The little demon who cou.., p.9
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       The Little Demon Who Couldn't, p.9

           Odelia Floris
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  VERY soon little Murmur was trotting away from the fair Sophia's house, across the street and into the park. This time, he did not take any chances. With his beady eyes on the alert for water sprites, he trotted around the lake and continued safely across the big lawn. Once he had passed under the row of tall trees, he carefully picked his way through the stone-littered churchyard.

  In his hurry to unite tear and angel, Murmur forgot to give the stone angel a wide berth. Glancing up to find its sad, noble marble eyes gazing back at him almost within arm's reach, he yelped and darted sideways.

  'Argh, horrid, horrid thing!' he gibbered to himself. 'Always looking, always watching, always seeing?'

  The little demon narrowly avoided stubbing his hoof between its cloven cleft on a sharp stone, and while he was still wobbling off balance, a large snowflake slapped wetly onto his nose.

  'After you, they are after you!' he screeched, swotting up at the snowflakes as though they were a hoard of attacking wasps.

  But within moments these few outriders became a flurry that rained down thick and fast. Pulling his cloak over his head, little Murmur galloped for the old well. By the time he was pushing through the dogroses and hazel, the ground was carpeted with fluffy, pristine white.

  The glow of the angel was reflected by the snow as a golden radiance twice as brilliant as that which had previously stung the little demon's beady eyes. He stopped and blinked his watery eyes for a few moments until he no longer was blinded, then fearfully and distastefully sneaked up to the well's edge.

  The angel stood in the well upon what now was not mud but a blanket of glistening white snow. With his beautiful face turned up towards the falling snowflakes and the palms of his hands likewise facing up as though receiving a gift from above, he seemed in a rapture.

  'I knew the snowflakes loved the angels?' Murmur hissed to himself, fearfully fiddling with the end of his tail.

  The angel suddenly opened his radiant blue eyes. 'Ah, Murmur, you return. Is not this snow beautiful!'

  'You angels might be friends with the light-glowing snow, but it is still us demons who rule the darkness!' screeched the little demon, jittering so that his teeth chattered together. 'Now that is enough from you, angel!'

  'Forgive me, I did not wish to offend. I had forgotten that you are afraid of your own shadow,' the angel replied.

  Already almost hopping with terror at all the snow falling upon him, Murmur now hopped with annoyance too. 'Here are your tears, angel!' he shrieked, tossing the cloth at the angel. 'Now fix your wings and clear out of here! Next time I come you will be gone-do you hear me?'

  The angel caught the handkerchief with his fine, long-fingered hand. 'Thank you, Murmur! Thank you a thousand times over!'

  'I don't want your thanks, I just want you out of my churchyard!' screeched the demon, who was shaking with terror. He could hardly make himself look at the angel another moment longer.

  'Murmur,' said the angel, 'I cannot promise that my wings will be completely healed by these precious tears. The blow of the black demon was heavy and his dark magic powerful. I may need something more before these broken wings can once again lift me heavenwards.'

  Murmur refused to hear this. 'Tomorrow night I will return and you will be gone!' he shrieked, pointing his little finger at the angel and hopping with rage.

  He did not wait for a response. Pulling his cloak more tightly about his face, he turned and bolted for home. He hoofed it all the way up the snow-covered trail and arrived inside with a final leap that made his hooves go 'scleech!' as he slid halfway down the hallway.

  He came to rest at last beside the coat stand. After shaking the snow from his cloak, he hung it up.

  A wild cackle suddenly rent the stillness. 'The fool, oh the fool-aha ha ha ha!'

  'It was well done, Behemoth, well done!' shrieked Beball, clattering in after his brother.

  Grinning wildly, Behemoth slapped Beball on the back. 'Oh, but that bit you added about the ultimate unknowability of all things was masterly, masterly!'

  'Yes, the foolish student has been reduced to despair, utter despair!' howled Beball, almost bent double with laughter.

  'He has lost all purpose now that he believes there is no such thing as truth, but only mere opinion!' shrieked Behemoth, who laughed with such fiendish delight that he almost dropped his pitchfork.

  This all sounded like a lot of work to the small onlooker beside the coat stand. Even understanding what it was the two demons had managed to convince the foolish student of seemed like a lot of work. It was certainly too hard for Murmur. He hadn't a clue what his brothers were talking about. Maybe when he was older and in middle school?then again, maybe not? The little demon sighed tiredly.

  'Tomorrow night we shall return and finish our work,' chuckled Beball, rubbing his hands gleefully together. 'Heh heh heh?'

  Behemoth's eyes glinted with fiendish excitement. 'Indeed we shall? When we have finished with him he won't be sure about anything, not even of his own existence!'

  'Heh heh heh?' Beball chortled, nodding. 'Such fools those humans are? Heh heh heh?'

  Behemoth, having already put his pitchfork in the stand, now removed his plumed red cap and reached out to hang it up. But suddenly his arm froze in mid-air. 'Murmur, w-what has happened?to y-you??' he stammered, staring at his little brother with horror and shock.

  Murmur looked first at Behemoth's horrified face, then at Beball's equally dumbstruck countenance. He began to feel a little afraid, but was not entirely sure that this was not another of his big brothers' mean pranks.

  'What sort of fool do you take me for?' he squeaked, stomping his hoof. 'I'm not falling for any of your mean tricks!'

  The faces of the staring demons remained unchanged. 'W-what have you been up to?' gasped a wide-eyed Behemoth, staggering slightly.

  'What do you mean?' screeched Murmur, who was beginning to panic.

  Beball lifted his finger and pointed weakly at Murmur. 'Your hands, your ears, your nose, your eyes?' Then he trailed off, seemingly too shocked to speak.

  'Your joke has gone far enough!' squeaked the little demon, whose furry hocks were now knocking together. 'Stop it now or I'll tell father!'

  The expression on their faces did not change. 'Beball, get him a mirror.' Behemoth's voice was strangely numb, and his horror-struck eyes remained fixed on Murmur.

  Without looking away, Beball picked up the mirror lying upon the nearby hall table and handed it to Murmur. This was no human-made mirror. It was forged deep under the earth in the depths of Hell. Every demon could see his reflection in it.

  With a jittering hand, the little demon took the offered mirror and looked. But the mirror shook so in his hand that it bounced wildly. Murmur could not make out anything except a blur.

  'Here, I'll hold it!' shrieked Beball, yanking the mirror off his little brother.

  Murmur looked in the now-still mirror. His terrified eyes took a moment to focus, but when they did, he uttered a shriek of fright and leapt half a meter into the air.

  'My ears, my chin, they are less pointy!' he gibbered, his teeth and hocks filling the hallway with their din as they knocked together.

  'Did you notice your eyes?' Behemoth asked grimly.

  'W-what?' gibbered Murmur, reaching his shaking hand once more for the mirror.

  The shriek that he uttered upon meeting his reflection was even louder than the last one. 'My-my eyes-they are n-not red!' Flinging down the mirror, Murmur snatched his cloak off the coat stand and buried his head in it. 'My eyes, my eyes!' he gibbered to himself, quaking with the horror of it. 'Purple, purple!'

  'Look at his hands!' Beball's horrified gasp reached Murmur's muffled ears.

  'Evil Satan!' screeched Behemoth.

  Murmur tossed aside the cloak and held his hands up before his eyes. They were plumper and less sinewy. There was now little difference between them and human hands. The little demon whimpered fearfully and let them drop.

  'Now tell us wh
at you've been up to, small-ears!' demanded Beball, jabbing Murmur in the chest with a long, taloned finger.

  The little demon backed away, but only made one step before his back was against the wall. 'Ahhhm?' he muttered, fiddling franticly with the end of his tail.

  He did not want to tell his brothers about the angel in the churchyard. No one must know about his secret retreat. He was fully resolved to never voluntarily venture any further than the churchyard ever again. Look what happened when you did: your eyes went purple, your fingers got fat and your face shrunk. No, never again was he going anywhere.

  'I-I came across an angel down there-' He waved an arm in the general direction of the park. 'And then I gave some nasty, fishy naiads down in the lake a piece of my mind. Then I sneaked up on a saint and pricked her with my pitchfork. I finished the night by startling a foolish young poet?'

  Beball and Behemoth's grim stares got a little grimmer as this tale fell upon their pointy ears. The little demon looked down and hoped desperately that they would swallow this selectively edited version of the night's events.

  His two brothers exchanged glances. Then Beball turned his little red eyes back on Murmur. 'Did you look into the eyes of this angel?' he demanded sternly.

  Looking down at his fiddling fingers, the little demon nodded reluctantly. 'I-I-yes.' He couldn't even think of any excuse to serve it up with.

  'What colour were they?'


  Beball and Behemoth looked at each other again. 'You were taught about the dangers of angels in last year's class. Why did you not heed them?'

  Murmur hung his head some more and fiddled faster. 'I?I?spent most of the time staring out the window and I?never did my homework.'

  'Alright, Murmur, now you shall learn it!' Behemoth said roughly, glaring down at the cowering demon. 'This is how it is: the eye is formed by the light and the impressions that pass before it; the ear is formed by the sounds it hears. If you see or hear an angel or a saint, your eyes or ears vibrate in sympathy. If you are near them, their influence spreads onto you. For, you see, in the spirit realms nothing is an island. All things intermingle. When it is the spirit of an angel or saint that intermingles, you can start turning into one.'

  The little demon looked back at his brother in wide-eyed astonishment. He did not recall ever having heard that. 'But how come the big demons can look into the eyes of an angel and remain unchanged?' he asked.

  'Well,' replied Behemoth, 'the stronger the spirit, the more it can remain true to its own essence. A great Prince of Hell can look into the very eyes of God and remain unchanged.'

  'Oh, I see.'

  'That does not explain how his hands got so fat,' spat Beball. 'Did you touch any of these loving saints?'

  The little demon swallowed hard. 'The?the water nymph forced me to kiss her hand?'

  'What!' Beball and Behemoth shrieked as one.

  'She made me do it-I'd have got all splashed with water by the other nymphs if I hadn't!'

  'What's this then?' screeched Behemoth, pulling a piece of riverweed out of Murmur's mop of curly hair.

  'She was horrid! I did what she demanded, then she goes and pushes me into the lake because I tell her she smells like a fish!'

  'What!' shrieked the older demons. 'You fool!'

  'Well, she did! It was very unreasonable to be so offended at a simple truth.'

  'Now tell me,' said Beball, his eyes narrowing with suspicion, 'did that saint make you do anything for her?'

  'What if she?did?' squeaked the little demon.

  'Doing a good deed is the most harmful thing a demon can do, that is what!' shrieked Behemoth, who looked as though his little brother had exhausted what small measure of patience he had.

  'And saints only get you to do one sort of deed-a good one!' added Beball in a screech, beginning to steam and smoke.

  'Well, I did deliver a note for her?' muttered Murmur, shaking a little.

  With his eyes glowing and his ears smoking, Behemoth pointed a finger at Murmur. 'Now we hear the true story of his little outing!' he screeched, and began clattering up and down in a rage.

  'Father will be so angry when he sees the state of me,' whimpered the little demon. 'As for Belphegor?' He fiddled franticly with the end of his tail, trying hard to keep his mind off the monstrous Belphegor.

  'As for Belphegor, he will never see you in this shameful state!' shrieked Behemoth, screeching to a stop before Murmur. He grabbed his little brother by the collar and pulled him up. 'You are a disgrace to the name of Demon! No one must see this, no one!'

  'Yes,' screeched Beball, 'no one!'

  'You are coming out with us tomorrow night, angel-eyes,' continued Behemoth. 'You will spread evil and mischief abroad as you pass through the town; your eyes will redden and your will face sharpen!'

  'We will be leaving at three in the afternoon,' Beball added over his brother's shoulder.

  'Th?three in the afternoon?' squeaked little Murmur, looking up at his brothers in horror. 'But it is not even yet twilight then! That is much too early for me-well before my leaving time.'

  Behemoth gave little Murmur such a fierce jerk that his talons tore through his satin doublet. 'You will leave when we tell you, baby-ears!'

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