|The Thirteenth Story
Author: actoratheart PM
When you break the rules, bad things happen. When you meddle in things beyond your understanding, worse things happen. When you tempt fate... well, I'd be watching my back.Rated: Fiction T - English - Horror/Spiritual - Chapters: 13 - Words: 34,106 - Reviews: 13 - Favs: 4 - Updated: 05-24-05 - Published: 04-30-05 - id: 1900362
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Foreboding is a very powerful sensation. Even more so for demons, evidently. There was a constant humming of my nerves, a pounding in my very veins that spoke to me of impending conflict. It was like a ringing in my ears that wouldn't go away. Even more frustrating was the knowledge that something was going to happen, without knowing where, or when, or how, or even why, and certainly without knowing the outcome.
In all the nightmares, on all the dark paths I was then treading, I was knowing this. I was forewarned. But I rather wished I wasn't. I groaned when a light hit my eyes, and somewhat louder than I might've intended.
"Oh..." I sat up experimentally and finding that I could, rubbed sleep from my eyes. One hand went to the back of my now painfully pounding skull. "Oh, my head..."
"She liiiiiiiiiives!" Kel cried, and I glared at him with disdain.
"What the hell did you hit me with?"
"DemonNap. It's a lot like the anesthesia used on fruit flies in scientific laboratories. In fact, I think the inventor of FlyNap made DemonNap in Heaven."
"Shut up. If you'd just used an anesthesia, my head wouldn't feel like a construction site. And besides, I distinctly remember a hard object coming into brutal contact with the back of my head."
He sighed in mock surrender. "All right, you got me. I knocked you out with this," he tossed me the object, "and then used the DemonNap."
I turned the golden trophy in my hands. The small plaque at the base proclaimed it as Binyamin Zevman's 6th grade bowling trophy.
"Bullshit," I said simply. "Don't screw with me, Kel. I know what I heard, and there was no wood on the thing you used. Not to mention that I smelled silver. Not gold."
He actually looked surprised. "You did? Since when is your sense of smell so acute that you can tell the difference between metals?"
I shrugged. "I dunno. But it doesn't matter. I can. So don't even bother lying to me."
He made a face like a schoolboy forced to give up his favorite possession before he showed me a silver candlestick, pulling it from behind his back.
"Well alright then," I muttered, realizing after I'd started to speak that it sounded very anticlimactic, and besides that, rather lame.
"You're pathetic, you know that?"
I glared at him. "You're one to talk," I snapped.
"Oh shut up already, would ya? I just woke up, of course I'm a little crabby!"
"Actually," he said thoughtfully, "You're a little demon." At my glare he added hastily, "Though that's not what you meant at all, of course."
"Ya think?" I barked at him.
For a moment we stood in silence, staring at each other. Our gazes locked on each other's, mine icy, his annoyingly calm.
"I spoke to Him today."
It figures. I knew he couldn't sustain it.
"Oh?" I asked, trying to sound uninterested as I turned away and focused my attention on some picture frames on a table. "What did he say?"
"We've got eighteen hours to figure out what we're gonna do to counter him, and then do it."
I whirled back around. "He said WHAT?"
"No. Of course not. I'm simply telling you the end results of the conversation. It's a hell of a time-saver."
"Well what did he say?"
"Sorry," he said with a shrug. "That's classified."
"Excuse me? Classified?"
"Yes, that's what I said. I thought you could hear metal moving in the air," he taunted.
"How do you figure eighteen hours?" I asked, purposefully avoiding his jibe.
"It'll take that long for him to get his army together."
"Y'know, I didn't hit you nearly hard enough to screw with your hearing."
"Shut up! What did you tell him?" I didn't need to finish that sentence. What the hell had he done to make Kimsul so mad?
"I told him you wanted revenge."
"WHAT? Why would you say that? Damn you– you've signed my death sentence!"
"No, I haven't... Especially if you can muster up a larger one first."
"Oh right," I scoffed, folding my arms over my chest. "And just how do you suppose I'm going to do that?"
"Well, I'd try Heaven."
"Oh! Oh you would, would you?" He nodded, and I near exploded– settling instead for pacing the room. "You are a half-brained moron! Demons –especially a murderer like me– can't just WALTZ into Heaven, request an audience with God, and then ask him politely over tea for TROOPS!"
"No, but..." Suddenly he froze. "Oops."
"What?" I yelled. I think this situation warrants a note of panic, thank you very much. "What is it, what's 'oops'?!"
He laughed nervously. "Um... Rule number one: Never underestimate a demon hellbent on world domination."
Well. THAT just does wonders for my state of mind. Shit. I sighed. "What is it?"
He glanced at the watch on his wrist. "Um, correction: We have... thirty minutes."
"You have GOT to be kidding me."
"Um, no, sorry." He lunged forward, grabbing my arm in his grip and then snapping his fingers.
I looked down at my feet first.
OKAY! That wasn't a good plan. Note to self: when they say in movies "don't look down," there's a very good reason WHY! Miles of open air –and then farmland– below your feet is NOT very comforting at all.
Look, I heard him say. I followed the line of his arm, and I gasped despite myself. The Pearly Gates. Not exactly what you expected, right?
I stared. Please tell me this is the back door. The gates were seedy, rundown, blackened with overgrowth and moss and creeper vines. I chuckled to myself. The final irony, I guess. We spend so much time trying so hard to get to Heaven... and it's more depressing than the door into an abandoned house.
Kel shrugged. Nobody's used it in decades.
Yeah, I see that.
This is part of the reason Kimsul's gaining ground, by the way.
What, because the gates of Heaven are neglected? Apparently that taking-comments-at-face-value thing hadn't quite worn off yet.
No. Because nobody comes here. You'd be surprised how many are wasting their lives down there. They don't understand that they don't get another opportunity.
Actually, I said thoughtfully, They know all too well.
What are you talking about?
We know we don't get to live again, so we do whatever the hell we like.
If you say so. But facts are facts.
We walked forward, pushing open the gates and getting only a very loud creeeeeak in response.
So what do we do now?
I dunno. Requesting a meeting with God sounds good right about now. What do you say?
I say you're crazy. But you're also probably right.
He grinned. Yeah, I'm good at that.
He ignored me and walked in, and I followed hesitantly, skirting hanging vines as I passed the gates. Even being an immortal demon, there was something altogether creepy about the knowledge of entering Heaven and not being dead yet. Almost like I was trespassing. It evidently didn't bother Kel– after he'd passed the gates I watched idly as he brushed moss and dirt from the shoulders of his jacket and continued on with a tangible air of indifference.
Hmph. Easy enough for him.
He waved a hand back at me in a gesture of 'heard that' but didn't turn around. He walked forth, supported solely by clouds. He looked around like one entering the lobby of a building that suddenly appears very empty– staring around, trying to decide if anybody was here or not.
"Hello?" he called. He took another step forward and listened as I skittered up alongside him. The echoes of his voice made me edgy. "HELLO!" he called again, cupping his hands around his mouth to make the sound travel further.
"Vat do you vant?"
I whirled to face the speaker, but Kel turned more slowly.
"Vat do you vant?!" the speaker was an elderly angel, evidently. His wings were all feathery and white, just like all the artwork, but they were bent and ragged, folded around his shoulders as though to provide warmth– or at least insulation. That's sad, I thought, doesn't Heaven have central heating?
Kel's voice in my head made me give a snort of laughter– earning the annoyed glare of the angel. Think about that for a second. Then ask again.
"Bah, children. In my day–"
"Oh, I know, I know," I said, a little frustrated. How many times had I heard this speech? "In your day they were polite, silent, and respectful. Am I getting warm?" He stopped, glaring at me, his mouth slightly open in his surprise. "If you don't mind, we're here to finish a job. We only have..." I grabbed Kel's wrist, eyeing his watch closely. I was about to say something like 'fifteen minutes...' but I stared at it instead. "What the hell?"
Kel chuckled, gently prying my fingers from his wrist. "It's a devil's clock. Don't worry." He glanced at it for a split-second. "We've only got twenty minutes, if you don't mind. We need to talk to the boss."
"Heh. Heh." I haven't met many people who laugh in words. "That's funny, son."
"Why? This is a pretty urgent issue."
"Everybody needs to talk to the boss. Does that mean that everyone does? Aw heck no."
I took a step forward, setting myself in front of Kel. "Excuse me, old man, but who the hell do you think you are anyway?"
"My name is Erik Erikson."
I took a step back, leaning slightly and I almost hit Kel. "Are you kidding me with that?"
"No. Who are you, anyway?"
"I'm–" I broke off. "Jen."
Kel's low rumbling voice behind me made me jump. "Who's Erik Erikson?"
"Pyschologist. Disciple of Freud, but had some major conflicts of theory and opinion."
"Mr. Erikson, listen. Our mission is important. Really, really important. As in billions will die if we don't act… like NOW."
He shrugged, and I noticed a faint glint of light from above his head. Was that... his halo? Geez... apparently our image of Heaven wasn't that far off... Well, except for the gates, that is.
"I can't help you, sorry."
Resisting the urge to grab him by the wingtips and pummel him, I stalked by him, making my frustration known by stamping loudly and with body language– stiff wings, arms held tightly to my sides with hands fisted. Kel followed, and I heard his clothing shift as he shrugged at Erikson in what was undoubtedly a "women." gesture.
Would you just SHUT UP FOR FIVE MINUTES?!
That wouldn't be as fun as it is to annoy you.
I grumbled but said nothing. He was just baiting me, I simply needed to ignore it.
There isn't much to say about Heaven, unfortunately. All I can really say is that it's very much a letdown. After all the beautiful artwork we see depicting the Pearly Gates and God's throne room, so to speak, the reality is depressing. We were lucky– we actually got that audience with God we wanted, and in pretty damn good time too, if I do say so myself. We didn't get to see Him, but I wasn't surprised. And I was absolutely right about God's reaction to us.
Sorry. Can't help you. Now if you please, you need to leave.
Kel sighed, and I bit back an angry reply. You just don't snap insults at God, after all.
"You can't just kick us out."
But then, sometimes we do stupid things. Really, really stupid things. Like snap at God.
Apparently, somewhere along the line, somebody was clipping wires in my brain, and they happened to cut the one connecting my tongue to my common sense. Goody for me, right?
Seven angels closed around us in a circle. Within seconds both Kel and I had three angels gripping our arms tightly, escorting us back outside. We were dumped onto the steps outside and left to lie there.
"Shut up." He got to his feet and I copied him.
"Got a Plan B there, Mr. Smart Wolf? Got an alternate plan, when your last resort back-fires? Or were you so sure that Heaven would help? That the almighty God would lend a hand to us, lowly –and might I mention, enemy– demons, and raise us from bondage? Now who was it that said that wouldn't work... Hm. Oh, yes, that's right. It was ME."
"No. Do you know how many times I've told YOU to shut up, and you haven't? Time to return the favor you bastard. I–"
Hello traitors. Nice day?
Oh... that's not good.
Just what did you think you were going to do? What did you hope to accomplish? I have supreme power at my fingertips, you fools. And now all you have done is led me to the place where I can take it! He laughed. I should have realized from Day One that you were unreliable, Rei. When you did not follow the rules... When you began everything. For indeed, that one mistake of staying in at lunch was what started everything. You do realize this, don't you? That all this is your fault? Had you simply done what you were supposed to do, braved social contact, hundreds of children and elders would still be alive, and I would not be so far along as I am? That I would not have gained so much ground... And Kel's beloved family would still be alive. But no... you were too afraid of chatting politely with fifty or so people for an hour.
"It's not true!" I shouted. Please dear God don't let it be true... "You would've found somebody else! You didn't need me!"
Oh? Your mouth says it, but your heart is doubting your own words. You believe me, somewhere inside yourself. And now that part shall be revealed! He pointed at me, shouting in a language I could not understand.
I felt a great darkness welling up inside me... fighting to take control as it had so many times... And then I heard a voice. It was so similar to the voice I'd heard that first day, it made me cringe. It explained in deathly cold terms that it was different... that it wasn't what I'd surrendered to so many times. It wasn't the demon– it was something far greater, far darker, and more powerful. I could not hope to stand against it, it said to me. I doubled over, arms clutched around myself as to keep in the darkness, kneeling on the white marble steps of God's home. There was a pressure, an unbearable pressure building in my head and my heart, waiting to explode... and it built with each passing moment, growing and waiting to burst and consume me in the process, leaving Rei dead and gone, a true, black-hearted demon in her place.
It was no more than a whisper, not nearly loud enough to drive it back.
No. I won't allow it.
It grew louder... I realized it was me. It was my voice, fighting back the tide. Beating at it with a stick, striking at the darkness.
YOU WILL NOT HAVE ME!
For the first time I heard his voice with my ears. It was loud... painfully loud to my own acute hearing. It burned in my ears and struck at my tenacity, making me feel weak and helpless and encouraging silently for me to back down and stop fighting, to surrender.
"You dare to fight me? YOU DARE?"
For once, it wasn't Kimsul in my head. The voice was strong, but light and good in its very essence. I felt a strong hand on my arm and the stick that I'd used to hack at the darkness was being gently pulled from my fingers– replaced by a gleaming sword, its hilt a bright gold. It's God... I realized. I swung the blade in a circle, twirling it in my hand before slicing into the darkness, searching for the heart... the black void around me wavered and I grinned, my perception focusing back on reality.
Kimsul stood before me, fangs bared and in his 'angry mode.' Black inky wings unfurled from between his shoulders, his eyes darkened to a solid, furious black. What had once been well-kept fingernails were claws at least as long as my head and blacker than coal. His tanned skin was now a shifting, venomous green... In short, he was painful to look at. His fingers were clutched around the blood red hilt of a dark sword, longer than my own and cruel in design. The black iron blade was stained and pitted with the maroon of old blood. I cringed at the sight.
He raced toward me. At one point Kel had disappeared, I had no idea where. Slightly panicked I held the blade up, hoping there was a bit of skill in it so I wasn't completely on my own. After all, demon instinct was what fought for me– never ME. When the blades clanged against each other loudly I had mixed feelings...
Yay! I did it!
OW! That hurt!
Either way, the force of the block sent me reeling, and I staggered back as he pressed his advantage. He hacked at me again and again, it taking all I had to just block his powerful blows. It was Kimsul, I should've known he couldn't do anything small. Finally he locked his blade with mine, hilt to hilt, pressing his face in toward mine. He shoved down on me and I fell back, sprawled on the marble steps. He snaked his blade around my own and flicked outward, sending Heaven's blade flying, until it finally sank into cloud at least forty feet away. He took a step back and held his blade up high, spiking up tension by pausing for a moment before he began his downward swing.
Kimsul halted in mid-swing, his sword torn from his grasp and flung away when he paused. I took my opportunity, knowing full well I wasn't going to get another one, and I bolted away. Kimsul was staring wonderingly about him, his hands still locked together as though around the hilt of his sword.
I cannot allow you to continue. For two hundred and twenty nine years I have watched you gain power, slowly and quietly, sidling around borders and darting through loopholes. But you missed one rule. You will not harm another, even one of your own, on the steps of Heaven.
Though I could not see God, I could feel his presence, and I could feel as he turned to me, something like a smile on his face.
I thank you, Rei, for bringing him here. This is, as it were, the break I have needed to finally stop him.
It is just my luck that the final triumph of good, at least for now, is something I can't watch. God clapped his hands, (so to speak) and I remembered nothing more for at least another week after.
When I did wake, Kel was lying on a bed beside mine, staring up at the ceiling. An angel was standing at the foot of my bed, apparently awaiting my awakening.
"Greetings to you, Demons Who Assisted."
"Please tell me that's not what people are calling us."
"Is it not true of you?"
"So what if it is?" I snapped. Moments after waking up is not, by any means, when I want to be told about some sort of hero worship that's going on about me. Oy.
"My apologies if I have insulted you..."
"No. Just say what you have to say and go."
"I– How did you know?"
"You're standing there, waiting for me to wake up. Why else would you still be here if you just wanted to say hello? Usually you'd leave and come back later." I paused. "Unless it's that bad..." I hid my face in my hands. This could NOT be happening to me.
"Oh. Well, our Lord wishes a message to be delivered to you..."
"And...? What is it?" Yes, I was cranky. And yes, I absolutely had reason to be. You
would be too.
"He wishes that you remember the last three months as a story you made up, rather than reality. He wishes to merge your soul with another... and to wipe out your old life..." the angel cringed, as though expecting my response to be harsh. And ordinarily, it would have been. But I started to think. A new life wouldn't be so bad...
"Tell him I'll do it."
But like Kimsul said, it isn't an exact science. Sometimes... a couple fish escape the net. Sometimes the magic doesn't quite work.
"RACHEL!" two voices cried happily, and I smiled as two pairs of clamoring footsteps came toward me.
"Miriam! Lily! So good to see you guys!"
But they were not so easily distracted.
"Rachel, you'll never believe what happened to us last week!"
"Oh? Really?" I asked innocently, forcefully smothering a wolfish grin. "What's that?"