Day of the Demon or Night of the Living Bread
A Story by Ed Burton
Once upon a time there was a baker called Barracus who had two children; a son called Aaron and a daughter called Luca.
Every day, all the townspeople would visit Barracus’s bakery to buy his yummy scrummy bread and jam cakes. After a long, sweaty day baking, he would often say to Luca: “If you tend the fire and let it lie low until tomorrow, you can have a bread and jam cake for dinner.” And to Aaron, he would say: “If you sweep the bakery, you can have a bread and jam cake for dinner too.”
Aaron was jealous because he thought that sweeping was much harder than tending to a fire: “That’s unfair!” he muttered to himself. “Fire’s are easy!” he grumbled. “I tell you what, Dad; if I sweep the shop AND tend the fire, can I have two bread and jam cakes for dinner?” Barracus was pleased that Aaron was so keen to help, and so he said: “Yes. Just this once, you can sweep the shop and tend the fire, and you’ll have two cakes for dinner.”
So Aaron swept the shop as usual, but when he reached the fireplace under the oven he thought to himself: “What’s so special about fires anyway? I’ll just carry on sweeping and sweep the fire under the oven.” And so he tried to sweep the fire, but the moment the bristles of his broom touched the flames, they were alight! Aaron quickly pulled the broom out of the fire, but the fire came with it! He shook the broom, but the fire got larger! He was running around with the fire on the bristles getting bigger and bigger, and he didn’t know what to do. So he ran outside into the back yard and by this time all of the brush was aflame. He was so scared that he just threw the flaming broom over the back wall and ran all the way home.
When he got home, there were two bread and jam cakes waiting for him on the dinning room table. He was so tired and hungry after all that running around that he said nothing and scoffed down the yummy scrum cakes. Then he went straight to bed and tried to pretend that nothing had happened.
Later that night Aaron and everyone else in the house was woken by the sound of people running and screaming. All the town’s people were charging through the streets shouting: “A demon! A demon! A scary demon has come to consume us all and destroy our town!” Barracus, Aaran and Luca jumped out of bed and ran, still wearing their pyjamas, to see what the commotion was all about. When they got to the town gates they froze with fear. There, creeping towards the town, was a roaring demon. But it wasn’t very big, just about the size of a pig! Barracus shouted: “Get your hunting bows and arrows, we must kill the demon before he gets to the gates!” The townspeople took careful aim, pulled their bows and fired: “Swoosh!” went the arrows as they flew through the air and sank into the little demon. But the demon didn’t seem to feel a thing; it just roared louder and got bigger; now it was about the size of a cow! Barracus shouted: “Get your spears, we must stab the demon to death before he enters our town!” And so they ran at the demon with their spears and plunged them into its belly. But the demon didn’t die; it didn’t even cry! It just roared louder and got bigger; now it was about the size of an elephant!
All the while that the townspeople had been shooting arrows and throwing spears, little Luca was looking intensely at the demon. To her, it seemed somehow familiar: “I’ve heard that roar before!” she thought. Luca grabbed one of the few remaining spears from Aaron’s trembling hands. “Don’t do it!” shouted Barracus: “This demon is too strong for any of us to kill it!” But Luca didn’t run towards the roaring demon. She ran back to the bakery and grabbed a big, squidgy handful of dough (and some jam). By the time she got back to the town gate all the townspeople had shot all their arrows and thrown all their spears, but the demon wasn’t dead; it was roaring even louder and had got even bigger, growing to about the size of a house!
Luca approached the demon with her head bowed, as a sign of respect. With folded hands, she shouted: “Oh great and wondrous demon!” The demon loomed over little Luca, as she asked: “Are you here to consume us all?” The demon just crackled, gently. “And are you here to destroy our houses?” Again, the demon just crackled. Luca turned to the townspeople and cried: “Look! This demon intends us no harm; he’s no more harmful than the familiar fire that bakes your yummy, scrummy bread and jam cakes!”
She took the spear, and rather than try and stab the demon, she carefully wrapped the dough around its pointy end, and with her head bowed in respect, offered it tenderly to the demon. The demon stayed still and cackled gently, and when Luca turned the spear towards the crowd, they could see that it had been baked to perfection; where there used to be dough, there was now the same lovely golden brown bread that they so enjoyed with Jam. “To your eyes, this is a dangerous demon to fear and fight, but I recognise it as the friendly fire that I tend every night so that it can bake your yummy, scrummy bread and jam cakes the next morning. He means us no harm! He must be very afraid after all those arrows and spears made him so very big and fearce.” Luca led the demon back to the town by drizzling some jam on the bread on the spear and holding it aloft for the demon to follow. She walked slowly and carefully back to the bakery with the demon gently crackling behind her.
When the demon caught sight of the familiar old fireplace underneath the oven, he slowly shrank from the size of a house to the size of an elephant. Then to the size of a cow, to the size of a pig, to the size of a cat, to the size of a rat. Finally, to the size of a mouse which scurried into the fireplace, curling up to make a cosy glowing nest in the embers.
The next day, Luca had bread and jam cakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And from then on, once a year, she would lead the fire demon out of the fireplace, through the streets, out of the gates and into the woods, where all the townspeople gathered with their spears. But they didn’t use spears for stabbing the demon anymore. Instead, they wrapped dough around the pointy ends and offered their respect and gratitude to the friendly fire demon who always toasted their dough to a lovely yummy, scrummy, golden brown.