The Worst Misery

The Worst Misery

The Worst Misery is the first book I’ve ever published. It follows a Malloriegh Dawntay who fails to ascend to Heaven at the end of Days and the miseries that follow as he braves Hell itself. I’ve been working on and off to polish this book because I was fully satisfied with it when I put it out. My plan is to have it cleaned up and shiny within the next year. I wanted to finish this sooner, but The Dying of Bobby Mars stole my complete attention not to mention The Epic of Lucifer. Once The Dying of Bobby Mars is finished and released I plan to finish up The Worst Misery before starting on the next book in The Epic of Lucifer. However, I thought I’d give those of you who hadn’t read it when it was published a chance to read the uncorrected first chapter of The Worst Misery.

Hope you enjoy.

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 pun most unintended.

Hell on Earth…

This idiom 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 matters, 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 has been years. I can tell you that much, but as for an exact measurement of time I am 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 are 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 impish, 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 had found the ruins of an old office building. A temporary cell in this permanent prison. Decomposing chairs melt against the heat of Hell, desks devolve pass purpose, and the overbearing musk of warm decay fills the thick air. It is 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 are not becomes rather difficult. However, from the layout, I would have to guess a delivery company of some kind, maybe a rather impressive post office? I cannot say, but here we are in one of the few rooms that have both walls and a roof. I am grateful for this, for it has been a long time since we 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, to leave her, she is beyond broken. No matter how hard I try she always looks on the verge of tears, I think she has forgotten what a giggle or a smile is.

“Why did mommy and daddy leave me?” She constantly asks the air.

“What I did wrong?” She would cry to nothing, “Do they hate me?”

I am honestly baffled how she has 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…

Prof. James Wiles, as if his title truly matters anymore… Pride was his downfall of this I am certain. He is a… Well, for lack of a flowery word he is an asshole. From his pointed and cunning features, you would think the little worm was the cross breed of a snake and a rat with a mindset to match. All too often did he offer his opinion to us about leaving Rachel behind. He is terrified that her excessive crying would bring forth the hunters. I would not have it, and to my dismay it was nearly an impossible task to convince the others to keep her with us.

“That sort of thinking is exactly what got us into this mess!” I would shout.

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 do not 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, would pray over and over in a mad murmur that sounded an awful lot like the devil’s chant. An unsettling thing to hear. But this cleared and eased her mind. She would pray for her soul along with all of ours.

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. They were lovers, to be frank, and 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 lacked 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 called them, and more often than not complain 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 and disowned quickly, unlucky enough to have her. 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 refused to allow her to suffer. She and James may be monster, they may even deserve this, but not in my eyes. No one deserves the fate that follows being caught by the hunters.

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 have been a better aid to these people than I. Could have probably helped Rachel and Helen, and even brought out the good in James and Eires. He could have saved us all, and we would be ascending as I speak. We would know paradise…

Finally, I guess I should tell you about myself. Since you are only a face in my mind born with 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 am Malloreigh Dawntay and I am thirty-years-old. At least I was, but I know that isn’t right—Hell on Earth has lasted a while. It is impossible to say for how long.

I used to be an art student. 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 declaring, “You are wrong!”

Everything I thought was flipped. Everything that was assumed by many to be right was wrong, and I felt so very dumb at the end of civilization that I thought myself having only 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 him. Salvador Andres—his name rang with such strength—was the first I came to know and also the one to bring forth such tears when taken. He gave me the ability to once again stand up. I found purpose.

The two of us set to wrangling up any lost souls left on Earth in the hope of aiding them. To rectify whatever fated us to this Hell. He was lost before we could know that dream as reality. He was a brother to me, but in the end, even a brotherly tie will snap against a hunter’s pull. There should be seven of us… Amie and Salvador should be here. They should be guiding us.

Not me.

Never me…

Maybe one day I will meet them again…

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 calming 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 to do for food?” James asked in a hush fearing a hunter might be flying overhead.

“I haven’t a clue…,” I answered. We had 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 do not need food anymore. That hunger is only a pain suffered forever more and not an end to life. I feel as if we can’t die. Because if we die we only end up in Hell, and as I have said, Hell is on Earth. I have never seen anyone die, only be dragged off.

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

“Hunger will not pass idiot! I suggest 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 once old age takes you, Eires? Will we just nibble on your bones?”

“I—.”

“Yes! That is how we will survive!” Answered James taken in by Eires’ modest proposal. “I would 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’s, are in a downward spiral. We will only get weaker, slower. Rachel will get stronger. She is still young after all. So please find something sharp, and end yourself so we may know a momentary end to hunger.”

James shut right up. I was not at all serious, and if he was I would have stopped him in an instant. I wasn’t even happy about Amie taking one for the team and leading the hunters away, so why on Earth would I condone such a sacrifice because we were hungry?  Of course, my words made Helen shake, but not reject the declaration. She hated James. She was also very hungry.

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

“After we rest, we will go in search for food,” I stated to a room of downtrodden souls.

“There is no more food,” Eires spit.

I wanted to say something, but my mind failed to remember the last time I had 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 in myself.

After a while, long enough that I thought Rachel would think it was safe, I extended a 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 will 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 have not a single idea, but we will endure as we have before.”

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

“Then pray to God for a miracle, Helen.” I immediately regretted the bitter comment, but before I could apologize Helen said, “He won’t listen. He left me here after all. I am forsaken. My prayers are lost in the winds of Hell. I think it is more likely that the devil hears them. I bet he is sitting on his evil throne laughing at them, holding his sides together just laughing at how foolish I am.”

Helen coughed up the blackness in her lungs. The air had been replaced by a miasma that held only enough oxygen to allow us to helplessly stay upright. Just enough to give us hope. I bet that is what the hunters loved the most—shattering that hope.

“I am sure your words are heard.”

“Then why am I here? Why do I suffer along the side of sinners? Have I been so wicked in my life to be denied salvation?” She spoke up unable to control the flooding emotions.

“Yes! You gay bitch! You are the reason Hell took to Earth, and God forsook us! I know. 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 sounding like the monster she tries to be. It was a frightening display of what her madness had done to her.

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. I was glad it didn’t.

“God hates gays. You are sin itself, you all are! And good riddance to that whore 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, amen!”

“Shut up!” James hissed and squeaked. Sometimes it is hard for me to even see him as human. “I will not have this bickering weighing on top of my hunger!”

The two of them exchanged words as I attempted to calm both Helen and Rachel. Funny, they seem to hate us all so, but they still huddle so close. I wish they would just admit how much they really needed us. We all need each other right now. This fighting only aids the hunters.

After a while, they all took to their heavy eyelids. I stayed awake watching out. Keeping my attention on the only way the hunters had to us. 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 screams of pain and agony that woke me. It was horror that shook away the dreary sleepiness that ensues when we are raise interrupted from a nap.

“No!” I screamed over Rachel’s hysteria, but went unnoticed. James must be a demon. He must be, for there he was holding Rachel’s arms and legs pinned sinking teeth into her belly.

There’s blood everywhere!

How could I sleep through this? How did her initial cries not wake me? Her panicked eyes looked at me as if I was no different than her parents…leaving her to feel pain. I feel no different.

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, but that didn’t happen. He only was knocked back. I looked around for Helen, but she was nowhere to be found.

Why did she not try to stop this? Why?

Looking at Rachel induced a fit of vomiting; however, one cannot vomit up nothing. I hacked up air as the sight of Rachel’s spine could be seen. Her innards were gone! How is she still screaming? Why is she not dead? I was baffled beyond reason.

James wasn’t human. He snapped to scurrying back to have another bite at Rachel. I kicked his fangs in. “What has come over you!”

Rachel cried. “Why I not dying? I hurts, please kill me! Please, Malloreigh. Pretty please…”

I found myself asking the same thing. Why is she still alive? Taking her up in my arms I caught a glimpse of Eires buried in the mess that Rachel had hid in earlier. She had a pile of bloody bowels and organs in her hands. She snarled as her faced dug deeper and deeper into the jumble of crimson. I could not stomach the sight.

I ran!

I had to kick James once again as I did. He made one last lunge at me as I slammed the door in his face. I kept my back against it barring him from leaving. After a few attempts, he gave up. I heard what could have been mistaken as two wolves fighting over a fresh kill. In a panic, I held the door shut thinking of what to do next. 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, but were terrified of it. 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 cannot escape…,” I let the words slip out in a breathless daze.

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 said to 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 is worse. Too much pressure could break my mental levee that keeps the weakness from infecting my strength…

Can’t worry about that now.

I shook doubt from my mind.

“Stay strong!” I shouted forcing 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, and finally out into the barren openness.

I shared the terror she felt 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 offer nothing to shield us from the danger that always lurked above.

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

All I concerned myself with currently was running. Escaping to a place where I could help Rachel.

I wanted a miracle—no… I needed one. I laughed to myself, “As if God is real… As if the bastard cared enough to grant miracles.” Out in the distance I saw Helen waving at me. Frantically waving, jumping up and down, and screaming for me to hurry.

I smiled, “Helen! Rachel, it’s Helen,” I looked down to see Rachel smile a little. She is so strong, able to get a smile past the pain of deathlessly dying. Then the thought occurred, How can I possibly help?

Racing to Helen’s side, I hoped that she has 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 pitch, they rode into the sky speaking in a queer tongue. Their flesh was the purest of whites. How they spoke without faces I will never understand, but they did as if they thought the words so loud they became physical. They were genderless people; demons I suppose you would call them. Long jagged claws reached out from crooked fingers and lanky arms as one of them soared down at us. That is when Helen did the unspeakable. She lifted Rachel up to the Heavens, to the hunter, and as the child screamed, the hunter swooped down. I fell to my knees, speechless. Powerless…

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

Helplessly, I reached out as if I had a chance to take Rachel back.

“Now, take me to her as you have promised 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.

Helen cast her arms upward toward Heaven, toward God?

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 puncturing the roof of Hell bringing us back into the day that we no longer knew. It was too much for my eyes. Tears cascaded down my cheeks. They were not tears of love and happiness, but rather tears of hate. Of fear and pain.

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

I had 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.

Out of the hole in Hell, I watched…Amie? descend upon us. With white wings and a splendid smile, she fell from 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 and the fact that she wasn’t baffled me. That is just how she is, always helping others! But Amie remained. Why?

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

I was unable to move. I think I forgot how to…

“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 liked to believe.

“That! Is! Not! her!” My words trailed off, unheard by all. Wait, I think the hunter heard them, for something in me said that it was smiling a wicked smile under its slimy flesh. That was 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…praise the Lord!” Amie stated in not Amie’s voice. This vocal discrepancy went unnoticed by Helen. The voice was smug, sad, serious, silly, and perfectly mad in the most crazed and pitiful of ways that 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,” 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 would have screamed “No!” or “Run!” but something out of my power held my lips closed.

Those eyes… They are not 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?

Helen gladly took the hunter’s claw. She smiled, so at peace, as the hunter took her not to the now-vanished hole in the sky, but off in the same direction that Rachel was taken. I wasn’t sure why, but I knew that I would never see them again…

I watched Helen fade away. She was so happy.

When my eyes came back, it was no longer Amie before me, but another form. 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. It was awe-inspiring…

I fell in love.

This is something I know you have 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? Who cares…

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 am Lucifer!”

“What…?”

I was still taken by her physical features, my body refused her claim, 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, yet failed to see anything so grand as the nemesis of God. I only saw a winged woman.

However, this woman gave Helen to the hunter. It seemed to bow before her both terrified and ensnared, if those bastards can even feel such emotions. But this creature, this woman is the most perfect of beauties, she floats on glorious wings, and displayed unnatural might when puncturing the ceiling of Hell on Earth. 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, “I have taken the form of your perfect lover. How does it feel to see something so—” Lucifer rubbed his fingers over his erect nipples and womanly parts moaning slightly as he did “—incredible cause you so much pain?

“Did you enjoy the show? 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 are 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.”

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, the snake, the devil, the Lord of Lies…

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

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. “That is 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…

“Will you have me weep, because you wish to yourself?” I asked while wondering, What am I saying?

But I was not talking, my father was, and he talked through me. 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 frightening. “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 that 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, What a fool I am…

This time it was the devil who was speechless. I grinned crookedly, yet 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 inquired.

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 am a man. My name is Malloreigh Dawntay. However, 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 was 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, yet it never surfaced, not fully anyway.

“You stand—a mortal—facing down the king in his kingdom! This is reality. It is not a cliché epic in which you prevail. I hold the evil of the world who stained their souls beyond forgiveness. And you wish to save them? Murderers, rapist, monsters…,” He spoke slowly never blinking as he stared into my eyes as if questioning a child.

Hell, you are a child to him.

“You wish to save them? Destroying them over and over again 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?