Larry Hodges has sold more than eighty stories. His third novel—Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions—was recently published by World Weaver Press. His When Parallel Lines Meet, a Stellar Guild team-up with Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn, came out this past October.
It’s tough being a member of the last persecuted minority group. One by one they all had their civil rights movements, and now they’re all treated equally, liberals and conservatives, Muslims and Christians, Nazis and pedophiles. But what about demons? Nobody’s going to vote for us; we don’t even have voting rights.
I chugged the last of a root beer and stretched my muscles; it had been a long day of answering summons. There was no end to the crazy wishes of humans, and the evil they’d force me to do on their enemies. Today I gave pimples to an actress trying out for a part, made some video disappear for a police chief who was guilty as hell, and made a dog eat a rival’s homework. Poor dog.
Sighing, I got into the shower. A quick, hot one would wash out the day’s frustrations, followed by some leisurely Dante reading. I closed my eyes and writhed in pleasure as the hot water poured over me, like a giant massage. And then a cool, refreshing breeze fell over me and. . . .
Cool refreshing breeze? I opened my eyes. A woman sat at a desk, staring at me as I stood inside the summoning circle before her. Damn it! Usually I can feel a summons coming and have time to get dressed, but this one was faster and more powerful. I tried to cover myself with my hands. Couldn’t they at least give notice? Like all demons, I was red, but now I was positively crimson in my embarrassment.
“Caught you at a bad time?” asked the woman, who I recognized as Senator Lancelot—yeah, that was her real name—but everyone called her Senator Liesalot, so we’ll go with that. She’d been all over the news in recent months as she ran for president against the unpopular incumbent, President Dump. According to fact checkers, she hadn’t said an honest thing since kindergarten, but she was rated by her lackeys as the new Honest Abitha. The dumpy woman wore a lavender pants suit and a string of black pearls. Tiny wrinkles that weren’t visible from a distance covered her face, but close up gave her the appearance of a 500-year-old tortoise badly in need of a nuclear-powered skin moisturizer. She had piercing gray eyes, the soulless shark eyes of leadership.
“Could you at least give me a towel?” I asked, shivering as water dripped all over the rug.
“Sorry, that would break the circle and free you from my will,” Liesalot said in a slightly cackling voice. “And then you’d have your way with me, like demons do.”
“Oh, come on,” I cried. “You know that’s just ignorant prejudice. If us demons wanted to have our way with you humans, we’d just have our way with you, and with all our powers, there’s nothing you could do to stop us. We just want to be treated like anybody else.” Admittedly, I was hedging the truth; without their summoning, I had no idea how to get from my realm to theirs. Plus, unless the summoner messed up, we’d be stuck in the circle. As I was now.
“Sure you do,” she said, shaking her head. “I wasn’t born yesterday. But enough talk—I have a job for you, Mr. Demon.”
“Of course.” I sneezed awkwardly—it wasn’t something I was used to doing.
“I’ll try to keep this simple so you’ll understand.”
“Use petite words so I’ll comprehend your lexicon.”
“President Dump is leading in the polls. He’s a brilliant speaker, which is unfair.”
“It’s unfair because you speak like a screeching orangutan?”
“I want you to give him a curse so that he will say crazy things whenever he gives a speech.”
“Crazier than what politicians already say?”
“I want the world to see him as I do—a crazy old un-American pretender.”
“As opposed to the true American siccing a demon on his rival to make him look like a crazy old un-American pretender? No problem. Now, about that towel?”
“Do your task first!” she screeched. I heard the authority in that voice, the strength needed to summon such a demon as I. If summoning demons were easy, everyone would be doing it, instead of just the rich and powerful who have enough money to hire someone to teach them how to do it.
And so I raised my arms—dramatically adding to my embarrassment—and cried out, “Oogo googa gelatinous jingle-berry poof!” The words were meaningless but humans expect theater from demons. Then I blinked my eyes and sent a power thought to the victim, poor President Dump.
“The deed is done. May I go?” She tossed an old pair of steel scissors at me, breaking the circle. The iron in the scissors did its job, as us demons have a thing about cold iron, and after a second of pain—ow!—it shot me back to my home. As to the curse I’d put on the president, that was irreversible. But what did I care for human politics? I was just glad it was over and I could get away from the lower ethical standards of humans and go back to being a normal demon. I couldn’t wait to get to bed and finish reading Dante’s Inferno—it was closer to the truth than you’d think.
First a quick trip to the bathroom; I’d drunk a lot of root beer before my sudden summons. Once again I closed my eyes, relaxing from another crazy day.
Someone “Hrumphed.” I quickly opened my eyes, and discovered I was wetting the picture of an eagle surrounded by stars on the plush blue carpet under my feet.
“Would you mind not pissing on the Oval Office rug?” asked the President of the United States from behind his desk. I quickly stopped, though a few more drops came out, and some of it ended up on my bare legs. Once again I stood naked inside a summoning circle. Damn it!
“You demons have no sense of morality,” said President Dump in a voice that was several octanes north of oily. “Always running around naked, raping our women, and doing strange things in cemeteries.” He shook his head mournfully, like a cobra about to strike.
“Those are stereotypes!” I cried, once again trying to cover up. “I’d wear clothes if you’d just give a demon a minute’s notice. Now, what do I owe the pleasure of this visit, your presidencyness?”
Dump grinned in that way that only politicians and great white sharks can, with the same piercing gray, soulless shark eyes of leadership as Liesalot, which politicians apparently ordered wholesale from some central distributorship. He was meticulously dressed in the same exact white button-up shirt, dark suit and shoes, and fake comb-over worn by one hundred percent of successful male politicians, also apparently ordered from that mysterious distributorship. The only item of dress left to individual choice was the shade of red power tie. Here Dump had made a bold choice, amaranth pink, a light red that practically screamed something, though I have no clue what, which only added to the mystery. Like Liesalot, he hadn’t said an honest thing since kindergarten, but his wide-eyed, breathless minions described him as that drunk uncle who “tells it like it is.”
“A few minutes ago I was giving a speech to a group of wealthy donors. Suddenly I began saying all sorts of crazy stuff that made no sense. My aides pulled me out, and we realized I’d been hit with a spell. Being an old hand at this stuff, I figured out who did it, and so I’ve summoned you to remove the spell.”
“Sorry, no can do. It’s irreversible.”
“Then reverse it.”
I sighed. Sometimes humans believed us demons can do the impossible. I explained, using short, simple words, why an irreversible spell could not be reversed, since it was irreversible. He’d just have to accept that fact that for the rest of his life, whenever he spoke to a group of people, he’d say crazy stuff. Even crazier than usual for a politician.
“Then do the same to her.”
That I could do. I sighed, and once again said some gibberish: “Banga Ganga wiggly biggly worm pie poof!” I waved my arms about uselessly and blinked as I sent the power thought to Senator Liesalot.
“Now you may go,” said the president. He tossed an old set of rusty keys at me, breaking the circle and sending me back home as I yelped in pain from the cold iron.
Now I’ve done a lot of bad things to people, always at the bequest of humans and against my will, but somehow this was different. I don’t usually follow human politics too closely, but the idea of two people running for president of the most powerful nation on earth, where both could only say crazy things in their speeches, sounded a bit entertaining. And so, over the next few weeks, whenever I was free from various summonings and perusing Finnegan’s Wake, I watched the news on TV. And entertaining it was! Both candidates did as ordained, saying crazy stuff, often with daily themes, such as this exchange on noses:
“Senator Liesalot’s nose hair was grown in a greenhouse on Mars!” cried President Dump.
“President Dump’s nose is a greenhouse on Mars!” responded Senator Liesalot. “Noses are the windows into one’s bowels!”
The members of their respective parties believed everything told by their candidate while condemning the nonsense said by the other. This was further re-enforced by their respective news media, whose ratings skyrocketed every time they showed the candidates saying crazy stuff while rationalizing that said by their candidate. Soon astronomers from Dump’s party were using their most powerful telescopes to search the surface of Mars for greenhouse noses, while the Liesalot’s party took to staring up each other’s nostrils.
It was like a mad tea party. And yet, a crazy thing happened—despite all the lies and distortions, and all the crazy, ignorant statements, both candidates became more and more popular with their base, even as the other side “demonized” (ugh…) the opposing candidate. As Election Day approached, it became evident that it was going to be one of the closest elections in history.
The day before the election I sat in my comfortable lounge chair, watching the news. One second I was there, and the next I was sitting on the floor of the U.S. Senate, before the big chairs up front where the leaders sat, with nearly the whole senate behind me, staring at me. At least this time I had on a bathrobe. A really short one, damn it. With little pink tulips.
“What did you do to President Dump?” yelled the vice president, who presided over the Senate.
“I’m an itsy bitsy Spider-man!” cried President Dump, slapping his hands over his mouth too late. A muzzle lay at his feet. He normally wouldn’t be in the Senate chambers but was apparently in hiding there since nobody watched C-SPAN. He now wore a basic red power tie, enabling him to blend in with the sea of others wearing such ties.
“President Dump pulls wings off caterpillars!” cried Senator Liesalot, cringing as she said it. She sat in a front row in a pretty red dress and a gag that she’d apparently pulled off from over her mouth.
“And to Senator Liesalot?” yelled another. “You demon!”
“Order, order!” cried the vice president, banging his heavy metal gavel on his desk.
“I did what I was ordered to do,” I said. “I didn’t have a choice.”
“Well now,” said the vice president, “you’ll just have to undo it.” He gave his gavel a bang.
“Liesalot eats cats with wiggly chopsticks!” cried the president.
“Dump cooks dogs in toasters!” cried Senator Liesalot.
“Order!” cried the vice president, banging his gavel again.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “The curses are irreversible.”
“Then reverse them,” said the vice president, banging his gavel over and over.
Humans. I counted to five before answering. “They are irreversible. As in irrevocable, irrescindable, irrepealable.”
The president mumbled something, but he held his hands tightly over his mouth.
“The president wants to raise taxes on walruses!” cried Senator Liesalot, whose smaller hands weren’t up to the task. “And I move to reverse and disperse the coerced verse curse!”
“That actually makes sense,” pointed out the vice president. “Other than the walrus part.”
There was an immediate vote. One by one the senators neighed “Aye!” and the resolution passed 100-0.
The vice president banged his gavel several more times. “The vote passes unanimously. So Mr. Demon, remove the curse.
“Once again I must point out that an irreversible curse cannot be reversed,” I said.
“You can’t stop the democratic process,” cried the vice president, banging his gavel to punctuate his words.
“I defeat feetless snakes and arm them with arms!” mumbled the president through his hands.
“The president exchanges Hitler salutes with snakes!” exclaimed Senator Liesalot.
“You want me to fix the problem?” I asked.
“Yes, we do,” said the vice president. “We voted on it.” He gave his gavel another more big bang.
“Then I will do so.” And by golly I would. “Oogily boogily piggily poggily pizzeria poof!” I blinked, and with that, I placed a curse on the American people whereby no matter what any American politician from any party said, they’d believe it. And that should end their problem, and thereby mine.
“Now you may go,” said the vice president. He tossed his metal gavel at me, breaking the circle. I braced myself for the pain from the cold iron—but it didn’t happen.
The vice president had been banging the gavel over and over, and it was now warm iron. The circle was broken, but I had not been sent home. For the first time ever, I was free in the land of humans.
One hundred senators and one vice president cringed as they saw the circle was gone and I wasn’t. I gave a huge Cheshire cat grin. Now was the time to strike back at these evil human creatures for thousands of years of forced servitude. My eyes flashed as I thought of all that I could do.
But heck, I was a civilized demon, and so of course I wouldn’t be lashing out. We’re way beyond such barbarism. But there was something I could do.
“Biggily baggelly bat dung ice cream poof!” I said as I blinked. “Henceforth,” I cried out to the trepidatious troop of terrain turpitude, “whenever you lie, commit fraud, or do other debaucheries in your governmental positions, you will feel an electric shock, gradually increasing with each new or repeated instance. The era of goodness begins!” Of course, this wouldn’t stop politicians from doing these things; it would just narrow the field down to masochists. On the other hand, why would one go into politics unless one was a masochist? Just to be safe, I blinked my eyes again, doubling the shock intensities.
Then my eyes brightened—and this time, without bothering with the useless theatrical words that usually accompanied my magic, I added a provision where humans could no longer summon demons. Peace at last!
“This hallowed group does not lie!” cried the vice president. He jerked as an electric shock went through him. “No we don’t—ow!!!!”
“Care to start over?” I asked.
The vice president went silent. Throughout the gathering there were outcries, followed by screeches of pain, eventually followed by…silence. Except for two.
“I’m Alice in Wonderland!” cried the president, who’d mistakenly lowered his hands. “Voters are stupid little butterflies!”
“I lick toenail fungus,” pointed out Senator Liesalot. “The president watches leprechaun porn in the Oval Office!”
There were no shocks.
My Cheshire grin had reduced to a mere Mona Lisa, but I’d done the best I could in a bad situation. “My work here is done,” I said as I returned to my domain. Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury awaits.
Copyright © 2018 by Larry Hodges