Friday, November 29, 2013

Pre-Battle Butterflies

Ignoring the outburst of theist gratitude from a demon of his stature, I shouted over the din of battle, “I have about five hundred of these Firstborn-killing weapons.  Are you ready?”

He nodded briskly.  “Where are they?” he asked.

I motioned toward Jaelin and the big plastic container.  “They’re all in that bin there, ready to go.”

“Excellent,” the General replied.  Apparently he’d regained his composure.  He turned away for a moment to bark out the names of four of his captains.  He gave them what must have been some kind of prearranged signal and pointed toward Jaelin.  “If you want to join in the fight,” he advised me, “you had best get yourself a weapon now.”

I nodded solemnly.  “I’ll follow your lead, General,” I said.  “Let’s send these bastards packing.”  He gave me a brief, distracted smile and I jumped back to Jaelin’s crate. 

“So?” she asked.  “What’s the plan?”

“I don’t know,” I said, “But I’m sure Gavsot has it under control.  We could use your help, though,” I added, glancing meaningfully toward the pile of weapons. 

She smiled and reached into the bin for a curved dagger.  I opted for a longer sword.  “You ready?” I asked.

“Hell yeah,” she said.  She was genuinely excited.  “You’re scared.”  She wasn’t asking.

“Fuckin’ terrified,” I admitted.  “Which is weird, considering I’m already dead.   And considering that I’ve already died once since dying and it didn’t seem to matter.”

She smiled at me reassuringly.  “If it’s any consolation, sir,” she said, “I’ve got your back.”

I believed her.  I think we’d finally bonded.

“Holy shit,” I breathed, staring at the chaotic melee before us.  “This is actually going to happen.”

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Presenting Arms

As much as I wanted to explain to Jaelin that, where I grew up, it gets dark for about twelve hours out of every twenty-four, I decided it was best to get to work.  As I’d discovered firsthand after my first postmortem trip home, so much could go wrong while I was away on business.  So rather than discuss temperature fluctuations in my hometown, I instead enlisted her help dumping the entire crate of weapons into the lake.

We let them soak for about two seconds.

Then we pulled the crate back out of the water.  “Let’s go,” I said.  I gripped the crate, grabbed her hand, and sent us hurtling back down to Hell.

I was aiming to arrive at a safe distance far behind General Gavsot’s lines.  I’d succeeded in landing precisely where I’d wanted to, but we were much closer to the battle front than I’d anticipated.  Gavsot’s forces seemed to be losing ground with more and more speed.  I could see that a swath of the rocky plains behind Halkkor’s army were littered with demon corpses.  Halkkor’s following had originally been a small fraction of the demon army, but now it was easy to see that Gavsot was outnumbered.  The situation was dire at best.

“This had better fucking work or we don’t have a snowball’s chance in Hell,” I grumbled apprehensively.  Jaelin simply nodded.  “Gus would’ve gotten a kick out of that,” I added pointlessly.  “Here goes.”

I took a deep breath and teleported over to Gavsot, who appeared to be missing a large chunk of his left shoulder, which sported a ragged, bloody hole.  Even despite his injuries, however, Gavsot refused to lead from behind and remained one of the most dangerous forces on the battlefield—except, of course, for every member of the opposing army.  I gripped his good shoulder and teleported us back a few feet so we could talk without the immediate threat of death.

He looked upon me as a savior and panted, “Thank God you are here!”

That was kind of weird.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Cultural Gap

It was definitely a strain to pull it off, but I managed to grab hold of both Jaelin’s hand and the edge of the crate and teleport the three of us to the shores of that sylvan lake.

It was night and it was bitterly cold.  The cloudless sky was illuminated beautifully by a haunting crescent moon.  It was probably about mid-March, but it felt like the perfect night to go trick-or-treating.  Or maybe the perfect night to sneak around in the dark with a naked demon and about five hundred bloody knives. 

“Welcome to the Realm of the Living,” I said reverently.  I felt an odd sense of pride sharing my homeland with Jaelin--but not in a romantic way.  I felt like I was pulling back the curtain and revealing to her a little bit of the mystery behind the man in charge.  It was a snapshot in an A&E Biography that would be accompanied by a voice-over explaining how, during my childhood, notable aspects of my personality that would later serve me well as the sitting regent of Hell started to emerge.  This was where a little light-haired boy began his perilous path to demonic dominance. 

“This is weird,” Jaelin said flatly, looking around.  “What is this?”  It was clear she did not share the sense of significance that I ascribed to the scene before us.  She shivered.  “It’s freezing up here.  You lived here?”

“Hey, it’s warmer during the day,” I said defensively.

Her eyebrows arched.  “Oh,” she said with sudden realization.  “I’ve heard about this.  This is nighttime, isn’t it?”  She pointed at the silver sliver in the sky.  “So that must be that moon thing, then?”

Beyond the obvious, there were apparently some other pretty big differences between being raised on Earth and being raised in Hell.  

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Little Background

Between the two of us, Jaelin and I made quick work of the pile of weapons.  I prided myself on the fact that, even if I was too stupid to think of this more effective method of dipping them in the lake of fire, at least I was better at the telekinesis than she was.  Once she tried to do more than three or four at a time, she began to lose her pinpoint control over them.  I, on the other hand, managed to mentally control the movements of more than twenty of them at a time without sacrificing precision.

Considering most of the blades were still too hot to comfortably touch, we used our combined abilities to move the pile at the edge of the cliff back into the plastic container.

“Next?” Jaelin said expectantly as we finished.

“Next,” I responded, “we go upstairs and do the same thing with a lake of water.”

“You mean…in the Realm of the Living?” she clarified.  She sounded awed and hushed.  I glanced at her and her facial demeanor confirmed the assessment. 

“You’ve never been there, have you?” I said.

She shook her head.  She seemed almost reverent.  “It’s extremely unusual,” she told me.  “I knew one demon once, a long time ago, who was sent there as a punishment.”

“Couldn’t he just come right back?” I asked.

“No,” she said with a deep sigh.  She seemed genuinely affected by the story she was telling.  “The Devil at the time worked a spell on him that crippled him.  He couldn’t teleport or be teleported anymore.  He worked the spell on him while they were in the Realm of the Living and then he just left him there.”  She gave me a glossy-eyed look and concluded, “He’s been trapped there for two hundred years, all alone.”

Was this the bonding moment we hadn’t had?  It was weird to see her like this, all emotional and vulnerable, considering she was usually so unflappable and agreeable.  “A good friend of yours, I take it?” I asked.

“You have no idea,” she summarized tersely.

I also had no idea what I should do.  Should I hug her?  Should I just go back to business?  Should I sit down with her and let her tell me the whole story despite the fact that we were on an extremely time-sensitive mission?  Or was she the type who’d respond best to a quick slap on the shoulder and some gruff advice to buck up?

She solved my problem for me.  “Sorry,” she said, blinking the beginnings of tears away.  “We have work to do.  Let’s get down to it and kick some Firstborn butt.”

“Sure,” I said.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Take Three

It only took a few moments after my arrival at the edge of the scorching chasm for Jaelin to zero in on my location and appear next to me.

She appeared interested as she glanced over the edge.  “So what’s the plan here?” she asked me.

I shrugged.  “Let me show you what I did last time,” I said.  I grabbed a broadsword from the top of the pile, gripped it tightly with both hands, took a deep breath, and pitched myself forward.

I had to hand it to Jaelin—her feathers were not easily ruffled.  She didn’t cry out in surprise.  She simply watched with an expression of absorbed focus as I fell over the edge.  Was that because she trusted that I knew what I was doing or because she didn’t actually care whether or not I survived?

Partway through my descent, I teleported to just above the surface and dipped the sword into the lava before jumping back to the top of the cliff.  I showed her the newly-burnt blade, with cooling lava still running down toward the haft.  “Did you see what I did?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she said.  “But why don’t you just do this?”  As she spoke, she removed a small knife from the pile and tossed it over the edge. 

“Because I need it back,” I replied dryly.

“So use your telekinesis,” she returned matter-of-factly.  A few moments later, the knife floated back up from the depths of the burning abyss, its blade neatly coated in lava.

I stared at it.  Then I stared at her.  “It seems so obvious now,” I mumbled sheepishly.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Concerning Jaelin

After only a few minutes, we’d assembled a large pile of twice-bloodied weapons on the floor of the waiting room.  We spent a few more minutes carefully scooping them back into the crate. 

“Okay,” I announced to my small group of confederates, “This next part will be tricky.  Jaelin, I’ll need your help for this specifically.  The rest of you,” I added apologetically, “you’re useless here.  No offense.  Except for you, Torvin.”

Fearfully, Torvin asked, “You…you need my help?”

I snickered.  “What?  No, of course not.  I just meant that I actually did mean to offend you.  Just not them.”  I gestured toward Gus and Sylnie. 

Jaelin jumped into the awkward silence to change the subject.  “So what do you need me to do, sir?” she asked.

“These things need to be dipped into the lake of fire,” I explained.  “That was a tricky enough task for me to do on my own one at a time, but with five hundred of these things, I might need a second pair of telekinetic hands.”

She nodded.  I reflected briefly on how useful she’d been since Jorge had sent her to assist me.  I’d had none of the problems with her that I’d had with other demons.  She didn’t openly defy me like Azraal or Vilnius or Dramien had, and she didn’t try to manipulate me the way Kivra did (although she was cute enough and naked enough that I had to admit she could probably pull it off).  She wasn’t an impotent coward like Torvin and I could rely on her to support me in a tough situation—unlike Wyver.  Despite all of Gus’s unfailing loyalty, all of Sylnie’s pleasant obedience and all of Jorge’s shrewd assistance, Jaelin was probably my most powerful friend down here—except, obviously, for General Gavsot.

But I also didn’t feel as though we’d really bonded.  Was she really a friend or did she just appear that way because she hadn’t yet found a good enough reason to betray me?  She was a demon of a high order, after all.  Her species had been created for purely evil intent and her strength made her possible capacity for malevolence all the more dangerous.  Maybe I needed to keep a closer eye on her.  But while she still appeared loyal, it seemed like a good idea to utilize her abilities to further my own purposes.

I gripped the big crate with both hands.  “Meet me at the edge of the lake of fire,” I told her.  She nodded and I teleported away.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Production Line

We had an effective, if macabre, system in place.  The five of us got in a line and proceeded to take turns picking a weapon from the pile, stabbing the murderer, stabbing the nurse, returning the bloodied blade to the crate, and getting back in line.  Our assembly-line production allowed us to quickly expose the assortment of sharp instruments to the blood necessary to imbue them with the power to kill Lucifer’s Firstborn.  For the first hundred stabs or so, I had to use my telekinesis to restrain our victims, but eventually the escape attempts tapered off.  Instead, the nurse just tried running her mouth instead of running with her legs.

“Okay, so this bastard killed his family,” she complained.  “But I was a freaking nurse!  I gave people medicine!  I helped old people poop!  I assisted doctors and surgeons!  I don’t deserve this!”

“Yeah, maybe not,” I said, pulling my knife from her thigh and plunging into the psycho killer’s abdomen. “But you must have done something bad or you wouldn’t have wound up here in the first place.”

“Oh, you know what, you’re right!” she said, feigning a sudden recollection.  “I slept with a married doctor.  One time!  I’m not proud of it, but I don’t think it means I should get stabbed over and over.  Once should be enough.”

“Then look at it this way,” I said.  “You’re doing the same thing now that you did as a nurse.  All these people in Hell are pretty bad off, sure, but if we don’t stop the guy that’s trying to take over, they’ll all be in even deeper shit.  So by letting us stick you with knives a few hundred times, you’re really enabling us, the doctors, to more ably take care of the citizens of the underworld.”

She sat back and threw her hands up in resignation as Torvin slipped a dagger under her rib cage.  “Oh, well, you know, just doing my duty,” she said sarcastically.

“Yeah, me too,” the child-killer piped up hopefully. 

“Shut up, asshole, nobody cares about justifying this to you,” I snapped.

The other occupants of the waiting room looked on in mute horror.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Assembling the Materials

In the waiting room, Gus was seated calmly in the center of a long row of chairs against a wall, sandwiched between the nurse and the murderer.  I’d already stabbed the nurse twice, so when she saw me appear, she snarled, “Oh hell no,” and got up.  I assumed she was trying to walk away but that she hadn’t yet considered the fact that she really had nowhere to go.  Nowhere good, anyway.

With a telekinetic push, I forced her back into her seat.  “Sit down,” I said lazily.  She folded her arms crossly and refused to make eye contact. 

“You gonna hurt me again?” the man who’d murdered his family asked.  His hand went to his heart, either as a protective instinct or in simple remembrance of our first meeting.

“Yes,” I said.  “Many times.”

As if on cue, Jaelin teleported in a few feet behind me, carrying an enormous plastic crate full of glistening steel and keen edges.  She set it down heavily on the floor.  Without turning around, I asked her, “Did you bring Sylnie?”

“No,” she replied.  “Did you need her?”

“Yes,” I said.  Then, as an afterthought, I added, “And swing by my office to pick up Torvin, too.”

“Be right back,” she said.  Moments later, she reappeared with Sylnie and Torvin. 

I tipped the crate over and let all the weapons tumble out onto the floor.  It was a big crate.  There were a lot of weapons.  I took a moment to stare.  “How many did you guys get?” I asked.

“Well…” Sylnie said sheepishly.

“We thought you might want some extras, so we went for five hundred instead of two hundred,” Jaelin explained.

“But we might have lost count somewhere around three hundred,” Sylnie admitted.  “We got a little mixed up….”

“Suffice it to say,” Jaelin summarized diplomatically, “We brought you a number of weapons no less than four hundred eighty and no greater than five hundred twenty.”  Sylnie nodded proudly in agreement.

I shrugged.  “Okay, guys,” I said.  “Let’s get to work.”

Friday, November 15, 2013

News Updates

Upon my return to my office, I was pleased to find Sylnie and Torvin waiting for me.  Obviously, I was far more pleased to see Sylnie, but as Torvin was serving a useful purpose, I wasn’t entirely opposed to his presence either.

“Sir, Jaelin has a crate full of weapons ready to teleport wherever you wish,” Sylnie informed me. 

“Great,” I said, my eyes lingering over her for a moment.  “Uh, and Torvin, you have news for me?”

He nodded meekly.  “Gus is holding the nurse and the murderer in the waiting room,” he said.

“Super,” I said, rubbing my hands together excitedly.  It was difficult not to be pleased with how this seemed to be coming together.  “Sylnie, have Jaelin meet us in the waiting room with the weapons, please.”  She curtsied cutely, giving me a good look at her cleavage, and left. 

“So now what do you want me to do?” Torvin asked.  He sounded worried that I was about to ask him to take on Halkkor’s army by himself.

“Just stay here,” I said.  “And don’t touch anything.”  And I teleported away.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Battle Plans

I teleported down to the battle again and was again disheartened by the distance Gavsot’s army had been pushed back in so little time.  I’d appeared behind enemy lines, so as soon as I got my bearings, I jumped to a better vantage point from the friendly side.  I scanned the mayhem for a sight of General Gavsot.

After a brief search, I spotted him in the middle of the action.  I felt stupid for having not looked there first, considering that he clearly seemed like the kind who didn’t lead from behind—even despite his recent injuries.  I teleported over to him, gripped him by the arm, and jumped us both to safety just past the edge of the fray.

“What is the meaning of this?” he snapped irritably.  “I was about to cripple one of Lucifer’s Firstborn by impaling him on his comrade’s blade!”  He looked very tired.

“Sorry, this will just take a minute,” I apologized swiftly.  Then, as his words registered, I asked, “Wait…does that actually work?  Stabbing them with their own blades?”

“It merely wounds them,” Gavsot said dejectedly.  “The wound is severe, but it does not kill them.  I hope you have good news.”

“I do,” I told him.  “I made a weapon that can kill the Firstborn.”

He brightened.  “And you are certain that it works?”

“Tested it out myself,” I said proudly.  “I’ve got a mess of dead Firstborn in my office to prove it.”

Gavsot nodded.  “Excellent.  Do you have a plan?”

“We’re currently in the process of making a lot more of those weapons,” I told him.  “I want to equip your army with them as soon as they’re finished.  I’ll probably just have a pile of them in a big box or something, so I’ll need you to inform your soldiers that the weapons are coming, that they can kill the Firstborn, and that they need to make sure they stab the Firstborn through the heart.  Can you quietly spread the word through your army without tipping off Halkkor?”

He considered it for a moment.  “I believe I can.”

I clapped him on the shoulder.  “Great,” I said.  “Just hold on a little longer and I’ll pop in to give you a heads up right before this all goes down.  Now get back to kickin’ ass.”

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Splitting Up

After taking a moment to let a feeling of hope seep into the room, we sprang into action.

“Sylnie, Jaelin.” I said, abruptly breaking the awed silence.  “Can you two get me a box or something, go to the armory, and grab some more blades?”

“How many do you need?” Sylnie asked.

“A shit ton,” Gus murmured.

“I don’t know,” I said.  “Get me a couple hundred.”  Jaelin nodded curtly and departed with Sylnie in tow.

“Gus, Torvin,” I ordered, “Talk to Winston and find that nurse I stabbed last time and that guy that murdered his family.”

Torvin looked unsure, but Gus gripped his arm and steered him toward the door.  “Will do, Boss-Man,” he assured me.

“Great,” I said to an empty room as the door closed behind them.  “Now it gets fun.”

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Take Two, Part Two

The battle had progressed since my last visit, and considering how little time had passed, it seemed that Gavsot and his troops had lost a surprising amount of ground.  The upside was that I was removed from the focus of battle and I was able to pick off an unsuspecting member of Halkkor’s army from the edges of the clash without getting as involved or putting myself in as much danger.

In the event that this second attempt failed, I decided to bring my prey back to my office, where I’d have a little backup.  Gus was mostly powerless, of course.  Sylnie didn’t have a lot of telekinetic capability either, but at least Jaelin would be useful if my quarry survived.  And, as always, Torvin could help by putting his useless body between the Firstborn and the people who actually mattered.

I’d leaped toward the Firstborn at the site of the battle and transported us both the instant my fingers touched him, so my tackle concluded back on my home turf directly in front of my desk.  As the occupants of my office gasped, I put my knees on the monster’s chest, lifted my dagger skyward, and brought it down toward his heart as forcefully as I could.

He blocked it.

I felt really stupid for having not seen that coming, considering I’d left his hands free.  He gripped my knife-wielding wrist with one thick hand while slashing at me with the blade of his other arm.  He took a few good chunks out of my ribs before I mentally set his face on fire, broke his concentration, and slipped my blade between a few of his ribs.

He let out an ungodly scream of animalistic anguish that petered out as his body deflated beneath me—deflated.  His flesh became papery and his organs seemed to just melt out of him, leaving me straddling a grotesque skeleton in a puddle of bloody monster-juice.  Sylnie, who was already kind of a puke-green color, turned even more puke-green.  

Torvin, in a rare moment of bravery, refused to look away from the mess on the floor, commenting, “Ew.”

Jaelin was transfixed.  “That’s something you don’t see every day,” she said.

Gus, doing his best to avoid stepping in any of the gooier parts, stepped over to give me a congratulatory slap on the shoulder.  “We’re gonna need to make a shit ton more of those,” he said.

I stared in reverence at my knife—my salvation.  “We’re gonna need to make a shit ton more of these,” I agreed.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Take Two

I threw open the door to Exam Room 316.  The demon named Reuttiger, seated behind a desk, looked up in surprise.  The trembling 40-year-old man sitting in the comically tiny chair in front of him, turned around to stare at me in horror.

I was the devil, sure, but I looked way more pissed than usual.  My presence was probably significantly more imposing than usual, too.  I enjoyed the fear in his eyes.  It made me feel like I was really growing into my role as the King of Hell.

“Did you murder your whole family?” I barked at the man.

“Well,” he stammered pitifully.  “I mean, I wouldn’t really say that I murdered them, per se…”

“He did,” Reuttiger clarified.  “Yeah, he totally did.”

“Cool,” I said.  So I stabbed him in the heart, stepped outside, and closed the door to block out his agonized screams.

Just then, one of the sexy demon-nurses who leads the souls from the waiting room to their exam rooms walked past with human nurse I’d stabbed earlier in tow. 

“’Scuse me,” I murmured at the woman.  “Real quick, here, lemme just—” and I jabbed her in the side with my knife. 

“Dammit!” she shrieked, clutching her bleeding flank.  “Again!?” 

“The perfect timing couldn’t be ignored,” I explained.  The demon-nurse chuckled.  “Gotta go!” I said and teleported away.  I quickly performed my trick over the lake of fire a second time and then returned to the lake by the campground.  Seconds later, I was back in the battlefield, choosing my next test subject.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Grudge Match

A strong rust-colored arm dragged me away from Winston’s desk and threw me on the ground in a corner of the office.  “Have a little respect,” Dramien snarled.  “That man is the best fucking employee you have and he’s done nothing against you.”

I squinted at him, feeling the anger already brimming in me starting to overflow.  “Seriously?” I spat.  “Whether I’m out of line or not, what made you think it was a good idea to fucking attack me?  I’m the goddamn Devil.  You do not want me as your enemy.”

Dramien’s mouth spread into an amused grin.  Then he actually chuckled at me—or scoffed, actually, which was worse.  “No, you have it backwards, newbie,” he explained condescendingly.  “You don’t want me as your enemy.”

I took a step closer to him so that he could get a better sense of just how much bigger I was.  Though he craned his neck to look up at me, I got the sense that my vertical superiority didn’t intimidate him in the slightest.  “I’m kind of having a bad day,” I growled at him.  “And you might not want to piss me off right now because I will destroy you.”

He flashed me a toothy grin.  “Good luck,” he taunted
I reached out and grabbed him by the neck.  To my surprise, he didn’t struggle much as I held him by his throat with his feet dangling a good twelve inches off the ground. 

“Exam Room 316,” Winston said suddenly.  I was still choking Dramien, and we both looked over to stare at him.

“Exam Room 316,” he repeated.  “Reuttiger is assigning a man in room 316 who shot his wife and three children before killing himself.”

“Thanks,” I said.

Impatiently, Winston added, “So what’s more important to you, showing my aide how much you dislike him or doing whatever urgent thing you burst in here to do?”  He looked at me expectantly.

After a second’s hesitation, I violently threw Dramien to the floor and teleported to the hallway outside Exam Room 316.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Acquiring a New Target

I appeared back in my office in a foul mood.  It was…kind of noticeable.

“Whoa, what the hell happened to you?” Gus asked. 

His concern was genuine, as were everyone else’s shocked expressions, but I didn’t feel like responding other than to growl, “Nothing” and stomp toward the back door.

As I slammed it shut behind me, I was pretty sure I heard Torvin whimper and Gus murmur, “Okay, well that was obviously a lie.”

I found the armory again—although I wasn’t sure why I hadn’t just teleported directly to it in the first place—grabbed the first reasonably-sized dagger I could find, and transported myself to Winston’s office.  I gripped his desk like a hellfire preacher grasps the sides of his pulpit and shouted, “I need a murderer.  Do you have one being assigned right now?”

Winston, who up until this point had seemed to have an attitude of annoyance and resigned subservience to me, went pale.  He looked like he was about to urinate down the front of his faded trousers.  It also occurred to me that my rage had affected my enunciation.  “Wh…what?” he asked me breathlessly.

“I need you,” I said in a low, dangerous voice, “To tell me where in your useless department I can find a fucking killer this exact moment.”  Sure, I wasn’t taking the possibility that the kid who killed me hadn’t actually killed me very well, but in my defense it was an emotional subject that was turning out to be pretty confusing.  I saw him kill me, therefore he was guilty of murder.  How could it be more complicated than that?  According to Tithenai, however, Quinn was innocent.  It made no sense.  But I also didn’t get the sense that she was lying to me.  Which also made no sense.

Winston, visibly scared of me for the first time, slowly turned to consult his computer.  I slammed a palm down on his desk and screamed, “Now!” 

Suddenly I was in a choke hold. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Complication

“Okay, just to clarify,” I said thinly, “Did you say ‘we’ because you were quoting some dumb song or because you and Azraal are working together?”

She shook her head vigorously, frowning like a child who’d just been ordered to eat her vegetables.  “Ew, no, I’m not working with that guy,” she insisted. 

“Good to know,” I said, wondering if I could take her at her word.  “So how psychic are you, exactly?”

“Very,” she replied proudly.

The levels of my stress and my patience were diverging rapidly and dangerously.  “Could you maybe elaborate on that?” I suggested.

“I know everything that happens down here,” she said. “Everything.  Everything to me.  When I close my eyes, it’s you I see.”

“Right,” I said.  “So you know everything that I just did, but you can’t see the future?”

“Exactly,” she said happily, her almost-cute-but-repulsive features twisting into a grin.  “That’s why I know now that you used the wrong blood but I didn’t know you were going to make that mistake last time we talked.”  She flopped down on her couch and casually continued, “You didn’t use the blood of a murderer like I told you to.”

“Yes I did,” I grated.

“No you didn’t,” she insisted, picking up her controller.

“I used the blood of one of the guys who murdered me,” I explained to her, plucking her controller from her grasp and tossing it aside.  “I personally witnessed him commit murder, so don’t try and tell me that I didn’t use the blood of a murderer.”

She smiled up at me with her ashen lips.  “You didn’t use the blood of a murderer,” she repeated.  “Quinn Madsen is innocent.”

Monday, November 4, 2013

Tithenai's Explanation

I materialized in Tithenai’s cavern in a blinding rage.  She was seated at her couch, playing what appeared to be the original Duke Nukem, when I stormed in from behind her.

She sensed me coming, got to her feet, and threw her palms out defensively.  “Hey, wait a second, I can explain,” she said.  “Just take it easy.  Take it easy.  Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.”

It seemed like she knew I would be mad before she even turned around to see me, and her accurate anticipation of my reaction made everything look like some elaborate setup—although I didn’t know what I was being set up for.  “You knew this would happen?” I thundered.  “Why the fuck would you send me on this wild goose chase?!”

I was stomping toward her and she was backing away just as quickly.

“I didn’t know you’d use the wrong blood,” she said quickly.  “I’m psychic but I can’t see the future.”

I stopped.  “What did you say?”

She cocked her head at me as though she were slightly confused.  “Which part of that was most significant?” she asked. 

“Let’s start with the part about you being psychic,” I snarled.  “Don’t you think that would have been a useful thing to mention to me earlier?”

She shrugged.  “I just assumed that Azraal would have mentioned that to you before he brought you here.  I’m sorry, Uncle Albert.  We’re so sorry if we caused you any pain.”

Stashed in a desk drawer in my office, Azraal’s head was probably cackling to itself right now.  

Friday, November 1, 2013


My opponent bellowed in rage more than pain.  He shook me off his back and tried to turn to face me, but he toppled clumsily.  Apparently he was still a little dizzy from the teleportation.  So I pounced on him, dodging a wild slice of his arm blade, and shoved my dagger through his forehead.  I felt a sickening vibration in my hand as the blade pierced his skull.  He screamed this time, a higher and less manly sound than he’d made the first time I stabbed him.

He became sluggish, but he was still trying to fight me off.  I used my now superior strength and speed to pin him down while I stabbed him repeatedly in every possible location on his torso.  He groaned, whined and shouted as I desperately probed for the location of his heart.  Finally, after probably fifty jabs, I decided to dispense with the subtlety.

“Where’s your fucking heart?!” I screamed at him hoarsely.

He spat blood before answering, and I got the distinct impression that he’d been aiming to get it in my eyes.  “You hit it on the first try,” he wheezed.  “And the fourteenth.  And the thirty-eighth.”

“Then why aren’t you dead?” I asked him.  I was practically sobbing.  I was exhausted.  The initial fight had been stressful because, thanks to Niven, I knew full well that these monsters were actually capable of killing me.  But after I’d gained the upper hand I’d used every muscle in my amped up body and all the energy I had to find his heart.  All that, combined with the high stakes and the possibility that I was experiencing a crushing failure meant that I was on the brink of passing out and having a nervous breakdown simultaneously.

The beast chuckled raggedly.  “What makes you think I can die?” he taunted. 

I didn’t know if he was telling the truth either by his claim that I’d scored a hit on his heart or by his implication that he was invincible.  But if either one were true, Tithenai had some explaining to do.  If she had a reasonable solution, however, I needed this particular soldier of Halkkor’s army not to find his way back to his boss and inform him that I was in search of a way to kill him.

So I grabbed as many heavy chunks of shale as I could, stuffed his perforated torso with them, and tossed him into the lake of fire.  I figured that would buy me some time.