Hell was always a domain of chaos. It existed predominantly as a counterpoint to the redundantly architectured Heaven. Still, after billions of years a system had developed making Hell a place of organized chaos- just as Heaven had begun to transform into a chaotic organization. But that is neither here nor there. The important fact was that the Overlords of Hell were not pleased.
By and large, the Overlords of Hell have never been the happiest of celestial creatures. For an Overlord to be pleased, for it to derive pleasure, was the only true measure of success by demonic standards. However, when the Overlords began howling and bickering amongst themselves, every creature- human or not- that resided in Hell knew something was wrong…
Pacing upon his cloven hooves, Azrael was fuming. “How has this filthy little tripe gotten away with this shit for so long? A human killing off our best workers and no one has fucking said anything? It’s absurd!”
“It’s a flaw in communications and policy is what it is,” Iblis corrected as she sharpened her claws with a particularly lethal looking file. “Then again, you have to admit that if one of the underlings told you about this you probably would have ripped the poor things head off and then you would have to explain it to… Him.” The being referred to at the end of her statement made the others in the room shiver.
Considering the demoness’ point, Azrael shrugged and pouted. “I fucking hate it when you’re right.” He snarled when Iblis merely stuck her forked tongue out at him and winked a reptilian eye. The fallen angel would have drawn one of his blades if another had not interfered.
“Will you two stop it for once? This is a serious matter- cursing and acting like children will not solve anything!” Belial admonished his brethren, an obvious look of absolute pride shining in his eyes.
“You’re such a fucking ass kisser,” Iblis snorted.
“At least we agree on that,” Azrael added before he resumed his pacing. He stopped again when another voice spoke up.
“Forgive the intrusion, my Lords, but might I be allowed to return to my post now?” Minos cowered in the corner where he had been since delivering his news of the demon slayer.
The three Overlords glared at the gatekeeper. “Fine,” Iblis finally hissed and waved a dismissive claw sending Minos on his way.
As he left the room he felt another migraine coming on. It had taken the Overlords nearly an hour to digest his news- the line at the gate was going to be severely backed up when he returned. Minos kept muttering curses under his breath all the way back to his post.
Once the door to the room closed, the three Overlords became quiet, sullen. Each pondered over what would happen if… He found out about the demon killer. He… would most definitely be unhappy. Of that, they could all agree on.
“Looks like we’ll have to call in one of the others,” Belial said, breaking the silence. “We should choose someone good though. Someone who knows how to handle this.”
Azrael frowned, tapping a cloven hoof and gesturing to the file spread out on the table. “She’s smart- too god damn smart if you ask me. No one even teaches half of this shit anymore, there isn’t a soul on the surface that could do this besides her. And she’s only a mortal. The records don’t show any tutelage or any volumes that might have gone missing from the Library down here. So what the fuck?” The fallen one shook his head, the mass of curly dark hair moving from side to side. “Most of the ones who could handle her are too old or out of control for this.”
“Or retired completely,” Iblis sighed. “Let’s not forget the ones who are retired. I mean, if we offered them a big enough commission, do you think they’d consider coming back on the job for this?” She shrugged. “It’s worth a try.”
“Anything is worth a try,” Belial cut in smoothly. Glancing at the sheaf of papers and photographs on the table he felt a crease form between his brows. “I really don’t like saying this, but we might have to release one of the wild ones on her.” Looking up he saw his comrades pale at the thought. “It may be our only option. Especially if we don’t want… Him to find out.”
Iblis shook her head firmly, long hair slashing the air behind her. “No- Hell fucking no. There has to be another way. The wild ones are too unpredictable. It takes the all of the Overlords to put just one of them back into confinement. And right now both Azazel and Mephistopholes are on vacation. Do you really think they’ll cut their trip short for this?”
“Throw it in our faces is more like it,” Azrael growled. “Arrogant pricks.” Pausing for a moment he softened. “But who the fuck can we call to do this if not a wild one?” A desperate whining plea sounded in his voice.
“Well, there’s always Leviathan,” Iblis offered. “He doesn’t have much going on. Just sort of waiting for the apocalypse to come. I still can’t believe the Other One let him go ahead of schedule.”
“He’s all compassionate, didn’t you know?” Belial smirked, his voice sticky with hatred. “She lives inland anyway, Leviathan can’t get to her.”
“Well shit then. I’m out of ideas, you two think of something.” Iblis pulled out a regal looking chair and sat resuming her claw sharpening.
“We need someone who can take daylight,” Azrael said quietly, almost to himself. “Everyone she’s faced has been a shadow demon, a curse, or a child of the night. We need someone who can face the sun without combusting or crying.” He thought for a moment and then brightened. “What about the Three? What have they been up to lately?”
Belial perked up at this idea. “The Furies? We could contact them-“
“They won’t do it,” Iblis cut him off.
“And just why not?”
“None of the creatures our girl has killed are children to desperate mothers or even relatives- even that last one was too much of a bitch to have any relationship with other humans. And vengeance curses cover their own asses anyway. Plus the Three went freelance nearly a decade ago. They’re up on the surface working for hire.” She hissed as her file slipped and pierced her skin. Glaring over her shoulder at Belial she made a face. “You’re such an asshole.”
“How do you know so much about the Three anyway? And you know you love me.” He sidled up behind her chair and traced a finger down her shoulder, surprised when she lashed out with her file- narrowly missing.
“No, I don’t. I think you’re disgusting. And Tisiphone keeps in touch.” That was all Iblis had to say on the matter.
Before Belial could retaliate any further, Azrael cut him off. “I’ve got it! I’ve fucking got it! Oh… it’s fucking brilliant. He’ll do it, I know he will. He’s fucking bored out of his mind right now and this kind of shit is right up his alley. Oh it’s absolutely fucking perfect… and he won’t stop until she’s dead.” The fallen angel kept ranting in the vein until the other two Overlords grew frustrated.
Iblis finally stood up and slapped Azrael. “Who? Who are you talking about, princess?”
“Mastema! He’s bored out of his fucking mind right now!”
She stretched in the sunlight, lounging on a chair after a brisk walk. Chuckling to herself she mused on the benefits of chain smoking while walking. Ah- the neighbor’s children had to be exposed to the harsh realities of the world sooner or later. She lit a match and held the flame to the end of a fresh cigarette. A private sense of satisfaction went through her, a memory of her last demon kill. Blowing a smoke ring at the mid-morning sun, she wondered why no other had challenged her yet.
Surely they would think of something soon. They always did. Lo and behold…
A movement off to her right caught her attention. Eyes raised from her book, she peered over the tops of her sunglasses. The moment passed and she wondered if she had been hallucinating. Then a rustling sounded followed closely by a muttered curse, then a cry.
“Shit!” The golden voice came from the patch of brush not ten feet to her right.
She set her book down and did her best to appear winsome. Cat-eye glasses pushed firmly back into place, cigarette carefully balanced at her fingertips, she gave a dazzling smile. “You might as well come out.” The laughter in her voice could not be hidden.
There was a heavy sigh… and then a man stood up from the bushes and trudged over to her seat. He motioned to her chair. “You got another one of those about?”
“Probably,” she nodded. “I’ll just go get…”
Smirking, he waved a hand and a matching lawn chair snapped into reality as if it had always existed.
“Well, that was impressive.” She sniffed, trying to look bored and took another drag from her cigarette. Exhaling, she thought for a moment and then spoke up again. “I have more of these too, but I’m sure you can conjure those up as well so I won’t have to offer.”
He smiled. “Right again.” His mouth formed a perfect, tiny “o” and an already lit cigarette was suddenly extended from his lips.
They sat in silence for a few moments daring to look at each other now and then. Birds sang in the trees and the whisper of wind carried across the yard. Finally, it was more than she could take. “All right, enough fucking small talk. Were you sent to kill me?”
He coughed as smoke caught in his lungs at her blatancy. “Well, when you put it like that… No. Not kill, really. More like a challenge to see what you can do.” He paused a moment. “And if necessary, I’ll kill you.”
“That’s what they want you to do,” she replied, flicking ash in his general direction. “That’s what they told you to do. Somehow, I’ve a feeling you think this might be too good a fighting opportunity to pass up. Right or wrong?”
The silence was uncomfortable. Her eyes were too well hidden behind her shades and it made him nervous. “Right,” he admitted. “They were right about you though. You’re too smart for your own good.”
At that, she laughed because she just could not help herself. “Smart,” she giggled, “I’m too smart he says. Oh that’s a funny one. Oh shit.” Wiping a tear from her eye she snickered again at his confusion.
“Mind filling me in on the joke?”
“Yes, actually. I would mind. Why don’t we just get started with what you came here to do?”
He shrugged. “It’s all the same to me. I did want to finish this before we start though,” lifting his cigarette, he smiled. Still, he was disappointed by her reaction. All she did was shrug and comply. Frowning, he tried the direct approach. “Nothing gets to you, does it?”
Holding out a hand, she tried to cup the sunlight that lay upon her skin, as if she would catch it. “When you do what I do, you can’t let anything get under your skin.” Her voice was tired, jaded. “You know, I never caught your name…”
“Because I didn’t give it.” Throwing his cigarette he watched as it disappeared before ever touching the ground. “How do you know I’m not one of those anyway?”
“Please,” she made a face. “Don’t fucking insult my intelligence here. All the demons that make you guess their names are ugly, gnomish motherfuckers who look like aborted fetuses- or like shriveled up men who’ve never seen the sun.” Looking away from him, she removed her glasses. “You’re too hot to be one of them.”
He considered her line of reasoning for a moment. “I guess you have a point there. Mastema,” he held out a hand.
Eyeing the offered appendage she shied away from his touch. “Nice name.” Her tone implied quite a bit- like the fact that she knew who he was and what he was capable of.
“Thank you.” Giving his most charming smile, he leaned closer to her, nearly breathing along her skin. “But, I’m afraid I didn’t catch your name.”
“No,” she smiled back at him. “You didn’t.” With that said, she launched off her chair looking back quick enough to kick his seat out from beneath him. “You’re it!” And the chase was on.
Grinning, she ducked into the house, skidding across the kitchen floor. How she loved a good chase scene! She looked out the window in time to see him stand up, looking flustered and a little flushed. “Mmm, sex on a stick- god damn he’s a fine piece of ass!” Shaking her head she took off again. Fine as he was, he was pretty high on the meter of deadly things in the universe.
Outside, the demon brushed some dirt off his shoulders. She was faster than they had said. Apparently, not all of the files were accurate. Lips set in a grim line he moved into the house. She was too smart for her own good. And she must have known who he was by name. There was nowhere near enough room to uncase his wings or his weapons in the confines of the kitchen. Maybe the living room would yield better results. Crossing the threshold he surveyed the room. Nope. No luck there either.
He heard a shift in the air behind him and ducked just in time to miss an urn. The pottery hit the wall and scattered ashes flew in the room. Whirling to his left, the only remnants of his prey were an echoing laugh and retreating footsteps. Growling he set out in the direction she had disappeared. Out into the entryway, he narrowly missed another urn and caught only more fleeting laughter. His frustration was quickly building.
“I will catch you, you know!” The demon’s voice rang throughout the house. “Why do you keep throwing urns at me anyway?” His ears picked up a faint trace of movement- now if he could just make her talk.
Suddenly her voice was everywhere. “Well hey, I’d offer to fuck you but I’ve heard stories. Girls do love to gossip you know. You might be a little bit too crazy, even for my standards.”
The demon looked around, eyes wild. Speakers. There were dozens of small stereo speakers installed throughout the house. “Clever little bitch,” he muttered. “Try this one on.” With a swift motion of his hand he felt his fingernails extend, piercing the closest speaker and ruining the transmitting cone. Five destroyed speakers later the voice sounded again.
“Hey! Show some respect will you? Those things are fucking expensive!” She paused filling the house with crackling white noise. “I didn’t think they’d be desperate enough to send you. You’re pretty hardcore, Mastema.”
“Come out where I can see you!” The demon punched out another cube. His frustration meter was through the roof.
A sigh resounded over the electronic system. “Don’t they ever play tag in Hell? You have to catch me- dumbass!” There was a loud click and then feedback howled from all the speakers. She had dropped the microphone and triggered a reaction.
Falling to his knees, the demon clutched at his head as the shrill tone of feedback pierced his skull. There had to be a way to make it stop, but he could barely stand nevermind walk. Not only that, the noise seemed to be acting as a catalyst for something… Looking around in horror he realized what the urns were.
They contained specific ashes. Remains of specific beings he had killed in a battle that had occurred so very long ago. A war for Heaven, Hell, and Earth. Even as he sat in dawning horror and realization, the demon picked up on the layer of sound hidden beneath the blistering feedback. Delicate, simple- a chant that was thousands of years old. A binding that had sent him back to the depths of Hell where the Overlords had summoned him from. Howling, he rose from his crouch with a feral gleam in his eye. She wanted to cast him out? Fine, but he would take that bitch down with him.
Upstairs, she listened for a moment before running full on into the bathroom. From her new hiding spot she knew it would be easy to hear an approach. Demons like the direct route best, and she would hear him clambering up the stairs. Grinning to herself she threw open the window and looked down. It was one hell of a drop, but she would survive. Somehow, she always did. Removing the screen and throwing one leg over the sill, she listened again for a moment. Sure enough, there was the signature heavy breathing of rage, a demon at his greatest height of anger. In a moment of pure humanity, she decided to be antagonizing and call out.
“Hey! Mastema! The shed in the backyard is a safety base. Catch me if you can motherfucker!” With that, she dropped to the ground, her knees buckling with the impact and her body rolling to accommodate the inertia of it all. Her eyes rose to the abandoned windowsill and she smiled. A luminescent figure glared down at her. Not three feet from the shed and he had to play by her rules because she had issue the challenge. So long as the game was in play she could make up any restriction she desired. “Demons are just too easy,” she muttered, still grinning. Before he could make a move she touched the door to the shed and gave him a triumphant smile.
The demon launched itself from the window, a rocket of golden fire. When he landed in front of her he looked desperate. “Why? No, forget why. How? How could someone like you know how to bind me- or even who I am? People don’t remember me anymore! Your god doesn’t even remember me!”
“I know,” she agreed quietly. “And you had a job too. All these years and you were supposed to test our faithfulness. Until He decided you were of no more use. It must hurt,” she gave him a sympathetic look. Eyes full of pity. “But I do this because I’m supposed to. And no, I don’t fucking like it any more than you enjoy your job, but someone’s got to do it.” Sighing, she lifted her gaze to the sky. “They sent you in daylight and everything.” She shook her head. “You know-“
“Yes,” he agreed. “One more time. If you say my name again you’ll send me back.” Even though he tried, the glow would not recede from his perfect skin. Sagging in defeat, he looked his opponent in the eye one final time. “Just make it quick. I have a bone to pick with a few demons for this.” He thought for a moment. “You know they’ll just send me back.”
“No,” she shook her head. “They can’t. There are rules, Mastema.” The name had slipped before she was completely ready. The demon, a fallen angel to the last, winked out of existence, a steaming vapor trail hanging in the air where he had stood. “Even the Lords of Hell have to play by the rules,” she finished. “They’ve got to tell their master now,” she sighed. Raking a hand through her hair she closed her eyes, weary of fighting. Tired of dealing with things because she had no choice…
Walking over to the chair she had been sitting on when her attacker arrived, she pulled out a fresh cigarette and lit it. “Won’t that be fun…”
In Hell, chaos erupted once more. But it was chaos of a different sort. Definitive screams of rage and anguish always pierced the air, but then a new sound rose over everything else. A howl, so much like the golden peal of a bell resounded through the pits. Mastema had lost, and someone would have to pay the price.
And deep in the final ring of Hell… He waited, a wicked gleam in his eye.