My family has a secret. It isn’t the mundane type of secret either: Dad isn’t hiding any affairs, Mom doesn’t drink herself to sleep, and my sister doesn’t sneak boys or drugs up to her room. They do, however, all have their own demons, and they keep them hidden from the rest of the world.
Dad’s demon has swollen eyeballs which protrude at least six inches from its floppy, boneless face. He said its because he reads so much, but it’s probably because he’s always snooping on other people’s business. Mom’s demon is something between an eel and a slug, although every once in a while it’ll turn itself inside-out and leave bloody, oily stains on the carpet. My sister Sandra only got her demon a few months ago. It’s always eating things: clothes, pencils, books — anything it can fit into its distended jaw. I can only imagine how much trouble they’d get up to if they weren’t kept in cages all the time.
“Sandra had to wait until she was 18 for her own demon, and so do you,” my father would say.
When you’re a freshman, a four year wait might as well be a life sentence. It wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t seen how much Sandra had changed after she got hers either. Mom says that when we summon a demon, we take all the worst parts of ourselves and bind it to the creature.
Sandra used to stress eat. She could clear a family sized pizza in under 10 minutes. I don’t think she even tasted it. When she was a junior in highschool, she weighed 240 pounds (although she’d kill me if she knew that I knew).
When she went to prom her senior year, she weighed 110. I wasn’t allowed to watch the actual summoning ceremony, but I can only imagine the demon crawling (or eating) its way out of her and taking all her bad habits with it. It’s not like she magically transformed overnight though. Not physically, anyway. She went on an all liquid diet the next day, running an hour every morning, yoga in the afternoon, and another two hours of gym at night.
At first I was supportive. That lasted about a week. Then the jealousy set in. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fat cow like she was, but it was hard to even stand next to that goddess without feeling insecure. Just being alive is enough to make me anxious and uncomfortable though. I have this magic power where I can walk through a crowd of strangers and telepathically infer that everyone is laughing at me, even though logically I know they don’t give two shits. And forget actually trying to make friends. I’d rather kill myself than talk to a cute boy (not really, although I’d be lying if I said the thought never crossed my mind).
So why torture myself through highschool like my sister did? If she hadn’t wasted three years sitting in the corner and feeling sorry for herself, she could have had the best time of her life. I must have begged my parents a thousand times to let me summon my demon early, but the point was non-negotiable. I wasn’t “mature” enough. I was just going through a “phase.” They thought I was still “developing,” and that it was still too early for me to know who I really was. But I did know who I was. I was a sad, lonely girl who was sick of feeling like this, and I knew the longer I waited, the worse it would get.
I got my chance last Friday when Mom and Dad went out for a date. Sandra was at the gym, so I had the house to myself. I was a sock-footed commando slipping into my parents room to search for their summoning book.
Dad’s demon perked up right away from its cage on top of the dresser. It pressed its bulging eyes against the bars so hard that they squished straight through. Mom’s demon was in a empty aquarium, pressed up against the glass. I ignored them and started to search: under the bed, in the closets, in the bathroom drawers — all the obvious places. Nothing. My search widened: inside pillow cases, hidden between clothes, rifling through their other books to see if one had a fake cover. Nothing. I was growing frustrated and was about to give up when Dad’s demon started squeaking.
It was pointing a long, thin finger at the AC vent. I followed its advice, and sure enough the grate cover was loose. The book was inside, a heavy leather affair entitled “The Demonicum.” I replaced the vent cover, thanked the bulging eyed creature (even though Dad said never to talk to them), and hurried back to my room to study the book.
The spell was way simpler than I imagined. No ingredients, no sacrifices, just a short verse and a silly dance. It seemed weird because I remember them being gone for hours for Sandra’s ceremony, but they probably just had to drive a long way to get to a sacred spot or something. Even better, there was an unsummoning spell which bound the demon back to me just in case things got out of hand. Nothing to lose and everything to gain, I started to read.
As soon as I pronounced the final syllable, I felt a heavy burden lift from my heart. It felt a bit like dreading an impossible test all week, only to arrive at class to find out its been replaced with a field trip. I hadn’t just been carrying that dread for a week though — it was a whole lifetime of doubt, and resentment, and insecurity that separated itself from me.
Then came the scratching from the inside my chest. An insatiable, internal itch. I watched in morbid fascination as a small claw pushed out of my skin. It retreated, and a moment later a long, thin tongue slipped out to taste the air. It didn’t hurt, so I ran to the bathroom mirror to watch it slowly widen the hole and begin to work its way out. It was small and round, covered with bristling black fur like a hamster that had been plugged into an electrical outlet. It had just gotten the hole wide enough to stick its head out when I realized that I didn’t have a cage ready for it.
The old me would have gone into a panic attack on the spot. Not anymore. I was cool and collected as I glided to my closet to look for a container, the demon wiggling its way out of me the whole time. The best I could do was a backpack, but the creature was so small and feeble looking that even that seemed more than sufficient. I waited until it pulled its full torso free before snatching the demon and dragging it the rest of the way out. It squeaked and whined in protest as I stuffed it into the backpack and zipped it up. The hole in my chest was already closing, and a few seconds later I was as good as new.
No, I was better than new. For the first time I could remember, I was happy with myself. The only damper was the pathetic, terrified squeaking coming from inside the backpack. I stuffed it under my bed and tried to forget about it, but my demon was loud enough that I was sure it would be discovered. I yelled at it to shut up, but it only responded with pitiful whimpering.
I pulled the backpack out and unzipped it about an inch. My demon was cowering in the corner, trembling all over and clutching itself with its little paws. Like it or not, there was part of me inside it. I couldn’t help but relate to it, knowing that all its anxious fear was exactly what I had been feeling every day of my life. Then it looked up at me with those quivering eyes and my heart broke completely.
“Okay you can come out. But only if you don’t make a sound, okay? And you can’t let anyone see you,” I told it.
The demon nodded vigorously, so I unzipped the backpack and let it crawl free. It stayed silent and didn’t try to get away. I patted down its bristling fur, which was surprisingly soft, until gradually the trembling stopped and it started to relax. Sandra came home shortly after, but the demon was true to its word and stayed hidden.
The next few days were heaven. It’s amazing how different the world can be with a simple shift in perception. I wasn’t afraid of making mistakes or being laughed at anymore. I started speaking up in class, joined new people at lunch, and felt myself becoming accepted and admired almost immediately. I even caught a few glances from boys which lingered on me longer than I’ve ever noticed before.
I was so happy that I barely paid any attention to my demon which continued to cower in my room. It was growing every day, but any attempt to trap it again elicited such a woeful sound that I quickly gave up. I was sure my parents would take it away or unsummon it if they found out, and that wasn’t a risk I was willing to take. I told it to stay under my bed until it got too big for that, then I made it stay in the closet. By this point it was about the size of a large dog, already far bigger than the other demons and showing no signs of stopping.
I wasn’t anxious anymore, so the heavy breathing didn’t bother me. I didn’t worry about the half-eaten squirrels I sometimes found in the corner of my room. I didn’t dread what would happen if it kept getting bigger. All I cared about was how good it felt to not be dragged down by those negative feelings all the time. I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten until I heard the screaming in the middle of the night.
“Let go of her, you brute!”
“Dad, get the book!”
It was coming from Sandra’s room. I leapt out of bed and raced across the hall. The door was open, and my demon was cowering in the corner. It was almost as tall as my sister now, its black fur rising like so many blades. Broken glass glinted in the carpet, and Sandra’s demon was nowhere to be seen. Dad shoved passed me and rushed back toward his room. My demon launched off the wall in hot pursuit. I tried to hold onto it as it sped by, but the spikes of fur were sharp enough to cut my hand and I immediately let go.
“It ate her!” Sandra was wailing. “It ate my demon!”
I heard another smash before I got to my parents room. The wire cage was empty, twisted wide open. More glass sprayed the ground where the aquarium once was. My demon was chewing like a starved animal, a path of oily blood running down its chin.
My parents’ demons were barely a mouthful for it, but they distracted it for long enough. Dad was reading something from the summoning book, but I could barely hear him over the sound of Sandra’s screaming. My demon had finished swallowing and it was crouched again, ready to leap on dad…
But not before he finished the spell. The demon rippled once, twice, and then just as it flew into the air it dissolved into a wave of black mist. The mist reared to a halt in the air before turning to crash down on me in a freezing wave. It poured into my nose, and my mouth, and my eyes — flooding me with an overwhelming fear and hatred. It was as second skin over my skin, and a third skin under it, encompassing and filling me to the brim. The demon was being bound to me once more, only it was bigger than ever, with it all the weight of my family’s demon’s inside of it.
I can’t get rid of it again. It’s become too powerful to contain. I guess I just have to get used to the new me.