How long had it been since they abandoned you here? Two hours, maybe three? You were really regretting lying down in the hay; now you couldn’t use your hands to push yourself up into a sitting position. It was rather undignified. Also, your forehead itched.
Only when you were rubbing your forehead into the hay to try to relieve the itch did you realise you were being watched. You weren’t entirely sure, being blindfolded, but the prickling sensation in the back of your neck was unmistakable. You stopped scratching and listened.
There was a throaty chuckle from somewhere above. Your body tensed up in anger. Here you were, bound and blindfolded, and someone had the nerve to laugh at you!
“Wh-who’s there?” you cried in what you hoped was a strong voice.
There was a whoosh and a whump, and the hay shifted as someone landed next to you. Swallowing your fear—you knew full well who it was—you called out again.
“Aren’t you going to help me, then?”
The person shifted closer to you, and you felt him lean down until his lips were against your ear. Goosebumps sprang up along your arms.
“Would you like me to scratch it for you?” The voice was rough and husky, like the laugh.
“Um...” That hadn’t exactly been what you were expecting to hear, and you didn’t quite know how to respond.
The ropes around your wrists loosened, and you sighed as the feeling returned to your fingers.
Then the blindfold came off. You stifled a scream as you came face-to-face with the demon.
He was crouched right in front of you, hands on his knees. Two black horns curled out of a mop of messy platinum-blond hair, ending in needle-sharp points. His long black coat was spattered with rusty stains, as was his (oddly-coloured) pink scarf. You shuddered, knowing you would soon be contributing to his collection of bloodstains. However, what frightened you most about the demon was not his bloody coat or his horns.
It was his expression.
The man before you gazed at you, his lips twisted up in what looked like a lustful grin. His stone-cold violet eyes raked over you as if you were an exquisite meal laid out before him. He subconsciously ran his tongue over his teeth.
You swallowed. “Are you Ivan, then?”
“Well, yes and no,” he replied, cocking his head slightly to one side. “I am the demon your people call Ivan, but that’s not my name.”
“So what is it?”
Ivan snickered. “Don’t even try to pronounce it.”
You shrank away, before realising your back was pressed against the packed-dirt wall of the pit. Surely you weren’t going to die at the hands of this...this...madman?
Ivan stopped laughing, his expression suddenly hardening. He stretched out a gloved hand towards you. You tried to back away more, but he was too fast. He gripped your cheek, slowly caressing your skin with his thumb.
You trembled, even though Ivan was not doing anything to hurt you. The demon was scrutinising your face with unnerving intensity, and you found yourself enraptured by his purple gaze.
“Hmm...at least I get a pretty one this time,” he muttered, before standing up and brushing the hay off his clothes. He reached down and offered his hand, which you took reluctantly.
Ivan pulled you to your feet. “We had better get going,” he smiled. “I have a meeting with Satan later. Can’t be late for that!”
You blinked. He...what?
Before you could reply, Ivan grabbed your waist and lifted you effortlessly into a bridal-style hold. You squeaked as two huge, leathery wings sprung from his shoulders and he leaped into the air.
You covered your mouth to stop yourself screaming as the ground, the mountain, the village, everything you knew and loved shrank away. You glanced up at Ivan, only to find him staring down at you with amusement in his eyes. It was then that you realised that, in your panic, you had flung your arms around his shoulders and were clinging to him for dear life.
“Don’t worry!” Ivan yelled above the wind. “If I wanted o kill you, I have much more interesting ways of doing it than dropping you from a height!”
You glared at him, before prising your arms from around his neck and placing them in your lap.
“Oh, I wasn’t telling you to let go,” said the demon. “Hang onto me if you want. I don’t mind.”
“I’m good, thank you,” you grumbled, firmly crossing your arms. There was no way in Hell (pun not intended) that you were going to let this thing think you needed him.
Ivan grinned. “You know, it probably is a good idea to hang on. You wouldn’t want to—“
You shrieked as you felt his arms slip from under you.
Ivan watched his prize tumble towards the earth. Perhaps that hadn’t been the best idea ever; she was falling rather fast. He mentally slapped himself, before swooping down towards you.
The breath was knocked out of your lungs as you landed safely (?) in Ivan’s arms.
“So sorry, Sunflower,” he apologised, sounding genuinely remorseful. “But you really should hold on.”
In any other situation, you would have slapped Ivan. Now, hundreds of feet above the ground, you decided to keep quiet and do as he said. A small, irrelevant part of your mind wondered if Ivan had seen your underwear.
On you flew, for what seemed like hours. You didn’t dare let go of Ivan again, especially since you were now flying over a vast stretch of ocean. The faint salty smell was new to you; you had never been anywhere near the coast before.
Ivan stopped flying and hovered about one hundred feet above the water. A curious seabird flapped over to investigate; the demon hissed at it, baring sharp teeth, and it couldn’t fly away fast enough.
“This is where we go to my world,” Ivan said quietly. You looked up at him; his eyes were downcast in a melancholy expression.
“Is something wrong?” you asked nervously. What if he decided he didn’t want you anymore, and dropped you into the ocean?
He sighed. “No, I am just... reluctant to return home. I am fond of your world. Where I live, there are no seas or blue skies or sunflowers.” He paused. “Well, there are seas, but you would not want to swim in them.”
You chewed your lip and turned your face to the sky. Was this the last time you would ever feel the Sun’s light on your face?
“What’s your home like?”
“Look over there and you’ll see.”
You glanced at the patch of sky Ivan was indicating and shrank back against him. Where before there had been nothing but clean air and a few wisps of cloud, there was now some sort of dark hole in the sky. Ivan slowly drew closer, and the heat emanating from the thing caused a thin film of sweat to break out on your forehead.
“You can close your eyes if you would like to,” said Ivan quietly. “This always makes me a little dizzy.”
You obeyed, hiding your face in the folds of Ivan’s coat. The heat intensified and the sunlight disappeared, until you were engulfed in searing black.
You woke up, not even realising you had passed out. Ivan’s wings were spread wide, allowing him to gently fall to the ground. He landed quite lightly for someone of his stature, carefully setting you down on the reddish rock.
“Home sweet home,” Ivan muttered.
It took all of your strength not to sink into hysteria at the sight of Ivan’s “home”.