I closed the door behind me, my chest still felt heavy. The lump in my throat had barely subsided. I hadn’t walked two feet to the elevator when my shadows hit the wall. Something was wrong. I looked around the floor but didn’t see anything. As far as I knew, all the Titans were back in their kennels. Maybe I was just feeling extra sensitive after speaking with Clio and Eros. I pressed the button and waited for the elevator. Then I heard it, an undeniable flap of a wing. I spun around but saw nothing. What the fuck? The doors to the elevator opened, and I walked in, my shadows circling me, expecting anything. Nothing followed.
My head ached, and I was exhausted. Atë made her decision, and I was not going to be a part of her life.
The doors opened as I reached the fourteenth floor; I stepped out and into the reception area of The After Dark. The lights were off, but that never bothered me. It could be pitch black, and I’d be able to see a mile in front of me. A bonus of being the God of Darkness. My shadows circled me, agitated, a sign that I should be taking things more seriously, but in my current state, I couldn’t give two shits. Do your worst. My thoughts spoke to whatever was sneaking up behind me.
I walked slowly through the display room and to the back where my flat was, occasionally hearing a scratch of nails along the floor. My patience grew thin. Just fucking try it! I could tell by the light sounds it was making, whatever it was, that it did not have the strength to take me on. The fight would be over before it started. By the time I reached the doors to my private quarters, I’d had enough. Turning around, I reached out, grabbing what followed me, surprised by what my hand found. I threw the doors open to my flat, still holding the creature in my grip.
The sensors I installed when I moved in activated the lights. I could finally get a better look at the pathetic creature that tried to…to what? This thing couldn’t possibly think it was going to hurt me.
I cocked a brow as I inspected it. “And what do we have here?”
Tiny razor-like nails dug into my hand as the creature screeched and tried to bite for freedom. It was no larger than a domestic house cat, but where they had fur, this thing had what looked like grey, leather skin. Horns protruded from his head, forming sharp points. Wings, the size of his body flapped erratically as he tried to get away. He tried to use his back feet to claw me. My shadows threatened to close themselves tightly around him, but I whistled, calling them off. His little claws drew blood from where he scratched ferociously at me. The little imp was petrified.
“Just what were you trying to do?” I asked.
“Must…find…Goddess,” he squawked.
“Goddess?” I looked at him, confused. “Do I look like a goddess?” I questioned, half-snarling at the creature.
“Not you. Her.”
Still puzzled, I looked at the shaking imp in my hands. “Her?” And then it dawned on me. “Are you Atë’s imp?”
His tiny head nodded once. “You took master. Master gone.”
My chest tightened at the very thought of her. My hands immediately loosened their grip on the winged creature. This thing in front of me missed her too. “Yeah, sorry little guy. I can’t help you. She’s gone.” I sat down in my chair, looking up at him. His eyes looked sad. My guilt ripping into me, I put my head into my hands. “She’s not here.”
I expected him to flap his wings and leave, but he didn’t. Instead, he just sat and stared at me.
“No more master?”
I shook my head. The lump in my throat was as big as a golf ball. “No.”
A look crossed his face before his tiny wings spread, lifting himself in the air, circling over my head, then across the room. He landed on a dresser, tossing a picture frame at me while screeching, “You lie! Goddesses don’t die!”
Before he could throw anything else at me, I raised my hand. My shadows engulfing the imp, holding him gently. “No, she’s not dead.” I hadn’t reached out to my shadows in her cell in a while, but if I could let the imp see where Atë was, maybe he would understand. I closed my eyes, calling on the shadows that encased her. I didn’t dare look for myself. I couldn’t bear to see her after everything that happened tonight.
His little wings dropped, along with his head, for a second before perking back up like it had an idea.
“We get her. You go. I hide. You, Shadowman, can crush buildings.”
I smirked at the little winged creature. “Sorry little guy, it doesn’t work like that.”
His head dropped once more. “But no Atë, no master. I die.”
“What?” I didn’t understand.
“No more adelfós, no master. We—” he paused, pointing to himself, “die. Meaner stronger creatures eat us.”
“Well, we can’t have that.” I rubbed the back of my neck. I sat and pondered for a minute. My head thinking one thing, and my heart saying another. “You can stay here with me.” It wasn’t much of an offer, but it was the least I could do for Atë’s imp. I did, after all, take away his master.
He tilted his horned head to the side before bouncing on his clawed feet. “New master! New master!”
“Yeah, yeah…settle down.”
He screeched as he shot up, flying around the room. He landed on another dresser, picking up a golden watch, and starting to chew on it. He grimaced before spitting it out and looking for something else.
“Whoa—whoa!” I jumped up from my seat, crossing the room and taking my gold watch, placing it inside the dresser. “If you’re staying with me, there are some ground rules. First, and most important rule,” I glared into the tiny imp’s eyes. “DO NOT TOUCH MY THINGS!”
The imp nodded before slowly removing a half-chewed ring from its mouth. He held it outwards with an overly-toothy smile as if to apologize.
“Hungry. Followed Shadowman for days. Hungry.”
I laughed to myself. “Alright, alright.” I walked towards the kitchen. “What do you eat? Jewelry is not part of the four food groups.”
The sound of wings filled the air as he flew past me. Landing on the counter closest to the fridge, he dug his claws in to stop himself while he peered over. His tiny eyes lit up, waiting to see what I would pull out. I opened the door and a sad realization stared us in the face. I hadn’t been home in a while, and it was empty. A few condiments and a lemon were all that occupied the shelves.
“Looks like I’ll have to go shopping, little buddy.”
It occurred to me that the imp said he had been following me around for days, and yet my shadows hadn’t detected him. I must have been super distracted with all that was going on. I closed the door to the fridge. “Well, we can order some takeout.” I turned to the imp, but he was no longer on the counter. Spinning around, I searched the kitchen for him. “Hey, where did you go?”
There was a screech from the living room. The imp was perched on the TV with a weird look on his face. The lemon that had been in the fridge moments before, now lay on the floor in front of him with a bite taken out of it. I let out a laugh, picking up the now-wasted lemon. “Not a fan, clearly.” I looked at the clock on the mantle. It was after three o’clock in the morning. A fleeting thought crossed my mind. “Are you sure it’s okay for you to eat after midnight? I don’t need you getting any bigger.” I looked around the small flat. “I don’t think this place can handle it.”
He shook his head, a look of bewilderment crossing its face. “I get no bigger.”
I nodded. “That’s good to know.” I pulled out my cell phone and called up a nearby restaurant, it usually catered to the late night club crowds. “Errr…” I looked at the imp. “What do you like to eat?”
The toothy grin appeared once more. “Wiggly things.”
A shiver drove through me as I mouthed wiggly things. My face turned green. “How about dead things? Meat? Do you know what meat is?”
His eyes darted side to side, still holding the grin. “Yes. Like rats?”
My jaw dropped, my face paled. “No—that’s not quite what I had in mind. But is that what you want? I can get you better food. I mean, if you’re staying here with me now, there’s no need to eat like a vagrant.”
I cringed at the name, Master. Waving my hand in the air at him. “You’re going to have to stop calling me Master. E will do just fine.”
His head dropped once more. “She no like that either,” he said before shooting across the room flapping his wings.
I finished placing an order for some souvlaki and gyros. “No more rats, okay?” I looked at the winged creature. “You only eat good food from now on.”
He landed on a nearby table. “Yes, Mas—E.”
“Okay.” I nodded, feeling a little better. It had been a long time since I had a pet. Over the years, I had several mortal pets, but nothing like this imp. We settled into the living room of my flat. I knew nothing about imps or how to take care of one. Where did it sleep? Did it hang upside down like a bat? Or did it like to nestle? I looked across at its wings and pointy claws. I am not cuddling with it. I draw the line there. “Where do you sleep?”
He continued to explore the area, flying to a nearby couch and running under a blanket. He stuck his horned head out, responding, “Here. There. Anywhere.”
“Alright, in the morning, we will get you a proper—bed. I don’t need you flying about the flat in the middle of the night and breaking things. That reminds me, the second rule: You must stay in the flat. I can’t have you flying about in The After Dark, scaring away customers. Mortals don’t take too kindly to flying, mythical creatures.”
He bobbed his little head up and down. “Yes, yes.”
The doorbell rang, and I walked over and opened the door to the flat. My new winged friend followed me but kept out of sight from the delivery man. The aroma from the bag of food drifted through the flat. My stomach growled. I hadn’t realized just how hungry I was. Putting the bag down on the counter in the kitchen, I licked my lips and looked at the winged imp. He had started to salivate.
“Alright, alright, no drooling. You’re not a dog,” I snapped. I plated the food quickly and shoved it over to him before he could make an even bigger mess. “Dig in.”
He flew next to the plate and immediately dug in. He stuffed his mouth so full of food that half was falling out. It was the first time since he had been here that he was quiet. Grabbing some for myself, I continued to watch him eat. It only just occurred to me that I didn’t even know its name. I had been assuming it was a he, but maybe I was wrong.
“So, what do you go by?” I bit into my gyro.
He curled up next to his plate, grabbing more food with his tail and stopped midway. “I am Imp.”
“Yes, but what do you call yourself?”
He didn’t answer, just stared, before slowly putting more food into his mouth. “Imp. I am Imp.”
I rolled my eyes. “Yes, yes. Imp. But don’t you have a name? Didn’t…didn’t…” I had trouble saying her name. “What did Atë call you?”
He stopped eating at the mention of her name. “I am Imp.”
I shook my head. “Okay, this won’t do. You need a name.”
“Yes. Yes. Master give me name.”
“How about, Zebubax?”
He tilted his head before shaking it, shoving more food in his mouth.
He didn’t look at me when I named those two. He just kept eating and licking food from his hands and tail.
“I know! Ezra…or maybe Tywin.” I snorted, my comment was completely lost on the winged creature. Clearly, he was not into pop culture. “What if I call you Ebhot?”
He was midway through licking his plate clean when he stopped lowering it to peer at me. “What Master says, Imp does.”
“Okay, then, no more “Imp”. Your new name is Ebhot. If I say that name, it means I’m talking to you.” I stared at the imp, making sure he understood. “You are Ebhot now. Got it?”
He nodded twice before wiping his face with a clawed hand. “Yes, yes. Me sleep now.” His wings outstretched as he flew around the living room for a second then darted through the open door leading into the bedroom.
“Hey! Hey, now! You get back here, Ebhot! That’s my room. You are not sleeping with me. I don’t know what kind of cozy arrangement you had with your last master, but you can sleep on the couch until I get you a proper bed.”
“Oh, shiny,” I heard him call out.
“Stay away from my watches!” I stormed into the bedroom. “Get out of here.” I swatted at Ebhot.
He squawked as he dodged my attempt, dropping another watch before flying out of the bedroom, heading to the couch. He landed, running underneath the blanket from earlier. I watched as his small shape made a couple of movements, then stopped as he nestled down. I hadn’t noticed it at first, but the more I was distracted by Ebhot’s presence, the more the pain in my chest subsided. The heartache would always be there, but having Ebhot here was like having a little piece of her here with me. Something of hers I could keep and call my own.