Personal Demons Excerpt: Impulse Control
Friday, September 29, 2023

We've all got inner demons... but how much can we really blame on them?


Flames erupted from her skin.

Ty snatched his hands away, but not before the hair on his wrists was singed off. He smacked his smoking palms against his thighs with a curse. Maybe I pushed a little too hard.

“Mira!” Bembe’s voice was smooth and cold as polished marble.

“I’m sorry.” Mira took two stumbling steps away from the altar. She bumped a pew and reached out to steady herself, which left a semicircle of char on its edge. Tears streamed from her eyes but evaporated halfway down her cheeks. She took fast, labored breaths.

“Calm down.” Bembe’s words radiated authority despite his being in his pajamas.

All at once, Mira froze. Color leached out of her hair, widening the white stripe that was always there. The flames shrank, then died away completely. Wisps of steam rose off her clothes. When she looked up, both her eyes were solid gold.

“Sorry, Mira needs a minute.” The lyrical purr of the demon accented Mira’s voice.

“You’re Mira’s demon?” Bembe asked, his tone faltering for the first time.

Mira’s nose scrunched. “When you say it like that, it sounds like she owns me. Let’s just say I’m the being sharing her body.”

“Do you have a name?”

She shook her head. “Names are a mortal concept.”

Bembe frowned. “Then how do demons refer to each other?”

She tipped her head to one side and looked up, considering. “For those strong enough to have a sense of self within the Rift, it’s more of a me versus not me scenario.” She lowered her gaze back to the priest. “It’s not like we have block parties to gossip about the neighbors.”

This was the most Ty had ever heard the demon speak without Mira interjecting, save right after a feeding, when the surge of new energy made the demon stronger. He cleared his throat. “What’s going on here? What have you done with Mira?”

The narrowed golden gaze settled on him. She put her hands on her hips. “Mira’s fine, but while I’ve got uncontested control of the mouth, there are a few things I’d like to clear up, starting with your obvious discrimination against me.”

“What?” Ty stiffened at the accusation. “I never—”

“You consistently blame me when shit goes sideways. Granted, I may not be the most stabilizing of influences, but Mira’s got plenty of impulse control issues all on her own.” She pointed to the char on the pew. “Case and point. So stop assuming every bad decision she makes is my fault.”

“Sorry,” Ty said, flabbergasted. “I hadn’t realized you were offended.”

“Secondly,” the demon went on, steamrollering over Ty’s apology, “What’s with you suddenly refusing to sleep with us?”

Ty shot a glance at Bembe, then looked away. Heat crept into his cheeks. “I really don’t think this is—”

“You were happy enough with our performance the first time, I could tell. But now you’re all grossed out when we ask, so what gives?”

“Um . . . have you discussed this with Mira?”

“Yeah. She told me to stop asking, but I can tell she’s into you, so I figure it’s because she feels shitty when you shoot us down.”

Guilt and elation did a little dance in Ty’s chest. He hated that he’d hurt her with his rejection, but the news that Mira was attracted to him flamed the foolish spark of desire that he’d been unable to extinguish despite all logic screaming that a romantic relationship with his partner was a bad idea.

“If you’re not interested, you’re not interested. But if you’re just chickening out because we’re too much for you, you should at least have the balls to say so rather than acting all nice and caring, then shooting us down when we reciprocate. You’re really feeding into Mira’s whole ‘I’m a monster, and nobody loves me’ thing.”

That last line, even spoken in the demon’s mocking tone, stabbed an icepick through Ty’s heart. “She’s not a monster.”

The demon crossed her arms, cocked her head, and glared at Ty. Dark lines were beginning to form beneath her eyes, spiderwebbing down her cheeks like black fractals. If the demon stayed in control much longer without a boost of outside power, Mira’s physical body would deteriorate. He had to convince Mira to stop hiding behind her demon before the damage grew more severe.

“Neither of you are monsters,” Ty amended.

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