As you can imagine, my heroine, Astra Q Phelps would have her hands full keeping everybody in line. Good thing she's been groomed since childhood to handle dark world inhabitants. And with my favorite holiday, Halloween, coming up in just a few days, I'd like to share the story of one of Astra Q Phelps' early Halloween experiences.
Beware...this Halloween story is not for the faint of heart! Bwahahahahaha!
October 31st. All Hallows Eve. The devil's Mardi Gras. Within walls painted with the scarlet broth of human life, in Devil King Nerul's court, buried deep within the bowels of an unsuspecting Earth, All Hallows Eve is celebrated in a way that brings to mind the human holiday, Christmas. Beneath the holiday tree in Nerul's court however, the only gifts are corpses, wrapped in their own stink, and tied with the roiling ribbons of their newly claimed maggot hosts.
Within these walls all manner of horror waits in rabid anticipation of the culmination of the grand scheme, which was born as long as 2000 years ago, and comes to fruition on this night.
Halloween, 2015. In the spirit world, the year of the devil.
As young, fresh-cheeked toddlers and adolescents choke down their dinners in their eagerness to don their costumes and hit the streets, their evil counterparts gather below with putrefying smiles and plan their evening's delights, preening flesh-clogged claws and razor edged fangs in preparation for the coming carnage.
The word had spread like wildfire through the spirit world. It had passed with the tenacity of long told tales and hero's songs. On this Eve, the proclamation tells, a life could be regained for a life lost. For a brief time, ending exactly at midnight, death's cold, filthy grasp could be traded for the warmth and joys of life. The rules, proclaimed by Nerul, were simple and grave: Kill a young human in its prime, and life and beauty would be yours again.
Brutality among the court's demons, devils, and gargoyles was not a problem. They regularly paid death its due through excessive carnage. They only feared the good in man. Goodness served as both a lure and a killing frost to their type of evil purpose. It was as acid to their flesh, unutterable despair to their spirits. And in this unwelcome trait, the sweet, untainted child was of particular danger to them.
With this knowledge in their tortured thoughts, Nerul's monsters gathered with a mixture of fear and gleeful anticipation. For the sweet syrup of human goodness was a wine they rarely dared to drink. These dwellers of subterranean dark generally set their sights on those of human form whose souls had long ago been bartered away for temporary riches, whether monetary or of the flesh. Those humans who took the downward spiral in their humane growth, and passed beyond the hope of ever finding their way back, were ready and tender targets for Nerul and his kind. This type of victim the hosts of human nightmares understood and readily hunted.
In contrast, their prey on this most important of nights would be heavily protected from the monsters' lures. The good were constantly guarded and watched by their guardian Angels. And once they had been separated from their guardians, their sweet natures would still burn as acid until it was tainted by evil. It was this task that would prove the most difficult. Luring the good into evil so that they could be subdued.
As dusk gathered like a mask across the land, children and monsters alike left the cover of their dwellings and walked out, gleefully anticipating the coming Halloween delights. Children greeted each other with high-pitched, Angelic voices and taunted their elders for homemade tidbits and sweet-tasting treats while tripping happily over their ghostly sheets and bewitching finery. Among them, short, jolly monsters with bloodied, latex faces and glowing, green plastic eyes danced from house to house, swinging bags that bulged with gastronomic delights and sang out a childish challenge to all that they passed. None of them dreamed that behind the next tree, beyond the next hill, the stuff of true nightmares awaited them, watching for the opportunity to drink greedily of their potent human wine.
Hovering watchfully above these sweet human targets, the Angels of God trained careful, probing eyes on their charges and cast their web of goodness around the unsuspecting children like a protective wall. While Nerul's monsters could boast freely to each other of their indifference to the Angels' powers, nary a one thought to test those powers when they were gathered en masse as they were this special night. After a human hour's passage of time, the monsters, disgusted and repelled by the wall of goodness they'd encountered on those lively streets, retreated to council beneath a fat and taunting moon. Deep in a cold foreboding wood, where displaced spirits danced their fearful dance across the wind-stripped limbs of winter's trees, the monsters bent their terrible heads and began to plan.
Encircling a fire that shot upward from a hole in the earth at the center of their evil council, they argued and pierced each other with gore-touched claws and blood-slimed teeth. Then, at last, heads nodding in agreement, they doused the fires of Hell in their midst and moved out into the night, to make real the nightmare they'd hatched in that dark, cold wood.
As the monsters settled into place in the shadows just beyond the light, calling to their king to bend his special powers to fulfillment of their plan, a lone child emerged from a darkened house, clutching her nanny's work-roughened hand. The child was very small, with bright green eyes and hair that was a scarlet spark under the efficient, white glow of the streetlights. Her name was Astra and, although she was very young and very small, she moved with the purpose of the very old and her eyes were filled with an understanding that surpassed time. She was followed by a single, bright Angel whose name was Myra, and whose scowling countenance foretold the night to come.
As the child moved through the unsuspecting revelers, she looked often to her Angel and smiled a bright, childish smile as if to offset the celestial creature's stern countenance. Angel Myra's response was to scowl more thoroughly and scan the area around them with increased intensity. The ghoulish hunters could not avoid being drawn to Astra. Their red-rimmed eyes followed her tiny form down the streets with a mixture of hunger and dread. For her part, Astra gathered her treats rather carelessly, and without apparent joy, as if she were simply playing a part that could not be avoided. Her weary caregiver trudged along beside her, yawning widely and offering sleepy smiles to the treat givers they approached.
One ravenous demon, drawn in by the child's sweetness and apparent fragility, stepped from behind a large oak and stared down at Astra through glowing, dead eyes. As Myra reared back to strike, Astra held up a small hand and frowned. With a pucker of her soft, pink lips, little Astra blew a tender kiss at the monster and then laughed childishly as he scurried away with a roar. The child's nanny, not at all convinced of the harmlessness of the thing they'd just encountered, jerked her young charge into the brighter lights and, looking over her shoulder with a shiver, pulled Astra along to the next house.
Myra followed, scolding the child softly and with great intensity. Astra accepted her scolding with a soft smile. "It was just a costume, Myra." She said in soft tones when her nanny was distracted. With this Myra scowled all the more deeply and said, "You know better, Astra."
The child's brave defiance when confronted by a living, breathing nightmare spurred the monsters on. With renewed vigor they called upon Nerul to help them set their plan into motion. As the revelers squeezed the last of the bounty from the dying night, as lights and candles winked off all around them, and footsteps turned wearily toward home, Nerul raised his awful countenance and drove his massive powers into the rock and dirt that formed the roof of his court in the bowels of the Earth. In response, the very street the children walked upon began to tremble and crack. With a thunderous roar, the street ripped apart and flew skyward to expose the fires of Hell beneath.
With screams of surprise and then terror, children scattered or were whisked away by their guardians. The children who had been standing in the place where the jagged edges of the fiery pit emerged, teetered and screamed and fell into it, landing in the hard, leathery arms of their worst nightmares. While Hell's flames lapped hungrily at soft, cringing flesh, the monsters bent their terrible heads to whisper words of temptation into the tender, captive ears. Many of the small victims succumbed to evil's promise and gave way. These the monsters dove upon and devoured. A few, good, brave children shook their tiny heads in denial of Hades' pledge. These the monsters rejected with a roar of terror and disgust, flinging them from the fires of Hell, where they were gathered up, once again, by their frantic guardian Angels.
By the hundreds, the guardian Angels left their charges and flew into the pit to save the howling children. And as they fought the demons of Hell, the Angels called to the heavens in crystalline tones of supplication. Demons, devils, and gargoyles; taking advantage of the children’s newly unguarded state; emerged from the shadows and carried them off, whispering terrible words of temptation and threat into their helpless ears.
In the midst of it all, Astra stood quiet and calm, arms outstretched, and called selected children around her. At her calm insistence, even the most terror stricken of the chosen few moved to stand quietly at her side. The demons, seeing in the small child a power greater than theirs, made no attempt to breach her circle of control and the thirteen, specially-picked children she'd called to her side were spared.
Moments later, the bells of St. Michael's church on the corner began to strike the hours of Midnight. As each hour chimed away, the edges of the earth began to knit themselves back together and the smoke began to clear. The screams died away to muted cries and then silence, and the world began to right itself. As the midnight hour was reached, the revelers seemed to shake themselves off and take a collective, deep breath. They blinked and moved to retrieve lost bags filled with sweet delights, resuming their measured steps toward home. Neighbors shook their heads and returned to their homes, wondering what trick of fate had brought them out of their warm beds and into the cold, quiet night.
Young Astra looked up and smiled sadly as Myra settled once again at her back. Quietly they made their way home, dragging Astra's exhausted nanny behind. Once there, young Astra made an excuse to her mother and stood outside for just a moment longer, glancing at her Angel with a sad frown.
"How many do you think, Angel?"
Myra shrugged and her habitual scowl deepened. "At least a dozen I fear."
"How many did you save?"
The Angel's soft lips took a downward turn, "Not nearly enough."
Astra nodded and touched her Angel's pale, translucent hand. "Will their parents know?"
Myra shook her golden head and sighed. "They see what they want to see, Astra."
Astra lowered her head and turned to enter her house. One by one the lights of the street winked off and keys turned in locks. Inside the homes, sleepy children kissed their parents' cheeks and trudged wearily off to bed. If some of these small, sleepy faces seemed somehow different...somehow colder...somehow sharper...their parents didn't notice.
The day was spent. The air outside was clear and cold. The moon lay fat and smiling in the sky. It was time to put aside the cares of the day. Small forms settled down to sleep in down-covered beds, with softly glowing nightlights at their heads to protect them from the monsters under the bed. But many of the monsters had moved from under the bed to rest upon it. In many beds innocence no longer slept. In these beds, eyes that had been bright with childish delight that morning, now glowed with an unearthly fever, demonic with the pleasure of humanity gained. Until at last, two by two, these cold eyes closed in restless sleep, to foster dreams of celebrations to come.
October 31st, 2016. In the spirit world, the year of the demon.
|Book 5: Bedeviled & Beyond|
Bedeviled & Besmirched
"Sam Cheever never ceases to amaze with the stories she weaves. They continue to be intense, very hot and filled with enough twists and turns to keep the reader amazed and intrigued. The ending is electrifying and you know we have not seen the last of this couple. Beautifully done –" ~ 5 stars from SensualReads.com
Who knew that one little magic hickey could cause so much trouble? Never mind that Astra Q Phelps has no idea how she gave the king of the Royal Devils a Daemon mark. Females aren’t supposed to be able to mark their males. Now everybody’s trying to kill her. Well, half of everybody is trying to kill her. The females on the Devil Court want to know how she did it so they can do it too. And, while Astra’s trying to stay alive, somebody’s making a play for her man and the power he’s about to inherit. It’s a whole lot of stuff for Astra Q Phelps to handle. But, as you probably know by now, she’s…most likely…up to the challenge. Hopefully.