Halloween 2020.

Halloween, Halloween, Halloween!

A day of pumpkins and candy for some, and trying to avoid a month’s worth of cleaning the author’s green room for others.

This tale was written in three parts: the first in 2014, the second in 2019, and the last part around and about yesterday. I’ve combined them into one story, which, I’m rather proud to say, qualifies as a novelette. Yay!

Happy Halloween! I hope you enjoy it in a socially distanced, mask wearing, hand washing sort of way. ;)

Also: get the candy of your dreams, don’t meet any demons you shouldn’t, and keep your elders safe.

As always, a cheery and heartfelt thank you The Dude, and to my friend and editor, Mr. C.

Camy. Halloween 2020.



The fridge was empty again. Never share a flat with a self aggrandising dickhead, I thought as I closed its door with my foot. It shut with barely a thump. Not very satisfying.

I was in a desultory mood. Jack, the yank—who called the one roomed L-shaped shithole we lived in ‘an apartment’ for god’s sake—had left before the crack of sparrows for an open casting. He hadn’t mentioned it the night before, but if I knew Jack it would be a casting couch call at the very least. I chuckled. With his luck he’d probably end up on some producer’s yacht in Monte Carlo.

The bastard could have left enough milk and instant coffee for coffee.

I flopped on the couch, turned on the TV and extrapolated. Knowing Jack as I did—and in the carnal sense I knew him very well; I paused to muse on that, had a wank, and then, as I flicked through the channels, it occurred to me that apart from the great sex—I knew Jack not at all.

With an extravagant sigh at the slings and arrows, and a annoyingly rumbling stomach, I decided it was time to go shopping. It was soon after that that I discovered how much of a bastard Jack actually was.

I couldn’t find my wallet. I tore the place apart looking for it. Nada. I’d left it on the bedside table when we’d gone to bed. I left it there every night, along with my keys to the flat and my new baby Kawasaki. I couldn’t find those either. With a sinking feeling I looked out of the back window, swore, and smashed some crockery.

I wanted to cry, so I did. Not very manly for twenty, but fuck it. I’d really liked Jack and thought we’d had the beginnings of something good. How he had the balls to take my bike I had no idea. He knew how much it meant to me. It was freedom, and it wasn’t as if I left him behind. I’d even shelled out for a helmet for him and had it custom sprayed to a design he’d drawn. Naturally, that was missing too.

I pulled myself together, washed my face, put the door on the latch and went downstairs.

“No, Brian, I haven’t seen him,” Mrs Alala, our landlady, said in as offhand manner as I’d ever heard. “But if I do see him I’ll be sure to say you’re hunting him.” She started to close the door in my face, then stopped. “Rent?” She enquired and held out her hand. It was the last thing I needed. I felt like biting it. I also felt like shit from the previous night’s excesses. After a moment I realised I was swaying, so I reached out and held on to the door jamb. Mrs Alala was back-lit by the sun pouring through her ground floor flat’s windows, and the dark hallway where I was standing, with its peeling paper, moth-eaten carpet and forty watt gloaming bulb, added to a distinct feeling of dissociation.

I cleared my throat. “Rent. Yes, um. So sorry, Mrs Alala, Jack has it,” I lied. “Actually, he’s been a bit of an idiot and gone off with my jacket.” I managed a chagrined grin. Mrs Alala didn’t glare so much as start to tap her foot. “And of course the idiot didn’t think to tell me he was going to borrow it.” I tsked with a ‘how can anyone be so stupid?’ expression, then chuckled. “Anyway, to cut a long and terribly boring story short, my jacket, which Jack’s got, has my wallet in it. And so I was wondering if I could be really cheeky and borrow a few pounds until he gets back.” I tried to read her face but failed miserably. She always looked like she had the weight of the world on her shoulders and you were the final straw. “So I, um, need to get a bit of shopping, and then of course I’ve got to go to college this afternoon.”

Mrs Alala raised an eyebrow, “On Halloween? Really? I thought the college was closed today.”

“Oh.” I was genuinely bemused. How on earth could I have forgotten it was Halloween.

“I just don’t know. You youngsters will be the death of me,” Mrs Alala smiled and smoothed down her apron, her whole demeanour suddenly changing from the hard nosed landlady that I knew so well to a simpering coquette. “I tell you what, Brian. Let’s a bargain make. I’ll give you money and you look after my nephews and make sure they don’t get into trouble when they go trick or treating tonight. What say you?”

I frowned, then blinked as she reached into her apron and pulled out a large roll of notes. She peeled a month’s rent off it, tapping the roll absently with her forefinger as she watched me watching the notes. Then she peeled off another months rent, adding it to the first. It was more money than I’d seen in one place since I’d left my parents' and started college. I wasn’t drooling exactly, but I think I came close.

“Well Brian? What do you think? Oh, and I tell you what. We’ll forget the rent that’s owed now, too.” She smiled. She terrified me.

My grip on the door jamb increased until it seemed to be the only thing holding me to reality. The whole situation was so far from the norm I tried to recollect if we’d taken acid the night before. I closed my eyes and remembered who'd been there. Jack’s friends Jane and Simon from the fine arts course, of course; Jane as ever trying to tell Jack he was misguided and actually hetero whilst Simon watched her with his usual arrogant, paternalistic sneer. Bob from performing arts, who thought he was a star and claimed he was the reincarnation of Jimmy Hendrix, along with his girlfriend Brenda who simpered but never said a word. Finally, there was Paul who was a few years older, camp as tents with a roving hand, and provided the nicest drugs. From what I could remember it had been a good night. We’d smoked some wicked weed, had a couple of lines of speed, but definitely no acid.

I opened my eyes. Mrs Alala wasn’t back-lit any longer. Her flat was now as dark as the caves of hades—where had that thought come from? All of a sudden I wanted to run, but as I turned towards the front door my hand refused to let go of the door jamb. I looked at it and saw Mrs Alala was casually holding on to my pinky.

“Do we have a deal, Brian?” She said. I felt her voice more than heard it as it thundered through my body and rattled my soul. I nodded, unable to do anything else, and from afar saw her fold the crisp banknotes and push them into my shirt pocket. She tapped them down, closed the flap, buttoned it, patted it kindly, then stepped back expectantly.

“What time should I…?”

“About six, dear. I’ll send them up to knock on your door. Do be firm with them, Brian. Don’t take any of their nonsense. You know how they are at that age, just a couple of little demons.”


Like smoke in a breeze, the visceral terror I had felt talking to Mrs Alala faded as I slowly tromped back up the stairs to the flat, clutching the large wad of cash she'd given me. I kneed the door. It swung open with a groan, revealing my life as I’d chosen to live it. Pathetic.

I slammed the door with my heel, sat on the edge of the bed, examined the cash, started to giggle, then thumbed through the notes again, just to be sure.

The money was real. Mrs Alala, the canniest landlady I’d ever met, had gone off her trolley. She was obviously an idiot, too.

I looked around the place and nodded. I could get pretty much everything I owned into my rucksack. I’d leave the raggedy posters, the kettle, and the old microwave and fridge Jack and I’d salvaged from the tip. Mrs Alala was welcome to them.

Maybe I’d send her and Jack postcards when I got to wherever it was I was going.

Yes! I’d pack my stuff up and be gone well before I had to chaperone her two bloody nephews around the local area, trick-or-treating. I’d vanish, and Jack could take the flack when—or if—he decided to come back. Perfect!

Humming, I moved from the bed to my stool at the small table where Jack and I ate. The dining room, Jack called it, where ‘room’ meant the corner where the table and two stools lived. When Jack had his poker parties the table moved to the middle of the floor and the flat became ‘Jacko’s Gaff.’

I spread the notes out on the chipped veneer table top and counted them. There was more money than even the grandest of Jack’s casino nights had raked in. Daft old Alala—not that I had the slightest intention of giving her her money back.

Almost two grand! Two thousand smackers! W00T! I grinned in triumph, and was reaching for my rucksack when there was a loud whoomph and a bang from somewhere below, followed by a wailing scream and a horrendous crash.

Then the rumbling started, and the house began to shake. Gently at first, the lightbulb over the table swaying to and fro as if in a light wind, then more severely as a motherfucker of a gale came out of nowhere and began to tear the flat apart.

A mini-tornado formed by the fridge and what crockery we had was hurled into the bathroom to smash against its tiled walls. Luckily, I was holding the cash in my hand and shoved it deep into my trouser pocket, then I stumbled about emptying the dresser and bedside table drawers into my pack. Avoiding the kitchenette, I grabbed my coat and was just about to open the front door and flee, when everything stilled.

Complete silence. Not even the ever-present muted roar of traffic that Jack and I had accepted as a part and parcel of living in Mrs Alala’s poxy flat. I swallowed, trying to clear my ears, then raised a hand and clicked my fingers. Not a sound. It was almost as if time was holding its breath…. Then, there were footsteps coming up the stairs and the chattering and laughter of two boyish voices.

The world seemed to shudder as the roar of traffic on the main road reasserted itself, and time crashed back. As the footsteps started up the last flight of stairs, I looked around and nearly fainted.

The flat was immaculate. Three coffee cups sat waiting on top of a folded tea towel on the counter next to the kettle, which merrily came to a boil and switched itself off as I watched. I leaned to my left so I could see into the bathroom, which I would have sworn—on a stack of bibles—had been spectacularly demolished. Now, it was spick and span and gleamed with an otherworldly cleanliness.

I blinked furiously, then slapped myself hard on the face. Once: nothing changed. Twice: I’d seen the destruction, I’d seen it happen… yet now….

The footsteps stopped just as I was heading for the window to see if I could fit through it, and climb down the drainpipe.

There was a polite knock on the door. I froze. The moment seemed eternal, then there was another knock, a giggle, and I found myself appallingly, inconceivably, irrefutably hard. Obviously, too, I thought as I glanced down. Lucky I was wearing an oversized pullover.

“Told you, Marby,” a young voice said, evidently pleased.

“So you did. You also agreed to play fair, Bel.”

“Poop: You’re no fun.”

“Cheating’s not fair, Bel. If you play on someone else’s turf you follow their rules.”



“He’s not….”

I grabbed the lock, turned it, and yanked the door open, glaring. Then I gawped. Light and shade and stunningly beautiful, two boys in their early teens stood before me, the blonde with a studious, serious expression, the raven sporting a wicked grin that spoke volumes.

“Hello, Marby,” I said to the blonde, then nodded to the other one whose grin was wavering. “Bel.

“Your aunt said six ‘o’ clock. You’re a bit early.”

“We are not….” Bel snarled as I held up a finger to silence him.

“Not in costume yet, no,” I said. “But I do appreciate you both flogging up the stairs to introduce yourselves.” I glanced at Marby, who gave me a small smile and a nod.

“Right then,” I said, briskly rubbing my hands together. “Please tell your aunt I’ll be down soon, and I’ll see you both downstairs. Off you go, now.” With that I shut the door in their faces, sank to my knees and inwardly wailed.

Suddenly, two thousand pounds didn’t seem like a lot of money at all. What the fuck had I done? I’d been terrified by ‘The Exorcist’ yet here I was trying to control two actual, incarnate, Demons. What was I supposed to do? And what had Mrs Alala been thinking of? If I wasn’t extremely careful trick or treat 2020 would be the first example of a real demonic bloodbath in South London’s history.

I got to my feet, then realised I hadn’t heard any footsteps going back downstairs. I was about to open the door and confront them, then thought better of it. Fuck ‘em. If they wanted to stand there, listening, what did I care? I felt, rather than heard, Marby chuckle and Bel curse—though how I knew which was which stumped me. I held my breath and wished them away, and heard giggles and footsteps running down the stairs.

A loud banging, raised voices, a slam, then blessed silence. Slowly, I breathed out.

Much as I wished I could wind back time to before Jack had left, and much as I wished I’d slept with my wallet and bike key firmly clasped in my hand, I knew it wasn’t going to happen. I had to face facts, and the facts were these: I’d done a deal with Mrs Alala, and it was more than likely Alala equated to the devil. A devil? The Devil? I didn’t know, but I had a strong suspicion that if I didn’t fulfil my side of the bargain I wouldn’t end up a happy chappy―or any sort of chappy at all―come the end of the day.

I looked out of the window, longingly. Note to future self: the window is big enough to get through and there is a drainpipe. I sighed, had a wash, then put on my black jeans, black t-shirt and black leather jacket. I kept the money with me—because who knew what sort of chances might offer themselves up while taking two demons trick-or-treating—and went downstairs.

“Ah, there you are, dear,” Mrs Alala said as she opened the door, ushering me in. “Bel was getting worried, weren’t you sweety?”

Bel glowered at us from next to the piano. I almost laughed. He was wearing a white Angel's toga along with matching leather sandals and belt from which a short sword hung in an ornate golden scabbard. As a costume it was fine. The oddity was a collar around his neck, from the back of which a rod stood up, supporting a gold halo suspended high above his raven hair. As I watched he locked eyes with me and I knew I’d made a terrible mistake.

Bel wasn’t glowering at Alala.

Bel was seething with hatred for me.

My blood began to rapidly heat; my heart started pounding, and from it I felt small creatures begin wriggling down my arteries. More and more, and faster and faster they inundated my body, until my blood had been exchanged for the living, writhing embodiment of Bel’s evil. His eyes held me―a rigid, quivering, wreck of a man―until I was so damaged my body began to destroy itself from the inside out and the outside in. My hair dropped off in large clumps, my face erupted in boils that exploded as the surrounding flesh began to melt. And the pain… the pain! I couldn’t move, couldn’t scream, couldn’t….

Bel’s head jerked hard upwards and as his eye contact broke, a warm hand slid into mine suffusing me with power. With a gasp, I snapped back to reality and the pain vanished as if it had never been.

Marby, wearing the exact opposite of Bel’s costume, slid his other arm around my waist and squeezed. “I’ll look after you, Brian,” I heard, though his lips didn’t move. He let me go and stood back.

“You witnessed this, Alala,” Marby said, his voice suddenly much deeper. “Bel broke the compact. Remove him.”

“I… I cannot, my lord.” Alala said, cowering and backing to the door.

“Cannot?” Marby asked. “Cannot? You allowed this to happen, Alala. In this, a sacred space granted to you and yours by my father.” Marby grew in stature until his horns hit the ceiling, gossamer wings unfurling behind him and shielding me from Bel.

“Tell me, Alala, why shouldn’t I have you removed from this plane?”

“Because you don’t have the power!” Bel said, growing rapidly to a stature matching Marby's. Together they almost filled the room. I sidled over and stood next to Mrs Alala, who had, quite sensibly I thought, her hand on the door knob.

“Eighty five to thirty six, Marbas,” Bel's deep voice sneered, “Eighty five to thirty six!”

I looked up at Marbas, who didn’t seem worried in the slightest. He winked at me!

“Eighty five to thirty six, Beleth. I grant you you’re right. But you forget where you are.

“We came here for a night of frolics and fun, and yet you always want more.” Marby sounded sad. “You never play the game, Bel.”

“But I….”

“Too Late,” Marby said, then waved his hand and clicked his fingers. “Begone.”

With what I heard as an indignant squark and a loud pop, Bel vanished.

I turned to Mrs Alala who seemed to shake herself and become, once again, the landlady I knew. Then, somewhat timorously, I looked at Marby and watched him change back to the teenager he had been when we first met, minutes—or hours?—before, though he was still wearing his devil's costume and sporting a cute pair of horns. The house seemed to breathe in relief.

“Umm... shall we go trick-or-treating, then?” I asked. Grinning, Marby nodded.

“If that’s okay with you, Aunt?”

“Go, go, the pair of you,” Mrs Alala said. “But promise to be back before the witching hour.”

“Promise,” Marby and I said in unexpected unison, and laughed.

I opened the door and waved Marby through. “After you,” I said.

“No, no, no,” Marby said. “Age before beauty.”

“Why, thank you,” I said walking out in front of him, and snickered. “Remember: doggies follow their masters.” Marby growled. I swear to god, he growled, and in my head I heard a smiling ‘just you wait, Brian. Just you wait.’

The front door swung open as we approached it. I looked down at Marby who was smiling.

“Smart arse,” I said.

He snickered. “This is going to be fun!” He said, clicking his fingers.

“Boys!” Mrs Alala called, coming up behind us as we stepped onto the porch and handing us each a carrier bag. “For your candy.”

“I’m twenty. I think I’m a little bit old, Mrs Alala,” I said, taking a bag automatically.

“Oh, shame,” Marby said, “but are you sure about that?” I glanced at him and found I didn’t have to look down anymore as I was staring straight into his eyes.

“What the…?” I walked back into the hallway and looked into the mirror. “What have you done?”

“One night of being my younger brother won’t do you any harm, Brian.” Marby said.

“But….” I ran my fingers around my smooth chin.

“Off you both go,” Mrs Alala said, “and play nicely.”


“We will Aunt,” Marby said, putting a finger to my lips. “I have complete confidence in Brian’s abilities.” With that he grabbed me by the hand, dragged me out of the door, across the porch and down the garden path to the road. He let go of my hand as we turned left and started walking.


“Hush, Brian. You’ll have far more fun collecting candy if you’re the right age, and now… well, you’re the right age.”

I was about to say ‘but’ again, when it occurred to me to trust him. Not that I had a choice.

“You do have a choice,” Marby said, looking at me.

“If you’re listening to my thoughts then free choice is moot,” I said.

“Yeah. Sorry. Okay, I won’t.”

“And I’m supposed to take your word for it? You’re a demon. Isn’t that what demons do?”

Marby sighed. “Yes, fair enough Brian, that’s what demons do. But I promise you, I promise you I will not intrude or listen to your thoughts anymore.” He turned to face me and his voice deepened.

“I, Marbas, President of Hell; Master of the Thiry-six Legions of Barbas, do swear to abjure from tinkering with Brian…?” He raised an eyebrow. “Your full name?”

“Oh, Brian Alfred Rafer,” I managed as Marby started to glow. “…with Brian Alfred Rafer. Further, I place Brian Alfred Rafer under the protection of the House of Barbas. By my hand be it.” With that he briefly patted my shoulder and a wave of heat suffused my arm.

Marby stepped back. “I haven’t done that in a while,” he said and grinned.

I grinned back, feeling the warmth from my arm spreading throughout my body. It was better than any drug I’d ever taken. It was what I’d always imagined love would feel like. I closed my eyes and revelled in the sensation.

“Okay?” Marby said, prodding me.

I opened my eyes. He’d stopped glowing and was looking a little unsure of himself.

“Yeah,” I managed, then whooped. “YEAH! I feel wonderful!”

“It has that effect on humans,” Marby said, bringing me back to earth with a crash. This was all wrong. Much as I liked Marby, he was a demon. I was out to go trick or treating with a goddam demon. This couldn’t be happening. It just couldn’t. I felt an upwelling of panic and tried to slap myself in the face, but my hand stopped of its own volition.

“What the…?”

“You can’t be hurt, Brian. The incantation includes self harm.”

“Oh. So do I go back to normal after we get home?”

“Umm… you could do?”

I thought about that for a moment and decided to leave it until later. I was feeling too good. I was feeling distinctly like I remembered feeling when I was younger and out and about trick or treating. I was feeling wildly naughty.

Marby and I tricked and treated and generally had fun for a hour or so around the local neighbourhood. We filled the bags Mrs Alala had given us with goodies, and only had to egg three houses. Close to the end of the night we decided to try and get into the gated community.

“It’s full of rich people who want to appear superior to their neighbours, Marby,” I said. “If security chuck us out, or arrest us at the end, it won’t matter. Do you see?”

“I see you’re having a good time, Brian,” Marby said, “and that makes me oddly happy.”

The gated community’s gates were wide open and the security guard that manned the gatehouse was sound asleep at his post.

We arrived at the first of the big houses just as a group of laughing middle school kids were leaving. They were poring over their bags of candy organising swaps. The house was set well back from the road. It had flickering pumpkin lanterns perched on its gate posts and a line of smaller lanterns leading up the drive to the house.

“Did ya get a good haul?” Marby asked.

“Yeah! Wicked,” one of the older children replied without looking up from her bag. “A bit of a weird bunch though. All dressed up as demons. Even the dogs looked strange.”

“Special effect makeup, Sue,” a young boy piped up. “I bet one of them works at Pinewood Studios.”

“Na, they do it all with computers, now,” an older boy said. “Tell you what, though, those horns the dogs were wearing were the real deal.”

The kids walked off towards the next house and I looked at Marby, who was, for lack of a better description, vibrating.


“This was supposed to be fun, Brian.”

“It is!”

“Not if Beleth has returned.”

“Let’s go,” I said, grabbing him by the hand and pulling. It was like trying to move a mountain. He was rooted to the spot.

“I cannot.” Marby said.

“You can! We’ve got enough candy to put us in a coma. Besides, Mrs Alala will be starting to worry.”

“I cannot.” Marby repeated, still vibrating.

“You promised to take care of me.” I said, letting go of his hand and grabbing his arm. I dug my heels into the lawn, pulled with all my might, and went precisely nowhere.

“Fuck!” I wailed.

“Language! Mind your language, Brian.”

“Marby, you’re a demon. I wasn’t aware that demons minded their Ps and Qs.” I tugged again, but still he didn’t move.

“I know what we’ll do,” Marby said. “Let’s take a… what is it you say? Oh yes…” he grabbed my hand, “…a time out.”

“A time…” I began as the house, street, kids and everything started to pixelate and, with an audible pop, vanished.


I was aware Marby was still holding my hand as my mind took charge of my brain again; I had no idea where it had been, but I was glad it had decided to come back.

I was warm and the sky was a perfect blue. We were sitting in front of a small glass pyramid, on something hard and unyielding, with the sound of splashing water behind us.

I gnawed at my bottom lip until I tasted blood, then wiggled my hand out of Marby’s, stood up and turned around. A much larger glass pyramid now faced me, winking with reflected sunlight. Surrounding the pyramid, fountains splashed merrily. We’d been sitting on a low stone wall that edged each of the fountains’ pools. Surrounding us were magnificent buildings that looked ancient.

“Marby?” I said hesitantly. A wan smile crossed his face as he looked from the small pyramid to me.


I sat down next to him and, trying to ground myself, I picked up his hand. It was warm. He was as alive as I was. Carefully, I put his hand back in his lap. He shrugged, gave me another small smile, turned back to the small pyramid, and closed his eyes.

“Marby, what’s going on? Where are we? And… where are the people?”

“The problem with your questions, Brian, is that the answers will be meaningless because you have no context,” Marby said. “So I’ll try to give you context, before I give you the answers. If that’s okay?”

“Umm… yes?”

“Did Jack find the flat for you at Mrs Alala’s?” Marby asked.

“Yes!” I beamed at him. “We’d been talking about moving in together to cut costs, and he came back one night, very excited, and said he’d found the perfect place.”

“Given the housing market on Earth he was pretty lucky, wouldn’t you say?”

I nodded and said, “Well, I suppose… sorry, did you say ‘on earth?’”

Marby drummed his fingers on the wall, the noise seeming to echo around us. “Brian, the truth is that I should never have crossed paths with you. Because I have, because I wanted to meet you, I’ve put you in terrible danger and I’m unsure how to deal with it.”

“We've only gone trick or treating,” I started, “and….”

Marby’s laugh interrupted me. “It seems the universe has a deeply ironic sense of humour, Brian. Or possibly one of my brethren has too many back issues of MAD. So here is some of the context. “Mrs Alala, your landlady, is tasked by father to run a sanctuary for demons. Your boyfriend, Jack, is far from what he seems, and I believe he is one of Beleth’s agents on earth.”

“Jack is a demon?”

“Does it really surprise you?”

“Well, he did take my motorbike and wallet,” I said. “But I think he’ll probably bring them back.”

“Do you love him?” Marby’s question was like a large stone thrown into a still pond and I rode the ripples.

“I….” I was lost for words. I didn’t want to lie to him. But why? Was it because the form he’d taken and the form he’d given me had thrown me back to the moment I’d first realised I wasn’t attracted to girls. No. That was attraction and attraction didn’t equate to love. Love was still a complete unknown to me. Sure, I fancied Jack something rotten, and I couldn’t deny the sex was great, but I didn’t love him, because I didn’t know what love really was.

“No,” I finally said. “I don’t think I do.”

“Good,” Marby said, and slid his hand behind my neck and pulled me into a searing kiss. It was rather more than amazing and I was completely into it until I realised where we were. I pushed him away.

“Stop it, Marby. Someone will see!”

“Oh hell!” Marby said, with a little moue. It’s a figment, Brian. I created it. There are no people here, only us.”

“Oh, well then. Why didn’t you say. Any chance you could make this wall a little softer?”

A good while later, when we’d dressed—which was after Marby had tried to persuade me to become a naturist and had upped the temperature for comfort with a click of his fingers—we sat, crossed legged and facing each other, on a tartan blanket in the middle of a Marby-created lawn, having a picnic from a hamper that had miraculously appeared.

“Good nosh, this, hmm?”

“Marby, you’re just a big kid!” I said, laughing as he crammed a tomato in his mouth and popped it, red juice and pips running down his chin. He opened his mouth wide and waggled his tongue.

“Mmm… yep! A big kid is what I am. And so are you, Brian. So are you.”

“I’m not that much older in reality,” I said.

“Ya think?” He gave me a quizzical look.

“I’m twenty. We’re, what, fourteen?”

“Hmm. This comes under the heading of context, Brian. You’re smart, so I’d like you to keep an… umm… open mind. Can you do that?”

“Sure,” I said, running my hand over his knees. Marby giggled.

“Cease and desist, or we’ll get nowhere! Or rather we’ll get somewhere really terrific and I’ll forget to gird your loins for battle.”

“Battle?” I said as I lent forward to kiss him. I tasted tomato and a hint of sweetness yet to come. Then he was gone. The tartan blanket expanding until he was several feet away, grinning.

“Are you religious, Brian?”

“Huh?” I managed, knocked off kilter by the change in topic.

“Well, as you’re a demon I suppose I must be, though I’d never really thought about it before.”

“So God created the earth, sits on a cloud, listen to prayers, has ten commandments, yada yada yada?” Marby said with a definite twinkle in his eyes.

“I, err….”

“And demons are fallen angels ruled by Satan or Lucifer who run hell to torment those that have eaten shellfish on a Friday or have coveted their neighbours arse?”

“Ass,” I said. “It’s ass, not arse.”

“Pftt,” Marby said, trying not to laugh.

“Where are you going with this?”

“The point,” Marby said, “is that it’s bollocks…. And yet there are demons. Confusing isn’t it?”

I tugged at my ear lobe. It was a trait I’d picked at kindergarten, but I’d always thought it preferable to sucking my thumb, which I was also furiously doing. “Mmm…” I said, slipping my traitorous thumb out of my mouth. “You’re weirding me out. Explain already.”

“Science,” Marby said. “Since the last world war when a few people managed to create a weapon that shocked the cosmos, your science has progressed exponentially. It’s really quite amazing if you think about it,”

“Is it?” I squeaked and looked at my thumb.

“It is. At least I think it is. Others just want to destroy you before you discover how to travel.”

“Travel?” I said.

“There are disciplines you’ve thought of but as yet have no proof for, such as black holes. You know they exist, but quite what they exist for you have no real idea. Like dark matter, quantum entanglement, many worlds theory.”

“And you do?”


“Oh. So you’re not as….”

“But I know about the many worlds because I come from one of them,” Marby said. “On our world gods and demons exist. How the facts became so twisted and part of your mythos, I have no idea. Though we, as here, have factions vying for power.”

“Factions? Of demons?” My thumb slid back into my mouth of its own volition.

“Mmm. I’ve done my best to try and help, but father hasn’t taken a view, and until he does… well, using one of your parochial aphorisms, there’s trouble at mill.” He grinned at me. “I like that one. Your thumb thing too. It’s kinda cute.”

“Yeths,” I said, thumb still in place.


“There’s more?!” I was freaking out now and wasn’t sure how to control the terror. If it had been a dream I could have coped, but dreamlike though it was it was real, and….

“Shh, Brian,” Marby said. Clicking his fingers, he floated back across the blanket and hugged me tight. I felt a wave of love suffuse me, and my fears, though still there and observable, were dampened. “I promised to protect you and I will. But you do need to hear the rest.”

“Okay,” I said.

“One other subject your science is confused about is the brain, and death.”

“I’m fourteen, really twenty, and I’m going to die?” I wailed in his ear.

“No, you’re not.” Marby said. “The fact of the matter is we are all spirits. Celestial beings. Eternal.

“Depending where you live—which plain or world you live on—the life span of the body inhabited is different. Afterwards, we move on. Gods, demons, humans, Jedi, Martians, cats, dogs, dolphins… well, you get the idea. We’re all the same.”

“So,” I snuffled and took a judicious nibble on his ear, “I’m not going to die?”

“No, you’re not,” he chuckled. “I haven’t, and in my present incarnation I’m quite a lot older than you. And stop eating my ear!”

We nuzzled for a while until Marby pushed me away and stood up.

“So here’s the final part of the final truth,” Marby said. He clicked his fingers and vanished. At least his corporeal body vanished. In its place was a translucent human form of the purest white. It smiled at me, spread its arms wide, and floated upwards. Then it turned into a ball and shot across to the small pyramid, hovered over the pyramid’s apex for a moment, dancing in mid air, before floating gently back to the ground by the tartan rug and turning into the fully fledged Demon I had seen in Mrs Alala’s living room.

Complete with wings, horns, and blazing red eyes, Marbas roared and bellowed in delight, his hooves gouging deep furrows in the lawn as he capered about. Then he snapped his fingers and the Marby I knew ran across the blanket and fell into my arms.

This time the nuzzling lasted longer and led on to other things.

At some point during the ‘other things’ the sun had sunk below the horizon, and the sky had turned from its cloudless blue to a velvety black, speckled with stars. Where the sun had set, a deep red remained, streaked with burnt sienna and orange. It was the most gorgeous sight, as was the boy I held in my arms.

“We’ll come back here soon and see the art,” Marby said. “You’ll love it.”


“This is The Louvre, Brian. We’re in Paris, or rather my interpretation of it. Normally, it would be raining.”

“Oh. Jack talked about visiting Paris.” For some reason I felt I was close to crying, which was stupid all things considered. I wasn’t that worldly, yet now I knew more than most scientists and philosophers combined. Also, I had the distinct impression I was falling hard for a demon. Well, hard wasn’t debatable. I snickered.


“Do demons love, Marby?

“This one does,” he said, and kissed me lightly on the cheek before grabbing my hand and pulling us to our feet. He clicked his fingers and Paris and The Louvre snapped away…


…and we were back outside the pumpkin house in the gated estate at the moment we left it, the kids walking away discussing their candy swaps.

There were differences, though. Three to be exact. The first was Marby had become Marbeth, though he seemed much larger than he’d been in Mrs Alala’s living room, his horns a splendid dark red tipped with metal caps. He was also wearing armour. And in the hand that wasn’t holding mine he held a broadsword that seemed somehow alive.

The second difference I spotted was the armour I had on. It didn’t seem to weigh a lot, but gave me a deep sense of security. I wanted a mirror badly, but had to make do with glancing down.

“I’ve got a sword!” I squeaked.

“You have. It’s a loaner for now.”

“But how did you know I could use a sword?”

“You’ve worked as a stunt double on two films and trained in the performing arts, so a sword shouldn’t be a problem, should it?”

“What? No. I like swords,” I said, as I wriggled my hand free from Marbeth’s, wrapped it around the sword’s grip and pulled it free of its scabbard. It glowed bright blue.

“Orcs!” I said, looking at Marbeth in consternation.

“No. Demons. Tolkien borrowed; with permission of course.”


“It’ll be me that’s got it excited. And Beleth, too.”

Still swapping candy the kids walked out of sight; the street was now empty.

“Shall we?” Marbeth said. Without waiting for a reply he strode through the gate and up the tree lined drive with me trotting to stay hard on his heals. The house was palatial. Stone built, with a two story portico supported by marble columns over bronze double doors. “Typical Beleth,” Marbeth muttered, then banged twice on the doors with the pommel of his sword. The sound reverberated, seeming much louder than it should have, making me wince. Just as Marbeth raised his sword to knock again the door was slowly opened by a short, slightly plump and well coiffed elderly woman, wearing long black culottes with a dark red twinset and pearls. Behind her I could see a twinkling glass chandelier hanging between two curving staircases in an otherwise empty marble-floored hall.

“My, don’t you both look dangerous,” the woman said with a faux shudder. “Come in, come in and pick yourselves some candy.” The woman was well made up, but her eyes were black and hard; gimlets staring directly up at Marbeth.

Marbeth looked completely nonplussed and frozen in place, so I did the only thing I could think of. I stepped around him and drove my sword through the woman’s chest. The result wasn’t quite what I was expecting. Hand in hand with a hideous shriek the woman dissolved into a plethora of scurrying chitinous creatures that swarmed out of her clothing and, ignoring me, headed straight for Marbeth. With one arm he swept me behind him, and with the other fully extended, he incinerated them all with a burst of flame from his hand that was so hot I felt the hairs on the nape of my neck crisping. What followed was a silence so complete I thought I’d become deaf. Then from within the house came a coarse and deeply unamused laugh, followed by the clip-clop of approaching hooves.

Seemingly of their own volition, the bronze doors crashed open revealing Beleth holding a battle axe. He looked down at the empty pile of clothes, then up at Marbeth and nodded. “You killed my Yarravah. I truly thought it would best you.”

“It nearly did, brother. But I didn’t kill it. I couldn’t. It had me in its thrall.”

“Then how?”

“Brian,” Marbeth said, and I could hear the pride in his voice as he stepped to one side revealing me to Beleth. I tried to stop shaking but it was difficult. I’d almost got my head around Marby as my peer, and around the stuff he’d told me in Paris. But now I was faced with Marby as Marbeth and Beleth as… well, Beleth. Not to mention that Beleth now knew I’d killed his Yarravah, whatever that was.

“You travel with your catemite now, Marbeth, do you?” Beleth spat. “Well I can trump that,” he said, beckoning to someone inside the house. A moment later two smaller demons dragged a gagged and bound Jake into view and threw him on the floor in front of Beleth who raised a hoof and held it over Jake’s head. I was so frozen in shock I didn’t realise Marbeth was holding me in a hug. “Say bye bye, Brian,” Beleth said and slammed his hoof into my erstwhile boyfriend’s head, which exploded in a riot of blood and brains as his body spasmed uncontrollably, his feet pounding a dying tattoo on the hard floor. Beleth took a step back, waved a hand, and Jake’s remains shot across the hall to stop at the foot of the right hand staircase, leaving a streak of blood across the highly polished marble.

“There are days I adore being a demon,” Beleth said with a toothy smile. “How about you, Marbeth?” he added, leaping forward and swinging his battle axe at my head. I ducked, but I didn’t have to worry as Marbeth’s sword caught Beleth’s axe and turned it aside, his blade sliding down the axe’s haft and slicing a gash in Beleth’s side. Beleth roared. “You think father won’t hear of this, brother. I will….”


The voice was so loud I thought I’d probably be deafened if it spoke again. Both Marbeth and Beleth forgot their fight and bent the knee, sword and axe clattering to the ground as they crossed their arms on their chests. I was the only one left standing as a huge demon appeared beside us. It was several times larger than either Beleth or Marbeth, though its horns were much smaller and it seemed to be wearing lipstick.

“What are you doing here, Mother?” Beleth asked, still bending the knee.

“I came to see what my sons were doing on Samhain,” She said in a milder tone. “And what do I find?”

“I can exp….”

“THAT WAS RHETORICAL! And what do I find? My two boys having a jolly holiday together, enjoying the fruits of this remarkable realm in an unobtrusive way? Hmm?

“NO. FIGHTING. AS ALWAYS FIGHTING!” She sighed, though it felt more like a small earthquake.

“And what do we have here.” She said, looking down at me for the first time. “A human boy? A human boy caught up in demon affairs. How peculiar. Marbeth, please explain.”

“Marbeth? Why Marbeth?” Beleth said. “The boy might be mine.”

“No dear. If he was yours he’d be in a collar, chains, and a lot of pain. He’s Marbeth’s.”

“I am not Marbeth’s,” I said in a voice that was far too squeaky for my liking. “I think I will be, one day, as I think Marbeth will be mine. But, Mrs…?”

“You can call me Satan, dear,” she said kindly. “I’m fluid, and today’s a female day.”

“Oh,” I managed, then coughed and said it again in a deeper voice.

Satan laughed, and it was really quite delightful.

“Stop it Mother.” Marbeth said, getting up, sheathing his sword and drawing me tightly to his side. “You can’t win Brian with magic.”

“Forgive me for trying, dear, but he’s really quite cute.”

“Yes, he is,” Marbeth said, then tranmogrified into Marby. “Better?”

“Much,” I said and hugged him tightly before giving him a kiss.

“Hell,” Beleth said, getting up and wincing at the gash in his side.

“Yes, dear, and that’s where you’re going, as soon as you’ve cleaned up this mess and left this place as you found it. And I don’t want to hear any rumours of strange goings on when I check Google. Understood?”

“Yes, Mother,” Beleth said, somewhat petulantly I thought. “Couldn’t you just, you know.”

“No. You’re old enough to clean up your own messes. But mind you’re home before I get back.”

“Where are you going?”

“I thought I’d go with Brian and your brother to see the Mona Lisa, if that’s all right, dears?”

Marby raised an eyebrow at me and I nodded. We smiled at Satan who pursed her lips, then turned into a girl in her late teens, with waist-length, intricately-braided, raven hair.

“Yes, I think this form will do nicely,” the girl said. “Now, as your au pair I must remind you two not to be too naughty, or there will be consequences!” She giggled, took our hands, and we travelled to Paris.


The end?


'Halloween 2020' by Camy
written during October 2014, 2019 and 2020 for the AwesomeDude.com Halloween thing.

Any mistakes are mine, and mine alone.


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