16 September 2011

"One of Our Angels is Missing"

By Curtis C. Chen

The Devil has a twin brother named Stanley. Lucifer and Stan don't really get along, which is part of the reason Stan lives on top of a mountain on the south side of Hell, and why he was surprised to get a visitor from the head office last Tuesday.

"Lou got summoned?" Stan put the tea tray on his coffee table and sat down across from his guest. "I thought that didn't work no more."

"It's not supposed to," said the female demon on his settee. She had introduced herself as Miika, which was a Draconian name. Stan had never met one of those before.

"Ain't that why me and the four stooges live where we do? To form a protective conflagration or somethin'?"

"Or something." Miika's eyes kept changing color, which made it hard for Stan to read her expression. "You haven't been reading any holy books, have you? Keeping pet birds? Rearranging the furniture?"

"Course not," Stan said, mildly offended. "I know better'n that. Never break the circle, never speak The Name—"

"I'll need to cast some runes," Miika said. "Just to make certain. You understand. You're the last of the five, and I need to rule everything out."

"Yeah, you do what you gotta do. Make yourself at home." The timer on the table dinged. "Tea's ready. You take milk and sugar?"

"Just one slice of lemon, please." Miika started unpacking her runes, a mixture of polished stones and bone fragments.

"Lemon," Stan grumbled. "Coming right up."

He walked back into the kitchen and opened the icebox. He always kept some firstfruit on hand for when Yevgenia visited, which wasn't often these days, now that she was in the Tartars, but having the little round lumps on hand reminded Stan of her, and that was nice too.

He picked up a firstfruit, whispered to it, and watched it shape itself into a fresh yellow citrus. His nose wrinkled at the scent, but he sliced it up, arranged the pieces on a lime green plate, and brought that back into the parlor.

Miika looked up from where she knelt on the carpet, studying the runes she'd cast. Her eyes seemed brighter than before. She stood and unfurled her leathery wings as Stan approached.

"What have you done?" she said in a deep, rumbling voice.

Stan looked down at the plate of lemon slices. "Are they too thin?"

Miika clapped her hands together. A whirlwind of lightning blazed into being around Stan, constricting him in spiky blue-white spirals.

"What the—" Stan frowned at Miika. "What are you doing?"

"I have my orders," Miika said. "You will accompany me to the Inquisitor's Chamber."

"I ain't goin' nowhere with you, lady."

Stan snapped his fingers, and an invisible hand slapped Miika sideways through the plate glass window. The lightning sputtered and fizzled out.

He walked to the broken window and looked down. Miika was flying away, like a giant bat in a hurry.

"There goes my afternoon," Stan muttered. He grabbed his jacket and started the long walk down the mountain.


Image: Thou Apocalypse by Hamed Saber, May, 2007