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Brimstone and Marmalade by Aaron Corwin

This story is available online for free at: Tor.com Publishing. Click through to read!


Welcome to Short Fiction Friday! Every Friday, Black Forest Basilisks will be shining a spotlight on a new short story, novelette, or novella in addition to our regular posts. These stories will usually be available for free online, but occasionally stories from published anthologies will also be featured. 

Mathilde didn’t want a demon. She wanted a pony.

Peter Voorhees brought his demon to school once. It was scaly and slobbery, not sleek and pretty like a pony. It got loose in the classroom and tried to eat Mathilde’s hair.

How could anyone think that a demon was better than a pony?

Brimstone and Marmalade is one of those stories that I simply have to pull out of the woodworks every year around Halloween. Most Halloween themed stories are spooky, filled with horror and fright. Aaron Corwin, however, bucks the trend with this adorable little short story about a girl and her demon. 

The writing is concise without missing a beat, focused like a laser on the most important aspects of the story. Everything extraneous is cut out, yet what is left gives the reader a full view of Mathilde, her Nana, her parents, and, of course, Ix’Thor the miniature dark lord. It hits that sweet spot that many short stories aspire to, communicating emotion, situation, and characters with the utmost care and attention. 

Mathilde is just a little girl, still in grade school… and dreaming of a pony. She desperately, desperately wants a pony. Her parents, however, are not so hot to the pony idea. Ponies are expensive and require lots of care – they’re certain Mathilde is in love with the idea of a pony moreso than the actuality of having a pony. 

When her Nana shows up one day to pick her up from school, she’s absolutely convinced that she’ll be getting the pony of her dreams. Much to her dismay, however, Nana drives not to a big, beautiful stable full of glorious ponies… but rather to the demon store. 

I AM IX’THOR, MASTER OF THE VENOMOUS PITS OF KARTHOOM! The creature raised his arms over his head. He had a voice like the truck that picked up their garbage in the morning, only smaller. BOW BEFORE YOUR MASTER, SMALL ONE!

“How about that!” The old man raised his fuzzy white eyebrows. “He told you his name first thing! He must really like you.”

The poor girl is horrified. Demons are gross, and slimy, and all kinds of icky. It’s terrible! This is the opposite of what she wanted! Nana, however, intimates a small secret: if Mathilde can be responsible and show she can take care of a demon, her parents are willing to consider a pony.

Mathilde, despite her hesitance, naturally becomes quite attached to little Ix’Thor. As she matures and grows with the responsibility of caring for her new pet, she learns about love, affection, and just how much a pet can come to mean. Often, Brimstone and Marmalade is shockingly funny – despite already being familiar with it, I laugh aloud nearly every time I read it. It’s just so gosh darn cute with so much heart and soul written into it. 

Aaron Corwin has done a fantastic job of blending humor and heart together in this wonderful little short story. It will always be one of my favorites, and I hope that you enjoy it half as much as I did!

Have you read this story? What did you think? Do you have any questions about it?

Let me know in the comments below!