The Adventures of Todd and Granny
(Alternatively: “I Saw Granny Ethel with the Devil”)
(Repost for graphic addition)
Part I | Part II
writing-prompt-s: An old and homely grandmother accidentally summons a demon. She mistakes him for her gothic-phase teenage grandson and takes care of him. The demon decides to stay at his new home.
It isn’t uncommon for this particular demon to be summoned—from exhausting Halloween party pranks in abandoned barns to more legitimate (more exhausting) ceremonies in forests—but it has to admit, this is the first time it’s been called forth from its realm into a claustrophobic living room bathed in the dull orange-pink glow of old glass lamps and a multitude of wide-eyed, creepy antique porcelain dolls that could give Chucky a run for his money with all of their silent, seething stares combined. Accompanying those oddities are tea cup and saucer sets on shelves atop frilly doilies crocheted with the utmost care, and cross-stitched, colorful ‘Home Sweet Home’s hung across the wood-paneled walls.
It’s a mistake—a wrong number, per se. No witch it’s ever known has lived in such an, ah, dated, home. Furthermore, no practitioner that ever summoned it has been absent, as if they’d up and ding-dong ditched it. No, it didn’t work that way. Not at all. Not if they want to survive the encounter.
It hears the clinking of movement in the room adjacent—the kitchen, going by the pungent, bitter scent of cooled coffee and soggy, sweet sponge cakes, but more jarring is the smell of blood. It moves—feels something slip beneath its clawed foot as it does, and sees a crocheted blanket of whites and greys and deep black yarn, wound intricately, perfectly, into a summoning circle. Its summoning circle. There is a small splash of bright scarlet and sharp, jagged bits of a broken curio scattered on top, as if someone had dropped it, attempted to pick it up the pieces and pricked their finger. It would explain the blood. And it would explain the demon being brought into this strange place.
As it connects these pieces in its mind, the inhabitant of the house rounds the corner and exits the kitchen, holding a damp, white dish towel close to her hand and fumbling with the beaded bifocals hanging from her neck by a crocheted lanyard before stopping dead in her tracks.
Now, to be fair, the demon wouldn’t ordinarily second guess being face-to-face with a hunchbacked crone with a beaked nose, beady eyes and a peculiar lack of teeth, or a spidery shawl and ankle-length black dress, but there is definitely something amiss here. Especially when the old biddy lets her spectacles fall slack on her bosom and erupts into a wide, toothy (toothless) grin, eyes squinting and crinkling from the sheer effort of it.
“Todd! Todd, dear, I didn’t know you were visiting this year! You didn’t call, you didn’t write—but, oh, I’m so happy you’re here, dear! Would it have been too much to ask you to ring the doorbell? I almost had a heart attack. And don’t worry about the blood, here—I had an accident. My favorite figure toppled off of the table and cleanup didn’t go as expected. But I seem to recall you are quite into the bloodshed and ‘edgy’ stuff these days, so I don’t suppose you mind.” She releases a hearty, kind laugh, but it isn’t mocking, it’s sweet. Grandmotherly. The demon is by no means sentimental or maudlin, but the kindness, the familiarity, the genuine fondness, does pull a few dusty old nostalgic heartstrings. “Imagine if it leaves a scar! It’d be a bit ‘badass,’ as you teenagers say, wouldn’t it?”
She is as blind as a bat without her glasses, it would appear, because the demon is by no means a ‘Todd’ or a human at all, though humanoid, shrouded in sleek, black skin and hard spikes and sharp claws. But the demon humors her, if only because it had been caught off guard.
The old woman smiles still, before turning on her heel and shuffling into the hallway with a stiff gait revealing a poor hip. “Be a dear and make some more coffee, would you please? I’ll be back in a jiffy.”
Yes, this is most definitely a mistake. One for the record books, for certain. For late-night trips to bars and conversations with colleagues, while others discuss how many souls they’d swindled in exchange for peanuts, or how many first-borns they’d been pledged for things idiot humans could have gained without divine intervention. Ugh. Sometimes it all just became so pedantic that little detours like this were a blessing—happy accidents, as the humans would say.
That’s why the demon does as asked, and plods slowly into the kitchen, careful to duck low and avoid the top of the doorframe. That’s why it gingerly takes the small glass pot and empties it of old, stale coffee and carefully, so carefully, takes a measuring scoop between its claws and fills the machine with fresh grounds. It’s as the hot water is percolating that the old woman returns, her index finger wrapped tight in a series of beige bandages.
“I’m surprised you’re so tall, Todd! I haven’t seen you since you were at my hip! But your mother mails photos all the time—you do love wearing all black, don’t you?” She takes a seat at the small round table in the corner and taps the glass lid of the cake plate with quaking, unsteady, aged hands. “I was starting to think you’d never visit. Your father and I have had our disagreements, but…I am glad you’re here, dear. Would you like some cake?” Before the demon has a chance to decline, she lifts the lid and cuts a generous slice from the near-complete circle that has scarcely been touched. It smells of citrus and cream and is, as assumed earlier, soggy, oversaturated with icing.
It was made for a special occasion, for guests, but it doesn’t seem this old woman receives much company in this musty, stagnant house that smells like an antique garage that hadn’t had its dust stirred in years.
Especially not from her absentee grandson, Todd.
The demon waits until the coffee pot is full, and takes two small mugs from the counter, filling them until steam is frothing over the rims. Then, and only then, does it accept the cake and sit, with some difficulty, in a small chair at the small table. It warbles out a polite ‘thank you,’ but it doesn’t suppose the woman understands. Manners are manners regardless.
“Oh, dear, I can hardly understand. Your voice has gotten so deep, just like your grandfather’s was. That, and I do recall you have an affinity for that gravelly, screaming music. Did your voice get strained? It’s alright, dear, I’ll do the talking. You just rest up. The coffee will help soothe.”
The demon merely nods—some communication can be understood without fail—and drinks the coffee and eats the cake with a too-small fork. It’s ordinary, mushy, but delicious because of the intent behind it and the love that must have gone into its creation.
“I hope you enjoyed all of the presents I sent you. You never write back—but I am aware most people use that fancy E-mail these days. I just can’t wrap my head around it. I do wish your mom and dad would visit sometime. I know of a wonderful little café down the street we can go to. I haven’t been; I wanted to visit it with Charles, before he…well.” She falls silent in her rambling, staring into her coffee with a small, melancholy smile. “I can’t believe it’s been ten years. You never had the chance to meet him. But never mind that.” Suddenly, and with surprising speed that has the demon concerned for her well being, she moves to her feet, bracing her hands on the edge of the table. “I may as well give you your birthday present, since you’re here. What timing! I only finished it this morning. I’ll be right back.”
When she returns, the white, grey and black crocheted work with the summoning circle is bundled in her arms.
“I found these designs in an occult book I borrowed from the library. I thought you’d like them on a nice, warm blanket to fight off the winter chill—I hope you do like it.” With gentle hands, she spreads the blanket over the demon’s broad, spiky back like a shawl, smoothing it over craggy shoulders and patting its arms affectionately. “Happy birthday, Todd, dear.”
Well, that settles it. Whoever, wherever, Todd is, he’s clearly missing out. The demon will just have to be her grandson from now on.