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by Stephen Regan

You’re in my territory again — in the place I call Hell’s Waiting Room, my local pub.

But you seem diminished now, just a bit. It’s as if memories of your bad eminence have faded from the minds of men, and you’re missing all that. I’m watching you. You’re opting for stealth over sneering now, eschewing your former dark glamour.

I’m sure it’s you. I’ve had your attention before, in the sensual frenzy of London. Oh, how you loved to push my terror buttons two decades ago! But even back then I clocked your justified pride, your infernal power, as you glittered, swelled, throbbed — but failed to draw any sort of climax from me.

Seeing you now, supping with the wounded in this provincial shithole, I sense your confidence is shaken … but just a tad. You still give the impression of being mainly untroubled — by gates never to prevail, and all that stuff you always scorned. You’re immortal still, I intuit, and your war against God, well, it would take a lot to replace that as history’s sexiest saga!

Your ambitions are more-or-less intact, too, I’m guessing, even to the point of regaining Paradise, though I wouldn’t rely on that happening any time soon, eh Lu?

You drain your glass. Beryl the barmaid asks if you’d like a final large red. You wink at her and say, “Might as well throw one down me.”

You turn to me, wink again. You say, “And one for my old friend, Steve, here. Yeah! Stevie boy, named for the Protomartyr, a man full of God’s grace and power. Whatcha having, Steve?” Another wink.

I look at Beryl and say just one word. “No.” I raise my upturned palm towards her.

I turn my hand around, cross myself, walk out of Hell’s Waiting Room.

Stephen Regan is the founder of the Liver Bards poetry group in Liverpool. His poems are published in Envoi, Best of Manchester Poets Vol. 2, Reach Poetry, Killing the Angel, The Provo Canyon Review, DoveTales and The Poet’s Haven Digest. His poem Red-bricked is part of a permanent art display at Wallgate rail station in his home town of Wigan. His flash fiction has been published by Flash Fiction Magazine, National Flash Fiction Day and Spelk Fiction.

Stephen is also a journalist. He was a columnist on the Hull Daily Mail and wrote a daily satirical fiction serial called “Partners” for the Today newspaper. For 12 years he also wrote a national column for ITV Oracle and Teletext, as “Sam Brady: The Man They Can’t Gag!”