Mephisto dans le Métro

It appears, as if from nowhere, as the door hisses open. It lifts one leg slowly to reach the elevated floor of the carriage and slams down a studded boot to announce its arrival. It is adorned with the noisy fetishes and symbols of protest. They scream, ‘Look at me!’, and the commuters are compelled to comply. In the sweep of a turning head they see it all: the black and silver; the textile and metal; the glorified wounds; all the painstaking effort. It’s Saturday night and the curtain is up.

It could be female, but no one can be sure – this is an emergent species, and its gender has little to do with its pent-up rage. Rusted bolts weigh down its earlobes into elongated piercings, cosmetically accentuated to appear inflamed and painful. Each ear is ribbed with silver rings; a dozen or more at irregular spacings and angles. One cheek is punched through with twin, silver spurs that spin and glint in the fluoro lights as it rotates its head in predatory scans of the carriage. Charcoal is plastered in a continuous black mask from ear to ear, inking all the skin of the temples and eye sockets from cheekbone to eyebrow – a wayward Robin separated from Batman. Behind hooded lids, black pupils loll in white eyeballs, in a desperate imitation of demonic reverie.

But within those charcoaled sockets, the lashes have been carefully sprinkled with silver, and they flash like fireflies in the chemical light of the carriage.

Its face, neck and shoulders are dusted white to conceal the natural pallor and texture of the skin. One could easily imagine scales hidden beneath the caked lime – a thought giving rise to a shudder of revulsion. Greasy, lank hair, the colour of filamentous algae, hangs down to naked shoulder blades and adheres to any surface it touches. Mock blood trails over its chin in tapering dribbles, diminishing down the neck and chest, and disappearing beneath a tightly laced bodice of ripped, black vinyl. The garment is stretched as tight as a drum skin, obliterating evidence of breasts or pectorals.

Both arms are loosely swaddled in tattered medical dressings, stained with what might easily be real blood. Emerging from these unfurling bandages, are grotesque green claws, tipped with bright red nails, long enough to be talons. The chin, throat and hands are skilfully rendered to look as if their owner has just finished feeding on the still-beating heart of a vanquished enemy. Below each armpit and visible through the open lacing of the bodice, inflamed wounds have been graphically enhanced with fresh sutures, pinching and puckering the skin.

It wears jeans, black and shredded, tight and filthy. The unzipped fly gapes wide, releasing a straight, blond quiff to cascade all the way to the knees. At the end of this shock of fugitive hair, rusty nuts have been tied. They clack and scrape against each other as the creature stalks the length of the carriage, growling and hissing at those already occupying hard-won seats. Each step resounds with a harsh scrape from the rows of steel studs hammered into the soles of the laced-up bovver boots.

As disturbing as this creature is, the single, most garish fetish leading the assault on the minds of everyone in the carriage, rests on its chest, radiating metaphorical horror. This lurching car wreck is proudly sporting a blood-spattered, rubber gas mask hanging on a chain around its neck. Functional fittings have been replaced with copper studs, already oxidized with verdigris. Its choked filter discs are labelled with spinning symbols for nuclear radiation.

In this place, at this time, in a carriage filled with commuters, the mask screams a media feedback loop of the Sarin gas attack in a Tokyo subway. It howls in protest over rows of body bags strafed by the telescopic lens of a hungry news camera; and it whispers the mystified anguish of survivors, orphaned in the gruesome aftermath. This mask is the deepest outrage the creature has on offer, but its full impact is delayed until the train, crammed with its innocent citizens, departs with what now feels like unholy urgency.

The train of six, sealed canisters, articulated to form a gleaming, electrified worm, dips between the tapering, concrete walls of the entrance bunker and begins devouring the darkness of the tunnel. All souls aboard feel the forward rush of helpless abandon. The walls of the tunnel close in around them, until barely an arm’s stretch from the ribbed skin of the carriage. The flashes of the passing alcove lights semaphore a message of imminent danger. The only way out is forward, into the darkness, channelled by two steel rails that clatter and grind like the bent and pitted casket runners of a broken-down hearse.

Trapped in the scrolling sign riveted to the ceiling above, restless orange diodes conspire with the moaning dark-angel, by announcing a foreboding warning that their first encounter with the underworld will be Porte du Diable.

The carriage bores onwards into the dark tunnel, pulsating with a gagged chorus of unleashed phobias and rising panic attacks. Up and down, the robotic creature prowls, like a mechanical orchestra conductor energized by the magnetic field of the electric motors. The sea of bodies shrinks back to make way for this harbinger of cultural evolution, spitting its warnings and staring down an unresponsive world.

But Mephisto always knows the score – there will be no response from these mute and blinkered souls. They will sit rigidly to attention in their seats as they rocket forward into the night, their eyes and mouths resolutely shut.

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Mephisto on the Metro
A gothic tale from the rail

This grotesque piece of prose has been posted to honour (can that possibly be the right word?) the wonderful Lucifer meets… series of digital artworks by Dwarkan
I was invited to post a Mephisto meets Lucifer story by Dwarkan in his reply to one of my more impulsive comments ;-)
However, I could not bring myself to allow Mephisto and Lucifer to occupy the same space at the same time for fear of bringing an end to this beautiful world as we know it.
So Dwarkan, please be content with knowing that Lucifer will be waiting at Métro, Porte du Diable to take charge of the souls being delivered so reliably by his “friend” Mephisto. He waits, in whatever form the reader likes to attribute to him, with a warm handshake and clear directions to their well heated accommodation.
And thank you so much for providing the catalyst that I needed to resolve this story into something I was happy with. It would not be posted here if it were not for the ideas behind your “Lucifer meets…” series. Merci beaucoup comme toujours :-))

Mephisto has many different roles in myth, legend and literature, but my interpretation in this story is that Mephistopheles is really Satan’s little helper – he does not corrupt men, but serves them, and by so doing, confirms those who are already damned and finally delivers their souls to Lucifer.

I must confess to having gone quite overboard with the descriptive prose in this short story – I indulged myself! Please forgive. It was inspired by someone I saw on the train once, wearing “the object of metaphorical horror” in the story! I hope we can all remain friends after you read this ;-))
I do not recommend reading this on a full stomach. If you do happen to see a creature such as this enter your train carriage, I strongly recommend you get off, walk across the street and spend the afternoon drinking in the pub.
Please visit Dwarkan’s remarkable four part study of Lucifer meets… – you’ll never think of the old spoilsport the same way again (Lucifer that is, not Dwarkan!).
The light bearer

Lucifer meets Venus

Woe to him who seeks the truth

Gotcha !

To reveal art and conceal the artist,
is art’s aim.

Oscar Wilde – “The Picture of Dorian Gray”

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  • 1more photo
    1more photoover 3 years ago

    Wowwwwwwww, Rhoufi!!!!!
    I know how much inspiring my beloved city can be …
    And I am so pleased you discovered its “red” side…
    Who knows who such a creature can be …
    Maybe me !!!!!

    A new colour in your writing ;-)
    A great one !!!!! I want some more !!!!!

    Great text, haunting image, a fabulous tribute to a wonderfull artist and soul …

  • Merci, Magali,
    your city inspires all colours of the Spectrum from Blue through to Red (a la French history!). But you being Mephisto… no I cannot imagine that ;-))) Jeanne d’Arc, peut-être? ;-)))

    And yes Dwarkan’s story paintings are marvellous; I wanted to post this as a way of saying so in more words than just a comment.
    Merci, encore,
    à bientôt

    – Rhoufi

  • Dwarkan
    Dwarkanover 3 years ago

    Dear Rhoufi !!! I don’t know how to thanks you !!!!!!!!!!!!
    You did it !!!!! This great gothic story explains perfectly why I didn’ take the “Metro” since 20 years now… I know Mephisto is here, doing his day to day job for my friend Lucifer… the funny thing is that the "Porte du Diable " station is at once the most crowded one and the least known in Paris !!!
    Thanks so much my dear friend for these great words about my work… you make me blush…..

  • Cher Dwarkan,

    it was my pleasure to post this for you after seeing your Lucifer Series, not just because the best way to acknowledge someone’s wonderful art is to give a gift of your own, but because I knew you would understand the “push and pull” of this story that produced its underlying meaning. You are wise to avoid le Métro because every underground has its “Porte du Diable”, it’s portal to the underworld, and its Mephisto. Did you know that the Melbourne underground is also called The Metro? You can see it in my photo Métro de Melbourne. I think it is operated by the same company as the Paris Métro. So now we know where Mephisto goes for his holidays ;-))

    You must not blush, your work deserves the best words. I enjoy it very much.
    à bientôt

    – Rhoufi

  • Evelyn Bach
    Evelyn Bachover 3 years ago

    Fabulous work, Rhoufi, and a wonderful tribute. What incredible depths did you dive into to emerge grasping these images!!! Its not easy to sustain this level of intensity, but you mange it superbly. And yes, a new colour for you, I think!

  • Thank you Evelyn. Depths? All I need to do is travel by train and stay awake!!!! ;-) No, my experiences on trains are weird enough to fuel this kind of pearl diving, believe me. Seeing someone wearing a military gas mask as a fashion accessory on a commuter train really disturbed me and provided some of the extra fuel to burn in this story. To sustain this intensity I need to do it quickly, have a strong, underlying idea, and then write to hide that idea at all costs. But to be honest, this was really experimental writing for me, and I was not sure my readers would go there with me. But I do need to hoist new colours now, I’m pretty sure of that. Thank you for your wonderful comment.

    – Rhoufi

  • abigcat
    abigcatover 3 years ago

    Wow! Rhoufi, what a trip, from Porte du Diable, Metro de Melbourne and Through another persons eyes.
    Exactly what has happened I’m not sure, the inside of my head is spinning around, a whole series of memories and impressions from realising that Paris is a city meant to wander around in rather than Metroing, to Dwarkans’ art, whatever your impulsive comment was, the comments above me here, the comments on the other pictures, the shiny melbourne Metro looking like a huge new boy toy and on and on.
    Well done friend :-))

  • Thank you so much BC. I was very wary about posting this story, but Dwarkan’s Lucifer Series really resolved many thing about it I had struggled with. It was the catalyst I needed to resolve the story and feel good about it.

    And Paris really is meant for walking. The Metro is fast and furious and gets you everywhere, but really walking is so good. Eyes open, camera in hand and taking your time.

    I am fascinated by the way one artist’s work can motivate me to do something I have found difficult; it’s that cross fertilization process that makes it happen.

    You are right “boy toys”. Follow the pointers, just go and follow and discover, that’s the trick isn’t it; be the child again :-))))))

    – Rhoufi

  • JanT
    JanTover 3 years ago

    Active verbs and verdigris gripped me. A fast read to make certain I could “stomach” this after your warning, and now I must read more slowly. Exquisite creativity!

  • JanT
    JanTover 3 years ago

    Before diving back into your vivid imagination to reread, I must tell you that I’ll regard my beloved Mephisto boots differently now. Mephisto repairs them when I ship them across the pond; we’ve shared many a mountain—sans gas mask, of course.

  • Thank you Jan. It seems I may not have scared anyone off after all. It was fun to write, but I couldn’t pull it together until I saw Dwarkan’s Lucifer Series. Mephisto (Mefisto in the US, I’m afraid) means many things to many people. For the life of me I cannot imagine why a shoe company would use that name!!!

    – Rhoufi

  • JanT
    JanTover 3 years ago

    Mefisto in the US, I’m afraid

    I’m not familiar with that spelling, R. To which do you refer?

  • Well the copy of John Banville’s “Mefisto” that I am reading now was published in the US, so I assumed that the US spelling was with an “f”. …. But on further investigation the UK title also has an “f” even though the blurb on the back has the word “Mephistophelian” spelt with a “ph”. So… your questioning leads me to think that Banville deliberately used an “f” because his Mephistophelian character in the novel is named *F*elix. So I must remove the slur on the American spelling and read on to find out the truth. Many thanks, Madam Editor. You are as always, “on the job” and I am very appreciative that you are :-)))

    – Rhoufi

  • JanT
    JanTover 3 years ago

    I was just confused, not having seen that spelling. How do I dislodge this damn editorial eye?
    You can “slur” all you want, R ;) For example, I don’t know why Americans took the “u” out of words such as colour and favourite—to save ink in printing presses?

    But back to your story and the new colour of your writing, that gas mask and nuclear radiation labels and Sarin gas evoke the most realistic aspect and lend a genuine horror to the fate of the train. Haunting images throughout, R.

  • Why fight it, Jan. To read with a critical eye is not a bad thing especially when you provide constructive advice. Remember when you picked up my “gentile” when “genteel” was intended – was I glad you did!!!!

    The US “way” has always surprised me, not the least of which is your US Gallons being 0.833 times the English Gallon – I mean WHY????
    But my pet hate is the use of double inverted commas “….” to signify dialogue in novels when we use singles ‘……’ and reserve the doubles for quotations. It’s so much cleaner and less ambiguous. Ho hum, my hobbyhorse!!! ;-)))

    Thank you for noticing the “new colour”. There are some who believe that these modern flavours of horror visited on the world are what we deserve for creating them, and so they are “in tune” with our modern sensibilities, and therefore create genuine fear. Each generation seems to have a worse horror than the last. I find it gets more unacceptable everyday. Oh, let’s not go there :-(

    Thank you again for your wonderful attention, Jan, I really appreciate it.

    – Rhoufi

  • 1more photo
    1more photoover 3 years ago

    Jeanne d’Arc ?
    Do you want I get in trouble with my english friends ?

    We all have a little devilish side …
    Hopefully we do …
    A little black angel with red wings???

  • Ah ha, Magali – the English have forgotten about that, they think Jeanne d’Arc is cool these days (ever since Jean Simmons played her in the old movie!)
    I think we are all better when we give into our little devil every now and again – just so long as you get off Mephisto’s train before you reach Porte du Diable. We don’t want to lose you to the Dark Side ;-)))

    Merci, Madame Magali :-)))

    – Rhoufi

  • Ushna Sardar
    Ushna Sardarover 3 years ago

  • You featured this story, oh wow Ushna, really???? Boy that makes me feel good. Can’t say why, it just does. Thank you.

    – Rhoufi

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