THE DEMON/RAZOR WAR
By Axel Ingleson
(Author’s Note on names: “Miwa” is Japanese for Life. “Mrena” is Slavic for “White eyes”, “Selena” is Greek for “Moon Goddess”, and “Sayo” is a Japanese name meaning “Born at night”.)
Roses in Darkness
There are no roses in this garden
Yet a scent lingers
There is no moonlight or sunlight
Still we cast our shadows.
And in the darkness that is not darkness
And in the light that is not light
We throw caution to the winds
Until the time of our fate comes.
Then we must join as one
To combat the fatal foe
Who cannot be allowed to win
Lest we are lost forever.
-EPISODE 1: Days of Perfect Darkness-
The afternoon sky in the early months of the year was a warm shade of grey, something possible only in the Demon world. A stray fear-cat fished in lidless trashcans in an alley across from the park, looking for a bite to eat. In the park itself, young female Demon named Miwa, who was considered pretty amongst her people, was celebrating her seven thousandth birthday with her family and friends.
A Demon’s seven thousandth birthday was significant. That was the year they became adults, when their first contract could be made with a mortal. Until then, it was up to their parents to bring home souls for them to devour. Humans were the favorite choice. Their souls were usually filled with dark emotions, which was a Demon’s equivalent of eating what humans called “spicy food”.
Miwa would never know the joy of a contract. When she was a child it had been discovered that she had a serious allergy to human souls. In truth, all of the more intensely flavored souls gave her at least one stomach complaint or another. Thankfully her allergy had been discovered shortly after another one. A doctor from their world had found that the souls of butterflies found in the human world gave Demons enough sustenance to get them through a couple of years.
Miwa wasn’t paying much attention to her birthday party. With her inability to contract with mortals, she took far less interest in her coming of age than most Demons. Instead, she had wandered off a few yards and now found herself watching the stray fear-cat with some amusement.
“Miwa, dear,” her aunt called to her, while Miwa’s mother busily attended to the guests, “come back to the party. Your guests are anxious for the main event.”
Miwa knew that her aunt was referring to the Birthday Sacrifice, the ritual whereupon the now grown Demon made their first solo kill.
“I doubt they’ll be that thrilled to see the ceremonial sacrifice of a butterfly,” Miwa shook her head, following her mother’s twin despite the unenthusiastic statement. “What am I supposed to use, Aunt Selena? The usual ceremonial dagger is much too big.”
Her aunt handed her a small item. It was long and thin, with an Earth pearl at the top.
“A hat pin?” Miwa shook her head in amused disgust. She felt more than a little ridiculous being the only Demon in her class to have to make their Seven Thousandth Birthday Sacrifice with a hatpin. Still, she was seven thousand years old, not seven hundred. This was an important event, and she would do the best she could with what was available to her.
Miwa stood before the black and grey ceremonial altar with the pin in one hand. On the table was a small cage with a medium sized maroon and gold butterfly on a small twig. She fully expected chuckles, but none came. Her friends and family were gathered there as solemnly as they would have been had she been making a more conventional sacrifice.
Miwa wondered if she should forego the ritual that normally preceded the actual sacrifice. After all, it wasn’t as if the butterfly could understand her. Nor would she ever use it in the future. And the purpose of saying it was to prove she knew it. It was the words of the Demons’ pact. The one made before claiming a soul. So why say it to a butterfly?
Her mother seemed to know what she was thinking. She leaned over and whispered. “One day, you may have a child of your own. And you know that according to our customs one who has not spoken the words of the contract properly at their coming of age ceremony is not permitted to teach them to their children in their turn.”
Miwa held up the small cage and began to speak:
“Once you have entered into a pact with a Demon, never again will you be permitted to pass through the Gates of Heaven,” she said to the butterfly within, feeling a little self-conscious about it. “Now I shall ask once only, is it thy wish to make a pact with me?”
The butterfly merely continued to flutter its wings and rest upon the twig inside the cage. That would have to be sufficient.
Miwa opened the door of the cage and reached in, taking the butterfly carefully in her hand. She placed the flittering butterfly on its back against the altar then raised the hatpin above it. With a shy smile on her lips, she brought the pin down into the butterfly’s body. She breathed in its soul as soon as she felt it leave the tiny creature’s body, then looked up to see her mother watching her with calm satisfaction.
“Well done, my daughter,” the older woman said, approvingly, smiling at her daughter. “You seem restless, though. Do you have a date?”
“No, mother,” Miwa admitted, sadly. “That’s what’s making me so restless. Knowing that I will never have a husband.”
“You’re an attractive young Demon,” her mother pointed out. “Why wouldn’t you find a husband?”
“Most of our males don’t date women who dine on butterfly souls.,“ Miwa reminded her. “They consider us to be too weak to be potential mates.”
“That’s silly of them,” her mother told her. “Allergies don’t make you weak.”
“It’s going to be a long time before anyone convinces anyone of that, I’m afraid,” Miwa sighed.
“Don’t be so negative,” her aunt cajoled her from opposite her mother. “You never know. You’re still young. The prevailing opinion about butterfly soul eaters might change in time. I’ll tell you a secret. When they first came into existence as a fully established species, it was illegal for us to dine on human souls.”
“But Demons do that all the time, Aunt Selena!” Miwa pointed out.
“Today, yes,” Selena explained.. “But back then some authorities believed human souls to have narcotic properties.”
“Like a drug?” Miwa asked, in disbelief. “Is that what causes the allergy?”
“No, my dear niece,” Selena told her. “And human souls are not narcotic anyhow. That turned out to be nonsense.”
“Like so many dietary fads,” her mother joined in.
“I hardly think of the prohibition on human souls as a dietary fad, dear Sayo,” Selena corrected her sister.
“Perhaps you’re right,” Sayo admitted. “Still, it just means there are more of them today. But let’s not talk of human souls right now. You’re making me hungry.”
“And me jealous,” Miwa admitted. “Though that butterfly’s soul will hold me for some time. I don’t see why I had to make the sacrifice out in the open. It was embarrassing. My best friend, Mrena, is sacrificing a politician of some note that her parents found for her Seven Thousandth Birthday Sacrifice next week. Why did I have to be a butterfly soul eater?”
“Some of us spend our entire lives never knowing why we are the way we are,” Selena admitted.
“Oh, that was very helpful. Thank you, sis,” Sayo rolled her eyes.
“Just letting her know she isn’t alone in this.” Selena explained.
Their minor squabble stopped when they realized that Miwa was actually laughing at them. Sayo shook her head, while Selena beamed in triumphant satisfaction. It wasn’t exactly how she intended to cheer up her niece. But it worked nonetheless.
Normally when a Seven Thousandth Birthday Sacrifice was made the devouring of the soul by the guest of honor was followed by a customary, if not morbid, dinner for those in attendance. But since the sacrifice in this case was a butterfly, dinner had not been scheduled and the guests had left to seek out their own food after the ceremony had ended.
Miwa remembered the fear-cat she had seen searching through the garbage earlier. Scooping up the butterfly’s tiny body, she brought it over to the stray animal, staying just far back enough not to cause it alarm.
The fear-cat approached cautiously, and sniffed at the tiny body that lie on the ground where Miwa had put it. The stray looked up at Miwa, suspiciously at first, then turned itself to face her, its eyes always staring at her as it quickly devoured the butterfly’s body.
“It’s time to go home, dear,” her mother called.
“Perhaps we should consider getting her a cat,” Selena told her sister.
© Copyright 2016 AxelIngleson. All rights reserved.
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