Aphelion Issue 278, Volume 26
November 2022
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Willful Child

by Trish Wilson

Born from his loins an obnoxious teen, Celestia refused to listen to her father or abide by his wishes. One headache after another. Willful child! Already red-faced, the demon Asmodeus's anger turned his skin to the glowing color of a brick oven after a large pizza had been removed from it. His tail twitched with frustration and annoyance. How was he going to handle this problem?

His wife, Ariel, was away at work appearing on burned toast or in a misshapen Cheeto - he couldn't remember which. She was constantly mistaken for the Virgin Mary. He was left with the job of caring for their teenaged daughter for the day. Two hours hadn't even passed and there were problems. Did she do these things on purpose just to drive him apeshit? The girl put him through hell and that was saying something since he was intimately familiar with the place. If it wasn't curing her classmate's serious acne problem, or curing cancer with the mere touch of a hand, it was making the Dean's List five semesters in a row. Why couldn't she make the cheerleading team and end up drunk and pregnant like those other girls?

Now, this - he stormed from her bedroom and called down the hallway.

"Celestia! Turn off the TV and get up here. Right now!"

Being every bit the surly fifteen-year-old she was, the girl stomped from the living room where she was watching "Touched By An Angel" and headed to her room, eliciting loud, dramatic sighs with every step. A heavenly glow surrounded her as it always did when she was in a snit, nearly blinding him. When she looked over his shoulder and saw her computer monitor, she wailed, flapping her wings in anger.

"Dad! What are you doing on my computer?"

"Did you expect to get that past me?" He pointed to the screen. "Would you care to explain your browser history to me, young lady?"

"It's none of your business. Go away! You're invading my privacy!" She tried to push past him, but he gripped her upper arms in his talons and held her fast in the doorway. His tail flicked behind him, as it always did when he was so furious he could set her bedroom drapes on fire.

"The hell it's none of my business." He bellowed.  "A school scholar's website. How to save yourself for marriage. I'm disappointed in you. How many times do I have to tell you? You are not to visit those kinds of horrible websites! How many times have I told you nobody uses newsgroups anymore? That's what Facebook is for."

"Facebook is depressing."

"All the more reason to use it. Why can't you pirate movies and music like other kids your age? No matter what I say, nothing gets through your thick skull. These websites are unacceptable, but I've told you that over and over and over again."

She fumed, her face turning as red as his bloodshot eyes. "I'm telling Mom! She's gonna be really sore with you."

He sighed. Of course, she would tell her mother. The woman was an angel. She could do no wrong. There was no point in talking to her to get her to see things from his point of view. She always sided with Celestia, anyway. The older Celestia grew, the moodier she became. Her tantrums were legendary, even in his neck of the woods and that was saying something. He was at the end of his rope.

"Go ahead and tell her. Now, explain why you think you can look at that kind of filth in my presence?" He pointed at the screen again.

"It's not filth. Mom thinks it's okay."

"I'm not your mother."

"It's not fair! What's wrong with those websites? I go there all the time and you haven't said anything before."

"That's because I didn't know. Now that I do know, I'm very disappointed in you."

"You had no business checking my browser history."

"I'm shocked at what I didn't find. Not a single smutty site. No tentacle porn. No snuff movies. As of this moment your computer privileges are revoked until I decide you get them back."

"You suck! Mom wouldn't treat me like this. You're a prison warden! I can't hang out with my friends, you won't let me surf the web, and you never let me go anywhere!"

"I don't like those friends of yours. They're a bad influence." He crossed his arms, trying to look more menacing. If he fumed much more, horns would sprout from his head. "I've seen them about town, rescuing kittens from trees, volunteering in soup kitchens, and helping little old ladies cross the street. What's gotten into you that you have to associate with that element? It's not like I don't let you go anywhere."

 A flash of light emanated from her as it sometimes did when she was frustrated and angry. It was followed by her voice ringing like a crack of thunder in her tiny bedroom. "Why can't you like me the way I am? You never let me have any fun!" She pushed past him, ran to her computer, and plopped into her chair. "Now stay off my computer. Leave me alone! I didn't do anything wrong!"

"No computer except for your homework. That is final. I'm doing this for your own good."

She stomped from her computer, threw herself onto her bed, and buried her face in her pillow. Her wails echoed against the walls and ceiling. He shook his head and threw his hands in the air in desperation.

"What in Heaven's name is going on up here?" A voice like an angelic choir soared from the hallway. His wife's voice had an unpleasant effect of calming people down. That would not do for the discussion the three of them were about to have.

"Oh, Mo, are you and Celestia arguing again? Why can't you just get along?"

"She won't listen to me. She never does. The girl bucks my authority every chance she gets."

Ariel huffed. "Don't go there, Mo. You're walking on dangerous ground." She turned to Celestia. "Honey, tell me what's going on."

Celestia sniffed, a manipulative sound he knew would win over her mother in no time at all. "Dad won't let me play on my computer."

"It's not that simple, young lady, and you know it." He waved a hand towards the monitor. "Look at that. Look at what she's been reading."

She leaned closer to the screen and read about a king consorting with otherworldly creatures to communicate with the heavens. "I see nothing wrong with that."

He sighed. This was a losing battle. He'd might as well give up. "Of course, you don't see a problem. She shouldn't be reading that kind of trash. I don't want it in my house."

"You never have a problem when I read it."

"That's different. You're an adult. She's a child. Easily influenced."

"I'm not a child." Celestia whined.

"Don't argue with me," Asmodeus said.

Ariel sighed and stared out the window. As she did, the image of her face burned into the glass. Great. They had to replace the window again before the neighbors saw it and another pilgrimage materialized on their lawn. Damned tourists. At least it beat the last time her face appeared on a piece of bread at a neighborhood picnic. The newspapers declared her "blessed by the Holy Toast".

"This was a mistake. I should have listened to my mother," Ariel said, "You're dark and I'm light. The differences are too great. And our daughter is paying for it."

He was ready to give up. Try as he might, he couldn't understand his own daughter. Up at all hours studying with her friends instead of joyriding and committing vandalism like all the other kids. Refusing alcohol, even in small quantities. The girl wouldn't even dance! She turned down his repeated offers of pot. She kept her room clean. Her browser history never revealed sites like 'Hot Men In Uniform' or even '18 And Ready'. She never started a relationship with a man twice her age. She never missed a curfew. Loud tantrums over his refusal to accept her excuses as to why she insisted on not having sex before marriage. Blinding him with that accursed heavenly glow that emanated from every pore in her body. She would be the death of him yet.

This is what the demon Asmodeus gets for marrying an angel.


2022 Trish Wilson

Bio: Trish Wilson's short fiction has appeared in "Zippered Flesh 3", "Wicked Women: An Anthology of the New England Horror Writers", "Teeming Terrors," "The Black Stone: Stories for Lovecraftian Summonings", "Dancing in the Shadows: A Tribute to Anne Rice", "Death's Garden Revisited", "The Horror Zine's Book of Ghost Stories", "The Horror Zine's Book of Werewolf Stories", and more. She won a Best Short Story mention on The Solstice List@ 2017: The Best Of Horror for Invisible, which appears in Zippered Flesh 3. She has interviewed numerous horror writers for the award-winning The Horror Zine, including Josh Malerman, Kathe Koja, Ray Garton, and Ramsey Campbell. Her podcast guests include Jack Ketchum, Billie Sue Mosiman, John Skipp, Joe Lansdale, and more. She sometimes writes as E. A. Black and Elizabeth Black. In addition to writing horror, she is the Media Director for The Horror Zine. Friend her on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/elizabethablack

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