by Bruce Golden
Desmond was a conscientious, hard-working fellow. Among his cadre he was thought of as steady and reliable, if a bit standoffish. He always showed up for work on time, but he seldom took part in any extracurricular activities. And while he put up a good front--tried to be one of the boys--the truth was . . . he was different.
Oh, he had the same splendid, leathery, bat-like wings as the other incubi--the same fierce, glowing red eyes, the same diminutive nubs that would grow proudly into horns should some day he be advanced to the status of greater demon. But Desmond was conflicted. Despite his outward appearance, he questioned his demonic orientation. For a long time he denied these feelings. However, deep inside the putrefaction of his internal organs, he knew he didn’t belong.
Each night, when Asmodeus inspected his legions, Desmond stood there smartly, wing-to-wing with the other incubi, feeling like an impostor. He didn’t know why he’d been cursed so, but he knew he’d rather be on the opposite side of the ranks . . . with the succubi.
It wasn’t that he was unable to gather sustenance when he invaded the dreams of his female prey, consuming their energy through a series of phantasmagorically aberrant sexual acts. It was that he felt like such a fraud in doing so. He had none of the natural enthusiasm for the work that his fellows exuded. For him it was a loathsome mechanical process, distasteful at best. Get in, incite the nightmare scenario, get out.
For millennia he didn’t know what to do. He spoke to no one about his discomfiture (his family would never have understood). He did his best to dismiss it. Yet it wouldn’t go away--this irrational impulse he had. So, during one nocturnal autumn raid, he gave in, flaunting the unholiest of regulations, and sought out a man. That’s when his guilt commenced to fester with abandon.
His compunction, however, was balanced by the relief he felt. No longer was there a need to fabricate his relish. No longer did he have to let his imagination fly wild in order to stave off the revulsion. He now pursued his occupation with rapacious diligence.
For the first time he was happy in his work. Everything was going fine . . . until one night when he came upon a particularly handsome fellow, fast asleep, his soul ajar, fully accessible.
Except that when he swooped down and tried to force entry, he encountered a succubus already hard at work draining the unsuspecting soul of his spiritual essence.
“What in the fiery hell of the seven pentagrams are you doing here?” she demanded.
“Oh . . . uh, sorry. I uh . . . must have made a mistake.”
“A pretty big one I’d say.” She was obviously perturbed by the interruption. “Wait a minute,” she added, eyeing him suspiciously. “You’re not bi are you? One of those switch-hitters?”
“I assure you I am not,” he replied with feigned indignation.
“That’s too bad,” she sighed. Desmond caught the look of disappointment on her face before she abruptly shifted emotional gears. “I mean, that’s good--good.”
“Are you?” he asked tentatively. “Do you go both ways?”
Her leathery face drooped as if the deceit was suddenly too much for her.
“Yes, yes, I admit it! I like girls. Okay, there, I said it. I can’t help it. Is that a crime?”
“Actually,” said Desmond, “I think it is.”
She covered her face with her wing in shame.
“You don’t understand,” said Desmond. “I’m guilty too. I . . . I prefer men myself.”
“You do?” Relief washed over her, and her red eyes sparked with new glow. “Then you know what it’s like, night after night . . . .”
“Yes,” said Desmond, nodding his nubby head, “I do. It’s too bad we can’t, you know, change places.”
The succubus looked as if a devilish idea had just occurred to her.
“Maybe we can,” she said. “I know this necromancer who, for the right
price . . . .”
Satirist, journalist, novelist . . . Bruce Golden has published numerous tales of speculative fiction. His short stories have appeared in such publications as Oceans of the Mind, Farthing, Nemonymous, Odyssey, and Palace of Reason. Asimov’s Science Fiction called his novel Mortals All a "fine blend of social satire and irreverent anti-establishmentarianism." His new novel, Better Than Chocolate (Zumaya Publishing), revolves around a mid-21st Century police inspector who, while hunting his partner’s killer and investigating a pair of seemingly unrelated murders, stumbles onto a conspiracy that threatens all humanity.
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"Demonic Persuasion" © 2008 Bruce Golden. Used by
permission of the author.
Raven Electrick © 2000-2008 Karen A. Romanko.