Thursday, July 14, 2011

Chapter 8, pp 72-74

Chapter 8

Finsternis opened his eyes to see Bayarma holding a plate of vegetables over rice. It smelled delightful. He sat up, accepted the plate and opened his mouth to speak, but Bayarma put one finger over her mouth and gestured with the other hand.

Finsternis looked over to see Lucia asleep, sitting up, head tilted onto the overstuffed arm of the couch, scarlet curls spilling over her cheek. He took a bite of food, swallowed and whispered, “Did she eat?”

Bayarma shrugged. “Enough to keep an old woman from force feeding her.”

He smiled around another mouthful of food. “You would have done it, too, I am sure.”

Bayarma looked at the pictures covering the wall and smiled, pictures of smiling children, smiling adults, smiling adults holding smiling children, every smile a twin to Bayarma’s own. “I have dealt with more than my fair share of stubborn children, you know.”

“I cannot imagine where they got it from,” remarked Finsternis around another mouthful of food.

“Don’t even try to tell me that’s polite in Hell,” scolded Bayarma. “The archangel, what was he like?”

Finsternis put down his plate, no longer hungry. He did not really need to eat. As the direct descendent of archdemons, shadows were sustenance enough for him, he simply enjoyed the food, but thinking of Israfel did nothing for his appetite. “Israfel is odd. None of the others’ arrogance or pride. He was quite polite, actually. He even said my name, properly, in demonspeak.”

Bayarma’s eyes widened. “Really. What did he want, this Israfel?”

“I do not believe even he knew.” Bayarma’s eyes narrowed. She was likely irritated at being put to sleep through the visit. It was one thing to know that one was vulnerable to angelic powers, another entirely to experience it. “I am not withholding anything, Bayarma. He truly did not seem to know. Lucia may have figured it out, though.”

Bayarma smiled gently at Lucia. “Quite the clever girl, our nephalim. What did she figure out?”

Finsternis sighed, ran his hands through his hair. “She believes that we have been missing opportunities hidden in the apocalypses by the archdemons.”

“She believes the archdemons  caused the apocalypses, not Yhwh?”

“Yes. Israfel seemed to agree.” Finsternis could not help but like the gentle, diffident Archangel of Music, although it chafed to admit it, even to himself.

What had Loki seen in Israfel? The human legends left over from a time when archdemons walked the Earth openly were warped reflections of the truth, but the humans had caught the essence of the archdemons, preserved more accurately in Hell’s history: quick tempered, possessed of wicked humor, combining a harsh sense of justice with a complete lack of patience. Such had not always worked out well for the humans and they remembered the archdemons as trickster gods at best, to be worshipped, but not to be trusted.

So what had a hot-tempered archdemon seen in a gentle archangel whose only purpose was to create and inspire music? Perhaps it had been the music itself. Finsternis was the Dark Prince because he was the most direct descendent of Loki, and he alone amongst the demons had overwhelming love of music—

Every piece of glass in the apartment, all the windows, the pictures, cups and little decorative baubles, exploded at once. Physics held no sway over the shards, some of them buried themselves into drywall and fabric like missiles, others floated lazily in the air like fog over a lake. Bayarma crouched on the floor, head tucked between her knees, arms over her head. Finsternis did not notice, he was too intent on memories of Israfel singing his name, Israfel commenting that he looked like Loki, Israfel so very concerned about his health.

“He lied.”

“Israfel? About what?” asked Lucia, her voice deeper and gravely with sleep. “Hi, Bayarma, what are you doing down there? What is that?” Lucia pushed a floating shard of glass with a finger, eyes widening with delight when it bobbed in the air like a bath toy floating in water. “That is so cool!”

“That is so sharp,” retorted Bayarma, carefully standing up, gently sweeping floating shards of glass out of her way, with her forearm, the thick fabric of her bright orange shirt providing her protection.

Lucia plucked a shard out of the air and inspected it. “Is this glass?”

“Yes, Finsternis seems to have a bit of an accident,” said Bayarma sharply.

“I do apologize. That is not under my control,” said Finsternis. “Even if Hell contained silica, we would not make anything out of glass.”

After throwing the shard of glass up in the air and watching it fall to the ground normally, Lucia asked, “What is this all about?”

Finsternis shifted uncomfortably. While neither human would know it, a purple’s inability to control their occasional effects on physics was on the same level as a human sneezing and spewing out mucus on a bystander. No demon would discuss it, though children found it very amusing. “The archdemons could affect the laws of physics in this plane and in Hell, bend them to their will. As the descendents of archdemons, purples can do so as well, but not consciously. It is . . . involuntary.”

“Oh, so you basically just burped at a fancy dinner party?” asked Lucia.

“Yes, not that demons burp,” replied Finsternis.

Lucia patted his arm again. He could feel her skin through the fabric of his shirt. She smelled like flowers in a forgotten meadow. “It’s okay. Nobody’s perfect. If it makes you feel any better, I cannot see this as anything but impressive no matter how you see it.” She tossed her hair back out of face and grinned.

Just like that all the glass in the room fell to the floor.

Lucia’s eyes opened with wonder and she poked at the glass on the floor with one sandal. Finsternis studied her. She had changed from her blood-soaked dress into a long green dress, tight around her breasts, falling away from her body from tiny pleats under the bodice. The contrast between the dark green and her pale skin was heightened by her vermillion curls and scarlet eyes. This is was an archangel’s get, he reassured himself. He himself was purely demon, no relation to the Archangel of Music. He would have felt better if not for his own love of music, if not for Lucia’s pointed ears, poking out from her hair.

Finsternis put it out of his mind. He had no time for such things now. Perhaps he could think on it later. Or never. “I truly am sorry, Bayarma.”

The old woman waved her hand dismissively. “I can fix the windows and buy more cups, Finsternis. More shadowbalm is another story. Try to stay out of trouble.”

Lucia giggled. Finsternis tried a quelling stare, well known and feared in Hell, but she smiled wider and said, “Can’t very well stay out of what you’re made of.” Finsternis rolled his eyes. He did not expect from Lucia the deference he received in Hell, but being the butt of a homespun aphorism delivered in a particularly syrupy drawl was a bit much.

Still, Lucia was smiling, which was a pleasant change, so Finsternis restrained himself to a huff and put his boots on. He stood and performed a bow as showy as any archangel’s, minus the reference to wings he did not have, pulling Bayarma up with him as he rose. “Thank you for your hospitality, Bayarma. Be well.”

To his surprise, Bayarma reached up and kissed cheeks. “Be well, Demon Prince. May you find now what you seek, but what you need.”

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Chapter 7, pp 69-71

The three settled into glum silence. Even the sparks, visible only to Lucia, looked defeated. Finally, Lucia asked, “Do you really think that permanent imbalance was the archdemons’ only plan?”

Israfel considered his perfectly buffed nails. “What do you mean?”

“From what I understand, the archdemons’ sacrifice ended open warfare between Heaven and Hell. Do you think that was their only goal?” asked Lucia.

Finsternis frowned, arched brows drawing together, eyes glowing as he watched Israfel think back eons to consider the motives of those long dead.

Finally, Israfel shook his head. “Ultimately, no, I do not believe that a stalemate was Loki’s entire plan. She was too clever for that, cared too much for her people, for the humans whose lives were chaos and torment caught between Heaven and Hell as they were.”

Finsternis jabbed a finger at Israfel, nearly tumbling off the couch. “Now I know you are a liar, archangel. Why would an archdemon care for these, these- these—“ he waved his arm weakly, “brutes?”

“Their souls are filled with music, Finsternis, they cannot be all bad,” replied Israfel gently.

“So, Loki had another plan?” asked Lucia.

“Possibly, but it obviously did not work or she never got the chance to put it into motion,” said Israfel.

“How do you know that?”

“For one thing, Little Light, here you sit, yet another nephalim righting yet another apocalypse,” said Finsternis dryly.

Lucia turned to him, fixed him with her most determined stare. “And how do you know that isn’t part of the plan? Maybe you’ve just been doing your part wrong all these years.”

Finsternis growled, the multitonal assonance clinging to the shadows around them. Lucia held his gaze, refusing to back down. She knew she was on to something, she just didn’t know what yet.

“Um,” Israfel tried to get their attention. “I have a thought? It might interest you?” He was clearly torn between a desire to hide under the couch and stop the coming conflagration before he got caught up in it.

“Yes?” “Yeah?” Neither Lucia nor Finsternis would look away first.

Israfel sighed, a weary bassoon. “Fine. I have wondered if these apocalypses are actually something Ywhw plans, or if they are something He reacts to.”

Lucia and Finsternis turned to look at him at once. “Really? Why?” asked Finsternis just as Lucia said, “Rushing around.”

“Yes, there is an air of desperation to Heaven at these times. Everyone rushing about, it is not the sort of perfect order typical of Yhwh,” explained Israfel.

“So maybe the apocalypses themselves are the design of the archdemons,” said Lucia.

“That cannot be. We do not ever win, we merely put the threat off until the next time,” replied Finsternis.

“Maybe you are doing something wrong,” offered Israfel diffidently.

Finsternis showed fangs in a rumbling snarl, and Lucia patted his arm soothingly. “Israfel’s not accusing you of anything, Finsternis. He knows you do your best for your people. How could you know what to do? Loki didn’t leave instructions.”

“Yes! No! Of course I do not fault you!” protested Israfel, cowering back into the loveseat. “Your devotion to the demonry sings even in the heights of Heaven.”

“It is so nice of Heaven to notice,” sneered Finsternis. Lucia glared at him. “Fine, fine, I apologize. This exhaustion makes me—“ he finished in demonspeak, leaning heavily on Lucia’s shoulder.

She looked at Israfel. “There is no direct translation for that in English, hmmm, perhaps ‘snappy’?” He shook his head. “No. ‘Bitey’? Is that a word?”

Lucia laughed. “No, but I get the point. I suppose if you have a mouthful of fangs, you have a lot of words for that sort of thing.”

“No doubt.” Israfel stood and swung his cloak over his shoulders. “I will leave and allow you your rest, Finsternis. Before I go, I will tell what concerns me.”

Finsternis’ eyelids were fluttering shut. “What is it?” he mumbled.

“A female nephalim is not a natural creature, not even by the standards of such things. I have no idea how Lucifer managed it, and more to the point, I have no idea why he would do such a thing. Unless you think it possible the Morningstar is flailing about at random—“ Israfel paused and Finsternis shook his head. “I do not think so, either.”

Israfel bowed deeply, holding his cloak out on either side like wings, and walked silently out of the room. Finsternis was already asleep, head pillowed on Lucia’s lap.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Chapter 7, pp 65-68

In her  apartment above the shop, Bayarma sat Finsternis on the bright orange couch and presented him with a red clay jar stopped with black wax. Removing the wax released what Lucia could only describe as living shadows that coursed up his hands and onto his face. Finsternis’ eyelids fluttered, his eyes went black and he passed out. Lucia helped Bayarma take off his heavy combat boots and lay him out on the couch. Bayarma went to the kitchen at the front of the apartment with the promise of a meal Lucia couldn’t contemplate eating. It seemed wrong to be hungry after bashing a woman’s head in.

Asleep, Finsternis’ face lost its slyness, the look that seemed to say he had a secret he wasn’t going to share and it was hilarious. He didn’t look innocent by any means, rather he looked serious, full of noble purpose.

“He looks like a king,” Lucia said softly.

“He is one, no matter what he pretends,” came a musical voice from behind her.

Lucia whirled around to face what was surely an archangel, and not a fallen one like Lucifer. His features were regular and unremarkable, rendered truly beautiful by silver eyes ringed in black. His skin was smooth, but his face had the gravitas of age. His hair, hanging past his shoulders in soft waves, was a shimmery light silver that seemed to glow from within. His white, high collared silk coat emphasized his lithe build, and slim white pants tucked into high white boots emphasized his height. A white velvet cloak lined with pale silver silk dangled from long, elegant fingers.

Lucia fumbled with the locket sitting heavily on her chest. Bayarma had insisted upon washing it and returning it to Lucia even prior to dealing with Finsternis’ injuries.

The archangel eyed the locket curiously and made no move. “I have no idea what that is supposed to be, but it is not necessary.” His words flowed and lilted like a Stradivarius played by a master.

“What have you done to Bayarma?” demanded Lucia.

His eyes flicked to the side, towards the kitchen. “If you mean the woman in the orange shirt, she is merely sleeping.” He stepped into the living room and draped his cloak over the cobalt blue loveseat, then executed a courtly bow with such grace, Lucia felt as if she were breathing clumsily. “I am the archangel Israfel.”

Lucia thought for a moment. “You inspire music written for the glory of the Lord, right?” Compared to his, Lucia’s voice was the cawing of a hoarse crow.

Israfel smiled, the lines of his face settling into something immensely appealing. “Yes, I am impressed, my dear, so few on this plane know me anymore.” He made a playfully offended face.

Lucia couldn’t help smiling back, though her teeth were a travesty in comparison to his. “Honestly, I never thought studying the angels would come in handy.” Her smile died when she recalled Finsternis behind her. There was no way of knowing how long he would stay asleep, although she could guess his reaction if he woke up in the same room with an archangel. “Why are you here?”

Israfel sighed like a melancholy cello. “Everyone is in such a hurry. You, the Dark Prince, Lucifer, Gabriel, Yhwh Himself. No one takes the time to consider, to see all the sides and angles, to ponder reactions and consequences.

“I don’t think you want to be here when the Dark Prince wakes up,” said Lucia.

After taking a moment to seriously consider the matter, Israfel shook his head mournfully, shimmering waves brushing against his silk coat in a barely heard harmony. “I suppose not, though I cannot see why the Dark Prince should have any enmity for me. I wish him no harm.”

Lucia stared at him. Was he serious, trying to trick her or were archangels subject to some form of Alzheimers? “You’re an archangel.”

“What does that have to do with anything?” Israfel waved a hand dismissively, the graceful gesture its own beautiful dance.

Lucia had the feeling that she the Archangel of Music were having two different conversations, just tangentially related enough to seem connected. “Okay, back to the beginning. You’re an archangel?” Israfel nodded. “You’re not fallen?” He nodded with a moue of distaste. “Are you my uncle?”

That surprised Israfel. He drew back, opened his mouth, then thought about it while biting his lip. Finally, he shrugged. “I suppose I am, though I had never thought about it before. Hmmm.” He paused again, clearly giving the question more thought. “Angels and archangels do not truly have families the way demons and humans do. We are all created by Yhwh, not born,” he said the word as if it tasted bad, “but I was made in the same batch as Lucifer. So, yes, you could call me your uncle.”

Israfel was long-winded and fey, deferential, almost timid, and Lucia was sure he wouldn’t get to the point before Finsternis woke up, but she was charmed by him nonetheless. Israfel had none of Lucifer’s arrogance, none of the angels’ single-minded viciousness, none of the demons’ quick tempers. Lucia thought he would be the perfect companion to an awkward family function, charming and unaffected enough to make everything go smoothly.

“Well, if I am your uncle, then so are Azrael, Asmodeus, Raguel, Ramiel and Uriel. As to the aunts, well,” he frowned, “there are no female angels. I am quite astonished to find myself in possession of a niece rather than a nephew.”

“Gabriel isn’t an equal to Lucifer?” Lucia asked.

Israfel laughed, the glissando of a perfectly tuned harp. “No, though I would not say so anywhere Gabriel could hear. He was made after Lucifer defected to replace him. As a replacement, Gabriel was made to lack the ability, the desire even, to disobey our Master.”

Lucia shivered. Even dogs could conceive of and carry out disobedience. It was chilling to consider a self aware creature that could not. “Why not just make a robot?”

Israfel inclined his head. “I would use the word ‘golem’, but I have had the same thought. Gabriel proves us right every day. He is vicious with a desire for that which he cannot desire.”

“Is that why you’re here?” Lucia hated to cut the conversation short, but time was never on her side anymore.

Israfel shrugged again. “I am not sure why I am here.” He put up a hand to forestall Lucia’s outburst. “I need to make you, or more precisely, the Dark Prince, aware of a few things. I do not doubt that these things are significant, I am just not sure how or why.” He gave her an apologetic smile. “No one discusses battles or war strategy with the Archangel of Music.”

“No, I suppose they would not,” said Finsternis weakly. Israfel went grey, his eyes showing white all around. Lucia braced herself and turned to Finsternis. He was struggling to prop himself up on his elbows. The skin of his face and hands was no longer blackened, but he looked haggard and worn.

Israfel stood and bowed again, more deeply than before. “Dark Prince,” Finsternis flinched, “I am Israfel, Archangel of Music.” His face was all concern. “What happened to you, if I may ask?”

A balky look flashed across Finsternis’ face, then he sighed. “Brass. We ran into agents equipped with brass.”

Anger sat uneasily on Israfel’s face. “A cruel thing. How long ago?”

“Twenty, twenty-five minutes ago,” said Lucia.

“You need more sleep, Dark Prince,” scolded Israfel as Finsternis flinched again.

“Please stop calling me that,” said Finsternis. “I am known as Finsternis.”

“Known as? That’s not your name?” asked Lucia. Israfel was clearly having difficulty suppressing laughter. “What?” For Lucia, this was too close to the first five years after she left the cocoon of fundamentalism. Every social situation, whether at work, at play, or at the grocery store, was one awkward missed cultural reference after another. Lucia had grown up in churches, listening to worship music, reading the Bible and Elsie Dinsmore and never seeing a single movie. Her mother had owned a TV, but it was on only during the 700 Club.

While Lucia’s contemporaries were watching Saturday morning cartoons, music videos on MTV, Ghostbusters and The Breakfast Club, Lucia was memorizing Bible verses and striving to match the weepy perfection of a 19th Century fictional character. Filling in the holes in her education had been a monumental task, especially when it came to science, but no amount of effort could make up for coming from an entirely different American culture. Lucia had learned to laugh and nod and reference cultural touchstones she had never seen or heard well enough to avoid embarrassment, but she feared moments such as these when her ignorance was revealed and mocked.

Fortunately, Finsternis took pity on her. “Why would she know, archangel?” he chided Israfel. “’Finsternis’ is German for ‘darkness’. Humans cannot reproduce demonspeak and angels will not do so, so demons choose a name from one of the human languages, always a word for darkness or fire.”

“Oh. I didn’t think of that.” Lucia felt stupid. She’d heard Finsternis speak in his native tongue, she should have realized Finsternis wasn’t his name.

He turned to Israfel. “What is it I need to know?”

Israfel sat back down. Both he and Finsternis looked at Lucia expectantly. She crossed her arms and leaned back against the wall. She didn’t want to be closer than she had to be to the crackling tension between the two. She squinted. The air actually was crackling between them, throwing off purple and white sparks like crazed lightning bugs.

Israfel took a deep breath. “Where to begin?” Finsternis sighed again. Perhaps he was too tired to snap at the archangel, or perhaps he, too, recognized Israfel’s inherently gentle nature. Concern knitted Israfel’s brows. “Yes, briefly, but there are things the archdemons knew it appears you do not. I believe you need to know them—“ he ended on a warbling howl that switched to an arpeggio of growls. Finsternis’ jaw dropped and Israfel grinned.

“Was that your name?” asked Lucia.

Finsternis nodded, his hair falling in front of suddenly glowing eyes.

“Did I say it right?” asked Israfel nervously. Finsternis nodded again. “You may have been given the impression that we are too proud to speak your ‘barbaric’ tongue, but the truth is that demonspeak is difficult for archangels to reproduce properly, and angels cannot do it at all.”

“Thank you,” said Finsternis.

This silence was almost warm, none of them willing to break the tenuous good will. Sparks still flew in the air between demon and archangel, at least to Lucia’s eyes, but they seemed to dance rather than destroy.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

End Chapter 6 pp 61-64

Finsternis stopped short, causing Lucia to bounce off him into a pile of lances and spears. “Finsternis, we need to get out of here now!” Lucia did not want to see an Agent. She could only picture them as eight foot tall spiders, dripping viscous fluids smelling of rot. Diseased, hairy, eight foot tall spiders dripping rotting fluids, chittering and squelching as they moved.

“Not through the back of the shop. If the agents come in here, they will sense the power of the items hidden here and Earth will be doomed, not to mention what they would likely do to Bayarma,” he explained.

Lucia could see his point. She certainly didn’t want the kind old woman harmed in any way, nor did she want to let anyone loose with the Spear of Destiny. Yet she could not make herself move towards the agents. She couldn’t. It would have been easier to breathe water.

“You’re going to have to drag me. I just . . . can’t,” she said weakly.

Finsternis raised an eyebrow. “You suffer from a phobia?” She nodded. “Something about the power of the agents, their mandate, feeds phobias.” He picked Lucia up, threw her over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry and dashed out the front door. It was all Lucia could do not to howl and kick to be let go. Finsternis, not nearly as sensitive to agents as Lucia, stopped suddenly, turned and ran in the other direction.

Lucia twisted her head to look. No spiders, just an Orthodox priest, a nun and a man in khakis and a mint green polo shirt, silently chasing them down the street. They voiced no threats or warnings, only followed with grim determination. Lucia blinked, shook her head. It was the most unlikely trio of all time, the setup to most of the jokes she knew, in fact, but they were hardly—

For a moment the agents had too many legs and chitinous shells covered in oozing disease. Lucia blinked again. A priest, a nun and a man. Blink and they were insectoid. Blink and they were normal. Blink and the flesh dripped off their bones in rotting rivulets. Blink and they were healthy. Two blocks down the street and it was the ever-changing nature of her visions that was upsetting, not the visions themselves.

Finsternis had put some distance between them and the agents. The agents ran with fixed determination, but none of them were wearing shoes for running, the priest and the nun were both over fifty and the man in the polo shirt had at least thirty extra pounds spilling over the waistband of his khakis. Still, Finsternis was fit and physically young and should have been able to outrun the trio easily. The agents’ legs moved like pistons, untroubled by terrain or pedestrians. They were all red-faced, sweating and panting for air, but didn’t even wipe the sweat dripping into their eyes. Apparently, the agents were as unaware of their own physical states as they were the pedestrians they knocked aside. The hair at the back of Lucia’s neck stood up as she watched them.

Finsternis ducked into an alley between two Tibetan restaurants. Lucia’s first impression was that Tibetan restaurants must have the best Health Department ratings in New York, but then came the feeling of disease and despair and terror that heralded the agents of Yhwh coming from the end of the alley Finsternis was running towards.


He skidded to a stop, dropping Lucia to her feet. There at the end of the alley stood a Hasidic Jewish man and a Muslim woman in hijab. Lucia giggled. Finsternis looked at her alarmed. She spread out her hands. “It’s just . . . all these people, normally at each others’ throats, united in killing us. If not for the killing us, I’d be really happy to see Catholics and Protestants and Jews and Muslims working together.”

“Yes, well I have noticed that nothing brings humans together like killing,” said Finsternis, the last word echoing in an atonal chorus. He flared, purple fire surrounding his form, then it abruptly winked out. “No need to bring angels into this, too.”

The Muslim and the Jew stopped, the priest and the nun and the man in the polo shirt slowed in their approach. So many different races and creeds, but all shared the same expression: vicious but vacuous, like a rabid dog. They shared something else, Lucia noticed, brass knuckles. Her stomach knotted. Brass, the only weapon against a demon, and all five were armed with it.

The nun acted first, lashing out with a fist faster than Lucia would have thought possible for a woman her age. Lucia idly wondered if all nuns received martial arts training. Finsternis blocked the punch with a heavy boot, breaking the nun’s arm. Lucia winced in sympathy as the nun’s arm bent at a brand new joint between her elbow and wrist, but the nun had no reaction at all other than to follow up with another strong fast punch, left-handed this time.

Finsternis dodged that one, narrowly avoiding a kick from the man in the mint green polo shirt. Lucia removed her necklace. It was heavy, its weight around her neck already uncomfortable. It also had sharp points. She grasped it by the chain, swung and hit the priest in the head as he moved in. The crunch as the heavy stylized sun connected with his skull brought tears to Lucia’s eyes. He crumpled to the ground without a sound.

“What happened to these people, Finsternis?” she whispered.

He snarled, ducked back from a punch thrown by the man in the polo shirt. “Pray enough and you get what you ask for—a life lived only to serve Yhwh. These people are not human any more, not in any way that matters.” His boot hit the man square in the abdomen. Lucia swore he could hear his spleen explode. He slid to the ground, expression never changing.

The Hasidic Jew lashed out, brass knuckles connecting with Finsternis’ left cheekbone. The skin sizzled and blackened. Finsternis growled and Lucia swung the locket across her body, turning into the swing. A point of the sun caught in the man’s neck, tearing out his windpipe as Lucia finished the spin. He made a wet gurgling sound as blood sprayed Lucia and Finsternis, but dropped without even putting a hand to his ruined neck.

That left the nun on one side and the Muslim woman on the other. They jockeyed for the next punch while tears flowed down Lucia’s cheeks and Finsternis growled, a low rumble that bounced off the walls and pooled in the shadows.

The nun stepped past Lucia, who realized that with a demon present, she was invisible. No doubt once they finished off Finsternis, they would turn on her, but for now Lucia might have been a cardboard box for all they cared. Understanding hit her. In the churches Lucia was familiar with, the most devout were so obsessed with demons as to be unseemly even to other fundamentalists. It made sense now, it was a symptom of becoming an agent.

Lucia took the locket in her right hand, the heavy gold chain dangling free, and crashed into the nun from behind, bringing them  both to the ground. Lucia shut her eyes and brought her arm down, smashing the stylized sun into the woman’s skull. The nun bucked, trying to throw Lucia off. Again Lucia smashed her hand down as hard as she could. Eyes still closed, again. From somewhere far away, Finsternis howled, bones broke and again.

Lucia raised her arm again- how many times, what would she see if she opened her eyes- and a hand grasped her wrist, held it back. She turned with a snarl of her own and opened her eyes. Finsternis held her arm. “Finsternis? Are you—“ No, he wasn’t okay. The left side of his face was swollen, his left eye a slit of violet. His hands, his elegant fingers, were scorched, the skin peeling back, several purple fingernails missing. His breathing was harsh and pained, but he was alive, standing and holding her wrist.

Lucia stood up. A brief glimpse at the nun showed a ruin of bone and blood and gobs of something she didn’t want to think about. Lucia clenched her teeth against the bile rushing up her throat.

“What-“ She swallowed. She refused to throw up on Finsternis’ boots. “What happened to your hands?”

Finsternis considered his hands briefly. “It is not as bad as it looks.” He gestured at the Muslim woman lying on the ground, her neck obviously broken. “She had on a brass collar under her hijab.”

“Clever of her,” said Lucia. Despite the churning of her stomach and mind and a desperate desire to start screaming and never stop, she sounded quite calm.

“Yes, it was. Luckily, I only touched the fabric over the collar, not the collar itself. Otherwise, I could have lost my fingers altogether.”

“Yes, lucky us.” Lucia sounded as empty as she felt. Perhaps her soul had fled, running away from the blood that covered her face and hands.

Finsternis spun with a pained gasp at the sound of footsteps in the alley, but Lucia could only look with disinterest. What did it really matter? She’d kill another agent, another ten, another thousand. She was damned. Satan was her father, she’d started off that way and now it was official.

It was Bayarma. She carried a bag and evinced no interest in the bloody corpses littering the alley. She looked at Lucia with concern. Lucia laughed hollowly. “He’s the one who’s hurt. I’m just damned.”

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Chapter 6, pp 56-61

Despite living only two and a half hours away by bus for over a decade, Lucia had visited New York City only twice. She told herself that it was the expense that kept her away, but the truth was, though she wanted to like Manhattan, she found the crowds and noise and relentlessly fast pace of absolutely everything overwhelming, and she always felt the country mouse every time she stepped onto the pavement of any street in the city. It didn’t help that New Yorkers tended to assume anyone with a Southern accent was an ignoramus, or that, in a lot of ways, she was one. Growing up fundamentalist in the South didn’t result in a cosmopolitan understanding of the world. Today, however, she looked at the sleek, fashionable city folk and wondered if any one of them would have the nerve to take a whack at an angel with an iron poker. Probably not.

Not even Finsternis could make street parking appear in the West Village, so he parked in a garage like everyone else and they walked along streets lined with beautiful, well-maintained brick buildings, upscale shops marked only by the wares discretely displayed in their windows, and restaurants whose only advertisements were the tantalizing smells from the kitchens. Like everywhere in New York City, the pavement baked in the late Spring sun, the sunshine boiling down unfiltered save by small, stunted trees growing out of iron gratings in the ground. Lucia couldn’t really comprehend living in a place where she’d have to take a half hour cab ride just to see grass.

Lucia tugged on Finsternis’ sleeve and pointed at what might have been a Chinese restaurant. The only clue to ethnicity was the discrete lettering on the door and Lucia couldn’t tell Cantonese from Korean. Whatever it was, the four empty tables in the dining room looked clean and the smell was mouthwatering.

“We should get what you need first. I do not relish the idea of being caught in there by a group of angels without it,” he said.

Lucia didn’t blame him. Finsternis would have the advantage in the dark, cramped space, but they would be trapped until they killed the angels or were killed themselves.

“Why weren’t you worried about being caught before?” she asked.

“I was expecting the Morningstar to provide more backup. Apparently, he has a new strategy.”

Lucia considered her brief meeting with her father. “Yeah, have you considered that his new strategy may be ‘let it all burn’?”

Finsternis looked at her seriously. “Yes. I have. It is not, however, my strategy.”

They walked on. After a block, the crowds changed from perfectly coiffed office workers and unwashed beggars to brightly dressed people of an Asian heritage Lucia couldn’t quite place. It wasn’t until she saw a line of men with shaved heads wearing red and gold robes that she realized the neighborhood was Tibetan.

The monks avoided looking at Finsternis, but they stared at Lucia without any attempt at subtlety. Their expressions were . . . delighted? Lucia wondered what place in Buddhist mythology nephalim occupied. By their expressions, it was as saviors.

“Finsternis, why are those monks so happy to see me?”

He glanced at the monks, who very carefully looked away, and said, “They are happy to see your aura. It is, as far as I can tell, the same colour as their robes. This must have some meaning to them, though I do not know what.” He considered them, surprisingly unoffended by their refusal to look at him. “Of course, Buddhist monks tend to be happy more often than most humans.”

“Yes, I’ve never seen a picture of the Dalai Lama where he wasn’t smiling.” She met Finsternis’ gaze. “He’s on Twitter, too, you know.”

“What does the Dalai Lama do on Twitter?” asked Finsternis curiously.

“Puts more love into 140 characters than most people do into an entire book.”

“He is the reincarnation of the spirit of compassion.” He glanced at the monks. “Or so they say.”

“What did you mean ‘as far as you can tell’ about my aura?”

Finsternis began walking again, paying more attention to the buildings they passed. Lucia looked behind her. The monks were still staring. “I cannot see your aura directly as I can a human’s or a demon’s. I can only see it reflected on the humans you persuade. It is red and gold.”

“Oh. What does that mean?” Lucia was jealous of yet another of Finsternis’ abilities.

He shrugged. “On a human it would denote a passionate person, an artist or a revolutionary, someone who burns so brightly, they are doomed to die young. On a nephalim, I have no idea what it means.”

“What about on a demon?”

“Demons’ auras are the fire they channel. Purples have purple auras, greens have green auras, et cetera. Our auras are not reflective of our personalities or physical state, as in humans,” he explained.

He stopped short in front of a door just like every other door on the street. There was nothing special about the door at all, no sign or lettering on it, not even a street number. The building itself, a brownstone with a tall stoop, high entryway, and long windows with deep sills, was like every other on the block.  The heavy black cast iron railing contrasted nicely with the overflowing flower boxes on either side of the door, but other than the profusion of colorful flowers, there was nothing to distinguish this door from any other.

Finsternis opened the door without hesitation, clearly expecting to find it unlocked, which Lucia found odd, especially in Manhattan, until she stepped inside after him to discover a shop. The inside of the shop bore no relation to the West Village street it inhabited. It smelled of old spices, wood, leather and very old books. Shelves lined the long, thin space, from floor to ceiling, displaying leather bound and gilted books, daggers, urns, vases, bowls, jewelry, musical instruments and other items Lucia had no names for. Everything gave off the impression of such age that she was certain that only the shelves themselves were made after the Revolutionary War, but not a hint of dust or rot or mold could be found.

A glass case filled with smaller pieces of jewelry and objets d’art stood toward the back of the nameless shop, nearly hiding an ancient Tibetan woman in a loose, bright orange shirt, her hair covered by an equally bright green scarf.

“Finsternis! It is ever good to see you,” she said, her face lit by a joyful smile, her voice strong and high.

Lucia blinked. Finsternis was openly contemptuous of humans, making this woman’s warm greeting confusing at best.

“Bayarma! It is well indeed to find you still here,” he said in return, his own smile lighting up his face.

Lucia felt her jaw drop. She instantly liked the old woman with her sincere warmth and infectious smile, but Finsternis so happy to see a human was bizarre. “It’s like you’re trying to be difficult! You hate humanity!”

“That does not mean I hate every human,” he said loftily.

Bayarma moved from behind the case with surprising ease. She walked up to Lucia and grasped her hands, barely reaching her chin. “Pay the Dark Prince no mind, child.” Finsternis flinched. “He is by his nature difficult, and that is no fault of his.” Bayarma’s dark eyes, though nearly hidden under wrinkled, drooping eyelids, were bright. Her accent reminded Lucia forcibly of the Dalai Lama.

“The Dark Prince?” Lucia asked. Finsternis flinched again.

Bayarma looked at Finsternis craftily. “You didn’t tell her?” Finsternis shook his head, his violet hair shimmering in the dim light. Bayarma turned back to Lucia. “Finsternis is the heir to the Unclaimed Throne of Hell. It is only foolishness that he refuses to claim it.”

Lucia raised her eyebrows. “Funny, I’ve never known Finsternis to be foolish. Irritating and impossible, but not foolish.” He glared at her.

Bayarma reached up an patted Lucia’s cheek. “Dear girl, all men are foolish in one way or another. Finsternis may be a demon prince, but he is still a man.” She looked at Finsternis, all wounded pride. “Why did you come, Finsternis? Sure not just to warm my old heart?”

Finsternis took a deep breath, blew it out slowly. He was nervous and it sat oddly on him. “I need the Seal of Solomon, Bayarma.”

Bayarma’s eyes opened wide and she took a step back. “Why would you, of all people, want such a thing?”

“Wait, the Seal of Solomon? That’s real? You have it?” Lucia looked at the shop’s contents more closely. “What is all this stuff?” A blade caught her eye. There was nothing special about it, nothing attractive. She moved closer to it. It was ugly, really, dull, strangely shaped, too big for a knife, not big enough for a sword. She had seen drawings of this . . .“This the Spear of Destiny, isn’t it?” The blade had an aura of power to it, and she couldn’t look away. It sang a song of blood and fate and she knew it was just what she needed, if she could just touch it—

Finsternis grabbed Lucia’s arm and spun her around. “Stop that!” he ordered. “Do you see why I need the ring, Bayarma?”

Lucia could still hear the song of the Spear, could smell blood, could see fate—she hugged Finsternis, pressed her face into his chest and breathed deeply. Salt water and woodsmoke, fresh cut grass and five minutes before a storm. The Spear stopping singing.

“Finsternis, the Seal of Solomon is a danger to you,” said Bayarma, clearly shaken, all trace of good humor gone.

“And if Hell’s Champion dies, the danger to me will be less?” asked Finsternis.

Lucia shoved herself back. “I know I was only born to stop the Apocalypse, but would it be too much to ask that one person in the entire universe care about me?” Tears pooled in her eyes and she prayed to a God she had hated her entire life for an archangel, a lightning bolt, a gas line explosion, anything to kill her before she started crying.

Bayarma’s face was pure sympathy. “Child—“

“Little Light,” Finsternis began.

Lucia shook her head, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. If I wanted to hear lies, I could call my mother. She’s been lying to me since the day I was born. Bayarma, I can’t save the world if every angel I run into can set me off and I do want to save the world. Everyone on Earth should not have to die because I’ve got issues.”

Bayarma studied Lucia carefully. “That should not happen, you know.” She sighed. “Of course, I thought nephalim were only male. Perhaps that is why this has never been a problem before.” She walked to the back of the store more stiffly than before, to a door Lucia hadn’t noticed. Lucia and Finsternis carefully avoided looking at one another, which left Lucia looking at her shoes because she was afraid of looking at anything else in the shop after the Spear of Destiny.

Bayarma returned, holding a small, blue box familiar to any engaged woman. Lucia took it and opened it. Nestled in the blue velvet lining was a thick ring made of iron and brass and decorated with the only Hebrew word Lucia knew: cut crudely into the metal. Unlike the Spear of Destiny, Lucia had no desire to touch the Seal of Solomon. In fact, it radiated ugliness and perversion, a thing that should not be. She held the box out to Bayarma. “Take it. I don’t want it.”

Bayarma darted a glance at Finsternis, who shook his head slightly. “This is a thing of great power. It will help you.”

“Then give it to Finsternis,” said Lucia.

“It can only be used by those with human blood,” replied Bayarma.

“Used for what?” Lucia did not want to touch it, didn’t want to get it on her skin, wanted to bathe just looking at it.    

“Controlling angels and demons, of course. Haven’t you read the stories?” asked Bayarma. “Iron is the only weapon humans have against angels, brass the only weapon against demons.”

Lucia had read the stories, though not in many years. “Didn’t Asmodeus steal the ring from Solomon? How could a demon touch such a thing?” She felt nauseated and dull, tired from the effort of having to retrieve her thoughts through a layer of rancid honey.

Finsternis made a multitonal derisive noise. “Many of the ‘demons’ of legend were not demons at all, but rather fallen angels.”

“But still-“ Lucia was certain that didn’t make sense. The ring controlled angels as well as demons.

“Asmodeus was an archangel, like Lucifer and Azrael. Archangels are not the same as angels. Asmodeus did steal the ring from Solomon. It is too powerful, a foolish thing for Yhwh to have made, let along give to an Israelite warlord,” explained Finsternis. He was pretending at calm, but to Lucia’s eye, he flickered and flashed like static on a screen as he repeatedly drew on the Inferno only to immediately let it go.

“As I said, all men are foolish at least once,” said Bayarma.

“So archangels are immune to it?” If Lucia were going to carry something that repulsive, she certainly would not wear it, it should be useful against her most dangerous enemies.

Finsternis shook his head, snarled, displayed too many shiny white fangs. “Asmodeus lives, but he is broken. It is debatable as to whether he even is an archangel anymore.

Lucia shook her head. Nothing was worth all that. “No.”

Finsternis drew in a deep breath, eyes narrowing and Bayarma shook her head. “I don’t have any other way to keep you safe.”

Lucia looked at Finsternis. “You can just do what you did before.” Bayarma gave Finsternis a considering look.

“What if I am not there? What if I do not get to you in time?” asked Finsternis.

Lucia knew he was right. She also knew she’d rather jump into a vat of hydrochloric acid than wear the damned thing. They were at an impasse. Finsternis ground his teeth and Lucia glared at him. Bayarma turned, went to the display case and opened it. She selected a necklace and brought it back to Lucia, who hesitated to take it before realizing it was just metal with no power she could discern.

The necklace was a gold stylized sun hanging from a heavy gold chain. The sun itself was the size of the palm of her hand. It was old, surely, the gold almost the colour of brass, the design unlike anything she had ever seen before. The craftsmanship was exquisite, the edges of the sun’s rays still sharp, each link of the chain uniform.

Bayarma reached over and opened the sun. Until that moment, Lucia hadn’t noticed that it was a locket the clasp and hinges were so cleverly hidden. “Oh, I can put the Seal in here. I don’t have to touch it.”

“The gold will block any effect it might have,” said Finsternis.

“So gold conducts electricity and insulates magic?” asked Lucia.

Finsternis rolled his eyes. “It is not magic. It is physics a human scientist could never see.”

“They probably have seen it,” added Bayarma, carefully placing the Seal inside the locket. “They just aren’t capable of knowing what it is.” She placed the locket around Lucia’s neck.

Lucia looked down at it, the huge stylized sun resting in her cleavage. She like knowing what the locket hid, but she couldn’t feel anything. She looked at Finsternis. He no longer flickered with supernatural fire. Still, wearing the locket was like carrying a spider in a box, she couldn’t see it, but she couldn’t possibly forget the spider was there, all covered in goo, a gooey spider . . .

Lucia spun to face the door. Nobody was there, but they were coming. “Finsternis! We have to go!” She hugged Bayarma. “Thank you.”

“What is it?” asked Finsternis as he led Lucia to the back of the store.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Chapter 6 pp 51-54

Fire. Fire for blood, fire for skin, fire for thoughts. Fire that burned without consuming. Fire without light, fire without pain, fire without fear. Fire that felt like a—

Lucia opened her eyes. Finsternis’ eyes weren’t really violet, nor did they actually have pupils, irises or corneas. His eyes were a starbust of every shade of purple from almost black at the center to a nearly white lilac at the edges. They were beautiful and she wasn’t sure why she’d never noticed it before.

They both pulled back at once. Lucia looked around, confused. They were still at Famine’s house. Four dead angels decorated the floors amongst shattered glass, burned wood and broken knickknacks. The one closest to her still smoldered. Apparently, very little time had passed, though Lucia felt as though she had overslept, leaving her groggy, even though fire still sparked through every nerve ending. She was pressed up against Finsternis, one of his hands wrapped in her hair, the other on the small of her back while he studied her intently.

“What . . . what was that?” she asked.

Finsternis removed his hands and stepped back, one arm out as if to catch her. “We need to go. This is not a safe place to be.”

“Are you fucking kidding me? One second I’m saving your ass from getting chopped in half by a light sword, the next you’re kissing me and we have to go? What the fuck is going on? Is that a shofar? A real one?” Her thoughts couldn’t seem to come together, but the shofar held her attention. Christianity, or at least the churches that tended to hire speakers like Tanny Harris, had gone from hating Jews as the killers of Christ to appropriating their culture. Lucia had spent many a Sunday listening to people refer to God as “Yahweh”, or the informal “Yah”, and attempting to produce notes on rams’s horns made of plastic. It was worse when they succeeded. Those same people would often serve challa bread with bacon and pray in Jesus’ name during Rosh Hoshanna dinners, a joke that never got old with the Jewish partners at the law firm.

“Yes, that is a real shofar. And I am sorry for . . .” Finsternis ran a hand through his hair, smoothed down his shirt. “We really need to go.” Sirens sounded in the distance.

Lucia realized that if the police did see the corpses as angels, it would provoke questions she couldn’t possibly answer, and if they didn’t, she was in a house with four dead bodies. “Fine, let’s go.”

As they walked out the door, Finsternis set the house ablaze without looking back. “How would the average human see dead angels?” Lucia asked as she got into the car.

“Dead, both angels and demons lose our ability to hide in plain sight.” He whipped the car back and took off, tires screeching and smoking.

“Where did you learn to drive, the Indy 500?” Lucia asked, pressed against her seat by the speed.

A grin crinkled Finsternis’ eyes. “Back when cars weighed ten times as much, steered like boulders and did not even have seat belts, there were no speed limits. Now that cars are actually controllable, filled with safety precautions and capable of real speed, you are forced to plod along barely faster than a horse. Humans are perverse.”

“True that, but—“ Lucia gasped as Finsternis threaded through traffic at 80 mph, missing the other cars by inches or less. “Am I capable of having a heart attack?”

“No. Why does every nephalim ask me that?”

“Because you are a crazy person, that’s why,” said Lucia. “So, kissing, what was that all about?” Lucia asked casually. She still felt somewhat . . . warm.

“Simply blasting you with Hell’s Inferno would not have worked. You are nearly immune to it,” Finsternis explained.

He said it so matter of factly, Lucia’s first reaction was to nod and accept his explanation. “Wait a minute, you need to back up. Why was it necessary to ‘blast’ me at all?”

Finsternis frowned. “The angels, their use of Heaven’s Light, triggered the archangel within you. It was consuming your human half. Allowed to continue, it would have killed you,” he finally said quietly.

“So I’m a walking time bomb and any time the angels that are hunting us right now find me, I could explode?” She didn’t remember any of this. From her point of view, she’d hit an angel with a poker and then, with no transition at all, Finsternis was kissing her. Lucia believed him, if only because also didn’t remember the fourth angel or his shofar. Obviously something had happened and for some reason, she hadn’t been aware of it. Right in front of her.

"It should not have happened. Only an archangel should be able to trigger the archangel within you," said Finsternis.

"How is that relevant? It did happen, it could happen again. At any moment. Like right now." Lucia stopped, concentrated on breathing for a few moments. "Is there any way to prevent it from happening again?"

"I hope so. There was a thing that could possibly help you, assuming it does not kill you. I hope that we can find it Manhattan."

"In a club?"

"No, in a store."

For moment, Lucia felt marginally better. "Possibly help, assuming it does not kill you" wasn't the most positive description she'd ever heard, but it was better than nothing. Besides, this was Finsternis. He was fearless, could defeat four angels with very little help and was thousands of years old. Finsternis wouldn't let her die a horrible death.

 Then she considered why Finsternis would keep her alive. To prevent the Apocalypse, to stop War, Pestilence, Death and the Messiah, her nephalim cousin. Rats in a cage, all of them, just like her.  And when the Messiah was dealt with, Finsternis would, quite literally, go to Hell, leaving Lucia on Earth to explode. She didn't imagine that the forces of Heaven would just let her go after all the trouble she already had caused them, and the trouble she intended to cause them in the near future.

"There's no winning against God, is there?" she whispered.

"Certainly not if you give up now," replied Finsternis.

“Fine. Is there anything else I should know about?”

Finsternis’ jaw clenched. His eyes flashed fire and he seemed to crackle for a moment. Lucia realized she could now see him holding Hell’s Fire even when he wasn’t using it. “The Messiah is Gabriel’s son.”

“What?” Lucia knew she could not have heard that right.

“The Messiah is the nephalim son of the archangel Gabriel, General of Heaven’s Host,” Finsternis repeated through clenched fangs.

“I thought angels didn’t do that. At least not the ones serving Yhwh, anyway.”

Finsternis snorted. “I’m sure Gabriel is very careful to hate every second of it.”

“Well, that certainly explains the first chapter of Luke. Do you suppose he actually said ‘Hail thou art highly favored, the Lord is with thee, blessed art though among women’?” Lucia had heard some bad come on lines in her life, but that had to be the worst ever recorded.

“I have no doubt that is a direct quote.” Finsternis laughed. “This would be funnier to you if you had ever met Gabriel.”

“I’m sure,” said Lucia.

“He is just such an uptight, self righteous, arrogant—“ the last was in demonspeak, a collection of hisses and growls that Lucia interpreted as “bastard”. “Serves him right, what Yhwh makes him do sometimes.”

“I’d find that funnier except that I can’t help but think of Mary. No matter how right it served Gabriel, what did she ever do to anyone?” Lucia asked.

“I am not without a heart, Little Light. You forget I spent two years in the company of Jesus. I actually met Miryam once. I doubt she liked the sex itself, but she was very proud of having been chosen to bear the Messiah,” Finsternis said gently.

“I hope you’re right. What was she like?” Lucia just couldn’t quite grasp the idea that Finsternis had personally known Jesus, Judas, Mary and the rest. It wasn’t reasonable.

Finsternis shrugged. “She was a proper married Jewish women of her time.”

“What does that mean?”

“Married Jewish women did not spend any great deal of time with men other than their husbands, certainly not without their husbands present.” He paused. “She seemed nice enough.”

Lucia laughed. “Of course I meet someone who actually met Mary and all I get is that she ‘seemed nice enough.’ Where are we going?”


“Is that where War is?”

“I have no idea where War is. Finding him is up to you. I just like Manhattan,” Finsternis replied.

“Of course you do.” Lucia pulled out her iPad. “Let’s see what’s happening in the land of lolcats and lulz lizards.”

“Where?” For the first time, Finsternis looked honestly confused. Lucia rolled her eyes.

“The internet, Finsternis. Welcome to 1999.” She scrolled through her twitter feed. “Holy shit!”

“What is it? Cats or lizards?”

“It looks like Anonymous got hold of Famine’s data. It’s everywhere. And,” she pressed a link, “It looks like they hacked Santalmo but good.” She held up the iPad so Finsternis could see it. It displayed a picture of a man’s torso, in a suit and tie, surrounded by laurel leaves. Where the head should have been was a question mark.

“What is that supposed to be?” Finsternis asked.

“That is one of the symbols for a group of hacktivists called Anonymous. That picture is where Santalmo’s website used to be,” Lucia explained.

“What is a ‘hacktivist’?”

“An activist who attempts to change the world through hacking. You know, computer hacking?” Lucia explained.

“Does that work?” Finsternis sounded doubtful.

Lucia paused, then said quietly, “I sure hope so. The world needs changing. So, anyway, why are we going to Manhattan again? You just decided you’d like to enjoy the nightlife halfway through the Apocalypse?”

“Well, I do enjoy the nightlife.” He looked at Lucia, alarmingly while merging at 95 mph. “What? I cannot enjoy dancing?”

“You cannot use contractions, which makes it a bit difficult to picture you—we’re not talking about ballroom dancing, are we?” Lucia just could not picture Finsternis getting down at a club. Maybe lurking in the shadows, brusquely rejecting every woman who thought dangerous was another word for sexy, but actually on the dance floor? No.

Finsternis scowled at her. “I learned English several hundred years ago. Excuse me for not keeping up with every change in slang. I did ‘ballroom dance’—back when it called dancing. I do not—don’t—do so anymore.”

Lucia studied him for a moment. He was strong, quick and coordinated, so maybe he wasn’t joking about dancing. She just couldn’t picture it. “Well, okay, we’ll dance. Or, you’ll dance and I’ll watch.”

Finsternis raised an eyebrow. “You do not—don’t—dance?”

“I was raised full on fundy, you know, they don’t allow sex because it might lead to dancing,” Lucia said. She’d love to go dancing, she just had no idea how and no desire to look stupid in public.

“I could teach you how to dance,” offered Finsternis.

Lucia shrugged. “Sure, you can try.”

 “If I say I will—I’ll-- do a thing, I do it.”

“Okay, forget the contractions. You’re not good at them.” Lucia was almost certain he was being deliberately annoying about it.

Finsternis winked at her.  “I know I’m not.”
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Avoiding the Apocalypse by Amaryllis Zandanel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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