“The gods told us that you would be coming, Father,” said a man dressed in brightly colored robes. “Seldom indeed does a true man of God venture through our doors.”
“I follow the will of the Lord,” Michael intoned piously, “no matter the cost. I can’t say that I am pleased with the circumstances of my journey, but I will do the best I can. At the moment I need information more than anything else. I understand you’re the man to get it from, Uri.”
Uri wore robes the color of his order: emerald green, turquoise and saffron yellow. He looked very old, so he was advanced in age before he ever arrived in Discordia. He clutched a gnarled walking staff in his right hand, and he supported much of his weight with it. The way Uri wrapped himself around the staff eerily resembled a tree frog on a small branch.
A large emerald sprouted from the middle of Uri’s forehead. It adhered there with psychic energy. It could never be removed as long as he lived. The emerald distinguished him as the high priest of the Order of True Love. The stone carried great power inside it, and the power passed freely between Uri and the stone.
“The things I don’t know remain as countless as the stars, but I will gladly share with you what little I am sure of,” Uri started his oration in a sagacious tone. “A man named Louis Comeaux will arrive tomorrow. Ancient evil, gods and devils, victimized him in every way possible, finally contributing to the murder of his parents. Louis chose to ruin his life, but he had help making the decision. The evil immortals craved Louis total destruction, but God and the forces of goodness would not allow it. Louis was too soiled to enter heaven either, so he is on his way here. He has been directed to find True Love.
“The ultimate reason all of these things happened remains vague, but through the magic inside me I have seen hints of answers. Louis is just a young human, but there is something inside him, something ancient. I have studied True Love’s emanations for four thousand years, and I have a theory about Louis. If he can recover the stone, then the ancient thing inside him will awaken. I can feel the presence even now. Pure magic flows through Louis’ veins. It could be a force for great good, or a force for great evil,” Uri intoned through his thick, weather toughened lips.
“I thought that his quest for true love was spiritual. You mean it’s a stone?” the tall priest asked incredulously.
“Oh, yes. Didn’t you know? It’s a giant emerald. Its power fuels most of the magic of Discordia,” the old man explained.
“I’m beginning to have a clearer picture of what all the fuss is about: a being of pure magic wielding the source of all magical power. We don’t know for certain what lurks inside of Louis. Evil tried desperately to destroy him. They must have feared something.”
“Perhaps it wasn’t fear. Perhaps the only way evil could be sure of the outcome was to destroy Louis. Maybe Louis remains alive because God preferred to gamble. Maybe you are here for a cosmic roll of the dice,” Uri countered cryptically. The Catholic priest didn’t catch the flash in the old magician’s eyes.
“If Discordia mirrors Earth, how will Louis find the stone in the vastness of seven continents?” Father Flannery despaired. He remained fixated on difficulties instead of accepting improbable solutions.
“I know it’s general location. Asmodeus has it. It’s in his palace somewhere,” Uri remarked casually.
“Asmodeus is a devil. I thought gods and devils were banned from travel to Discordia,” Father Flannery groaned. He floundered in a sea of misgivings. Everything seemed impossible or contradictory. Nothing made any sense.
“In Discordia the rules are: there are no rules. Every law has its loophole and every house its back door. The truth you’re told is often a lie, and all lies are weapons. I know you got your information from an angel, and an angel would not intentionally lie to you. The sad fact remains that there are things angels aren’t allowed to tell humans. Knowledge exists out there that was never meant for human minds, and a lot of that knowledge deals with Discordia. Nobody but God knows all the answers. Old gods, demons and devils will lie every single time they talk about Discordia, and angels just won’t tell you anything useful. If you have questions about this dimension, then you just joined the club. We all have lots of questions, and we’re always short on answers.
“Believe one thing though, Father Michael. Asmodeus has True Love. Louis just has to take it from him,” Uri laughed a deep, hearty laugh. “I haven’t felt so relieved not to be a part of something in hundreds of years.”
“Some of your information is very specific, Uri. Did you learn all these things with the magic of Discordia?”
“I may have given you the wrong idea. I used magic to look into Louis after I heard about what was going to happen. Your angel may have told you that true immortals treat this dimension as a great arena. This quest that God handed down to Louis was planned out as an entertaining game. It’s all meant to amuse the immortals. God loves His children, but for His own mysterious reasons He allows these games to go on. One of the immortals told me about it, and I investigated the information to the best of my ability.” Uri bowed his head at the conclusion of that revelation, as if to discourage further questions. It didn’t work.
“What immortal told you about it? Are you free to tell me?” The priest sought as much understanding as possible. The more Michael learned, the more he felt he needed to know.
“I have no need to keep the knowledge a secret. A god called Ishtar told me about Louis, and the people who will be Louis’ allies. Ishtar and I have a close relationship. Ishtar works for the good of humanity on Discordia, and has aided me in the past,” Uri said in an almost defensive tone. The old man knew that some Christians condemned old gods offhand.
“I don’t know what to trust in this place. All I can do is help Louis the best I can. I have enough information to do that, at least,” the priest shrugged, unable to think of any more questions.
Father Flannery looked up at the darkening sky and shook his head. Humanity suffered so much pain. Sometimes he couldn’t grasp it. He trusted in God, but the path of the righteous was often a very difficult one.
“I think you should know at least one more thing. All of this information was disseminated freely to the powerful magicians of both sides. Evil will know everything that you and I know. The devils are immortals, and have access to the same information that the gods of goodness do,” Uri cautioned the priest.
The two men stood on the roof of the small fortress called the Pentacle. The fortress housed three hundred troops loyal to the ideals of goodness, and the Order of True Love. Even though the fortress stood on the edge of enemy territory it was fairly safe, mostly because of the Order. Every member of the group commanded respect and admiration for the strength of their magic, even from the forces of evil. The troops were no joke either. There were two warlords in the Pentacle, and dozens of long timers among the soldiers.
Father Flannery was shocked when he found out that the warlord who commanded the troops was a woman named Moira the Red, and that every member of her personal guard was also female. He later learned that gender meant little on Discordia. Since women no longer played the role of mothers, many of the dimension’s most ferocious warriors were women.
Another curious fact was that women fighting for goodness outnumbered evil women by almost four to one. One sexist belief about that, held among more simple-minded men, was that evil men killed the women who didn’t please them. The truth was almost as bad. Demons and devils considered the sacrifice of females a special treat. Almost every culture treated the murder of women as particularly heinous, so evil immortals found it delightful. Women who ran afoul of devil worshippers were captured, and then slowly roasted alive during barbaric celebrations. When that truth came to light, the rescue of women from the forces of evil became a higher priority than the rescue of men. The armies of evil usually executed men quickly and mercifully.
Most of the freed women vowed revenge once they were safe, and a woman scorned could frighten the devil himself. It was said that the commander of the garrison, Moira the Red, lived through three months of torture when she arrived five hundred years earlier. Her brutality in combat spawned legends, and frightened even her own people. She wielded a great morning star called “Nutcracker,” and most men winced when they caught sight of it.
Father Flannery stared down on the oddly dressed soldiers drilling in the courtyard below him, amazed that there was so much he never knew. Before the angel Peter showed up in his apartment, Michael would have dismissed the idea of Discordia offhand. Once he experienced the place he could no longer deny the truth, or plead insanity. He noticed that some of the soldiers wore football jerseys under their makeshift armor, and others wore Roman style tunics. The reality of Discordia was crazier than anything he could have dreamed up.
Michael took comfort in the knowledge that all of the people he could see recognized the error of their ways and rededicated their lives to good. He glanced at the clouds overhead one last time and turned back to Uri, who appeared to have fallen asleep leaning on his staff.
“I have only one more question before I retire for some much needed rest. Where is Asmodeus palace, Uri?”
“It’s in New Orleans, of course,” Uri answered.
“Oh. Of course,” Michael spoke up mechanically.
The priest felt like a fish out of water in the place. He was totally ignorant of even basic reference facts. He didn’t expect the knowledge to come easily. He sympathized with all the poor souls who wound up there without a clue as to where they were.
When Michael and Uri finished their conversation, an acolyte of the Order showed Michael to a room and provided him with fresh clothes. There was a hot shower down the hall, and Michael used it gratefully. He felt no regret as he laid aside his clergyman’s suit and collar in favor of the loose fitting garments. He didn’t recognize the origin of the clothes, but he imagined they were African. It was another mystery he chose to ignore.
The next day Michael prepared to meet Louis entering into Discordia. He cleaned himself up and kneeled beside the bed to say his morning prayers. He prayed for the soul of the young man he was supposed to meet that day. He also said a prayer for the assassin and the prostitute that were to travel with them.
After morning prayers Michael made his way to the main dining hall. The relative emptiness didn’t surprise him too much. Poor eating habits crossed dimensional barriers effortlessly. Most of the troops skipped breakfast. Unbearable curiosity overcame Michael while he ate his toast. He was dying to find out how anybody managed to grow wheat in Discordia. He picked up his plate and walked back to the kitchen to ask a cook.
“If Discordia is so violent, then how do farmers grow crops?” Michael inquired of a portly man stirring a large iron pot.
The man gave him an amused look. “Every now and then someone summons delicacies from Earth, but most of the food comes from alchemy. It may be hard to turn lead into gold, but it’s easy to turn soil into flour. Even I can do it.”
Michael felt foolish. He knew that it would take time to adjust to a place where magic played so large a part. He had been taught that magic was of the devil, and now he was eating food that came from magic. He adjusted his way of thinking somewhat. It wouldn’t do to believe he was eating bread that was of the devil. The thought made him chuckle.
Father Flannery found it strange that few people spoke to him, and others avoided him openly. The members of the Order of True Love proved the exception to that rule. As Michael finished his breakfast a female acolyte saw him in the dining room, and glided through the room to his table. She was dressed much like a nun of Mother Teresa’s order in India, but the color of the acolytes robes were different.
“Good morning, Holy Father,” the woman said pleasantly. She was a mature woman, and not unpleasant to gaze upon.
“I appreciate your respect, but there’s no need to call me Holy Father. I’m just a man. Call me Michael.”
A confused look passed over the woman’s face, but she recovered quickly. “Very well, Michael. My name is Cara. I volunteered to assist you in any way you may require.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Cara. Maybe you can tell me why nobody will come near me. You’re the first person who has spoken to me since I left Uri on the roof, yesterday evening.”
“They feel guilty in your presence. Even though you are among good people who are making amends for past transgressions, they all arrived here because of their sins. You alone are without sin, and your presence makes people feel dirty,” Cara explained. “Most of them could not look you in the eyes. It is a terrible thing to find yourself in a place God has abandoned, and most of these people are still dealing with that.”
“I hadn’t thought about that, but they are wrong in their assumptions. Though it wasn’t my sins that brought me here, I am no better than they are. And God may have forsaken this place, but He has not forsaken them. As long as any person draws breath, there is always hope of returning into God’s good graces,” Michael iterated in an authoritative tone.
He could see his destiny looming on the horizon. If he survived long enough, then there was an entire dimension in need of his guidance. For a moment he daydreamed about leading the entire dimension to salvation. The peculiar look on Cara’s face brought him back to reality.
“Uri told me that we know the exact point at which Louis will pass through the dimensional portal. It’s almost time for me to go. Can you show me where it is?” he asked the brightly robed Cara.
“Of course. That’s why I am here,” she said simply.
They set out from the dining hall and through the front door of the Pentacle. Whenever Michael saw something he didn’t understand, he reminded himself that magic whispered on the wind. The fortress would have taken at least a year to build on Earth, and would have required the use of heavy equipment. Michael got the feeling that heavy equipment was a scarcity on Discordia.
Before they passed through the front gate, Michael turned to Cara and asked her, “Will we be safe where we’re going?”
“Don’t be afraid,” she reassured him, “the place is not far from the fortress.”
The walked north across the clearing that surrounded the fortress. On the far side an ancient remnant of natural levee rose twenty or so feet from the level ground, and twisted off into the distance like a snake. They walked up the side of the incline, and at the top Cara pointed to an area of trees on the other side that looked eerily like the grounds of the State Capital on Earth.
Cara read Michael’s mind. “In some places the dimensions bleed together. There are clearer examples than this park. Always remember the location of such anomalies. Evil loathes the feel of Earth, for God blessed the Earth when He created it.”
In the distance lay the body of water that was Capitol Lake on Earth, but on Discordia was just overflow from the river. Cara pointed to a place beside the water. “In those trees by the bar pit there is a convergence of lay lines. That’s where Louis will cross into this dimension. The High Priest told me to watch over you, but you must meet Louis alone.”
Michael didn’t bother to ask why. He descended from the top of the natural levee and crossed the park to the trees Cara had pointed out. He stood around for a few minutes, and then settled down under one of the gargantuan oak trees. He leaned back against the trunk and closed his eyes, and drifted off into a light sleep. He was awakened by an unusual sound.
About fifteen feet away, under the next closest tree, a gaunt skeleton of a young man lay on the ground heaving. Above him the dimensional portal winked shut with a sucking sound and a loud clap. Michael stood up and studied the young man. Louis Comeaux resembled a concentration camp survivor, and Michael immediately had concerns he might be malnourished. Louis noticed he had company, and Michael could see the fright in his eyes.
Michael approached him calmly and squatted down next to him. “You must be Louis. I’ve been waiting for you. Let’s get you someplace more comfortable.”
“This is great. This is all just great. So either I’m in a hell dimension now, or I’ve lost my mind completely. You gotta love the choices,” Louis lamented. Then he screamed at the top of his lungs. Michael nearly fell over.
“Please don’t do that, Louis. I’m here to help you. The first thing we need to do is get you back to the fortress, and get you fed and cleaned up. Can you stand?”
“Back to the fortress? How lucky am I? The place has fortresses,” Louis muttered. He closed his eyes and rolled over onto his back on the ground.
“Louis, you need to come with me. Can you stand?”
“Fuck you,” Louis said nastily.
“That isn’t very nice, Louis. Look, if you won’t stand up, then I’m going to have to carry you. Do you really want me to carry you?” Michael asked condescendingly.
“You just try it. Put your hands on me and see what happens.”
Michael found the threat from the skinny young man genuinely amusing. He grabbed Louis by the armpits, and slung him over one shoulder. Louis struggled against the giant Irishman, but he didn’t have enough strength to disturb Michael’s grip. Louis yelled obscenities as the priest set off for the Pentacle.
“Would you prefer to walk on your own?” Michael inquired politely after about a hundred yards.
“Yeah, man. Put me down.”
Michael lowered Louis to the ground. Louis merely smoothed out his shirt and straightened up to accompany him. Michael had expected him to lash out, but Louis didn’t want any part of the big priest. When Michael started walking, Louis kept pace beside him.
“You look familiar. Who are you?” Louis prompted for information. He accepted the reality of his situation, and sought to make the best of it. Louis had seen the priest in front of St. Joseph’s, but would never realize that.
Michael began his explanation, “My name is Michael Flannery. I’m a priest. God sent an angel named Peter to talk to me. He told me about you. I entered this dimension to help you, Louis, because God asked me to.”
“That’s sounds fishy to me. If God wanted me to have help, then why didn’t He save my life? For that matter, why did He take my parents away?”
“God didn’t kill your parents, Louis, people did. God didn’t get you strung out on drugs, you did. In fact, He did save your life. Here you are, alive,” Michael pointed out.
They crossed the length of the park and hiked up the low ridge left behind by eons of sediment deposits. Cara meditated in the lotus position at the top. She opened her eyes when Michael and Louis approached. When she saw Louis a look of shock spread over her face.
“We were told nothing about this. What happened to you? Were you held prisoner and starved?” Cara fretted in utter seriousness.
“That’s very funny,” Louis answered in embarrassment. He turned the color of fresh beets.
“She’s being serious, Louis. You look terrible,” Michael informed him. “I think you should give her an explanation.”
“I’m a heroin addict,” Louis confessed. “That reminds me. I’m going to need a fix soon, or else I’m going to be very, very sick.”
“I heard about heroin when I was growing up, but I’ve never seen the effects. It is truly more terrible than I ever imagined. Don’t worry, Louis. We will make you well,” Cara told him. The compassion in her voice touched both of the men.
“This is Cara, Louis. She’s one of the good guys.”
As they walked back to the Pentacle, Michael brought Louis up to speed on Discordia, magic and True Love. Louis’ condition worsened before they ever got to the fortress. The stress of everything that happened to him combined with his appalling physical condition, and he collapsed a half kilometer from the front gates. Michael gathered Louis’ frail form in his arms and carried him the rest of the way. Louis made no protest as he lapsed in and out of consciousness.
A couple of soldiers rushed over to give them assistance, but Michael refused. Louis wasn’t heavy enough to be a real burden. The Order had prepared a room for Louis. Cara followed as Michael carried him there.
The room was on the third floor, with a view overlooking the river. The Mississippi was magnificent, even in Discordia. Michael didn’t take notice of the scenery, however. The priest laid the young man gently on the bed and knelt down to pray. It was Michael’s answer to almost everything.
“I feared as much,” Cara said softly as she examined the young man. “He was very near death when he crossed dimensions. The gods agreed to save his life, but they were under no obligation to restore him to full health. The heroin burrowed through his body like a worm, poisoning everything it touched. His sickness is too great for me to heal. I must find Uri, and quickly.”
Cara hurried from the room. Michael moved to a chair by the window. He listened to Louis’ shallow breathing and watched the river flow by. It was almost noon outside, and the hot orange sun beat down through the haze of Louisiana humidity. Some things didn’t change, no matter the dimension.
The sound of footsteps in the hallway signaled the arrival of Cara and Uri. The old man bent over the bed and placed his hands on Louis’ chest. A deep frown spread over Uri’s face. He straightened up and gave Cara instructions that Michael couldn’t make out. Cara left the room again very quickly.
Uri pulled a leather pouch from somewhere inside his robes. He opened it and poured a fine white powder from it. He inscribed several symbols in thin lines on the bed surrounding Louis, and then moved to the floor. When Uri was finished, Louis and the bed were fully encircled by runes set within a double circle. Uri moved to the foot of the bed and began to chant. Within a minute Cara and several other acolytes filed in and linked hands around the outside of the room. They joined in the chant until the sound throbbed and took on a life of its own.
Michael observed in awe as the runes shimmered and became three- dimensional. The symbols rose off of the bed and spiraled in ever increasing rings above Louis. The double circles glowed and emitted fluorescent pink light that swirled up through the ceiling as the chanting reached a crescendo. The emerald on Uri’s head shined brighter than the sun outside.
Black shapes rose out of Louis’ abdomen. Michael strained his eyes to make them out. They didn’t appear to be tangible, but instead were composed of dark, transparent vapor. He finally discerned that they were long, narrow serpents, and they were reluctant to leave their host body. The chanting increased in volume and intensity until the clustered collection of ethereal reptiles tore free from Louis’ body. The snakes began to burn with an otherworldly fire, in midair above the bed. An ungodly screeching emanated from the blazing, writhing mass. Then all evidence of the ceremony vanished without warning, and the room became peaceful again.
No words passed between the members of the Order. Cara remained behind as Uri left the room, and all of the others followed. She moved closer to the bed and placed her hand on Louis’ cheek. He slept soundly, just as he had through the entire ceremony. Cara kept her eyes on Michael as she bent over and kissed Louis on the lips. Louis opened his eyes, and Cara pulled away from him slowly.
“Hi there. What’s going on?” Louis asked sleepily.
“We removed the poison from your body. You will recover fully in time. For now, the most important thing you can do is eat,” Cara told him in a businesslike tone. She spoke more like a nurse than a mystic.
“Now that you mention it, I am starving. Other than that I feel fantastic. Wow, you are incredibly attractive,” Louis bubbled like a schoolboy. He sat up and reached for Cara, but she pulled back fluidly as if she expected it.
Louis’ words caused Michael to notice Cara for the first time. Her sandy, golden hair framed soft, pretty features. Her robes concealed her figure, but her shapeliness was unmistakable beneath the garments. Michael attributed his failure to appreciate Cara’s beauty to twenty years of priestly celibacy.
“I’ll have someone bring you a feast fit for a king. Eat and drink as much as you feel you need,” she instructed Louis, and then she gave a diminutive bow and departed.
Louis noticed Michael in the chair by the window. The young man groaned, and lay back against the pillows once more. He mumbled, “For a second there I forgot I was in hell.”
Michael sat forward and corrected the statement. “You aren’t in hell, Louis. You’re in a place called Discordia. It’s not good, but it’s not hell.”
“I remember all that. I have to find a magic emerald, or I’m doomed. You told me a powerful devil called Asmodeus has it. So how am I supposed to get it, Michael? What’s the plan?”
“That remains unclear. You passed out before I could tell you everything. We expect to have the services of a very powerful and dangerous assassin. I’m not sure when the man will show up, but I have hope that his input on the matter will help decide a course of action. Until he arrives, your job is to get better,” the priest told him.
As if on cue, two members of the kitchen staff arrived bearing platters of food. The platters were heaped with venison, pork, chicken, and bread. There were also dishes containing candied yams, gumbo, broccoli casserole, jambalaya and crab au gratin. The feast rivaled the best Thanksgiving dinner. Michael developed an appetite of his own.
Louis thanked the cooks profusely, unaware that the food had been prepared through transmutation. It tasted the same as regular food; Louis couldn’t tell the difference. He dug in with abandon, shoveling huge bites of meat and potatoes into his mouth.
Michael let him eat in peace. After Louis wore himself out and leaned back on his pillows, Michael moved the trays back for him and tried some of the food. The gumbo was so delicious he decided to ask for some the next time he was in the dining room. By the time Michael looked up from the food, Louis was fast asleep. The priest tiptoed out of the room and closed the door behind him.
Louis parked his BMW in front of the Spanish Town bungalow and got out with a smile on his face. He opened the gate to the front yard, and walked right up to the front door. He could see a million stars in the Baton Rouge night sky, and the moon hung romantically on the horizon. It was a beautiful night. Louis inhaled deeply of the sweet, clean air, and then he unlocked the door to his house and went inside.
The sound of cooking reached Louis’ ears from the kitchen. He took off his sport coat and hung it in the foyer closet. He sat his cell phone and keys on the table next to the front door, and then went to greet his lovely wife. She stood in front of the stove stirring something that smelled wonderful. When she saw him she gave a little squeal of delight. She ran over and hugged him tightly, and kissed him sweetly on the lips.
Paula always looked good when Louis got home from work. She had on a low-cut, backless black dress, silk mesh stockings and four-inch pumps. She knew it drove Louis crazy when she cooked him dinner wearing sexy outfits, so she did it on a regular basis. She liked making her husband crazy.
With some weak excuse about needing to stir the pot, Paula pulled herself away from him and returned to her place in front of the stove. Louis walked up behind her and nuzzled the place where her deep red hair met the base of her neck. She moaned, and her brilliant green eyes rolled back in her head.
“Not now, honey,” she told him meekly, “I don’t want to ruin the vanilla pudding.”
The pot simmered and bubbled over the low flame, and the smell of vanilla confirmed the contents. Paula kept stirring while Louis pulled up her dress and caressed her flanks. She gripped the stove with her left hand and bent over slightly, but her left hand maintained a constant circular motion with the spoon. Louis pulled down the zipper of his pants, and in a moment entered her smoothly. Four minutes later a timer went off on the counter behind them, indicating that the pie in the oven was ready and that Louis had just come.
Paula stood upright and straightened her dress. She pulled on an oven mitt and took the pie out of the oven. Then she took the pudding off of the heat and poured it into little serving dishes on the counter. Louis saw that she had finished fudge and chocolate chip cookies before he arrived. Dinner looked perfect, as always.
“Could you help me set the table dear? I’ll go ahead and make your plate while you’re at it,” Paula offered in a voice full of love and devotion.
Louis decided to use the good silverware. He wanted their evening to be special. Of course every evening they spent together was special. He remembered to grab a couple of the linen napkins before he left the kitchen. It wouldn’t do having nothing to wipe their faces with. He set the table, lit candles and dimmed the lights. He sat down just as Paula came in with their plates.
Fudge and cookies covered in hot caramel was Louis’ favorite dish. All of the hard work at the office paid off when Paula did special things for him. He made a big show of complimenting her on the dinner. Appreciation worked both ways.
Halfway during the meal Louis noticed that his wife had pulled the straps of her dress off her shoulders and was waiting for him to notice. He played coy, licking caramel off of his fingers and pretending not to notice. When he glanced up she gave him a lusty look and exposed one of her breasts. He returned his eyes to his food, continuing his little game. The next time his eyes wandered to Paula she had her dress completely off. Louis decided he had to touch her, but he could not stop eating.
Louis nibbled at a piece of fudge in alarm. He wondered why he could not stop. He turned to Paula for answers. She had a needle and spoon out in front of her. She picked up a little packet off of the table and poured the contents into the spoon. It was heroin. She used one of the candles on the table to cook the solution, and then she set the spoon down and drew the dope into the needle. Louis smeared caramel on his spoon and licked it off while he watched her. He was desperate to say anything, but unable to figure out how.
Paula grabbed her right breast in her left hand and squeezed tightly. Her nipple stiffened and enlarged. Her breast turned purple and all of the veins stood out. She plunged the needle into her flesh and missed the vein, but she kept digging around. It was to no avail. She decided to start over, so she pulled the needle out and plunged it into her breast from a different angle. She missed, so she dug in and out trying to find the vein. She continued having the same problem, and repeating the same action, time and time again. Her breast began to turn black. Blood ran down her ribs and across her stomach.
Louis felt a little sick. All of the food began to crawl around inside him, trying to find its way out. He knew the solution to that. He started on his cherry pie. He scooped a whole cherry onto his spoon and nudged it around with the tip of his tongue. The cookies and caramel in his stomach cheered for him to eat it. They demanded that he eat it. He finally took the cherry between his lips and sucked on it.
Paula stabbed herself for the twelfth time, and then decided she needed to try the other breast. She switched the needle to the other hand and went to work. Soon she was slippery with blood, but she couldn’t get the heroin inside her.
Louis realized what was going wrong. Paula was doing his heroin. He pushed the table away, and all of the silverware and fine china went crashing to the floor. He tried to stand up, but he couldn’t. He lifted his hands in front of his face. They were riddled with tracks and abscesses. He followed the path of the scabs and bruises up his arms. They were covered in festering sores that drained thick white fluid. He found a particularly big one and squeezed it, enjoying the pain of forcing the pus out into the light. He knew there was something he needed to do, but he was too busy to think about it.
Paula finally got the drug into her veins. She dropped the needle on the floor and leaned back in the chair. She ran her hands all over her naked body, smearing the blood onto her face and neck. Louis looked up from his infected arms and saw what Paula was doing.
Without any warning at all the light in the room changed completely. The candles went out, and the lights in the kitchen disappeared. Everything took on an electric red tint, and the source was a red glow to the rear of Paula’s chair. Louis watched her playing with herself in the red light. He watched her plunge her fingers inside herself and then bring her fingers to her lips to suck on her own juices mingled with blood. Louis knew that something was wrong, but he couldn’t put his finger on it.
What looked like a muscular white man walked forward out of the red glow, until he stood beside Paula. A closer look revealed that it was not merely a man. He had tiny black horns, and his well-styled black hair was alive. He wore no clothing at all, and he sported a stiff erection. He looked directly at Louis and sneered.
“You’re dreaming this, Louis. You want to know the fun part? Paula is dreaming this too, on Earth. Watch what I can do,” the devil told him.
Paula writhed under her own manipulations in the straight backed chair. The devil reached out and touched the middle of her forehead. She opened her eyes and saw the figure standing next to her for the first time. She continued to pleasure herself while she stared at the sexual organ in front of her face.
“I’m going to get her soul, Louis, just to ruin your sleep. By the way, my name is Asmodeus.”
Louis couldn’t stop looking at Paula. He asked her why she wouldn’t stop, but though his lips moved no sound came out. He wanted to warn her. He could see the woman had no idea that Asmodeus was a devil. Louis tried to stand up, but he couldn’t feel his body.
“I’m running this dream, Louis. I’m in control. I’m going to tell you a secret. Paula here is dying to be a bad girl. She’s been good so long, she’s bored and she thinks bad is good. How do you feel about that, Louis?” Asmodeus took obvious pleasure in taunting him.
“Paula, look into my eyes,” Asmodeus commanded the green eyed beauty. She obeyed him. “Be a bad girl, Paula. Be a very bad girl.”
Paula moved her mouth forward and engulfed the throbbing member in front of her. She delighted in the act. She moved one hand up to aid in the process. Asmodeus placed both of his pale hands on top of her head and took control of her motion. He stared into Louis’ eyes with contempt.
Horrible visions flashed through Louis’ mind. He saw Paula helpless, impaled by a monster with long phallic tentacles. She tried to scream, but there was no room for sound to escape. She tried to move, but she was held in place. The tentacles burrowed through her insides from every orifice, tearing her apart internally. Blood dripped out of her pores.
The visions threw a switch deep inside of Louis psyche. He instantly knew the truth of what was happening. He fell asleep on Discordia, and created an innocent dream of food and sex. But then Asmodeus stole into the dream, took control and changed the content. The dream was really taking place on a different plane, and Louis had seen Asmodeus’ plans. The woman was dreaming the same dream, and she was in grave danger through no fault of her own.
“So you finally woke up, Louis? If you could only see yourself the way I see you. You are pathetic,” Asmodeus spat at him venomously at him.
Panic registered in Paula’s eyes. She heard what Asmodeus said. She saw Louis sitting in the chair watching them. She tried to pull away, but Asmodeus was too strong.
Rage flowed through every fiber of Louis’ being, and it brought with it a feeling of incredible strength. Rays of emerald green light tore small holes in Louis’ chest, and the holes expanded and increased in number. Louis felt his flesh falling away, and stepped clear of his body. The room disappeared, and suddenly the three were in a place with no boundaries.
Asmodeus witnessed every second of Louis’ transformation. The old devil looked shocked at first, and then concerned. He cast Paula away from him. The woman disappeared into nothingness, screaming as she fell all the way back into her body on the material plane. Asmodeus turned to face Louis, fully attired in leather armor. The armor was fashioned from hundreds of layers of human flesh that had been seasoned, tightened and treated countless times.
Asmodeus grew in size, and a halberd appeared in his right hand. The horns on his head turned blood red, as did his skin. All semblance of humanity fell away from the devil. Tusks sprouted from his face in all directions, and his eyes turned jet black. The beast radiated hatred.
“You dare confront me on the astral plane?” the creature thundered out. It advanced on Louis’ glowing form.
Louis’ no longer had human thoughts. Louis Comeaux was only one small facet of the being that faced Asmodeus. His true name was Aleph, and he had waited many thousands of years for reincarnation. Yahweh knew him, and all of the older gods as well. In the material world Aleph remained fettered by Louis’ body, impotent inside the confines of the flesh. Once free from the shackles of material reality, Aleph regained the strength of his glory days.
Somewhere in the heavens, old gods laughed hysterically. None of them gave Asmodeus any of that information. The devil had no idea who he faced. Asmodeus still thought he was dealing with young Louis Comeaux. The moment was priceless.
Aleph drew his arms to his chest and clasped his hands together. His green glow darkened deeply. Asmodeus turned his attack into a full charge, but Aleph remained unconcerned. At the moment the halberd would have impaled him, Aleph cast his hands up and opened them to the heavens. The entire plane was flooded with brilliant white light, and all of it flowed out of Aleph.
The halberd melted into a shimmering rainbow with butterflies flying around it. Asmodeus screamed in agony. The light raised blisters all over the devil that grew in size and popped. Every time one of the blisters popped, light burst out of it and splashed all over the devil, raising more blisters. The pain shrunk the devil in size, as he twisted and contorted in an effort to escape the rays. Asmodeus regained enough strength to draw in upon himself. He teleported out of the astral dimension and back into his body, narrowly escaping total, eternal destruction.
A change crept over Louis’ sleeping body when Aleph escaped into the astral plane. He stopped breathing and his heart stopped beating. Louis was technically dead, but something so trivial as reanimation meant nothing to a creature of Aleph’s power. A faint light floated above the bed. Aleph was so strong that his astral essence manifested on the material plane.
When Aleph cast the light of creation upon Asmodeus, the walls of Louis’ room exploded. The outside wall shattered out into space three stories above the ground. The internal walls burst outward into the surrounding rooms and the hallway. Huge cracks appeared in the ceiling, but miraculously the floor did not cave in. Almost as a final, whimsical touch, all of the bedposts broke and the mattress collapsed to the floor.
Louis sat up and rubbed his eyes. He surveyed the damage all around him, thoroughly unamused. A number of people skipped through the rubble to find out what happened. Cara made it to the scene first, and she looked at him with undisguised fear. Michael climbed over a partially collapsed wall that blocked the stairway and hurried to Louis’ side. Everyone else kept their distance.
“What happened Louis?” the priest asked him in alarm.
“I had a nightmare. Asmodeus was there, and he was doing things to a girl I met on Earth. I got really mad, and I changed into something else. That’s when I almost killed Asmodeus. He got away, though,” Louis admitted.
“I mean, what happened to the room?” Michael asked again.
“I think that is what happened to the room. If that’s not what happened to the room, then it’s one hell of a coincidence and I don’t have an answer for you.”
“Dear God. Do you feel okay now, though, Louis?”
“I feel fine, Michael. Don’t worry. I’m not sleepy anymore.”
Louis picked himself up off of the ruined bed and staggered toward the stairs. Michael followed him, once again climbing over the partially collapsed wall. All of the other onlookers stared in disbelief, except Cara. She composed herself and scrabbled after them. Louis descended all the way to the ground floor, and walked out into the night. His two companions joined him there.
“You should eat again, Louis,” Cara urged him. Her intentions were good, but her statement didn’t go over well.
“No, I may never eat again,” Louis told them, and he didn’t bother to explain his statement. He continued, “I’m going to kill Asmodeus. If the assassin isn’t here by morning, then I’m leaving without him.”