Eric slumped in the wingback chair. He traced a taloned forefinger across the bony ridges of his brow, and glared balefully at the heavy black envelope on the occasional table opposite him.
It was embossed with his name, Eric von Dragnok, and below that in red script: Term 3 Report. In the top left corner was his school’s logo – a goat-headed demon goring an alligator, and the words ‘Show No Mercy’. The ratty tuft on the end of Eric’s tail twitched.
The envelope seemed to cast a menacing shadow over the whole room. Sighing, he reached down and fumbled around the base of his mother’s antique lamp for the switch.
The room blinked into darkness. It was better with the light off. The envelope still sucked all the energy out of the small space but at least now he couldn’t see it.
The light crackled back to life. The envelope containing his 10th grade report squatted like a toad on the polished mahogany table.
At the end of every school term when his report card arrived from the Gorgon Park Private College, his father’s impatience and irritability soared, and life at home became unbearable. He knew what this report would say before he opened it.
‘Eric must try harder.’
‘Eric does not participate in class.’
‘Eric shows no interest in demonic concepts.’
He took a deep breath. His father was going to lose his hair when he saw that Eric had failed (FAILED!) the Theoretical Mindbending elective that he, himself had designed and implemented as head of the Education Department’s ‘Innovation Taskforce’. There was nothing worse than having a teacher for a father.
He was about to turn the light off again when his mother came in with a plate of fresh cookies and steaming mug of tea. She beamed her brightest smile at him, her razor teeth gleaming gold in the lamplight.
“It won’t be so bad, Eric honey.” She handed him the tea and rested the plate of cookies on his knee. They were strawberry severed heads, his favourite. “Mind you don’t spill on the chair. That corduroy is a devil to clean.”
She was halfway out the door when she hesitated and turned to him.
“We all know you hate school. Maybe you should tell your Dad what you really want to do.”
“Seriously? He’d roast me alive.”
“Yes initially, but I think after that he’d be supportive if you had a real plan.”
Later that night after the roaring and fire spitting was over, and Eric’s mother had doused the burning tassels on her antique lampshade, they sat around the kitchen table to discuss Eric’s future.
“I don’t want to do my VCE Dad, want to go to TAFE.”
Eric’s father held his head in his hands.
“That’s a big decision, Eric. Not something to decide on the spur of the moment. I think…”
“I’ve been considering it for a while Dad.” interrupted Eric, “It’s what I want. Terrifying and Fiendish is what I’m good at and that’s what TAFE is all about. The practical stuff. I hate writing essays about theories and ideas. I want to get out there and torture, not sit around talking about it.”
“Do you have a plan Eric?” Asked his mother.
“Yes, I’ve looked at the courses they offer and there’s a great program in beheading that I’d love to do. After that, dismemberment and disemboweling in my second semester will get me a school leavers certificate. Then I can apply for an apprenticeship with the Nefarious Satanists. I’ll get a job in security while I prepare for the Practical Law Enforcement exam, and eventually become a cop. It’s what I’ve always wanted.”
“Well, it sounds like you have thought a lot about it. It’s not the career I imagined for you, but it’s good enough plan. The Police Fiends is a dangerous profession though Eric, are you sure you’re up for it? A lot of demons will want to scorch you just for wearing the badge.”
Eric fingered the singed bristles where his eyebrows had been. He rubbed his forehead and examined the soot on his fingers.
“I think I’ll cope just fine with that part, Dad.”