Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sizeable Excerpt from The Devil Is Dead

A song I wrote called 'Close Encounters of the Ominous Ape-Cat' was inspired by a chapter from Lafferty's novel The Devil Is Dead. On my theology of monsters blog I quote a sizeable excerpt from the novel, from the chapter called '36,000 Pieces of Paper', which I reproduce here:

'It was nighttime, and Finnegan had gone feral.

'He did not, as Papa Devil had done briefly, regrow his lost stripes and become a tiger. Finnegan was a smaller and other breed of cat; or ape, perhaps; or climbing grotesquerie.

'There was in that city a small hotel of curious gothic style. It ran up to parapets and to those stone knobs that are called merlons. At this moment there was a living gargoyle sitting on one of those merlons and it seemed perfectly natural there. Such places are their dens, their nests.

'The gargoyle was carved of dark brown stone that seemed blue in the dark and the ambient half-light. It had climbed up the outside of the building for six stories to come to roost there. Those things can climb; and the little hotel of gothic style was covered with ornamentation that made the climbing easier...

'For two or three days and nights now, there had been a legend in that city (they love legends there) of an ape or monstrous man that climbed up the outsides of the buildings at night and roosted on the pinnacles. It was even said that this was one of the stone gargoyles from an ornamental building come to life. It wasn't, though. It was Finnegan.

'On an ornamentation of stone six stories up, he perched above the dark street. Through a blade-thin slit between drapes of a sixth floor window, Finnegan looked inside at a coven or meeting of gargoyles. "You have to admit that we are funny looking," Finnegan said to himself.

There were the four senior gargoyles from the Brunehilde... With these four were seven Devils more evil than themselves. Eleven of them, all of them men or whatever of some age and authority.

'Finnegan was pleased... The old monsters would not be expecting an attack from a sixth floor window, not from an opponent they had not heard from in several years and who was not likely to be in that part of the world. Or would they? ...

'It was quite cold; and the mist was beginning to ice on the stones, making them dangerous, even for an ape-cat of a man...

'Finnegan had opened one window noiselessly and easily. He was a cat that could climb, he was an ape that could open anything. He left the opened window and moved dangerously and swiftly to the window the length of the room away. Both of these windows were sheer above the street.

'There was, however, in the side of the building (in the back of the room) a third window. Finnegan would not enter this, but he hoped to come out of it. Below this third window, and some nine feet out, was the roof of a four-story building.

'An animal on the surge does not consider. It strikes. Finnegan smashed the window in front of him with the lead weight, letting it fall heavily inside...

'Then one of them turned out the lights, and not with the wall switch. Look out! Someone was well-aware inside.

'Finnegan... came noiselessly into the room whose darkness was modified only by a slight neon ambient from outside.

'Two foci, neither of them to be seen in the dark, both of them to be remembered from observations of seconds before. Finnegan grappled the man where the man should have been , found him, and drove the knife into his throat, leaving it there. There was a death groan and a fall. And yet there was something the matter with that death groan...

'He leapt to the sill... and surged. He shattered that third window, crashing spread-eagled through it, leaping twenty feet down and nine feet outward. It would have killed a man to hit the way he hit on the edge of that roof.

'And there had been a wrong laugh in the dark room behind him just as he leaped.

'The man Finnegan was on a fourth floor roof, and there was gunshot behind him. So Finnegan was a man again; but a swift and sudden man who went quickly down the iron fire-ladders into an alley, and thought as swiftly as he could with his man's brain. But what he had just done he could not have done as a man. Only as the ape-cat that he had become when he climbed and invaded could have done it.

'Finnegan moved quickly, angling from alley into street and into another alley, abruptly into a cluttered space between buildings, through another alley, into another street. He was elated about one thing, disconsolate about another.

' "Got it! he exulted to himself. "But I killed the wrong man. Ah, well, I'll kill him yet. I'm a trick ahead of him now, even though it's his pursuit."'...

'Finnegan had little cuts about his face and hands. It was odd that one could go through a sheet of glass and receive only small cuts like that. The freezing rain had turned to a noisy sleet... it was necessary that he get off the street at once. A siren sounded, and it shook him, though he knew it could not be for him yet. A dog pursued him, noisily and relentlessly, and that could be more serious. A bum fastened onto him, and Finnegan gave him all his pocket change to be rid of him. A policeman bore down dourly on him, and Finnegan just as dourly continued past.'

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'It was all strong talk with the horns and hooves still on it.'
(R. A. Lafferty, The Devil is Dead)