Cynthia J. McGean
Excerpt from Daemiel Watches
a short story
by Cynthia J. McGean 
Writer’s Digest, Kay Snow

    High on a cliff, a man and a woman stand beneath a lone tree, its center sliced with an ancient, charred wound.  In her arms, the woman cradles a small blob with red hair.  The clouds roar.  A distant flash of light shoots across the sky.  “How will this put things right?” she asks the man.
    “It will quiet the gods,” he says.  “Just leave it!”
    The bundle in the woman’s arms screeches.  “Hush,” she whispers, frantically bouncing the little shape. "You'll make them angry."
    Wind shreds the outlying bushes.  Fat raindrops explode around them.  The man snatches the bundle.  “There’s no more time,” he exclaims.  He scales the tree and deposits the wailing blob in the crevice of the tree trunk.  Lightning whips across the abyss of sky.  The man slides out of the tree, grabs the sobbing woman by the arm and pulls her with him back down the cliff.
    Crouched in the nearby briers, drawn by the smell of the coming storm, Daemiel the monster watches it all.  In the bushes behind him swarm the demons, piranhas of the air, quick and light, with hummingbird wings and razor-edge teeth.  Like him, they have been waiting to snatch the prize the humans would bring.  
    Daemiel’s breath quickens.  When the storm is over, the air demons will swoop down on the child in a feeding frenzy, but if he strikes now, the prize is his.  He rises up out of the briers and oozes his way into the open, his thick, sinewy arms hanging to the ground, his skin glistening like algae on a stagnant lagoon.  Great sheets of water pour across his lumpy head and down his scar-rutted back.  Above him the clouds roar again.  The sky flashes white.  Daemiel flinches, but no blazing knives strike him.  A giggle sloshes at the back of his throat.  Let the sky gods growl and spatter!  What does it matter, since they have no claws?  
    He lumbers across the open space from the briers to the tree.  The nearness of his goal makes him shiver.  His mouth waters.  With a powerful burst of muscle, he wraps his fists around the branches of the tree and swings himself up into its lap.  He snatches the child in his rubbery arms, leaps down from the tree and lopes away to his cave.  Small, shrill screams echo across the gorge and into the waning storm.
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