I felt the tell-tale tickle of an attempted invocation just as I was sitting down to a nice plate of scrambled souls.
"Oh, you better mess this up", I muttered to no-one in particular.
It had taken me some years to deal, steal and barter for the ingredients, and I was not about to be snatched away into some smoky basement again for some moron with a minuscule lifespan,
and no imagination. Time didn't work the way it did in the corporeal world, but a dish left to go cold would still go cold. Entropy was really hard to keep out.
No matter how many times you sealed and resealed, it just kept leaking. I'd been meaning to hire a professional to do the job, but I figured, how hard can it be?
The tickle became a tug, and my mood soured. "Shit." The word had little meaning in literal terms to me, but of all the human traits, swearing was the one I enjoyed the most.
I liked the feeling of it in the mouth.
When the tug became a full-on pull, I thought about trying to hold against it, but that hurt. Pain for an eldritch being is something else.
You humans think you have a concept of it, well we can exist and be hurt on a lot more plains of existence than you are even aware of.
So, I bolted a quick mouthful of my meal and allowed myself to flow into the gap between the dimensions.
As I soared through the wide-open spaces of the tiniest gaps in space/time I thought about how to appear to them.
Tentacles and slime? Claws and teeth? Confusing perspective with maybe a gravity-well bending light around me? In the end, I decided to go with a human child. That would creep them out.
With a noise like a thousand cats coughing up a furball, I rocketed to a stop.
"WHO DARES SUMMON ME?!" I boomed from the frame of a 4-year-old girl.
A nervous-looking man in a cheap supermarket clothing line suit squeaked and dropped the candle he was holding.
It looked like we were in a meeting room in a cheap business hotel, near the main highway.
"YOU!", I turned to face him, or at least his knees. I was beginning to wish I'd gone with something a bit more physically imposing, to be honest.
"Err, are you Kthallec? The destroyer of worlds? Devourer of Souls? I'm Tim."
"KTHALLEC! THE DESTROYER...", I paused feeling like I'd slightly misjudged the situation. "Destroyer of Worlds, yeah. Did you say you were called Tim?"
Tim swallowed, and slowly crouched down to address me on my level. "Yeah, that's right. I work for the MAW Foundation. Tim Crenly."
MAW, that sounded more like it. In various forms, my maw had been fed virgin sacrifices, all the way through to some pretty debauched sacrifices.
Maybe the setting was different, but it would be a pretty normal summoning after all. Maybe I could phone this one in, and get back to my supper.
"TIM CRENLY", I said, going back to my usual summoning persona. "WHAT IS THY REQUEST?"
"Oh, it's not my request actually. It's a wish."
I was back off balance again. "Tim, I don't do wishes. Are you sure you have the right abomination? I'm not a genie."
"No, no, not granting a wish. It was someone's wish to see you." Tim looked at me expectantly. When I offered nothing in response he continued. "Because she's dying?", he offered helpfully.
"We at the Make-A-Wish foundation, look to grant requests to kids with not long left to live. Lily only wanted to meet you.
Well actually she said she wanted to do a make-believe ritual, and we went along with it.
I think she might have tricked us, to be honest, and had a pretty good idea that this would work for real."
I sat down heavily. 4-year-old legs tire quickly. "Lily. A little girl with cancer or something wants to meet me, an abomination from another dimension."
"Motor Neurone Disease, but yeah. That's about the crinkle of the cracker."
With no other real option, and unable to get back to my realm without being discharged, I said the only thing I could.
"OK. Send her in."
A door opened in the back of the meeting room, and a young girl in a chair wheeled herself in. I recognised her immediately, even without any tentacles or claws.
"You little shit", I said in a flat tone.
"Still enjoying the human swearing then?" The girl was smiling, clearly enjoying herself. Poor Tim looked like he was trying to understand PhD level physics, his face all screwed up.
"I had souls, fresh from the plucking, ready to eat and you drag me here. What's with all the pretending to be sick? You could have just called!"
"But where would the fun be in that, Dad?" Tim's mouth dropped so far open; I could see his soul.
I winced at the girl's terminology. "I have repeatedly asked you not to call me that. I just spawned you, I don't owe you anything, I don't care one iota about what you are doing."
The girl pouted.
I stood up and drew myself to my full height. All 36 inches of me. "What. Do. You. Want?"
She paused before she answered. Her smile faltered slightly. Not on her lips, but just behind her eyes. "I'm in trouble. I really need your help."