This story was from a short story anthology that I lost and whose title I no longer remember.

It centers around a young artist who accidently sees the true face of a devil and goes mad because of it. The devil (disguised as an eccentric human) later on finds this out and visits the artist in the madhouse and dives into the artist's mind and through manipulating his dreams helps the artist escape his insanity at the cost of the artist's physical appearance being significantly aged.

1 Answer 1


This may be Alfred Bester's 5,271,009.

Near the beginning:

   “Well, sir, he’s still a young man; in his thirties and very immature. When he became so very successful, he wasn’t ready for it. He wasn’t prepared for the responsibilities of his life and his career. That’s what the doctors told me. So he turned his back on everything and withdrew into childhood.”
   “Ah? And the drawing on money?”
   “They say that’s his symbol of his return to childhood, Mr. Aquila. It proves he’s too young to know what money is for.”
   “Ah? Oui. Ja.  Astute, by crackey. And my portrait?”
   “I can’t explain that, Mr. Aquila, unless you have met him in the past and he remembers you somehow. Or it may be a coincidence.”


   “I was with Judy… . We realized we were in love that night. We realized how wonderful life was going to be. And then you passed and looked at me… . Just once. You looked at me. It was horrible.”
   “Tsk!” Mr. Aquila clicked his tongue in vexation. “Now I remember said incident. I was unguarded. Bad news from home. A pox on both my houses.”
   “You passed in red and black… . Satanic. Wearing no mask. You looked at me…. A red and black look I never forgot. A look from black eyes like pools of hell, like cold fires of terror. And with that look you robbed me of everything … of joy, of hope, of love, of life… .”

Near the end:

   “Oh yes, God damn. If you live with one Jeez big ulcer long enough, you miss him when he’s cut out. You were hiding in an ulcer. I have robbed you of said refuge. Ergo: you feel cheated. Wait! You will feel even more cheated. There was a price to pay, I told you. You have paid it. Look.”
   Mr. Aquila held up a hand mirror. Halsyon glanced into it, then started and stared. A fifty-year-old face stared back at him: lined, hardened, solid, determined. Halsyon leaped to his feet.
   “Gently, gently,” Mr. Aquila admonished. “It is not so bad. It is damned good. You are still thirty-three in age of physique. You have lost none of your life… only all of your youth. What have you lost? A pretty face to lure young girls? Is that why you are wild?”

The story has been in several anthologies. If you live in the U.S. you may have read it in this collection.

  • 1
    A famous example of a story which was written to fit the cover picture.
    – user14111
    Dec 14, 2015 at 23:18
  • Thank you Joe L. for such a swift reply, that was story I was looking for. It was in a "Best of..." sci-fi anthology I got from Barnes and Nobles about 5 or 6 years ago. I couldn't remember the name of the anthology but what I was most concerned about was finding this specific story. Again, thanks for the help!
    – John
    Dec 15, 2015 at 1:32

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