Chapter Ten; Part One
“We must first fill the room with incense.” Wind had been gracious enough to come over that night in answer to my urgent plea. I knew that I had to seal that damn portal, no matter how much I wanted to remain connected to Lucifer. “We need to chase the bad spirits out.” She lit some incense—jasmine, by the smell of it—and handed several sticks to me, keeping several for herself. She started waving them in the air, indicating that I should follow suit. I did, but I felt ridiculous doing so. I didn’t buy into that New-Agey shit, no matter how couched it was in Eastern lingo. Still, Wind was the expert; I would listen to her until it became too ludicrous for me to do so.
“Close your eyes while I say a quick prayer to the goddess.” I obeyed, my rational mind thinking it’d be better to pray to God in this case. I sent Him a brief word as well, figuring it best to hedge my bets.
“Mighty Goddess, listen to my pleas. Help this woman be strong against the influence of the Dark Prince. She needs your strength—do not fail her now.” Wind started humming a tune I didn’t recognize, and I kept my eyes closed. I was starting to feel stupid when Wind instructed me to bow deeply before opening my eyes. I had a hunch God was roaring with laughter at our feeble antics, but I kept that opinion to myself.
“Now, sit on the floor cross-legged while I set a few things in place.” Wind’s tone was bossy as she rummaged through her bag. As she was doing me a favor, I tried not to take offense. I watched as she took out a heap of sage and placed a bundle in each corner of the living room. She seemed to think my living room contained the actual portal though I first saw the Morningstar in my bathroom. She said she’d fortify each room later, but the living room was the focus of her attention.
After she lit the sage on fire, she popped a CD in my player and pressed play. Some flute music wafted out of my speakers, grating on my nerves. How could I take this seriously when everything about it screamed hokey? I tried to clear my mind of negative thoughts, but it was difficult. I watched in disbelief as Wind started hopping and jumping around the room. I assumed she was trying to mimic an Indian dance, but the jerkiness of her movements made it hard to discern. She hummed under her breath to the tune on the CD player, totally involved in what she was doing. She lifted her hands upwards, beseeching the Goddess to hear our cries. As she was the only one crying out, I thought she was stretching the truth a bit.
“God,” I muttered softly. What the fuck had I gotten myself into? Was I just making things worse with this idiotic behavior on the part of Wind? Who the fuck knew?
“Margaret, come here.” Wind’s voice snapped me out of my funk. I rose and crossed over to her. She made a new bundle of sage and lit it before waving it over my head. I sneezed several times, but Wind kept waving. Just when I was going to grab the shit out of her hand and throw it as far as possible, she stopped. “Hold this.” She gave me the bundle before rummaging through her bag again. This time, she pulled out a box of white chalk and drew out a stick.
“Hey, what the fuck are you doing with that?” I asked in alarm as she started for one of my maroon-colored walls.
“I have to mark your walls,” Wind explained, drawing a symbol on one of my walls.
“You can’t do that!” I exclaimed, grabbing her drawing arm. “Stop!”
“I have to,” Wind retorted, jerking away from me. I stood back helplessly as she continued to mark my walls with esoteric symbols. Thank God it was only chalk which could be easily wiped off. Or so I hoped.
“This is fucking nuts,” I said, sinking onto the couch. I was still holding the sage in my grip. I wanted to put it down, but I didn’t dare without Wind’s permission. I watched as she drew symbol after symbol. Just when I was on the verge of calling the whole thing off, the portal appeared before my eyes. It was white surrounded by complete blackness. It shimmered as the white portion began closing bit by bit.
“It’s working!” Wind crowed as we watched the white continue to shrink. Just as it was about to disappear completely, there was a crashing sound, and the white came back tenfold. In the midst of it stood Lucifer, terrible in his wrath. He was swathed in black, and he looked ready to kill. He stepped through the portal, his glare honing in on Wind who was frozen to the spot, her mouth wide open.
“You dare! A mere mortal trying to stop the Prince of Darkness from entering this realm. You must suffer!” Lucifer raised his hand, and Wind dropped into a crouch. Before Lucifer could do anything, however, I was off the couch and standing between him and Wind. I didn’t know if it would stop him from executing his punishment, but I damn well had to try.
“You better not, Morningstar! I asked her to close the portal so it’s my fault, not hers.” I thrust my face into Lucifer’s, trying not to let him see me tremble.
“You couldn’t do it without her knowledge,” Lucifer hissed, his eyes turning black. “She was only too willing to undertake the loathsome task. Don’t worry, Margaret Marilyn. I will deal with you after I’m finished with her.” He pushed me out of the way, causing me to tumble to the ground. He raised his hand again, ready to destroy.
“Don’t you touch her, Morningstar!” I shouted from my lowly position. “I swear, you do anything to her, and I’ll get the Almighty Father to take care of you. I’ll never give in to you, never, if you hurt her.” I knew they were hollow words, but they seemed to do the trick. Lucifer dropped his hand and turned to me, impotent fury contorting his handsome features. I didn’t know if it was my threat to fetch his Father or the idea that I might really cut him off completely. Whichever it was, it stopped him in his tracks.
“Margaret Marilyn. I understand.” Lucifer bit off each word as if he wanted to kill it. “I’ll make you a deal. I will not touch your friend if you promise not to seal off the portal. Then we will be even. Do we have a deal?” Lucifer’s eyes had retreated back to blue, and he looked impossibly gorgeous again. I noticed Wind looking at him with something akin to lust from her place on the floor. I didn’t blame her as that’s how I felt about him myself.
“We have a deal, Morningstar. Now, please leave.”
“I’ll be watching. If I see you attempt to close the portal again, I will kill your friend. Understand?” Lucifer didn’t even wait for me to answer before going through the portal and shutting it behind him. As soon as he was gone, I rushed over to Wind and helped her to the couch.
“Wind, talk to me. Are you all right? I’m so sorry I got you into this. I had no idea he would react that way.” In retrospect, however, I should have guessed. Lucifer was not one to take banishment lightly.
“That’s the devil?” Wind asked weakly, sagging against the couch. “He makes quite an impression, doesn’t he?”
“Stay still.” I rushed into the kitchen to grab her an apple and a glass of water. She needed to fortify herself after what she’d just experienced. Despite her frame, she was fragile in health; I didn’t want her collapsing on me. “Here.” I thrust the glass of water in her face, watching as she gulped half of it. I handed her the apple next.
“That’s the devil,” Wind said, color returning to her cheeks. “He’s nothing like I imagined. He’s actually quite dreamy, isn’t he?” She smiled like a schoolgirl with a crush, and I groaned inwardly. She didn’t have much experience with men, and it was clear that she’d been smitten by Lucifer.
“Stop it, Wind. Don’t even think it. He’s pure evil, remember.” I knew it was a hopeless cause, but I had to give it a try.
“Oh, I know. But you didn’t tell me how cute he was.” Wind played with a lock of her hair, twisting it around her finger. “I can understand why you were so reluctant to close the portal.”
“Come on. We have to get rid of the symbols.” I got up from the couch and went over to a wall, testing to see how easy it would be to get the chalk off. It didn’t come off very well just by rubbing it, so I grabbed a napkin and Wind’s glass of water. To my relief, the water made the chalk disappear like magic.
“I’ll help you with that.” Wind grabbed a napkin, too, and soon, we had erased all the symbols. “Oh, we need to dump the sage as well.” Her voice was back to normal—to my relief. We got rid of all the paraphernalia before I sent Wind on her way. I loved her dearly, but I couldn’t deal with her crush on top of mine.
“I’m glad she’s gone.” Lucifer, of course. In my living room. Stark naked. Much more relaxed than earlier in the night.
“Morningstar,” I said in resignation. I sat next to him on the couch and gathered my resolve. “What the fuck do you want?”
“That’s no way to greet me,” Lucifer said softly, his hand coiling around the back of my neck. “I still have to punish you for your insolence,” Lucifer added, squeezing my neck hard.
“But our deal,” I gasped, trying not to wince. I knew he thrived on fear, and I didn’t want to show him any.
“I never said anything about you,” Lucifer reminded me with a chuckle. “Slipshod of you not to mention it, really.” He yanked my head back so the soft side of my neck was exposed. “Such a lovely neck.” He ran a finger down my throat, and I couldn’t help shuddering. It wasn’t all from fear, either. “You know, I’m part vampire.” I couldn’t tell if he was kidding, but I wouldn’t want to bet any money that he was. I closed my eyes as I felt his teeth on my neck.
“Please,” I gasped, dimly aware of an intense pain.
“Don’t worry, Margaret Marilyn. I’m not going to kill you. I’m just going to have some fun with you.”
Fun, my ass! I didn’t want to flinch, but I had to close my eyes. I didn’t want to witness the torture he was about to inflict upon my body. Damn but his fangs were sharp. If I had doubted the existence of vampires before, I didn’t now. I tried to close out what was happening, but my body wouldn’t allow for it. The more I attempted to block the pain, the more I felt the agony. Had I really thought this jerk was attractive? Stupid me, I had! I opened my mouth and howled as I felt a vein tear. Warm fluids were running down the outside of my neck, and I would wager my last dollar that it was blood.
Then, just as suddenly as the pain had started, it stopped. I opened one eye, fearful of what I’d see. At first, I couldn’t see anything, causing me to panic. Was I blind? Was I permanently scarred? Thankfully, after my eyes adjusted, my sight gradually returned. In front of me was a scene that had to be seen in order to appreciate the magnitude of it. God and Lucifer were nose to nose screaming their heads off. Instead of talking in English, however, they were yelling in a language I’d never heard before. Obviously, they were well-versed in the mysterious language as each side was hurling insults—and more. God was the blackest of blacks while Lucifer was glowing white. God was throwing lightning bolts at Lucifer, occasionally singeing the latter’s wings. In return, Lucifer was hurtling fireballs at God, not leaving a mark, of course. I could have told Lucifer that any fight with the Almighty was a losing one. How could one beat omnipotence?
“Durzel friot backdadamay!” Lucifer screamed, his eyes glowing red. He threw a blue fireball which merely whizzed by God’s head. Fortunately, they weren’t doing any damage to my apartment, though I was sure neither cared about that.
“Shamata lissea racadundrum hocshi!” God roared, His eyes were red as well. With both of them enraged, it was easy to see the resemblance. I didn’t know why I hadn’t noticed it before, but it was obvious to me now that Lucifer was a complete chip off the old block.
I touched my neck gingerly, fearful of what I’d find. To my amazement, it was completely dry. I looked down at my shirt—no blood. I carefully moved my head from side to side, not wanting to reopen any wounds if they were there. Nothing. God truly could do anything, I guessed, but I wished He’d arrived sooner. I sat on the couch, patiently waiting for them to get over their little snit. Hey, as long as they were battling each other and not me, and as long as they weren’t destroying my living room, I couldn’t care less what the fuck they did to each other. I only wished they’d do it far away from my apartment, but that was just wishful thinking.
“Menickta sholsta rubriota hallemandere!” There was a rumbling as Lucifer spoke. A portal opened, spitting out one of Lucifer’s foul creatures. I couldn’t remember its name, but I certainly remembered its slimy exterior and lack of eyeballs. I anxiously looked at the floor where the thing had landed, and it was clean. It appeared as if nothing the otherworldlies did left a permanent mark in this realm. That was small comfort, indeed.
“She-hala protabazippo neeka teeka toudo!” God, this time, summoning His own minion, I presume. A puff of smoke heralded the entrance of an angel, albeit one on steroids. The thing was glistening muscles, and that’s about it. It rolled more so than walked, and I watched in sick fascination as it made its way towards the slimy creature. It was clear that God and Lucifer had each called a warrior to do battle. I didn’t know to what purpose, but I knew I couldn’t stop them. I wished I had some popcorn, then scolded myself for being so flippant. I settled back to see what was going to happen next.
“Laxita horibe shenono pawlatatdi!” Lucifer waved a hand at his slime creature, causing it to burst into flames.
“Hassie dassie denmito robino excelito sha!” God moved His hand ever so slightly, and His muscle thing grew tenfold in size. The two creatures met in the middle of my living room floor, and it was on.
The slimy creature struck first with its spiky tail, lashing out quicker than the human eye. The muscle thing grunted as the spiky tale sliced its covering, but it didn’t waver. Instead, it flexed its body and stuck the slimy thing square in the front of it. The slimy thing rolled into a ball as it fell, avoiding serious harm. I wondered if these beings could feel pain or even die, but I surmised that God and Lucifer wouldn’t have started this battle if there wasn’t a way for either side to win. Then again, who the fuck knew what otherworldly beings did when they were pissed off? I never covered that bit of information in school.
The muscle thing clearly had the upper hand as it kept hammering the slimy creature. The latter desperately tried to defend itself by whipping out its tail and by projecting three-inch long spikes. None of it mattered to the muscle thing as it simply regenerated its covering whenever it was penetrated. This was like a sci-fi movie between the Alien and the Predator. Well, no, it wasn’t, but it’s the closest I could come to describing the action. I didn’t dare blink for fear I would miss something. Besides, I didn’t trust those things not to attack me, so I wanted to keep an eye on them. God and Lucifer were watching their minions as well, neither one moving.
I had mixed emotions about the fight. On the one hand, I understood that rulers always had serfs to do the shitty tasks. Why get your hands dirty when you can make others do it for you? It was one of the perks of being the person in charge, and it was nearly a universal rule. On the other hand, these poor creatures didn’t have a choice in their destructions. They were mere tools in the game Lucifer and God were playing. Or were they going to war with these hapless creations as their weapons? Either way, the underlings didn’t have a say in the matter, and that didn’t sit well with me. God, especially. For an entity who emphasized His belief in freewill, His actions certainly indicated that He didn’t believe freewill was for everybody or everything.
A loud crash startled me out of my reverie. The slimy creature had managed to puncture something important of the muscle thing’s physiognomy. The latter was gushing some noxious liquid from the wound as it tumbled to the floor. It managed to lacerate the slimy creature, however, on its way down. In the end, the slimy creature vanished into thin air while the muscle thing survived—panting heavily in pain. I couldn’t bear looking at it as it lay, knowing it existed solely to serve God. Lucifer let out a scream of frustration, but disappeared soon after. I didn’t even bother asking God what had just happened as I wasn’t sure I wanted to know. He told me, anyway.
“My son understands that he is not to harm you,” God said calmly, His eyes back to black. He might well have been reporting the weather by the tone of His voice. “Forgive him. He can be, shall We say, impetuous?” I didn’t know what to say in response to that. ‘Thanks for saving me from Your psycho son’? ‘You must have raised him wrong’? There was no appropriate response, so I remained silent. “I suggest you rest up and perhaps drink some warm tea. I caught him in time, but there may be residual….Well, let’s just say residual side effects.” I didn’t know why He was being so careful, but I refused to give Him the pleasure of not telling me when I asked by not asking.
“I think I’ll take a bath,” I decided, standing up abruptly.
“We still have to talk,” God said, His voice grim. The muscle thing had disappeared as well so there was no trace remaining of the surreal battle between astral beings. “I don’t mind doing it while you take your bath.” That stopped me for a minute. Did I really want God to see me naked again? I knew it meant nothing to Him, but I felt at a real disadvantage when I was forced to talk to him while I was naked. Then again, I didn’t want to wait to take a bath, either. I reluctantly decided that talking to Him while taking a bath was the lesser of two evils, and I commenced to the bathroom without saying a word to God. He thoughtfully waited until I had drawn the water and had sunk into the bubbles.
“What you did was dangerous,” God said without preamble. “I know you thought it was the right thing to do, but obviously, it wasn’t. An amateur cannot seal a portal of such dimensions. You have to get a professional.”
“There are professional portal sealers?” I asked, unable to hide my incredulity. “For real?”
“For real. It’s not cheap, but it’s guaranteed. I’m not sure you could afford one, however. You might have to think of another way.”
“Li Ling told me Wind could do it,” I pointed out, irritated at getting the run-around. “She’s one of yours, isn’t she?” I thought of something else. “You, yourself, told me to get Wind to do it!”
“Neither Li Ling nor I told you to have Wendy seal the portal. We both merely said that Wendy would be able to help you with it and that you should talk to her about it.” It was on the tip of my tongue to tell God to make His messages a bit more clear, but I wisely remained silent. I was learning by experience that it didn’t do much good to argue with the Almighty. That most likely wouldn’t stop me very often, but it was worth remembering.
“Why do I get the feeling that You’re not telling me everything?” I asked God before waving a hand at Him. “Forget it. I don’t want to know.” I closed my eyes, indicating that I thought the conversation was over.
“You don’t need to know anything else,” God said, apparently not getting my message this time. “All you have to do is carry My child and not be swayed by Lucifer. Period. End of story. Shouldn’t be too difficult if you focus properly.”
“Mmmm, focus,” I murmured, adding more hot water to my cooling bath. “I need to focus.” Suddenly, the water was freezing cold, causing me to yelp. “What the fuck?” I bolted upright, glaring at God for being such a jackass.
“You need to take this seriously. All of it. Do you know what Lucifer could have done to you tonight?” God’s tone was deadly with no trace of jocularity. “He would have drained you of your blood which is incredibly painful. Then, he would have flayed you—which is even more painful. Just about when you’re ready to beg for death, he’d restore you to full health so he could do it again.”
“But You are omnipotent,” I blurted out, cross because He seemed to be trying to scare me. “Isn’t it Your job to look after me? Especially as I’m carrying Your child? By the way, what language were You and Lucifer screaming at each other earlier, and what were those things battling?”
“I don’t want to have to watch you every second! None of your business, and none of your business.” It took a minute to digest His answer, but it made me indignant when I did.
“Look, it’s my business when the two of You carry out Your unholy war right in my living room! If You don’t want me to ask this shit, then stop causing scenes in my apartment!” I splashed the water for emphasis, though it didn’t do much more than ripple.
“Read My lips.” Suddenly, God’s face was comprised entirely of two giant lips. It was vaguely nauseating to watch them talk, but I couldn’t drag my eyes away. “You are carrying the next savior. It is up to you to remain in relatively good health before she is born. It will be up to you to raise her in the manner I see fit. It would behoove you not to allow Lucifer such easy access to your soul. This is what you need to know.” God turned back to His normal self, albeit chartreuse this time.
“Read my lips,” I said softly, but just as fiercely. No, I didn’t have the cool visual accompanying my words, but I had the passion. “I have a life of my own. I want to be able to live it without interference from You or Lucifer. I understand that I must carry Your child, that I have no choice, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Understand? I have that much freewill, don’t I?”
“Of course you do,” God said. The water turned hot again before He disappeared into thin air. I closed my eyes and soaked in the tub for a good forty-five minutes. I deserved the indulgence.