The Twin Demons
“Folk?” repeated Sia, in confusion.
“Yes, Folk,” chorused the crowd on her doorstep. “We’re all Folk. This is Albert. This is Frankie. This is Bond.”
“James Bond?” Sia interrupted.
“No, just Bond. This is Ferrious. This is Steranko. And this is Joe.”
“Can I interest you in a pincho?” asked Joe, waving a tempting platter of fragrant king prawns beneath Sia’s nose.
“Er, no thank you,” she replied. “What are you all doing here?”
“Well, we’ve heard about what you’re doing here and we’re very excited by it,” said Folk, smiling as one. “We’d like to welcome you to the neighbourhood and see if we can help you at all.”
Sia scowled. She drew back, her brow furrowing with suspicion.
“Oh no you don’t,” she said. “I haven’t escaped the City of Bureaucracy, trekked the Wilderness of Confusion, found my House of Glass and developed my Unique Talent, all by myself, just to get suckered once more by some shape-shifting Guardians of Conformity. Thanks, but no thanks.”
“No, no, you don’t understand,” protested Folk. “We’ve all been where you are now. We just want to help.”
“I don’t need your help,” Sia snapped, backing away from the doorway.
“We want to be friends.”
“You ain’t no friends of mine!” she yelled. And slammed the door shut.
“Be careful,” she heard one of the Folk call out to her. “You don’t know what’s in there!”
Sia ignored them.
“People,” she muttered to herself. She gazed at her crystal figurines, which winked at her in the light as if sharing a secret.
“Look at these beautiful creations! If I let these strangers in, they’ll probably shatter all my hard work into pieces.”
“Exactly!” squeaked two voices behind her.
Startled, Sia whirled around.
There, at her eye level, two tiny red creatures hovered in the air, each about the size of a bumble bee. It was difficult to make out their features distinctly, but Sia noted that each wore what appeared to be a tiny crown, and grasped in its fist what appeared to be a tiny blossom.
“Your work is so delicate, so original, so stunning! You can’t risk it being ruined,” squealed the first creature.
“Those people just want a piece of you,” whined the second. “They don’t understand. You don’t need them.”
“Who are you?” gasped Sia.
The creatures bobbed up and down in the air, emitting high-pitched chuckles of glee.
“We’re all you need from now on!” they cried.
Folk had stopped knocking on her door some months ago, realising that Sia wasn’t going to answer.
And life wasn’t exactly perfect.
Sia still loved creating her crystal figurines. But, in order to maintain her Moregeous standards, she had had to re-stock her White Closet and invest in further specialist equipment – diamond abrasive tools, silicon carbide wheels, fairy dust – all of which meant she’d had to take out a hefty loan.
And in order to make the repayments on that loan, she had to make and sell a lot of crystal figurines. Which meant she was working all the time – and yet she still wasn’t selling enough to make ends meet.
She rarely ate. She couldn’t sleep. In fact, she was so utterly drained and exhausted that she often wondered if leaving the City of Bureaucracy had been the right move after all.
And then there were the Demons.
The Twin Demons of Pride and Solitude were making her life a misery.
They were constantly demanding to be fed. And no matter how much Sia fed them, they always wanted more. With insatiable appetites they sat and gorged, and gorged, and gorged, and gorged.
And as they gorged, they grew.
The harmless bumble bees they’d been upon arrival had swollen to the size of elephants. And as they grew, they revealed the true extent of their horrors.
What Sia had initially believed to be crowns were in fact crooked horns, grasping greedily outwards from the Demons’ engorged heads.
And what she’d mistaken for blossoms in their hands proved to be spiked tridents, which they used to jab her with at every opportunity, demanding to be fed more, more, more, cackling disdainfully at her pain.
One night, a despairing Sia ran outside in the moonlight, threw herself down on her pathway and cried. She cried and cried until she could cry no more. And then she rolled over onto her back and gazed once again, with tear-stained eyes, at the twinkling skies.
She thought back to the night when the Moth had whispered into her ear and revealed the secrets of the stars.
How far have I come since then, she thought. How far have I really come?
And, all at once, she knew what to do.
Pride was now so bloated that he had difficulty getting out of bed. He sat propped up against the pillows, rolls of blubber billowing with his every laboured breath, and played with Sia’s favourite crystalline figure – a young man in a pirate’s hat, dancing a sea shanty. Pride held the figure up to the light and chuckled with delight at its reflected brilliance.
“Feed me!” he bellowed, as he saw Sia appear at the bedroom doorway. “Cupcakes! Pies! Or maybe some of those Sicilian meatballs. I Love to Eat!”
“Tough,” said Sia. “I’m not feeding you any more. In fact, I think it’s about time you and I had a chat.”
“Oh yeah?” asked the Demon, suspiciously. “What about?”
“What about how you’re ruining my life?” asked Sia. “What about how you’re consuming everything that I have?”
She moved closer to the bed. Pride looked at her with an indecipherable glint in his eye.
“Not quite everything,” he said with a wry smile. “I haven’t consumed… YOU!”
And, in a surprisingly sudden movement, the Demon heaved himself forwards, forcefully propelling his gargantuan body onto Sia.
He may be unfit, but he’s certainly got the weight advantage, Sia thought as she wrestled desperately with the strong Demon of Pride.
“You’re suffocating me!” she gasped.
“You wouldn’t be anything without me!” shrieked Pride. “Do you realise that I’ve been with you every step of the way, ever since you left the City of Bureaucracy? And I got you here. Me and me alone!”
“That’s not true,” cried Sia. With a tremendous effort, she freed her arms and started to punch the Demon, calling out names with every blow.
“I had the peg. The Director. Crazy Wendy. Macleod Bradley. The saxophone player. Even my Belly Button. ”
The Demon of Pride cried out in pain. And, with every fresh name, Sia realised he was shrinking in size.
“They all helped me when I didn’t know where to go, or what to do,” yelled Sia. “And neither did you!”
Pride wailed a last great mournful wail. And, as Sia watched, he shrank away to a tiny, flailing dot, which hid itself under the bed.
Panting from her exertions, Sia rolled herself up to a sitting position. I did it, she thought exultantly. I’m free.
“Not so fast,” hissed a low voice. Sia looked up to see the great hulk of the Demon of Solitude blocking the doorway.
“That’s right. You’ve still got me,” said Solitude. “And we may be Twin Demons, but we’re fraternal, not identical. You can’t just beat some new-found understanding into me and make me shrink away.”
The Demon took a step forward. Independence groaned.
“Enough!” she croaked, tiredly. “I need to get out of here for a while.”
Solitude’s eyes widened in horror.
“You can’t leave!” she gasped. “There are people out there. You won’t know who to trust!”
“I don’t care,” cried Sia.
And, pulling herself to her feet, she dodged past the Demon’s grasp, half-fell down the stairs and stumbled out of her beloved House of Glass, out into the village beyond.