“Margaret! Let us in!” It was Thursday night, and someone was banging at my door. Shit. It was Wind and Ned. Again, somebody had let them in. I had half a mind to talk to the landlord about the lax security, but it didn’t seem worth the effort.
“Wind, Ned, how nice of you to drop by.” I pasted a smile on my face as I opened my door. “Ever hear of phoning first?”
“I’m here to cleanse your apartment,” Wind announced, pushing me aside. She was wearing a flowing skirt decorated with tarot card figures and a red peasant blouse. She had a scarf wound around her head, and she was at her most fey. Ned was trailing her, rolling his eyes at her back. I would have laughed if I weren’t completely befuddled as to what Wind was saying. “Ned and I talked it over and decided that it was the devil who’s been talking to you—not God. That’s why I need to do a cleansing ceremony.” She opened her bag and dumped the contents of it onto the coffee table in my living room.
“Wind, it wasn’t the devil,” I interposed, eyeing the items with curiosity. She had sage, tarot cards, a bottle of a clear liquid, and a few other things I couldn’t identify. “I’ve met Lucifer, so I know it wasn’t him.” The minute I said that, I wished I hadn’t. For some reason, I wanted to keep Lucifer to myself. Me and my big mouth.
“You met the devil? What’s he like?” Ned asked, his eyes wide. “Is he just too gruesome for words?”
“Actually, he’s the best-looking man I’ve ever met,” I said, keeping my voice casual. I couldn’t fool my two best friends, however, and they exchanged looks of horror. “After Alan, of course.” I tried to switch tacks, but they were having none of that.
“You have a crush on the devil?” Wind asked, clutching her sage to her bosom.
“I didn’t say that,” I protested, feeling a twinge of conscience. If I were to be absolutely honest, I did have a little crush on the Morningstar. “I was talking strictly about his physical pulchritude, which is magnificent.”
“What did he want?” Ned asked, eyeing me with curiosity. “I mean, Lucifer just doesn’t show up to say hi, does he?”
We all sat down in the living room as I unfolded my tale about meeting Lucifer. They couldn’t believe I hadn’t told them right away, but they forgave me when I said that I needed time to digest meeting the devil. What I didn’t tell them was how Lucifer had almost seduced me into revealing what God wanted with me. I also didn’t divulge God’s warning about what might happen if I took Lucifer up on his offer. I knew I should have told them everything, but I wanted to keep something to myself. My entire life had been ripped apart the last few weeks, and I wanted to maintain a vestige of privacy. At least, that’s what I told myself.
“God, the devil, the Angel of Death, and a protection angel,” Ned mused, looking shell-shocked. “You’ve had quite the experience, haven’t you?” He looked as if he was wondering whom I’d meet next. I did, too, what with the way celestial beings were using my apartment as Grand Central Station.
“I have a date with Ted tomorrow night as well,” I said brightly, trying to change the tenor of the conversation.
“That’s right,” Ned said, brightening as well. “Wouldn’t it be funny if he turned out to be an alien or something as well?” The look I shot him said it most definitely would not be funny, thank you very much.
“Who’s Ted?” Wind asked, looking from Ned to me and back. That reminded us that we hadn’t told her about the drama on Saturday, so we were off and running. We told her everything in excruciating detail, and I had Ned howling with my recitation of misdeeds I had committed at said party. When we reached the part of Ned grappling with his father, well, we all lost it. It had been terrifying at the time, but it was hysterical in retrospect. How white trash can you get, wrestling with your father in his living room? While you’re both wearing tuxes? It tickled our funny bone to no end.
“Oh, I wish I could have seen it,” Wind said, giggling madly. “I wish I could have been your beard once in a while back when you were still in the closet, Ned. Think of how your parents would have dealt with that.” The thought of Wind and her hippy-dippy ways interacting with the oh-so-proper Changs caused us all to laugh even harder. At least I was Taiwanese and had been raised Christian. Wind was about as American-looking as you could get, and she was Wiccan to boot. You can bet there would have been bloodshed had Ned taken her home to meet the parents. Then again, there was damn near bloodshed Saturday night when Wind was nowhere near the Chang house, so maybe it was just the house to blame.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen my father so angry,” Ned shuddered, recalling the temper tantrum his father had thrown. “That’s saying a lot.” Something struck him. “You never called me last night,” he said accusingly, turning his glare upon me. “How did it go with Alan Rickman?” That reminded me that I’d hadn’t called my mother back, either, but that could wait.
“It was very nice, thank you,” I said primly. I couldn’t stop myself from grinning a bit, however, at the memory of the drunken woman on Alan’s lap.
“Who’s Alan Rickman?” Wind asked, causing both Ned and me to look aghast. “What, what’d I say?”
“Who is Alan Rickman?” I demanded, jumping to my feet. I started pacing back and forth as I expounded. “Why, Alan Rickman is only the best actor known to humankind. The way he is overlooked in this country is nothing short of criminal. Brad Pitt, Hugh Jackman, and Russell Crowe rolled up in one have nothing on Alan Rickman.”
“There she goes,” Ned sighed, rolling his eyes theatrically.
“He can play any role from a love-struck swain to a ruthless villain. He’s British, of course, which is one reason his acting chops are so formidably honed. He acted with the Royal Shakespeare Company. He’s devastatingly handsome to boot, despite being older. He has starred in movies from Die Hard to the Potter series to CBGB, and everything in between.”
“Oh, you mean Professor Snape,” Wind said, interrupting my flow. She nodded her head wisely as she absolutely adored the series despite its flaws in witchcraft. “Ew! He’s Alan Rickman?” She wrinkled her nose and looked as if she’d eaten a slug. “You cannot be serious.”
“You can’t judge him by that,” I protested, grabbing a DVD from the coffee table. It was Dark Harbor in which Alan played a more ‘normal’ character, in a manner of speaking. I popped it in my player, eager to win over another convert. Ned, who’d been subjected to an Alan-filled diatribe more than once merely looked amused. I pressed play, immediately wrapped in the mystery of the movie. Even though I’d seen the movie over ten times, it still gripped me from start to almost finish. The last five minutes should have been excised even though they contained my two favorite scenes. I pointed to Alan Rickman as soon as he came on screen. “That’s Alan Rickman.” After watching ten minutes of the movie, I turned it off.
“Hey, I was watching,” Wind protested, throwing a look of reproach my way.
“It’s almost ten,” I reminded her. “Some of us have real jobs, remember?” As Ned was an actor and Wind a freelance tarot card reader who gave massages in her spare time, they both worked unusual hours. Rarely did either have to get up before noon, unlike us poor working stiffs who had to do the nine-to-five grind.
“He’s a good actor,” Wind said thoughtfully, gathering up her paraphernalia. “I don’t think he’s that good-looking, however.” Ned covered his head, pretending to cower. I stared at Wind as if she’d grown another head in the last ten minutes before sadly shaking my own head. “I like the movie. May I borrow it?” I was in a quandary. Wind was one of my best friends, but I made it a policy not to loan out any of my Alan Rickman DVDs. It wasn’t that I thought she would ruin it or something like that; it was more for my own peace of mind.
“Um, how about you come over here Saturday night, and we can watch it together?” Ned, who knew about my little quirk stifled a laugh as Wind looked hurt.
“You don’t trust me with your DVD?”
“It’s not that….” I hesitated, well-aware of how odd I was about to sound. “I don’t lend out my Alan Rickman-related stuff. Any other DVD or CD you want to borrow, you are more than welcome.”
“I see.” It was clear Wind didn’t, but she let it drop.
“We want to hear all about your date with Ted tomorrow night,” Ned said, bussing me on the cheek. Wind followed suit, though she still looked slightly disgruntled. I heaved a sigh of relief as I shut the door behind them. They were my dearest friends, but I wanted to be alone right about now.
I returned to the living room and flopped onto the couch to watch some basketball. Unfortunately, the Timberwolves hadn’t given me any reason to cheer lately, so I switched to the Food Network. Even though I didn’t cook, I enjoyed watching others do it. Ned laughed at me—he was a fabulous cook—but I didn’t see anything strange about it. I didn’t have to renovate to like watching house makeover shows once in a while.
I rubbed my stomach absentmindedly, wondering when I’d start showing. So far, there hadn’t been any sign that I was pregnant, but I suspected that would change sooner rather than later. I didn’t know how I’d deal with morning sickness and all that, if I had to deal with it at all. I wished God had prepped me more about this upcoming pregnancy, but to be fair, I hadn’t given Him much chance. Any time He tried to talk to me, I yelled and shouted in return. To be fair to me, it’s a lot to digest that you’re carrying the Daughter of God who will be the next savior, especially when you’re not a pious virgin as I wasn’t. I wanted nothing more than to wake up and find out that this was a particularly-protracted dream from which I’d finally awakened.
“You could at least have gotten his autograph.” I didn’t bother turning around, knowing the sound of Lucifer’s voice as well as I did God’s. “How was he, then? Better than me?”
“Hello, Morningstar. Of whom do you speak?” I decided to act as if I knew not what was going on in order to preserve my sanity. It was a good thing one of these beings hadn’t had the bright idea of waking me up yet.
“That British man you find so attractive.” Lucifer walked in front of me, his naked body blocking the television. It went blank, probably under command from him. “You haven’t answered my question.” He had his arms across his chest, and if I didn’t know better, I’d say he sounded jealous. “Was he better than me?”
“I wouldn’t know as I haven’t had either of you,” I said smartly. “How did you know about it, anyway?” Lucifer remained silent as he continued to glare at me. “What, you’re following me?”
“I have to find out what He is up to. Following you seemed like a good way to do it.”
“Morningstar, that’s ridiculous, and you know it. God isn’t going to let you catch Him out like that.” I noticed Lucifer flinching at the sound of his Father’s name. I filed it away for further knowledge.
“Be that as it may,” Lucifer said, his voice stiff; “I have to cover every angle. Imagine how pissed off I’d be if I discovered He did, indeed, communicate to you that way.” He had a point, albeit a twisted one.
“Do you have a reason for being here, or are you just busting my chops?” I could no longer summon the energy to protest the invasion, which bothered me more than the sudden visit by Lucifer. Was I reaching the point where I accepted having these beings in my daily life? I hoped to hell not, but it appeared to be the situation. They were wearing me down by the sheer volume of visits.
“I’m here to ask you what it would take for you to tell me what He wants with you.” Lucifer sat next to me, pressing his thigh against mine. Despite my best intentions, I felt my resolve weaken. “What will it take, Margaret Marilyn?” Lucifer lifted my hair and kissed my neck, causing me to shiver. I had a difficult time keeping my eyes off Lucifer’s cock, which was sticking straight out from his body. It looked funny to me, especially considering he was the devil. I mean, couldn’t he control himself better than that?
“Nothing,” I said, struggling to keep my voice firm. I knew Lucifer was a top-notch predator who would stop at nothing to get me to acquiesce. “There’s nothing you can offer me for my compliance.”
“There must be something,” Lucifer breathed, his breath scorching my skin. His hand went right for my breast which was uncovered again.
“There is nothing, Morningstar,” I retorted, wresting myself from his grasp. I jumped up from the couch and backed away from him. The minute I moved myself out of his proximity, my brain cells began to kick in. It was a losing battle, however, as he was next to me in a blink of the eye.
“Margaret Marilyn, be reasonable,” Lucifer said, his voice deceptively mild. “I know that you’re not happy with Him, no matter how you try to hide it. Therefore, whatever He’s done, it’s against your will, isn’t it?” I involuntarily nodded before I could stop myself. I saw the flicker of satisfaction on Lucifer’s face, but it was too late to do anything about it. “That’s the way He operates, you know. He has a master plan, and He doesn’t give a shit what anyone else thinks of it.” There was bitterness in Lucifer’s voice, which was to be expected, I guess.
“What about Zeke,” I asked, unable to stop myself. I’d wanted to know about the Angel of Death for some time, and I knew God wouldn’t tell me anything about him.
“Ah, good old Ezekiel,” Lucifer said, smiling his ferocious smile. “He’s a bit touched in the head, you know.” Somehow, that didn’t surprise me. We returned to the couch so Lucifer could tell me a story. I kept a wary eye on him as I didn’t have the strength to fight him off, but he behaved himself.
The story Lucifer told me was a long and unpleasant one. In a nutshell, Ezekiel was born with a thirst for human blood. He did everything he could to quell his desire, but nothing worked. Every time there was a full moon, much like a werewolf, he went out on a feeding frenzy. He would never remember his rampage, but he would awaken the next morning with blood on his mouth and the torn remains of his meal scattered about him. People were disappearing from town, but no one suspected Ezekiel because he was one of the trusted elders of the village.
He did everything he could not to give in to his base nature. He barricaded himself inside every time there was a full moon. Alas, his strength betrayed him, and he would find himself in the same predicament more often than not. He stopped seeing his friends. There was one special woman, Serena, who kept visiting him because she had faith in him, damn it, and she wasn’t going to abandon a friend in need. Ezekiel fell in love with her, which caused him to pull back even more. Sadly, one full moon, she refused to leave and opened the shades to allow the moonlight to pour into the house. Ezekiel fell upon her and devoured her without thought or remorse.
When he awoke the next morning, he knew what he had to do. He had known that this moment would come, but like a coward, he had kept putting it off. Now, looking at the bloody remains of his beloved, he resolved to end it once and for all. He was going to pull a Virginia Woolf and walk into the lake near his house with stones in his pocket. He did just that, his heart beating as he waded out further and further into the water. It was so very hard to move forward, but he knew he couldn’t go back.
“Was there an Angel of Death before Zeke?” I asked, interrupting Lucifer’s recitation. It earned a dirty look from the Prince of Darkness, but he’d been blathering on for a good half hour. I wanted him to cut to the chase and then leave. Somehow, I had a hunch that was overly optimistic of me.
“Yes. Stop interrupting,” Lucifer said crossly, thrusting out his lower lip. He looked so much like his Father when he did that, but I wasn’t going to mention it to him.
“What happened to the Angel of Death pre-Zeke?” I knew I was pushing my luck, but I was born to push my luck.
“He was kicked out. Satisfied?” Lucifer glared, daring me to ask another question. I wasn’t quite through with him, but I bided my time. Lucifer waited another beat to make sure I wasn’t going to add anything before continuing.
It took longer for Ezekiel to die than he thought it would. He imagined that he would lose consciousness right away, but that didn’t happen. Perhaps it was his penance for all the death he’d caused, but it seemed to take hours for him to pass out. Of course, it couldn’t have been more than a few minutes, but it seemed an eternity to a man who was waiting to die. When unconsciousness finally came, it was a welcome respite from the panic.
“Wake up, Ezekiel!” A voice boomed in Ezekiel’s ear, causing him to sit straight up. What the hell was that thing looming over him? Was he hallucinating?
No, it turned out to be God, of course, in Its purest form. It wasn’t often that a human got to see God in all its glory like this without first being dead. That’s right, Ezekiel hadn’t quite crossed over yet. It seemed that God had something to discuss with Ezekiel, something that had to be talked about before Ezekiel was allowed to expire. God had a deal to offer, but Ezekiel was free to take It up on it or not. It was completely up to Ezekiel. Turned out that God had kicked out the old Angel of Death just days before on some infraction, what, God wouldn’t say. Anyway, God needed a new Angel of Death, and Ezekiel had proven that he’d be more than adequate at the job. What did he say?
“What if I decline?” Ezekiel asked slowly, not sure he wanted to indulge his bloodthirst for the rest of eternity.
“Then you go to Hell,” God said. It fell silent, waiting for Ezekiel’s response. Needless to say, Ezekiel chose the former.
“I only have one request,” Ezekiel said, looking God straight in the, uh, eye area. “I want to be called Zeke.” There was no negotiation on this point, and God gave in because It didn’t really care what the Angle of Death called himself. God allowed Ezekiel to die and to be reborn as Zeke, the Angel of Death. So it has been ever since.
“Wait a damn minute,” I said, my voice indignant. “Are you telling me that God planned Zeke to be the Angel of Death from the minute the previous Angel started acting up?”
“I didn’t say any such thing,” Lucifer said silkily, rubbing the back of my neck. Admittedly, I had knots the size of Kansas back there, but he didn’t need to be touching me while I was venting my spleen. “I am just telling you the story of how Ezekiel became the Angel of Death. Whatever inferences you make are your own.”
“OK, Morningstar, I’ve had it up to here with the little game you and God are playing.” I stood up and faced Lucifer who lazily spread his legs. Immediately, I moved my gaze to his chest which was the least distracting part of his anatomy. “You two may find it humorous to fuck with the minds of us little peons on earth, but it’s not very funny to me at all. Now, get the fuck out of my apartment before I really get mad.”
“I’m not playing, little girl,” Lucifer hissed, standing next to me in an instant. He grabbed my hair and yanked my head backwards so my neck was bared. I stifled a cry because I wasn’t giving him the satisfaction of being his bitch. “You would know if I were playing a game. I’m tired of your lip. Give me what I want. Now.”
“Fuck you,” I spat, vowing not to give in. I couldn’t die, anyway, right? Suddenly, I wasn’t so sure about that belief.
“That could be arranged.” Without warning, Lucifer covered my mouth with his and kissed me passionately. That mixture of pain and pleasure, heat and absolute coldness permeated my body until I didn’t know whether to scream or to swoon. Lucifer broke off the kiss to stare deeply into my eyes. I was dazed and confused so I wasn’t putting up much resistance at this point. “This could be pleasurable for both of us, Margaret Marilyn. There’s no reason to make it so difficult.” He whirled me around so I was facing him before kissing me again. His arms wrapped around me, pulling me closer to him. Somehow, I still had my clothes on, but I figured that wouldn’t last for very long.
“Morningstar….” I whispered, his name emerging like a plea. Whether I was asking him to let me go or to have his way with me, I couldn’t say for sure. Dimly, I groped for the charm around my neck, though I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it once I found it.
“I don’t think so,” Lucifer murmured, snapping it from my neck in one fluid motion. So much for the invincible thread theory. “As much as I enjoy Li Ling, I want some alone time with you.” Li Ling? Who was that? The name sounded vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t say why.
“Morningstar,” I breathed as Lucifer kissed me again and again. By now, I was eagerly returning his ardor, entirely forgetting about anything other than the feel of his lips against mine.
“I bet this makes you forget your Brit, doesn’t it?” Lucifer whispered in my ear as he cupped my breast.
“Alan!” I jerked away from Lucifer, coming to my senses in a rush. “Ted!” I scooped the charm off the ground before Lucifer could stop me. I sent a plea to Li Ling who appeared before I could finish the supplication. This time, her hair was wound in two puff balls on either side of her head while she wore a black two-piece silk outfit, again with red edging, which was completely Chinese.
“Lucifer, I weary of you.” She pulled a sword out of God knew where and began twirling it expertly.
“That’s not what you said when I used to reside in Heaven,” Lucifer retorted, a smirk on his lips. However, I noticed that his eyes were wary, which I took to be a good sign.
“You need to leave Margaret Marilyn alone, or I will be forced to do something drastic.” Li Ling was glorious in her anger, which was ice-cold, rather than red-hot.
“You dare threaten me?” Lucifer roared, his eyes turning red. It was a new look for him, and not one that really suited him. He unfolded his wings to maximum width and seemed to grow before my very eyes.
“Your Father will be very unhappy if He has to come down to shoo you away,” Li Ling said softly, her eyes fastened on Lucifer’s face. Neither of us missed his eyes turning from red back to blue, which indicated that he was reining in his anger. “I’m giving you one more warning, Morningstar, and then it will be on your head what happens next.” She and Lucifer stared at each other until Lucifer shifted without moving.
“This isn’t over, Li Ling,” Lucifer shouted as he opened a portal. “You tell Him that I’ll be waiting. Understand?” He flew off in a snit, still magnificent in his glory. I felt a pang of regret that I would never be able to experience that exquisite beauty. I turned back to Li Ling who was staring at me with a stony face.
“What? What did I do?” I asked indignantly. If she was going to lecture me, I might have to go off on her—even if she did save me again.
“You might want to keep in mind that he is more commonly known as the devil,” Li Ling said evenly, sheathing her sword. “Most people would properly be afraid of him—not attracted to him.” I didn’t say anything, but my look must have conveyed what I was thinking because she answered my unspoken question.
“Briefly, we were together when he was still the Son of God. I have not been with him since he has fallen. He likes to remind me of it now and then because he thinks it shames me. What he does not know is that he does nothing but shame himself when he mentions Heaven.” She stared at me, perhaps trying to ensure that I understood her message. I didn’t, exactly, but I wanted her out of my apartment so I didn’t say anything. “
“Listen to me, Margaret Marilyn.” What was it with these entities that they felt the need to call me out by both my names? One would suffice—I knew who I was. “Lucifer is very powerful. I suggest that you don’t play with him any longer. Block him from entering your apartment.”
“How?” I asked, frustrated beyond belief. “He’s the fucking devil, as you so kindly pointed out.”
“Ask your friend, Wendy. She will know.” Li Ling took the charm from me and affixed the necklace around my throat again. “I am not allowed to give you that kind of assistance.” She patted my cheek before disappearing.
“Great, just fucking great,” I muttered, plopping onto my couch. I didn’t want to deal with anyone else this evening, so I turned the television back on. At least I didn’t have to engage my brain to watch it.