The Lonely Knight
“It’s a dream,” Zoe whispered to herself. “It’s only a dream and nothing more. A dream. I will wake up from it any minute now and I will be in my apartment in New York. A dream and nothing-” she stopped when she heard a hiss. Her eyes widened and fear crawled into her heart. “A dream. I’m dreaming.” She tried to reassure herself keeping her sight on the emptiness in front of her.
“What if it’s not a dream, Zoe? Will you cower in fear and beg for mercy?” A seductive yet dangerous voice whispered in her ear. “Please, don’t kill me. Please, don’t drag me to hell. Please, don’t throw me into the Abyss.” He added in what was a fake whimper. “Please, don’t corrupt my soul. Oh, but that is already too late, isn’t it? The seed of darkness has already been planted into you. My inheritor.” He said so suavely yet audibly pissed off.
Zoe closed her eyes as a few tears slipped down her cheeks. She couldn’t move nor could she look at him. Those red eyes were so emotionless that she could see her own raw feelings into them.
“Why don’t you look at me, Zoe? Don’t you want to know how I spend my time down here when I have nothing at my disposal? Aren’t you worried for me?” He asked and gave a fake gasp in surprise. “But you know, I am very worried for you. I am interested in how you live with the serpent on your back.”
She felt the mark shift on her body as he spoke. His voice was alluring and even in her state of fear, it almost made her curious how he looked. Her fists were so tight that she could feel the nails go into her palms. But she couldn’t give in and open her eyes.
“Are you still mad that I took your favorite toy away? Well, it wasn’t really my fault. I didn’t kill Ezekiel, did I?”
Zoe was so tempted to turn around and punch him in the face. She moved her leg but not enough to turn around.
“This is a dream. I have to wake up now.”
She heard him chuckled and the menace behind her vanished. Her blue eyes opened and she sighed in relief. But then she heard a hiss once again and something slick started crawling up her leg. She gulped as she felt it go around her legs twice, then up her arms and in the end a serpent’s head came right in front her. It seemed to look at her, scanning her face before it hissed and launched at Zoe.
She was sweating a lot and she was breathing heavily while lying on the ground. She probably fell off the couch last night because she was sore all over. She went to take a shower and when naked she checked the mark. To her stupor, her whole back was covered in blood. After taking a shower, all clean and empty of any memories of last night’s dream, she looked once more at her back. She gasped when she saw claw scratches. They were along the entire back, from the base of the neck to the bottom.
Looking at her own reflection she saw her eyes redden. She hoped that it will disappear in a few seconds or minutes so she brushed her teeth and even applied a bit of make up. But her eyes were just as red. It was odd because she looked like she had cried for decades and recently stopped. The color wasn’t demonic but it was suspicious and she was sure that every single person that had contact with her would ask if she was alright.
Hell has changed indeed. There wasn’t a Cerberus at the Gates like in mythology but there was a demon as tall as a giant dog and he could see everyone and remember everything. Once inside hell, it was the usual screams and cries from souls that fell into perdition. What was different was not the sight but the feeling.
Mehrdir was the one demon who felt the tension in hell the most. He couldn’t care less about it but because he had a lot of free time and demons in general didn’t respect him like in the past, he was spending more time by himself, lost in his own thoughts.
That was the main reason he found himself in front of a grave, in the world of the living that he used to detest so much. He stared at the smiling face on the gravestone and sighed. It was almost sad.
“Because of you I’m now losing my mind, you shitty puppy.” He muttered but contrary to the harshness of his words, he sounded like a pouting child.
From the cemetery Mehrdir walked to the familiar street towards Zoe’s old apartment. He stopped in front of it and realized it didn’t look as dangerous as it did a few years ago when she moved in. There were lights alongside the street and more families moved in the neighborhood.
From there he walked a bit until he arrived in front of a happy store. He shook his head in disappointment and entered the pancake store with low expectations. However, the smell of sweetness filled his nostrils and he couldn’t help go straight to the front desk and order for himself.
“Ohoo, what a surprise. The lonely knight has entered my humble business place.”
Mehrdir chuckled and sat in front of this new and human version of Iaosur. He had a baby pink apron and seemed to have a smile tattooed on his face. Whoever entered the door would never suspect that its owner had once been a filthy angst demon who killed humans just as easily and happily as he flipped a pancake.
“How are things up here? It’s been a year already.” Mehrdir started in his mellow tone.
“Well, you know. I have an apartment and a job now.”
“Only because Zoe left everything to you and Chen. You’re a charity case.” He said narrowing his eyes at the preppy human.
“It was a noble cause. Besides, I became a human because of her and I didn’t ask her for anything. Keep that in mind, Mr. I-love-Zoe-but-I-suddenly-have-dignity.” Iaosur answered with a roll of his eyes.
“What about Chen?”
“Chen...” Iaosur sighed and leaned on his hands to be closer to the demon. “After Ezekiel died in his arms, he stopped singing. Actually, you know how they had a friend whose uncle owned an occultism shop. That uncle died and left his business to Chris. Chen has started to work there and he’s gotten into all that stuff.”
Hearing the downfall of a person so positive as Kim Kyungjae, Mehrdir felt a little, very little, bit of guilt.
“What about you?” Iaosur suddenly asked. “Are you alright?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, Eneizar is clearly not around or you would have gone to him. Are you genuinely lonely?”
Iaosur laughed and patted the shoulder of the stiffest creature he had ever met. Mehrdir’s answer came too quick to not be honest.
“I don’t know. She told me to leave her alone, remember?” He said looking down at the table.
“Sure you don’t. Come on, I’ve known you long enough to say this: you are a loser through and through. I bet you only watch her from afar and then go down to hell and cry yourself to sleep.”
“I don’t cry and I don’t sleep.” Mehrdir replied in a meek tone. “She’s working in America. She seems happy.”
“You know, Mehrdir, you should really do what you used to do when you were alive. Didn’t you want to kill your father in order to make a point?”
Mehrdir scoffed rather loudly and hid his face in his hands.
“You even started a cult, what were they called...The Caïna Company? Or was it the Caïna Club of Bloodlust and Trickery? Lots of names, I lost track of how much they changed over time.” Iaosur said, reminding Mehrdir of his past. “You were a huge fan of literature, weren’t you? Friends with Lord Byron and Percy Shelley...what a life. And what was your name again? Ma-something.”
“Marcus. My name was Marcus.”
“Just like the famous emperor Marcus Aurelius you were destined to become someone great. You were even born on the same date, April 21st. Your mother had high expectations for you, Marcus.” Iaosur said, having a lot of fun teasing Mehrdir.
“Yeah, we both know how that ended.”
“Greed, my friend, and revenge go hand in hand. But look at the bright side.”
“Which is?” Mehrdir asked seeing how Iaosur stopped. The former demon smiled so wide that he looked like the Joker.
“Zoe.” Was his simple answer.
The Vatican has been rather silent from an outsider’s point of view. The cardinals could finally bother their frail little minds with subjects that weren’t out of their range of understanding. They now had someone to take care of the subtle threats that neither the Pope nor the people had to know about.
Bartholomew didn’t have to do much and he didn’t think he had to. He stood in front of the nasty and smelly cell and watched the former priest struggle to keep his soul alive while also battling with the bacteria that wanted to take control of its host. Every time the priest tilted his head, the demon did too. It was all just a game for him and it didn’t matter if he was locked up or not as long as he was entertained.
“What’s your name?”
The demon laughed so hard that he started to choke. Then he suddenly became serious and looked Bart in the eyes.
“Why? Want to send me back?” He answered in his monstrous voice.
“Don’t you want to go back? You are free to do whatever you want down there.” Bart asked curiously.
“Is that what you think?”
The demon must have realized he slipped important information and growled at himself. Then he glared at the priest and broke his chains, rushing to attack him. He couldn’t reach the human because once he touched the bars of the cell, vapors came from his hands and he screamed in pain.
“I ordered your guard to put holy water everywhere, including on the bars. This isn’t my first rodeo.” Bart replied with a smirk. “Why don’t you escape? Return to hell. Leave this cell and this human that doesn’t want to let you win his soul.”
“I’m not going back. Rules have changed, priest. Once you get out, you cannot get back in that easily.”
“Why not? What’s happening down there?”
“If you’re so curious, you should go and take a look yourself.” The demon said and chuckled at the preposterous idea. “Go and look into her empty eyes. You can see a glimpse of hell, that if she is angry enough to show you.”
“Maybe I will.” Bart said before he got up.
A guard entered and whispered something to him before the priest nodded. The demon watched with wide black eyes and scoffed at the sudden leave of his playmate.
“Priest!” He suddenly shouted. “There are people who want the inheritor to live more than you want her to die. They don’t obey the laws of either world.”
Bart chuckled and glanced at the creature for one last time.
“How fun.” He said before he turned to the guard. “You can take him for the exorcism now. His council is not needed anymore.”
The demon glared at the human and spat at him, cursed him and God knows what else came out of his mouth. But Bart was happy. He really missed the Brotherhood.