While I am not a journalist, my role as scribe (with a small s) for Magda Gardener and her consortium sometimes involves the odd interview, and this one may be the oddest one I’ve done so far. While it’s uncomfortable enough working for Magda, it’s even more uncomfortable when I am shanghaied into doing an interview with a demon, which she has neither authorised nor knows anything about. I doubt she’ll be happy about it when she finds out, and she will find out. Come to think about it, I’m not overly happy about it. It’s not that easy to do an interview when you’re shaking in fear. Let the good times roll!
Part 2: In which I Meet the Guardian
It took me a little while to realize I was dreaming. It took me a little while longer to realize that my dream was, for lack of a better word, a lucid dream. It was no dungeon, no jail I entered. It was, instead, a topiary maze. It was night, and yet the ambient light made it easy enough for me to discern my path. There was no question of which direction I should go. I just wound my way through, not really in too much of a hurry to meet what I knew awaited me beyond. The nebulous space in which Susan imprisoned the Guardian was unassailable, though there were no bars, no high walls, no razor wire. In fact the space that contained the demon was of his own shaping. Due to his partnership of convenience with Reese Chambers during their desperate battle with Cyrus in the deserted subway tunnels of New York, he was rather fond of Reese, who is not only Alonso Darlington’s lover, but a brilliant landscaper and gardener. That being the case, the Guardian had turned his space into a garden, which became more and more elaborate as he was given more and more freedom to interact with Susan and those around her.
“Off you go then,” I heard Talia’s voice from far away. “Happy demon hunting, KD.”
“I am not fond of that woman. I find her most unpleasant.”
I cleared the maze into a night garden drenched in moonlight. In fact the garden, I recognized as the one Reese had created for Alonso at his Lakeland manor house. In front of me just where the edge of the fell plummeted into a deep valley with a beck, a man dressed in jeans and a plaid shirt, reminiscent of Reese’s clothing choices, paced back and forth. He neither stopped pacing, nor did he look at me. His laugh was soft and rich, self-deprecating, which I had not expected. “Of course the little succubus and I did get off on the wrong foot, and at the moment neither of us is inclined to make amends. Though I suppose I should be grateful to her for her help in settling me into such an accommodating prison as my dear Susan. And of course in bringing you to me, KD. Please, sit.”
Behind me the same winged back chair Talia had been sitting in appeared. When I sat, I realized I was empty-handed.
As though he anticipated my reaction, he said, “you are in my dream, my dear, KD. You have no need of pen and paper or Dictaphone. I promise, when you wake up, you will remember everything I need you to know.”
Another chair appeared next to mine, and the Guardian seated himself at such an angle that I could only make out his profile, and that not well. He kept his head turned as though he observed something at the opposite end of the beck. “I ask that you do not attempt to look at me directly. It will be … disturbing for you.”
My pulse jumped, and I could manage little more than to nod my understanding. Apparently that was enough. It seemed like ages that we sat there in what might have passed for companionable silence, but the truth was, I had no idea what to say or how to start an interview with a millennia-old demon. Of course I had rehearsed questions, written an outline, but that all vanished from my head now that I was in his presence. I needn’t have worried. He took the struggle out of my hands and began it for me.
“I have always chosen the ones I take. It’s never a random act. I choose them carefully and with a great deal of planning and forethought. You see I have plenty of time, and the anticipation is a delight unto itself.” It made my skin tingle and my stomach clench, his use of the present tense, as if he were not in a prison at all, as if he were free to do as he chose. He didn’t ask me if I understood what he meant by taking. I understood all right and didn’t think I was quite up to a less euphemistic description. There was a sense of him shifting in the chair, more than likely to put me at ease rather than because he had any need of it. Then he continued. “Of course I occasionally act impulsively and take when I haven’t intended – a moment of weakness, of answering a craving, of catering to an urge. I have needs, after all, just as everyone does, and sometimes my baser instincts take control.”
When I made no response, he added, “you must understand, when I speak of instincts or biological need, it’s only in an effort to help you comprehend my story. In truth, I have neither. My insight into what drives human nature comes only from the experiences of those I’ve chosen through the ages. It’s only through my taking of them that I’m able to share my story with you in any way your mind can grasp.”
“I see.” I spoke from a dry throat.
“Of course you don’t see,” he responded without censure or ridicule. If anything he sounded rather sad. “You can’t possibly see, but I am compelled to try and convey myself to you, an impossible task for both of us, and yet here we are.”
“Indeed,” I managed. “Here we are.”
“As I was saying, most of the time, I choose very carefully, the way I chose you.”
If I’d had a pen, I’d have dropped it. I remembered only too well what had happened to Annie Rivers when he had chosen her, and what he attempted to do to Susan and Michael. I don’t know if I gasped, or maybe made some other sound of distress. I do know that there is nothing comfortable about being chosen by a demon, and I was on the brink of calling Talia to get me out of the dream.
Then that velvety chuckle washed over me. “Relax, my darling little scribe. I’m only joking. Though I’m told,” he added as an afterthought, “that I need to work on my sense of humor.”
I’m sure my resulting laugh sounded a little hysterical, though well-laced with genuine relief. Then I found my voice. Whether he understood humor or not, in spite of the poor joke, he had managed to set me at ease. At least a little bit. “You’ll have to forgive me for being so jumpy. I’ve never interviewed a demon before, and especially not without Magda Gardener’s permission.”
“Magda Gardener, yes.” He paused as though lost in his thoughts and then said slowly. “Perhaps our clandestine
meeting is my joke on Magda Gardener. Perhaps I wish to see if she thinks I need to work on my sense of humor.”
This time I genuinely laughed. “I’m not sure whether I’d pay good money to see her response or pay to be in another country when she finds out.”
“Oh, I’m betting you won’t be able to escape her reaction even if you want to darling KD.” I could almost hear the smile in his voice. Then he shifted in his chair with a contented sigh, and the way my skin prickled and the fine hairs on the back of my neck stood at attention, I knew he was now facing me. “Shall we get on with it then, in anticipation of hastening our dear Magda Gardener’s response.”