I saw the devil once, in a dream.
I stood in a strange compound, in a pool of clear water that rose to my ankles, glittering with the whiteness of a moon that had horns like a ram’s. The water was icy, and I shivered, my teeth chattering. The structure surrounding me was like a public bath, the edge of the pool was coated with algae. Interlocking bricks held the ground in places were time and feet had not eroded, defiant, determined to be a relic of a past once strong, noble and proud.
I stood directly before a tree–a tree that wasn’t quite a tree. The ‘tree’ had embedded itself into the wall behind it (the wall that ran the length of the pool) in such a way as to become one with the wall, like a hideous scar on the skin of an angel. That was the first strange thing about the ‘tree’. The next strange thing about the tree was its colour: it was entirely green and smooth, like a snake of sorts, only without scales. It was striped in just two shades of green: light and deep, the marks running from the ‘roots’ up. It was green in several places with algae. The final and strangest thing about the ‘tree’ was that it was in the shape of a nude man: a giant, handsomely muscled, his back turned to me: a statue that was a real tree. He was not stooped with the weight of the world as Atlas was by Zeus condemned, but he bore his own destined weight: green, smooth branches without leaves. And especially without fruit. Except perhaps the fruits of eternal melancholy, fruits which only the human soul could taste and digest, a fruit tangible only to the mind. His left leg stretched out in front of him, long and firm, his right leg was bowed beneath firm buttocks. His hands were raised high above his head, supporting a huge canopy of branches which sprouted from his fingers. His face was turned west. His nose was pointed, his jaw, even from that angle, firm. His hair was cut short. His demeanour was calm. He looked like an angel would.
While I contemplated this apparition, a figure walked in from my peripheral vision, and I turned, startled. He was as tall as a normal man, was dark-skinned, had hair cut low, and wore dark clothes. The water rippled with music in the wake of his and my disturbance. Somehow I knew he was the devil. Refrain from asking me how I come by my knowledge, for I cannot tell you different but that I just knew it.
I do not remember what it was he said, but he seemed to want to prove a point by pointing to the tree-statue: suddenly the statue rippled and moved, changing posture, stretching his muscles, it seemed, as though tired out by the monotony of bearing his burden. The branches moved in a dance all their own, to a song all their own, eerie and frightening and surreal.
Behind us was an abandoned building. It must have been six or eight stories high; I do not remember. Of a sudden its facade was puckered with irregular holes, yawning open a swirling, sensate darkness that no creature with any modicum of intelligence would ever want to be hurled in, for it was the face of eternal doom, the abyss of the ultimate misery that a creature–any creature–can be doomed to suffer. That building was a door to perdition, and the devil unlocked it…