(Written by Libby, to troll the everliving fuck out of me with our writer’s group characters, including the immortal toothless vampire baby)
Shannon’s hair was bothering her. She wasn’t the kind of girl who was normally cared too much about her hair – a tucked-back ponytail with a few wisps flying free had always been good enough for her – but since meeting Samael, things had changed. Samael liked to comment on things.
“Your hair matches your name, Worm,” he’d sneered, that time when she met him in Pandemonium with a rope braid.
“Bedroom hair,” he’d said another time, nodding approvingly at the strands she hadn’t bothered to pull back. “Suits you, Maggot.”
Today, Shannon had put her hair in a bun. She knew she was supposed to be thinking about important things – the biology test next Tuesday, how she was going to finish that watercolour she’d started, the future of humanity and her reluctant status as the reincarnation of sinful apple-picking Eve – but she couldn’t stop thinking about what kind of crass object Samael was going to compare her hair to today.
She left her dorm for College Woods, desperately trying to get her thoughts in order. There wasn’t too much Samael could comment on today, was there? She’d gotten pretty good at using her clavic. She hadn’t let Michael or Gabriel get the better of her that time with the hellhounds. She was polite to the wolf pack at Damien’s bar. She’d even managed not to throw up when Beelzebub started in on that horse manure last time – imagine being a fly-demon, of all things –
“Well, if it isn’t my little dung beetle.”
Samael smiled lazily from where he and his sceptre dangled from a tree branch a few feet away. Shannon crossed her arms.
“Dung beetle. That’s a new one.”
“I’ve been thinking up a whole host of endearments in my spare time, little Eve-ling. Now. You’re going to need to prepare yourself. Today is going to be just a little bit different. You see, we have a, slight, uh – well. To phrase things lightly, there’s been a tiny mix-up between the worlds.”
“The worlds,” Shannon repeated. “The worlds we’ve spent months realigning with Earth, you mean?”
Samael shrugged. “Things happen. Doors open. Doors appear that weren’t there before. Don’t get too invested, my sweet-smelling corpse flower. It will only last for a day or so. But you should be prepared while it does.”
“While what lasts?”
“Shannon. You aren’t dull-minded. You are aware that you are a fictional character, yes? Not prone to the monotonies of true flesh-and-blood existence? And that I, too, suffer the same fate?”
“Yes,” said Shannon. “But I don’t see what that could possibly have to do with –”
“The gates between the fictional worlds have opened,” said Samael. “I think it was Michael, that scoundrel. Only a ginger would be capable of something like that. No offense to you, my little blood clot.”
“Blood clot,” Shannon repeated.
“Blood clots are red,” Samael explained, as if to an idiot. “Your hair, too, is red. Therefore, I have nicknamed you –”
“Don’t say it,” Shannon warned. “Go on.”
“Well, when the boundaries between the fictional worlds open, anything can happen. People – and creatures – of all kinds stream into the world where the hole originally appeared. In this case, Maggot, that would be our world. And the rules that usually govern our existences are rendered moot for a time. For example, do you see that girl there? The one running across the field? In the purple dress?”
Shannon squinted. “Yes. But she’s just a college student, right?”
“Wrong,” said Samael. “Her name is Amira Reynolds. She comes from another world entirely. And you are not to cross her, do you understand me?”
Shannon’s hand tightened around her clavic. “Why? Is she dangerous?”
“She very well could be,” said Samael. “I suggest you don’t wait to find out.”
“Samael, she looks exactly like every other college student in this place –”
Samael opened his mouth as if he were about to say something, but then a twig snapped behind him, and his shoulders tightened.
“Be silent, Worm,” he whispered. “It could be anything.”
Shannon stood, with her arms still crossed tightly across her chest. Slowly, she began to make out the sound of footsteps. Samael raised his scythe, his red eyes wild. She began to realize that while pissing off angels and defying the Lord of the Universe were everyday activities for Samael, this was not.
“Samael, I really don’t think that it’s as bad as you think –”
And then a strange cast of characters wandered into their midst.
The one that led them was a teenage girl, maybe seventeen years old, with long wavy brown hair, a thin face, and dark circles beneath her eyes. She was followed by a somewhat younger girl with blonde hair tied back in a chipper ponytail who was chewing a piece of bubble gum energetically. Behind them toddled a two-year-old with the palest-looking face Shannon had ever seen. Finally, at the back of the party, there was a teenage boy with very thick eyebrows who was walking beside a unicorn. A unicorn. Shannon blinked.
“Seth!” called the blonde girl with an air of impatience. “It’s not dangerous out here, you know.”
“I don’t care,” said a petulant voice from several yards away. “You go on without me. I’m staying here until whatever magic this is finds a way to get me back to my garden.”
“So you’re just going to live in the forest until then?” the girl said, rolling her eyes. “It’s going to be boring back there, you know. And it’s spring. The flowers will survive without you for an hour or two.”
“I’m not budging from this log,” the voice proclaimed.
Samael’s eyes grew wide and manic. “I recognize that voice,” he hissed to Shannon. “That’s one of the troll goblins I told you about in Pandemonium. Banished from our world, left to wander in darkness, gifted with powers no demon can even imagine –”
“Troll goblin?” said the blonde girl, wrinkling her nose. “He’s not a troll goblin. He’s just Seth. Who are you?”
Samael drew himself up proudly, though his eyes were still flickering nervously back to wherever this Seth creature might be hiding. Shannon groaned inwardly.
“You may call me Sam,” he said, though not quite with his usual air of superiority. “But if it is my full title you are looking for, my name is Samael, or Sam Hill, aka the Angel of Death, aka Satan, aka your worst nightmare. I am your blood as it drizzles through your arteries, your screams in the blackest corners of the blackest rooms, the songs of your ancestors as their chests gave their final death rattles. I am the darkness, the horror, the fury –”
“You look like a punk,” observed the brown-haired girl. “Not even a good punk. A punk who lives in his parents’ basement and secretly listens to ABBA instead of Norwegian black metal.”
“I have no parents,” snorted Samael. “And this ABBA you speak of, I do not even recognize the name. For I am Samael, the dark lord of the underworld –”
“I heard you playing ‘Dancing Queen’ on the saxophone last week,” said Shannon, smiling. “I think you could use a little more practice.”
Samael’s pale cheeks became spotted with scarlet.
“Since you were so eager to introduce yourselves, we might as well, too,” said the unicorn. “My name is Glorfindas, and I –”
“Wait,” said Shannon, staring. “You can talk?”
“Of course I can talk,” said the unicorn impatiently. “My name is Glorfindas, and I must say, I’ve never been anywhere that looked like this befo –”
“You’re a unicorn,” said Shannon.
“Yes,” said Glorfindas, giving her a hard look. “And you like to interrupt, I see. No matter. Callie, if you’d like to introduce yourself to our dynamic duo here…?”
“Well, it looks like you just did it for me,” said Callie crossly. She snapped her bubble gum. “But okay, fine. I’m Callie. I was hanging out in Seth’s garden before the magic gate opened and we got blown in here.”
“Not that you were invited!” the troll-goblin-or-whatever-he-was shouted from behind them.
“I’ve been friends with you for a whole year!” Callie shouted back at him. “I kind of take it for granted that I can visit you sometimes, okay?”
“Gah,” said the pale two-year-old, beaming at her.
“Shut up,” said Callie. “Seth, we are not having this argument again. Being your friend means I get to come over and hang out with you whenever I want, as long as I don’t upset the flowers. You agreed to that yourself. Just because you’re grumpy right now does not mean that you have the right to change the rules.”
“Gah,” said the baby again.
“I said, shut up,” said Callie. “Seth –”
“You just told that little kid to shut up,” said Shannon, staring at Callie harder than she’d stared at Glorfindas. “You can’t tell a little kid to shut up.”
“Oh, yes I can,” said Callie, glaring at the toddler. “It’s not a normal little kid, okay? It’s – I think it’s a vampire. It was trying to suck Topher’s blood earlier. I think it only stopped because it figured out he was a werewolf.”
Both the teenage boy with the dark eyebrows and the girl with the brown hair blanched.
“Sorry, sorry!” said Callie quickly. “They’re sensitive about it. They’re both werewolves,” she explained to Shannon and Samael.
“I’m not sensitive,” snapped the girl. “I’ve had ten years to get used to it, so on principle I can’t be sensitive. Topher’s the one who’s sensitive, not me. It’s just that we haven’t even introduced ourselves yet and she already knows we’re werewolves. That’s a pretty serious breach of etiquette right there, you’ve got to admit.”
“That’s all right,” said Shannon kindly. “I know some really nice werewolves. One of them owns a bar.”
“A bar?” said the girl, her eyes lighting up. “I’d love to own a bar! Could you hook me up with him? Maybe he could help me set one up – well, once I turn twenty-one, anyway –”
“Hannah,” said the boy – Topher – in a pained tone, “you can’t even make hot chocolate without putting salt in it by mistake.”
“Ye of little faith,” retorted Hannah. “And it wasn’t salt. It was flour.”
“No, I’m pretty sure it was salt –”
“Gah,” said the baby again. It opened its mouth in a wide – and, Shannon could see, toothless – grin.
“That child is not a vampire,” hissed Samael from where he was still sitting defensively in the tree. “Vampires have teeth. That baby has no teeth.”
“I no teeth,” said the baby, nodding with feeling.
“See?” said Samael. “Nothing at all to fear. Just a pure, innocent child, still unblackened by the sin of this world. Although not for long, I hasten to add. Not now that he’s met me.”
“Actually, I’m quite certain that he is a vampire,” said Glorfindas. “We have vampires in my world – I’ve seen them before. It happens sometimes that a rare genetic disorder prevents them from growing any teeth, but that makes them no less vampiric. He’ll have found some other way of getting blood, I’m sure. Since he’s still alive and all.”
“Gah!” shrieked the baby, holding up a hand. A hand, Shannon noticed with dawning horror, with frighteningly long fingernails.
“I think it’s hungry,” whispered Topher, staring at a place on his arm that looked a lot like a hickey.
The baby toddled towards him, much faster than a baby should realistically be able to toddle. It looked at Topher for a few seconds, considering; then turned and began heading for Callie, its spiky hands held out in front of it.
“Oh no,” said Callie. “No, no. You’re not drinking my blood, demon baby. Seth!”
“I’m still on this log,” said Seth’s voice. “Like I told you I would be.”
“I’m coming to join you,” said Callie, and she zipped out of the baby’s reach, scuttling back into the woods where Shannon couldn’t see her anymore.
Next, the baby went for Glorfindas.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” said Glorfindas mildly as the baby scuttled onto his hoof. “Unicorn blood isn’t good for anyone, but it especially isn’t good for babies. I suppose if you’re looking for immortality, it could help you out, but only if you’re okay with living a half life, a cursed life, all that sort of thing. And you’re immortal already, being a vampire, so I wouldn’t.”
The baby nodded with reluctance. It hadn’t tried Hannah yet, but she smelled like Topher, and that was no good. Shannon had the right scent, but it didn’t drink gingers on principle. However, there was that thing up in the tree. The baby had never smelled anything like it before.
It hesitated for a moment before transforming into a bat, fluttering up onto a tree branch, and seating itself beside Samael.
Shannon watched as Samael held his scythe up in front of himself like a baseball bat.
“Get away from me, leech,” he commanded, although he was unable to keep the slight tremor out of his voice. “You may be from another world, but you are still a leech. I eat leeches for breakfast. If I couldn’t deal with leeches, do you think I would be lord of all Hades today? I certainly would not, you poor excuse for a head louse. You filthy, disgusting, blood-sucking leech –”
The bat seemed to shrug before it bit the blade off of Samael’s scythe. Apparently the baby did have teeth in bat form. It spat the blade out, where it clattered onto the tree stump and buried itself in the ground. Samael let out a deep, primal groan.
Shannon laughed until her stomach hurt. She hadn’t had such a good day in months.
It wasn’t until the baby had drunk its fill, Samael had slunk shamefully back down to Pandemonium, and a golden-haired angel named Vergil had kindly offered to give the guests a lift back through the magic gate that Shannon realized that Samael had never said one word about her hair.
It seemed that a messy bun was the way to go.