The trees have been known to calm me yet they haven’t since that day. I was walking off a fit of rage when I came upon the shack. I stumbled into a hillside clearing and there it stood in all its wooden one room malevolence. A creek rushed silently beside it, the underwater blades muffling its flow. Demons and birds perched in the surrounding trees watching me silently with glowing eyes and rotted souls.
I would have walked away and sought my masochistic redemption in the thick dark of the woods except I heard the theme song from M.A.S.H. from inside the little structure. The song was sorrowful but the jokes immortal. Hawkeye could always cheer me up, and Klinger wore dresses my mother emulated. She never smiled as much as him though. Flower patterned funerals have a different taste. I pulled myself from my memories and pushed the door open without knocking.
My poor manner karma was instant and uncomfortable. Splinters dug in my fingers and squirmed under my fingernails. I thought of sweet January; naked flesh, bloody lips, shivering in summer time. The song changed and I found myself tapping my foot on the dirt floor to Rezso Seress’s Gloomy Sunday. A two song soundtrack for students of sorrow.
A demon stood on a step stool, the song emitting from his wide open mouth. He held a sign that read ‘gun metal tastes like cherry’ scrawled in black sharpie marker. I marveled at his musical innards reproducing such a haunting tune. A tear formed in my eye as the song reminded me of failures and aborted dreams.
“Why do you disrupt my bathing?” A calm deep voice asked from behind me.
I turned and noticed a man sitting in an old stand-alone bathtub with hooves instead of rounded feet. The man had two small horns protruding from his forehead and a bubble beard. Rose petals and eye balls floated on the surface of his steaming bath water. A black dog with mis-matched eyes curled up on the dirt floor next to the bathtub. I thought of sweet January again; her lovely scars and gnashing teeth. The horned man snapped his fingers. My memory vanished in the echo.
“Why do you disrupt my bathing?” The man asked again as his soap beard dripped.
The music stopped and I looked back to the demon. He glared at me and held a sign that read ‘razor blade rebellion’ scrawled in black sharpie marker. In the silence of the shack I missed the haunting tune. I shrugged my shoulders and mumbled an apology.
“Is there no common decency anymore?” the man asked.
The black dog raised his head and shook negative.
The demon started the song over from the beginning and my toes tapped along. He held a sign that read ‘the tighter the noose, the sweeter the juice’ scrawled in black sharpie marker. I found courage in the pit of my stomach where all the bad feelings swirl and used it to answer the bathing man.
“No,” I told him, “for everyone burns in the fire of life.”
The horned man splashed his bath water at me; flinging eye balls and rose petals all over the floor. The water hit my face and plugged my nose. My eyes burned but I told myself I’d never cry in front of strangers again. You never know if the strangers know we are all ghosts in the fog. So it’s better to not give them the chance to judge you.
“I see,” the man told me while applying more bubbles to his chin. “And what of forgiveness? Does it still pester?”
“No,” I told him, “for solitude is a cold flaming mistress.”
“I see,” He answered. Then he pulled a rag from the water, held it out to me and asked, “Could you wash my back?”
“No,” I told him, “for I lost my kindness when all my toys broke.”
He nodded sadly and lost himself in his own memories. I shuffled my feet and waited impatiently for him to speak again. The black dog stood slowly and stretched; one eye on my and one eye on my nightmares. Still his master said nothing. So I broke his concentration by snapping my fingers. The echo wasn’t near as impressive but still he looked at me.
“May I steal your demon?” I asked using the voice I employed when asking for the toys- now broken- when they were shiny and new.
The horned man leaned back in his bath and slid down into the water. He opened his mouth and swallowed up bathwater then he spit the water like a fountain.
“No,” he told me, “but you may take his sign if you wear it around your neck.”
“Fair enough,” I answered content to leave the humid room with my soul and a souvenir.
The demon handed me the sign with a small loop of barb wire attached so I could wear it. I put it over my head and bowed. The horned man waved me away. The black dog scoffed and spun in place three times before laying back down beside the bathtub. I walked out the wooden door into the night.
My eyes were glowing strange neons and they lead me home through the forest. Demons and birds squawked and chirped blasphemies at me but the words on the sign kept me strong. I held a sign for all to see that read ‘my emotions are zombie’ scrawled in black sharpie marker.
"The Devil's Bath Shack"
Copyright: © 2011 Jonathan Moon
Jonathan Moon is the horrorcore author of Mr. Moon's Nightmares, the upcoming HEINOUS, and co-author of The Apocalypse and Satan's Glory Hole with Tim Long. You can keep one eye on him at all times by following his Monkey Faced Demon blog at http://www.mrmoonblogs.blogspot.com/.