Category Archives: Young Adult

Tree Stacks

The holidays are the important part of our year. My family’s traditions never really confused me. Around Thanksgiving, the tree and decorations go up. And the tree was never one of those nice smelling real ones. We always had the plastic ones. I’d never even gotten to go tree picking until my friend Julia’s family invited me to theirs.

It was a nice day temperature-wise. My outfit had only been a light jacket, long sleeved shirt, and a pair of jeans. My sneakers didn’t quite fit right. As I walked, my feet slid back and forth. Julia wore less for warmth. She was used to Illinois weather. Cold. Her parents were dressed similarily. I don’t remember where her older brother was. I don’t remember him being there.

After a long, boring trip we arrived to a building made of wood. A tree, painted in green paint, was right above the door. Mrs. Laing took us into the building and while we went to the bathroom spoke to the man. When I came out, a guide sat in a car with a trailer on the back. Hay–my worse enemy–were used as seats. We road out to the trees.

Pine assaulted my nose. Rows of trees, like the stacks of a library, seemed to go on endlessly. Julia and I walked through the trees.

“I’ve never done this before,” I said.

“Really?” Julia asked, assessing a tree. “We do it every year. What do you think of this one?”

“Where’s it going?”

“In the living room.”

“It needs to be thicker,” I said, looking around. None of the immediate ones seemed right for the Laing family. We walked to the next section. I suggested one, but Julia said that it was too tall. It started getting dark and colder. Julia and I looked around until one of us spotted the perfect tree. After agreeing, I went to get her parents. We loaded the car up and went home.

My grandparents picked me up before I could help them decorate it.

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A Moment in Time

Kristin stared at the television, confused by what she saw. There was some sort of cheerleading movie on and while it appealed to the girly-ness of her character, it also frightened her a little. She quickly switched to BBC America where Doctor Who had already started. Matt Smith was running around with the Doctor’s new companion. Kristin enjoyed her. The girl reminded her of a souffle that was just about done. It still needed to peculate in the oven, but it would be perfect when finished. Her phone vibrated, surprising her enough to launch her in the air. Cursing silently to herself, she hoped her mother wasn’t faking her out again.

 

 

“Honey its me! Bye!”

 

 

God, was she tired of it. She looked at caller ID. 555-5555 She answered, holding the phone to her ear as she turned the volume to the Christmas Special down.

 

“Hey, Kristin! Its us!”

 

“I know! Oh goodness. Okay, so I’m not really sure what’s going on right now in my life,” she sighed, falling back on the bed. After talking to her friends, J and David, she realized that she wished she could be in the same room, discussing the Christmas Special together.


Clara’s letter to herself in 20 years

Dear Clara in 20 years,

 

Please don’t be afraid to let your children explore. Don’t let yourself down for forgetting anything you wanted, what I want now.

Please do the right thing. I have a bad feeling about what the future will hold.

Sincerely,

Clara


Letter to 14-year-old Clara

Dear 14-year-old Clara,

God, what I would do to go back to then. At least to change one thing. Things do get better, but you have to leave that stupid village. Its a bad place for you, Clara. After they killed Father, there was nothing left. You’re old enough to take care of yourself. You just survived an attack from the Raptors. Get the hell out of dodge.

Don’t make the mistakes I did. I stayed, tried to fit in when I knew I couldn’t. Mother found another man and created another family. Don’t get attached to Em. She’ll be fine without you. I know she’s only an infant, but you need to stay away. You’ll get into the Tree Folks if you leave now.

Please think about it.

Sincerely,

Clara


Initiation

“What do I remember from the world blowing up in our faces? What do I remember? The first thing that told us it was happening was the sudden sound of airplane turbines. Airplane turbines that never turned off. They just go on and on as if some psycho has forgotten how to turn them off, but still remembers how to fuel them. Why won’t they stop? WHY WON’T THEY STOP?” the woman on the plasma screen said on a permanent loop. Hollywood had kept its desire for the fucked up and the exploitable. Even their belief in the power of fame couldn’t stop them from deteriorating to the ravaged bunch of animals. Somehow the fucked up tape kept playing on its loop, but with the volume turned up it somehow managed to block out the sound of what she described as an airplane turbine. I’d seen an airplane once. It was in a book that my mum burned for warmth, cooking something we caught hours earlier to eat. Unfortunately, the fire and the stench brought the Raptors after us. I’d escaped without a wound. Mum escaped with all but one limb. A tree branch had taken its place for two months. Then the Raptors got her too.

“Turn that shit off, Crim,” Pal said, running his hand over his machete blade that he was cleaning. I scoffed and turned the television up. The sharp, metallic clanging of a blade hitting the cold, concrete floor was loud enough to cause me to jump despite the volume of both the whirling and the woman’s nearly constantly screaming. I turned in time to see his boots before only the turbine-like noise was left.

“Fuck you,” I grumbled, adjusting my knick-knacks. Ignoring me, Pal’s footsteps walked off into what might have been a kitchen-area. Of course we converted it into a fire-pit to ward off the Raptors.  Fire was the only thing we had to protect ourselves.  Since I knew that if I turned on the Picture Set Pal would send me to the crow’s nest to watch for Raptors as they approach the side of our make-shift fortress that was unprotected, I got up and went to the window. A figure was running towards our home. Grabbing my binoculars from around my neck, held by a leather strap made from the skin of the first Raptor I killed, I watched the red headed man who could have been my brother run towards us. Behind him a dark-haired, light skinned man ran with his long hair bouncing with each stride. Pulling my face away, I picked up my handgun and holstered it before turning to Pal.

“Hey, Pal. Ken’s back,” I said.

“So?”

“Someone is with him.”

“What?” Pal roared, jumping into the room and running out the door that headed to the scaffolding that he uses to target practise. He followed it down to the ground with me on his heels. The man stopped a foot behind Ken when he stopped at the borders to our territory.

“Pal?”

“Ken.”

“What’s wrong?” Ken asked.

“Why is there someone with you?”

“He needs help.”

“You know we can’t afford another mouth. Kern, this is the third time you’ve done this. We can’t keep doing this, Ken,” Pal said, starting his long speech that he’s been practising since he was elected leader by those who were left after the last leader went insane. I allowed my eyes to move to the new arrival. Somewhere in the speech Ken introduced him as Dav. His eyes met mine, but he averted his eyes first, seeming surprised by my green eyes. People claimed I was half Raptor.

I allowed myself to view the surroundings where old, junk vehicles sat rusted and unworkable. My boots brushed against the paper left in the street from the mass chaos that the mobs created. I heard a clink of two pebbles hitting each other and looked back at Dav kicking the rocks around. My eyes caught his foot hitting a rock that zoomed through the window of a junked up Cadillac. Loud, piercing wails caused me to jump a foot off the ground. Pal cursed, pulling his weapon from his belt. I followed suit, as did Ken. Dav stared at us.

We waited, silent with only the constant sound that had been there for as long as I could imagine. A good five minutes later we heard the tale-tell sound of a Raptor Horde, a loud scream, much like a baby crying for his mother. Ken grabbed Dav’s arm and threw him between the three of us as we turned to a position much like the mother triceratops circling the babies to protect them from enemies. The first Raptor crested the hill with a baby-like roar before rushing towards us.

Raptors are monsters that had been human once. Their eyes are emerald green and very humanoid. Their teeth are sharpened from cannibalistic tendencies over the generations and their fingernails have sharpened and lengthened to a deadly point. Their legs have mutated to look like the velociraptors from the books I read as a child right before we burned them. The Raptors didn’t wear clothing and their nude flesh were dark brown from the sun.

“Fuck.”

“How many do y think, Pal?”

“A good two, maybe three hundred.”

“I don’t think I have that many rounds on me, Pal,” I said, taking aim at the first one rushing directly at me.

“That doesn’t matter. Kill enough of ’em and they’ll run.”

“How much will be enough?”

“I don’t know,” Pal admitted. I shot the one I’d been aiming at, killing it. Two replaced it. I missed the next one I aimed at. The gunfire went on until every single gun we had clicked that it was empty. Three of mine laid at my feet and my fourth went empty in my hand. A ring of Raptors stood around us, in a circle. The stare down initiated , no one moved. We stayed like that until Dav, the stranger, jumped in front of me with a mallet and aimed at the first Raptor he saw, beating the living shit out of it. Once it was dead, he stood huffing over its body and looking up at the Horde as if asking who was next. The Raptors looked at each other confused before looking the corpse of the creature left. Dav started towards them, swinging the mallet wide. They turned and ran back the way they came. Pal stepped up to the corpse and prodded it with the butt of his gun.

“Its dead.”

“What’d you wanna do with it?” Ken asked.

“Can’t leave it here. The Raptors’ll return for the feast. Skin the legs and throw the rest of it to the dogs,” Pal said, turning to Dav. “Have you done that before?”

“Yes, sir.”

Ken picked up the corpse and carried it to the fenced in area towards the side of our fortress. Dav and Pal stared at each other for what seemed like forever.

“Believe it or not, that was our initiation. I guess you don’t have to prove yourself,” Pal said, grinning. Dav responded in kind and the two them started for the building. Pal mentioned a tour or something like that. I allowed my view to go back to the landscape and sighed.


Demon Debts Part One

Warning: This may seem a little disturbing. Do not read if you are easily offended.

The Second Time

            I don’t know how it started. One moment I was napping was the smallest bedroom of Mom’s three-bedroom apartment and the next I was running in a world I knew well with two girls who had never stepped foot off of their perfectly manicured lawns. These two girls were dressed prim and properly, high heels with matching skirts and the like.

The ground was uneven, red, and squeaked every eighth step. There were no trees where we started out, but the tree line was not far away. It took us less than twenty minutes to reach it and cross through the bushes. The girls tripped as they ran, stopping us every few moments. I had only wished that I was alone, taking care of myself.

“Stop! Stop! I can’t breathe!” one choked out, far behind me. I stopped under a tree that still had all its covering unlike the other trees and turned to face her. Her blond hair was damp over her forehead and falling out of what was once a neat little bun at the nape of her neck. She was kneeling, clutching her chest, as if she’d just fallen over. Her white blouse had been wrinkle-free when I first saw her, but now they were everywhere.

“We can’t stop. Its still too open,” I said, gesturing for her to move forward. She stayed where she was, obviously confused.

“Where are we?”

“This is not the place to answer that,” I said, turning around.

“Answer her question!” the other girl shouted, causing me to turn around and glare at the offending person. Somehow she had managed to keep her hair up in a bun and her clothes showed no manner of the deteriorating of style that was evident, until you saw that one of her heels had broken off her shoe. A light sheen of sweat showed over her brow, perspiration from running and the unnatural heat that the demon dimension held.

“Not here. This is a demon dimension and we need to get to the only safe place I know here. Now we are continuing to run. Keep up or die,” I growled, spinning on my heel and running off before anyone could say anything more. After a few minutes I heard the tell-tale sign that they were following me.

We ran for a few days, stopping only to sleep in shifts and eat. The girls tried to share their lives with me before I promptly shut them up. The woods of the dimension were full of demons that would use personal information against the owner. I had learned it the hard way my first time. I had learned a lot of things my first time.

It took six days to reach the shrine’s gates and another three to travel the grounds. Gregor waited for us right outside his front door. The building was held together with magic and sex. It was a good combination for strength. According to Gregor, anyway. The building was many stories tall and looked like it would fall over at any moment.

“There is no freaking way I am staying in that piece of shit house,” miss blond said. I turned to her, glaring.

“This is the safest place you will find.”

“And how do we know that this is the safest place? He might attack us. How do we know he won’t?” Brunette asked. I turned back to Gregor, smiling.

“Because Gregor owes me.”

“And it’s a nice shiny debt. Its repaid after this, right?” he asked, stepping forward to grasp my right hand. He raised it to his lips and left a kiss between the knuckles of my ring finger and my middle.

“Affirmative, but your home looks a little more run down than the last time I was here.”

“It is. Not many girls want all this,” he said, gesturing to the well sculpted chest and almond-shaped eyes. It was a joke that made me smile. He was rather popular with the ladies when he left the piece of shit he called a house, but he rarely left. Women didn’t want to trek to a place in the middle of nowhere that was barely being held up.

“Not many girls want to travel to the middle of nowhere, Gregor,” I responded, winking. He chuckled before gesturing to the girls, asking silently who they are. I simply explained how we had arrived together, but I didn’t know them. He shrugged, sliding the shojo door open so that we could walk in. The main room was spacious, lacking the big, American furniture that I was used to, but it was nice and cozy. Blond took one look around the room and shrieked.

“Shut up,” I snapped.

“Leave ‘er alone,” Brunette said, getting obviously angry. She seemed to speak with a British accent when she was pissed. I remembered her snapping at me in the forest, but I hadn’t paid attention then.

“I didn’t mean to be-uh-rude. Its just-I-I… Its just so… Just so…”

“Oriental?” I suggested.

“Yes! Yes, that’s it! This place is just so Oriental. It doesn’t make sense. I was in Richmond, in my house. You know I live in one of those neighborhoods full of mansions and perfect lawns. You know,” she said, nervously scratching at her cross necklace. “There’s something wrong with this. This world, it isn’t… This isn’t right.”

“This is a demon dimension,” Gregor said, placing a hand on my lower back. He nudged me towards the cushions that looked nice and comfortable. I willingly travelled the distance to the cushions and sunk into the fluffy goodness. Blond and Brunette refused to move from where they stood and huddled. Blond was crying big Barbie tears that looked more like they’d been painted on, though they came out of Blond’s eyes. Gregor joined me on the cushions, choosing to sit close enough that I could feel tingles starting from my thigh and heading all over my body. Just like last time. I didn’t know if Gregor could cause things to happen in a woman’s body, but he was a good demon when it came to fulfilling his debts. Causing him to owe debts was a fun pastime.

“How long are they going to be here?”

“How long until you can get them back?” I countered, moving my thigh an inch away from his leather covered ones.

“I’m not sure,” he responded, staring at them. “What’s Snivels and Martha Stewart’s stories?”

“Two rich girls are suddenly no longer in the dimension they were born and raised in,” I responded nonchalantly. Gregor scooted over closer to me so that our thighs were touching again.

“Well, girls. I’ve best be off with lil’ o’e Miss Red,” he said, running his hand up my back. It stopped on my left shoulder.

“You know my name’s not Red.”

“I’m sorry. Faith. Ironic, considering,” he responded, kissing my temple.

“Considering what?” Blond asked, lifting her tear-streaked face from her hands. My attention had been on Gregor when she had changed her physical position.

“Faith has always lacked her name.”

Blond looked confused and Brunette just had the infuriated look she’d always had. Gregor pulled me to my feet as he stood and guided me towards the stairs to the second floor, where we stopped the last time, but we didn’t this time. He led me up the stairs again to the third floor, opening a Christmas green door that stood out from the wall strangely, but I could never fault a home out of its dimension, or a room. He opened it by pulling outward, but it swung inward. A paradox.

I stepped in as he gestured as “ladies first” before he shut the door by pulling inward. It swung outward. Before I could question the door he was in front of me, touching my face with the pad of his thumb. Running it over my right cheek, he pulled me closer with his other hand so that my lips would meet his. His lips were gentle, as they had been last time. A hand made its way down my back, stopping at my rump. His tongue danced in my mouth as he always had, lifting me up so that he could carry me bridal style over to the bed. I lost contact with his mouth when he laid me down on the soft, green comforter.

“I recognize this mattress,” I whispered as he crawled over from the other side of the bed, holding a bottle of wine I hadn’t seen him grab. Two glasses waited on the table beside me.

“I just moved my room, dear. Pass me those glasses, darling,” he replied, running fingers through my hair, lengthening it. The red contrasted against my pale arm. Gregor reached up with his hand and slipped one of my spaghetti straps off my shoulder and down my arm. He manipulated my arm so that the strap came off. Smiling, I reached for the glasses and handed them to Gregor. He filled them quickly, giving me one back. I sipped, enjoying the taste of the combination of the sweetness of fruit and the tartness of a green apple. The other strap was moved and the fabric covering my breasts dropped off me suddenly.

“Naughty,” I scolded, mockingly. He laughed a full belly laugh before kissing me again, tasting me. A few moment later I was fully naked and he was stripping. Taking my glass from me, he placed them on the trunk at the bottom of the bed before he turned back to me. Kissing me again, he gently turned us over so that I was on top. He lifted me a little and then…

I woke up an hour after falling asleep and found Gregor watching me like I was some sort of sleeping beauty. I muttered a quick “hello” before sitting up, grasping the sheet to my bossom.

“Do you always go around without a bra and panty set?” he asked, running his fingers through my lengthened hair.

“Only in this dimension, ‘cause they don’t seem to transfer well,” I murmured, moving closer to his warmth. He smiled, touching my face as if I were the most precious jewel in the world.

“How are you?”

“I’m fine, Gregor. I’ll just put on some clothes.”

“Take a shower, love,” he said, gesturing to a door I hadn’t noticed before. Thanking him, I dropped the sheet and climbed out of bed. The heat greeted me as I walked to the door, a pale mint green. Gregor’s personal space was always set in a monochromatic color scheme of green. The shower was a deep forest green with lime green tiling. It was obscene, but it was Gregor.

As the water poured from the ceiling, I allowed myself to think things I could not think around others. I could admit things to myself that I could not admit to my friends or even Gregor, whom was my personal demon for all these years. There was a support group I was part of back in Richmond. We met once a week in the small thrift boutique before it opened and talked. There were other girls like me, ones that had sampled Gregor. Demons became addictive, hard to stop yourself from wanting. Its worse than any kind of drug you’d ever find on Earth. What was worse was that Gregor would try to woo you by leaving little gifts on your bed. A necklace here and a diamond there, trying to ask you to love him. Gregor had always been a charmer. The group had been around for generations, thanks to him.

Something changed after he had me. He stopped courting the other women, though I kept receiving gifts. On my birthday I always got a little crystal bobble and for Christmas he sent me rings covered in real diamonds. He was my own secret admirer, except he wasn’t a secret. I knew who he was. He communicated with me through telepathy and little notes. I found them everywhere. I know him better than I know myself and vise versa. I can’t honestly say if I love him, but he’s the only one who ever caused my heart to swell with warmth.

The shower never ran cold, so I could take my time with my thoughts before I needed to wash myself. It didn’t take long to bathe, so I was downstairs after a few moments. Blond and Brunette had finally moved to the cushions, believing it was safe. From whom, I did not know. It could have been Gregor or me, but it didn’t matter.

“Alright, Blond, you’ve got some time. Take a shower. There are bathrooms on every floor. It should be easy enough to find one,” I said, walking past them and to the kitchen. It was stocked full of food, well prepared. The pots and pans were in the cabinet above the stove, just where I’d remember. Checking the cabinets, I found what I would need to make a batch of pancakes. When I left the kitchen both Blond and Brunette were staring at me. I placed a plate of pancakes in front of both of them.

“Why are you naked?”

“I just didn’t have anything to wear. The servants haven’t created my clothes yet,” I responded, shrugging. Nudity had never been a big deal to me. Since I was a child, it was more comfortable than clothing.

Gregor walked in, wearing a pair of hakamas—traditional Japanese pants that hung loosely around his legs and tied at the waist. The midnight blue looked shocking against the red of his skin. He had no shirt.

“Would you like some pancakes, Gregor?” I asked, gesturing to the kitchen.

“No thank you, Sweet. I’ll take your lips instead,” he responded, walking right over to me. His lips were on mine in a moment, but were gone the next. Blond stared at me and Brunette sat back in her seat.

“You’d sleep with a demon? You are damned. You are going to Hell,” Blond said, clutching her cross necklace.

“And you’re accepting his help. What will happen to you?” I asked.

“I pray for forgiveness every minute I’m here,” Blond growled.

“Whatever you say, Blond.”

“Rachel. My name is Rachel, you-you SATAN’S WHORE!” she shouted at me, grabbing a pillow and throwing it at me. Brunette played with her hair, twirling it up into a tight bun. She secured it with something I didn’t see before pulling the red robe she wore tighter around herself.

“What part of England are you from, Brunette?” I asked, coyly. Blond—Rachel—and Brunette both wore crosses, looking at me the way my grandparents always had. The religious types were all the same. Kind and considerate as long as they were rich and thought you could be converted to their faiths. At least the self-righteous-believing-that-they-could-never-sin types were that way. Gregor was wrong about me. I wasn’t lacking in faith. Lacking faith wasn’t something I had. In religion. I had a religion. That wasn’t what I lacked.

I lacked the faith that humanity could be good without something stronger than an ideal of Hell. They needed something physical.

“I’m not originally. I pick up accents really well. I’ve been working in London for the past couple of years. My name is Claire,” she replied, pulling a rosary from her pocket. She crossed herself and began to pray.

“Why are we here? Why did we run?” Rachel spoke again, sounding a little calmer.

“The last time I was here, I got chased by Gregor’s brother and an army of demons. I felt the ground shake. Are you expecting a visitor?” I asked, snuggling up to the nook between Gregor’s arm and side. He shook his head, kissing my forehead. He was the most affectionate demon anyone had ever heard of.

“So Gre—“

“Don’t say his name,” I interrupted. “Giving something a name gives it power. Gregor won’t use his power on me, but he would on you. In a heartbeat.”

“I would.”

“So he has a brother? How do we know his brother won’t do anything?” Brunette—Claire—said. Gregor touched my temple with one hand while gestured to the stairs. Five little Fae—Pixies to be exact—flew in with a short, green dress hanging between them. The green was a dark green that contrasted well with my pale skin once it was on. The fabric was pure silk.

“This is Gregor’s land,” I said, feeling giddy. Presents did that to me. A friend once told me that if I met the right guy I’d turn into a psychopath. She was right.

“What does that fucking have to do with us getting out of here?” Blond—Rachel—asked in a screaming voice. My ears begged me to do something about her mouth. I opened a cupboard and pulled out the duct tape Gregor had always kept in it. Within a few moments Blond—Rachel—was gagged.

“Language, language, Miss Rachel Blond. Keep the gag on. Believe it or not we have been here one month already and the Pixies and Brownies are getting annoyed at you,” I giggled. Time differences in dimensions always made me giddy. My body’s systems had finally synced with the demon realm after a month. Being cool and collected never worked here. The demon dimension always brought out the worse in everybody. I was the only one in the support group who admitted to being comfortable with it.

“What is wrong with you? Just yesterday you were… different. What happened?” Brunette—Claire—asked.

“It’s the dimension, Ladies. Faith just finished adjusting to it. She’ll be back the way she was come morning,” Gregor responded, pulling me up the stairs and back into his room.

“You have to explain this room to me, Gregor,” I demanded.

“Its in a different dimension. Shouldn’t it be obvious?”

“But why did you dress me to match the décor? You owe me another favor. So answer me,” I growled, pulling away from him before he could grab a hold of my arm or something.

“Because you are pretty much in my personal space,” he responded. The night could only be described as blasphemous.

It took another month before the two nice Christian girls moved, but by then a knock had come to the door. I opened it, wearing something from a pin-up magazine from the fifties.

“How can I help you?” I asked, spotting a male demon with horns jutting out of his head. He wasn’t the one I had seen the last time I was here.

“I’m looking for my brother, Gregorious,” he responded, straightening up his back.

“For a visit or to drag him back home?”

“A visit. His barriers wouldn’t let me in for any other reason,” he responded. I stepped aside, leaving just enough room for him to pass into the main room. Blond—Rachel, blast—and…Claire jumped to their feet. I forced them to sit back down, physically. Admonishing them, I rushed upstairs to get Gregor.

“Why didn’t you ever tell me your full name?” I asked, reaching forward to touch his face.

“Because Only my older brothers call me Gregorious. Its embarrassing. And not Mom’s fault, either,” he murmured, running a hand through his hair, revealing the start of horns. Demons were fickle. In some families the growing of horns equates puberty, but in others it just means that there was some sort of big change. Since I didn’t know Gregor’s family very well, I wasn’t sure/ It was the first I’d ever seen of the horns.

“Your brother’s here,” I told him, admiring the lack of shirt again. “Does your dad call you Gregorious?”

“Yes. Its annoying.”

“Poor Gregor,” I joked. He gave me a pensive glance before shaking it off.

“Oh, I see how it is. Love ya too,” he said, walking past me and out of the room. I followed shortly after. The main room had gotten hotter since his brother had stepped foot into the building. Gregor glared at his brother, taking a defensive stance. They hadn’t even started talking yet.

“Please tell me you aren’t with these two trollops, Gregorious,” the large-horned one groaned.

“No, Patarion,” Gregor responded.

“I see you’re with the same bitch you were with when Luciderate was here,” Patarion said, crossing his arms. His uniform looked just like something out of Nazi Germany.

“She’s not a bitch.”

“Begone, vile demon!” Bl—Rachel screeched, duct tape in her hand. Rolling my eyes, I stalked over to her and grabbed her arm. Dragging her out of the room, I made sure she made it to the very top of the building. The room was the equivalent of a one-room house or studio apartment. Throwing the bitch in was pure enjoyment. Bru—Claire—joined her.

“Neither of you will leave this room. I have reached the end of my patience as well as everyone who is currently in the building’s. Deal. With. It,” I growled, shutting the door and locking them in. I returned downstairs.

Patarion and Gregor sat across from each other at a chess board, full game ready to start. As soon as I entered Patarion moved his first pawn. It looked like it might have been the chess match of the century.

“Are you still trying to get her?”

“To get her what, Patarion? I made a deal with Father. Do you remember?” Gregor responded, countering with another pawn.

“Yes, but he wants grandchildren in the near future, Brother,” Gregor’s brother pointed out. I moved over to the side of the table, admiring Gregor’s hands.

“And by near future you mean now.”

“Yes.”

Gregor ran a hand through his hair, revealing his horns again. Patarion gasped and then promptly coughed.

“Have you not had your daily dose of Marijuana, yet?”

“You know its my only vice, just like yours is red-headed women. I can’t believe it. Father will be thrilled,” the over-compensating-for-a-small-life-force-with-giant-horns said.

“Father won’t be. Mom will. So why has another rift caused men and women to enter this neutral dimension?” Gregor asked.

“Grandfather wants a family dinner.”

“Grandfather?”

“Yes. The old fool wants all of us to visit him in his ‘house of many rooms.’ He doesn’t realize what we’d have to go through in order to get past customs,” Patarion sighed, pulling a joint from his coat pocket. “My God is it fucking hell.”

“Ironic, considering where you live. Please don’t smoke that in here. If I wanted my house to smell like a pot house, I’d have brought all the distribution kings in Hell here,” Gregor said, pulling me into his lap. “Plus I don’t want her around that. If you know what I mean.”

“I’ll smoke it later then. Don’t want to upset anything that is happening to grow,” Patarion said. “Besides, Father wants me to find something else. He’s allergic to this shit now.”

The game lasted a couple hours and Patarion declined to stay for supper. I thanked everything I could name for that.

“If we do go to Grandfather’s for supper, bring her. She’ll love the Angels,” Patarion said, walking out.

“I doubt it,” Gregor mumbled.