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.
The mundane business of dying.
Shadows. Speech. A dream.
“What the Sam Hill is going on in this court room?”
The businessman summons something. The swirling darkness becomes a court room. The ghost of his assistant warns him:
“The prosecutor, sir- he’s not of this world.”
“But I thought he was the judge!”
“He’s that too, sir, apparently. The celestial court room is rigged, and the prosecuting angel has found you wanting.”
“I always knew the Devil was a lawyer.”
“Shh- he’s reached his ruling!”
A third eye burns on his head. The Left Hand utters his judgement:
“Your soul is piss-ugly and dark as Lucifer’s shit. I can, however, be swayed by vodka.”
“And what? Cough up the Play Bunnies and alcohol and I let you off. There will, however, be a cost. Just a paltry thing. Your get-out-of-Hell-free fee.”
“A cost- I see. You want my soul, I presume?”
“Are you out of your rotting mind? Your soul is hideous. No. Your daughter.”
“My daughter? That, sir, is too far!”
“You summoned me to court. Only I can prevent Michael’s shining sword from being rammed up your sinning ass. Trust me, it’s not pleasurable at all.”
“My- my only child? I could never…”
The Judging Angels smirks.
“Eternal torment, human. Do you know how long eternity is?”
So the father sold his child to the man of many names.
Seven winters pass. She has the face of a starving angel. Her mother dies in labor. The father does not remember.
Each night, she has a visitor.
“Daddy, I saw him again. The Shadow Man. He was standing at my door, watching me- daddy, I can’t sleep.”
His daughter stands before him, clutching her stuffed doll against her trembling chest. He tucks his little angel into bed, urging her to sleep.
“It’s just your imagination, sweetheart. Monsters belong in movies. Now shh,” he whispers, stroking her flaxen hair. “Daddy- daddy’s here for you.” He flips on the TV, unable to shake inexplicable fear. She drifts off to sleep.
He curses under his breath. Above, her room is pristine, with a silky pink bower over her bed. He often marvels at how she plays. She sequesters herself in her room, methodical in the perfectly arranged tea sets. She sits there all day, rearranging the china cups and perfect, porcelain dolls. She holds them like relics, smoothing the pleats in their dresses, calming a stray hair.
Then, she will sit and stare. Humming softly to herself, the strain of a violin. Her father can never complain. She is the perfect child. Quiet and obedient. An angel in the making.
“Daddy, don’t leave. He’s coming.”
She will wake with bruises on her thighs. Acid kisses fester. Hidden under muslin, not allowed to show her dad.
“No, darling,” he whispers, stepping past the threshold. “There’s nothing here.” Gently, he shuts the door. He closes it fast so the shadows cannot catch him. A wind creeps under the door slit. Something ices his bones. He stumbles down the staircase and fall into stupor-ed sleep.
A vicious silhouette slinks from behind tf his daughter’s door. It stands by her bedside. A freezing draft teased the lacy curtains.
“Nothing here?” A chthonic voice echoes. “Oh, but of course there is.”
The shadow brushes her hair back. Kisses the child’s brow. It sings a lullaby, somber, like the wind.
She stirs, rosebud lips opening in question. Her cherub nose tilts upward, as if breathing in the moon. He hushes her silent struggle, kisses her asleep.
“In time. In time. In time.”
Rains come. They flood her soul. The world turns, as it would.
Her father lay sdead in the ground, pale and rigid as crypt. She sits in the shadow of his masoleum, crimson umbrella fending off the rain. It pours from the stone eaves like tears from angels’ eyes.
The funeral procession marched away, a ghost train on the wind. She has imagined it in her head- it is only a flock of crows. Three for a wedding, ten for Old Scratch No one had come to mourn him. Only her, in black lace and a nude taffeta gown.
She curses the corpse below her.
Her mourning veil drifts in the stormy wind. The roses she carries wilted, white as the touch of death. She sips pomegranate tea, paralyzed to her fate. The drink mists like a ghost. She waits at the mausoleum’s steps.
“I know you’re there,” she whispers.
A crow caws in the dripping pine.
She draws a doll from her purse, hands clad in calfskin gloves. The shadow takes it from her, brushing against her skin. His touch is like winter’s bone.
“Such a fragile thing. How charming.” The thick shadows recede. They revealing the pale cold one. Sam Hill grins back at her. He holds the porcelain girl, placed it atop her father’s coffin. “We will bury her, but not yet. It is good to look at your rot.” He traces the doll’s cracks. “These are the dead parts of you. You can be her no more. Go ahead-” he says gently, hands on her shoulder. He guides her to the base of the stone. She stares down at the faded doll. “Make peace, dove.”
“What ties you to this world. Your innocence. It was a thin thread cut by death.”
“You know I won’t go with you. I’m taking my life if you do,” she says calmly. She withdraws a silver blade.
“Antique Venetian? Impressive. Either way, dear angel, you know that I will have you.” His voice rasps like an addict’s. His darkness drown her, suffocating like a black cloud. She recoils, tripping blindly down the steps to falling in an icy puddle. He lifts her off the ground.
“Either way, I have you. I hoped it was alive. But dead- dead can work.”
“So I have no choice?” she demands. “Absolutley none at all.”
“Some claims run deeper than blood. Nothing keeps the moth from her flame.”
“It was made before I was born.”
“There is no birth or death. Just change.”
“Then what are you?”
“An end. A dance. A beginning.”
“Sam Hill, rot in Hell.”
“Gladly. If it’s with you.”
Her cheeks burn with anger. She smashes the doll on the stone.
Thirteen crows caw above. She whispers a broken rhyme. She knows what it means. A curse.
They bury the shattered porcelain,. It is a spiriting away of sorts. Mists rise in their trail. Lilies bloom in their wake. His raiment is death, her bridal train crows. He holds her in the crook of his arm.
“You won’t miss much. I promise. This place is cruel and broken.”
“I never loved this world.”
My body is pressed against yours in the cold tower, dread tower, silk and lace and red velvet sheets I am burrowed into, but you are naked and cold, shark smile and wolf fangs, and as you neck me into surrender I let out the softest of sighs.
First a bite under my earlobe, then the meat of my neck, near my Adam’s apple, above my collarbone. You let the blood runneth over and I smell iron and venom and wetness as you suck and drink and lick and fuck me into nirvana. It pools on my breasts, which you move to in due time, and maybe it’s the full moon or me being a black lamb but all I can think is “Oh, he’s at it again. I am the feast, and he is the wine glass.”
My gown, once ivory pale, soon turns gory. You moan and call out to the old gods – no gods, you don’t believe in gods – and rub kinks out of my back as you continue your vampire shtick. You always said you hated vampires, that you wiped them off your boots after walking Cerberus, and I threaten to cut Cerberus’ head and serve it to you on a platter if you don’t let me go back to bed and keep romancing my veins but you just laugh, and the drugs of your saliva are slipping in.
My limbs are jelly, not wooden, and I roll and we kiss and the tide of my ruin pulls me downwards. There is a fire in the hearth in our stone room, rich black bear and wolfskin rugs, and usually we are in the dungeons, but today you chose a wintry pinnacle through whose window I can see blizzards and snowy owls. The sheets are wet with crimson, and the hot rivers flow to my belly, to my groin, and you lick a path from my womb to my chest to heaven upwards, just savoring the last drops, and I tell you I am not your toy, though I delight in being a doll. You laugh and are clearly drunk off bloodwhoring and cradle me against you, play with my hair, and when I have fallen asleep but just you lift up my comatose form and carry me down the spiral stairs to your study and set me on a velvet settee while you read poetry aloud. Your favorite parts are when I am fragile.
But when I wake, you are gone, and I am angry, so I don my white wings and cloak of gold vengeance and the gown of the White Reaper and fly through Pandemonium with my hair like brass snakes. You aren’t answering my calls, too busy ruling, so I soar to the island in the Styx where the unearthly Sanhedrin hold court and break columns depicting Satan’s fall and rise and reign. You are etched in stone, so cold, and I break marble balustrades and caryatids of succubi and toss them into the sea. I have super strength, all because I am ignored, and soon I grow weary of tossing Satan’s shrapnel into unforgiving waters and go out to get tea on the canals.
You finally pick up your phone and join me for a scone. You ask why my desperate cries for your attention are always so overdramatic, and I pause from drinking chamomile and wonder. Why is it I cry when I can’t hold you and even when you smell like sulfur or roadkill or blood I still want to cradle you to my chest? Why do I make a monster a man, and scream when your hand turns ephemeral as I wake in reality. I’m always chasing you, pursuing, you may be the hunter but I am the huntmaster – you are my prey, in a way, and we only do things I enjoy, from the fucking to the killing to the reading, gluttony of the senses for what purpose? Amusement?
I wanted to feel my pulse so you drained me, and honestly, I’m only alive when I am in your arms.
His skin is moonlight, eyes opium poppies, and as he looks at me, biting iris and black sclera, it is clear the poison flows not only from his veins but from his very touch, sly words, and serpent tongue. I am naked in his bed, and without hesitation or asking I bring his wrist to my mouth and kiss the blue vein to claim him as my own.
I am oh so very hungry. Like I have not drunk water for days. But there is no pure spring in Hell, just the red Styx and gore and spirits distilled from ruin. The best of us drink the ichor of demon lords and the lowest of us sip butcher’s milk in the gutter outside the slaughterhouse.
He smiles like a saw, fangs aglimmer, and he pulls me into his lap then presses his canines to the pulsing hotness of his blood and tears the skin open. I lap up the blood that tastes just like sweet red wine and it flows into my mouth, out my chin, down onto my breasts in rivulets. He laughs and plays with my hair, golden waves like wheat, and then he starts to moan as I bite him in return, and the air is so thick in this bed of velvet and silk, blacks and crimsons, you could slice it with a knife and still not cut through with true clarity. We are smoke and mirrors, frankincense fumes and mist.
It is a bed of sin. Of damnation. But I ate his ancient apple before womanhood, when I was barely a maiden, and I am addicted to a ghost. He is not very far from a corpse, and you can see every bone in his body, ribs poking out on a muscled torso, collarbone like a diamond knife, and sometimes I break open his femurs and drink down marrow or steal his pinky bone and place it on my ring to summon the Grim Reaper at will.
I must have been a slave and whore to Death a thousand times over, but he bends to my every whim and desire, so perhaps I am his master in the end. I am always chasing after him because my Eros and Thanatos drives are mated in unholy union, summoning him into my body just so I can drown in his essence, raising him from the dead with my own flesh, because he is my child, but I am his creation, but wait – no – I’m his maker, I called his name from October winds, and I will eat my fill of him as I please.
He takes his turn, fangs at my neck, my breast, and the sheets are stained with alizarin. Suck, lick, thirst after your lover and mingle spirits like a mixed drink. I can’t tell alpha from omega, and I love him so fiercely and hate him so much that I will kill him, but after I tear his bones and sinew apart I will kiss him alive again, and I bruise him just as much as he fucks me over, and just plain fucks me. He is not a good man, no, he is the essence of abuse and evil, but there is something about villains that appeals to the base desires of honest women, a candor in their cruelty, and as long as he is obedient, I give myself to him.