Posted on July 14, 2004 by Jenna

← Previous | Next →

John sits in his office. It’s at home, so there’s a coffeemaker nearby. He takes out a pot of coffee. He pours it into a cup. He picks up the cup.

The music soars.

For a long, timeless moment, he sips at his coffee. The air is full of angels singing. Somewhere, a cellist pours her heart into the score.

Slowly, the music fades. John sets the coffee down. He turns to his computer. He types.

The door behind John is closed. The door is white. Its handle is brass. Behind it, there are footsteps. They are slow. They are hollow. Something is approaching.

John fidgets. He glances nervously towards the door. He glances away.

The footsteps continue to approach. The door opens, with a terrible creak. On the other side is a girl. She has horns.

“People never believe me,” he says, “when I say that I have personal demons.”

She walks in. She sits down on a nearby chair.

“It seems like everything’s falling apart,” she says.

Seven creatures came in the night to torment John. They moved into his house. They set themselves to their works of horror. But one by one, before the pain began, they fell in love.

“I used to know,” she says. “I used to know that I was right. When someone challenged me, I knew that they were stupid. And their stupidity proved that I was right, and my correctness proved their stupidity. It wasn’t even a quality that I possessed. It was this thing. Rightness. That I could refer to. It would sit on my shoulder, and hiss at people who disagreed.”

“Not any more?” he asks.

She gestures at her shoulder. There’s a hollow thing on it. It’s empty inside, but it’s not a wogly. It’s gaunt and horrible and gray.

“Humility is a hollow thing,” she says. “It’s eating my soul.”

“It looks hungry,” he says. “That’s probably why.”

Humility chitters. It digs its claws into the girl’s shoulder.

“Well, yes,” she says.

John rummages around on his desk. “I have Fritos,” he says. He offers Humility a frito. It breaks it into pieces and drops it on the ground. “And, um, chocolate. Does humility thrive on chocolate?”

“No,” concludes the girl, after a moment.

“I don’t know,” he says. “Most things that eat souls also enjoy Fritos brand corn chips. Have you tried appreciating the beauty of others?”

“What are those?” she says, pointing.

“Life savers,” he says. “They come in a variety of flavors. These are butterscotch.”

“It wants one,” she says. Her eyes glint eagerly.

John makes a face. “Fine,” he says. “It can have my life savers.” He tosses her the roll. She begins to feed them, one by one, to Humility.

“Butterscotch!” she says, cheerfully. “That was the answer.”

Then she leaves. After a moment, John sips at his coffee again. The music soars. It crashes to a sudden halt as a slimy thing oozes in.

Now, as John’s housemates, they must contend with the wonders and troubles of ordinary life. Their only guide to the human world—their erstwhile victim, John!

“You,” the slimy thing says. It points at John. “You’re smug, aren’t you. Sitting here, solving our problems, instead of suffering torture at our hands. Like some kind of chibi Prince of Hell, only with a swivel chair instead of a throne. It makes me sick.”

“My smugness?”

“My resentment of it.” It holds up its Resentment. It shakes it. Resentment looks mildly ill. So does the slimy thing.

“You could stop shaking it,” John points out.

“I like shaking things,” the slimy thing says. “Maracas, booty, salt, it’s all the same to me. Shaking’s my life!”

John nods. Then he takes out his gun. He shoots Resentment. Its little brain explodes and rains down over the carpet in a fine mist.

“Now it’s dead,” he says.

The slimy thing shakes its hand, which is stinging.

“You can shake it all you want.”

The slimy thing tentatively shakes the corpse. Its little wings flop. Ichor leaks from its neck. But it does not look ill.

“Part of me is dead,” the slimy thing says. “The rest of me wants to party.”

It leaves. It closes the door.

John drains his coffee. He pours another cup. The music creature polkas, gently, one beat per sip.

He looks at the music creature. It looks back.

“You’ve got issues,” John points out.