Surreal

Simon’s Demon

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This post was originally published through Patreon on October 31, 2018.

Simon viewed the blacktopped parking lot as if it were an ocean. He breathed, a deep bone-weary sigh, then began the long trek back to his car.

Only twenty feet to go.

He gritted his teeth, pushed his failing legs harder.

Fifteen feet.

Panting for breath, Simon engaged in a futile effort to catch his breath, all the while reflecting on how different life had been when he was young. To think that back then, he could have walked the entire two and a half miles home without stopping. Now, he might as well hike to the moon.

Ten feet.

Sweat beaded across his forehead like semi-precious gems. He leaned into his cane and continued shuffling forward.

Five feet.

Four.

Three.

Two.

One.

At last, Simon reached the car. He could feel the breakfast he’d just eaten rolling in his stomach, and he knew if he wasn’t careful, it would all come surging out of him in a flash flood. So he waited, resting against the chrome surface of the car, and slowly, too slowly, his nausea subsided.

When at last Simon opened the door and fell into the driver’s seat, he counted it a victory.

“Very good,” called a dry, familiar voice from the backseat. “For a second, I thought you might not make it.”

Simon cast an irritated glance backward, and the emaciated demon stared back, impassive.

“I take my victories where I can get them.”

“And what will you do in December when you have to renew your license at the DMV? They’ll take it away, you know, and then how will you maintain your independence?”

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

The demon made a disgusted sound but didn’t answer.

Simon threw his cane onto the passenger seat, and after taking a few more moments to steady his breathing, he started the car and backed out.

“Simon the Great, they once called you. Now you’re just Simon the Geriatric.”

Simon mulled over possible comebacks, but ultimately held his tongue. The demon was trying to rile him, trying to frighten him into making a decision he knew he would regret later. So he pulled into traffic in silence and ignored the creature just as he had for the past thirty-seven years.

He squinted behind a pair of brass-rimmed bifocals as he drove, always maintaining a speed below 40 even though the speed limit was 55. He knew it annoyed the drivers in back of him—”Yes,” he sometimes wanted to shout back at them, “I am slow. Thank you for noticing.”—but safety was paramount, and his eyes and reflexes weren’t what they used to be. Last month, he’d almost hit a pedestrian in the crosswalk. The close call had left him shaken, and he’d vowed to be more careful going forward.

The demon in the backseat grew increasingly agitated.

“It doesn’t have to be this way,” it said when it couldn’t contain itself any longer. “I could give you your youth back. You could be Simon the Great again.”

“And I suppose,” Simon replied, “that all I’d have to do in return is grant you your freedom.”

The demon threw back its angular head and loosed a vicious, fire-and-brimstone howl. Simon rolled his eyes and continued driving.

The creature had been terrorizing a remote South American village when first he captured it. A vile being, that demon, a being who whiled away its hours feasting on the village’s children.

Simon, still young back then, still powerful, had bound it to himself in order to save the people. The binding meant that when he died, so too would the demon. Simon didn’t doubt that it would keep its word if he asked, that it really would make him young again. But it would demand to be released in return, and he couldn’t let a creature like that back into the world.

“A small price to pay for youth,” the demon said, and Simon laughed.

“And what would youth buy me, another thirty or forty years? Even a thousand years, stacked against the backdrop of infinity, is meaningless. I would live a little longer, and then I would die anyway.”

“I could give you Sara again.”

That was a low blow, and Simon grew cold.

“You leave her out of this.”

“She loved you, once upon a time, and you loved her. Wouldn’t it be nice to be a couple again?”

The two of them had stopped at a red light, and Simon was trying very hard not to reach back and throttle the creature’s neck.

“A shame she died so young. So many years you lived alone. I could have saved her then, and I still can. All you have to do is ask.”

For a moment, in the stillness of a single heartbeat, Simon considered the demon’s offer. Someone in the world might suffer if he gave in, but so what? At least he would have Sara back. Perhaps, this time, they might even get to start a family…

“No!”

Something snapped inside, and a power Simon hadn’t felt for more than a decade bolted through him once more. The air in the car darkened, and for a wonder, the creature actually fell silent, perhaps afraid of what Simon could do in such a state. It was, after all, the very same power Simon had conjured the day he’d bound the demon to himself.

Simon held onto the magic for a while, relishing its presence and the way it seemed to fill all the pieces of himself that had broken or gone missing. But the energy’s flow through his shriveled veins and ancient, brittle bones would burn him to a cinder if he wasn’t careful—he wasn’t thirty anymore, after all—so he let it go, and soon enough, all the aches and pains that had faded into the background years ago flared to life once more.

“I’m going to die,” Simon announced, “and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. I suggest you make peace with your mortality, because when I go, you’re going with me.”

The demon said nothing, only brooded and followed Simon home in silence.

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Samuel

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The sky opened and Samuel looked up.

Above, the starry backdrop fountained, a bulging cosmic mass that shimmered and glowed, raining down a bright azure light on the world below. Samuel watched the display first with hope, then with trepidation, then finally with despair. His eyes remained fixed on the sky long after the rupture had closed, long after the only light left came from a faded, glabrous moon.

Another rescue, and another day that Samuel was left behind.

A year ago, the Earth had been teeming with his kind. Everywhere he went, he could find someone like himself, a fellow traveler who would help remind him of who he was whenever his human skin began to feel too tight. But eleven months ago, Samuel’s world had called them home, and Samuel had yet to be taken with them.

Had they forgotten about him? Surely not. Their kind were numerous, and the evacuation would take time. Holes would be torn through the night sky for years, even decades, and every day, the number of Samuel’s species would dwindle, leaving him a little more rare, a little more alone.

Someday, they would get around to him. Someday, they would take him home.

But when?

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Dispersed

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This post was originally published through Patreon on September 26, 2018.

She closes her eyes, then opens them again, just to be sure they’re telling her the truth. She beholds the sun above her head, clear and bright, and finally weeps.

When they imprisoned her, they said it was for good. “A menace to the world,” they warned. “She can never be free again.” So they bound her—in water and stone, in wind and earth, in fire and sky. They scattered her essence to the four corners of the world, confident that once she was dispersed, she would never be whole again.

But millennia passed, her captors long since dead, and like a thick and unctuous vapor, she started to condense. The vapor became drops. The drops became pools. The pools became an ocean. With every passing century, she became a little more whole, a little more complete. Now, at last, she can open her eyes to a clear blue sky and know for sure that she’s beaten them.

She’ll walk the Earth once more, and this time, there will be no one who can stop her.

In the past, she allowed humans some degree of autonomy. But she underestimated them, and when they came for her, they almost destroyed her. She won’t make the same mistake again.

She sits, feeling the Old Magic rekindle in her ancient veins, and plots her return.

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