Cath and Stan were flipping channels from their corduroy loveseat in the den when their eleven-year-old daughter Sybil came in and asked if they had a can of Campbell’s condensed cream of mushroom soup.
“Check the cabinet by fridge,” said Cath. A hot-faced woman on the television was greasing a baking dish with margarine.
“What else is on?” said Stan. Cath hit the remote. Several Romans dressed in red cloaks were roasting a pig on a spit.
“Do we have any mixed vegetables?” asked Sybil. “Or green beans?”
“Have you looked in the freezer?”
Sybil trotted to the freezer and pulled out a bag of peas.
“Isn’t there a game on? It’s Sunday.” Stan grabbed the remote and flipped to the Sports Network, but only a telemarketing ad popped up.
“For the low, low price of $29.95 we’ll send you all you need to start selling Wonder Berries, used for centuries by the ancient Assyrian people to cure everything from sniffles to syphilis, to ward off demons, and grant fertility! Get rich fast, today!”
“Whatta rip-off,” said Stan.
“Muh-omm, do we have those crispy onion things we put on that slimy thing at Christmas?”
Cath turned around to look at her daughter, who was cradling a basket of casserole ingredients in her arms.
“Why do you need all this?”
“Ok, well, remember that time we went to that garage sale and you and Dad bought me the dresser? Well, this guy Belphegor – who’s only part-way human – lives in my underwear drawer, and he’s very hungry, and he said…” Sybil paused, recalling exactly what Belphegor told her, word-for-word. “Well, he sang this cutesy little poem, right? It was like this:
‘My name is Belphegor, my body is weak,
the virgin flesh is what I seek.
Scorching flames flick my tongue,
I wish to feast on someone young.
Do this for me, it is foretold,
you’ll bathe in frankincense, myrrh, and gold.’
And so, I figured since you guys wanted to go on that cruise, I could bake myself into a one-pot meal and get the money for you from this Belphegor guy–even though I don’t know what frankincense and myrrh is–it’s probably worth something. Anyways, he’s got horns, so I’m sure he’s the real deal.”
When Sybil finished relaying the prophecy to her parents, Cath and Stan clapped. “That was very good, honey. No onions, but I think there might be some breadcrumbs by the spice rack.”
Stan turned to his wife. “What an active imagination on that girl. She’s going places.”
Sybil asked her parents if they had seen her sunglasses anywhere.
“Why do you need sunglasses, honey?”
“Well, you see, my underwear drawer is actually a portal to Gehenna, which Belphegor said is both his domain and the kingdom of the wicked or whatever, so I figured it’s probably pretty warm and sunny, you know, flames and all.”
“Well then, don’t forget to bring sunscreen,” Stan laughed.
“Don’t worry, I’ve got it already.”
Sybil sprung up the stairs and scurried to her bedroom and shut the door. Her parents continued channel surfing, moving from sitcoms to Serpent World! to pay-per-view MMA fighting. They leapt up when they heard a crash from the floor above them.
“What was that?”
Cath and Stan marched upstairs to scold their enigmatic child for causing such a ruckus, but when they opened the door they found her room empty, the cool yellow walls and butterfly mobile unshaken, the toy chest, the bed, all left in proper order.
“Sybil?” they called.
Cath moved to the dresser to open the underwear drawer. The handle was hot.