Damn, but I'm hungry.
Third night in this city, still no catch. I tried the streets the first night, the bars the second, and tonight I haven't decided. I don't want to stay outside tonight, in the greasy gasoline air. It's too much like the first Outside, where nothing grows and the air crackles with nearly-ignited flame. The city, like the desert east of Eden, looms eternal, cold, and unreal.
They've been watching me since I got here. I don't appreciate it. I hope the little bastards die soon.
They're scared of me, and they should be. If I ever caught them in the open trying to stop me from feeding, I'd snap their skinny half-mortal necks. But they're hiding from me in the hazy shadows in the corners of the bars, doing their very damnedest to drive me out of the city.
Who the hell hired them?
A club tonight, then. Tight leather pants and not nearly enough shirt, going somewhere with bright, weirdly-colored drinks and young blood, young souls, pumping and swirling to the basic beat of the music, sweating out sex and common sense.
I can't die, but if I could, this is what I would live for.
The smell of the souls is painful, the hunger growling in the pit of my stomach infuriating. More infuriating, I guarantee, would be the white-haired, three-eyed, half-angel supernatural detective sitting at the bar when I get there. I may be the only one here who can see her useless, stubby wings and the eye set sideways in her forehead, but that means she can see my wings too, my horns and fangs.
"You have some real balls, sitting here, Caylis," I hiss, sliding in beside her.
She shrugs. To everyone else there, she's staring absently at her drink. I can see her third eye watching me.
I'm very hungry. Her soul, half-divine, would more than make up for two nights of hunger, but Caylis and I have a few mutual friends that are still too interesting to alienate. "Let me explain a few things for you, chatzi. You are going to tell me who hired you to toss up a talisman every time I spot a meal, then you are going to clear the hell out of here or so help me nachash I will devour you."
The man sitting next to me, drunker than Noah out of the Ark, stares at us with horrified fascination. Every so often a poor old son of a bitch will find out he can suddenly see a world of demons, vampires, and the occasional angel, and what a fun surprise that always is. Caylis slides a card over to him.
CAYLIS AND ARAXIEL
"If you can see the wings, We can help"
"If you sober up enough in the morning to remember who gave this to you, call the number here," Caylis says, tapping the card. She turns all three eyes back to me. "No one hired us, Lilith."
I have been happier, since the dawn of time. Not so happy, hearing this.
"And in case you haven't noticed, it hasn't been only Araxiel and me trailing you," she says. "The Schwartzdrakken clan has been in on it too."
I can feel my claws digging into the plastic. "Why, chatzi?"
She bites her lip, looks around. "There's, um, someone in town right now looking for you. He'd find you if you did anything, you know, demonic. We all—that's me and Araxiel, the vampires, and Red, the Reaper, and Destruction—thought it would be in everyone's best interests if you didn't meet with this guy. We're, um, pretty sure we're diverting the Apocalypse."
"Who?" I ask, but then I know. I can suddenly feel it, piercing through the throbbing music, the sweat, the sex, the souls, the hunger. Engulfing me, wrapping around me like a chain.
Fucking bastard came to New York looking for me.
"What?" Caylis's face creases in confusion.
"How is he here? In what kind of body?"
"Oh. The Metatron."
"You're joking." Of all the forms to take. Bloody blind Metatron. I stand, fangs bared in a snarl. "Do yourself a favor, chatzi. Go home to your half-demon and keep a tight hold on those trinkets of yours." I'm walking away with no plan or idea what happens next, but I'm shaking and I'd have to kill Caylis if she saw.
"Lilith," Caylis calls behind me. "Lilith—please, don't! I really like the world when it—y'know—exists! Lilith!"
I have to get out. I'm hungry and I'm furious and I'm not listening. What have I ever gotten for listening?
So I'm gone.
There are dozens of entrances to my cave, but only two of them really what you would call earthly. The rest are all in different levels of Hell. One of these two earthly entrances is in the desert, in the east. That desert was where Asmodeus found me, cold and naked; that cave, that part of it, is where I became a demon. The second is nothing, really, at all, just a hole in a wide, empty meadow, where the air sometimes smells like lilacs.
I am sitting in the second and waiting. I don't want him here, in my field, which is so perfectly balanced between purgatory and paradise. But the thought of him in the mouth of my desert cave—standing, perfect, in the place where I was made imperfect—makes me shudder.
It is quiet here now, the wind only whispering through the tall dry grass. This late in the season, the lilacs have already faded, but the air still smells clean. The sky overhead glitters with hundreds of stars, the eyes of my children who died in innocence—they alone of all my broods were innocent.
That's why I'm even here, even sitting Earthside. He wouldn't follow me into Hell, and eventually he'd just go back. But I want to know if he feels watched, under the eyes. I've been wondering for so long that I might as well know—
Does God feel remorse?
The wind changes. Cold, cutting, pure, smelling of no earthly incense. It is the smell of the lost Eden, and I know without turning around that there is a blind boy standing behind me.
Hate, rising through my throat acidly, drowns the gnawing hunger. Time passes, but I can only tell because my trembling grows violent and my palms stigmatize, claws sunk deep into flesh.
"Lilith," he says eventually.
I ignore it, fangs clenched and body trembling with barely-suppressed rage, anger almost as old as the world itself. Then, orgasmically, it passes, and the trembling stops. "You might as well sit," I say, biting my lip to slow my heaving breath.
He approaches, the One True God wearing the Metatron's body of a young, blind man. The Metatron, the Voice of God, can speak and hear as God's representative, but does not see. He is wearing white, because purity is only in absence, but everything has a gray tinge to it. That would be New York for you—even God can't stay pure there. He holds an umbrella over his head even as he sits down, its metal skeleton gleaming around his head.
"What do you want?"
He turns to the sound of my voice, eyes hidden behind dark glasses. I know he can see me anyway. "Lilith," he says, almost whispering. "I want you to come home."
I take in my breath sharply, but instead of the anger I was expecting, I let out the breath and lean back to look at the stars, the eyes. Are they expecting something, have I promised them anything? I don't know.
"Do you even know why I left?" I ask. In answer, he only stares blindly back at me. "You didn't love me like you loved Adam," I sneer. "I wasn't as important as Adam. In Eden, I didn't even feel real—it was like I didn't matter, I didn't exist. I was just a womb. I left because you didn't need me."
"I know why you left," he says, impatient. "But I don't know why you left."
It feels like my stomach's gone hollow, eviscerated by the words of a holy fool. "What?" We have both found our way to our feet.
"I don't know why you couldn't stay in the garden," he says, holding onto the umbrella like a lifeline. "Why couldn't you have stayed and talked to me about it? Why couldn't we have tried to fix it?"
So, no, he doesn't feel the eyes watching him. "Let me ask you a question," I hiss. "Say, I've left the garden, found Asmodai, bore his demon brood. What made you think threatening me would make me come back?"
"Love," he said. "Faith. Love for me, for Adam, even that brood of monsters."
"Not love! Fear." It's so futile, arguing this. "You wanted me to be afraid of you. How could you even think threatening to kill my children would make me love you again? You murdered my children—and for what? Because I left? Because I didn't fear you? Because you knew you were wrong?"
"I gave you two options," he says, the puerile edge that has accompanied his words fading. Less the Metatron speaking than God, now. "To come back, or to stay and have your children killed. You chose the second for yourself, Lilith!"
"I don't care what the rest of them think of you," I snarl. "What Eve's children think of you. You are a selfish, pathetic, arrogant thing. You will never understand why the things you create are the way they are. You never see!"
"I see everything," he says, voice low. The wind feels as though it's a step away from fire.
My threads of patience, already worn thin from hunger, are threatening to snap. I bare my wings, my fangs and claws, tired of this game. "I should rip you apart. Would you see then?"
"Lilith, I would destroy you before you could move."
In the quiet that follows, I start to laugh.
"That's it, isn't it?" I say. "That's why you want to bring me back to Eden. You and I—we're the only things really eternal, aren't we? I never ate the forbidden fruit. I may have left, but I'm still a part of Eden. You can't kill me without undoing this entire world! And back in Eden, you could have me die. I'm a threat, right? Eve has lost her voice and face, but I still speak for myself."
In the lilac field, I find sudden serenity.
"That's why you threatened me. Why you need me to fear you so badly." My smile is wide and lazy. "You're afraid of me."
God says nothing.
"I'm hungry," I inform him. "And tired. Get out of my field before one of us kills the other and ends the world."
Maybe he knows he's wrong, but he'll never understand how to fix it.
Or maybe he doesn't know.
So he's gone.
And in my wide, empty field, I will myself not to scream.
In the greasy gasoline city, there are no stars, which is for the better. My first children died in innocence, and I don't feel any particular need to introduce them to mommy's corruption.
Another night, maybe.
I am taking my time looking for my meal tonight. I'm thinking a nun, maybe, something whole. Or, maybe, a couple of hookers. Something tasty. Or maybe I'll just take the first mortal I find—I don't need to be picky. If God shows no compassion for my children, then I can have very little for his.
The chatzis, vampires, and dark angels have stopped watching me. They all understand the rules better than Hell or Heaven, I think. In their own way, they each live in a part of my lilac meadow, straddled perfectly between Eden and Dis. They know that I will survive to the end of all existence—and that the world may not survive to the end of all my anger. They understand the rules and hierarchies of Heaven and Hell, and they understand the rules of human too. They see, I think, how all these rules fit together.
And tonight, they apparently know the only rule worth knowing. As I see it, there is only one rule that never changes: