Friday, August 9, 2013

Jack Satan

Jack Satan
Bobby Derie

"Give it up, Jack. You can't save her this time."

Her eyes sought mine, but all I could see was the knife she was holding at her own throat. Faint luminescent veins shifted and twirled under her skin.

My hand twitched. My world was muffled by the bark of the gun. The side of her neck exploded; a red splash with rivers of glowing green. Those pale lips spat blood, eyes dark accusing islands afloat in glowing seas. I couldn't hear myself speak, but I felt the rumble in my throat so I knew I was talking. I hoped they could both hear and understand me.

"I'm not here to save anyone."

I looked around for witnesses. It was the kind of nice suburban kitchen after ten years of hard living. Little cuts in the counter, the odd dent or spackle of food on the wall, dirt built up in the hard-to-reach places, but basically clean. No roaches or ants. But there was a dog by the door. A mutt, but one with a lot of dachshund in it, low and slinky with short fur the color of dutch cocoa. Eyes like grapes in a skull you could fit in the palm of your hand.

I shot the dog too. Then I took off my jacket, closed the shades on all the windows, and dragged the bodies into the living room.

It was a rental property, and the managers knew enough not have carpet in here. Linoleum sealed under layers of wax, probably one for each set of tenants that had been in and out of here. Shoddy work too; there were flies and bits of food trapped there, little hard bits you could hardly see underfoot.

A spatula from the kitchen helped me draw the circle and the sigils. The knives were shit; cheap steel that wasn’t terribly sharp to begin with and really dull now. I picked out the best of the straight-edged ones and took the whetstone to it. From outside came the jingle of a passing ice cream truck, a warbling pathetic version of “Yankee Doodle Dandee” which somehow segued into something from Wagner.

It was the middle of a school day. Perfect time for bored, fat, lazy housewives to hook up with their Craigslist fuckbuddies or get stoned while watching the plasma televisions they bought on installment. But if anyone had heard the shots, nobody called the cops.

When the knife was sharp enough, I got her undressed—not an easy task when a body is dead weight—and took off the dog’s collar. I wasn’t sure what to do with the dog, so I improvised, curling it up by the side of the body. A couple minute’s rummaging turned up a pack of oat bran muffins and birthday candles, and for the first time in hours I smiled as I set them up at the five corners and flicked the little wicks to life.

“Ia! Lilitu, ach nem, ach sudanem, no me ra no te me se…” I began the old chant.

In the circle, the dried green slime glowed again, began floating upwards. I watched it curl in on itself, like a fetus, drawing its substance to itself. A dangling green cord dangled down to her belly button.

I didn’t know its name. It mewled, an animal sound, and lifted its great ponderous head, opening those vast dark eyes to stare at me. No, not at me—at the knife I held in my hand. It rippled and rolled, a monstrous green cloud coiled like an infant, lightning flashes beating like a slow heart inside its breast.

With the blade in my left hand, I cut the thin green line of smoke holding it to the body. It looked surprised. I jerked my thumb at the nearest wall.

“Get out.”

It stayed there for a minute, unsure. Then it must have made a decision, because it bunched itself up and shot straight outside, leaving nothing but a nasty green scorch mark I don’t think the renters would ever quite be able to cover with paint.

I turned back to the business at hand when there came a knocking.

Staccato raps started on the dining room table, then built up through the wooden studs in the wall. Complex patterns interweaving, long and loud and soft and short, until the crappy composite and particle board kitchen cabinets were shaking themselves to pieces. I could hear the chords build toward a single pitch…and in that moment, a piece of fire and light stepped in to the dingy apartment, a gossamer figure with a sword-shaped sliver at the end of one too-long arm that left ghostly light-trails. It reminded Jack of the time he’d tried to out-stare the sun.

“Why do you do this, Jack Satan?” It said. I noticed that the dainty feet hovered a couple inches above the ground, unwilling to tread the same earth as the rest of us. “Why do you hurt her?”

“I’m going to bring her back. I always bring her back. I love her.” I said.

“Your love is pain, Jack. How many times has it been? How many times have you hit her too hard? How many times has she not even been able to run away before you ply your filthy magics on her? Let her go, Jack. Let her go home.”

“You,” I leveled the knife at her. “Don’t get to talk to me about how I treat my fucking wife. I always take care of her. Always make it up to her.”

“Yes,” the burning creature said, wisps came off its skin as the heat in the room grew, burning away. I heard the air conditioning kick in. “Your gifts. Artifacts, powers, knowledge. Never enough to equal yours, of course. Oh, and larger breasts. Were those for her or for yourself?”

“She liked them.”

“I’m sure,” it said, and the sword grew brighter. A wave of hot, dry air hit me, like I was staring into an oven, but I didn’t turn away. “Yet every time…every time she runs away. Turns her gifts against you. Finds some one to try and protect her. A lover. A demon. An elemental. Will you keep at this until one day she succeeds?”

“That’s not going to happen.” I said. “This is just a game we play. She knows it makes me jealous. She knows what she does hurts me. The things she says. She just wants a reaction. She wants me to show her that I care.”

“You are a broken thing, Jack Satan. Let her go, and perhaps you too can heal.”

“Piss off, clip-wing.” I said. The insult hung in the air, and I tightened my grip on the knife, wishing I had my gun. But the fire dimmed and died, and blinking back the afterimages of its blazing sword I knew it had retreated with the grace intrinsic to its kind.

Calling Abba back took time. There was a lot of work to be done, even if her spirit hadn’t flown far. The jaw was a tricky bit, all those teeth going everywhere—she’d always had trouble with her teeth, they didn’t heal like tissue did. Maybe it was time for some dental implants. I played around with the old scars too—rougher work, before I’d really got my hand in at it. Soon enough, she’d be up and about again, and wouldn’t remember a thing. I’d just tell her she had one of her episodes, like the last time, and the time before that.


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