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Everything Soup by Jan Lee

“It’s on!” hollered Asmodeus, from his substantial easy chair. The image began as an angrily glowing cloud, shimmered briefly, and then came into sharp relief. “It’s starting!” At his cry, the steamy kitchen was thrown into a panic. Acteus began to shake the frying pan over the little hellfire burner even more vigorously, as if additional violence could make the kernels pop more quickly. Abaddon shouted at Mimon to hurry up with the salt. Oriens, who had been gazing moodily out the window to the East, scampered into the seat next to Asmodeus. Abaddon pointed at it with her pitchfork. “Mimon was about to sit there. He’s been away, you know. He only just got back home.” “That’s not fair!” judged Rhadamanthus. “Shh!” Asmodeus waved his hand imperiously, to silence the others, as they all watched the drama unfold in the glowing image before them. “It’s starting!” In the flickering image, two women faced each other on the ground floor of an apartment building on Yonge and Dundas. One, taller, with plucked eyebrows and brassy, dyed hair, brandished her oversized stroller like a battery of Howitzers, stamping to rid her boots of slush. The other, shorter and older but still arrestingly beautiful, glanced disdainfully at the stroller (which was devoid of children but contained six large shopping bags) before steeling herself for a retort. “Did you forget that it was you who originally called the cops on me?!” she asked furiously. “Only because you were making a god-awful racket with your singing! We couldn’t even sleep!” “I am a professional! Anyway, why did you need to sleep at eight in the morning? The rest of the world was up and about.” “I had a perfect right to call the cops.” “If you wanted peace and quiet, you should have stayed in the countryside. This is a city! You know how many times I’ve been annoyed by noise from our other neighbors? Loads. But I never, ever would have thought of getting law enforcement involved! This is our place, too - we have to live together.” As they observed the action in the glowing picture, Acteus shoved an elbow into Mimon’s side and grinned. “That woman, Jenny, she’s got a point, there. Her neighbors on the other side create the kind of cacophony I have never even heard from Megera.” Mimon shook his head innocently, wondering at the drama. He asked, “Was that the last time it was on? I was away, so I don't know anything about it.” “No, that happened last year, before Maryanne moved in. What Jenny’s referring to now happened about six months ago, before the baby was born. Maryanne actually called the police on three separate occasions to complain about Jenny's singing.” “Shh!” Asmodeus glared at the others, and waved his hand again. The shorter woman, Jenny, was now pointing at the stroller. “That thing takes up all the room in the hallway, and half the time you don’t even put your baby in it!” “You have no idea what it’s like to be a mother!” cried Maryanne. “Ooh, just because you pushed out a baby, you deserve special treatment?” “Well, you obviously think you deserve special treatment because you think you’re a so-called ‘artist’ - at least mothers are contributing something to the world.” “Yeah, you’re contributing your kid’s unearthly howls at four in the morning. Maybe I'm the one who should call the cops.” A sulfurous burst of laughter erupted in front of the flickering image. “Oooooh! Burned!” cried Acteus. Rhadamanthus guffawed. “She’s right about that!” Abaddon rolled her eyes. “Was Jenny’s singing really that bad?” Mimon asked the group. "I was away," he explained again. “She’s pretty good, actually,” opined one of the Maligenii. “I think Maryanne just doesn’t like early music.” “What’s wrong with early music?!” asked Abaddon, huffily. She looked around the room for support. “I personally tortured Mozart so that he would come up with better stuff.” “Mozart? He’s technically not even early music,” pronounced Rhadamanthus. “SHHHH!” Asmodeus hissed. “I don’t care if you personally stuck a pitchfork in Orlando di Lasso’s backside. I want to watch the show.” An hour later, by the time the image faded away, the satisfied group had finished the popcorn, and Mimon was cheerfully licking his long, sinewy fingers. “I can’t believe Jenny accused Peter of not being the father of Maryanne’s baby,” gossiped Oriens. “Just delicious.” “I know! She’s lucky Maryanne doesn’t know about her abortion.” Mimon shook his head with incredulity. “So ... how do we get access to this, anyway?” Acteus was surprised. “What? Oh, you’ve been out on volcano duty, so you missed the whole thing.” He explained, “It’s a complete accident. See, I was applying for a tornado permit, which He was having none of, by the way.” Acteus tilted his head, and made a vague gesture downwards. “And while He was distracted, Asmodeus actually got Summoned! Obviously, that was extremely surprising, because there are hardly any sorcerers around these days, and if there were, practically none of them are interested in demons who Revenge Wickedness.” Mimon clucked sympathetically and curled his claws. Asmodeus had been very grumpy about this fact for the last several centuries, and the whole household had been feeling it. “But how did that—” “I’m getting there. So it turned out that the so-called summoning was a complete fluke. A certain Ms. Fanny Pong, on the second floor of the building, was making this ghastly concoction she called ‘Everything Soup’, something she’d heard about in a podcast. Actually, it’s just a soup that's made of whatever you have in the kitchen. And she was singing along to some song on her earbuds, and it turned out she hit on exactly the right combination of ingredients in her cauldron, and words in the song, to do a Summoning spell!” “What, she included sea cucumber in her soup?” “Yep.” “And white fungus?” “Yep.” “And even Brussels sprouts?” “She did indeed! Apparently that’s the kind of leftovers she always has on hand. And if you add ketchup you don’t need eye of newt. But the thing is, the words of the spell were evidently not quite right. So instead of fully summoning Asmodeus, he ended up with this thing, this viewing portal, and Fanny Pong is none the wiser. It starts whenever she sings the words to the spell, I mean the song, and it works for as long as she has the soup on the stove. Asmodeus can even adjust the location of it a little bit, as long as he stays within her apartment building.” “And this has been going on for more than a year?” “Yes, believe it or not. She started making the soup every week, on Sunday nights, to use up leftovers. The podcast said that was the best way to be frugal. And even though the song isn’t really popular any more, she still sings it almost every time she makes the soup, because it’s stuck in her ear.” Acteus snuck a quick look at Abaddon on the other sofa. The latter smiled, “I confess! That last part is my doing. She has no idea; she thinks the soup reminds her of it.” Acteus nodded to her, and raised a glass. Mimon winked at Abaddon, and whistled. “What an incredible stroke of luck! Honestly, except for those times when I've got a calamity to run, it's been as boring as ... Paradise down here lately. It’ll be good to have something to keep us entertained.” “We’ve all been gathering to watch it with Asmodeus, every Sunday night.” The following Sunday, by the time dinner hour arrived, the group was prepared. Asmodeus, from his armchair, once again shouted, “It’s on!”, this time waving his long-taloned hand in tiny, uneven spirals, as if nudging an unseen creature through the air. “Not much going on with Jenny and Peter and Maryanne tonight,” he commented as they gathered. “I’m trying to adjust the signal, and get it over to Martin’s apartment in 6B.” A young man’s face, smooth and handsome, was just visible in the center of the fire-ringed viewing portal. Clad in a sleeveless undershirt and jeans, he reclined on a sofa beside a plump young woman. Soon, a can of Cool Blonde Lager in his far hand, he turned to her, said, “You know I love you, babe,” and began to caress the side of her neck. Without speaking, the entire group held their breath and leaned in hungrily. The show had begun. Later, Acteus sighed with reproach. “I wish we could do something like that. Why do they have to only be 'earthly' delights, anyway? Hey, Abaddon, maybe you and your Furies could let us -” Abaddon cut him off. “You and your dirty claws aren’t getting anywhere near any of us. Go climb a tornado.” Before Acteus could look in their direction, the Maligenii quickly concurred. “Don’t even think about it.” Acteus sulked and took another pull of his drink. ***** Quite some distance directly above, black-haired, round-faced Fanny Pong was complaining to her husband that she hadn’t been able to get a particular song out of her head. “I keep trying to think of another song, but somehow my brain always makes its way back to ‘Despacito’. I keep humming it while I make our weekly soup.” Jeremy cleared his throat carefully. “Gosh, that must be tough. Should we go out to eat instead of staying at home? You know, there's a new French restaurant opening up." “Come on, we’re not rich. Not like those people upstairs in Apartment 2H. You know, the ones with that ridiculously oversized baby carriage? Anyway, I’m going out to get groceries.” “Oh, make sure you get some Brussels sprouts! You know I love them.” When she was gone, Jeremy wiped his forehead quietly. “That was a close one,” he muttered to himself. As he watched Fanny disappear around the corner, he quickly lit several Ikea tealights, traced a circle in the dust on the floor, and inscribed a star within it (thanking Fanny for not noticing his laxity in vacuuming). He murmured a few phrases, and remained calm as an enormous, fork-tongued, goat-hooved, red-skinned, ram-horned figure materialized in front of him. "You have summoned me again without warning," intoned Mimon. "Take care. I had to tell the others I had a sudden need to work on a typhoon." "There's a problem, though," said Jerry. "It's getting harder to keep up the pretense with Fanny. Isn't there some other way you can get a live feed from our building? Don't they have the internet down there?" Mimon expelled a snort of brimstone, and Jerry hastily grabbed a cushion to tamp out the resulting blaze. "Foolish mortal!" declared Mimon. "Where do you think social media was invented! Not to mention podcasts. To answer your question, no. The viewing spell must be cast by the hand of a human woman, if our view is to be invited into your home." "I don't want to seem ungrateful for the extra cash that keeps mysteriously coming my way," said Jerry, in a mollifying tone. "Do not fail us, mortal," Mimon warned. "You know the consequences. And...," Mimon's unholy grumble suddenly softened into a purr, " makes Asmodeus so happy. He hasn't been the center of attention since the 1630s. It’s hard enough to keep him from knowing that we arranged this entire thing for his benefit. I’ve been playing innocent this whole time." "I'll do my best. I'm almost learning to like Brussels sprouts." "What a pity that your distaste for them is so transparent. We invented those, too, you know." "Yeah, I bet."

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