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The Devil's Daughter by Peter Damian Bellis
published in Volume 4, Issue 2 on November 10th, 1997

This here story was told me by a fellow I met one time down in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. He was just sitting there on the boardwalk and it looked like the salt air was eating away at his face and his arms and at his clothes and his hair, everything was falling apart. He was just a raggedy old guy with bits of shell and sand in his beard and he smelled like a pack of old cigarettes and chicken grease mixed together. The kind of fellow most folks sort of stare past when they see one on the boardwalk, like they wish he was a lamp post or a trash can only he aint, and, brother, I has to say most times I have the same burning inclination, but I couldn't help staring straight at this one, and then he turned a jagged old smile my way and a couple of teeth missing and a couple more capped, and, brother, it sure as hell felt like I know'd him from somewhere, only I didn't, like he was some long lost cousin or something, only he wasn't, and just like that I was sitting next to him on the edge of the boardwalk and kicking at the cigarette stubs in the sand and a couple of seagulls squawking, just like two kids skipping school, and he was telling me this story. Damned if it didn't sound like he was talking the truth, like he maybe was talking about hisself, but he didn't say, and when he was done, I didn't ask. Brother, I wunt no fool.What he was talking about was the devil's own daughter and how he had a hell of a time trying to keep track of her. Every time the devil he turned his head his daughter was trying to get out of the house. She wanted to go off somewheres find herself a husband, but the devil he wunt go put up with no husbands, so after a couple of time trying to get out through the window, he put her on a leash. Of course the devil should of know'd better. That leash only made her want to get out the more. And then one night the devil he come to check her room and she was gone, the leash too. Well right off he started howling and howling, but that didn't bring his daughter back, and then he started off after her, he didn't care how long it was going to take, he was going to find his daughter and bring her back, and if she'd done took up with a husband, well he'd take care of him too.

Now the daughter she know'd that the minute she left, her daddy would come a looking, and she know'd he wouldn't be in no friendly mood neither, but all the same she found herself a young man from Tennessee and they got married the very next day and that night they found themselves a room in back-alley hotel. She sure was a good looking woman. She had a long black hair done up in a braid, and brother, her eyes was the deepest and the burningest blue you ever saw, it was like drowning and burning every time you looked into her eyes, and husband fellow he never saw her full in the daylight, but she sure did have the smoothest skin he ever come up against, and then later he was lying there his head smack dab against the wall and a pillow crammed behind him and he was looking at her just lying there maybe sleeping and his hands they was moving across her shoulders and down across her hips and the dim, reddish neon light from one of them lava lamps showing itself on her skin, and damn if she didn't start changing right there before his eyes, at least her skin was changing, at least that's what it looked like, first she was a soft, coffee-cream color, and then she was a deep, deep indigo color like the evening sky and a storm coming in, and then she was as pale and white as the sand at the beach, and then back to the coffee-cream, it was like she was three women all rolled into one, and it wasn't so that he minded her changing like that, he kind of liked the idea of three women, but then again he wasn't even sure what he was seeing was for real in the dim of that back-alley hotel room, so he put it out of his mind and went to sleep.

When he woke up it was a quarter past five and he was stiff from sleeping with his back against the wall and rubbing his neck, and the woman he love, all three of them maybe, she was standing in front of a broke-down mirror on top of a old antique chest of drawers, only every drawer was missing, and she was fiddling with her braid and getting her dress on and smoothing it out, and this fellow asked her what she was doing it was still dark outside they were paid up until ten o'clock, but she just gave him a smile like she was smiling at a itty-bitty child and told how her daddy was looking for her, she could feel he was getting close, could smell him coming up the stairs, but she didn't tell him who her daddy was. Well, all this fellow he did at first he laughed and told her to come on back to bed her daddy wouldn't mind, but when he seen she was still smoothing out her dress he wasn't laughing no more, and he was just about to get out of bed hisself and drag her back when someone started rapping on the door, and hard, too, so hard the whole building it was shake and rattle. Well with that the young husband he was busy thinking what he was going to say to this girl's daddy, cause that's what the rapping sounded like, and he was gonna set that man on his ear if he didn't listen, cause this was about the woman he love, but the woman he love, well she was over at the window and then open it up, and she still hadn't told how her daddy was the devil, and it didn't look like she was going to neither, looked like she was about to slide out maybe catch herself a train, let him fend for hisself, but just before she left she done give him some kind of charm, and she was saying say if he done change his mind and didnt want nothing to do with her daddy, all he'd have to do is hang that charm around his neck and her daddy he'd walk right by him. That charm would make him invisible. Then the daughter she was gone, and before that young husband could say a word back, the devil he bust into the room, and there was smoke coming from out his eyes, and the tips of his long devil fingers they was burning with a oily, green fire, but the young man he had changed his mind soon as he seen the smoke and put that charm around his neck, and then there he was, his back still up against the wall and him watching the devil, and the devil he was pawing about the bed for a while and up under it and he even pull up a couple of floor boards, and then he was into the closet, and everything he touched it started to smoke and then burn, the bed, the dresser, that old broke mirror, everything except that young man pretty soon was burn to a crisp and then he was sitting there in the middle of a pile of ash and thanking God he had hisself that charm, and by and by the devil he give up on that room and he give a couple loud snorts for good measure and then he was heading out the window the same as his daughter. That was the last that young man ever seen of the woman he love, but he was just sitting there in the black of all that ash a couple three day just to make sure, and then he went on back to Tennessee.

That was the story. I didn't see the fellow who told it after that. I remember he got up and walked down the boardwalk a ways and then he hopped down to the sand and disappeared into a flock of them squawking seagulls. And like I said before, I don't know if it was the truth he was telling or not cause he didn't say, but it sure did sound like the truth. But ever since I been keeping my eye out for a woman with long black hair done up in a braid and eyes that'll drown you and burn you at the same time and skin that changes color. I don't know what's gonna happen when I find her, but I hope to God she give me a turn.

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