RAOB Halloween story 2017

The Pentagram
D.J. Belt


Copyright: Original fiction, copyright D.J. Belt, October, 2017. Story and characters are mine, all mine! Oh, yeah. Except for one. You’ll know which one. I didn’t invent that one.
Disclaimers: A typical Halloween horror tale. Attitude and blood and gore and associated weirdness. Rated R, I suppose. No explicit sex, darn it.
Comments: dbelt@mindspring.com  Write if you like. Love to hear from you. My zombie secretary will leave the notes on my desk, then try to eat my brains.
Misc.: This was written for the RAOB 2017 Halloween Invitational. Thanks for the kind invite, and I hope you all have a wonderful Halloween. I know I will. Bwa-ha-ha-ha!


“It’s darker than crap out here,” April said to no one in particular, as she slowed her car and squinted at the curving road. “And I should have cleaned the windshield sometime in the last century.” Her cell phone, resting on the passenger seat, began dinging with text messages. “Who the hell?” she said. “And what’s so important right this minute?” She picked up the phone and steered with one hand as she tapped the phone’s face with her thumb. Her eyes left the road and focused on the text message. “No, Susan,” she said, “I don’t care about your messed-up love life this very second, and – ”

The car’s right-side tires hit the edge of the pavement. April’s heart rose into her throat as she jerked the steering wheel. The last thing she remembered was the car flipping, and the trunk of a very large tree three feet from her face.

She didn’t recall how long that dark, restful feeling had lasted. She was currently marveling at that fact that she was – somehow – standing on the side of the road looking at her car. It was on its side, up against the trunk of a large tree. In the glare of a fire truck’s headlights, a pair of fire-rescue guys pried her driver’s side door open. One looked into the car and visibly recoiled. “There’s some chick in there,” he said to his buddy. “She’s FUBAR’ed.”

The other guy glanced inside. “No way she survived that.”

A state trooper appeared in the headlights. “I’ve got an ambulance on the way. We’ll have to wait for the tow truck to flip this thing upright, so we can get her out of there.”

“Hell,” the rescue guy said. “These little Beetle convertibles, we can probably flip it ourselves. They weigh nothing.”

“That’s what killed her,” the state trooper said. “These old VW’s, they’re no protection at all. Not even a roll bar. If she’d been driving an SUV, she’d probably still be alive.”

April approached the state trooper. “Sir?” she said. “Sir, that’s my car. What happened? Who’s in there?”

He did not respond to her. “Let’s give it a try,” he said to the fire-rescue guys. They gathered on the far side of the car and began pushing. The crushed VW teetered and groaned, then fell onto its wheels. As it shuddered, the driver’s door swung open and a bloody body hung halfway out. April stepped closer. In the headlights of the state trooper’s car, she looked at the body, then fell to her knees and retched on the ground in front of her. “That’s awful!” was all that she could say.

The three men seemed not to notice her presence. One leaned across the body, then stood up with an object in his hand. “Cell phone,” he said. “It’s still on.”

The state trooper lifted it from the guy’s hand and studied it. “She was texting.” He held it by a corner. “Got something to clean the blood off this thing? Maybe she’s got an emergency contact number in here.”

“There’s some towels in the truck. And here’s her purse,” a fire-rescue guy said. He handed it to the state trooper.

“Thanks,” the cop said. “Now I get to notify the next of kin. Fun, fun.” He walked toward the back of the truck.

As the state trooper walked away, one fire-rescue guy looked at the other one. “That’s why I’m not a cop. Let’s drag her out of there and put some leads on her chest. We’ve got to verify that she’s dead.”

Still on her knees, April watched in stunned silence as they tugged the body from the car, settled it on the ground near her, and ran an EKG strip. “Yup, she’s dead. No cardiac activity at all,” one said.

“Look at her head,” the other one said. “What a mess. Probably a broken neck, too.”

“Shame,” the first guy muttered. “A real cutie, looked like. How old do you think she is?”

The other guy shrugged. “Twenty, maybe.”

“I’m twenty-four, doofus.” April managed to rise to her feet. “Guys!” she said. “I’m right here. What the hell happened?” She waited for a response, then shouted, “Talk to me!”

“Forget it,” a new voice said from behind her. “They can’t hear you.”

April wheeled around. About ten feet away, a figure was sitting in the dark, perched on the wooden rails of a fence. “What?”

“They can’t hear you. They can’t see you, either.”

“Why – why not?” April spoke the words slowly, with hesitation, as if she knew the answer but didn’t want to hear the thought spoken aloud.

“Because you’re dead.”

“I can’t be dead,” April protested. “I’m right here.”

“And you’re over there. And there’s a little of you on that tree trunk. Hey, don’t believe me. Take another look.”

“That’s not me. I’ll prove that’s not me,” April said. She turned and strode toward the body. Three feet away, she halted and stood, as if frozen in time. For a full minute, she stood so. Slowly, she looked up. “It is me,” she said. “It’s really me.” She fell to her knees and reached toward the body. When she touched it, her fingers penetrated the body. She recoiled and pulled her hand from the corpse, then studied her fingers. They weren’t bloody. “What the hell?” she said. She rose from her knees and confronted the strange fence-sitting figure. “It’s truth time, damn it. What’s going on here?”

The figure hopped down off the fence and walked toward her, a black silhouette in the night. As April watched her approach, she began to detect some features about the apparition. It appeared to be a young woman roughly her age, round-faced, with a strangely soothing tone of voice and manner. As she drew closer, April could see that she was wrapped in a strange leather-appearing cloak, and wore no shoes. Her eyes were her most striking feature; they were large and totally black. She halted in front of April. “Okay, April,” she said. “Here it is. You’re dead. I’m here to claim your essence. You belong to me now.”

“My what? Kiss my ass! I don’t belong to anybody.” She looked the young woman up and down. “You’re crazy. Who the hell are you, anyway? And how do you know my name?”

The leathery cloak opened. It was, in actuality, two bat-like wings which unfolded behind the apparition. “I’m Lucifer. I guess you’ve heard of me.” When April did not answer, Lucifer smiled. “You’re taking this well. Most folks are freaking out by this time.”

April stood, frozen in place, her eyes as wide as dinner plates. After a moment, she managed to whisper a thought. “This is me, freaking out.”

“Oh. Antidepressants, huh?”

“No,” April said. “This is me.”

Lucifer nodded. “Got it. You’ll be easy to work with.” She placed her hands on her hips and said, “I know that look. Something’s wrong. What?”

April pointed. “You’re, ah – ” She sputtered. “All like, red.”

She looked down at herself. “The correct name for this shade of red is ‘apple’,” Lucifer said. “I love the irony of that: a little Genesis humor. But my hair’s black, if that’s more to your liking.”

“Okay. I’ll give you that. And there’s – ” April touched the top of Lucifer’s head. “Horns? Really? How cliche!”

“Hey, I can’t help it. Sometimes stereotypes actually get it right.”

“And you’re not wearing anything, are you?” April looked at Lucifer’s body. “Damn, you’re a she? I thought that Lucifer was a dude.”

Lucifer rolled her eyes. “Everybody does. Hell, maybe I should just grow a – ”

“No!” April said, a little too loudly and quickly. She coughed in embarrassment, then said, “I mean, you look cool like you are.” She glanced away, then looked at Lucifer’s body again. “Whoa. Very cool.”

Lucifer perked up and smiled. “Thanks.”

“For a demon, I mean.”

“Okay,” Lucifer said. “You were scoring points with me until you said that.”

“I didn’t mean to offend,” April said. “You really are hot.” She looked at Lucifer’s body again, then glanced away. “Very hot. You work out, right?”

“Hot? That’s a Hell joke, isn’t it? Okay, kiddo. You got your points back.” Lucifer smiled as she poked April’s chest with a finger, leaned close to her, and adopted a teasing tone of voice. “What’s the matter, April? Does me being naked embarrass you? Am I making you uncomfortable?”

“Yeah, a little,” April admitted. “Okay, actually a lot. Could you, um – ?”

“Put something on? Jeez, Louise. Okay. I’ll wear what you’re wearing.” She snapped her fingers, and smoke billowed up around her. A moment later, it cleared. “How’s this?”

“Exercise clothes? See, I knew it. You do work out. Imagine that, Lucifer rocking the free weights and wearing designer stuff. What kind of music do you listen to when you do your cardio? And does Lucifer have a trainer?”

“Don’t get carried away. I just copied your clothes. You’re the gym rat here.”

“I was just coming from the gym.” April gestured toward the car. “What the hell, at least I died in terrific shape, huh?”

“Yeah. Congratulations. You’ll be the best-looking corpse in the morgue.”

“I see your point. So, what happens now?”

“Now, you and I head to the next realm.” She smiled. “My side of town.”

“Do you mean that I’m going to Hell?”

“That’s your next stop, doll.”

“Me, in Hell? Nope. No way! I’ve been a good girl!”

“I don’t give a rat’s patootie if you’ve been good or not. I’m Lucifer, not Santa Claus. Look, that’s not how this works. If the Boss says you go to Hell, then you go to Hell. Take it up with Him if you don’t like it.”

April folded her arms across her chest and studied Lucifer. “So you’re not the boss of Hell?”

“Yeah, I’m the boss of Hell.” Lucifer shrugged. “I’m just not the boss of everything, get my drift?”

“I’m starting to see, I think.” April thought about it, then shook her head. “No. I don’t get it. Explain it to me.”

“I’ll show it to you. Come on, girl. You’ll catch on.” Lucifer grasped April’s hand, and she yanked it back as if she’d touched a hot stove.

“I am not going to Hell with you!”

“Yes, you are. Quit being a pain in the ass, April. You’re about to lose your points. Trust me, you don’t want to lose your points with Lucifer. And you don’t want to be left in this realm without a body. That sucks big time.”

“It does? How?”

“Who do you think ghosts are? They missed the bus, and now they’re stuck here. You’ll end up haunting some crazy old cat lady or floating around your house, watching your former boyfriend bang your BFF. Hey, it happens.”

“My boyfriend would never do that, ever!” An odd, unreadable expression crossed April’s face, and her voice softened. Her eyes widened, and she looked at Lucifer. “Yeah, he would, wouldn’t he? He totally would. That freaking no-good – !”

“Oh, he’ll probably wait a month or so first. He’s okay.” Lucifer noted April’s disbelieving expression. “Yeah, you’re right. He’s an asshole. I was just trying to make you feel better. I don’t know what you ever saw in him, anyway.” She held out her hand. “Come on, girl. Let’s go to Hell. It’s not as bad as all that. You’ll get the hang of it. Some folks even grow to like it.”

April looked at her wrecked car and her body on the road next to it, and turned to Lucifer. “I really loved that car. I even didn’t mind my totally screwed-up life that much, now that I don’t have it anymore.” She glanced at the outstretched hand, then took it in her own and interlaced her fingers with Lucifer’s. “Okay. Onward and upward. Or downward, rather. Let’s get this over with.”

“Cool. I knew you’d see it my way.”

“You have a very soft hand.”

“For a demon?”

“You said that. I didn’t.”

Lucifer winked at April. “You’re racking up those points, girl. Okay, hold on.”


April opened her eyes and looked around her. She didn’t know what to expect, but didn’t expect this. Before her sat a demon at a desk, reading a comic book. The demon glanced up, shot her a bored expression, and said, “Name?” When she didn’t immediately respond, the demon said it louder. “Name?”

“Oh. Uh, April Landers.”

He dropped his cloven-hoof feet from the edge of his desk, leaned forward, and flipped through the pages of an ancient-looking book. His finger trailed down a list written in an old, unreadable text. “Yeah. Okay. You’re here.” He looked up at her. “Not like I expected any different. The Boss is very efficient.”

“Do you mean Lucifer?”

“Met the Boss, I take it? Yeah. Just once, I wish there would be a screw-up. I love fixing problems, and there never are any.”

“Hell’s an efficient place, huh?”

“Yeah. I hate it. That’s my Hell. Nothing to fix. Ever.” He sighed. “Okay, let’s process you in. Follow me.”

He rose from his chair, and April slapped a hand across her eyes. “Oh, Jeez,” she said. “You’re naked, too?”

He looked down at himself, then up at her. “Everybody is. You’ll get over it.” He waved her on, and she followed him.

As they turned a corner, she said, “I’m April.”

“I don’t care,” he muttered.

Man, she thought, what a jerk. She pointed at his groin. “So, what do they call you? Pee-Wee?”

He shot her a dirty look. “You’re a laugh riot.”

She snickered. “Go ahead. Tell me to go to Hell. I dare you.”

“I’ll tell you where to go.” He opened a door and pointed. “Go there, bitch.” Without more explanation, he turned and left.

As he stomped away, April held up a hand to keep the door from slamming in her face, then watched him walk down the hall. She called out, “You’ve got a skinny ass, too!” He responded with a middle finger in the air as he walked away. April huffed, then calmed herself with a tight little smile. “So far, I kind of like this place.”


“April? How are you settling in?”

April recognized the voice. It was Lucifer. She looked up from her sleeping mat. “All right, I guess.”

Lucifer put her hands on her hips. “Okay, I detect attitude. What’s up?”

“Since you ask,” April said, “that processing in was a joke. I took a number and sat for twenty minutes while some demon chick ate health food and looked at her computer. She said she was on a lunch break or something. Health food in Hell?”

Lucifer snickered. “Oh. Yeah. That was Elizabeth Taylor. She detests health food, so all she gets is kale. Hey, it’s Hell.” She studied April with a suddenly serious expression. “You don’t detest health food, do you?”

“Um, no. No! I love it. What I hate is a variety of tasty ethnic foods. Can’t stand that!”

Lucifer’s black eyes twinkled in humor. “You learn fast. I’m impressed. Okay, what else happened?”

“And so when she finally starts working again, she’s slower than molasses. She finally gets to me, and assigns me this little corner to live in.”

“You’re not pleased with the accommodations?”

“It sucks! Not even a window. I’m an outdoors kind of girl.”

“Okay. You want outdoors, you get outdoors.”

April perked up. “Really? Thanks. Hey, I thought this was Hell.”

Lucifer smiled. “You ain’t seen outdoors yet.” She snapped her fingers, and they were enveloped in smoke.


As the smoke cleared, April coughed and looked around. Hot breeze stirred little scrub plants and warped, ancient trees as a volcano seeped lava into a lake of fire in the distance. Lucifer beamed as she spread her arms wide. “This is it. The garden spot of Hell. What do you think?”

“I think it sucks!” April quickly slapped a hand over her mouth. “I mean, I love it. This is great. What I hate is a pleasant summer’s day with thick green grass between my toes – ”

“Too late.”

“I blew it, huh?”

“Yeah. This is your job now.”

“What’s my job? Stand here and sweat in this hot breeze?”

“Partly. But you got an important job. You’ll need this for it.” Lucifer snapped her fingers, and a wheelbarrow and a spear appeared. She handed April the spear. “You’re my game warden. See that cute little fuzzy animal over there, about twenty feet away?”

“Oh, yeah! It’s darling! It looks like a sweet little – ” The animal, about the size of a football, focused on April. “Here, boy!  Come on, say hello to Auntie April!” She leaned forward and extended her hand.

“Don’t,” Lucifer cautioned.

“What – ?” April looked up, then back at the animal. Its eyes turned red, and it bared some wicked-looking teeth and growled. “Oh, shit,” April said. “It’s not nice, is it?”

“It’s vicious. Here it comes. Quick, gig it!”

“You want me to – ?” The animal caught the toe of April’s gym shoe and clamped on. It was growling and shaking, and April tried to kick it off. She flailed her foot in the air, but it was locked on. “What the hell?” she shouted. “Do something!”

Lucifer was examining the nails of one hand. “That’s your job,” she said. “Gig it.”

“What does that even mean?” April shouted, as she danced and shook her foot.

“Take the freaking spear and stab it!”

April did. She held up the spear and examined the writhing animal with a horrified expression. “What is this thing, anyway? It looks like a Tribble from Hell.”

Lucifer snickered. “Close. It’s a particularly nasty little gremlin that we have around here. They multiply a lot, so your job is to find them and kill them. Watch out!”

“Now what?”

The demon burst into flames, then quickly fried into a black, charred mess. “Whoa,” April said. “It smells like a char-broiled steak. What just happened?”

“They do that when they die,” Lucifer explained.

“So, what do I do with it now?”

“So, you throw it into the wheelbarrow. When the barrow gets full, take it over to the lake of fire and dump them in.”

“And that’s my job?”

Lucifer smiled. “That’s it. Sweet, huh?”

“I guess you’ve got worse jobs around here.” April looked down at her shoe. Part of it was shredded, and her toes protruded. “Look at that. Those weren’t cheap shoes, either.”

“Which reminds me,” Lucifer said. She snapped her fingers, and a cloud of smoke enveloped April. When it cleared, she looked down at herself.

“Oh, man! Come on! What the hell is this? Where’d my clothes go?”

“They went bye-bye. You’re in Hell now. You have to look the part.”

“Like this?”

“Yeah. Haven’t you ever seen Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings of Hell?”
“Who? No. Should I have?”

Lucifer shot her a puzzled glance. “Where was it that you went to college?”

“State U.”

“Jeez. In that case, forget it. Have fun out here. I’ll check in on you from time to time.”

“At least give me some leather boots or something. What if – ?”

“One gets your foot?”


“You’ll heal quickly. You’ll even grow your toes back. That’s a power you have now.”

“Do those things hurt when they bite?”

“Damn straight they do. Remember, this is Hell.” With that little dispensation of wisdom, Lucifer turned to leave.

“Lucifer! Don’t leave me like this! Please!”

Lucifer turned and studied April. Her expression, at first indifferent, turned sympathetic. For a time, she just considered her new charge. She sighed deeply, then began speaking with a soft, almost comforting voice. “I do like you, April, so I’m going to clue you in to some stuff most people don’t hear. First, this won’t last forever. Do your job with the right attitude, and you’ll get a sweeter gig. Life’s like that.”

“Death, too?”

“See? You haven’t lost your sense of humor. That’s neat. Second, You won’t stay in Hell forever. That’s not in your cards.”

“And you know this how?” April asked. “Oh, yeah. You’re Lucifer.”

Lucifer patted April on the cheek. “You can call me Lucy.” She took April’s forearm in her hands and studied it. “What are these scars?”

April looked away. “I used to cut myself.”

“Your thigh, too, I see. Tough teen years? Bullied? Self-loathing? A loser? Couldn’t do anything right? Hated life?”

“Guilty on all counts.”
“What do you think of life now?”

April’s eyes clouded. Her chin quivered, and a tear traced its way down her cheek. “It was pretty sweet.”

Lucifer smiled, really smiled at that. “You’re catching on. And remember what I just told you, because I just gave you a profound gift.”

“You did?”

“Yeah. I gave you hope. Y’see, most folks here have lost that. They don’t know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. You do.”

She turned and walked away, but halted one more time and turned toward April. “Oh, and by the way – ”

April’s expression became hopeful. “Yeah?”

Lucifer grinned. “Nice boobs.”

April looked down. “Oh? Thanks. I call them ‘Smurfs’.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“They’re tiny, but they’ve got loads of personality.”

“Jeez!” As Lucifer disappeared in smoke, her laughter trailed behind her. As it dissipated, April glanced around at the bleak landscape. “Okay,” she said, “what’s first? Food?” As if on cue, big raindrops began splattering around her and wetting the ground. “Nope. Shelter.” She dropped the burned carcass in the wheelbarrow, grabbed the barrow’s handles, and began jogging toward a distant, ancient tree. “Man, the rain is warm, at least.” The next drops which hit her were freezing, and April groaned. She had to say something, didn’t she? This was Hell. “But I’ll tell you,” she said loudly, “one thing I love is a cold shower. Yes, sir. Icy cold. I absolutely hate warm showers.”

When the rain immediately turned warm again, April smiled in triumph.


“Wow! You’ve really adjusted, haven’t you?”

April looked up and caught Lucifer standing nearby, watching her. “I guess.” She pointed to a rock near her campfire. “Have a seat. Visit for a while.”

“Don’t mind if I do.” Lucifer plopped down on the rock. “Thirsty?”
“Always. I only get to drink when it rains. Luckily, it rains a couple of times a day.”

“That sucks.” Lucifer pointed at the ground, and a puff of smoke rose. When it cleared, a big bottle of electrolyte sports drink sat by April’s foot. She squealed in delight.

“Thanks! May I?”

“It’s for you.”

She lifted the bottle, opened it, and guzzled about half of it in one long, satisfying drink. When she put the bottle down, she shot Lucifer a quizzical little glance. “Okay,” she said, “why are you being so nice to me?”

“You want I should be a jerk to you?” Lucifer asked.

“No! I just mean that this is Hell, right? I’m supposed to be suffering, right? That’s your job, to torture me, right? So how come you’re not?” April quickly added, “Not that I’m complaining, mind you.”

Lucifer leaned forward and poked at the fire with a stick. “I am torturing you. You’re just a very resilient spirit.”

“Wow,” April said. “So, I’m doing good?”

“Very good, kiddo. Look at yourself. You’ve adjusted to being out here. You’ve killed a ton of those little gremlins for me. Got it down to a fine art. I like the way you speared that one from twelve feet away. That was sharp.”

“I’ve tried to make a sport out of it. I mean, if I’ve got to do it – ”

“Keep it up.” Lucifer rose. “Before I go, do you need anything?”

“Yeah. I could use a razor. I’m rocking some armpit hair here. Legs, too.”

“You could use a bath more.”

“Oh. I’m that ripe, huh?”

“You could gag a maggot.”

“Nice. How long have I been out here, anyway?”

“Could be a month, could be a year. Time gets away from one in Hell.” She studied April. “You’ve lost weight.”

“It’s the fruit diet. Thanks for the apple tree, at least.”

“Oh. Sure. Eve loved that tree, too.” With that, Lucifer disappeared in a puff of smoke.

April turned her attention to the apple tree. For a while, she just stared at it. Finally, she said, “Nah. That can’t be the tree. Okay, maybe it is. Good thing I didn’t tell her about that talking snake I killed the other day.” She picked up her spear and rose from the campfire. “Back to work. Y’know, I’m beginning to wonder if those gremlins taste good.”


“Sick, huh?”

April lifted her head from the ground. The rain and wind stung the side of her face and body. She was drenched and muddy, and her hair lay plastered against her head and tangled in knots. She shivered, then retched several times. “You think?” she finally managed to say.

“You didn’t eat a gremlin, did you?” When April didn’t answer, she said, “You did?”

“Hey,” April said. “They cook themselves.”

“But they’re indigestible to humans. I should have warned you. Sorry.”

“Go away. I hate you right now.” She began crawling across the ground, away from her tormentor, but she had little strength left. Painfully, slowly, she reached out, dug her fingers into the dirt, and pulled herself along. She couldn’t manage more than a few feet, though. Finally, she surrendered and began weeping. “I can’t do this anymore,” she said. Her crying became louder, and her body shook as she wept. She managed to utter one more thought in broken syllables between gasps and sobs.

 “Just – kill – me – please.”

Lucifer knelt in front of her and leaned forward. For a time, she just watched April as she wept and shivered, as the rain poured down her face and over her shoulders. When the crying finally subsided and all that April could utter was the occasional gasp and sniff, Lucifer began speaking in a quiet voice.

“At the end of your rope, are you?”

April nodded.

“Would you rather keep on, or die?”

“Die.” Sniff.

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Ow! God, it hurts!” She gripped her abdomen, curled up in a ball, and rolled back and forth. “It’s killing me.”

“You’re already dead, remember?”

“Please make it stop.” She opened her eyes and looked at Lucifer. “Please. I’m begging you.”

“You’ll owe me.”

“I don’t care. I’ll do anything.”

“Okay.” Lucifer waved a hand, and April went limp. For a minute, she lay still in a puddle of rain. Slowly, she opened her eyes and looked up. “It’s gone. I’m not in pain anymore.”

“I’m good at what I do.”

Slowly, April sat up. She wiped the rain from her eyes, focused on Lucifer’s face, and attempted to read her mood from her expression. “So...”

Lucifer’s eyebrows rose in response, as if awaiting the inevitable question. “So, what happens to you now?” she guessed. At April’s nod, she answered the unspoken question. “Now, I really send you to Hell.”

April puzzled over that statement. “I’m getting married?”

Lucifer snickered. “No. You're getting buried. I’m sending you to your funeral.” She snapped her fingers, and a cloud of smoke enveloped them. When it cleared, April gasped at what she saw.

They were standing at the door of a church.  Lucifer motioned toward the open doors. “Go on. Enjoy.”

“Like this?” April said. “I’m naked and dripping wet and filthy and I stink.”

Lucifer leaned toward April and sniffed. “Not as bad as you used to. The rain did you good. Oh, go on. No one can see you. I’ll come get you when I think that you’ve had enough.” That said, Lucifer disappeared in smoke.

That evening, April sat on a tombstone in the cemetery, watching the sun descend. Her chin rested in her hand, her elbow on her knee. Occasionally, she’d study the freshly-filled grave nearby, and she’d wipe away a tear that tracked its way across her cheek. When smoke wafted through her field of vision, she didn’t look up. She knew who had arrived.

“Fun time, I take it?” Lucifer asked.

“That was horrible.”

“All that grief, all that pain, all that regret. And you felt every bit of what they felt, didn’t you?”


“And it was all so unnecessary. You died because you did something stupid, and now they’re suffering for it.”


“And you also heard their unspoken words, right? What some of them really thought of you?”


“And right now you despise me for doing this to you.”

“You’re pretty insightful.”

“I get that a lot.” Lucifer sat down on the tombstone next to her. “So, don’t hold back. Let me have it all.”

“That hurt,” April said. “I mean, worse than eating that gremlin. Watching my parents grieve, and my little sister. And not just hearing what they were thinking, but feeling what they were feeling. That sucked big time. And my pal Amy, she was hurting so badly. It tore her up.”

“She cared about you.” Lucifer looked at April. “A lot.”

“That jerk guy I was seeing wasn’t hurting too badly. He sure was hovering around Amy, though. He never gave a crap about me, did he?”

“I told you. So, what sucked the worst?”

April looked at Lucifer. “Was I really that big a jerk in life?”

Lucifer nodded. “Yeah, to some people. Self-centered personalities usually are.”

“I so want to start cutting myself again.”

“I know,” Lucifer said. “That’s why I didn’t give you a razor.”

“Smart. Now what?”

“Now, you have a decision to make. Let’s go back to Hell.” Lucifer snapped her fingers, and they disappeared.


“Thanks for the shower.” April toweled her hair as she sat on a locker room bench. Around her body, she had wrapped a thick bath towel. “I feel much better.”

Lucifer nodded. “You smell better, too. Ready to talk about your future now?”

“Sure, I guess.” April ran her fingers through her hair to get it out of her eyes. “Okay, hit me with it.”

Lucifer studied her with those penetrating black eyes of hers. “I’ve got a new job for you.”

“Jeez.” April rested the towel in her lap. “What?”

“My paramour.”

April blinked in question. “A pair of what?”

“No, you goof. Paramour. Look it up.” She snapped her fingers, and a book appeared by her hip. April opened it and flipped through the pages. “P-a-r-a-m-o-u-r,” Lucifer spelled out.

“Oh. Here it is.” April read the definition, and her eyes grew wide. She looked up at Lucifer. “You want me to be your – ”

“Yeah. Are you up for it?” Lucifer cracked up. “You’re speechless! I love it.” For a long, silent moment, they eyed each other. Finally, Lucifer asked, “What?”

April tossed the dictionary aside. “What’s in it for me?”

“Now that’s the April I’ve come to know. Me, me, me. All about me.”

“It’s a fair question.”

Lucifer leaned forward. “Are we in negotiations now? Ooh, I love negotiations. Okay. What do you want?”

“I want regular showers and decent food and drink, for one thing.”

“I can do that.”

“And I want a gym.”

“Wow. Okay, you can use the gym for Administration.”

“Hell has an administration?”

“Yeah. Whenever I get an MBA down here, they go there.”

“They’re that good?”

“No. They’re mostly schmucks. They’re expert at treating rank-and-file workers like crap, though. Hey, this is Hell. It’s what we do here. Our product is human suffering, and MBA’s create a lot of that.”

“I get that.” April held up a finger to punctuate her next demand. “And I want some workout clothes.”


“Then it’s no deal.”

“Sorry to hear that.”

Lucifer snapped her fingers, and April was enveloped in smoke. A moment later, she found herself sitting by her campfire. She cast a look of disgust at her surroundings and said, “Me and my big mouth.”

She was filling the wheelbarrow with dead, toasted gremlin carcasses when Lucifer appeared behind her. “Having fun?” she asked.

April slammed the carcass into the barrow and wheeled around to face Lucifer. “What happened? I thought we were getting along good.”

Lucifer sighed. “April, you tried to bargain with the Queen of Hell.”

“Oh, I get it. I have no bargaining power, huh?”

Lucifer closed the distance between them and placed a finger beneath April’s chin. “You have more than you realize. Say ‘yes’ to my offer. You won’t regret it. And don’t forget that you owe me.”

“I repeat my question: What’s in it for me?”

“Really? Look at your present circumstance, and think about it.”

April looked around her. It took her about two seconds to decide. “Okay. I see your point.”

“Is that a ‘yes’?” Lucifer asked.

“It’s a ‘maybe’. Let’s go to your place and talk about it. Over a glass of wine,” she added.

Lucifer smiled. “You’re a quick study.” With a finger-snap, both of them disappeared.


“Wow. Nice digs,” April said. “This is your place?”

“Yeah.” She pointed to the grand piano in the corner. “You play?”

“I’m rusty,” April confided, as she accepted a glass of wine from Lucifer. They sat down on a plush sofa, and April wrapped her towel more tightly around her. “So, what would my duties be?”

“You’ll live here. You take care of me, and I take care of you.”

“By ‘take care of you’, you mean – ”

“Yes. Exactly. You do what a paramour does for the one who keeps her. You tend to my emotional and physical needs.”

“So,” April said, “Lucifer needs a para-whatever? I figured the Queen of Hell would have a harem full of them. Why me?”

“I like you. And I think you’ll learn a lot.”

“I already know a lot, thank you,” April said.

“Oh. Right. Those naughty videos you did in college?”

“Hey! I needed the money.” April blinked in surprise. “How did you know about that?” she said. “Oh. Yeah. You’re – ”

“The Queen of Hell. Honey, once you put something on the internet, it never goes away. But back to brass tacks. I think you’ll learn selflessness. That’s the big one.”


“Yeah. You know, putting someone else’s needs before your own? That kind of selflessness?”

“No one does that.”

“You don’t, that’s for sure.”

April glanced around the luxurious apartment as she digested that thought. Finally, she asked, “What happened to your last para-whatever?”

“She’s no longer with us.”

April’s eyes widened to dinner-plate size. “What did you do to her?”

“Nothing. She got her reincarnation. She’s back in the world of the living.”

Suddenly, the entire bizarre spectacle made sense to April. She sat, quite still, and attempted to digest the meaning of what she’d just heard. As she did, she said only one thing: “Oh.”

“You just got it, didn’t you? You know, the big picture. Heaven, Hell, life, death, reincarnation, karma, the whole thing?”


“Congratulations. So, have we got a deal? You’re nice to me, and I’m nice to you?”

“And in the process, I learn this selflessness thing?”

“Yeah. And that will be your ticket out of here. I put in a good word to the Big Guy, and you get your reincarnation.”

“I won’t get turned into a demon? You know, like those guys out there?”

“Nah. Those folks are dumber than a bag of hammers. They’ll never get it. That’s why I made them demons.”

“So, let’s get this straight. I’m your para-whatever, you’re my girlfriend, and we live here. Exactly what are my duties?”

“I’ve got to spell it out for you?”

“No, I think I’ve got it. That’s my whole job, huh?”

“That, and keep me company. It’s lonely at the top, and you’re fun to hang out with and talk to. Why do you think I pay attention to you?” Lucifer sat forward and folded her wings behind her. “So, what do you think?” She shot a coy, seductive glance at April. “Can you go for a girl with bat wings? You said that you liked my figure.”

In reply, April rose from the couch and sat next to Lucifer. “Yeah. I could. And I could get used to those horns, too. You know, hang on for the ride?”

Lucifer smiled. “Stop it. You’re making me blush.”

“You, blushing? I thought you were naturally red. Oh, excuse me. Apple.” April studied Lucifer for a moment, then asked, “How old are you, anyway? Just curious.”

“I’m older than time itself,” Lucifer said. “Why? How old are you?”

“Twenty-four. So I guess this makes you a cougar, huh? The age difference won’t be a problem, will it?” April spoke the next thought in a soft, seductive voice. “This is the first time I’ve been this close to you. You have some very kissable lips, Lucy.”

“You’re a bad girl.”

“Are you complaining?”

“Nope. I like bad.”

“That’s why you’re Lucifer, I guess.”

“Stop it!” Lucifer kissed April, a peck on the lips. “Well, I’m glad we had this little chat. I’ve got to make my evening rounds. I’ll be back in a while. In the meantime, why don’t you find the bedroom and make yourself at home?” Lucifer tugged at the corner of April’s bath towel. “And make yourself more comfortable while you’re at it, if you know what I mean.”

April grinned. “I think I’ve got it. Hurry home, darling. I’ll be waiting.”

“You’re killing me.” With that, Lucifer vanished in a puff of smoke.

After she disappeared, April rose and began exploring the apartment. It was beautifully appointed, and it contained the loveliest of furnishings and art. “At least she has good taste,” April decided, as she strolled through the various rooms. “I’ve never been kept before,” she said. “I’m starting to appreciate the concept.”

She noted a large flat-screen television on a wall in front of a plush couch, so she settled down and looked around for the remote control. She saw it on the far end of the coffee table, and she reached for it. It was just beyond her fingertips. April huffed, then strained for it. It shuddered, then leapt off the table and into the palm of her hand. She blinked in astonishment over what she’d just done. “Wow,” she said. “Another special power? That rocked. I’m going to like this gig.”

She turned her attention to the television. “Let’s see what’s on in Hell,” she said, as she switched it on and started flipping channels. “What the – ?” she said, after a few minutes. “There’s nothing on but Barney the Dinosaur reruns and C-Span. Talk about torture. That’s positively inhuman. Oh, wait. What’s this?” She focused on the television, then sighed. “Academy Awards ceremonies? Really? Yup, I’m definitely in Hell.” She clicked off the television, and she noted the name of the cable company on the remote control. “They’ve got AT&T down here? I should have guessed. I’ve dealt with their customer service.”

April rose and wandered toward the bedroom. She freshened up, brushed her hair, and pulled down the covers on the huge, ornate canopy bed. When she shed her towel and climbed in, she groaned in delight. The bed was soft and welcoming. “Yeah,” she said, “I could get used to this.” She opened her eyes and looked up. Above the bed, she saw her reflection. “A mirror? Lucy, you naughty girl,” she said. She sat up and looked around. “What we need here is atmosphere,” she said. “Candles. Lots of ‘em.” On an impulse, she clapped her hands, and was amazed when the lights went dark and a multitude of candles appeared. She looked down at her hands in wonder. “Damn,” she said. “Now that does rock. Okay, Lucy. Get home and let’s get the show on the road, because I’m really looking forward to a good night’s sleep on these clean sheets. And I hope you don’t snore.”

A few minutes later, she heard the front door close. The soft footfalls of Lucifer’s feet sounded in the hallway. Like a misty spirit, she appeared at the foot of the bed and cast April a smouldering glance in the reflected candlelight. “I’m impressed,” she whispered. “I can see that I made a good decision on you.”

“Excellent customer satisfaction, that’s me,” April said. She threw aside the bedcovers, then crooked her finger in a come-hither gesture.

Lucifer crawled onto the bed and knelt by April’s side. “One little thing first,” she whispered. “It’s just a formality.”

“What?” April shot Lucifer a suspicious glance, then brightened. “Oh, I get it. I’ve got to sign a contract, right?”

“Not quite.” Lucifer rolled April onto her side. A second later, a glowing symbol appeared in her hand. It smouldered and sparkled, an inverted five-pointed star in a circle. Before April could shout her objection, Lucifer slammed it down onto April’s butt cheek, and she shrieked in pain.

“What the hell did you just do?” April shouted.

“I marked you. You belong to me now. I don’t want my demons to start getting ideas about you.”

“God, that hurts! It burns like fire! Do something, will you?”

“Relax,” Lucifer said. “It’ll heal in a moment.”

“Why the crap didn’t you warn me before you did that?”

“You might have backed out. Feel better now?”

“Yeah. It’s getting better.” April sat up. “Look, if I’m going to be your para-whatever, there’s one thing we need to get straight right now.”

“What’s that?”

“Honesty, honey. I’m honest with you, you’re honest with me. That’s how I work with anybody I sleep with.” She twisted around and attempted a glance at her butt. “You didn’t mark me all up, did you? Is that permanent?” She got nose to nose with Lucifer and looked into those sexy black eyes. “You are not starting off right with me.”

Lucifer blinked coyly and placed a soft little kiss on April’s lips. “April, honey?” she whispered.


“Where are you right now?”


“Correct. And who am I?”


“Correct again. You want honesty? Okay, here comes the truth. Are you sure that you can handle it?”

April felt daggers of cold fear wash over her. “I’m not – ” She swallowed hard. “Quite sure,” she said. Over the next few seconds, all she could do was utter a shriek of abject horror.

Lucifer transformed before her eyes. Her soft, feminine features hardened with muscle. Her face lost its round, pleasant youth and lengthened into a sharper, predatory appearance. Black tattoos appeared over the red skin, and the horns grew. And through it all, April could not tear her gaze away from those black eyes in front of her. No longer did they resemble the coy, flirtatious orbs she’d been used to; now, they were deep and cold and hard. A large, strong hand grasped April by the neck and drew her close. When Lucifer spoke, it was with a huskier, ominous voice, a voice that sent chills down April’s spine and almost made her heart stop in its cadence.

“Honey,” Lucifer growled. “I’m home. Miss me?”

April tried to talk, but the grip on her throat was tight. She sputtered and pulled at the fingers, but Lucifer’s grip was too strong. She gripped the wrist with both hands and pulled hard, and she managed to tear the hand from her throat. As she rubbed her neck, she wheezed, “What the hell is this? Who are you, really?”

“I’m Lucifer.” He gave her an evil grin. “The ultimate bad boy. Isn’t that what all girls secretly want? A bad boy?”

“Then that whole nice, sweet Lucy thing was fake?”

“Yup. You wanted honesty, you got it. Now live with it.”

“No freaking way. I’m outta here.” April slid off the bed and ran for the door. Behind her, she felt the demon’s presence, felt the heat of his body, heard his menacing laugh. As she stumbled into the hallway and resumed her frantic run, she could feel Lucifer keeping pace with her. “Send me back to gigging demons,” she shouted breathlessly. “I’m so not doing this with you.”

A hand grasped her ankle, and she fell forward and sprawled across the floor. “We had a deal,” Lucifer said.

“With Lucy, not you.”

“What’s in a name?”

“It ain’t the name I’m concerned about. Let me go!” She kicked Lucifer squarely in the head, but he merely laughed in delight. As he dragged April down the hall toward the bedroom, she began weeping and shrieking. She was no longer in control of her emotions. Her heart pounded, and she felt sick panic flood her consciousness. She became nauseous. Never in her life had she felt such fear. She kicked frantically at the large red hand gripping her ankle, and she pleaded and wept. It seemed not to bother Lucifer; he merely plodded down the hall toward the bedroom, dragging her behind him. The closer they got, the more she kicked and pleaded, but her efforts were useless. As a last resort, she grabbed the door-jamb and clung to it. That stopped them. Lucifer looked back at her in irritation, then increased his pull on her ankle as she clung to the wood. She looked at him through her tears; the muscles of his arm were tight and bulging with effort, and those hard black eyes of his regarded her with laughing contempt. A streak of pain shot up her leg; it seemed to her as if her hip would dislocate in a few more seconds. She was determined not to surrender to this evil, though. She was April Landers, and she was a fighter. Somehow, she had to persevere and prevail. But against Lucifer?

The fingers of her hand began, one by one, to slip and dislodge from the door-jamb frame. She gasped with the effort it took to hold on, and she panicked as she realized that he would win. She lifted her head from the floor and noticed, above her, a pair of ornate daggers on the wall, crossed above a symbol. As her fingers were slowly slipping from the door-jamb, she raised one hand toward the dagger and willed it to come to her. It shuddered, then fell and buried its tip into the floor an inch from her head. She gripped the handle with her left hand – her dominant hand – and released her grip on the door frame. She felt herself launched through the air and into the bedroom as Lucifer stumbled backward, still gripping her ankle. His back hit a bedpost as April collided with him, chest-to-chest. It knocked the breath from both of them. His black eyes widened with surprise. He slowly slid to the floor as April clung to him. After a few seconds, he ceased moving. Slowly, through the pounding of her heart and the panic of her emotion, she began to comprehend what had happened.

She was sitting astride his chest. The dagger was buried in his heart, and her hand still gripped its handle. Blood bubbled up around the inch or so of the blade that protruded from his chest, and it ran in rivulets across his body. Beneath him and around her legs, a pool of blood widened and sought to surround them. The stuff was hot and dark, and it almost overwhelmed her with its pungent odor. She leaned back, closed her eyes, and began weeping in a combination of relief and disgust and horror. As she sat astride Lucifer’s body, her hand still on the dagger and her body spattered with his blood, she felt an unseen hand grip her arm and begin shaking her. The voice that accompanied the hand was strangely familiar and calming, but it also broadcast worry.

“April? April? Get a grip, April.”

She slowly turned her head in the voice’s direction and opened her eyes. At first, she did not comprehend what she was seeing. As her vision cleared, though, she slowly realized what was happening, and who was gripping her arm. She attempted to speak, but all she could do was to squeak, “Amy?” It was her apartment-mate, and that realization made her smile. “God, am I glad to see you,” she said.

Amy snickered at the sentiment. “Gee, I’ll have to wake you more often.” She tapped her wrist-watch. “Time to get up. We have to get our Halloween costumes today.”

“Oh, yeah. The party tonight.”

“I could hear you tossing and turning and talking to yourself. I had to come in and check on you,” Amy said. “You must have been having one heck of a dream.”

“That’s putting it mildly,” April said, as she sat up in her bed and threw the covers aside.

“Ooh,” Amy teased. “It must have been a sexy dream, too. You’re clean out of your tee-shirt.” She poked the item of clothing, on the floor next to the bed, with a toe.

“There was a bed and nudity involved, I think,” April said. She picked up the tee-shirt and slipped it over her head.

“And who, pray tell, was in it with you? I want details, girl. Oh, come on. Who was it?” she teased. “At least tell me that.”

April put her feet on the floor, then stood and stretched as she staggered to the bathroom. “Okay,” she mumbled. “It was the ultimate bad boy.” She squinted into the mirror. “Or was it the ultimate bad girl? Or maybe both. I haven’t figured it out yet.”

Amy laughed at the description. “That bad, huh?”

“A real demon.”

Amy followed her and leaned against the open door as April turned on the water faucet. “Bizarre. So, is that guy you’re seeing coming to the party?” she asked.

April looked up from the sink. Her face dripped water. She blinked in surprise at the question. “That loser? Hell, no. I’m dumping him today, as soon as I get some coffee into me.”

“I am so relieved to hear you say that. God, I hate that dude.”

“Why?” April asked. She patted her face with a towel as she turned toward Amy. “Just curious.”

Amy hesitated, then blurted out, “He came on to me last week. I didn’t want to tell you, April, but – ” She clammed up and looked at April’s face. “Are you mad at me?”

“What? No!” April threw the towel across a hook. “Why should I be?”

“What are you going to do for a boyfriend now?” Amy asked. “You don’t do ‘being alone’ very well.”

“Maybe it’s time for a girlfriend instead.”

“Oh,” Amy said, as she waved a hand at April. “You’re such a kidder.” Her eyes widened, and she pointed at April. “Oh, my God. You’re not kidding, are you? You’ve got someone in mind, too! Who?” Let it be me, let it be me, let it be me, Amy recited in her thoughts. I know it won’t be, though, damn it.

April smiled. “You.”

“Me? But – ” Amy managed a series of incomprehensible sputters, then regained her ability to speak. “Me? Really?”

“Yes. Really.” She took Amy’s hands in her own. “Would you be my date for the party tonight?”

“Date?” Amy repeated.

“Yes. You know,” April said. “Date. Part of the human mating-and-romance ritual. Pairing up. You and me. Date.”

“Me and you?”


“You and me?”


Amy’s knees buckled, and April caught her and seated her on the toilet lid. She tapped Amy’s cheek. “Hey,” she said. “Earth to Amy. Come in, Amy. What’s wrong with you?”

“I almost flaked out. Got light-headed.”

“Jeez,” April said. “I guess that’s a ‘no’, huh?”

“No! I mean yes! I mean, it’s so totally a ‘yes’.” Amy looked up. “But why me? I mean, look at you. You could get anybody you want. Why me?” She rolled her eyes. “Not that I’m complaining, mind you.”

“I’m re-doing my life. No more jerks. I admire you. You’re nice. You’re kind. You’re – selfless.”

“Me, selfless?”

“Yeah. You are.” April shrugged as she looked down at the floor. “Maybe I’ll learn to be that way from you, instead of being an asshole.”

Amy blinked in surprise. “I’m an asshole?”

“No,” April said. “You’re not the asshole. I’m the asshole. There can only be one asshole in this apartment, and I’m it.”

“You’re not,” Amy said. April looked at her, a skeptical glance, and Amy corrected herself. “Okay, you are sort of an asshole sometimes. But at other times, you’re so sweet.”

“I’m redeemable, huh?” April asked.

“I haven’t shot you yet.” She held up a finger to punctuate her next thought. “But don’t think I can’t. I do have a gun permit.”

“I’ll be on my best behavior, I promise.” As Amy stood, April turned toward the sink. When she glanced in the mirror, she saw Amy studying her backside. “What’s up? You’re staring at my butt like you haven’t seen it before.”

“I haven’t seen that before.” Amy pointed. “Is that new?”

“Is what new?” April said.

Amy tapped her on the butt. “That.” She put her hands on April’s shoulders and turned her around so that she could see her behind in the mirror. April craned her head around and looked into the mirror as she pulled up her underwear. On the cheek of her butt, against the lighter skin, an intricate pentagram-within-a-circle design was plainly visible.

A moment later, it was April’s turn to faint.


The end.

-djb, October, 2017