Article by WILLIAM MALTESE
Monthly Column : BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL
#1 THE DEMON UNDER MY BED
There’s a demon under my bed. He’s been there for a very long time. In fact, he’s been there as long as I can remember — possibly even before that.
Upon first suspecting he was there, I looked, confirmed, and told my mother. She didn’t believe me. She did, however, take a look, for herself, and assured me that there was nothing there but dust-bunnies that wouldn’t hurt me, although she would clear even those away, and she did, the very next day. She even checked my closet to provide me additional, but unasked for, assurance that there was no monster lurking there. When she left my room, she asked if I wanted the light left on. I said no. She asked if I wanted the door left ajar. I said no.
My mother thought I was afraid. I wasn’t. Don’t ask me why I wasn’t afraid, then. Don’t ask me why I’m not afraid, now. I really haven’t a rational clue. Certainly, he’s anything but benign in appearance. He has horns, reptilian eyes (red with green slits), pointy ears, a tri-forked tongue, a dual-horned chin, a horny knob on each shoulder, claws on his hands and feet, a tail, and an enormous erection, one and all covered in grayish-green scales. His erection, alone, certainly would seem threatening enough to scare the beJezus out of most young boys, let alone put the fear of God (or of the Devil) into most grown men.
He first appeared to me, out from under my bed, when I was ten. When he spoke, I plainly heard what he said, although his long tri-forked tongue continually flicked like that of a snake. He told me to get up, wake my parents, and tell them I smelled gas. I didn’t smell gas; neither did my mother or father. The gas-line leak was just outside my bedroom window, dispersed by breeze but still potentially dangerous, especially if ever subjected to a spark; or, so insisted the amazed service man who only found the problem by using sophisticated gas-detection equipment.
During one of the deep-dark nights, of many nights, I spent in the middle of Brazil’s Mato Grasso, where I’d gone with buddies to search for Inca treasure between our junior and senior years at university, I came suddenly awake to find my demon companion present. (Yes, he manages always to be under my bed, wherever my bed might be). He told me, this time, merely to go back to sleep; that there was nothing to worry about. Next morning, enormous jaguar pugmarks were found directly outside my tent.
He showed up in New York City, in the middle of the night, so close to me, on my hotel bed, that I could have reached out and touched him. (Though tempted, then, and later, I’ve never ventured any actual contact). He told me to get up, wake my companions (one of whom was deadly afraid of fire, because of an aunt who had horrendously died in one), tell them I smelled smoke (I didn’t), and take the stairs, not the elevator, to the lobby. The hotel fire alarm sounded, but only after we’d reached the ground floor.
At the end of my Army Advanced Personnel Management Training at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana, he told me to oblige whomever the man would who sit down next to me in the base theater that evening by letting the man surreptitiously (the demon’s exact word), fondle me. I was only to figure out later that my compliance was possibly responsible for my being the only one of my class sent across country for shipment out to Korea (this was after the “Conflict”); everyone else got assignments in Europe. It’s a gross understatement to say I was ticked at the time (I wanted to go to Europe, not Asia), only later changing my mind.
At the Oakland Army Terminal, California, I was demon-instructed to recognize the first Master Sergeant I met in processing me and my records for overseas assignment and compliment him on how I’d enjoyed the course he taught me during my Advanced Individual Training at Fort Ord, California. I’d never seen the MSGT before, but he apparently believed and appreciated my bit of brown-nosing, in that, through his largesse (NCOs, I was soon to discover, entirely run the military establishment), I ended up as the lone PFC on a plane of otherwise commissioned and non-commissioned officers flown to Kimpo, Korea; my peers were all placed on slo-mo boats and, much the worse for wear, arrived a good month after I did.
When honorably discharged at Fort Lewis, Washington, I learned that most of my fellow enlistees, initially sent to Europe, had ended up dead in Viet Nam. That I’d originally been assigned to Asia (thank you surreptitiously groping man in that Fort Benjamin Harrison movie theater!), was what accounted for my next and last assignment not to have been in Nam but, rather, at a safe-and-sound Armed Forces Enlistment and Examination Station in Portland, Oregon.
Obviously, things happen for reasons. So what that, in my cases, reasons seem somehow linked to my conversations with a demon?
He’s never asked for my soul in exchange for favors. He’s never asked for anything. Will he, though, ask for something, somewhere up the line? Will I, or won’t I, know what to do if he ever does?
I only know that on those nights, when I awake suddenly to complete darkness, I take a strange consolation in the movement of the mattress beneath me whenever he presses up against it, or whenever I hear his low and raspy breathing.
I only know, too, that he’s provided the inspiration for at least five of my published novels.
©2010 WILLIAM MALTESE
PROVIDING READERS WITH INTERNATIONAL BEST-SELLERS FOR OVER FOUR DECADES
Art: Angle/Demon interpretations by Spanish artist Ismael Alvarez Vélez of c a B&W nude photograph of the author William Maltese as a young man (from author’s private collection)