Daphne’s Demons (new fiction)

The client was prevaricating.

I let them do that sometimes. It allows them to relax and helps us build a bit of trust before I have to let them know that I can see right through them. Because, let’s face it, it can be hard talking to a total stranger. And since most of my clients have no idea why I’ve been recommended to them,  I will let them talk awhile.  But this was getting ridiculous and time was getting on.

His demon clearly didn’t believe a word he said.

They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, our demons. Some look downright human. Others a little more strange. This demon was a beast with two backs. Not, thankfully, the full Shakespearean, but it was definitely a beast and it had two backs. It was sitting in the corner, chin in hand and every time the client mentioned his wife, which he had done repeatedly for the past forty minutes, the beast would roll its eyes, shake its shaggy head and sigh heavily. It was time to change direction.

“You’ve told me a lot about your wife,” I said. “Isn’t it time we talked about your girlfriend?”

There was a moment of shocked silence. “How did you know?”

“Well,” I started to explain, but he interrupted.

“It’s that obvious, isn’t it? You can tell without even knowing me that I’m cheating on my wife.”

The beast was making gestures that seemed to mime: and go on…

“And your wife…?”

“If you can tell so easily,” he said, sadly. “Surely she must know, too?”

“Has she given any indication that she does?”

“No! None. It’s like…”

Even the beast was sitting up now, straining forward to hear this truth. We were close to uncovering his deepest fear.

“It’s like what?” I asked quietly.

“It’s like she doesn’t even care.”

The demon leapt to its feet, hands in the air, doing a victory dance.

“You’re afraid your wife no longer cares about you.”

He nodded miserably.

“And what if she doesn’t?” I asked, prodding, just a little, into this fear. “What will happen if you find out she doesn’t even care if you have an affair?”

“I’ll have to leave her, won’t I.”

The demon had resumed the eye-rolling and sighing.

“Will you?” I asked.

“Well, yes. You can’t stay with someone once it hits that stage, can you?”

I raised my eyebrows. At this point, it was better to let him talk, to reason it out for himself.

“I mean, once the love is gone, and now that I’ve killed any chance of trust, I can’t just stay. I mean. I don’t want to go. I still love her. And she’s put up with my shit all this time. We work well together. She just doesn’t love me like she used to. She’s just not impressed with me any more.”

His voice trailed off.

The beast shuffled over to me.  “There are rules for marriage,” he muttered in my ear. “Strict rules. That everyone must follow.”

I waved him off.

“There’s really no rule book for this sort of thing,” I told him. The beast shuffled back to his corner. He had shrunk a little. Become a little less hairy.

“Some marriages need to end at this stage and some grow stronger. It’s up to you. And her.” Our time was nearly up. “But now that you’ve faced your biggest fear.” He smiled, looking much better than when he’d come in. “You can find out from her what she’s really thinking and then you can deal with this in the way that works best for the two of you.”


My name is Daphne Dench. I have five demons: Garry, Larry, Perry, Terry and Barry.  They come to me late at night, wearing trench coats and fedoras, carrying newspapers and smoking.  They gather round me, sitting at the foot of my bed, lounging beside me, shifting yesterday’s clothes on my bedroom chair.  And they whisper to me my deepest fears.

This, of course, is metaphorical.  At least, it was at first.

My mother likes to say that I was born anxious.  Afraid of everything.  Most kids are, I think.  The world is a strange and scary place to be born into.  It takes time to get used to it, to learn its ways.

Most kids outgrow their fears, but I never seemed to.  Instead of eventually making sense to me, the world seemed stranger and weirder the more I came to know it.

So one day, to calm my fears, to make them more manageable, I named them.  And a really funny thing happened.  Once I named mine, acknowledged their existence, other peoples’ started introducing themselves to me.

Our demons, it seems, want to be known by us.  To be acknowledged.  They just want a little respect.  They want, like any of us, to be loved.

And so, because I couldn’t stop it from happening anyway, I started a little business introducing people to their demons.

I am much in demand, referred by grateful clients who, in acknowledging their fears, are finally able to do something about them.  Referred also, I think, by the demons, who just want to be known.

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4 Responses to Daphne’s Demons (new fiction)

  1. Beverley McCormack says:

    I loved this, Barb! It was imaginative, fun, moving, and a good teacher. Beautifully done – thank you!

  2. Mary Ann Rosenbloom says:

    Spot on! Beautifully said….embrace the demon, indeed!

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