The moonshine burned the old man’s throat. He screwed his face into a tight grimace and shivered, the fire heading for his belly. Beside him, the Lidérc’s tiny face did the same.
‘Another?’ The bartender asked. Both nodded in unison.
He filled the man’s glass and poured a drop into the demon’s silver thimble.
The pair threw back the drinks without as much as a glance between them.
‘What’s with the long faces?’
‘I’m sick of him,’ the old man growled. His voice echoing around the glass at his lips. ‘He never stops talking. All hours of the night, he’s constantly asking me.’ The man’s changes to mimic the Lidérc’s high pitch. ‘”What shall I do now, Boss? What shall I do now, Boss?” He’s driving me insane.’
‘I’m driving you insane?’ the blue-skinned demon was on the bar, knocking over both his and the old man’s drinks. ‘I didn’t ask for this gig, y’know? I was perfectly happy downstairs in the warmth, but you had to summon me. I hate it here. It only stops snowing so the wind can have a go at freezing your balls, and don’t even get me started on the fog. The least you can do is give me work.’ And with that the Lidérc plucked a peanut from a nearby bowl and hurled at the old man.
He burst from his seat, swiping at the nimble creature.
The barman intervened. A firm hand on one would-be-combatant’s shoulder, an up-turned glass over the other’s head.
‘Calm down,’ he chided. ‘Don’t make me throw you out.’
The tiny fists stopped pounding on the glass. The old man sagged back into the stool.
‘If you hate each other, why don’t you go your separate ways?
The Lidérc and the old man stared at each other for a moment and burst out laughing. A roaring belly laugh. The demon rolled around on the bar beneath the glass.
‘If I could do that,’ the old man wiped away a tear, ‘I’d have gotten rid of him years ago and if I’d known how much of a pain he would be, I’d never have hatched him…no matter how much money he brought me.’
‘Hatched?’ The bartender said and, after a pause, added: ‘…money?’
‘He’s a magnet for gold,’ the old man gestured at the hysterical Lidérc. ‘That’s the reason I summoned him. We were going to lose the farm. I was desperate. One day, I remembered a story my old nagyi used to tell me. I found an egg laid by a black hen and the rest is history.’
‘An egg? Really?’
‘I wouldn’t if I were you. Once they’re here, you can’t get rid of them. They’re like cockroaches.’
‘Cockroaches? That’s gratitude for you.’ The demon turned to the bartender. ‘The least you people can do is think of something interesting for us to do.’
‘If you really want something to do,’ the old man snapped. ‘Why don’t you piss off and plait the fog?’
L is for Lidérc
A Lidérc is a supernatural creature unique to Hungarian folklore. It is hatched from the egg of a black hen incubated under a human’s armpit. A person who owns a Lidérc suddenly becomes rich and can use the demon to perform any task imaginable. The Lidérc is in constant demand for work and can become bothersome to those it serves sometimes driving them to madness with its demands. The only way to rid yourself of a Lidérc is to give a task which is impossible to complete.