The Guardian Demon

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Take my Hand

A young man in a hoodie walks up to a table at Mlo Imla. A bearded young man who’s already seated there stands up to meet him. The world around them dims and goes out of focus and its noise and sounds melt and soften into an ignorable mass of static, it might as well not exist, for the only part of the world that matters to them is each other.

“Should we order the usual?” Brian asks.

“Are we expecting one more person?” asks Matthew, knowing very well how much of a long shot that was.

“No.”

“Then just two this time,” Matthew says to the waiter a bit crestfallen.

They sit down.

“I think you know why I called you here,” Brian says grimly.

“Is she doing okay?”

“How do you think she’s doing?”

“I was in a bad place that day and I took it out on her. If she would just pick my calls or reply to my messages- “

“She gave up on you.”

“What do you mean?”

Brian pauses for a moment and lets the noisy ambience of the city simmer.

“Your whole life you have been pushing both of us away, that was the last straw. She doesn’t want to even try again because every time she does you end up putting more space between you.”

Matthew knows that’s exactly what he wanted her to feel and the fact that it did just that makes him feel even worse.

“I’m sorry if that’s what it has been like for you guys, I really am, but I won’t push you away again. I don’t have any reason to, not anymore.”

“Not anymore? How can you be sure of that, I have told you my secrets, she has told you hers but you never tell us anything about yourself.”

“But I’m done with all that. I’m just me now. Who you see in front of you is all I am. There is nothing else about me to know.”

Brian glares at him.

#This is what years of friendship mean to you, bury the past and let bygones be bygones?

“There isn’t? Let me see your right hand.”

“Why?”

“Julia told me that there was something wrong with it.”

“She must have been mistaken.”

“Then show me your hand.”

“I’m telling you there is nothing wrong with it.”

“Then why do you insist on hiding it?”

Brian reaches over and forcefully grabs his hand out of his pocket.

#Lucky bastard.

“There! Are you satisfied?” Matthew waves his hands at him contemptuously as if insulted by his lack of belief in him.

“Sorry, she just sounded so sure, she said it looked like your hand had been cut off.”

“Does it look cut off to you? I’m telling you, man, I’m not hiding anything.”

#Pfft, please.

“I want to believe you Matt, but you had been away for so long it’s hard to believe that you’re still the same Matt we used to play with, or if you had ever been.”

“Or if I had ever been? What does that even mean?”

“I know you kept your father’s work a secret to keep exactly what happened when it got out from happening. If you feel like that was any of our faults, we’re sorry.”

“Why are you bringing this up again! It wasn’t your fault or anyone else’s, it’s their superstitious beliefs that led them to do that. If I blamed you for my father’s death, would I have shown up to talk and laugh with you all these times?”

Brian notices his slip.

“You said your father’s death.”

“Almost dying, you know what I mean.”

*Telling you now wouldn’t make a difference.

The waiter comes with their food and drinks and places them on the table.

#You deserve everything that’s coming for you.

“I believe you… “ Brian says after a long silence.

*I know you don’t.

“But I don’t think Julia ever will,” he continues.

“She doesn’t pick up my calls or reply to my texts. I think I’ll just go to her place hoping she’s home and try to talk to her then.”

“You want to go to my girlfriend’s house alone?”

Matthew’s eyes quickly meet Brian’s.

“Brian, you can’t seriously think I plan on doing anything else other than talk. You know me.”

“Do I?”

Brian didn’t come to offer Matthew forgiveness, he came to condemn him, and every lie Matthew utters reminds him of that.

“I’ll talk to her on your behalf and tell you when she’s ready to talk,” Brian concludes.

Matthew starts picking at his food.

“It has become really boring now that the demon is gone,” Brian breaks the settling silence.

Matthew chuckles.

“I didn’t think you were a fan, considering how you defended the gang the other day.”

“I’m not, but I realize now that it is only through conflict that the truth can be ascertained. The demon served as a mirror to show whether those who opposed the gang had any grounds. It turns out that they didn’t. I heard that it disappeared after a fight with the gang.”

“Did they kill it?” Matthew asks in a tone expressing disinterest.

Brian smiles.

“I don’t know, but judging from how things turned out, they might as well have, and all that it stood for died along with it.”

“Maybe it didn’t stand for anything.”

“That wasn’t up to it, the people looked up to it even without knowing what its motives were. It saved them, gave them hope. To quit at that point was selfish.”

Matthew looks up from his food, “Maybe selfish was it going out there and leading people on while trying to accomplish its own agendas.”

“And what other agenda could it have except trying to be a hero?”

“Probably the same one that the King has.”

Brian gets interested.

“And what could that be?”

“To make society pay for what it has done to them: The King makes society pay by using criminals as enforcers of justice and makes the common folk suffer under a mock government since they could not make the real government work, while the demon makes society pay by making them find hope in their fear of it, in that way they might hate it but they will still be indebted to it. Both King and the Demon cloak it under the guise of heroism but they are both just broken people trying to fill the voids in their hearts. Two sides of the same coin.”

“But they- “

“Matt!” A lady’s voice calls from behind Matthew piercing their cocoon-like a ray of light through a cave.

She approaches them. Matthew stands up and hugs her.

“Hey… what are you doing here?”

“I was just passing by and I recognized your hoodie... who’s your friend?”

“This is Brian, the best friend I was telling you about. Brian this is- “

She jumps in, “Margaret, his girlfriend.”

#Girlfriend?

*Girlfriend?

“I thought you said that you said you didn’t have any more secrets,” Brian says.

“Well…”

Matthew looks at her. Her swirling expectant eyes hypnotize him.

“I wanted to surprise you. Are you surprised?”

“Very.”

“Then mission accomplished,” Matthew says, accompanying the words with a very nervous thumbs up.

“Julia will be very surprised too,” Brian adds, his smirk hidden by the angle of his face as he leans over to eat.

Margaret notices Matthew freeze briefly on his way down to his seat. She sits at an empty seat next to him.

“Just make sure she forgives me first before you tell her about this,” he says.

“Why it won’t affect anything, it’s not like she likes you.”

Matthew’s heart trips over itself.

“You look familiar. Where have I seen you before?” Brian asks Margaret.

She peels her eyes away from Matthew and looks sharply and suspiciously at his friend.

“Probably on the news,” she says after slightly too long.

“The news… Oh yeah! You were the woman who was saved by the demon. I was just telling Matthew how boring it has become now that it’s gone.”

Margaret’s face brightens, “Right? I wonder where it went? Matthew, do you have an idea of where it could have gone?”

#She knows his secret. He told a total stranger but not his best friend?

“So you also know Matthew’s secret?” Brian asks.

Matthew and Margaret both sharply turn their gazes to him.

“Uhm, Which one? Mr Mysterious here has so many,” she says, not wanting to say more than she should.

Matthew looks at her.

“I’m talking about Matthew’s father being a witch doctor,” Brian answers and almost laughs out loud at how inept their faces are at hiding their relief.

“Yes, that’s why I asked him. He probably knows more about this spiritual mumbo jumbo than anyone else.”

“His theory is that it quit because it realized that it was selfish and wasn’t doing anyone any good,” Brian says, deciding to play along.

“Yes, I have heard that one and as I told him I think it’s BS. I can’t believe for one moment that the reason it saved me and all those other people while putting its own life on the line was a selfish one that was only about itself. Maybe if it had strictly kept to only beating up gang members I would have, but staying behind even after it’s done with them and helping the victims tells a different story. Maybe it got some sort of pleasure or fulfilled some unconscious motive from it, but that doesn’t mean it was doing it for the wrong reasons. Doing good doesn’t have to feel like a sacrifice and getting something for yourself doesn’t make you selfish.”

“Now that’s a sermon right there, Matthew where did you find this lady, she really knows her stuff.”

“She found me, actually,” Matthew says briefly glancing at her.

“I keep telling Matthew that I am smarter than him but he doesn’t want to admit it,” She says teasing him.

“Don’t start thinking you’re a genius just yet,” Brian cuts in, “Matthew is basically retarded when it comes to processing his emotions.”

“Dude, come on,” Matthew says, raising his hands in protest.

“What do you think would it take to get the Demon to come back?” Brian asks Margaret.

“I don’t know, but for someone who is that intent on helping people, I think he will always be there when we need him.”

Brian contemplates her words for a while.

“You’re right,” he stands up. “You can always count on the hero. There’s somewhere I need to be. Let me leave you love birds to… love bird it up.”

“Love bird it up?” Matthew asks, chuckling.

He offers his hand to Margaret for a handshake, “Pleasure to meet you.”

“Likewise,” she says, barely touching his hand to make the handshake as brief as possible.

He turns to Matthew, “I hope the next time we meet, we will both be more honest with each other.”

“To tell the truth is to acknowledge a lie, and that causes more trouble than the truth is worth.” Matthew retorts.

“But it’s only from the truth that reality can be established, and from reality, progress.”

“Reality is that which is believed to be true, and I…,” Matthew’s gaze turns inwards and he searches for a sign in the depths of his soul that confirms that what he is about to say is the truth. He looks up.

“l believe in love.”

Brian sees a small flash flicker behind his eyes. He slowly turns his face away from him, maintaining eye contact until he can’t and then he walks away.

“Do you two always say goodbye like that, coz that was intense,” Margaret says after Brian is out of earshot.

“He knows I’m lying about something but he won’t force me to come out with it.”

“Is that what that was? Because to me, it seemed like he was taunting you by purposely saying the things that would hurt you the most. I honestly don’t like him, but you know him better. Although in any case, lying to people you consider important to you about something so fundamental is never a good idea.”

“I don’t want to lose them. I want everything to be as it was before my truth tore us apart.”

“Lying to Brian is only prolonging the inevitable and you see what it did to Julia. You have to tell them before it’s too late.”

Matthew looks down at his feet and then he looks to the side. He screws his eyebrows together.

“Where’s my fork?”


The King walks up to a man in a dark room who is working at a computer.

“I want you to compare the fingerprints on this fork to the demon’s hand,” he says.

“Alright.”

“It’s a 98% match, does this mean you know the real identity of the demon?”

The King leans on the desk with both hands.

#It means I’ve always known, but to have him spit blatant lies to my face like that?

#You say you believe in love, but love has never saved you before, and neither will it this time.

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