Et voila! Hell and Styx #11!
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Hell and Styx #11: Lucky
“Well, you’re everything I imagined,” Hell said.
Heaven laughed. “I know, right?”
“As in, you look like a complete, arrogant, too-good-for-the-rest-of-us jackass. Which is, you know, the impression I’ve always gotten from you, when I tried to imagine what kind of bastard would leave Styx and I alone in purgatory while you enjoy your blissfully rewarding existence.”
“You don’t pull any punches, do you?”
“Would’ve thought I’d already demonstrated that.”
Heaven winced at the fresh reminder of the kick his crotch had just received, but he covered it up with more bluster. “And would you like to hear my first impression of you?”
Hell turned her back on him, casually strolling out of the room. “Nope.”
At the staircase, Hell shouted, “Styx!” and then leaned against the hallway wall, tapping her foot impatiently.
A full minute later, Styx appeared in the staircase. “Yeah?” he asked.
“There’s a thing.”
(Neither of them knew how often this phrase would slip into their vernacular in the coming years, or how much dread it would come to inspire.)
It was at that moment that Heaven followed Hell out of her room, pompous smirk reaffixed, to say, “A sassy little girl trying to hide up her dependency on the people around her with self-imposed loneliness in the name of being ‘strong’.”
Styx gaped at Heaven. Heaven ignored him, staring straight at Hell. “That was my first impression of you.”
Styx glanced at Hell, trying to piece through the echo of a conversation, the forced plainness on her face, the charged hunger of her muscles. “Heaven, I presume?” Styx asked, extending his hand.
Heaven frowned at the quick deduction but accepted the hand shake. “Styx.”
Styx took a step closer to Hell, staying parallel with her in the hopes of conveying that they were equals, of showing the intruder that Hell was not a little girl trying to be strong but a strong girl wishing to be little again. From Heaven’s smirk, he didn’t get it.
“And now your protector has shown up. No need to fight dirty anymore.”
Hell wanted nothing more than to spring forward and point out to him that she wasn’t fighting dirty, she was fighting with some of the most specialized forms of martial arts from history.
But he wanted a reaction, so it was exactly what she wouldn’t give him.
If Hell was anything more than she was violent, it was stubborn. “Dirty is what the losing side calls any fight.”
Styx gave Hell a playful frown. “Did you kick him in the crotch?”
“You know me so well.” The two shared a mischievous smile and swayed toward each other, tapping shoulders in a practiced gesture of friendship.
Heaven stared between the two of them like a toddler trying to stay calm after a parent stole away a toy.
Hell turned to Styx. “How bad is it down there?”
“Crowded. You should probably get back.,” he replied with a sympathetic shrug. “I was just about to come get you.”
“Yeah.” Hell gave Heaven a distracted half-wave and disappeared down the staircase.
Styx wordlessly followed, eager to see how Heaven would react to the only two people in the universe who didn’t care to get to know him.
* * *
Purgatory had a sick, evil feeling when Hell returned to it. She took a deep breath of the toxic air, centering herself.
Then she did her job.
It was a day of horrible people and horrible deaths. Hell grabbed, shoved, kicked, elbowed, headbutted, and forced souls into her personal domain, taking out her frustration with Heaven on the dead. The blackness of the souls leeched into her, but she ignored it, pushing through the crowds to find the next soul. She didn’t let herself stop and think. She worked until only Styx’s souls remained, and even then she stayed in purgatory, leaning against the wall, trying to catch her breath.
Then she went upstairs, waving goodbye to Styx as she left purgatory, to go to her room, praying that Heaven was gone with a passion almost approaching religion.
Heaven was waiting for her in her room, grinning. “It’s wonderful, isn’t it?”
Hell started, then cursed herself for showing weakness. “What is?” she growled.
“Our work. It’s so fulfilling. So spiritual.”
Hell gaped at Heaven. “Our work? There is no our work. There’s my work and there’s your ‘work’ and they aren’t even sort of in the same universe.”
“We both take souls.”
“Is that right? Then how come you’re never around here?”
“I prefer to work on Earth.”
“And that works cuz you sort, like, twenty souls a year. I just sorted a hundred souls in a few hours.” The great disparity between the number of good people in the world and the number of bad was something the keeper of angels didn’t seem to dwell on.
“I guess you got the better end of the bargain.” A hint of jealousy burned in the corner of his eyes.
Of course. If evil souls felt like tar and blackness, then good souls had to feel like light and joy, Hell realized. Souls were a grayscale and Hell, Styx, and Heaven were assigned different portions of the gradient.
And then she realized another thing:
Heaven hadn’t figured out her side of it.
“You clueless bastard,” Hell snarled, grabbing his wrist and yanking him down the stairs, into the confines of purgatory. She scanned the crowd for the blackest soul, focusing on the minute buzzes of grayness or blackness each soul emitted.
Minutes ago, there were none. Already there were a dozen of rank, dark auras oozing out of souls. Hell selected a hefty, glaring, muscled guy in the corner. Her highly trained skin could feel his blackness from yards away. She dragged Heaven over, careful to accidentally tighten her grip on his wrist to a painful extent.
They stopped a few feet from the man. Hell pegged him as a hired goon, probably a security guard with a vague and morally flexible job description. By no means the worst soul she would come into contact with in her life, let alone in a given day. Hell dropped Heaven’s hand and turned to face him. “You think I’m lucky?”
Heaven rubbed the blood back into his hand. “Yes.”
“Try taking his soul,” Hell dared.
Heaven gave the guy a once-over. “He’s yours.”
“I know that. But if I’m so damn lucky, try taking him, just for kicks. Get a taste of my daily life.”
“That’s pointless. You know purgatory won’t let me take him.”
“Just touch the bastard’s soul.” Hell feigned a lunge, making Heaven flinch.
Heaven straightened his tie, pushed up his shirtsleeves a few inches, and grabbed the man’s hand.
Hell leapt forward, latching her hands around both of the men’s wrists, keeping them together.
The effect was immediate. Heaven shuddered and convulsed, his face pinching with disgust. The longer he held on, the less strength he had, until he wasn’t fighting the contact, just whimpering and moaning.
Satisfied, Hell dropped her hands. Heaven stumbled backwards, gagging, shaking his hand as if he could get the residue off.
Hell smirked. It was never that easy.
Then she manhandled the guy into through a portal, a maneuver that required what Heaven would deem ‘fighting dirty.’
Heaven was still dry heaving when she was finished.
“Yeah. I’m incredibly lucky.”