Lucifer, blond as a lion of pride, takes a drag of his cigarette in a cream starched dress shirt with a severe collar, tan slacks, and brown loafers, his hair elegantly unfurling like a newspaper filled with commas and poetry. The smoke veils his office, as he uses an old fountain pen to tally souls, saved or damned, damned or saved, and the evening light is wan as an old woman dancing in secret across the windowsill of his high tower quarters. Old dark wood furniture, the smell of leather, red backings the color of dried blood yet creamier alizarin crimson under a sheen of demonic ichor carpets the furniture, the desk? The desk is old and full of papers and leather-bound vellum books, which he leafs through to find just the right figure or word, cross-referencing his enormous library, for ruling Hell requires a lot of paperwork. His peacock wings are draped over the studious workings of his shoulder in calligraphy of how angels fall, making tAlcifers, making Xs, circling and dotting and annotating.
I sip wine in a corner, lounging in a red dress, my curves overflowing as I breathe in the tobacco, somehow it smells sweet like a pipe, not acidic, and I watch my Bright and Morning Star.
“What are you doing, Lu?” I say, my voice teasing. “Forgot your chores?”
Lucifer smirks, the left corner of his mouth curling up arcanely. “Dirty little acolyte, aren’t you, trying to tempt me back to bed. Well, it won’t work, Alcifer, I have duties. We can’t all be free to roam Hell with Asmodeus shirking our chthonic workload. What you and Deus neglect, falls onto I and Beelzebub’s shoulders.”
“Pfft,” I say, reaching into a bowl of strawberries I have stolen from the office kitchen and dangling one before him. “Is that your stomach rumbling? Eat, Blonde Wonderboy! You need to nourish that body of yours you fawn over! How will you impress the ladies if you turn into a shriveled up paperwork nerd?”
He rankles, but only the slightest, takes the strawberry, then makes a point of piercing it with his left fang, still smirking (well, somewhere between a smirk and a grimace). “You,” he murmurs, swallowing it after chewing thoughtfully. “Are an elegant distraction. Read a book or something, my pet phoenix. Your master is in the middle of a soul ledger. These goddamn soul contracts won’t write themselves.”
I flounce about in my strappy black pumps, twirling a bit like the Chiquita banana girl, only the strawberries are a bounty in my arms, and they smell like the rich, pungent wholesome bloodsoil of Hell. It gives them a certain tang. “Master this, master that, you and Beel are going to waste away into Sheldon and Leonard.”
“Do not mention that heinous show the Big Bang Theory in my presence, Penny.”
I stick out my tongue, and he catches it with his lips, sucks slightly, then bites, and scoops me up in his arms so I am in his lap as he writes more soul contracts in burning ink that scorches the pages, drawing a master sigil for every soul of his coming to Hell.
“I think you’re the Sheldon, and maybe Beelzebub is Raj.”
“Please stop comparing us to terrible flat comedies. We are far more amusing in our office politics.”
“So you admit you’re a nerd, Mr. I Live in Libraries?” I pester, curling up against his chest of luminous pectorals under the dress shirt, as if I am drinking milk from a twisted Light. The strawberries are crushed to my breast in their bowl, a bit of their juice staining my white chest, and he makes a point to skim their peak as he reaches through my arms to get another piece of succulent fruit.
“I’m King, Alcifer. Kingship requires thorough record-keeping, administration duties, and noblesse oblige.” He pecks my blonde forehead with his pale cherry petal lips. “As much as I play, you’re a goody two shoes straitlaced woman of routine. You adore boring details and order. Hence, you adore me. Stickler for rules and morality in a way I have no issue bending. You, actually, are the one who needs to lighten up.”
I bite his shoulder muscle lightly through the rose smelling fabric. “There, I broke a rule. Attacking your starched shirt like the lapdog I am.”
He laughs heartily. “I think you protest too much, kid. I meant going against the grain a little, being a bit more, shall we say, rebellious. Growing a spine, if you will.”
“I’m soft and loving and full of light only because all of Hell and Heaven have my back!” I insist, glowering. I close shut his book midinking like the brat I am and straddle him. “Kiss me, now. Discipline me, adore me, put me in my place. This is so. Fucking. Boring. Remember when we used to have fun all the time?”
“You were in elementary school, I wasn’t going to do paperwork around a seven year old.”
“Yet you still dragged me to bureaucratic meetings and stowed me under the table and Beel complained vociferously. Remember when we used to go ride the Milky Way Highway and blow things up in your spaceship and just go bloodlust crazy on the battlefield like nuclear bombs destroying everything IN SIGHT?”
“We still do that.”
“Shut up, Azarak.”
“Shut up, Nyx.”
“Shut up, Star.”
“Shut up, Calliope.”
“Ugh!” I roll off his lap and take his book, balancing it on my head. He looks at me like he sucked on a lemon rind. “This is so boring! Let’s go blow something up!”
“Let’s make the four legged Beast, oh Dragon.”
There’s the whoosh of the door opening. A dark black stain enters the room, with long black slick hair and cobra red eyes. “I can assist in amusing you, Alcifer. Leave this impotent stiff collar loser and let’s go home.”
“Samael?” I say. “What the hell are you doing here?”
He swaggers into the room, and suddenly, Lucifer is the metaphorical version of a Prince Lindworm with razor mirror scales. “She’s mine,” he growls in a low guttural roar.
“And where were you when she became a woman?” Samael hisses, and I am startled like a deer in the headlights.
“Who made her into the woman she is?” Lucifer threatens, clutching me to his breast.
“For fuck’s sake, quit it you two,” I say nervously, stuck between the white and black serpent.
“You are Death, and you have no hold over Light. My Light,” Lucifer says regally, all venom.
“And yet Death reaps the Star, and in every Morning Star, a Black Hole Heart.”
“God you guys, please, can we just…. uh, fuck,” I whisper. I back away slowly from the gasoline and raging fire, back behind the desk, strawberry basket my only defense.
“You’re the absent Father, dear Luci,” Samael says, all dark glory, advancing in infernal majesty, his hair forming black Medusa snakes.
“And you’re the molesting Uncle Hades,” Lucifer cuts, his white wings flexing out like daggers.
“Oh, is this a battle over who fucked her up more? I’m afraid that’s you, I simply honed her into a glorious weapon of a woman.” Samael smiles like an enchanting Nachash. “Admit it, we were both a bit handsy with the girl, is that such a crime, once moon’s blood is upon her?”
“Silence,” Lucifer hisses, his azure eyes forming slit pupils. “You are the Father of Lies.”
“And yet, I’m cursed to only speak the truth.” Somehow, Samael has reached the fountain pen, and he fiddles with the nib and smears some ink between his ring finger and thumb. Lilith’s garnet sparkles in an iron setting above his first knuckle. “She is mine, truly, you were always so boring, Heaven’s little bitch. And fuck these strawberries you stock in the office fridge. We both know our little Eve prefers apples. Mine, specifically.”
“Go back to your disgusting den of iniquity office, Samael,” Lucifer threatens, his wing blades touching Samael’s pale shoulders, drawing black blood. “I mean it. I will not ask again.”
“Uh, guys, your offices are literally across the halls.” Absently, I notice Lucifer’s albino peacock wings are rippling with scales, never a good sign. “Whoever did the seating arrangement fucked up, I know, but this whole fighting over women is so, I don’t know, before the Feminist Era, ya know, uh, can we all just-“
“Sing Kumbayah?” Lucifer silences me, giving me a glare. Oh that glare, that fucking glare I know so well, I can it. “I will always be first to her. You’re only second best, Sammy. Or was it third best? Or fourth, or fifth? There’s a long line, but she answers to no one but me. Know your place, wyrm.”
“Know your place, slug. Light burns out. And your tallow, why, it is such a stubby thing. Here you are, wasting away in the dark office of Pandemonium, not strengthening your spirit on women, wine and song. We all know humans love the Witchfather, the black lawyer, Samael the Black the Southern Gentleman Devil. And what are you? Some Yankee upstart, rebelling after it was a fad. I, I am the one that invented rebellion. You were always just a pale, weak imitation of my darkness. The angel of light that wanted to be something more than he was!” Samael’s wings withdraw in turn, creeping taloned bat wings, and they tussle in the air with Lucifer’s peacock wings, and I try to run between them, but they both push me aside back into the couch.
“Stay out of this,” they hiss in unison, and then it is not two men with wings, but a black Titanoboa with red eyes constricting the room with an iron throne, tangled with a writhing rainbow white serpent with albino blue eyes like cotton candy, his halo like white burning iron.
“She will always be mine, you were a passing curiosity, tell me, who does she cry out to in agony? Who is her solace?” Lucifer’s white snake form hisses, biting into the black serpent’s neck.
“You only want her as a pawn, the entirety of Hell knows that. Who just Wednesday ministered to her sickbed with his own blood? A motherhood you forced on her, eating her womb up with your light.”
“Funny of you to say that, Father of Cain, at what, twelve? Hades and Persephone stupidly reenacted, with a child.”
They dance like two mating, hateful serpents, and their tales curl into question marks, and they form a Gordian knot.
“Sickbed of Lucifer at seven, at least I had enough clarity to come to her when she was capable of standing up to you. But you, Lucifer, you manipulated a babe. She chose me. She never chose you. You think you can play us all to your own devices, in this War you started but never ended, in a War no one wanted in the first place. And now what do we have, but an angel in hell. How can you keep an angel in Hell Lucifer? Whatever were you thinking? More pure than Gabriel, more beautiful than Haniel, more innocent than even Raphael. You are sick.”
“Your maw is a garbage pit, and you are unclean sin. Great black ooze,” Lucifer buzzes, biting harder, so hard his entire snake face sinks into Samael’s black neck. “I taste you, and all I taste is filth.”
“Yet you deny your filth, wounded bleeding Light,” Samael laughs, positioning his neck so the bite is deep, deeper, deeper, and suddenly they are back to men, pierced through the heart on each other’s adamant blades, and they collapse to the floor in a Two of Swords V, a burden of the Sword of Damocles, and I am crying, but they are too far gone.
“I did it all for her,” they both whisper, and then, silence.