Ta-dah! Hell and Styx #13, where you get to see a snippet of Heaven’s past and how he ended up as who he is today. The flashback story will take a few more posts to finish, but this one introduces the plot line.
Technically, this story is a continuation of the running Hell and Styx plot line, starting up after Hell kicks Heaven out of purgatory in H+S #12. (If you are behind on the Heaven plot line, you should go back and reread stories #9, #11, and #12. For an explanation of what this series is, go to the Hell and Styx page, found in the top right corner.)
But here’s where it gets complicated. The flashback–which is most of the story–actually takes place a year and a half ago, around the time of H+S #10. (Don’t know how I’m going to deal with this on the H+S page, but that’s my problem, not yours.)
Maybe that made things a little clearer. Or not. It might be better explained in the actual story. So I’ll shut up and you should go read it already!
Likes and comments are always open. Also, check out Hell and Styx’s new Pinterest board.
Hell and Styx #13: Lip Gloss and Pineapples
Heaven let himself vanish from purgatory, drifting back to the human world, his atoms breaking apart and then calmly reassembling themselves in front of a yellowing yard. He ran his hand through his hair and opened the gate, pacing through the dying grass to stand on the front porch.
He took a deep breath and held it, reminding himself that Hell was right. He didn’t need to breathe. No one could see him. He was fake.
He wasn’t corporal, so he couldn’t knock. So he waited.
And he remembered.
He remembered a thin girl with blonde hair with a stubborn chin and a freckled, upturned nose. He remembered the sweatshirt with her high school’s mascot and the skinny jeans.
It was a year and a half ago.
Back when his obsession with the human world was simply habit, a part of himself he had forgotten to erase when he stopped being human.
He liked being invisible. He would walk empty streets, leaving no trace, touching nothing, completely unable to screw anything up.
It was 10:00 p.m. and Heaven was walking aimlessly down residential streets, turning onto a street of shops that all closed at five, lost in his thoughts. Yesterday, he went to purgatory to sort a soul, but he knew he wouldn’t need to go back for weeks. A nagging in his mind would alert him to the next soul of his, but they were rare.
Neither Hell nor Styx had seen him. That was by design. He didn’t want the responsibility of being friends, of having to wait around for a person to die on him while they tirelessly did their individual missions.
The little girl had gone with him with no complaint. She was intrigued but not particularly scared, as were most of his dead. Her soul was blinding and clean, and Heaven caught himself lingering, not willing to release his drug of choice when he wouldn’t get another hit for weeks.
Heaven was still remembering the pure rush of joy from the girl’s soul, wishing the world had more good people, and that they’d have shorter life spans, jealous of his counterparts, with their cornucopias of dead, when he saw her. She was alone, hair blown across her face by a vanished breeze, hands in her pockets, not afraid, not lonely. Heaven paused to watch her walk toward him, taking in the beauty of her simplicity. She stopped to look in the window of an ice cream shop, pressing her face against the glass, then laughed to herself, free to be happy in the silence.
Then she turned to keep walking, and froze.
Her eyes were green.
That was Heaven’s first thought.
But his second?
They were seeing him.
* * *
The girl wedged her hands back in her pockets and strode toward him. “Hey.”
“Hey,” Heaven said, more taken aback by her beauty than the obvious fact that she could see him.
She giggled, pausing beside him, waiting for him to fall into step with her.
His mind stuck somewhere between noticing her exact shade of lip gloss—light pink—and the fact that she could see him, did the only thing it could think off. It followed her.
“Aren’t you cold?” she asked, looking at his collared shirt and dress pants.
A breeze whipped by and Heaven realized—it was cold. Like, really cold. How had he never noticed before?
He shivered and she smirked. “So…what? Just came from a wedding? Going to prom…in November?”
Heaven looked down at his choice of attire, trying to remember when he had first decided to wear it. It was so many years ago he couldn’t remember the why. “Oh, no, this is just sort of how I dress. I guess it’s—weird.”
She smiled. “Nah, I like it. More interesting that a t-shirt and jeans, definitely.”
And suddenly, the original why didn’t matter, because Heaven knew he would never not dress like this again. “Thanks.”
Heaven was watching her face as they walked, but even if he had seen the sign outside the restaurant—declaring ALL ENTRES HALF PRICE ON TUESDAYS 3:00-6:00—he wouldn’t have avoided it.
But today, he should have. Because today, he crashed into it.
The sign collapsed against itself and clattered into the ground. Heaven jerked to the right, trying not to step on it, bumping into the girl’s sweatshirt. It was soft.
He was corporal.
The girl laughed. “Did the sign offend you?”
Heaven bent down to fix it, his hands cautiously touching the surface, afraid that they would lose their sudden solidity and fall straight through the board. “No…I was just distracted.”
“That’s okay. I’m a total klutz, too. All my friends know not to buy me anything fragile for my birthday. My mom doesn’t let me drink out of anything that isn’t plastic.”
Heaven laughed, and wondered if he could eat now that he was solid.
Wait—was he human?
Did this mean his duty was over?
Nostalgia swept through him like a draft, leaving him with the bitter taste of loneliness in his mouth.
“You okay?” she asked, noticing the change in his mood.
“Just reminded of something,” Heaven said, shaking his head to get the thoughts out.
The girl frowned, then exclaimed, “Pineapples.”
Despite himself, Heaven laughed. “What?”
“It’s a thing one of my friends does. When someone is sad, she yells out the first word that comes to mind. It’s so random and funny that it usually makes the person forget what they were upset about. Did it work?”
Heaven smiled. “Yeah, I think it did.”
They turned onto the same street Heaven had come from, and the girl slowed her pace. Heaven let her, understanding her need to preserve the night.
They walked in silence, until the girl stopped in front of a lawn. Even in the dark, Heaven could tell it was lush and green.
“This is my stop,” the girl said.
It was Heaven’s turn to awkwardly put his hands in his pockets. “It looks—nice.”
It looked human, was what Heaven wanted to say. It was normal, just like this girl, and tonight.
“Are we going to see each other again?” she asked.
Heaven grinned. “I think that could be arranged.”
“Good.” She stuck out her hand to shake. “I’m Lilith.”
Heaven shook her hand before saying, “I’m Heaven.”
Lilith laughed. “Wow…that’s—really girly.”
Heaven shrugged. “I had weird parents.”
“We’re going to need to get you a nickname,” Lilith promised.
“I’ll be around.”
And Lilith let herself into her house and Heaven left, walking straight through her trashcan left out on the street.
That was his first night with her.
Now, a year and a half later, Heaven stared at the door in front of him. He wasn’t in the mood.
Not while he was remembering a different yard, and a different girl.
There were houses all across the continent, all across the world, that Heaven could visit. Where he had friendships. Where he could live.
But tonight, he knew the truth: he was never more than a ghost.
And the only person he wanted to see was already gone.