Come Out And Fight 
By R. D. Flavin
 

     “Wake up!” 
     Craig Andrews opened his eyes to a demon sitting on his chest.  It was a small, furry demon with scaled, chitinous protrusions along its cheek bones and above its narrow, moist eyes.  Craig was alarmed at the revolting presence of a small demon sitting on his chest, but was even more concerned with the several larger versions standing around his bed and holding various implements of pain and death. 
     “What do you want?” Craig asked, dreading the answer. 
     A pernicious smile cracked the small demon’s face.  It leaned over Craig, hissing, “We want you to come out and fight!  You try to kill us and we try to kill you!”  The larger demons howled and screeched, banging and clanging their axes, pikes, spears and things on the bedroom floor in macabre appreciation of their smaller kin’s declaration. 
     “What if...,” Craig stammered, trying to decide if the scene in his bedroom was real or not, “...what if I say no?” 
     “No?” the small demon repeated.  “Hadn’t thought of that...” 
     “Well, in that case,” Craig advanced, “my answer is...” 
     “Wait!” the small demon yelled.  “Hear me out, Craig Thurman Andrews of #84 Subic Lane...  You are being awarded a chance few of The Living are ever offered!” 
     “If I’m so special,” Craig reasoned, “then ...GET OFF MY CHEST!” 
     “No problem,” the small demon answered.  It jumped from Craig’s chest into 
the outstretched arms of an eight-foot tall version of itself.  “So, Craig Andrews,” the small demon continued, “I sense you believe you have a power over us...” 
     “This is my dream and I can do what I want,” Craig said confidently, quickly adding, “Can’t I?” 
     “To a certain extent,” the small demon answered.  “But, you’re WRONG about this being a dream--IT ISN’T!”  More howling and screeching ensued, during which time the smaller demon laughed so hard, it threw up on itself. 
    After the morbid giggling subsided, Craig asked, “Are you trying to tell me ...I’m awake?” 
     “We’ve allowed you to awaken to a level of consciousness few reach,” the small demon answered, picking vomit from its teeth with an ugly, misshapen claw.  “And, you won’t even say thank you...” 
     “Why should I?” 
     “Enough snicker-bicker!” the small demon cried out.  “Bring in The Confirmation!  The only way to sway The Living is with The Dead!”  Craig’s bedroom window burst open and in flew a half-dozen winged snakes, each carrying a mouthful of long, honey-colored hair.  Craig heard crying from outside his bedroom window -- a woman’s crying, soft and pained. 
     “Idiots!” the small demon shouted.  “Go back out and try again!”  The winged, draconic snakes darted from the bedroom, their pointed, green tails between their wings.  In a moment, they returned with more long, blonde hair, but this time the hair was attached to a struggling, scantily clad woman who Craig guessed, might have been three feet tall if she wore a pair of eight-inch heels.  She was severely bruised about the face and had tiny trickles of blood flowing from her little mouth and nose. 
     Craig bolted upright in bed and demanded, “What’s going on here?” 
     “Persuasion, Craig Andrews,” the small demon chortled.  Craig had never heard a true chortle before, and the liquid sound gave him an uneasy feeling in his stomach.  “There’s nothing like a LITTLE woman to heat up the blood of a LITTLE man, hah!”  The little, blonde woman’s dress was torn and one of her breasts was exposed.  Craig was roused by its presence, not because of any sexual attraction on his part, but because there was a bedroom filled with large, malodorous demons leering at her nakedness and touching themselves in a foul manner. 
     He put a protective arm around her and held her like a small child, firmly, but with great care.  Her eyes were a soft gray behind the puffy swellings of her bruises, and as they looked out to Craig, seemed to beg for his help.  “Who are you?” Craig asked. 
     “Talitha of The Risen, daughter of Astae,” the little woman answered. 
     “This better not take too long,” the small demon suggested. 
     “Do you know why this is happening to us?” Craig asked, his voice low and 
tinged with the tremulous beginnings of genuine fear. 
     “They want you to fight them because they’ve grown tired of hearing our Sermons of Good,” Talitha explained.  “We, of The Risen, have always sought to save those of The Fallen, but they seldom listen.  These demons desire Death in battle rather than the forgiving Redemption we offer them--they believe by Dying In Disgrace, a second time, they’ll attain an even greater level of Evil Incarnation.  And, when we tell them their present form is their final chance at Salvation, they turn away and seek what they consider to be a glorious, advancing re-death.” 
     The larger demons grew restless at her speech and made irreverent, grumbling noises reminding Craig of a bathroom sink clogged with hair.  Talitha averted her eyes downward, and added, “They want to Die Fighting, and usually invite some witless, poser-hero like you, to dispatch them...” 
     “Poser-hero?  Witless?” Craig felt the sting of her words and withdrew his arm from around her.  “Pretty strong stuff from the side that claims they’re the goodguys...” 
     “We are...,” she replied, “...the goodguys.  But, Our Truth teaches us forgiveness, not retribution and revenge...” 
     “Save the whales,” Craig said sarcastically, still hurt by her words.  “Save the scum, the criminals, the rapists, murderers, junkies, bums, whores, commies, 
terrorists, kids who masturbate, politicians, cheating housewives and faithless 
husbands...  Next, you’re going to tell me that you want to save Satan...” 
     At the mention of The Name, the demons let loose a mephitical applause of 
approval.  The air became thick and stank of methane, fried eggs, and rotten onions.  Craig was thankful the bedroom window was still open. 
     “Yes,” Talitha agreed exuberantly.  “We seek to save The First Fallen, as well as The Last.” 
     “I’ve heard of that,” Craig said.  “I remember at Sunday School, the Priest told us that Christians are usually split over predicting what God...”  The demons began coughing loudly and banging their weapons. Craig continued, “...At what’s going to happen at the end--will Good vanquish Evil and destroy it, or will Good rehabilitate Evil and save it?” 
     “Exactly,” Talitha said, “we are going to forgive that Great Evil, and in doing so, reunite all souls Past and Future, Free and Enslaved.  Forgiveness is the example we follow, not Vengeance.” 
     “So, how’s it going?” Craig asked.  “Saved any demons lately?”  When the demons around his bed laughed and Talitha didn’t, Craig knew his questions were flippant and disrespectful.  Doubt crept up his spine and exploded in his brain.  He winced in embarrassment. 
     “Some,” she admitted.  “Every soul saved brings us one step closer to Communion and Conclusion.” 
     “Want some help,” Craig offered. 
     “Come out and fight!” the small demon hissed.  “Fight us and kill us, if you 
can!” 
     “No,” Talitha pleaded. “ You can help best by going back to sleep and forgetting all of this.  It’s just a bad dream. It’s...”  She made a choking noise and her tiny hands reached up and began to claw and rip at her throat.  Craig bent closer, listening to the faint sounds of her flesh being pulled apart from within, and watched in horror as three winged snakes ate their way through her throat.  A blanket of blood splayed forth, covering him with a warm, salty claret.  She collapsed in his arms and her body began to glow strangely, like the honey-color of her hair.  Talitha turned into light, first yellow and then blinding white, disappearing from the bed, and leaving behind only three bloody, winged snakes licking their lips. 
     “So, would you like to come out and fight, now?” the demon asked. 
     Craig didn’t answer.  His body felt numb from the horrible and wondrous sight he’d just witnessed. 
     “Come on!” the small demon beckoned.  “Don’t be a wimp!  We just offed a babe!  Fight for her!  Revenge!” 
     “She ...told me,” Craig struggled for rationalization.  “She told me to go back to sleep...” His pillows and sheets were sticky with Talitha’s blood, but as he lay down in his bed, he tried to imagine the blood wasn’t real, that the wetness he felt was simply tears he’d shed over a bad dream. 
     “Usually, the wounded woman routine works,” the small demon said, “but, in your case, I think we need to appeal to your collective sense of guilt...  Prepare for mayhem and mutilation, Craig Andrews!”  Babies and retirees, little men and big women, cripples and mentally-handicapped children--all aspects of humanity were paraded past his bed and violated in some obscene and sickening fashion.  All night long, their screams filled his bedroom and their gore piled up higher and higher around his bed.  Craig pulled his sheets tighter about him, closed his eyes and dreamed of colorful, blossoming flowers, majestic trees filled with birds, singing streams and large, billows of clouds, drifting and wafting across the sky. 
     Just before dawn, the small demon set fire to Craig’s bed, forcing him to pass the remaining minutes of night writhing in pain, watching his flesh turn black from the flames and flake from his bones. 
     “You’re good,” the small demon said, his larger kin grunting in agreement.  “So good, in fact,” the demon added, “that we’re going to come back tomorrow night and bring some friends!” 
     Their coarse laughter faded with the night as the morning sun rose and filled his bedroom with golden shafts of light, reminding Craig of the color of the little woman’s hair. 
     He got out of bed with the coming of dawn, stood in front of his open bedroom window and took a long, deep breath of the air outside.  The air smelled sweet and good to him- it smelled of life.  Craig dressed, skipped even the briefest of breakfasts and walked to the local pharmacy.  Along the way, he gave a wave to the paperboy, a polite nod to Mrs. Kantor as she walked her dachshund, and talked baseball for a few minutes with Mr. Ornhaurer as he opened up his filling station for the day ahead.  It was a clear, beautiful spring morning and Craig didn’t mind waiting in front of the pharmacy for Mr. Ferguson to arrive. 
     At two minutes past seven, Mr. Ferguson tipped his hat to Craig and said, “Good morning, Mr. Andrews.  Hold tight for a few more minutes and let me open the store and get a pot of coffee on.”  Craig smiled and nodded.  Mr. Ferguson locked the door to the pharmacy behind him and Craig pressed his nose against the glass and watched the pharmacist ready himself for business. 
     “Come in, come in,” Mr. Ferguson said finally, opening the front door.  “What can I do for you this morning, Mr. Andrews?” 
     Craig handed over his empty medication bottle without a word.  Mr. Ferguson accepted it with a grin, but the grin soon turned into a frown when he saw the refill date was three days past. 
     “You were supposed to have this filled last week, Craig. Did you know that?” 
     “I forgot...” 
     Mr. Ferguson made a face and shrugged his shoulders.  Craig followed him to the back of the pharmacy and fanned through a couple of wrestling magazines while his prescription was being filled. 
     “Here you go, Craig,” Mr. Ferguson said, handing over the filled prescription.  “I’m going to have to give Dr. Talitha a call later on today and tell her about your being late refilling this.  It’s medicine, Craig- you should try harder to do what Dr. Talitha tells you or the medicine won’t help.  You understand me, Craig?” 
     “Do you have to call her, Mr. Ferguson?” Craig asked. 
     “You know I do...” 
     Craig knew it was so. Mr. Ferguson would call Dr. Talitha and next session Craig would get scolded for being forgetful.  Outside the pharmacy, Craig ate three of his pills, catching up on the days he missed.  By the time he got home, he was sleepy and decided to go back to bed and sleep awhile. 
     He dreamed he was chained to a stone wall and people dressed in rags were 
throwing spoiled food at him.  He awoke later to a small demon sitting on his 
chest. 
     “Come out and fight,” it invited. 

The End. 

c.2000 by R. D. Flavin 

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