So, I scrolled by Rayne Hall’s post about a 24-hour writing contest and had to try it out. The topic was announced at midnight (her time) and at that point, people had 24-hours to write about it. Mine is a very short story featuring Taye, my most favorite demon ass kicker in the Hell Wrecker serial I’m writing.
The contest is just for fun, though a winner and runner ups will get chosen. In the spirit of fun, I’m sharing the thing here. Maybe it’ll become a chapter in one of Taye’s stories, but for now, it lives wild and free in blog land.
A FISH’S TALE
The market was teeming with people, and Taye Pocrejac cursed each one of them as she pushed through the press of bodies in pursuit of the demon. At least, she was almost certain it was a demon. It didn’t have the acrid smell of black tar and cinnamon that most of the Hell spawn Lucifer threw at her had, but she’d seen the shimmer of magic dance across its skin and knew it wasn’t human.
One of Lucifer’s generals, then? Not Desmodius, though. He never tried to blend in with the humans when he burst through the Rip and he liked to fight where there were buildings he could knock down. She hadn’t seen him since the last time he’d ripped open the side of the Hart Foundation building and she’d called him an uglier version of King Kong.
He hadn’t appreciated the slight. Demons were touchy about their appearances. Who knew?
She stepped up on an overturned fruit crate to get a look over the sea of heads and find her quarry.
There, by the fish stalls.
Taye hopped down, ignoring the scolding from the vendor as she pulled her aluminum-coated knives from their leg sheaths. She got within three feet of the thing before it slammed down a large circle of power that cut through the fish stall and sent its wares sliding to the ground. A human on her right lost his arm when the field of magic cut clean through his flesh. A toddler, about three-years-old, was stuck in the circle with them, her mother screaming her name just on the other side.
“Let her out.”
The thing ignored her. He didn’t quite look like a human now that she got a closer look at him. His eyes were protuberant and his head too narrow. When the sun caught his skin it gleamed. His ears were thin and ruffled on the edges like fins. “Why are you following me, little half-demon?”
She couldn’t place his accent. Des and Lucifer spoke in the same flat accent she did, but this one sounded like he was rolling gravel around on his tongue as he formed words. “Not a demon, thanks. Let her out and then we’ll talk.”
He didn’t acknowledge the child. “I’m not what you think I am. It would be best for you if you let me go.”
“Can’t. I’m a knife-toting member of the Goetia Siste and you, whatever you are, aren’t supposed to be here.” She moved carefully, slowly, putting herself between the thing and the little girl. It would be harder to send him back through the Rip with the girl underfoot, but she found a smile tugging at her lips at the challenge presented. It would take all her skill to keep the kid alive. This wasn’t another predictable face off with Desmodius who was, despite his size, rather pedantic in his fighting style. “So, let her out and I’ll let you try to kill me.”
The thing waved his hand, light dancing over his webbed fingers. Magic hit her hard, magic of a kind she hadn’t tasted before and in seconds the knives were dripping molten metal to the ground at her feet. “Yield and I’ll let you live,” he said.
He hadn’t moved from his spot except to move away from the fish. Taye narrowed her eyes. “I guess I’ll have to tear you apart with my bare hands.” She flexed her fingers, wishing she could sprout claws or something useful, but all she’d gotten from taking the sheolstone given her by Lucifer was pretty red scales on her back and even those were fading since she’d been abstaining from the Hell drug. It made her stronger but she feared it also made her more like him.
She wasn’t going to become a demon, no matter what Lucifer wanted.
“I’m not yielding.” She took two quick steps toward the fish and picked up a mackerel, its scales cold and slippery from the ice it had been laying on. It was a pretty big fish and she was gratified by the step the thing took away from her. “What? Don’t like fish? Is this a new thing or are you some sort of demon I haven’t had the pleasure of killing yet?”
“I am not one of the demon scum,” he said. When he moved back again, the circle moved with him.
Behind her, the little girl cried out. Taye risked a glance over her shoulder. The girl had her fingers stuffed into her mouth and she was crying around them. “It’ll be okay, sweetie.” Her mother was holding her hands to her chest too. “Don’t touch the bubble, okay? Stay behind me and don’t touch the bubble.”
It moved an inch more and the girl screamed and ran to Taye, clinging to her pant leg in her terror.
“Yield and you and the little girl will survive.”
Taye could have done as he asked and maybe he would have let them go free. Maybe. Then again, if he wasn’t a demon, it meant he was one of the gods Lucifer had locked up in Hell. And if he was one of those, well, she couldn’t trust a thing out of his lying god’s mouth. “I don’t think so.” She flung the fish as hard as she could. The god thing screamed and dove out of the way. When he did, the circle around them wavered.
Taye reached for another fish, movement hindered by the little girl still hugging tight to her leg. The buckles on Taye’s boot had to be biting into her poor little chest but it didn’t seem to matter. She spun, slipping in ice and fish scales, but managed to stay upright. The god thing gained his feet, his humanoid appearance slipping further to reveal a mouth full of spiny teeth. “Yield, half-demon, or I’ll eat that morsel in front of its mother and make sure yours is the only face she remembers when this is all done.”
She threw the fish before he’d finished the last word and this time the circle broke as he ducked. Taye yanked the kid from her leg and tossed her at the closest spectator. “Call Goetia Siste!” she shouted at the startled man. She whirled back to the god thing, scooping up two bass—trout? Who the hell knew—and ran at the monster.
He threw up his hands and electricity crackled through the air between them. It hit her square in the chest. Her muscles snapped tight, her teeth clacking down on her tongue as she fell to the ground, stunned.
It was over as soon as it hit her but she couldn’t breathe for the pain of it. Agony coursed through her, arching her back and sending sharp spikes through her head.
She was going to die. Here in the middle of a fucking fish stall with a hundred avid gazes on her. She’d die for a second time, and this time it would be permanent. Like before, when she’d been given the choice between death or a lifetime of servitude to the king of Hell she’d chosen Lucifer.
All the fucking angst she’d gone through since and here she was absolutely certain she would opt out of death once more. If she had a choice, that was, and at the moment, there wasn’t much hope of it. She did have sheolstone in her jacket pocket. It was just a matter of getting to it with all her limbs seized up.
The god thing panted as if he had spent his load shocking her. She hoped he choked on his own tongue and died. “Yield,” he rasped.
Never, she thought, unable to unclench her jaw enough to heap curses on his head. Instead of wasting her breath, she focused all her attention on her right arm. It moved, inch by painful inch, to the small zippered pocket over her left breast. Her fingers were curled in toward her palm and she ripped one of her nails down to the quick scraping at the opening but finally, finally, she got the pocket open.
The god thing clamped down on her booted ankle and pulled.
Her arms flew up above her head, her cramping muscles shrieking in pain. Feet went by in a blur as he dragged her across the grass and out of the stalls, farther and farther away from the fish and the people.
Her head bumped against the uneven ground until she jerked it up, regretting the action when her neck protested.
Get the damned sheolstone, she told herself. Her arm moved easier now and she got her fingers around the packet of powder when he dropped her feet.
“You will not send me back to that cage, little half-demon. I will kill you first even if I don’t wish to have your death on my hands.” He was looking more human again and Taye knew he’d already powered back up from the kick of his last spell. He wasn’t able to maintain his magic—the circle was proof of that–but he was strong and Taye hoped to hell one of the gawkers really did call Goetia Siste. She needed a few of her fellow demon killers down here, now.
She ripped open the packet of reddish powder with her thumbnail and snorted the lot of it up her nose. The rush of power was immediate—
–and the god thing smacked her a few dozen feet into the air when she came at him.
She rolled and bounced to her feet, riding on the high of strength the sheolstone always produced but she didn’t run at him. Electricity danced around him and there was no way in Hell she was going to let him knock her on her ass again. Instead, she grabbed the severed half of the fish cart and spun around with it like a discus thrower. She thrust her hips out as let go, the cart, the fish, and the ice spraying outward in an arc. Fish rained down on the god thing. Electricity exploded outward from him as he shrieked and covered his head with his arms.
Taye took the opening and ran for him, throwing herself forward the last few feet to tackle him. They rolled together, over and over, coming to a hard stop against truck tires. She pinned his arms with one hand and held her fish-scale-smeared palm out to his face. “Hold still or I wipe.”
He held still, much to her surprise.
“Why? I mean, this is ridiculous.”
The god thing’s eyes were trained on her palm and he did not look away from it as he spoke. “Long, long ago I ruled the sea. Long before my brother tore himself into the pieces he calls Lucifer and the generals. They were my creations.” He nodded at the smears on her hand, nodded at what those smears represented. “I let myself get taken through my arrogance and stupidity and when I did, I failed them.” His gaze shifted to hers. “Can’t you hear them screaming?”
A subtle shift in the air announced his arrival. Taye cursed.
“Ah, my lovely Taye. Thank you ever so much for rounding up this impudent fish.” Lucifer strode into view and plucked the god thing from under Taye as if he weighed nothing more than a handkerchief.
“I didn’t round him up,” she said, though she had caught him, hadn’t she? Caught him and wrestled him to the ground, intent on sending him back to the gods’ cage … until now.
Lucifer shook the god thing. “Tsk, Ameliotep. Of all my brothers, you were always the most kind-hearted. Whatever came over you?” With an elegant flick of his wrist, Lucifer opened up a Rip. Dimly, Taye registered the screams from the crowd.
“Wait,” she said, putting a hand on Lucifer’s chest. At his look of utter delight, she dropped it, curling her lip. “What did he mean when he said you ripped yourself apart?” If she hadn’t been glaring at him, she would have missed the flash of anger.
“I have no idea.”
“Oh yes you do.” He tried to step around her and she moved again, blocking him. “What. Did he. Mean?”
Lucifer’s nostrils flared. When he leaned in, he let some of his true self show through. Heat blasted off him, scalding her skin. “Get out of my way, sweetheart, before I take you home to Hell and never let you go.”
She stepped aside and he disappeared into the Rip with a crack of sound.
Oh, holy fuck, she thought. Lucifer had once been a god.
She thought of Eutzul, the god who had torn the Rip between their world and Hell in the first place, the god who had killed her parents and murdered half the Earth before Lucifer had gotten control of him. Eutzul, who was pure madness, locked away in a cage of Lucifer’s devising.
Eutzul, Lucifer’s brother.
Her mouth was dry and fear stiffened her muscles just as effectively as Ameliotep’s electricity had.
She had equated him with the old stories from religions long past, equated him with the fallen angel from Christian mythology, had considered him but a misguided—and annoying—creature, nothing more than a lesser being, something weaker than the gods he kept under lock and key.
Now she knew the truth. Knew the truth and was so very afraid because he wasn’t trapped, his power dampened by the wards. No, he was loose and making deals with foolish humans just like her.
Eutzul had done his best to destroy their world and they’d praised Lucifer for saving them. How did the old saying go? ‘The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he wasn’t real.’
In this case, he convinced them all he was a hero and all they needed to do to thank him was give him everything.