Evan Quinlan

The Gatekeeper’s Eye

In Fiction, Mysticism, Short Stories on July 9, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Sigil of Baphomet


My family refused to speak to me about my grandfather.  He worshiped the devil—that much I’d gleaned from half-muttered sentences cut short in my presence—but my attempts to learn more met with firm reprobation and ultimately only my wild, untempered imaginings of what deplorable secrets my family kept from me remained.

Once, mildly intoxicated, my father spoke too loudly about my grandfather to some inquiring guests: obsessed with “seeing himself in Hell,” the old man left behind an impossible artifact which, years later, revealed an even more horrifying truth.

Now I hold that truth in my hands.

I gaze into a mirror pried from an old, locked chest in the attic.  A face, familiar but disfigured and screaming in silent torment, gazes back.

My grandfather didn’t see himself in Hell; he saw his grandson.


Some define art as expression of the imagination. I define it as the expression of ignorance. So often we label as “art” or “beauty” only things we cannot fully understand.

It follows that in seeking the impossible my grandfather trafficked with art dealers. What he found—a mirror with a jet-black surface looted from a shipwreck—has now made me a rich man. Scholars pay exorbitant sums to study what, once my grandfather activated it, transformed from a mirror into a window to my soul’s private Hell.

Swirling chardonnay, I watch my soul torn apart by demonic shapes again and again.
Every man must define “art” for himself. Empty, the window was art: beautiful; unknowable. Now it reveals too much; it divulges my eternal fate; un-unknowable.

What, then, is the opposite of art?


“It makes sense,” I replied. “Eternity is timeless. It follows that a soul condemned for eternity suffers even concurrently to its earthly life.”

“Astounding,” my guest breathed.

We gazed into an ornately framed pane resting on my mantle which, to the astonishment of the world, looked into my own private chamber in Hell.

My soul’s mangled body, encumbered by thick chains, struggled oddly.

“Is it trying to communicate?” asked my guest.

“I don’t think it can see us.”

I knew it could.

“You’re so calm.”

“What can I do? My fate’s decided.”

Yes, my soul was pointing…

…Pointing to my guest.

Then I understood.  My soul’s message was that my guest was the man who would send me to Hell.

I smiled at the mirror reassuringly.  Fate, it seemed, was not decided after all.


Television makes killing look easy.  “Just shoot him!” you might shout at the hero.  But murder entails consequence and conviction easily gives way to doubt.

(I’ve disemboweled six mannequins.)

Most people think killing is easiest if rationalized or justified.  But pulling a trigger or pushing a knife into flesh… these are not rational acts.

(I’ve attended six state executions.)

Human beings rely on experience; we’re memory machines. The simple trick, as with anything, is practice.

(I’ve strangled six cats.)

But as I disembowel this corpse I find myself rationalizing anyway. Was it truly self-defense? The man had done nothing to me… but he would have if given the chance. I was in a unique position to know that.

Well, I would have an entire lifetime, now, to practice rationalizing. And practice does make perfect.


The Father of Lies is named so because sins are miscommunications between the mind and soul.

Upon my mantle sits a black mirror.

I returned home, clothes splattered with another man’s blood, only to find that the mirror no longer showed, as it once did, my soul languishing in Hell.  My heart leaped.  Had I, by killing my future killer, avoided damnation—escaped being sent to my account, like the elder Hamlet, with all my imperfections on my head?

For a long time I thought so.  Now… I understand the truth.

Swirling chardonnay, I gaze into the mirror at the reflection that is still the image of my condemned soul.  It stands, as I do, within the confines of a lush apartment, doomed to an eternity in Hell for the murder of an innocent man.

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