Milo stormed into his father’s study, his eyes angry under his mop of red hair. His father put down his pipe in a hollowed out skull, leaning back in his tan, human-skin chair.
“What’s the matter, Milo? Your shenanigans with the local hoodlums go sour today?”
“Dad, I asked you for a dog! This isn’t a dog!”
The creature writhed into the room behind him, whispering its past names over and over again while leaving a trail of blood as it slithered across the carpet. Faces pushed up against the shuddering flesh as it moved, crying out in silent agony as they lived through their deaths, over and over again.
Dad leaned back in his chair, looking at the boy. The creature moved up to the desk, sniffing at it before biting its own arm off and devouring it.
“A dog is a lot of responsibility for a boy your age. You have to feed and walk him, as well as make sure he’s happy and healthy. I took a lot of that out of the equation by giving you a self-feeding pet.”
“It’s gross, dad!”
“Does Billy think so?” He scratched the creature behind the closest knob of skin that might have been an ear.
Milo huffed. “It tore Billy’s skin off and stole his mother’s fresh-baked pies!”
Dad laughed. “I bet you got an earful for that. That’s woman’s prize-winning pies are always the toast of the church baking contest. Your mother will probably be happy to see the smug look wiped off her face, though. Maybe now her gingerbread cookies will take top spot.”
“Mom’s just a bunch of stolen body parts you put together in a magic pot! She’s not my real mother!”
Dad’s face turned stern. “Son, don’t you talk like that. It was the Cauldron of Woe, not some magical pot. If you don’t get it right, you’ll never pass second grade.”
Milo kicked at the carpet. “Aw shucks, dad. I hate school. All they want to talk about is reanimation and dead bodies and murder and stuff. I wanna learn mathematics.”
Dad shifted across the floor in an instant, his finger an inch from Milo’s face. “I won’t have another deadbeat mathematician in this family, do you hear me?” He shook his head, backing off while running a hand through his graying hair. “Next you’ll tell me you want to be a travelling doctor, offering aid to the helpless and needy.”
Milo looked back at his pet, sighing. “Yes, dad.”
Dad looked at his son for a few more moments before sighing himself. “You really don’t like the Devouring Ooze?”
“No. It’s constant lamenting scares away all of the trout when we’re fishing, and it sacrifices my friends to dark Gods whenever I’m not looking!”
Dad waved his hand at the wall across from them, ripping a hole in space that began to spew out fire. A quiet wailing filled the room as the gate yawned open further, revealing a reptilian face covered in horns. When it opened its three mouths, the screaming grew louder, changing in pitch and tone, the sound almost melodic in its terror.
Dad walked up to the gate. “Yes, I’m enquiring about a return actually. I have an ooze here that just isn’t working out with my son.”
The creature loosed another shriek, this one a roar that shook the whole house, knocking necromantic tomes of the walls. Dad shook his head.
“Look, I don’t care what your policy is. I paid you with ten perfectly good souls, and I’m not closing this gate until I have them back. My son is upset because your ooze has been making a nuisance of himself around the neighborhood. I knew he was going to eat a few of his friends, but this pie-stealing business is just ridiculous. You told me it only ate human flesh.”
The screams came out of the beast’s mouth in a subtle harmony, Dad nodding.
“Well, when will your supervisor be in? I want this dealt with right now.”
Dad tapped at his chin, taking up his pipe again and drawing in another deep breath filled with human ashes. He turned to Milo, and noticed that he’d been slightly killed by the Devouring Ooze.
He turned back to the gate, rolling his eyes. “Never mind.”