Dancing On The Edge Of Hell: Part 2

Paradise In Purgatory

Sheila Preisler and Seth Chambers

© Copyright 2003 by Sheila Preisler and Seth Chambers


Detail of a painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

There he stood as I turned to go back to the dressing room, a second demon.

"Hey," he said. "Come back to my room, Brooklyn."

By this time, dancing for demons was becoming commonplace, but I didn't know what to make of this particular demon, dressed in gaudy, disco attire. And I remembered what Vanessa had said to me earlier that night: "Not all demons are evil," she had told me, nodding pointedly at Vans..

I had told her that was nonsense. Of course they were evil, otherwise they wouldn't be demons. It was a contradiction of terms to say that a demon wasn't evil. Now, here I was, face to face with this demon, Vans, who was supposedly not evil. What do I have to lose at this point, I thought to myself. Besides he was kind of cute for a demon wearing tight leather pants and a shiny hat. Most of all it was his smile that pulled me in.

Even so, I hesitated. Even though he was supposedly nice, for a demon, I still had some trepidation. I had no problem dancing for him, I had been dancing for demons all over the place, but going back to his room... that was another story.

Seeing my hesitation, Vans reached one massive, gnarled hand inside his brightly-colored shirt. He then put his hand on the table, where it rested a moment. The barest hint of a smile came across his face as he lifted his hand away from the object he had placed on the table.

It was the most incredible thing I had ever seen, shining with its own light and yet as black as midnight at the same time. I could not take my eyes off it. Vans' voice came to me, seemingly from far away: "This is a black pearl forged in the fires of Hades. It is very rare."

Then his hand came down over the pearl and I almost screamed out. I could have stared at that thing all night long. I looked at him and that slight smile was back on his face, and I found myself wondering just what he wanted from me in exchange for that black pearl. Then I thought about all the perverse things he might demand from me. Evil or not, he was still a demon, and demons had desires even beyond that of mortal men.

"I don't want it," I found myself telling him. "I'll dance for you, but I don't want that pearl."

"You don't?" he intoned.

"I do, but... But I don't want to become a slave to it. I'll dance for you, because I like you, and if you want to buy me a drink or something, that's fine. But that pearl... I don't know. I'm afraid to want it. Do you know what I'm saying to you?"

He scrutinized me closely then. I was clad in a sheer, black teddy and high, black pumps. Many men and many demons looked at me over the course of each night, but there was something about the way Vans looked at me... Like he saw into me, the real me, and accepted me for who and what I was... That made me feel like everything was right with the world, even as all Hell was breaking loose on the Earth. Even as blood and brimstone was raining from the sky, even as great fissures were opening in the Earth.... Even amidst all these apocalyptic cataclysms, everything seemed right with the world when this disco demon looked at me. Absurd as it seemed, I felt like I had a little glimpse of paradise here in purgatory.

"Yes," he finally said. "I know what you're saying."

I started to dance for him then, looking into his eyes. A Janis Joplin tune, Bobby McGee, had just started on the overhead speakers. I danced, sometimes flashing shy and coy smiles even as I pulled down the top of my teddy. I felt free, and why not, it was just like the song said, that freedom was just another word for nothing left to lose, and what did I have to lose? The world was falling apart all around me, racing off to Hell in a handbasket, so I had nothing at all to lose and therefore I was free. I danced and the demon Vans smiled and clapped his immense hands and I danced some more.

Then the music stopped and our announcer was calling out my name. It was my turn to go on stage. I pulled my teddy back up and, looking intently at Vans, stuck one finger in my mouth in a most suggestive manner.

"Gotta run, lover," I cooed at him.

"Hurry back," he said.

I blew him a kiss and dashed off for the stage. I just made it before the next song started . I really wasn't focused on the song , as I began to do my show. All I could think about was Vans.

The demon I was dancing for and the black pearl he had offered me earlier. Men and demons threw money, and even gold, at me. I picked it all up but kept my eyes glued to Vans the whole time. The song ended and the announcer encouraged the audience to "give it up for Brooklyn!" I left the stage amidst great applause and headed right back to Vans.

Somebody called out my name as I made my way across the room. I turned just long enough to smile and blow a kiss to my admirer, then continued on my way over to Vans. Only Vans was no longer there. He had disappeared in that fraction of a second during which I had turned away.

I looked all about the room, the demons and imps and men and dancers. No Vans. Back on Van's table was a black box. I reached the table. The black pearl was on top of the box, along with a note: "TO MY DEAREST BROOKLYN. PLEASE TAKE THIS PEARL AS A TOKEN OF MY ADMIRATION. OPEN THE BOX WHEN YOU ARE AT HOME ALONE. I WILL SEE YOU SOON. ALL MY LOVE, VANS."

It seemed forever before my shift ended. I stashed the box back stage in my dressing room and spent the rest of the night just going through the motions. All I could think about was Vans, and the black pearl, and what could possibly be in the black box.

When the end of my shift finally came, I just about ran back to my dressing room, threw my street clothes on over my skimpy black teddy, grabbed the box, and stepped out the back door of the club. I had a brief moment of panic then: where was the pearl? I thought I had put it with the box back stage but now it was no longer on the box. What had I been thinking, just throwing a priceless artifact down like that?

Then I felt a warm glow on my neck. I brought my compact from my purse and held the mirror up before me. I could see the black pearl, resting on my neck, glowing. I placed my hand on it and a great jolt of delicious power surged through my body.

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