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Yours, Not Mine

Hamilton Perez lives in Sacramento, California where he struggles to keep the moths from eating his English degree. This is his first published story. The rest were eaten by moths.

Demons have been coming to our home for some time now. At first it was terrifying, but now it's just a nuisance--like squat and scarified Jehovah's Witnesses.
Charles was pretty rattled by it. He demanded an explanation and having no one else to turn to, directed this demand at me. Maybe he looked to me because I just sort of took it in stride.
It's not as if I was expecting this. I've just always been better at accepting things I don't have the power to change.
I never begrudged Charles his reaction, though.
They started coming just after we brought home Joshua, our little four-pound tube of poop and giggles. New parents are often a little paranoid, whether justified or not, and the timing did raise some concerns for me as well.
The demons were harmless though. They didn't sneak in through basement windows, creeping up the stairs at night. They didn't hide in closets or under beds. They politely knocked at the door with offerings that, while repulsive, were clearly considered generous to demonkind.
We received everything from cat skull baby-rattles with the eyes and brain still inside, to crocodile intestines tied into an almost beautiful, demonic design (it was intended to be hung over the fireplace).
They didn't speak English, of course. They didn't speak any human language as far as I could tell, but I don't know anything other than English and no me gusta in Spanish, so it's hard to say.
Charles didn't like their interest in Joshua. He hated how they mimed cradling a child with their thin, overly long arms. That's how they asked to see him. What could be the harm? These demons were the size of small children and only came in twos and threes. We might not get three wise men like Jesus, but three good-natured demons isn't something to snub your nose at.
We moved twice but somehow they always found us, bringing housewarming gifts that smelled like sulfur and decaying flesh (they probably were sulfur and decaying flesh). For Joshua, they brought a tiny crown made of bejeweled human finger-bones and a caped onesie of sun-dried bat skin. Though grotesque, it was quite regal.
Charles continued to demand an explanation. "How is this possible? How do they keep finding us?!"
"Well, they're demons," I said. "Is it any stranger that they find us than that they exist at all?"
Charles didn't like this. He accused me of taking their side. We had a big fight about it, during which he accused me of fooling around, claiming that was the only explanation. Joshua didn't look anything like him, after all. He couldn't be the father, he said, and it felt like something that had been hounding him. A dark suspicion following him wherever we went.
I think he felt cheated when Joshua came out possessing all of my features and none of his. My long and slender limbs, my fiery blonde hair, my sharp nose, my wide-set green eyes.
Charles then suggested that Joshua might be the result of some demonic version of the Immaculate Conception. Maybe we should just turn Joshua over to them.
Though new to parenting, I understood that you stick to your kid through fire and flame. You protect them and help them thrive in whatever environment they're thrust in. Whatever Joshua was, he was beautiful and ours.
In vain, I told him the truth: I hadn't been with anyone else. Joshua was his. Ours. And we wouldn't give him up.
"You're wrong," he said. Charles stared at me in angry disbelief, his eyes saying "He's yours, not mine." Without another word he walked out the door. Disappeared entirely. The demons watched as he left and then looked at me with ugly, sympathetic faces.
Without his support, I had to find a smaller place. One that I could afford on my own. Predictably, the demons followed. I found them tapping at the sliding glass door of our apartment. Quickly, I shut off the outside light and let them in. The last thing I needed was to be evicted for drawing the wrong kind of crowd.
They waddled inside on their short legs, grumbled and gabbed in their strange tongue. The smallest of them, who was also the sweetest, offered me their gift while the other two went to watch Joshua sleep (they are silent as the grave when they wish to be).
The gift was wrapped in discarded fast food wrap. Underneath was a human heart with a gash across the left ventricle. After an awkward "Thank you, you shouldn't have," I found tucked inside the gash two brown eyes. Two familiar eyes that said, "Yours, not mine."
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

Author Comments

I love stories in which creatures that are traditionally evil or nefarious are portrayed as sweet and sensitive. I also love horror stories that turn out to be comedies. With "Yours, Not Mine" I wanted to build up the horror and humor simultaneously so that it was funny but also a little unsettling.

- Hamilton Perez
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