THE DEMON'S CORPSE

The two boys stared down at the body. They were both sweating despite the temperature being a chilly 48 degrees, and each tried valiantly (although with little success) to contain their trembling from each other. The older of the two, a portly, sandy-haired boy named Dean, spoke first.

"Whatcha think it is?" he asked quietly.

The other boy, Willie, a diminutive kid with pale skin and faded red hair so dull it looked nearly brown, rubbed his chin.

"Don't really know. Maybe some kind of deformed man?"

"No, that's not any man, more like a monster if you ask me."

Willie nodded. "Yeah maybe, but what kind of monster?"

"It's not a monster," the raspy voice called out from the brush. "Or at least not the type you see in movies or on television."

Dean and Willie took a cautious step back. Neither spoke.

The man moved forward, excavating himself from the thorns and branches that had concealed him.

"Didn't mean to scare you kids," he said in a distinctly friendlier tone. "Name's Crowley. Joshua Crowley, self-proclaimed Soother of Harsh Discrepancies at your service." He extended a wrinkled hand that protruded out from a black and purple sleeve.

Willie tilted his head in confusion. "Soother of what?"

"Harsh Discrepancies." He leaned in close. "It's just fancy words for someone who is at peace with their place in the world."

Dean eyed the stranger warily. The man couldn't have weighed more than 100 pounds soaking wet and was dressed from head to toe in black and purple. Brambles and twigs stuck to his strange outfit.

"We didn't mean no harm mister, we were just checking out this here monster thing." He pointed at the body lying before them.

Joshua smiled, revealing uneven rows of sharpened teeth. The sides were crudely serrated.

"I know. And it's okay, really it is." He stepped forward toward the body, and bending over on wobbly knees, grasped one of the outstretched hands of the thing.

"Do you know what it is?" Willie asked.

Joshua looked up at the boy. "Why yes, as a matter of fact, I know exactly what it is." He began to brush off the dirt and loose foliage from the body. In a few seconds he successfully uncovered the bulk of the thing, including most of its face.

One clouded-over eyeball stretched from one side of its forehead to the other. A sheen of pale blue gave the thing the appearance of death. A single curved fang poked out at each corner of its mouth, and the nose was so broad and flattened that if it weren't for the two nostril slits it wouldn't have passed for a nose at all.

Dean and Willie stepped back.

Nodding his head in contentment, Joshua stood up. He faced the boys.

"You kids have no idea how long I've been searching for him." He brushed off a worm from the body's head. "It has taken me years to make sense of the coordinates. Every time I seem to pinpoint a location, it somehow changed." He gazed down at the body in admiration. "It was almost as if he were still alive, moving about from one place to another, avoiding my efforts to find him."

"You mean you wanted to find him?" Dean asked. He and Willie were huddled close together.

"Of course!" Joshua snapped. "Do you think I would've traveled thousands of miles if I didn't?"

Willie snickered. "But why? I mean, what are you gonna do with it?"

"Enslave it, my dear boy, but after I resurrect it of course. A genuine demon is not easy to come by these days. I anticipate I'll rule most, if not all, of the world."

"Oh, I don't think you'll be ruling anything," Dean chimed in with a smile.

Joshua immediately withdrew a golden talisman from his pocket and began to twirl it on his long fingers.

"I didn't want to have to do this to you boys, but you leave me no choice."

He swung the amulet in a circular motion, creating a faint green mist that encircled Dean and Willie.

"Oothin obb senth. Ctult…ctultet."

Willie stepped forward. His expression was one of curiosity rather than fear.

"Don't bother," he calmly stated. A smile creased his face into a demented expression. "Your tricks won't work on us." He waved his hand across his chest and the strange mist immediately dissipated.

Joshua was dumbfounded. He opened his mouth to speak but only uttered incoherent gibberish.

"I don't...what? Not possible. I..."

"You see, Joshua," Dean added matter-of-factly, "we've known about you for some time." He reached over and gripped Willie's hand in his own. "You were foolish to think that you could use us. And now you will pay."

Dean and Willie then began to merge, joining first at the hands, then at the hip. Their legs locked up against each other, forming a seamless mass, as if it had always been a single part. And their midsection fused as well, followed by the shoulders and finally, their heads. A single eye stretched across the head then, reflecting evil beyond any human's grasp.

In the span of 20 seconds two had become one.

Joshua stumbled backward as the thing advanced on him. He was too old to run for it, and his magic was obviously useless. He was trapped and he knew it.

"I…I don't understand."

The demon sneered. A thick blue tongue slid out from between its lips and licked the fangs at the edges of its mouth.

"It's very simple," it drawled. "You have hunted me, and now I have hunted you. I merely drew you into my web." It reared up a scaled leg and landed a swift kick into its duplicate on the ground. The double instantly vanished in a puff of blue smoke. "And now, I tire of these games, for I have much to conquer."

And as Joshua fell back into the brush, he thought with his final thought that one should never try to hunt down a demon. It could cost much more than your life.