Deumos stood on the threshold of the woman’s home. Deumos didn’t care who this lady was or the fact that she was married and had three children. The only fact important to her was at this particular moment, this housewife was alone. Deumos watched her hum softly to herself as she prepared dinner for her family. Like other demons, Deumos was nothing more than a whisper in the woman’s head. A void. While the woman could not physically see Deumos, Deumos could see her shifting uncomfortably underneath the pressure of Deumos’s presence in the room.
The need to devour a soul writhed within Deumos and so she glided toward the housewife. Looming over her, she firmly grasped the housewife from underneath her chin and pulled her towards herself. The housewife, mouth agape, did not have enough time to mutter out even the smallest cry for help as Deumos became suddenly visible to her.
Deumos reveled in the pleasure as she watched the housewife’s thin, white soul slither its way out of her open mouth and into Deumos’s. Fear stained the housewife’s eyes until the last twinge of life left her human body. Deumos, satiated, walked through the house in search of the perfect item that encapsulated this woman’s life. Entering the bathroom, an antique, full length mirror stood in front of her. It was wooden, possibly made of oak, and carved within the wood was a simple flower design. Deumos selected this item as a token of the woman’s soul and with this mirror in tow, she shimmered back to her plane—the Underworld—just as a timer buzzed, indicating that dinner was ready.
Hours after this reaping, Deumos stood on the edge of a cliff hours before dawn with her prize, her silhouette just as menacing as her usual illuminated figure. One could make out her thick, black-as-tar wings, spread wide against the moonless, night sky. The four horns atop her head reached up to the sky’s abyss and her long, pale arms extended toward the earth with outstretched, slender fingers. Her black eyes peered into the forest’s mouth below searching for signs of life. Silence. She opened her wings wider, spanning several widths of her. The soft, summer wind slipped gracefully between her feathers and with a perfectly timed moment, she dived headfirst into the mouth of the forest.
She landed at the entrance to a cave. She slipped silently into it, hauling the clunky mirror with her. She walked down a narrow, naturally formed hallway and stopped as it opened up to a larger room. She propped the mirror up against the cave’s wall and felt her way to the first torch she had hung around this room. She lit the torch and did the same to the others.
This room was glittering with junk—to an outsider’s eyes at least. Random objects were strewn across the ground in a seemingly uncategorized fashion. But to Deumos, they were pieces of the human world—a life she would never live—that gave her a sense of purpose. For what else was she? A fallen angel who hunted souls? A demon who tore families, friends, lovers apart? She was a disgusting, vile, rat of the otherworld who relished in this ritual, and these objects, these worthless, petty objects, belonged to those who were cherished. The cavity in her chest where a heart should be throbbed beneath the rags she wore. To be cherished, what is that like?
No, those thoughts were useless and she pushed them away and cemented them into the back of her mind. She collected her antique mirror and propped it up against the back wall facing the entrance to the hallway so it now became the centerpiece of the room. She gathered some of her favorite trinkets: a stuffed puppy dog with patches of fur missing, an elegant wedding ring placed on a mannequin’s hand, and the ragged suit of a man who never married. The dog and the ring were placed on the ground to the left of the mirror and the suit on the right. Deumos stood back and admired her new addition. She favored the set up. The way the hand slightly curved its fingers and the ring shimmered in the flickering flames summoned a creativity within her. The left corner of her lip began to curl up—
The mirror flashed. Deumos’s eyes flickered onto the smooth glass. She made eye contact with her reflection. She typically avoided her own reflection; there was something about her unruly black hair, the grey rags that hung from her body, and the dirt underneath her cracked fingernails that made her uncomfortable. Maybe it was shame, but she made sure to never spend too much time pondering it. But then the mirror began to ripple like water droplets on a still lake. It swirled and morphed and then her reflection was not entirely hers. She stood facing a version of herself: she had the same black hair, but her eyes were a lovely shade of blue, and the rags were now brilliant, white robes with wings to match. The reflection smiled harmoniously at her. Deumos, startled by this reflection, averted her eyes. Nerves prickled in the pit of her stomach. Her fingertips buzzed. As she slowly brought her gaze back to the glass, she was left staring at her normal, sleazy, and disappointing self.
The next day Deumos returned to her isolated cave with another memento— the trophy of another soul consumed—except this time it was more of a habit. As she reaped the young man’s soul, she didn’t revel in the pleasure she usually felt. This time she didn’t even bother to rummage through his personal belongings. Instead, she found herself picking the first thing she found on the floor—an old sock. She threw the memento carelessly into one of the large piles of junk. Her mind was occupied in fascination with the strange mirror she had discovered. It was difficult to startle Deumos, an underworld heathen, and with the mirror’s success in doing so, it aroused a curiosity within her. There were so many possible meanings as to what this mirror was. A sort of telephone to the heavens? A reflection of the future?
She observed the mirror at a distance. Her unexciting self stared back. Frustrated, Deumos walked towards it, but she only received the same unpleasant view.
Deumos’s upper lip curled. Why wouldn’t the mirror do anything? She had to have been doing something wrong. What did she do yesterday? She had set the mirror up against the wall, then she collected those three items and arranged—
The mirror flashed. A jolt of anticipation surged through her torso and out her fingertips. The glass rippled and Deumos was now staring into the angelic version of herself. Deumos grasped the edges of the mirror’s wood, her face inches from the glass.
“Who are you?” Deumos spat out excitedly, her voice raspy from neglect. “What are you?” But the reflection interrupted her by lowering its head and silently shaking it. The curiosity burned within Deumos and a hot anger erupted from her.
“Tell me what you’re doing here!” she demanded. The reflection jolted its head back up to meet Deumos’s fury.
Their eyes locked and the reflection flatly said, “Watch.” The angel waved her hand from one side of the mirror to the other and the rippling began again.
Deumos’s eyes observed as the mirror calmed into a smooth surface once more. Deumos was now staring into the home of a human family. She squinted her eyes in confusion, but silently studied the images.
A family—a woman, a man, and a toddler—sat around a table eating. The toddler swayed happily in her high chair and the woman laughed at something the man had said. They seemed so…happy.
There was this feeling, an alien buzz tickling within the hollow of her chest. It was an emotion for which she didn’t have a name, but all she knew was that she wanted this family’s happiness to end. What made them so deserving of it? They were flawed creatures with their useless dreams and unnecessary desires. With an expiration date stamped on their heads as they emerge into the world of the living, what was the point? Angrily, Deumos turned away from this happy, loving family and walked away disappointed and frustrated. She considered smashing the mirror and burying it so deeply underground no one would ever find it. She should never had taken that mirror back with her. Regret consumed her. It left her with these strange buzzing feelings when she was content with her usual indifference toward anything.
“Wait,” the angelic reflection said. Deumos felt her muscles tense and released a quiet snarl. Destroying the mirror was definitely the best course of action. “See,” it said. Deumos considered shattering the glass right then and there, but curiosity swarmed within her like a cloud of locusts. She hesitantly turned around. Her small eyes widened and she let out the smallest of gasps.
Her angelic reflection was holding the same toddler from the family she had seen. The angel cradled the toddler in her arms and cooed at her. The child smiled, her eyes glistening. The angel wrapped her white wings around them and swayed from side to side. She then lifted her head and met Deumos’s gaze. “See,” she said and looked back down at the child.
A desperation consumed Deumos. She felt a kind of bursting in her chest that was so powerful and so heavy she was unsure of how she was still standing. “Why are you showing me this?” she asked her reflection. The reflection just shook her head and waved her hand across the glass. “No!” Deumos shouted and lunged swiftly toward the mirror, but it was too late. The images melted until they had formed her regular reflection. Deumos, defeated, sat down on the ground and held her face in her hands. She was being taunted by an inanimate object and a fury mixed with the desperation that was still clinging to her. Questions swirled in her head, but there were answers for none of them.
See, the mirror had said.
It had been five days since Deumos had seen the family within the mirror. She hadn’t moved from in front of the mirror since. She stared into her reflection hoping for an answer to what the images meant, or at least, another glimmer of the child in her arms. Instead, she watched herself deteriorate before the mirror. She hadn’t taken a human soul in several days and it was showing in her eyes. They were no longer the fierce black, but were now a soft gray and bags sunk beneath them. The feathers from her wings were molting so that one could see pink flesh where the feathers had fallen.
Deumos could not help but long for the images’ return. She wanted so desperately to see those images—to be them. Her thoughts flickered relentlessly to the angel and the baby. Could that be me? she wondered. The weight of her loneliness settled within her as she played with the idea of raising a child. The mirror had to have fallen in her possession for a reason. That reason had to be to encourage her to become the angel. And to become the angel she must raise a child! Deumos rose to her feet quickly, a thrill emanating in the hollow hole where a heart should be. The pieces were coming together.
She was being given a second chance for redemption. She had to prove herself to the heavens that she was capable of love and when she did, she would be an angel again. She ran out of the cave and into the night and with the right gust of wind she was lifted into the air torpedoing through the sky as if she had been chained for eternity.
Hours later she emerged into the cave once more. She stepped into her secret room and cradled a small baby in her arms. “This is your new home,” Deumos said with a scratchy voice, a poor attempt at cooing. She traced the shape of the baby’s face with a long, finger, being careful to not cut the soft skin with her jagged fingernail. She scrounged the piles of junk for blankets and created a nest in which the baby to lie. As she placed the baby in the makeshift crib, the baby peeked up at her with soft, blue eyes and a chill ran along Deumos’s spine. The only kind of joy she was used to feeling was the kind from when she sucked the soul from an innocent’s body. This joy was different. She felt almost…human.
She could picture their lives together. The baby would age and grow fond of Deumos. Deumos would teach her the history of demons and the underworld and the child would learn to despise the living and would serve the underworld. Deumos reveled in the thought of raising this child; she could share this lonely place with someone else.
However, just as she began to allow this warmth to wash over her, the baby began to cry. Deumos picked the baby up and tried bouncing her, but it seemed to make her angrier. She tried singing, hugging, caressing her, but nothing seemed to work. What do babies need? Specifically, what does this baby need now? Deumos turned to her mirror hoping for guidance, but the mirror was silent. With every passing minute the baby’s screams grew louder. As much snot poured from the child’s small nose as tears flowed down her pudgy cheeks. Her mouth was wide and circular and her tongue shook slightly with each scream she released. Frustrated, Deumos held the child to her face and screamed, “What? Tell me what you want!” The cries began to pierce her ears and she could no longer take the incessant screaming. What a filthy brat. Didn’t the baby realize she was trying to help her? She was giving her a life outside the flawed, human world. Why wouldn’t she stop screaming? Why was she being so needy? The mirror pictured a happy, calm baby; what the hell was wrong with hers?
She set the baby down and backed away as her underworld reality began to hit her. No matter how desperate she was to care for this child, she would never be able to do so. The screaming was too much.
Deumos took off into the forest leaving the shrill screams behind. It was then she realized how hungry she was.
She went off looking for a meal.
Three more days passed when Deumos finally returned to the cave. She paused at the mouth of the cave and listened for any cries. She was relieved to hear none; the child had obviously given up. She walked into the room and looked at the baby. It was still. Panic leaped into her throat and she lunged toward the baby and fell to her knees. How long was she gone? Weren’t humans more durable than this? She looked into the baby’s face—her eyes half-closed and snot was crusted around her nose. The panic increased and Deumos desperately shook the child in hopes of awakening it. A cry, a scream, anything to acknowledge Deumos that she was alive.
The silence was somehow more deafening.
She cradled her head in her hands. This was not what was supposed to happen. The child was not supposed to die. She was to raise the child and love the child like any mother would. She looked back at the baby and took the pink headband off of its head. She rose and held the hairband loosely in her hand. Deumos’s mouth was a tight line, and her eyes were black and empty.
She felt this swelling in her chest, an unfamiliar one like before, but this time it felt heavier. With her head tilted upwards, she screeched. She screeched for the emotions she couldn’t name. She screeched for the selfish desire to be what she could never be.
She screeched for her dead baby.
She angrily approached the mirror.
“Look what you made me do!” she yelled, her eyes wide with anger. “Why did you tell me to raise a child when this is what happened?” The mirror rippled. Deumos watched impatiently for an image to appear. Her angelic self stared at her. “This is your fault!” Deumos accused the angel, but the angel only shook her head.
The fury slowly leaked out of Deumos and all she was left with was pain. She realized that this pain, a human pain, is what they call heartache. “I just wanted to be you,” Deumos admitted softly. “All I wanted,” Deumos reached her hand to touch the mirror, “was to be—” but as she pressed her hand to the smooth, cool glass, it shattered into dozens of pieces.
Deumos stared at the remains all around her—the glass, the baby, and the mementos. This is who she was: a disgusting, vile, rat of the otherworld who devoured the good from the world. She could never be the angel in the mirror.
A burning crept all over her body. She stared at her hand as cracks emerged from her fingers and spread up her arms. She peered calmly at her feet. There were cracks spreading there too. Light glowed brilliantly from these cracks as the burning grew stronger, more painful, but comforting at the same time. With one last pulse, the light burst through these cracks and Deumos shattered into millions of pieces.
In this graveyard that had been hers for hundreds of years, Deumos was the final piece in her collection.
See, the mirror had said.