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Swear to God the Devil Made Me Do It

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Open on DOCTOR FAUSTUS and the demon MEPHISTOPHELES, alone in FAUSTUS’ OFFICE.

When the gambolling caricature of a woman cavorted away as quickly as she had appeared, Faustus sank to his knees in misery. “Here’s a hot whore indeed!” he cried out, his voice trembling with raw disgust. “No, I’ll no wife!” Taking his head in his hands, he began to weep, wracking his bent body with sobs.

So carried away by anguish was he that, failing to notice the presence behind him until it made itself known by a hand on his shoulder, he started upright again at the touch. Kneeling at his back, now, was his faithful Mephistopheles—that pliant devil, obedient and humble as he waited upon Faustus’ every charge. The demon leant forward, long arms gently encircling the doctor’s shoulders and pulling him back to rest against his chest. Faustus threw his head back carelessly onto Mephistopheles’ clavicle, clutching at his hand with a desperation borne of years spent alone and passion thwarted. It was curiously soft to the touch, but those long fingers curled around his own and gripped them with a strength not hinted at by their uncalloused texture.

“Marriage is but a ceremonial toy, and, if thou lov’st me… think no more of it,” Mephistopheles murmured, breath hot on Faustus’ ear. That gentle voice sent shivers through him, setting his skin crawling deliciously down his neck and spine, and coaxing forth a flush of heat yet lower. He could hear the teeth-bared knife of a smile creeping into Mephistopheles’ voice as he continued: “She whom thy eye shall like, thy heart shall have, were she as beautiful as bright Lucifer before his fall.”

Suddenly Faustus threw Mephistopheles’ arms from where they rested about his shoulders and surged upright, back stiff with anger and mouth twisted into a sneer. The demon’s smile melted back into the usual sullen set of his features as he languidly rose to outmatch Faustus’ height. “Curse thee, wicked Mephistopheles,” Faustus spat, grabbing the lapels of his black velvet coat with an impulsive surge of ferocity and pulling him close until they were merely a breath away. Bright eyes met his own from under half-lowered eyelids and brows drawn close, and his voice fell to a bare breath above a whisper, as though it had been snatched away. “Because thou hast depriv’d me of those joys.”

“Ay, of necessity, for here’s the scroll in which thou hast given thy soul to Lucifer—ay, and body too!” The smile was back again, and Mephistopheles’ elegant hands had risen to caress Faustus’ jaw on either side, although one crept slowly around his neck to twine into his hair. Catching his breath in a gasp, Faustus cast Mephistopheles away from him. He stumbled for the space of two or three steps before regaining his straight-legged composure and sketching in Faustus’ direction a floppy, mocking bow.

Bitterly, Faustus turned away. “I tell thee I am damned and now in hell. When I behold the heavens, then I repent,” he said, the words carrying an edge unlike any Mephistopheles had heard from him during their acquaintance.

He strode over to the doctor’s side, the swift steps in which his long legs carried him graceful despite his oddly rigid gait. Mephistopheles was hesitant, this time, to gather Faustus into his arms, but stood close, that his presence may bring some comfort to his despairing master. “’Twas thine own seeking, Faustus; thank thyself,” he said softly, the smile fading from his voice. The doctor scoffed, leaving his back turned, but undaunted Mephistopheles continued to speak. “Think’st thou heaven is such a glorious thing? I tell thee, Faustus, it is not half so fair as thou.”

Although his voice had been sympathetic, it was tinged now with something else, and that enticing note prompted Faustus to finally turn about and face the demon. “How prov’st thou that?” he asked in the barest whisper, as though he was afraid of the question or, indeed, its answer.

“I shall attempt, which is but little worth—” and as Faustus parted his lips in the first imaginings of a protest, Mephistopheles laid upon them one finger and he was silenced. The demon cupped Faustus’ cheek with that same hand, tilting his chin upward, and twined the opposing arm about the doctor’s waist so as to draw him close and hold him with a grip that was nigh on bruising. Into his ear, Mephistopheles whispered words for him alone: “This, or what else my Faustus shall desire, shall be perfom’d in twinkling of an eye.”

Taking Faustus’ face now in both hands, Mephistopheles bent his head and pressed a kiss onto those dark locks. At some time during this exchange the doctor’s arms had found purpose in clutching Mephistopheles, as might a drowning man’s his only chance of salvation. Now, he felt as though his grip upon the devil was all that was keeping him upright; and that, if it were loosed, he may well collapse to his knees. Drawing from some hidden well deep within him, Faustus found the strength of will to fix his legs in place and, pulling back—although his hands still firmly grasped those strong shoulders—opened his eyes, which had fallen closed without his awareness.

“One thing, good servant, let me crave of thee, to glut the longing of my heart’s desire: whose sweet embraces may extinguish clean those thoughts that do dissuade me; that I may have unto my paramour…” Unbidden, he trailed off, rendered utterly without faculty of speech by the piercing gaze with which Mephistopheles had fixed him. When he spoke, it was without the affectation which was in his manner so constantly present that, in its absence, Faustus felt as though he were faced with a creature altogether foreign to his knowing.

“Then, Faustus, stab thine arm courageously, and I will give thee more than thou hast wit to ask.” With these words, Mephistopheles produced from some hidden pocket of his coat a dagger, simple in its working yet elegant of line and proportion, and gleaming with a wickedly sharp edge. Trembling with some intoxicating concoction of fear and anticipation, Faustus unfixed his hands from their positions upon Mephistopheles’ shoulders and reached out to take the blade with his right hand, holding the other before him with its palm toward the heavens.

Gently, almost reverently, Mephistopheles took Faustus’ outstretched hand in both of his, unlacing the cuff of his sleeve and drawing it up to expose the milky skin of his forearm. In a moment that seemed to last forever, and during which neither of the pair as much as drew breath, the doctor brought his right hand down with surgical precision to draw a long, shallow line from his wrist to just a hair short of the crease of his elbow. He wavered only once, the blade skewing off its course to carve deep in a testament to Faustus’ pain, as tendons stood out in sharp relief and nails cut crescents into his palm, but he regained control and carried the motion smoothly to its end.

Letting the dagger clatter to the floor and his arm fall limp into the cradle of Mephistopheles’ hands, Faustus stared at the blood bright on his skin as though bewitched. Raising his eyes to meet the devil’s, which had not wavered in their focus nor blinked even once, his lips, pale from being pressed so hard together but rapidly now flushing with blood, parted almost of their own accord and he spoke. “Lo, Mephistopheles, for love of thee, view here this blood that trickles from mine arm, and let it be propitious for my wish.”

With those words the tension between the two, which had accumulated so much as to be heavy on the tongue, shattered all at once. Mephistopheles, eyes still fixed on Faustus’, raised upright his yielding arm so that the blood all trickled down to collect in the crease of his elbow and drip down to collect on the floor. As the pool of red grew at their feet, Mephistopheles inclined his head and touched his lips, almost tenderly, to Faustus’ wrist. He trailed kisses down in parallel with the rent in Faustus’ skin until, reaching his destination, he extended his long and pointed tongue to catch the blood still dripping.

In such a fashion, with teeth bared in a grin and cutting himself off several times to leave the marks of kisses in his wake with red-painted lips, Mephistopheles skilfully drew his tongue up to Faustus’ wrist, drinking his blood with intense and single-minded delight. Once he had had his fill, he drew away once more and fell to his knee before Faustus. Words then spilled from between teeth stained with blood as Faustus looked on, affixed by his stare.

“O, thou art fairer than the evening air, clad in the beauty of a thousand stars; brighter art thou than flaming Jupiter when he appear’d to hapless Semele; more lovely than the monarch in the sky in wanton Arethusa’s azur'd arms!”

While Mephistopheles spoke, a flush had risen in Faustus’ cheeks, contrary to the blood now trickling down his fingers to colour Mephistopheles’ where he still held his hand. Now, Faustus bent to caress his cheek with his right hand before taking a bruising hold at the nape of his neck, quick as a viper’s strike. He drew Mephistopheles upright and, in the next instant, their mouths were upon each other. His devil’s tongue tasted of salt and rust, and it was the most intoxicating flavour Faustus had ever known. When finally the two broke apart with panting breath, Faustus noted with satisfaction the blood now smeared across Mephistopheles’ mouth and chin, and the fresh trickle of it from where Faustus’ teeth had cut into his lip.

“And none but thou shalt be my paramour!"