My Family Was Cursed With a Demon… He Says He’s Not the Villain.
By Penny Tailsup
Part One – My Family Was Blessed with an Angel… I Think It Was a Curse.
Part Two – My Family Doesn’t Know Our Guardian Angel is a Demon
Part Three – My Family Was Cursed With a Demon… Now it Wants Blood.
Part Four – My Family Was Cursed With a Demon… They Pray Anyway.
This is PART FIVE of the story: “My Family Was Blessed with an Angel… I Think It Was a Curse.”
“Before we pray, I have a very important announcement to make.” Father Gabe stood up from the head of the dinner table. “In light of our recent string of misfortune, it only seemed appropriate to delay this announcement. But now, we need the guidance of Our Angel more than ever.” His eyes met mine, and I nodded.
Every Blood Conti was in attendance, they probably knew what this was about. For too long, they’d been waiting for this moment. My uncle’s dramatic pause went on a little too long before he sucked in a breath and said, “I’ve inherited the Glory.” his eyes kept darting over to me, much to my annoyance. Was he trying to look suspicious?
“You did?” my brother’s tone was a little rude, but he was at that age. “Are you sure? But you’re not part of the new generation.” trust Angelo to immediately poke holes in Father Gabe’s lie. Ordinarily, I would have found it funny.
My uncle looked to me for reassurance, stumbling. He hadn’t expected anyone to question the announcement. “Ah… normally that’s the case, but…” his face smoothed over as he came up with an explanation. “Our Angel made an exception. Who are we to question him?” but Angelo wasn’t even looking at him, he was looking at me. Great, he’s suspicious.
If Grandma Conti were there, she would’ve smacked my brother for being disrespectful. It was her house, but she wasn’t there; she was still in the hospital. Though she was only a Conti by marriage, she’d become something of a matriarch in Mother’s absence. Now that she was in a coma, no one had stepped in to fill that role… until, under my orders, Uncle Gabe stepped up to claim the Glory.
Of course, he doesn’t actually have the Glory. He’ll never have it, but since he wanted it so badly… and it works to my advantage, I decided to let him pretend he does. He owes me his life, he can’t say no.
“He’ll kill you the first chance he gets,” the demon reminded me. I know that. I’m prepared to kill him if I have to, he won’t get a second chance. I think the arrangement is generous, effectively making him the puppet leader of the Conti cult. He gets to enjoy the “prestige”, but I’ll call the shots.
Enjoy it while you can, Uncle. I’ll free our family soon.
After dinner my brother came up to me and asked point blank, “Sera, did you inherit the Glory?” the question startled me, not just in it’s abruptness– but in tone. Angelo’s voice was flat and serious, just like his eyes were as they bored into mine. “I know I didn’t. I don’t think Mother would pass it to Angie. So really, that leaves you.”
“I didn’t.” the lie came naturally, I was used to denying it. Yet, this instance made my heart feel like stone. Angelo grabbed my shoulders, squeezing tightly as he asked, “Are you sure?” with emphasis on every word.
“He seems serious, sis.” the demon mocked, “Can you really keep lying to your baby brother?”
“Yes, of course.” I said… to my brother, not the demon. Angelo let go of my shoulders, dropping his arms to his sides. He opened his mouth, as if to ask again– but he dropped his gaze suddenly and turned back towards the dining room. Uncle Gabe was surrounded by most of the extended family, enjoying the attention.
“Why was he looking at you the whole time?” he demanded. Of course he’d noticed the “furtive” glances, I inwardly cursed but had an explanation prepared.
“Before the announcement, I’d confided in him.” I said, “I was upset I didn’t inherit the Glory even though I’m the oldest, I guess he thought I wouldn’t take it well.” it was baloney but my brother seemed to buy it. In fact, he smirked when he saw the opportunity to antagonize me.
“Well I’m the boy, I should’ve gotten it.”
I rolled my eyes. The demon didn’t discriminate. Well, maybe it did, but I’d never had the impression my gender mattered. Man or woman, every Conti was subject to its mockery and scorn. I was merely the person privileged to hear it.
“Mother wasn’t a boy, and she got it over our uncle,” I retorted. “She was older than him.” I wasn’t even sure why I was arguing, smiling in spite of myself. Though I knew the truth, it felt good to have a low-stakes argument with my younger brother.
“Whatever. It just doesn’t make sense.” Angelo said, “We were always told it was once per generation.” I opened my mouth to answer, but all the lies I could come up with were too lame. He’d only get more suspicious if I gave half-assed answers, so I just stayed quiet. He rejoined the others in the dining room.
Recently, I’ve been spending most of my free time holed up in Grandpa Deangelo’s study with Father Gabe. Though I didn’t trust my murderous uncle, he was the only one who could help. No one else knew my secret.
Hidden among the piles of books and research materials, we’d found old journals from former Holders. As promising as that might sound, they weren’t helpful. The writers were either in denial or lying. The demon was consistently described as an “angelic being of light” but the shadow at my back begged to differ.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to fight a curse that even our ancestors celebrated. At times, I even wondered if I was the only one who saw the demon. Maybe my atheism made it impossible to see him for what he was… But then I remembered my mother, the actions of my uncle and the jaw-less specter of Grandpa Deangelo. No, I wasn’t the problem.
One book was missing from the study, evidenced by a rectangular void in the dust. I was beginning to suspect it was Grandpa’s journal. Uncle Gabe had alluded to Grandpa Deangelo’s suicide, but what lead to that choice would remain a mystery if we couldn’t find it. Hell, if he wrote a suicide note and “brought shame on the family”… there was a good chance Grandma destroyed it to save face.
Eventually, I gave up on the journals and the old books. If answers could be found there, wouldn’t Grandpa have ended the curse himself? It was clear he’d known about it, even if he couldn’t speak. I even tried to get him to write down what he knew, but he couldn’t affect things physically.
Grandpa wanted to help, and he had. After all, he’d saved me from his son by showing me how to reach into the demon’s void shadow, but… he’d also made no move to stop me when I considered killing my uncle. I wasn’t sure if he was “all there” or merely a shadow of what he once was.
Father came out of the dining room, interrupting my reverie. Angelo and Angie trailed behind him with mismatched expressions. My father had a tight smile on his face, I couldn’t tell how he was feeling. He’d always been a little stiff around extended family, though he tolerated them for Mother’s sake. Without her, I knew he was only doing it for us.
“Grandma’s awake.” he said, “We can go visit her in the hospital now.” We’d been visiting, it was easy when she was asleep. Problematic now that she was awake!
“Too bad she didn’t die,” said the demon. “Though maybe you can get another question if you right that wrong for me.” its laughter weakened my knees, though I was slowly building up a tolerance for its disorienting mirth.
“Did she say anything?” I asked, my lungs were constricting as I fought back a surge of panic. I didn’t remember what happened when I found her at the bottom of the stairs. I suspected I was responsible, because up until that moment… I’d fantasized about doing it. In fact, the fantasy had been pretty damn specific. I’d wanted to push her down the stairs.
“Yes,” Father replied, “they said she ‘wasn’t making much sense’, so I’m guessing she’s going on about the Glory again.” I regained control of my lungs, sucking in a deep breath. Maybe it was okay. Maybe she didn’t remember.
“Do we have to visit her?” Angelo asked, his voice deadpan. I couldn’t blame him for being less-than-thrilled, our relationship with Grandma suffered after she’d tried to claim Father killed our Mother to the police.
“We’ll get ice cream after.” he said, “It wouldn’t be right to ignore her, she’s family.” though the twist of his mouth made his real feelings clear. He and Grandma had never gotten along, even less now that Mother was gone. Angie was the only one smiling, she was a good kid.
It was a quiet drive to the hospital. With every mile closer, my stomach sank lower– the possibilities, few of them good, kept playing through my mind on a loop. By the time the car was parked, I’d resigned myself to the fact that I’d be tried as an adult and end up in prison for a crime I didn’t remember committing.
“You’re quiet. Is something the matter?” the fiend’s shadow danced around me, a writhing kaleidoscope of madness. The silhouette, inconstant and quivering, exposed its feigned concern for the mockery it was.
We signed in at the front desk, the receptionist smiled brightly when she saw us. “You must be so relieved!” Not really, no. But I knew when to smile and nod; this was one of those times.
“Liar.” the fallen angel took great pleasure in lies, no matter how small. Since inheriting the Glory, I could confidently say I’d become a worse person. The lies never stopped. I wasn’t sure how much of that I could truly blame on the demon.
When we reached Grandma’s room, I half expected to open the door to police– but instead, there was Grandma Conti looking pale and frail in her hospital bed. Her dark eyes were open and wet as she smiled at Father Gabe, her son and apparent Holder of the Glory.
But when her eyes turned towards the door, they were hazy and unfocused. She seemed to look past me, then screamed: “You did this! Why would you?”
The words quickly became unintelligible shrieks with her escalating pitch. Father stuck his arm back protectively, stopping us from entering the room and quickly closing the door. Even with the door closed, her cries pierced straight through me and horrified tears ran down my cheeks. Although I’d dreaded that truth for so long, even expected it- the pain and regret came like a physical blow. There was no greater pain than certainty.
Nurses rushed in, and a doctor– kicking everyone else out as they checked on her condition. Father asked Uncle Gabe what happened, but the priest shrugged. “She’s not herself right now,” he admitted. “She asked about dad when she woke up, too. I think she’s just confused.”
“I see.” Father rubbed his chin, “Should we come back later?” he looked at the door, as if debating. The screaming abruptly cut off. The doctor and nurses came back out a moment later with somber expressions.
“Grandma was screaming.” Angie said, “Is she hurting?” my little sister showed the most concern, hugging herself. Dr. Ives overheard the question and walked over, wearing a smile I’d grown used to seeing over many visits.
“The human mind is a remarkable thing. Sometimes people are a little different when they wake up from a coma, or their memories change, but she’ll be okay. It takes time.” It was a simple explanation, but Angie bobbed her head quietly and accepted it.
“Can we go now?” Angelo asked abruptly, “If she’s asleep she won’t miss us.” Father shot him a look. I didn’t exactly want to wait around for her to wake up either, though my reasons were grounded in guilt.
“Go home. I’ll stay.” Father Gabe answered, “If she can have guests?” He directed his question at Dr. Ives, turning his attention back to her. More Contis were trickling in from the dinner party, starting to crowd the hall.
“No more than two visitors at a time, but it might be best to let her rest tonight. Visiting hours are almost over.” the doctor said, “Though it’s always nice to see so much support from the family. Once she has her bearings she can be discharged, but we want to monitor her for a few more days.”
Father thanked the doctor and we went home. We stopped for ice cream on the way, but my mint chocolate chip tasted like sawdust. I don’t think any of us were really in the mood for ice cream, but we still went through the motions.
As soon as we got home, we scattered. Angelo went to his friend’s house, Angie went to watch cartoons, and Father and I went to our respective bedrooms. Everyone was processing the events of the day in their own way.
I couldn’t fall asleep. How could I, knowing I wasn’t out of the woods yet? Unsure what to do, I stewed in my own thoughts; they were dark, but I still surprised myself when the thought of killing Grandma crossed my mind.
No witnesses, she should have died anyway.
The idea came in a series of black-and-white images, though the picture was sharply in focus. Down the darkened hospital hall, through the creaking door and standing over her bed while she slept. I had a pillow clenched tightly in both hands, hands shaking from the effort as I slowly pressed it down over her nose and mouth. It came with a rumbling soundtrack of thunder. It tasted of iron and rain. Rage crackled through me like electricity.
But then I remembered… I wasn’t angry.
Not like I was before she’d been hurt. This anger felt manufactured, invasive alongside my actual guilt and fear. I recognized the demon’s influence in that rage, a stark contrast to its usual malevolent humor.
“You’re angry at Grandma.” I sat up suddenly. I knew I was right– even without the demon’s confirmation. The question why was implied. Grandma wasn’t even a Blood Conti, she’d never inherited the Glory and never could.
“Aren’t you angry?” the demon asked, making no attempt to deny it– though he didn’t confirm it either. Despite this, the shadows in the room had grown quite still; alert, and intent on my words. I could tell I had its full attention.
“I was, but not anymore.” I admitted, “No matter what she did, it wasn’t worth putting her in the hospital.”
“Are you sure about that? There’s a lot about your family that you don’t know.”
“I’m not going to let you rile me up and turn me into a puppet. I know your game.” he’d tried to infect me with his anger. He’d succeeded in the past. Knowing that, I hoped to become immune to its influence and never lose control of myself again.
“You’re never going to figure it out if you only see me as the villain. I liked you as my host because you had the sense to question things, but the questions stopped once I cast my shadow on you. It’s convenient to blame everything on the demon, isn’t it? You’ve decided I’m to blame, so you won’t consider anything else.”
“You really expect me to believe my family is at fault for everything?” I laughed, leaning forward to cover my mouth. I couldn’t be too loud, I didn’t want to wake the rest of the house. I pressed my knuckles against my lips, fighting back a fit of giggles.
“No. I expect you to believe what you want.” Its words were flat and soft; almost drowned out by the laughter I tried to stifle. Still, the sudden seriousness of his tone gave me pause. I stopped laughing, straightening my back.
Naturally, I couldn’t trust a demon– but I had to admit he had a point. My family wasn’t exactly a shining beacon of virtue and honesty, though that was the face they presented to the world: the Blessed Contis, standing with God and the Glory of an angel.
“I’m not the one who tortured you in the basement, am I?”
“No, but it was because of you.” Uncle Gabe wanted the Glory; wanted the demon, even after I told him what it was. My poor, brainwashed uncle had certainly wronged me– and I’d never trust him again, but that wouldn’t have happened if not for the demon.
“Do you really think it matters if I’m here or not? Do you think they’ll change their ways, even if you manage to get rid of me?”
I wasn’t sure how to answer that, so I fell silent. I hadn’t believed in “Our Angel”, but even I’d played along with the family’s cultish worship. I grew tired of the conversation, dropping back onto my bed and crawling under the covers.
“That’s what I thought.”
“Fuck you.” I closed my eyes, trying to ignore its laughter. Truth be told, I doubted the Conti Cult would dissolve overnight. My family didn’t change, even when they weren’t sure who had the Glory. The rumors and excuses ran rampant, no one would even consider that the family had fallen from grace. I didn’t want to admit any of that, least of all to the demon… so I turned my back on its shadow and slept.
Come morning, I woke up to a gentle tapping on my door, startling out of a light sleep. I hadn’t slept well, so my eyes snapped open instantly.
“Sera? I need you to get dressed and come downstairs.” It was Father; something about his tone had me on full alert though his voice was level and soft.
Dressed in record time, I hurried out the door in time to see my father halfway down the stairs. His stiff back told me something was wrong, but I didn’t know what. My little sister was hovering on the landing, looking nervous. It didn’t take long to see why.
Two police officers were standing in the living room. My foot froze mid-step. Father wasn’t looking at me, he was looking at the floor with his hands clasped together like he was praying. What had the officers told him?
“What’s going on?” my voice caught in my throat, cracking as I forced the question. I knew why they were there, though I wanted to be wrong. Grandma must’ve talked, told them what I’d done. They were there because I pushed her and put her in the hospital. Why didn’t you run? My thoughts were screaming at me, full of fear and regret.
“You should have killed her after all.” the demon crooned, “Oh well.”
But the cops weren’t looking at me, they were looking at Father. “Is this everyone in the house?” one of them asked. When Father nodded, he gestured and the second officer went upstairs to double check. My adrenaline gave way to confusion. What was going on?
“Where is Angelo Conti?” the lead officer asked calmly. My brother’s name broke my stupor. Angelo. Angelo. Why were they asking for Angelo?
“Oh? What’s this? I guess they weren’t here for you after all.” The feigned surprise in the demon’s voice made my blood run cold. He knew something, but I couldn’t ask. Not right then. The morning after he’d alluded to the villainy of my own family, the police showed up. Shock froze my lips and leadened my tongue .
“Is Angelo okay?” my sister squeaked, recovering enough to run over to Father and grab his sleeve. “He went to his friend’s house last night!”
“We’re not sure yet.” the officer spoke softly, carefully; clearly mindful of her age. “We’ll need all of you to come down to the station to answer some questions and give a statement.”
“Even my girls?” Father asked. “I’m sure this is a misunderstanding. Angelo’s a good kid, he’s just at a difficult age.” no one was saying what Angelo did, but I could guess. I didn’t ask, afraid of being wrong and making things worse. Maybe it wasn’t that, maybe it was something minor like shoplifting.
I couldn’t even hear the officer’s answer. My ears rang with the demon’s uproarious laughter, drowning out the conversation with singsong I-told-you-sos and mock concern.
“What did I tell you, Sera? I’m not the villain here.”