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.
The war is eternal, the barracks are full of gutter swill, and Michael sits with his soldiers – some young angels not yet scarred by battle, some hardened veterans with crooked broken noses and lashes across their skin, burns from brands, twisted flesh from whips and swords. In the trenches and camps, the border never falls, and the only thing to sing you to sleep is Israfel’s weeping over the Damned.
Sometimes, when there is a pause, and the demons retreat, Gabriel pulls out her battered trumpet and plays hymns. Raphael has an accordion, and Uriel a makeshift drum. Michael sings then. It’s a ragtime band, Vaudeville in the wastelands, for shed enough immortal blood in Heaven and the grasses, flowers, and sedge drown in ichor. All that blooms is asphodel. The angel will dance among the plain white flowers and bramble thorns.
There are also roses. One blooms every time an angel utters his or her last words. They are sickly sweet with the fragrance of lost hope and a rain that never comes. Michael picks them and presses their nectar and delivers their prayers to God’s throne room. God weeps at the loss of his children, and another poppy blooms in the fields of the slain as the snow of their Father’s tears buries the corpses. Roses, asphodel, poppy. Pink, white, red. It’s like a twisted Valentines, a love letter from Heaven to Hell.
Oh sweet nothings between Michael and Lucifer as one bites the heel and one crushes the head. Oh sweet somethings between Raphael binding Azazel in Dudael. Oh sweet possibility as Gabriel plays up the dawn with her song. Oh sweetly impossible wishes of Raphael, for healing of the broken hearts of his comrades. Oh bittersweet light of Uriel, who has run out of tears to shed – all that is left in her amber eyes is salt.
It is a Crusade. It is a Cold War. It is a chess set with poker on the side. Two masterminds, Left Hand and Right Hand of God. Over humanity perhaps, or perhaps so much more than mere hairless humans. Perhaps they fight over free will, for freedom, or perhaps they forgot what they were fighting for long ago, and the lances and armor are dressings over empty burning hearts swiftly turning to coal.
Deus Vult. As God Wills.
“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. 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.
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.”
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.
She’s got moonglow tits that bob in night waters, perfect round globes like curled-up white rabbits with black peaks of areola and gray nipples because she’s all poison and ebony eyes and milky skin. She’s curled up in my closet in a nest fit for the Zu bird and sweet seraph curses and she crows and speaks the language of birds that are girls, or girls that are monsters, with scaled legs and owl wings from ancient Sumerian carvings, but she’s not perched on two lions, her thin wan legs are jumping on your bed and you’re throwing pillows at each other and painting her lips and talons with a pop of cherry poison. It’s all fun and games until arsenic kisses and slashed throats of words fly, it’s all spin the bottle with succubi until neon lights at your favorite strip mall get busted to splinters by her rage. She’s wailing, she’s railing, and it’s so fun to terrorize the neighborhood with your monster girl. She smells like mothball and tastes like whiskey but it’s all swell, all is well, because you’re gay, just a little bit, for a lot of your pretty murderesses, like that goddess of death whose bone feet you kissed as you rubbed one out on grave dirt. You’re just a shadow drowning in moonlight, really, just a paper cutout in the shape of curves and gold and blue and you seek a black hole to consume you. Void Mother you toast to past the witching hour with a new best friend, she’s in Gaia training sitting on a hill in armor with a sword and donkey, learning from Valkyries the recipe for hurricanes, and she’s a piece of the Mother, just like you are, just like every girl you know is, and men fear us all. Your monster girl is feral, like pine barrens in a blizzard, or the nothingness at the lip of a night full of pain, and she has fangs sharp as a wolf and toes that end in bruises from kicking too many cans barefoot. She’s dressed in bandages, she’s dressed in a gown, and her hair is ratty black tangles. Oh how you love dressing her and prettying her up and confiding in her your soul, for you were raised to be a doll, but not her – no, she is a hyena, and their women are the kings. When you scissor, it’s to old jazz that switches between Frank Sinatra, and as your hands tangle the curls at her parting later on as you drink white wine, you and her watch the rain and know the sky is crying for its lost moon.
(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.
(Written by Dana in college to troll me and exorcise Samael, unsuccessfully. Her other methods include yelling at him a lot.)
Grounding Gothic Underlords, or, The Little Angel Chews Out Death
“You can do this,” Zelkova said. He caught my eye in the rearview mirror. “You can. You’ve proven you’re back on your game.”
“Maybe, but even on my ‘game,’ I was never on this level.” I watched my target sit at an outdoor café table, drinking red wine and ogling a group of teenage girls in black spikes and fishnets. I drummed on the wheel while the radio slept. “Not on his level.”
“Just talk to him. Figure out why he’s here. You don’t need to be any more than yourself.”
“Right.” I opened the windows and killed the engine. “Thanks for the pep talk. Don’t wander off, you might need to carry away my body or send me a text so I can excuse myself if things get too awkward.”
Zelkova frowned. “This isn’t a date.”
“I hope not. Why’d you bring Hester?”
“Jhoti wasn’t going to be home to feed her.”
I locked the doors and hurried into the shopping district. Some of the trees’ leaves had fallen without turning, and the goth girls rested and drew Sharpie tattoos on each other in the shade.
A waiter delivered a sliver of chocolate torte as black and heavy as tar to the dark man’s table while I bypassed the hostess. He smirked at me when the waiter left. I’ve been on the receiving end of many demonic smirks, some better than others, but this guy probably set the bar. Maybe all the smaller devils keep a celebrity poster of him on their bedroom walls and practice in the mirror.
“May I sit down?” I said.
He made a gentrified gesture, and I took the opposite chair. Before I could speak, he speared a cream-topped strawberry from his plate and asked, “What brings you to my table, little holy one? How have I earned a visit from one of the bright tyrant’s blessed sons?”
I played his words back in the fussy voice Windermere used to mock her former compatriots and felt more at ease. “That’s kind of my question, actually. Why are you topside, Samael?”
“Oh, Hell is so boring. I’m here for the wine, the food, the scenery.” Death bit into the strawberry and bared his red-stained smile. “And the women.”
“That is creepy, and you’re not supposed to have any of those things. You have a job.”
He laughed. His wan imperial cheekbones briefly gave way to the dry white curves of a skull. The sky darkened. The goth girls glanced up, anticipating rain. My back itched in response.
“My job gets done whether I am there or not.” He tossed back the rest of his wine. “Humans are better at killing each other than I ever was, and more efficient.”
I stiffened, ready to argue, and he flicked his tongue at me, catching a smear of chocolate before it could mar his perfectly sculpted lips. His make-up, his glamour, was conspicuously Greco-Roman.
“You are not very old, are you? And not very powerful. You should respect your elders who have earned their keep and comfort, whelp. If you want to play so badly, bring me a stick to beat you with.”
“Do you even hear yourself?” I demanded. His eyebrows lifted while he popped the rest of the torte in his mouth. What I said was unexpected, and technically my mission was over, and Zelkova tugged on me urgently from the car, but I kept going. “Samael, the Grim Reaper, one of the most powerful beings extant, making excuses to drink and dine and chase high school skirts like a skeezy old man. Maybe you’ve got the right to do whatever you want, but when you start using other people and leaving—”
“I know you,” Samael said, and snapped.
We were somewhere else.
Somewhere else looked like a clouded country road in the South, if the bare crape myrtles and dewy daffodils were any indication. I entered still sitting, and I scrabbled to catch myself before I landed in the gravel.
“How do I know you?” Samael wondered. His black coat had acquired a cowl. “I know, you’re one of the faces on the Sistine Chapel, aren’t you? But are you a cherub or a shepherd?”
I flushed. I couldn’t remember if there were shepherds or not, but I was on the Sistine Chapel. “Why did you take us here?”
“If you were going to have a righteous outburst, we might as well do it in private.” Samael came closer. I held my ground. “Who were your friends in the car, little messenger?”
“My roommate and his cat.”
“Can’t tell lies, can you?”
“I’m choosing not to.”
He gripped my chin. His fingers were long, and a nail lay sharp under my eye. “Tell me your name.”
“Vergil.” Somehow my nerves had melted away. Maybe in my anger I left them behind, because though I didn’t like how he examined me with cold beetle eyes, I could stand it. “I spell it with an ‘e.’”
“The little Renaissance boy,” he murmured. He crooked a finger through my short hair. “Where are your long golden tresses, cupid?”
“I haven’t had those since the 70s.”
He grimaced more than he smirked, and again we were somewhere else. From what I could see past Samael’s head, he’d brought us to a motel room someone had painted over in monochrome and red. His hold on my jaw started to hurt.
“You are young and weak and small,” he growled. “And you are meddling. Why were you sent to me?”
I winced. “Because I’m young, weak, and small.” My hands fit into empty holsters. “And unarmed. I didn’t mean to threaten you. We—the whole country’s angels just needed to know you weren’t heralding a plague or something.”
Samael’s face flickered with the pale lights, like he couldn’t decide between rubies and pearls in his mouth or eager fangs. “As if you could threaten me. You are a drop to dragonfire, a sigh to the hurricane, a pocketbook matchstick in the darkest underground night.”
Camp, Windermere snickered. Demons love drama.
Alan and his chrome electric lighter.
I slipped my fingers through Samael’s and carefully pushed his claws off my face.
An unseen scythe tore the coat from my back and tried prying my wings free. I hissed in pain and rocked forward, holding my corporation together, keeping my feathers immaterial. Death’s cloak turned shadowy and miasmic. It swept over me, and I came out backwards, the underside of my knees pressed to the bed.
I glowed. My wings stayed in place, but my halo light leaked, my whole body cast in shine. The black comforter looked cheap.
Samael wore arching horns and his iron dark hair past his ankles. I don’t know what he looked like normally, but he’d put on every inch a Lord of Hell. “Do you know what I could do to you, lamb?” he asked.
“A lot,” I admitted. “You could do a lot.”
“I could kill you. Swatting a fly would be harder.” His hand on my shoulder was heavy enough to force me to sit. “Or I could strip away your meaty shell, peel back layer after layer until I find what you really are, your pretty ball of light. I could take you home to the Underworld, toss you around for Cerberus to fetch. I could watch you wither in a jar on my windowsill.”
“You don’t scare me.”
He leaned in. His breath smelled sour from wine and chocolate, not from funeral flowers and corpse dirt. “What?”
“You don’t scare me. You can’t. The worst you can do is kill me, because that’s your role, your essence. You’re not even properly fallen.”
He reared back with a snarl.
I laughed. “Look, I’ve died before, all right? I bled out in a trench. I drowned under ice. I got hit by a truck. The last time we crossed paths, I had AIDS.”
I kind of wanted to show Samael the scars I didn’t have on this soft body, the ropes, swords, and bullets I’d been through. “I didn’t think you’d recognize me; seeing you has always been a mix of relief and intimidation. But for all your power, I know more about you than you can possibly know about me. That’s why I’m not afraid of you. I can never be afraid of you.”
The dark cloud drew up, and so did he. I could no longer see his legs through it, and the smog consumed his shoulders and floated with his hair. “So that’s it, then, Vergil full of grace? You would die now without fear if I chose it?”
Honestly, I preferred not to lose this body while my next was still backlogged for twenty years. But I told him the truth. “It wouldn’t make you happy, but, yes, I would.”
To my surprise, his second hand emerged to take my other shoulder. “And if it did?”
“Then I’d hope as a favor you could savor my death at home.” I patted his cold marble fingers gently. “You can’t run around up here with the mortals like any regular, run-of-the-mill demon, Samael. Unlike me, humans are only designed to meet you once.”
Abruptly, he stood across the room. The colors in the carpet and ceiling drifted towards him, gathering like paint around a drain. A skeleton looked down at the motel desk, and a sullen, sharp man picked up the antique phone. “You’ve worn me out with your chatter, angel. This whole planet makes me tired. See if I bring you to my room again.”
He dialed a number on the phone, and I found myself back at the café, sitting in Samael’s chair as a surprised-looking busboy pushed up his cart of dishes. To the waiter’s relief, I picked up my friend’s bill and hurried back to the car.
Zelkova waited in the driver’s seat with Hester in his lap. She meowed and climbed onto my chest after I lay down in the back. I scratched her neck.
“What happened?” Zelkova used the rearview mirror to back out of our space rather than check on me, but I felt his concern and relief tucked around me like a blanket. Hester purred.
“Earth and I bored him,” I said. “I think he’s done for a while.”
“I babbled. We should have sent Jhoti scold him, skip all the ‘lamb’ and ‘little.’ The next time I die I think I’ll have to take a detour to play with his dog.”
Zelkova hummed. “Do you want Starbucks and Indian food for dinner?”
“I would love some Indian food.”
(Written at 19 to torment my friends)
Somewhere trapped in Allieworld…
“Hey there, babycakes,” Samael said huskily. He sidled over to Sara, caressing his scythe. His eyes gleamed with lust. “You’re the finest fleshbag this side of the Styx. Let’s say we take my hearse downtown and get acquainted with my guillotine?” He downed his vodka and sighed. “Ah. Aqua vitae. The water of life.”
Sara dropped her hamburger in surprise. She glanced around Five Guys to see if anyone noticed the obscenely pale demon leering back at her.
“We’re all alone,” Samael whispered. His obscenely long tongue flicked suggestively. It was true: corspes slumped in the diner seats. The patrons appeared altogether, well, dead.
“Nice work,” she observed. “But you forgot one thing.”
Samael cocked his brow. “Formaldehyde?”
“You forgot to buy me a drink,” she said huskily, putting false intentions in her voice. The stranger reacted as expected: all men, demon or no, were fools when it came to women.
He snapped his fingers. Chardonnay in a crystal-cut decanter appeared in his hands. He smirked, then poured her a glass. “You’ll have to forgive me. Such a vision as you is bound to distract me.”
Sara examined the glass. She took a delicate sip. “Passable. I like the hint of applewood.” His weapon glinted in the flourescent lights. “Nice scythe. Let me hold it.”
Samael obliged. “Her curves suit you,” he whispered predatorily. His fangs flashed as he grinned. Death’s red eyes strayed to her hamburger. “Such succulent food deserves appreciation, no?” He took a long bite, eying Sara’s assets. “And I?” he snickered. “I know just how to make the juices flow. Be it blood, tears, or certain other liquids. I’m a connoisseur of teasing the tenderness out of life.” He towered over her, his long fingers encasing hers around the scythe’s base. He whispered into her ear: “I trust you thirst for adventure, Miss Suarez?”
They were interrupted by the swish of the door. In sauntered a leanly muscled man clad in leather pants. His hair was literal flames. He grinned like a cat, winking at Samael as he dragged a rather flustered looking blonde after him. “Boniface? Didn’t expect to see you slumming around here. Why the grim face, Corpseboy?” The redhead brushed a corpse off a chair, wiping blood from the pleather seat. “Here, Libby – a throne fit for a dame.”
Libby’s face went chalk white. “I don’t think this is appropriate.”
He clucked. “Don’t be silly, Midgarder. No matter highballer or city sweeper, everyone dances with the grim reaper!” A mug of cider appeared in his hand. Loki laughed raucously. “Ain’t that right, Samael?”
Samael leaned Sara back in an impressive dip. “No dance like the danse macabre, Firecrotch.” She regained her balance, tearing herself away from Death. She smirked, his scythe in hand.
“Not only did you forget the drink, you let your guard down,” she said, brandishing the blade. “You really think that will impress me?”
Samael drew his lips thin. “I enjoy women that bite back.” In a flash, he had Sara cornered against the bar, scythe wrenched from her grip. “I do not dance lightly, Miss Suarez.”
Loki swept Libby off her feet. “A jig, Elizabeth?” he inquired, twirling her madly round. Libby found herself unable to escape the trickster’s grip.
“I thought you wanted a hamburger, Loki! Otherwise Allie would have taken you to Ballroom.”
“I’m always up for a jive. Jig. No matter the music, we all speak dance. Rhythm, Samael!”
The girls found themselves led by wills that were not their own. They Viennese Waltzed round Five Guys. The corpses rose, equipped with fiddles, and bowed a jaunty tune. The floor, slick with blood, sent them skidding to the window.
Meanwhile, Dana and her angelic visitor were meandering down the street. The lanky blond had appeared on her windowsill that morning, looking quite frazzled, then asked shyly to come in. She’d managed to hide him in her closet while her classes ran. Now, they were out on the town.
Vergil admired the falling leaves. He caught one between his fingers. “”Beautiful weather. Reminds me of the time I was in France during the Crusades-”
Something thwacked against the window. “Oh?” said Vergil. He examined the bloody violin . “Well, this puts a damper on things.”
Dana’s expectations for the evening took a sudden nosedive. “So we can’t get ice cream then?”
Vergil scratched his head. “I’m going to need it after this. See that guy in there?”
Dana pressed her face to the window. “Oh my god! That’s Libby and my roommate. Is that- that’s Samael! Allie’s douche-bag character. And Sara has his scythe.” She watched as Sara beat him with the hilt. Samael laughed madly. Dana’s stomach dropped. “Vergil, we have to help them. Oh. Okay. Planning. Well, I have this pencil. We could- we could-”
Vergil looked at the unsharpened pencil. “Where?”
“I didn’t think of that. Where do you poke demons?”
The two set into mad planning. Inside, Libby was trying to talk sense into Loki. “You’re fond of goats, right?”
Loki was too busy singing the polka. “In Heaven there is no beer/Which is why we drink it here!/ La la la la la…”
“Do you like sheep!” Libby yelled.
“Michael does,” Samael sneered, feinting another blow. “The gingers have a passion for farm animals.” Libby shrunk, having attracted Death’s attention. He flicked his tongue suggestively. She screamed.
“Both instances were to save Asgard, Bonebutt. One from Skadi, the other from an angry giant. I’m a patriot. At least my amors were breathing.”
Libby caught Sara’s eyes. Sara nodded to the frying oil by the grille. While Loki wasn’t looking, Libby grabbed it, then proceeded to dump it on his head. His flaming ‘fro screeched like a tea kettle.
“I’m melting!” he hooted. “Put me out, baby!” He ran around madly, hair flaming to the ceiling. Samael rolled on the floor in laughter, staining his cloak in blood.
“Karma slap,” Sara whispered. She beheaded him with the scythe.
Loki was screeching in the bathroom mirror. “My beautiful hair is gone!”
Libby and Sara high-fived.
Dana gasped. “Well. That was unsanitary. Are the gods really that lame?”
Vergil’s face darkened. “For the most part, yes. But they’re immortal. We’ll need the pencil yet.”
“Good thing you’ve been trained for this.”
“They’re out of my league, actually. You can’t tell, but I’m terrified.”
“You look relaxed to me.”
“I look happy to everybody. It goes with the angel thing.”
Sara punted Samael’s head like a soccer ball. He played dead. Libby was suspicious.
“I don’t think we’ve killed him, Sara. That’s not how these things work. We have to burn his heart, maybe. Or drown him in butterflies.”
Sara relented. His head coughed. “How about sacrificing him to the squirrels? Or we could dump him in the lake. He might just make it cleaner.”
Libby considered this. “And what about Loki? He just appeared in the dorm’s fireplace. He wants to be Odin’s wingman tonight. They want to go to the frats-”
Samael’s body loomed behind Libby. He held his head in his hands.
“I’m partial to blondes,” it murmured. “Blondes covered in blood.”
The window shattered. Vergil punched through it, then sailed into the restaurant. He brandished the pencil like a rapier. His eyes met Samael’s. For a moment, he shuddered. Vergil quickly swallowed his fear.
“I’m going to have to ask you to play nicely,” Vergil said. His wings filled half of the room. Dana snuck in after him. She held up a cross drawn on loose leaf. “Toro!” she yelled, as if egging on a bull.
Smoke rose from Samael’s nostrils. “So it’s you,” he said quietly.
Vergil froze in surprise. “Me?”
“No, seagull. The girl.” He stalked towards Dana. “‘90% douche, 8% maggots, and 2% black dust.’ Those were your words, I believe.”
“I meant that as a compliment.” Dana shoved the cross in his face. If it didn’t repel him, maybe he’d suffocate.
The paper burned in her hands. She yelped, then dropped the ashes.
“I’ve been keeping tabs on you. You fascinate me, girl.” He screwed his vertebrae back together. Dana gagged as his head cracked into place. Samael smirked. “The Lazarus Project. It’s notorious now. You’ve robbed me of my men.”
Dana paled. “You mean…?”
Libby and Sara drew blanks. “What’s the Lazarus whatta what?” Libby asked.
“Dunno,” said Sara. “A band?”
“It’s from my story.” Dana said. “Heaven came up with a project to redeem the Fallen, like Lazarus rose from the grave. It’s just something I made up.” She scrutinized Vergil, her main character, and sighed. “Well, I thought so anyways.”
“Truth is stranger than fiction,” Samael hissed. He cracked his knuckles. “Holy boy. Put the pencil down.”
Vergil poked him. “Be unwritten!” Nothing happened. “Well, it was worth a try. You really are Samael.” He blinked. “I don’t know the protocol for this.”
“You know how I like my angels?” asked Samael. “Sunny side up with my eggs.” He began to chant. “’I will not eat green eggs in Hell/I will not eat them, Samael!/I will not eat them in the fire/nor with the demonic choir./I will not with the Sabbath Goat/I will not in old Charon’s boat./I will not eat them here or there/that Vergil guy can have my share.”
Dana was texting someone. “What are you doing?” Samael asked.
Samael hissed. “I’ll string your guts for a jump rope if you summon that abomination-”
Sara whacked him in the head. “No you don’t.”
Vergil watched in disbelief as college girls out-manned the Reaper. Women really were worse than death.
Samael began to wrestle with Sara. “Give me my bloody scythe!”
Loki had fallen silent. Dana noticed Libby was missing. “Oh snap,” she said. “This is bad. Libby’s going to picket the war gods, and Odin will hang her on Yggdrasil.” Her phone rang amidst the confusion.
“Hey Dana! What’s up?”
“Allie? Allie. What are you doing?”
“Cleaning birds. They’re crapping everywhere. Oh god- a starling escaped. I don’t know why I do this.”
“Well, um, there’s a situation. It’s pretty intense.”
“Are you playing bingo again?”
Dana blushed. “No! This is serious-”
“What’s that in the background- my god! Did someone just curse in Enochian?- Ow! Get off my head, you bird! I feed you, you ungrateful skyrat-”
“ALLIE. How do you exorcise demons?”
Allie fell silent. “Are you serious, Dana?”
“Dead serious.” She looked at Samael, who was now engaged in death combat with Vergil. Sara was taking a breather. “Well I might be dead, anyways.”
“I’m not falling for that prank again-”
“It’s not a prank, I swear!”
“I remember the last time you and Libby-”
Samael was in earshot. He bared his fangs. “Allie?” he raged. He flung Vergil to the wall, then tore Dana’s phone from her hands. The angel crumpled on the ground.
“That hurt,” he said woozily.
“Vergil!” Dana rushed to his side. “I’m so sorry. I’ll get you an ice cream sundae after this…”
His eyes glowed. “With chocolate fudge?”
Samael scrutinized the phone. “How does this infernal device work?”
“You’re holding it upside down,” Sara said. He accidentally pressed speaker-phone.
“Dana?” Allie’s grainy voice rang. “Look, the starling’s gonna crap on my head. I have to get it off the ceiling-”
“Hello, maggot,” Samael sneered.
“Dana, that isn’t funny. Let’s be real now.”
“Oh, I’m real, you Procrustean slime. And I have a mountain of bones to grind on your femurs. I’ve a special place in Hell just for you. And it’s lower than the ninth circle and absolutely crawling with worms.”
Allie fell silent. “Libby? That’s a really good impression. Too good. Stop it.”
“It’s Samael, you worm!”
“And I’m Putin.”
Sara grew bored of the conversation. She followed the scorch marks on the ceiling from Loki’s hair. She entered the men’s bathroom. “Libby?” she called, not expecting an answer.
A one-eyed man emerged from the stall. He was dressed in a gray traveler’s cloak, with a hat and beard like Gandalf. “Lord of the Ring convention’s not until next month,” Sara said.
The noble-looking man ignored her. “Loki,” he said slowly. “Loki.”
“Yes?” Loki said miserably. A ceiling wall popped open. From it leapt the god. He wore a paper bag on his head. “I’m hideous, Odin. Don’t look at me.”
Odin sighed as he leaned on his staff. “I haven’t had my coffee, git.” He glanced sideways at Sara. “Is this a freshman girl?” The Sorcerer King murmured softly. Sara analyzed him. He was more of a match then Samael.
Loki drowned him out with his wailing. Blind, the trickster bumped into the wall, then proceeded banging his head against it.
Odin’s face grew long. “I don’t have time for this.” He busied himself with his Blackberry. Loki cursed in Norwegian.
A confused looking Libby peeped down from the tiles. “Is there a ladder, Sara?” she asked, lip curled in disgust. She wiped dust from her shoulders. It fell from the ceiling like snow.
“I’ll catch you.”
She did. “That was completely awful,” Libby said, filled with righteous anger. “He dragged me off to some forest and lit the whole place on fire. Some crusty fisherman named Njord came and poured water on his head. I think he was the god of the sea. Anyways, he put his hair out- I barely understood what they said. Thank god I went to Norwegian camp.”
Sara fixed her hair in the greasy mirror. She began to whistle
“And now he’s wearing a paper bag. Because his hair’s put out. Loki thinks he’s ugly bald.”
“There’s always Rogaine you know. Then I could give him a haircut. I cut Allie’s and Crystal’s- they loved it.”
Odin turned to them. “You seem like responsible girls. If it isn’t murderous, I’d have you babysit him. I’m in dire need of a drink.”
“Sure, Gandalf.” Sara saluted him.
Odin tipped his hat to her. “I can tell you crave adventure. You shall have it.” He turned to Libby. She tried to remember which Norwegian camp counselor was Odin in the play. He smiled kindly at her. “I’m not fond of carrots, Libby,” he apologized. “It wasn’t your father who ate the cookies.”
She stuck her nose in the air. “No! Santa doesn’t exist! And you’re certainly not him. I counted the carrots, Odin. There were eight on the plate, then the fridge.”
Odin shrugged. “It is as you will.” He made to leave.
“Wait.” Sara pulled salon scissors from her pocket. “Are you sure you don’t want a haircut? I’d update that beard for you.”
“That’s generous. But I’m traditional. And Loki is withering without attention. Farewell, freshman girls. Stay diligent- knowledge is worth blood. If you need me, I’ll be at the bar.”
Odin exited. Sara ripped the bag from Loki’s head. He screeched. Orange fuzz covered his scalp. “Thor will mock me,” he said sorrowfully. The god hung his head in shame. He shoved his forehead at Libby. “Look,” he lamented, scalp skirting her nose. “Can’t you just see the essence of my manhood dying? Now imagine you, in my lover’s embrace, and this naked head beside you. It would ruin everything, wouldn’t it?”
Libby flinched. “I wouldn’t notice, because you smell like a fireplace,” she gagged, mouth full of smoke. His head sizzled like wet embers. Loki reminded her of Allie. She dealt with him accordingly, which meant she shoved him away.
Sara grabbed a wad of paper towels. “Have you tried drying your head?”
Loki’s head snapped up. “Indeed,” he purred. He grabbed the towels, then polished his head inhumanly fast. His hair sparked like kindling He grinned like the Cheshire cat. “Genius, doll! Pure dynamo. The woman has jet engines for braiiiins.” Sara set to work on his ‘do. Scissors worked surprisingly well on flames.
Soon, his hair looked like a campfire. He smirked into the mirror, then combed it back in a duck’s ass and delicately applied pomade. “There.” He winked. “Sizzling. Eh honey?” he asked Libby. “Do I get Eris’ apples now? Or Idun’s. I’m not too picky with lady-fruit.”
Libby gave him a thumbs up, ignoring the innuendo. “Now, should we see the sheep? And then we’ll happily walk back to the fireplace and you can disappear into the flue.”
“Odin goes down chimneys, I go up ’em. Sure you don’t want to protest the Aesir? They’re the reason the Vikings went berserk on Europe.”
“I was just daydreaming, Loki. And my Guantanamo Bay rally is tomorrow.”
Loki shrugged. “I’m all for prisoner’s rights. I rotted away for millenia. But Odin didn’t blast Britney Spears.” He shuddered. “Poor bastards.” He cartwheeled into the hallway.
“Do we follow?” Libby asked.
“Sure.” She and Sara ventured out, not sure what to expect.
It was chaos. Dana and Vergil were holding each other; they rocked back and forth like toddlers with PTSD. “Make it go away!” Vergil moaned. He hid them behind his wings. The floor was still drenched in blood, and the once-fiddling corpses were nomming on hamburgers.
A rather sadistic blonde was in the midst of torturing Samael. It looked like he’d been roofied and shoved into a pink dress twenty sizes too small. He was laid out on the counter like a science experiment, almost as bare as Eve. Libby understood why Vergil was horrified: she never needed to see Death in such detail. No wonder he wore the cloak.
A butterfly perched on his nose. Samael prayed feverishly to himself, trying to blow it away. It paced up and down the cartilage, proboscis drinking his acid tears. Copies of Cosmo burned at his wrists, and a dollar store tiara crowned his head. Allie coldly sprayed him with perfume. The Reaper shrieked as it melted his flesh. She smiled slightly, and her eyes were pitiless. It looked like Barbie was torturing the Beast.
Loki grinned despotically. He snapped a picture with his phone. “Blackmail, Boneass,” he crooned.
Samael could do nothing but sob.
Allie grinned up at them, removing her goggles. Her lab coat was stained with blood. Proudly, she brandished the spray bottle: “It worked, you guys. Estrogen. Estrogen is anathema to demons. Forget holy water. I gotta sell this stuff!”
Sara looked at the scythe. “Can I have it? I could use it to cut giant’s hair. The scissors worked on a god’s, but if I’m expanding into ridiculous territory, the scythe would probably be useful.”
Allie busied herself with the torture. “Sure. I get dibs on the cloak.”
She tested it in her hands, then pursed her lips at Samael’s black hair. “He really is a metalhead. No wonder the genre’s Satanic.” With a decisive cut, she chopped off the serpentine locks. The strands shrieked. “Hah!” she said, banding them with a scrunchie. The hair curled around her like snakes. She glared at it. It behaved. “This could be useful…” she murmured.
“Do you want anything, Libby?” Allie asked. “He was wearing My Little Pegasus boxers. I think he was being ironic. The idiot thinks he’s a hipster.” She waved a DVD box- Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants– in his face. He barfed. “Not on my dress!” Allie snapped. She motioned to a pile on the table. “I raided his pocket, Libster. Take anything you want, except the magazine. It’s gross. That, and heavily used.”
Libby needed to know what it was. “This?” she asked, pulling it from under the junk. Her face greened. She dropped it like a hot potato. “Oh my god.”
Loki’s eyes flashed. “Is that Sultry Succubi?” He dove for it. “Samael, you cad! Odin’ll love this.”
The Reaper groaned.
Libby cautiously looked through the pile. She found an elder wand and a pebble. She immediately frothed at the mouth.
“You okay, Libs?” Allie asked.
Libby held them like the Holy Grail. “Allie. Sara. Look.”
Sara looked. Allie sang Britney Spears. Samael’s eardrums melted.
“No!” Loki snapped. “See, Libby? Guantanamo. Hit me baby. Torture.”
“It’s a rock and a stick,” said Sara.
“These- these are the Deathly Hallows.”
Dana peeked from behind Vergil’s wing. “No way.” She bolted up. “As a Chaser on the Quidditch team, I think I should safeguard these.”
“But I’m the one who spent weeks playing Pottermore!” Libby protested. “My Twitter’s followed by J.K. Rowling’s best friend. I live on the Leaky Cauldron, and I’m expatting to England- Harry Potter is my life!”
“Okay. You take the wand. I’ll have the stone.”
“But I kind of wanted the stone. I don’t exactly want to kill people.”
Dana looked crestfallen. “I wanted to make it into a necklace.”
Libby relented. “Okay. I’ll use the wand to zap bugs.”
Vergil poked through the pile. “Hey, it’s the Holy Grail. We’ve been looking for that for a while. Oh, and here’s Michael’s poodle. No wonder he’s been so cross lately.” He found something unspeakable. The angel’s cheeks bloomed crimson. “Oh. Oh my Lord.” He made the sign of the cross, then shoved it into the depths of the pile, making sure the impressionable girls didn’t see. Vergil, as an angel of honor, had to protect their virtue. Maidens’ virtue was a delicate thing.
Allie apparently had seen. “Heh. Kinky. You’re worse than I thought, Corpseboy.”
“Please,” Samael rasped. “I’ll do anything.”
“Like my homework? Would you pay for my college? Ghostwrite my novel for me? How about a New England cottage? Y’know, I’ve always wanted a manservant-”
Samael roared. “I’d rather kiss Gabriel’s ass!”
“You could do that too.” She nudged the butterfly closer to his eyes. Death began to babble.
“Fine!” he pleaded. “Your manservant! Just end this madness- agh! Holy Mothers of Rot and Sin, Lilith and Naamah-”
“I swear on the Styx.”
“That’s good enough.” Allie released him. He roared, tearing the dress from his flesh, but not before Vergil shielded their eyes with his wings.
“You have no shame!” Vergil said. His words burned with godly wrath. The girls choked on fluffy feathers.
Loki peered up from the magazine. “Naked time!” He began to strip.
“No,” Samael snapped. “Where’s my cloak!”
“Wearing it,” Allie said, peering through a pinion. “Nice abs, by the way. Even though you’re white as a fish.”
“My boxers,” his voice grated.
“Wearing them,” Loki crowed. “Do they make my butt look big?”
“Samael likes big butts. Look at Eve.”
Allie and Loki high-fived. Vergil stood stoically between them, saying the prayer of the Lord.
“Well what in blazing Gehenna do you suggest I wear then?” Samael said, voice acid. He made ready to strangle the girl.
A scythe poked out from under Vergil’s wing. It nipped a bit of cowlick from his head. “There,” said Sara. “Perfection.”
“You’re all damned!” Samael roared. “As the Angel of the Pit, I condemn you!”
“Even me?” purred Loki. He batted his eyelashes innocently.
“You can’t damn me,” Vergil said flatly. “I’m an angel.”
Samael muttered darkly to himself. He found a potato sack behind the counter, then shimmied into it. He belted it like a Franciscan monk. “If only the Host saw me now,” he said blackly.
“Want a bag for your head?” Loki asked.
Libby dared to look. The nightmarish man was comical now. She could almost forget the corpses that watched them with glassy eyes. Their eyes locked. His glaring red like a viper’s. Bravely, she lifted the wand. “Expecto patronum,” she whispered. A ghostly sheep burst from its bud. Her Patronus attacked Samael. Actually, it just chewed on his clothes.
“I’m trembling.” Death sighed drily. “What is it with livestock- ow!”
A pebble hit his head. Dana shrugged innocently. “What else could I do with it?”
Sara looked at Vergil, bored. “Ah, those curls are great. Very angelic. You’d look good with layered hair.”
“What?” Vergil asked innocently.
“Just hold still, now bow down like you’re praying.” She set to her divine work.
Dana searched for her pebble while Libby made things levitate. Loki had ditched for the bar, but not before he jacked Samael’s white Mustang. That, and unspeakable things. Samael tried to stuff his belongings in a trash bag.
Allie leaned over the counter, watching him. “Can I give you a makeover?” she asked. “I always give my guy friends makeovers. Vergil’s getting one. I think you’d look cute in salmon.”
“I am not wearing salmon.”
“What if it was cashmere? Would you wear it?”
Samael threw the bag on the counter. Allie yelped as it clipped her head. The Reaper snarled: “Have you ever fancied what decapitation feels like?”
“Painful, right? But my head would only last twenty seconds. Or thirty. I don’t remember.” She narrowly avoided his claws. “You also need a manicure, Sam. I have nail clippers back in my dorm. Vergil’s nails are impeccable.”
“I couldn’t slit throats as a hand model.”
“Look, Samael, if you’re going to be my man servant, you need a beauty regimen. Girls take pains to look gorgeous. I expect the same of men. That means weekly waxings, daily shaving, and horn trimming by the hour.” She looked at the ram’s horns in disapproval. “Those things grow like mold on my dishes.”
“That’s because you never clean them,” he growled.
“I don’t have a dishwasher! ‘Scuse me. Now clean this place up. Then we’re shopping.”
“I will never obey you-” His blood boiled. Damnable River Styx. He fixed her with a gruesome smile. “As you wish, wench.” He snapped his fingers. The blood disappeared with the fiddles, and people took the places of zombies. The Five Guys returned to normal. The girls and angels found themselves back on campus, in Allie’s dorm room.
Her roommate ran out screaming.
Death’s lips curled in disgust. “Why is everything so bloody pink?”
“To repel demons,” Allie said. “Vergil, can I offer you my chair?” The angel lounged in the fuschia fold-out, quite the novelty. Dana’d already logged onto Allie’s laptop. “The usual video on Youtube?” Libby asked. Dana booted up the Stupid Cat Song.
“Where’s Sara?” Allie asked.
“She was too dangerous,” Samael shivered. “I deported her.”
“Hell. She can rule in my stead, if I’m to play slave to your master.”
Allie threw a pillow at him. “Don’t be crude.” She imagined Sara ruling Hell. “She’s going to replace you, y’know. No one will want you back.” And of course, if she wanted to leave, she would. Sara was just that kind of girl.
Samael watched the cat video on Youtube. He snickered. “Maybe I like it here, sans the potato sack.”
Libby sensed someone tall, dark and dangerous behind her. She switched to Rebecca Black’s “Friday.”
Samael vanished into the closet. His moans were heard from the dresser.
Vergil perked up. “This is my song!” He and Dana began to rock out. Allie’s roommate peeked in through the door. In her mind, this was yet another thing to add to the list of why Allie should be institutionalized.
“Samael?” Allie asked, rummaging through her drawers. One slammed ominously shut.
“I’m trying to nap,” it grated.
“That’s my lingerie, you perv! Now it’s going to smell like formaldehyde.”
A ghost wind slammed the closet shut. The building rang with mad laughter. She tried the knob. “Locked. God knows what he’s doing in there…”
The girls began to part ways.
“We’re going to Baskin Robbin’s,” Dana said. “I owe Vergil a sundae.”
Vergil looked like he had won the lottery.
“I need to de-stress,” sighed Libby. “If I’m giving Loki a tour tonight. I’m going to write in the sheep field. You should join me, Allie”
“I’d love to. But I have bio, and a skeleton in my closet.”
They wished each other farewell. Over ice cream, Dana asked Vergil a question.
“Why did you come today?” she said.
They sat outside on the terrace. Vergil caught a falling leaf. This time, it was golden. “Because even though I’m immortal, Earth still has lessons to teach me.” He plucked a late-blooming rose, then tucked it behind her ear. “You’re young, Dana, a blink to us. But the world can be changed in a breath. I suppose I came here to learn what it’s like to live in a dream.”
“A dream?” Dana echoed. Chocolate melted down the sides of her cone.
Vergil looked wistfully at the clouds. “I remember when I created you. All small and pink like a new idea. I thought you were the most perfect thing I’d ever dreamed up. And then, when you were born, you left me. I’ve missed you a lot, you know.”
Dana’s heart swelled in her throat. “But Vergil,” she whispered. “I made you.”
“You did?” he asked, grinning. “You know, us angels make souls. Gods do too, and spirits. We don’t make make them, but we help them form. Even idiots like Samael need little things to love.” He basked in the taste of a cherry. “The world is a lonely place.”
For a moment, Dana could swear she saw constellations in his eyes. “You say world like it’s something far away. But you’re from Heaven, Vergil.”
“Am I? This feels like Heaven. A single, perfect fall day.”
They ate in companionable silence. Happy as the evening star rose.