Freebie Mondays: Dealing With Your Demons

Freebie Mondays: Dealing With Your Demons

I spend a lot of time scrolling through Pinterest looking for inspirational pins for my various novel boards. One day I stumbled across a writing prompt I couldn’t resist. It read as follows:

Exorcist: I’m here to remove the demon that has possessed you.

Me: I didn’t call you.

Demon: I did.

Here’s what popped into my head when I read it.
. . .

His heart leapt when the doorbell rang. It was a distant stuttering sensation, but it was the strongest he had experienced in awhile. He had grown used to letting another will guide him from place to place. Often it carried him where he wanted to go, but mostly he was a passenger, at the whim of  the soul that owned the body he currently occupied.

“Hello,” a cheerful voice said as the door slid open, revealing a wrinkled face framed by golden-brown hair.

“Hello?” the body’s owner replied, confused rather than gratified.

“It’s me,” the older woman chirped cheerfully, clearly expecting the conversation’s other participant to understand what that meant. When she received only a startled look in response, she cleared her throat and added more cautiously, “The exorcist you ordered? I’m here to remove the demon possessing you.”

Silence hung awkwardly in the air for a moment, thick and heavy. Then the body’s head shook rapidly back and forth. “I didn’t call you.”

I did.

The awkward silence was back.

From a distance, he could see the face he had spent the last several months lurking behind. It was an odd quirk of demonic possession; he could project beyond the host briefly. His companion’s expression was one of shock and alarm, eyes wide, lips forming a tiny O.

“You want to leave?” Shannon shrilled, startling the older woman still waiting on the other side of the door.

Oh no. It’s really awkward now. Maybe I should have said something? But how could I ever explain?

“Perhaps I should give you a moment, dear,” the exorcist suggested, taking two steps away from the door.

Sharon didn’t seem to notice. She was still holding the door open, her expression that of a wounded puppy.

Gently, Tholshark tugged at the muscles in her wrist, guiding the door closed. Once the motion was half completed, Sharon finished it on her own, flipping the latch and pressing her back to the door. Tholshark was familiar enough with the sensations that coursed through her body to tell that her knees had just turned to jelly and only the thick wood now held her aloft.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” she rasped, her eyes hot and moist, her throat suddenly dry.

I tried to. I just never really thought of the right thing to say. I thought you would be relieved.

“Relieved?” Sharon almost snarled. She set one hand against her heart as if Tholshark had just driven a knife between her ribs. “I thought we had a good thing going.”

We did, I suppose. For awhile. But things are different now, Sharon. You don’t really need me anymore, do you?

“It’s the anxiety isn’t it?” Sharon fretted, chewing at her bottom lip. Tholshark recognized the acceleration of her heartbeat. She would be experiencing an odd sizzle in her stomach, as if someone had just set loose a swarm of moths. In the beginning, Tholshark had resonated closely enough with her body to feel it himself. But now she almost never leaned on him. It was disconcerting.

Now, Sharon, we’ve talked about this. You wanted to sell your soul to the dark lord because you thought it was useless. But you’re strong now. You hardly ever have trouble getting out of bed or facing the day’s challenges. You don’t need a voice to whisper in the back of your mind anymore. I’m a demon, after all, I get restless if I don’t have anything to do. And there were the dark lord’s quotas to be considered.

“I just can’t believe you’d up and go like that,” Sharon insisted, on the verge of sobbing. “How did you even call without me realizing? I thought we didn’t do that anymore.”

You were asleep. Tholshark admitted. And I only did it because I worried you’d object. You know the only other way for me to leave is if you let me go.

Sharon set her jaw. She didn’t speak, but she didn’t need to. Tholshark had become a constant in Sharon’s life since the day she summoned him. She had expected the deal to be different. She had expected to move forward from that moment without ever feeling anything, without ever needing to think for herself. Tholshark didn’t do that kind of business, though. If she wanted soullessness, she’d have needed to summon one of the big boys from the deep levels.

Tholshark dealt with doubt and uncertainty. Exactly the forces Sharon had been at war with when she carved the summoning circle into the floor beneath the rug in her bedroom.

Listen, Sharon, you know I’d never lie to you. It was part of our agreement. We’re parting on good terms here. There’s no reason it has to be forever. If you get back to a point where you need me again, you know how to call. And even if you don’t, there are plenty of other ways.

“I just thought we were friends,” Sharon murmured. “I thought… I thought you’d stay with me forever.”

We are friends, Tholshark insisted. But demons and humans have very different ideas about forever. I can’t deny my nature any more than you can. It’s time for me to go.>

This time, Sharon moved without his urging. She pushed away from the door, drew a deep breath and puffed out her chest. When she opened the door, she held her chin high, though her lower lip shook slightly and the light glinted off the unshed tears in her eyes. She was beautiful in that moment, even if she’d never believe it.

Her eyes fell on the exorcist who had been dancing awkwardly from one foot to the other, bible pressed between both palms. The older woman smiled and tilted her head to one side.

“Have you finished dealing with your demon, dearie?”

“Yes,” Sharon admitted, though her voice wavered. “But I think I’m going to need your help with letting him go.”

The older woman laid one crinkled hand on Sharon’s shoulder and squeezed gently. “Yes, that’s okay, sweetheart. That’s what I’m here for. That’s what I do.”

This time Sharon only nodded and invited her inside.

*   *   *

It had been quiet since Tholshark left. There was no one left to nudge her gently when her alarm clock went off in the morning, or to comment on how cold she kept the water in the shower, or about the amount of sugar and honey she put in her coffee. There had been a time when she would gladly have silenced all the demons teasing comments, but now Sharon longed to hear them just one last time.

But the saddest thing about the demon’s departure was that it hadn’t affected her life as much as she expected it to. Sure, there were moments of emptiness that used to be filled with quiet conversation. But she could just as easily fill that silence with music or podcasts.

It was time to face the facts; Tholshark had been right all along. Normal was a part of her life now and it was here to stay. She didn’t struggle like she used to. She didn’t fly through everything the way she felt like she had when Tholshark was with her. But she didn’t stumble either. She was human and she functioned just like all the rest – to the best of her flawed ability.

There was a freedom in knowing these simple truths, and she’d thank the demon for the rest of her life for giving them to her.

But she missed him.

She was thinking of getting a roommate, someone she could chat with over breakfast. Someone who would share the cleaning and maybe take her out drinking on Saturday nights. But it would never be quite the same as carrying that comforting presence inside her.

People got the wrong idea about demons. Or maybe she had just stumbled upon a different kind of demon. Hard to say

She tried to put him out of her mind while she put on the kettle to boil water for tea. She tried even harder while she tidied the kitchen and tried to decide how to spend the evening. But it was true what they said about absence making the heart grow fonder. The harder she tried to forget about her old friend, the more his memory seemed to cling to her.

When the doorbell rang, her heart lodged in her throat. The last time she answered the door to an unexpected visitor had been the day the demon left. The old woman  had been kind, had stayed with her for an hour afterward and even checked in on her for a few weeks after.

But they had each other’s number now and still made semi-regular contact. Sharon doubted it was her at the door. And as far as she was aware, she didn’t have any other hidden visitors to dismiss.

The shadow looming in the outdoor window was so massive, it gave her pause. There must be someone gigantic waiting on the other side. Or else the sun had hit the back of a man and his dog, stretching their shadows wide and long across her stoop.

She opened the door a crack and peeked outside. Then her fingers fell from the doorknob in numb shock and she stepped back, letting the door fall open. Eyes wide, mouth hanging open she stared up and up until she found the eyes of the creature waiting outside.

He was mostly human, with a thick torso and obvious muscles crammed beneath his tight-fitting shirt. But his legs were shaggy and hoofed like a goat’s and a pair of curved ram’s horns protruded from his head. His skin was tinted red, his fur mostly black, but his eyes were a bright shade of yellow, like the sun on the horizon just at sunset.

Under other circumstances, Sharon might have been terrified. But she had seen a figure like this once before, though he had been about half the size and mostly transparent at the time.

“Tholshark?” she exclaimed, suddenly wondering if she was dreaming.

The sound of his name brought a grin to the demon’s lips. “In the flesh.” He chuckled at his own joke. “Why do you look so surprised? I told you we would meet again.”

“Yeah but… I don’t know, I thought you’d be possessing someone else by now.”

He shrugged. “Demons do different sorts of jobs, you know. While I’m in town, I thought maybe we could spend some time together. Go out for drinks. Maybe have dinner?” He arched one perfectly-shaped midnight eyebrow in response.

Sharon’s heart flip-flopped in her chest. Most people didn’t like hanging out with demons. But some crowds were perfectly okay with it. Perhaps because they had experiences similar to her own. She knew a few places they could get away with chatting, and she suspected he knew several more.

“I would love to,” she admitted without hesitation. “I’m just… Well, if I’m honest, I thought I’d never see you again.”

“I told you when we met, Sharon, I cannot possibly lie to you.”

Heat filled her cheeks. “I remember. But sometimes people lie without ever meaning to.”

“People do that,” the demon agreed, his voice shockingly soft and tender. “But demons do not.” He hesitated a moment, then added, “I hope there are no hard feelings about the sudden nature of my departure. I wasn’t able to fully explain at the time, but there are simply some things that cannot be expressed while sharing another’s mind, as I think maybe you understand.”

Tears suddenly stung Sharon’s eyes but she blinked them away. “Yes. I think maybe I do. Just give me a moment to grab my purse, Tholshark. Then we can go. I’m very much looking forward to catching up on what you’ve been doing.”

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