Stories from The World, Chapter 1: The Television Demon

{--- Previously | Later --}

I realized that bluffing wasn't going to work. I'd had visions of an elaborate ruse, a verbal tug of war, an interrogation plan based on years of crime drama on television. The vibes I was getting off of this thing, no matter how physically small, no matter how apparently low on the demon totem pole, made me realize just how stupid that actually was.

Minor demon or not, given my handicaps he would knit me into a fine doily like a Jesuit taking on a teenage Nihilist.

Ten minutes later, there was a soothing, if artificially professional voice on the phone.

"Yuuta Wirnhier, Witch Doctor, how may I help you sir, madame, or other?"

"Hi, Yuuta, it's me. Listen, I know demonology is not your specialty, but I need a referral."

A pause. A sound of tearing paper that showed me a picture, inexplicably, of an old-fashioned mechanical cash register with the display wheels spinning uncontrollably.

"Yes sir, what are your circumstances?"

"Well, uh. Remember the demon in my TV? I have successfully trapped him in the livingroom, and I need someone who can ask him some questions for me and be sure of getting the whole truth. I need someone who will come to me, since I can't move the demon. And I need someone who won't want magical payment from me, just money."

The sound of tearing paper. I've always wondered what that sound is, but I've never asked, mostly because I know she'll want to charge me for the answer. "Please hold just a moment," she dropped, curtly.

The line went quiet while I was on hold. The demon started picking idly at his teeth. Yep. Hundreds of them. Like bone needles jammed haphazardly into the black gums. He ran a disgustingly long and pointed tongue out to worm around inside his nostril, and came out with a maggot wrapped in the forked tip.

"Hey little guy, try again. I've seen much, much worse."

The maggot abruptly vanished into the thing's mouth, there was a brief crunch, and Yuuta came back.

"Sir, may I transfer you?"

No sooner had I said "Sure" than the noise on the line increased noticeably. A man's voice, now. Totally unreadable.

"Demon?"

"Uh, yes. there is a demon in my livingroom."

"Secured?"

"Uh, yes. With a very nice chalk circle."

"Name?"

"My name is -"

"No. Demon's name. You will not be asked your name." I am concentrating now, concentrating on his voice and I get a picture of mineral water gone flat.

"Uh, I don't know the demon's name. I didn't invoke him with a Preparation, he showed up on his own and I trapped him."

"I see," the voice said. "Or perhaps I don't. Address?"

I gave him my address, and before I could ask if he needed the full ten digit zip code, the doorbell rang. Through the peephole, I could see a very large, very black man with a cellphone in one hand and a black leather doctor's bag in the other. He had very narrow, very tight cornrows and seemed to be wearing a simple grey linen suit.

I opened the door with the phone still in my hand. The man said, "May I come in?" and I heard his echo in the phone.

"Sure, sure, yeah. Come on in," I said, opening the screen door as well. He waited for me to step aside and produced a finish nail from his jacket pocket, which was then pounded into the bottom of the doorframe with his heel. His heavy boots had prominent hobnails, and had there not already been hundreds of demon hoofburns, I would have been terrified for my hardwood floors. I needn't have worried though - as I watched him bend on one knee to tie a piece of string to the nail, I noticed that his feet did not actually touch the ground. There was a quarter inch of air between the hobnails and the walnut.

As he stood, I could see that the string ran into his other jacket pocket.

"Yarn," he said. "Perhaps you are familiar with the history of the Labyrinth of Crete. This is the same concept."

I nodded. I was familiar with the story, but failed to see how a straight shot from the front door to the livingroom might constitute a maze. Anyway, it meant that this guy was not making the same assumptions that the demon had, which was a plus in his favor. I gestured towards the livingroom.

"Sorry for the precautions, but I've learned from certain experiences." He picked his bag up and held out his right hand.

As I shook it, he said, "You can call me Vidnar. I am a demonologist, and I understand you have an object of interest."

I laughed and nodded. "Yes, you could say that. Vidnar, let me just be frank with you." He nodded, face as unmoving as the pouting demon's now was. "This," gesturing towards the livingroom, "Was mostly an accident. He started messing with my TV, so I read a couple of books and set up a half-assed trap. It worked, and that's about as far as I've made it under my own power."


He looked over my shoulder again at the demon, then opened up his satchel. I looked down at it as it opened, and watched his hands disappear into an unnatural blackness. I couldn't see anything beyond the mouth of the bag. It might as well have been a nine inch deep black hole. He came out with a pad of paper and a pencil, and handed them both to me.

"I understand you wish to have certain information from the demon. I will need to know, at least in a general sense, what information you wish to have. I will do my best to obtain the information. Upon such time as I obtain the information to your satisfaction, or determine that what you want is unobtainable, I will cease working and we will determine the payment due. I generally bill by the hour, however, if I am able to obtain certain items as a matter of course during the questioning, and you do not wish to retain possession of them, I will subtract their value from the final bill. Any materials I have brought with me are not charged to you, however, should I need any other materials you will provide them or you will pay for them."

I realized I had been nodding along with him and continued to nod as I rolled over and over and over on what he'd said.

"Right, let me make sure I understand this completely. I tell you want I want from the demon. You charge by the hour to try to get what I want from the demon. You bill me by the hour, in regular money, and anything that you get from the demon during that time is mine, unless I don't want it. And then it goes towards the bill. And I pay for any materials that you didn't bring with you."

He pursed his lips slightly, then nodded. He threw in a curt "Yes" before spitting into the palm of his hand and holding it out again.

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