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                                   Sympathy for the Demoness
                                                                   By Patrick Winters

   Cedric Dingle sat lounging in his recliner, scarfing down a bag of Fritos and watching reruns of Two and
a Half Men. As the kid on TV made yet another fart joke, Cedric started cracking up, holding his bulbous
belly and spewing half-chewed chips from his mouth.

   Ashra sneered in disgust at her master's ever-piggish behavior. She scooted a little away from where
she knelt beside the recliner, trying to avoid the flinging Fritos. The hardwood floor was starting to hurt her
knees again, her master's laughter was giving her a headache, and all the while she'd been thinking to
herself: There's Hell, and then there's hell. And she so yearned to go back to the former.

   Ashra still didn't know what was more inconceivable: the fact that this tubby, greasy, robe-sporting oaf
was actually a well-versed sorcerer, or that she had allowed herself to be enslaved by him.

   In the pits of Hell, she had been renowned for two things, above all else: her dark, demonic beauty, and
her knack for dragging souls down into the underworld for their everlasting punishment. She had clawed
her way up to Earth thousands of times in as many years and never once failed to collect her quarry—until
Cedric Dingle became the soul in question.

   She'd been told by the head of her host that he was damned, but not that it was for his practice of the
dark arts; instead, she found it out in the worst way imaginable. No sooner had she popped up in his New
Jersey apartment than he bound her with his black magic, and all because he had managed to learn her
name. In searching for ways to save his imperiled soul, the scummy little worm had found it mentioned in
some ancient book of lore; and any mortal with knowledge of a demon's true name could make that
demon into their slave, with the proper spells. With that nugget in mind, he'd waited for her arrival. And so,
by the laws of the universe laid down by Heaven and its accursed Creator, Dingle was given complete
power over her the moment he said a little spell and proclaimed her name.

   Since that time, he had used her to his every possible benefit. He'd sent her after those he considered
his enemies, to kill and maim them in various fashions. She'd flambéed his ex-wife, decapitated an old
boss of his, and ripped the heart out of a guy who always got Dingle's order wrong at the local taco truck.

   After that, he'd started demanding her to do menial tasks about his apartment, like his laundry, his
cleaning, and the cooking. And, of course, there were his repeated lustful demands. He'd defiled her
smooth scarlet skin with the sausages he called fingers, had made her kneel before him as he laid hands
to her wonderfully long horns, forcing her to . . .

   She wanted to wretch, remembering it all—and to sever his genitals with her nails and stick them where
he kept stuffing those damned, disgusting Fritos.

   Dingle crumpled up the emptied chip bag and tossed it to the floor. "I'm still hungry," he said to her with
a smug smile. "Make me a sandwich."

   Ashra bowed her head, picked up the trash, and stood, heading off into the kitchen and silently fuming.

   "Oh," he called back to her, "and after I'm done eating, whadaya say I plunge myself into the fires of your
hell-holes for a while?"

   He giggled as she ignored him. She opened the fridge and pulled out the rest of the ham she'd cooked
for him the night before. She grabbed a kitchen knife and started slicing into the meat to make his
sandwich, pretending it was his gut she was carving up, instead.

   She was nearly done with her lowly task when she heard an explosion sound out in the living room,
followed by Dingle's high-pitched scream. She bolted back into the room to see what the matter was, knife
still in hand.

   Dingle's TV had been demolished, its pieces scattered everywhere, and in its place—and to Ashra's
amazement—stood the Devil himself, wafting away the smoke stirred up from his hellish portal.

   Dingle cowered at the sight of him, sinking into his recliner as the Dark One looked them over with a
haughty stare. His seven foot, dark-suited frame towered over them. A thin tail flicked about behind him,
weaving and twirling like a playful viper. His horns were extravagantly lengthy, sharp, and pitch black, their
tips almost scratching the ceiling.

   Dingle started making wordless, pathetic noises, holding his hands out to the red giant before him in
either defense or reverence.

   "Quiet, slug," the Devil ordered with a smooth, bass voice. "I'm not here for you. But I think I'll have your
soul soon enough." He flashed the man a knowing smile.

   The King of the Pits turned to Ashra. "I've come for you. The failure."

   "My Lord . . ." Ashra spoke up, her voice fluttering with dread. "Forgive me for my failure! But it wasn't
my fault! The mortal --"

   "Made you look like a fool," the Devil cut in with a hiss. "And because of it, you've forced me to
personally step in on the matter. Your ineptitude and enslavement to this meat-sack is a stain upon the
name of the Hosts. My chasms echo with cackling, and it is you who they laugh at! You've shamed your
unholy duty, and I will not let that go unpunished."

   "Please, my Lord!" Ashra implored. "I've served you well --"

   "And you shall never again serve the glorious cause of Hell. From here on out, you're an outcast to
Perdition. If you ever see Hell again, you will be at the mercy of its many pains—not one of its heroes. Until
that time, you'll spend the remainder of your days here, on Earth. And if you're going to live among the
mortals, we can't have you looking like that."

   The Devil snapped his fingers and a tremor went through Ashra's body, making her double over. As her
face started to tingle with the sensation, she turned and looked into a mirror upon the wall. She was
mortified to see that her reflection was quickly changing. Her luscious red skin was turning waxy and white.
Her glorious and cherished horns were sinking into her skull, becoming feeble nubs before disappearing
entirely. And her straight-black hair was turning . . . blonde!

   In seconds, every hint of her lovely and demonic self was gone, leaving her looking like a wannabe GAP
model, instead. She screamed at the horrible thing she'd become.

   "You're human, now," her former lord said, taking her in with a sadistic satisfaction. "And as such, you
have no title, no power . . . and no name." At this last part, the Devil had glanced to Dingle, a smirk on his
red face. "Ashra is no more."

   He gave a chuckle and another snap of his fingers. A pyre rose up and enveloped the Devil one instant,
and in the next, both it and the Dark One were gone.

   The former demoness spun about, staring in wide-eyed despair at the spot where he'd stood, the
floorboards now bearing a slight scorch mark. A veil of smoke hung in the air; she looked through it to
where Dingle sat, sweating and dumbfounded.

   It was then that she remembered the knife in her hand. Her grip on it tightened as she began to step
towards Dingle, who gazed at her like a cornered mouse to a hungry cat.

   "Hey! Hey now! I command you to stop and put that down!"

   But neither his words nor his will had an effect on her. His power over her was gone, and she kept
coming towards him.

   "You did this to me, you worm!" She extended the knife, letting it dance in Dingle's view. He stared at it,
trying to back away in his recliner.

   She looked down to his crotch, remembering all her violent little fantasies under her servitude. She had
a pretty good idea of where to start getting her revenge.

   "I'm gonna feed you something after all, "master,"" she giggled maniacally. "It's just a quick, tiny snack;
we have so much else to do before the night is through, after all . . ."

   She leapt at him and started cutting. Before the night was through, she learned something that made her
new existence the littlest bit more bearable: just because she was no longer a demon, it didn't mean that
she couldn't send someone screaming to Hell.
About Patrick Winters

Patrick Winters is a recent
graduate of Illinois College
in Jacksonville, IL. He has
been published in the likes
of Sanitarium Magazine,
The Sirens Call, Trysts of
Fate, and other such titles.
A full list of his previous
publications may be found
at his author's site, if you
are so inclined to know: