The Guardian Demon

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Mtoto wa Nyoka

(Mtoto wa nyoka: swahili proverb, mtoto wa nyoka ni nyoka; the son of a snake is a snake.)

There’s a young man with a hoodie in his hands. He is at his apartment, seated at his desk, assessing the damage that has been done to it.

His phone starts ringing, it’s his father.

The young man runs his hand through his hair.

He picks up the phone.

“Hello.”

"Iii, Mugo, university kuhana atia? (Hi Mugo, how is the university?)”

The man on the other side looks at his reflection on a TV screen.

"No kwega gutiri na uuru. (It's fine, nothing to report.)"

"Guthoma no urathoma? (Are you still studying?)”

"Iii. (Yes.)"

There is a loud silence on one end and cars honking on the other.

“I heard on the news that there were demons over there. Apparently, they beat up some people and even threw some of them out of moving vehicles. Do you know anything about this?”

Matthew scratches his head.

“It was me.”

His father leans forward.

“Do they know it was you?”

“They can’t recognize me when my spirit runes are on.”

The older man thinks for a moment.

“They said they had guns.”

“I’m okay, they’re the ones who got hurt.”

His father leans back into his seat.

“You really gave it to them, it reminded me of those teenagers you beat up when you were little… ”

*He remembers that too?

Matthew smiles.

“It’s just some broken bones, they’ll heal.”

“And what were those green things you stabbed them with.”

“You remember us talking about how having a rune for each animal was a lot of work?”

“Yes?”

“I was able to make one that allows me to summon the powers of any animal I can think of.”

“So, those are... porcupine quills?” the older man smiles the smile of a father hearing the exploits of his adult children.

“Yeah.”

“What happened, why did you have to get involved?”

“They had kidnapped someone to go kill him.”

“Oh, so now that you’ve saved him that’s the end of it.”

There is a brief silence.

“No.”

“What do you mean?”

Matthew stands up and makes an opening in the curtains so that he can look at the cascade of buildings outside.

“There is something going on in this place and it seems like I am the only one who can stop it.”

“What about the police?”

“They are part of the problem.”

“So, this isn’t the last time I’m going to see a story about demons on T.V.”

“I don’t think so.”

Crickets fill the air with their shrill serenades.

“Are you okay with them calling you a demon?”

“I need them to fear me to make this work, plus even if I wasn’t, there wouldn’t be anything I could do about it.”

His father remains silent for a long while.

“Have you found someone?” he eventually asks.

“Who?”

“Someone who can see beyond your runes.”

Matthew smiles, “Not yet, but Brian and Julia are here. Do you remember them?”

“Of course, your two best friends from your childhood. But be careful around that Brian…”

“He told me about telling on us and apologized, he didn’t mean any harm.”

‘That’s not what I mean, but you’re a grown man, you’ll figure it out,’ the father thinks.

“How’s life over there?” Matthew leans on the wall. “Have you found someone?”

His father smiles. “Don’t worry about me, Nyeri is just the way it usually is, and you know that your mother will always be the one for me.”

*I feel guilty every time he mentions her, I feel like I’m the one who killed her.

Matthew looks down at his feet, “Dad, it’s been long enough, and those Nyeri ladies are head over heels for you.”

“I’m okay, your mother was enough for me, and stop worrying about me, I’m not that old yet.”

*I’ve barely asked one question.

“I hope you know that I am proud of the man you are becoming,” his father says.

“Meaning?”

“A kind man who doesn’t stand by when others need him... I just wish that you would be just a bit more selfish.”

“Selfish?”

Matthew’s father peers through the darkness at a framed picture of them that was taken when Matthew was younger.

“I mean don’t just make life better for others, live for yourself too, even just for a bit, it won’t hurt.”

Matthew chuckles on the other side, “I can’t do that, you raised me too well… ”

“I mean it… ”

Matthew doesn’t reply.

“Be careful out there.”

“I will.”

“And who goes to save someone but ends up beating them up just as much as the people who kidnapped him. It makes it seem like you were just beating people up indiscriminately."

Matthew laughs.

"No, he wasn't that innocent himself. I had promised someone I would do that."

"Oh, Okay. What about you telling him that you were going to eat his soul?”

“That was just the icing on the cake, I wanted to put some fear of me into him.”

“Oh, I guess it’s fine then. I thought your powers had changed or something.”

“No, I’m just finding new ways to use them.”

“Let me leave you to continue with what you were doing.”

“All right, and thanks.”

“For what?” Peter asks from the other end of the call.

“For always believing in me.”

“I’m your father, it’s my job. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”

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