Hell and Styx #15! This story finishes the flashback begun in H+S #13 and H+S #14, and ties back into the argument in H+S #12. If you’ve missed any of these stories, you probably want to go back and read them. For an explanation of what this series of stories is, you can go to the Hell and Styx page.
Hope you enjoy! Likes and comments are always open.
Hell and Styx #15: Remembering and Forgetting
“And then, he just left!” Hell spat, finishing her account of her latest argument with Heaven.
Styx shrugged. “You’ve been trying to get him to leave.”
“But—he just left.”
Styx knew Hell wasn’t about to admit that she wanted Heaven back. Even if it was only to finish their argument, it would be too big of a concession on Hell’s part to the person she had decided to hate.
“You were doing everything you could to ruin him. You knew exactly what you were doing, pushing his buttons. And every argument before that was just gathering information so you knew exactly what subtle allusions would press his buttons. You’ve been planning this since he showed up in purgatory and that fact that it succeeded should put you to peace. But if that’s impossible for you, then I guess…you could go try to find the guy.”
“In the human world?” Hell’s nose crinkled with disgust.
Styx shrugged, knowing Hell would never go along with it. “If you want to, you know, ‘finish your argument.’”
Hell’s mouth opened, but she clamped it shut and leaned back, crossing her arms over her chest. “He’ll come back.”
Styx almost laughed at the battle between Hell’s two stubbornness: to win every argument she started, and to never give Heaven any power over her.
* * *
Heaven liked his fire escape. As random places to brood went, it was one of the nicer ones he’d found over the years.
He didn’t let himself think about the room waiting for him in purgatory, or the fact that his newfound stubbornness could cause it to vanish again.
Lilith. Right, he was remembering Lilith.
There wasn’t much left, but he couldn’t slam on the breaks. It was a year and a half ago, but time hadn’t tarnished his memories, no matter how hard he’d tried to forget.
After that second night, Heaven stopped wondering if Lilith would be there, waiting for him. She always was.
They would walk and Lilith would do most of the talking and they always danced around the truth of Heaven. But Lilith was fine with that, because she was tired of how her boring life always chased her while she was trying to escape, and she found herself talking less and less as well, because why would she relive every detail of her six-periods-a-day high school life when she was on an adventure with the least normal guy she could imagine?
She kissed him the first time when they accidentally walked to her high school. It was the last place she wanted him to see—evidence that she was human, that she was normal, that there was no reason he should bother talking to her—so she…distracted him.
Heaven didn’t mind.
Looking back in those weeks the one thing that struck Heaven was how opposite they were. Lilith needed a break from the norm, but all Heaven wanted was to be normal for once. It was a cruel irony that what Heaven loved about her, she hated about herself, and what fascinated Lilith about Heaven was what Heaven was trying to forget.
But they made each other happy. It couldn’t last, and in their lengthening silences, they both seemed to realize it.
But Heaven was close to happy, and Lilith was as well. And that was enough.
And silences could be just as powerful as conversations.
Heaven took a sip of his coffee, trying to give himself a break. He knew what was coming. He knew what was going to happen next. He’d already lived through it. Why did he have to remember it?
It was only two weeks. That was what struck Heaven, when he realized it was over, when he pulled himself back from the blackest despair he’d ever felt.
He had only had two weeks with Lilith. But it was enough.
Enough that when she wasn’t there one day, it hurt. Enough that when she wasn’t near the café the second day, Heaven couldn’t breathe. Enough that Heaven ignored the pull of a soul, that promise of pure joy, to see if Lilith would show up on the third day, or the fourth.
She didn’t, and Heaven gave in, following the pull of the dead soul.
On some basic level, he knew who was waiting for him in purgatory. But he had been able to deny it for four days.
But he had to give up the ruse when he saw her, leaning against the wall of purgatory like it was the ice cream shop’s window, wearing her skinny jeans and her high school’s sweatshirt.
Even dead, she couldn’t escape that school.
Heaven didn’t want her to see him, but she did. Of course. That was how they began, so Heaven didn’t question the universe when that was how they ended, too.
She wasn’t shocked when their eyes met. Heaven could tell. She had known. She had heard his name and known that this was coming.
Heaven forced himself to walk over to her. “Lilith.”
Of all impossible things, she smiled. “Heaven.”
He looked at his feet. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” she said.
Heaven kept his arms firmly at his sides, afraid of knowing how she died.
“I thought of a nickname for you,” she said.
Heaven forced a grin. “What is it?”
“Risk. I think the best lives benefit from it.”
Heaven felt her aura pulsing off her skin, a dead heartbeat. She was one of the good guys. She was his responsibility.
And he had a feeling he knew what had killed her.
He gently kissed her, letting her death wash through him. There was an edge, a fall, and an ending.
He was right. The danger of being tired of a safe life is that risk can kill. And Lilith had been addicted to risk.
Details of her life flickered through his mind, of the last week. There were train tracks and staircases and street lights. Every day, she pushed the limits. And every night, she saw him, what could have been her key out of normalcy, had he not been equally obsessed with being human.
She hadn’t wanted to die. She had just wanted to live.
He didn’t let the kiss end. He waited for the crack in the wall she was leaning against to open, and then he let her vanish.
Pain and loss berated the residual euphoria from her soul. Heaven felt Hell and Styx returning to the room and forced himself to leave.
Risk. That was a good name for him. No one should ever get too close.
* * *
Heaven finished his coffee. His mind reminded him of the weeks of pain, the shadow of an existence. But he was tired of remembering.
He was finally ready to forget.