Wednesday, 13 June 2012

THE RED DEVIL by Allan Watson

A nod and a wink and a warm TK'n'C welcome to Allan Watson with this wicked and magical bit of fun...


The red devil had perched above the entrance to the pub for more years than anyone could remember. He squatted on a plinth above the door, hands on his knees, taking careful note of every thirsty customer who entered his domain. His wooden body was painted pillar-box red, while his eyes, mouth, beard, hair, hooves, and horns were jet black. Visitors to the town would sometimes take photographs of the red devil which pleased him no end, for he was at heart a vain little fellow.

Being a rather small devil, his evil influence didn’t do much harm. It wasn’t as if he started wars or brought down plagues and pestilence to wipe out whole civilisations. At best, all he could manage was to nudge the customers of the pub in the right direction and hope happenstance would do the rest. Men reeling home after supping a few pints of ale would already be stock-piling old grievances to lay at the feet of their wives, fuel for arguments that had the potential for domestic violence and the occasional murder. Others would find themselves getting behind the wheel of their car despite knowing they were way over the limit, and if they caused a traffic accident or ran down a elderly pedestrian crossing the road, then so much the better.

Other small acts of mischief included pinching the barmaids’ bottoms - making jukebox records scratch across the grooves - toilets to block and overflow - and when feeling especially powerful, the red devil would trip the fuse box and hug himself gleefully as he listened to angry curses and the sound of breaking glass while drinkers stumbled around in the dark. These acts of minor chaos sustained and nourished the red devil, and he dreamed they would accumulate enough misery to eventually grant him promotion within the outer circles of hell.

Then one day a stranger came to the pub. The red devil found him interesting, but waited until the man emerged to smoke a cigarette before studying him properly. What the red devil found flickering inside this man made him stamp his wooden hooves with undistilled happiness. The heart of the stranger was filled with flames. They roared and burned and scorched and crackled and spat. This man carried within him the gas-jet heat of crematoriums. He was a walking scorched-earth policy. His heart a living furnace.

The red devil wondered if High Lord Lucifer himself had come all the way from hell to personally recognise his hard work and bestow upon him greater powers of harm and rancour. As if hearing the red devil’s thoughts, the stranger looked up and winked before taking a last puff of his cigarette and grinding the butt beneath his shoe. Instead of re-entering the pub, the stranger strode away, leaving the red devil to wonder who he was and what changes he might have wrought by touching the stranger’s fiery heart.

Much later that night, the arsonist returned and burned the pub to the ground by pouring petrol through the letterbox, followed by a smouldering cigarette. It took three fire engines to extinguish the fierce blaze which could be seen miles away on account of all that alcohol burning. The next morning as fire investigators sifted through the still-smoking debris looking for evidence of unlawful fire-raising, one of them picked up a charred lump of wood that still retained the rough shape of a squatting devil with crumbling horns.

The devil was no longer pillar-box red. It was now nothing more than a blackened ruin of brittle, cracked wood. The investigator dropped the devil to the ground where it burst apart in a shower of flaking ashes to reveal a small black stone which had once been the beating heart of the red devil. The investigator kicked the stone into the gutter, where it rolled into a drain and was never seen again.

Bio: So what do you need to know about me? I'm a Taurus, going bald and have been told I walk with a slight stoop. Despite these handicaps I've published four novels (crime/horror) and a book of weird short stories on Kindle.

Earlier in my so-called writing career I spent five years freelancing with BBC Radio Scotland churning out comedy sketches for a range of programs including The Fred Macaully Show and Off the Ball, as well as being a frequent contributor to the world famous (but only if you live in Scotland) 'Herald Diary'. Um....... that's about it. Except for my TV sketches for the Karen Dunbar Show. That was rubbish and I don't like to be reminded about it.


  1. "This man carried within him the gas-jet heat of crematoriums."
    That line, so succinct in its ability to tell us of the rage, the evil and the intent of the arsonist.Great little story with a perfect structure to carry us through each stage.

    Neat twist followed by a crafty denouement involving a rolling heart of stone falling into the abyss.

    Really enjoyed this.

  2. "He was a walking scorched-earth policy." Just plain gorgeous that is. Like the story. Like a breath of fresh (albeit with a hint of grave mould)air on a dawn withthe promise of fire to come. Cool.

  3. I liked this ... good fun. Felt sorry for 'Little Red' though.

  4. Another fine piece, Allan. Enjoyed it, mate. Well done!