The red eyes.
Coming closer, closer…
I sit up gasping for breath. For a minute I think I can still hear the voice rasping at me in the darkness but it's just the nightmare lingering in my mind. It takes all my strength to wish on a light and even when it appears it is flickering as I try to calm myself, a symbol of my dying hope. I'm an angel; I shouldn't be having nightmares. The light illuminates my room with a pale eerie glow that seems to emphasise the cracks and crevasses in the walls, the cracks and crevasses which originally hadn't been in the room. I feel the panic rising in me trying to take over with evasive action then I realise. Groaning I remember which room I'm in. The illusion suite; specialised to reflect my needs and thoughts. With all the angels living in Heaven at the time God's invention must have seemed impossible to backfire. I guess I'm not an ordinary angel. The light is fading fast; I glance at my dainty watch in the faint glimmer left from the dim light. 1:00 AM. Sometimes I feel like there's a very fine line between dreams and reality and the line inbetween is becoming dangerously blurred. I'm probably just being silly though, real life dreams? It doesn't make any sense. I guess I'm just half asleep. That's when I hear the scream and I can't will the light on any longer.
"But I don't want to!" I whinge.
"Well you have to it's what demons do Ed! And with your job you have to do it well otherwise you're going to have to answer to Satan and trust me you don't want that. You've already dragged me down with you once when you got into trouble, don't let it happen again." pleads Rory.
I glare at him wondering when he's going to get the message. I hate my job, I hate my home, I hate my "friends" and if I get into trouble I WILL drag him down with me but the thing I detest the most about this place is that I can't end it all. You can't commit suicide in hell. I guess that's how it is meant to be but that doesn't mean I'm going to like it. All of my family have got into the top levels of afterlife trust me to get stuck at the bottom. Rory's lucky, nearly all of his family are down here and any member who is in even limbo is considered no longer part of it. Satan is his uncle for crying out loud, could he be any luckier in this world? I can't even see my sister anymore. A wailing alarm suddenly cuts through my track of thought. A new resident? Me and Rory exchange surprised glances.
"What the – ?" Rory trailed off.
"I know! People die everyday but this must be pretty special." I say agreeing with his confusion.
Then we slowly look at each other remembering what the siren means.
"Are the lights flashing?" Rory yelps excitedly.
"Yes!" I squeal in delight.
"Come on - to the pit!" Rory commands
As we run I can feel the grin creeping onto my face. I haven't felt that for a long time. We race through the dingy underground tunnels and murky lava ignoring it's complaining hiss at being trampled on and failing to swallow us up in revenge. Although it takes a few days you still become immune to the scalding liquid in the end. Up till then you have to deal with the burns. We sprint up to the fiery gateway at the end of our corridor and allow the flames to envelope us carrying us down to the pit in the process. The pit looms in front of us, huge and menacing as if it were about to open up and gulp us down. Its geographical definition is a huge crater deep below the Earth's core, mine is: terrifying. It covers several kilometres yet today despite its size the rough surface seems crowded. It's full of hellish creatures eager to find out what is going on.
Satan stands at the highest point of the crater his burning red skin like a reflection of the deadly magma that God had left him to drain out of the crater when he'd first become ruler of the underworld. Yes it's hard to imagine but this devil was once a human being. Now he is the most evil creature you could ever find in all of hell. His devilish eyes are flitting left and right watching his people line up to hear the news, his snake-like tongue licking his lips in anticipation. But he looks irritated. He is ready, his people won't be quiet.
"SHUT UP!" he bellows noting the silence that follows the corner of his mouth twitches. "God has told me that one of his people has sinned greatly."
There is a loud but slightly muted cheer from the crowd.
"You all know that this does not happen often so we are to make the most of the horror for the angel. I want you to all act as disgustingly as you can towards this newcomer because I am tired of God getting all the lucky breaks!" he yells shaking his fist at the ceiling when he mentions his sister. "She should be arriving any minute now." He shouts triumphantly.
"What's her name?" someone from the crowd cries out.
I wince. But Satan is in an accepting mood and replies happily.
"Her name is Livi. Livi Soop."
I feel my grin disappear. I don't want her to be condemned like me. She doesn't deserve it. She's done so much better than me and for once I'm willing to accept my failure to let her stay on the upper levels. It isn't right.
"Livi? Livi!" booms a familiar voice.
Closer, closer…the red eyes…it had her it was shaking her…
Startled, I spring up out of the bed. Or I at least attempt it before realising Dai had already pushed me off the bed in her attempt to wake me up. Whether it was accidental or not I have no idea. Dai had also been yelling right in my ear.
"You were doing it again."
"What, the thrashing?" I ask tiredly.
"Yes." Dai confirms.
"Oh dear – " I say pausing to collapse onto the bed. I rub my sleepy eyes feeling the dark bags underneath them before clutching my forehead as the usual pain comes throbbing to life.
"Not the headache again! Liv girl you seriously need to get some sleep."
I smile faintly at Dai's reaction. My friend is concerned as usual about my health; you'd think it wouldn't matter when you were dead but when you are an angel you have to look the part I suppose instead of the frail wreck I currently appear to be. I know Dai is right but as soon as I get to sleep the nightmare will come again. I've been avoiding it lately after the Incident. Every time I fall asleep the eyes come and it seems to be nearer to its goal each time.
"No time for sleep, I have work to do." I sigh trying to hold my emotions in.
I glance at the mirror by my side of the room to check how much of my feelings are showing in eyes and desperately try to conceal them. I feel like a zombie, why am I still in heaven? I check what I like to call my "paint on smile" before I set off to the chutes.
I'd been thinking about the night of the Incident again. It is strange to think that only a week ago I'd been found unconscious with a knife in my bedroom. It had been a very special knife. Killing the dead is not something a normal knife can do. It had seemed so cold and ancient when Dai described it to me yet strangely familiar. Sometimes I still catch myself thinking I've killed an angel. But I know I haven't - I think. That's the only reason why I'm not in hell right now, God saw the truth in me. Of course I've been demoted but I got off very lucky considering and I've even made a new friend. Dai is my roommate and she's brilliant. She was nearby when the Incident happened. Most of what happened that night I've been told about afterwards by her, all I can remember is the red eyes haunting me. I wish they'd leave me alone.
"Livi? In daydreams once more are you?" asks a scarily joyful voice.
I blink. Maddie stands there smiling at me trying to give me my morning pep talk. Sometimes I wish I could escape and go somewhere where people had ordinary attitudes instead of being an extreme pessimist or optimist. It would make me feel that bit saner everyday. I gradually look around myself and note the polished desk in front of me. On top of it sits a computer screen reflecting my host on the other side of the chute. She is fast asleep but I know that soon she will wake and will need my advice for everyday decisions. Behind me I can hear the swoop of other angels and I know it so well I don't have to turn around to know what they're doing. By instinct I can tell they are showing off their skills or taking younger angels to flying lessons. Children who die at a young age take longer to grow their wings and need to be taught how to use them. Some angels volunteer to teach and look after them but I'd probably let the child walk all over me! I'm no good at controlling anyone. As for the mouth watering aromas around me it doesn't take long for me to guess that I'm in the main hall by the all-day buffet. I can't remember whether I've eaten this morning or not in my dreamlike state but all too soon I realise that I'm by the chutes. I can see the mouth of one right next to the desk ready to suck me in and spit me out. If I look up into the cloudy sky I can see their intertwining passages from here barely visible blending into the atmosphere almost perfectly. The air bedded chutes snake about the sky ejecting you to your host. They've always looked like toothpaste tubes to me. I know my routine so well that my brain must've been on automatic on the way here and now I am ready to be jettisoned onto my host.
I work a long shift as a shoulder angel and my twin brother is waiting for me. Ed is a demon and ever since I got demoted I've had to work with him like this. I suppose it's nice to be with family but he can be a pain in the neck. However at the moment that can't compare to this horrible headache I've got. I've had it for a few days now. Like the red eyes I wish it would disappear.
"Come on Livi! Into the chute." encourages Maddie, cheerily interrupting my thoughts.
Absent mindedly I nod and climb into the opening of the toothpaste tube shaped hole and place my arms across my chest as I am shot down to my host.
Why has Livi got to always take so long!? But then again I suppose she's lucky Rory had that nag at me about being on time for work. That's no excuse though. I don't like waiting here having to stare at a freckled drooling 6 year old under my nose. She has long dark hair like a curtain, a big irritation in my case as I'm going to have to be the person sitting under it. Her room is a fancy pink covered with "pritty lickle flowers" that make me want to puke. As for the floor it is barely visible and seems more like a dumping ground. This would normally make me feel more at home except for the fact that this dumping ground was littered with the bodies of pink dolls ranging from Barbie's to creepy china ones; parts of their disfigured bodies staring at me as if pleading for help. I uneasily wish I know whether these are bodies she broke from when she was younger or from the age she is now and simply haven't been taken to charity shops yet. Whatever the answer is this is a demon's nightmare.
A puff of white powder billows into the room blinding me and the young girl just in case she should see us and wilting Livi flies to my side.
"Finally! What took you so long?" I ask trying to hide the concern in my voice.
She's been like this for several days now but I don't bother asking her what's wrong. What I do remember of Livi before she died was that she was always so incredibly animated but there's barely a twinkle in her eyes now. But I'm a demon she's an angel it's bad enough that she's my twin, the last thing I should do is care about her.
"The usual." she replies the pain showing in her eyes.
I want to comfort her but I know I'd just get punished by Satan later on in the day. Demon's aren't meant to be nice in any way whatsoever but sometimes I want to see her smile just the once. I don't want to be left with the same chilling impression I was when she died. The accusing expression on her face as father stepped forward was unforgettable. The cold blade penetrating…no; I shouldn't remember. But I do. I was the reason she died. Father had started drinking again a few weeks ago after an argument with mum. He was acting crazier than ever that night. I was not much better off. I was mad. Mad at him for hitting mum, mad at mum for letting him hit her, mad at Livi for not knowing what to do to stop him. She always knew what to do. But that night it hadn't been so. Although I'd never show it back then she was the light in my grim life. Some things never change.
Dad'd made my life a misery, I'd been planning to end it myself before he did. I'd left the knife on my desk by accident. It was a fascinating knife. I'd found it on the pavement of the one of the alleyways I took as a shortcut home from school. I couldn't understand why anyone would just leave it there. It was so beautiful. So tempting to reach out and pick up. I nearly accidentally cut myself when I brought it home but I wouldn't have wanted to be cut by anything else at that time. It'd be like having an affair. However as I grew more and more depressed it seemed less hypnotic and more a symbol of the gloom descending on me. I'd kept it safely stashed away in a drawer but that night I'd been planning to use it. I'd been distracted. I'd forgotten to put it away. Father been dangerously angry and drunk. Not a good combination. The real him had hardly been there. I could've sworn I saw his eyes glimmer a faint red. But it was just the madness taking hold of him. The doctor had told us afterwards that this was common. Sometimes recovering patients said they'd seen a strange red monster coming to them in their dreams. But they were never weak enough to be taken by it. I wish the doctor had sorted him out before Livi died. I committed suicide not long afterwards. He'd made my life a living nightmare and he threatened me and mum every night. It was always: "If you tell them I'll-" and "If you even think about doing anything I'll-" I couldn't cope with it and the guilt ploughing down on me for leaving out the knife. Some demons say that your own plaguing guilt is more likely to bring you down to Satan instead of actual murder. I don't care. I deserve this. I deserve ALL of this.
"Aw we're going to look after this little one? She's so –ouch!" Livi cut off sagging slightly before straightening up and continuing. "-cute."
Ignoring my sister's moment of weakness I try to cover everything up by my usual method. Moaning. It always works; it certainly hides the soft layer of me that can be easily squished deep down.
"You would say that wouldn't you. Have you looked at her room? It's like a graveyard! At this rate we'll be the next." I complain.
"What will we die of? Motion sickness? You would say that wouldn't you." retorts Livi.
I grin. It's nice to see that she still has some oomph to her comebacks at least. As the girl's eyelids flicker we both shuffle into place on our host's shoulders carefully. Well Livi does, I just grumpily plonk myself down where there's no hair to get in my way. I just know I'm going to feel sea sick on this one. Another skippy kid I'm guessing. We're ready for another day's work. Fun, fun fun.
Does this girl ever stop skipping? But I think I can put up with it to see the cute smile on her face. I shiver in her cold air resistance and I can see Ed on the other side of her neck thoroughly cold and grumpy. He is sitting hunched up clinging onto the scratchy fabric of her school jumper tightly and it doesn't take much to guess what he's thinking. What a waste of his time. But it's his job he can't just walk away from it. Neither can I.
As our host is taken to school I can feel my headache worsening under the bumpy pressures of travel by shoulder, it's making me more and more light-headed. I feel like I'm drifting away into the clouds above and it doesn't help that I barely got any sleep last night but I know I can't doze now. Not only would I be sleeping on duty but I know I'd come rocketing back down again as soon as the red eyes appear. I close my eyes in an attempt to relax myself briefly. Then I open them as quickly as I can widening them in panic.
The red eyes…coming closer, closer…
Something is lighting up the safety of darkness underneath, taking in what's left of it and burning it up. As if the monster from under the bed has invaded my duvet. It is lighting up my sanctuary with a red glow. Why is it coming to me now? It's meant to only come at night yet under the cover of my eyelids it's approaching. Not only that but it's a lot closer than it was last night.
"Livi?" distracts Ed waving his hand in front of my vacant face.
"Oh – yes?" I reply.
"Whatsherface has got a decision to make."
"I don't wanna go to school! Should I wun off?" the little girl asks in her sweet toddler's drawl that she still hasn't grown out of.
She's like an open book. You can tell simply from the tone of her question that she really wants some freedom from the imprisonment of schoolwork but is reluctant to upset her mother. I can see Ed opening his mouth to reply but I cut in first against my own will. I blink.
The red eyes… are here…with it!
"Where do you go to stay safe?" I question.
I can feel myself talking but it's not me. It's like I've walked into my nightmare and it's possessing me.
"The pawk just down the stweet. Mummy doesn't like me going thewe any mowe though. She says it's dangewous now because of the big choppews and the conswuction wowk. But it's the only place whewe I'm twuly calm. It's always been thewe fow me."
It's wielding the silver…
My headache gets violently worse and I double over.
At least now I know that the pain is there for a reason.
To remind me to fight against whatever it is that's inside me.
It'll cut through…til' it's got you…
There's a horrible wrenching coming from my head causing it to cock and uncock constantly like I can no longer control my neck. It's like I'm being torn apart for the second time in a lifetime. Well perhaps that's the wrong word to use…but it wasn't too pretty the first time and now it feels worse. Once again Ed has to watch it all, my destruction because something is breaking through. I hear the scream again and this time it's coming from my own mouth. Oh god the knife! It's the same one…
Livi has collapsed. I don't know what to do. We're meant to be the responsible ones! She's just lying there. The stupid girl doesn't notice of course. All we are to her are little voices inside her head trying to tell her what's right and what's wrong. There's a long silence and even she can tell it's unnatural. She looks unnerved but I don't care. I walk over to Livi I don't want to have to see her die again. Something is badly wrong – is she even breathing? I know that sounds stupid when you're dead but you have to have your heart restarted when you are going into the afterlife even if it's in a spiritual sense. The theory of it is complicated but it usually makes sense in the end. Or at least when you hear Satan screaming it down your ear you generally don't want the explanation to be repeated.
As I bend down to check her pulse her eyes open but they're not focussing on anything. She sits up as suddenly as she fell and I'm thrown out of her way by her surprisingly strong arms.
"Go to the park." Livi whispers. I watch an inhuman smile creep across her face and for a second I could have sworn her eyes were blood-red. She glances at me but I say nothing. I'm too afraid. The doctor had said dad's problem was a mental illness…surely she couldn't have inherited it…?
"Go on! What are you waiting for?" hisses Livi.
The girl happily lets go of her mother's hand racing towards the park on the other side of the road. She skips out. Into the traffic.
There's a frantic cry from her mother but it's all over before she even let a tear for her child fall. Me and Livi are both sent flying. Livi is – laughing? And she's holding something sharp in her hand. It's cutting into her but she doesn't care. I know I wouldn't care either in her position. Then she throws the knife in my direction. I look at my reflection in it as it sweeps through the air. I take a deep breath and brace myself.
After all, I deserve this.