Part One. Trigger warnings for disordered eating, self-harm, abusive relationships.
Demons are ravenous things. We starve as soon as we leave a host, and we continue starving until we find some other soul to feed on. The more refined our tastes, the longer we starve, and the weaker we become.
Some people beg for demons. They fall easily, writhing with regret. Even in those who summon demons, attempting to bind us with foul symbols of the false god, there is a frisson of fear. Unbelievers are as easily haunted as the devout. Shame is the only requirement. We always have options, if we’re willing to take them.
Nothing but a certain kind of soul would satisfy me. Brave, but unwilling. Broken, but stoic. Desperate, but kind. Until Elise stirred the remnants of my taste from the dust, I had been sleeping for a long stretch.
She returned from work later than usual, with a box of fried, sticky food. The contents turned her stomach as much as they made her mouth salivate. She hadn’t eaten since the grapefruit that morning. The other half was still in the fridge, and she considered turning back to it instead, but she was craving heat and meat and fat. The blaring television helped her get the food down. Distraction. She threw away the evidence before her impulses could send her hurtling toward the toilet.
Good girl. If I had glands, I’d salivate as well.
This night’s shower was not a prolonged affair. She let the water steam up the little room, entirely obscuring the full length mirror, before stripping, eyes on her cloudy image, and stepping into the scalding water. Only as she washed herself did her fingers linger on the fading scratches.
Her hands tightened on her arm, her nails testing the fragility of her skin.
“I could do it myself and pretend it was you.” She meant it. An intense and terrible desire to be seen, and worked upon, moved through her. She wanted me to take the numbness from her limbs with claws and teeth and fear.
I tensed. At least I would have if I was in a body. She didn’t want to hurt herself, not really. She wanted an interaction, which she was daring me to provide. I couldn’t give her what she wanted. Not yet. Nor did I want her to bleed without me, an action which might send her hurtling into the arms of caring strangers. She loosened her intention. If I had lungs, I would have sighed.
She dressed in a thick flannel and fell asleep on the couch to some inane morality play, my marks nearly forgotten. In her sleep, her hand found my marks through the flannel. It was as though she’d touched me. Reached out to me. As if I were her savior, instead of her doom.
The sensation was unbearable, a burning heat I’d only felt at the edge of consecrated ground. This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen. I was meant to torment her, not the other way around.
I am patient. Mortals are not. She would forget these conversations, and I would once again have the advantage.