Part of Apex of Creation
Emily creased her forehead. “Who wanted you to get that?”
“Lucifer.” I answered, turning the scroll over in my hands and examining it.
“As in, like, Satan? The Devil? That Lucifer?”
“Geez. And just when I think my life can’t get any weirder…” Emily trailed off.
I smiled. “Welcome to the club.”
“Alright, you definitely win on that front.” Emily smiled back. “So tell me. Why did Lucifer want the scroll?”
“Well, supposedly, it’s just for his collection of artifacts. Like, he’s got the rock that Cain killed Abel with, from the beginning of Genesis. And a bunch of other things, displayed around his throne like an art exhibit.”
“He asked me if I could get him this scroll from Heaven for his collection. Said it was written by the apostle John. But…” I ran my hand over the wax seals. “I’m starting to think that isn’t the case.”
“It’s Lucifer.” Emily replied. “If he said it was written by John, I’d say it’s more likely to not be written by John”
I chuckled. “Seems obvious in hindsight, doesn’t it? The thing is, though, that Lucifer did seem like a pretty tolerable guy, right up until he started offering me ‘whatever I wanted’ in exchange. At that point, I was already pissed at him about trapping you in the bank, so I bailed.”
“That was probably the right move.”
“Yeah. Got you out of the bank, and didn’t have to sell my soul to do it.”
“So what now?”
I stared at the scroll, contemplating its power. “I’m going to put this right back where we found it.” I replied, as I stuffed it back into the shelves. “This was probably put here for a reason, and what better place to hide a book than the biggest library in all of existence?”
Emily smiled. “Let’s just hope Nicholas Cage doesn’t come looking for it.”
Detective Darren Sanders
The elevator dinged. I watched, intently. Nope. Five Asian students left, talking excitedly about something or other.
I shifted in my seat. This was at least one of the cushier stakeouts I’d ever done. Not that they were ever truly comfortable, but at least the school had invested in decent furniture.
A couple came in, holding hands. Not Emily. They pushed the elevator button and waited.
I glanced around to make sure there were no campus security officers in sight, then took a swig from my flask.
The elevator dinged again. Three people - none of whom were Emily Butler - left the elevator, and the couple got on.
I didn’t mind doing the stakeout; this one wasn’t very difficult. It was just tedious and time consuming.
Ding. Two people departing, one female, one unknown. Female dressed in brass bikini. Other indivudual in some kind of alien fat suit. Not the target. Probably.
No wonder this country was going to shit, if the next generation was throwing away their education on stupid fucking costume parties. I took another swig, secretly hoping that those two knuckleheads would fail out of school.
Ding. Another group of four students. Backpacks, returning from classes. Black male, middle eastern male, middle eastern female with headscarf, caucasian female. Not the target.
Ding. One older male, arriving. Caucasian.
Ding. Two custodial staff with a trash cart.
Ding. Five students students, exiting. Hispanic male. Black male and female. Caucasian male and female. Blonde hair on the female. Double check photograph of Emily Butler.
I discreetly fished out my camera. Target acquired.
After returning the strange scroll to its shelf, Emily and I made our way back to Earth in pursuit of some dinner. We could have found it in Heaven, but it just wouldn’t have been quite the same.
We squished into an elevator with a few other people, descended from the dorm tower, and headed to the cafeteria. One delicious breakfast-for-dinner later, and we were back in the common area on Emily’s floor, finishing up the chemistry homework that had been forgotten upon the discovery of the scroll.
With the homework complete, we said goodnight to each other, and parted ways to sleep.
Working around James was a tricky endeavor. I couldn’t cloak myself against a Hybrid, so any time that Emily spent with James was time that I was forced to spend idling around, far enough away that I wouldn’t be seen. When she said goodnight to James, I was almost relieved. When James left to go to his own floor, I was ecstatic.
I ghosted down through the tower to Emily’s room, waiting, invisible, in the corner. As she entered her dorm, I began Whispering.
Asmodeus Psychological Engineer
I took another glance at my notes, stacked them back together, then entered the Throne Room.
Slowly, I approached the throne.
Lucifer stood up. “What have you got for me now, Asmodeus?”
“The failure analysis of the hotel incident. The Hybrid’s moral compunction against killing was greater than our initial projections had estimated. We were misled by his actions during the bank robbery, during which he was indirectly responsible for the deaths of the two robbers. However, when confronted with direct responsibility for a potential death, he chose a different path.”
Lucifer sighed. “Is that all?”
“I’ve also prepared a projection report for the girl, Emily Butler. You gave me a note from Alocer detailing the contents of his Whispers. I’ve worked that into my predictive models. Combined with her existing psychological trauma from her earlier life, and her current distrust of the Hybrid, I’m pleased to report that the Whispers should be taking effect on schedule.”
“Even though she spends so much time around the Hybrid?”
“And because we forgot to go over this last time, what are the points of possible failure?”
I flipped to a different page of notes. “The second stage of extraction could prove to be tricky, but that can be mitigated with overwhelming force.
“Although the Hybrid has shown no sign of developing transdimensional powers, it is a recorded phenomenon in past Hybrids. That event is highly unlikely, and can be mitigated by sufficient preparation. And again, overwhelming force.”
“Very good. Thank you for your work, Asmodeus, you’ve done well. Have a drink.” Lucifer descended the steps leading to his throne, and handed me a skull of blood.
I accepted it gratefully. “To victory.”
“A long ways off still, but yes.” Lucifer replied. “To victory.”
Over the few days, Emily and I settled into a new routine of studying together in the Heaven library whenever we had long stretches of time without classes. It was an interesting lifestyle, blending together the best of the mortal and immortal worlds. We’d found the engineering section, and had started actually checking books out.
At first I’d been hesitant. I didn’t know what kind of late fees Heaven would charge, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to get on the bad side of an angelic librarian. But it turned out that the books were able to return themselves. Once I’d found that out, Emily had practically needed to physically restrain me from stuffing the entire shelf on thermodynamics into my backpack.
All things considered, Emily had taken the upheaval of her life fairly well, and seemed to enjoy the divine library. She had spent her whole upbringing keeping secrets, and so I couldn’t blame her for preferring a setting of quiet solitude. With nobody else around other than me, there was nobody for whom Emily had to keep up her guard.
At least, I was pretty sure that was what was going on. Engineers weren’t known for their social intuition, and I was no exception. For all I knew, I was making up reasons that didn’t exist to explain observations that I was wrong about.
Emily still hadn’t repeated the affection that she’d shown the day after I busted her parents, though. As much as I’d enjoyed waking up next to Emily, I really could not fault her for keeping her distance emotionally.
Kevin, to his credit, had stopped cracking stupid remarks about the whole situation. It made him marginally more tolerable to be around.
Then one morning, I woke up to a text message from my dad.
Dude. Checking in. How is organic chem going?
Organic chemistry was going quite nicely, thanks to my ability to divine the answers during the tests.
Going well. Getting good grades. Made new friends. Spending a lot of time at the library studying
At least I didn’t have to specify which library.
Glad to hear it.
I’ll be in town next week on business. Want to meet up one night for dinner?
There was a question with an obvious answer.
After a moment, I added
Mind if I bring a friend?
That morning, I caught Emily at breakfast.
“My dad’s coming in next week.”
“And I was wondering if you wanted to come to dinner with us. He’s paying.”
Emily thought about it for a moment. “Does he know about… you know…”
I shook my head. “He doesn’t know about me or you. I asked if I could bring a friend; he said yes.”
Emily looked uncertain. Maybe she inherently distrusted father figures, and I should never have asked her?
“He’s a good person.”
She smiled. “I’m in.”
I didn’t know why James still liked hanging out with me. I hadn’t even so much as hugged him in the last two weeks, and yet he still seemed to enjoy being around me.
Not that I didn’t enjoy being around him, but I felt conflicted. He’d done nothing wrong, yet I couldn’t risk being hurt again. Should I push him away entirely? Or surrender to whatever might happen between us? Neither option was obviously the right one, and yet I felt like I would have to choose eventually.
Especially if he wanted me to meet his dad. Oh boy. James must have been oblivious to the social and romantic implications of that request. He was nice enough, but holy crap he could be clueless at times.
My one solace, in my current mess of a life, was the divine Library. It was quiet, yet full of distractions. Even when not studying, I could escape into stories. I could live in fantasy worlds where the good guy always wins and evil always loses. I could read classics, written in ancient languages I’d never learned.
Of course, James was always still there. I couldn’t get into the boys’ dorm floor without him, never mind the portal to Heaven. I’d seen James’s actual closet once before, and I much preferred the divine version. At least he seemed to be alright with my life problems. For now. I think. Was he?
It had taken me a little while to realize, but the books in the library of Heaven seemed to have a little something extra. Aside from being understandable regardless of language, there was something that made it easier to learn when studying out of them. Even though most of the hard sciences had been documented in scrolls long before books existed, they were, in a way, easier to read than the course textbooks.
Which I probably wouldn’t be able to afford next semester. If my parents’ bank account wasn’t frozen yet, it would be soon. This crazy supernatural library might at least help out on that front.
James and I loaded up our arms with books and scrolls and made our way to the center platform, and took the elevator back to Heaven’s lobby. We crossed the mathematically impossible world map floor, and found the door to James’s dorm room. I exited first, and set my load on the desk.
Suddenly, one of the scrolls vanished.
I looked up, and realized James was now in front of me, near the window on the other side of the room, his face white as a ghost. His hair had gotten messed up, and he was out of breath. “We are so fucked.”
This chapter was produced with the support of my Hybrid patron:
- Olli Erinko