My take on a classic Meeting the Devil at the Crossroads story.
Told in three acts set in 1979, 1987 and 2013.
First person ghost story.
Please ask for more details,
The Opening of a Novel.
Working Title – The Ghost of Bobby Blue
I met God and a girl at a crossroads, and it was like I had to choose between them. I was thirteen years old. Naturally, I chose the girl. But ever since I've wondered about how God took that rejection. Especially after He saved my life.
I first saw her outside the old Theatre One Cinema, which is now the Coventry University library.
I was going to a movie, The Empire Strikes Back, but I didn’t get there. She stopped me. Or I should say I stopped myself because of her.
I'd bussed it into town, all the way to Pool Meadow, and walked past the cathedrals and the Herbert Art Gallery. It was cold, February time I think. Frozen sleet lay on either side the path and it was slippy underfoot.
I strolled up to where Gosford Street met Cox Street outside the enticing doors if the fabled Odeon Cinema, pressed the button for the green man and looked up as rush hour cars trundled past. It
You could see, (and I could definitely see) that she was, to use a rock n roll staple, a devil in disguise. Except that the disguise wasn’t that good. She was a devil, pure evil, and anyone could see it. Even at that age, and she looked no older than me at that time, she looked like trouble, trouble so deep and wide if you fell in you would might never get out. And she looked so good you'd be a fool not to jump in.
She was the girl who would leave disaster in her wake for the next forty years at least, from streams of fender benders by rubber-necking drivers, to alpha-male bar fights, and good ol' broken hearts who would never really recover from the briefest of liasons. With a smile and some minimal flirting she would get workmates sacked, girlfriends spitting jealous accusations and good husbands to leave their wives and children.
And she wasnt that good looking. Not really. But she was a sexy bitch and I mean that in the most complimentary terms.
Any way, we stood on either side of the zebra crossing and stared into each others eyes. I didn't know it at the time, but we were engaged in a contest of sorts, and as i didn't even know i was in a game, i lost.
The lights turned to red and the green man struck the pose if a man strutting his stuff. I hesitated, naturally, i wanted to talk to this girl, i didn't want to pass her on the central reservation. But she didn't cross either, she stood solid and still as one of my songs goes. I waited, confused, unaccustomed to such dances.
The green man flashed in panic, a beep-beep-beep noise urged me to cross, now, before she walks away. But i didn't move. And she did walk away, she turned and headed back to the cinema.
My heart sank, i was envisioning her disappearing into one of the three movies that was show and i would probably lose her forever. But she didn't go inside the cinema, she leant back against the dividing brickwork between the Odeon and the neighbouring Joke and Novelty Shop and she waited for me.
I couldn't believe it, but she smiled and shouted something to me, absolutely definitely for me and me alone, but i didn't catch it above the noise of the city traffic.
And then, calm. A long break in the traffic meant i could have crossed the road easily on a green light, but i was entranced and no fully aware of my surroundings.
The return of the flashing green green man snapped me back to reality. The traffic light was red. I set off across the road,me eyes never leaving hers, as i wondered what it was she had said. What words of beautiful music had this incredible creature said to me. I would right a song using those very words, because i was about to ask her, "What did you say then?"
I could hear a car. The drone of the engine was constant, no sign of slowing down, and it crossed my mind that i might, having seen this beautiful creature on the other side of the road, i could get run over by a car.
It was, i could hear, coming towards me, but i wasn't overly concerned because my first impulse was to look not at the car but up to my left at the red light. It shone reassuringly bold and bright, a relief to my thirteen year old mind that the car had to stop because the traffic light was on red. It had to. It was a law of nature, like gravity.
But i could also hear that it had not yet slowed down, in fact it had speeded up, and i was curious as to how, exactly, the Red Light Stop law of nature was going to be adhered to by a car travelling at such speed over such a short distance.
And so, still only roughly two seconds after registering the sound if the approaching car, i looked to my right and saw that law or no law, the car was not going to stop. The driver's attention was fixed solely on the car radio and hadnt even seen the red light. That was when the absolute reality of the situation hit me: the car was not going to stop and the car was going to hit me. Head on. At speed.
I didn't have time to run. I knew that instinctively. I was athletic, playing football everyday, fighting and jostling where you needed quick feet to stay out of trouble. And I had very quick feet. And that was how i knew i wouldn't make it if i ran because my standing foot would be left behind and get mowed down. This i knew for a fact, i could do the maths in the same instant that the thought entered my head.
My body seemed to know it too and taken matters into its own hands. With no conscious thought instructing the action, I leapt two footed as far and as fast as i could. And i flew through the air at an impossible speed that i just wasn't physically capable of achieving. Either it was an adrenalin rush, a fight or flight response, or a superhuman feat in a life or death situation, but I'd never ever be able to repeat it. I was simply amazed that i was alive. As the car shot past only inches away from me, the driver now looking out of the side window as a kid flew past, i thought that I should be bouncing off that windscreen st this precise moment in time, flung maybe ten or even twenty feet in the ai, perhaps dead already. And this would be the first second of my death. It felt weird.
I was giddy. Momentum started to pull me back, like a long jumper in a sand pit, and couldn't put a foot back for balance until the car had gone and i couldn't be sure that it had gone. Time was giddy too now.
There was screech of brakes because although i was out of danger the car and driver had just ploughed through a red light on a busy crossing in rush hour. The car fish tailed to a stand-still and painted parallel wavy black lines on the tarmac. Three other cars swerved at a safer speed and what would've been minor colisions were avoided as well as one catastrophic one.
The driver got out the car, stood in the middle of the crossroads and looked at me. I could see thst he had seen the same death scenario as me, but from the perpetrators point of view. He was beyond tears, probably in shock, as was I. No words were exchanged, but something past between us and instead of being grafted together, where he would probably think of me everyday for the rest of his life as the buy thst he killed, where the memory of me, my ghost in his head, would be devastating. And yet we were about to walk away from eachother with a scratch on me and him with mind shaken but not broken.
"How did you not get run over?" a voice asked. For a second my confused mind thought it was my voice, but then I saw her stood beside me.
I looked into those eyes and saw she was smiling.
I was nodding, but she was waiting for answer, like a sports reporter on tv, asking an athlete at the pinnacle moment of their career some unheard question then shoving a microphone in their face. I just said the first thing thst came into my mind, "It felt like God lifted me up and saved me."
It didn't feel stupid. I was being honest, searching for an explanation to an impossible scenario. Nevermind the fact that I should be dead, there is simply no way I could make that jump.
"God lifted you up?" she said.
And now that I was close to her, now that I could see the light freckles on her skin, an individual hair flying free across her forehead, the light mascara she applied to her eyelashes, she was even more alluring than I had capacity to comprehend. I wanted her more than I belived possible.
And I could see she wasnt an angel. Quite opposite. Just looking into her eyes you knew that thus girl would take as much pleasure torturing someone she lived as she would loving them. But knowing thst changed nothing.
"So do believe in Him now?" she asked.
"In who?" I asked.
Her eyes narrowed into seriousness for a second. "In God," she said. "You said he lifted you up, saved you, so do you believe in God now?"
I thought about it, and I was too insecure to lie to this girl, but the question seemed to have been phrased as a choice between her and the God who had saved my life.
I shook my head and said, "Nah, not really."
She smiled and her widened into an unreadable promise. "Good," she said and hooked her arm onto my elbow, "because I'm not that into churches and that."
And I wanted to ask her what was into, but had a feeling she was going to show me soon enough and gladly let her lead me away.