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Zelda’s soulless body rested in the armchair. Lilith watched over carefully, her eyes darting to various corners of the room. A thick white column of light rose from the carved coffee table all the way up to the ceiling pentagram. It worked as a beacon of sorts, the kind of light that a soul would be drawn to in the darkness, if it ever got lost. But it also emitted copious amounts of energy needed for Zelda’s spirit to pierce the Veil and reach out to celestial beings.

The spell was complete, and Zelda’s spirit had made it onto the other side. There was no way of knowing where she was at that point in time. All Lilith could do was keep herself charged with her sliver of Creation in order to further feed the spell and give Zelda’s spirit a wider range of motion. At the same time, she also had to keep the witch’s body safe.

Demons were creeping around the house, getting closer with every minute. The beacon was a double-edged sword. She could hear the whispers and the growls and the hissing ooze out of the darkness around them. She sat up straight in front of the light column and extended her arms to her sides.

‘Don’t even think about it, you little pricks. The body isn’t yours to ride,’ she spoke loudly, and her voice echoed across the room. It was met with more growls and hisses.

The stench of sulphur got heavier, to the point where her beautiful face twisted into a crinkled expression of disgust. But the discrete scent of bergamot was the one that worried her more. She thoroughly disliked killing one of her own, but she wasn’t going to hold back if it came down to protecting Zelda.

‘You should know by now that if you touch her, I won’t send you back to Hell. I will end you. I will end all of you.’

More hissing.

‘You know me. You know what I am capable of. Will you really let your greed kill you? Has Mammon taught you nothing?’

Silence. Lilith grinned. All lower demons flinched at the sound of the Princes’ names. It usually set them back, and in this case, it bought her some time. She looked at Zelda’s body through the curtain of light.

Beyond the Veil, the witch’s soul had caught a glimpse of an Angel, a minor one, in the middle of a shopping mall near Venice Beach. The people looked like wisps of smoke in the Veil, but the Angels were bright and clear as they watched over the flock. It was a transitional strip between Heaven and Earth, where angelic creatures were visible and the earthly architecture was clear, but everything else from both worlds resembled thick rolls of grey fumes. And everything moved slowly, ever so slowly.

Zelda smiled as she approached an angel – a female, with amber hair and electrifying blue eyes, who watched over her charge, a short figure resembling a little boy. As she got closer, the wretched stench of sulphur made her gag. The angel frowned and looked away, visibly disgusted by the approaching smell. Zelda looked over her shoulder and saw a hellish creature come at her with hunger etched into its darkened face.

She wanted to scream, but as she opened her mouth, nothing came out. The only sound she could hear was the jingle of a chain. She looked down and saw the chain that linked her to her physical body. As her gaze rose, the creature was merely inches from her face.

The smell was overwhelming and it seemed to seep out of its ash-stained skin. Its figure was bony and its face was devoid of any humanity. The eye sockets were deep and empty, and its mouth was open – the mandible hung loosely as it seemed to look at her, with black razor-sharp teeth.

She took a few steps back, and the demon followed. She knew it was a demon. She recognised the smell, the swift movements, the feral growls emanating from its chest. Not all of them had faces. This one in particular was a terrifying spawn. It was dark, and ugly and mangled, and its hunger roared through the silence of the Veil. Fear turned her limbs to ice and she felt her breathing rush and become difficult for her lungs to keep up with.

And then she remembered that she didn’t really need to breathe. Her spirit form did not require oxygen. She reached her arm out to stop the demon from coming any closer. The fiend leaned its protruding chest against her palm, its cold skin sending all sorts of shivers down her spine. It cocked its broken head to one side, nothing but darkness glaring at her from its orbits.

‘Don’t even think you’re getting my meat suit, demonio. Lilith is waiting on the other side. You know what she does to those like you, right?’

The creature shuddered and took a step back. Zelda kept her back straight and her right foot half-lifted from the ground, ready to run off if necessary. It was going to be impossible for her to reach out to an angel now, with a demon locked onto her. She had to improvise and make the best of the situation.

‘What do you know of her death sentence? Who wants her dead?’

A moment of silence passed before the demon let out a roaring laughter that shook the very essence of her being. The sharp undertones and the smell of rotten eggs made her take a few more steps back, just to keep a comfortable distance. The creature whispered and hissed, and somehow Zelda understood what it said.

‘You seem to know a lot more than I gave you credit for, demonio…’

The fiend stood up straight, and its half-empty ribcage swelled with pride. Its bony fingers reached out to touch her. But the witch could feel her time in the Veil had come to an end, at that point. The stench no longer came from one creature, but from dozens.

Their eyes and fangs flickered like match stick flames in the darkness around her, as the Veil lost its solid state and became a shapeless charcoal mist. Time began to flow faster.

As the demon lunged at her, Zelda pulled on her chain in order to jumpstart her body back in its physical plain.

‘Time to go back now, I’ve seen enough!’

Lilith stood up, extended her palms and lit them up from her core. Bright white light shone out and slammed the black shadows against the walls. More and more demons were unable to resist her scent. More and more demons desperately tried to get closer to her and Zelda’s body. To these creatures of Hell, they were a double serving of deliciousness – a vacant body and the First Woman, theirs to defile. Demons were not known for their restraint.

‘I said stay away!’

Lilith shouted and bathed the room in Creation light. It splintered the shapeless demons into black dust and out of existence. The entire living room was incandescent, and the pentagram on the table burned red. Concern angled her brows closer to the bridge of her nose.

‘Well this is new…’

Zelda’s body moved. Arms and legs twitched as the mouth opened, desperate for air. Lilith turned off her divine light and jumped across the table to get to Zelda. She knocked over the spell paraphernalia that had been so carefully displayed on top of the pentagram in the process. It broke the rhythm and plunged the room into darkness. A struggle ensued as the witch’s body went into a violent seizure.

‘Zel! Zelda! Calm down, I’m here!’ Lilith’s voice boomed in the dark.

A gasp.

Lilith managed to turn the lamp back on, while on top of Zelda, whom she’d pinned into the armchair. The witch was pale and sweating, sheer horror etched into her face. She gasped for air as Lilith got off and pulled her in an upright position.

‘Listen to me… Listen to me, Zel! You’re safe! You’re back! I’m here…’

It took her a while to calm down and get her breathing back under control. Her chest swelled with short breaths until she relaxed under Lilith’s firm grip. Colour flooded her cheeks and tears glazed her eyes.

‘Querida,’ her lower lip trembled. Lilith quickly poured her a glass of bourbon and nearly shoved it down her throat. Zelda welcomed the amber liquid as she gulped it down. The burn felt good. It felt real, even as it hit her stomach and spread out in a relaxing warmth. A few deep breaths later, and Zelda was back ‘online’.

Lilith sat on the coffee table, with bowls, sand and bones and dried blood dirt clusters scattered at her feet. She rested her elbows on her knees as she watched Zelda with genuine concern. The witch poured herself another glass of bourbon, which she drank swiftly.

‘Ay, querida… This was not the experience I had in mind.’

‘What happened?’

‘Demons. They came at me.’

Surprise froze Lilith’s face. Her forehead smoothed and her jaw clenched as she straightened her back.

‘In the Veil?’

‘Yes, querida, in the fucking Veil…’

Lilith fired up a cigarette and started pacing the room. Zelda watched her with equal amounts of concern.

‘What is going on, Lilly? Demons don’t belong in the Veil.’

‘No, they certainly do not. I don’t know what’s happening, this is new to me too. They’ve become very bold, very brazen and surprisingly stupid. Like crackheads, really, if you throw crystal meth at them.’

‘They seem to have very little control over their instincts, Lilly.’

She stopped in front of the large window facing the road. She pulled the drapes and revealed the dozens of demons pushing against the glass. They were all dark and slimy and dirty, with barely any anthropomorphic features, nudging and snapping their fangs at each other. Hairless fiends, with leathery skin and sharp bones and long claws – they wanted to break the window so they could reach Lilith.

Zelda froze in the chair.

‘Ay Dios mio… What is happening?’

Lilith shrugged and took a long drag out of her cigarette.

‘I sealed the house when you were out. They’re outer fiends, the lower demons who escaped into this plain. They had gotten inside but they can’t come in anymore.’

They could hear the growls. They could hear them knocking against the door and the windows. All they wanted to do was get in. More and more of them gathered outside and pushed against the house, unable to control themselves. Lilith looked over her shoulder and placed her hand on the glass. The demons roared and bit at it, frustrated to the edge of madness, scratching and snapping their teeth and cursing in different tongues.

‘They really want to get to me,’ she concluded bluntly.

‘But why?’

She pulled the blinds back down and sat back on the coffee table, facing Zelda.

‘You know about my punishment, right?’

‘Yes, querida… Your little holiday in Hell… You told me about it…’

Lilith took another drag before putting the cigarette out. She finished the triple bourbon shot in one go.

‘They couldn’t get enough of me then, either. They had to put me in a cage just to keep them away from me. Once a day, though, they would let them have me… Like a snack. They tore at me… You don’t really want to know the gory details,’ she looked at the blinds as she spoke, her voice soft and her tone even, unbroken.

‘So, you have that effect on them?’

‘It appears so. When I’m near, they go crazy. A pack of them caught my scent back in Johannesburg, and they’ve been tracking me ever since. Some of them I wipe out, others I send back, but they just keep coming…’

Zelda sighed and poured Lilith another triple shot. The bottle was almost empty by then.

‘Do you know why, querida?’

‘I’m different, I guess. I’m pure Creation. It’s like heroin to these dark bastards. It will kill them and yet it’s such bliss, they simply lose control. Once they get a whiff, they’re unhinged. The lower the demon, the more primal the response, too. The higher ranks are stronger, but they too will give in after a while. I’ve seen it. Felt it.’

‘I don’t think it’s just that…’

Lilith frowned slightly and took a sip. Zelda leaned forward and cupped her cheek with her right hand. Her left hand ditched the glass and touched her chest. Lilith looked down at Zelda’s hand as it kneaded her breast, then up as the witch licked her lips and grinned.

‘It’s because you… taste like fucking heaven and they can’t ever go there. So, their only chance at bliss is to fuck you, and break you, and eat you. Let me eat you, querida…

Lilith growled as she noticed Zelda’s skin turn pale, her veins blackened beneath and her lips descended into dark shades of violet. Her voice got rough and scratchy, as if her throat was filled with nails.

‘Spread your legs for me, Lilith… Let me fucking eat you!’

Zelda grabbed her throat and pushed her. Lilith fell backwards, caught off guard, and the witch climbed on top of her, grinding her body against hers. Her eyeballs were black, and blood tears streamed down her cheeks. She bent to smell her and smeared blood on Lilith’s face at the same time.

‘Oh, you smell so good…’

‘Where’s Zelda?’

Her hands clutched Lilith’s throat, knuckles white and teeth flashing, as her tongue flickered outwards like a serpent tasting the air.

‘Oh, she’s in here, querida… She wants to fuck you too, you know… Not as much as me but hey… I get dibs anyway!’

A maniacal laughter came out of her as Lilith’s vision got hazy; the oxygen flow to her brain was interrupted. She grabbed Zelda’s wrists and pushed her off. She scrambled backwards and away from her, then sprung back up on her feet.

Zelda stood up and faced her.

The scent of bergamot was stronger now and Lilith inhaled deeply. She looked at the witch and recognised the dark figure beneath her pale skin, rolling through her like black ink in clear water. Fury ignited her. It was one of her demon spawn.

‘You don’t belong here.’

‘Well it’s too late now, querida. This sexy little meat suit is mine, and you can’t kick me out!’

Lilith straightened her back and pulled a long knife from between her shoulder blades, where she usually kept her sliver of Creation. The blade glistened in the obscurity of the living room, under the lamp light. Zelda smirked and grabbed the ritual knife from the floor. She laughed and slit her own throat before Lilith could react.

‘NO!’

‘Yes. Yes! Yes!’ the possessed witch cackled. A deep gash opened from left to right on her throat, and it released arterial blood in abundant spurts. It drenched her beige dress and it broke Lilith’s heart. Zelda shook her hips in a victory dance, giggling and licking her own blood off the blade. ‘Yes, definitely yes!’

Lilith took a deep breath and lifted her arm, dropping the long knife to the floor. Its tip sunk into the wood with a sharp whistle and it broke the demon wearing Zelda out of its reverie. A grin as wide as the throat slash cut across her face. Blood poured out of her mouth, glazing her chin. It dripped from her dress and pooled at her bare feet.

‘So, you really want to do this the hard way, then,’ Lilith replied.

Before the demon could respond, she’d already closed the distance between them.

Before the demon could even react, it was slammed into the floor.

The oak boards broke beneath the body, as Lilith’s knee drove into its chest, splintered the ribcage and severed the spine.

Her hand clamped onto her forehead and pushed, until the floorboard caved further under the pressure.

Twenty minutes later, the demon regained consciousness. It found itself against the southern wall of the living room. Thick nails beaten into the plasterboard kept its arms and legs spread wide. Blood trickled down the wallpaper. Its facial bones had been crushed and Zelda’s features were muffled by the fracture swells and dried blood.

It tried to move, but the nails had been driven deep. It looked down and blinked at the sight of an iron rod poking out of its stomach. It had been pushed into the wall through the spine. It looked up and found Lilith lounging in an armchair, perusing a photo album of Zelda’s.

She gulped down bourbon straight from the bottle as she turned the thick pages with Zelda’s childhood pictures. A cigarette rested between her index and middle finger, while the other three clutched the bottle’s neck.

The demon shuddered in pain. It knew what was coming next. The fact that it could feel actual pain was a clear sign of what was going to happen to it.

‘You know, I saved this girl from a terrible life. I gave her freedom, and I taught her the way of the world. I watched her grow from this…’

She lifted the photo album so the demon could see the pudgy toddler with messy black hair and red ribbons on her little white dress, laughing at the camera with three baby teeth. She then flipped the page and showed the demon an adult Zelda, in tight jeans and a fluffy perm, courtesy of the ‘90s.

‘…to this. I was there when she got her first period; when she had her first date; when that prick Lorenzo broke her heart; when she pierced the Veil for the first time to help me… And you… You took her away from me.’

The demon trembled. Lilith’s voice was chilled. If there had been any blood left in Zelda’s body at that time, it would have frozen under her glare. She stood up and dropped the photo album on the floor. She took a long drag from her cigarette as she approached the demon, then stubbed it under her moccasin.

‘Querida… Don’t be like that… She was just a human…’

‘Just a human?’

Her voice was too calm. And yet the demon had to play the child card.

‘Yes… Just a human… You value these meat sacks more than your own children? Mama?’

Lilith laughed so hard, it left the demon with its mouth gaping. The blood had dried on its lower lip and chin. She laughed for about a minute, genuinely and wholeheartedly, as if having heard the greatest joke in the history of mankind.

It took her another minute to simply recover and catch her breath, as she straightened her back and finished the last of the bourbon in one long chug. Her fingers turned and clutched the bottle neck, her knuckles white.

‘My own children… You… You’re one of the funny ones, aren’t you?’

The demon squirmed until her glare. Its primal instinct was so twisted and confused, it went from loathing to desperate need in a split second. It writhed against the nails and bent its head forward, eager to kiss her. Lilith cocked her head to one side and squinted, as if analysing a painting.

‘You’re one of mine, aren’t you?’

The demon nodded, hunger in its eyes.

‘You think that makes you special?’

The demon nodded again, as it sniffed the air between them. Lilith’s mouth curved downwards in disgust.

‘I thought I smelled something familiar…’

‘I smell like you, mama…’

She backhanded the creature so hard and so fast that its jaw broke loose. The demon turned its head back to face her, its mandible lower on the right side. A smile twitched at the corners of its mouth. Every minute she had to remind herself that she wasn’t speaking to Zelda anymore. The chain had been broken.

‘You reek of sulphur, you piece of garbage. I never consented to your existence, let’s get that fact straight. You’re nothing to me. You’re worse than nothing, actually. You could’ve been just nothing, a dirty nothing, if you’d only stayed away from Zelda.’

The demon grinned once more.

‘I broke your toy, huh, mama?’

The second backhand came from her right side, this time, sustained by the empty bottle. She heard the bones crackle under the skin. The glass shattered and rained onto the floor in thousands of shards. Two teeth fell out with spurts of blood and spit. Its lip was split and trembling. Lilith shortened the distance between them.

‘Don’t call me that. Hell was your mother. All I did was push you out of my body against my will. I made an oath, the day I got out, you know…’

The demon looked up, fearful and furious at the same time.

‘For each one of you disgusting creatures that came out of me, I’d save a soul up here. I saved Zelda. And you took her away from me. You need to pay for that, you know. A life for a life,’ she smirked and came close enough for the demon to feel her breath on its face. It shuddered and whimpered, desperate for more.

‘Look at you. Unhinged… hungry… lacking control. All you do is kill and slather your filth over everything you touch. The only thing you seem to have gotten from me is a subtle fragrance, drowned out by the stench of rotten eggs anyway. You don’t stink as much as your brothers and sisters; I’ll give you that…’

She stepped backwards until she stood ten feet away from it.

‘But rest assured that you are not something I will ever trouble myself over. I’ve unwillingly made so many of you, that I’d be better off if I just killed you all,’ she continued. ‘You know what? I’ll do just that. And I’ll start with you.’

She pulled the long blade from the floor and pointed its tip at the demon’s head.

‘Don’t kill me, mama, please! I’ll be good! I’ll go home! Please!’

It wailed and bawled like a little girl. It sniffed and choked on genuine tears as it begged for its life. But its voice was ragged and scratchy like a fork drawing spirals on a blackboard.

‘I know things! I’m useful! I can help you!’

Blade still in the air, Lilith’s right eyebrow lifted.

‘I’m listening.’

‘The witch! The witch! She heard something!’

Lilith rolled her eyes and shook her head. Her time and patience were both running out fast.

‘In the Veil! She heard something in the Veil. About you, mama…’

A moment passed with more irritating sobs. She sighed.

‘I don’t have all night. Move it along!’

‘She made it to the Veil! She couldn’t speak to Angels because a demon found her first… Broken Jaw we call him… He knew about you, mama! He knew something about you! And the witch… she got him to tell her, but her time ran out and we came at her… We needed a body… I needed her body—‘

‘And you got it! If you want to keep it, you’ll tell me what Broken Jaw said to her,’ she snapped at it.

‘He… He said that you are doomed… That you will die… And that the only thing that might save you is your bloodline. He said your true blood could help!’

The revelation confused her for a brief moment. Her offspring were nothing but lowly demon hybrids, mindless creatures like the one that had taken Zelda from her – needy, desperate, stupid and bloodthirsty at the same time. Horrible creatures born from rape and torture in the pits of Hell during her punishment.

Day and night, she had laid on that slab of black stone, chained and helpless. Day and night, they had come to her. They had beaten her, they had tortured her and they had defiled her. Day and night, she had been forced to give birth, over and over again, to demon spawn, until she had been finally released and tossed out into the cruel wilderness of Earth once more.

‘My true blood?’

‘Your child,’ the demon gasped and broke down in tears. ‘Not us… Not me… the child you made in flesh…’

And right then and there, the demon’s words made sense for the first time. She nodded and shook the blade until it extended into a long white whip. She lashed it once and its tip coiled around the demon’s throat, tightening itself slowly.

‘No… Mama… You said I could keep it! You said I could keep the body!’

She didn’t even blink as she pulled the whip back. It drew the demon’s black form out of Zelda’s body and disintegrated it in a blinding flash of light.

‘I lied.’

She pulled the nails out of the witch’s body, then the iron rod, and gently laid her on the floor. Her trembling fingers caressed her swollen and bloody face as she dropped a kiss on her forehead.

‘Lo siento mucho, querida. I hope you will find peace over there,’ Lilith whispered in her ear and stood up.

She went to the window and ripped the drapes off entirely and threw them aside. Demons pushed themselves against it, their tongues licking the glass and their teeth scratching at it incessantly – black, deformed creatures made of smoke and filth, with little to no anthropomorphic features, just gargoyleish and grotesque.

‘Idiots…’

She smirked and went out the front door. As she proceeded along the small stone path towards her car, she looked to her right. The demons were still there, fighting against that one window. She got into the driver’s seat, and twisted the key in the ignition.

The demons twitched and turned to see her drive off with wheels screeching and smoke rolling out of the old exhaust pipe. They howled and roared and went after her down the main road. Some ran, others galloped on all fours and some took flight at a low altitude – their senses were fixated on the bright red taillights as she drove out of Santa Barbara.

She saw them in the rear-view mirror and sighed, pursing her lips.

Her feet slammed the brakes and the Corvette came to a sudden halt in the middle of the road.

She got out of the car and pulled the long whip from behind, as the lower demon horde approached her with rumbling growls and vicious howls. She lashed at them until they were all gone in flashes of white light, broken into wisps of black dust on the back of the southern winds of a Californian autumn. The night was cool and quiet once more.

She drove off and headed for the Mexican border.

During her five-hundred-year stay in Hell, Lilith had given birth to many creatures of darkness and death. Her constant suffering and humiliation had come to an end when the Horn of Gabriel sang of her acquittal.

But until that blissful day, she had been subjected to a gruesome variety of tortures and rapes – they’d all had a taste of her, the lower and the higher demons. The arch-demons had also taken turns. Even Lucifer. Legions upon legions of corrupted fiends had abused her, as the heavy chains dug into her skin and claimed more blood.

She scratched her left wrist as it rested on the wheel. A faint scar was still visible there – a quiet reminder of the price she had paid for her crime against God. For the sliver of Creation that she had stolen in a moment of anger.

Lilith had no choice but to remember the creature she had conceived with a heart filled with love. For in the middle of Hell, in the darkest pits of the Underworld and for a brief moment in time, when she wasn’t passed out for months or writhing in pain, she had felt love.

Her heart had blossomed at the core of tragedy, and she had embraced him with warmth and desire. She had welcomed him, and when his essence had settled in her womb, she’d managed to keep it hidden until her release on Earth – afraid to let the demons see the gift he’d placed inside of her.

Nine months later, Lilith had given birth to a healthy baby boy, named after the man who had rescued her from the uncharted woods of Alberta. Alexander Thomas had been born out of a short-lived moment of love.

The Corvette darted down the interstate. The Mexican border was just a few miles away.

[All Lilith episodes are part of an ongoing novel. Stay tuned.]
[Image: Tarot Cards from the Labyrinth Tarot collection by Luis Royo]
©JULIET’S FOLLIES/JULES R. SIMON 2016

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