The Princess of Asmodee by Geoffrey Marshall

Cruisin’ down the road in her car — a pale blue slug slaloming along the blacktop sine wave. We head towards the gigantic red sun that swallows half the sky. Her hands are on the wheel, the polychromatic luster of her enameled nails keeps catching my eye. The windows are rolled down and her chin-length caramel hair is wild in the cool wind.

She has on an oversized off-the-shoulder cable knit sweater —her deeply tanned shoulders contrast against the ivory fabric. A huge pair of Gucci tortoise shell sunglasses with gradient tinted lenses obscure her eyes. She smiles and sings along with the radio to a song that doesn’t matter, except in this moment.

All I smell is ocean.

Gaudy roadside attractions fly by like a runaway carousel — mini golf, souvenir shops, those kinda places. The road to the cape is a road of many things. They tell a lot of stories about this road. They say a flying saucer landed on the road once — back in the seventies — and held up traffic for an hour, the great gangway opening up and slamming onto the pavement with a loud clang. Disappointingly, the aliens declined to disembark. Instead the unimpressed visitors slammed the door shut and buzzed away, leaving behind a circular indentation in the asphalt as the only proof of their visit.

We pull up to a small, square building, painted white, but not recently — the Marine Museum. There is a lime green plastic picnic table in front and a teenager wearing a navy pleated skirt and white blouse watches us climb out of the car while a cigarette dangles from her lips. Nancy — according to her name tag.

“It’s open,” she says, brushing ashes from her blouse. We stop, about to speak but she gets there first. “I’m on break,” she waves vaguely at the door. We climb the concrete steps to the door and enter, the attached chime announces our arrival to the vacant museum.

The entry hall is brightly lit, with dark laminate flooring and white painted walls lined with watercolors by local artists — light houses, rocky coastlines, seabirds. Most of the exhibits consist of bits and pieces of nautical debris — tarnished brass spyglasses and signaling lanterns.  A ship’s wheel is mounted on the wall, wood cracked with age. The final room is a diorama done up to look like the study of a retired ship’s captain from bygone days. Dusty trinkets line curio cabinets and ancient threadbare furniture sits squat and ugly against the wall, along with a timeworn nautical desk, complete with quill and ink.

A curious object sits innocuously in the corner on a small table. A small piece of rope. That’s all it is. And beside it rests a yellow time stained card bearing a description written with black ink in sinuous cursive:

Section of rope used for the last public hanging performed on the island — 1927.

A newspaper clipping hangs in a frame on the wall beside the relic. I read the article until a jarring voice beside my ear makes me jump, “Pretty creepy huh?” Nancy, her breath smells of cigarettes. She continues, “He killed them with a hammer. Snapped the handcuffs when the police caught him too, like they were nothin’.”

I stagger away from the breath, making for the door as a feeling of dizziness comes on strong. “Like they were nothin’,” Nancy repeats as I barge through the exit.

 She is already in the car with her tortoiseshells on. “Fucking creepy place,” she says.

On the road again, we pass the ferry terminal. And there she is — the Princess of Asmodee. There is a line of maybe a hundred cars and a dozen tractor trailers, waiting their turn to trundle into the belly of the large ferry. Puffs of diesel waft from her smokestack as she sits there, idling in place. She takes a little over two hours to reach the mainland, and she makes the trip twice a day. But this is not our destination.

The road continues and turns to gravel. For most people the ferry terminal is the last point of interest on the road, but there is another — the cape itself, a rocky, wild, arrow of land jutting into the ocean. Soon we see the lighthouse — a graceful white tower topped by a lantern room and a red roof. We stop in an empty unpaved parking lot, tires kicking up a cloud of dust that is immediately caught up in the brisk wind and swept out to sea.

The trees and bushes are stunted, I suppose, from the near constant bombardment of wind — the same wind that drives the row of wind turbines that follow the coastline south like a chorus line of kaiju mantis brooding over the low purple mountains.

We walk down a narrow path towards the rocks. The tide is high and the great waves are smashing the sun bleached coast with enormous crashing breakers that send white water spraying high in the air, creating short-lived curtains in front of the sun. The moist salt wind blows her hair across her face, she brushes it back in place but it doesn’t last.

She spreads out the blanket and we both settle down, laying back, staring at the sky. I sometimes come here during low tide to check out the tidal pools. The shallow pools sit in the enormous rocks, like rough bowls worn down by the millennia of wind and water. When the tide waters recede, the pools become the temporary refuge for all manner of sea creature, otherwise stranded above the water line. Crabs scuttle under shaggy heaps of seaweed, desperate to hide from the spiraling seagulls.

The seagulls have this trick where they face into the wind and glide forward letting the gusts push them back so the net effect is that they hover in place, carefully adjusting their pitch, yaw and roll with minute ripples of their feathers.

A low sound rolls out over the water along the cape. With long bursts from its horn the ferry signals its departure as it leaves the wharf. Soon it will round the cape into our line of sight.

The sun has come down even more, closer to the horizon now and the warm orange liquid sunlight falls on her tanned face. She smiles a lot and I enjoy looking at her straight teeth, with their slightly feral upper canines.

Something her friend told me, not two days before, crosses my mind.

“She killed a dog,” the friend had said.

I must not have seemed suitably dumbfounded, so she persisted, “With her car.”

I merely blinked. What was I supposed to say to this anyway?

“On purpose.”

“What?” finally I choked out a question.

“She told her parents it was an accident, but she told me later she meant to do it. Don’t ask me why, she can be a little crazy.”

At last I see the ferry, churning through the rough water off the cape, heading straight for the sun. The horn sounds again and the relentless drone resonates in my bones. I can see a crowd on the upper deck. We both stand and wave our arms in the air, unsure if we are visible to the distant travelers but doing it anyway because that is what we have always done when we see the ferry.

The sun sets lower and the air is colder and we watch the ferry grow smaller in the distance until its wake stretches out before us like the arrow of time, wide and straight and true.

Five years later I see her again. She is with a friend of mine. He is introducing us, not knowing we are already acquainted. I feel an acute shock as our eyes meet and widen. They are getting married. He seems very happy. In that split second of eye contact we compress our conversation.

“Don’t tell him.”

“I won’t.”


“I loved you that day.”

“Me too.”

Then I finally say out loud, “Nice to meet you and congratulations.”

I wonder if he knows she killed a dog.

Geoffrey Marshall is a writer in Aurora, Canada. His novella Flyover Country (published by Alien Buddha Press) is available on Amazon. Other work can be found on the Kaidankai podcast, A Thin Slice of Anxiety, as well as the MoonPark Review and a few other places. Upcoming work will also appear in Schlock!.

Twitter: @g_k_marshall