There’s a demon on her head. Right now it’s sitting nestled in her hair, legs sprawled, heels resting left and right on each eyebrow. I watch it spit in her coffee as she takes a sip. An expert spit. Obviously, this one has had some practice.
“Thomas, are you ok?”
“What? Oh, I’m fine. I was just thinking of something. Sorry, you were saying?”
Sandra goes on talking about her day while the demon openly moons me. “Then he says that he can’t give me the raise because of the cutbacks….”
Now the little bastard is waving its forked tail over her eyes, taunting me. I try to ignore it.
“I mean, I’ve been working there day in, day out for fourteen years. Fourteen years! Can you…”
It’s now climbed over her nose and is doing something obscene with her left nostril. I can’t control myself any longer. I need to do something.
“So, it’s either I quit my job or—Oww!”
I’m gripping Sandra’s nose. Of course, the demon is no longer there. They always vanish before I can reach them.
“What the hell, Thomas?” she says, hitting my hand away. My eyes are wide with the sudden realisation of how this must appear from her angle. I can feel the whole café staring at me.
“I’m…I’m sorry, I really am,” I can feel my cheeks start to blush. “I thought I saw something on your nose. It’s gone now, though.” Except it isn’t, not really, anyway. A few seconds later, I see it grinning and winking hard at me from behind her left ear. I really need to control myself better. Sandra has enough on her plate right now without worrying about me, too.
“Seriously, Thomas, I have enough on my plate right now without worrying about you, too! You can’t hold down a job, you barely make eye contact when people talk to you, you don’t even make it outside most days… Just what the hell is going on with you?”
I want to tell her, I really do, but who would believe it? What would I think if the roles were reversed? I know what I would think. I’d think that she’d lost it, that she needed help. I would advise her to visit a shrink, or maybe even get herself checked in somewhere. Of course, I’d try to help her through it, to visit, to stay in touch, but deep down I know I wouldn’t. I’d have no time for that kind of crazy in my life.
I fix my eyes on hers, trying my best to blank out the demon defecating in her ear. But I need to say something. Even if she thinks I’m crazy, I need to open up to someone. Maybe she’ll understand. Maybe she might even be able to help somehow.
I take a few deep breaths.
“OK, what I’m about to tell you is going to sound mad, but I see…”
We’re interrupted by the waitress bringing more coffee. She has a particularly nasty one on her head. Swollen and red, it hangs suspended from her cap, relieving itself in the coffee pot. Sandra gets a refill. I place my hand over my empty cup. I wait for her to pass on. Sandra leans forward, eyes wide. She can sense the big moment is nearing when she finally gets to find out just what’s going on with her little brother.
Another deep breath. Ok, here it goes.
“I see little demons on people’s heads.”
Sandra blinks, laughs hysterically for a couple of seconds, stops, and then laughs again. She smiles broadly and holds my hands.
“So, all this is about seeing demons on people’s heads?”
I nod sadly. Time for the therapy discussion, I guess. I brace myself for the worst. “Oh, Tommy, you are definitely the world’s biggest…”
Oh, god, here it comes. I quickly wonder what synonym she’s going to use: nutjob, loony, maniac, freak.
My eyes dart up to meet hers. Fool? I wasn’t expecting that. Even her demon stops doing his little jig between her curls.
She reaches out a hand to gently stroke my face. “Did nobody ever tell you, sweetie?”
I continue staring at her. What the hell is going on?
“We all see the demons. Everyone can. In fact, I am looking at the one on your head right now. Believe me, you don’t even want to know what it was up to a few minutes ago!”
I pull away from her and look at my reflection in the window. Sure enough, there it is, standing on the rim of my glasses. A small, green-spotted demon with two heads. It waves at me before darting away behind my ear.
I’m speechless, dumbfounded. I laugh. My sister laughs. Even the grumpy waitress starts to laugh. I’m not crazy! This could be the best day of my life.
Story written by Shane O’Halloran. Originally published by Flash Fiction Magazine, 2019.28