It’s time for another chapter of Wraith and Ruin! Thanks for your patience — last week was bananas. I’ll have another chapter for you on Friday. Enjoy! (If you missed the first chapter, you can read it here.)
It’s hard to describe Hell to someone who’s never been here. Most people should be grateful for that, really, that they will never have any idea what it’s like.
The mast majority of Hell is dominated by what’s commonly referred to as “The Pits.” It’s the endless, gray, filthy area beneath Hell proper, which sits on a rise above it. It’s not the fiery place it’s usually depicted as. The doomed souls in the Pits live a cold, gray, eternity each trapped in a hell of their own making. They stand, motionless in the pits, while their minds torment them forever.
I have never been so glad to not have a soul as I am when I see those lifeless fuckers.
But Hell proper… well, that’s something entirely different. Set above the filth and chilliness, it’s like a vast futuristic city, divided into seven districts, each representing one of the 7 deadly sins.
Greed is full of sprawling mansions, gold-plated everything, glass and steel high-rises filled with demons who can just never seem to get enough of whatever it is they desire. Greed is notoriously suspicious of outsiders, each resident demon jealously guarding its hoard against anyone who might be eyeing it. And every single one of its neighbors is, of course, because: greed.
Pride is full of self-important asshole demons, all telling anyone who will listen, willingly or not, about how fucking amazing they are. The demons there love showing off their shit, which makes them very different from the ones in Greed. Lots of statues and monuments in Pride. Usually erected by individual demons to celebrate him or herself.
Envy is a lot like Greed, except that the residents just seethe over what everyone else has, thinking their own individual belongings are shit. It’s a fucked up place. Of course, it’s not just material belongings. Lots of stalkers and shit in Envy.
Sloth is a fucking mess. Trash is piled in the streets around houses that reek of who knows what. The demons who live there can often be found sprawling wherever they happen to be when they don’t feel like moving anymore. Nobody goes to sloth, except the assholes from Greed who sometimes decide to steal shit from the residents of Sloth just because they can.
Gluttony is full of all you can eat restaurants, all you can drink bars, and every type of junk food or drink vendor you can imagine. The assholes in Greed usually make a killing setting up businesses in Gluttony and getting even richer. The demons there, to be honest, aren’t too bad. They’re actually kind of fun and I’ve hung out there a time or two.
Anger. Anger is a war zone. Constant fights, everything from fist fights to duels with fucking pistols, to outright war complete with machine guns and tanks. There’s always the sound of demons shouting at the top of their lungs, and everyone who passes you on the street glares at you like they want to kill you. In that way, it’s like some of the big cities I’ve visited, I guess.
And then there’s Lust.
Lust is like Vegas on steroids. Neon and flashing lights everywhere, every type of club and brothel, offering whatever you can possibly imagine. And that was where I found myself, dressed in a little black dress and the sexiest pair of heels I owned. I stepped into my favorite club and was immediately encompassed by the crowd, beautiful demons all dancing, gripping each other, grinding and kissing and sometimes outright fucking right there on the dance floor in time to the nearly deafening thump of the music. Pink neon and strobe lights illuminated the crowd, and the center of the club was taken up by a huge stage where exotic dancers of all shapes, sizes, and genders danced to the whistles and shouts of the crowd gathered around the stage.
A beautiful waitress handed me a pink drink with a juicy cherry stuck into it, and I grinned and sipped it as I started moving along with the crowd, alternately drinking and raising my arms in the air, letting the music and the feel of the beautiful demons around me take me over, all of us one throbbing, bouncing mass of lust. More than a few demons touched me, knowing me, knowing that I welcomed it, and their touch had me feeling even hotter and more ready than I had when I’d arrived. I shook my head as a few invited me to the various booths and rooms around the club and kept dancing, loving the sinuous feel of my body as I moved along to the music. I finished one drink and another one was immediately placed in my hands.
I fucking loved it in Lust.
“Wraith,” a smooth voice said in my ear, and I opened my eyes to see Namaloth. He started to dance behind me, moving with me, his hands on my hips, his mouth near my ear. “I’ve been hoping you’d stop by.”
“I told you I would,” I said with a smirk.
“That was days ago,” he said, kissing my neck. “Cruel, making a demon wait so long.”
I laughed and kept dancing, Namaloth dancing behind me, caressing my body, pressing against me. When his hands reached for the straps of my dress and pushed them down, exposing my chest, I didn’t protest. I’d made my intentions to him clear, and demons… they did as they wanted. Hell isn’t a nice place, and things like consent and respect… they have no place here. The second I’d indicated an interest, I’d given him all the permission he needed to do as he wanted. I was nothing in Hell. A human who, by some accident of magic, was able to be here among them. I had none of the demons’ power and they could do anything they wanted. This one had enough empathy to wait for the bare minimum of assent on my part, but that was all I could expect.
It sounds like a fucking nightmare, doesn’t it? Not having control, knowing you’re nothing. And how sick is it that I craved this, that I visited Lust a few times a year for exactly that reason?
“Keep dancing,” he said in my ear, and I did, aware of the other demons looking at me, at the spectacle Namaloth had made of me. Part of me knew I should hate this, should rail against it. But for the most part, I just didn’t give a shit. I felt something, which was more than I could usually say. I was afraid, and turned on, and it was the closest I came to feeling much of anything at all.
Namaloth continued having his fun, teasing me, taking his time knowing he was the one in control now. Demons are like cats in that way. Some of them enjoy toying with their prey. Most of them do, really.
“Fuck,” he snarled, and I glanced over my shoulder at him. “Some dickhead is summoning me. Do you want to stay and let them have you?” he asked, nodding toward the hungry looking demons around us.
I shook my head.
I nodded, and focused, seamlessly shifting between dimensions, reappearing in my bedroom, my dress still shoved down. I took a deep breath and pulled it back up again, looking in the mirror.
He’d saved me by asking. If he’d left me there, like that, they would have killed me with their attentions. Literally. And I’d known that going in, just as I had every other time I’d visited Lust and come out alive.
What the fuck was wrong with me?
The summoning wasn’t hard. I’d created the circle, spoken the words, and now had one pissed-off looking demon standing in front of me.
“Namaloth!” I said in greeting. He glared at me more, snarling, his eyes flashing red. “Long time no summon.”
“Not long enough,” he snarled.
I smiled and crossed my arms over my chest. We were in the market I’d come to Detroit to investigate. It was just after midnight, and the place had an almost unreal silence around it. It was hard to believe this was in a big city. Some of it was the emptiness of the neighborhood around it, but most of it was because of the entities that had taken over the market. They made the whole thing feel like death.
“How are things in Hell?” I asked genially. They hate it when I’m chipper.
“I don’t swing that way, but thanks for the offer.”
“Tell me about your arrangement with Marissa Laurence.”
Namaloth clamped his mouth shut. if looks could kill… well if looks could kill I would have been dead a long time ago. I waited, leaning back against the support pillar behind me, arms still crossed over my chest. “I have all night,” I told him. “Took a nap earlier and everything. Thermos of coffee, plenty of snacks.”
He continued to glare at me, and I noticed his leather pants and skin-tight shirt.
“Out clubbing, were we? Were you having fun?”
“Was about to,” he growled.
I grinned and poured myself a cup of coffee, then took a sip, sighing in contentment, which I knew only pissed him off more. “Damn, that’s good.”
He continued glaring at me, and I had my coffee and one of the brownies from my dwindling stash.
“You eat like a pig,” Namaloth said.
I chewed louder in response, then slurped my coffee.
“Oh for fuck’s sake,” he snarled.
“Simple question, and then you can go,” I said, eating more.
We sat there for a couple more hours, him glaring silently at me while I ate and drank and played around on my phone.
It was the singing that finally did it. I turned on Spotify and started singing along with the Dixie Chicks, and he looked at me in utter horror.
“The fuck?” he asked. I pointed at him and kept singing.
“Come on. You know the words. I can tell you’re a big country music fan.”
His jaw dropped open. “You are a nut job.”
I kept singing, pacing back and forth. Worked my way through “Wide Open Spaces,” “Not Ready to Make Nice,” and “Goodbye Earl.”
“Cowboy Take Me Away” was clearly too much for him.
“Stop. Just… just fucking stop,” he said, holding his hands up.
“Marissa Laurence?” I said, then picked up singing again.
“She wanted artistic talent,” he said quickly, and I stopped singing, hitting pause on Spotify. “Thirteen years ago she summoned me, made a deal that if I gave her artistic talent, I could have her soul in thirteen years. My own personal pet. And she’s cute as hell, so I did it.”
“Yeah. ‘Cept she hasn’t been able to paint in years because she’s been so terrified of her term being up.” Marissa was the artist who had gone in with three of her friends to buy and re-open the market. And she’d been missing for months now. Likely trying to hide from the demon who held her contract, which was pointless. When Namaloth came for her, he’d be able to find her anywhere.
“Not my problem. She made the deal. She wanted it, and I gave her talent. What she does with that talent isn’t my problem.”
“Hm. And the spirits infesting this place? I know you called them.”
He smiled. “A reminder that her payment is almost due.”
“Except that she’s not here, so that’s bullshit. Why are they here, Namaloth?”
He went back to glaring at me, so I went back to singing. After a while, I reached in my bag and got out the shaker of holy water.
“I’ve been nice up until this point, only because we have history, you and me,” I said, unscrewing the cap.
“You haven’t been nice, you miserable rat.”
I grinned and brandished the flask, and he hissed as I came close to splashing him. “Oh, I love this one!” I said, singing along as the Dixie Chicks and Beyonce started on “Daddy Lessons.”
“I fucking hate you.”
I brandished the bottle again, singing along, bobbing my head, getting a little closer to splashing him every time, watching him inch away from the droplets of holy water as I kept humming and singing and pacing around his circle.
“A favor for another demon,” he finally blurted. “Okay, you little fucker? Someone higher up on the ladder than I am. He has an interest in this area. This whole neighborhood… he’s had it out for this place for centuries. I don’t know why,” he said, glaring at me, anticipating my next question. “I just know he didn’t like what they were doing here. He wanted a few wrenches thrown into the works. So, poltergeists.”
I nodded. “All right. So I can assume he’ll keep calling in favors for anyone who tries to revitalize this area?”
“Yes,” he hissed.
“If not you then someone else, I guess?”
He nodded, eyes glowing deep red as he glared at me. I didn’t know why demons have a rep for being pretty. There was nothing pretty about the malevolence they all wore like a crown. Though maybe it was safe to say that I knew them better than most.
“She made a deal. You know how that works, right, boy?”
I kept my expression placid.
“She has a month left. I hope she’s enjoying it,” he said, and he almost sounded sincere. “Because I know I’ll enjoy the time after.”
I rolled my eyes. “Come on, man. We go way back. Do a brother a solid.”
I smiled. “If only I could.” I spread my arms out, displaying the clearly magnificent specimen of maleness I am.
“You are ridiculous.”
“So I’ve been told,” I said.
“She has one month. She made the deal. That’s it,” he said, his voice hard as his eyes glowed a deeper, bloodier red.
“Understood. You’ll understand if I banish your playthings, right?”
“I’ll just summon more. Or someone else will.”
“And I’ll banish them, too,” I said with a grin.
There was no missing the malevolence in his eyes when he glared at me. When I’d said that Namaloth and I have a history, I wasn’t kidding. And it wasn’t all Dixie Chick and my sweet dance moves, either.
“I will be glad when your time is up. You’re down to a matter of months now. And then,” he said, a cold, cruel grin spreading across his lips. “Then, you will know pain. And fear. You will pay for every single moment of shit you’ve given me.”
“Looking at your face every day will be torture,” I said, determined not to show fear in front of him. I’d deal with that later. Much later.
“Release me,” he hissed. “Or little Marissa will pay a little extra because you pissed me off.”
I met his gaze, slowly and deliberately chanted the words to release him back to his own dimension. Only after he was gone did I take a deep, shaky breath.
I shook my head. Couldn’t deal with that now, so there wasn’t any point in getting all shaky about it. I started packing up my stuff.
Okay. So Namaloth was a dead end. I’d figured, but it never hurt to try, and at least now I knew more about the poltergeists infesting this place.
I hit a number in my contacts. “Tell me about this lawyer of yours,” I said, and then listened as one of my old contacts babbled on about some hotshot lawyer who’d gotten him out of his deal with the devil.
“She’s a real hardass,” he said, after telling me how this lawyer got him off.
“Hardasses, I can deal with,” I said, getting in my truck and starting it up.
“There’s something else, Jack.”
“Yeah? What is it?” I asked, turning onto the street.
“She’s a Wraith.”
I blinked. “I didn’t know there were any of those left.”
“Yeah, well. She’s the real thing.”
“Send me her contact info.”
“Will do, man.”
“And don’t make any more deals with the devil. Why didn’t you tell me you did that?”
“Would you have been able to do anything? Could you for that woman you tried to get off tonight?” he answered.
Fine. Fair enough. But now I had the means to maybe get her clear of her deal. “Just send the info. Be safe,” I said before I hung up. I rolled my shoulders as I drove back to my motel.
A Wraith. It had been a long, long time since I’d had any dealings with one of them. They were rare. The ones that did exist, for whatever reason, didn’t tend to live long. Trying to fill that emptiness deep inside them usually led to them doing stupid shit. Shit that usually led to them ending up dead. I knew that all too well. I’d stood by helpless and watched it happen once before.
I shook my head. One thing at a time. For the moment, all I knew was that to save Marissa Laurence, I needed to get myself a lawyer.
Copyright Colleen Vanderlinden 2018. All rights reserved.