I awoke to the sudden sounds of car doors slamming. Everyone was getting out of the vehicle outside the shady motel. Stepping out of the car, my footsteps crunched against the gravel parking lot as I took in the sight of the building. Its rooms were all in a row with a long paved porch with an overhang.
“I’ll get us some rooms,” Josh announced as he headed towards a building at the end of the motel with a neon sign in the window indicating they had a vacancy.
We gathered under the overhang as we waited for Josh to come back with the room keys. I leaned against one of the posts and glanced around at the still forest near the parking lot’s edge. Ashlin leaned against the post opposite me.
“This looks like a horror movie waiting to happen,” she mumbled.
“They have a vending machine and ice,” Ebony pointed out, trying to uplift Ashlin’s spirits.
“So do other motels that aren’t potentially haunted,” Ashlin teased as she picked her nails.
“I’m going to check on Josh,” Callan mumbled as he headed into the office building.
“I see the boys are growing chummier. I’m looking at you, Gabriel,” Ashlin said with a smile.
“I have to say that Callan is starting to grow on me. Anyone who wants to help Kas is a friend, in my opinion. We need all the help we can get, and being suspicious of each other is only going to cause a rift in what we’re trying to accomplish here,” Gabriel replied.
“Well look who’s finally grown up,” Penelope teased as she swiped her brother’s arm. “That’s very mature of you, Gabby.”
I snickered at Penelope’s nickname for her brother. I had only heard it once before, but it made me smile all the same. Standing in a makeshift circle, I glanced around at each of their faces, cracking jokes on each other left and right. It was like we were one big family, which I had never thought possible when we were attending Brimstone. It inspired me and worried me at the same time.
Josh and Callan walked out of the office building together with giant, cheesy grins on their faces. They joined our circle on the porch, and Josh held up two room keys.
“Just two? Your charming voice is starting to pale around here,” Ashlin mocked as she slid over to her man, wrapping both arms around his waist.
“Yeah, well, I got these for free,” he replied. “I figured we’d need to save the cash we have for food.”
“So, how are we going to do this?” Penelope asked.
“I’ll room with Ashlin and Callan,” Josh began. “The rest of you can room together in the other one. They’re double beds.”
All eyes turned towards me. Ever since I became the leader, I had the final word on all our plans. I wondered if it was due to some innate knowledge of my status within the demonic world now.
“Sounds good to me,” I said as everyone dispersed.
Josh handed Gabriel the other room key, and everyone started grabbing stuff from the vehicle. My headache was starting to dissipate, which I was grateful for, and I was hoping that taking a nice hot shower while finally getting some decent sleep would make it completely go away. The trunk in the back slammed shut as the others slung their duffel bags over their shoulders.
Our rooms were right next door to each other as Gabriel and Josh unlocked them for everyone. Penelope and Ebony immediately flopped onto one of the beds as Gabriel and I crossed the room to the other one. I sat my duffel bag down on one of the luggage holders near the closet and unzipped it. Setting out some sleeping clothes, I took them with me into the bathroom.
“I’m going to take a shower, guys. Does anyone need to use this bathroom before I do?” I called out through the doorway.
“Me!” Ebony shouted as she jumped up from the bed and bounded into the bathroom, closing the door behind her.
“Glad I asked,” I muttered as I sat down on the edge of the bed, waiting for my turn. Gabriel scooted over to me and wrapped an arm around my waist. I smiled at him weakly as he leaned down and kissed my forehead.
Penelope opened one of the books she had brought and started to read while kicking off her shoes. It was just like her to be studying in the middle of a journey such as this. I peeked around Gabriel at what she was reading.
“Hey, Penelope, what do you have there?” I asked as Gabriel turned his head to look at his sister.
Penelope crawled over to the edge of the bed as we turned around to face her. She held the book out to me to take. Running my hands over the old leather of the book, I flipped it open to its yellowed pages. It was written in Enochian, a language that had been recorded to be angelic in the 16th century. I had never seen a text written in such a style, but I had been taught about it. Unfortunately, my translation of the language was more than a little rusty.
“Where did you find this?” I asked, running my fingertips down the pages and over the pictures.
“It was in the reading room of the Congregation Chamber before it collapsed. I spotted it the first time we were down there with your mother, and I swiped it. This book outlines the angelical hierarchy, their laws, and codes, and it talks about your father,” she answered, flipping to a page within the book and pointing at a picture inside.
“Very sneaky, Sis,” Gabriel commented as I scanned the page.
“This talks about Lucifer before his fall. I thought all those texts had been destroyed by Lucifer and the Archdemons,” I said, lifting my head from the page.
“We all thought that. I suppose he tried to erase that part of himself, the part that was good before he fell,” Penelope replied.
“As the bringer of light, he was worshipped as the Morning Star…” I murmured. “That definitely doesn’t sound like the man I fought yesterday.”
“It wasn’t,” Gabriel assured. “Lucifer chose his fate like you’ve always had the power to choose yours. Is there anything in this book that can help us with our present predicament?”
I handed the book back to Penelope as she thumbed through the pages, landing on a section with a torn page. “I’m not sure, but I did find it odd that this section about the lineage of angels and demons was ripped out.”
“Why would someone do that?” I asked.
“Obviously, the book had things in it that weren’t supposed to be known or at least kept a secret. I think it’s something to follow up on,” Penelope remarked, as the bathroom door opened.
“It’s all yours,” Ebony said as she went to sit by her girlfriend. Taking Penelope’s hand in hers, she fluttered a light kiss upon her fingers.
I stood up and walked towards the bathroom, letting the door close behind me. Leaning against the door, I grabbed my forehead with my hand, trying to rub the dull pain away. Heading towards the sink, I took off my cap and laid it to rest on the counter beside me before shaking my hair free of its ponytail.
Undressing, I turned on the faucet to the shower and waited for the hot water to create steam within the bathroom. Staring at my reflection, I noticed a light splattering of freckles crossing the bridge of my nose from all the sun I was enduring recently. My eyes scanned my body as I took in the sight of all the bruises and cuts in the healing process. The gash along my forearm had to be sealed magically by Penelope from the dark relic blade, but even her magic had only been able to stop it from its continuous bleeding. Eventually, it would scar over, a reminder of the day I took control of my life.
Closing my sea-glass green eyes, I breathed in the steam of the hot water around me, trying to calm my nerves enough for my headache to disappear. Turning towards the shower and tub combination, I stepped over the edge and under the steady stream, pulling the shower curtain closed. The water was scalding, but I didn’t care. The flames didn’t bother me anymore.
It was a trait I wasn’t sure I enjoyed. The secrets were starting to build up inside me. I wasn’t sure what to tell my friends and what not to say. The voices were only the tip of the iceberg when it came to the changes my body was undergoing. It had to be in relation to my father’s demise, but I had no one who could tell me what was happening to me.
Dipping my head back underneath the showerhead, I ran my hands through my hair, soaking it thoroughly. Using the complimentary soap and shampoo, I massaged my head and scrubbed my body until my skin turned pink. This was my cleansing.
Emerging from the shower, I wrapped a towel around myself and combed through my wet hair. The steam had completely covered my reflection in the mirror, but I didn’t need to see it either way. Patting myself dry and slipping into a pair of sweat pants and a clean T-shirt, I leaned on the bathroom counter.
My head began to pound a little louder as the ringing sound returned to my ears. Plugging them, I tried to drown out the noise, but the voices weren’t coming from around me. They were inside of me. Gripping the counter, I blinked my eyes as the sounds crashed throughout my body, causing me to tremble. My breathing quickened as my heart fluttered in my chest. I stood up, trying to regain my composure. Taking my hand, I swiped the mist from the mirror and saw faces staring at me from behind.
Pivoting around, I saw only tiles and the toilet greeting me. Turning back towards the mirror, I saw the faces were still there. One was of a tall man in a suit with a top hat. He was older than the others and had a slight smile upon his thin lips. He had long silver hair that flowed from underneath his hat and a goatee to match. His face was pinched with high cheekbones while his skin was tan and weathered.
On either side of him were two girls. One was older, around her 20s with long stringy brown hair and droopy blue eyes. She was in a black flowy dress holding a book with an inverted cross. The other girl was merely a child, not much older than fourteen. She looked like the typical gothic beauty.
They all smiled at me, and my senses went wild. The voices roared to a crescendo as I bowed my head towards the sink in front of me, grabbing the edges. My eyes turned black in the mirror as the familiar dark liquid pulsated through my veins under my skin. Closing my eyes, I tried to control my breathing, but another wave ignited throughout my body.
I had already accepted my shadow self, so why was this happening to me now? I was feeding the demon within me, so why was I changing like this?
I screamed as blood started dripping from my nose and into the sink in front of me, the ghostly figures approaching me from behind. Banging came from the other side of the door as I heard Gabriel calling out to me. The man put his hand on my shoulder, and I turned my head to see if it was actually there.
Turning back towards the mirror, the only portal to this other side that I was seeing, the man cocked his head to the side and leaned in towards my ear as the girls stood beside me.
“We bow only to you, my Queen,” he said through the sea of voices before backing away with the others and disappearing.
The voices ceased, and I grabbed the counter to keep from falling as Gabriel busted the door in to get to me. He took my head in his hands and immediately saw the blood underneath my nose.
“Penelope!” Gabriel shouted.
Penelope backed away as Gabriel picked me up and carried me over to the bed. She came over and put her hand over my face, a soft glow emanating from it. Suddenly, it stopped.
“She’s not hurt, Gabriel. There’s nothing to heal,” she said as Ebony stood behind her, her face creased with confusion.
“She’s bleeding,” Gabriel pointed out. “Kas, what’s going on?”
Penelope went into the bathroom and soaked a rag under the faucet before coming back into the room. She handed it to me, and I wiped the dried blood from my face. Ebony left the room to grab the others, knowing that everyone would need to be present for the explanation I was about to give.
As the others returned to the suite, the door softly clicking behind them, everyone gathered around me. I felt ashamed for not wanting to relay the truth to them. They were my friends, and all their faces had the same look upon them, wondering why I hadn’t told them about what was going on in the first place. I sighed heavily as Penelope placed a glass of water on the bedside table for me to drink.
“I don’t know what’s happening,” I began. “I’m hearing these voices, and I don’t know what they’re saying. It’s from all kinds of people, and they talk over each other through this white noise.”
“I think I know what’s going on,” Callan said as he stood near the front of the room, his arms folded across his chest. “I had my suspicions.”
“Please, enlighten us,” Gabriel said through gritted teeth, impatient with Callan’s hesitancy.
“I can’t be sure, but in my training, we were taught that God hears all prayers. It’s up to him whether or not he wants to answer them. I think that’s what’s happening to you,” Callan explained.
“Wait. Kas is hearing prayers? To Lucifer?” Ashlin asked.
“But Lucifer’s dead,” Josh pointed out.
“The world doesn’t know that yet,” Ebony remarked. “How would they? All they know is what was written in the Bible and in those cheap satanic books they sell.”
“You essentially are the new Lucifer. You’re the next heir of Hell, so it would make sense that those duties are being pushed through you now,” Callan stated. “Eventually, everyone will know who you are. You’re probably getting mixed voices for Lucifer and to you, right?”
I thought back to the man with the two girls by his side. He knew exactly who I was, and I was sure he wasn’t a demon. I nodded slowly.
“Since you’re Lucifer’s daughter, you’ll continue to hear their prayers to both you and him. Those are contracts being forged through you,” Callan declared.
“But I’m not writing down any contracts. I’m not signing my name to anything,” I replied, bewildered. “I can’t even understand what they’re saying or praying for.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Gabriel said, a sad look in his eyes. “They’re verbal contracts, and Mammon is in Hell right now, transcribing them.”
I thought about his words for a moment. Mammon was the Keeper of the Contracts. He knew all that went on through the mortal realm and down to Hell. We were connected in more ways than one now. While he may have been my Great Uncle, he was also privy to the voices flowing through me to him. I wondered if there was a chance he could tell where I was.
“Do you think Mammon can track us through this link?” I questioned.
“I’m not sure it works that way…” Penelope stated as she flipped through another book she brought. “Mammon may transcribe all contracts and house them, but I don’t think he can pick up on your location through them. You hear voices from everyone all over the world. It’s not like you’re pinging off an individual cell tower here.”
“How do I stop it? Or at least control it?” I inquired.
“You can’t stop it,” Callan responded first. “It’s an innate part of you. There’s one person you could ask that may know the answer.”
“Are you seriously going to bring God into this?” Ashlin asked, smacking her leg with her hand from her seat on the bed.
Callan shrugged. “He’s the only other being that I know who has the same kind of power.”
“If you haven’t noticed, we’re not exactly welcome through the Pearly Gates,” Josh mentioned. “As far as I know, God never really visits his own creation, unless he’s sending a plague, drowning everyone, or letting humans torture his own son to death—”
“I get it,” Callan barked.
I chuckled under my breath. “Sorry, Callan. I know you work for my Grandfather, but demons are pretty brutal, showing disdain for him. And those examples technically did happen.”
“I know the stories,” Callan growled once again before heading towards the door. “I’m going to do some patrolling. I’ll be back later.”
The door closed with a loud bang as Callan left the room. Josh and Ashlin turned back to face us. It was apparent that the talk of God was a touchy subject for him. I didn’t blame him after the story he had told me about his family.
“You guys are so lucky you aren’t rooming with him tonight,” Ashlin commented.
“What’s with him?” Penelope asked as she flopped down on the bed beside Ashlin.
“He was fine when we were all in the room together. He says he’s cool with working with demons, but I think there’s some resentment there,” Josh replied.
“I understand where he’s coming from,” Gabriel interjected. “He’s dedicated his whole life to a God that he’s never even seen or heard from. It must be hard finally knowing without a shadow of a doubt that God can hear prayers like Kas can, and he’s never answered his own.”
“You really think that’s the case?” I asked, fully understanding his words.
Gabriel nodded. “I’d feel the same way if I were him. When I was younger, before I stopped trying, I desperately wanted to please my father, and it was never reciprocated. I imagine that’s what it feels like whenever we talk about God and his angels.”
“I wasn’t trying to offend anyone here,” Josh spoke out. “I was just saying that the dude has never done anything for me, and I have serious doubts he’d do anything for the Antichrist.”
“You’re a demon. Of course, God doesn’t care about you,” Ebony piped up. “But Callan is a Paladin, a warrior for the Holy Church. If God should be listening to anyone, it should be to Callan.”
“You have no idea,” I mumbled as I took a sip of the water Penelope had brought.
“I don’t think Callan should be out patrolling by himself or whatever it is he’s doing,” Ebony said.
“I agree. I’ll go look for him,” Gabriel said as he stood up from the bed. I grabbed his hand, not wanting him to leave. He looked down at me with a smile and gave me a quick kiss on the lips.
“I’ll only be gone a while. I have a key. Get some rest,” he said as he headed for the door. Josh and Ashlin stood up from the bed.
“We better get back to our room too. You all sleep well,” Ashlin said as she took Josh’s hand in hers and left behind Gabriel.
Penelope, Ebony, and I sat there on the beds and waited for the silence to fall as the door closed behind them.
“I don’t think I’m going to be able to sleep with Gabriel out there with Callan,” Penelope said as she pushed herself up against the headrest of the bed.
“Callan is kind of a loose cannon,” Ebony admitted. “He’s not very predictable.”
“Callan is misunderstood,” I replied. “I think we should cut him some slack. It can’t be easy being on the run from your own brothers.”
“That doesn’t mean he has to storm out every time we mention that his God isn’t perfect,” Penelope retorted.
“Do you really think Callan meant for us to take his leave that way? Since when do you take things so personally?” I asked her as she folded her arms.
“Since it could potentially get us killed and I would prefer that not to be my brother,” she stated.
“Gabriel volunteered to look for him. Callan didn’t ask Gabriel to go out there,” I explained.
“Gabriel only did it for you,” Penelope said, sitting up.
“Penelope…where is all this coming from?” I asked, bewildered at her temper when she was usually the logical one.
“I…um…” she stammered as she dropped her head to her hand. “Ebony?”
Ebony had gotten up and was pacing nervously far away from us in the corner of the room. Standing up, I took a step towards Ebony and could feel her energy emanating from her.
“Ebony, are you okay?” I asked.
“I’m so sorry, Kas,” she said, a look of fear in her eyes. “I don’t mean to play people’s emotions right now, but my empathic abilities are running a little crazy. I haven’t fed in a while.”
“Why didn’t you say so?” I asked. “You can take some energy from us; we’re you’re friends.”
“Are you sure? Don’t you need to save yours?” she asked, knowing that my hunger involved feeding off the blood of lesser demons.
“Oh…right,” I said.
“Ebony, you can take some energy from Gabriel or me. We don’t need to feed like you and the others do. Besides, we can siphon energy for you from the environment. It doesn’t have to come straight from us,” Penelope assured her.
“Once I’m able, you can have some of my blood to feed on,” Ebony said to me. I appreciated her concern for me and her offer.
I smiled weakly. “That’s really nice of you, but let’s simply say the next demon to attack us will be having an awful day.”