False Redemption
Shelly Rae Rich

It was only Tuesday and the demons were dropping like oranges. A good revival delivered them to death, when the believers gathered and formed -- when the air hung thick, not only with the Holy Spirit, but also dripped with sweat and tears, anguish, sorrow, bargaining, longing. And always lots of loving forgiveness.
Sophie was an extraordinary demon, withstanding the passion of summer, she lingered into the fall and as the cold marched in. Resistance to her wiles paled as the winter took hold, frigid and icy, temptation an easier task. Her flavor changed for every fancy, every season; she was every man's ice cream, his folly, his Achilles heel. But this year, she was fading like a candlewick burned to its base.
In her best day, she could destroy the purest of young southern boys, those who smelled of ivory and Aqua-Velva, those like Jeremiah -- who examined his hands every day for warts because that's what his mother warned would happen if he kept on pleasuring himself in the dark, in the bathroom or behind the garage watching lightning bugs canvass the hilltops. Jeremiah didn't know how mother knew.
On Wednesday, three days into the revival, Sophie was thirsty. She felt something unusual, unordained and knew it wouldn't be long. The followers' intensity wore her down, with persistence it chiseled and whittled -- molding and shaping her into something she couldn't recognize.
She knew where Jeremiah hid himself after the revival meetings. She watched all week, as he rushed out into the sweltering summer nights and chastised himself, because as much as he loved Jesus, the sight of a young girl named Anna made him sizzle, flames searing every nerve of his eager body. He'd run into a grove of moss-covered trees, to the center where he'd enjoy the crickets and hang from the stars as he dreamt of lying with her.
Sophie was mesmerized, gazing as he unzipped his pants –  jerking, praying and shaking, eyes rolling back and he always, always ended on his knees with streams of tears and mouthfuls of gratitude. Something that felt so good, surely, surely was not evil. Sophie climbed up in a pear tree, and cast down its fruit. It was Thursday and the willows wept, and so did Sophie.
That last night of the revival she waited for him, lay in the spot he visited, clothing in flippant disarray on the damp grass. When he arrived, he greeted her with half-crazed praise, and certain she was a gift, his gift, his omen that sex was wonderful and blessed and ordained. But Sophie was not the one in his heart.
The moss was cool, and the crickets sang. Sophie closed her eyes, let them close with slow resignation. As her flesh turned to ash, a burn released her and she wondered what if. Her job was complete.
Jeremiah returned with Anna, and they loved in the soot while the wind tousled the leaves and dust, and a whirlwind of remains spiraled skyward. The singing ceased and violent thunder grumbled in the distance. The revival was over but there would be another winter.