This submission comes from kisses -A, who wants a story about how an old man got turned into a porcelain figure. Very cool idea!
No one wants to be outsmarted. But when making a promise that is both unbreakable and impossible, there can be no other way. These are the deals and makings of the devil.
Though devils are fearsome creatures, their presence does not much affect the hot heads of adolescent boys. And so it was with Lu. Lu was a boy who often flirted with death or injury, and loved committing acts that his mother would deem “wild.” No animal or stranger could scare him. The devil counts on these kinds of boys. It’s how he makes sure he gets fed.
One day, Lu was sent by his mother to bring water home for a bath. Lu detested baths. They always washed his dirt away. They made his skin too soft and weak. They cleaned and healed the great scars he wanted to show off. Lu grumbled as he walked to the river’s edge with his buckets hanging across his shoulder stick. He dipped each bucket in and turned back for home.
Please, he thought, let me never take a bath again.
“What was that?” a lean man said as he stepped out from behind the bushes.
Lu jumped back. But he was not afraid. He puffed out his chest and gripped the stick with each hand. If he had to, he could slide the water buckets off and whack the man on the side of the head. But for now he simply held on tight, and the water buckets stayed in place.
“Relax, boy. I’m only here to help. I overheard that you may be trying to avoid a bath?”
“I hate baths,” Lu said.
“As do I. As do all reasonable people!” the man said. He took a step closer. “If you promise that you trust my word, I will make it so that you will never take that bath your mother has in store for you.”
“Or any other bath?” Lu asked. He was trying to sniff out a trick.
“No other baths either,” the man assured him. “Forever bath free.” He held out his hand towards Lu.
Slowly, Lu unlatched his hand from the stick and shook with the man. All at once, the lean man disappeared, and Lu was left alone.
Lu shrugged and continued up the path back to his hut. He watched his feet as he walked. Step. Step. Step. Step. Step. Two hundred steps went by. He looked up again, expecting to reach out and touch his front door. But when he looked up, he was in the exact place he had been. The river was not far behind him. The house was far ahead.
Lu did not look down this time as he walked. He looked straight ahead at the large tree in the distance. But no matter how far he walked, the tree stayed the same distance away. Lu was certain he was moving. But it seemed as though the rest of the world was moving too! The tree was running away from him. The river was following close behind.
For many days, and then many months, and then many years Lu walked the path, hoping to one day get home. In that time he aged from a young hot-headed boy into an old and tired man. The water buckets felt so heavy on his weak shoulders. His feet were caked in dirt. He longed for a bath.
As he trudged past the same bush again, many many years later, the same lean man walked out. He had not aged a day.
“Poor boy,” said the man. “It seems you did not wish for what you really wanted.”
“I did not wish to walk forever,” the old man said. He wheezed on his last word.
“Tell you what,” the lean man said. “How about I ease your suffering. What if you never had to take another step again?”
Lu shook his head. He knew this man only dealt in tricks. But his feet were so sore. His arms were so tired.
“You mean to kill me,” Lu said.
“On the contrary; I mean to keep you here forever,” the devil said.
And there it was. Forever. Forever was a dangerous word. But Lu would do anything to set his water buckets down and rest his old and worn out legs.
“Okay,” Lu said. He reached out an old and withered hand to shake with the man.
When they shook, the whole world stopped. Lu felt his skin shrink and harden. He felt brittle. And small. And frozen. He looked up. The lean man had grown into a giant! No, that was not quite right. The rest of the forest had grown giant too. The lean man reached down and plucked the old man from the ground. He held him in his hand.
“You will do nicely on my mantlepiece,” the devil said. And he laughed and tucked the porcelain figure deep into his pocket.