Demonic (Sex???) Possession Written By A 15 Year Old Virgin (ft. Loki)

(From the archives, like as in, exactly ten years ago in 10th grade. My nephew is currently pacing around in circles and has not stopped talking for ten minutes with enough energy to power all of China high off being six years old.)

TW: Loki boxing match, erotic lava, sex/possession as told by a virgin, and lots of… scythes?

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Really Weird Erotica I Wrote While Manic at 19 and Psychotic for the Neverending Samael Smut Novel

(I wrote this when I was high off my own brain, and not only does it involve chili corn dogs, it also involves Satan turning red during sex, bestiality with a naga, and lots of other weird crap.  Have fun!  This is your brain on mania and psychosis when you are a romance novelist!)

I felt something twitch against my neck.

“Squeaker?” I murmured.  Great.  The rat had escaped, again.  There would be rat crap in my bed.  I brushed him from my chest.  “Stupid little rodent-”

His tail was obese, scaly, and much too large.  It coiled around my wrist like a bracelet then wended its way through my fingers.  The bed I laid on shifted, and my pillow sighed.

“Hello, lamb.”

Pillows.  Sighing?  It must have been the cafeteria food.  Twenty-four hours later, and it still cast its sick spell on me.

Shana,” someone whispered.  A phantom hand brushed my hair.  I felt muscled arms wrapped around my waist.  Ghost lips touched my brow.

“Great.  I’m hallucinating.  I knew I shouldn’t have touched that chili corn dog at lunch-”

A rumble of deep laughter shook my ‘bed.’  The pillow-that-was-not-a-pillow felt warm and supple, like it was living.  The mouth encompassed mine, silencing my panic.  Groggy, I let the lips linger, wondering what the hell had been in that mustard.

The hands guided me onto my stomach and reached down to cup my hips.  I ran my hands over Dream Dude’s stubbled cheeks.  His chin brushed like sandpaper against my jaw.

“Uh?” I murmured.  “A five o’ clock shadow at dawn.  I thought those were cast at evening,

“I cast shadows at all hours.”

“Sure you do, dream dude.”  I closed my eyes, sucking at the skin in the hollow under his ear.  He inhaled sharply, parting me with his fingers.  I gasped, grinding into his palm.  “That’s funny,” I murmured.  “Most of the hot guys in my dreams are blond.  And we’re on a tropical island, or a beach somewhere.  This place is so dark and broody.”

The scaled thing struck into me.  I gasped, cinching around it.  The mustard- induced monster guy groaned.  He raked sharp nails down my back.

“What the hell!” I gasped.

“This isn’t a dream, maggot,” he said through gritted teeth.  “Damn you and your brain of a flea-”  He roared as I nailed down on it, trying to shut him up.

“You’re right, dude.  This is a chilli dog nightmare.  But a strangely erotic one.  They must’ve used the devil’s ketchup or something-”

Stop,” he moaned.  “Too much.”

“That’s you’re fault- holy God.  You must have really humongous feet- AH?” He writhed impossibly inside me.  I moaned, digging my fingers into his shoulder.  “What the hell was that!” I demanded.

He sucked at my breasts.  “Me.”

A gas lamp hissed to life behind a stained glass window.  The not-blankets knotted around my legs, sliding in coils up my midriff.  I was burrowed in the knots of a snake.

He groaned, twining around me, and the not-bed surged  up until my back was pressed to the wall.  He grinded against me, velvety skin yielding to cool scales below his torso.

“I’ve wanted to join like this with you for eons, Havah,” he whispered.  His speech was cool as a hiss.  “Look at me.  I can walk now.  I can stand.  You gave me my speech and strength.  I will protect you as I could not before.”  He threaded his fingers through mine, squeezing my hands to his heart.  He kissed my knuckles with a flicking tongue.  “I am here for you always, Havah.  You no longer must walk alone.”

Warmth exploded like fireworks within me.  It was the Fourth of July down below.  “Are you like Satan or something?” I cried.  “All the exploding and fire.  We didn’t cover this in sex ed.”  I curled up on myself, unable to contain him.  It was, as he’d said, too much.  “I’m burning.  God damn chilli dog.”

He withdrew, wettened by me.  The chilli dog-demon’s eyes glowed.  “Pray for me, Havah,” he begged, thrusting his tail into my mouth.  I bit it in surprise. He groaned, keeling under me.  I ran my hand down the shaft, trying to wrench it from my mouth.  It snaked down my throat to gag my screams.  My wails shook the coils and joined his roars.

“Bloody severed god.  Yes.”  He withdrew, letting me breath.  He caressed me as I shrieked, gazing at me in awe.  Sweat clung to his brow. “You are everything, Havah,” he whispered, gently kissing my neck.

I bawled.

“You’re crying?” he murmured, eyes closed as he nipped at my skin.  “Don’t cry, my angel.  Shana?  This is the happiest moment of my life.”  The monster rocked me like a child.  “Please,” he said weakly, “stop.”

“You’re the Devil.”  I choked on snot.  “The cafeteria used Satan’s ketchup, and they summoned an unholy demon.  Why?” I screamed.  “Why didn’t I pack a BLT?”

“Stop!” he pleaded.

“You sound evil.  Like Lucifer’s spawn.  Why?” I pleaded.  “Why me?  Don’t eat me, my god, wake up.  I can’t wake up-”

“You are awake, maggot.  And, I already ate you.”

“But I’ve been dreaming.  Dreaming such horrible things.  About death and gods and angels.  And Samael,” I said with revulsion.  “I hate that guy.  I hate him.”

He growled.

“Stop growling at me!  Let me go, bed rape-basilisk thing!”

“I’m a man,” he grated.  “Not furniture.”  He forced me down on his torso and grinded against me.  Bed-rape futon monster moaned, running his tongue over his unfriendly incisors

“What are you doing?” I bawled.  He thumbed tears from my eyes.  His lips pursed in pleasure and eyes hooded like a snakes’.

“Waking you up.”

The rape tail choked my neck.  He poked its tip in the corner of my mouth.

“Suck,” he ordered, threatening me with his fangs.  On pain of death, I did.  He nuzzled my neck.  “Oh Havah.”  He licked the tears that streamed from my eyes, finding pleasure in my Lovecraftian horror.  I was being raped by Cthulu.  His tail twined around my tongue, and the scales below his abs bulged.  He hissed, rubbing the mound against me until I thought I would burn.  Shaking, he crushed me to him, roaring as he bucked into me.  He lost control of the dreaded tail, and I spat the damn thing out.

“I’m being humped by an anaconda,” I said, mortified.  I clung to his shoulders, riding him against my will.  He buried his face in my breasts.  “You, good sir, are a freak.  Freak of nature, that is.”

“Please shut up,” he rasped.  His tail arched above me and cracked down on my hips like a whip.

I screamed as it struck me and hammered down on him from the whiplash.

“You asshole!” I cried out, incredulous.

He purred.  “I enjoy that.”  He lashed me again, groaning.  The mound kissed my lower lips and throbbed.  “Your assets, I mean.”  He clawed at my hips, pounding against them until his skin was slick with me.  He thrust me back into the curve of his coils, running the mound over my breast. My heart throbbed with it, and a monstrously loud pulsing burst through the room.  His basilisk tail arched my back into a C.  I cried out, clinging to him.

“Samael?” I whispered.

“You’re awake.”

A wet sucking sound came from his chest, like an old wound had reopened.  He cried out as his empty heart rotted.  Thick blood wept down his torso, into my hair.  He wet his fingers with it and thrust them into my mouth.  I swallowed, senseless.  Zuhama, the gall of death.  Fires incinerated my veins.  I wavered on the edge of consciousness, the drumbeat of his heart pounding through my head like gunfire.

He moaned.  He thrust me onto my knees so I straddled him, facing away.  He arched over my back and grinded me into his scales.  I cried out, overwhelmed, and dug my fingers into the ridges of his underbelly.  I was sandwiched between his chest and tail, breasts crushed against his scales.  His fangs flashed in the moonlight.

You’re the dragon,” I gasped, somewhere beyond horrified.  The mound ran down my spine to dip between my hips.

“Observant, Watson” he sighed, pausing to kiss me below.  I yelped.

“Not okay!  This is not natural!-  oh my god that god damn tongue…”  He curved like a conveyor belt around me, running the bulge up to my lips.

“Please,” he begged for the same.

“Hell no.”

He ignored me and did so anyways.  It was like 69ing a hydra.  Clearly into it, he wrapped his tail around my neck in a choke-hold, rubbing against my cheek.  He groaned below as I wept, demonic tongue spearing into me.

“This is so wrong.”

“For the love of filth, shut up.”

Glaring at him, I licked it.  He screamed.

“Too much, maggot!” he roared.  He shoved me down and arched over me, grinding it into my core.  He crushed me like a python , his touch brutal and unforgiving.  He forced my head down so I couldn’t speak, then used his tail for deviant purposes.  He laughed at my muffled shrieks.

Blood for blood,” he whispered.  I felt his back press into me.  His fangs sunk into my neck.  He groaned as the blood welled up.  I bit down on him in pain.  The heartbeat from his chest was deafening. He hissed into my skin, thrusting me down so we locked.  I was a butterfly on pinned wings.

Breath heavy, he wrenched my head sideways and forced his mouth on mine so that I tasted the blood.  I reeled from the brutality as he thrust his tongue past my lips.  The ghost of a smile touched his face.

He pulsed between my legs.  My mouth parted in confusion.  He closed his eyes, gasping, then let out a hollow sound.  Suddenly, his skin burned, and he erupted into me.  He caught the scream on my lips and thrust into me, ravenous.  I shook in a hot sweat and moaned, completely overcome. He smiled as if mocking my terror, then razed my lips with his fangs.

“You’re unholy,” I whispered.  “A monster.”

“An aberration,” he taunted.  “But you like it, lamb, so lie back and think of Gehenna.”  He flipped me over in his coils, slowing his thrusts.  Each one was agonizing.  He smirked at my wide-eyed amazement.  It was the guilty grin of a five year-old that had busted into the cookie jar and still had crumbs on his lips.

“God damn snake anatomy,” I rasped.  “I… forgot… AP Biology…”

“Expect the unexpected, maggot.  Otherwise you’ll be ill-equipped- BY THE FIRES OF SHEOL, YES.”  What was a burning became an inferno, his scales like hot irons.  Hellish profanities tumbled from his lips like filth.  He roared them and my name.

“You’re turning- red?” I gasped, incredulous.  His midnight black scales flushed the color of a bloodstain.  Sam’s pallid cheeks bloomed into life.  He hammered into me, laughing madly.  The ceaseless tide of pleasure made me cry out  like an idiot.  “You’re a bastard!” I inhaled.  “Oh my god.  Oh my god oh my god-”

“The Lord,” he growled, shoving me down on him, “has nothing to do with this.”  He played me like a puppet, slamming me to meet his thrusts.  The rippling coils were cords of muscle and would have given weaker men motion sickness.  I felt like grain in a mill, grinded by an endless wheel.  “I invented sex,” he snarled.

“Sure you did- oh my god STOP!-”

He roared like a lion.  I fell absolutely still, terrified to speak.  In the silence he continued, language degraded to guttural sounds.  He lapped at the blood on my shoulder and started to grunt, clawing at my breasts.

“Take me, Havah.  Take me.”

He swelled within me, impossibly large, and I lapsed into the Prayer of St. Michael.

Lightning struck the mansion’s roof.  Samael bellowed with the thunder.  He crooned like a bitch in heat, angel’s song made dirty by lust: “Hayah Havah, my Eloa.”  He dragged us to the base of his coils and thrust into my core.

Red Shana.  My rose.”  His grip was crippling, and he howled.  His gall knifed into me, and I screamed with him.  His skin flashed crimson at the height of our ecstasy, and I felt my vitality pour into his heart.  His wound scarred over once more, and the bite he had given me closed shut.

“So that’s why the Devil’s red,” I said, mortified.  “You’re like the butt of a monkey in heat.”

He hissed, tail coiling around my neck. “Don’t make me strangle you.”

“I’m getting raped by a basilisk.”

“Your’s is not to question, Eve.”

“So you admit that you just raped me, masquerading as a chilli-dog nightmare?”

“I admit nothing.”  Though spent, he stayed inside me, pressing into me gently now. I bit my lip, on fire inside, and cried out as his poison filled me.

“Too much.  It hurts.”

“Embrace the pain.  It’s the only true thing, girl.”

I groaned.  “You’re not the Molotov cocktail!”  I blushed with fever, unable to breathe.

He sucked my lip, breathing life into me.  “The tail of a what, you said?…”  Within, he proved his point.  He hissed.  “So small,” he whispered.  I clung to his chest like a straitjacket.

“Please,” I begged.  “Stop, or I’ll spontaneously combust.  I’m flammable, Samael.”

“You’re fine.  More than fine.” He massaged my shoulders, humming.  “Glorious, actually.  Like Eden on my skin-”

“Stop invoking the Bible!.”

“I’m trying to stop myself from singing,” he muttered.  “Angels do so when we are… aroused.”  His black hair spilled across my shoulders as he pressed his face to my neck.  He struggled to restrain himself so I didn’t incinerate.

“Ohhh-kay.  Lovely.  Now the Heavenly choirs will scar me for life.”  I remembered him brooding under the moonlight that time I’d passed out drunk on his couch.  He’d sung me to sleep like a dream.

“I used to sing lullabies to you, Shana.  Under the moonlight.  Songs I made just for you.”

“About maggots?”

“That was your favorite.”

“Only because they turn to butterflies in the end.”

A rumble rose in his chest.  He sighed, embracing me.  “Why do you grow more beautiful with time?  I just become more wicked.”

“Well, first off, I don’t rape people.”

“I can’t help it.  I have wanted to consummate this union from the first time I laid eyes on you in this life.”

“In the hearse?”

“Maybe…”

“As a skeleton?”

He was silent.

“How would that even-”

“Would you just enjoy the moment?”

“Getting boned by a basilisk?  Yeah, I’ll tell you how it feels.  Like an X-rated Exorcist.”

“Shall we masturbate with crosses next?”

“No!  My god, your mind is a gutter.”

“Says the girl who enjoys possession.”

“No I don’t!  What the hell are you talking about-”

“What do you think I’ve been doing,” he whispered, consciousness enveloping my mind.  It was a bit like a tranquilizer.  I zoned out in the cool black nothing like I was knocked out on pain meds.

“You’re just a vacuum…?” I whispered.  “I’m fucking a black hole.  How is this I don’t even-”

The darkness took me completely.  I was aloft in the abyss, like Brahma in his primordial lotus.  It yawned around me, drenched with my name as it filled me.  I gasped, only to breathe him in, and Death hurled against my skull like the sea.

“Mind rape,” I rasped.  “Oh my god.”

The darkness contorted into a robe.  I was in the lap of the Reaper again.  Blackness peered back at me, smirking.  Terrified, I forced his hood back.

He was faceless.  Black nothing.  It sucked at my skin, plunging me into eternity.  I saw ages in its eyes: supernovas erupted before me, in the beat of a heart we came to the edge of the world.  My little lonely planet was a pipe dream, the reality I knew void.

“Existential Nietzschean mind rape?”  I gagged, stomach rolling.

The black nothing pinched my ass.  I gazed at it, incredulous.

“Stop grinding into me, abyss!”

I was being humped by darkness.  It was horrific.

He came a final time.  It was like I’d swallowed absolute zero.  Which, circumstances considered, was just about right.

“I don’t have an Antichrist in the oven, right?” I cried out, bitch-slapped by a refrigerator.

I AM BARREN.  thrummed the void.

“Err, right.  Good.  I mean- um, that must be a touchy subject- ack!

He laughed low in his throat, suckling my breast.  It was like being stabbed by an icicle.  He slipped out of me, spent, and smoke rose from his tail.  With heavy breaths he gained control of his form, slipping back into the guise of the basilisk king.

We stared at each other awkwardly.  He cleared his throat.

“So- ahem.  Um.  Tea?” Samael smiled like he had a toothache.

“Legs?” I asked.

He quirked his lips. “It is… difficult.  To… transform.  After, well.  I am sapped of strength.  Nor do I have the focus.”

“Alright, Voldemort.  Where are my clothes?”

He was reluctant to let me go.  He sighed, hugging me.  “On the bed,” he grumbled.  “I could just carry you, you know.  You are very… cute.”

“You don’t like that word, do you?”

He snapped his fingers and candles illuminated the room, shining from a red chandelier.  Like the interior of his hearse, it was bedecked in dark woods and leather upholstery.  Book shelves lined the walls.  Tomes that belonged in the Library of Congress were piled on his desk next to a half-drunk shot of vodka.  The bed was what I expected, four poster, excessively large and, of course, unmade.  The wine-colored sheets looked like they’d been gnawed on in his sleep.  Either Death was teething or a restless sleeper.  My clothes were draped at its head, carved into the shape of a tree with a serpent twined around it.

“You’re not going to put me down, are you?” I said begrudgingly.

“I just want to hold you, maggot.”  He snaked onto the mattress, spooning me.  “For once, don’t squirm away.”

I’d been trying to do just that.  “Do I really squirm that much?  Like, is it noticeable?”

Mmm,” he said, slipping his fingers inside me.  He played with me lazily, tail sliding between my knees.  “Now you do.”

“Cute.  Real cute.”

“I am not cute,” he sneered, muffled by my hair.

“Then I’m not either!  And what we just did definitely wasn’t-”

“It was beautiful.  You never read the book I gave you, on relations between man and immortals.  We come from alien cultures, Shana, whose reproduction is as different as that of  spiders and a birds.”

“Spiders eat their mates.”

“As do some immortals.  It is the circle of life.  A mantis isn’t barbaric for beheading her husband.  If she didn’t, there would be no mantises.”  He reached deep inside me, and I squeaked.  Samael laughed.  “So let me have beauty with you,” he whispered, lightly kissing the back of my neck.

“Well, I’m not a basilisk,” I said, staring wide-eyed at the stained glass window.  I moaned against my will, scared but not enough to make him stop.  “Ooo.  Oh my god-”

“I’m your god.”

“No, you’re my thorn.  The kind that sticks in the side and refuses to leave- ah, no!  Stay.  You can stay…”  He covered my mouth with his free hand, then poked his tail back in.

Urgh,” he growled.  “Why have I never thought of this before-”

I bit his fingers and he yelped.  “Because it’s bestiality!” I cried.  He trapped me behind his forearm, angrily grabbing my breasts.

“Not when the upper part is human.”

Deeper,” I groaned.  “Holy hell.”

“That’s more like it, lamb,” he hissed, tongue flicking over my shoulder. “Who’s your Prince of Darkness?  I’m king of the lower depths-”

“Okay, Sam.  That just ruined it- gyah!  Too much!”  He stirred within me, flexing.

“Then don’t provoke me!- Gehenna, it’s so cramped-” I throbbed around him in response to his invasion.  My eyes rolled back in my head.  “So tight,” he moaned, rolling over.  His tail slid out and I gasped, rolling on top of him.  We lay there in a messy heap, I on his chest out of breath, him almost passed out beneath me.  He moaned, sliding so his face was under me.

“No!” I yelped, grasping the bed frame.  He parted me with his lips and went at it again, tongue flicking in and out.

“This is my favorite place in the world,” he sighed.  “All this time, I’ve waited.  Waited and waited for you.”  He held me fast by my hips, massaging them.  I bowed onto the pillow, unable to breathe.  His hands ran up my back to trace my spine.

My Havah, my lily.  You release me.”  His tongue snaked from between my legs to my breasts.  I watched it, horrified.

“Who’s the praying mantis again?”  He sucked at me like a leech.  I told him so, and he flung me off, scowling.

“I am not a leech,” he rasped, pupils consuming his eyes.  He licked his lips.  “I’m just hungry.”  He lay there, hands crossed behind his head, deciding not to move.

I cursed, grabbing my clothes.  They were soaked like they’d been tossed in snow.  Something hit my hips.  Samael laughed.

“Stop flogging me, you torture monkey!”

He pursed his lips: “You are no fun,” then put the pillow over his head.

I muttered darkly and slammed open his closet.  A cold wind slapped my face.  It was a narrow hall the stretched on into nothingness, lined with robes, suits, and leather.  The left had normal clothes: Grateful Dead t-shirts, polos, jeans, but the further back I walked, I found togas, that puffy white shirt from Seinfeld, armor, everything.  I shook my head, then ran back to the entrance.  His Hugh Hefner-esque bathrobe hung beside it.  I grabbed the burgundy fabric and attempted to make it fit.

“You’re too tall, Corpseboy.  And thin.”  It clung to my curves like a second skin, then dragged along the floor like a bridal train.  I tripped on the granite into one of his coils.  He muttered, knotting around me.  The door slammed shut- apparently, it had been opened- and the far end of his tail brought in a tray with a tea set.  I stole a scone and munched it darkly.

“My life is ridiculous.”

“At least you’re living, worm.”

I scowled, still jittering from the unholy hookup.  The tea tray sat on his nightstand, untouched.  The ghostly music from upstairs was audible through the door.  A stray skeleton waltzed by.  I shrieked.

“There are dead people out there!”

“They’re my guests.”

“Me or the dead people, Samael.  You can’t have both.”

He chucked the pillow at me.  “Women ruin everything.”  His eyes flashed an angry red.  He watched me struggle through the mounds of snake, delicately preparing his cup.  “Next you’ll have me clip my wings.”

“I could make cool dream catchers out of them.”

“You’d be dead in the morning.”

“Fletch arrows with them?”

“As if you could shoot a bow.”

“You’re a misogynist pig- I mean snake.  A misogynist snake.”

He forced a cup on me.  “Calm down, maggot.  Drink.” It was mint and appeared to relax him.  The tell-tale blush faded from his cheeks, and he looked like Dracula again.  He caressed my shoulder, lifting a scone to my lips.  “Eat,” he urged me.

I took a bite; he shuddered.  “It’s the chocolate, I know,” I said.  “Gets me every time.”

“If I covered myself in it, would you find me more appetizing?”

“You want me to lick you?- okay, never mind.  That was a dumb question.”

He put the rest of the scone in a very questionable place.  I went for it carefully, but he forced my head down, snatching the scone away so my lips could replace the pastry.

“Cheese,” he pointed at the scone.  “Mouse.”  The tail hit me again.

I bit him in anger.  “You bastard.”

His cup smattered on the ground.  “No.” he roared.  “Too much!  NOT JUST AFTER WE HELD CONGRESS- OY HAVAH!”

I straddled him, glaring.  He hissed.  “Drink your tea, Corpseboy,” I said drily.  His tortured expression almost drew my pity.  He drank my untouched cup, porcelain trembling in his hand as he throbbed below  I squeezed my hips around him and smirked.

“You are insatiable,” he grated.

“It’s just your own medicine, Bonebutt.”

He growled, rising slowly into me.

“So it’s like your on and off switch.” I mused, opening to let him fill me.  I lowered myself slowly onto him, hissing in turn.  He watched me with unfocused eyes, eating the scone like he had a concussion.

Wurgh?” he said, crumbs falling from his lip.

“I guess all the aether goes from your head to here.”  I flinched, cinching around him.  “No wonder they call it a death bed.  This thing could kill me.”  I gasped, stretched to my limit.  “Oh god,” I whispered, forcing myself down until I swallowed him.

He bit his claws anxiously.  Black drool ran from his lips.

“I guess I’m on my own then.” I worked my way up and down his length, crying out when the pain hit.  I rode it anyways.  He thrusted instinctively, eyes completely dead.

I vaguely wondered why I was doing this, orgasms aside.  I had nothing to give thanks for.  I certainly didn’t love him, shadowed memories aside.  I didn’t know about the immortality of souls: all there was was this life.  Shannon Parker, college-bound and wide-eyed to the world.  Maybe he would stay behind in Redmont come summer’s end, or vanish just as easily as he came.

Speaking of coming.  He foamed at the mouth.  I leaned down to his chest, kissing the wound old as time.

Succubus,” he rasped.  “You are a different girl when impassioned. 

“How did you know?  I never taught you.  You tempted me, Havah, beguiled me.  When the change came, I thought my manhood gone.  That I was crippled, legless, subhuman.  I fell into madness and couldn’t speak.  I could not even stand.  I dragged myself through dust, not even knowing your name.” 

“All I knew was I had to find you, that you would heal me.  You always do.”

His wound closed, swallowing the rib behind new skin.  Tears fell from his eyes.

“I love you, Shana.  I love you.  More than you can know.

When he came, he was empty, no burning or storm inside me.  I laid out on his chest, breathing deeply.  He knotted his hands through my hair, whispering my name.  I sighed, turning so my hips were on his stomach and my head fit below his neck.  He groaned, one hand snaking weakly to my breast, the other between my leg.  His breaths came peacefully and his eyes closed.

Middle School Samael and the No Good, Very Bad, Horrible Public Education

Snippets from the first novel I wrote about Samael from age 12-16, with commentary I made at 19 smattered throughout when I “spoofed” it.  Originally took place in a middle school, but updated freshman year to be a high school.  This is purely for entertainment value and besides astral travel, writing was the old way I talked to and got to know Sam.  The first time I ever talked to him officially in his Satanic form (I’ve known him since I was 2, and he is in fact my first memory, lol) was at 12 and can be found here.  Please enjoy, it’s ridiculous.  I do not endorse ancient beings hitting on minors.  I also do not endorse Samael’s obsession with squirrels or stealing homework.

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Unholy Communion

Sister Philadelphia lit the candles in the vestibule and inhaled the rich incense wafting from the church.  The pews were empty, and darkness yawned across the altar, its maw stretching up to the crucifix where an impaled Savior grinned arcanely at his dismemberment.   The flames drew out the stained glass window and outside, an early snow.  Sister Philadelphia heard a crow caw in the dripping pine, and she gathered her habit and red shawl around her shoulders as she fared the evening twilight and flakes of ice in the withering sky out to her small cell.  Her sisters were fast asleep, tired out from worship, and she had had the evening shift on All Soul’s Eve.  Sister Philadelphia gave a happenstance glance at the graveyard, full of weeping angels, and she imagined them singing alleluias in weeping Christ’s passion.  How crucifixes and the crutches of Saint Lazarus and wounds of Mary Magdalene, though only of the heart, were strange soliloquies on temptation.  It was said Christ harrowed Hell, and Sister Philadelphia was always afraid of the darkness, but so she braved the closing shift, shut the doors of the church, and entered the convent.  Just a few footfalls walk to the end of the hall, her boots crunching snow, until she drew out a skeleton key and opened her cell.  Inside, a small bed, a tiny nightstand with a Bible, and a candlestick.

A chill passed over the room as her boots, thoroughly soaked through and clinging with orange leaves, were taken off.  The vents let in the warm air from the fire in the main hall and she arrayed them so they directed their heat at her bed.  Shivering, she gathered herself and turned to the Gospels, her candle drawing out a facsimile of a smile from the cross on her wall.  She tucked herself into her blankets and read over John miming the verses and parables on her memorized tongue.  It was her favorite.  She had always been an outcast in her small Rostock village for so loving study, in a time when women shouldn’t read and were expected to suckle babes then turn dirt in an early grave, half-sick from motherhood and needlework and butter churning.  No, she chose the sisterhood, if only to learn to read.  The rest of the trappings, from Christ to the Masses, she wasn’t too sure about.

Suddenly, a knock at the door, only she was dressed in her linen night shift.  She gathered her skirts, smoothed her dark hair, and peered out the lock with eyes like amber bezels.

Darkness, writhing darkness, and beneath that, boiling red.  Wicked heat came from the door’s entrance, like the furnace of a hellmouth.

Sister Philadelphia opened the door to find herself face to face with a man of red skin, ram horns, fineries she had never seen yet plain in the dress like some respectable nobleman, dripping gold from his pointed ears, and curled black locks oiled to shine boot polish bright.

He grinned like a cat arching its back.  “Sister, I’m cold, would you but let me warm myself in your blankets?”

His eyes were infernos.  All yellow heat and slit iris.

She would have screamed, but it died in her throat, and the Devil takes no prisoners, only the willing.

She saw the chance to test what the priests and sisters taught her.  A devilish chance, as it were, but scripture nonetheless.

“If I read, will you listen, oh Dark One?”

The Devil laughed.  “I’m a man of the book, Sister.  A traveler too.  Gypsy or not, I’m afraid I’m a rambler, and I always fancy a word with pretty girls.  To hear the gospel from your lips would be celestial temptation most frightful.”

“Then come in.”

Sister Philadelphia was never much of one for God, more for he who taught humanity knowledge and to quote scripture in their sin.  To have the Devil at her doorstep, why, on All Soul’s Eve?  It was meant to be a test.

And he was a might handsome, as handsome as sin.

She locked the door shut behind them.

“In the Beginning was the Word…”

He draped a blanket around him like a cape, then examined the cross.  “Grapes from the vine, yes.  To be made into the vintage of wrath or mercy is simply up to the maker of the wine.”

The room was like a dragon’s womb, enchantingly hot, all radiating from the Devil.

He looked at her with obsidian and vice.

“Tell me, you were there.  Is it truly as they say?  God created the universe in seven days?”

“More like He gave a sneeze and we were all shat out on accident.  You must admit, this Book is a bit lacking.  Where’s the bit about where bellybuttons come from, their purpose, really?  I invented them.  I also invented opposable thumbs.  And the pearly seat of womanly pleasure.  That was my greatest one.”

The Devil examined his claws.  “It’s all trite bullshit in the end, this Book.  Now I would have written it differently: In the Beginning was a Woman, and she lusted after a Star.”

Sister Philadelphia’s eyes grew wide, curiosity after first succulent bite.  The candle stubbed out, but he glowed like coals in the dark.  “Eve, yes.  I have always loved her, though Father Philip says she is Sin.  I gave everything I had for Knowledge, for the Word.”

“In that, inquisitive Sister, we are joined.  Woman is born hungry.  Hungry for words.  A last rib made of ink.”  The Devil took the cross down from the wall and respectfully placed it in the nightstand drawer, if only so his Father did not witness corruption.  The Devil is a gentleman, after all.  “Tell me, Sister, was it worth it?  Giving up life for this back country parish?  All so you could be a learned woman?”

“We feed the poor.  We tend the sick.  In those duties, I rejoice.  But to read, why, I would have become lame and dumb in order to understand language on the page.  Someday, I will write my own books. Like Teresa or Hildegard or Catherine.  I have it in my bones.”

“I’ve written many books in my time, sweet Sister.  Would you like to taste a Star?  It is the drink of poetry.  The flesh of God is the Sun.  He used to nurse us from His light.”  And with that, the Devil pulled a silver pear from his breast pocket.  Sister Philadelphia gasped at its succulent scent and without hesitation bit in.  Its flesh was blood red but tasted like sugary providence.  Fire warmed her belly, and the Devil cradled her head in his hands as she devoured it.

“Kiss me, I have never tasted a man’s lips, and what passes between a Bride and Darkness is best left to the day souls walk the Earth.  It shall be our secret.”

“What is your name, sister dangerous?”

“Philadelphia.  Just Filly.”

“So Filly, will you give me a prayer each night for my soul in exchange for a kiss?  No one has yet to pray for me.  I do so grow lonely down below.  If you appeal to your God, perhaps Father shall grant me some mercy.  You are supposedly a holy woman, after all,a and your nightgown smells of frankincense and myrrh.  I do so love holy things.”

“I will pray for you until you die, if you promise me you will tell me the truth: will I find what I am looking for here?”

“Never.”

“Than it was all worth nothing.”

“I can make it all worth it.  Now be quiet, and know the Morning Star for who he is.”

They kissed like fire and oil, combustion embodied, and suddenly Filly found herself full of light, of burning, and she probed her tongue into his lush red lips and tasted damnation.  It was like the chocolate she had once had at a Christmas market in the Black Forest as a child, one she had stolen when her poor parents weren’t looking and the vendor was closing up for the night.  He smelled like cloves and oranges and ash.  Grasping hands, soft hands, hard talons, cupping her breasts, skimming her back, and soon they were falling into each other’s arms and his broken halo cut her brow like shrapnel and there was blood at her mouth from her forehead.  He lapped at the wound with a cat rough tongue, then eased her out of her night shift and was soon working her sex with that same forked tongue like a melody.  She came like rain as he used his fingers in a come hither motion then lapped at her pearl like a wild thing.

His mouth wet with her, he suckled at her breasts, and she fisted handfuls of his curling black hair into knots as she apexed beneath him.  Soon, his hot, eager member against her belly, wet with precum, and like swans flying north they joined in unholy communion, a sinuous movement bespeaking an ocean of sin.  He was hot inside her, pumping and pleasing and caressing and teasing.  She cried out as softly as she could so as not to wake the other sisters up.

“Filly, you are sweet,” he growled, taking his fangs and pressing them deep into her neck until he was drinking her lifeblood.  “So sweet I could… fall… yet again.”

Words escaped her as their black covenant wrote a whole nother gospel on what not to do on a holy day.  She heard the cross shatter as the drawer fell open and God turned away from her blaspheming.

Good riddance.

The Devil came inside her in searing spurts, and she felt it pulse upwards to her womb, blinding her belly with serpent seed.  He licked her wound shut with his saw paper tongue and then gave a sweet sigh, if the Devil could be said to ever be sweet.

“Come with me away from here, Filly.  I will teach you witchcraft, the oath of the Witchfather.  Let us travel Germania as Samiel and Brunhilde.  The Black Huntsman and his Valkyrie.  You are not a meek lamb of God.  No, you are a lioness.”

She stroked his back, where his wings of plush leather joined his shoulder blades.  “Yes, I think I would like that, Samiel.”

And so they left a train of ghosts behind them, bones rolled in their graves, and the Devil and Filly were ne’er to be seen in Rostock again (at least, not in daylight).

HAPPY HALLOWEEN AND HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO ME, I DREW MICHAEL AND THEREFORE HAD TO WRITE EROTICA FOR SAM.  TIT FOR TAT.  ARCHDEMON ARCHANGEL LOSERS.  IT’S BEEN TWO YEARS BITCHES.  MAKE ME RICH ALREADY.

The Devil’s Advocate: Chapter 1

I suppose I have always known him.

He is etched on my hands like indigo dye, the bright stained-glass blue of his iris embedded in my skin. I cannot look at my fingers without thinking of how his interlock with mine. It is a strange thing to know your flesh is haunted. When I look in the mirror, I see him, grinning arcanely back at me.

I know that in the womb, he molded me to his will – I am as much his creation as God’s, perhaps more so than the Lord lays claim to me. Like my old china doll, he crafted me, with pale skin and flaxen hair. He says I am delicate as a robin’s egg, with eyes like silver coins to pay the ferryman across the Styx.

My fate is inscribed on my palm in indecipherable lines. Only he can read them. What he utters ices the marrow of my bones: “I have written my memories into you.” He read stories from my hands in my youth, would tell me tales of a Paradise long lost. Whether that place is now dust or a graveyard, I do not know. Still, he longs to return to Gan Eden, to at least tend the roses and thorns that choke the mausoleums of angels and demons alike, under the shade of juniper, willow, and elderberry trees.

He goes by many names, none of which I knew in my childhood. My restless shadow, brought to life by my father’s sins, would whisper sweet promises in my ear: “The time will come when I will show you the world, Jean. Together, we will travel it, and all the fruits of beauty will be yours for the plucking. I want to see their juices stir desire on your lips, to taste the world through your tongue, drinking down your visions. You are my poem to the world. How I will delight in breaking you.”

He has not broken me yet.

We sit in a Parisian café, him closing his eyes to inhale the rich scents of mochas and espressos and croissants as he pauses from his novel. It is The Picture of Dorian Gray, one of his favorites, and like the titular character, he is unchanging. After all these years, that self-same smirk still burns on his face. I take a slow sip of my white mocha confection, too sweet for my liking, and study him: that visage too cruel to be handsome, the cutting eyes like chips of glass. A predatory quirk of the lip. His fangs may be retracted, but he is still a vampire, immortal, midnight blood black as sin, his skin pale as bone.

He catches my gaze and smiles, unsure, then takes my hand in his. I allow him this small contact. Our fingers lock together, snug. Electricity zings from his palm to mine.

“You should paint your lips crimson and sparkling like frost over holly,” he muses, looking out the window upon the crystalline snow. “My winter queen Jean, blush on her cheeks from the cold’s bite. Oh how I want to bruise your neck with my kisses and make your skin the color of dusk.”

“Fat chance,” I scoff, retracting my hand. “God, Sam. You need a Thorazine drip.”

He laughs low. “Perhaps. Shall we take a walk? Find some alley to warm up in, Jean?”

I shrug, my voice ambivalent. I toy with his thin pinky. “It doesn’t matter to me. Nothing matters to me, your incessant questions or not. Perhaps that is the burden of limitless time. Just let me finish my coffee, you absolute mad demon of a man.” I smile, poking out my tongue to tease him. He laughs.

“Very well. If that is your price: time, I’m afraid you’ll find it rather cheap in the nether realm.” He downs his black coffee in one fluid gulp and watches me, amused. I take one deliberate sip after the other, reveling in the taste of oversweet heat on my tongue. The snow falls like an elegy outside. It reminds me of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in winter, when the foundry is iced with ghosts. My shadow loomed the largest, and we would play in the iron and rust, hide and seek. I always sought the hollow places. Maybe that’s because I’m marrow, more quicksilver soul than body, and I wanted Samael’s bones to fill.

“I’m ready,” I finally say. We return our cups and walk outside into the winter air. Samael offers me his arm, bent at the elbow and ramrod straight, in an outdated manner. Demons always pick and choose mannerisms they favor from different epochs or cultures and play hard and fast with their humanity.

If they can be said to be human at all.

I rest my forearm atop his. Silent, we walk through cobblestone streets, jaywalking and dodging traffic. A bakery warms the wind with delicious scents. The crowds part, subconsciously making way for the Shadow Man and his betrothed. A gale follows Samael; black ice blooms in his wake. Nature curls up and dies at his touch, and my hand burns cold where it meets his, like freezer burn.

My wing stains shift their birthmark shape, and I wonder what they will look like tonight. Canary, eagle, sparrow, hawk. Perhaps some kind of owl. I’m feeling vaguely vespertine. I have an Audubon Society book that I’ve used to decipher the port wine stain shadows. Like silhouettes of avians in flight against an iron sky. It is my favorite feature.

Samael pauses as if eying a reliquary.

“What?” I say.

Frosted ivy husks twine over a trellis that stands at the entrance of a darkened alley between two brownstones. Samael grins like a shark, baring sharp teeth. “Perfect,” he hisses. His eyes gleam. Samael smooths snow from the neck of his tailored blazer. A light dusting of white has collected in his shoulders and hair, refusing to melt. Just my luck, my chthonic betrothed is cold as a morgue. He’s the original morgue after all, with billions of corpses on ice inside his manifold gullet. Satan devouring frozen sinners.

The Beast, the Dragon, Aleister Crowley be damned.

“This alley is perfect for what?” I ask, wary. “It looks obscure and dirty. Are we turning into hobos?”

He smirks, the left corner of his mouth curling deviously. He says nothing, then guides me under the trellis. Remnants of summer roses leave behind thorns on the brownstone walls. He pricks his thumb dumb and blind and wounded on a briar. Inky black blood wells up, thick with the stains of zuhama. He leads me into the shadow of the buildings, far from the streets. Swollen clouds block out the sun, pregnant with the yetzer hara

Samael gently presses me against the bricks, his eyes glowing flame blue in the black, oceans away from their usual Mariana Trench indigo darkness. My nostrils flare at the smell of must and trash left out to rot. Moss has found a haven by my ankles on the wall.

Sam presses his thumb to my lips, smearing them ebony with his galaxy life force. My mouth parts in surprise, the salt and chocolate and wine taste of his blood on my tongue. I swallow it like candy and wonder what his seed must taste like, all thick with Original Sin and licorice damnation.

It is something I have refused to ever let pass my esophagus. Something I refuse to even see. Tasting him like that would be the point of no return, and make my damnation come round full circle. Better to lay down next to Death than to sleep eternally with him. His kiss is utter destruction, but his vittles are arcane, forbidden fruit one must not touch nor taste. To see the Angel of Death exposed as God made him would mean oblivion. My Tam Lin and I may tease at deeper lusts, but never set the kettle to boil. Instead, the dregs of wine blossom in the noonday Isaac sun, kissing, caressing, and when he tastes me below, my wing stains burn as if I am a phoenix.

“You are so strange,” I murmur, then laugh slightly. I bite his thumb to tease him.

“I know, but I’m yours,” he replies, leaning in as if to kiss me. Instead, he licks the blood from my lips with a serpent tongue and presses my wrists to the wall, trapping my hands. “I could paint you any color, and still, your lips would be bee-stung rubies underneath, pliant as the petals of a rose,” he breathes, his sinuous body pressed against me. His voice grows husky. “Tell me, Janet – underneath that red flesh, do winter berries grow in your frozen heart? What will it take to thaw you?”

I contemplate the question. I am dwarfed by his presence, like a tiny planet orbiting a star. I can’t resist his erotic pull, the inescapable gravity between us. But he is a cold star. I shiver under him.

“Nothing will melt me,” I say, laughing softly like an ewe. That is how it goes – if I give him even an inch, he will claim a mile. I cannot relent.

Not yet, anyways. I’m not cheap in the ways of love, not even with Red Samael the Seducer, as Cabell says in The Devil’s Own Dear Son.

“I can give you anything, Janet,” he says, voice rough. “Jewels, riches, talent, fame. I care not if you take other men to bed. Whatever captures your imagination shall be yours. All I want is your word: marry me, and I will give you the world.”

I spit back the blood at his face, suddenly flustered. “Never! God, you don’t relent. I’m barely an adult! The last thing on my mind is marriage and a queenship over fucking Hell.”

He laughs, wiping spittle from his cheek. “But you love me.” It is more of a question than a statement.

I cannot deny the twisted affection I have for him. He is a lungful of air ten leagues under the sea. The only thing that makes sense in this cold world.

“Love is a disease,” I say, toying. That is my favorite game, playing with him. Just as he plays with me.

“Everything is fatal. Why not gamble, peach princess?”

“Because I’ve never been lucky.”

“Fair point.” He lets me go and reaches into his pocket, withdrawing a cigarette. He spits sparks onto the end and lights it. “But a promise is a promise.” He takes a contemplative drag. “Your father said you would be mine. And so you are. The seven times three tithe to Hell.”

“What about my choice? Don’t I choose whom I belong to, hmm? Are you so centuries out of fashion feminism has yet to dawn on your archaic empire?”

He smirks again. “You chose a long time ago. In the womb. I came to your sleeping soul and made you an offer: your life for your father’s salvation. Like a dutiful daughter, you agreed. Also, I am Nachash, Hebrew for Shining Enchanter. Look what happened to Eve. She was a moth of a girl to my scintillating snakeskin. I am all bestial fire dragging twelve sisters down to Hell out of love for a wicked dance. How could you ever resist me? Admit it, I’m irresistible. Even to a bookish girl like you.”

I step away from him, crossing my arms. “Infant promises count for nothing, Sam. You’re beating a dead horse to death! I am yours to hold, but never have. At least give me some semblance of a choice.”

“And yet, the deal is binding. I have the contract in fetal blood, if you’re so inclined. That’s where you get your wing stains from, my love. The blood of the covenant is thicker than the waters of the womb, my dear.” He stamps his cigarette out on the icy ground.

“I don’t need to see a document full of lies,” I snap. “Stop pushing! You know I hate it when you push. Let me be a Millenial obsessed with self-aggrandizement in peace!”

He shrugs. “Alright then. Temperamental today, aren’t you? Surprising. I’m actually getting a response from my cold diamond.”

“I’m nobody’s jewel, to be set in silver or platinum and displayed like some gaudy fashion statement. I’m more moldavite, a meteor that crashes to Earth in fury. Don’t deny the impact my temper has, Sam Sam.”

He ignores me, opening his mouth to catch a snowflake on his obscenely long, prehensile forked tongue. It flicks out, like a serpent’s, collecting the falling white. “Mmm. The taste of the sky.”

“Are you even listening to me?” I ask, exasperated. “You hate Sam Sam.”

“Partially. I’m too distracted to curse you to oblivion over that heinous nickname. Say, shall we go ride camels in Morocco? Or explore Venice in a gondola? Paragliding in the Barrier Reef? Swimming in the Amazon? I have an ache for travel.”

“You’re always antsy, dragging me halfway across the world on a whim. No, I don’t want to. I want to go back to my flat and paint. You can pose for me or not, I do have some fruit fitting for a still life.”

His shoulders slump. “Please, Jean? Just a quick trip to the Mediterranean? Don’t you crave warm weather? I admit it, I’m a reptile – I need to bask in the sun to restore my vitality. That’s why I made Hell so hot.”

“No. I prefer the cold. I’m not a lizard like you, o great Dragon.”

He narrows his eyes. “You truly are a creature of winter. Born on the longest night of the year, with a heart made of stone. I’m surprised you don’t melt come spring. But just wait, I will melt you something yet.”

“Air conditioning is the key to my survival,” I say drily. I turn from him, marching out of the alley, pissed at his outdated commitment to the institute of marriage. He follows like a shadow. He might as well be wearing a tuxedo bearing a wedding band. Devoted as the Sword of Damocles ready to slice off my head on the guillotine of holy matrimony.

I hail a cab. A gruff driver stops.

“Where to?” he asks.

“The Rimbaud Building on Rue Merlebleu,” I answer.

“Ah,” the driver snorts. “That place.”

I bristle at the driver’s judgment but say nothing. True, it’s hipster beyond belief, but it fits my aesthetic, Instagram be damned. Samael settles into the seat beside me. He casually rests an arm over my shoulder, as if we are an idyllic couple caught in a winter storm. Not the king and future, if ever, queen of Hell arguing over a centuries outdated institution meant to control women. He doesn’t even have a last name I could take. Jean Doe.

We drive past the Arc de Triomphe. Snow drapes the ground like a fur coat.

“Here you go,” the driver huffs, turning onto sleepy Rue Merlebleu. He eyes the Rimbaud Building skeptically, with its Gothic architecture and converted cathedral appearance. The driver mutters under his breath, depositing us on the cobblestone sidewalk.

Sam helps me out of the taxi with long, muscled arms. We make our way to the elevator, all gold metal, with painted cherubs on the ceiling. He smiles at the angels in a predatory fashion.

“So,” he asks, “what is the subject of today’s royal masterpiece?”

The elevator dings and the doors open. We walk down the narrow hallway, each door painted with stanzas of French poetry by Verlaine. Ironic, as he shot Rimbaud in a lover’s quarrel, but that’s kind of the whole French hipster point. The airy views are in stained glass from the Rimbaud Building’s cathedral backstory. It’s more artist commune now, and there are creative spaces and workshops where us poets, painters, and writers can collaborate in artistic harmony.

“A still life,” I answer, “you’re too antsy today, my love.” We arrive at my flat – I unlock the door with my old iron key. The lock clicks and we enter.

Sam settles on the antique leather couch in my living room and pulls out The Picture of Dorian Gray from his messenger bag. I go to the kitchen and select some ripened fruit from the fridge – a pomegranate, apple, and grapes – and arrange them in a glazed russet bowl. I grab a loaf of bread and fetch some eggs, then arrange the food on a black walnut table in the living room. Sam nods approvingly as I set up my easel and paints. I smear the paints onto my easel and dab a brush in, making broad strokes for a green underlayer.

“I love the way you paint,” he sighs. “It’s so delicate, like the flutter of a butterfly’s wing.”

“I don’t paint for you,” I say. My words bounce off the robin’s egg blue walls. “And remember, I’m a wasp, not a butterfly or a damn useless moth. I sting.

“I didn’t mean that. You are your own creature. I am merely here at your disposal. Don’t you know that, Janet?” He closes his book and rises. The book shakes in his grasp. “All I want is your happiness.”

“All you want is my hand,” I snort. “That, and for me to rule a kingdom at the tender age of 21. Ix nay on that, Beast.”

“Your hand?” Sam draws closer, stroking my shoulder. “In marriage? Yes. But also your joy. And in the true End of Days, just your fingers to interlace with mine and hold for all my days.” His face is earnest, his cruel features softened.

I set my paint down, turning to him. “I am betrothed to you because the universe demands it. I’m with you because I love you. But I will never be more. This arrangement will be the longest engagement you have ever known. Marriage is for WASPs, not actual wasp girls.”

He grins, sly. “I’m the Grim Reaper. I can wait. And time has stopped for you. You aren’t growing any older.”

I sigh, weary, reminded of the burden of my immortality. “You had to remind me,” I whisper.

“I’m sorry-”

Anger rises in me. He just keeps damn pushing, like a broken record. “No you’re not!” I snap. “You don’t care about me.” I swat his hand away. “All you care for is what I am! Your perfect china doll you’ve stowed away in the attic next to a hammer for the day you feel like smashing it. But you’ve forgotten something: that doll is adamantine. That doll cannot break.”

His eyes flash. “You are the thing I hold dearest, Janet. My finest creation. Of course you are indestructible.”

“Then why do you want to break me, if you know you can’t?” I whisper, almost crying. Emotions I like to suppress suddenly bubble over. I hate to lose my cool, but I’m doing it anyways.

He leans close to me, murmuring into my ear. “Because everyone delights in pressuring coal into diamonds.”

And like that, he lets me go, returning to the couch, absorbed in his book. I sigh, shake his venom off, then return to painting. I paint all the fruit displayed as rotting. There are little violet-black flies on their skin on my wet easel.

Night settles into the city like a nesting cat. Hours pass, the painting is finished, and Sam yawns, rousing me from my reverie. I blink, considering the canvas. A photorealistic rendition of the still life dries before me. That, besides the gangrene of the fruit.

He whistles low. “Nice. I’m hanging that in my office, if you’ll allow me. Very morbid. Kind of like my soul?”

I set to cleaning my brushes in the kitchen. “Whatever, your soul is more just a black hole,” I call. My stomach turns in hunger. “Ugh. I’m starving!”

Sam peeks his head into the small kitchenette. His black hair is mussed from the pillow. I have the instinct to smooth it but quash the impulse. His gaze is dreamy. “Dinner…” he echoes, looking like a lost boy from Peter Pan. That’s the thing about his face: it’s ageless, but can seem extremely young or infinitely old, depending on his mood. “Let’s go home, Janet. Back to Pandemonium. We can go to Pandemonium for supper.”

“This is my home. A hipster artist’s collective in the middle of Paris. Or Bethlehem, Pennsylvania if I’m feeling my roots.

His nose curls. “This is not your home. Your home is Hell now. My palace. This is just a place to while away the hours. A place I bought on a whim.”

I narrow my eyes. “Hell will never be my home. It’s always summer. Do you know what that does to my complexion? I have to moisturize constantly.”

He exhales heavily. “Whatever you say,” he says, tired, that dreaminess still about him.

My stomach rumbles again. I clutch it, embarrassed. Sam smiles.

“Ready to leave?” he asks.

“Wait. Let me change. You’re the one that demanded Mulciber make the entirety of Pandemonium hot.”

I go back to my room and select a scarlet sundress from the closet and strappy gold wedge heels. It’s always hot in Pandemonium, the heart of Hell. Some of the lower circles get colder, down to the icy heart where Samael likes to take his ice baths and chew on sinners as toothpicks or whatever. I don the dress. “Can you zip me up?” I call.

“Of course.” Sam enters my room. He obliges, his touch cool at the small of my back. He traces my shoulder blade, his fingers gentle, and runs his hand up to the crook of my neck. I turn to face him, blushing.

“Don’t do that,” I say. “You’re turning me on, idiot.”

“What?” He smiles like a cherub with a toothache, then cups my breasts and massages them.

I moan, then remember my hunger, and dash his hands away. “Let your hands linger on me. I need personal space, hah!”

He nods, sticking his tongue out. “Of course you do. My apologies.”

I falter. “Don’t think…”

“What?” he asks, confused.

“Don’t think I don’t like it, though,” I mutter. “I’m just… frustrated. With the whole marriage thing.”

“You’re always frustrated, dear. Your temper is legendary. Other demons quake at the mere mention of it.” He smiles slightly. “I remember when you were little, and you would build block towers. You would stack them so tall, taller than your head, and then be furious when they weren’t perfectly aligned, or they fell. I would have to rebuild them. You are a perfectionist and demand the best in yourself and others.”

“I am, huh?” I echo. “Well, being a perfectionist is a bitch. My expectations are never met. Look at my life, Sam: it’s in ruins. A starving artist with an expensive college degree. No one will exhibit my artwork, on Earth anyways, your office be damned. My career as a painter is frozen like the lowest circle of Hell.”

“No, Janet,” he says, voice fierce. “Your life has only just begun. Paint what you want. In truth, you are my queen. You belong by my side ruling with me, my tithe.”

I cross my arms and draw away from him, feeling suddenly cold. “You’ve caged me,” I murmur. “Clipped my wings. How can I be myself when I am so entwined in you? How can you say my life has begun when everyone I loved is dead and my friends have forgotten me through your magic?”

I shiver. He sighs, takes his blazer off and drapes it over my shoulders. “The answer will come in time,” he says, cryptic. “And not everyone you love is dead- you have me.” His eyes are almost pleading, searching for some sign, any sign, of affection in my face.

“You like your girls weak and reliant on you, don’t you?” I ask, my inner stone walls flaring up to block intimacy.

You are my only girl,” he hisses. He closes the distance between us and embraces me. I stand rigid, unyielding. “Now let’s get away from these paint fumes and fill our stomachs, eh?”

“I won’t bend to your will, dear Samael. Ever. I have no head for infernal politics.”

“It’s just dinner, Jean.”

My stomach roils. He laughs at the sound, smoothing my midriff fondly. I blush at his affectionate touch.

“Let’s feed the beast,” he whispers, his breath tickling my ear. And like that, the world spins around us, bending to his arcane will, and the fairy realm swells up like a pregnant sow. I instinctively grab him to steady myself, out of breath as I watch darkness envelop us in its womb. The thick tomb is like suckling at the breasts of a rampaging black boar, and I lose my throat in the black milk, coughing until doom.

 

 

Gasping, I land on the cobblestone streets of Pandemonium, Hell’s capital city. Samael’s arms are wrapped tight around me. I pull away and gather myself, smoothing the skirt of my dress. He looks at me with longing and reaches out to tuck a stray lock of hair behind my ear. I blush.

He is dressed in severe black robes, the traditional attire of the Grim Reaper. Cool tendrils of the hem of his robe snake out to skirt my ankles, as if in affection. It is a garment of living darkness, ebony as spilled ink. I step on the tendrils, squashing them with enthusiasm. They spring up hissing and new. Samael laughs low.

“Your defiance is amusing,” he says quietly.

“You find everything entertaining,” I counter. I stomp another snake. It squeaks and deflates. “This is as addicting as crunching leaves.”

“You have to find everything amusing, when you’re immortal. Otherwise things become very boring, very fast. Eternity is an extensive time to be bored.” The snake inflates again and wraps around my ankle, then kisses it. I laugh and shake it off.

Pandemonium’s citizens form a wide berth around us, instinctively avoiding Samael. As one of the seven princes of Hell and chief of Satans, he ranks above all others, and the demons can feel the power washing off him in waves. As a human, I have no such sixth sense, but even I find his presence intimidating. It is almost over 21 years that I have grown accustomed to standing in Samael’s immense shadow. My wing stains stretch, and I can feel the impressionistic feather strokes expanding to my forearms.

My stomach rumbles again. I clutch it, wincing. Samael snickers. “Come, Jean.” He extends his hand. “Let’s get a bite to eat.”

I do not take his offered palm. Instead, I turn from him, knowing full well he will follow like a shadow. I giggle. He sighs, gliding after me, leaving no footsteps in my wake. His ‘walk’ is an illusion put on for my sake, to make me feel as if he is not some Lovecraftian entity underneath his illusion of skin. Full of eyes, ells tall, burning and bleeding out despair. I know that pale, milky flesh masks horrors the void birthed.

I have seen him below freezing on a glass throne in the lowest circle, ice for bones, choked on regret in seas of blossoming red. The blood of the Damned as succor, the mutilated limbs of corpses his font. He is the abyss, pain, the severity of God. How the hell could a thing like that love? How the hell could a beast like him have a heart?

And yet he does, and I covet the Beast. I will have all of him in due time, but it will be on my watch, at my say, not his.

An open-air market surrounds us, wedged between the looming buildings of the street. Gray and black stone dominates, and the pale evening sun picks up the rich reds and yellows of the market tents. Fairytale spices scent the air, and everything is for sale: wishes, desires, sex, violence and hearts. Raw sounds echo from fighting rings as onlookers place bets on mythic creatures egged on by matadors. Vendors try and catch my eye, calling out as they offer firebird feathers and golden apples. Goblin fruit glitters under the early stars on the dusky purple horizon.

Strange love makings are enacted in alleys and demonic passion plays block intersections. There are sellers of souls, dealers in death, and strange drugs that can bear a man away on the whimsy of dreams. Above all, there is dancing, a chaotic frenzy as the night market comes alive with music from all quarters of the city. It truly is pandemonium. I weave my way in between dancers, keeping my eyes open for restaurants and food stalls, taking in the strange twists on ethnic cuisine. Samael laughs quietly at different distractions.

He puts a gentle hand on my shoulder. “Look. Pomegranate sweet wine, fresh from Hades’ groves. You must try some. Persephone lost her heart to Hades over it. It wasn’t six seeds she ate as the myths lead one to think: it was six sips of this intoxicating aphrodisiac that convinced her to stay in the underworld. Vintage of Hades was always sweet, not full of wrath like Up Above.”

“Aphrodisiac?” I ask, skeptical. I rib him. Pest.

Samael grins like the Devil he is. His smile could break bones. “Yes,” he says, quiet. He silently glides over to the vendor and pulls ancient coins out of his pocket and hands them over to the stocky demon. The demon smiles, the corners of his mouth reaching his ears, baring multifold rows of shark teeth. Combined with his pupiless gray eyes, the smile has a ghastly effect. The vendor hands over a bottle of rosy wine. Samael takes it and bids him good night, putting the bottle into his depthless pocket.

“Anything for your majesty and his lady, Prince Samael,” the vendor says, bowing deeply. I scoff at the display of fealty.

“Is that really necessary?” I ask him as we walk away. “For them to treat you like royalty?” I shake my head. “Hell is so backwards.”

“Tradition is sacred here, Janet,” he explains. “Look around you, at the dancers and music, at the wares and goods from all realms. We hail from all over the otherworlds. The fallen of all ages. It is tradition that binds demon kind together and unites us. These are the children of a third of heaven and spirits from all cultures. All walks of life find refuge in Hell.”

“I wouldn’t call it a refuge. It’s Hell. More of a holding pen until the End Times. Or a cesspool of wayward souls that got the short stick in the pile.”

Samael shrugs. “One man’s Heaven is another one’s Gehenna.”

I look down at the cobblestones, my eyes weary. “I’ll never find peace here. It’s not home…”

Samael loops an arm around my shoulders, his cool robe extending to cover me in its comforting darkness like a security blanket from childhood. It is like being enveloped by a bat’s wing, all silky sweet and warm.

“Find some peace in me?” he says softly, leaning against me. I sigh, yielding to his suggestion. I close my eyes, allowing myself a minute of silence in these bustling streets. But just as soon as I close them, I collect myself, pulling away.

“Impossible,” I say, my voice fiery. “I haven’t had dinner yet.”

Samael’s blue sea glass eyes shimmer. “I wish you would learn to trust me,” he whispers, regretful. He smooths the hem of his sleeve and sighs.

“The only thing I trust you to do is prey upon me,” I say over my shoulder, walking off at a fast pace. “Oh, Janet, your hand in marriage! Oh, Janet, rule with me! Oh, Janet, my sweet tithe, sign a fetal contract in blood!”

He narrows his eyes. “I do no such thing,” he says, following.

“You want to wound me. To bleed me dry, until I am a husk of myself,” I challenge. I’m toying with him again, I admit it, but I can’t help it. It’s so, well, tempting, his apples be damned.

Samael blocks me, his breaths heavy, cornering me against the side of a building.

“You don’t mean that.” Without warning, he spears his tongue into my mouth and near devours me. Sucking, licking, biting, pushing my hands above my head and locking them in his grasp. I moan, wrapping around him with my hips as his wings envelop me, white and spackled gray feathers unsullied by the ages warm where he is cold. My own port wine stain wings blossom in response, and I run a ragged hand through his hair. I love him, I love him, I love my Tam Lin, though he be the death of me.

I sigh as I break away, his black venom saliva a string on my lips. I lick it. He growls.

“Come back to my embrace, you damn woman.”

Suddenly, I am exhausted. “I’m not fooled by your gestures, Samael,” I say, not meeting his gaze. It is a weary dance we have performed countless times. I make an accusation of truth, he tries to convince me I don’t mean it, then lures me further into his web of lies. I tire of it, sometimes. “The wine-buying, the trips to Andalusia, Tunisia, Brazil, New Zealand, Rome, granting my every wish: it’s all a plot to keep me complacent and blind to your intentions. Like a fat cow fed on sweet grasses, only to be lulled into trust and led by her master to slaughter. I’m no more than a prized heifer you’re keeping around until you grow hungry, milking me dry until the hour of my departure and the meat factory calls.”

Samael’s face grows shadowed. He smiles an empty smile. “When you put it like that, it sounds almost true. I do wish to tuck you away in safe pastures and shelter you from the world, taking from you what you’ll allow. But I can’t. To do so would be a lie.”

“Take from me what I’ll allow?” I scoff. “I allow nothing. None of this was my choice!” I grind the heel of my gold wedge sandal into the ground. “Fuck, I need a drink. Take me to a bar. Now.”

Samael bows. “As you wish.” He offers his hand to me. I grab it with a vengeance. I stomp away, trying to drag him after me, but just end up having Samael glide effortlessly by my side.

“Walking a bit fast, are you?” he teases.

“Talking unnecessarily, aren’t you?” I snap.

He sighs. “Fine, if you want my silence, you only have to ask.”

I round a corner and storm into a seedy bar, my flowing red dress a war flag warning sign of my wasp queen stinger. There are low wolf-whistles from several low-born demon men, who immediately choke on their cat calls when they see Samael enter after me. He glares at them but says nothing.

Samael speaks: “We can have the wine I bought-”

No.” I stake a seat at the bar. “Double vodka on the rocks,” I tell the bartender, a wolfish demon with yellow eyes. He nods and fixes the drink. Samael asks for a fluted glass and pours the pomegranate wine. He swirls it and brings it to his lips, savoring the rosy liquid. I down my drink in one gulp and slam it on the table in challenge. “Another!” I say. The bartender obliges.

I drink until my tongue is numb and the world is a blur around me. A hot buzz builds in my stomach and spreads like fire to my limbs. All I feel is rage, rage at him, at my condition, at my celestial cage. Samael lights a cigarette and smokes it contemplatively. There are deep bruising bags under his eyes, and his cheekbones are painfully prominent. I reach out to touch his face and trace the jutting bone.

“I could cut my finger on your face,” I sneer. “There’s nothing about you that’s not sharp places and shards of glass.”

He has finished the entire bottle of wine. He takes my hand drunkenly and kisses it sloppily. “Let’s get out of here. Back to my palace. To the courtyard in my quarters. The cherry trees blossom so beautifully there, like the pink blush on your cheeks, and the water falls from the fountain like your hair-”

“No,” I cut him off, drunk as well. I stand, only to be caught off-kilter as everything shifts. Samael rises to catch me. “Fuck!’

“You can’t walk, can you?” he laughs quietly.

“I don’t need your help!” He lets me go. I trip and curse. Everything swirls around me. “Damn it,” I say, bitter.

He helps me up. “I’m carrying you, Jean. Don’t struggle.”

“No! That’s humiliating!” I yell, a loud maudlin. He does so anyway, lifting me up gently. His robes snake around me to stabilize me, and he folds his sooty owl wings to shepherd me away from the public’s eyes. I flail about, too disoriented to put up a united front, and end up with a mouthful of owl feathers.

“What did you think would happen, pounding back all those drinks?” Samael says, his voice dry. He carries me out of the bar and further into the dusky hubbub of the streets. “You don’t have a demon’s temperament for alcohol, and you’ve never been able to hold your liquor.”

“It’s called drowning your sorrows, asshat. Alcohol is my crutch. The problem is you. Let me go.”

“If I do, you’ll fall again.”

“I’d rather fall than be carried by you.”

Despite my protests, he keeps me aloft, gliding like an omen through the streets. His robes are cold against my cheek, so eternally cold like his skin, just like the grave of his flesh. It is almost comforting in the summer heat of Hell. I relax, mind hazy under a bower of owl wings and inky black void, hating myself for enjoying being in his arms.

That is the problem that killed Schrodinger’s cat: I crave closeness from Samael, but I abhor him. He is the only thing that comes close to a family member anymore, and I hate him for it. I feel like a hothouse flower lovingly tended in solitude, kept separate from the rest of the plants. Just look at how his wings and arms and cloak chain me!

I love him beyond all words, but in the end, he is my ruin. The trap of eternal matrimony. A throne I don’t want. In the penultimate sense, responsibility for a whole race. This is nothing I had ever asked for, and the question remains, why me? Why did he choose me as his tithe? Has this ever happened before? Am I the first girl to dance in the Devil’s red shoes down to the bone of her soul or have others, hundreds of others, failed before me as tithes to Hell? What, oh what, will it take to win my freedom?

“You’re finally quiet,” he murmurs, ascending the great steps that lead to his imposing palace gates. He brushes back some flaxen baby hair from my brow. Samael’s palace is set miles back through the Screaming Hollow forest and rises over the trees in needle spires. The towers pierce the sky like arrows, obsidian black, reflecting the moonlight and stars.

I cannot help but think his sorcerous keep a thing of wicked beauty – it is the very essence of dark fairy tales, like beads of blood on angels’ lips. The scent of flowers hangs heavy on the air, and as the gates clang open, the aroma of a fallen paradise rushes past the castle walls, flooding the streets. Some memory of Eden haunts the gardens through which he ferries me. The trees grow tall and twisted, hung with emerald leaves and ruby fruits, and they whisper in the wind: I can almost make out their voices through my intoxicated haze.

Samael nods to the guards at the entrance and enters the palace. The Hellopolis and central focus of Hell’s courts, as Samael is crown prince of Hell, and the focal point of his halls is the fulcrum around which all infernal politics revolve.

The Hellopolis is an exotic blend of Grecian and Gothic architecture, with looming caryatids and long barrel-vaulted ceilings. The stone is alive, carved with gargoyles and fantastic beings. A marble manticore roars before me, but its voice is silent, for stone tells no tales.

The halls are quiet save for the strains of a violin from some distant room. Attendants and staff members from the arcane hierarchy of Hell pace the corridors, greeting Samael with familiarity. They look at me regretfully, as if I am a disgrace. No one much approves in Samael keeping me around, as long as I eschew my queenly duties as the tithe. I flip them the bird and fix them with a killing glare. Samael laughs off my rudeness. I give him a withering glance.

“I hate your associates. They hate me. Why do you even bother bringing me here?” I sigh. “I’m never happy in Hell. Here, I’m not free. On Earth, I don’t have chains. They hate me because I am a caged bird.”

“They don’t hate you, Janet.”

“God, I feel awful,” I moan, rubbing my temple. My other arm hangs limp by my side. “Why did you let me drink so much?”

“As if I could have stopped you. Better to let you settle your disputes with alcohol on your own turf and terms.” He enters the narrow, tapestry draped corridor that leads to his quarters. The ceiling is painted with constellations.

“You’re an enabler, Sam. It was your money that paid for the drinks. Doesn’t that make you the least bit responsible?”

Samael half-smiles. “When you put it that way, I suppose so. What can I say? You’re easier to deal with intoxicated.”

“I resent that, asshat.”

We reach the end of the hall. Samael utters a word in demonic speech and the great mahogany doors before us open. He enters the spacious personal library that fronts his quarters. Great windows peer out onto the moonlit courtyard that is surrounded by his rooms. The shelves rise dozens of stories into the air, built for winged beings, with narrow decks at each level that run the length of the library. Samael was thoughtful enough to install stairs for my use, seeing as I lack the necessary anatomy to fly between shelves. The library is one of the few treasures I now have, filled with books that span the ages and worlds. Classic human novels and new books line the bottom shelves, within easy reach for me. After human writers die, in Heaven, it’s said they continue writing even greater masterpieces, so books that never tasted mortal tongues are here – there are also a few damned romance novelists to boot. And of course, endless spell books.

He’s even included mysteries and psychological thrillers by my favorite authors, a kind afterthought. But there’s more: living grimoires, erotica by demons that may well be written by Cenobites, and people’s wickedest sins recorded like the Screwtape Letters littering the place galore. There are the life records and deeds of every Damned in Hell, recorded in lurid detail by Penemue, the fallen angel of writing.

He notices me look longingly at the books. “Shall we read?” he asks. “We can devour books on a blanket, out under the stars.”

I shake my head no. “I’m too drunk to read – my eyes wouldn’t be able to focus. The words would blur. Read to me instead, my demaniac.”

Samael laughs softly. “You really did a number on yourself. Perhaps I can read to you? My Father used to…” He peters off, a raw look touching his face as he remembers his heavenly Father.

“He what?” I ask.

“He told the most fantastical stories to my brothers and I. What you would call folktales.” Samael comes to my favorite wingback leather couch and deposits me there, smoothing a blanket over me. I snuggle into it, a pounding headache bearing down on my skull. I cringe.

“I shouldn’t have drunk on an empty stomach,” I say. “We never had dinner…”

“I’ll cook. Something light. Breakfast food. I know you love breakfast for dinner.”

“Yay,” I sigh, head pounding. I groan. “Ugh. Why is vodka in Hell so heavy?”

“Everything is richer here. I’ll be back. I’m making French toast.” Samael glides off, glancing back over his shoulder at me fondly. I roll over, avoiding his gaze, and close my eyes and groan, trying to make the headache lessen as I massage the side of my head. Flashes of color burst against my closed eyelids. Restless, sleep eludes me, and I realize regretfully that no quick nap will be had. Instead, I rise, determined to read, my flagging vision be damned.

I choose a Stephen King paperback – Salem’s Lot – from the lower shelves and struggle to decipher the pages, my curvy body sinking into the cushy couch. I’ve always been more size 12 than two, and look like those dumb pictures of Eve – soft sloping stomach, pert breasts, and hips for days. The words of my chosen book all turn up like mush. The leather smells like the cigars Samael smokes, the spice of his orange and musk cologne, and rain. It smells like him. I close my eyes, inhaling the scent. Memories of him from my childhood haunt me, the man cloaked in shadow, the owner of my soul.

The trauma of his words stretch across my mind: “How I will delight in breaking you.”

I let out a soft cry, tears forming in my eyes. Here, in solitude, I can give in to the empty ache within me and cry over the childhood I never had, over the life I never will possess. I blot at my tears, cursing them.

“Janet?” Samael asks with concern, suddenly materializing at my side with a plateful of French toast. He catches the wet rivulets on my face. The plate wobbles in his hands and he nearly drops it as he hurries to sit beside me. The syrup slides around.

“Go away!” I sniff, not meeting his gaze. I hate this sign of weakness I’m exhibiting, the admittance that I feel pain. Any pain at all goes against my wiring, of keeping my father together, of raising myself in darkness in the clutches of Death. After my father died, many times, I just feel empty.

No,” he says, his voice fierce. He gathers me in his arm, wrapping the blanket tight around me, and wipes the tears from my cheek. “I refuse to let you ever cry alone. What kind of monster do you think I am?”

“The kind with sharp fangs,” I say, my voice uneven.

“Janet, I will never harm you. I say many things I don’t mean. It’s the poetry of the fallen, inherent to my nature as fey, other, a sorcerer king. But to lay a finger on you would be a cardinal sin. You have to know that.” His eyes implore.

“All I know is that you want to break me,” I say.

He bites his lip. “That was… a poor metaphor.”

“That’s a sad excuse for a justification!” I pound his chest in anger. He recoils at the display of violence, shocked. “How does that feel, Sam? Can you feel your heart dislodge under your ribs?” I punch him again. Again. “Can you feel it break? Like you broke me!” He lets me hit him hard with a volley of right and left hooks. I sob, bruising my knuckles, punching until I have spent every last ounce of energy and I collapse in his lap. I weep, an ugly crying with snot and gasps like a dying man. Samael rocks me, crying himself, a low, raw sound.

“I break every time I look at you. What have I done?” he laments. “What have I done to your soul?

I can’t take his question. His guilt. As if I can explain his madness! I stumble to my feet, distancing myself from him. I can’t breathe in the same room as Samael. I trip over my feet, out into the courtyard. The fresh air floods into my lungs. I sputter, my body wracked with sobs. I am finally doing it. Breaking. For the first time since my father’s death, I am crying. Something I promised I would never do in Samael’s clutches. I sink onto a stone bench and watch the heartbreakingly beautiful fountain stream water into the air. It is in the shape of a gorgeous woman pouring water over herself from an amphora. She is as curvaceous as me, ample-bosomed, derriere like the doublet of two moons. I focus on her, and only her. She calms me.

The glass door onto the patio opens. Samael approaches cautiously, bearing a plate of French toast as an offering. Tears still shine in his eyes. “I… well, you must be hungry. Jean.”

I shrug. “Maybe.” I make no withering comment, my olive branch to him.

I eat the French toast in silence, dipping it in the maple syrup that is pooled on the plate. It feels good to have something in my stomach – I hadn’t realized how empty it was until now. Samael watches me from a respectful distance, sitting on another stone bench in the shadow of a blooming cherry tree.

“It’s really good,” I acknowledge. “The food.”

He nods but says nothing.

A breeze picks up, spreading the cherry blossom petals like rice thrown at a wedding. Samael catches a handful idly, crushing them between his fingers. I cringe at his act of destruction. He winces at my reaction and discards the pulp.

“I didn’t mean…” he trails off.

“I know,” I say, too quick. I chew my upper lip, cheeks burning. I am embarrassed for my show of weakness and even more for lashing out with violence. “I- I shouldn’t have hit you.”

“It’s nothing.”

Cricket chirps and the gentle buzz of cicadas stretch in the silence between us. Fireflies light the air like will-o’-the-wisps.

“I – I wouldn’t mind if you told me a story,” I say.

Samael looks at me in confusion. “Really?”

“Yes, really. Like you did when I was young.”

He smiles tentatively. “If you’re sure…”

“I am.”

He rises, coming to sit beside me. He drapes his cloak over my shoulders to keep me warm.

“Thank you,” I say.

“It’s nothing. Shall I – do you want me to begin?”

“Yes.”

He does. The tales spill from his tongue like jewels. I fall asleep somewhere in the space between his words, leaning against him, only fully trusting of his plans for me in sweet black slumber.

A War and a Wedding

Building towards the climax with a demonic Joan of Arc and a little visit from Lilith.  Gods, have mercy on my stupid closing scenes.

I am dressed in chainmail and armor, my breastplate molded to fit my bosom and gauntlets padded with leather.  My saber is drawn, and with it I direct my Legion, 777 penitent, hardened veteran Damned mortals wishing to go to Purgatory and Judgment through faithful service.  That promise may or may not be a lie, and my men and women are scarred and mangled with sins and vices manifest on their bodies like unholy stigmata, and they are dressed in Roman armor, for Beelzebub is a stickler for traditional dress amongst his legions.  I have a Spartan helmet worthy of Ares with a red fringe, forged from the finest of adamantine.

I stand on a podium on the practice fields behind Beelzebub’s military bunker.  I open my mouth and speak into the microphone:

“You’re all hardened soldiers of the Legion, and you may think, what is a pampered princess like Samael’s consort doing meddling in military affairs?  Well let me speak my peace: what I lack in experience I make up for in passion.  Passion for our lords and princes of Hell and the desire to see Heaven toppled and the angels brought to justice.  They put you here to be tormented against your will.  But Hell believes in humanity’s free will – it is what Samael sacrificed so much for, to free Adam and Eve from the shackles of a slave master.  Yahweh is long gone, he abandoned his throne at the peak of the Fall, and the angels fight a pointless war on decrees long forgotten from a Father who thinks us better off dead.  And not just the Damned, Michael rules over Heaven in his Father’s stead, and do you think he looks upon his Father’s desertion as divine favor?  God has cast angel and demon alike out of his grace!  I say, the angels defend an empty throne room, and they dare wage war on the paradise we have built on the ash and bone of the Fallen, this Hell where so many migrant spirits and wayward souls flock, our home?  To the wastes of Gehennom with that!  With Judas as my second in command, we will be the mercenaries of Beelzebub’s Legion, for only those of mortal bloods can easily kill immortals, for we have tasted death before.  Our very blood is poisonous to angels’ immortality.  I will be at the helm with my flute, binding angels and exorcising any seraphim or ophanim or cherubim that stands in our way as you raze down the hosts!  Onwards to Heaven, I say!  We will drive back the angels once and for all and end this most ill-fortuned of Civil Wars!”

There is a clattering of spears and swords, and my legion roars their approval.  As planned, Judas comes to the forefront and climbs the podium to take his place beside me as my second-in-command.  He is dressed in the simple armor and leather and robes of a Sicario, what would have been seen in Jerusalem during Herod’s rule.  He raises his sica to his lips and kisses it, then raises the blade high.

“My lips kiss ruin into my enemies!  My lips damned the Savior to three days in Hell.  What power do my lips and limbs have but those of the most decorated soldier in the Legion?  Comrades, you know me well, we have fought for two millenia beside each other against a war we did not choose.  Some of us fell under Charlemagne’s sword, some of us were cast into the Jordan River and drowned for not bowing to the King of the Jews, all of us were damned for our sins, but I say, let us make a nesting ground of Heaven, let our atonement be in the blood of the holy, for to drink an angel’s ichor fills the spirit with the Pentecost, and our disfigurements and cancers will disappear, and we shall be healed and made whole again in New Jerusalem.  For that is the outcome in this most blessed of uprisings: salvation for the Damned.  If Heaven belongs to us, it is we who become the angels, and we who decide our fates!  Follow the Iscariot and Shaylen on to glory, board this train headed skyward and let the mettle of our creeds and adamant souls be tested in the fires of Mulciber’s forge!”

There is uproarious applause, then chants of “Sicario!” and “Princess!”  Training begins, and I train with Judas, who instructs me further in sword work on my saber. His sica is fast and sharp.  I demonstrate outside reaps and one-armed shoulder throws to him, and he laughs at the precision and grace with which I execute my moves.

“Asmodeus taught you well,” Judas laughs in the shade of a fig tree on the outskirts of the practice grounds.  He lifts me and throws me, and I do an inside roll to protect my inner organs.  We rep it out, then back to blade work.  “That devil always knows how to have a good time, and I’m sure training a green princess was delightfully twisted to him.”

I smile, then, when I have wrestled him to the ground with our blades crossed, I whisper.  “Judas, will our plan work?  At what point do we give me our forces to Michael and surrender?”

“At the gates to the throne room that Michael guards, in the second heaven, Machon.  Michael will bluff with his forces to allow your legion to seem like it is winning and approach.  Machon is his dominion.  Leave the rest to me and the archangels,” Judas murmurs, then rolls and tops me with quick work of his sica to make it look like we are still practicing and not plotting the downfall of Hell.  I suppose a union of both betrayal and martial practice are occurring in a confusing fashion.  Up this close, Judas smells like old silver coins.  Maybe it is just his armor, or maybe something far more wretched and bloody.

He is a panther atop me, our blades crossed at my neck, and he leans down with an arcane, untamed smile.  Pursing his lips, in the shade of a bent old fig tree, he kisses my cheek with passion.  “So I betray you to Heaven’s deliverance, and Yeshua’s words come true: “You will become the thirteenth, and you will be cursed by the other generations—and you will come to rule over them. In the last days they will curse your ascent to the holy generation.”  I shall take my place with Peter and Thomas and Matthew and James and Levi and John, with sweet Mary Magdalene and sweeter still Salome and Joanna and the Eternal Virgin.  They are still my family, you know.  I often thought of them in the barracks, when I was bleeding out from mortal wounds in the shitty demon infirmaries and they healed me with their necromancies when all I wanted to do was flee with my soul and die, die, die.  Die and ascend, on a hangman’s noose lifting my corpse out of Hell.  I deserve no less, you know.”  His whisperings in my ear are like the slithering of a snake.

One of the troops calls for Judas for guidance on a lock and parry, and he dismounts me and goes over to supervise, and I let out a strangled breath.  I inhale and exhale quickly, terror rising at his harsh, prodigious words.  I am putting my fate in the hands of the divine, a choice I have never had before, as I had only been a martyr for the infernal, no free will in my bonds to Hell.

At the end of practice, I am bruised and happy, resolute in my secret plan, and address the 777 souls that have bound themselves to my seal in blood.  In aligning them with my sigil, they will become redeemed the moment I drink from the archangel’s Holy Grail, or so Judas has said.  So will Samael, as I possess his heart.

“You’ve done me proud, my men and women!” I proclaim, thrusting my saber into the wood of the podium and standing proud, arms open.  “I will lead us on in a fortnight’s time to Machon, to claim the throne Michael guards and for once and all end this struggle of holy and infernal.  Are you with me, you men of steel and glory?”

There are yells and hurrahs and a thousand tongues screaming my name.

Judas, besides me, places his hand on my back.

Shalom,” he says under his breath, then squeezes my shoulder blade.

I cannot tell if it is a blessing or the curse of betrayal, but I am pinning all my hopes on this Iscariot.

 

 

Naamah, Astaroth, Suri and I go to the River Styx for the water purification ceremony the night before my wedding.  We strip of our clothes on the banks of the river and hang them on a linden tree that weeps over the water with succulent blossoms.

“Oh, Shay, you dear thing, tonight is the night you truly become a woman,” Naamah sings, her breasts proud and blushed sandstone and high.  Astaroth looks like the Sumerian goddess of love and war she once was, and Suri is fiery veins and igneous and obsidian rock.  The women form a triangle around me and take an alabaster jar as we wade into the waters, Suri drawing the red waters into the vessel and pouring it over my head.

“I gift you fire, so that your love never falters,” she whispers, and the magic of this wedding night ceremony means the three demonic fairy godmothers’ blessings will come true, as any bride of Hell can attest.  This is where the myth of fairy godmothers comes after all, from the purification ceremony of Pandemonium that weaves magic into the veins of its archdemonesses and children alike.

As the ruby waters pour over my breasts, cool and resplendent, I feel heat sear my veins and then clarity.  My passion for Samael foments.

Suri passes the alabaster jar to Naamah.  “I gift you clarity, so that your judgment as a princess will be true.”  She drizzles the liquid down my back and it flows in a river down my buttocks.

My eyes sting then ice, then the truth of things become apparent: I am the real key to Heaven, Saint Peter be damned.  The future suddenly becomes clear to me, and I see Samael, and all the archdemons, returned to their angelic forms under the Tree of Life, made anew.  It is a secret I thank the Lord for, a God I have never really believed in despite everything.

Finally, Astaroth takes the jar and scoops a generous amount of water.  She anoints my brow with a wet upside-down cross.  “I give you beauty, of not only the body, but the soul, so that you may be pleasing to the eyes and heart of your bridegroom.”

My hair grows in luster, my skin grows golden, my freckles bloom cheekily, and my nails grow gleaming and long.

“Thank you, sisters,” I say, at last taking the alabaster jar and scooping it up full to douse myself in the waters.  I open my mouth and gulp down the red shards of the past, then swallow the crimson future and all garnet doubts.  Nothing but peace.

We return to the shore and don our ritual black robes.  Astaroth takes one of her doves out from a dovecote she keeps on these banks for future brides – usually her augury is costly, but for me it is free.  She lets it flit about for a little while, it coos in her hand, then she snaps its neck with a decisive oomph and slits its belly with her talon.  The guts pour out in her hands.  She tangles her talons in the heart, lungs, and liver and her eyes glaze over.

“In you rests the fate of Hell.  That is all I am allowed by the grace of my pagan ancestry to see.  Choose wisely, Shaylen,” Astaroth says, discarding the dead dove remain into the river.

I shudder despite the summer heat.  “I will,” I say.

They take me to the bridal chamber in Lilith’s palace of worship and bedeck me in the lunar purple abaya Suri gave me, henna my feet and hands in intricate spirals and place dried resins in the folds of my pockets to perfume my body, oil my hair with lavender, then paint and manicure my nails.  Suri, Naamah, and Astaroth are joined in sisterly love songs in Hebrew, the Song of Songs in particular in Solomon’s native tongue, for the demons claim Lilith as Queen of Sheba wrote that particular book of the Old Testament after fancying Solomon lover for a time.  They are sung at Lilith’s temple all the time.  Finally, they place a betel nut in my mouth.

“For the sweetness of love,” Suri whispers, then takes it from my tongue.

Adorned in fine beaten silver the shape of the moon around my neck in honor of lunar Lilith, I walk to the Well of Wishes at the heart of Lilith’s bridal chamber courtyard, where it is said she cried her first tears at God’s betrayal and harbored her sister Shekinah as she fled God into the wastes of th human world, having fled from Heaven on high.  Lilith is Queen of the Fairies, more fey than human, and has lost most of her demonic qualities long ago, roving Earth in her broken yet glorious courts of neutral angels, now earth and sea and mountain elementals.  She rarely visits Hell, just to stock her pleasure houses with new beauties and take offerings from the temple, but there is the whisper of bells at ankles and baby bones, and as I make my wish and toss the betel nut into the well, I see Lilith’s red hair reflected in the moonlight in the night waters.

Queen,” I say, then bow so low in my abaya my wine-stain sleeves touch the ground.

Lilith laughs, grasping my hands in hers.  “Oh dear Eve, I remember you.  We were sisters once, how much I long for those days.  Two wives of Adam, two lovers in the garden we were, it was not just Samael who tempted you, my child.”

She is like the Pre-Raphaelite painting by Dante Gabiel Rossetti of Lilith at her toilette.  A fair maiden of auburn hair in red and gold dress with a diadem of rubies at her white brow and earrings of peridot dripping from her ears.  She smooths the hair back under my abaya and removes my veil to give me a passionate kiss.  Her tongue roves my mouth then she bites my lower lip playfully.

I am in awe.  This is the blessing of the Fairy Queen, more powerful than anything in Hell, for Lilith is more tangible than all the Qliphothic realms, of Earth and celestial fire.  I smell pines in Maine and salt water of the Atlantic on her breath.  She is wild, a goddess, and I am dumbstruck.

There are rings at her fingers and bells at her toes. She licks my lips, then lowers my veil and lifts the floating betel nut from the well to eat it.  “Dearest sister Eve, you are Jacob’s Ladder now, cannot you see it?”  She laughs like a coyote, the sound a trickster song.  “You will be the death of all pain.  True, evil will still exist in the world, as it was when Samael planted the seed of choice in the hearts of men, and nature can be kind and cruel like me, but that evil will no longer come from Hell.  No more demons, no more angels, we shall be more like the fey.  Free and wild, riding the winds on wings of fancy and love.  In you lay the sleeping generations, and in this promise you have made, lay true endings.  But furthermore, a beginning.”

And with a beat of owl wings, Lilith lifts into the night sky and becomes indistinguishable from the moon.  I gasp and fall to my knees shaking.  Lilith does not even deign to grace her first love Samael with her presence, much less any archdemon.  She is the true untamable, wild wolf woman.  Owl of the night and giver and taker of life.  To have her prophesize my bargain with Heaven coming true, having the true name of God she has never told anyone giving her even more clarity than Astaroth, that I will free demon and angel alike, is a secret I will take to my grave if these plans do not work out.

I go back into the bridal chambers, face haunted.  Naamah, Astaroth, and Suri are feasting on bacon-wrapped dates and Chardonnay.  I disguise my surprise at the kiss of the Whore of Babylon and her sweet as sugar words, then dine later that night and go to sleep in a silken bower, my belly full, a ruby apple, or heart, ring shining full and round on my hand.

 

Sa’el

Excerpt from my Gothic romance novel that is ALMOST done!!!  Judas is my favorite character in the entire thing.

Recruitment has begun in my legion.  I am in Beelzebub’s headquarters office, in fighting gear with my flute sheathed at my back and the saber Asmodeus has been training me on at my side, eagerly awaiting my new recruits.  They enter my station and salute me, then introduce themselves and fill out contracts in blood in the lobby, binding themselves to my service.  Mulciber drew up a round seal for me of a looping spread winged canary with my name in Hebrew that the mortals under my service are inking their slit thumbs on.  776.  The seven hundred and seventy seventh enters, the last one on my ledger registered for approval.

777, a Middle Eastern man, with olive skin and scarred eyebrows, lingers at the corner of the mahogany door with a thickly ridged noose’s purple bruise around his throat.  A suicide, then.  The Damned all carry the sins of their pasts manifested as boils, tumors, cancers, and wounds on their bodies as signs of why they are here.  Repent, serve, and work towards redemption, then Heaven awaits, past the Hell’s Gate and up the ladder of angels.  But fall too far from grace, and Hell is an endless cycle of crushed hope like dying lilies, always in the Legion or confined to the pleasure chambers of the Lords to be fucked, tortured, or both.  The worst offenders get put in the Void, and from there, there is no return.

This young recruit, no more than 25, has dark ringlets of black hair to his shoulders and amber eyes with bruised purple bags under them.  There are chains on his ragged acid wash jeans and he wears a torn bomber jacket and an old Morrisey t-shirt. He stubs a cigarette out under his steel-toed boot and his kohl-lined eyes linger on a propaganda poster of good old Uncle Sam(ael) decreeing “Fall on Your Brothers!  Join Today!,” dressed in a Roman toga with his wings spread high, holding the eternal flame of Hell up towards victory.  I always thought Samael spearheading the propaganda campaign was tacky, but it works, if only for the angry, bordering on constipated look on the poster’s face.  It is, after all, the butt of all Hell’s office water cooler jokes, with Uncle Samael plastered across corporate buildings and at intersections as proper Beelzebub propaganda would be.

“And who are you, my friend?” I ask, waiting with my fountain pen to write his name down.

“The Sicarius, Hell’s man of the dagger.  And who are you, I might ask, wife of he who tempted my Lord?”  He smiles a smile that is anything but friendly, then pulls out an ancient dagger, hewn from some long dead forge.  The Damned cling to their possessions with greed – can’t pass through the eye of a needle into Heaven with a camel weighed down by treasure, but you can carry a whole horse-load of fineries into Hell.

“Just another citizen of Dis trying to carry on her business in some way that is sane in an oftentimes insane multiverse.”  I narrow my eyes and examine the blade.  It is curved like a crescent moon, small, able to fit into his back jeans pocket.  It is polished and old.  “And who is this Lord you speak of?  There are many Lords in Hell, and I do not believe I have tempted any, not that temptation is a thing we believe in down here.  Hedonism, moreover, is our religion.”

“There is only one Lord,” the Sicarius says slowly.  “I drank his blood.  I ate his body.  And the silver of my betrayal tasted like a pumping hot heart, and the noose was my lover, and my fallen guts cursed the fields, and I stabbed many heretics and Temple defilers in the back with this sica,” he says, balancing the blade by the hilt.  “Tell me, have you tasted God before, dearest Shaylen?  Have you nursed at the holy blood and water from his side like sweetest Catherine of Siena?”

Fear washes over me.  I stand up and steady myself on the table, daring to meet his eyes.  This man radiates infernal power, a curse so bitter it may well be the Mark of Cain.  The miasma radiating off him makes me feel sick.  I must choose my words wisely now or forever be marked a coward. “I drink the blood of the Morning Star.  That is as close to God as I have come. Tell me, Sicarius, what would you have me make of you?  I have an inkling of who you are, awash in the sins of a kiss.”

“I would have you make of me a monster, one who longs to look in a reflection of the Savior and see redemption.  A penitent beast.  A Wandering Jew.  At the end of the day, dear commander, I am a Scapegoat.  Christ was for God, and I was for Azazel, just as it was on Yom Kippur.”

Judas Iscariot sheathes his blade and comes too close to my desk for comfort.  I draw my sword that Asmodeus has trained me on.  “You know what Christ said at the Last Supper?  You’ve read my Gospel, yes?  Heretical, they say.  An Apocryphal tale.  Gnostic bullshit.  Yet true. All of  it. Yeshua took me up into his arms that night and said after a frightful vision of mine: “You will become the thirteenth, and you will be cursed by the other generations—and you will come to rule over them. In the last days they will curse your ascent to the holy generation.”

Cold weeps in my body from deep root taps at the heart of Hell.  I stand ramrod straight and bow.  This is a man worthy of my respect.  “So you are as they say, Hell’s most jaded soldier.  Skilled with the dagger of the assassins of old Jerusalem zealot Sicarios and trying to serve out a sentence thrust upon you by a Savior asking you to shoulder a burden far too great to bear.”

Judas bows in return.  “I take the shape of light as it falls, dear Shaylen.  I am what a star is like that has burnt up and turned to a black hole.”

I extend my hand, and he shakes it firmly.  “I would be honored to have you in my service.”

Judas crooks his lips.  “And training begins when?”

“Tomorrow, at dawn.”

He lights another cigarette and takes a drag.  “You know, Christ’s last word to me?  When I kissed him on the cheek in that Roman plaza?”  Judas closes the distance between us and the yellow in his honey eyes is shining like fallen stars.  He puts the cigarette between his middle and forefinger then tucks a stray lock behind my ear, and leans down to whisper.

Emet.”  His voice is jade and juniper sap, sticky and sweet from high altitudes.

I shudder.  “How dare you.”

Judas snakes around me.  “You see, in my day, men and women like Simon Magus and King Solomon and the Witch of Endor would make golems, living men of clay, and they would write aleph mem tav, Truth, or Emet, on the golem’s forehead, and the golem would do their bidding.  Erase the aleph, and you were left with mem tav, Death, and the golem ceased to be.  “The only truth is death,” Christ said, and then he kissed me back, on the forehead during my betrayal, and finished, “That is the gift of our mother Eve. Aleph, mem, and tav.”

I draw my sword and raise its edge to Judas’ throat.  “How do you know who I am?  Who sent the messenger?”

Judas laughs, leaning into the blade so it pierces his throat then comes out the back of his neck.  He kneels before me praying and gagging as the blade slides through his neck, penitent.  Horrified, my grip tightens, and he chokes up blood and hosannas.  “I wonder if you are dead or alive,” he says ragged, “just a girl of clay and ribs and crushed dreams, dear Shaylen.  And many birds fly between Heaven and Hell.  This certain one happened to be Raziel.  I am still a disciple, despite my curse, and I still break bread with angels in the dark corners where no demon can say or see.  Raziel says you looked lovely at the Founder’s Ball, dear Mother of Life.”  Judas is bleeding out onto my heels.  I withdraw the sword.

“So you’ve been consorting with the enemy.  What is Raziel plotting?”

“Oh, my dear, Raziel is just a messenger.  Like Samael, he is, at the end of the day, a servant of God.  Only humans like you and I have free will, none of these immortal beings.  That makes us mightier than them all, even God Himself.  You think God has free will?  No, He has never made a choice in his eternal life.  Just the choice to die so that the universe could be made, always sacrificing Himself to Himself in the most sacred of rites everlasting.”

There is a bouquet of roses at Judas’ mouth.  Roses of gore.  He stands and the wound instantly closes, leaving only the scarred purple bruise of his noose.  Clearing his throat, Judas straightens out his bomber jacket and resumes smoking his cigarette.  “Michael wants Samael back.  That was Raziel’s message – one I was to deliver to you and one Samael turns a blind eye too, though he has the puzzle pieces.  He cannot see God, you know – his name means either Poison or Blindness of God, depending on how you view it.  But this is what Michael wants.  The union of Heaven and Hell, forgiveness for the sins of the fallen.  It is something I have longed for since my death, and I know you see it in him, in them all – Asmodeus, Naamah, Beelzebub, Astaroth, and your future husband.  That craving for Father God.  That unspoken desire for repentance, like the Magdalene clothed in her own hair in a cave in the desert, fed manna by angels each morning in her good news studies.  I want you to lead us home, Shay.”

I come crashing into my seat, sword clattering to the ground.  “How can I change the mind of the Satans, oh Judas?  How can there ever be a reunification?”

“Love answers the prayers of the damned, Shaylen.  I am sick to death of pining away over my Lord.  I want to touch his glorious white raiment again, to sit at his feet and listen to his parables.  At the heart of every demon –“

“Is a lonely child calling out for his Father,” I whisper.  “You’re right, Samael wants to go home.  But how do I convince him?”

“Marry him.  Lead your legion into battle, lose purposely, and deliver yourself to the angels.  I will be your guide, there is no need to fear, angels are righteous but gentle with innocent souls.  Michael will take care of the rest.  There is nothing Satan himself loves more than his heart.  You.”

I pick up my blade contemplatively, stained with his blood, then slit my hand.  “Swear it on our blood, on the Styx, lest we boil, that we will see this through and you will not betray me,” I say adamantly.

Judas takes his sica and slices his palm open, joining mine in a promise.  “Prove you are more than Adamah.  Earth is only clay until you give it the name of God.  Then, spirit is breathed into Her, and she becomes All.”

There are tears in my eyes.  “I am more than my maker, Judas.  And I will save him from himself.”

Cursed As The Beasts In The Fields We

Blood streaks his back, wings in tatters. He lies spread-eagle on the sand, at the lip of a gravelly cliff. Oh brother- you’ve turned on me. I drive my heel into his face, crushing it to the ground. He hisses, laughing madly under cracked ribs. All my fury broils over- my brother has become a Beast.

“Do you feel nothing!” I roar. “No remorse? Nothing at all!” I cry as I kill him. The last bits of his immortality drain from his once blue eyes. I hurt him because I love him, just as he has tore my heart a thousand times over. My brother, executioner of our kind. My brother, the traitor.

Perhaps his betrayal has not yet passed. Perhaps he is still innocent, but time is a funny thing: I have stood at the beginning and end of creation: Alpha and Omega are my blood. We are the twin serpents that circle each other, spiraling into eternity. Time has no meaning, to one such as me.

I know him, as Lilith does not. I have seen him, as Eve has not. I know what his sin will bring. The fields of damned stretch out before my eyes. My slain men rot. A legion of shadow cold as Dumah desecrates my home. He has brought death into the world.

A hole rots where his heart once shone. Nacash, the Shining One, has cast his aside raiment. Even I do not understand his blind sacrifice.

A girl stands beside him, centuries down the line. She witnesses his humiliation. “Why?” she cries. The man she sees is broken, and the one she stands by, mad. What broke you?, whispers her heart.

Why indeed. Why.

My brother, the howling void. I see what he becomes. His eyes are black pits now. The War has wasted him. Razor-thin, obscenely pale, he whispers into her ear:

“You lose yourself to the madness, and the pain wraps around you like a mother as you become one with the Abyss.”

I kick him over the edge, then spit on his disgusting form. I tremble. I want to die.

“I fell for Eternity,” he says, voice cold like the winter wind. Does he speak to her, or me?

My brother wakes in the Pit. He howls against his bondage. He tears the Abyss from around him and burrows in like a freezing wretch. Lucifer steps out of the shadow, watching coolly. Waiting. The North Star has followed the Morning.

Samael’s eyes open. They are red like spilled blood. I cannot stand that sight- I howl to my wretched God, I tear out my eyes like Azazel. They return like Prometheus’ liver. I, witness to Creation, cannot even be spared the sight of his damnation.

You ask me why I do not smile. Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani. Answer me, my God. You have been silent far too long.

She reaches for Samael, through the bonds of time. Lucifer sees the girl. His melancholy lifts- another pawn to play.

Death burns her flesh like acid. She screams into the darkness: Release him, oh dear God. God that never answers. God that doesn’t exist. He hath forsaken me. I must bear his likeness. I must bear the blame. Puppets of the Architect, in his endless shadow game.

The angels turn to me. They weep at their betrayal, for the war they did not want. Am I nailed to a cross? I do not know. We both are. Samael on Catharine’s wheel, nailed to turning time.

Do not comfort me. I bear this cross alone.

Trickster’s Bride, or The Journey Home

In one week, I got three full requests from the top agents in middle grade!  Happy Valentine’s to me!  Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger, Emily van Beek of Folio Jr., Daniel Lazar of Writer’s House all requested it within a week of each other (cue seeing stars!), and Brent Taylor of Triada and Thao Le of Sandra Djistrika all have the fulls.  The partials of my  middle grade are still with a few other agents, and my old novel, Firebird, has a 75 page partial with Joshua Bilmes of Jabberwocky!  This is the most success I’ve ever had querying a novel, but what inspired Chwal?

Chwal is a coming-of-age tale set in the South, New Orleans country specifically, about a girl raised by angels and spirits.  Like May, I was raised by angels, including Raphael, who is her guardian angel, and I knew Kalfou, or Mister Carrefour, the fiery dark horse Petro lwa from the age of two.  His blackness is still a real nightmare-wrangling threat, and he goes by many names: the Witchfather, the Man in Black, the Devil of the Crossroads, Kalfou, Satan – he changes names like the wind changes direction.

Unlike May, I ended up in a maryaj lwa with Kalfou because goddamn do tricksters act forceful when they want your attention.  They can drive you mad if you refuse them or scour you with bad luck, and dealing with the Evil Jazz Man that looks like a Demon Bob Marley with red (or just abyssal) eyes, midnight skin, dreads, a snake pommel cane, pinstripe suit, Cuban cigars at hand, and a sultry baritone serenading you in a dive bar in Hell on the piano is, well, otherworldly, to say the least.

Kalfou and I, we go way back to the age of two, to my first memory.  Samael, when he is not Middle Eastern, is often an African man obsessed with Peabo Bryson, rum, Satchmo, monocles, well-tailored suits and Cuban heels.  He told me early on that “Kalfou is one of my many names.  I have as many names as the wind,” an apt title as he is the samiel wind, and who but the Devil has as many guises as the phases of the moon?

His oldest form, this Man in Black, is this ancient African god of darkness, with eyes like the blankness of space with stars in them, wild dreadlocks, in lion skin loincloth, dealing in death and magic and the wilderness.  I call him Ubuntu as an inside joke.  He was at the core of my psychotic break, the savior that restored my sanity, where I cycled through all of Samael’s forms to the core of his most primal nature.  Ubuntu was the mantra of my psych ward where I was held without razors to shave or shoelaces to strangle, plastered on the walls as a motivational poster, used in therapy.

Ubuntu.  South African, the core of human origin, where millions of years ago a genetic bottleneck occurred and we were descended from all those mitochondrial Adams and Eves on the cape.  I imagine Kalfou was there, as he always is, in the darkness of death and magic of underground caverns, trickster par excellance, venom of the black mamba.

But I know his kindness, and his wrath, and his seduction.  Also, how he has kept me from the lips of death, which are his very own, always denying me his poisonous kiss.

For what is to love someone than to forever lose them?

Ubuntu (Zulu pronunciation: [ùɓúntʼù])[1][2] is a NguniBantu term meaning “humanity”. It is often also translated as “humanity towards others”, but is often used in a more philosophical sense to mean “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity”.[3]

I was pumped full of antipsychotics and mood stabilizers but still my psychosis and mania raged.  I found myself in a dark cavern at the core of the earth, with a fire glowing, snake skin and lion skin around, with Ubuntu cross-legged in a Yogic pose, his eyes black stars, and he was Trickster.  He was Trickster, Trickster, Trickster, and he said I was the Trickster’s Bride.

The Trickster’s Wife is a Trickster herself, heyoka, backwards, Baba Yaga, he said.  My path was the Coyote Road.

All the Tricksters he cycled through.  Tezcatlipoca, the Devil, Loki, Maui, Raven, Coyote, Thunderbird, Hermes, Legba, Kalfou, some so old they did not have names, mad dancers that frothed at the mouth with thunder.  I would walk backwards through this world with Trickster at my side.

Death is the ultimate Trickster, and I am the Bride of Death.  To trick, you must be the Deceiver, the Adversary, the one who when riding a chwal people flee from, your poison pure leaves medicine to some, curses to others.

And so I tasted Death, and I kissed him despite his protestations and a major part of my soul died.

I couldn’t read.

I couldn’t think.

I was a puppet for madness, but the small frightened teen in me still flickered when the medicine was just right, and the spirits called

Enter Zora Neale Hurston’s works.

I was doomed to be a catatonic hallucinating vegetable in a madhouse.  I’m not going to dress my words plainly.  I was a madwoman, I was a bag lady, I was the kind of scary crazy you warn your kids about.

But I still loved to read, and so I taught myself again.  Sandman comics at first, but then, Zora’s short stories.

I promised myself I would not die if I could read my favorite author again.

I could barely hold a book.

But I loved Their Eyes Were Watching God in high school, and Mules and Men, and so I picked up Seraph on the Sewanee and read all hundreds of pages of it by the time spring semester rolled around.

I wasn’t sane yet, I went back to school severely depressed, but Trickster kept whispering in my ear: Dance on.  Us Tricksters, we are storytellers.  Us Tricksters, we got business to do, people to make laugh, dances to perform.

You are a Trickster’s Wife, and so you are able to come back from Death.  For I am Death.  And you are Death.  And Death is the most alive god.  Death is Trickster, Trickster is Death, but we are the most brilliant stars.

So I sipped the wine of life, and I persevered.  I dreamed of my demon, my angel, my god, my crossroads Gebo Tawu madman, the X my marking on my tattooed angel hands.  Perhaps that meant I was his treasure.  He drank my  blood, and I drained him of magic, and years later, I wrote the story of a girl raised by angels, raised by gods, who must drive back the darkness of her own mind –

and find the light.

Cain the Vegetarian, Jesus Drives a Yugo

Beginning of the sequel to Fifty Shades of Satan: All Hail Samael! in which Shannon-reincarnation-of-Eve goes to the afterlife to find the map to God, Jesus – call him Yeshua – fixes up Yugos for joyrides, and Cain is an exhibitionist.  Purely for entertainment purposes only.  Yes this was written in college at 22.  I have hopefully matured since then!

The land of Nod wasn’t so hard to find with Jesus behind the wheel.  Well, technically, tweenage Yeshua was sitting shotgun, doing Sudoku.  With my petersword wedged into the ignition of Christ’s favorite 1985 Yugo, which were apparently plentiful in Limbo – a repository for forgotten things like horrible cars – we were cruising down the celestial highway.  Yeshua periodically reassured me the Yugo’s engine wouldn’t explode:

“See, I tinkered with it for a couple decades, blessed the wheels, then got myself a solid vehicle,” he explained.  “When it comes to cars, there’s nothing more poetic than a Yugo.”

“Will I be back in time for classes?”

Yeshua kicked his feet up on the dashboard.  “Time is inconsequential when you’re riding the galactic freeway.  Don’t worry, Shana.  I can call you that, right?  Means beautiful.  You look just like my favorite disciple.  Bloodline of Solomon and all.”

“Um, I guess?”  I took a left at a neutron star, then, after the highway narrowed to two lanes, sped past a nebula.  “This is what I imagine an acid trip would be like: me cruising the galaxy with Christ.”

“Yeshua, please.”  He scribbled something onto the newspaper puzzle he was doing.

“Right.  So who are we looking for?”

“The bearer of the Mark.  The Mark will point us in the direction of Dad.  The Mark’s owner is a bit of an asshole.  He got all the bad genes from his father.”

Mark?  Like Mark Zuckerberg?  Were we using a social network to stalk Yahweh?

Wait – land of Nod?  Something sounded annoyingly familiar.

I screeched the Yugo to a halt.  “We are not finding Cain.  He’s the first murderer!”

Yeshua looked at me with honey eyes.  “Huh.  A pity.  I told him you were coming.  He’s already started making salad.  Even cleaned his bathroom, which is surprising, considering how disorganized he is.”  Yeshua rummaged through the globe box and pulled out sunglasses to fend off the glare of a supernova.

“Cain’s like the Biblical definition of asshole.”

“Nah, he’s only as bad as his father.  They both have a roguish charm.  Oh, park here!”

Despite the exploding star, I pulled over to the side of the road, by a run-down joint that boasted “Milky Way’s Best Burgers.”  I pulled my petersword out of the ignition and looped it around my neck, glad to have a sacred weapon in my possession when confronting the world’s worst brother.

The celestial highway was what I imagined the love child of the Great Plains and Hitchhiker’s Guide the Galaxy would look like.  Rolling hills of grass and wildflowers on the ground, astronomic monstrosities of black holes and dying stars above.  Everything was washed in psychedelic colors from galactic combustion.

Yeshua led me to a recently mowed path behind the burger joint.  Sunflowers tall as saplings bordered the freshly cut grass. “Cain dwells in the wilderness.  When you’re cursed to eternal exile, you kinda have to like liminal backwaters.”

“At least he can get his cheeseburger fix?”

“Cain hates meat.”

“Sure he does.”

I glanced at the resturant: the burger place was hosting what looked like the Wild Hunt motorcycle gang, complete with helmeted valkyries.  I was pretty sure I saw one-eyed Odin sweet-talking a waitress.  With its greasy windows and broken neon sign, it was a dive, but if the Norse pantheon, who were licked out of ice by a cow, dined there, it probably had good beef.

The breeze carried the scent of lavender and my own summer sweat.  The Border, as Yeshua called the supernatural highway, sure was pretty, in a kind of forgotten way.  Maybe Cain’s taste in a podunk nowhere wasn’t so bad.  All it needed was a trucker strip joint, maybe a casino, and it would have a definite vibe going on.

The farther we got from the highway, trees started creeping up from the plains, until after wandering for a while, we were in a picturesque forest, hung with vines.  The sunflowers gave way to shrubs, and everything looked lovingly tended, as if someone had clipped the pungent brier roses and trained the wisteria to artfully drape from the willows by the stream.  Round a bend, a wind chime made of bird skulls and river-smoothed glass clinked in the breeze.  I felt like I was meeting the village witch.

I turned a corner to find a certain ghostly menace bathing in a bend of the stream, where it eddied around jutting rocks.  Black hair spooled down his back, veiling his face from my view.

Man, he had a nice butt, despite it being paper-white.  His perfect, sorry ass was probably on a bender again.

“Samael?” I called.  “What are you doing here?”

Samael turned.

Only it wasn’t Samael: he had grass green eyes, with a constellation of freckles over his face, just like me.

Not-Samael covered his well-endowed nether regions and, to my surprise, blushed.  “Mother?  Um, you weren’t supposed to be here yet.”

“Did you call me mom?”  I stuttered.  “You’re older than me, freak!”

I looked to Yeshua for help with the confused nudist.

The Son of God had stripped down to his boxers and, with a definitive plop, cannonballed into the stream.  He surfaced and treaded water, a serene smile on his face.  “Cain, Eve doesn’t remember.  Recall how reincarnation works.”

Crap.  I was Eve.  I felt like barfing.

Cain’s face softened.  He pulled a green towel from a rock and wrapped it around his waist.  “Right.  Well, I suppose this is awkward.  You look just like her.  You are her.  I thought that, if you saw me, you would remember.  I just wanted to see you again.  After what father did to you, to us, I never thought I’d see you again.”

I squelched my shoe in some mud.  “Um, Henry and I, er, your father and I aren’t really a thing.  Like at all.  He’s kinda a jerky Harry Styles lookalike.”

Cain’s lips, who had the same dramatic Cupid’s bow as mine – urgh – parted..  “I wasn’t talking about Adam.”

“Uh… okay then.  Look, sorry I look like your mom or whatever, but you’re a stranger, and whoever your mysterious father is, if he’s not Adam, I’ve never met him.”

Cain laughed.  All dark and earthy.  God, he sounded just like Sam.   Why?

The world’s worst brother squeezed water from his long, luxurious hair.  How the hell did he bathe and not get a rat’s nest of tangles?  “I’m sure you two are very close.”

Dread gripped my stomach.  Yeshua was busy blowing bubbles.

I sat down on a boulder, dizzy.  “Wait, no.  That’s not what the Bible says!  Sam doesn’t have a fatherly bone in his deadbeat ossified body.”

Cain deftly changed into a black and green cloak that hung from a clothesline.  “Apparently you haven’t been reading between the Biblical lines, or the Kabbalah, for that matter.  That John fellow even calls me ‘son of the wicked one’ in the New Testament.  I never did like the apostles.”

Yeshua was sunbathing on a rock.  “John liked to exaggerate.”

“But Sam hasn’t mentioned you once!”

Cain gave a wild laugh.  “He inherited his parenting habits from his Father.  Both like to sacrifice their sons and ignore their cries for mercy.”

Yeshua rolled onto his stomach and sighed.  “Dad’s not all bad.  Just consumed by his Work.  I served my purpose.”

Cain rolled up the sleeves of his robe.  “At least your Father cares for you, Yeshua.  Mine?  He’s an idiot.”

My skin prickled.