“The demon that gripped me was pale,” Nutmeg the guinea pig began. “White from the neckdown, but his hands were a cold blue like ice. He enclosed me in a towel, so that I was unable to move. I tried my best to thrash free, but my legs were pressed tight to my body. I tried to shriek, I tried to bite, but I couldn’t reach him.”
Osa’s heart raced as she listened to the guinea pig recount the chilling experience.
“Then the demon withdrew my hindpaw and held it so it couldn’t move. I could only watch helplessly as he brought the clipper closer…”
“I heard a gut-wrenching crack and knew that the tip of my claw was gone.”
Osa flopped to the floor. She felt sick. She just couldn’t stomach this kind of violence.
Nutmeg had recently been taken away by the gods in the Box of Ascension.
Osa was deeply distressed by her disappearance and kept sniffing her cage and whimpering. She was struck by the terrible thought that she might have eaten Nutmeg accidentally and was riddled with guilt until the god Kimberly returned Nutmeg a few hours later.
Now, restored to the safety of her run, the guinea pig was recounting the events that transpired while she was away.
“Why did the gods place me in the presence of such a demon?” Nutmeg asked.
Tango the macaw leaned forward from his perch. “The demon you encountered was called Veterinarian,” Tango explained. “No one knows why the gods place us in his presence. Perhaps it is to test our courage. Perhaps it is to do penance for our sins. The gods are indeed mysterious.”
Osa had some experience with these kinds of demons. She encountered them once in a while during her time at Shelter. She didn’t like thinking about it.
“Veterinarian is indeed formidable,” Tango explained. “But he is not the worst of demons.”
Osa’s head shot up. She could not imagine a demon more formidable than Veterinarian.
“Do not speak of it!” Nutmeg squeaked before scurrying into her wooden house.
“Osa must know. She will encounter it sooner or later,” Tango explained.
Osa whimpered and licked her nose. She did not want to learn about this demon, but if she didn’t… she dreaded to think.
“The demon lives within this very house,” Tango began. “Mostly it sleeps, hidden away in the hall closet.”
Osa’s heart started pounding. She tried to resist the urge to eat a shoe.
“When it wakes it rawrs unceasingly, and ventures backwards and forwards across the carpet consuming everything in its path,” Tango continued.
“Oh please stop!” echoed Nutmeg’s voice from within her wooden house.
“It is the most evil of things!” came Ginger’s voice from the adjacent house.
“Why has this creature not consumed us?” Osa whimpered.
“Because when it emerges, one of the gods holds it by the tail,” Tango explained. “To limit its destruction.”
Osa tucked her own tail between her legs lest the creature come on her unawares and snatch it.
“But, but,” Osa whimpered. “What if it breaks free from the god holding it? Or, or, what if it wakes when the gods have ascended to Work?”
Tango’s head feathers started rising and his pupils shrank to the size of pinholes.
“When that happens, it will be the end of all things,” he proclaimed.
Osa howled and rolled over on her back. She was happy with gods Juan and Kimberly. She did not want the end of the world to come.
“Who says it has to be the end of all things?” Dutchess the cat purred. She rubbed against the doorway as she strolled into the room.
“Leave us, infidel!” Tango squawked. “You know nothing of gods!”
“Nooo,” Dutchess replied, “but the rug demon is real. I have seen it with my own eyes.” Her ears flattened against her head. “It’s loud and disturbing.”
Osa almost died of fright. What kind of awful being could disturb Dutchess?
“But I have a proposition,” she continued.
Ginger and Nutmeg stuck their noses out of their homes curiously. Tango cocked his head and regarded the cat with one suspicious eye.
“First I want to make one thing clear,” the cat said. “I don’t like any of you. You…” She looked at Osa. “…are a food thief.” She looked at Tango. “You are noisy.” Lastly she looked at the guinea pigs. “And you two are food that I am not allowed to eat. However, as much as I hate you all, I hate the rug demon more. Perhaps if we…” She grimaced. “Work together… we can destroy it once and for all.”
Tango’s feathers inflated until he was completely puffed up. He shook, flattening himself once again. “Are you suggesting we kill the rug demon? How is that possible?”
“We have her,” Dutchess said, looking at Osa. “When it comes to destroying things, she is exceptional.”
Osa was shaking all over.
“Yes!” Tango exclaimed, swinging toward her. “Of course! It’s the very reason the gods brought you here. You are the chosen one! The one who will deliver us from the rug demon.”
“No!” Osa protested. “I can not! I won’t!”
“You must!” Tango insisted. “Can’t you see? This is the very reason why you were born! Would you run from your own destiny?”
Osa lay down on the floor and covered her eyes with her paws.
“Save us! Save us!” Squeaked the guinea pigs scurrying from their houses.
Dutchess was a skeptic. Surely she didn’t believe all this about Osa being the chosen one.
“It isn’t true, is it?” Osa asked the cat.
“Oh yeah, it’s definitely true,” Dutchess confirmed. “If you don’t destroy the rug demon we’ll all get sucked into Hell or whatever.”
Osa rolled over sideways and lay as if dead.
“If it wakes unnoticed by the gods, it will destroy even them!” Tango proclaimed. “You don’t want that, do you?”
Now Osa felt a deep responsibility to defend the gods and had warned them about many other dangers since her arrival. There was Mailman, Meterman, and the little girl with the cookies. Who knows what those intruders might have done if Osa hadn’t alerted the gods of their approach?
But this rug demon… this was a truly evil thing. And it lived within their very home. It had to be destroyed. She stood up wide-eyed and trembling.
“Okay,” she whimpered.
“I will open the portal to its dwelling place,” Tango said. “You must rush in and drag it out. Then we will all fall upon it and rip it to pieces.”
Tango climbed down from his perch and used his beak to lift the latch of the guinea pig run. Nutmeg and Ginger waddled down the ramp, then all five animals proceeded together to the hall.
Osa saw the ominous door looming a short distance ahead. A few times she paused and considered dashing away to hide beneath the bed, but then she would think about the gods and the danger they were in.
“I am going to open the portal,” Tango warned. “Then you must take it unawares. Hesitate and there is no hope for any of us.”
Tango fluttered up to the door handle and landed on it so his weight turned it downward and the door creaked open.
Osa lunged. She flew through the coats and landed hard on the thing that could only be the rug demon. It fell over sideways so that the tail was lying outside the closet. Osa did not give it time to wake, she snatched the tail in her jaws and dragged it into the hallway.
Then Tango fell down upon it, ripping away its rubber lips and bristly teeth. The guinea pigs squeaked their encouragement as the dog and the parrot attacked. Dutchess looked on from a safe distance, her ears pressed flat against her head.
Osa ripped out the thing’s belly, sending a cloud of dust into the room. When it settled, the hall was covered in bits of rubber and plastic. The rug demon was dead.
Tango puffed up and began to bob his head back and forth. He flapped his wings victoriously. The guinea pigs squeaked triumphantly and Dutchess excused herself for a nap.
Osa could hardly believe it. She had faced the rug demon and been victorious. She had saved her friends and the food gods. Her tail pounded against the rug. Gods Juan and Kimberly would be home soon. They would see that the rug demon was dead. They would be so happy.
She was a good dog.