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I flipped through the channels calmly, hand hanging off the couch.
Fire, demons, and other absolutely cliché, hellish objects jumped out, along with enough obscene language to make a sailor cringe. Sighing, I kept pressing the channel up button, looking for something a little different. But after thousands of years, it’s difficult to find something new and exciting on a TV in hell, especially since the Middle Ages were a little too creative for their own good.
“Seraphina, Father’s looking for you.”
I recognized the voice at once, the honesty, integrity, love, compassion and strength ringing within. Sighing, I dropped the remote, letting whatever happened to be on stay on. It was Gladiators, revealing plenty of men in old Roman armor missing limbs. One was even missing the right half of his face, but the left half was still completely intact. That’s a new one. I’ve seen people’s heads get sliced in half horizontally before, but vertically? Never.
“Are you really watching that again?”
I sat up, locking gazes with my brother and lying just as well as I always have, “Yes. Is there a problem?”
He sighed and shook his head, “Pointless violence still entertains you huh, little sister?”
I rolled my eyes, “Salvador, I’m thousands of years old. That’s not exactly little.”
I didn’t succeed in annoying him by using his birth name instead of the name Father gave him when he sent him down to save the pesky humans. What was it again? Hazeus, Jezeus, Jesus—yeah, that’s it. Jesus.
He crossed the room in a few long strides just to ruffle my hair, messing up the styled-messy look I’ve had for at least three weeks, “Still little to me.” I batted his hand away, annoyed, but he just laughed.
Yeah. And he’s definitely not a sinner. Isn’t there a rule that states: Thou shalt not mess with thy younger sister?
I picked up a black wine glass that sat on the end table, swirled the contents under his nose and drank the rest in long, slow gulps.
“Wine isn’t good for you, Sera.”
I almost choked on the wine but managed to finish the last swallow before I burst into laughter. “You turned water into wine and I’m not allowed to drink it? Hypocrite much?”
Salvador sighed. “What I did to convince them of my position has nothing to do with whether or not wine is good for you.”
I lay back on the couch, stretching out. “It’s not as if I can die, so there’s no need to worry. Anyway, I’ve done stupider. Just last week I dove into another volcano.”
Salvador’s eyes glazed over for a second, as it does every time someone brings up death and reminds him of the time before he died (the whipping, the crown of thorns, the cross, you know, that stuff.) And boy does that happen often. I mean, everyone around here technically is dead, so it’s bound to come up sometime.
Finally, he snapped out of it. “Can’t you just be good for once?”
I raised an eyebrow, “Like you, Mr. Goody-two-shoes? Maybe I’ll ask Father to send me down to Earth so they can torture and kill me, too! Hell, in another hundred years or so maybe they’ll have forgotten all about you, their precious savior, and have moved onto a new trinity…Father, Daughter and Holy Spirit.”
“Oh yeah, sounds like a great idea,” Salvador replied sarcastically. “Let’s send the rebellious daughter that killed thousands of people at Pompeii!”
I stood up in a quick burst of anger, eyes flashing, “You know that was an accident!”
“You say it was an accident,” he replied. Ignoring the fact that if I could kill him I would, he glanced at his watch. “I need to go meet up with Ana. Go see Father.”
Oh yeah. That Spanish chick that made Salvador (aka Jesus, aka so-perfect-everyone-loves-him-no-matter-what-he-does) even more of a goody-two-shoes and now wants to date him.
“Tell Father that if he wants to see me, he can come get me himself. I’m not some perfect little angel ready to be a puppet in his love conquest.”
I ignored the sudden thunder that made the room shake, walking passed Salvador and into the hall beyond. I was only slightly surprised my Uncle Lamia waiting for me, leaning against a wall with a sly grin on his face, obviously having eavesdropped on our conversation.
“Hey Satan,” I greeted him, using the name he prefers. He thinks Lamia makes him sound like a disease (which he is) and Satan makes him sound exactly like he’s supposed to be: devilish. I usually call him Lamia since annoying people is quite fun, but when he wears that look I always try not to set him off.
“Well hello there, Seraphina.” He put his arm around my shoulders and started leading me down the hall, into older and more deserted parts of this underground maze popularly called Hell. “I heard what you said in there.”
As we walked, the halls went from modern tile or carpet and wooden walls to the old stone and then to the even older bone (not that anyone ever did that on Earth or in Heaven. That’s a Hell thing). It got darker and darker until I could barely see five feet in front of me.
“And?” I asked, wondering where he was taking me. I’ve explored this place for as long as I can remember, and that’s a really long time, but I’ve never come across these halls.
“I want to offer you a chance to…break the strings.”
The darkness suddenly lifted, as did the old Hell-feel of despair and evil. The hall opened into a huge room that actually looked just as if we were on a meadow on Earth with a bright blue sky, healthy grass, flowers and butterflies. It was really awkward considering Lamia’s eyes burned with real fire and his hair sparked every once in a while, and considering most of his clothes and accessories were made of human flesh and bone. It’s cliché and old school, but he likes the style.
“What do you mean?”
“Seraphina, you spend all your time down here anyway.” Lamia led me towards a huge tree in the center of the meadow, covered in every fruit imaginable. “And you just said you don’t want to be one of your Father’s little puppet angels.” He grinned his sly grin. “So why don’t you join me?”
“How am I supposed to do that?” I demanded, heart pounding even though I honestly had nothing to be afraid of. It’s not as if he could hurt me if I refuse. Then again, I may be dead, but I’m not immune to pain, and if Lamia ever tortures me and Father finds out it’ll start an all-out war between Heaven and Hell that’ll bring the apocalypse millions of years before all the extensions are done on the apocalypse wings.
“It’s quite simple. All you have to do is pick and take a bite of a fruit from that tree.” He still grinned that sly grin. We reached the tree and he looked up into the branches in wonder. I didn’t get it. It’s just a tree. It’s not as if it’s glowing or anything. “Any fruit. I know apples are your favorite.”
“So you want me to join you? To become a demon?”
“Yes, Seraphina. I’d love that.”
I stared at a particularly juicy looking green apple, considering.
My mind flashed to Pompeii. I didn’t mean to make it erupt. I was just lava-diving and forgot about the grenade in my pocket. But of course, the grenades from Hell pack a lot more punch than those on Earth and next thing I knew…thousands of people killed, all of it my fault. I remembered the guilt I felt for centuries afterwards, the horrible pain of knowing that my idea of fun caused thousands of humans to lose their lives.
If I became a demon…well, all the guilt would go away, replaced by apathy. It wouldn’t hurt anymore.
I reached for the apple. I could feel Lamia’s anticipation next to me, his excitement. If I join him, it’ll be the ultimate victory over his brother; Father’s own daughter deserting him in favor of Lamia. Of darkness and evil….
I jerked my hand away from the apple as if it was going to bite. Along with the apathy would be that evil, the urge to laugh when people’s faces are chopped in half, when people die horrid deaths.
I shook my head, “Thanks, but no thanks.” I’d still hang out here, probably more than I would in Heaven, but I wouldn’t reduce myself to that kind of…cruel personality.
I gave Lamia a weak smile and started back towards what I now know is the oldest hallway in Hell.
“I’ll stick to being Hell’s Angel.”
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"According to some, heroic deaths are admirable things. (Generally those who don't have to do it. Politicians and writers spring to mind.) I've never been convinced by this argument, mainly because, no matter how cool, stylish, composed, unflappable, manly, or defiant you are, at the end of the day you're also dead. Which is a little too permanent for my liking." — Jonathan Stroud (Ptolemy's Gate)