In the Hebrew Bible, he was simply Satan, but rarely that. In apocryphal (non-canonical) literature, Jewish writers referred to him as Sammael, Asmodeus, Satanael, Belial or Beelzebub. Later Christians called him “the Devil” and then “Lucifer.” Folk tales of the Middle Ages gave him names like Old Horny, Old Hairy, Black Bogey, Lusty Dick, Gentleman Jack, Old Nick or Old Scratch.
Anyway, whatever the name, I think you know who I am talking about.
In Fire of Norea, he is an atemporal cosmic entity with various “physical” manifestations in our temporal world…and a singular one, at that. Throughout Jewish and Christian literature, while angels “fell”, found themselves stuck on earth, were corrupted by contact with humans or simply were commanded to never leave Heaven, the books of Job and Zechariah (the only “Old Testament” descriptions of Satan as a character) describe him as “roaming to and fro” about the earth before returning to God’s divine council. None of the other divine beings seemed capable of doing so without consequence.
Just the same, “Satan” in my series must struggle as an atemporal, divine being attempting to communicate with humans, temporal beings with linear perspectives.
Although Satan can obviously shift his shape and appear as any number of mortal beings, his distinguishing characteristic in Fire of Norea is the heterochromia (two colors) of his eyes, as you can see in this early scene:
Bill caught his breath.
The dim lights flickered and faded, turning a diffused gray, like fog in the Appalachian hollows. He watched as the ceramic tiles at his feet turned to black.
Bill pushed against the stall door, panicked that the stranger would attempt to enter. It bowed beneath his touch, curling around his fingers like a soft sponge.
“Oh no,” he said.
A patient hand knocked on the other side of the stall door.
“Uh. Somebody’s in here?”
The lock slid on its own and the door slowly opened.
Bill could see nothing beyond the open door, as if the light had been engulfed by some terrible gravity.
“Do you really want to know?”
“Get thee behind me, Satan! In the name of Jesus Christ, leave me!”
Deep laughter echoed throughout the room and a dim light slowly filled it.
Leaning against the sinks at the far wall stood a massive figure with thick curls and an unruly beard. From his exposed chest, rough hair intertwined with the golden ropes of his necklaces, all adorned with a crucifix, a Star of David and a crescent moon with stars. The enormous collar of his polyester suit lay open over a suede vest and he clicked the springed heels of his tan cowboy boots playfully. A ring wrapped around his every finger, all gold and ostentatious.
The stranger smiled warmly, his eyes sparkling in the half-light, one eye blue, the other gray.
He sipped orange juice from a delicate stem glass and champagne bubbled along his unkempt mustache. “As I understand it, the whole of your fate must hinge on one simple decision, a crucial moment that defines your entire existence.” The stranger hopped away from the sink and tapped his toes against the tiles as he approached Bill. The liquid did not move in his glass. “If that seems too simple a summary, however true, allow me to clarify something for you, Bill.” He entered the stall, leaned against the cold concrete wall, and casually crossed his feet. He sipped the drink and licked his lips. “What are you doing here, Bill?”
“Who are you?”
“You don’t have the balls to do what needs to be done here, do you? You’re just in the way. Dead weight, that’s you.”
“I know. I know who you are.” Bill shook his head. “Oh God, please help me, I know who you are.”
The stranger lowered himself to a crouch, a fluid, graceful motion. He pointed the lip of his glass at Bill. “This is the defining moment of your life, Bill. You thought it was already taken care of, fifty-odd years ago, kneeling on the frayed carpet of that old Kentucky church. But now here you are, begging for mercy where none will be given.”
Bill clenched his fists and looked into the stranger’s eyes. “I have risked it all, losing much, but I have gained everything! What do you want from me, Devil? I have given it all to God! What could you ask of me, a servant of the Lord?”
“I want you to tell me the name of Lot’s wife.” He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “I’ve been trying to remember, but it escapes me for the moment.”
“I don’t know what you’re trying to do, but I know it’s a trick. I warn you, I am not a fool.”
“There’s a part of me somewhere that knows this.”
“You’re not making any sense.”
The stranger rubbed his temples and nodded. “We’re too close to the singularity, it makes it difficult to communicate.”
The stranger stood and rolled his torso into a ball, straining against himself in a way that pressed against the air around them. The walls bowed out from him and Bill fell off to the floor, wedged against the toilet, straining to remain conscious as an unseen pressure gripped his head.
“It’s the birth, man! That’s why I’m here! You’re hiding on a toilet, too weak to do what’s necessary. That’s what I’m talking about!” The stranger finished his drink and tossed against the mirror behind him. “You confessed to that backwoods preacher, Bill. Now confess to me! Admit you’ll always be a failure!”
The stranger turned and walked back to the sinks, mumbling to himself.
Bill pulled himself from the floor, cautiously watching as the stranger examined his face in the mirror.
A few months ago, during a period in which I was discussing the development of the novel with a friend on a regular basis (and, as a result, the characters were very much alive in a social sense, real and walking around in my daily life), I met this Satan. He didn’t look like this particular description, but, as I said, he is a shapeshifter. He can look like any mortal he wants, young or old, male or female, because he is not constrained by materiality.
One day during that period, I was sitting in the food court of a local mall. I had gotten off work early and went to the bookstore there, looking for a particular comic book that had just hit the shelves the day before. Leaving frustrated and empty-handed, I tossed my laptop on a table and, surrounded by the numbing cacophony of afternoon shoppers, I began to write.
Then, among the faceless wanderers who provided the backdrop for my revelry, a strange man drew my attention. He seemed disheveled, though neatly dressed, a tall white man with white hair in his late 50’s, wearing a tan trench coat on a warm summer day in Pineville, NC. He was eating a softserve cone with visible delight, as though mortal treats were a rarity.
He crossed the floor between scattered tables, wading a direct path through the chaotic crowd. He stopped at my table and pointed his cone at my laptop.
“You’re a screenwriter.”
I wasn’t sure how to react. Did he ask me a question? No. He didn’t. I nodded to my laptop and smiled. “I’m working on a novel.”
His expression changed, as if he were confused by an unreliable memory or had been given faulty intel. He shook his head slightly and licked his cone. “I’m a producer.”
I felt an odd mix of emotions at that point. Part of me expected him to be crazy or a charlatan, and a little wall went up inside me. Part of me wanted him to be telling the truth, because he had spotted me across a crowded food court and had felt compelled to speak to me.
I could write a screenplay, I thought.
Even so, I said nothing.
The stranger smiled. “It’s all about emotion, that’s what I tell my writers. You can write great plots all day long, but people watch for the drama. You have to put emotion in there.”
I smiled and nodded. “I agree. I like to develop interesting characters and see what happens when they interact.”
He looked confused again and looked away, as if he saw something inside the bookstore that no one else knew was there.
“Well, good luck to you,” he said, and walked toward the books, wrapped in a warm coat and burying his face into the softserve cone.
I sat still for a few moments, processing what had just happened. My heart beat a little faster than normal, and the feather of intimacy tickled my gut.
That was Satan, I thought to myself, and I couldn’t wait to call my friend and tell him what had happened.
That was Satan as I have written him, the false mortal in Fire of Norea!
Right now, I’m writing a chapter about Norea as a small girl, spending the day with a strange man who may be a preacher.
One of his eyes is blue, the other gray.