Title: The Kitchen Imps and Other Dark Tales (Fire-Side Tales Collection Book I)
Author: A.L. Butcher
Naughty imps, missing socks, cunning thieves and baffled gods feature in this collection of short fantasy fiction.
The Joy of Socks
The Round Door of the Machine opened and once more the Offerings were placed inside; although there were many sizes and shapes, they were all white, and all deliciously filthy. The Bringer of Offerings poured in the Fragrant Powder, but as tiny bulbous red eyes watched and sharp-teethed mouths chuckled, the imps knew it would not be sufficient to eradicate the glorious stench they so craved!
Tiny clawed, three-fingered hands gripped the edge of the Door of Many Holes, and with a push it swung open to reveal the faces which owned the red eyes and the sharp teeth. Water poured in, and gleefully the imps squeaked and slid into the pile of dirty-white Offerings, hands grabbing and pulling to see what had been brought. They were hoping this time there would be the wonderful stench, the pungent odour of the Socks, as the last lot of Offerings had been most disappointing. Imps loved Socks! The taste, the feel of the crispiness of a week-old foot cover. The stinkier the socks, the more they adored and craved them. The thought of rolling around in such a cheesy, foul stench was what imps lived for.
“I love the smell of dirty socks in the morning!” Bunter crooned hopefully.
“I love dirty socks anytime at all, day or night!” said Gleego.
“Gimme socks for breakfast, lunch and dinner!” shouted Knot.
Rolling and bouncing as the water washed over them, seeming to be able to ignore the rushing torrent, the imps sniffed, hoping to find what they sought. Although the Offerings were indeed rather smelly, what the creatures looked for was not there. Bright blue tongues licked, tasting the grime and feeding upon the dirt, the stains and the lumps of grease. Hopefully they snorted and desperately they searched, only to find meagre and most unsatisfactory gifts. The odours of sweat, a myriad of foods and even the scent of something much more unsavoury filled their pointed noses. But their squeaks of displeasure echoed within the Round Cavern: these were not Socks! Such high pitched squeals went unnoticed by the Bringer; the human ear is too feeble a thing to hear the high-pitched voices of imps, so all the man heard was the rumble and roar of the Machine.
The chief of the imps, Ikthik, banged a tiny matchstick upon the glass of the Round Door, and at once the Machine ceased its rolling.
“Now gather ’round, you boggles, bugs and boogers!” he commanded.
The imps slid and swam to sit upon the pile of white Offerings, now soaking and foaming. Ears swivelled to listen, and all were quiet.
Ikthik grunted, squeaked and squealed, waving the matchstick wildly in his tiny clawed hand.
“What’s this? What’s this?” he wondered. “This ain’t right!” Poking a nearby lump, he jumped upon it, angry and despairing.
“No socks? Where’s the socks? There ain’t no socks!” yelled Knot.
As one, many small heads nodded, teeth gnashed hungrily, and Gleego and Bunter scooted backwards towards the Door of Many Holes. Dragging it open, they pulled from the stash of inferior Offerings lingering beyond the door a large, bright blue pair of boxer shorts. Bunter looked at them longingly, for he liked these particular items, and this pair was especially disgusting, being of the two-weeks-between-washes variety. The imp dreamed of such items, but of course reminded himself that these were not Socks. Still, such treasure should not be sacrificed. Swiftly Bunter shook his head and then received a questioning glance from Gleego. Bunter shrugged and kicked the underpants away before pointing to a bright red and rather shredded pull-over.
“Bring that to me!” said Ikthik the chief.
The two imps dragged the item through to squeaking cheers and clapping of clawed hands, and placed it at the feet of Ikthik. Slinking away backwards, bowing and scraping, Bunter and Gleego exchanged the shared glances of a job well done and a secret kept. Ikthik held aloft the item of crimson red, displaying a strength that was most surprising in one so tiny. With a joint cry of revenge, the imps slithered and slipped back to the Door of Many Holes, disappearing into the darkness. Chief Ikthik again waved the matchstick in the air, and the Machine began to roll and rock once more.
“Victory is ours!” cried Ikthik.
Sometime later the Bringer fetched out the abandoned Offerings, groaning as he held aloft a pink-stained shirt and formerly white underpants that were now a most fetching, pale shade of rose. Grunting, he pulled the ruined load from the Machine, his face wearing a look of anger and confusion as the faded, red pull-over tumbled out.
It was an article of clothing he did not even own.
Audio narrated by J Scott Bennett
Author Biography: A. L. Butcher is the British author of the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles fantasy series, and several short stories in the fantasy and fantasy romance genres. She is an avid reader and creator of worlds, a poet and a dreamer. When she is grounded in the real world she likes science, natural history, history and monkeys. Her work has been described as ‘dark and gritty’ and her poetry as evocative.
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