He heard a chorus of whistles. Familiar tunes. Old slave spirituals he sang in Sunday School.
He paused. Considered turning back. Kept walking.
Something about suffering and Christ and finding salvation in heaven. Lyrics he didn’t believe… Not until Lucifer offered him free, fluorescent bottles of Moonshine. Money. Love. Promises of salvation. The catch… meet him in the alley.
He stepped through puddles.
Blood. Warm to the touch.
Money. Respect. Fame. Every desire. For something intangible. Illogical. Something he didn’t believe in…until the Devil offered him everything he desired. For a price. His most valuable asset.
Tightness in his stomach as he turned the corner. Into the alley.
The smell of sulfur was at its peak. Nausea.
He gripped his pistol in his pocket with one hand. Crucifix around his neck with the next.
Tink! Tink! The coin flips echoed through the alley. Pap! Pap! Spotlights exploded around him.
The sulfur. The nausea in his stomach. The impure thoughts.
He was getting closer.
The sharply dressed boy awaited him under the remaining spotlight.
Last time it was a woman. A woman who resembled his childhood sweetheart. The Devil loved to play games.
The boy snatched coin out of the air. Pointed a fist in his direction.
“Play?” The boy asked.
He shook his head.
“Heads or tails?” The Boy inquired.
“Fifty fifty chance.” The boy insisted. “Heads for salvation… Tails for…”
A lava red glow burned behind the boy’s jagged smile. “Fifty… Fifty.”
Zay promised to never look back. Or down. Only up. At the perfectly capsized city in the clouds.
Clearest skies on record since the mirror world –The Upside– emerged from the smogosphere, according to Templar meteorologists. Its the divine sign he’d been praying for. Do what’s necessary. Take flight. For Shalewa.
He pumped the burners.
Balloon ascending. Turbulence. Thinning oxygen.
Flying a hastily built helium-craft composed of antiquated parts from abandoned shipyards was high-risk. Highly illegal. Suicidal. Still… far safer than returning to the Seminary.
Shalewa tiptoed to peer over the edge. “Is that heaven?”
He gently pulled Shalewa back. “Just another city.”
“Mommy and daddy there?”
Mirror versions, but their parents nonetheless.
Shalewa smiled. “Great.”
His sister was smart for her age. Much brighter than he was.
Chilly. Temperature dipping.
“Will we feel upside down?” Shalewa asked.
“It’ll feel like normal.”
Or so he’d heard from Solomonic diplomats who’ve visited the Upside.
“But then, our city will be the one upside down,” Shalewa said.
“Correct,” He replied.
Rising doubts… They’re breaking laws and risking lives to meet strangers. A selfish, dangerous plot. But… Shalewa deserves better. She needed parents, even if they’re doppelgangers of the ones they lost.
“Are versions of us there?” Shalewa asked.
“Maybe,” He answered.
Shalewa bit her fingernails. “What if they hate us?”
“But what if?”
Zay felt for the pistol with the disintegration rounds hidden in his belt.
A once a century, secret Congress of the most powerful and influential monsters of all nationalities, species, and realms. A parlay among humanity’s predators. He was tasked with surveilling the meeting by the foolish and misguided Humanic Order. He had greater plans. The Order will thank him whence the smoke clears.
Red Vampire, the host, was in his cross-hairs. Succubus brides trailing behind him, arranging and rearranging furniture. Preparing for their big feast.
Humans gathered in the city square. Visibly frightened but with an unmistakable resolve in their eyes.
They offered me no praise, nor sacrifices they’ve owed me.
“You no longer want immortality,” I concluded.
I wasn’t the creator, but I protected them as such. And unlike my mother– the creator, I was conflicted. Caught between virtuous duties as a cosmic being, and obligations I bestowed upon myself when I shielded them from extinction.
“We’re grateful,” The Governor declared. “But we can no longer offer you our children.”
I was not mother. My power required Life for life. An expensive, but unavoidable cost. Draining my own cosmic well could be catastrophic for all realities.
“You’ll be erased,” I warned.
Governor wiped tears. “We understand.”
They chose offspring over immortality. Perplexing.
“Are you certain?” I asked.
I summoned swords. “Worship me.”
“Okay…” Governor’s face ashened. “Michaela.”
‘Michaela”… the embodiment of mother’s wrath. The sword with dreams of being a shield.
My protective seal appeared above the city.
I wished to give, not take life. But they left me no choice.
I raised a sword to the exosphere. Let it simmer in the hellish heat before cleaving the seal with angry force
My seal shattered on impact. Mother can see them now. The city and everything in it, turned to dust.
Damn you, mother.
I felt rage. Sadness. Guilt.
Brother was right to rebel.
“Mother!” I slashed gashes in reality. “Show yourself!”
She licked the venomous gloss from her lips. Swallowed hard.
It’s done. Now it was her turn. To die. To set herself free.
The negligee she wore was literally to die for. Red and glossy all over with a candy coated sheen. She was a heartshaped box of chocolate wrapped in a silk ribbon. To die for.
The perfect outfit for the perfect night.
She admired the full Red Moon– shades lighter than her silk negligee. She admired the shining constellations. Tracing them with her fingertips. Admired the post-midnight darkness spreading illusions of clean, shimmering Rose City harbors. She knew better.
“Proud now, mother?” She laughed as she dried tears.
One kiss. One taste of her poison. Widows orgasm. Slow agonizing death in a lipstick dispenser.
She’d taken vials of his blood. A sweet chaser for her champagne and deadly venom she concocted for him.
She longed for the power to resurrect the dead. So she can disarm him again with her pleasure. So she can reintroduce him to the worst agony. Over and over again. For several goddam eternities.
She finished her aged champagne. Tossed the bottle over the railing.
“Fuck!” She screamed into the watery abyss below.
His face. Etched into her nightmares. Her wrists.
She took years preparing body and mind for him. Advanced degree. Martial arts. Gun ranges were her sanctuary. The men she fucked. Women. The countless people she killed. Mobsters. Assassins. Law enforcement. Friends. Her innocence. Her humanity. Parts of her capable of feeling love. She murdered them all. For him. And all it took was a simple kiss. She wanted more. Needed more from him. There had to be more.
She climbed over the bridge railing. Tightroped along the slippery edge.
Murdering him was supposed to release her. Free them from purgatory. But slaying the demon only blackened her void.
Turbulent waves below. Sharp concrete slabs from broken platforms blanketed by waters.
She’d condemned herself to hell. Their faces were fading. He’s rotting but still robbing her of everything. She’ll jump. She’ll shatter on impact. She’ll drown and see their faces clearly once again.
The memory of his body turning cold made her lip quiver. Warmed her pelvis.
She gripped the railing. Clasped her eyes.
The sound of the crashing waters a hundred feet below piqued memories of the spa where she ended his life. Of her breasts pressed against his slender, muscular frame.
I… hate.. you…
She parted her robe. Parted her lower lips with her fingertips. Slow, deep circular motions to spread the wetness running down her thighs.
Her one-handed grip on the rail was slackening.
She bit down hard on her bottom lip as her body erupted.
“You… took… Everything… from… me.” She moaned.
Fwoop! A sharp pinch on her neck.
Warmth vanished. Replaced with arctic cold. Rage. Dizziness.
She faced her assailant.
“My love.” He withdrew the needle from her neck.
“You!” She jerked away from him and lost her grip on the railing.
She stomped on the demon’s chest. Used the leverage to dislodge the divinespear of E’lees from itsbelly.
The Demon’s breaths were shallow. Its crushed rib cage slowly rising and sinking beneath her heels. Its long, shattered wings flapping wildly as if trying to escape its broken body.
The Demon spat in her face. “Finish me, insect!”
She plunged the consecrated spear through the Demon’s left eye. Twisted. Drilled it into the back of its skull. No regeneration this time.
Swooooosh! Escaped souls fired from the Demon’s socket. Ricocheted through the room like vexed lightning.
She raised the glowing spear to deliver the finishing thrust.
“Prophecy always prevails,” The Demon whispered.
Not this time.
She spent her childhood training to combat her so-called prophecy. Awaiting battle against the fate, clerics and superstitious townspeople claimed was inescapable. One strike to its remaining eye and none of it comes to pass. One more strike and she’s free.
The Demon cackled. “See ya.”
She plunged the spear into the Demon’s remaining eye.
Shrieking souls exploded from its skull. Destroyed her remaining dark magic artifacts and sigils in the room. Shattered the towering stain-glass windows.
She withdrew the spear. Wiped demon’s bile from her eyes. Lowered from its corpse before collapsing to a knee upon landing.
“E’lees,” She praised.
She couldn’t free every abducted soul. The souls used for sustenance and to power the Demon’s machines… Gone forever.
“E’lees, forgive me.”
She trained the spear on the quivering Demon.
Hiss… The Demon’s form disintegrated to ash. The ash quickly dissolved in the breeze.
Its done. The goddess E’lees granted her strength. The will. The arsenal. All she needed to defeat the Demon. To defeat prophecy. To prove mortals weren’t slaves to destiny.
Iku… I’m coming home.
She shuffled to a shattered window to bathe in the the sunlight. To inhale the sweet scent of grass on the breeze. To take in the sound of caroling birds.
Hell’s ice was thawing. Life was returning to the region. She was going home where there were endless hills, waterfalls and flowers.
To see Iku… To disembowl every thing you love.
Murderous thoughts increasing. Defeaning. Consciousness being crushed. Replaced by another.
Kill them all. Destroy everything… you… I care about.
“I defeated you!” She took an attack position. “You’re-”
“Ach!” She rolled up her sleeve.
Black scales formed on her arms and across her collar bone. Organs rapidly shifting. Expanding. Growing.
She’s dying. But she’d never felt stronger. More alive.
“I’m sorry.” She released the spear.
She jerked forward. Landed on all fours.
They tore through her flesh. Her shoulder blades. Her prickly black wings whooshed angrily.
She cried. Tears of pain. Tears of sadness. Tears of laughter.
Prophecy prevailed as it should. She gleefully embraced what she’s meant to become… The Scale Lord.World devourer. Her true self. Fate.