The Perverse Imp

“The Perverse Imp”
by Larry Darling, Jr.
(with apologies to E.A. Poe)


We loved with a love that was more than love.” – Edgar Allan Poe

Never trust a big butt and a smile.” – Bell Biv Devoe

It has been there for a week. Maybe longer.
It hasn’t made any moves toward me, just stands there watching me with yellow eyes.
If I look away and look back again it is gone.
I should explain, but I am not sure where to begin.

My life has been an awkward one.
Nothing is ever easy.
After thirty five years, my life has simply become a stale routine of work, sleep, and resisting urges.
It sounds depressing when you look at it like that, but it isn’t always so bad.
I have a job, at least.  So there is that.
My job is managing the kitchen in a small bar and grill in my hometown in south Florida.
Things could be worse, but things can always be worse.
I have worked this particular job for three years now ; it has become comfortable and easy.
The restaurant is a small hole in the wall bar with a loyal group of drunken retirees who show up regularly for my dinner specials. The owners, Eddie and Susanne, work the breakfast and lunch shift, and leave the dinners completely up to me. It can be a fun time, but it also can wear me down.
An endless parade of waitresses come and go through the restaurant, as we are not nearly as busy as many of the other large corporate restaurants and bars in this little tourist town.
It works out well for me, as I have grown to enjoy my solitude.
I work the entire kitchen at night by myself ; prepping, cooking and washing everything, and in return I get paid enough to have a small apartment and afford most of the things I want. Not to mention, they don’t mind if I hit the taps for some free beer at the end of my shift, which is a definite plus.

It is always the little things.
For example, I was walking home from work one day and a mother and her little girl were trying to photograph butterfies in the bushes in front of me. My first instinct was to run up and kick at the bushes, spoiling their time.
At work, I am constantly having to hold myself back from flipping a tray of drinks from the hands of a passing waitress.
It is always in the back of my mind ; to cause some kind of chaos, but I never do. I just try to keep it to myself, as my mother taught me all those years ago.
These thoughts are always floating around in my head, at least for as long as I can remember. An unrelenting urge to do or say the wrong thing at the wrong time.
Mostly I just fight to keep it in, and go on about my day.

One particular morning, I saw it upon waking.
A tiny black little monster with wide yellow eyes and a devious smile was clinging to the ceiling above me when I woke.
I just rolled over and went back to sleep.
I had to work in a few hours.
I arrived at the restaurant, a few minutes late as usual.
Eddie was counting the money from the day shift and Susanne was in the dining room, sweeping under tables.
“Hey, we hired you a new girlfriend today,” said Eddie with a smirk, as Susanne stifled a giggle.
“Thanks, but no thanks,” I said, continuing on my way into the kitchen. They were always trying to fix me up with someone.
And I didn’t particularly get along with most waitresses. We tended to butt heads a lot.
“She’s a redhead, with a bunch of tattoos…” Eddie said, grinning widely.
I stopped, raised an eyebrow.
“And glasses,” chimed in Suzanne from out in the dining room.
“Well,” I said. “What is this young lady’s name?”
“I thought so,” Eddie said. “Her name is Emily, she starts tonight. Try and go easy on her, champ.”
“Okay,” I said, then continued into the kitchen to prepare for a busy Friday night.
I usually had about two hours to get everything ready for dinner service, so I set myself right to work.
It was Friday night, so tonight’s special was fish and chips.
Easy enough to whip up the beer batter and cut the fries, then I set about cutting veggies and getting everything else ready for the evening. My hands were occupied with the cutting and organizing, but it was an old routine. I could do it in my sleep at this point.
My mind wandered back to the morning, and the tiny creature I had thought I’d seen.
What was that?
Just a leftover fragment of some weird dream?
It couldn’t have been real.
I shook it out of my head and filled the sandwich station with fresh lettuce and tomato, then went out to have a smoke before the dinner crowd started to show up.
I was sitting on an upside-down empty pickle bucket outside behind the bar, finishing my cigarette and mentally preparing myself for the evening.
Eddie came pushing out the screen door with that dopey grin on his face, followed by a gorgeous young lady.
“This is Emily,” he said, and stood back smiling. He enjoyed watching my awkwardness.
She stepped forward confidently, holding out a hand decorated with rings and bracelets.
Before saying anything to me, she glanced back at Eddie and whispered, “He’s not that scary.”
I took her hand and shook it, saying, “I can hear you.”
She giggled and covered her mouth. Her hair was naturally red and curled down around her shoulders, and her arms were covered in fanciful ink. She wore black-rimmed glasses and a lip peircing, and smiled brightly at me as I checked her out.
The silence must have been awkward even for Eddie. He cleared his throat and said, “Emily, meet Joe. He is scarier than he looks.”
She was looking me directly in the eyes, beautiful pools of hazel staring right back at me, right into me.
“You didn’t tell me how handsome he was!” she said, not breaking her gaze.
I felt the blood rushing to my cheeks, but could do nothing to stop it.
“Don’t pick on me,” I said.
“I am one hundred percent serious.” She did not break her gaze, and smiled wide.
“Look, he’s blushing!” Eddie announced. He called into the restaurant. “Susanne! Joe’s blushing!”
He laughed hysterically, as I let her hand go and looked away, lighting another smoke.
“It’s okay,” she said. “Red looks good on you. Nice to meet you, Joe. I look forward to working with you. I heard that you are an awesome cook.”
She turned and headed back to the bar, where Susanne was waiting at the screen door, watching me and smiling.

Susanne stayed on for a couple of hours, showing Emily around the restaurant and giving her little pointers, but it turned out to be a slow night and she bailed when the sun set and we only had  a few geezers in the dining room.
I tried to keep myself busy and occupied, whipping up a soup for Eddie to run the next day and doing a bunch of extra prep work.
Emily was attentive to her few customers and kept herself busy as well, but it was obvious we were checking each other out as we passed each other, or she put in any new orders.
She seemed nervous, and bit her bottom lip every time she showed up in the window to pick up a new order. Overall, she did great and we made it through a slow Friday night with no problems.
“I heard you made an 60-year-old woman cry.”
I looked at my ragged shoes, feigning shame.
“Nice job,” she said with a smile.
“Why are you so hard on waitresses?” she asked, then giggled to herself, repeating “hard on” under her breath.
“Because in my experience, most waitresses are whores,” I replied, flipping some pans and trying to keep track of the orders I was working on. Sometimes I wished I could think before speaking.
But she laughed long and loud, and said, “I’m not a whore, you know. If I was, I would be sucking dicks on the internet for money, not serving your shitty food.”
I shook my head, laughing too, and slopped two piles of spaghetti and meatballs onto plates and rang the bell for pick up.
“Ugh. I’m right here,” she said, rolling her eyes, then speeding out of the kitchen with the meals. She looked back at me and winked.
The night was finally over.
“Would you like a drink?” I asked, pulling a beer from the tap and draining half the glass.
She smiled awkwardly. “I would, but I don’t drink.”
I was genuinely surprised.
“Really?” I asked, finishing my first beer of the night, and pulling a second.
“There must be a story. There is always a story,” I said.
“Not really,” she said, not meeting my eyes. “I just don’t drink.”
“Fair enough,” he said. “I could probably quit drinking too, if it weren’t for this damn restaurant business…”
She smiled and nodded, but said nothing.
I thought I saw the imp there, under a table in the corner, quietly watching.
She looked over her shoulder, following my line of sight, then back at me.
“What is it?” she wanted to know.
I shook my head. It was gone. “Nothing, nothing. Let’s get that money counted, shall we?”
“You did a real nice job tonight,” I told her, after we were done counting and dividing up the tips. “Kind of brutal that they just threw you in on a Friday night with no training, though.”
She smiled. “Thanks. But I have been around the block a time or two,” she said. “It was actually kind of fun.”
“After a while it stops being fun. That’s when the drinks help.”
“Yes, I could see that,” she said. “Maybe you would be interested in getting some Kentucky Fried Chicken with me?”
I laughed. “Sure. Sounds better than my food. Let’s go!”

One of the great things about my hometown is that you can get fast food almost any time you want to, and the beach is only a mile away.
So, we finished cleaning and locked up the restaurant, then hopped in my car and headed west toward the beach. The KFC was still open but very quiet, but they cooked us up a fresh bucket of chicken and we ended up sitting on the beach in the moonlight eating fried chicken and cursing the fast food staff for forgetting our sporks.
“It’s a real shame,” Emily said. “I could really fuck up those mashed potatoes, but I am not going to eat them with my hands.”
She was staring the red and white styrofoam container down with real intensity. It made me laugh.
“What?” she said. “I love mashed potatoes, believe that. But this is our first date and I don’t want to scare you off…”
I stiffened a little bit. This was a date?
I had no idea.
“Fuck it,” she said. “Give me one of those beers.”
I had stopped for a six-pack at a 7-11 on the way out to the beach.
“Are you sure? I thought you said that you don’t drink.”
“Who are you, my sponser? Give me a beer, man.”
I shrugged and passed one to her and watch her slam down two thirds of it and let out a satisfying sigh, followed by a long belch, then an  adorable giggle.
“Yeah…” she said, and leaned back on her elbows, gazing up at the moon.
I hopped up, struck with inspiration.
I stumbled toward the Gulf of Mexico, and dug up a couple of spork-shaped seashells and rinsed them off in the water. I came back to Emily and held one out to her.
She looked at me with arched eyebrows and an amused half-smile.
I made a digging motion with one of the shells.
A moment later, I almost saw the light bulb over her head like in the cartoons, and she grabbed the mashed potato container and dug in happily.
“You are a genius,” she said, and grabbed for another beer.
It was dark, but my face probably got red again.
She was looking at me in a way that made me slightly uncomfortable, and excited at the same time. Her lips were greasy from the chicken, and glistened in the moonlight.
She reached out and ran her hand through my hair, then finished her beer in one professional sip.
“I would love the opportunity to make you miserable,” she said, and leaned in for a long kiss that tasted like beer and chicken gravy.

I expected it to be awkward the next time we worked together.
“I’m not wearing panties,” was the first thing she said to me upon arriving for her shift at work.
She sure made it hard to concentrate.
We spent the night flirting and getting to know each other better when we had the chance.
She watched me closely, and listened intently while I rambled on about comic books and horror movies. She seemed genuinely interested, and it was hard to believe that it wasn’t some kind of strange trick she was playing on me.
The whole night, I felt a strange new sense of happiness. Finally, I started to think, I found the one I have been looking for.
At the end of the night, we sat at the bar drinking and talking the night away, making plans for our future together.
“I just have to break up with my asshole boyfriend,” she said, late in the night, finishing a whiskey sour she had whipped up.
I recoiled as if I had been stung.
“You have a boyfriend?” I pulled away, felt myself shrinking into myself again. Defenses going up.
She sighed, long and sad. “Yes.”
She put her hand in mine and smiled at me. “But I don’t want to be with him any more. I want you. I want us. I found my soul mate at last…”
I smiled. “Who me?”
“Yes you, you jerk,” she said, and punched me in the shoulder, then kissed my mouth hard and passionately. “You are the one I want to be with.”
“When are you going to get rid of him?”
She looked away, but I thought I saw a single tear roll down her cheek. “I am working on it already. Just be patient, and we will be together soon, for real, okay?”
“Yes,” I said, but I felt really strange about it.
She must have seen my inner conflict. I know that I don’t hide it well.
“Hey,” she said, lifting my chin and running her hand through my hair. “You are the one I want to be with. Just be patient with me. I love you.”
She kissed me on the forehead, then gathered her purse and keys and headed out the door.
“See you next week!” she said and blew a kiss at me.
Then she was gone.
Eddie said, “She has a boyfriend you know.”
“Yeah,” I said. “I heard.”
“You know him. It’s Matt, the guy who has been doing our tile work.”
“Really? He doesn’t seem right for her.”
Eddie chuckled. “Yeah, I would be surprised if anyone could tame that girl. She seems dangerous.”
I nodded and looked at my feet.
“Be careful,” he said, shaking his head, then went back to counting his money.

The next Friday, she seemed kind of distant, and we were busier than usual, so we didn’t have a lot of time for small talk until the end of the night. I felt compelled to ask her about our status several times during the evening, but decided to bite my tongue and be patient, as I had promised.
“So when are you going to take me back to your apartment and fuck me?” she asked, at the end of the night.
Her frankness was startling and exciting. I spilled my drink.
My apartment was a shitty little hole, decorated with horror movie posters, comics,  and years worth of junk I had accumulated. And a monster lurking in the corner.
“Well…” I stuttered. “My apartment is kind of a mess, I don’t know…”
“I don’t really have much.”
“I don’t care about that. I just want to be together. I am more impressed with action figures.”
I felt a rush of something, a foreign emotion.
“I mean, what are we actually doing?”
She frowned, then rolled her eyes. “Don’t you want to be with me?”
“You know that I do,” I said. “but what about…you know?”
She sighed loudly. “I’m trying. I can’t seem to get rid of him.”
I could understand. I knew that I never wanted to let this woman go.
“Yes, but if we are going to be together, you need to let him go. I don’t want to be that guy…”
“I know,” she said, sniffing back tears and looking away. “It’s so hard.”
We sat there in silence for a few moments, the mood destroyed.
“I do love you, you know,” she said. “I just need to figure this all out.”
“I understand,” I told her, even though I really didn’t. It seemed pretty simple from my point of view. “But I need to be the only one. The thought of sharing you is killing me. I love you too, Emily.”
“I have to go,” she said, and was gone before I could see the tears.
I thought about chasing her, but decided to pull another beer, and sit there drinking in silence.
The monster watched, crouched behind a counter, faint traces of a smile at the corners of it’s mouth.

Another week passed, agonizingly slow.
She only worked on Friday nights, and I had the whole week to wonder what she was up to, who she was with, what she was doing…
Occasionally I would get a random text message from her, but whenever I replied I rarely got an answer. All I could do was trust her, and believe she was doing what she said she was.

The next Friday, after work we were back in my apartment, both very tipsy, and she was walking around giggling and touching all of my things. Classic action figures and old books, she seemed genuinely appreciative.
I was following behind her, eyes peeled for the imp.
It was either gone, or hiding very well.
“Oh!” she said. “I love this!”
She was holding up my replica of the puzzle box from the movie Hellraiser, one of my prized possessions.
I never imagined that a woman would honestly appreciate the weird shit I was into. It was a great feeling.
Something moved in the corner, a blurred shape, but my attention was distracted by a long kiss from Emily.
I looked her in her eyes, and she bit her lower lip.
“This is the real thing, isn’t it?” I stammered. “You are really real.”
“No,” she said with a sly grin. “This is all a dream. You made me up.”
I knew it! I thought.
She laughed at the disappointment in my eyes, then took off her shirt and winked at me.
“I am real, silly boy. Come find out.”
God, she looked great. Everything I had always wanted.
“Tell me you love me again,” I said, pulling her close to me, and covering her neck with kisses.
She said nothing, and the terrified look on her face made me think that maybe she had seen the imp in the corner. I looked over my shoulder but saw nothing, looked back to see her trembling and near tears.
“You aren’t going to kill me, are you?”
“I mean, no one knows where I am. All alone in your apartment, you are into all this scary stuff…” She waved her arm at my collection of weird stuff. “I don’t even really know you…”
The imp was standing right behind her suddenly, it’s pupils dilated into wide black pools, breathing heavily but silently.
I grabbed her away and pulled her down onto the bed and away from the hungry monster.
Her eyes were wide too, and she was obviously scared of me for some reason, but that kind of made it even more exciting.
Terrified or not, she was wet and ready, and I slid inside her as she gasped, then moaned.
Her long fingernails scratched the back of my head, and her multi-colored tattooed flesh lay out before me for the taking. I groped and caressed with equal measure, my passion for this woman unstoppable.
She was loud and squealed with what I hoped was pleasure, and squeezed the life out of me in one final thrust, and I rolled off her and lay next to her, gasping for breath.
She rolled over away from me, and I think she was crying.
Not exactly what I had been hoping for.

It was Sunday, my normal day off. But I had told Eddie that I would open up the restaurant for the tile guy, to finish up the job in the bathroom he had been working on forever.
He was there waiting for me in the parking lot behind the restaurant when I pulled up.
I had met him in passing a few times before, but never paid much attention until now.
Now that I was fucking his girlfriend.
He was waving at me from his pick-up truck. “Hey Joe! Over here!”
I parked and headed over to him.
“Hey, man,” he said, clapping me on the back like we were old pals or something.
“What’s up, dude?” I said.
“Hey thanks for coming out to let me in here. I have been trying to get this job finished forever, just never seem to have the free time.”
“Sure thing.”
We headed around to the back door of the restaurant and I unlocked it.
“All right,” I said, not wanting to enter this place on my one day off. “Just lock it up when you are finished.”
I forced a weak smile and turned to head back home to my bed.
“Hey,” he said, putting a hand on my shoulder. I shuddered to think what words were coming next. “Do you think Eddie would mind if I buy you a drink? I wanted to talk to you for a minute.”
“What, here? I hate being here on Sundays…”
“But you like to drink, right?”
I nodded.
“Come on in with me for one. It is the least I can do for you, after you have been so good to Emily.” He smiled and looked me directly in the eyes.
Shit. He knows.
Well, I thought, better to face him here where I know where all the exits and potential weapons are hidden.

Inside the restaurant was dark and quiet, the polar opposite of it’s normal swell of happily munching and slurping customers.
Matt and I made our way to the deserted bar, and I had a second to notice he hadn’t brought his tools in.
I slipped around the bar and pulled a beer for myself, trying to hide the fact that my hands were trembling. I took a long sip that helped to steady them, then asked him what he was drinking.
“I’ll just take a soda, thanks,” he said. “I am a recovering alcoholic, you know. So is Emily.”
I filled a glass with ice and soda and handed it across the bar to him.
He took a sip and sat there smiling at me.
“You probably already knew that, though.”
I nodded.
I finished my beer and pulled another one, looking everywhere but at the man seated across from me.
“You seem nervous,” he said, still smiling.
I shrugged, still not meeting his eyes.
“I just don’t really like to be at work on my day off, is all.”
“Take a load off,” he said, pulling out the bar stool next to him. “You work hard. You deserve it.”
That’s when I saw it. The imp was here with us, hiding behind a stack of dishes in the kitchen. I could only see it’s eyes and a bit of black flesh, but it was there, watching closely.
Somehow it made me feel safe.
I walked around and sat next to the guy, feeling inexplicably confident now.
He smiled wide, two rows of perfect white teeth. He clapped me on the back as if we were old buddies.
“Man, it sure was cool of Eddie and Susanne to give Emily this job. She has had a hard time of things lately.”
“She does a great job,” I said, looking back into the kitchen. The imp was gone now.
“Good to hear. She hasn’t been able to hold a steady job in years. Ever since the accident.”
I know I was meant to ask for further details, but I let it go.
“I worry about her,” he continued. “She is so sweet and naive. She was not meant for this world.”
He seemed to be thinking of her with genuine love and caring, it made me wonder why she had described him as such an asshole.
“Yes,” was all I could think to say.
“I would hate to think of anyone taking advantage of her, and her condition.”
He finished his soda and swirled the ice with his chewed up straw.
“Condition?” I asked. “She seems okay to me.”
He threw his head back and laughed, long and hard. I saw the imp scramble from the kitchen into the dining room underneath a table behind us.
“Man, she has everyone fooled, doesn’t she?” He was shaking his head.
Here it comes, I thought. I was right.
“You know you are not the only one, right?” If he was angry, he wasn’t showing it.
I stood, and moved to go re-fill my beer mug, but he placed his hand on my arm gently and stopped me.
“Come on, man. I have been with her for years. I know what she does to people. You are in love with her.”
I pulled away from his loose grasp and moved to the other side of the bar.
He was laughing still.
“Don’t worry, man. I am not mad about it. Like I said, I know what she does to people. Especially lonely young awkward men, like yourself. But I can promise you that she does not really love you.”
He stopped laughing now, and sat there smirking.
“She’s still just an innocent little girl who likes to bring home stray puppy dogs. She loves them for a little while, then forgets them. You are just her latest puppy dog.”
“I have to go,” I said.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “Our conversation is not over.”
“Emily is a recovering addict, a user. She doesn’t just use substances, she uses people as well. I try to be as accepting as I can, because I know I am the one she loves truly. So I allow her to indulge her addictions occassionally. I promised I would never turn my back on her. Because she always comes back to me.”
He leaned in close, spoke softly.
“You have had your fun now, but it is time to let it go. Let her go. She never was yours, it was all part of her game. You need to move on.”
“I can’t,” I said. “I wont.”
He slid his bar stool out and stood.
“Well then,” he said. “I didn’t want it to come to this, but I guess I am going to have to kick your ass.”
He rolled up his sleeves.
The imp pounced on him then, from across the room, in a blur of motion.
I took a step back and watched, horrified and excited in equal measures.
He was struggling and whimpering as the beast clawed at him, hardly the tough guy who had threatened me only moments ago.

I should have been shocked and horrified, I know.
But I wasn’t. In fact, I had hoped something horrible would happen to him for weeks now.
That he would just go away.
I finished my beer and poured another one as I watched the imp methodically devour Matt’s body.  It paid no attention to me, just went about eating it’s fresh meal.
It took quite awhile, and I drained a few more glasses as the imp crunched bones and licked the blood off the floor.
Finally, nearly two hours later, I was very drunk and the body was gone without a trace.
The imp sat back looking satisfied and tired.
I went home, driving slowly and carefully, and immediately passed out.
My dreams were bloody and weird, and I sat up awake in the middle of the night in a panic, thinking I should have moved his truck from the parking lot. I was bound to be questioned for this, and I had no plan.
The clock said 2 AM, and I got in my car and headed the few blocks over to the restaurant.
His truck was gone.

I had been waiting all week to see her, had been resisting the urge to call her.
Now it was Friday, and she was an hour late.
Susanne was busily prepping to cover the dinner shift, as Eddie kept making phone calls and slamming his phone down frustratedly.
He came back to the kitchen to vent.
“No answer,” he said. “Did you scare her off?”
“I don’t think so.” I was chopping onions.
“Goddammit,” he said. “I am so sick of unreliable people. First her asshole boyfriend blows us off, and now she doesn’t show up! That’s it! I never should have given them a chance, couple of drunks.”
Earlier in the week, he had gone on a tirade about the tile guy not showing up on Sunday, and I had just shrugged. I hadn’t even seen the imp since that day.
I hadn’t seen or heard from Emily either, which was surprising.
Thoughts of her overwhelmed my head for the entire evening, as Susanne subbed for Emily in the dining room. I headed home quickly at the end of the shift, without even staying for a drink.
I was home, utterly alone.
No Idea what to do next.
That’s when the light tapping came, on my front door.
It was Emily, eyes red and hair wild.
I said nothing, let the door fall open.
“Matt is gone,” she said.
I nodded.
She fell into my arms, weeping, and I held her close, stroking her cheek and knotted hair.
After a few minutes, she got control of her sobs, then looked up at me.
“It’s okay,” I was saying. “Now we can be together, like we talked about all of those times.”
She sniffed and pulled away from me. Her eyes narrowed.
“Oh my god. It was you, wasn’t it?”
She pushed me away.
“No, no, it wasn’t me. What are you talking about?”
She held her head in her hands, sobbing.
I moved to hold her, and she jumped away from my touch, and looked up at me with such fury I stepped backward.
“It’s okay. We can be together now.” I moved in to embrace her, but she stopped me in my tracks with one ferocious look.
“Get the fuck away from me!”
“Emily,” I said, trying to stay calm. “I didn’t do anything to Matt. It…it was the imp…”
“You saw it here that night, too, didn’t you? It has been following me around for weeks now, causing me problems. I don’t know where it came from, or what it wants.” I started looking around the apartment for it, but it was nowhere to be seen.
She was keeping her distance and watching me with wide eyes.
“You saw it, didn’t you? That first night we came back here? You thought I was going to hurt you, but it was the imp. You saw it that night.”
“You’re fucking crazy.”
“You saw it, didn’t you?” I was throwing the pillows off the couch, looking for the demon.
“I saw you. I saw that weird look in your eyes, the same one you have now.”
Her sobs were under control and she was inching toward the front door.
“You killed him.”
And, as the words were said aloud they were made true.
It all came at me with the force of a knockout punch. Memories and blood.
I could see myself swinging the baseball bat from behind the bar at his head ; the deafening crack it made when it connected. I saw myself watching him spasm and bleed out on the unfinished tile floor of the restaurant. Watched myself wrapping his lifeless body in plastic and dragging it out to his truck. Hours scrubbing up the blood. I saw myself driving his truck out to a secluded swamp and watching it sink into nothing.
All these memories came flooding in, and I looked at Emily cowering in righteous fear.
I had killed him. There was no imp.
“Yes,” I said.
She just crumpled into a pile near my front door, saying “How could you do this to me?”
“I did it for us. So that we could be together. I thought that is what you wanted.”
Her eyes had gone dead, and she started laughing a humorless laugh.
How had this happened?
I couldn’t wrap my head around it.  Had I misunderstood everything?
I scanned the room for my demon, but we were alone. Both trembling with rage and sadness, for opposite reasons.
We stared each other down for a moment, and finally she stood and composed herself.
“I hate you,” she said, and slammed the door behind her.

I never saw her again, but I did see the imp one last time about an hour later, pointing and laughing at me as the police arrived and dragged me out of my apartment.

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