No matter how much he looked, Kyle still couldn’t get used to the view. The dingy sky, the heat-baked plain or the craggy obsidian mountains that shimmered and danced in the intense heat radiating out of the ground. It was a miserable sight, he often thought. And this was the nice part of Hell.
But then he glanced back over his shoulder. Ryka was sprawled out on the bed, fast asleep. His wings hung onto the floor, and his tail was twitching as he dreamed. Probably about him, Kyle realized with a smile. He was just thinking that curling up next to him would be a great idea when he caught sight of a storm brewing out near the mountains.
A swirling mass of black clouds raced across the plain. Though he could see the red flicker of lightning within the storm, the only bolt that escaped was the one that struck not three feet from where he was standing.
Flawless as always, Lucifer appeared in that very spot. “Kyle.”
Instinctively, Kyle sank to his knees and bowed his head. He risked a look in Ryka’s direction, and was immediately caught.
“Let him sleep. You had your turn; now it’s his.”
Too nervous to respond, Kyle could only nod. He knew that it had taken him a long time to fully recover after being transformed. And the whole time, Ryka had been waiting as patiently as he could by his side. Now that he was feeling better, Ryka could finally relax.
“Stand up and look at me.”
His body obeyed before his mind could register the command. He only met the Devil’s gaze briefly. Any more than a few seconds could be dangerous. Just as mortals saw their own demise when they met a demon’s eyes, immortals saw the void in the Creators’ eyes. Because the two beings that created all souls could just as easily destroy them. He had been told that pieces remained, so that those who had immortality taken from them could still suffer. And they languished in nothingness for all eternity.
“I’m the last one you should be afraid of here. I wouldn’t have wasted my time altering your soul just to destroy it. Time will never end, but I still don’t like to waste any.”
“I see,” was all Kyle could think of to say.
“Do you? Good. Now, take a walk with me. I’d like to give you some of that time, precious as it is.”
Before he could respond, he felt Lucifer’s hand on his shoulder. Gray mist swirled around them, and the ground dropped away from their feet. His head was still spinning when they landed on the plain, electricity crackling around them. “Wha-?”
Lucifer smiled gently, but Kyle was still uneasy. “Since you don’t have the advantage of having been born here, I’ve decided to let you ask as many questions as you’d like. Ryka educated you quite well, but you were a poor student. Odd thing for a teacher, too.”
“I was scared to ask,” Kyle said. “I’m even more scared now,” he admitted.
“There’s no need. This isn’t a trick. You can ask anything. I know what your first question will be, but go on, spit it out.”
“This we’ve been over. You dirtied your soul, but you did it helping me. I owed you. And besides, I would have had to listen to Ryka whine for all the rest of time if I didn’t spare you.”
Kyle allowed himself a small smile, but shook his head. “Um, actually, I meant why me in the first place?”
“Ah, that’s a much different question. Well, you know I’ve tried this experiment before. But always with humans who were already destined to be mine. And their lust for power always got the better of them. As you may have noticed, demons don’t enjoy being ordered around, and hosts in the past always failed to realize this, or care. Until the parasites tired of following orders and tried to end the contract on their own. Which always left me no choice but to intervene. So, I decided to try something different. Pair a young demon with a more neutral soul.”
“It means you could have easily gone either way.”
“But, I-” Kyle began. He felt sure that, before Ryka had come along, he hadn’t done much in the way of sinning.
“Don’t forget how easily you were tempted. And my, what a sin. You tried to be nice, and you instantly condemned yourself.”
“Was it random, though? Choosing me?”
“I had a few candidates selected. But I sent him to you first. I had a hunch.”
Kyle was sure it was much more than just a hunch, but kept quiet. Being told he could ask anything didn’t mean he was going to. Some things, he was sure he was better off not knowing.
Still, it didn’t take him long to come up with another question. “Ryka always tried to set me straight on things human had messed up about immortals, but like you said, I was a bad student. Um, I’m sure this is stupid, but do you really make deals with humans?”
“If they’re desperate enough to want to make a pact with me, there’s no doubt they’ll do something drastic and damn themselves. No dealing required. Besides, if getting involved would be to my benefit, I just send one of my children along.”
“Right.” It made sense.
They walked a little ways in silence, Kyle trying to think of what else he wanted to know. But he quickly discovered it wasn’t necessarily Hell he was concerned about. “Does my Mom know? That I’m-”
“She does. I’ve spoken with her; would you like to know what she thinks about it?”
Kyle shook his head. It bothered him that Lucifer had contacted his mother, but he was more upset knowing that his mother was aware of what he was doing. He didn’t really need to hear it. She had known he was damned, and was probably glad to see that he had managed to avoid an eternity of torture. Though he was sure she was saddened that he had become the same kind of creature that had blackened his soul to begin with.
“No, Kyle, apathy rotted your soul. Ryka just gave you the opportunity to demonstrate how little you cared.” His breath caught in his throat, and Kyle froze midstep. “Of course I know what you’re thinking. You shouldn’t be so surprised.”
The Devil strode ahead a few steps, then turned and looked over his shoulder at Kyle. “That can’t be all you want to ask. In fact, I know it isn’t. But I’m not going to let you take the easy way out, like Ryka always did. If you want to know something, you’re going to have to ask.”
Staring at the dirt, Kyle walked to catch up with Lucifer. Having settled on what would hopefully be a safer topic, he asked, “So, what will we be doing for work? I won’t have to um, do anything over there, will I?” Kyle motioned toward the distant mountains, but refused to let his gaze wander in that direction.
“No. Though there are so many of your kind who gladly would have sold me their souls to be able to hurt one another like that. Maybe I should let you torture them. Hmm.” For a few moments, Kyle was sure he’d somehow further damned himself. But then, with a grin, Lucifer continued, “Ah, but then what would poor Judas do in his spare time? No, I have something more appropriate planned for you. You may still have a lot to learn yourself, but I know you’ll pick it up quickly.”
Looking incredibly pleased with himself for making Kyle so uncomfortable, Lucifer finally revealed the task he had in mind for Kyle. “I want you to help raise the imps. Just don’t give in to them as easily as you gave in to Ryka.”
“I’ll do my best.”
“I should hope so. I didn’t save you from an eternity of suffering to watch you laze about.”
Once more, they continued on in silence while Kyle tried to think. He was only recently deceased, but it was still difficult to remember things he had learned in church, or picked up from others. And he was sure that most of it, Ryka had corrected without having to be asked. Muttering to himself, Kyle desperately searched his own memories. He didn’t want to be wasting time, not after Lucifer had made it so clear how important his was.
And from that thought came his next inquiry. “Do you really have to oversee everything yourself?”
If it had been Ryka answering, there would have been laughter and some snarky comment, but the Devil simply answered “No.”
“Who helps you, then?”
“I have a Council. You’ve heard that much.” Kyle nodded. “They’re my self-proclaimed advisors and generals. I assign them tasks, and if they wish to remain in my favor, they do them perfectly and without question. But they’re all very old demons. Some of them, like Styx, volunteered to come here with me when I left Heaven. A few more have come or been sent since, and some have gone back home as well.” At this, Lucifer looked a little sad. Kyle was sure he had been told about a Reaper that had chosen to spend the rest of his eternity in Heaven.
No matter how many times he heard about it, it was still difficult for Kyle, who had been raised in a very Christian household, to believe that Heaven and Hell peacefully coexisted. There had been no uprising, no fall from grace. Just a civil division of labor.
“How did you decide who ran Hell?”
“You’re getting the hang of this. Very good. Well, I was just more suited to the job. God can be cruel, certainly, but it’s just in my nature. He likes rewarding the just, I like meting out true justice. No bad deed unpunished, you know.”
Kyle let that sink before asking his next question. “Ryka kept mentioning some scales. Um, how does that work? Is it like in Egyptian, uh, mythology?”
“Hard to call it that now, isn’t it? It’s similar. Most religions got something right. Though only you, Judas and Christ have experienced true rebirth. Anyhow, all souls, when they leave their mortal bodies, pass the Scales of Judgment. All your good and bad deeds are weighed against each other. If it tips toward good, you’re rewarded with Heaven. Toward the bad, and you become mine.”
The silence following this answer was much longer. And for the first time, Kyle realized that only his feet were crunching across the rocky ground. Startled, he looked down. Lucifer was walking, but his feet hovered a few inches safely off the dirt. The dust stirred up by Kyle’s footfalls wafted around Lucifer’s robes, but never settled on them.
“Something wrong?” Lucifer inquired.
Focusing his gaze on the horizon, Kyle shook his head. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the Devil smirk, obviously amused at Kyle’s attempt to lie. “I thought of another one. Ryka said once that we shared my DNA. So, does this mean that humans and demons could … breed?”
“That question asks, and tells, much more than I think you wanted it to. For instance, you’re not really sure where you belong. If you were, you would have said ‘could we and humans.’ I know this is new, but ….” Kyle froze as Lucifer reached over and gently brushed one of his horns. Gasping, he sank to his knees. They were still so sensitive. “Don’t forget what you are. Now get up.”
His legs straightened themselves, and he continued forward. “To answer your question: yes. Angels, demons and humans can all interbreed. Though angels would never even consider such a thing. Half-breeds don’t last very long, anyhow. And no, you can’t breed yourselves. Not directly. Oh! Hmm.”
Kyle wanted to ask what this meant, but somehow they had walked back to the cliffs they had set out from. Squinting, he looked up at the sheer rocky face of the mountain. It hadn’t felt like they were walking in a circle.
“Home again. Well, I hope that helped. Ryka can fill you in on the rest, or you’ll learn it as you go. I’ll send you up.”
“Thanks,” Kyle said, turning around to face Lucifer. Instead, he found himself looking out over the plains again. He was on the balcony once more, and Ryka was still fast asleep on the bed. Unsure whether or not his talk with Lord Satan had provided any real benefit, Kyle started for the bed. Maybe sleep would help. He still tired easily, and talking with Lucifer had been exhausting.
Whimpering quietly, Kyle sat on the edge of the bed. He wanted to be noticed, but he still felt bad disturbing Ryka. Never waking, Ryka lifted a wing, and Kyle gratefully curled up under it. He was scared and confused, but at least he wasn’t alone.