October 03, 2009

The Demon of Oscar Braathen's Tavern

By Sigge S. Amdal © 2009

There's a green EXIT sign hanging above the television set. It's not turned on, there is no exit. The room's three meters by six, I've got it all to myself, the walls are orange and the floorboards are fake. There are four tables in here, and candle lights on all of them. They've never been lit. The paintings are nondescript still images of places around the city maybe a hundred, maybe two hundred years ago. They are all dull and dark, maybe from cigarette smoke, and there is not a single human being or animal of any kind in any of them.

The painting of a town square on my opposite side has a fissure in it where a stretch of empty sky used to be. It makes it look as if there is a huge, dark brown demon flying over the square, wingspan the size of a small house. That explains why there are no people in any of the pictures, why they are all silent and waiting. The people are inside, hiding from the beast.

I can hear a baby playing in the other room. It starts out sweet and ends in a shriek. I can hear a woman doting on it, trying to keep the conversation going with the man she's talking with.

The table feet are made of cast iron.

The waitress is nervous. Some older man, maybe the owner, just told her what numbers the table are. They didn't step inside but I could see their reflection on the blank grey glass of the television. These are tables eighteen to twenty-two. She'll come around to it. I think she had an Eastern European accent. I really don't care. This please is dead to me unless I get my coffee. I got a free second fill but now it's empty again. A car drives by and makes some extra noise as it picks up speed. The world out there doesn't bother me.

I turn to the wall behind me and see a fourth painting. In all probability it was made by the same painter as the others. It does have a lot of green in it. Trees, bushes, grass. There are tree crowns covering a third of the picture leaving only two inches of grayish sky. The city's been deserted for a while then. Overgrown. The trees are reclaiming what's ultimately theirs.

The mother is singing now. Or was it the radio? It sounds like a lullaby.

The situation with the demon seems to have been going on for a while. Maybe it's been a whole year already?

No. The second painting is a portrait format shot of a blue apartment building from the 18th century, and there's a lawn in front of it. The grass is still pretty short, but the rough details don't say much of whether it's been trimmed or not. I bet the flying demon came during the winter or shortly thereafter. Presently it's summer. If it happened just now it would be reasonable to expect some litter and a few house pets, at least a wondering cat or two. There's nothing of the sort. Maybe it's his natural hunting grounds. It was just hibernating beneath the city, but now with the climate changes and widespread secularism, the demon yet again has a part to play. Of course, we're just calling it a demon. It looks more like an animal, a dinosaur. Pterosaur to be exact. Humans are funny that way, always interpreting absolutely everything.

The baby wants attention and makes a horrible shrieking sound, making the hairs on my back stand up. That's exactly what you'd expect from a demon hovering above a deserted town. It's just doing what demons are supposed to be doing. But it freaks me out nevertheless. I'm out of here.

When I leave, the room will be empty again, put to rest, but the paintings will continue to tell the tale the next time someone's willing to listen.

Sigge S. Amdal is a word wanker from Oslo, Norway.

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