What kind of tests might a clever genius demon like myself come up with to determine the worthiness of this boy, you might ask? Well, you see, I have priorities. I mean, sure, I guess it’d be good if he was strong and good with weapons and agile and whatnot, but those things didn’t really matter. If he could get the hang of controlling shadows, he would never need to physically fight again, unless things went drastically wrong. And, if things go drastically wrong, I find that wit is a better answer than violence. That is, as long as your wit is superior, like mine.
Therefore, these tests were designed only to measure the things that really mattered. The first of which Damian was about to find out.
I saw it coming before Damian did. Obviously. I was the one who came up with the plan, after all. Mr. Skullcrusher hurtled into Damian’s back as he was still reading the note, and Damian stumbled forward, bending at the waist in attempt to flip my dog over his back. Skull twisted away just in time to land with some semblance of grace, then hop up again, snarling as he surveyed Damian.
“Easy there,” Damian said, holding his hands out in front of him. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
He had damn well better not. Of course, that was all the note said: Don’t hurt my dog. The one rule that he would do well to follow.
“Easy, girl,” Damian said placatingly. Skull snarled loudly. “Er, boy?” The growling dimmed. Damian reached for his pocket and Skull started toward him, snapping his jaws. “Easy!” Damian said, slowly withdrawing a half eaten granola bar and removing it from its wrapper. He offered it gently to the german shepherd, who snapped it out of his palm in an instant.
After swallowing, Mr. Skullcrusher deliberated for a moment, gave one last growl, then sat down in a show of submission. Damian smiled, but just as he reached down to pet Skull on the head, the dog growled again. “Okay, okay,” Damian said, backing up.
Either way, it seemed as if he had passed. Mr. Skullcrusher’s approval of the boy was far more valuable than Damian’s actual worth as a person. The shadows picked up another card for me and delivered to Damian, who eyed the stream of darkness’s approach warily. The moment his fingers closed around the card, the shadows dissolved into the air.
I could see what was written on the paper, not that I needed to. I had written it after all.
Congratulations, it said, you have passed the first test. The second test is this: Solve the following riddle.
Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
P.S. If you fail any of these, I’ll kill you and find someone smarter. Just saying.
There were few times in my extraordinarily long existence when I wanted to know what a human was thinking, to be able to see inside his or her head. Usually, there was absolutely no point; humans were really very dull. Besides, what thoughts could a human possibly think that I couldn’t think better? This, however, was one of those rare times. How would he go about trying to reason this out?
“This question is ridiculous,” Damian said loudly to the room. “Who am I supposed to be answering to, anyway?” he muttered, then his eyes fell on the dog. After a brief moment of deliberation, he shrugged. Under his breath, he muttered, “Well, I get the feeling stranger things are going to happen than me answering riddles to a dog, so here goes: The egg came first,” Damian told Skull. “I believe in evolution.”
Thank God. I mean, don’t literally thank God; evolution is clearly the valid scientific theory here. I was around at the beginning of life on earth, so I know what I’m talking about. If Damian had turned out to be a Creationist, I might have had to take drastic measures. I had the shadows present the final card.
Damian read it in silence, then looked up and around, probably still looking for me. “You’re kidding me,” he said aloud.
Nope, not kidding. After waiting a beat, Damian rolled his eyes and headed to the kitchen. I didn’t spy on him there; this was a very private ritual, and I did have some manners. After all, I’d instructed him to ring a bell when he was finished.
It took about five minutes before the bell rang. I teleported up into the kitchen, hoping to find that Damian had passed the final test. In front of me was a blank countertop. The plates were stacked away, and the bread was untouched. “What’s this? Are you a complete imbecile who can’t even do the simple tasks I command?” I demanded.
Damian shrugged, his face expressionless. “Yeah, I guess so.”
Something smelled fishy. I really needed dot get those bodies out of the basement. “You’re joking.”
“Nope. Just couldn’t complete that last task; guess you’ll have to kill me.”
Ohhh, there it was. There was the fish. “Oh, I see. You think that you can just not do this task and get out of the contract entirely. Well, that’s not how it works, kid. I refuse to believe you’re incapable of making me a sandwich.”
Damian looked entirely unaffected. “Can’t do it. I cannot make a sandwich.”
“I’ll walk you through it,” I replied in a monotone.
“Ok, fine. I won’t make you a sandwich. That’s just ridiculous,” he said, his hair falling forward to cover half of his scowl. “I’m not your girlfriend.”
Ouch. Lucky for him, I wasn’t one to take offense at snide remarks. I embraced them. Leaning forward, I straightened to my full height. “Make me a sandwich, bitch.”
I feel like if Damian and I were actually friends or pals or buddies or any level of friendly acquaintances, he would have laughed at that. I almost did. Instead, he impressively kept a straight face. “Make your own sandwich, dick.”
“You’re a shitty girlfriend,” I muttered petulantly.
“You’re just shitty.”
My eyes narrowed, but I kept my temper. Remember the plan, I told myself. You’re trying to win him over. Deep breaths. When I calmed down, I realized Damian had been staring at me, his lips twitching into a smirk. I shot him my darkest glare, then turned around, lighting the stove burner under the tea kettle.
“That’s not how you make a sandwich,” Damian ever-so-helpfully pointed out.
“I know that,” I snapped. “I’m not making a sandwich.”
Damian raised a brow. “Is it because you don’t know how?”
I was starting to not like this kid. “No.”
We stood in silence until the kettle started to whistle, at which point I took two mugs from the cabinet and placed a tea bag in each. After pouring the water, I slid one mug towards Damian and took a seat across from him at the table.
“Sit,” I told him. He obeyed, but didn’t touch the tea. I couldn’t blame him; all the Traverses had was pomegranate green. I hated pomegranates. I wrapped my hands around the mug, tapping my enameled fingernails on the smooth surface. “Listen, Damian… I feel like we got off on the wrong foot. What do you say we start fresh?”
You would have thought I wasn’t human and had, like, red skin or something by the way Damian stared at me then. “You’re kidding.”
“Why do you keep thinking I’m kidding?” I asked in exasperation. “I know I’m a funny guy and make a lot of hilarious jokes, but I’m being serious for once. Fresh start?”
Damian’s expression fluctuated between confused, surprised, and utterly furious. “Seriously?” he asked once, then said again, more intensely, “Seriously? The wrong foot? You put my sister in a fucking coma and then just think you can make me some tea, and I’ll forgive you?”
“You’re still hung up on that sister thing?” I asked, raising a brow. “Come on, you’ve got to get past that. Are you going to keep bringing that up for the rest of our relationship?”
After gaping like a fish for about thirty seconds, Damian pressed his lips into a thin line. “I can’t tell if you’re messing with me just to piss me off, or if you’re legitimately being serious.”
“I’m seriously being serious,” I replied seriously.
“You’re unbelievable,” he muttered, shaking his head.
“I’ve been told that on multiple occasions,” I responded, then smiled. “Mostly in regards to my looks.” I winked.
Damian’s eyes we're dark. “You can be one hundred percent certain that’s not how I meant it.”
“Don’t worry, you’ll come around eventually.”
“No, I won’t,” Damian replied.
“We’ll see about that.”