Fourteen stories

It was interesting to create a series of stories around a common theme, with a sort of Oulipo constraint to the whole enterprise. I’m not sure how it resonated with readers — people tend to not comment so much on fiction posts.

I could continue on with the Demonology series, but it occurs to me that it might be even more interesting to come up with a series of stories that end up interconnecting into a coherent novel. Each story would stand on its own as an individual work, but taken together they would link together to form a single larger narrative arc.

I am aware of similar projects, as in the stories of Zenna Henderson. But those stories were only loosely coupled, via a common theme. It would be interesting to create a more tightly cohesive narrative, a true novel that just happens to consist of self-contained pieces.


Note from the author

Dearest Readers,

The original intent underlying this humble exercise was the creation of twenty six gothic tales within these pages, one per day, mutually bound together by a common demonic theme, each narrative to begin with a successive letter of the alphabet. Further, every tale was to be constrained in length by a mystical curse that required its fictional author to pen only tales containing precisely two hundred words. No more, no less.

Within this mystical framework, should said author lose focus and stray from this strict injunction, inadvertently penning a tale that contained an incorrect quantity of words, then the insidious curse would immediately take effect, the poor wretched soul thereby finding himself doomed.

Which, dearest readers, would mean no more stories.

Ironically, the selfsame error that precipitated the premature demise of our esteemed yet unfortunate narrator was the inclusion of a certain word not generally associated with mystical beings, nor with demonology in general.

It is a further irony that this apparently innocuous utterance, closing as it does both this series and its fictional author’s life, was intended to serve as both title and initial word of the very next tale in this series.



“Melvin Glopnik, clean your room!”

“I’m busy.” Melvin said, an empty beaker in one hand, bunsen burner in the other.

“I’m your mother, and I say your room is a mess.” Agnes Glopnik frowned and tugged sourly at her dark hair. What was it with all the experiments? Honestly, sometimes she didn’t know why they’d had a kid in the first place.

Melvin hated having his concentration disturbed. Especially now he’d finally gotten the bunsen burner working.

He found that these experiments helped take his mind off always feeling dislocated. Living in a different town every few months, needing to deal with new people, it made his head hurt.

He understood it was necessary, and he was learning from it, but sometimes this constant moving got to him.

“Melvin!” Agnes Glopnik said again. “Are you listening?”

He sighed. Clearly this wasn’t working. He muttered quietly. She shimmered and was gone.

It was all fine, he thought, to spend time living among humans. Every young demon goes through the training. It just required altering human memories, which was easy. But it didn’t always work out.

He peered into the beaker, examining the small dark haired figure inside. Now where was he?


“Leap of faith,” he told himself.

“Jump in, the water’s great!” she said again.

He took a running leap and jumped off the pier, as the afternoon sun sparkled off the water.

He found time slowing down at moments like this. They’d met on a day like today. She in the water, and he taking that first jump. Well, several first jumps, if you counted their relationship, a crazy leap of faith if there ever was one.

Part of him was already bracing himself for the call that would come out of nowhere, over the phone, when she would tell him it was over.

He imagined how things might go. Hiding out in his apartment for weeks after she was gone, hitting the bottle again, finding himself revisiting places they’d gone together, like those romantic night visits to the rooftop.

One night he’d go up again in a drunken daze, hoping against hope to see her, stumble over the edge. One final crazy leap of faith. In his mind’s eye he could see the pavement rushing up toward him.

And then he was in the water, the sparkling lake all around him, hearing her laughter as she swam toward him.


“Kangaroo!” said old Eddy.

A young woman at the bar moved away from him.

“Listen Eddy,” the bartender said, “You’re gonna have to stop that.”

“Kangaroo!” old Eddy repeated, looking intently at the bartender. He seemed mildly disappointed when nothing happened.

“OK,” the bartender sighed. “I’ll bite. Why do you keep saying ‘Kangaroo’?”

“Demons,” old Eddy explained.

“There are kangaroo demons?”

“No,” Eddy continued patiently. “Demons walk among us, just blend right in. Only way to get rid of them is to look ’em right in the eye and say ‘Kangaroo!'”

“That’s enough. You’re disturbing the customers.”

A few minutes later the cops arrived. “Evening Hal, what’s the problem?”

“Evening Fred, Joe. Old Eddy here thinks he sees demons.”

Officer Fred sighed. “We just came back from a call, guy jumped off a building ’cause his girlfriend left him. That guy had demons.”

Old Eddy snorted. “No, that guy was an idiot.”

“We done here?” officer Joe asked. “My turn to spring for donuts.”

Old Eddy looked at him. “Kangaroo!”

Suddenly where officer Joe had been there was just a pile of clothing on the barroom floor.

“Told you,” Eddy muttered.

Officer Fred looked down. “Does this mean no donuts?”


“Jump in, the water’s great!” she said.

He took a running leap and jumped off the pier, as the afternoon sun sparkled off the water.

He like the way time slowed down at moments like this, giving him time to think. It had been a day just like this when they’d first met, at that summer place by the lake. Seeing her there in the water, he had taken that first jump. Well, several first jumps, if you counted their relationship, a crazy leap of faith if there ever was one.

It wasn’t until weeks later, out of nowhere, over the phone, that she’d told him it was over.

He remembered other things. Hiding out in his apartment for weeks after she was gone, hitting the bottle again, finding himself revisiting places they’d gone together, like those romantic night visits to the rooftop.

And tonight, when he’d gone up again, in a daze, somehow hoping, against all hope, that she would be there. One final crazy leap of faith.

It wasn’t until the last moment that he saw the pavement rushing up toward him. Out of nowhere. His last thought was that now she would never come back to him.


“In a moment it’ll be my stop,” he said.

“Don’t you need to get ready to go?” she asked.

“It’s ok,” he said. “I can get out at the next stop. I’m really enjoying talking with you.”

She blushed prettily. “Does that mean you want to hear the rest of my theory?”

“Definitely. You were talking about demons, and desire.”

“Yes,” she continued, “I think demons use desire as a way to steal time. It’s their power. People’s lives generally move forward, until they meet their demon. The jealous demon takes that away.”

“Hmm,” he said, “Like demon alcohol, right?”

“Exactly!” she said. “The moment an alcoholic takes that first drink, life begins to stop moving forward.”

“I see what you’re saying,” he said, “After that, all the alcoholic does is circle around that bottle. The demon wins.”

“You catch on quick,” she said, giving him a warm smile. “Have you studied philosophy?”

“No,” he grinned, “But maybe I should. Oh wait, here we are. In a moment it’ll be my stop.”

“Don’t you need to get ready to go?” she asked.

“It’s ok,” he said. “I can get out at the next stop. I’m really enjoying talking with you.”


He waited on the platform, clutching the flowers he knew she loved. Three long weeks she’d been away, but now everything would be ok.

It hadn’t been easy at first. She was still traumatized by the crazy ex. He remembered how she’d held him when she talked about it, clinging to him for protection, like a frightened child.

The gun had been her idea. “You never know,” she’d said, “he could show up anywhere.”

It seemed a bit extreme to him, but he’d gotten it anyway, just to make her feel safer. “Thanks,” she’d said. “Not all men are like you. It’s hard to find a good one.”

The train was coming in now. He was glad he’d remembered the flowers.

“That’s the guy,” the officer said, “he’s got the flowers, like she said.”

It all happened so fast, his arms jerked back, the cold cuffs around his wrists, the flowers falling to the platform, the second officer saying “Check his pockets for the gun.”

Then he saw her, coming off the train. There was a strange man, one arm protectively around her.

“You don’t understand, officer” he protested weakly, knowing it would do no good. “I’m the good one.”


Gently she eased herself off the bed, trying to make as little noise as possible, not wanting to wake him. Her body was still tingling from their love making. She gazed down upon his face, so serene and untroubled, and remembered how, only hours before, she’d traced her finger across the stubble of his chin.

Silently she dressed, then took the key from her purse and laid it carefully on the dining room table. She thought about the shy look on his face earlier that evening, when he’d finally told her the words she had only half expected him to ever say, the words that would change everything.

“I love you,” he had declared, and she knew that this was not something that came easy for him. Their love making was different after that, fiercer, as though it really mattered. Afterward they had quietly drifted off to sleep.

She looked around the apartment, knowing she was forgetting something. Ah yes. She went into the bathroom and took one of the two toothbrushes out of the cup, the one he had told her was hers. She waited until she was several blocks away before tossing it into the nearest trash can.


“Friendship, that’s the important thing.”

They looked into each other’s eyes, enjoying the moment. He was glad they agreed about the friendship part, with so many things that go into a relationship. Not that he claimed to understand relationships.

Sometimes they would just talk, hours into the night. He felt sorry for people who didn’t have this kind of connection.

But it had been a long day, and they were both tired. They smiled at each other. There would be more time tomorrow to continue the conversation. “I’m sorry,” he said, feeling himself drifting off. “Guess I’m starting to lose it.” He was so tired, he might just fall asleep right here, sitting up.

The orderly came and gently took him by the shoulders, leading him back to the bed. “Until the medication kicks in, you can’t even try to move him.”

“What happens if you try to move him when he’s still awake?” the young doctor asked. It was her first day, and she was just getting to know the ward.

“Oh, you really don’t want to do that. He can get kinda violent. Might even hurt himself. Does everything he can to get back there, to the mirror.”