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                                                                                    By H.M. Pridemore

    I have met my demon. I was six when I first peeked over the edge of my Snoopy sheets and saw him
slither up to my bedside. He gave me a sinister smile and showed me his jagged fangs. When I
screamed, he threw back his black-feathered head and laughed. I closed my eyes, and pulled the covers
over my head.  

    “Hush now. It was just a bad dream,” my mother said pulling the covers down. She reached over and
turned on my bedside light. It made her blond hair glow. I was safe. She gently moved my hair out of my
eyes, and smiled. “This is why I don’t like you watching those horror movies with your dad.”

    I went to sleep on the couch, where I could fall asleep to the safe green glow of the television. I believed
everything my beautiful blond-haired mother said. It was just a nightmare. I put my thumb in my mouth and
pulled my blanket up to my nose. I inhaled the scent of a Downey fresh blanket, closed my eyes, and at the
age of six, I swore off scary movies forever.

    He returned when I was ten. I had my first training bra, and was harshly judging my prepubescent body
in front of my full-length mirror. I turned from side to side, thinking, they’ll never grow, when he appeared
behind me. He was grotesque with a man’s torso, but the head of a bird. Not a raven, or an eagle, or an
owl, but a horrendous combination of the three. His black wings opened like a cape. He had returned this
time in the safety of midday with the sun bursting through my yellow-flowered curtains.

    I was too scared to turn around. I shut my eyes. Oh God no, this isn’t real. Wake up, I screamed to
myself, but I didn’t dare open my eyes, because this time I knew it was no nightmare. I could feel his heat
on my back, and I was sure his fangs were just inches away from my neck. I wanted to move but couldn’t. I
felt my bladder go, and then my legs. I fell to the floor, curled myself into the fetal position, and cried. Then,
as the room began to cool, his deep laughter faded away and when I opened my eyes, he was gone.

    I told no one. What would I say? Who would I tell? I wasn’t six anymore. I was too old to have my mother
stroke my forehead and tell me it would be okay.

    We lived in Los Angeles, and though it’s called the City of Angels, I had seen crazy people walking
down the street screaming at their own invisible demons. I wasn’t sure if demons (theirs or mine) were
real, but crazy certainly was, and I didn’t want to be crazy.

    I threw my underwear away so my mother wouldn’t find it in the laundry. I gave my mirror to my sister.
Told her it didn’t match my room. I was too scared to stand in front of it ever again. At ten, I swore off
mirrors forever.  

    He came again when I was sixteen. I was drunk off cheap strawberry wine, on my bed, flat on my back
fighting a bad case of the spins. He appeared as a black monster hovering above me. His wings spread
as wide as my queen-sized bed. Bile came up my throat and rested on my lips. I felt the pressure of his
weight, and was paralyzed as he came down upon me. I shivered as he forced his way into me. I couldn’t
move, so I prayed.

    “Please God,” I pleaded. “Take him off me and I will be a better person. I will go to church. I will
volunteer. Whatever it is you demand of me God, I will do it.  Please God make him go.”

    The pressure eased, the weight lifted, and he was gone.

    I had heard that many of the crazy homeless creatures that crawled through the city were products of
mental illness meeting alcohol. I already suspected I was crazy. If I continued to drink, I would land on Crazy
Street for sure.  

    At sixteen, I started going to church, and of course, I swore off alcohol forever.

    I married at eighteen, and some wondered why. “I had a good home life,” mother hens whispered.
“What could I possibly be running from?”

    My husband Henry was big and strong, and would keep me safe and sane. I thought him a talisman of
sorts. This thought didn’t last long.

    One night, only weeks from my wedding night, after Henry and I made love, just as he began to snore, I
saw the black creature hovering over Henry’s side of the bed, proving to me that talismans did not exist.

    My screams woke Henry, and I quickly apologized. “Just a nightmare honey. Sorry to wake you.”

    The figure disappeared but I became afraid to make love. Would it be standing there watching us?  I
knew it was ridiculous. In reality, there were many reasons for a woman’s lack of desire, and perhaps it
had just been another bad dream.  

    A few years later and lack of affection caused the marriage to fizzle, but not before, I became pregnant
with my first, and only child.

    In my last trimester, I had fallen asleep in the recliner and when I woke, I saw the black-winged bastard.
He was hovering over the baby cradle we had prepared in the living room. The panic brought an instant
contraction. What if he comes to harm my baby? No. He couldn’t, because he didn’t exist. I closed my
eyes. “He’s not real,” I repeated this mantra taking deep breaths until the contractions stopped. When I
opened my eyes, he was gone.

    I had read in pregnancy magazines that women often have unusual dreams, especially in their last
trimester. So, yes, at twenty-two, I swore off child bearing forever.   

    It didn’t matter of course; nothing I did kept him from coming back. Sometimes I would wake in the
night, and through the moonlight, I would see him hanging above my curtains, peering down on me as I
slept. I would close my eyes, and when I opened them, he’d be gone.  I took to sleeping pills when
insomnia began to rule my life. I slept better, but I would wake with wet sheets from dreams I couldn’t
remember, but that I knew were bad.  

    Sometimes he was gone for years. I would forget him, but he never forgot me. And every time he crept
back in, I would dismiss him. He wasn’t real. To acknowledge him would be crazy. I wasn’t crazy. To talk
about something, is to give it energy. When you give something energy, it becomes real. I thought the less I
acknowledged him, the less real he would be. Tonight I found out I was wrong.

    Tonight my demon came to me and for the first time he spoke to me. He crept up to the side of my bed
and whispered two words. “Acknowledge me.” His warm breath smelled like rotten eggs.

    “Please go. Please leave me alone.” I pleaded.

    “Acknowledge me.” He whispered again.

    I began to sob. “I acknowledge you— you— black-winged bastard, you hellish demon. I have seen you,
and smelt you, and now I hear you. Now go. Go!” I bolted straight up in bed, and he disappeared.

    I was too disturbed to return to sleep, so I turned on every light and went to the kitchen for a warm mug
of milk, with a good splash of brandy. And there on the kitchen table was the piece of paper I now write on.
I have never before seen the long, blank, white piece of paper, nor have I ever seen the black fountain pen
beside it. I’ve never seen them before, but I know where they come from. I am no longer in denial. Nor am I
crazy. On top of the paper printed in black letter caps, was one word. Acknowledgement.

    I surrender. He wants it in writing. Fine. He wants me to prick my finger, and sign it in blood. Fine. How I
know this, I’m not sure. I’m not sure of anything, except that demons exist. I have met mine. He is real. This,
I acknowledge.

                                                                            The End
About H.M Pridemore

H.M. Pridemore reads,
writes, and dreams in an
overpriced southern
California studio with a
calico cat, a tenacious
terrier, and a talented