The Demon’s Christmas – By Lisa Kessler
Sheelak loved Christmas. He couldn’t help it. It was a guilty pleasure. Maybe it was all the shiny decorations, or the secret gifts, or all the candy. He even loved the Christmas carols, although he had to sing quietly.
And no Christmas. No gifts, no stockings, no trees, and definitely no singing.
“No fun,” he muttered as he climbed down his step ladder and stood back to admire his tree.
His black scarred wings fluttered behind him as he tilted his head. The star at the top was still leaning toward the right, but he could live with that.
Close enough, he thought.
Now for the gifts. Ok gift. It was a tough year for a four foot tall demon in a human world.
He carefully lifted the box from the plastic Rite-Aid bag and grinned. It was just what he wanted. In a flurry of cutting, creasing, and taping, the box was wrapped. He plucked out a bow and pressed it into place.
“Gift for Sheelak,” he announced as he tucked it under the tree.
Rubbing his gnarled hands together, his lips parted in a pointy toothed grin. He couldn’t wait to open it! But it was still Christmas Eve he needed to be patient. That was part of the fun.
He tottered over to his small stove to start the water for some hot cocoa when a loud bang echoed through his tiny apartment. Sheelak jumped, turning to face the door.
“Sheelak!” A deep voice bellowed. “Open this door before I rip it off the hinges.”
His bulging eyes flicked from the door to his beautiful Christmas tree and back to the door again, and his tiny leathery heart pounded. What to do? Stall. Yes, stall that’s it.
“Just a minute,” he called out as he wobbled over to his petite Christmas tree. Grabbing the tree skirt, he gave it a yank and then tossed it up over the branches, fighting to hide his homemade ornaments.
“You don’t have a minute, Pond Scum. I’m coming in.”
Sheelak gasped as his apartment door popped free of its hinges and a hulking black demon walked through the threshold.
“Durlu. H-hello. What brings you here?”
He watched Durlu’s tongue flicking past his thin lips as he stalked around Sheelak’s tiny studio apartment. Good thing he hadn’t gotten the cocoa mixed yet, or Durlu would have smelled it for sure. A tiny sigh of relief escaped him as he glanced over at his tree. Uh oh. Would the tree smell? Sheelak’s wings unfolded behind him, fluttering as he clasped his hands over the top of his round belly.
“‘Scuse me, Durlu. But why are you here? Is s-s-something wrong?”
“That’s what I’m checking out, Worm.”
Sheelak flinched at the name calling. He was a demon, sure. But a worm? He sighed. Durlu was a bully. Nothing worse than a demon bully. Not only were they mean, but they could back it up too. Best not to stand up to them. Best to stay out of their way.
“I haven’t done anything,” Sheelak stammered. “I’m just doing my job.”
Durlu glared at him with beady red eyes. “Your job, Toilet Bowl, is to lose school children’s homework. Stupid job for a demon if you ask me, but either way I haven’t heard any crying kids lately so I thought I’d better check it out.”
“Oh I see,” Sheelak said, trying to mask his sudden wave of relief. “All the kids are on winter break from school, so there isn’t any homework for me to take. They’re not crying because they’re waiting for Santa.”
He almost reached up to cover his own mouth. Had he just said “Santa” out loud? Judging by the narrowing of Durlu’s eyes he had. Sheelak cringed as the bully stepped even closer.
“What did you say?”
“No I didn’t.”
“Yes, you did. You aren’t celebrating in here are you?”
“Celebrating what?” Sheelak replied, keeping his bulgy eyes downcast.
Durlu caught him by the neck and lifted him up off the floor. Sheelak’s tongue popped out past his pointed teeth as he gasped for air.
“Are you celebrating Christmas again, Sheelak?”
He shook his head so vigorously that his brain felt bruised. “No,” he gasped. “Not me. It’s forbidden.”
Durlu nodded and released his hold. Sheelak crashed to the floor in a tangled heap.
“It is forbidden,” Durlu said. “And yet…” He walked into the cozy kitchen and lifted the kettle as he glared at Sheelak. “…you’re in here all alone… Cooking?”
“It was just a little cocoa. It’s cold outside.”
Durlu’s black brow jutted up. “Cocoa?”
“Yeah, humans like it. I just thought I’d try it.”
He slammed the kettle back on the stove and stalked back over to Sheelak. “What is wrong with you, Mosquito Larvae? You have a simple job to do here. Don’t mess everything up by celebrating human holidays. My tail is on the line here too, do you understand? You know what Christmas is celebrating, right? A savior for humankind. It’s not like Halloween.”
Sheelak nodded, “I know.”
“Do you?” Durlu stared at the draped tree.
Sheelak rushed over to put his squatty body between Durlu and the tree. He puffed out his chest as much as he could and raised his arms to keep the larger demon away from his hidden treasure.
“I understand,” Sheelak said. “Now you should go so I can fix my door.”
“Is that what I think it is?”
Durlu rolled his red eyes. “Behind you.”
“Behind me?” A bead of sweat trailed down Sheelak’s brow.
“Yes behind you, Dung Beetle. Is that what I think it is?”
He shrugged and used the last of his magic reserves. “If you think it’s my pet sewer rats then I guess you’re right.”
“Sewer rats?” Durlu reached over Sheelak’s head and lifted the drape.
Sheelak squeezed his eyes shut, hoping for the best.
Grunting, Durlu released the drape and stepped back. “This isn’t over, Duck Snot. Not til the fat lady sings!”
“It means… Never mind,” Durlu said, heading for the door. “I’ll be watching you, Nose Wart.”
And then he was gone. Sheelak puffed out a sigh of relief and peeked under the tree skirt. His Christmas tree twinkled back at him. His magic had worked!
“Christmas miracle,” he grumbled as he lifted up his door and propped it up against the jamb.
With the door temporarily fixed, he plucked the tree skirt off of his little tree and wrapped it back around the bottom like he’d seen them do on the Charlie Brown Christmas Special and stood back to admire it again.
Durlu just didn’t understand. He’d probably never gotten a gift before. If he had felt the colorful paper ripping under his calloused fingers, and seen the way the ornaments on the tree sparkled, or tasted the delicious sweet hot cocoa, maybe then he’d see why Sheelak celebrated.
Halloween was fun. He could go out without his human disguise. In fact, people complimented him on his “costume”, but he played pranks all year long, and he always looked like a demon, so Halloween almost felt like a normal day.
But Christmas was different.
Christmas was full of special, one time of year things, like Santa and Christmas carols and gifts and candies. Being forbidden probably made it even more delicious. After all, he was a demon.
He grinned and went to the stove to warm up his cocoa. While the water heated, he grabbed his water can and carefully watered his Chia shelf. Another guilty pleasure. He had the Chia pig, turtle, frog, hippo, professor, and over there, wrapped and placed under the tree was his brand new Chia Shrek. He couldn’t wait to open it! An ogre Chia was probably the closest to a demon that he would ever find.
Just as the kettle started to whistle, a tiny sound caught his attention. Sheelak snatched the kettle from the stove and waited. A soft knock echoed through the room. His brow furrowed. It couldn’t be Durlu, he already broke the door down once. He wouldn’t have bothered to knock.
“Who’s there?” He called.
“Mr. Sheelak? It’s me Cindee.”
He grabbed his trench coat and quickly slid his arms inside, covering his wings, then his hat to cover his little horns, it wasn’t perfect. Usually he’d wear gloves and a scarf too, but he didn’t have time. He’d get rid of her quickly anyway.
Sheelak carefully lifted the door to the side and stared down at the little girl on his doorstep. She gave him a toothless grin, proudly showing him the tooth fairy’s handiwork, and offered up a plate of gingerbread men.
“Merry Christmas, Mr. Sheelak. My Mom made the cookies for all the tenants. I decorated them myself.”
Sheelak reached out with trembling fingers to take the plate of homemade treats. “For me?”
He stared at the tiny men with crooked frosting smiles and missing red hot buttons and grinned at the girl. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” She frowned a little. “What happened to your door?”
“Oh it’s nothing,” he said. “It just came loose I guess.”
“It’s not loose, Mr. Sheelak. It’s off. Want me to have my Mom call the repair guy? He can fix it for you.”
“I’ll fix it,” he answered without taking his eyes off the Christmas cookies. “Do you want some cocoa?”
“Ummmm.” Her foot started to scrape against the floor. “I’m not ‘aposed to go in people’s apartments.”
He nodded, “I guess that’s a good rule. You never know what kind of demons you might run across, but I’d like to give you something.”
And then he realized what he just said was true. He did want to give her something. Odd.
Her little face brightened. “You got something for me?”
Wait. He didn’t have anything for her. Did he? Sheelak stepped back from the door, allowing her to race inside.
“Oh you got a pretty tree, Mr. Sheelak!”
He nodded, “Thank you I…” His gaze fell on the brightly wrapped gift. His Chia. No, he couldn’t. He wanted that. But he was already reaching for it. No! What was he doing? “This is for you Cindee.”
Oh no! He was giving his beautiful present away. No! He wanted to yank it back, but the joy on her face stopped him faster than a ball of fire from the devil himself.
Her big blue eyes stared up at him as she spoke. “For me? Really?”
He nodded and watched as she made quick work of the wrapping paper, squealing with delight.
“It’s a Shrek! One of those things like on tv! I’ll get to cut his hair, right?”
“Yes,” he said. “It’s a Chia pet.”
“Ch-ch-ch-chia!” she sang.
“Exactly!” Sheelak laughed.
“Thank you, Mister Sheelak,” she said giving him a quick hug. “Can’t wait to show my Mom! Merry Christmas!”
She was gone before he could return her greeting. Sheelak stared at his tree in stunned silence, unable to wipe the smile off his round face. What was wrong with him? He’d just given away the gift he had wanted all year. And he felt… Good?
Good. Amazing in fact. Better than when he stole entire science projects!
A crooked smile tweaked the corner of his mouth. If one gift felt this good, how incredible would it be to give twenty?
He slid on his gloves and reached for his scarf. There wasn’t any homework to steal right now anyway, right? Stealing toys from stores on Christmas Eve would be equally as wicked. Durlu wouldn’t have to know he was going to turn around and give them to children. The kids would think the gifts were from Santa, and Durlu would think he was finally acting like a demon.
No one would ever have to know how good it felt to give a gift. It would be his little secret. Another guilty pleasure. He couldn’t wait…
~~~ The End ~~~