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SHORT STORIES


E. CHERSÒ


(written between 2570-80)






Disillusioned with academic life, Chersò gave up his studies and travelled for a number of years around the countries of the West. His first published work, which appeared soon after he had settled down in Cerrolin, was a collection of short stories, which did not meet with favourable reviews from the critics of the day. Although going on to publish a number of novels, it is for the strange world evoked in his short stories and novellas that Chersò is chiefly remembered.




THE HAPPY DEVIL


‘You can’t come in here,’ said the Angel to the Devil, as he tried to enter Heaven: ‘There’s no more room. We’re full of devils already...’ ‘That’s nothing to me,’ answered the Devil, ‘you should see how many angels we’ve got down there; the place is crawling with your sort! Come down and see for yourself!’ But the Angel was angered by this apparent trap, and fell upon the Devil in an uncontrollable fit of blind anger.

‘Ah,’ smiled the Devil, calmly, ‘how soft your touch!’ then dragged him screaming down to Hell.



WAITING


Walking towards the centre of the city, I came to the busy road, by the side of which had already gathered a number of men and women, waiting to cross. Beyond, a narrow lane meandered into a cluster of buildings with balconies and parapets, spires and towers. But the passing traffic was particularly hectic, and I resigned myself to a long wait.

The others waiting patiently by the road looked weary and time-worn. One middle-aged man stared with hollow eyes at the carriages and omnibuses racing past, and seemed almost lost as to why he was there at all. Another, a young mother, was woefully trying to calm her daughter’s uncontrollable crying. Yet the traffic appeared not to abate, but rather to be worsening: Streams of cyclists, pedestrians, trams roaring round the corners at an almost toppling speed; long trains rumbling past with passengers gazing out of their carriage-windows, and endless railway-wagons bearing stone and coal to far-off, unknown destinations; steamships passing up the vast canals... Occasionally, a glimpse of the city beyond was still possible, with its white, rooftop statues on palaces, its tree-lined squares basking calmly in the sun, gentle temples and churches.

An old man finally turned to me, as if he had only just become aware of my presence.

‘There’s no use waiting here,’ he said. ‘We’ve been here for years. You’d be better off going back the way you came.’

I turned and wandered away from the street.




HELL


In utter blackness, as I descended the steps of my apartment-block that evening, groping ahead waiting to reach the solid wood of the street-door, did I not sense my senses were useless to me? No light, no sound, nothing to touch, save the steps with my feet, as they led me probably into hell, and all around me, the familiar daytime decor of doors and letter-boxes, now replaced with twisted growths of infernal rock, corpses hanging, burnt and dripping, chains and ropes, silent eyes, unseen and yet seeing from behind vast wheels and machines of unguessed torture.

After an eternity, I finally came to the door, now encrusted with the aeons, opened it, and my eyes were suddenly bathed in the flickering flames of the street-lamps. A figure clad all in black was waiting for me: ‘Not much further now,’ he whispered, and with a grimace, he took my arm and led me into the dark depths of the city.


© Copyright Paul David Holland 2017