Through the tunnels, I swerve left and right to meet back up with my father. Just before the stairs is he, standing tall and proudly. His grin never fails to shake me off my balance. I approach him. My mind is racing and my heart feels like it has a corset tightened around it. The image of my friend laying there, completely broken and deconstructed, has traumatized me. I never thought I’d have to see her like that… But it’s for the best. She needed to understand my pain. It was a merciful blow considering she slowly shattered me over ten years versus a few days. At this point, I don’t really care whatever pain she may be feeling. It could never measure up to this infernal torment.
“I take it she didn’t take it very well.” Satan chuckles.
I wipe any strays tears away. “She understands me now.”
“Oh, son.” He takes me under his arm and holds me close. “She may never truly understand.”
I keep quiet. Honestly, I have nothing left in me. I don’t feel much of anything at this point. I’m drained. I’m confused. I’m hurt. Somehow, I still manage to climb the staircase beside my father.
“We’re going to see Nawaf and Hope again.” Says my dad. “I’ve had them brought out of their cells so you may talk to them one last time before we release them into the slavery ward.”
He talks, but it seems like the words aren’t really making a difference. No matter how hard I try to forget, I still see Liz recumbent on the ground, limp and cold… I finally got to see her at her breaking point. It makes me think… Is that what Liz saw every time she looked at me? A pathetic, broken, dead creature? Now my mind is traveling at a million miles per second. I keep thinking about the past… All those times we laughed and cried together… Was it all meant to lead up to this? Estranged in Hell?
On the next level, I see two winged monsters watching over the blue headed boy and gender confused teenager. Lucifer stops walking next to me and gestures for me to take the lead. I go ahead and halt before Nawaf and Hope standing in front of the stone wall. The gargoyles assume the position next to a few stone columns. Hope has been gagged with a blood stained cloth. On Nawaf’s face is a purple bruise.
“I guess right now you all are wondering what’s going to happen to you.” I tell them, from which they have no reaction. “You two will be placed separately. These separate labors will fit you nicely. You, Nawaf,” I nod to the boy, “will be assigned to fix everything that breaks in this realm. All machinery maintenance will be on your shoulders, and no matter how well you think you’ve wound a contraption or improved it, the machine will forever be in your care to constantly look after. The dam, the incinerators, assembly lines, and even the levers used to open some of our gates will be your responsibility for the rest of eternity.”
I look to the girl, eager to evade the pained expression of the otherwise overwhelmed boy I just spoke to. To Hope, I say, “As for you, dearest Hope, we couldn’t find any place better for you other than immortalized prostitution.”
“What the fuck does that mean?” She rolls her eyes and flips her hair with a twist of her neck.
I take a firm step forward so she has nothing else to look at but me. “It means you will be given the task to please our lonely demons. You shall be their reward for a job well done.”
“Haha!” She scoffs. “That’s more of a good thing than a bad thing, don’t you think? I’m a reward!”
I find it typical of her to think lightly of the situation, so I step back and wave my hand to the left, gesturing for the gargoyle to make off with my new slaves. Down the hallway, I watch them drag their feet. My father pats my shoulder and says to me, “doesn’t it feel great to watch your loathed enemies rightfully suffer for what they have done to you? It’s not exactly fulfilling but it means something, now, doesn’t?”
The four figures turn the corner and I search my soul for even the slightest crumb of satisfaction. I come up empty. “Sure.” I answer Satan.
We continue to walk up several levels and through hallways. I listen to the Devil ramble. “In just a few earth days, the mortal world will be completely consumed in Hellfire. You and I have that to look forward to, if watching these inferiors bathe in misery doesn’t make you feel any more than you already are.”
I seek to be honest with my dad. “I have always hated both of Liz’s little friends… So tell me, father: Why don’t I feel liberated at their damnation? I feel no more and no less than before.”
He pulls me close and pats my shoulder once again. “Unfortunately, my boy, that is the downfall of being half mortal. Though your demonic soul belongs to this realm, it experiences the desires of a human soul. You can only hope to achieve fulfillment at this point, I suppose. With the consumption rate of a demon and the expectations of a man, your spirit shall always feel as though it does not have enough.” He seems so casual and laid back as he says this.
“My soul belongs to Hell, you say?” I ask him.
“Yes, Zero.” He sighs. “The mortal being belongs to Heaven, being that God created them in his image and promised his children a place in Heaven. I made you in my image and I can promise you a place here in Hell… I can offer you a throne here in Hell. As for these slaves, I have captured them. They no longer belong to my brother, but to me. It’s things like this that make me believe my brother has not forsaken me. In a strange way, he has promised me his children… A promised well kept is a sign of gratitude and affection… But I question my deserving of appreciation and love.”
I begin to toss that word back in forth in my head, rotating it and observing it from every known angle. “Deserve.” What do I deserve? Do I deserve affection and gratitude? Am I worthy of anyone’s honest, mutual love and respect?
Up the final flight of stairs, we have entered the castle domain. There are statues and finely polished bones all around the rooms as furniture. I take a liking to the cloth carpets and shelves full of books. Paintings and photos cover the red walls. There is a window in every room, looking out to the sea of fire. Darkness frames the mountains of bones and heaps of dead bodies. Where there would be valleys, there are tubs of molten rock. The blue skies are shadowy hands, looming over the land. I take the time to approach a window and gaze out into the wasteland. Up in the black sky, I see the tear: the passageway to Earth. For a while, I just stand there, watching bodies fall from thousands of feet in the sky to the boiling hot cauldron that is my home. Watching souls reach their cruel fates does not please me, nor does it repulse me.
“This is indeed your home, my son.” My father says endearingly. “You may live here. You may eat here. Everything in this domain is yours to have and to hold for eternity. This is where you belong.” He makes off into the other room, closing the wooden door behind him.
‘Where I belong...’ These words do not comfort me. These words do not repel me. I feel particularly inhuman.
Hours go by. I’m bored of sitting in my human-leather lounge, staring at damnation. I get up and follow to where my father went. In that room, before me is an immense buffet table with every kind of meat, herb, vegetable, fruit, and frosty dessert you could ever imagine. The table stretches at about twenty feet long and ten feet wide. The legs are human femur bones. In the center of the whole set-up is a well roasted human head, stuffed with wonderfully smelling hearts. To my far left, a lovely display of fruity, cake-y delights. To my right, a plethora of salads and assorted wines. I can feel my sweet tooth speaking to me. I’ve never been one to indulge in gluttony, but today, I shall envelop my urges to succomb to sin in the sweetest barbecue sauce I have ever fancied a try.
Bite after bite, I fall deeper into a food induced daydream. I keep clean and find myself a seat, contemplating my lusts. Where I fully achieve all things slothish, greedy, and delicious, I lack something vital, and it may very well be my most wanted urge: Sex. It occurs to me that I have never had sex. Though, in my younger years, I have given my unholy offerings to both men and women, it intrigues me honestly that I have never given my remaining purity away to any female. No lover deserving of or asking of… No one to take my virginity. I guess I have always saved myself for the girl I now call my slave. Something revolts me, thinking of the six years that distance Liz and I. She is still very small and still growing. She hardly understands the importance of such things… Intimacy and purity… In my black heart, she has always deserved my love, until now, at least. I’ve imagined my essence colliding with her’s… Two spirits intertwined and too wrapped up in each other to worry about anything else. Pillows and sheets, all messy. Bodies and emotions splayed about the internal domain… It sends chills up and down my spine. Sex does not appeal to me so much as love does. Too many creatures abuse the gift that is intercourse. It is only humanity that can honor this act of indulgence. It is the upbringing and downfall of humans: our emotions. If there is one thing I adore about emotions and desire, it is the yearning to belong to someone else, body, mind, and soul. I want to be in love, but my birthright will not allow for such trivial endeavors.
A door in the middle of my vision flies open. A stranger stands in the doorway. Behind him is another stranger with a clipboard in his hands. The leader of the two sees me. He stands at least six feet tall, tan skin and short, curly black hair. He’s dolled up with all sorts of gold jewelry and an elegant, crimson cloak. “Zero?” He humors. “Is that really you?”
“Who the hell are you?” I ask, pissed.
He sarcastically imposes himself to be outraged. “I am appalled! How dare you not know who I am!”
“Watch your tone, you sideways, cock-faced weasel.” I growl. “Answer my question, or I will have your pitiful sarcasm thrown in a scalding box of torment that will make your darkest nightmares seem like princess stories, along with your repulsing flesh.”
The man speaks to me once more. “Save your breath, my brother.”
I snap, still seated. “Do not dare to call me brother, you creature.”
“But we are brothers, after all.” His voice dances like a lizard across a river. “If you’ll allow me to explain.”
“Spare me, filth.”
He calls his friend’s name and instructs him to explain his little say-so. “Leafer, my elder sibling fails to comply.”
The white, younger looking male steps forward and turns a few pages over on his clipboard. Leafer reads to me, “ten years and two weeks ago, the nine year old anti-Christ Zero Leonardo Dominus ran away on foot from the mansion of Lucifer and Ariel Dominus. In a year, Lucifer Dominus would marry another woman due to how his marriage with the deceased Ariel Nicalls Dominus was legally ended. Lucifer’s second wife was slowly killed by her husband as was Ariel, and they too had a son. His name was Caesar Dominus.”
The taller man put up his hand, meaning for Leafer to stop reading. “Does everything make sense, now?” He mocks me.
I stand and try to process all the information I just received. “You mean to tell me that you’re name is Caesar and you’re my half brother?”
He claps pathetically. “Bingo! Round of applause for the prince of Hell!”
“You’re lying.” I tell Caesar.
“Oh, but I’m not.” He runs his bedazzled fingers through his curly locks. “In fact, I plan to never lie to you… Unlike some people.”
I raise a brow. “What do you mean?”
“Father has told you a lie, brother. As he has lied to me.”
I’m convinced he’s full of it, but I choose to listen anyway.
Caesar picks up a bottle of white wine and pours it into a small glass. “Since birth I was told that I was the anti-Christ and I had no other siblings by our father. He trained me, as I’m sure he trained you. He wanted me to be powerful and cruel, as he was. I wanted to be powerful and cruel too. I did everything I could to please dad, but alas, I seemed to be completely devoid of any abilities. No object manipulation, no combustion, no mind control… Nothing. You and I Zero,” he says, taking a sip from his glass. “We are close to nothing alike. I have no privileges or strengths. I am just as important to our father as your pretty little girlfriend is to him. I’m favored by him. I have all the drawbacks of being part demon but no attributes. Nothing to flaunt around like a show pony, like you. You are and always have been father’s favorite, but yet, he failed to tell you about your one and only brother. He failed to admit to you that he gave up on you the moment you gave up on him. He tried to replace you, Zero.”
“No.” I try to fight his words.
“It wasn’t until he realized he had failed to create the second anti-Christ that he came clean to me with the truth. I was angry beyond imagination, but because he offered me a place in Hell, I forgave him. He doesn’t make me work, because I have vowed to keep our little secret a secret. I don’t keep promises to those who lie to me, so here I am. Spreading our little secret around like a rumor in high school. By now he knows I’ve betrayed him, but it doesn’t matter.” He finishes his drink and places the glass back on the table. “If he sends me into slavery I’ll just rebel against him, which will hinder his overruling of Earth. Any form of defiance against Satan will damage his hold on this realm. Father appears to be strong, but in actuality, is just as weak as either you or I.”
I don’t respond. I simply remain here in my spot, staring at the floor. I’m just absorbing the truth and trying to come to amends with it.
“Father is fragile, dear brother. For that reason, I know my place is in Heaven. After all, I am more human than I am demonic. I don’t belong here, Zero. But you do, and you shall always… Whether you like it or not.” He concludes and begins to walk out the way he came.
“Is that a promise, my brother?” I call out to him.
He halts in the doorway, turns to me, and says to me in a forlorn voice. “Oh, brother… I don’t make promises to devils. As father said, promises are signs of affection and appreciation. A promise kept is a commitment to those you love… And I do not love you, brother. I hate you quite a bit. I will never love you, no matter how different or similar we are from each other.”
Caesar, my half brother, leaves with his secretary and closes the door behind him.
I’m right back to square one. Confused and torn between two halves of myself. I now have questions about my father’s truthfulness to me. On one hand I have a not-so beautiful reality where I am the prince of all things terrible. On the other hand, I was given up on and attempted to be replaced, but instead I was returned to. Though I still bask in my rights, it has now become that more unbearable to accept, regardless if I am being lied to or not. I start to boil. These privileges will never be without a cost. My humanity is my anchor. I cannot be changed, though I can be moved. These realities sway me. I enter the next room and I’m brought to what looks like a cross between a watch tower and a balcony. I’m eager for answers. Eager to feel something to make me act. I want to be driven to make a rational or irrational decision. My iconic disposition has forsaken me.
I’m wanting to feel anything. Even guilt. Out on the balcony, I spy my slaves. They crawl along the burning ground like ants. Left, in the distance, I see the dam. It flows with lava. The glowing liquid pours out in rations across the land, being sure not to disrupt whatever order and peace there is. I’m empty. I’m desperate for input, and I refuse to settle for leniency. I reach for the dam and slowly clasp my fingers together, balling into a fist. I dig my nails into my palms like I usually do in these acts. I feel slight satisfaction when I see a mighty break in the tall obsidian dam. I can hear the sound of its downfall echo through the land. I pull my fist towards me violently. The magma surfaces from the dam, flooding outwards and towards the slaves. Like a rebellious ocean of fire, it simply destroys everything.The barrier is shattered. Humans and demons and gargoyles alike scream and cry and writhe in agony. The lava even begins flowing into the dungeons, where my old friend sulks in regret. I am the cause of chaos and Hell intertwining, and still… I feel nothing.