Demon Lover: Part Three

Part One Part Two

Trigger warnings for disordered eating, self-harm, abusive relationships.

The next night, Elise didn’t come home. Nor the night after that. I barely noticed the time slip by, but when she returned, she brought a man with her. 

She wasn’t the type to coddle living things. Most people like to have something living nearby ⁠— a plant, a fish, a cat, another human. I’d never seen another living being in her space. It was just her and me. 

Until him. 

He was chewing gum when he stepped across the threshold, his eyes following her as she vanished into the bathroom. He closed the front door gently, then stood in the pristine living room. 

Tabula rasa, meet tabula rasa. He was as well groomed as the apartment, concealing a bit of pudge and a mountain of uncertainty under a pressed and tailored shirt. 

“Elise, where’s your garbage?” he asked, his voice too loud for the space. 

He could barely understand her answer, but found the trash anyway, taking the gum from his mouth with his fingers, which he did not wash in the sink. 

Was this her someone to talk to? It didn’t seem so. She emerged from the bathroom in only knee high socks and a loose wool sweater. Nothing they said after that held any meaning. 

She didn’t let him take the sweater off her, although she allowed him to peel off the socks with a reverence most would reserve for church. He failed to please her, so she pleased herself, not bothering to hide what she was doing as he collapsed next to her. He left a few hours later, after they’d both fallen asleep. 

She did not invite him back. 

I waited. Seasons changed. She didn’t speak to me again, and gradually, I reintroduced my calling card: three long and inexplicable scratches on her arm. The new scratches, once again discovered in the shower, did not result in another one-sided conversation. When her fingers lingered over them, she smiled fondly, drawing on some memory I couldn’t reach. 

She left for a few days after that, packing a small overnight bag filled with lace dresses and long silk nightgowns. When she came back, it was with starry eyes and a chest full of vapid sighs. 

When I crept under her covers that night, ready to slash at her other arm, I found her body covered in long, thin marks. Someone had gotten there before me. 

I hovered centimeters over her skin, halfway to being offended. There was nothing to do but leave my own marks anyway, but it hardly seemed meaningful. I wasn’t even sure she’d notice three more marks on her pale, covered arms. 

For good measure, I ripped through her dress. Let her try to ignore that. 

Yet, she did, discarding the nightdress into her laundry without a second glance, humming in the shower, stroking the lines on her arms, legs, and stomach. Whoever her new paramour was, she had no space in her head for wondering about demons. 

That suited me perfectly, even if it meant I needed a new plan. 

Her absences lengthened with the sun’s reign. I would have followed her, given the opportunity, but without a vessel I moved as slowly as a glacier. She wasn’t ready yet, and if she kept ignoring me and absenting herself from her own living space, she never would be ready. I would exist only as a concept until some other poor fool moved in. 

She was too fond of my favorite kind of physicality. I needed to change my game. 

One night she came back weeping, mascara running down her face. I felt her emptiness from the moment she came in from the street: heartbreak, plain and simple. That was a memory I could touch. Unhappiness fell within my domain. 

I saw it all as it ran through her mind on repeat ⁠— her lady was leaving, called to work in a far away city. They’d only known each other for a few months, but Elise hoped, then begged to be taken away with her. To be worthy. 

This I could work with. Her intensity of feeling finally made her easy prey, and once she cried herself to sleep, I ripped into her dreams. I became her lady, a beady eyed, heavy set woman of no particular grace. Elice had only cared about how her lady covered her in praise, each strike accompanied by an ode to her uncertain beauty. Afterwards, her lady would hold Elise, glowing, and she would vanish into the soft pink cloud of warmth and safety. 

In the dream, I did all of this, just to snatch it away. 

“You’re too much to take with me,” I told her, shifting my hefty body to lean over her. “Don’t worry, pet. I’ll put you to sleep.” I put my forearm over her throat and bore down. As she began to choke, I showed her my truest face. 

She woke gasping, the memory of my form already vanishing, but the rest stuck like tar to her soul. Sleep didn’t find her again until dawn. 

Let no one convince you that human unhappiness is varied. After a few eons it all runs together like snow-melt to the sea. Hers was no different. She bundled her self-worth up in new dresses and old tears. The dreams I sent her barely made a dent in her nightmares, so plentiful were her naturally occurring fears. It seemed to her that her lady had lifted her from mediocrity. She would do anything to not descend again. 

Limes replaced the grapefruit in her fridge, accompanied by rare treats of melon. She soaked up the torments I sent her.

After a month, she disappeared. 

Demon Lover: Part Two

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. 

Part Three

Demon Lover: Part One

Trigger warnings for disordered eating, self-harm, abusive relationships.

It takes a certain type of carelessness to talk to a demon. Elise had that in spades. 

She first noticed the scratches in the shower. That was the only place she could notice them, would ever notice them in winter. Her apartment was too cold for her razor-thin frame even on the sunniest September day. She wore long sleeves exclusively, trading over-sized wool sweaters for chiffon bell sleeves come summer.

Thick body hair, her constant bane, was bearable on her legs through daily shaving, but she couldn’t stomach stubble on her arms, stomach or mound, so it grew freely, and she kept covered. Shamefully. Quietly. Older women complimented her modesty, even when she wore short skirts with stockings. The 1960s were long enough ago that even such a show of legs seemed more nostalgic than sexual. 

If the scratches were on her legs, she might have assumed she’d acquired them in a mundane manner — brushing against a sharp corner in the office, or on the subway. To have them on her arms was something altogether inexplicable. Her arms were only ever bare in the shower, and she hadn’t scratched herself. Her mind wandered through the steam and, in the way of meandering shower thoughts, hit upon a memory of some ghost hunting show from college. Men running from a tomb, displaying long red lines and stammering of demons. She’d laughed until she cried, gasping for breath in the arms of her college girlfriend. 

She smiled, feeling whimsical. “If you’re here and want to talk, try the other arm tonight.” 

The sound of her own voice thrilled her, echoing around the bathroom and tickling the back of her neck. When was the last time she’d spoken in her own home? During a call from her manager, probably. When was the last time someone had been in her space? Months, at least. The realization didn’t hurt as much as numb her, and her thoughts skittered away from that lack as she prepared for bed. Wrapped up in a ratty old sweatshirt, she promptly fell asleep. 

She always showered in the morning, even when she showered at night. It was the only way to feel clean and warm at the same time. A sweatless, pretty thing. There were no new scratches on her arms, and she watched the water caress the already fading marks from the previous day with unexpected disappointment. 

“I wish you’d been real,” she said idly, lips twitching slightly. “It would have been nice, having someone to talk to.” 

She ate half a grapefruit dusted with pink salt to match her salmon cashmere sweater set, a work outfit she hated but wore for its powers of invisibility. Putting on her professional mask, she left. 

In the dim shadows of the spotless white apartment, I waited, puzzling over her words.

Part Two