A short while ago my English teacher gave us an assignment to re-write the classic story The Devil and Tom Walker. Here’s my version...
Past the mall, and the houses, and the fields, and the woods, there was an old shack. An old hermit used to live there by himself with his pet llama, Steve. Nobody has gone to see him in a few years, so no one was sure if he was still there or even alive. Most people thought he was crazy and left him alone. Tommy wasn’t most people though.
Tommy’s parents got divorced when he was still a baby, and went to live with his mother. She got remarried when he was ten or so, and his stepfather was abusive to both him and his mother. He became an alcoholic, and drove the family into poverty. Slowly, Tommy’s mom became like his stepfather. Eventually, both his parents were drunks who hit him.
One day after a fight with his girlfriend, actually, that term should be used loosely since Tommy didn’t have much choice in the matter. She forced him into it, not by blackmail or anything like that, but actual force. She was manlier than most of the guys in that town and she picked poor Tommy to be her own. But after fighting, and losing to her, Tommy walked off in anger into the woods not knowing or caring where he went.
After a few hours of walking aimlessly through the woods, he came across a path. It wasn’t much of a path, Tommy wasn’t even sure it was one. If it was, however, it hadn’t been used in years. He knew going left would bring him back to town, and he wasn’t sure where right would lead him, if anywhere at all. He reluctantly chose the right, and trekked on.
It was a little past noon when he came across an old, weather-beaten, shack. He was about to knock on the door that looked like it would fall over as soon as he hit it, but before he could a scruffy voice bellowed behind him, telling him not to move. He heard what sounded like a shotgun being loaded and sweat began pouring down his forehead. He began thinking the past 15 seconds over in his head. He didn’t see any signs that said “No trespassing.” He hadn’t actually done anything to warrant being shot. Then again, if the owner of the shack was really as crazy as people say then it probably wouldn’t matter to him if Tommy had done anything or not and shoot him just the same. Tommy thought he was done for.
The man told him not to move, not that he could anyways. Tommy was paralyzed by fear as the old man walked closer. He grunted to clear his throat and put another shell into the gun. More sweat poured down Tommy’s face. He could feel his shirt being saturated by sweat from his head and pits. The old man kept coming closer and closer to Tommy who was trying his hardest not to break into a panic and run. The old man was right behind Tommy now, gun to his back...
Then, suddenly, a hoarse laugh broke out from the old man. He walked over and slapped Tommy on the back as if what he did was the funniest thing ever, although, to the old man it probably was.
The old man went into the shack and returned with 2 cups of tea in the most amazing looking cups Tommy had ever seen. Tommy couldn’t quite figure out how the old man had gotten them. He finally got the courage to speak again, and immediately started asking questions before the old man even had time to answer them. He asked if he was the hermit, where he got the cups from, how old he was, and many other things. The old man just looked at him and slowly answered his questions. He said he was the fabled hermit, and said he got the cups through a “trade” of sorts, and answered the rest of the questions Tommy had.
The old hermit fascinated Tommy and before he knew it, it was almost dusk. He left, promising to come back tomorrow after school. As he left, the old hermit laughed to himself.
After a few visits the old hermit asked Tommy a question. He asked what it is he wanted most. Tommy had no answer; and he sat there thinking about his life. His facial expression changed and he looked angry. The hermit smirked and said to Tommy, “Thinkin’ ‘bout your step-dad, eh?” Tommy was dumbfounded, he hadn’t told the hermit about his stepfather before, and the hermit hasn’t left these woods for over 20 years so there was no possible way to know about it. He stuttered a yes, and looked down at the ground.
The hermit told Tommy he could make his step-dad go away if he signed the paper he pulled out of his pocket. The hermit handed the paper to Tommy and said it was his choice. Tommy didn’t even have to think about it, he wanted to sign. The hermit handed him a pen for Tommy to sign it. As he signed, he noticed the odd color of the ink, red. He didn’t think about it for long as he was overjoyed about the thought of his stepfather leaving. He didn’t care how it would be done, just that it would be. He started to run off for home, but the old hermit stopped him. He said there would be a price that would have to be paid in full. Tommy said yes not caring what the price was, and started for home again. He didn’t get far before the old hermits llama got in the way of the path, and suddenly the hermit was right behind him.
When Tommy turned around the hermit said to him, with breath smelling like death itself, he would collect his fee when he was called. Tommy wasn’t sure what he meant by this, and had to turn away to take a breathe of fresh air. When he turned back, the hermit, llama, and shack were gone. He was just holding a cup and a piece of paper. He slowly turned to the path and started on his way home.
When he arrived back in town, he heard sirens coming from the direction of his house. Before he knew what he was doing he was running and in what seemed like a second he was standing in front of his house, or at least what was left of it. It had burned to the ground. Police and firemen said it didn’t look like arson or electrical problems and had no idea how it started. The more religious neighbors said it was like the flames of hell came up and consumed the house. Most people disregarded that as crazy talk from senile church-goes, but not Tommy.
His stepmother rushed over to him in tears. His stepfather had been in the house sleeping, and nobody saw him come out. She didn’t know what happened until a cop came over and told them the news. Tommy was shocked; he realized what he had done, and whom he had been dealing with this entire time.
His mother and he went to his aunt’s house to stay for the night. After all, their house burned down. Tommy sat alone in one of the bedrooms and opened the paper given to him by the hermit. He had signed over the one and only thing he had left, his soul.
The agreement was that his soul would only be taken when Tommy called for the hermit. Tommy thought it would be easy enough to never do that. There are other words besides “devil” to use. For years Tommy lived his life always being aware to never say that word, and for years he did. He became a lawyer and became part of a large firm. Much later in his life he was in the case of the century, defending an accused murderer. Many months into the trial, he was angry at how people were still convinced he was the murderer that people sought and burst out to the jurors, “If this man killed that boy then have the devil take him now!”
Just then, he realized what he said. A hoarse laugh broke out in the back of the court, and Tom knew who it was. Flames shot out from the ground and consumed both he and the accused criminal. Then, in a fiery burst of light, all three were gone.
There were no marks where the flames had been, and no trace of the three men. What there was, though, was an eerie vibe throughout the entire courthouse. In later years, it was abandoned after reports of ghosts and things of that sort. Though that was never proven, at the same time everyday, exactly when the three disappeared, there was a scream and the roar of flames.
Smitty-Boy is pretty cool with the whole Dark Side bit.