Neil Barrett: Sympathetic Magic

       A plucked string never considers which pole caused the sound, vibrating regardless.  Similarly, Satan’s soul spun out in humanity, not bothering itself with riddles of the first or second cause.  After every bodily death, the Daughters of Albion fretted over this anomaly. They imagined that even the most variant of souls’ tendency were towards the stars. Bouts of vegetable afterlife tended to cure the soul of human anxiety, milieu’s as molecular compounds, even viruses reoriented the soul towards night.  Yet, Satan’s soul clung tightly to the human form, to twenty four hour days, finding wind swept lodging in the barely dead and the nearly born.  Each reanimated minute, compounded over time, building epogomal months and years that amounted to centuries and millennia which the Daughters of Albion could only report as lost. 
       Then Maud accidentally spilled coffee over her tablet, and Satan simultaneously found itself fixed in the branches of an Alder tree.  It didn’t matter which came first, what mattered was Maud’s hand shook as if mortality had finally crept into the kingdom of God. 

       “Shit,” Maud muttered.

       At least since the Manichean, Tengri Bögü Khan, had rebelled against the Shamanism of his father, Satan‘s soul had drifted among human moments.  Becky postulated that the fixation began when Albion was laid inside the burial cave at Cadbury.  Tammy didn’t bother herself with such questions, preferring to spend her speculation on the anonymous love songs of pre-linguistic cultures.  Maud wiped off her tablet, shook it some, and pondered with its blank screen in her hand. 

       “Put it on rice,” Becky suggested.

       “I think that’s a myth,” Tammy mused.

       “It’ll dry.  There’s rice in the pantry.”

       Maud looked at her dark reflection, set the tablet down, and gulped the cold remnants of her coffee.  It was eerie, losing track of all the souls she had to monitor.  Suspicion ate at her to fill the void.  The others hardly looked up from their screens. Becky raised an eyebrow and coughed.

       “You’d never guess.  Seems Satan’s given up on humans for a spell.”

       “Hiding in the trees again?” Tammy asked.

       But Maud just mulled it over.  It wasn’t right, coincidence.  Something short of panic tried to tell her that it was just her worry.  That the fruit of conscience was better left to ripen on its own because it’s the act of plucking that’s forbidden. It’s imagining someone’s hands were at the lyre. 

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