The little demon who cou.., p.4
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       The Little Demon Who Couldn't, p.4

           Odelia Floris
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'KICK harder, Murmur!'

  'Yes Ma,' muttered Murmur, reluctantly beginning to swing his little hooves more vigorously against the bench.

  The cavern the little demon and his mother sat in was small and dark, lit only by a torch blazing in one corner. One end of the cavern was boarded off, and in this wall was a rough and rickety door. From time to time, Murmur looked up from fiddling with his fingers and glanced nervously at this door. He did not want to be here, and he could not be bothered kicking anymore.

  'Ma, can't we go home?' squeaked the little demon (his voice always went squeaky when he was nervous).

  'No-and stop sitting there like a little angel!'

  'I don't like it here, Ma?'

  'Nobody likes a doctor's waiting room,' snapped his mother. 'Now start kicking that seat! This silence of yours is really getting on my nerves.'

  'Murmur son of Mammon?'

  The little demon looked to see who had spoken. A tall, skinny, wizened fellow stood in the now open doorway, peering over the round, wire-framed spectacles perched on the end of his long, hooked nose.

  'Ma, Ma, I want to go home!' gibbered little Murmur, tugging desperately at his mother's sleeve.

  She swatted his hand away. 'Yes, doctor, this is he.'

  The wizened fellow, whose hunched back made him look even more like a praying mentis than skinniness alone would have, motioned them forward. 'Enter, if you please.'

  The doctor's harsh, cutting voice ought to have been sweet music to demon ears, but little Murmur's slightly-pointy ears twitched at its sting. 'Ma, I don't need to see the doctor. There's nothing wrong with me; I promise to never do anything good again!'

  She seized her son's baby-clawed hand and hauled him forward. 'Doctor Azazel, I apologise for my son's behaviour. He's not been doing very well lately.'

  'Sit,' the doctor ordered little Murmur, pointing at a table with one of the longest, sharpest fingers the little demon had ever seen.

  Doctor Azazel's face was so lean and long, and his chin so sharp and pointed, that the little demon could barely prevent himself from gibbering and muttering aloud.

  He quickly hopped up onto the iron table and began swinging his furry legs and furiously fiddling with the stiffly starched black sheet. The cavern's rock walls were bare and dusty, and its contents sinister. Age-blackened iron chests occupied much of the space, and sitting on top of many of them were white bones and stuffed animals. The musty raven sitting staring at him from on a shelf directly opposite was especially disturbing to Murmur. Its dead, black, beady eyes seemed to stare and stare.

  'Ma, I want to go home!' squawked the little demon. 'I promise I'll be bad!'

  Murmur's mother shrugged helplessly at Doctor Azazel. 'You see what he's like. His father and I really worry about him. And look at this!' she added, tweaking his nose. 'It's so small and-and straight; he's just so ugly! I know it's a horrible thing to think, but I can't help it!'

  The doctor's mouth, which had never once been turned up into a smile in all his five thousand years, grew tighter and harder. 'Hmm,' he muttered. 'Hmm?'

  He reached for a tape measure and held it against Murmur's cringing nose. 'Hmmm?' Then he measured the length of Murmur's fingernails. The 'hmmm' that followed was condemning. 'He certainly is very late in his development? Was he born small and rounded?'

  Murmur's mother nodded. 'Yes, he was such a small, ugly child-to have created such a son; you always blame yourself, you know, always wonder what you did to deserve such a thing!' wailed she, almost sobbing.

  'Madam,' rasped the doctor, 'blaming yourself is no use.'

  Holding her long-clawed hand over her mouth to stifle her sobs, she nodded.

  'What I am prescribing for your son is this: he should complete Belphegor's Idiot Management Course.'

  'Belphegor's-Belphegor's?Belphegor's Idiot Management Course!' squeaked the little demon, almost struck dumb with terror.

  * * * *

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