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“Alistar…” I murmured to myself as Liv pulled away from Sails Lake and made her way back to the road. So I know your name now – took you long enough.
“He’s got such a fancy name, doesn’t he?” Liv looked over at me, trying to break my serious demeanor. I shrugged my shoulders, staring at the dagger in my hands. He still rumbled ever so slightly, an occasional sparkle of electricity skittering across the tip of the blade.
“Yeah, I guess so,” I narrowed my eyes at the hilt of my weapon, as if I were scowling at another person.
“So, what exactly happened…when he spoke to you?”
“After that snake demon compelled me to stab myself, I felt him. My dagger was mere inches away from my heart, and that’s when he revealed himself. Glad he did too – I would have finished myself off,” I rubbed my fingers on Alistar’s leather hilt.
“Kind of poetic, don’t you think?” Liv leaned forward, resting an elbow on the steering wheel as she drove.
“How the hell is stabbing myself poetic,” I rose an eyebrow at her.
“…Um, maybe the ‘being awakened by being close to your heart’ part? Not the stabbing part…obviously. I mean. I guess that could be poetic too if you’re into that thing…ya know,”
I rolled my eyes.
“Ah come on, do you know how ridiculous that would be? He probably revealed himself because he knew his master was going to die, and he’d be in the middle of a lake somewhere without me,”
Master? Cross. Don’t flatter yourself. You need me as much as I need you. Alistar’s voice rang in my mind again – it was laced with a proper trill, as if he were an actual person sipping tea in some suit vest in a fancy café in England.
Hey, maybe I should go throw you in that lake, huh? I thought back to him.
I suppose that would up the fish death count wouldn’t it? Not that we were counting, anyway. Alistar spoke with a sarcastic sigh in his voice. I rolled my eyes. Again.
“Is…is he talking?”
“Oh yes. He’s talking. Of course I get a back-talking Cross heirloom…” I grumble and shake the dagger in my hand.
“Then he definitely suits you…” Liv chuckled and I looked out the window, my eyes resting on the lights of a bar I’ve never seen before.
“Hey…pull over,” I said.
“What? You have bourbon in the back what else do you need?”
Pull over. Alistar’s voice rang in my head once more, and in that moment, I knew we needed to stop.
“I sense something,”
“Just do it. Don’t pull up too close though,” I said. The pink and red lights coming from the bar flashed dimly behind dark windows. The rain on the windshield made the colors bleed across my vision, leaving a disturbing swirl in my stomach. I’ve never seen this place…and trust me; I’ve seen every bar within a 50 mile radius of my house, so this…this is something else. After narrowing my eyes, I was able to make out a name through the darkness and bleeding LEDs.
Lust for Red.
Is this a bar, or a strip club? Jesus Christ.
“I have a weird feeling about this place… I really…” Liv shifted in her seat.
“Shh, shh, head down!” I pulled myself halfway under the dash just enough to see a large, grisly man stumble out of the bar with a woman at his side. She looked at him, a smile on her lips – she was definitely more drunk than him and a third of his size. Pleased by her grin, the man lifted the woman up, and kissed her roughly, pushing her neck back for leverage.
And then he drops her.
“What?!” I gasp breathlessly. It was hard to make out, but I could see blood sprayed across the man’s mouth, the woman lying at his feet. He kicked her body aside and walked back into the bar. I was about ready to open the door when another person walked out…except…he was definitely not a person. A three-foot-something hooded figure with earthy skin and long, hooked ears gripped the woman’s arms and began to drag her to the back of the building. And that’s when I saw the whole bottom half of her face was ripped, ahem, sucked off. I could see the whites of her teeth backed by bloody gums and ripped skin.
“This…this has to be some…” I began to say.
“Demons can ruin everything else, but no…not bars too. We need to get in there,” I said.
You must disguise yourself. Cross, can you become one with the heart of a demon? Alistar’s voice rang in my head and I furrowed my brow.
“What? One with a demon, what are you…?”
Liv smacked my arm in response. Even without hearing Alistar speak, she just knew.
“You have to be a demon. I, uh…have to be…your human?” Liv shrugged her shoulders and I looked over at her from the passenger seat and laughed.
“What does that even mean? I mean?”
Don’t be foolish, Cross. Put me to your chest. I will mask the essence of your blood so no demon can smell the human on you. Your friend will be your key to the fortress.
“I don’t like the idea of Liv being bait, Alistar,” I looked at the blade scornfully.
Then protect her. As you always do.
“Vai, if I’m the ticket, this is it, we got to do it. If anything makes you look like a demon, shoving around a human, uh, ‘pet’, would be one of them,” Liv adjusted her glasses on her face, holding her hand at the bridge of her noise as she looked toward the entrance of the bar.
“Fine, but stay close,” I said, putting Alistar to my chest.
“I always do,” She responded as blue light surrounded me. It wrapped around my shoulders and kissed my cheeks before seeping into my skin. A light tingling sensation manifested through my body and then a striking pain settled behind my eyes.
“Ah!” I grimaced “…what?” I looked up in one of my rear view mirrors and was met with light – my eyes glowed the same sapphire that Alistar emanated. The blue light reflected off drops of rain pouring down the windshield and hung in the atmosphere. Demon eyes. “…let’s go,” I opened the door and Liv followed, “Come’er,” I grabbed Liv’s arm, harshly pulling her close to me.
“I gotta get into character, don’t I?”
We walked up to the door of the bar, the rain soaking into our clothes. I could feel my bandages on my shoulder begin to slip, blood seeping out slightly. I hope they can’t smell that…even with Alistar’s spell.
The closer we got to the bar, the more red painted the area. One moment, we were wrapped in blue, through the rain, the night, and Alistar’s light, but now…everything was blood. The LEDS from the bar dominated every color in sight, making the foundation of the building a blinding burgundy that shook me – I could feel the hair on my neck rise with each step further.
“Halt!” A booming voice echoed from a dark passage next to the bars entrance. A demon stomped forward, every step was labored and shook the earth – he looked down upon me and Liv as he approached, his lips curved back around tusks that jutted from his mouth. “You seek entrance?” he growled.
“Well what does it look like?” I scoffed and suddenly pulled Liv closer to me, causing her to groan.
“Ahah, she looks like a feisty one, did she do that to ya?” He took one big finger and shoved my wounded shoulder.
“Oh yeah, she tried to stab me to get away, nasty human doesn’t know her place,” I gritted my teeth.
“You deserved it, demon!” Liv shouted, attempting to be authentic in her “human pet role”. Her voice cracked in the process. I had to hold back my laughter – oh god last time you acted was in middle school, woman, you’ve got work to do. The demon, as idiotic as a bucket of logs, chuckled in believe. “Wow, she really does have a fire to her, I bet that makes her blood burn as it goes down, huh?” He said. Ah. Yes. Drinking blood, demons do that.
“Ah… yes, she burns more than the cheapest 100 proof whiskey you can find,”
The demon opened his mouth and howled in laughter, causing the ground to shake. “Well, blue-eyed beauty, your throat will burn deeply here. I hope it…pleases you,” he kept chuckling to himself and opened the door for us.
“…Oh…no,” I heard Liv whisper breathlessly as we entered. Demons of all shapes, sizes, and colors sat at tables and at the bar. Cigarette smoke, spilt beer, and the thick scent of iron filled the air. Humans were chained to metal poles in the floors as demons toyed with their hair or ripped at parts of their clothes, exposing them. Others were strapped to the bar, their blood being funneled out of them through a device that the bartender used as a mixer for most, if not all drinks. Red bounced off purple, curling in the darkness as smoke, pain, and demonic pleasure – every gulp of blood, every crunch of broken glass, and every weak wail from the humans almost made me buckle at my knees. “…I” I could feel Liv’s weight as her knees, in fact, did buckle. I tightened my grip on her, lifting her up to her feet.
“Don’t be weak, human,” I looked at her, speaking to her with my eyes. She nodded, her lip trembling slightly. A few demons turned their attention toward me and Liv as we walked in. Some scoffed and continued to drink, while a couple sloppily stood from their seats and dragged themselves over to us. One was a woman, her eyes yellow and sunken in – she had two horns on her head, one which was broken and bleeding as if someone just taught her a lesson. An underling, no doubt. She can’t be a real threat. Another was a man, rotund and blushing a hot red, as if he was about to burst from all the alcohol he had drank. He was missing one of his arms, but his other looked way too large for his body. Compensating for something, maybe? Or maybe… just a bit too much alone time, huh…man these two look like they just pulled themselves out of the garbage.
“Heeey…” The demon man gargled and put his hand on my shoulder (the wounded shoulder, no less). “Never seen your beautiful face around here, I would remember a face like yours,”
“And I’d remember one like yours,” the demon woman curled herself around me to get to Liv, running a hand through my friend’s hair. I could feel Liv’s entire body stiffen in response, but she said nothing.
“She’s mine,” I spat, pushing the man’s hand away and pulling Liv and I back from the woman.
“Can we at least watch then – your two…pretty faces, going at it, huh?” The demons grinned excitedly, their eyes darting to the poles where the other humans were chained and being abused or fed on.
“I prefer her close…to…relish in her scent,” I stammered, trying to think of some gross, demon-y thing to say.
God these fuckers are disgusting.
“Oh come now, I’m sure we can all have fun here, can’t we?” A new demon emerged; expect she didn’t look like a demon at all. Her perfect flesh and cut clean attire were totally unlike the sloppy, crooked, broken masses of slop that occupied the rest of the bar. She wore a white button down with a navy tie, perfectly pressed, her shirt without a speck of dirt on it. Her hair was pulled back tightly, not one strand out of place or in front of her wide-framed glasses that any secretary having sex with their boss in the back room would wear. She was beautiful, but disturbingly human, and her words were made of ice. She wasn’t just any underling. She was a demon that mastered the art of disguise and wore her human skin proudly. A human skin she undoubtedly carved herself into, corrupted and claimed. If I killed this woman, there would be no ounce of humanity that would flash before my eyes as she’d fall away – it’s all gone.
She’s no underling… I usually have a sense of their demonic Class by looking at them, but her? She’s a brick wall. Nothing.
Liv nudged me in the side, encouraging me to play along. After the mysterious woman approached, the underlings began to shiver and submit immediately. They backed up, tail between their legs, mumbling brokenly under their breath like they’ve been scolded by their master. Could… she be their?
“…and no, those little piglets are not mine. They’re just with the rest of the filth in this bar. I’d pick something much nicer,” the woman lifted her hands unapologetically. Other patrons at the bar began to look over their shoulder, seeing that the woman stood and confronted me. Some looked my way and laughed nervously, sipping their drink a little too fast, even for demons. Most of the humans in the room were either so exhausted from screaming, that they just sat dead eyed and scarred, while the ones on the bar were passed out from blood lost. The room became quiet; the only sound the occasional clink of glass and the buzz of the red “Lust for Red” LEDs behind the bar. “Oh, how rude of me,” the woman adjusted her glasses and walked toward me. Her gait fluid and intentional- she extended a hand to me and smiled. “My name is Eleanora Octavius, it’s a pleasure to meet you…?” She paused at the end of her sentence, expecting me to offer a name. A demon with a full name – she has to be a Class B or higher, demons don’t earn names without showing serious power…and a more intimate connection with the elite demons pulling all the strings. This is bad.
“I have no such name like yourself,” I murmured, bowing my head in response to her extended hand. “…but you may call me, Vyka,” I thought of some low-level sounding demonic title.
“Hm,” Octavius chimed with obvious disbelief. She swirled her way around me and in moments she was in front of me again, hands interlocked with Olivia’s as if they were about to dance. What?! How? I stiffened my entire body, hand hovering over Alistar on my hip to strike when ready.
“Humans…” the demon dipped Olivia down gracefully “…are gifted with names themselves…” and lifted her back up “…but us demons” she swirled her in place and stopped her abruptly in front of her “…have to work very hard for them,” Octavius pulled Olivia so close that their bodies were pressed together; her eyes were peeled open and she was biting her lip, preventing a scream from pouring out. Octavius rested her hands above Liv’s hips and looked at her gently. “… may I be graced with your name?”
Shit. Shit. Shit.
“O-olivia…W-walker,” she stuttered. The moment she spoke, tears started streaming down her face as she unraveled.
“…well Miss Walker, I think your demon master is lying about not having a name. Don’t you agree?” She asked Olivia, still staring at her intently. Liv turned her head slightly, her eyes darting to me in her peripheral vision. Every demon was watching now – no one was drinking, snorting, or slopping. Just watching.
“Ma’am! How polite you are,”
“…she, uh, she is…Vyka, that is her name..title.. I mean,” Liv’s voice was breathless, as if the demon was squeezing the air from her.
“But Miss Walker – you know those glowing blue eyes aren’t fooling anyone. And the wound on her shoulder? Whatever blood masking spell was placed on that is laughable at best. She’s just as human as you are, isn’t she,” Octavius leaned down, resting her head on Liv’s shoulder, her hand now on the back of her head. She looked at me, dead in the eyes. “…and we all know what happens to humans here. They di-“ I launched forward, Alistar hot in my hands, aimed directly for Octavius’ throat. She lifted Liv upward, using her to shield herself and I slid across the floor in response, my boots crushing glass and smearing pools of blood along the way. I stopped just in time, my daggers tip hovering above the back of Liv’s neck.
“Hello, Miss Cross,” Octavius whipped Liv to one side. Olivia, fight back or something damn it, why aren’t… my mind swelled until I saw Octavius’ hand on Olivia’s. Blood streamed thickly down her arm from the base of her wrist where bone-like hooks dug deeply into her skin. The hooks were coming from the demon’s wrist, jutting out, jagged, and disturbingly precise.
Alistar, we need to do something. Like. NOW.
“I swear to God…” I growled.
“God?” She laughed, pulling her hand slightly down on Liv’s wrist, causing her to yell out in pain. “You know we don’t like to speak of them here,”
“…fucking do you ever stop talking?” I gripped Alistar and cut toward the demon’s arm that was holding Liv. She back stepped playfully and shrugged, but I didn’t stop. I used my momentum to cut again to the right, which she effortlessly avoided, all while pulling Liv miserably with her. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I won’t ever let anything like this happen again… I won’t.
“Underling, come,” Octavius gestured to a demon on the side lines with her free hand, who obediently came forward. She reached out to him and he bowed his head to her. A pair of hooks pierced from her other wrist, growing out parallel to each out. They dug into the demons skin, and she… pulled. Flesh ripped and tore and began to peel away in lines as she pulled the veins out of him. Each vein turned black slowly as he was stripped alive – after she was finished, the demon was a pile of precisely torn flesh, as if he was thrown in a paper shredder. Her hooks retracted, leaving the black veins in her hands – they pulsated with energy and curled into a whip-like weapon in her hand. “…Now,” she swirled the vein whip above her head, and it crackled with wet heat. Every other demon and human in the bar was split in half, the whip cutting them in the middle cleanly. Torsos, horns, and limbs fell to the ground, red quickly becoming the new color of the floor. “…would you like me to continue talking, or would you like me to just, act instead?” My eyes darted back to Liv. She had passed out on the floor, her face and body covered in demons blood.
Alistar. Help me. Now. Please.
I channeled my energy into my dagger, excepting electricity to rush up my arm as it did at Sails Lake, but Alistar didn’t even flicker. What?
“Act it is,” Octavius filled the empty air with the crack of her whip, black twirling veins snapped at me, cutting through my hand and up my arm. I dropped Alistar, collapsing to my knees. The arm of my leather jacket was cut in half, hanging by a few stubborn threads.
If you cannot fight without me, death will find you soon. Alistar finally broke the silence. I could hear the whip crack again and I rolled out of the way, blood and glass sticking to my back.
I reached my hand out to a broken beer bottle and threw it at Octavius. She laughed and broke the bottle in mid-air while walking toward me. Liv was getting worse – I could hardly see her chest rise and fall as she laid there, her skin becoming paler with every passing moment. She means business now, nothing to hold her back, Liv don’t you dare die on me. I will fix this. Alistar, God damn it, any time now.
I inched forward on the floor, finding my dagger in the dust. Octavius stepped on my hand in response, her high heels digging below my knuckles. Ah! I gasped and clenched my jaw, the pain zipping up my arm that was already on fire.
“You know, for a Cross, I thought you’d be more of a challenge,” She kicked me, causing Alistar to fly out of sight. I flipped backwards from the force, hurling into a table that snapped clean in half.
Weakness. Weakness. What is…
“Sweet Satan, do you need more motivation. Because this is just laughable,”
“V-vivian?” Liv coughed, lifting her hand toward me.
“Right on cue,” Octavius smiled and approached Olivia once again.
“No!” I scrambled to my feet, my fists high in the air. Blood, fury, and blindness ruled me – I could feel my own consciousness fading, my body felt as if it had my wrung out and run over again and again, but I wouldn’t stop. I could hardly feel the pain when Octavius slapped me across the face the moment I got within arm’s length, damning me to the floor once again.
“Show me. A true. Fight. Cross!” Octavius’ lifted me from the front of my shirt and I could feel my limbs begin to go limp.
I smiled weakly and spit in the demon’s perfect face. She gasped, disgusted, and dropped me to my feet. Now! I pushed forward, my soul carrying my body. I slammed shoulder first into the demon, causing her stumble backwards, and trip over a few bottles. She landed straight on her perfect little ass and the dumbfounded look on her face was a victory in itself.
“C-catch,” Olivia had crawled her way under the bar, Alistar in her hands. I turned and caught the dagger as he flew toward me, feeling the electricity hum in my hands like it did at Sails Lake. The bar was no longer deep red…it was encapsulated and conquered by blue heat, lighting every dark corner that once watched us.
You’ve done well. When the body fails, the soul steps in. You are ignited. Octavius began to chuckle, throwing her head back, a wide smile crossing her blood splattered face. She didn’t look so perfect anymore – her button up was ripped all the way up the side where dirt plagued the once bleach white fabric, and her hair managed to have a few strands out of place.
“You think you can kill me? One of her favorites?” Octavius continued to laugh while picking herself up off the floor. She had dropped the whip and opened up her palms to me, her bone hooks slowly rearing their heads from the base of her skin. I spat blood on the floor in response, Alistar’s electricity continuing to heat the room.
“Where is she…anyway? Would love to catch a drink with her,” I concentrated on her wrists, waiting for her to strike at any moment.
“She’s busy sipping on the souls of the rest of your family, in Hell,” Alistar’s energy roared in response to Octavius’ words – the heat that once hummed across my skin ignited, cauterizing my wounds and fueling me with a fire that I couldn’t contain. I swept forward, blue light lashing toward Octavius as I yelled out, my lungs heaving with rage. The light met the demon, pushing her back only slightly as she launched her hook forward, aiming for my arm. I stepped aside, grabbing the base of the hook with my other hand – I pulled. Hard. The demon staggered toward me, giving me enough of an opening to slice her across her face – she laughed again, even when I snapped her wrist back, causing one of bone hooks to fracture and crumble to her feet. “She’ll kill you! No worse. They’ll kill you,” She cackled.
If she’s talking about who I think she is…her…other half?
“Fine then. Have them come,”
“What? You think, my lord Satan and dear Lucifer are just going to come knocking at your door step? They are already in you. They are hiding in the valleys of your veins and the pores in your skin and in the marrow of your bones. Humans, are crafted by them, rightfully so with sin and chaos. This is why we unzip you, step into your flesh, and submit to their grandest intention – to make mankind a vessel for Hell. A Hell we shall bring to the surface,” Octavius was shaking now, every ounce of cool composure she had gone.
“If they don’t come knocking, I eventually will, so I don’t really care what their ‘grand intention’ is – because I won’t let that happen,”
“That’s what every Cross said before you, and now look…you’re the last one,”
I swallowed at her remark, my throat closing in on itself – now I began to shake, the static in the air crackling behind me.
Cross. Control. Please.
“Doesn’t matter if I’m the first, or the last,” I muttered, and curved my hand back. Alistar growled in between my finger tips and pierced the air as I whipped him toward Octavius. He planted himself deep into her chest and she crumbled to the floor, unable to escape her fate.
“D-don’t fool yourself…girl…you know where your soul will find…itself,” Octavius coughed, her flesh beginning to turn black as the demonic spirit began to lift out of her human vessel – I was right. There was nothing human left in her body – not even a flash.
“Liv!” I turned, rushing toward her as she lay on the ground. She used every last ounce of energy just to throw Alistar to me… without her, we would both probably be dead. I lifted her, throwing her over my shoulder, using my remaining adrenaline to muster up enough strength to press on. “Alistar…” I turned, and saw him floating in the air above the demon. A blue crystal, now embedded deeply into his hilt, formed before my eyes, “…you can fly?”
There is much you have to learn, Cross.
“…well this just means I don’t have to worry about carrying you for now,” I turned, away, making my way toward the door, Liv draped over my shoulder.
I’ve got you, I’ll get you home. I’ll get us home.
Vivian Cross will return… | Like the story? Let me know in the comments below!