Part of Apex of Creation
I stared at Alocer. “He what?”
“Wants to see you. Probably going to turn you into a Horseman of the Apocalypse or something.” He waited a moment, then continued. “Nah, just kidding. He wants to chat.”
Alocer shrugged. “Above my pay grade, buddy.”
I raised one eyebrow incredulously.
“No, seriously, they don’t tell me anything. Alocer, go fetch some warm blood. Alocer, go let the hellhounds out to the bathroom. Alocer, go get the Hybrid. I don’t know why Lucifer wants to stick his nose into your business, but if I were you? I’d listen to what he has to say.”
Alocer opened the door to the bathroom. Beyond lay inky blackness with an emanating stench of sulfur, warmth of fire, and a distant shriek of tormented souls. “With your abilities developing, we should all at least make sure we’re on the same page.”
“Yeah, nice try. I’m not going.”
Alocer gave a friendly laugh. “You have nothing to worry about. You’re not dead, so you can’t get stuck in Hell. Or die there. Or otherwise become damned while there. As a living human, you have the unconditional power to leave Hell at will. I’ll even escort you.”
I stood stubbornly. “Cael warned me about this - that sooner or later someone was going to try to drag me into this. So, let me think that over… Do I want to sell my soul to the devil…. hmmm… yeah that’s gonna be a no from me.”
Alocer’s face darkened. “Lucifer’s not going to like that, you know.”
“Not my problem.”
“You won’t be ‘selling your soul.’” Alocer said.
“Still not going.”
“Can I ask why not?” he asked.
I took a moment to compose my thoughts. “When you first visited me, it was just to congratulate me on my powers. Not that I really did anything to deserve them, but I appreciated you being hands-off at the time. Right now I’m ok with the occasional bit of supernatural weirdness happening around me, but what I really don’t want to do is get directly involved in ‘transcendental politics,’ as Cael put it.” I pointed through the door to Hell. “If I go through there, all of that ends. Everything resembling life as I know it comes to a screeching halt if I go talk with Lucifer. I’m alright with being James, the kid that gets extra answers right on tests. I’m mostly alright with being James, the kid who occasionally has angels and demons show up for a chat. Provided they pause time first, hint hint. However, I am absolutely not ok with being James, the kid who literally talks with the devil.”
Alocer nodded. “I understand where you’re coming from. But you have to realize that the ‘supernatural weirdness’ is not going to end just because you want to be left alone. It’s not so much that anybody will want to recruit you - it’s more that things happen, and some of those things will involve you. Even if you don’t want them to. You’re best off if you at least know what’s headed your way.”
“It’s still a No from me, buddy.”
Alocer turned away from me. “Well, I really hope you’ll change your mind. Tell you what. I’ll leave this Gate open, so you can use it if you ever need it. See you around?”
“Thanks. See you around.”
And with that, Alocer stepped through to Hell, and closed the door.
I stood there for a moment, not quite sure what to make of that. Out of curiosity, I opened the door. Bathroom. I closed the door. Take me to Hell I thought, and reopened it. Abyss. I closed the door. I have to pee. It opened to the bathroom. Great. So now the bathroom door in the campus coffee shop doubled as a portal to Hell. I wondered if I should have been expecting more stuff like that to come up, what with the whole supernatural thing that I now had going on.
With nothing else to keep me away, I returned to Emily. She was on the phone. “...Not yet, mom, I’m studying now… No, I’m going to the bank later… Organic chemistry… Yeah, again, it’s a pretty intensive class… Hey, I gotta go. I’ll call you back later? Ok, bye.” She hung up and looked up at me. “My mom. Always has to know what I’m getting myself into.”
“Mhmm. I know what that’s like. I tried to get back as quickly as I could. Someone did something unholy in there.”
Emily gave a look of disgust. “I… really… did not need to know that.”
“Sorry.” I cringed internally. “Where were we?”
As we finished our coffee and study session, I found my mind wandering. Why did Lucifer want to see me? Why did Alocer leave me a portal? How many more reactions are we going to have to learn for this class?
“He declined.” I reported.
Lucifer stood up from his throne, displeased. “You are quite the failure as of late. I’m going to plan B.”
“Silence!” Lucifer lashed his arm out, unleashing a torrent of fire that seared the flesh from my bones. “How, exactly, are we supposed to get the book without a Hybrid on our side? You couldn’t even stop it from being made, and now that it exists you’re too inept to capitalize on the opportunities it opens up!”
The wave of demonic power was raw and agonizing. I could feel Lucifer’s rage scorching my being, the pain of his anger searing itself into my mind. After what felt like years, it stopped.
“Aamon!” Lucifer shouted, and Aamon appeared in a whirl of flame. “You have been preparing as we discussed?”
“Yes I have.” Aamon responded.
“Excellent. You have your orders - carry them out.”
“Yes, master.” Aamon nodded obediently, and vanished just as quickly.
“As for you, Alocer.” Lucifer turned back to me as my flesh regenerated and knit itself back together. “Get out of my sight. Maybe you can still redeem yourself. But for now I seriously doubt it.”
I gritted my teeth. Nobody ever said that the rebellion against God would be easy. “Yes, master.”
I cycled into the dormitory complex, locked up my bike, and headed up to my room. As blunt as he had been, I did appreciate Cael warning me about being dragged into the whole supernatural conflict. It wasn’t convenient or fun, but at least I had been prepared.
I set my backpack down, went to the bathroom, and took a shower. As I finished getting dressed and began thinking about dinner options, my phone lit up.
Campus Safety Advisory An armed hostage situa… swipe to unlock
I opened it.
An armed hostage situation is currently underway at the First Bank on Main Street just west of campus. Students are advised to stay away from the area and allow campus police and law enforcement to handle the situation. We are working to secure the safety of students and will provide updates as further developments occur.
Well that sucks.
Emily is in there.
Oh. Shit. Shit shit shit shit. I grabbed my keys and a pocketknife - technically against the student rules but that was the least of my concerns right now - and ran down the stairs, praying that I’d manifest a miracle in time.
I unlocked my bike and pedaled towards the bank as fast and as hard as I could. It was clear off the far end of campus, but I could hear the sirens from the dorms.
Faster. I had to get there faster. My legs began cramping. I did my best to ignore it and pushed harder. Students. Swerve around. Go faster. News van. Push onwards. SWAT van. Go faster. Police cars, lights flashing.
As I broke through the police line, I realized nothing else was moving.
I had stopped time.
I walked around inside the police line, taking a moment to figure out what I had done. I could feel the power draw off of me, slowing the world around me down to the slightest crawl. I saw the people around me, posed in mid-step. A SWAT agent, halfway through fumbling with magazine. A cameraman, holding his equipment in a position that would be impossible to sustain in real-time. Leaves, frozen in the wind.
It was surreal, even more so than when Cael had stopped time during the quiz. I walked around, taking it in, before approaching the bank entrance.
And then someone appeared in front of me.
“Are you behind this?” I demanded.
The demon gave a cruel chuckle. “So perceptive. Really, I don’t know how you humans manage.”
Not all demons were as generally chill as Alocer, then. “Look, I’m just here to get my friend out. I don’t want any trou-”
And then the demon backhanded me into the ground. “Lucifer wants to see you. I can’t imagine why he’s interested in you, but you shouldn’t keep him waiting.”
I got up. It didn’t hurt, not physically. Rather, it hurt spiritually, as if my soul was going to be sporting a shiny new bruise in the morning. The time stop - unintentional though it was - would have been foolproof against other humans. With a demon against me, however, I was outmatched.
“Cael!” I called.
“What now?” Cael asked. He looked around. “Ooh, time stop. Nicely done.”
And then Cael locked eyes with the demon. “Aamon. Get out of here, James.” In a flash, they engaged in a blinding flurry of light and smoke. Cael threw Aamon against the ground, only for Aamon to vanish, reappear behind Cael, and kick him into the air. Cael stopped himself mid-air, turned and plunged towards Aamon, who absorbed the impact and flew into the wall of the bank.
It was too fast. I couldn’t keep up. The angel and the demon were evenly matched, neither able to gain the upper hand over the other. Around them, the crowd of police and reporters and spectators were frozen, blissfully oblivious to the violent supernatural duel playing out in front of them.
I almost envied them.
Tearing my attention away from the spectacle, I approached the bank again - only to be slammed from the side by Aamon, who was then slammed by Cael as he tried to keep the demon in check.
I tried to enter the bank again, and only earned a third soul-bruise for my trouble.
“I said, get out of here James!” Cael shouted, in between exchanging blows with Aamon. The angel and demon were throwing each other into every solid surface nearby with forces that would have reduced the scene to rubble if either of them had been fully physical. And then, as if to add to the chaos, Alocer appeared. “I was hoping to avoid this, James.” he said, gesturing to the bank and then to Cael and Aemon.
“For someone that said I should know what was coming, you sure left out a lot of important details.” I shot back.
Alocer shrugged his shoulders and sidestepped a stray bolt of holy light from Cael. “I had to ask nicely first.”
“So you knew this was coming?”
“Not all the details, but the general idea, yes.”
I grabbed my bike, and I pedaled as quickly as I could (did speed even matter during a time stop?) to the coffee shop. I ran inside, towards the bathroom. Fuck you, Lucifer.
I envisioned Hell in my mind, and opened the bathroom door. The stench of sulfur and stifling heat of hellfire washed over me, and the distant screams of the damned assaulted my eardrums. I closed my eyes. For a moment, I almost doubted myself, and then I stepped into the abyss.