The Devil Pig

Many years ago, when I was small, and lived with my grandfather in a big house on a hill under a mountain overlooking the ocean in a place that was about as far west as you could go, unless you were a very good swimmer . . .

. . . I was happy, and life was good. Except, of course, for the strange old man who had lived in that area forever.

He didn't like us. He said that there used to be a path through the bush where our house was, and that ever since our house was built, he had to walk around through the prickle bushes.

He said that we acted like the Devil Pig.

Then that crazy old man would look around like he was worried, and say, "Have you seen him?"

"Seen who?" we asked him.

"The Devil Pig," he replied.

My grandfather and I just thought this was more of his crazy talk so we tried to ignore him. He would usually go away when we did, but not this time. He began following us around, and kept on talking at us over the fence, until we either had to go inside to get away from him, or listen to what he was saying.

"The Devil Pig owned the boats which carried your ancestors here from across the sea," he told us.

"What is a Devil Pig?" I asked him.

"A Devil Pig is a pig who talks," he told me. "A Devil Pig is no good to eat, for its meat is rancid. It casts spells on people with its Devil Pig eyes, and they become zombies, who say over and over again, "But the Devil Pig has so much money."

Leaning over the fence, he said to me in a confiding tone, "But that isn't the worst! The worst is when the Devil Pig becomes powerful enough to hide behind the weak and the innocent. And they, in turn, will tell you that they can't say anything bad about the Devil Pig, because he owns everything, everywhere, and he will hurt them if they don't shut up.

"Many years ago," he told us, "my people were happy, until the Devil Pig came.

"No one knew where he came from, but they were glad at first, for he was a pig, after all. So they strung him up by his heels and slit his throat.

"But they found that he was no good to eat. His meat was rancid. Even the scavengers wouldn't touch him. Only the flies seemed not to mind.

"It was then that we discovered that he was really an evil spirit, for he came back to us.

"He came with wealth, such as my people had never seen before, and he offered it in trade, if my people would do things for him.

"Well, he was no good to eat, and my people are not thieves, so they did as he asked. He asked for a big house, bigger than he would ever need.

"'O Pig, why do you ask for such a big house?' they asked him.

"'That is none of your business,' was his reply.

"He was very rude. But his money was good. They did as he bade them to do.

"He then asked for more land and more livestock than he would ever need.

"'O Pig, why do you ask for so much land, and so much livestock?' they asked him.

"'That is none of your business,' was his reply.

"He then asked for servants, and for slaves, and for the best-looking women. He was very rude. But his money was good. My people did as he bade them to do.

"One day, he asked some of the young men to help make him chief. He would pay them a lot of money. More than they could ever imagine. All they had to do was kill the old chief, and the money would be theirs.

"These greedy young men did as he asked. They sneaked into the chief's tent as he slept, and murdered the old man in his bed.

"The Devil Pig, thinking that all had been taken care of, came forward, and demanded to be made chief. But one man stepped forward and said, 'Not so fast, Pig! I am next in line. I am now the chief.'

"This man was the chief's eldest son, and he was much grieved over his father's death. And he had been wary of the Devil Pig from the beginning, and didn't trust him.

"He was not about to suffer his father's fate. He laid a trap for the Devil Pig and the greedy young men. One night, as he lay in his bed, the young men came, as he knew they would.

"But he and his warriors had planned well, and lay in ambush. There were screams in the dark, and black blood the colour of the night. When it was over, the new chief had killed or captured all of the greedy young men.

"'Tell us why you did this terrible thing, and we will not torture you before we kill you.' he told them.

"'Twas the Devil Pig,' they told him.

"He and his warriors then cut their throats, showing them as much mercy as they deserved.

"They gathered everything together that the Devil Pig had had anything to do with, property, money, livestock, belongings, servants, women, and slaves, and burned them all.

"They then went in search of the Devil Pig. But he had fled, suspecting that something had gone wrong with his plans. They chased him and they chased him, ever east across the wide land.

"They came upon villages as they traveled, and everywhere the story was the same. 'The Devil Pig has been here. We are looking for him too. We will help you find and kill him.'

"They came at last to another ocean, and one last village on the shore of that ocean.

"The people there told them, 'The Devil Pig was here. We were going to kill him, but he fled east in one of our canoes. There is a great fear upon us, for he cursed all our lands before leaving. He said that he will return one day, in giant canoes blown across the seas by the wind. He said he will bring with him a greedy, heartless, selfish people, more suited to his needs. He said that these people will hunt us for sport, ravage us with disease, murder our women and children, and turn all our lands into one vast pig wallow.'

"The new chief returned home again, with a cold fear gripping his heart. But the years passed, and as he grew old, his fear began to ease. 'Perhaps the Devil Pig has been dealt with,' he thought to himself.

"However . . . one day, rumours began to reach his ears, of a strange-looking, ruthless, evil people, more greedy and cruel and heartless and selfish than could ever be imagined. They had come across the sea in huge canoes, blown by the wind.

"The Devil Pig had returned."

"What happened then?" I asked him, for he had stopped talking, and was picking his toenails.

"What happened then!" he replied. "I just told you. The Devil Pig returned. My people tried to flee, but it was too late. There was no place left to hide or to run."

"So, what happened? Where are they?" I asked him.

"Gone," he replied.

"Where?" I persisted.

"Weren't you listening?" he replied irritably. "The Devil Pig got them."

"So, why didn't he get you too?" I asked.

He gave me an odd look that made me go cold inside. My grandfather, too, was giving the crazy old man his undivided attention.

"I," he told us, "chose not to listen to his words, or look into his eyes. I thought he would have me killed, for my people were now his, and did as he bade them to do.

"Instead, he put his hex on me."

"What is a 'hex?' I asked him.

"An evil spell," he replied.

"Oh," I said. "What was the evil spell? What did it sound like?"

"It sounded like this," he replied. "'You are blacklisted!'"

The crazy old man started to leave, but I just had to ask him one more question; "Why tell us this?"

"Because," he replied, "His work is not yet done. He has destroyed my people and our way of life. He used your people to accomplish this. Now he will turn all the wide lands into one vast pig wallow. Soon, you and your grandfather will have no home. You will be forced to live in smaller and smaller boxes, in worse and worse conditions. The Devil Pig has spread his money far and wide, so that everyone who wanted some had some. Now, he's calling it all back. As a result, prices will rise, incomes will fall, houses and property and food will become far too expensive, and everyone will be too distracted to remember that all they have to do is cut the Devil Pig's throat.

"He is nothing more than a pig, after all. I don't know who taught him to talk, but I do know how to make him squeal once more. I had thought of putting his eyes out with a pitchfork, but my people wouldn't let me near him."

"Why not?" I asked him.

This was the last question he would answer, and he did so as he left, so that his words trailed off ominously into the distance with him. "This you will find out soon enough. He is coming. You will soon see him with your own eyes. Save yourselves. Do not listen to him. If you get the chance, put out his eyes to stop his talking, string him up by his heels, and slit his throat. He is only a pig, after all."

-

The crazy old man's words were soon forgotten. It was springtime, the days were warm and sunny, the evenings cool, the ocean and mountains their usual serene shades of grey-blue, the skies clear as polished crystal and bright blue, the clouds as pure-white as when the world was new . . .

Springtime merged into warm summer evenings; the tall trees growing high and smelling of sap, a faint tang of the sea in the air, the white gulls crying and gliding on the summer breeze . . .

The year aged gracefully into fall decay; the rich loamy smell of things rotting back into the earth, of leaves burning and toadstools popping out of the grass . . .

Then, one day, an odd thing happened. Our old house was surrounded by dense forest, and from the forest, a dense, choking, oily black smoke was wafting. Accompanying the smoke was a low rumble that made the ground shake. Grandfather and I went to investigate, fearing that the forest was on fire.

What we saw was worse than anything we could have imagined.

One of our neighbors was driving a huge bulldozer, right through the trees, if you can believe it! He was knocking them over, ripping them out by the roots, and pushing them into a huge pile of burning debris. In the center of the pile of burning debris was a huge pile of old tires that had been set on fire, and it was these which stank and smoked.

"Ho, Tom!" Grandfather cried, "what in the Devil's name are you doing?"

Tom was a good old friend, and had loved the place as much as grandfather and I. But as if from out of a bad dream, he said these words:

"None of your business."

He kept on driving the bulldozer, killing trees, and burning them alive, as if we weren't even there. Grandfather ran to the bulldozer, jumped aboard, and pushed the kill switch. Having followed, I climbed aboard too. Tom was looking really strange. His eyes were funny, and he didn't seem to recognize grandfather or me.

"Tom!" Grandfather shouted into his ear, "What is the meaning of this? Tell me, or I'll box your ears!"

"None of your business," said Tom with his vacant stare.

I had seldom seen my grandfather angry, but he was angry now. He struck old Tom hard across the face. I was unaccustomed to such violence, and backed away as far as I could without falling off the big machine. Tom's head lolled soddenly to one side. Then, his eyes seemed to clear a little, to come back into focus. But I was afraid of him, for he was not the Tom I knew.

"Do you hear me now, Tom?!" shouted my enraged grandfather.

Tom nodded, slowly.

"Do you know me?"

Again, Tom nodded.

"Then tell me! Why are you doing this?"

"Paid to," answered Tom in his vague voice.

"Paid to? By Whom?" Grandfather demanded.

"Can't tell you," Tom answered.

"Can't, eh?" Grandfather began slapping old Tom's head soddenly back and forth, and yelling "Tell me! Tell me!" into his vacant face. I was crying, and so was Grandfather, who was a kindly, gentle soul.

"Duh-" Tom said.

"What's that?" Grandfather shouted, not letting up.

Old Tom's head suddenly turned to face my grandfather. It was a fearful motion, like the turning of a tank-turret. Looking at his eyes was like staring down the barrel of a loaded gun. His voice was equally fearful, as though his throat was full of congealing blood.

"Devil Pig."

Grandfather's hand was still upraised, but suddenly looked more like a child's hand raised in a school classroom than a strong man's poised to strike. He snatched it back to his side, and I saw fear in my grandfather's eyes for the first time in my life. That made me more afraid than any threat of violence.

"Why, Tom?" Grandfather said, the rage blown out of him like a candle in a winter storm. Grandfather's voice . . . I can hear it clearly even now as I think of it . . . sounded as lorn and bereaved as a lone kestrel on the open sea.

"The Devil Pig has so much money."

Grandfather set his jaw and said in a quiet voice, "Does he now." He leaned over, took the keys out of the ignition, put them in his pocket. He wasn't done. He pulled out his own keys, chose one, and handed them to me.

"Get the gun."

I went cold inside. I had heard grandfather use that tone of voice only once before. He had said those exact same words, before shooting a rabid dog between the eyes. I did as I was told, and quickly.

When I returned, Grandfather was standing on the ground, waiting for me. Old Tom hadn't moved. I don't think he either knew or cared that the bulldozer was no longer moving. We left him there, and began the long walk into town.

"So the crazy old coot isn't so crazy after all," Grandfather mused as we walked. "I wonder where he's wandered off to."

"Are you going to shoot this Devil Pig?" I asked him.

"Like a rabid dog," he replied. "Like a rabid dog."

-

But when we got to town, the town was empty. Or appeared to be. Then, cocking his head, listening for something I couldn't hear, Grandfather started walking. His stride became longer as he became more certain, and I was soon almost running to keep up with him. To my eyes, he looked more like a fabled gunslinger of old, headed for a showdown, than the man I had known all my life.

The townspeople, every last one of them, were in the town hall. They were listening to someone speak. Grandfather yanked on the old doors which creaked on their ancient, unoiled hinges, and we stepped into the darkness, squinting, trying to see what was going on.

There, on the stage, looking down on us as though we were intruders in our own town hall, was the Devil Pig.

Grandfather didn't hesitate. He leveled his gun, drew a bead, and fired a single shot. The Devil Pig's mouth was suddenly frozen open in a stunned 'O.' In slow-motion, it collapsed to one side like a felled tree.

The spell broke with an almost audible 'snap!' The town hall was immediately abuzz. With the Devil Pig's hold on them broken, the people stood and looked about, as though they'd been asleep. They looked at grandfather, baffled.

He shouldered his way through them to the stage, reached up and grabbed the pig by one ear, and began dragging it. It landed on the ground with a sodden 'thump,' and he kept on dragging it, trailing a red smear of blood all the way from the stage of the town hall, until it lay in the center of town. Then, with the townspeople watching, he got a can of kerosene, poured it over the Devil Pig, and set the Pig's body ablaze.

The townspeople slowly came more and more awake. After a long while, I noticed old Tom, standing at the edge of the crowd, watching. He seemed to be himself once more, and I was relieved. But he seemed ashamed, and wouldn't look at either Grandfather or myself.

People began bringing dry wood and paper and old cardboard and wooden boxes; anything that would burn. It began to dawn on them that they had narrowly escaped a terrible fate, and their awakening turned to relief turned to hostility. They began to heap far more fuel than was necessary to cremate the dead pig, and I began to wonder if everything was really all right again.

-

Dusk fell, the deep blue sky darkened to velvet black, and still they built their pyre, higher and higher. Grandfather and I had long since backed away from the heat, and stood far away in the cool night air, watching the garish red light, tiger-striped with ominous black shadows, playing on the townspeople and the surrounding buildings.

A soft-spoken, familiar voice from behind us got our attention. It was the strange old man.

"You two just got yourselves blacklisted," he said.

The look grandfather gave him was as bleak as a wilderland.

"It's not over, is it?"

The old man sighed, and he looked very sad. "You should have burned the money."

"What do you mean?" Grandfather asked him. "I killed the Devil Pig."

The crazy old man shook his head and pointed. "Your townsfolk . . . look at them!"

We did so. They looked like demons, dancing around a fire.

"They're not really trying to get rid of him."

Even from this distance we could feel the truth of his words.

"He'll be back. Only much stronger next time. You won't be getting rid of him again by popping a hole through his forehead."

His last words to us were quiet and chilling.

"You won't even know he's there."

We turned around, but the strange old man had vanished, as though into the night.

-

The world changed after that. The forest was torn down and burned, and a wilderness of apartments and shopping malls sprang up around the old house. The taxes got so high that grandfather and I had to move.

You couldn't see the mountains or the ocean any more. The crowded buildings blocked any view of the water, and the air was so choked with filth that everything was obscured by a cloying brown haze. At night, only a few of the brightest stars could be seen, and even the moon was an unhealthy colour.

As if they were somehow connected in some way, our stately old house was brought down with a horrible sound like crunching bones, ground under the iron treads of bulldozers. Grandfather died that same day, clutching his chest as though a cord inside it had snapped.

It wasn't his heart. The doctor told me he was as strong as a bull. No, to this day I believe that those bulldozers killed my grandfather, just as surely as they crushed the bones of what had been our family dwelling for almost a hundred years.

Grandfather was even denied being laid to rest in the family plot. His body was cremated, sent up as a puff of smoke to join the oily cloud which choked the city.

That night, a fatal resolve came over me. I took a long, narrow, wooden case from under grandfather's old bed. In it was the same gun he had used to shoot the Devil Pig through the head. That night, I resolved to kill the Devil Pig, once and for all. But I had to find him first. And so the search began.

-

I didn't have to go far to start asking questions. The Devil Pig owned everything, everywhere. All I had to figure out was when I was getting warmer. So, I began at the nearest store.

A young girl was working there. She was very unhappy. The Devil Pig was working her far too hard, and for very little money. I asked her why she didn't just quit.

"Quit?" she said. "And go where? The Devil Pig owns everything. It's the same thing, wherever you go."

"Why not start a business of your own?" I asked her.

"With what money?" she replied.

"Couldn't you save some, and start small?" I asked her.

"I would be two-hundred years old by the time I had enough," she told me.

"Listen," I said, leaning over the counter so no one else could hear, "Do you know where this Devil Pig is? Maybe I can get rid of him for you."

The girl looked really frightened. "I can't do that! He would find out. He would put his hex on me, and I would be an outcast, living out of dumpsters."

"Where is he?" I persisted.

She began to look a bit odd. And said, "None of your business."

"But it is my business," I told her. "Getting rid of him is my business. Why won't you just tell me where he is?"

Her eyes got really strange, and I knew I was on the right track. Especially when she said these words:

"Because the Devil Pig has so much money."

I left the store, and headed for the nearest mall. I would keep track of who reacted the strongest. This would surely point me in the direction of the Devil Pig.

In front of the mall were some young people who were panhandling for money. They had been blacklisted by the Devil Pig. And there was a disturbance as well. A police man was roughing these young people up, telling them they weren't allowed to do what they were doing. They were panhandling for money, so that they could eat.

"Why don't you leave them alone?" I said to the police man. "They are panhandling to get enough money so that they can eat."

"I can't," he replied vacantly.

"Why not?" I asked him.

"Pig's rules," he replied.

"The Devil Pig is nearby?" I asked incredulously.

"None of your business," he said, confirming the matter.

"That is wonderful news," I told him, "for I am here to kill the Devil Pig."

"You can't do that," he told me.

"Oh?" I replied, "And why not? He is, after all, just an ordinary pig, aside from the fact that he can talk, and his meat is too rancid to eat."

"Because," the police man told me, his eyes getting really strange, "the Devil Pig has so much money."

"Thank you very much for your assistance," I told him, and entered the mall. I must have looked much like my grandfather, all those years ago, when he marched into the town hall and blew the Devil Pig's brains all over the podium.

The people in the mall parted out of my way when they saw me coming, striding purposefully with a big gun in my hand. I suddenly realized that I didn't have to talk to the shop workers at all; I could tell by the way the crowd was acting that I was getting warmer, and warmer, coming ever closer to wherever the Devil Pig was hiding himself.

But then, a strange, awful thing happened. The people, totally at risk to themselves, began trying to block my way to the Devil Pig. This was especially frustrating, because I knew he was very, very close at hand; I could feel the heat of him, only a matter of feet or inches away.

As if on cue, came an unbidden memory of something the crazy old man had once said to me: 'The worst is when the Devil Pig becomes powerful enough to hide himself behind the weak and the innocent.'

Then, I heard the same voice, only this time, it was not a memory.

"You should have burned the money."

It was the crazy old man, who was standing behind me.

Burn the money? Maybe he really was crazy. How in the world could anyone burn so much money? And it wasn't just the money. It was everyone and everything, everywhere.

Then, a thought occurred to me, and I said,

"Wait just a dirty darned minute!"

I accosted the crazy old man angrily.

"No one ever heard of the Devil Pig until you started talking about him!"

"No one but my people, and they are all gone," he replied.

"Bad things didn't start happening until you started telling us they would!" I said.

"I was only trying to warn you," he said.

"What good is a warning you can't do anything about?" I said, sure I had him dead to rights now. "And if you knew something bad was going to happen, why didn't you just leave?"

"I stayed, so that I could warn others," he said defensively.

"What good," I repeated, "is a warning you can't do anything about? Now that I think about it, I don't think you meant to warn us at all. And now that I think about it, you and the Devil Pig are never around at the same time. And I know that he's very near. Which can only mean that You and the Devil Pig are one and the same."

He suddenly looked like a trapped animal, and I was sure I had him dead to rights. As my grandfather before me had done, I leveled the rife, and shot the old man right between the eyes.

-

I spent the next fifteen years in prison for killing that harmless, crazy old man.

They were a hard fifteen years. I gnawed my guilt and my hatred of the Devil Pig like an old bone; guilt and hatred were my only companions for a very long time.

During that time, I devised some wild and crazy schemes to dispatch the Devil Pig, once I got out. I even went so far as to plot to change the weather where I had lived, bringing perpetual winter to freeze the Devil Pig's wallows and drive him far away.

-

The time passed, and I did get out one day.

I took a look around, at what the Devil Pig had done, and I thought my heart would break.

But then, a small voice spoke up. It said, "Grandfather, why don't we just move, to a place far away, where the air is still clear? A poorer place than this, perhaps, but a place that the Devil Pig isn't interested in."

"I can't," I replied. "I must stay and fight the Devil Pig until the bitter end."

"But why, Grandfather? Must you let the rest of your life be ruled by hate?"

A breath of fresh air is a wonderful thing, and at that moment, I felt the touch of a cool, clean breeze in my hair, and on my face.

"Do you feel it?" I asked my granddaughter.

She smiled and took my hand. "Why don't we find out where it's coming from?"

And we did that.

Here ends The Devil Pig