Lord of Devil's NightbyMSTarot©
("I have been told in comments that I write some very dark stories. Well for Halloween I decided to write the darkest ever. Knowing this enjoy.")
The thunder of the sewing machines is a deafening roar when I open the door of the toilet. I open it only just enough to peek out.
Across the tables, covered in fabric, amid the humming scream of the Singer sewing machines, and the soft slicing of cloth, I'm looking for a single thing.
A bald headed man. Samuel Bernstein, the floor production manager.
I grin when I don't see him.
Opening the door enough to let myself out I close it silently and edge along the wall to the corner. I peek around the hallway towards the elevators. I still don't see him.
Opening the changing room door I slip inside and go to where I left my coat, hung among the dozens. Pawing through all the hanging cloth I find mine at last. I slip my hand into the little hole in my pocket and fish around inside.
The cigar is just a stub. I stole it from my father's ashtray. I take out the tied together matches I took from my Ima's kitchen and pull one out.
Hiding my secret treasure I head back out into the cutting area. I can't stay out of sight for too long. Someone has to see me, or I won't get paid. The piles of cloth as high as my head and more stink. After three months of working here every day and the Sabbath I should be getting use to it, but I'm not. The harsh stink of fresh dyes, the nose searing smell of bleached fabric. It fills the air in this crowded room. I look around at the other ladies.
They are like cattle! Heads down over their troughs. None look up. None have any reason to look up. They have all been here for years, and years!
Italians, Irish, and many of them Jewish like myself we work making these shirts like we were Negro. Slaves, no better than.
My hands hurt from the long hours in front of my sewing machine. My quotas are done for the week at least. I could be making a few extra shirts to get a few pennies more, but I've had enough for one week.
Grabbing a scrap of cloth from a bin, as I pass, I hide behind one of the tall stacks and strike my match on the brick wall. My little stub of forbidden fruit. The thick bittersweet smoke goes deep into my lungs. Burning down my throat till I can't take in anymore. I hold it in as I feel the wonderful rush of pleasure behind my eyes.
"I wish you wouldn't do that. They are going to catch you." The voice is by my elbow and scares me out of several years of my life.
Turning I see little Sarah Goldwin. Barely into her teens and already into making others lives miserable. She'll be a matchmaking nuisance just like her mother before she's twenty!
I bring the scrap to my mouth and breathe out the smoke into it.
"Stop being a little Yente." I tell her annoyed. "The only way I will get caught is if a little sneak were to tell them."
She looks at me for a moment like she's considering doing that very thing. Then I see her eyes shift past me and go wide.
Her words are in Hebrew and almost silent.
I roll my stub of cigar into the scrap and crush it tight in my hand, to kill the ember. Turning away from her I let my hands drop to my sides.
Mr. Bernstein doesn't look happy.
"Shirking off again? Typical. Luckily for you the day is over." The bell sounds on the wall next to the elevators. "Take these quota reports up to nine then get your coat and leave."
"Yes sir." I say politely as I reach out to take the papers. I let the scrap of cloth drop into the bin beside me when he can not see.
"I'll have to think about whether I'll have a need for you come Monday."
He turns from me, the light from the windows making the back of his head glow like the setting sun. He walks out among the cutting tables and around to where the ladies are shutting down the Singers.
"Lekh tezdayen, ben zonah" I mutter under my breath.
I hear a gasp from beside me.
"You shouldn't say things like that, the Dybbuk will come." Sarah's voice is at my elbow again. My heart jumps. I swear she's going to have me an elderly woman before the next week is out if she keeps stealing my years from me.
I turn to look at her. My lips twisted in disgust.
"A Dybbuk? You have been listening to your Babba too much. There is no such thing. Now go back to work or I'll send you to bed with no supper, little Yente."
She looks up at me and stomps her tiny foot in rage. She stalks back to her machine like she's the princess of the floor.
I walk to the elevators feeling the eyes of the cattle on me, as they shut down for the day. None of them really like me.
Pulling the handle to ring the bell, I look over at the stairway door. Only one floor up I wish I could use them, but they are locked. Can't have us stealing scraps of cloth. We might make our own clothes with them.
I look down through the metal doorway at the top of the elevator as it comes rumbling up. I see it stop 'almost' level with the floor this time. I shake my head in disgust.
The man, Zito, opens the door for me. Damn I was hoping for Gaspar. He's cute at least.
As I step into the elevator he sees the papers in my hand and knows where I'm going without me having to tell him. Just as well I have no wish to talk to him.
Zito, flirts with everything that has two legs and breast. I'm one of the few who told him to...piss off, is I think the American term I used. I need to start using more of them. I'm an American now.
As we ride up a floor my thoughts go to the stub of cigar I had only just began to enjoy. Why did I drop it into the scrap bin?
Why did I do that? I can't make my thoughts go to that memory! It's like there is a blank place in my head when I did that. I'm starting to worry about it being found when Zito's voice interrupts my thoughts.
"Be heading back down in a few minutes?" he asks as he pull the lever and we slow to a stop, A foot lower than the floor I notice. "I can't wait long. Everyone will be ready to go down soon."
Great now I have to step up. He is useless at his job!
"No I will be awhile." I tell him in my broken English. I need to practice more. I step up off his elevator and onto the ninth floor.
He nods and closes the door behind me.
This floor is where I need to be. Oh it has the same smells and sounds as eight, but the windows open up to a breeze up here.
As I look around for the floor manager I wish I could go to one of those windows and get a breath of really clean air.
I did it once. Never! Never! Again!
The sight of the ground so far below me with the people walking around like little bugs.
I wave to a friend of mine, Hanna. She smiles seeing me. I watch her closing down her machine for the week. I've teased her that her being up here is more than luck. I wouldn't put it past her to give someone a feel, or even a suck to get herself what she wants. The little zonah, still she's my friend.
I'm handing the papers to the shift manager when I hear the first of the screams. We both turn towards the sound. I 'm expecting to see some fool of a girl has sewn her hand to the table again.
"Fire!" yells a lady named Rosie. "There's a fire under us!"
Then suddenly there is a lot more smoke. Like her speaking about it has made it appear. It's coming up through the floor!
It's pouring in under the stairway doors like the morning fog off the Hudson!
The shift manager grabs my arm and slings me behind him as he runs towards the sources of the smoke.
It's only falling into one of the cloth bins that keeps me from running to the doorways with the rest of the ladies. I hit my head on a table as I fall.
In a slight daze I hear the panicked screams in a surreal half tone. Clutching my head I try to get to my feet, I see the women yelling down the elevator door, as they can't get the stairway doors open.
I hear the shift manger calling for calm, but then the fire breaks into the room. Huge bales of cloth catch and the flames rush up to caress the ceiling in tongues of red. Fire red. Those words have meaning for me now like it never did before.
Then Hanna is there pulling me to my feet and away from the cloth pile I was laying in. It's already begun to smoke! I stumble with her towards the far wall.
I clutch at Hanna's arm when I realize she's taking me towards the fire escape!
"No! No!" I yell pulling at her.
"It's the only way!' she yells at me and pulls me into the crowd trying get out onto the rusted metal steps.
She and I are just about to get onto it when there is a grinding sound that I hear even above the roar of the fire and the screams from behind me.
I look shaking in horror as the fire escape falls apart under the weight of the women descending down it! I cover my ears to the terrible scream as they fall to the street... so far below.
Grabbing up a half made waist shirt from a table I put it over my face as I lead Hanna away from the now useless opening. Still women press towards it!
I look over at the door and see dozens of women pounding and clawing at the closed stairway doors. I can see the marks of bloody fingers where some have clawed their fingernails off trying to get through!
I see a moments hope when I look over towards the elevators! Zito and Gaspar have them running. I see twenty or thirty women at a time pilling into them. I start to lead us there then notice how many women are trying to get out that way.
The fire is spreading far to quickly. The flames are flowing like water only upside down. They dance across the ceilings over my head. Whatever they touch catches fire.
Then I see her. A woman her dress ablaze! Screaming and slapping at her clothes. I see the ladies around her rush to try to put her out. The cloths they use not only fan the fire, but also catch fire and burn themselves.
Gasping and choking I feel Hanna tug at me. I follow her blindly, the smoke to thick to see where we are going.
I hear the shattering of glass as someone uses a chair to break the glass out the frame.
There is a rush of air past me towards the windows that is quickly a stream of pure smoke. I pull us down by one of the tables.
Hanna grabs up a handful of the cloth scraps from the floor and stuffs them to her mouth. I can hear her crying. The floorboards under my hands are hot.
I turn towards the stairway doors. I can't see them through the smoke, but I know where they are. It's from them that all the screams are coming!
Dozens of my fellow workers pilled up against them being burned alive as they try to get out a door that will not open.
Even if it was unlocked it opens inward and they are pressed against it keeping it closed!
A large barrel of sewing machine oil by one of the walls explodes with a thunder that stuns me! The noise is unholy! I hear the windows all around us blow out!
The smoke thins as it finds a way out, but the heat of the fire doubles as the rush of air hits it. I can see through the flames.
They spin like dancers wreathed I dresses of flames!
Through tears running down from my burning eyes as I see dozens of my fellow workers on fire! I look to Hanna and see the horror in her eyes.
Then the smoke start to thicken again and I feel her pulling me to my feet.
Suddenly I'm leaned against one of the windowsills my hands on broken glass. I drop my half-finished waist shirt and watch it flutter like a large white bird down towards the street below. I suck in a breath of air that's like water when you're thirsty. It touches the bottom of my lungs.
I look down in terror at all the white faces looking up at me from so far down below. So very far down!
I feel hands slapping at my legs and I turn to see Hanna beating at the fire burning my dress!
Screaming in horror at the heat that I begin to feel on my legs, I burn my own hands trying to get it out!
I look up to see Hanna's hair starting to smoke.
She pulls me tight to her.
"We're going to have to jump!"
I'm shaking my head as I pull away from her clutching hands. The fire holds no terror for me now. The idea of that long drop to the street, all those upturned faces! No! No!
She pulls herself up next to my head to scream into my ear over the roar of the flames.
"We've got to! If we jump our families will have a body to bury!"
"Never!" I yell back and pull myself away from her. I throw myself under a nearby table. The top of it is on fire, but it keeps me out of the falling pieces of burning ceiling. I clutch at the smoking table leg as I look up into Hanna's face. She looks at me for only a second then turns to the open window.
I watch her with her dress on fire leap from the window.
I huddle back from the open window and the heat at the same time.
"Ima, oh Ima help me." I shiver in terror as a large piece of something hits the table over head.
"My God! Help me!"
I rock myself and brush at my smoking clothes.
"My God and God of all who have gone before me, Author of Life and Death."
Never a devout follower I start to pray. I don't know why I'm doing it, but I clutch at the small comfort the familiar words bring me.
I hold the cloth to my face trying to breathe as the smoke increases.
"I turn...I turn to you in trust. Although I pray for life and heath I know that I am Mortal." I look over at the windows again. I see large groups of women now following Hanna out and down to the waiting street! "If my life must soon come to an end let me die, I pray, in peace."
I look through my tears down at my blackened bleeding hands. I can see where the skin is blistered, where my hands were cut from the glass. I can't feel any pain. All I can feel is the heat of the fire.
"If only my hands were clean and my heart pure. I confess that...that I have committed sins and left much undone, yet I know also the good that I did or tried to do."
Blinking my smoke filed eyes I look up seeing a shadow move by the wall. My first thought is it's a man, but then I see it's encased in fire and smoke. My mind reels back from what I'm seeing. I find solace in the prayer.
"My acts of goodness give meaning to my life and may my errors be forgiven."
The shadow turns to look at me. My eyes widen as I see it moving over towards me. Eyes like glowing coals come to rest on me.
"Protector of the helpless, watch over my...my loved ones." An image of my little sister comes to mind, just then. I thank god that she was too sick to come to work today.
Like malice given form, shadow and flame given birth to a demon of smoke it comes through the fires towards me. It stops and hovers over the burning bodies of some of the people I worked with.
A Dybbuk? No it can't be. It can't be!
"Into your hands I commit my spirit."
A feral grin, made of fire, splits its face at my words. It tosses something towards me.
I look down to the crushed and crumpled stub of my cigar.
I hear laughter from the very bowels of hell wash up over me. Then in waves of heat, I feel my skin start to blister, my hair catch. I see my dress burst into flames.
"Sh'ma Yisrael Adonni Eloheinu Adonai Echad!"
Screaming in mindless fright as the Dybbuk slides towards me with it smiling face of flames I crawl out from under the table and scramble to the window. I'm out and onto the stone sill before I even know it.
Feeling it behind me I jump!
Animal like screams of terror breaks the sound of the wind rushing past my ears! I realize only in the very last second they are coming from me.
In that second, that seems like a year long, I see the look on a man's upturned face, his hands covering his mouth. His face lit from the glare of the fires surrounding me, he watches me fall.
I see the twisted broken pile of smoking cloth that was my friend Hanna just before I land beside her.
The man, a reporter, will write about the sound my body made when it hit the street.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
My zippo lighter burns with a golden flame before my eyes.
"Speak, if you can: what are you?" asks Macbeth
"All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, thane of Glamis!" Cries out the first witch.
"All hail," Her sister the second witch screeches out her reply "Macbeth, hail to thee, thane of Cawdor!"
The third witch looks with a grin at the doomed man. "All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter!"
Clicking my lighter shut I lean back against the white stone arch to watch again the play unfolding. This is the second time today I have seen these actors perform. I stand in awe of their courage. Men have died in the attempt to do what they are doing.
To perform the cursed play? To speak the name of the play as I have seen them doing?
And to have the balls to do it on the day before all hallows eve? And in this place!
Their courage is inspirational!
I watch with wonder the crowds gathering. Hundreds upon hundreds filling Washington Square Park.
I wonder if even the actors, let alone the crowd, know they are standing in a graveyard? A potter's field stood here for centuries. The cold bones of twenty thousand are said to still lie here under the grass.
And here is where they would perform Macbeth? Amazing.
I wonder if the corpses like the play?
Probably. They were British colonists.
When my shoe taps my book bag by my foot I look down. I smile thinking about the play I have to perform. I will have need of every bit as much courage as these foolish actors.
When I look back up at the crowd I can feel Edward Mcguffin stepping to the side of the proverbial stage.
And the Lord of Devil's night walks into the floodlights.
I grin at the pomposity of the name, but it wasn't chosen by me. It's what the newspapers in Detroit called me. For several years.
Memories of those years flood back blocking out the work of Shakespeare.
I was only a teenager when I saw my first fire. A burning house.
I stood watching it ablaze with a feeling of.... I didn't at the time have a name for what I was feeling. I know it now for what it was.
They call it love at first sight.
Some would say you can't love the inanimate. But have you ever watched fire? It is far from inanimate.
It moves like a bellydancer, dances with a liquid flow that makes the greatest ballerina look fumble footed. It strips with an intensity that makes burlesque dancers look bashful!
I began to call fire that after I set the first one myself.
I watched the old building burn till the police came, the firefighters with their red trucks screaming. I watched them unrolling their long hoses and spray huge quantities of wet onto my handy work.
I was rock hard!
I rushed home and stripped down to my skin. I lit hundreds of candles in a mad rush then fell onto my bed and grabbed my cock in a painful embrace!
I have no memory of how many times I filled my room with pleasure screams that night, but I finally passed out from exhaustion.
I did it again. And again. And again!
More. I ...needed... more!
And then I got my wish.
How I had gone so many years unaware of so great an event I will never know, but I was sitting at my desk working on a device when I heard the news talking about the police preparing for Devils night.
With only two weeks till Halloween I worked myself into exhaustion, night after night. I made up dozens of my little igniters.
I look back and smile thinking about those crude little gizmos. That I didn't manage to blow myself up is a miracle. They were far and away less sophisticated than the one in my book bag next to my foot.
Picking up my bag I give the play one last look. I look at the huge crowd it has drawn in. How more perfect could it be?
I walk to the edge of the park and look across and up at my intended target.
A monument out of the past to my mistress.