An essay by Star Posey, as provided by Megan Dorei
Art by Leigh Legler
These records are as much for my sanity as they are for posterity. It’s long past due for me to share my findings, and exterior circumstances have motivated me to do so.
There might be someone out there who remembers.
I arrive home around midnight to find Sarah waiting on the stairs. She is a deeper shadow than the rest, punctuated by neon orange eyes. I freeze. For a moment, I feel acutely judged. I stifle the urge to tell her that it’s perfectly acceptable for a twenty-five-year-old partial shut-in to go trick-or-treating. It’s practically therapy, at this point.
Instead, I simply say, “Howdy.”
Low, rattling suspicion hums from her chest, but she stays motionless. Guilt clogs my throat. She’s hungrier than I thought. I spread my arms apologetically before realizing that in my bed-sheet ghost costume, it’s merely a flaring of wings.
“You wanna try out some more options?”
Nothing about her posture indicates enough patience to undergo yet another investigation into her eating habits. Because she doesn’t speak (at least not a language I understand), I’ve spent hours trying and failing to puzzle out her nutritional needs.
Though the door is closed, I still look behind me as I remove the sheet. Tonight was therapy, yes, but it doesn’t feel like it. Unease needles my stomach. The stranger didn’t follow me here as far as I saw, but the feeling of being watched remains.
Distracted as I am, it takes me a moment to realize that Sarah is tracking the movement of the pillowcase in my hand. She is silent now, her eyes swelling like pumpkins–not simply her pupils, but her whole eyes. Fascinating.
“You want this?” I shake the bag so the candy clatters.
Her splines flare along her back and begin to pulse a surreal, bruising purple.
“I’ll … take that as a yes.”
Tentatively I slide the sack toward her. She snatches it up in her multitude of talons (directly beneath her knife-edged fingers is a second set of retractable claws) and disappears upstairs.
“Oh … ‘kay. I’ll just … I’ll just get some chocolate from the store later. That’s coolioz. It’ll be on sale.”
Despite losing my candy, I’m excited. For weeks, she’s been indifferent to all manner of nutriment and my haphazard guesses of what that might be (demons don’t always eat what humans eat, after all). The only difference between the candy I offered a week ago and tonight’s is that I trick-or-treated for it. Jury’s still out until I run conclusive tests, but perhaps it means that whatever she eats must be related to or acquired on Halloween.
To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Winter 2020 collection.
Star Posey supposes the world will label her as a demonologist, and she’s just fine with that, although she prefers to think of herself as a foster mom to all broken and wayward things. She studies all manner of science in her spare time and is working on gathering a horde of Halloween candy for a friend who lives in her closet.
Megan Dorei is a lover of all things horror and strange. She has been published in such works as Sirens Call Publications’ Bellows of the Bone Box, Dark Moon Digest #14, Flame Tree Publishing’s Gothic Fantasy: Dystopia Utopia, and Transmundane Press’ On Fire anthology. She lives in Lawrence, KS, with her fiancée and probably several ghosts.
Leigh’s professional title is “illustrator,” but that’s just a nice word for “monster-maker,” in this case. More information about them can be found at http://leighlegler.carbonmade.com/.
“A Home for Wayward Demons” is © 2019 Megan Dorei
Art accompanying story is © 2019 Leigh Legler