Jodi looked up from their book. All around them, children laughed, chattered and screamed. The boy towering over them, hands on hips in a threatening manner, repeated his question.
“I said, what are you reading, freak?”
“A book,” Jodi said, simply.
“I know it’s a book, FREAK, what’s it about?”
Jodi shielded their eyes. The boy was standing with the bright midday sun behind him. All detail was lost to shadow. Their eyes sought his anyway.
“LOVE!” the boy bellowed. “What do you know about it, FREAK?!!”
The other children had begun to take notice and wander over to see what was going on. Jodi stared at the shadow, then slowly cocked their head to the side, as though listening to something.
“Gimme that book, FREAK!” the boy said loudly, playing to his crowd. He stepped forward, reaching for the book.
Jodi locked eyes with the boy.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you, Hubert,” they said quietly.
The boy flinched back. “Who told you that? My name’s Butch!”
“I know all about you, Hubert. I know that your uncle has been playing doctor with you and that you like it. But you’re embarrassed, because you know you shouldn’t. That’s why you’re so mean.”
The boy stared at them wide-eyed, his face flushed. “You take that back!”
“And that your mom is addicted to pills and your dad hits her,” Jodi continued. “He hits her a lot. And sometimes he hits you, too. And the only thing that saves you is your uncle, who wants you for himself.”
The boy looked around, frightened. The other children stared at him, whispering amongst themselves. Tears tumbled from his eyes.
“You’re a liar!” he screamed. “You don’t know anything!”
Jodi smiled. “It’s okay, Hubert,” they said pleasantly. “It doesn’t make you a freak. Just an asshole.”
The boy sputtered. “I hate you!” He looked around wildly, pointing an accusing finger at Jodi. “She’s a freak! Don’t listen to her! She’s a liar and a… a… FREAK!”
Tears streaming down his face, the boy turned and pushed his way through the crowd of giggling children.
Losing interest almost immediately, Jodi went back to reading their book. The children, robbed of spectacle, slowly dispersed.
“You’re welcome,” the demon spirit sitting next to them said peevishly, with a voice that could shrivel souls and lay waste to the faithful.
Jodi smiled, but continued studying the rare diabolical grimoire they had found in the library only that morning. There were big changes taking place in Jodi’s world, and there were still sixteen chapters left to go.