This is a short story I wrote during my second year at college. It likely shows a bit of amateurishness. I thought that amateurishness would not be a word but it turns out it is. I think it shows some potential along with the amateurishness. Anyways, here’s my attempt at being Neil Gaiman or whatever.
Naturally, Mr. B only had ten fingernails. The five on the left hand and the thumb and index nails of the right are the seven Sins. They are useful, but narrow-minded and self-absorbed. You can’t even get a word in edge-wise with Pride. The right-middle nail is my older sister, Gabriel. You may think that Gabby was an angel, but that’s just her cover story. It’s a lot easier to be evil if people think you are an angel. They’ll forgive you for anything. Then there’s my brother, War, Conquest, Pestilence, and Death. He is schizophrenic and a bit of a loose cannon.
And then, last but not least, I was made from the fingernail of the big man’s pinkie. Yeah, I’m smaller, younger, and not specialized, but I make up for it by… by… well, I haven’t figured out how I fit into everything, but I’m working on it. I can’t even handle human problems, how am I going to figure out my place in the upcoming Apocalypse?
I suppose I should explain how I look. I don’t have horns or a tail, and I’m not red and my eyes aren’t made of fire. I’m just a normal guy. That’s not me being modest. I am made to look like a combination of every guy in the US, cuz that’s where I’m stationed. My official assignment is as follows, and I quote, “Blend in, and get ready.” Thanks, Dad. Real helpful. I already blend in and I don’t have any idea how to get ready for the freaking Apocalypse. So until the Apocalypse comes, I’m trying to find a girlfriend.
Dating was so much easier before Google and Facebook and health were involved. I assume Lust and Pride played their role in that. In the middle ages, nobody knew how much danger was inherent in the whole dating process. Now you can’t even blow smoke in a girls face to tell her you’re interested.
It shouldn’t be this hard to get a girl. I don’t have any defects, I’m charming as hell, and I live in a college dorm. I get enough money from my Dad and I dress sharp. Maybe Lust cursed me. I know she can make people irresistible; perhaps she can do the opposite. That would explain my 600-year-and-counting dry spell. I’ll have to talk to her at Easter.
* * *
At first, I thought that “get ready” meant that I should make as much destruction and confusion as possible. Krakatoa was my idea, but I had to get Gabriel to actually make it happen. I also told Pestilence to try out the black plague. He got a little carried away with that one. Of course, my biggest achievement is Yoko. No, I didn’t create her, but I did tell her to put the “YES” at the top of the ladder instead of what she originally planned to put there: “Fuck Off.” I’m pretty proud of that one.
By the late 1960s, I realized that directly being involved in humanity’s demise wasn’t what I was here for. If I was here to bring the Apocalypse, I would have fucking super-powers; but I don’t, so I won’t. Besides, my instructions weren’t “get them ready” or “get it going,” they were “get ready.” I can only assume now that those instructions mean that I should get a wife or girlfriend or at the very least an acquaintance so I can have a Queen to rule with me over whatever part of creation I get after the Apocalypse.
So I am here, at State U, to find a Queen. Unfortunately, you can’t just go up to a girl and say, “Hi. I’m BJ, Prince of the Underworld. Do you want to be my Queen after the Apocalypse comes? There are fantastic benefits, and all souls you can eat!” Well, you can say that, but you aren’t likely to find a sane girl who actually goes for that. Trust me. Instead I have to act like a normal college student. Go to classes, do homework, laze about, find a Queen. I have one huge problem when it comes to meeting girls: I can’t get drunk. Or high. It’s in my DNA. I can consume as much alcohol as I possibly can fit into my body and not change a bit. Not even a little tipsy. If you didn’t already know, the easiest way – and I need the easiest way, the Apocalypse is nigh – to meet college girls is to be drunk at a party. I can’t even pretend to be drunk. I just look like a fool and sound like a British person. I asked my Dad at our weekly meetings if he did this to me on purpose, but he quickly changed the subject.
* * *
Every Wednesday, we – the family and I – have a meeting and discuss how the Apocalypse is getting along. There is also a good amount of all my siblings making fun of me. It’s great. Since there are eleven of us, we take up a good amount of space, but Dad insists that we rotate whose house we meet at. While this is fine when it’s Gluttony’s turn (great food if you can get it quick enough) or Greed’s week (he has a freaking mansion bigger than the Taj Mahal), when Sloth has to host almost nothing gets done. And ever three months or so it is my great pleasure to bring the Seven Deadly Sins (they make me say it with the capital letters, Pride says he can tell), the Four-in-one Horseman and the Devil himself into my tiny dorm room. As you might imagine, my roommate was a little frightened when ten other people appeared in my room. Not appeared as in showed up, of course. Appeared as in “out of thin air.” They don’t understand that the rest of the world isn’t used to people popping into existence, especially not in the smallest dorm room in the world. Lust immediately took Jesse, my roommate, out into the hall and told him in the way that only she can to stay out there until I came out and brought him back in.
Dad started with a roll-call. It’s not that he needed to do it – he is all-knowing – but either from centuries of keeping things on the path of the crooked and narrow or from that little bit of him that inspired beaurocrats all around the world, he insisted on the arcane act. After that, he started in his normal tone, “What’s crackin’, hot stuffs?” It was his little joke, the same since the 1600’s, but we all laughed anyways. We remembered when Sloth forgot to chuckle in 1906 and Dad set all of San Francisco on fire. Gabriel had some cleaning up to do with that one, and WarConquestPestilenceDeath did quadruple duty for weeks. Luckily he was well equipped for it.
We went over what everybody was doing for what seemed like hours. Wrath spent the week screwing over anybody with a college basketball bracket and Envy made sure that each house in L.A. was just a little bit bigger than the one to its left. WarConquestPestilenceDeath was busy in the Middle East. He couldn’t get enough of that place. When it came to be my turn to share, I told the story of the girl with the smoke and the story of the girl who threw up on me last Sunday night. I almost forgot to mention my, uh, erotic dreams about my Geology TA, but Lust took care of that little story. It’s fair to say my father was not very happy with me, for the 1,263rd week in a row. Everything in the room went dark and I swear I heard thunder outside, although the forecast was for blue skies and a slight breeze all week. “OK!” he roared, “I didn’t want to do this, but we don’t have much time left. You need a girl. I am ordering you to go to church on Sunday and woo one of the girls there. If you don’t, you are going to die like the rest of them. There will be no heaven for you, and no hell, either. I wanted this to be a surprise, but the Apocalypse is coming next Wednesday. Hell on earth will finally be a reality, and you damn well better have a Queen by then!”
The room went silent. After a few minutes Sloth broke the silence with an unhurried declaration of, “I guess that’s that, then. Meeting adjourned?” Normally either the host or Mr. B. adjourned the meetings, but I was still in shock and Dad was still heated. It seems I wasn’t going to get the time to ask Lust about that curse. I was just going to have to try my damnedest.
One by one, my brothers and sisters left poofing out of existence with a thin wisp of smoke and the faint smell of brimstone the only evidence that they were even there. Only my dad remained. He looked, no, glared, in my direction. I was sitting on my bed, the bottom of a bunk bed, and he was standing framed by the light shining through the cracks in doorway into my dark room. It was strange, how he resembled the classic angel in that light. But back-lighting will do that to anybody, I guess. Then he spoke, “I don’t want you to go on about trying to find love or a soul mate or any of that bullshit. You have tried that for a thousand years now and it hasn’t worked. I just want you to have somebody attractive to be at your side while you rule for eternity. She doesn’t need a personality or anything. Just find her.” And with that he walked out the door and slammed it shut. He could have just disappeared like a normal devil, but he needed to prove a point. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. I wasn’t going to just grab the closest bimbo and whisk her away to the underworld to meet my dad, Beelzebub. Like he said, I was going to spend eternity with this girl. I wanted somebody who would laugh at my jokes and cry at our daughter’s wedding, assuming that there are still weddings after the Apocalypse.
* * *
“Hi. I’m Chris. Would you like me to turn around so you can get a full view?” she chuckled.
She was beautiful, but not in the supermodel way. Chris’ beauty was more in her smile and her laugh. She wasn’t tall, but she also wasn’t short. Her hair was brown but also blonde and, when the light from the stained glass hit her in just the right way, I swear there was a glimmer of red. She wore glasses, but I couldn’t tell if they were for style or correction. Her clothing looked like a mixture of everything from the last fifty years. I think I also saw a sliver of frills, like from a Shakespeare play.
“Oh, sorry,” I stuttered.
“That’s ok,” she said, “I’m used to strangers ogling me in church.”
“Really?” I couldn’t tell if she was joking. Her smile was strange but wonderful.
“Of course not,” she responded with another laugh. “And you are?”
“Oh yeah. Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of wealth and taste,” I quoted in my best Mick Jagger impersonation, “My name is BJ.”
She laughed again. “Should I be afraid of you? You aren’t the devil coming to tempt me, are you?”
“Not exactly,” I said. Then we laughed.
The service was over, and we were the only ones left at coffee hour. I had spotted her when I entered the church and sat a few rows back in order to not draw her attention. She didn’t give her full attention to the non-denominational-leader-guy (his words, not mine), but looked around the church and admired the beautiful artwork hanging on the walls. When I asked her if she enjoyed the sermon, she said, “I didn’t really pay attention. God talks in many different ways.”
“So does the Devil,” I responded.
“You aren’t one of those ‘fire and brimstone’ guys, are you?” she asked, a nervous smile replacing her joking grin.
“No, it was just a joke. An unfunny one, but a joke nonetheless.” I added a weak grin on the end of the sentence, hoping to bring the glow back to her face. It worked.
“Are you doing anything later?” she asked me.
“No, but I’m not doing anything now, either. Wanna go to Hell?”
“Sure, just let me run up to my dorm to get my purse,” she took off before I could respond.
“’Kay! I’ll meet you at my car! It’s the ‘69 De Ville!” I’m pretty sure she didn’t hear the last part. That’s probably for the best.
* * *
On the way to the mall with the top down we sang along to the classic rock station. When we got there, we held hands and walked into the restaurant. Hell was the cool place to go. It had the atmosphere and food to make it the only choice for a nice post-church meal. We talked about classes and current events and told jokes and fell in love. At the end of the meal, she leaned over the table to kiss me. I leaned forwards to meet her halfway. It was at this point that my shirt dragged through the ketchup from my fries. It was directly after this point that I yelled “HOLY SHIT!” and then shortly after that that my face turned red and Chris started to laugh. Her laugh was contagious. Soon the entire place was laughing at – no, with – me. “Let’s blow this popsicle joint,” she suggested, and I happily agreed.
* * *
I invited her up to my room to meet Jesse while I changed my shirt. She came.
“I have someone for you to meet, Jesse,” I announced as I entered the door. I told Chris to stay in the hall until I gave her the signal.
“If it’s another member of your family, I can just leave. No offense, but they are strange and your sister scares me a little.”
“No,” I laughed, “but she is a girl. Meet Chris.”
She ran in and gave him a big hug. “I’ve heard so much about you!” This was a lie. I didn’t talk about Jesse at all, but she knows what to say and how to say it.
“Cool,” Jesse said. I could tell he was in shock. In the three years we were roommates, I had never brought back a girl to the room.
On the way up to the room, I had decided to tell both of them what I really was. I thought Jesse could handle it by now, and I didn’t want to lie to Chris. It was going to be quite a scene.
“I have something to tell you guys. I feel like you and I are brothers, Jesse. And Chris, I love you more than anything in this world or any other. There is something that I haven’t told anybody ever. I am the son of the Devil. The Apocalypse is coming in three days and I want you guys to help me stop it.” I waited for the laughter and snickering.
They laughed, but didn’t snicker. “We know,” they said.
I stared at them. It was like a sitcom. I went from Jesse to Chris to Jesse to Chris with my mouth open and eyes wide.
After a moment that seemed like an hour, Chris explained.
“We have been following you. Not in the stalking way, but keeping an eye on you, making sure you don’t get into too much trouble. It wasn’t easy. Even with being an angel it was hard to—”
“You’re an angel?” I asked, shocked.
“Well of course I am, who else would you fall for? Opposite attract, or so they say. The Big Man made me especially for you to fall in love with. I was created to become your Queen,” she looked to Jesse to continue.
“She’s right, dude. Sorry we couldn’t tell you,” he apologized, “but you had to trust us enough to come to us yourself or nothing would work and the Apocalypse would truly be upon us.”
My mouth was still hanging open. It wasn’t very comforting to know that the woman of my dreams was actually a warrior for the other side. And I still didn’t know what the Hell Jesse was. I gathered up enough smarts to close my mouth and ask him who he really was.
“I’m no angel, BJ.” That was good news, at least. “But I’m not on ‘your side’ either. I’m in the middle, a Keeper of the Peace, if you will. Both of your fathers agreed that there would be a middle man of sorts to make sure nobody can control the world.”
“So are you immortal, too?”
“No. Sorry.” He looked away from me to the portrait of John Lennon on the wall. “Each generation, one human is picked to hold the knowledge of all Creation, including Heaven and Hell. I was the lucky one. I will live longer than most, a good diet and exercise is the only true fountain of youth, but I won’t live forever. My only goal is to keep humans alive, by any means available to me. I know – have known for my entire life – that you, BJ, are the only creature that can bring the Apocalypse to Earth. But you are also the only person that can stop the Apocalypse from ever raining down upon us for the entirety of human existence. It all comes down to you. Do you want to reign over the earth and its evil inhabitants, or can you find it in you to save humanity?” I could tell he was finished because he looked deep into my eyes. I didn’t know how to react to all of that information that he spouted at me in the space of a minute. I suppose he was used to it, but I wasn’t. After a minute of us staring at each other, I responded.
“I don’t know. I certainly wouldn’t mind hanging around Earth and not worrying about finding a Queen or plotting to raise Hell, but I don’t know how to stop the Apocalypse from coming. I don’t even know what my dad has planned for me. I never did. I was never smart enough to figure out what he wanted; much less figure out how to stop him from getting what he wants.” I was defeated before we even began to fight.
“Don’t worry about that, BJ.” Chris moved over to my side and took my hand in hers. “If you really are on humanity’s side, we will be successful.”
“That’s comforting, Chris, but do you think we could get a little insight from the G-Man? I like to know that he is on my side, but it would be great to have any kind of clue on how to stop my dad.”
“God works in mysterious ways, BJ. He told me once that even he doesn’t know how things will happen; he just takes the credit for the good stuff and blames your pop for the bad. Not quite what you expected is it?”
“Not at all,” I said, “but this little talk turned out slightly better than I expected. At least you two aren’t running to the police to get me locked up in the psych ward.”
“Don’t get too excited,” Jesse said. “We still have to figure out how to stop the Devil from fucking over the entire human race. And, more importantly, you two have to get married.”
Chris and I stared at him. I resumed catching flies with my mouth and Chris joined me. “What?” she asked.
“Didn’t I tell you? Hmm. Must have slipped my mind. When I was born I knew that I would befriend the demon who would stop the apocalypse and that and that I would bear witness at his wedding to an angel. Once you brought Chris up here I knew she was the one who would tip the balance in favor of humanity and make an honest man, sorry, demon, out of you. I just didn’t have the authority to tell you. Sorry.”
“It’s ok. But if you ever keep information from us like that again, we will banish you to the farthest reaches of space.” I said with a serious look on my face.
“Can you do that?” He looked scared.
“That is for us to know and you to find out. Or not. It’s up to you.”
“I see.” He was still scared a bit, but I think he knew, or could at least feel, that I was lying.
“Let’s get to the church, we don’t have much time.” Chris grabbed my arm and yanked me up.
“We have until Wednesday, we don’t have to rush,” I said.
“Not anymore we don’t. Your dad bugged the room and knows that we are going to stop him. He is gathering his strength now and will be ready by tonight. Sorry I didn’t tell you before. I’m not allowed. Please don’t banish me,” Jesse pleaded.
“I’m not going to banish you. But there will be consequences.” I tried to growl and intimidate him, but it turned into a laugh instead.
“I knew you couldn’t do that to me,” he said, starting to laugh with Chris and me.
“Sure you did,” Chris said between guffaws.
“But seriously, why do Chris and I have to get married right now? Wouldn’t it make more sense to plan our attack?”
“We have to get married for your powers to become active,” Chris seemed to have gotten a handle on her laughter.
“I don’t have any powers. I can’t even light things on fire.”
“Of course you have powers. You are the son of the Devil. Just because you were made from his pinkie nail doesn’t mean that you aren’t powerful. Because you were the last of his offspring to be sprung, you have the most of him in you. That is why only you can stop him.” Chris grabbed my hand again and squeezed tight.
I pulled my best Keanu, “Whoa.”
“Yeah, tell me about it.” Jesse said. “Mind reading would have helped on those exams last year.”
“Says the man who holds all of the knowledge in the world in his head,” I retorted.
“What can I say,” he said with a big grin, “I’m a genius!”
In true action movie style I said, “Let’s do this.”
It would have been cool if we all did a high-five or fist-pound or something, but we didn’t. We just left. First the church, then a fight to the death with my Dad for humanity. You know, a typical Sunday at State U.
* * *
We arrived at the same church we had left only a few hours earlier just in time to see the “non-denominational-leader-guy” lock up the doors. We ran up to him and Chris asked in the sweetest voice I had ever heard if he could do a quick favor for us.
“What do you want?” John, the non-denominational-leader-guy, asked.
“BJ and I would like to get married. And we could use any holy water you might have lying around.”
“Marriage I can do, but it won’t be official with the government or anything.”
“That’s ok. As long as we are married in God’s eyes we have everything we need. And the holy water?” I asked.
“Sorry, fresh out,” John said.
“That’s ok, let’s just do the marriage then,” Chris responded.
“Alright then. Is this young man going to be the witness?” He indicated Jesse with a wave of his hand.
“Yeah, that’s my job,” Jesse said, a knowing smile gracing his face.
* * *
“You may kiss the bride” John finished the ceremony.
As I kissed Chris for the second time ever, I felt an energy flow between us. She wasn’t transferring any to me and I wasn’t losing any to her, but I could feel a great power course through us. She opened her eyes wide and I followed suit. We stared into each other’s souls and I knew that I had made the right choice. I could almost feel the sparks flying from our embrace.
“Uh…” Jesse must have noticed the sparks, too. He sounded worried. We pulled apart and I felt more alive than I had for the thousands of years that I had been on this planet. I didn’t have any knowledge of my powers instantly inserted into my brain or anything like that, but I knew that I had a great force within me that I knew could finally defeat my dad once and for all. I felt confident and I could see in Chris’ eyes that she felt the same.
“Thanks,” we yelled in unison as we went out the door.
Maybe John-the-non-denominational-leader-guy said “You’re welcome,” maybe he didn’t. We were instantly transported to the middle of the desert. Death Valley, if I knew my father at all.
“Welcome to Death Valley!” I heard my dad’s booming voice.
“I called it,” I muttered.
“Huh?” Chris asked.
“Nothing. Get ready for anything. Don’t believe what you see. Close your eyes and know the truth if you see something disturbing. He can’t kill anybody other than us. It’s the rules.” She grabbed my arm and I held her tighter than I ever held anything before.
“As challenger to the throne, you get to choose the method of combat,” my dad said to me.
I went through the things I was good at in my head. Tetris? No, he is too smart for that. A singing competition? No, he was too talented for that. Then I found it. The one thing that I can do that he can’t. “Let’s have a good old fashioned drinking competition. Raiders of the Lost Arc style. You can even use your special vodka. The bottle you keep deep in the bowls of hell.”
“Excellent. Fun and the Apocalypse. What more could you need?”
“It would be good for you if you remembered that I can’t get drunk, since you are my father and everything, but I guess your ego is too big to think of little stuff like that in your shining moment,” I whispered to Chris. She let out a little laugh. It was so little that it would seem like she was just hiccupping. It was at this point that I knew we won.
And we did win. I drank my father under the table. Then Gabriel sat down in his place and challenged me again. Nobody in my family knew that I was immune to alcohol, and they paid for it. After Gabriel was finished, The Four Horseman was next and went down faster than Gabby and Dad. Only Pride gave me trouble. He couldn’t handle his little brother beating him at anything. It was a sweet victory. After I slammed the last glass on the table (number 666, appropriately enough), Chris, Jesse and I came up to me and we held hands in a circle and transported back to the church steps. It was a warm, sunny day, and we walked into the future.