The Devil’s Armchair

Posted: January 8, 2013 in Short Stories - for free!

Seven years ago, we went on a holiday in Southern France. On the foothills of the Pyrenees is a region called the Laguedoc, a region ripe with history and mythology. Many tall hills are topped with the ruins of Templar and Cathar castles, the little old villages are very beautiful and the landscape invites you to go on a hike, a boat tour down the river Aude or a climb up some cliff face.

We went for such a hike, going up a little footpath through a forest close to a village called Rennes-les-Bains.
It was hard at times to keep following the tiny path, since it was overgrown with beautiful little yellow flowers and fern.
We came to a small clearing with a natural well that came out of the rock and there was a big slap of stone formed somewhat like an armchair. The ground around it was covered with grass and small tree sprouts and the light was slanting into the clearing, making it appear truly beautiful and magical. Brushing away the dirt and bird droppings from it, we sat down on the stone armchair and made a few lovely pictures, enjoying the serene feeling of the clearing and the wild natural beauty of it. Later we were told that it is called the Devil`s armchair by the locals, a very usual name for old stone structures. Where we live in Bavaria, we have a stone structure called the Devil`s table.

Two years later we went there again and re-visited the same place. This time, the path was much more visible and when we came to the clearing, the little well had a little basin around it, made with mortar in straight lines.
The earth around the Devil`s armchair was not grassy anymore, but bare and there were footprints everywhere. We met a man there who took pictures from the armchair and the well and was scribbling into a little notebook.

The next year, the little path was no longer so little and when we came up to the clearing, the well had a rather lovely bouquet of flowers around its mouth. We came to the armchair which looked very clean indeed, but we didn`t believe our eyes when we saw, that somebody had carved symbols into it! That really shocked us and later we were informed, that the believe of the free living spirits that had made their caravan home in Rennes-les-Bains – some call them Hippies – was that it was not the Devils`s armchair, but the throne of Isis. How Isis came to that particular region in France, we had no clue, and weren`t really interested that much either, we were just sad, that somebody had changed the original state of the stone armchair.

The next year there were published books explaining just how Isis had happened to be in that particular region in France, which by then somehow failed to surprise us. When we went up to the armchair this time, the path was rather broad now, well used and the beautiful tiny yellow flowers were gone. When we came to the clearing, we saw that it had gained in radius considerably and the tree saplings and the undergrowth, even some of the smaller trees at the perimeter were gone.
There was a group of Hippies sitting in a circle around the armchair and the well now featured a used handkerchief aside to the floral adornments. The hippies had placed incense on the seat of the chair and several flowers and they were in some kind of trance chanting a mantra, so we got no chance to actually sit down on it. We didn`t even take any pictures, because it was impossible to take one without any Hippies in it. We saw though, that the carved markings in the stone were even better to make out from a distance than the year before, so somebody must have carved them deeper. And we were sure that by now, the chanting Hippies believed those carvings to have been there for ages past.

The next year we didn`t really feel like going up there again, half afraid of what we would see this time. By now there were stories of Mary Magdalene`s body and Jesus body having been hidden or even found in that region and there were all sorts of connections with the armchair, but we weren`t really so interested in it anymore that we would have delved deeper into it. We were forcefully informed though, that the new hype was about UFOs landing on a close-by mountain top at the end of the world on the 21st of December 2012, and we were only happy for the Devil`s armchair that it was not this hill that the UFOs were allegedly going to land. Who knows, maybe then it would have experienced another re-naming to Seat of the Aliens and would have suffered even more symbol carving.
But in the end we did decide to go up there and this time, there was a wooden handrail erected on the way up the broad path, which had been made more secure by pebbles, chasing away the last remaining fern. Otherwise nothing much had changed to the year before, thankfully. Apparently the fact that it didn`t have the shape of an alien/UFO had saved the poor stone slab`s “life”.

But still, gone forever was its original state, the little yellow flowers and the fern, the grass on the ground, the natural outlet of the well and the peaceful, untouched atmosphere. And in a way that is the story of the whole area. It is still one of the most beautiful places I`ve ever seen, but its original wild and simple beauty is gone. And it didn`t need any stories or hypes in order to be beautiful. It did that all by itself.

But people believe what they want to believe and in order to make it more believable, they will go to any, and I mean any lengths. And if a slab of stone is more likely to be the throne of Isis with some symbols carved into it, than that`s what they`ll do, even if they are thereby destroying that which made it special in the first place, which is its natural beauty and mystery, and the fact that everybody who saw it, could think of his or her own theory how it came to be like this. The fact that we will simply never know, why there is a slab of stone that has the form of a comfy armchair.

Sept. 2012, France ~ Published in the Sauniere Society Journal, issue 01/3013

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