A Stroke of Altruism


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    Demon possession is the family business and I’ve got quite a mother to live up to. The Devil’s Darling, they call her. Her skin is like lacquered red candy; her eyes are sizzling gold. She used to bring me along to job shadow, usually at gas stations late at night when the stars were all watching. I’d stand behind a car and observe as she whispered in a man’s ear. He’d smile, and I always wanted to know what it was that she said, but whenever I asked she’d put a finger to her lips and say, “A demon never tells.”

    Tonight is my first night on the job. As I step out the door, I see my mother has left me a good luck note, her signature XO written in lipstick. It’s meant to give me courage, but instead it makes me feel like she’s breathing down my neck.

    I head to the library. It’s ten minutes until closing time, so I’m guessing there won’t be many people there. A single car is in the parking lot, and I know it belongs to the cute librarian with pointed purple glasses.

    She’s putting books on the hold shelf. I slither closer and say, “Need a hand, Amy?”

    She jumps with a little screech that’s kind of endearing, then looks me up and down and says, “How do you know my name?”

    “It’s on your nametag.”

    She doesn’t respond. “My name’s Vivian,” I offer.

    “The library’s almost closed. Do you need something?”

    I lean forward. “How about a kiss?”

    Amy looks surprised, but she doesn’t break eye contact, which means this will work. Thankfully I got my mother’s enchanting eyes.

    “Okay,” she says.

    I press my lips to hers and smirk when she opens her mouth for me and kisses back. This is how my mother possesses victims. She probably won’t like that I stole her trick.

    I wish we could do this longer, but I’m already in. Possessing her feels like trying on a dress that doesn’t quite fit. What are you? Amy thinks. It’s weird to share a mind.

    When I speak, it’s her voice. “A friend.”

    I take myself by surprise. I’m supposed to wreak havoc with murder and sin, but as soon as I’ve possessed her, as soon as I am her, I don’t want to. I could do so much more.

    I shuffle through her thoughts. Pent up tension clouds everything, and it’s coming from a box in the back labeled Mom. It’s filled with rage and a refusal to apologize that’s wrapped up in regret. I pull out her phone and click on her mother’s number.


    “Hi, mom. I’m sorry.” I can sense Amy’s relief.

    Her mother starts crying. “Oh honey, I’m sorry too. I’ve been so awful to you.”

    After I hang up, Amy asks, Why did you do that?

    “I want to help you.”

    It feels good to go against the grain. Now I’ll just have my own mother to worry about.

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