On a lark, I fly to the lowest levels of Pandaemonium, where the most tortured souls are stored. It is dimly lit, with long shadowed corridors, hideous salmon and blood tiled floors, balustrades soaked in grease, and a single experimental soul moving like a robot through the blackness. My speech dies in my throat, and she begins to claw my eyes out – but I can fight back, so it is bruises and scrapes against this forsaken soul. She struggles to speak past her curse, and I notice black blood flow from her wounds. Utterly exhausted, we collapse to the ground and I heal her with the last reserves of my strength. Then she is crying and whole, restored to humanity, not the devilry of her binding.
“Thank you, thank you!” she near screams, rocking back and forth as I hold her.
“Who did this to you? Who put you here?” I ask, running a hand through her coal black hair.
“My lover. He was a demon. That’s their new plan: taking us after our deaths and turning us into… them. It’s horrible. They erase your emotions and replace it with bloodlust and hate. They’re making soldiers out of humans, making us into prototypes of the new generation of demons.”
Furious, I gather Blair (the Damned’s name, she’s such a fragile thing, mousy with Thai heritage, bruised and cuts bleeding) and fly to the palace courtyard, my evidence in tow.
Mulciber is in the kitchen concocting new plans over coffee. Asmodeus is drinking a mimosa. It looks almost picturesque, but when I deposit Blair’s bloodied soul in the field, frenzy breaks out.
“Where did you get her?” Asmodeus shouts, slamming his cup down. “She’s polluted.”
Fury breaks my face out in red. “You did this to her. Is this your new plan? Swelling your ranks with your beloved’s souls? Where the hell is Samael?”
Beelzebub steps forward to care for Blair, who is shaking, and gives her his coat. He’s the only one I trust. I storm off down the hallway to Samael’s office.
He’s shooting up with cocaine and there are ledgers filled with ink spilled over. It smells like musk and cigarettes. He gives me a shit-eating grin.
“Hello there, love.”
“You bastard! You’re turning humans into demons!”
He quirks his head to the side and jabs the needle into a vein. His pupils swallow his eyes. “So?”
“So! So is that what’s going to happen to me? Is this some sick plan you have to increase your army before the war?”
He holds his hands up in the air and laughs. “Oh, my sweet, you caught me. Whatever will you do? Being a demon isn’t so bad. After all, you’ve been one before.”
“Fuck you!” I launch at him, pummeling him, which he easily avoids, for I am a vole fighting a rattlesnake. “You only have a third of Michael’s forces. You’re going to lose.”
His face hardens as he catches my hands by his wrists and pulls me to his chest so I can smell his alcoholic breath. “I will do whatever necessary to ensure my people’s survival. The particulars shouldn’t matter to you. You’re our little pampered princess, you think Michael would ever let anything happen to you? And I will win.”
“No!” I scream, kicking him in the groin. He winces, but not by much. “I’ll fucking fight you. I’m not letting you torture another human!”
He sighs and deposits me on the bed. “You know torture comes in our line of business, Alcifer. You’ve ignored it for so many years, but you went searching for it, and so you found the less glamorous sides of a demon’s job. You have to make peace with that.”
“Like fuck I will. I don’t know about this Messiah shit, Daughter of Zion shit, but I’ll defeat you and plunge you into a fiery lake if you touch another demon lover’s hair on their heads.”
He pushes me down onto the bed and kisses me to shut me up. I struggle beneath him, but it’s useless.
“Messiah? That’s crackpot talk. There’s no one to save humanity at the end of the day. I am the truth. I am the ending this world deserves. I will end it in fire.”
He bites my ear and then starts sucking on my neck.
“I met Christ on Good Friday and he anointed me! I saw him risen on Easter and he laid hands on me. He’s real, and he’ll serve your ass to you. And whatever you do, I will save you. Sael.”
“Your fucking savior complex is really annoying. Who says I want to wash the poison from my veins?” He pauses from ministering to me, and there are tears in his eyes. Hot, venomous tears, and the blue of his irises could drown entire Navies.
“Oh Sam. It’s so obvious to even the densest demon. Who, in all these centuries, has had the common decency to pray for Satan? Twain was right. He who sits at the pinnacle is loneliest.”
He looks away as I lay under him, tries to get it up, but the blues hit, and he lays beside me, me in his arms, and looks out at the full moon.
“Save me, and I’ll hate you forever,” he chokes out, then buries his face in my hair, and that is enough for a time.