all day in the market, trying to sell her wares to passersby, for she was a seamstress. She had many takers, too, for she was, indeed, very good at what she did, when she was not busy wagging her tongue.

One fine day, a tall, handsome stranger happened by, and, seeing the old woman at her place in the market, approached her, saying, “I have heard it said, here and about, that you are the finest seamstress in all the land, and that you can do any job anyone sees fit to hire you for. Is there any truth to this?”

And the old woman, full of pride and not a little foolhardy bravery, said, “Oh indeed, sir! I am the finest seamstress in all the land! Why, there is none finer than me! I work diligently, sunup to sunset, and the clothes and curtains and other fine things I turn out always fetch top price! Why, I fancy I could please the Devil himself, if given half the chance!”

At this the man laughed gleefully, his strange, dark eyes turning black inside his pale, skull-like face. He said, “Well, it appears you are going to get the chance to prove what you’ve just said! You see: I’m the Devil.”

And at this, the entire market place was shrouded in shadow, and the old woman, suddenly not so brave, took to a fit of trembling. She stammered “But, what dost thou want from ME, oh Son of Iniquity? I am but a poor, humble seamstress in a small market town!”

And the Devil laughed again, nodding his head, saying, “A seamstress thou art. But, humble? Methinks not. Ah well, Madam Seamstress, we have a little chore for you, to test the truth of your own boastful claims. If you succeed, riches and a long life are ahead of you. BUT, if you fail…I shall take your immortal soul.”

And the old woman, confused as to what to do, and not a little awestruck by her famous visitor, said, “What, oh Prince of Evil, wilt thou ask of me?”

At this the Devil said, “Ah, it is simplicity itself. I want you to sew for me a shroud, a burial shroud. And it must be the most excellent burial shrould ever conceived. Sound like a bargain?”

And the old woman, who had sewed many a burial shroud in her time (and who, at any rate, was so full of herself she couldn’t possibly refuse a challenge) said, “Why, all I have to do is sew a burial shroud, and I might attain all the riches I want, and a long life to boot? Why, I think you have yourself a bargain, oh Dark Prince of the Underworld!”

And the Devil smiled, put out his long, talon-like fingers (his nails were razor-sharp), and shook the old woman’s hand. Then, pulling at his beard and laughing to himself, he said, “There is, however, just one catch. This burial shroud, you see, is to be the biggest, grandest, most incredible burial shroud ever sewn together by human hands. It will be long enough to bury everyone ever killed in any war or famine! So you must sew, without ceasing, every day, and every night, for forty days and nights!”

And the old woman, now realizing just what she had agreed to, threw up her hands in horror, and implored, “Oh, Fallen One, I beseech thee, release me from this unworthy task. For, it is not in my meager power to accomplish it!”

But the Devil would not relent, and, stamping one foot in the dirt, said, “Quiet, thou fool! A bargain is a bargain! I will return in forty days time, and, if thou hast not woven for me the most magnificent of all burial shrouds, I will take thy soul with me to Hell, forever and ever!”

And then the Devil disappeared, in a puff of smoke and a strong whiff of rotten eggs. The old woman was left weeping and moaning in despair, but, seeing no way out of her predicament, went immediately to her little hovel and began to sew. And sew. And sew.

It was not long, however, before she began to feel very sleepy. Of course, she knew she could not stop sewing the Devil’s shroud, so she kept going, keeping her eyelids open with toothpicks.

Suddenly, she conceived of an idea.

“I know! I shall get one of the neighbor children to come in, and sew for me, and I will use the time to get some rest and sleep. And, when I awake, I will be able to begin sewing where I have left off!”

So, with both of her hands still busy, she leaned her old, grey head out the window, and, seeing a fat little boy walking across the weed-choked yard for a shortcut, she called, “Oh! Little boy, little boy! Come and help your old Mama sew this immense burial shroud. For, if you do so, there is surely a klopin in it for you!”

And upon hearing this, and imagining all the candy he could buy with his single klopin, the little boy came inside the hovel, and straightway began to sew the shroud in the old woman’s place. And the old woman was so tired she fell immediately to sleep. And the poor little boy was tasked to weave, day and night, and not stop, while the old woman slept.

The old woman had warned the boy, “You must sew and sew this shroud, while I get some sleep! And you must not stop for anything, lest the Devil come and take thy soul to Hell!”

And the little boy, suddenly terrified, did as he was told.

Soon though, tired and in tears, the little boy summoned his courage, and roused the old woman from her deep slumber. In a torrent of tears, he exclaimed, “Oh Missus, I am so tired, and my little fingers are so sore! Couldst thou not rouse thyself from thy slumber, and take my place here, sewing and sewing this accursed burial shroud?”

At hearing this, and being roused, the old woman grew exceedingly wroth, and, without thinking, smote the little child upon the head; whereupon, he fell into the great folds of the shroud.

The old woman was horrified, but, not for a moment daring to cease the sewing of the shroud, straightway sewed the corpse of the little boy into the folds of the shroud–like a fly caught in the web of a great spider. And she began again to sew.

Soon, she was again very tired, though, but she thought to herself, “I know! I shall get one of the neighbor children to come in and help sew, while I rest! I have done it before, and I can do so again!”

And so she did. And, while the unlucky little chap sewed and sewed furiously, she slept. But, first, this time she laid out a plan so as to allow her to sleep the rest of the forty days and nights until the Devil came.

She baked three blueberry pies, and laid them, one after the other, upon her porch. Soon, the delicious aroma of the pie drew a fat little boy to her porch, investigating what it was that smelled so good.

“Oh, Missus, pray tell what is it that smells so delicious?” asked the little boy.

“Methinks it is this delicious pie, my little friend.”

And to this, the child asked, “May I not have a taste of this delicious pie, Missus?”

And to that, the old woman replied, “You may. But first, you must come inside and visit me awhile, my little friend.”

To which the child replied, “Okay, I will come inside and visit thee awhile, Missus, and then you will give me a taste of your delicious pie!”

And so the rosy-cheeked little chap went inside, and the old woman fell upon him, and, grabbing him about the throat, exclaimed, “Now you must sew, and sew, and sew this shroud! And you must not stop, or else the Devil will appear and take thy soul to Hell!”

And so, weeping, the little boy began to sew the shroud; and the old woman slept. And, when she awoke, the little boy, frantically begging her to come and take his place, so infuriated the mad old woman that she smote him on the head, just as she had done to the one before him.

He fell over, stone dead. She was not at all concerned this time, however, for she simply began to sew him into the shroud, as she had done previously, and in no time, his little body was hidden in the massive folds.

She smiled to herself (a hideous sight to behold) and, carefully laid out the other two pies, in no time attracting more children to put to work sewing the shroud. Soon, she had little slaves working day and night as they wept, and she was able to lie down and get her much-needed “beauty sleep” (not that it would have helped her looks very much).

Well, forty days and nights passed rather more quickly than what she expected, and the shroud grew and grew until it spilled out of doorways, and across the yard, and into the woods, and down the hill…until there was hardly any room to move.

Noting that it was now the fortieth day, the old woman busily went about preparing for the Devil’s visit. She took a great rolling pin, and, sneaking up behind each of her little slaves, forthwith pounded them on top of their noggins, until each fell bleeding into the shroud. Then, she sewed up their bodies in the immense cloth, and busily sewing up the last few stitches, then sat herself down to wait.

Well, it was a matter of only a few minutes before the dogs in the neighborhood began to howl dismally, and the room grew colder, as the wind outside grew hot, and a curious smell of rotten eggs pervaded the room. Suddenly, in a flash of light and a puff of smoke, the Devil appeared, dressed in his long, flowing black cloak and cap.

“Well, have you done as I instructed, and sewed for forty days and forty nights, unceasing, and made for me the finest and largest burial shroud that the world has ever seen?”

And at this the old woman smiled, and folding her hands under her chin as if in prayer, she said, “Oh yes, Prince of evil, I most certainly have! Why, just look and see for yourself how enormous this shroud is, how it spills forth from every doorway, and out the house and across the garden, and down the hill, and all the way to town!”

And at hearing this, the Devil smiled, and said, “Very well! it appears as if you have done exactly what I asked. For such devotion and loyalty, riches and a long life shall certainly be yours!”

And the Devil began to take up the folds of his great shroud when, suddenly, a weird, whimpering cry could be heard from within the cloth.

it was one of the children! The old woman had thought she had brained them all, but she was mistaken. One was till alive, and had woken up, sewed tight into the shroud.

it took only a bare minute for the Devil to realize what she had done. He howled in a terrific rage, his face growing dark, “Accursed fool! You tried to trick me into thinking YOU had sewn the shroud by yourself, when, in reality, you kept these children your prisoner, and made THEM do it for you. And then, MURDERED them to boot!”

And, though the old woman tried to deny it, she knew she was done for.

“Fool! Do you know that you can NOT TRICK THE DEVIL?” He raged, and stamped his foot, and, outside, the dogs sent up a torrent of howls, and birds dropped dead from the sky, and huge blast of rotten egg stink blew in with the wind.

He then calmed himself, and said, “For your cowardly, dishonest act, you shall pay with your immortal soul. And worse! Now, prepare thyself for unending PAIN!”

And with that, he took immense sewing needles and jammed them in the old woman’s eyes, and jammed more into her fingers. He then produced two iron boots, red hot, and put them on her feet, so that the pain was incredible.

Then, gathering up his shroud and his captive, he set the old woman’s hut alight with a snap of his fingers, and disappeared back to Hell, where he and the old woman are down to present times.

And the moral of this story? Could be, “Watch out what you boast about,” or “Put your money where your mouth is.” Or, if you want to consider it from the viewpoint of the children, lured by the promise of a klopin and blueberry pie, it might be, “Never look a gift horse in the mouth,” or “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Or, taken from the perspective of the Devil, it might be “Never trust a braggart,” or, “Always be wary when people make fantastic claims about themselves.”

Or YOU might think of another moral for our little tale. We simply wanted to tell the tale. Really, can YOU think of what it all might really mean?

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