Excerpt from The Worst Misery

Chapter I

Hell on Earth

 

How long has it been? How long has the world literally been Hell on Earth? The thought caused a wicked cackle to burst from my lungs at the crude joke of it all.

Hell on Earth…

This phrase most of us tossed around at the most trivial of matters. Like if the soda-machine was out of our favorite, or if we were stuck in traffic for too long, you know, silly things, but now… How real the saying had become. That saying has so much truth to it that I curse those spoiled fools who uttered it about so aimlessly, myself included. Doesn’t matter now, I suppose.

I know it’s been years. I can tell you that much, but as for an exact measurement of time I’m unable to know for certain. Time no longer has the same meaning, and with the sky a constant sunset-orange with pulsating veins of black that spark like a blacksmith’s hammer on the anvil, it is impossible for anyone to truly know. I bet there are some. Probably those monsters, I would wager. Regardless, day and night are but a fond memory.

You’re probably wondering why I am talking to you. Well, this keeps me sane. Talking to the face looking down at me in my mind keeps me strong for those who need it most. They are so dear to me. You are the friend that I will, as if I can help it, share all my thoughts with, allow to know all my troubles, and even disclose to you all my secrets that would have those who hunt us smiling the most horrid and ghastly of smiles. They mustn’t know what makes me drive forth. They must always be in the dark, or all is lost. Of this I am sure.

We’ve found the ruins of an old office building. A temporary cell in this permanent prison. Decomposing chairs melt against the heat of Hell. Desks devolved beyond repair and purpose. The overbearing musk of warm decay fills the thick air. It’s far too old and razed to tell what company it belonged to, and due to the constant ceiling of black and smoggy air, judging what things are or aren’t becomes rather difficult. However, from the layout, I’d guess a delivery company of some kind, maybe a rather impressive post office? I can’t say, but here we are in one of the few rooms that has both walls and a roof. I’m grateful for this, for it’s been a long time since we’ve had such a fine shelter to hide from the hunters. You are probably curious as to who we are. Well, there are five including myself.

Rachel, who is no more than a child, is the one I think is worth mentioning first. Her face is smudged with soot and filth, like us all, her hair is a mess that struggles to be contained against a very durable rubber-band. Having seen her parents ascend, abandon her, she’s broken. Perhaps beyond saving, but I can’t think that, yet, no matter how hard I try help her, she always looks on the verge of tears. I think she’s forgotten what a giggle or a smile is.

“Why did Mommy and Daddy leave me?” she’ll constantly ask the air.

“What I did wrong?” she’s cried to nothing. “Do they hate me?”

I’m honestly baffled how she’s continued to survive as well as why she did not ascend. What could a child have done to deserve to remain on Earth? In Hell?

I suppose it no longer matters…

Next we have Prof. James Wiles, as if his title truly matters anymore. Pride was his downfall of this I’m certain. He’s a—

Well, for lack of a flowery word, he’s an asshole. From his pointed and cunning features, you would think the little worm was the cross breed of a snake and rat. He certainly acts like it. All too often did he offer his opinion to us about leaving Rachel behind. He’s terrified that her excessive crying would bring forth the hunters. I won’t have it, but to my dismay it was nearly impossible to convince the others to keep her with us.

“That sort of thinking is exactly what got us into this mess!” I shouted. “Are you trying to guarantee you never leave?”

I promised that if we practiced kindness that we may one day ascend. This kept them on my side, but as time flowed forth the promise fell further and further away. I don’t hate James. I pity him. I want to help him just as much as I want to help everyone.

Then we have the priest’s daughter, who is always gripping her father’s rosary. Helen, such a pretty name, prayed like it was a drug. Over and over she’ll murmur the words that sounds more like the Devil’s chant than any Lord’s Prayer I’ve ever heard. An unsettling thing to hear. Makes my skin crawl, to be honest. But if it helps her then so be it. Seeing it settle her nerves, cleared and eased her mind, pacifies my worry. And I know she’s praying for her soul, for all of our souls. She’s just that kind of person.

On the day that we went from six to five she prayed continuously for three days without sleeping or slowing. It devastated her because she found the most solace in the sixth member of our little resistance—Amie. She was such a lovely woman. A pillar of strength we could all look up to. Helen looked up to her most of all. They were lovers, to be frank, as close as you can be in Hell at least. That bond was forcibly ripped apart when Amie sacrificed herself to protect us from the hunters. She was once beautiful I bet, a priest’s daughter, and from the little she has opened up to us about, had a promising future as a doctor. Such a wonderful cliché her life was. What on Earth could have made her so wicked in Heaven’s eyes to keep her from being with her father?

Now the broken woman is covered in a tattered dress with bruises and cuts that lack the will to heal. I watched as her eyes transformed from big and wondrous jade jewels into the ever widening and shifting craze that much resembles an abused dog. It saddens me to see such a soul suffer.

Now we have Eires. She is the oldest and is like a grandmother to Rachel and a mother to the rest of us. Trying as she might to teach us lessons, as she calls them, but more often than not she just complains about how this was all everyone-except-for-her’s fault. Looking at us all with such hate it burned more than the air we had to breathe. She was the mother you never wanted. The grandmother Rachel would have whined and screamed at having to see. You know the type. She is a thorn in our side, but I refuse to allow her to suffer. She and James may be monsters, they may even deserve this, but can I truly say I’m a good person if I leave them to this? Not in my eyes. No one deserves this.

I could see the hate was hurting her. “Hate only hurts the hater,” my father would tell me when I told him I hated him, “so be forgiving.”

He would leave me to stew on that. Sort things out for myself with those words spoiling my anger. I miss him dearly. He would’ve been a better aid to these people than me. Could have probably helped Rachel and Helen, and even brought out the good in James and Eires. Amie would probably still be with us. He could have saved us all, and we would be ascending as I speak. We’d know paradise.

Finally, I guess I should tell you about myself. Since you are only a face in my mind born out of the savagery that took the Earth by storm, you mustn’t know at all what I look like or who I was before all this madness. I’m Malloreigh Dawntay, and I’m thirty-years-old. At least I was, but I know that isn’t right—Hell on Earth has lasted a while. It’s impossible to say for how long, as I’ve said.

I used to be artist. I painted the truth of the world as I saw it through my foolishly blind eyes. I would think this or come to that conclusion only to now have it all thrown back at me with a resounding voice, screaming, “You’re wrong!”

Everything I thought has been flipped. Everything that was assumed by many to be right turned out to be wrong, and I felt so very dumbfounded at the end of civilization. It was truly like having been born yesterday. It made me furious, it made me sad, and it infected me with so much self-pity that I could not stand on my own two feet. But that changed whenever I met Salvador Andres. His name rang with such strength. He was the first person I ever came to know, and the one to bring forth in me such agony I’d never know before when taken. He gave me the ability to once again stand up. I’d found purpose thanks to his guiding hand.

The two of us set to wrangling up any lost souls left on Earth. It was his—I was not so kind, then—selfless desire to aid them. His sole wish to rectify whatever doomed us to this fate. He was lost before we could know that dream as reality. He was a brother to me, more a brother than my own flesh and blood, but in the end, even a brotherly tie will snap against a hunter’s pull. So, face in my mind, there should be seven of us. Amie and Salvador should be here. They should be guiding us.

Not me.

Never me.

Tears filled my eyes.

Maybe one day I will meet them again, but it’s hard to hope such things sometimes. Feels foolish to.

Bearded and with a wild mane, I sit huddled in a corner. We all sit huddled in the corner, for whether or not one hates the other, we all need to feel another’s embrace. A caress to calm our nerves like a hug when you are about to weep is something you can always use no matter who you are. Anyone who says otherwise is either suffering from pride or just plain lying. I would say both. Taking comfort, we all huddled in the corner of the small room, our temporary home.

“What are we going to do about food?” James asked in a hush fearing a hunter might be flying overhead.

“I have no clue,” I answered.

We’d run out of meat a while ago, and it was always uncertain how long it would take to find another poor animal’s corpse to pick at. I feel though, but perhaps this is my madness’ thinking, that we don’t need food anymore. That hunger is only a pain suffered forever more and not an end to life, as if we can’t die. Because if we die we’d only end up in Hell, and as I’ve said, Hell is on Earth. I’ve never seen anyone die, only be dragged off.

“Just don’t think about it. It’ll pass.”

“Hunger will not just simply pass! I think we draw straws!” Eires cried out as if hoping a hunter would hear her. “Let’s take the flesh from that little brat’s bones! She only ever slows us down, the little sacrilegious heathen.”

Helen held tightly to me as she prayed as hard as she could. Rachel panicked and raced to the other side of the room, taking refuge under a pile of ruin peeking out to see if any of us listened to Eires, tears leaking form her eyes. Sighing, I said, “Then what shall we do when you slow us down, Eires? Are you saying that we should just eat you too?”

“I—”

“Yes! That’s how we’ll survive!” James answered, taken in by Eires’ disgusting proposal. “I’d offer up my flesh in a moment to save the lot of you!” he lied. I knew this was a lie, because when I said, “Your age—as well as mine and Eires’—is in a downward spiral. We’re not getting any younger. Soon we’ll get weaker, slower. But Rachel will get stronger. She’s still young. So please find something sharp and kill yourself so we can eat.”

James shut right up. I wasn’t at all serious, and if he was, I would have stopped him in an instant. I hated that Amie had chosen to sacrifice herself for us by leading the hunters away, so why on earth would I condone such a sacrifice because we’re hungry? 

Of course, my words made Helen shake, but not reject the declaration. She hated James. Hated him almost as much as she hated Eires, and she’s also very hungry. We all are.

James tried to speak but was lost in the vast sea of words unable to fish up any suitable agreement or argument. So instead, he just sulked forced to push out the grumbling roars of his belly just like the rest of us.

“After we rest, we’ll go out to search for some food,” I stated to a room of downtrodden souls.

“There’s no more food,” Eires spit.

I wanted to say something, but my mind failed to remember the last time I’d eaten. The last time any of us had eaten anything.

“There is food, and after we rest, I will find it. I promise.” My words failed to invite any hope into them. I couldn’t even believe it myself.

After a while, long enough that I thought Rachel would think it was safe, I extended my hand out towards the peeking eyes that gazed wildly through the mess she had buried herself in. Rachel came running to my arms and hid her face in my chest happy that I saved her I bet. She too took to the inner workings of her mind.

“What’ll we do?” Helen’s sweet, timid, and crackling voice whispered in my ear making sure to be silent enough so that only I could hear her words. She was almost too silent, for it took me a moment to figure out what she said.

I told her the truth, “I don’t have a single idea, but we will endure. That much I know. We’ll endure as we always have.”

“That’s all we seem to do…,” she whined.

“Then pray to God for a miracle, Helen.” I immediately regretted the words as they left my lips, but before I could apologize Helen said, “He won’t listen. But why would he? He did leave me here, after all. I’m forsaken. My prayers are lost to the winds of Hell. I think it’s more likely that the Devil hears them. I bet he’s sitting on his evil throne laughing at me, holding his sides together just laughing at me.”

Helen coughed up the blackness in her lungs. The air had been replaced by a miasma that held only enough oxygen to allow us stay upright. Just enough to give us hope and to, just barely, keep us from suffocating.

“I’m sure your words are heard.”

“Then why am I here? Why do I suffer alongside sinners? Was I really so awful in life as to deserve this? What have I done to have God deny me salvation?” she spoke up as if unable to control the flooding emotions. “Well?”

“Yes! You’re a lesbian whore, a harlot! You’re the reason Hell took to Earth, you and all the other faggots, adulteries, atheists, all you heathens and heretics, there was just too much sin in the world. God forsook the world because of all you! I know! I know. I do! He left me here to spread his good word. He wants me to try and save you all, but you all go about making that impossible!” Eires screamed. It was a frightening display of what her madness had done to her. She crossed herself, adding, “Please forgive me, Heavenly Father. I’m trying, but they refuse your love!”

I held on to Helen as she fought away the tears. This was a daily occurrence in misery. Confronting Eires was something that an idiot would do. I know, because I tend to be that idiot. However, I just decided to be the cleanup crew to the havoc her words leave on all our spirits. This time, anyway.

Be strong. Be strong for them, I thought so loud that it may have left my lips. Looking around I saw that it hadn’t and was glad it didn’t.

“God hates fags. You’re sin itself; you all are! And good riddance to that dike of yours, too! Forgive me God! I tried, but that whore refused to listen to your good word. I listen to your purity and love your graces. I know the wrath you place upon the fags is just. It is as you say and will, amen! Amen! May—”

“Shut up!” James hissed and squeaked. Sometimes it’s hard for me to even see him as human. “I don’t want to hear your idiotic bullshit on top of starving!”

The two of them exchanged a few more words as I attempted to calm both Helen and Rachel. Funny, they seem to hate us all so, but they still huddle so close when we sleep. I wish they’d just admit how much they really need us. We all need each other right now. This fighting only hurts us.

After what felt like hours, everyone took the hint from their heavy eyelids. I stayed awake. Someone had to be watching out. I kept my attention on the only way the hunters had to us, a door. It was a weak door no different from any other door you would find and no stronger than the years of wear allowed. That door is all that hid us, but can we truly hide? I sometimes think not…

I didn’t realize that sleep took me. I so desperately wished it hadn’t, for the sight I saw was so, so very wrong. It was the screams of pain and agony that woke me. It was horror that shook away the dreary sleepiness that ensues in the seconds after you wake up interrupted from a rest.

“No!” I screamed over Rachel’s hysteria.

James was holding Rachel’s arms and legs pinned sinking teeth into her belly.

That’s not James. It’s a demon. It must be a demon.

Blood was everywhere!

How could I sleep through this? How did her initial cries not wake me?

Rachel’s panicked eyes looked at me as if this was all my fault, as if I’ve left her to a fate worse than death, like… Like I was no different than her parents.

I rushed over and kicked James as hard as I could in the temple. I found a beast inside me wanting that kick to kill him, this beast got a sickening pleasure from the wet crunch when my kick landed, but it didn’t kill him. He was only knocked back. I looked around for Helen, but she was nowhere to be found.

Why did she not try to stop this? Why? Is she…?

I turned my attention to Rachel which induced a fit of vomiting, but one cannot vomit up nothing. I hacked up air as the sight of Rachel’s spine glowing white where her skin and guts should have been.

Her—

How? How is she still screaming? Why is she not dead?

James wasn’t human, anymore. The way he snapped to scurrying back to have another bite at Rachel was as clear a sign as any. I kicked his fangs in, feeling that pleasure again.

“What in the fuck’s come over you?”

Rachel cried. “Why I not dying? I hurts… HURTS! Please make it stop! Please, Malloreigh. Pretty please…”

Why is she still alive?

I took her up in my arms. As I collected her as delicately as I could, I caught a glimpse of Eires buried in the mess that Rachel had hid in earlier. She had a pile of bloody, steaming bowels and organs in her hands. She snarled as her fac dug deeper and deeper into the jumble of crimson. I couldn’t stomach the sight.

I ran! James made one last lunge at me as I slammed the door in his face. I kept my back against it barring him from leaving. Tears leaving my eyes in a haste, mouth quivering, hanging open, as noiseless cries escaped. I held the door until everything was still.

Did he give up?

I heard what could have been mistaken as two wolves fighting over a fresh kill.

Yes, run! I told myself, but my legs never moved. I held the door shut mind spinning. Sweat ran down me from the anxiety of what had just happened, and my belly refused to settle.

“Malloreigh…,” Rachel whimpered in my arms, “I hurts so bad. I wish I was died. Why I not die?”

That’s when my madness’ theory gained some credit. We can’t die. We all wanted to die, to be free, but were terrified of death. To escape the world through death would be paradise, but what happens when all the wicked people forsaken from Heaven are living in a Hell of Earth? Dying brings us nothing save for the pain and suffering it holds.

“We can’t escape…,” I let the words slip out in a breathless daze. “It’s hopeless.”

Rachel was no longer bleeding. I guess she lost all her blood, but her eyes still looked up at me alive and scared. Her fingers still dug into my back trembling. Looking up at the chaotic sky through a hole in the ceiling, I told myself, Get a hold of yourself. You need to be strong. Just like father would. If I am weak, then she will only suffer more.

I buried the bad emotions deep within my mind. Perhaps that’s worse. Too much pressure could break my mental levee that keeps weakness from infecting my strength…

Can’t worry about that now.

I shook doubt from my mind.

“Stay strong!” I forced myself to snap back to life. “Stay strong!” I chanted to her as I made a feverish dash through the broken halls of the building, legs finally listening to me. I made it out into the barren openness.  

I shared the terror Rachel convulsed with as we exited into the openness of Hell. Out here we are easy game. There were dozens of beyond condemned buildings enveloping us. A worthless blessing, for they offered nothing to shield us from the danger that always lurked above.

Where’s Helen? Doesn’t matter. Let your subconscious think about that and get back to you.

All I concerned myself with was running. Escaping to a place where I could help Rachel. I’d think about the rest later after I found a place where thinking was safe.

I wanted—no… I needed a miracle.

I laughed to myself, “As if God’s real! As if the bastard cared enough to grant miracles,” surprised as it leaked out of my mouth.

Out in the distance I saw Helen waving at me. Frantically waving, jumping up and down, and screaming for me to hurry. He shouted and shouted over the chaos of Hell to far away for me to make out the words clearly.

I smiled, “Helen! Rachel, it’s Helen.”

Rachel smiled a little, twitching in my arms. Her heart had fallen out of her ribcage. It hung from her body bouncing as I ran. I looked away.

How?

She’s so strong, able to get a smile past the pain of deathlessly dying.

How can I possibly help her?

Racing to Helen’s side, I hoped that she had the answer. At first, I thought she did. The way she took Rachel away from me you would have thought so too, but before I could say a word I saw hunters. Two of them sprang forth from the dirt.

On feathery wings as empty as the void of space, they rode into the sky speaking in a weird, haunting tongue. Their flesh was the purest of whites. How they spoke without faces I’ll never understand, but they did as if they thought the words so loud they became physical. I stared at these genderless demons, captivated. Long jagged claws reached out from crooked fingers and lanky arms as one of them soared down at us. That’s when Helen did the unspeakable. She lifted Rachel up to the Heavens, to the hunter, and as the child screamed, the hunter snatched her. I fell to my knees, speechless. Powerless.

Why? I reached out trying to take Rachel back as if I had a chance. “No! No, you can’t!” I screamed.

A loud thunderous cackle shook reality blurring everything. I couldn’t see the source of the laugh. I couldn’t tell you if that was because I was too shocked by Helen’s actions or because it came from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. I would go with the latter and a splash of the former.

 “Now, take me to her! You promised me you would, God! Please! I need to ascend with my love! Take me into your embrace so that I may know her love once again in the halls of Heaven!” Helen wailed at the sky, hands clasped in a crazed prayer.

Is she really talking to God? Did God have her punish Rachel to gain access to Heaven? Is Amie in Heaven?

The sky parted.

Why?

Helen cast her arms upward toward Heaven, toward God?

No… That can’t be. It can’t. I refuse to believe that there’s a God who’d want that.

A single ray of light shined with all the brilliance of purity’s warmth. It brought me back from despair taking away all ill thoughts and pains that ailed me.  It was like a needle punctured the roof of Hell bringing us back into the days we no longer knew. It was too much for my eyes. Tears cascaded down my cheeks. They weren’t tears of love and happiness, but rather tears of hate and fear and pain. Yet I wept for the beautiful of the light that shined.

Why would God want the hunters to get Rachel? What kind of God is he to allow anyone to suffer? Curse the bastard…

I’d never in my entire life felt more helpless than watching one of the hunters leave with Rachel in its arms. Her screams faded into the nasty wind that dominated our world. I continued to star off after her until the light commanded me to look up.

A glowing figure—

Amie?

I wiped the tears and disbelief from my eyes. It was Amie, I think. With white wings and a splendid smile, she floated down from the hole in the sky as gracefully as a falling feather. The other hunter continued to linger, waiting, but for what? I looked from Amie’s naked form to the far-off horizon that Rachel had been taken over as if expecting her to give chase. Amie should give chase. Amie wouldn’t have wasted a fraction of a second lingering here. The fact that she wasn’t doing anything made no sense. That’s just how she was. Amie always helped others! But why she’s remaining here not doing anything?

I don’t understand…

“That’s not Amie, Helen! That’s a lie, the hunters are playing tricks!” Most of me didn’t believe that, but the small bit of doubt was far too sure of itself. “Helen? Helen, listen to me, please! That’s not Amie!”

 My mind had forgotten how to send commands to the rest of me, my limps hung in place as if I was a statue and moving was a foreign concept.

“Amie!” Helen cheered so happily that I thought Hell no longer existed on Earth, but the source of that happiness was a lie. I knew Hell was more real than I wanted to believe.

“That! Is! Not! her!” My words trailed off, unheard by all. Wait, I think the hunter heard them. Something in me said that it was smiling under its slimy flesh. That’s an eerie thought. I pushed it out and returned to the moment.

Amie reached down interlocking fingers with Helen as most lovers do causing her to shout out with glorious praise, “I knew God heard all prayers. Never once did I doubt his might! Praise the Lord! O praise our savior!”

“Yes, my love. Praise the Lord!” Amie hailed in not Amie’s voice. This vocal discrepancy went unnoticed by Helen, but it was painfully clear to me. Night and day. This was an imposter! This voice was smug, sad, serious, silly, and perfectly mad in the most feral and pitiful of ways. The sound brought up a deep, primal pain within me. Yet it was somehow delicious to me, angelic in a way. I felt a desire to hear it again like sinful lust. You try to refuse, but its allure is overpowering. You can’t say “no” no matter how hard you try. And try I did!

Why are Amie’s eyes glued on me?

“Take flight with this angel of God,” this false Amie said to Helen as she gestured towards the hunter. Her words floated with the power of summer’s warming breeze in the death of winter. Those words memorized Helen into believing in a fantasy. I tried to scream “No!” or “Run!” or anything, but something out of my power held my lips closed.

Those eyes…

They weren’t Amie’s either. They are big and daring, sly and rebellious, like meth to an addict. It pained me how badly I wanted them. Hurt my very soul.

Why? What’s going on?

Helen gladly took the hunter’s claw. She smiled, so at peace, as the hunter took her. She stared off into the sky as if the hunter would head skyward at any moment. He never did. He just carried her off in the same direction that Rachel was taken. I wasn’t sure why, but I knew I’d never see them again.

I watched Helen fade away over the horizon. A glaze of pure bliss covered her eyes as she stared longingly all the while.

They’re gone. I thought thinking of James and Eires. Hell’s taken them all away from me…

When my eyes came back, it was no longer Amie floating before me, but someone else. Doubt screamed, “I told you so!”

I gazed upon a woman with a perfect physique. I wept at the sheer magnificence of her beauty. Lust swelled inside me, giving shape to a depraved place. The shape of her breasts, the curves, the simple what her golden hair fell, those brilliant eyes. It was awe-inspiring…

I fell in love.

This is something I know you’ve never felt, because before this moment it had never been real. Think of the perfect woman or man or whatever you please. Think of everything you seek to find in a form. Imagine that it is before you. Now you have a faint idea of what I feel—the purest of loves.

This woman—no, this creature? this—

Whatever… Who cares? She was perfect.

She floated in the air wings lazily flapping in a soundless way, and while playfully pushing strands of wild and curly golden hair from her sparkling sapphire eyes, this creature stated, “I’m Lucifer.”

“What?”

I was still taken aback by her physical features, my body refused her claim growing warmer, more excited, but my mind fought against those desires believing that she spoke the truth.

Lucifer? No, a creature perhaps. A demon? Without a doubt… But Lucifer? No… Why would Lucifer come to me? I’m nothing. Nothing at all…

I looked again at this womanly creature trying to see the truth of her words in her form but failed to see anything so grand as the nemesis of God. I only saw a winged woman. The perfect woman, but a not Lucifer.

However, this woman gave Helen to that hunter. Had convinced her to give up Rachel, lied to her, took the form of Amie. And what had happened with James and Eires…

More hunters came flying in to encircle us like vultures circling a corpse. They seemed to cower before her both terrified and ensnared, if those bastards can even feel such emotions. But this creature, this woman was the most perfect of beauties, she floated on glorious wings, and displayed unnatural might when puncturing the ceiling of Hell. With all that, my mind screamed, “That creature speaks the truth,” and against the mounting doubt, I believed it.

I’m in the presence of Lucifer…

A still took hold of the moment, but then Lucifer spoke, “How does it feel? I can see the lust in you—” Lucifer rubbed his fingers over his erect nipples and pussy moaning slightly as he did “—boiling. Despite losing everyone, you’re only desire is to taste the sweet wetness between my legs? Tell me, Malloreigh, did you enjoy the show?”

I said nothing, only stared.

“I must admit that driving Eires and James mad with hunger was a good time. Did you believe they would change? Grow as human beings?” Lucifer gaffed. “Such a foolish thought. You needed to learn the truth. I forced you to sleep while they tore and devour the child. Waiting for the right moment to rouse you from your enchanted slumber. Witness the show at the height of carnage.

“I also answered Helen’s prayers—those countless and pitiful prayers—to see Amie again. And then when your friend offered up a child as a sacrifice for her own personal paradise, I made you fall in love with me. Watching her believe my words as true while you saw the truth of it. She was so willing to accept the lie of Heaven in the depths of Hell. Words uttered by me. The one she believes to be the Lord of Lies.” Lucifer remarked bitterly while I absorbed his beauty, hatefully. “But a lie in Heaven is far more beautiful than the truth of Heaven, trust me, Malloreigh.”

I said nothing. Words felt unobtainable.

Lucifer invaded the growing silence with, “And all the one you have to blame is the woman of your dreams. Tell me of your despair! Let me lick the tears of immeasurable sorrow from your cheeks as you weep because of the nightmare I have forced upon you.”

More silence.

“Your mind is as lost as your breath!” Lucifer proudly relished the moment. I still found him beautiful. My mind told me that this was God’s most loved angel, the fallen angel, the dragon, that old serpent, the Devil, the Lord of Lies…

Yes, this was indeed Lucifer. He may be in a sick yet entrancing guise, but this is Lucifer, nevertheless.

I don’t even believe in God…

So how can my mind believe so fully in the devil?

My father came to mind, and his words flowed out of me as I spoke clearly and distinctly, “Misery loves company.”

“What?” Lucifer screwed up her brow lost in my words for the span of a second, but honestly, I was just as confused.

“Misery loves company?” he asked me. “Is that all you have to say? No weeping?”

I said nothing more out of inability, not some grander sense of stoicism, and felt sanity slip into the pools of Lucifer’s shimmering blue eyes.

“WEEP!” Lucifer screamed shaking the very earth and sky, but before fear could rise, I remembered the cackle. An overwhelming memory flashing into the present out of the darkness of the past.

That was Lucifer laughing then. Thrilled at the despair he caused. I realized, thinking, He’s just a bully. Just a sick bastard.

“Do you want me to weep, because you wish you could?” I asked while wondering, What am I saying?

But I wasn’t talking, my father was, and he talked through me. I know he did. I’m not this strong. I saw a small bit of something hidden in his words as if he was right.

Does Lucifer wish to weep?

“I wish for no such think!” Lucifer howled still lovely yet somehow frightening, too. “Why would I weep?”

“I haven’t a clue,” I confessed.

“Why do you not weep? You are the last. All have abandoned hope as the years have passed, yet you refuse. I came to you and your worthless kin myself—myself—for I was tired of souls eluding me in my own kingdom. Yet you defy me? I said weep, mortal!”

The words demanded tears from my body, but while they gathered in my eyes, those tears never streamed down my cheeks. I kept my resolve. I thought of my father as I bit my tongue so hard that I tasted the coppery blood of my defiance as it pooled out.

Don’t you dare! I told myself, then asked, my voice shrill and low, “Are you truly Lucifer, the fallen angel?”

“I am, Malloreigh Dawntay.” Lucifer whispered fluttering down to me, smiling beautifully. He was inches away from my face. The gentle breeze from his wings washed over my sweaty, filthy flesh making me feel clean in the dirtiest sense of the word. Our lips inches apart. I could taste the sweet perfume of his breath.

I bit straight through my tongue to refrain from leaning in for a kiss. Again, I thought of my father and begged for the strength to stand against the Devil.

“Thou shall not tempt the Lord!” I spat out the bloody words, tongue twitching painfully.

Lucifer frowned, brow wrinkling. He seemed perplexed by the statement and annoyed by something I couldn’t place. Then a rage that dwarfed all anger boomed as Lucifer—in a musical way—screamed, “You mock a god?”

My field of vision was suddenly invaded by bright flames as my body spontaneously combusted. I screamed and I could hear the Devil’s delighted giggle over the hissing, popping blisters of my blackening flesh. He laughed in a voice that took away the pain. I wanted to hear whisper the sweetest nothings as we lay naked together in each other’s arms.

“Stop!”

I instantly found myself once again looking Lucifer in the eye, and with no evidence of the fires that just consumed me. I glanced down at my unburnt flesh wearing confusion plainly.

“Begging?” Lucifer playfully giggled. I bet the bastard is mighty pleased with himself.

“No, that was a command!” I barked, thinking, Am I really this dumb?

This time it was the Devil who was speechless. I grinned but felt at odds with my own brash confidence.

“Are you an angel?” Lucifer asked coldly, eyes searching me as if they extended to suddenly find wings. “Have you been sent to save these fools, these mortals?” he asked.

I thought this was a trick—it had to be a trick—but the serious gaze of the Devil told me that this was very much a fear he felt.

“No.” I had to be honest. There was no way I could pretend to be an angel. That would only cause me more torment, I imagine. “I’m human. My name is Malloreigh Dawntay. But I will save all those that you have enslaved with your cruelty.”

“Save?” Lucifer asked his lips curling into a smirk. “Save? A man challenging the Devil for the souls of Hell?”

Lucifer seemed so amazed by my words that I think he found it difficult to laugh at my foolishness. There was something like a laugh bubbling in his throat, but it never surfaced, not fully anyway. If that’s even what it was.

“You stand—a mortal—facing down a god! This is reality. It is not a cliché epic in which you prevail over me. I hold the evil of the world who stained their souls beyond forgiveness. And you wish to save them? Murderers, rapists, monsters…,” he spoke slowly never blinking, “…you truly wish to save them?”

He stared into my eyes as if questioning a child’s ignorant logic.

I am a child to him.

“Destroying them over and over again until the end of ends is my purpose. I’m charged by God to cause them pain and misery for their deeds!” Lucifer hissed at me.

“So that you may regain God’s favor?” My mind spoke up again without me realizing it.

What in the world am I thinking? Where is this bravery coming—

Is it you? The face in my mind… Are you pumping bravery through these veins? You…you look just like my father…

Dad?

Is that you?

Why are you pushing me so?

Grinding fangs brought me back to the now, and I watched as the razor grimace of Lucifer became dust. He sneered, spitting, “I will shatter your spirit!”

I wanted to weep now more than ever, but my spirit, my strength of will—you—screamed, “Don’t! Stand against the Devil, and you may be able to save them yet!”

I thought of Rachel, Helen, Amie, James and Eires, of everyone trapped in Hell, everyone who did not ascend to Heaven.

Is it possible to save them?

Suddenly a bright light overtook me. It was beautiful and before I could recover I stood imprisoned behind rusted bars above a lake of fire, gasping, searching around as if I’d just awoken from a long nightmare.