I’m sitting in one of Asmodeus’ jazz club-moonlighting-as-a-casino-moonlighting-as-a-speakeasy with Gabriel. Asmodeus is behind the bar, mixing drinks, green eyes like the kind of acid I used to bubble in flasks in college chemistry. Or maybe the sparks you get when you set gummy bears on fire.
Deus winks at me and I roll my eyes as he shakes ice and liquor. He pours something red for Beelzebub and the two talk business in hushed tones.
Gabriel throws back another shot, some upstart band is playing something by Satchmo – Gabriel wipes vodka from his lips and runs a hand through his coal dark hair. I stir my drink, not remembering how I got here at usual. I fall asleep in real life and wake up in the astral, usually in a shitty bar, with no memory of where I was before.
We come to a lull in the music.
“Music is about shape-shifting, Allie,” Gabriel explains, swirling the ice in his drink. His eyes are a cornflower blue and his grin tricky as getting pine sap stains out of jeans. “Angels and demons change shape all the time – burning wheels, man, monster, blazing bushes: it makes us natural musicians.”
“Like I can change into a hawk?” I ponder, remembering the form I take when I do scouting missions and reconnaissance.
“Exactly. I prefer being a dove. More subtle, no one expects you, except expecting virgins. Michael gave you that form for a reason: it’s the music of your soul. Sam’s tricky as a snake, hence the black cobra.”
I smell something spice and full of black magick behind me. “Someone mentioned me?”
“Oh god, not you.” I groan.
I turn to see Samael – or should I say Kalfou, the name he claims in this form, all black dreads and skin like soil and red eyes in a pinstripe suit and tie like blood. He smells like cigars and cayenne peppers, taps his cane and has a top hat askew.
“There’s no God involved with my appearances, I don’t know how many times I have to tell you that, kid,” Samael says, smoking a Cuban cigar. His eyes blaze as he inhales and puffs.
“You here for open-mic night?” Gabriel asks, stifling laughter.
Samael grins, revealing fangs. “But of course.”
“Wake up wake up wake up,” I say, pinching my dream-body. I notice I’m dressed in a siren red halter dress and sparkling black heels. It’s pastiche as hell.
“Not before my set is over,” Samael growls. He sits next to me and leafs through a magazine, eyes avoiding the stage. “I’m a bit nervous. It’s a new song-”
“You, nervous?” I snort. “If you were even capable of being embarrassed then maybe I’d believe you. You’re bullshitting.”
Samael winces. “You’re a cruel mistress.”
“I’m not your mistress and you literally look like an evil Bob Marley with none of his talent.”
“Give him a chance,” Gabriel says. “Maybe he’ll surprise us!”
Asmodeus gets up on stage and reads from writing off his hand. “Next up is my good friend Sam. Sam, get your butt up here.”
Sam tosses his cane over his shoulder and sidles up to the stage’s piano. “This is for Allie, who never believes in me, neither my music or my actual existence.”
I drown myself in more drinks as the demon on my shoulder serenades me.