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Dragging My Feet

Andrew Gilstrap lives in the woods of South Carolina with his wife, two kids, a fluctuating population of dogs and cats, and never-ending leaves to rake. His work has appeared in Lakeside Circus, Star*Line, and Mythic Delirium.
My shoe smudges the chalk markings and before I can lift my foot, it's over. The demon grabs Terrance Nygard, self-styled "Lord of Darkness and Master of the Damned," and devours him. Doesn't even chew; just pops open its toothy maw to a quadruple-jointed width that would make a Great White shark wince, and drops him down its gullet without a bite.
Just as suddenly, the demon's in my face, pressing me against the wall. Somehow, the smell of Nygard's putrid cologne on the beast's brimstone breath makes the effect even more rancid.
"He was delicious," the demon croaks. "You will be too, eventually."
"So-- so our deal is satisfied?" I don't bother masking my fear. The demon knows that for all the times I've done this, I'm still filled with pants-shitting terror.
"Indeed. Another ten years. Then you pay your price."
"Unless I bring-- bring you another," I stammer.
"Of course. As always." The demon starts making a noise that's a cross between a purr and a human moan of pleasure. Nygard's eldritch energies are starting to course through its system. It's like a cat on catnip, although no less dangerous than before. "You've proven yourself quite reliable."
I try to nod, but it's more of a trembling twitch as the demon disappears.
After my adrenaline subsides, I start cleaning up evidence of the chalk circle and my presence here tonight. It'll be hard enough worming my way into the next magician's confidence without being connected to Nygard's mysterious disappearance.
Ten years. Just enough time to work my way up through the acolyte ranks to stand, trusted and ready to make a damnation-stalling mistake, at the side of the demon's next meal.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, October 20th, 2016


A line is a delicate threshold between power and disaster, which leads to every summoner in movies and on TV always droning on and on about not breaking the circle during their spells. It seems ripe for sabotage, especially if the saboteur has a better than average chance of getting out alive, and a good reason for taking the risk. It was a challenge to keep this one so short, as I was tempted to have the demon really goad the narrator. Ultimately, I decided a wordy demon is the worst demon and kept things simple.

- Andrew Gilstrap

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