“I swear to you, this baby is a monster,” Sansavi said as she pushed the pram back and forth across the black bridge of Zairahm. Normally the motion calmed the baby, but this time it didn’t work. The baby just kept on crying, wailing like a doomed soul in the ninth circle of Hell.
Sansavi’s hapless husband Bealmoch shrugged. “Well, you know what humans are like, dear. There’s a reason we call them crybabies. ’Cause with humans, it’s always wah-wah-wah.” Bealmoch made a face imitating a crying human. “Even when they’re adults.”
“This one must be defective.” Sansavi bobbed the pram up and down, hoping this would stop the baby’s crying. It didn’t. “Nothing living, dead or undead can possibly cry this much.”
Bealmoch shot her an exasperated look. “It seems this one can. You did remember to feed it, didn’t you, dear?”
“Of course,” Sansavi snapped. “What do you take me for? I even fed it with that horrid human baby formula. Do you have any idea how awful that stuff tastes? If I had to drink that all day long, I’d cry, too.”
She stopped bobbing the pram up and down and began pushing it across the bridge again, back and forth, back and forth.
“What’s wrong with raw meat and fresh blood anyway?” she wanted to know. “Raw meat and fresh blood were good enough for you and me when we were babies, so why does this one have to eat pricey and disgusting baby formula?”
“Because…” Bealmoch scratched his head right between his horns, as if he didn’t quite know the answer himself. He looked down at the screaming bundle inside the pram. “Well, it doesn’t have any teeth.”
“Like I said, it’s defective.”
“I think it’s normal for human babies to be born without teeth.” Bealmoch shrugged helplessly. “At least, as far as I know.”
“Just look at it,” Sansavi demanded. “It’s hideous. So pink and soft and pudgy. It doesn’t have wings or claws or horns or a tail. It doesn’t even have teeth.”
Bealmoch peered into the pram again. He had to admit that Sansavi had a point. The baby was ugly, but then human babies usually were.
“At least all that crying seems to have improved its complexion,” he said, well aware how unconvincing it sounded. “Its face is almost red now, no longer quite so pink.”
“It’s still ugly,” Sansavi insisted. “Now our son, he was perfect. He had healthy red skin and a mouth full of teeth. He had wings and little horns and even those cute little claws.”
Bealmoch smiled a longing smile. “Yes, our son was perfect. But not all parents can be that lucky.”
“This one, on the other hand…” Sansavi started to bob the pram up and down again, while pushing it back and forth across the bridge. “It’s ugly, it cries all the time, and it poops all the time. Sometimes it poops and cries at the same time.” She brought the pram with the wailing baby to an abrupt halt and turned to Bealmoch. “Tell me again why we exchanged our son, our beautiful perfect son, for this… this thing.”
Bealmoch had been asking himself that very same question. “Because it’s tradition, dear. We take our babies to the human world and switch them with human babies.”
“But why? Why do we do that? ’Cause it makes no sense, no bloody sense at all. The humans don’t even appreciate our beautiful babies. They treat them horribly.”
“To build a beachhead for our takeover of the human world,” Bealmoch said, parroting what he’d been told as a young one. “Our children will pave the way for the hordes of Hell to invade.”
“And why do we want to take over the human world again?” Sansavi asked. She began to push the pram back and forth across the bridge again.
It was, Bealmoch reflected, a very good question. “Uhm, because it’s there. Because we’re the hordes of Hell and invading places is what we do.”
“Have you ever looked at the human world?” Sansavi demanded. “It’s awful there. It’s a place full of Barbie dolls and reality TV and boy bands and flowers and My Little Ponies and The Great British Bake Off, a hideous pink place for hideous pink creatures.”
“They’re not all pink,” Bealmoch pointed out. “Xaerdor and Murceoran nabbed a brown one. And besides, the human world isn’t all bad. They’ve got tacos and chili and disposable nappies.”
Well, given the sheer amount of poo human babies produced, they certainly needed them.
Sansavi brought the carriage with the squealing baby to an abrupt halt in the middle of the bridge.
“I don’t want it,” she declared. “I don’t want this… this thing.”
Bealmoch shot her a troubled look. “But darling…”
“I don’t want it,” Sansavi repeated. “I want my son, my beautiful, perfect son.”
“You know that’s not possible…” Bealmoch began.
“Like Hell it is.” Sansavi picked up the wailing human baby from the pram and thrust it at Bealmoch.
“Here. Take this thing back to its parents and bring our son, our beautiful son, back.”
“But, darling, what will the Princes of Hell say?”
“I don’t care what they say,” Sansavi said. “If they want to invade the human world, then let them send their babies out there to live among those horrible pink humans in that horribly pink world. But not my son. Now take it away.”
Bealmoch looked down at the squealing human baby in his arms. It was indeed, he thought, a singularly ugly thing. And judging by the smell, it had pooped yet again.
He smiled a broad, toothy smile as he pressed the squirming human baby to his chest. He would be so happy to have his son back, his beautiful baby boy.
— Cora Buhlert
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