By Shimma Ali
The ground was hard. I sat hunched on my knees at a rural crossroads in the dead of night. My fingers dug into the dirt, fingernails scratching at the top layer, the dirt separating my skin from my nails as it wedged itself between the two. My back ached and I could feel my knees begin to bruise as I pulled the dirt into small mounds by my side. Slowly before me, a dark pit opened up.
When the hole was about three feet deep, I grabbed the shoebox from behind me that I’d brought for this occasion and opened it on my lap. My stomach lurched and I felt my dinner crawl up my throat. A strong waft of decay floated out of the box from the dead rabbit inside. I’d found the rabbit in a ditch just outside my neighborhood. I took out the stiff animal and quickly tossed it into the hole in front of me, its body breaking in half. The creature watched me with its glossy eyes as I then placed a wad of the hair I’d stolen from Her hairbrush into the hole. I buried everything, sweating and shaking, patting down the earth I replaced over the rabbit. I wanted to vomit and cry at the same time.
I stood up in the middle of the crossroads waiting, not knowing how much time had passed. I turned around in a circle and looked down each of the paths that joined together at my feet. I continued to wait for something to happen, nervously scratching at the back of my neck. Panic began to set in and I worried that I’d done something wrong. I thought I’d perfectly followed the instructions given to me, but could I have missed a step?
There was a shop located just outside of town past the abandoned train station that had long ago been burned down. The shop was rumored to be owned by a witch and was sure to have what you needed. People only ever went there when they were desperate enough and when their prayers to God finally ran out. I’d gone to beg the witch to help me get Her back. I asked her for anything that could help make Her stay. She had said that she didn’t have that kind of power and couldn’t help me. She’d said that the only possible way was risky and that there was no guarantee that it could work. She told me that I needed to find a crossroads and go there between 3 and 4 a.m., between the “witching hour” she called it. If I wanted my wish to be fulfilled I needed to bury two things in the center where the four roads met. First, a dead offering to prove that I was committed to making a deal, and second, something that belonged to the person I was making the deal for.
Now I stood wondering if my offering could be refused because I hadn’t been the one to kill the rabbit. Or was it because I’d stolen Her hair and not an object that She owned? My knees buckled and I dropped to the ground from my fear and the weight of these unanswered questions. My head hung, heavy. Beads of water began to stain the surface in front of me. Was it rain? I looked up to see, but my vision blurred and I realized I was crying.
“What is it that you want?” a voice called from behind me.
My body twisted as though by command towards the sound of the voice, and when I saw who spoke, I crumpled into the fetal position. There I sat on the ground—looking like the distorted rabbit I’d just buried—before a strikingly beautiful naked man. His body looked as though he’d been chiseled out of the finest marble. His skin was sanded down and so smooth that the rain simply slid straight off him. He was tall, taller than what seemed normal, yet looked perfectly proportional. His hair curled at the back of his neck, colored darker than the sky itself. His cheekbones were high and lips full. He was a creation of God. His body was made to be looked at, skin made to be touched. His aura made you want to move towards him but this was impossible. It was his eyes that kept you at bay. It was his eyes that made my blood run cold. Looking into them was like looking into a black hole. At any moment you could slip and fall and be swallowed up forever.
I could feel my mouth move as I tried to answer this radiant creature’s question. A voice inside me screamed and pleaded to not answer for fear of saying the wrong thing. But a part of me also wished to say every thought that was running through my mind. These voices blended together, making my head pound and feel as though at any moment it would explode. I could feel his gaze on me like a heavy weighted blanket.
“You only have a few minutes before the witching hour is over, when I will take my leave. I suggest you speak,” he said, his voice sounding as though it came from every direction.
Out of all the voices pounding in my head, the cry of desperation now sounded the loudest. “Love, I want—I need Her to love me.”
“Love. You believe another’s love is worth the price of your soul?”
More tears streamed down my face as I begged the creature before me. I felt guilty admitting that I was willing to give my life away for Her as though it was something that could easily be replaced. But I had tried everything in my power to get Her to love me. I’d continually given Her everything in hopes that She would realize that my love was good enough.
What was one more thing?
The glowing man moved toward me, stopping just before the tips of my fingers that lay flat on the ground. As he leaned towards me, he pulled my chin upwards so that I looked directly into his empty eyes. He was inches away from my face, so close that I could feel his hot breath against my cheeks. I felt myself shrink.
“I cannot make a deal with you,” he said after a moment’s pause. “You have no soul to give me, for you’ve already given it away. You have poured it out to Her and so have nothing to offer me.” He released his hand and pulled away.
“What—I don’t understand! You can’t do this to me! I need your help! I need you to get Her to love me,” I cried. He looked down at me, watching in silence. “Why visit me if you can’t help me?” I asked.
I tried to blink away the tears so I could see him. But just as quickly as he had appeared, he vanished. Out of denial I turned around, looking in every direction to try and catch him. There was nothing. I was left cold and abandoned with bleeding fingers and aching knees and back. I felt as though my heart had been torn out of my chest and thrown into the dirt before me. This was the end. There was nothing left for me to do. I would never be able to have Her, and not even the devil could get Her to love me.
Shimma Ali is a college student from Aurora just trying to get by. She writes poetry and short stories at night to keep her sane for when she must venture out during the day. One day she hopes to end up in publishing so that she can get paid to read for a living. This summer she was let into the Suspect Press lair as an intern and went on one hell of a journey. Find her on Instagram @shiimma_ to read some of her work.