I always liked the idea of popping via fuse; I'm frustrated that he bothered to come up with a story using it before I did.
Cal hadn't intended for his life to wind up like this. He chuckled to himself as he scrubbed the oil from his calloused hands. "Whose life winds up as intended?" he thought to himself. But his had taken a decided turn for the worse several years ago, and firmly stayed there. Marcus had challenged him to a duel, and he'd lost. Caligula Torvath the Third, the greatest of the Torvath line of wizards, had lost. Had Marcus been a more noble wizard, he would have killed Cal outright and that would have been the end of it. But he'd done something far worse.
Cal had set up the station to get away. It was a form of self-exile. He lived out in the middle of the desert, fifty miles from anything else man made. He had a few pumps, a repair garage, a little convenience store, even a tow truck out back. He lived above the store. Occasionally people came by, gassed up, stopped in to get things fixed, but mostly he was left to himself. Here he could be alone in his shame. With his magic he could conjure everything he needed, so he never left. But Marcus had found him here to extract his due. While it was the perfect place for Cal to disappear into his self-loathing, it was also an ideal location for wizards to battle to the death away from prying eyes. Marcus visited almost monthly now. He had stopped by again a few hours ago and dropped off Amanda along with a few parting taunts and left for another duel.
Satisfied that his hands were as clean as he cared, Cal splashed water on his face and stared at himself in the grimy mirror. A few years ago he'd been soft. But he used very little magic out here these days, just what he needed to stay isolated. Now he was lean, muscular from labor and unkempt for not caring. He ran his hand along the dark stubble the covered his face. "Where the hell did you go wrong?" A loud sharp rumble, like nearby thunder, caught his attention and drew his gaze to the bathroom window. The light outside was fading, but off in the distance he could see a rising dust cloud.
"Did you hear that?" Amanda demanded as Cal exited the bathroom. Cigarette in hand, she sat waiting in the store. She smoked when she was nervous. Cal stared at her. He normally wouldn't be able to admit to himself that a woman he found so despicable he also found so attractive. But Amanda's beauty was partly Cal's doing. It wasn't that Amanda hadn't been beautiful before Cal or Marcus had ever met her. She had been. Her slim, firmly toned body was the result of years of regular gym sessions; her smooth, flawless, golden brown skin was earned through relentless sunning and obsessive moisturizing; her long, flowing black hair was a gift from nature.
"Of course I heard it," he replied, flatly. He had little patience for Amanda, no more than was required of him. She'd always been too slender for Marcus' tastes, and her own as well. That was where Cal had come in, and it was the other reason he'd Bound Cal instead of killing him. Marcus was a summoner, at least he had been when he started out. He specialized in using magic to force people and creatures to do his bidding. Cal was a pneumaticist. His specialty was the control of pressurized gases and liquids in enclosed spaces. It was an ancient magic specialty that was generally looked down upon as the trade of jesters and charlatans until Caligula Torvath brought his first duel to an explosively victorious conclusion to settle an insult delivered by a wizard who had claimed just that sixty years ago. Cal's grandfather had advanced the art by leaps and bounds, as had Cal's father. Pneumaticism had been thought of as a joke for so many centuries, little work had been put into studying ways to counter it. By the time Cal picked up his first amulet, he was already well on his way to towards accomplishing amazing things. That was all derailed when Marcus defeated him and forced him to, among other things, "enhance" his then-fiancee. So while much of Amanda's beauty was natural or earned, the voluptous hips that filled out her leather skirt and the plump bosom that strained the buttons of her blouse were Cal's doing.
"So, do you think that's good news?" she asked anxiously.
"That depends on who you ask," he replied.
Amanda set her lips in a stern pout and exhaled a sigh that was half growl. "Cal, I understand that you despise my husband, but I'll thank you not to wish for his death in my presence."
"Well, that boom probably means a wizard just died out there," Cal grumbled. "If it had been Marcus, then I'd be free right now and you'd be in a whole heap o' trouble. So I'm guessing your hubby just won another duel. But we won't know for certain until he calls. If he calls. It's possible that was just another shot fired in the battle that didn't actually settle it."
"Ok," she said, nodding nervously, and took another puff from her cig. She ignored his flimsily veiled threat, as she always did. Cal was Bound to her husband by his curse. As long as Marcus lived, Cal couldn't do anything to hurt her.
Several minutes later, the phone next to the register rang. "It's him. He's won."
Amanda looked up. "How do you know?"
"I know." He picked up the phone. "Congratulations, Marcus."
"Come on Cal, we both know you don't really mean that." Cal could tell that Marcus was smiling as he spoke. He was driving; Cal could hear the passing wind in the background.
Amanda's face lit up as she heard the voice responding through the phone. "Yay!" Amanda clapped her hands together and hopped merrily in place, her long black hair flying about, her full bosom just barely staying within the confines of her blouse. She bounced well.
"Did the duel go well?"
"Better than expected. Most wizards are quite humiliated at being turned into living blimps, but Jenella took it quite well. Actually, towards the end she almost seemed amused by it."
"So the Belly Demon did her job?"
"Flawlessly. Listen Cal, Amanda and I will want to celebrate once I get back to the station."
"The room's ready," Cal said, trying to keep from gritting his teeth. It was just another humiliation. Marcus and Amanda would retire to his room, to his bed, and rejoice at Marcus' latest victory. Cal would spend most of the night working, doing loud things to drown out the noise until he eventually went to sleep in his tow truck. "You want me to put some beer up there for you?"
"No thanks, Cal, I've brought wine for the occasion. Oh, and could you have her pumped up to celebration size by the time I get there?"
"Great Cal, you're beautiful. Caio."
Amanda spoke up as soon as Cal set the phone down. "So? Is he coming?" She was wide-eyed with excitement.
"Of course he is. And he wants me to get you to 'celebration size' by the time he's here. I'll get you some of the pills." Cal took his keys from his pocket and went to the cash register behind the counter. He kept a stash of his special pills around just for this purpose.
Amanda smiled and twirled a lock of her hair around her finger. "Hey Cal, let's skip the pills. Why don't you just use the pump on me?"
She loved doing this. As soon as she'd started speaking, Cal had known what she was up to by her tone. The pump she was talking about was the enchanted industrial grade air compressor he kept in the workshop to power his pneumatic tools. He preferred pneumatic tools over electric for obvious reasons. At it's lowest setting it would be quite effective at inflating Amanda to the desired size. At maximum power the compressor could deliver an incredible volume of air at over 150 psi. And if he ever got Amanda on the business end of that compressor, he knew just what he'd do. He'd set it to helium and--
The pain felt like a hot needle being inserted into the base of his skull. It always started like this.
He gripped the edge of the counter and tried to think of something else, anything else besides the sight of Amanda's lithe body billowing outward under a torrent of compressed gas--
The needle in his spine, grew hotter, grew thicker, and grew barbs. He began to shake...pink Volkswagons, puppies with butterfly wings, the Golden Gate Bridge in a hazelnut fog... but his mind returned to visions of Amanda bursting from her designer clothes and blowing up into a huge ball before gently lifting up into the sky--
As the pain became blinding, Cal lost his grip on the counter and collapsed. The sharp crack of his head hitting the floor finally cleared his mind of any forbidden thoughts. As the haze before his eyes parted, the sound of Amanda's laughter could finally make its way to his ears.
"On second thought," she giggled, "maybe we should just stick with the pills. They always seem to work just fine."
Cal gasped in relief as the pain vanished. "You bitch," he spat, still panting. The Binding forbade him from doing many things. He couldn't cast any spells whatsoever on Marcus or Amanda, and he couldn't use more mundane methods to harm them either. Even plotting to do so would trigger the excruciating pain. And that's what Amanda toyed with. He could think of all sorts of evil ways of dispatching the couple without penalty, so long as they were idle thoughts. But as soon as she gave him permission to use the pump on her his recurring fantasy of blowing her up became a real possibility, thus triggering the pain. He could avoid it by suppressing the thoughts, but he always failed. After several years in bondage the only freedom he had was in his fantasies, and they even took that from him when they could.
Cal stood and opened the register drawer. Reaching towards the back of it, he grabbed the small tin of Altoids he used for storing his inflation pills. He opened it. There were still normal mints among them, but the enchanted ones were tinted various colors to indicate their function; red for breast inflation, purple for belly inflation, green for deflation, etc. He tossed three reds onto the counter. "That should do," he said.
"Thanks," she smiled back. She popped all three into her mouth and let them dissolve on her tongue. Her lips pursed and her brow furrowed at the overwhelming taste of mint, but she endured. Her face relaxed as the magic began to take effect.
Her already ample bosom began to swell. A spell on her clothing allowed it to stretch with her, but her blouse still put up a valiant fight. Her breasts, once firm cantaloupes, plumped up to double that size, then doubled again. The fabric of her blouse pulled apart between the buttons, offering tantalizing glimpses of her delicious flesh. After about a minute, the swelling stopped. Amanda sighed and caressed her newly expanded assets. "Yes, this will do nicely. I'm sure Marcus will love them." She reached deep into her cleavage and retrieved what was now a slightly crushed back of cigarettes. "Oops," she giggled as she lit one. She took a seat and waited for Marcus' arrival.
The hard-packed desert road was rough, but Marcus' drive back to the gas station was remarkably smooth. He expected as much, considering how much he'd paid for this car. The six figures' worth of fine German engineering never failed to please him. The black convertible zipped through the sands towards the one structure in sight, kicking up dust in its wake.
Marcus pulled up in front of the station and parked his car. He stepped out and made a quick assessment of himself. "No, this won't do," he sighed. Desert combat was so dirty. He sang a quick incantation, and a shower of powdery sparks descended on him. His shoes were polished to mirror brightness, the dust vanquished from his charcoal grey Armani suit, and his dark blonde hair was slicked back to perfection. He took quick look in the car's sideview mirror, more to admire his own chiseled jaw than to check that the spell had worked. "Damn, I'm gorgeous."
Marcus strolled towards the back of his car, humming merrily to himself as he thought of his breathtaking wife waiting for him. Victory, and the rush of power that came with it, was an amazing aphrodisiac. Marcus loved power and Amanda loved powerful men. They were a match made in heaven. With the press of a button his keychain, he popped the trunk open. A sharp gust of wind caught his attention as he was rooting through the trunk for the carefully packed bottle and wine glasses. He looked up at the darkening sky.
"Hmm, must be a storm coming," he muttered as he nudged the trunk closed.
"You could say that," came the silky, feminine, and entirely unexpected response. Marcus jumped, and whirled to see a familiar figure reclining on the hood of his car.
It was Her.
At a first glance, she appeared to be a beautiful, fiery-haired woman clad in shiny, form-fitting purple leather. The outfit bared a smooth, flat midriff of alabaster skin, while it's high neck and matching elbow-length gloves gave her an almost regal look. A ruby pendant the size of a child's fist hung from a sparkling gold chain around her neck. She would have the air of a princess were it not for the prominent features that made it clear she was not human. The two short horns that curved up from her head were the first indication. The purple of her wings matched her clothing so well that they could easily be mistaken for a cape when she kept them furled. She waved at him. "Hi there, Marcus."
"Hey there, BD!" Marcus said, feigning happiness at seeing her. She was supposed to return to the summoning stone after her task was complete. What was she doing here? "Good show today, eh? Jenella blew up real good."
"Yes, she did," Belly Demon purred. "She was a clever one, too. If I were you, I think when my defeat finally came I'd like it to be at the hand of someone as clever as she."
Marcus shrugged. "Clever or not, she still wound up popped. She couldn't defeat me. Anyway BD, what are you doing here?"
"Oh, I thought you knew." Belly Demon pouted. "I'm homeless now."
Marcus laughed. "Whadya mean, you're homeless? Your home's right here--" Marcus stopped abruptly as his fingers found nothing but an empty pocket. "Where's the stone?" he gasped, his heart quickening. He looked up at Belly Demon. "You can't have it, you're not even allowed to touch it. What's happened to it?"
Belly Demon smiled. "Once I'd incapacitated Jenella, you told me to make sure it was an 'extra big boom,' remember? Well just before her lips became to swollen to speak, Jenella cast a spell to pull the stone from your pocket into hers."
"But you should still be in the stone, out there in the desert somewhere."
Belly Demon shrugged. "Well I tried to return to the stone after Jenella popped, but it was an extra big boom, so when the stone went flying it hit a rock and..." Belly Demon opened her hand, and several crystal shards fell from it. "This was all I could find of my old home."
The color drained from Marcus' face as he realized why Jenella had been smiling just before she went. Thanks to her, the Belly Demon was now free. And as a summoner, Marcus was well aware of the first wish of any freed demon.
As quickly as his thoughts allowed, Marcus dropped the wine and glasses and hurled a bolt of energy at Belly Demon just as she spread her wings and leapt at him. The ball of sparkling magic hit its target, but it didn't seem to have any effect. She landed in front of him and pressed her hand against his chest.
"No..." Marcus gasped as he felt the demon draining his strength. He quickly found himself unable to move. His eyes widened in terror as his belly began to swell.
"Have I ever told you how much I hate it when you call me BD?" she sneered. "You were never my friend, you were my captor. You don't get to give me a nickname."
Marcus' limbs began to plump up like sausages in his clothing. His belt snapped, his pants split open, and one by one the buttons on his shirt surrendered to his burgeoning form. Belly Demon ran a finger across his exposed stomach.
"Tsk tsk," she clucked, "so tight already. You really make for a lousy balloon. But don't worry, you won't be one for long." She watched, amused, as his limbs were absorbed into his rapidly inflating body.
"Don't do this," he pleaded, unable to do much else. "Please don't, we can make a deal. I'll give you anything you want."
"I know you will, Marcus. Because all I want right now is to watch you pop!" She gave him a special goodbye kiss on the cheek, and Marcus groaned as his inflation accelerated. As he reached the point where he was almost completely round, she gave him a sharp kick in the direction of the store. "Goodbye, Marcus."
Amanda had just finished her second cigarette when she heard the car approach out front. "He's here!" she squealed. She tucked the pack back into her cleavage, hopped up onto the counter and stretched out seductively. "I want to be the first thing he sees when he walks in."
Several minutes went by, and Marcus didn't appear.
Cal frowned. "Something's wrong."
A few moments later, their view out the front of the store was obscured by a huge, pale, dusty ball that had rolled up to the window. Embedded in the ball they could see a swollen face.
"Oh my God! " Amanda shrieked. "It's Marcus!"
"Oh crap, the Belly Demon's gotten him! She's free!"
"Cal, you've got to help him, he's still getting bigger!"
And indeed he was. Even though there was glass between them, Cal could hear the groans of Marcus' overtaxed skin.
"I can't," Cal said. "I'm Bound, I can't use any magic on him." Cal instinctively tried to drive any thoughts of spell casting from his mind to avoid the punishing pain.
"Hmmmph mmmmmmm!" Marcus was unable to speak intelligibly, but it was clear he wanted someone, anyone to help him.
"You've got to do something!" Amanda pleaded. She was frozen with terror.
"I can't do anything," Cal replied, shaking his head. Seeing Marcus clench his eyes shut, he realized what was about to happen. "Except maybe find some cover!" He grabbed Amanda and pulled her behind the counter on top of him.
The entire building shook as Marcus burst. The glass front of the store blew inward, sending snacks flying off the shelves and showering Cal and Amanda with glass shards.
Amanda was in shock. "Ohmygodomygodomygod," she rambled over and over. "She got Marcus. She just popped him."
"Ymmph, M kmma mmfwis." Amanda looked down to see that she was smothering Cal with her pillowy bosom. She rolled off of him as though he were on fire and scooted back against the wall.
"Marcus is gone."
"That means you're free."
He nodded again.
She closed her eyes. "Ok then, do your worst. Just please make it quick," she begged, her lip trembling.
Cal had never claimed to be a good man. He couldn't really say for certain if he'd have done things differently had there not been a terror of his making out on the rampage. But at that moment, despite years of torment at her hands, he had no desire to harm Amanda.
Amanda heard a jingle, and opened her eyes as she felt something land in her lap. She looked down to see a box of mints and a key.
"The key will start Marcus' car. He gave me a spare for when he had me work on it. The green mints will deflate you. You'll want to be at a more reasonable size if you're going to make a run for it. You can stay in here if you want, it might be safer. Given the choice, Belly Demon will go after me before she goes after you since I helped summon her. Or you can make a run for it. With the engine in that car, you could be a mile away in half a minute, and even Belly Demon couldn't catch you a that speed. That is, if you can make it to the car. She won't pass up a chance at another bursting."
"What will you do?" she asked.
"Do you care?"
"Not really," she said, standing. "I'm just curious."
"I helped bring this demon into the world. I have to take her out. I have a friend who's a summoner." Cal stood and looked around. There was no sign of Marcus anywhere amongst the devastation. Cal picked up the phone. "Maybe he can help."
"Fine," she said. "It's your funeral. I'm making a run for it." She tucked the mints into her cleavage and ran for the door, jiggling all the way.
"Hey! Amanda! Wait!" He sighed in frustration. "Hey, Seth!"
"Cal?" came the disbelieving response. "Caligula Torvath, sweet heavens I thought I'd never hear from you again! This means you've got good news, right?"
"Good news and bad. The good news is I'm free. The bad news is, the demon that killed Marcus will probably come for me in a minute or two. I need to know everything you know about the Belly Demon's weaknesses."
"We've been waiting for this day, Cal," Seth said eagerly. "We've been working on ways to defeat her since you and Marcus summoned her. Now that you're free you can help us."
"Gladly, not that I have a choice. It's me or her. Now hurry."
"I'm afraid the news is mostly bad. She's immune to most magic..."
Key in hand, Amanda poked her head out the door. The scene looked clear, so she ran for the car, ignoring Cal's shouts behind her. The windshield was cracked, but it seemed in working order. She jumped into the driver's seat and adjusted the seat forward. But before her feet could reach the pedals, her jumbo-sized boobs pressed against the steering wheel and bulged up into her face.
"Damn!" she cursed. That was probably what Cal had tried to warn her about. She stepped out of the car, allowing her breasts to drop back down to their resting position, and began fishing through her cleavage. Unfortunately, a cleavage of that magnitude required a lot of searching, as her running had apparently caused the mint box to slide down rather deep. After unfastening two buttons and searching for several minutes, her hands finally clasped upon something and she came up with...
A pack of cigarettes. The ominous sound of flapping wings settled in behind her.
"You know those things'll kill you, don't you? Luckily I'm not nearly as fragile as you, so I have nothing to fear from tobacco."
Amanda shrieked as she spun around. "You!"
"Yes, me," Belly Demon murmured as she pressed a finger into Amanda's navel.
"Noooo! Cal! Help me!" Her belly immediately bulged outward, first resembling pregnancy, then obesity. "What are you doing? I've never done anything to you!"
"No, you haven't, my dear. But you can do something for me."
"Please, don't! I don't want to be turned to a living balloon!" Her already breathtakingly large breasts swelled even more, stretching her blouse across her expanding chest.
"Who are you kidding?" Belly Demon laughed. "You've been a living balloon for some time now. Which means you'll make a much better balloon than your husband. But if you tell me what I want to know, then I won't pop you. I'll just have some fun with you, then I'll let you go." A devilish grin spread across her crimson lips. "Do we have a deal?"
"Unnnh!" Amanda's richly tanned skin was gradually being stretched farther and farther. Her thighs thickened into barrels, her belly became more globular, and her prodigious breasts began to flatten across her enormous girth. Amanda's mind was spinning. If she doesn't pop me, as long as I can get to those green mints I'll be fine. "Ok, whatever you want, please, just don't pop me!"
"Good," Belly Demon purred. "A moment ago you called for 'Cal' to help you. Is Caligula nearby?"
Amanda found it hard to be reassured as her cheeks plumped up and her limbs were disappearing into her body. "Yes, he's here. He's in the shop." She was almost completely spherical now, and the enchantment on her clothing began to fail. The cloth that had magically stretched to accommodate her impossible girth tore at the seams.
"Good. What does he know about my strengths and weaknesses?"
"He doesn't know anything!" she cried. "He was going to call someone to try find out."
"Excellent." It was unlikely he'd discover anything useful. Amanda's shuddering form now towered over the Belly Demon, and she had to raise her arm to keep her finger in place. "You can go now." With a soft pop, she pulled her finger from Amanda's navel.
"Thank you," Amanda breathed, her voice almost a whisper. But her relief was short-lived. She quickly noticed she was no longer touching the sand. "What's happening?"
"Goodbye, Amanda," Belly Demon said, waving as she watched the balloon woman slowly rising from the ground. "I've had my fun, now I'm letting you go."
"I'm floating!" she screamed. The desert breeze was carrying her away.
"Yes," Belly Demon said absently. "Helium will do that."
"No!" But she was already on her way. She began to rotate slowly in the wind. and she saw Belly Demon standing below, a smug grin on her face, then she was facing the sky again. She rose faster and faster, and she felt the pressure inside her slowly rising. "You tricked me!" But she didn't even know if the demon could hear her at this point. The last shreds of her clothing fell away, and she continued to swell. The desert floor continued to recede, and Amanda just kept getting bigger. The gas expanding inside her desperately sought room to spread; her hands plumped up, her feet swelled until they burst from her shoes. Amanda found herself squinting to see over her own bulging cheeks, and the last sound she heard was the familiar groan of overstressed rubber as she reached her limit...
The phone call had been only slightly encouraging. When Cal didn't hear the car start shortly after Amanda had left, he'd assumed that Belly Demon had gotten her. When the last remnants of the windows shook from their frames in response the boom from the sky, he was certain. Amanda was gone, and he was next. He grabbed the gun from beneath the counter and ran into the workshop to make preparations.
Cal was fiddling at his workbench when Belly Demon walked in. He heard her footfalls on the cement. She didn't even try to sneak up on him. "Greetings, Caligula." she called.
"Hello, Belly Demon," responded, not even looking up. One hand was adjusting knobs, the other fingered the Desert Eagle tucked into his belt.
"So this is it, I find you cowering in your cave? Any surprises for me?"
"Just this." Cal spun around, took aim at Belly Demon's chest, and fired three silver .50 caliber bullets. She staggered back, but Cal quickly surmised it was more from surprise than from pain. She was laughing.
"Silver bullets? Nice try, Caligula, that almost tickled." She walked right up to him, and Cal backed up against his workbench, dropping his gun. "I'm nigh invulnerable, but you probably just figured that out. There are a few spells that might work, but only the greatest of summoners would know them. You're a pneumaticist. The deadliest of spells you can cast are mere parlor tricks to a demon like me."
Cal stiffened as he felt her hand press against his chest. With a flick of her wrist, she tore his shirt open. He could barely contain his rage at her insult. "It must be embarrassing then that you were captured by a two bit summoner and his clown sidekick." It was the best retort he could muster.
"A little," she giggled, running a single gloved finger down his belly to his navel. "But my revenge will be slow and sweet. Marcus I had to do quickly, but at least I made his woman watch him pop before I did her in. But right now it's just you, me, and all the time in the world." She slipped her finger into his navel, but held back from inflating him for a moment. "So does my little clown have any last words before I turn him into a big clown?"
Cal smiled. "Remember, Belly Demon, I come from a long line jesters and charlatans. The folks in the audience always get their chuckles, but we always get the last laugh." Belly Demon raised a puzzled eyebrow. It was just the delay Cal had hoped for. He shoved the hose from the compressor deep into Belly Demon's exposed navel.
He'd always wondered what would happen if he ever used the pump at its highest setting, and he wasn't disappointed. Belly Demon's eyes grew wide, her mouth formed an astonished O, and she barely had time to let out a squeak of surprise before she blew up like a car airbag. Her arms and legs shot straight out from her body as they filled, immediately breaking her contact with Cal. She flapped her wings and quickly got airborne, and although she managed to pull the hose tight, the nozzle stayed firmly lodged in her belly.
"Curse you!" she screamed as she rapidly ballooned in size. She was the size of a moving van, and continued to inflate under the unrelenting pressure of the pump. Her wings quickly became useless, and she fell back to the ground with a soft thud. Her bloated form quivered as she struggled against the pressure, but it was futile; she was stuck. Cal smiled as Belly Demon took up more and more space in the garage. She was nothing but a huge globe now. Her lower half was rounded and purple, with only her boot-shod feet protruding from her swelling mass. Her midsection was a wide band of pale, turgid flesh, and her top was ridiculously distorted over the stretched out and flattened remnants of her formerly voluptuous curves. Chubby hands with plump fingers wiggled at her sides, and her graceful wings were now comically tiny in comparison to the rest of her. Her face began to fatten as it approached the garage ceiling, but Cal shut off the pump before she reached it.
"That should hold you for a while," he said.
"This won't stop me," she called down to him. He was standing close enough to touch her, but her head was so very far away. "Getting blown up is game to me, and this is a mere inconvenience. You can't destroy me!"
"Actually," Cal said, picking up his gun. "I can."
Belly Demon laughed. "We both know that puny weapon is useless!"
"Not if I aim it right," he said, pointing at her navel.
At this moment, Belly Demon would have paled if she had been human. "Congratulations, so you know of my weakness. Then you also know that a mere popping will just buy you some time until I reform. It takes a lot more power than can be mustered by a little hot air to dispatch me."
"You mean like the kind of power you might find in the mystically charged gas put out by an enchanted pump?" he asked. For the first time, Cal saw fear in the Belly Demon's eyes. "Right now there's enough inside you send you straight back to whatever hell I pulled you from."
The garage echoed with the demon's laughter. It wasn't what Cal had expected. "If you pop me now, it will destroy me and everything and every one nearby. I can see how your hands are shaking. You're a coward, Caligula. You let Marcus enslave you, and you stood by helplessly while I burst your brethren. I've seen into your heart. You'll flee and hope to fight me another day. I'll eventually deflate, and the chase will be on again. All you've done today is postpone the inevitable. In the meantime, I'll be stuck here with nothing better to do than to plan my exquisite retribution."
"Shut up!" But Cal knew she was right. He didn't have it in him to sacrifice himself. His fear took over. The gun fell from his quaking hands, and he stormed from the garage. He had to leave this place. He'd take nothing with him, start anew. If he could get back in contact with his clan, they might be able to work together to vanquish this demon. He'd take Marcus' car, everything would be OK.
He saw the keys laying in the dirt next to the car. He bent down to pick them up when he saw the cigarettes. He froze. It was the pack Amanda had kept tucked in her bosom, he could tell by the curve of the indentations. He picked them up, and he couldn't get the thought of her out of his mind. He didn't mourn for Marcus, he was a monster. But the wizards Marcus had slain, Jenella, Karubh, Sakkoor...he was responsible for them as well. And Amanda, while not the most virtuous of women, hadn't deserved to be sent alone into the desert sky to explode-- Cal's breath caught in his throat. The explosion had come from the sky. Belly Demon had blown up Amanda, filled her helium, and let her float away to burst.
She'd gotten the idea from him.
It wasn't right that he be allowed to walk the earth while a monster he summoned ran amok. I'll end this tonight, one way or another. Cal returned to the garage. And between the car and the doorway, he had a revelation.
"Ah, the clown is back."
"Choose your words carefully, demon, they could be your last." Though it was a cumbersome task, Cal rolled her so that she was on her side, her head close enough to face him. He took care to avoid her hands; one touch, and that could be the end of him.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm taking a trophy," he said, as he snatched the ruby pendant from around her neck.
"That'll do you a lot of good in hell."
"At least as much as it did you." He pulled out a cigarette and brought it to his lips.
Belly Demon chuckled. "I don't know that much about human physiology, but I understand cigarettes are bad for you."
Cal took a long drag. "That's OK, it won't be a cigarette for long."
Belly Demon raised an eyebrow. "Oh really? What will it be?"
"It's kind of a magic trick. You see, in the hands and lips of a mortal human, this is just another cancer stick. But when inserted into a Belly Demon filled with magically charged explosive gas, like so," he pressed the filter end of the cigarette into Belly Demon's navel, making sure it was secure, "it becomes a fuse."
"What have you done?!"
"Guess the last laugh is on you, BD. Ciao." He ran from the building.
Belly Demon heard the roar of the engine as Cal drove off, leaving the demon alone with her thoughts and fears. A human in her situation might have panicked and desperately sought a way to deflate. But Belly Demon knew better. She closed her eyes and set to inflating herself. If I can do it fast enough, I can grind out the flame against the wall. She pumped herself bigger and bigger, her skin taking on a rubbery sheen as it stretched tighter and tighter. Her face plumped, her lips swelled with the strain, her hands disappeared into her tumescent bulges. She was mere inches from the far wall when she felt the sharp, searing pain of failure reach her skin.
She did choose her last words carefully. With all her breath she wailed a curse that had never been heard by mortal ears. And the cacophonous roar of flame that engulfed her ensured that it never would.
Cal didn't even look back at the flash of light in the distance. His old life disintegrated, and he was streaking towards a fresh start at over a hundred miles an hour. He smiled. It felt good to be free.