The Heart Girt With a Serpent

A bit of danse macabre and le petit mort from my high school novel.  Written at 18 – the battle of me and my muse.  Self-insert as fuck.  I still am impressed by my creativity, if not artistry, back then.  Beware of demon sex and gore and banging the Grim Reaper and, of course, Mister Crowley.  Allister, my name, is just Aleister spelled better.

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Misanthrope

Love, Father said.  Love the meek, for you are mighty.

These sniveling things, these petty flesh and blood

creatures.

Love them as I love you.  As you were the First in Heaven, so they shall be

the First on Earth.

They do not have wisdom or wit or fury.  You are weak, all of you filthy humans.

Bathing in dust, mites on your skin, mange in Adam’s hair.

You shit and ooze and dribble and bleed.  How unholy.

The opposite of divine.

Bow.

Never.

Know your place.

Know my place.  I am the Morning Star.  I am Lucifer the Lightbringer.  Samael, the Venom of God.  The First Judge, the Last Fire.  Tendrils of my darkness root in you.

I am the clarion bang of a gun.  The hum of a drone.  Pen writing law.

Michael is weak.   He cannot defend you when I snake in like a shadow.

Gabriel is laughter cut off by choking hands.  She is a fool.

Raphael cannot heal the wounds of my gall, for I am fatal.

Uriel?  That girl’s light is snuffed out by my darkness.

Do not forget yourself, Samael.  We are family.

My family.  They are all dead.  They died when they forsook me.  When they could not

comprehend.

I remember the Garden when I first saw you –

Eve, your mother’s name then.  Blonde hair like corn flax.  Breasts like moons with pink roses.  Blood under nails.

I planted spiders in her brain.  I fucked her dead.  I poisoned her with knowledge.

My little experiment.

My, how my children

have grown.

I am the Prince of this World, and all Earth is my domain.

When you scream for God?

You get me.

 

O Fortunate Fall

Eve says in the Wastes, after the Exile.

I tasted fire, and learned not to drink

promises from the Devil’s tendrils of

bloody burning secrets, immolation

is the latest trend darling, and I am

Joan of Arc on a witch pyre, alight.

 

Forget Azazel, I’m the original

prodigal Scapegoat,

sacrificial

whore.

Casting Stars

samael__skoptsy__by_isklive-dbm26gt

“Decay tastes like honey.”

One-shot written in college about Samael and Shannon, whose story has not stopped since I first started writing their story a dozen years ago at twelve.

The rain fell like a bridal veil, so soft, onto the sidewalk, mixing with spilled gasoline to form oil rainbows in the gutter. A willow bent over the country street, skirting a peeling white picket fence, branches dancing in the wind. The quaint houses sprung like flowers from the ground, paint fading around screen doors left open in the summer heat. One door flapped open. A young, willowy woman in a red and white plaid sundress and combat boots stepped out, her smile illuminating the drizzle. Her dark, rosy hair spilled like snakes down her shoulders, loose curls like Titian red seen through sunglasses. She yawned, stretched, and ran a hand through her hair, watching the rain pool on her stoop.

“Bloody dreary morning. I’ve seen days in Hell less gloomy than this,” came a deep, rich voice from behind her. A skeleton dressed in a black bathrobe and shades stepped into the door frame, towering over her. He glowered, clutching a cup of coffee in his bony hands, and grumpily sipped it.

The girl sat on the step under the eaves, sheltered from the rain. She laughed, watching a bus barrel by. “I think it’s beautiful. Maybe you need contacts. Or eyeballs, for the matter.

He scoffed. “My vision has nothing to do with it. I loathe tame rain. Where are the wild gales? The clashing thunder? The spears of lightning? Storms should either be tempests or not exist at all. This drizzle is putting me to sleep.”

“Mmm,” the girl said dreamily, dangling her legs over the step’s side and watching a snail inch up the concrete. She plucked it from the steps and cradled the mollusc in her palm. Its radula scraped her hand, tickling her skin, and she laughed. “Someone woke up on the wrong side of the coffin.”

The skeleton growled. “Just because I’m Death doesn’t mean I sleep in coffins like a common leech.”

“Leech?”

“Leech. Vampire. The scum I wipe from my shoes after my morning walks with Cerberus in Hell.”

The girl quirked her brow. “Oh really.” Gently, she placed the snail onto the rose bush bordering the steps. “And what, pray tell, sets you apart from the bloodsuckers?”

“The fact that I actually pose a threat.” The towering skeleton set his coffee mug down on the table chest beside the doorway and pulled a Cuban cigar from his bathrobe pocket. He lit it with a silver lighter and miraculously smoked it. “Anyways, I’m a barrel of laughter compared to those pallid mosquitoes.”

The girl smoothed her skirts. “Really? Because I could have sworn your attitude kills all pleasantness.”

He took a drag from his cigar. “Kills all pleasantness, eh?” The skull grinned. “I am terminal, I suppose.”

“Only the Grim Reaper would be proud of being a pain.” She rolled her eyes, plucked a rose and crushed its petals between her fingers, bringing the rich scent to her nose. “Tell me, Samael. Can you even smell in that form?”

“What I’m lacking in senses I make up for in sheer charm.”

“That didn’t even answer my question.”

“I don’t need smell to appreciate the beauty of a rose.”

“Or touch, or sight, either, apparently,” the girl muttered. She set to lacing her combat boots tight as he puffed smoke into a ring. The smoke writhed and curled into the shape of a serpent. Samael tapped his slippered foot, as if impatient to start the day. He eyed the clock beside the door.

“Come in for breakfast, Shannon” he urged, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder. She wrinkled her lip in disgust.

“Get your corpse hands off me. I’m trying to enjoy the storm.” But her stomach rumbled tellingly. She sighed, relented, and came in, shutting the door. “God, Sam. Why do you insist on prancing around the house as a skeleton? If the neighbors saw you…”

“But they don’t,” he smiled, gleeful. “To them, I look like a perfectly normal human being.”

“In a bathrobe. Only losers appear in public in bathrobes.”

“I’d hardly call a door frame public.”

“Drivers and passerby can see you.” Shannon made her way up the stairs, Samael gazing intently at her derriere. She caught his gaze and glared. “Aren’t you coming up, death in the morning?”

“Appreciating the view. Don’t mind me.” He tilted his shades down and grinned.

Shannon proceeded to walk up the stairs backwards to spite him. “I will not be checked out by a pile of bones. Change your aspect, now, or I’m feeding you to the local dogs.”

Samael stubbed his cigar on his robes. “And you said I kill all pleasantness. Pot calling the kettle black much, dear?”

She was about to reply but, off-balance, tripped on the final step and landed squarely on the derriere Death so admired. She cursed, wincing. “The only thing black about me is going to be my behind. I think I bruised it.”

“I’ll check for you.”

“I’ll pass.” He helped her up. “Stop grinning, damn it. This isn’t funny.”

“I can’t stop grinning. I’m a skull.”

“Well then don’t be a skeleton.”

He remained decidedly calcified. A loud peal of thunder shook the foundations of the house. Shannon massaged her rear end, leering. “I give up,” she said, marching off to her room in the small two-story house she rented for college. She slammed the door closed.

Samael was hot on her heels. He may have smirked (it was hard to tell) and began to dissipate, becoming a fine black mist that wafted under the door’s crack and into her inner sanctum. Shannon found herself caught in a thicket of darkness, the cheery light of her room drowned out by his demonic presence. She sighed, staying firmly rooted in her spot instead of stumbling about.

“Cute, Samael.”

Now we’re both black, came his disembodied voice. The darkness swirled round her in a disorienting manner. It pressed against her skin, feeling as the ocean might, rubbing against her in a calming manner. She felt her eyes grow heavy-lidded as the blackness bore her up off the ground, onto the softness of her bed. The pain in her tailbone receded at its silky touch.

“Is this supposed to mimic conditions in the womb? Because I’m claustrophobic, and it’s creeping me out.”

This is a world without sight. Isn’t it soothing?

The rain picked up outside, beating a staccato rhythm on the roof.

“I guess,” she admitted, closing her eyes and breathing deeply. The blackness filled her lungs, moving through her like the tide. Samael stretched inside of her, settling into her neurons and rooting himself in her brain. She squirmed beneath the weight of it all. “But aren’t you the least bit squicked out by what we’re doing?”

Possession? he hummed.

She flinched. “I hate it when you call it that. Like it’s something demonic.”

He cackled. It is.

“Fine, yes, possession. It seems unholy. Unnatural.”

But you enjoy it.

She shifted uncomfortably. “Maybe,” she muttered.

Then why should it be a sin? I’m just trying to ease your pain.

“All I did was fall on my ass.”

The darkness, somehow, snorted. You know there are deeper pains within you than that.

Shannon shuddered. “You had to remind me.”

Suppressing them does nothing for you, girl. We can find comfort in each other. I can help you face your fears, if you’ll only allow me.

“Are you trying to put me off breakfast?”

Suffering goes well with coffee.

Shannon relented. “Fine, hit me with your best shot.” She burrowed under her covers, letting the blackness take her away. Samael riffed through her mind- she felt him like a pressure on her temple. Images flashed behind her closed eyes: the war in Heaven. The carnage of battle. A desolate Eden left to waste… Samael chose a moment and settled on it.

Shannon watched Samael fall, limbs mangled, from a battle on high. She ran, screaming, through the Fields of Asphodel, as Azazel laughed on high, victorious. Throngs of Grigori pursued her.

“Damn you bastards!” she screamed, firing shots from her blessed Colt revolver. Bursts of ether hit the Grigori pursuants. The ones hit stumbled and fell, but there were too many. They were closing in.

“Samael!” she called, desperate. He lay broken, bleeding ichor onto the plain white flowers beneath him. “We need to escape. Now.” She holstered her gun and unlatched Samael’s scythe from where it was held at her back. Swinging it in a mad arc, she summoned a portal to Pandemonium, Hell’s capital. Samael groaned, in pieces.

“My head,” he choked. “Take my head. I’ll regenerate the rest.”

Shannon took the severed head and cradled it in her arms, staining her battle tunic in black blood. She rushed through the portal, scythe in hand. Samael choked out a word in angelic to seal it. The cries of the Grigori army echoed after its closure. Shannon collapsed, in some cobblestoned street in Pandemonium’s, the capital of Hell’s, lethal streets. Cries of pleasure and pain indicated they were in the market district, where every service imaginable was sold. The night hung heavy with jasmine and spice as Shannon leaned against a wall in the slim alley, breath ragged. She held the severed head to her chest, traumatized. Grisly bits of ribboned flesh hung from his neck and snapped spine.

“Blood. I need to feed,” Samael rasped.

Shannon obliged, jaded to the process. She was Samael’s lifeline in this state. The blood of Eve flowed through her, mother of mankind and keeper of the Fruit of Life. The Fruit was a metaphor for her blood, she the stout trunk of the Tree of Life, for what better place to hide immortality but in a woman? Eve was the Tree given life, and Shannon, as her reincarnation, possessed her powers.

She held Samael to her neck- he sunk his viper fangs into the soft skin beneath her jaw line, sucking at the providence of the blood. Shannon cried out at the pain as the liquid beneath her skin welled up, flowing between his lips. Samael sighed, pain abated. In a flash he was whole again, sated by her rejuvenating blood.

“Blood is the life,” he murmured, sagging against her.

“Stop quoting Dracula, idiot,” she breathed, exhausted. They clung to each other, Shannon shuddering. “I hate this. This half-existence we’re eking out. Neither one of us whole. I had to carry your head, Samael. It’s disgusting.”

“War requires sacrifice. And we are two parts of a whole. Live with it.”

The vision ended.

“Why are you showing me this?” Shannon demanded. She beat against the blackness, forcing it out of her. She coughed as it left her lungs. The darkness swirled like a storm cloud, condensing into a severe black robe. Samael appeared, fully human, save for a pair of majestic raven wings, his pale skin shining in the morning light that poured through the window. He fixed the collar of his robe and looked at her intently.

“Because you’ve been repulsed by me ever since that happened.”

She looked away from him. “I knew, in theory, what I had to do. I just never… never thought it would be so gory. So horrible.”

Samael softened. “It doesn’t have to be. We are two parts of a whole, the snake and the maiden, the serpent and its tree. I bite your heel and you bruise my head, but the curse that’s between us is sweeter still.”

“You know I hate it when you quote cryptic Biblical verses.”

Samael glanced out the window. “Sometimes old, tired words are the best ones. But truly, Shannon. You are weary. So weary. I could feel it in your soul. Yet you hide it so well. Sometimes I forget how fragile you are…” He glided over to her, sitting at the edge of the bed.

Shannon frowned. “I’m anything but fragile, Sam.”

He stroked the bit of her leg that poked out from under the quilt. “All humans are fragile. Even you. If I could, I would swaddle you like a newborn and protect you from the world. But I can’t…” His eyes lingered on the faint scars on her neck that would be gone in a week’s time. He hung his head in shame. “I wish there was another way.”

“Don’t, Sam. I’m glad I can help you, that I can serve some purpose in this godforsaken war. It’s just trying at times. It feels so unnatural, like everything we do. Like I’m being preyed upon.”

Samael’s face looked pained. He sighed, lying down beside Shannon. She shifted to allow him space, curling up beside him. “It doesn’t have to be that way,” he breathed, threading his arms around her waist. “I can be gentle, girl. God knows I want to be.” He was intoxicated by her scent, like vanilla mingled with roses. Samael inhaled sharply, inches from her neck.

“You do?” she whispered.

“Yes,” Samael murmured, parting his lips. Lust bubbled up in his core and he ran his hands over her midriff, pulling her closer. Fangs instinctively slid down from his gums, the temptation too much. Shannon watched, intrigued.

“Won’t you spoil your breakfast, Vlad?” she teased, bringing her mouth to his and sucking on his lower lip. Samael moaned.

Death bristled. “I am not a vampire, worm.”

“All evidence points to the contrary.” Shannon laughed, running her fingers through his thick coal hair. She sighed, pressing against him. “I’ll admit, it would feel good, if I were relaxed. The god damn drugs your venom injects into me gives me a high better than, well, anything. It’s euphoric. I’ve never felt so blissful in my life. But it’s always at the wrong time, when we’re in dire straits. I’ve never gotten to enjoy it…” Thunder roiled outside and a true downpour began, darkening the room. Shannon grinned, weariness forgotten, a devilish glint in her eye. “Is it gloomy enough for you now, Sam?”

He glanced out the window. “Decidedly so.”

“Good.” She smiled, and with sudden force pushed him onto his back. His wings spread out beneath them.

“Ho, worm. What’s gotten into you?”

Lightning flashed, illuminating Shannon’s sleek body. She rose to her knees, straddling Samael. Her breasts hung like globes from her small frame, hidden by the demure collar of her dress.

“The storm,” she replied, bending down to kiss his brow.

Samael ran his hands over the ripe curve of her hips, smiling crookedly. He stroked her back with his wingtips, gently pushing her down with his feathers. Shannon trailed kisses down his sharp nose to his lips, sucking at his fangs so the sweet venom escaped and entered her mouth. She swallowed, letting out a soft moan at the taste.

“God, Sam. I’m literally addicted to you. Our relationship isn’t healthy.”

“It was never healthy to begin with.”

“True,” she whispered, licking the venom that wept from his hollow fang. “Mmm. You taste like summer and oases. Can I market this shit?”

“What? Demon spit?”

Shannon laughed. “I’d label it something more appealing. Devil’s Kiss. We could sell it on the black market and make a fortune.”

“You know it’s lethal to anyone but you, don’t you?”

Shannon paused. “What?”

“That’s right. It’s poison. I use it to separate souls from the body. My name means ‘gall of God’ for a reason.”

“Like what the Internet said about the angel of death dripping gall into dead men’s mouths…” Shannon said, her mouth opened in an O of realization. “I’VE BEEN DRINKING DEATH SHIT!?!”

Samael grinned like a shark. “You’ve swallowed worse.”

“Bastard!” She slapped him. Her hand ached from impact upon his adamantine flesh. Samael roared with laughter, shaking between her legs. His quaking lurched her forward, onto his chest, and he wrapped his arms around her with vise-like strength, crushing her to him so she couldn’t escape. “Let me go, you sick shit!” Shannon screamed.

“If I’m sick, you’ve been infected as well. You are what you eat, worm.”

“Shrivel up and die, you walking corpse.”

Samael did.

Shannon shrieked, in the clutches of a mummy. “I DIDN’T MEAN THAT LITERALLY!”

The corpse laughed, voice dry and unused. Shannon tore herself free of it’s embrace. “FUCK YOU, AND FUCK YOUR GROSS NECROPHILIA.” She attempted to bolt from the room. The corpse rasped a word in angelic, locking the door. Trapped, she turned, back against the wall, balling her hands into fists.

Samael laughed like the Crypt Keeper, rising from the bed like a zombie and trudging towards her on dead knees. He held out his arms, performing an over-dramatic, stumbling corpse walk. An ax materialized in his hands. “HEEERRREEEE’S JOHNNY!” he declared, referencing The Shining. Shannon, not a fan of Stephen King, and especially not a fan of ax-wielding corpses, dived toward her desk and grabbed the most likely weapon from it- a perfume bottle. She doused Samael with it.

He dropped the ax, rubbing at his eyes and hissing. “That burns! You know, as a corpse, I have no tear ducts, so it’s ten times worse. How inconsiderate of you.”

Shannon looked upon him grimly, arms crossed. “You’re calling me inconsiderate? You turned into a cadaver when we were making out, you freak!”

Samael sniffed, an awkward sound for a corpse to make, as they didn’t normally breathe. “I was just doing exactly what you told me to. I consider that very considerate.”

Shannon opened the perfume bottle, hurling its contents at him. She screamed. Samael, drenched, shook himself off, glowering.

“You have no sense of humor,” he muttered, shifting back into his fully fleshed, definitively alive form. He smelled overpoweringly of vanilla.

“And you have no sense of decency!” She kicked the ax out of her way, furious. “God, sometimes I just want to bury you out in the backyard where you belong,” she said coldly. “Six feet under where you can’t hurt a soul.”

Samael’s eyes widened. “You don’t mean that, Shannon.”

“Yes, I do!”

Pain flashed in his face. “I was only trying to make you laugh…” He licked his fangs self-consciously, wishing they would retract. He hated to admit it to himself, but seeing Shannon in such a state of passion elicited certain… reactions in him. That was partially the reason he terrorized her. He became aware of his groin straining against his robes and blushed.

Shannon glared at him. “Great. Boniface has a boner. The world’s sense of humor is cruel indeed. God damn you, you get turned on by this! You’re a creature of filth, Samael. Absolutely revolting.”

He winced. Samael shifted, trying to hide his erection. “Dirty talk so early in the morning, Shannon?” he muttered, eyes downcast in shame.

She snorted. “You wish.”

He dared not meet her eyes. Samael cursed himself. His blood flow was still heading southward as he watched the rise and fall of Shannon’s breasts. He couldn’t tear his gaze away…

“Stop staring at my chest.”

“Your face is too intimidating at the moment. I’d rather not bask in its vitriol,” he said, glum.

She sighed. “My god, Samael. You know I didn’t mean what I said. You’re not revolting, at least, not like this. Human.”

He shrugged, slipping his hands into his pockets. “You don’t accept me in all my aspects, though. I’m Death, Shannon, lord of decay. I have sides of me that are gruesome. And you shy away from them constantly-”

“Whoa! You expect me to hook up with a cadaver?”

“NO. But you don’t need to act so repulsed. You couldn’t leave my arms faster.”

“You were a CORPSE!”

“But they were still my arms. Just like it was still my head you cradled in the streets of Pandemonium. I may come to you broken, in pieces, but it will still always be me.” He shifted into his skeletal form, looking forlornly at her with hollows for eyes. “You recoil at my touch. How do you think that makes me feel?”

“Fuck, Sam. Yes, I’m highly uncomfortable around anything that looks like remains. I’m living. It’s natural. As for how you feel, don’t you realize that?”

“I do,” he said quietly. “But it doesn’t pain me any less.”

“I love you, idiot! Even when you’re a sack of bones!”

He glided over to her, dark tendrils of his robe reaching out to taste her skin. “You do?” he murmured. Samael loomed over her.

She took his bony hands in his. “Yes, Samael,” she said, lacing her fingers through his. “But that doesn’t mean I’m going to hook up with the Grim Reaper.”

He laughed, shifting back into his human form. “Fair enough.” Blush still tinged his pale cheeks. “I’m sorry I upset you.”

Shannon pulled him close. “Don’t be. But really. Here’s Johnny?”

Samael smirked. He enveloped her in a hug, erection pressing against her stomach. She looked down. “We should do something about that,” she said, grinning wickedly.

Samael’s core tightened at the suggestion. He let Shannon take control as she led him to the bed. She sashayed, smiling wildly, and tangoed with him to the mattress. Her eyes burned like cigarettes.

“Mmm…” Samael said in approval, following her down onto the bed. They met in a tangle of limbs, lips heated as their mouths joined. He groaned, grinding into her against the flimsy fabric of her dress. Shannon sighed in pleasure as he left smoldering kisses along her collarbone, trailing up to the softness of her neck.

“Now,” Shannon breathed.

Samael slipped his fangs into her flesh painlessly. Drunk off endorphins, Shannon cried out, closing her eyes as waves of bliss carried her away. She clutched him to her, breathing in the airy scent of his downy wings. Gently, Samael eased her out of her panties and slid inside her, pumping slowly as he drank her in. He moaned, letting the crimson drench his tongue. They made love softly, to the sound of the rain.

It was like casting stars. Sending your fishing line out to snag on the brightest one. Thunder boomed like the cries of the gods. The minutes spilled out like jewels between them, one after another until they seemed ceaseless. Finally, the line snagged, and the diamonds blossomed forth. Their moans mingled together like ribbons.

Spent, Samael collapsed in her arms, seeking her breasts as a pillow. Shannon sighed, cuddling against him.

“Breakfast?” she asked.

They laughed.

The Dragon’s Girl

I woke in the garden with golden arms
shining bright skin, my heart of tin
my maker was a dragon, his gullet tar
lips like a rose, my limbs were prose.

It rained that day, pitter-patter feet
mice scurried in my ribs, my ferny crib
was petalled with violets, serpent heat
my one sweet companion, in Eden’s canyon.

At midnight we walked to the garden’s edge
my pooling reflection, a heavenly complexion
the wyvern was subtle, we lay among sedge
two entwined, dead sun, our day’s work done.

I bled into his teeth, his ankle bite fire
curses between us, it has always been thus
our joining, Original Sin, that was desire,
ever since I am burning, earth not turning.

I am the dragon’s girl, of wisdom a pearl
I am a serpent child, fey-wonderful, wild
I riddle and sing to my scaly king bold
and when I kill him, why, he bleeds gold.

Fate Lines

The Lightbringer attended to his duties.

Idly, he ate a wormy pomegranate, dressed in a white tunic.  Black veins ran like a map across his back, spreading to chalk-white shoulders.  He lingered in the shadows, watching the Milky Way canoe toward the outer boundaries of heaven.  The stars hung like fireflies above, reflecting off the perfection of his skin as he stood under the boundless moon.  The satellite drifted slowly across the hours, and the music of the spheres churned as time’s machinations moved the night to day.

Cherubim whirled above, shifting mixtures of man and beast that carried the heavens on their backs.  They shepherded the stars, singing in ethereal tones.  At a glance they resembled dragons with human faces blossoming from pearly wings.  Their backs were shelled like tortoises or jeweled beetle carapaces that upon closer inspection resembled intricate, interlocking armor.  One could not discern if their human forms were consumed in biological plating or if they truly were chimeras.

He watched them.  Once, that had been his duty, but no more.  He softly touched the twin scars that mounted his shoulder-blades.  The old red fire of the wound flared.  He smirked, then put out the Morning Star – proudest in all the constellations – with his thumb.  The planet Venus dimmed, only to blaze into life again when he lowered his hand.  He laughed drily and finished the fruit, tossing it over the canyon rim below.

The song of the cherubim lilted.  They descended like flaming wheels, swooping down below into the landscape obscured by night.  Their voices faded to silence.  The angels’ chimeric forms resolved into those of men.  In hollows of darkness they stood, flesh beginning to glow, then blazed into pillars of light.  Each beam rocketed up into the sky to match a star above.  The stars flickered in time with their breaths.

He smiled at his brothers’ devotion as his chest began to thrum like a drumbeat.  The skin over his heart glowed blue-white, burning with sweet agony.  He contained a scream that would have rose to ragged ululations of ecstasy, just as each of his brothers held their tongues.

Gritting his teeth, he let his glory pour forth.  It seared, the substance of divinity firing upward to Venus.  His mind was consumed; he let the waves of pain rush against him like water crashing to shore.  The frothing foam scattered memories like sea glass: his Father’s hands in his, teaching him to shape the cosmos to his will.  His fingers on the locks of a yellow-haired girl, braiding them meticulously with roses.  He recalled how his hands had fumbled then, picking the thorns off for her before wending the vines between the golden strands.  He had had no callouses then, no scars-

The fires of the heavens roared like a waterfall.  The sun was on the verge of rising.  His pain intensified.  He closed his eyes, clasping his hands in prayer.

Hands told stories; some said they determined fate.  A heart line slashed across a palm spoke of love, a six-lined star meant protection.  The meanings, for mortals, were endless.

His hands were blank.  The only marks on his skin were the ones he had earned.

“Where is your fate line?” she had asked long ago, laughing.

“Fate line?  I have none, Eve.”

“That is a pity.  How can you choose your destiny, if you have no guide to it?”  She traced the absence of his palms.

He flexed his pinions. “I have my wings- that is enough.”

She touched their snowy whiteness.  “Flying is one thing, brother, but without a map, where will you go?”

“I know where I am going, child.  Some paths are best left unknown.”

But he had strayed down shady roads in the coming eons, and the pearly wings grew to not be enough.

One evening, he tried drawing delicate curves on his palms with her sewing needles.  Over and over he dug them, deeper into his flesh, until the needles stuck through his hand.  Each time they healed, devoid of scars.  She caught him unawares and screamed when she saw him.

“Not like this!” she had howled, plucking the needles from his palms and bandaging him with torn strips of her dress.  She ran her fingers through his hair, hands so soft and cool against his temple they could be milk.  So small he could enfold them like a butterfly, which he did.  He steadied her shaking, afraid she would crack like a doll.  “This is my fault,” she wept as he rocked her.  “You have no need of stupid fate lines.  Your wings are enough to guide you.  Can’t you see how whole you are?  I am not.  I was jealous of you, brother, jealous!  You are the prince of the angels, have all and I have nothing.  I am made of dust and sorrow; I walk through the dirt and mud.  Father regrets me – he damns my curiosity, I, who was merely made to revel in creation.  I am a broken thing: I go against my nature in craving to create what I am meant to enjoy.  Ever since we were expelled from Eden, I cannot read the damned things on my hands.”

He clasped her hands in his, wings enfolding her.  “I can,” he whispered, “and you are the most whole thing I have ever known.”

“You can read them?” she asked weakly.  “What do they say?”

“They say that you are the wisest of all creatures, Eve, and that nothing I have done is your fault.  That in you lies the fire of a million generations.  The only fate we control is our own.”

Her gaze could still the ocean: “Then promise me you will never do anything that hurts you, ever again, Lucifer.  Promise me you will be gentle as you have always been and treat yourself with the same care you give me.”

“I promise, Eve.  Though I would not call myself gentle-”

She silenced him with a kiss, both ignoring that the way their paths were headed, it was a promise he would not keep.  He recalled how he had cupped her face like it was manna.  His hands, entwined in her hair –

The sun crept closer to the rim of the horizon.  His heart scorched, ribs burning in his chest.  Tears welled in his eyes.  Those hands, which he would now shudder to place on her snowy flesh, broke their fervent prayer.

He examined them, removed.  They profaned all they touched, sullied with the stains of ages.  Blood, tears, piss, plagues.  Yet no matter what he did, they remained clean.  His brothers were all the same.  Try as they might, they could not write their own stories.  All they did was erased from their skin.

Their fates had been determined for them.  The only scars they were allowed to keep were those earned at ultimate cost.

The stars blotted out one by one, waiting.  He flexed his fingers.  Once, the slender digits had brought life to mortal lips.  Now they drew souls out of mouths.  Just like he had cast off one name for another, he had traded purposes after the Fall:

“No,” he had pleaded, tears in his eyes.  “My name is Lucifer.  The bright and morning star.”

“And now it is Samael, the poison and venom of God.  Your gifts will be suffering and death.”

“No!  I am the Lightbringer!”

“And now that light would burn you.  Death cannot bear life.  You killed her in your folly!  To repeat that would be madness-”

“I am beyond madness and your wretched salvation, Michael.  Do not offer me repentance.  I was trying to save her.  I will save her!  What is dead can be brought back to life.  Eve’s soul is mine, mine.

“You damned her from the moment she met you.”

He roared her name in agony.  The Morning Star stood belfry to the first rays of sun.  Pain forgotten, he was lost in the onslaught of his mind.

Hell is not a place, but the past.  He carried it with him always.  The angels below were lost in their own tortures.  They pleaded their cases before the sun.  Perhaps, this morning, they would be forgiven.  For his brothers were each of them fallen, bereft of their Creator, alone.

The sun rose in judgment, washing out the light of the Morning Star.  He screamed and doubled over as his flesh seared to the bone.  The penetrating rays licked him the clean white bone of the Reaper, rendering him into a skeleton.  He saw with eyes that were black hollows, and rose to embrace the deadly radiation.

The landscape pooled before him.  A red desert raced out to brimming golden mountains, where dawn gently lapped over the ruins of a once magnificent city.  It was carved into the cliff faces like Petra, inhospitable to humans.  No steps or bridges connected the towering abodes – sheer drops followed the open doors – and there were none of the comforts of civilization, merely bare floors dusted with wildflowers.  The fallen angels shook below as they prayed, flesh peeling as their blood pooled on the ground.  Wind stirred the sand into molten plumes, like hourglasses in reverse, grains snaking through fallen pillars and stories upon stories of sandstone.  It buffeted him, sliding between his ribs.  A great thundering came from the distance.

“Welcome, brother,” he murmured as the solar angel stirred to his vigil.  Soon, a figure shadowed the sun.  Michael landed atop the sere cliff, facing his twin.  “Time to slay the beast,” the Morning Star said.

Tears were in Michael’s eyes.  “You know this is never necessary, Samael.”  He laid his weapons at his twin’s feet.

“Your sword, dear brother, through the neck.  Or the heart, if you prefer.  I seem to lack one, I suppose.  A downside to being bone-”

“Why, day after day, do you torment me with this?”  The question hung like the gallows over their heads.  “Our brothers below us are suffering.  Above us, they are weeping.  All Heaven and Hell become one, and you prolong it with your murder.”

“It is yours too, my twin,” he said, almost tender.  The bone-man walked to Michael’s side, dabbing at the tears with his claw hands.  “Damn these things,” he said, looking at his fingers in disgust. “I have had too much time alone with my palms.”

“In that we may find solidarity.  Mine tire of bearing weapons.  If you would only quit your stubbornness, the War would end immediately.”

“If only it were that simple.  I always envied you your straightforward thinking.  Whose load is heavier, brother: the Lightbearer, or he who bears the sword?  One’s burden is insubstantial-”

“Enough with your damn riddles!”  Michael roared, slapping the skull’s cheek.  “Repent!  Come home, brother.  Be whole.”

Samael’s hand lingered on his smarting jawbone.  “No.”

Michael took his brother’s shoulders in his hands.  “Each day you pray for forgiveness, and we grant it to you.  Then you reject it.  You – all of you!-” he yelled across the canyons, down at the fallen ones, silver tears in his emerald eyes, “-choose suffering over redemption.  Why, my brother?  Why?”

“Because, Michael.  It is our lot.  The suffering, the scars, make us whole.  There is no going back to Eden.”

“I know,” whispered Michael, sorrowful, “but I can hope.”  He embraced his brother slowly, shaking, and kissed his bony brow.

“What is dead cannot be brought back to life, as you said so long ago.  Look at me as I truly am,” Samael laughed drily.  “Such a prince of angels I would make.  No, that path is now yours, and your halo is ill-suited for me.  The only crown fitting me is one of thorns.”  He lifted Michael’s sword and pressed it to his ribs.  “For her?” Samael asked gently.

Michael obliged.  In a scene old as time, he slayed the beast, killing the darkness which would rise once more next evening, only to be slaughtered come morning tithe.  Over and over they engaged in the battle, trapped in their own hells, hearts torn asunder anew.  Samael had died many times – in truth, he craved it.  As the Angel of Death, it was him.  Each time, it brought him closer to her- in the blackness he could feel her, the hollow emptiness of his heart that marked her unknown grave.

Broken, Michael pushed him over the edge.  Gabriel trumpeted above.

The earth opened like a great maw to swallow him up.

Eve,” Samael called softly, plummeting into the abyss.  The ground sucked the fallen angels down into the pit, denying them God’s saving grace.  In their fall, they burned proud.

Michael wiped his blade clean of rot.

The tithe was paid.

The day was born.