I have massive writer’s block so maybe posting porn will help. I have been staring at the page for days now. 2,000 more words to write and yet I’m fucking stuck. How do I end this asinine novel! Going back to en media res, or just smut, I’ve been kicked in the Goetic jewels, only I don’t have any.
It is a week from Christmas, and I am dressed in an olive pea coat, black heels, creamy blue dress and black leggings. The Star of Bethlehem, eight-pointed and made from the Bethlehem Steel mill decades ago, hangs from Main Street and the trees are draped in a lace of Christmas lights. Samael wears a black trench coat, red Ramones tee, and jeans with combat boots. His labret piercing shines in the snow. Flakes fall and carpet Main Street, and we hold hands as we breathe out ghosts of mist.
“Let’s go to the Colonial Industrial Quarter,” I say, squeezing his hand.
Samael perks his head to the left. “That is?”
“America’s earliest industrial park. There’s ancient mills and a black smithery. It’s by the hillside below Central Moravian Church where I… where I used to go to services with my father.”
He is buried in the graveyard alongside my doll, and Samael inhales sharply.
“Of course, Shay. We can go to the park and visit your father.”
We walk hand in hand through the Colonial Industrial Quarter past the mills and foot of snow to the Central Moravian Church, which is decorated in Christmas finery, its bell tower shining with a beacon. Memories of services in the pews, of talk of sin and salvation, angels, demons, Christ, parables, and God, flood my mind. I touch the brick edifice and sigh, digging my nails into the red mortar and scraping some off to bring it to my tongue.
It tastes like earth, clay, home.
Samael presses his palm to the brick and closes his eyes. “This place has the weight of centuries. It is truly holy. And in it, there is the phantom of a girl named Shay, a memory of innocence and prayers carried straight from my heart – you – to God. You are the vessel that shepherds my hopes to Heaven, from which my soul is barred. I have always loved places of worship.”
Tears prickle my eyes like a cactus’ needle. “Let’s go to the graveyard, Sam. I’d like to pay my respects.”
The graveyard is blanketed in snow at Nisky Hill Cemetery. The old ironworks are iced to stinging clarity. We come to my father’s mausoleum – a rose bush grows barren by its foot. I prick my finger on a frozen thorn then spread the droplets of blood over his engraved name.
“Hello, dad,” I say softly. “It’s been almost a year. I would have turned twenty-two on December 31 in two weeks. Now, it’s Christmas.” I kneel in the rimed grass and press my brow to the mausoleum’s entrance. Samael gives me space.
“You weren’t perfect, far from it – but your love was enough. Even though no one remembers you, I want you to know I still think of you each winter when the time comes… I miss you every day.”
I suck the blood from my thumb and it is salty sweet and coppery. Samael sits besides me on the mausoleum’s steps and pulls from his jeans pocket my old China doll, the broken one I buried at my christening into the afterlife. He hands it to me, and our fingers brush, and his breath is hot on my cheek, and between us is an ocean of unsaid things that fester in the dark.
“I wanted you to have this. I no longer want to break you, Shay. For years, millenia, I thought you were a geode – rough around the edges with riches inside. Now I see that your thorns are armor, to be taken off at will, and though I bloody my hands holding you, the rose of your heart is a bloom fragrant enough to be impaled on briars for. This is our truce. You don’t have to marry me. Love isn’t something I can force.”
I cradle the doll made whole – an heirloom from my mother that died in childbirth. I press her to my breast and inhale sharply.
“Thank you, Samael. I… something in you has changed. You’re cruel of course – all demons are, but sometimes, there is this light in your eyes like providence. I could almost mistake you for the other Morning Star. You’re the Savior of your people, anyhow, chief of Satans, crown prince of Hell. But to me, you’ll always just be Sam.” I rest my head on his shoulder, and he spreads his trench coat around me. We nestle close together like Russian nesting dolls, so many painted layers between us, but at our cores, lonely children.
“Something has changed in me. I’m scared, of what this doll means. Someone knows what your soul’s origin is, outside my ranks of demons. You’re the biggest bargaining chip someone would hold over me. I need to protect you.” He loops his arms around me and kisses my cheek. Squeezes, hard, and his mouth is like a hawk.
“Let’s go to the iron foundry,” I say. “This place is too painful with memories. I’d rather go somewhere forgotten. Somewhere where no one can find us. This place has so many dead eyes watching…”
Samael helps me stand. “You’re right.”
We come to the rundown iron foundry, black pipes piercing the sky like sabers, and the inside is decrepit, icy and barren. Old brick facades open to the sky, beaten in windows, must and ruins, front the factory portion. I used to come here as a child and play hide and seek with Samael, thinking him the Shadow Man. Unlike other children, my shadow had a name, moved like the wind. It would wrap me up in a blanket of darkness, hoist me high on nebula shoulders, and we would sail through the sky to the top of the foundry, watching clouds on gray days like intaglios of angel wings, etchings against the quicksilver sky.
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Samael intones, with a reverence reserved for a girl’s secret garden, only her plants were steel and brick, with rusty water stains as blooms.
“I wonder if Bethlehem will still look small, from way up there, now that I’ve seen so much of the world,” I murmur.
He scoops me up into his arms and black feathers spin out like midnight sea foam from his back. A rush of night air, snow in my eyes and on my pea coat, cold like a velvet collar on my throat, and with a whoosh we land atop a smokestack covered up to make a makeshift dancing stage, if one only knows how to look at it right and can hear the music of the stars.
The lights of Bethlehem spill out like pearls. Snow forms a blanket over the stack. I don’t mind the cold – oftentimes, Hell is too hot, and it is the cold I cherish in the human world. I stand with Samael in the center of the stack and look out upon Bethlehem, at the ruins. The Star of Bethlehem lights up town square, and the fiery Central Moravian Church bell tower is a beacon in the night. The casino is bright like cheap neon in the far distance.
There are countless electric candles and Christmas trees in the windows of residential developments, but the streets near the foundry are like shackles – old dumpster cars, trash heaps, rusting parts, now all covered in white. Nature is resting, waiting on a Savior that will never come. Instead, I brought the Devil to this forgotten town, and there’s no more steel left in Bethlehem. Just dreams of getting away.
“It looks different.” Carolers walk the street in the far distance. I can faintly hear their song: “O Bethlehem.” Tears mist my eyes. “I never thought I would get out of this town. I went to school at Lehigh University here, cut my first tooth on painting in art classes down the road at the Banana Factory, bruised knees exploring the foundry. It’s in my blood as much as you, Sam.”
He pulls me to his chest – I only come up to his navel, he is so very tall, and this is just his muted height, a facsimile of humanity put on for my behest. He leans down like a wilting Scarecrow, all long arms and lithe legs, a forgotten harvest, and seeks the sanctity of my mouth. I push my tongue past his lips and taste Original Sin. He moans, gripping me to him like a death wish, and there is this immediacy in the moment, this clarity of need, that no matter where we are, we must be.
“Let me take you somewhere warm, Shay,” he says sonorously.
“No, this, here, now. The cold is the only thing that makes me feel alive anymore. Everything else feels like a dream. Even you.”
“Then I will breathe life into your clay, Galatea.”
He delicately unbuttons my pea coat and runs his talons up the silk of my blouse. With a poison, burning mouth, he suckles the snow from the fringe of my collar and heats his palms with his internal fires to melt all the ice in my hair. I peel off his black trench coat and breathe in the smell of clove cigarettes, wildfires, and top-notch orange and musk cologne that is like a smoke on his body. We lay our jackets down as blankets and go tumbling to the top of the smokestack, my extremities not covered to the elements but just zinging nerves in the freezing snow. It makes me feel like a dangerous woman, like I could crush stars between my teeth. Samael decorates my neck with electric kisses then licks snowflakes from my throat to my ear.
“You taste like bliss,” he moans, cradling me in his arms. His fangs slide out and tease at the flesh under my ear. I shudder as their sharp points nick me. Blood for blood is the law of hell, and he is the first of the draconian Lilitu, or vampires as humans know them, and blood is his main sustenance as all demons require, their lovers’ preferred, but I have never yielded to Samael in that way before.
“Take me, all of me,” I whisper. “I want our contract in blood.”
He strokes back my snow-wet hair and then slides his fangs into my neck, feeling like syringes injecting heady drugs into my veins. My arteries well up, and I feel hot blood pulse from my wound and onto his tongue, and he laps at it with ferocity as he grabs my breasts and massages them, flicking their peaks that are pert with the cold. His poison old as time – an aphrodisiacal drug that damned Eve in the first place – spreads into my veins, into my heart, and it elates me with an ecstatic high that leaves me melting and dizzy. I lean into his bite, feeling him suck my soul out through the juncture between my shoulder and my cheek.
Our spirits meld, and I am at the gaping great abyss, staring the Beast in the eyes. The Beast is burning horns and a coal black mane of brimstone with crazed red eyes that lap up gore in fields of slain angels. When I see his soul, he is a dragon with scales like opium blooms and a sheen of iridescent black. He opens his mouth to breathe flames, and suddenly I am alight, only it is a pleasurable pyre as ecstasy melts the skin and muscle from my bone. I open my eyes from the phantasmagory of eldritch apocalyptic dreams. Perhaps they are prophecies. Perhaps just wishes for this world to burn.
Samael seals the twin wounds closed with a chant in angelic, and the Beast fades to the background of his brain, smiter of legions, razer of whole entire worlds.
His eyes fluoresce red like roses, filled with bloodlust, and my lifeblood coats his lips like garnets. He growls, bestial, then tears back the collar of his wrist and slices an artery open with his talon. He shifts his wings to lift me up further into his lap. The feathers feel like clouds.
“Blood of my blood, flesh of my flesh,” he whispers as black blood wells up, and he presses the flow to my lips. It tastes like dark chocolate and red wine. Suddenly my hunger for mysteries whored out by the Red Goddess Babalon’s unholy mound alone rears its ugly head, and I am as famished as Tantalus. I drink his filth blood and the sins of Abraham’s bosom flow into my belly, ancestral generations trapped in Hell. I wince at the scalding blood, but continue to suck down the fountain of immortality, cursed as it is. The apples of youth grow from his rib branches after all, filled with the ichor of his heart. That is why the fruit of temptation is always overripe, near-rotting.
In a tangle of limbs our clothes are off and I am like a newborn in his lap, the electricity of my nerves his ichor. Samael licks his wound and the two holes seal shut. There is an entire force field between us, animal magnetism, and with a mouthful of crushed violets I meet his lips and our blood mingles on our tongues – red, the blood of angry men, black, the dark of ages past.
We clasp hands together in the air over our shoulders, both kneeling, as we interlock our fingers and squeeze hands. His wings beat in tandem with my heart. His gaze pierces me like a boring drill and mines deep down, straight to the gold of my soul. With a hand he wipes the blood from my lip then smears it over his heart. Off come our coats and shirts and pants and underthings in a flurry of snow, splayed across the smokestack, we are slithering like snakes in each other’s arms. The flakes catch on my bare skin and form a wet heat in my hair as he undoes my braid, his hands burning. I roll onto my back and open my mouth to catch the falling white, like sugar or ash. Perhaps both, for falling from heaven is bittersweet and fallen angels can never return to their innocence. Samael cradles me and leans down to tease the peak of my right breast, his fangs playing with my pert cherry petal nipple as he stirs my loins below with his quick fingers. It feels like swallowing a thimbleful of aconite and nightshade wine.
The pearl of my womanhood engorges and wetness flows like the water of life between my legs as I arc my back under his ministrations. I grab a handful of his down feathers and pull them out then spread the raven fixings to the wind. The cold north wind claims them and razes my body, making my goosebump flesh send pillars of fine blonde hair up. I am freezing, and it is like being born again in frozen baptismal waters, and the snow and wings against my back as Samael descends with a tongue like a scimitar, spreading my sex apart as he laps at my liquid wealth, well, the winter and wings feel like a caul. I am tearing it open with each lap of Samael’s cat-rough tongue, and his erection points skyward, larger than anything found on earth. I bid him come to my arms.
“I need you,” I rasp, and his lips silence me, and the wetness of his mouth mingled with my juices is like aqua vitae. There is still the copper tang of our human and demon blood, the color of the night sky and the poppies that sleep underneath her it in some faraway country, half the world from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Is it a mirage, or is there a star in the sky pointing to the Savior and three wise, homeless men pushing shopping carts to a manger at the foundry? Whatever it is, something is born in me, and it tastes like strawberries and smells like redemption.
In the Devil’s arms, I am saved.
“I love you, Samael,” I whisper in his ear as I nip his earlobe.
He shivers above me, eases my legs open, and then oil and gasoline meet as his turgid cock slides inside me with a pleasurably varying rhythm, and he is calling out my name to the unrepentant angels above that watch us in judgment. We’re putting on a show just for them, perverse exhibitionists as always.
“You are my yellow canary in a coal mine, my guiding light in Hell,” he whispers as the minutes stretch out, and our hands pick manna from each other’s flesh, and our tongues twine together, and my hips gyrate against his thrusts. Delicious friction stokes a bonfire in my depths, and the icicles on the smokestack are melting, and just as dawn comes Samael explodes inside me. His hot, molten seed fills my womb and then comes out in thick spurts down my leg, and I feel his cock twitch, stiffen, then twitch again, and he cries out in unholy tones as my canal instinctively milks him dry.
We hold each other against the unforgiving sun, and my flesh is blue from cold and torn and bruised from the rough boards and exposed nails on the smokestack alongside Samael’s talons and love bites, and I am a battered angel in the arms of the Devil.
“I will live in your world, Samael,” I whisper as he cradles me to my chest, and I savor the subzero temperatures. “I’ll no longer be a ghost haunting you. For the first time since I was born, I want to be alive.”
He kisses my brow. “It starts with a heartbeat, Shaylen. Then the doorway opens, and the dance begins, and I am no longer a beggar in the morning at your empty, ghost town pews.”
“You want to what?” Beelzebub asks in his military bunker on the outskirts of Pandemonium, where the practice fields and armory are, near the marshy lowlands of Lethe and the Plains of Asphodel. He smooths his handkerchief at his waist coast, dressed in an expensive Gucci suit that is a century out of style, tail coats and all. His spider half is gone, replaced by lithe, muscled legs. Still, six eyes like medium sized rubies are above his main garnet peepers like a crown.
Samael smiles like a madman. “You heard her, Beel.”
I grab my enchantment flute reflexively. “I want to enlist in training in the Legion. Every immortal here has a specialty – Lilith the pleasure district, Naamah entertainment, Astaroth financials, Asmodeus business, you the military. If I am to come into my own as one of the princesses, I need skill. Asmodeus has been training me in combat, and Samael has taught me how to bind demons and angels and possess them to my will. I could be an asset to you, and Michael’s making advances in the First Circle, he’s practically burned the Wood of Suicides to ash this past week. It’s a constant Civil War with borders pushed here and there in trench warfare. You need every soldier you can muster on your side.”
Beelzebub twirls a pen on his desk and lets it spin then fall. “I’ll think about it. War isn’t a game, my dear. It costs, and we immortals can die, same as mortals. It’s just the more painful and inventive ways that kill us.”
I stand my ground, planting my hands square on my hips. “I know the risks. I want to command my own legion in time, but that’s a far away goal. Eventually, I want all your human souls. You always have trouble with them rebelling and running away to Purgatory – think how they’ll respond to a mortal girl at the helm? No more desertions. A rallying symbol. No one could lead a mortal into battle, or the Damned to victory, like the first Damned: I, Eve.”
“Isn’t it a marvelous idea, Beel?” Samael clasps his hands together. “Our own infernal Joan of Arc.”
Beelzebub steeples his pale as snow hands together under his chin and sighs. His fly wings flicker, scintillating the industrial lights in rainbow fractals. “Like I said, I’ll consider taking you into my Legion, no more, no less. Give me a week.”
Samael and I walk out of military headquarters and get lunch in the markets – dim sum from a qilin couple that makes the best char sui this side of the Styx. We’re laughing and talking the whole way to the tented restaurant.
“The look on that sword up the ass’s face. Beel is traditional, Shay. Michael’s underworld counterpart. He fights with twin katanas and thinks himself some demon samurai. Protecting lady’s virtue this, upholding rule of law that. God knows what Ash ever saw in him.” Samael stuffs his face with some shu mai soaked in soy sauce.
I eat a steaming sesame ball and chew on the bean paste. “From my interactions with him, he seems like a gentleman.”
Samael snorts. “Yes, and I abhor a gentleman. Much better to be a swashbuckling scoundrel.”
I dab at my face with a napkin then drink some oolong tea. “So you’re saying you’re a pirate.”
He gives me a shit-eating grin. “Any nicely shaped booty I should raid?”
I laugh at his dumb joke. Ever since my confession of how I truly feel about him, love, yet something more solid like a bar of gold, things between us have been seamless. I feel like we are finally equals. Like I finally have a friend – a best friend – here in this usually unforgiving underworld.
“Your interview with Naamah is next week. I can’t wait to see my dear perfectionist try to get every word on broadcast right. Asmodeus will be there, mostly for laughs. Naamah just thinks you are the best thing since sliced bread. She loves stories of girls coming into their own – after all, she led the first women into the enlightenment, magick, and beds of the Watchers when Neolithic man walked the desert. Azazel, Azael, and Uza taught her well many eons ago.”
I groan. “Why did I ever agree to this interview? It’s just, at the Founder’s Ball, she was so… so vivacious. Even the morning after a sleepless night with the demon of lust, she was chipper as a wood chipper. I felt like she would cry innocent tears if I refused the interview, like I would be ruining her entire day if I said no.” I shake my head and stubbornly crack open my fortune cookie.
I unroll it: “EMET – Truth.”
My bones ice. A chill wind from the paper of prophecy makes me shudder. “Sam, you remember that Emmett guy I told you about? The one at the Founder’s Ball? The one I thought was just some trickster punk?”
Samael narrows his eyes. “Vaguely. What does that have to do with anything?”
I show him the fortune cookie.
“It’s blank, Shaylen. Too bad. We’ll get you another one-”
“What? I – no! It says “Emet – Truth!”
“I see nothing… just white blank nothing.” He takes it from me gingerly and licks the paper. “The wood pulp isn’t from what’s left of the Wood of Suicides, our paper pulp supplier.” He grimaces. “Ugh, tastes angelic. What in the seven hells is going on? Mysterious strangers only you meet, even more mysterious messages only you see? Someone is playing with us.” With a stream of curses, he spits sparks onto the fortune and it ignites, then burns to a tiny stream of ash.
“Sam, what, no! That was our only link to Emmet, besides the Rubik’s cube he left me, and that evaporated overnight!”
“I will not be toyed with by Heaven. Probably one of Michael’s ideas. This is not anything I am willing to leave traces of here. I need control over my forces. To look like we’re winning. And a Rubik’s cube? What is it, the 80’s again? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I just… he seemed magical. I told you once, and you didn’t believe me. And I didn’t trust you all the way yet.”
“The doll. The messages. No, no!” Samael’s yelling attracts attention from the other patrons, who quickly return to sipping their egg drop soup and oolong tea as Sam runs a hand through his hair and rises, steaming and huffing. He grabs me by the wrist and we go marching to a veranda on the Styx, ripe with tiger lilies and privacy.
“I will not have you harmed. No more lies between us,” he demands, then presses his lips to mine and bites gently. Blood wells up, and he drinks it down, the salty sweet of my essence. “Our pact is blood. A shared heart. I own you, you own me. We will get to the bottom of this ploy.” With a careless finger, he seals shut my wounded bottom lip and it is good as new.
I am shocked at his sudden blood claim. Without thinking, I grab his wrist and bite with my dulled human teeth. Black seeps up, like the blanket of night. Chocolate and wine. I take a swallow, then spit the rest out onto a patch of dandelions. “I swear on your blood to never lie to you again,” I say with an animal passion usually alien to my cold reserve, then wipe my lips clean.
Emet was a message.
Emet means truth.
A truth to only god knows what.