Dear readers, tonight with us is a Master of the Dark Arts, a demonic broker who runs a shop supplying witches. He’s here to tell us about fighting through life, death, demons and trying to survive a first date.
Tell us a little about growing up in Barrowhurst. What was it like there?
Sorry? An interview? Right now? Are you insane? Haven’t you noticed those damned demons have dragged Barrowhurst into hell and Mickey-F****ing-Twitch is about to kill me. And this bloke here needs a doctor and you’re trapped in hell as well, so there’s no point in an interview.
Bugger off. Come back if I survive this. Then you can interview me all you like.
Several books later…
Tell us a little about growing up in Barrowhurst. What was it like there? And why are you waist-deep in that hole? And what is that awful smell?
You again… Whatever. Just give me a hand out of here when I get to the edge. Sorry about the smell. It’s what happens when a demon goes bathing in pig slurry.
What was the question again?
Barrowhurst was kind of quiet when I was a kid, no bloody demons. Really, nothing much ever happened here. I’d have probably just taken over the family hardware business when I grew up, but Mickey, my best friend at school showed me magic. Yeah, the same Mickey-F****ing-Twitch who put people in the arena to fight to the death so the winner got to kill me. That Mickey. He was alright when we were kids. He showed me cool things.
So, yeah. I learned about magic. I used to go out to Abbey Wood when I was a bit older, and turn trees into stone. Or rabbits into stone. I got really good at turning things into stone and Mickey showed me other magic, and I got really interested.
My parents never knew. I mean, even when you’re nine or ten, it’s not something you necessarily mention to your parents. I might have told them about it when I was older but they died in a freakish accident when I was eighteen.
What sort of freakish accident?
It was an early deal I cut with a demon. I got a few things wrong, and well, Mum and Dad were out and…
Can we talk about something else?
Did you have any favorite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?
All my best toys were stuff left over in the shop. I built robots and spaceships and just anything, really. Dad would keep bits of scrap, or stuff that was broken, and I could play with anything in that pile. When I was about six I tried to make a car. I mean, it was really simple, just a box with wheels, but I couldn’t make the wheels turn right. Dad went all through the scrap boxes with me to find something to make it right. Looking back, I think he might have cheated and got something out of the shop to make it work, but that didn’t matter.
I think my best pal Mickey was a bit jealous of that car, but he did show me a neat bit of magic to make it go on its own. Pity I couldn’t show that to Dad.
What do you do now?
I’m standing in a pit of demonically contaminated pig poop. What does it look like I do? I clean up other people’s mess. Come on. Just give me a bloody hand.
Don’t worry. It washes off eventually. Or after eternity.
Anyway, I used to run a magic shop as a front for brokering demonic deals – like getting you the girl of your dreams, or the perfect face lift, but at a sensible price that doesn’t include your soul. I dealt with the demons so you didn’t have to. Since the demons dragged Barrowhurst into their realm, and then I mostly got it back out, and I have one trapped inside me, I’m out of business. Being the dungeon to the demon Nyka doesn’t pay well. Doesn’t pay at all, as it happens.
I should have stayed with selling screws and silicone sealant after all.
What can you tell us what happened since we last saw you?
Well, I saved Barrowhurst from the demons of the Babylonian Triad, obviously, apart from that damned helltide thing, but people are learning to live with that. Then Simone moved in with me, so I’m on a sort of day-to-day, constant evaluation, probationary boyfriend deal.
And of course the world nearly ended again. Several times.
Did you hear about the traffic djinni? That was Mickey-F****ing-Twitch again, trying to use the supernatural for traffic enforcement. I did try to warn them, but you know politicians – offer them a cheap solution and they skip over the fine print, especially the bit where it mentions end-of-the-world. The road repairs alone are going to cost a fortune.
And there was the thing with the Banes and vampires. At least that wasn’t the end of the world. They were only going to destroy Barrowhurst and turn us all into vampire-things. And Mickey was involved, again, which says it all really.
What did you first think when the demons came to Barrowhurst?
I thought I was in big trouble. It was only luck, really, that they didn’t kill all of the town’s demonic traders in the first attack. The Babylonian Triad are a nasty bunch. I mean, at first they just seemed to be coming after me, and then I thought they were going to an awful lot of effort sending Simone.
Did I mention her? I mean, a witch of her enormous power and talent, was kind of overkill, and then she sent the bomb, and then it was obviously a really complicated trick. So yeah, I thought I was in big, big trouble.
And I thought I was in love, which is pretty much the same thing with Simone.
What was the scariest thing when the demons were taking over Barrowhurst?
That’s tricky but I’d probably have to say it was the number nine bus. The possessed one. Which is just insane, when you think about it. Demons don’t usually possess inanimate matter and certainly shouldn’t keep antique buses running, although it probably had a better crash safety record than a Volvo.
Then they just drove out of town when they found out that the Babylonian Triad were taking over. Now that’s seriously scary. Hardcore demons doing a runner because they didn’t want to be trapped in Barrowhurst with other demons.
What is the worst thing about life in Barrowhurst?
That’s easy. I’ve got a demon trapped inside me.
Second worst… everyone expects me to clear up the mess. Plague of lollypops? Call Paul Moore. Explosive demon daisies out at Great Barrow, call Paul Moore to go weeding. Opening a dimensional portal without planning consent, guess what! You’d think it was a job for a council planning officer, but no, the Mayor gives me a call.
When they held the big, posh dinner at the Town Hall with unlimited booze to celebrate the newly opened Barrowhurst Court of Supernatural Justice, did I get an invite? No, I bloody didn’t.
What is the best thing about living in Barrowhurst?
That’s hard to pin down. I mean, it’s home. I grew up here, I have friends, and even scumbag demons treat me with respect. Of course, that’s probably because they can see the mega-demon trapped inside me, but even so, I like it.
Oh, and there’s a dragon that flies me to work.
Tell us a little about your friends.
Well, there’s Billy. I helped him out with a possession a few years back. He never said how that came about, but he has the sexual appetite of a nymphomaniac rabbit and it’s amazing the supernatural horrors you can pick up by screwing around. Afterwards, he helped in the magic shop and taught me sign – he was already deaf and getting rid of the possession cost his voice. I know he’s changed a bit since we defeated the Babylonian Triad, but I think everyone’s got used it now.
Then there’s Maureen, who I went to school with and now works as a traffic warden. She drops in to see me and catch a cup of my belladonna blend tea for the mystic tremors she picked up from her little near-death experience. If it wasn’t for her, the whole traffic djinn catastrophe would have been so much worse.
And there’s Stacey, who’s a sort-of friend, I suppose. She used to sell candles and tarot cards to my ordinary customers so I could concentrate on the serious ones who wanted a demonic deal. I always meant to tell her to wear more than a couple of lace curtains at work, but she did sell a lot of occult tat for me. She’s a serious businesswoman now and sort of runs my shopping mall. I think I agreed to that.
Any romantic involvement?
Me and Simone – it’s sort of going well. We’ve been living, and almost dying together since I sorted the Babylonian Triad, and she hasn’t made a serious attempt to kill me since then.
It’s tricky because she is a witch of enormous power and I have a demon trapped inside me, but we’re making it work. I think. We’ve talked about children and I’m pretty sure she’s accepted that they are not suitable ingredients in any ritual, even with forensic counter-measures.
We have our arguments, like any other couple, I suppose. I hate the mess when she brings in another chicken for some kitchen table augury, and Mickey Twitch is still a problem because I keep putting off killing him. Simone is very clear about that: my ex-friend, my responsibility.
Whom (or what) do you really hate?
Mickey-F****ing-Twitch, all the way. He seemed all right at school but, you know, looking back, he’s always been a complete shit. I think he got it from his grandfather. I got good at magic, at making demonic deals. Mickey always went for the same crude tricks – turning water into booze, that sort of stuff, and compulsions were his other big thing. He liked girls who couldn’t say no. I think that’s where our friendship fell apart. It took me years to realize he was basically a magical serial rapist.
The demons are monsters, but they’re amateurs. Only Mickey-F****ing-Twitch could think up that whole fight to the death thing as a celebration of the Babylonian Triad victory. The demons wouldn’t have bothered. They needed us. And only Mickey could have caused the whole traffic djinni catastrophe.
What’s your favorite drink?
Whiskey, single malt when I can afford it. Now the shopping mall is doing better I have some cash to spare. Simone says I drink too much.
What does the future hold for you?
Apart from sleeping outside until the smell of demonically cursed pig poo fades?
It’s difficult to say. We have the election coming up for the post of Demonic Tyrant of Barrowhurst, and it’s tricky because Simone and I are on opposite sides, so really I just want to get that out of the way before making any big plans. It’s bound to get nasty, but we’ve agreed to keep politics and home separate. The thing is, her demon really hates my demon, and if my demon actually wins we probably have to do something about releasing it from prison without destroying the prison, which is me. So, you see, no big plans until after the election.
Come back and interview me again if I survive.
Or, if my demon wins, you might want to come and do the exit poll – marks out of ten for spatter, gore and mayhem. A massively powerful demon exploding from my body ought to be news worthy.
Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?
Sharing secrets can get you killed in Barrowhurst, but if you promise to keep it to yourself, I don’t think I really want to kill Mickey-F****ing-Twitch. I ought to, and Simone really expects me to, but I don’t think I can. It’s not like I’ve never killed anyone, but I’ve got history with Mickey, even if it’s really crappy history.
Don’t tell Simone I said that.
Mark Huntley-James writes fantasy, science-fiction or any other weird thing that catches his attention. He has published three humorous urban fantasy novels, won the British Fantasy Society short story competition in 2013, and has various short and flash fiction in anthologies, on his blog or on Medium. From time-to-time he says something strange on Twitter. Mark lives in Cornwall, UK, on a small farm with his partner, multiple cats, a dangerous horde of psycho-chickens, and a flock of rare-breed sheep. Sometimes he writes about the animals, but can’t get any of them to read the stories.
You can find Paul Moore on the pages of Hell Of A Deal.
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