I could sniff out the filthy scent of humans, like a hound. When I set foot in the castle, my first priority was to get rid of all signs of those sniveling weaklings, which I did with considerable satisfaction. With a sweeping gesture of my hand, I rid the walls of all those portraits: ridiculously fair-skinned women with tumbling black hair and silly smiles; men in purple robes, with swords in their gold sheathes and crowns set on their heads- the picture of arrogance. There were portraits of men standing proudly over their kill; and women fanning themselves by open windows, or strolling in rose gardens. I snorted at these; and, within moments, had made the portraits disappear altogether. The next moment, I made purple curtains laced with gold appear at the windows; the walls now were encrusted in intricate figurines of cats, bats, and, a particular favourite of mine- owls.
And mirrors. I despised the human mirrors- symbol of their enduring vanity. I had destroyed every single one of them: all that was, except one shard. One, that I kept, hidden away.
For three centuries, I had harboured a burning rage in my bones. Men…how I despised them! They had destroyed my home and stolen my sisters from me. My sisters- powerful, clever women, had been unable to hold up against those men. And I- I should not have survived either. But that was when I discovered my terrible secret. I was immortal. Unlike my beautiful sisters, I was cursed with endless life, and the yoke of time was mine own to carry.
I had fled my old town that terrible night, when my sisters had fallen. And in my raging grief, I had found powers that I never wanted to discover. As my grief aged and grew, so did my powers. I could turn men into inanimate objects- sticks and stones and empty shells. I knew I could colour places with my emotions- which explained the brooding purple, blue and black hues of my new home. And I fueled my grief. Three centuries later, I still ached. Immortality is a curse: you have nothing to ease your pain, no hope of a comforting numbness embracing you at the end of the tunnel. In fact for me, there was no end at all. Only an endless tunnel.
And so, my past still yoked to my neck, I began my new life- in my castle. The castle grew on me. It coloured my moods, understood my needs- the walls of the castle itself seemed to melt away and make space for me when I needed it. And when my old life came back to haunt me, and my loneliness threatened to crawl out of my skin, the walls of my castle appeared to close in, to embrace me almost.
It wasn’t too bad, I thought. Maybe, just maybe, this WAS the home I wanted.
I was not entirely without company. The owls kept coming, and they brought me tidings of the hateful human world. The wolves stayed at my heels, and on full-moon nights, when they declared their love to the Moon, I stood by, reflecting…
One day, I saw him. He didn’t smell like a mortal. I first spied him from afar, standing on a cliff top. And somehow, I knew he was looking directly at me. The next day, a handsome little cottage had sprung up right where my castle walls ended. It stood there, singular and majestic, somehow suddenly making my castle grounds crave and ache.
He was looking at me.
With a shock I realized, that face was…what was the word mortals used?
I wanted him gone.
And that was when he spoke to me.
“Calithea.” I froze. Nobody had used my old name, in centuries. Nobody remained, who might remember it.
“Your name would do you more justice if you smiled,” he mused. “Beautiful Goddess, isn’t that what your name means?”
I turned on him coldly. “I don’t know who you are,” I said, “but I want you to leave. This is my territory.”
“Of course, how rude of me,” he laughed. “My name is Asmodeus.” I frowned. That name…
As if reading my mind, he grinned. “Yes, the Devil. That is what my name means, and that is who I am.”
“Leave,” I ordered. “Go back to Hell or wherever you belong.”
“Hell has its charms, you see,” he said smoothly. “Especially when I get to talk to such charmingly bad-tempered immortals.”
Then I recalled the stories. The Devil could never be outside Hell. So, if he was here, that meant-
‘Ah! You are getting the general flow of it,” quipped Asmodeus, genuinely pleased. “Three centuries of wisdom hasn’t been wasted on you, eh?”
Infuriated, I turned and disappeared into my castle. I was too angry to notice the golden hue that shimmered through the usual midnight blue of my castle walls.
That night, my wolves restlessly paced my castle grounds. The air was still, and felt heavy on my immortal skin.
I couldn’t get rid of him. And by heaven, he was devilishly handsome. I hated him.
I trod cautiously around my own grounds, but I never caught sight of him during the day. But as soon as the Sun dipped below the horizon, he would appear- always standing at his front door, always grinning. I often wondered what he did during the day. The question weighed on my mind until, one day, against my better judgement, I stepped out of my territory, and approached his cottage. The moment I stood before the door, it swung open of its own accord. Breathing heavily, I walked in.
The brightness almost hurt my eyes. Everything within was golden-red, ravishing, like an all- consuming eternal fire. A gold throne stood in the centre, on which, suspended upside-down, was…a monstrous bat.
As I stared, the bat opened its ruby-red eyes, and, slowly unfolded its huge wings. In a flurry of movement, it swooped overhead, and disappeared through the open door. I was left staring at a throne of gold, which, I soon realized, was carved with human and animal skulls, and serpentine figures.
A sound caused me to turn, and there he stood. The bright sunlight suddenly appeared dim, next to him.
“Lady Calithea”, he murmured. “If I’d known you’d be coming, I would have prepared.” Although I wasn’t capable of the emotion anymore, I think I blushed.
“Is this what Asmodeus does by day?” I asked. “Impersonate bats, and slumber in gold?”
“A Devil must hold on to his reputation,” he said simply.
Snorting, I turned and marched out. Impossibly, I realized, my heart was pounding.
That day, I held that one shard of glass I had kept, turning it slowly in my hands. Bracing myself, I looked into the glass. Three centuries of immortality stared back at me- my features regal and haughty, and hateful. In a rage, I flung the glass shard against the wall, where it shattered.
Calithea. Beautiful Goddess.
My name itself seemed to be mocking me. When I had been christened, had they known of my immortality?
As the days passed, my castle grew darker, moodier. The walls were almost black now, the purple curtains had darkened. But the gold in them had brightened somehow.
A week later, I saw the bat. It was perched on my window, its red eyes glowing.
Angrily, I threw a stone at it. He was mocking me- him with his smooth voice and good looks.
The stone harmlessly bounced off the bat, and it continued to stare at me. It looked disappointed.
I turned away in anger, and was shocked to see my own reflection staring back at me, on the wall opposite. Somehow, a floor-length, ruby-encrusted mirror had appeared on my wall. As I watched, they kept appearing- entire corridors lined with ornate mirrors- and everywhere I looked, my own face stared back.
I knew what I had to do.
I stepped outside, onto my castle grounds. Silhouetted against the Moon, stood Asmodeus, solemn and handsome.
As I approached him, he silently handed me a knife.
Without a word, I slashed the knife against my arm. As tiny droplets of blood oozed out, I felt lighter. The weight of immortality seemed to be slowly lifting off my shoulders. I sighed- a deep, satisfied sigh.
He was watching me, and I held his gaze. I had never noticed before, but his eyes were a warm golden.
Smiling, I extended my arm, allowing the immortality to seep out. The brilliant moonlight shimmered on my skin.
His knife- the Devil’s Knife, had touched my skin, and I felt at peace, at last.
It was a real smile that played on my lips- reaching my eyes.
The last thing I remembered, before I slumped to my knees, was his eyes boring into mine.
It might have been my imagination, but I think I had heard him call my name.