It’d been too damn hot, even for God who was on Sabbatical. The crimson beat of the Cinnabar and orange pirouette of the Monarch in the verdant dawn had been flattened, not by the heat, but by the thundering wash of rotary blades scattering the morning mist across the valley floor. The acrid smell of blackened firs hung heavy as the lords of the forest spiraled over the great cloud of smokey ash desperately searching for their lost aeries.
There’d been mischief afoot aplenty as convoys of firefighters, aerial bombers, and rotary dragon flies with their loads of water raced to meet it. The emerald filled with smoke and despair as Haven Lake fell headlong into the unyielding inferno. Newly formed, the Olympic mountains were cloaked in thick elegant rain forests couched among chimneys fashioned by ancient rock faces and narrow canyons. Parched, the landscape beckoned and the Devil heard her name. Satan had entered and found the Landlord absent. Paradise was, if not for sale, at least for rent.
Though records said otherwise, he knew his spiritual birthplace through dreams and visions long before fate allowed him to enter. He’d traveled these mountains, crossed its streams and valleys through the rain, sometimes the snow. He’d stood naked in the rain unafraid beneath the stars and the full moon, marveling at the darkness and the cool wetness on his skin. He had slept on the deep moss covered maple tree stretched over the adjacent river with his young son in his arms. He’d gathered wood to lay against the coming winter, gathered berries and fruit from abandoned apple trees, butchered roadkill to nourish his young. Though alarmingly indigent, this was the promised land, a poor man’s paradise he knew from ancient ancestral coding hardwired into the fiber of his being. He would never forsake it. Many came seeking, but few were chosen. He was among the lucky few. His sacred mountain respite came complete with a waterfall, island, and bittersweet memories where he’d been happy if only for awhile. Ferns provided hygiene. A ram pump laughed at utility bills. The pasture fed his goats who provided milk, yogurt, cheese, and kefir in turn. Once a month he ventured down into the outside world for supplies. He could afford no less, but no more. Yet happiness did not shield him from loneliness. He’d been warned not to partake of this particular self indulgence, yet could not rest while it did abide within him. As luck would have it, the Devil was in the details.
Came the day, one year in early summer, he met a beautiful serpentine lady. He’d read of the Sirens of old. He knew of the tree of good and evil. He’d been warned of the forbidden fruit. Yet he tarried. He admired her art, her craft, her body, her mouth, her face, her eyes…especially her eyes–and her voice when she began to speak. He might have escaped, but for her seizing the moment and her singing. “What did you say your name was again?” he queried. “Luci,” she twinkled, “but I like to go by Perfidia.” “Mine’s Amicus,” he rejoined, “you are astonishingly talented and beautiful.” “Do tell,” she sparkled. “What do you do with all this?” he gestured, pointing at all the wood and partially assembled boxes around her. “Oh, I’m a collector,” she hinted, “I commune with nature in collaboration with volunteers. Do you love nature?” “Oh, yes,” he confided, “though my own Heaven has no angels such as yourself.” “Really?” she mused, “I struggle so hard without a partner. People do not understand me, they fail to appreciate my situation. I’m very poor. For this I’ve been banned from the Garden.” She eyed him carefully, then went for the jugular–“You look like God,” she exclaimed, “just like He’s portrayed on the Sistine Chapel ceiling! And your hair, your hair is so soft–so silky,” she purred as she ran her fingers through it. His heart fell out of his chest and fibrillated wildly on the floor. Besotted, he invited her to share Paradise. He’d pay the damage deposit, he offered.
Gabriel had accompanied God and taken her trumpet with her. Michael, the archangel, had left her post to get a pizza. Thus, the gates to Paradise were left open and undefended upon Perfidia’s arrival. She was still in her prime, but he was in the autumn of his years and knew it only too well. “You are a fantastic lover,” she told him the night of that first day while Michael was away. “Will you grown tired of me?” he fretted. “Not if you continue to be this good,” she assured him, “but would you mind not questioning me right now while my underwear is about my ankles? It makes me feel terribly vulnerable.”
It was a smoldering romance too hot not to cool down. And as it died, Paradise began to burn. Perfidia had once complained of too little attention, of too little time spent, of wanting more–always more. Yet, even from the outset, she did not want to be seen in his company as knowing him, or at least knowing him too well. The Devil may wear Prada, but Perfidia preferred the invisibility cloak of discretion and…collecting. The latter must have been time consuming as soon enough she was heard to say she abhorred the idea of him gobbling up every available moment, of investing too much time. And there was no such thing as constructive criticism, she said. A new soul was on her horizon, almost within her grasp, and most of her attention focused there. “I give it about 6 months or less,” he thought, “people go back to what they know. If it ain’t broken, why fix it?” Indeed, Perfidia wasn’t about to fix a thing. She wasn’t about to hear any criticism either. She’d said, “When you feel like you’ve had enough, you’ll just walk away.” “You ask me if this heart of mine will ever grow tired of you,” he quietly sang to himself. But in the end, it was she who walked away and always had, for she knew it. It was her nature.
“Never give a sucker an even break.” -P. T. Barnum- had said. The ancient Greeks were convinced that when the gods want to punish us, they grant our wishes. Upon Michael’s return, finding Paradise burning, she asked him, “What have you done?” “I partook of the forbidden fruit,” he sobbed. “Why? You were warned,” Michael persisted. “A serpent beguiled me. She beckoned me to eat, saying the fruit was good. I was lonely. God never gave me a woman who truly loved me for who I am,” he cried. “Fear not,” Michael glowered, “God is merciful. But, you know, nothing will ever be the same!” Somehow, he doubted the former, but not the latter.
When he calls, Perfidia is no longer home. Paradise yet burns, God is still on holiday, and the man told he resembled Him awaits his fate and eventual banishment from Eden. Being poor sucks. But then he knew that. So did Perfidia when she made it her opening move.