An Original Short Story by Julia Koslowsky
Fluorescent lights flickered in the empty room. Smiling menacingly over the circle of chairs hung a poster of Big Brother. Rain pounded the room’s single window, casting strange shadows on the walls. Voices echoed in the hall, and the doors clanged open.
“Please, everyone, take a seat.” A golden-haired man motioned to the chairs. “We have to get a move on with this session. Someone else needs this room at six.”
A tall woman dressed in a dark violet robe raised an eyebrow as she walked past. “Since when did you care about the needs of others, Lucifer? You’re the Devil.”
He shrugged nonchalantly. “Things to do, places to be, people to torment. Plus, they’re using the room to torture someone.”
The group filed into the room, containing all manner of monsters and men. Some, like the tall woman, didn’t speak to anyone. Others freely made conversation.
“Hey, Greenie! How’ya been?”
“Grendel! It’s been too long! I’ve been well, so has the wife. We finally got rid of that blasted knight. How about yourself?”
“Not too shabby, although I did get my arm ripped off a few days ago…”
The Devil cleared his throat loudly, and the chatter died down. “Thank you. Well, welcome to therapy group. I’m Satan, your group leader, and I–”
“Has anyone seen Miss Havisham?” a hideous creature somewhat-resembling a man asked concernedly.
Satan checked his clipboard and scanned the room. Sure enough, the crazy old woman was missing. “Morgan, you were supposed to wheel her in here.”
The tall woman apathetically examined her nails. “I don’t recall receiving any such task.”
Sighing in exasperation, Satan snapped his fingers in the general direction of his devils. “You, Mammon. Go find the old lady and bring her in here.”
“You got it, boss, right away.” the devil scurried off.
“Now where was I… Ah, yes. Let’s start the meeting by introducing ourselves, getting to know each other. After that we’ll discuss our problems.” The Demon’s sarcastic emphasis was all too clear. “You, monster. Go.”
The hideous creature to his immediate right gulped. “Um, hi, everyone. I, uh, don’t have a name, so I guess you should just call me Creature.”
One of Satan’s cronies scribbled the name down on a clipboard as Satan said, “Next.”
An ugly blob of a monster raised his only hand in greeting. “Hey, I’m Grendel. Ignore the missing arm, it’ll grow back eventually.”
The entire group looked slightly repulsed. The serpentine woman next to Grendel patted his arm sympathetically. “There, there, dear. Don’t feel too bad about it.” she turned back to the group. “My name is Bertha, and I’m Grendel’s mother.”
A huge red dragon across the circle snickered. “You brought your mother to therapy group?”
Grendel’s snake-like tongue flickered as he raised an eyebrow. “Your point?”
“Moving on, let’s go people.” Satan slumped in his chair, unable to express how bored he was.
The tall woman was next to speak. “I am Morgan Le Fay, sorceress of Camelot, half-sister to the king, former appren–”
“Apprentice of Merlin, yadda, yadda, yadda.” Satan leaned forward in his chair. “We just want your name, dearie, not your life story.”
Morgan glared at him. “If you weren’t the Devil…”
“But I am, so let’s move on. Next!”
The emerald-colored knight next to the sorceress had just opened his mouth to speak when Mammon burst through the double doors with a wheelchair, which contained an extremely old woman. “I found her, boss, I found Miss Havisham!”
“Put her next to to–”
Miss Havisham suddenly wheeled herself into the corner, her head jerking around like an owl. Satan blinked. “Or she can sit twitching in the corner. That’s fine too.”
The green knight cleared his throat.
“Just keep her away from the Dragon, we don’t want another fire episode on our hands.”
The green knight coughed a little louder this time.
“And close the doors, Mammon. It’s too bright in her–”
“EXCUSE ME, I AM TRYING TO SPEAK!” yelled the knight, his face turning a strange shade of purplish-brown in his fury.
The group silently stared at the seething knight.
Morgan pulled him roughly back into his seat. “Sorry, he’s a bit bipolar.”
“Yes, that was very rude of me. Please accept my apologies.” A smile immediately appeared on the knight’s face. “I am Lord Bertilak, and I am employed by this lovely sorceress. You can call me Greenie.” he winked jovially.
The sullen man to Bertilak’s right seemed confused at Bertilak’s sudden change of emotions. “Oh, I guess it’s my turn. I am Macbeth, King of Scotland.”
“Can we call you Bethy?” the Creature asked innocently.
Macbeth put his head in his hands. “No, no, please don’t call me Bethy. Please.”
“This is taking too long.” Satan groaned.
“You’re acting like a child, Lucy. Now stop lazing around and behave yourself.”
Everyone in the group froze. Satan sat up slowly, his fury barely contained. “What did you just call me, Morgan?”
She stared cooly back at him. “You heard me.”
“My turn. Oh, joy.” the great dragon cut across the argument dryly. “I’m a dragon. D-R-A-G-O-N. Dragon. I like gold. G-O-L-D. There. Done.”
He turned and smiled at the witches to his right, who cowered before him, as his smile looked more like he was about to eat them. They glanced at Satan, who impatiently gestured for them to continue, still glaring at Morgan.
They suddenly grabbed hands and twirled around in a circle, yelling, “The Weyward sisters, hand in hand, posters of the sea and land, thus do go, about, about, thrice to thine, and thrice to mine, and thrice again, to make up nine[!] Peace! The charm’s wound up[!]” (Macbeth I.iii.33-8)
They sat down calmly. Satan blinked. “Okay… Well, now we’re introduced. Yippee. And now we get to discuss our so-called problems. Same order. Go.”
“I don’t feel very comfortable talking about my problems with such a hostile group leader….” the Creature fiddled with his overlarge hands.
Satan shrugged. “Works for me. Grendel, you’re ne–”
“I JUST FEEL SO MISUNDERSTOOD!” the Creature burst out sobbing. “MY CREATOR HATES ME AND I HATE HIM! MY LIFE IS AWFUL AND DEPRESSING AND HAS NO PURPOSE!” he pulled out a handkerchief and blew his nose loudly.
Grendel gingerly patted the large monster on the back. “Um, there, there. Let it all out.”
The Creature continued to blubber unintelligible words into his handkerchief, the group nodding sympathetically when they felt it was needed. Eventually, he stopped. “I feel much better now. Thanks for listening, everyone.”
“Ewww….” Satan was perched on the chair arm farthest from the Creature, the rest of his chair covered in the Creature’s mucus.
“Oh, sorry. Let me get that for you.” he picked up the chair, knocking the fallen angel to the ground. He returned it a moment later.
The Devil climbed grumpily into his chair. “Your turn, Grendel.”
“Well, I’ve been raiding the Danes for quite a while now. Then this stupid Scandinavian hero shows up out of nowhere and rips off my arm! I mean, what’s up with that? There’s no way I can ever show my face in Denmark again!”
“It’s all right, dear, mummy will get your arm back for you.”
The group snickered, but their mirth was short-lived as Grendel quipped, “I’d like to see one of you take her on. She puts up quite a fight.”
Bertha patted his cheek fondly. “That’s a good boy.”
Satan massaged his temples. “Does anyone have any advice for dear old Grendel? Anyone?”
The Creature raised his hand. “Actually, I–”
“Good. Grendel, pretend you died and move to a stinky, swampy bog somewhere.”
“Bertha! Tell us why you’re here.” the smile on Satan’s face was so forced, it was scary.
“I’m only here to catch up with Morgan. It’s been too long since we’ve seen each other.”
Satan’s face went blank. “What?”
“I said, I’m only here–”
“I heard what you said, woman, I just can’t believe you’re wasting my time!”
He sat back down with crossed arms, fuming. Morgan looked around the circle. “I suppose it’s my turn? If that’s all right with you, Lucy.”
“By all means,” the Devil spoke through gritted teeth, “Go.”
“As you all know, my brother is king of Camelot. How the stupid oaf has remained in power this long is beyond me. Tragically, at least for me, he is under the protection of my former teacher, Merlin, so the only way I can strike at him is through his knights. But they always foil my plans and learn a valuable lesson,” The sorceress huffed. “I’m getting sick of how virtuous and noble they are.”
The group nodded sympathetically, and Lord Bertilak declared, “I agree with you wholeheartedly, my lady. Sir what’s-his-face…. Gawain! That’s it. Sir Gawain was such a pain to host in my castle. You were there, of course, so you remember how annoying he was. Lying, stealing, cheating, the list goes on and on. I simply can’t stand how pure he believes he is.”
“I couldn’t have said it better myself, Greenie.”
The Dragon suddenly sniffed. “Uh oh.”
Satan glanced at the scaly beast. “What?”
“I think I’m going to… Ah… ah… ah…”
“TAKE COVER, EVERYONE!” Satan dove behind his chair.
The Dragon sneezed, filling the room with smoke and fire. As soon as she saw fire, Miss Havisham screamed so shrilly she broke the window. She wheeled herself around the room, banging into everyone and everything in her path, a crazed look in her eyes.
“WILL SOMEONE PLEASE CONTROL THE CRAZY OLD HAG?”
Satan’s gang of devils chased after her. “Yes, boss.” “Right away, boss.” “Immediately, boss, you got it.”
Lord Bertilak and Grendel howled with laughter. The devils chased Miss Havisham, who in turn wheeled furiously after the three witches, who shouted fearfully, “Something wicked this way comes!” (Macbeth IV.i.45)
Finally, the devils piled on top of Miss Havisham’s wheelchair, knocking her to the floor. She shrieked unintelligible nonsense at them, which, from her tone, seemed to be obscenities.
As the devils forced her into a straight jacket, the villains returned to their seats. Satan brushed some ashes off his shoulder. “So whose turn was it?”
Everyone pointed at the sullen King of Scotland, whose frown deepened. “Lovely.”
Smiling devilishly, Satan folded his hands together. “Yes, Macbeth, tell us of your problems.”
Macbeth mumbled something incoherent.
Satan and the others leaned forward. “Didn’t quite catch that.”
“I murdered a man to procure the throne of Scotland because of a prophecy these crazies,” he pointed an accusing finger at the witches, “Told me! Everyone is out to get me, I haven’t been sleeping well, and my wife is traveling the path of insanity!”
“It’s a short walk, my friend,” Grendel muttered. The Creature covered his mouth to hide his laughter.
Shaking her head at the witches, Bertha scolded, “Shame on you for playing with poor King Macbeth’s mind. What do you have to say for yourselves?”
One of the witches smiled shrewdly and answered, “All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Glamis!”
The second threw her hands in the air, cackling, “All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor!”
Then they spoke in unison. “All hail, Macbeth! Thou shalt be King hereafter!” they broke into malicious howls of mirth. (Macbeth I.iii.49-51)
Macbeth’s white face looked stricken. “Those are the words that started this whole mess! I probably wouldn’t have had Banquo murdered if these fiends hadn’t spoken those words to us.” he dropped to his knees in anguish. “My life is over! Woe is me!”
“Get a hold of yourself, man.” Lord Bertilak pulled the tormented king from the ground.
Grendel and the Dragon shook with silent laughter. They couldn’t hold it in, much to the annoyance of the king.
“You try acting with the knowledge of a prophecy. It’s more stressful than you’d imagine.”
“Whatever you say… Bethy!” Grendel guffawed.
Macbeth crossed his arms like a stubborn three-year-old. “Miss Havisham, it’s your turn.”
Upon hearing his words, Miss Havisham hissed and tried to throw herself out of her chair.
Satan glanced at Mulciber, one of his demons. “Can Havisham string enough words together to make any sense, or does she get credit for simply showing up to the session?”
“Uhhh…” Mulciber flipped through the papers on his clipboard. “Says here she’s incapable of speech, boss. Why she’s here is beyond me.”
“Okay, then we’ll skip her. We don’t want a repeat of the overgrown worm’s sneeze, as lovely as that experience was.” he stared pointedly at the red dragon.
“Hey, at least I warned you before it happened.”
Morgan checked her watch, the only modern garb on her person. “Are we almost done? I have an… appointment with Queen Guinevere.”
“Yes, Morgan. We’re almost done. Be patient.”
“Why are you speaking like that?”
She sighed. “Never mind. Dragon, I believe it’s your turn?”
“Yeah, get on with it, fire-scales.” Grendel muttered.
“I heard that, you ugly son of Cain! I’ll torch you when we get back home.” two tendrils of smoke floated from his nostrils. “Anyway, a thief stole treasure from me. I’m ready to tear the whole countryside apart to find him.”
“How much treasure did he take?” the Creature asked meekly.
“He stole my favorite tea-cup.”
The entire group burst out laughing. Miss Havisham chuckled darkly, but her eyes were distant, so it was clear she wasn’t mentally present. Satan wiped tears of mirth from his eyes. “He stole your…. ha ha ha…. teacup?” another round of laughter overtook the villains.
The red dragon frowned, showing his teeth. “It’s a pure gold teacup, and none of my other ones are as pretty.”
“Since when do dragons use teacups? Or drink tea?” Bertha struggled to hold back her laughter.
“I didn’t say I drank tea out of it,” the Dragon grumbled. “Maybe I just like sparkly, shiny treasure.”
This time, everyone laughed except the Creature. “Well, did you try asking him to give the teacup back?”
The dragon stared at him blankly, and Satan raised an eyebrow. “Okay, Creach, you’re obviously new to this whole villain thing. We don’t ask. We demand.”
The others nodded in agreement. “Oh, all right. I-I’ll remember that for the future.”
“Witches, any problems you’d like to discuss?”
The trio looked up from their bubbling cauldron, which no one had noticed until that point.
“Where did they get the–”
One of them reached out and plucked a scale from the Dragon’s body.
She dropped it into the cauldron, along with a small white object. “Double, double, toil and trouble; fire burn, and cauldron bubble. Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf–” (Macbeth IV.i.20-2)
“Enough, enough!” the Devil bellowed in exasperation. “If you’re not going to speak your piece, then I suppose we’re done.”
“Splendid.” Morgan stood regally. “Farewell, everyone. I’ll see you at next month’s gathering.”
She vanished in a cloud of purple smoke.
“Yes,” Satan called tiredly, “The next meeting is in exactly one month, same time, same place. I can’t wait.”
Saying their goodbyes, the monsters and villains exited the confines of the room. “We should call our group Antagonists Anonymous.” The Creature suggested as they left. “You know, like Alcoholics Anonymous?”
The gang of devils wheeled Miss Havisham, who was now gagged as well as bound, through the door. Satan was left alone.
He turned to face the poster of Big Brother. “Some mascot you are. Big Brother… Ha! You don’t even exist.”
He sauntered out of the room, not noticing that the poster’s eyes followed his every movement.
Thunder boomed as the lights flickered out in Room 101.