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My regularly scheduled post:
Behold my inability to offer you flash fiction whilst in the midst of migraine. The drugs are onboard and I should be okay eventually. But deadlines wait for no head-splitter. So an excerpt of a fiery scene it is. This is from Damned If He Does. Our hero has attempted to seduce the heroine to no effect. Since he's an incubus, this is not expected. So he reports to his boss for advice. Only that doesn't go exactly as planned.
“Incubus,” Ole Scratch said when the elevator door opened. He didn’t bother to look up from whatever he was working on. “You’re here off schedule.”
Darsorin approached the desk. “Yes. I’m a little confounded.”
Satan glanced up at that, though he continued writing, his pencil shrieking against the paper.
It set Dar’s teeth on edge.
“You’re empty-handed. Even after the power I fed you.”
Nearly burst him with, Dar corrected. Not that he’d ever admit that aloud. “She’s asexual.”
“An ace?” Satan’s gaze returned to his work. “Fine. You’ve wasted enough time on that one. Leave her.”
The pencil stopped. Ole Scratch lifted his bottomless, soot-black gaze to Darsorin’s. Scorching heat licked his skin. Gritting his teeth, he forced himself to go on meeting the twin pits of endless evil.
“What did you say to me, unwise little demon?”
“I’ve upheld my part of the bargain several times a night all over the world for the past . . .”
“And you will go on doing so for all of eternity, Hugh McClellan,” the Devil noted in a flat, soft voice.
Dread shivered up his spine at hearing his true name on the Devil’s tongue.
“Or do you grow weary of your enviable task? You seduce countless women, something you embraced with relish in life.”
No match for that jab, he closed his eyes. “And sacrificed that life to it.”
Ole Scratch chuckled. Screams of tortured souls echoed behind the sound. “You were judged and damned. It wouldn’t be punishment if it didn’t pinch, now would it? You understand your options.”
“I haven’t been Hugh McClellan since the day I died. You made certain of it.”
“And yet it is your true name and still holds your soul in thrall. So hear me. Leave her or seduce her and bring me the curative power of her sexual energy. Your soul hangs in the balance. If you’ve lost your taste for a job in the afterlife that takes advantage of the proclivities you displayed in life, I am certain I can find some other situation for you. Perhaps you’d prefer to spend eternity the way murderers do.”
He tried to suppress a shudder. Failed. Heaven provided special dispensation to Satan for the punishment of murderers. Souls damned for killing someone – anyone – stood in for innocent murder victims time after time. The innocent souls still died, something neither Heaven nor Hell could prevent because of the freewill clause in the human/Divine contract, but the innocent could be spared pain and horror by trading in a damned soul to take the brunt. The punishment was reserved for the most violent, and insanely painful circumstances. Devilish, effective comeuppance. Dar had never had the courage to ask what Ole Scratch got out of that bargain. That Satan did was certain.
Dar swallowed hard and opened his eyes. “Understood.”
His boss’s eyes narrowed as he studied Darsorin. “What is it about this one? You’ve imagined yourself infatuated many times before now. How is this one different?”
“She has no expectation,” he said. “I’m not a means to an end.”
Ole Scratch snorted and sat back in his chair. “You imagine she values you for you? When she has no idea who and what you are? Son. You’re thinking with the wrong head.”
“It’s not like I have a heart to break,” he snapped.
“Or to give. Remember that. Don’t imagine you’re falling for her. You weren’t capable of it in life and you are not capable of it now. Make your choices going forward very, very carefully.”
Demotion hung unspoken in the air between them. Darsorin blew out a sharp breath. “I’ll let it go for a few days. Give her time to cool off. She ordered me to leave her alone.”
“Why would she do that, Incubus?”
“She caught me out. Recognized me in waking life.”
“You were staking her out?”
“Looking for a way to break her open,” Darsorin said, nodding. “She confronted me.”
Satan shrugged. “Not the first time it’s happened. It won’t be the last.”
“Though usually, it leads to a waking sexual encounter,” Dar said. “This did not.”
“What did it lead to?”
Darsorin shrugged. “I made her a deal. I’d leave her alone if she’d have breakfast with me and tell me why nothing I did worked on her.”
Ole Scratch sat bolt upright, his eyes wide. “You did WHAT?”
The floor trembled.
“You. Made. A. Deal.” Satan bit out the words as he rose, his fists planted on his desk. “YOU MADE A DEAL? Show me. NOW.”
“You struck a bargain with her.” The Devil snarled. Darkness swallowed the sunshine outside. Thunder rumbled. “You swore an oath to leave her alone. To vanish from her life.”
“With no intention . . .”
“Any bargain you strike with an innocent is made in MY name! Think you that I’ll be forsworn by the likes of you? Over her? When I again do battle with the Divine, it will be on my terms and in my time. You gave your word, demon. You will keep it.”
Satan flung a gesture at him.
Fire erupted around him, slamming him to the melting carpet, consuming him. His skin bubbled and crisped, cracking. The scream ripped from his blistering lips came out a hoarse, parched croak. He became pain and smoke.
A distant shrill rattled his charring skull.
The flames winked out of existence.
Darsorin, trapped in a body that Satan couldn’t kill, lay shuddering on the carpet that he’d become a part of. The fibers had melted into his charred skin.
The Devil uttered a guttural, ugly word not meant for human ears. It resonated through the tortured flesh and bones of Darsorin, all the way to the damned soul of Hugh McClellan, which Satan held in thrall.
Reality opened beneath him and he fell.
He moaned a protest before he plunged straight into the soul crushing gray stones of his penitent's cell and into a sadist’s lash.