The Devil Arrives in Heaven
The three women were finishing their drinks at the Hotel Grand bar.
It was September 1900 and they were enjoying a vacation at the resort in Galveston, Texas. Even in the midst of the temperance movement, Texas was known far and wide for a climate that encouraged drinking. This inclination also produced serious drunks and the recent editorial in a local paper stated that, “the graveyard is now the eternal home to dozens of young men who died from intemperance.”
After discussing the article, Mary said, “Just last week, they put down Jack Heel, God rest his soul.”
Annie said, “But Jack wasn’t a drunk. He was studying to be some sort of a preacher.”
“That’s right,” Liz said. “He never touched a drop.”
“Strange that he died so young then,” Mary mused, “if it wasn’t due to the drink. He was only 21.”
“Perfect age for the devil to hitch a ride with,” Liz murmured.
“Why do you say that?” Annie asked.
“The devil was cast down from heaven and now roams the earth, right?” Liz said.
Mary and Annie nodded.
“And his only goal is to get back to heaven, right? So the story goes that if he rides back in over the gates on the shoulders of a pure soul who dies at the age of 21, the age of accountability, he takes over heaven.”
Mary and Annie burst out laughing. Liz only shrugged with indifference. She was new to Texas, having moved there from California two months earlier. Liz had learned soon enough that the West had a greater sense of ideas and things out of the ordinary than the Texans she had met at the resort.
“So Satan can just jump over the gates of heaven and take over?” Annie asked. “I’ve never heard of such nonsense.”
“Sounds like blasphemy,” Mary agreed.
“Believe as you want, I’m merely saying this situation is ripe for the devil to make an attempt.”
After a moment, Annie asked, “How would there be proof if this happened?”
Mary said, “Yes, how would we know if the devil ever arrived in heaven?”
Liz said simply, “There would be strong and mighty pain on this earth in the exact place where the pure soul had died.”
The three women were silent, mulling over the conversation. The barkeep closed down and Mary, Annie and Liz returned to their rooms, promising to meet again on the beach in the morning.
* * *
The next day, September 8, 1900, at about 4 p.m., a hurricane came ashore at Galveston, bringing with it a 15-foot storm surge, which flooded the city. It remains the greatest natural disaster to ever strike the United States in terms of loss of life, with up to 12,000 persons estimated to have been killed. Much of the city—including the Hotel Grand Resort—was destroyed.
In heaven, the gates still vibrate from where the devil’s heels had nicked them.
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Jeff C. Stevenson
Jeff C. Stevenson works as a freelance copywriter for various New York advertising agencies. Freethought House published his first book, FORTNEY ROAD: The True Story of Life, Death, and Deception in a Christian Cult in June 2015. Jeff has been published in CLASSIC ROCK, where he profiled guitarist Glenn Schwartz in December 2015; his short story “What Can You Tell Me About Mercy?” was published in January 2016 in the FREEDOM FICTION JOURNAL; “The Washing of the Bones” novelette appeared in the February 2016 collection, 9 TALES TOLD IN THE DARK, #10; the short story “The Last To Go” will appear in the May/June 2016 issue of TALES AT THE WORLD’S END; his novelette “The Shulman Rental” will be published by Thirteen O’clock Press as part of their DETECTIVES OF THE FANTASTIC anthology, Vol IV. He is currently at work completing his first collection of short stories and a two-part supernatural novel.