Chapter 2: Conversations I Tried to Avoid
~~ Relativity ~~
Thirty two years is but the blink of an eye in Hell. If you’re a denizen of Hell who has eyes that is. Some don’t. Ask me about it one day – and if I’m in really good mood I may tell you. Buying me some booze would help lubricate the process – just don’t put me near anything worth stealing afterwards.
I’m trying to reform – honest!
On Earth, however, opinion on thirty two years seems to vary. Some agree with the infernal quantification – others seem to disagree. For me, it was just an amount of time representing my confinement on the mortal plane. It was also a reminder that I needed to do something about extending my stay. Oh yes. I wasn’t quite ready to face the music just yet and I knew my lifestyle was self-destructive. One of the things I forgot to point out was that death isn’t really an option for me. It’s quite simple really – if my mortal body dies, I go straight back to Hell. And most probably that would involve meeting one of the Official Receivers.
They would be very pleased to see me. Well, they would be pleased once they realised who I was. The feeling would not be mutual however. At first there would be great confusion – for example...
Official Receiver: Greetings o’ damned one and welcome to...hang on a minute. Valefar! Is that you? How did you get here?
Official Receiver: Did you just come here from the ... mortal plane?
Official Receiver: Then how come you’ve arrived here in the... (a long pause)...Oh – you’re in so much trouble. Okay sunshine, you’re coming with me.
...It was the sort of conversation I was keen to avoid.
But extending my stay would probably require getting healthy. And getting healthy seemed like such a chore. I was looking into alternatives. There were very, very few it seemed ... None in fact! That filled me with dread. The kind of dread that breeds desperation: I needed to phone home.
~~ Ten second market research ~~
Okay - Hands up who’s thinking of ET right now.
...that’s very sad you know.
~~ Phone calls to hell: part 1 ~~
It’s a little known fact among the majority of human kind that the dominion of Hell is a lot closer that you think. In fact the best way I can describe it is to say that there really is ‘Hell on Earth’ since technically, they occupy exactly the same space. Now I don’t really want to go into the complexities of the spatial dynamics of co-existant realities ... mainly because I don’t understand it, but partly because it would take all day. Suffice to say that Hell and Earth are separated by a metaphysical tissue’s width. All it takes is a few well chosen incantations and a modicum of power and that tissue can be, quite literally, rent apart. This is to avoided at all costs – trust me on this one. What I needed was a conduit and luckily I knew one person who might be able to help me with that.
His name was Armaros, and he specialised in spells and their reversal. Like me he shouldn’t have been here. Never the less, like me he was. His superiors knew he was on Earth, and they knew he shouldn’t be, and for reasons that only they would be able to explain they didn’t care one iota. But none of this admirable indifference helped me in any way. I still had to find him and the trouble was that his last known address – “in the valleys of the Earth” – was a little ambiguous. I therefore had to resort to witchcraft. This had its own set of downsides.
~~ One I made earlier ~~
Demon summoning – the 10 things you will need:
1. Some incense – a pleasant fragrance if possible (Sandalwood is my weapon of choice)
2. One or more black or blue candles – black is best
3. A parchment prepared with the demon’s sigil (the demon you wish to summon of course)
4. A quiet place to work
5. A magic circle
6. A cushion to sit on
7. Power – oh yes! Make no mistake...this is not something everybody can do.
8. A flask of hot soup – optional (I recommend Cullen Skink – it’s my favourite)
10. ...Oh – and a permit; or licence if you will. (Which I didn’t have)
~~ Addendum ~~
Rituals performed using the above items work for Fallen Angels too – see below.
~~ Phone calls to hell: part 2 ~~
Halfway through my second cup of soup there was a shimmering in the air. This was a good sign, but not necessarily indicative of success. There were still many things that could go wrong; getting caught operating without a licence being top of the list. The real question was what the shimmering would resolve itself into. Armaros, in which case - Yay me! Or an agent of Infernal Affairs, in which case – Woe is me! I waited ... and waited. Just when I was beginning to wish I had more of item 9 the shimmering suddenly ceased. In its place stood Armaros. He didn’t look pleased and I didn’t blame him. I’d always hated being summoned.
Still – Yay me!
He looked at me in the way one might look at sewage, only with more disgust. He wasn’t going to tolerate my presence, just dispose of me. Except that he couldn’t – and he knew it. Beneath the cool façade of his beautiful, flawless face, he seethed with suppressed rage. He didn’t speak to me. He clearly felt it demeaning to do so. Instead he just seethed - it was bloody impressive I can tell you!
Finishing my soup, I screwed the cup back on to the flask. I then set it aside, careful not to place it outside the protective circle. I wasn’t that stupid – usually. With a sigh I looked up at him and readjusted my position on the cushion to make myself a little more comfortable. That was the easy bit over with, the summoning. Now I had the task of convincing him who I was and then persuading him to help me.
I opened my mouth to speak. ‘Armaros, you...’
‘Absolutely not,’ he said before I could finish. His eyes burned with murderous intent.
‘But you haven’t heard what I want yet,’ I replied, somewhat taken aback.
‘And I don’t care. I’m not helping you Valefar. You got yourself into this mess you can get yourself out of it.’ He folded his arms.
There was a moment’s pause, followed by incredulity. ‘You know who I am?’
‘Don’t sound so surprised,’ he said, scorn creasing his features. ‘What do you think’s been happening for the last thirty odd years since you stole that soul?’
I shook my head and shrugged. It wasn’t a nonchalant gesture, reeking as it did of genuine confusion. I didn’t know what had been happening. And I was glad. I’d expended a lot of effort on not knowing what was going on. To be honest, my ignorance was quite an achievement, one that I was justly proud of - or at least one that had been proud of until then. I was, however, prepared to be wrong on this matter. I just wasn’t happy about the prospect.
But something about Armaros’s demeanour suggested that unhappiness might be awaiting an introduction. It was certainly shuffling nervously around the wings of the conversation.
He began to tap his foot, clearly struggling with the dilemma of whether to illuminate me or leave me in ignorance, his expression disturbingly unaltered. I began to get the distinct impression that he wasn’t going to speak again. Opening my mouth I drew breath, only to shut it again with a snap when he suddenly unfolded his arms and reached into his jacket pocket. I flinched.
‘I haven’t got all day,’ he sighed, examining the fob watch he had removed from his pocket. ‘You’re operating without a licence...’ his eyes flicked up to meet mine, they said “stupid”, ‘...but I managed to scramble your signal before I translocated here.’ He closed the watch with a faint snap and returned it to his pocket.
‘Listen very carefully Valefar. You’re in big trouble and I have about ten minutes before they find us both.’ He took a deep breath. ‘They knew the moment you left Hell what had happened and they’re not pleased. You’ve opened up a rift in the Hall of Souls and made it possible for countless other denizens to gain access to unborn souls. In short, all Hell is breaking loose and crossing over to the mortal plane and they’re having a very hard time stopping it. At last count, over two thousand denizens have hitch-hiked over here and are currently seeking sanctuary under the protection of Dogma. Unsurprisingly your superiors are not happy about this. People are actually using your name in the same sentence as “oblivion” – and you know which oblivion I’m talking about.’
I did. I grinned apologetically. He was unimpressed by my contrition.
‘Oh grow up Valefar,’ he snapped at me. ‘And stop that stupid grinning. This is no time for levity.’
I opened my mouth to reply but a knock at the door cut me short. I turned in the direction of the sound, a flicker of irritation furrowing my fading smile. I wasn’t expecting anyone but I knew who it was. The knock had been unmistakable. It was Emma, my parole officer’s girlfriend. She had a penchant for dropping by unannounced. Normally I liked it; we’d drink a lot and then screw each other until she either had to go somewhere else or Matt rang her to see if she wanted to meet up with him. She usually didn’t, but she went anyway to maintain the illusion that she was still his girlfriend, which technically she was, though only because I insisted she keep up the pretence. To be honest I don’t think I’d enjoy the sex so much if it wasn’t for the thought that she was cheating on him to be with me. I loved the feeling that I was sticking it to him whilst I was sticking it in her. What can I say? I’m not a very nice person.
Armaros had clearly picked up on my ill concealed frustration. ‘Are you going to answer that?’ he said innocently, a deliciously evil grin curling his perfect lips. He knew that I couldn’t leave the protection of the circle without first dismissing him, it would break his bonds immediately and he’d be free to do whatever he wanted. Most probably this would be to leave somewhat unceremoniously, but it was equally probable that he would decide to beat me to a bloody pulp before he left. You could just never tell with Armaros; I liked that about him.
‘Erm,’ I mumbled, somewhat pathetically.
With his thumb and forefinger, Armaros picked an errant hair from his jacket and let it fall toward the floor. I watched, mesmerised, as it drifted slowly down, swaying gently from side to side on invisible currents. Just before it was about to hit the carpet, it drifted out slightly, making contact with the barrier surrounding Armaros and disappearing with a tiny flash and a wisp of smoke. He raised an eyebrow, clearly impressed. ‘You’re still juiced up then I see? And there was I thinking you might have lost your touch.’ Emma knocked again, this time louder. ‘Well?’ he continued.
I kept thinking about the ten minutes he’d mentioned, the clock was ticking as long as I kept him magically confirmed. ‘Excuse me,’ I said with a shrug and left the circle.
~~ That Question ~~
Emma didn’t stay long in the end. We rushed down a bottle of cheap red wine, had sex on the kitchen counter and watched about ten minutes of the most god-awful television imaginable on one of the satellite TV channels that endlessly repeat light entertainment programmes from twenty years ago and are clearly aimed at people just like me. Then she had to rush off. To be honest, it was a relief when she left. She talked animatedly almost the whole time she was there; which was starting to become a little off-putting during sex. I stopped her by putting something in her mouth.
It seems that she’s been earmarked for promotion and her company has decided to send her on a management training course in Cumbria. She was leaving on Saturday and she was very, very excited. I used to like her enthusiasm, back when we first started screwing each other. There’s something almost infectious about it and it manifests itself in many ways, and not just in the way she talks. Emma does everything enthusiastically and is probably just about the most broad-minded and compliant woman I’ve ever met. It’s these qualities that first attracted me to her.
Matt likes to introduce Emma to his ‘clients’, as he insists on referring to us. He’s not being nice, or affable, or even trying to encourage a social element in the dynamic; a way of proving to us that he is more than just our parole officer. He likes to show her off and at the same time reinforce his claim on her. She’s young and pretty and bubbly and she makes him look good. It’s important for him to know that we know he has her in his life, that she belongs to him. He’s stopped doing it so much since he introduced her to me. I wonder if he suspects something?
‘I’ll see you on Friday night if you’re free,’ she purred as she pulled on her panties. ‘But I have to leave early on Saturday morning so I won’t stay the night if that’s okay?’
I said it was, eager to get back in the bedroom and see what had happened to Armaros. I was assuming he’d left, since all my limbs were still connected to my body and Emma had not been driven screaming from my flat almost the moment I’d opened the door to greet her. But I wasn’t sure and to be honest, I feared the worst. If he was still waiting for me who knows what he might have in mind?
Emma finished dressing, kissed me on the cheek and grabbed her handbag from the coffee table. As she reached the front door she looked back over her shoulder at me. ‘Are you okay Val?’ she asked quietly. The concern in her voice would have been more convincing if I didn’t already know what was coming next. I’d been dreading this moment. ‘Only you seemed very distracted tonight. Not yourself at all.’ She curled a lock of her blonde hair around one of her fingers, her lips pursing together into a pout which I’m sure she thought was endearing. ‘Do you still love me baby?’
‘Of course I do baby,’ I said with a smile that I hoped didn’t come across as forced. ‘And when I see you on Friday I’ll prove it to you.' She giggled and blowing me a kiss, left the flat. I turned back to the bedroom door, took a deep breath and steeled myself for whatever I might find in there.