Why? Why not. And if you like it, you might go to Amazon and buy it (and leave me a review, pretty please), or if you have Kindle Unlimited, the whole thing is FREE. viewBook.at/Amazon-KimberleyCooper-DeathDemon
So anyway, here it is. Beware of the odd bit of swearing and some mild horror. I’m happy to have any constructive criticism either on the blog or via direct message on Twitter @kimcooper63_kim . Thanks for your time.
Twenty years ago …
The pains were coming quickly now. Peithi knew that meant the birth was imminent. Something else she knew was that she had to get away from Hell, away from Borrass, the abusive male Death Demon who was the father of her child. She didn’t know what she’d been thinking of, sticking around after she got pregnant. It wasn’t like Death Demons played happy families.
He had caught her eye while she was Topside. Like her, he’d come through the portal from Hell soon after it was opened, just to have a look. He was taller than she was but had the look that all Death Demons shared; dark navy hair, pale cerulean blue eyes. And she enjoyed the attention, until she realized just what a pain he was.
She didn’t regret going to Earth though. Those early months in a different realm were heady; so much mayhem, so little time. And Earth was so innocent compared to Hell, it was almost a shame to spoil it.
And after they went back to Hell and she found the unthinkable had happened? Pregnant and more scared of Borrass each day. So as her time approached, she made quiet plans to leave for good.
And that time had now come. Peithi pushed through the curtain that separated Hell from Limbo, the first step on the journey between the realms. What felt like eons later, the portal deposited her in the dark, in a city where noise and light assaulted her senses and confused her mind. Impelled by the urgency of the contractions, she managed a few steps into the relative quiet and privacy of an alley, the dirt and squalor irrelevant to her main need; to birth her child and get away. She couldn’t keep the baby, couldn’t be encumbered.
She stopped as another contraction took hold, the rhythmic squeezing leaving her weak and shaky. Minutes passed then hours. Pain and more pain until finally it was over, leaving her with a perfect baby girl that she couldn’t keep. She wrapped the baby in a jacket and scribbled the name she’d chosen on a piece of paper, tucking it into the pocket. Placing a light kiss on the baby’s forehead, and breathing in her exquisite sweet smell for the first and last time, she placed her carefully outside the delivery door of Arnie’s restaurant, and rang the service doorbell.
She couldn’t stay here. Borrass would find them and it would not end well. Peithi glanced back once at the swaddled bundle on the doorstep, and stepped into the shadows. By the time a man dressed in white came to the door, she was already walking away.
Chapter 1 Introducing Zcoff
“Zcoffie, put that book away! It’s dinner time.”
Zcoff looked up to see a lesser demon still struggling, in his mother’s hand. It was about three feet long, red, scrawny. Not much meat on it. Meenou demons preferred their meals warm, if not positively alive. The demon gave a squeak as Zcoff’s mother twisted its neck and laid it on the table, quiet now and floppy.
Zcoff picked up the meat, stripped off the head and limbs and swallowed the torso.
His younger brother Zteal frowned at him then picked up the leftovers and ate them. “How come I always get the stringy bits?”
Zcoff shrugged. “Eldest privileges.”
Zteal bared his teeth at Zcoff, the scissor movement noisy in the small space of the kitchen.
Their mother slapped her rocklike hands down on the table, the warning obvious in her body language. “If you’re going to squabble, you can both go outside.”
Zcoff and Zteal exchanged a look and spoke up in chorus. “Sorry, Mom.”
“Don’t make me tell you again.”
Zteal bared his teeth and grumbling, headed off to whatever teenage Meenou demons got up to in their rooms at night. Zcoff returned to his book. He’d spent a lot of time recently thinking about the meaning of life, or contemplating his navel, as his brother would have it. There just had to be more to existence than killing and eating. Maybe John Paul Sartre had the answer.
The book couldn’t keep his attention, and he closed it with a sigh. He’d been feeling restless for months now, his dissatisfaction fuelled by tales of other demons going Topside and having a wild time. He was stuck here in Hell with no friends who could sponsor him for a trip up to Earth.
“I saw something which might interest you.” His mother pushed the newspaper under his nose. ‘Wanted. Girl Death Demon seeks Meenou for wild adventure Topside. If this is you, answer the summons by …’
Zcoff looked at his mom, who smiled encouragingly. It sounded like the ideal opportunity to get out of Hell, get the cash he would need to live Topside and find out about life. Did it have a meaning for someone like him, beyond slaughter?
Three days later, he was hired. Summoning spell now in place and just awaiting the right time, the girl Death Demon promised to release him on Earth when the job was finished, and he fully intended on finding out what life was all about, up there. It sure as hell didn’t look like he was going to find it Down Below. And once he’d been summoned and released once? That would give him free movement between the realms, and the chance to sponsor another demon to go with him. Zteal had already expressed an interest in finding out what it was like Topside.
He was surprised when the summoner appeared to collect him. She was smaller than he expected, looked fragile, like a human. If he wanted to, two bites and she’d be gone. But no. He was more than that. He could keep his Meenou traits in check while he did the job she’d employed him to do, and then when she released and paid him, he could do what he liked. He might fancy a snack then.
“Are you ready?” She cocked her head in question, and a strange thrill went through him, as though that question had echoes beyond what she’d summoned him to do.
He nodded and she held out her hand. He placed his in it, and together they stepped through the portal out of Hell.
Chapter 2 A Girl’s Gotta Do
Everyone in the office turned and stared. I guessed what they were looking at. It’s not like I waltzed into work every day holding hands with a Meenou demon.
Meenou demons; the deadliest beings known to man, woman, child, Limbo, Heaven and Hell. Cross one and expect to be picking your favorite body parts off the floor and crawling through your own blood to collect them. This one was eight foot of black obsidian; volcanic glass polished to a high shine, with eyes of molten red. Me, I was five foot three of Death Demon, slim with dark hair and pale blue eyes. Not much of a contrast there, then.
I had plans for this demon. I had a dastardly scheme to make-over my life and I needed help to do it. That was a first for me. Asking for help didn’t come naturally and I wasn’t sure it was going to go well. For the Meenou anyway.
Soper and Partners, on the 4th floor of the Cochrane Building had been where I’d headed, 9-6 five days a week, for the last twelve weeks. Yes, I had counted every minute, thank you. I’d been planning a major coup for eleven weeks and four days of that time. I very quickly discovered that toiling away for someone else wasn’t my thing. Nah, self employment suited my personality better.
Let me introduce myself. I’m Salika. Damn silly name if you ask me. It means ‘Precious’ in my mother tongue. Can’t imagine my parents named me that. Apparently my mother came Topside to give birth, dropped me at the end of the street and buggered off back to whatever dimension she fell out of. And my father … well let’s just say that there’s a whole lot of blank space where his name would be, even if I had a birth certificate. And if there’s one thing I learned from my early life? No one helps you but yourself.
So I plan on helping myself to the cash I need to become financially independent. And where better than the new branch of the Central Bank, designed by none other than Soper and Partners, Architects. Coincidence, much?
So how do I find myself here? It’s a short story. Opening the Earth – Limbo portal hadn’t been a problem. Nor had the Heaven – Limbo one. Opening the one between Hell and Limbo was. Earth’s governments had been pretty naïve, they’d allowed themselves to be lured into opening the Hell gate because the others had gone ok. Duh? You’d think the names of the realms would have given Earth a clue. But no, they were totally unprepared for what came through.
I knew how inter-realm travel worked. To leave Hell, a demon initially needed to be sponsored or summoned. But that wasn’t difficult to achieve. Once the first demon was summoned from Hell by some ignorant Topsider and returned, it could sponsor one demon, and then two demons became four, became eight … well, you get the idea. Same thing happened with angels when the Heaven gate opened, but somehow, there wasn’t the same problem. Wonder why?
Minor demons in their thousands came to Earth over the next few years, ran around causing havoc and then fucked off again. Whether they expected humans to roll over and be shafted, who knows? Some of them thrived on Earth, and some of them found that Topside was no better than Down Below and went home. But those who stayed brought their own brand of trouble. It became such a problem that Earth’s governments eventually had to do something about all the raping and pillaging. And that’s where Death Demons came in.
I’d just had my eighteenth birthday. Old enough to leave my human foster family and join up with other Death Demons to put down the demon incursion. Never one to miss an opportunity, we made ourselves available for a small … no … I remember now, it was a large fee, to crack down on the demon-related mayhem that had been spreading throughout the Earth. Although for an eighteen year old, even a large fee didn’t last long. So much to spend it on, so little self control.
And when things quieted down? This was home, I’d never known anywhere else. Anyway, it was much more interesting Topside, taking on all those necessary but nasty little jobs that humans weren’t keen on; a little light assassination or gangland slaying was always on the table. You add in a little regicide by killing a monarch or two? That could only help your resume.
And it was a nice little earner for a while. But times got hard, and then harder. Death-dealing jobs tended not to come along every day. So when the money started to run low again, and I’d gotten fed up with giving my landlord sex ’cause I couldn’t pay the rent on my apartment, I was forced to get a proper job. This one at Sopers. Suffice it to say that after only a couple of days of listening to people bleating on about cope-stones and Gothic Revival, I was prepared to kill my co-workers for free. Someone would only have had to ask.
“So Salika, how nice are you going to be to me? Nice enough that I won’t throw your skinny arse out on the street this week?” I was beginning to hate myself. That I hated Maurice, my sweaty, rent grabbing landlord who’d been threatening to evict me from my apartment for too long now, was a given.
Well, Maurice, I’m going to be so nice that I’m not going to kill you rather than let you run your greasy hands all over my body. And you will never know just how difficult that’s going to be for me.
God, this was such a bore. Ok, so Death Demons aren’t above using any of their talents to their own advantage. And mine just happen to include the type of figure that greedy landlords can’t seem to resist. Luckily. Or maybe not. The guy currently panting and moaning above me has been taking the rent out of my hide for the past six months, and I have to say, this game is getting old.
With a final groan and a wheeze, he finished, collapsing spent on the bed next to me. Not my bed. Eew no. I wasn’t letting him into my bed. No, these necessary trysts took place in his apartment, slightly shabbier than mine. If that was possible.
He lit up and blew smoke in my direction, ignoring my pointed cough.
“So Salika, have you thought about my offer?”
Oh yes, I’ve thought of nothing else. “Gonna have to pass, Maurice. Sleeping with your friends while you film it for YouTube is not gonna happen.” Yep, that was me, didn’t always know when it was wisest to keep my mouth shut. I lay there counting the seconds until I could get up and go. 3, 2, 1. That was enough.
“Gotta go, Maurice. Bye.”
I almost flew out of his apartment, keen to get in the shower and rid myself of the evidence of what I had needed to do. Shame the memory wouldn’t soap, rinse and repeat away quite so easily.
So, yeah. That’s me needing some way to get cash that doesn’t involve me selling my body or soul.
The demon squatted on the floor next to my desk, trying to look inconspicuous. Not very likely seeing as it brushed the ceiling when it stood up, was black as the inside of a miner’s hat, and had breath that would strip the meat off Arnie’s-All-You-Can-Eat-Ribs-Buffet down on Crane Street. I carefully disengaged my hand and checked that all my extremities were still there … fingers, check, thumb, check. Yep, all present and correct. It had been known for Meenou demons to excrete a flesh-dissolving poison in order to get away from their summoners. I’d been warned that it was impossible to control any creature summoned from Hell if they killed the person who conjured them. Guess I should have been a bit more cautious and worn gloves.
I turned on my computer, the box whirring and beeping while it got its thing on. While I waited, I studied the creature next to me. Not only was it tall, it was broad shouldered, man-shaped and definitely not sexless. This one was all male, and if I hadn’t known just what Meenou demons liked to do in bed, I might have taken it for a tumble between the sheets. It looked back at me through slitted eyes which burned lava-hot below brows of obsidian. It had polished its rocky outer plates until they’d reached a glassy shine, and I used it surreptitiously as a mirror. Hmm, my eyebrows needed a bit of attention.
My screen flickered into life, and I tore my gaze away from the demon and peered into the depths. Damn, I really did need to get some contact lenses. Text moved into and out of focus while I searched for what I’d found on the server a few days before. Architectural plans of the 18th Street, Manhattan branch of the Central Bank. A new branch, opening, oh, today?
Wads of cash. That’s what I wanted. No more wage slave for me, thank you very much.
I turned off my computer, beckoned to the demon and marched out of the office. Open mouths and shocked eyes followed me; I guess we made an odd-looking couple. I could have allowed the demon to take a few of them out, but I wanted it hungry for my main plan.
I’d been planning this for months. I guessed it would be a struggle to pull it off alone, so I cultivated an insider who, in return for a regular horizontal work-out session, told me of the weakness in the new bank’s security system. Plus I’d taken out a little demonic insurance via a short trip into Hell.
Hell. I snorted softly to myself. As far as I’d seen, not the screaming eternal punishment that evil humans had thought awaited them on their demise; just another realm, like Heaven, like Earth. Only the people weren’t as nice. Although I’d met some absolute bastards on Earth, come to think of it…
The demon looked enquiringly at me, and I shook my head at it. Nope, nothing I wanted to share yet. It sighed, like it was anxious to be let loose. Didn’t look like patience was one of its virtues.
Chapter 3 Who Am I?
Standing in Limbo and calling a demon from Hell was always a risky business. In theory, that summoning gave you power over them; prevented them tearing you limb from limb and leaving a sticky puddle underfoot. But it depended on the strength of the species and the individual demon. And I’d chosen to recruit one of the strongest, both in terms of will and physical strength. Why? Who knows. Perhaps I’d just wanted to make sure that we got the job done. Or maybe I’d wanted to test myself against it. Now, Death Demons aren’t your run of the mill monster, all slime, bad teeth and ick. Oh, no. I’m five foot three in my kick ass boots, with an innocent look that would fool you right up to the time that I slit your throat. We could pass for human. Up to a point.
And we had human-like emotions too. Like wondering why the fuck did my mother abandon me when I was a baby? I wasn’t even a day old when she left me on some doorstep like a parcel she couldn’t carry. To be found and fostered in a human family who had no idea what I was. Oh sure, they did all the right things, if I’d been human. Hi, John, hi, Kathy.
But I was Death Demon and we didn’t play by human rules. After one too many fights, one too many ‘accidents’ at school, they decided they couldn’t cope. Luckily by then I was nearly eighteen and it was easy enough to drop off the authorities’ radar. And then when Earth’s governments asked for help in putting down the demon incursion? It couldn’t have been timed better for me.
But a start like that had given me an unwanted legacy; a yearning to belong, and a deep fear of needing to. Can I hear you say fundamental dichotomy? Oh yeah, Death Demons can spell.
The bank was only a few stops from the office on the subway. The Meenou demon sat on the seat next to me, so tall that it could barely fit under the ceiling lights. Its polished obsidian plates winked in the light, anything reflected in it, distorted. Or maybe not. I glanced at it and saw a woman, her torso seeming to be squashed widthways so that she resembled a ball. I looked at her in real life, rather than just as a reflection. Twiggy she wasn’t.
The demon pulled a book out from somewhere (no, don’t ask, it’s enough to say it didn’t have any pockets) and started to read. I sneaked a glance. ‘Being & Nothingness’ by Jean-Paul Sartre. Hmmm, hadn’t expected that.
After a few stops and starts at various stations, we had the car to ourselves. Everyone wanting to get on at the intervening stops had hastily changed their minds when they saw us. Guess they knew about Meenou demons as well.
Getting into the bank was a cinch. I just pushed the door wide, stood aside and let the demon go in front of me. “Feed,” I ordered, and with a rush and a bellow, it strode into the foyer, aiming straight for a young woman with a baby in a stroller.
The opening day bunting fluttered gently as the demon moved, the draft of its passing dislodging a “Have a cookie – on us” sign. Maybe later.
I ambled up to the bank teller and politely asked her to give me all her money. She didn’t seem able to take her eyes off the demon and do what I wanted, so I pushed her aside and started shoveling cash into a bag that I’d brought along for the purpose. Paper of course. Go green, me.
The banking hall was full, more customers than even I expected, here to take advantage of cheap loan rates and free nibbles. I heard the screaming increase and turned to see what the demon was up to. It was working its way across the reception area, and while I stuffed my bag I glanced over a couple of times. It was crushing staff and customers alike in its massive arms, pulling off heads and sucking blood and juices from the sloppy end of the neck. Who knew how much gloop the human body could hold? Well I did of course; I was no stranger to that sort of mess.
Time for part two of my plan. I called the demon to me. Bound as it was by my spell, it had no choice but to come when I called, like a Labrador Retriever. Although I don’t ever recall a Lab being covered in so much blood and guts … except maybe … there was that time in my foster folks’ lakeside cabin, when I’d disemboweled old Mrs Cater. Just for practice. She was a messy one. Our old dog had snuck in and put his head right in the belly before I could push him away.
The demon loomed over me, its red eyes burning bright with satisfaction at the carnage it had just caused. It opened its mouth, a crimson maw of smoke and heat, and my hair was blown back by its shriek. “Release Me!”
“No chance, matey,” I said. I took a deep breath, and raised my voice too. “I Return You To Whence You Came.” The demon blinked and looked surprised. Lunging forward, it stretched an arm out towards me. But I stepped out of reach, knowing that it couldn’t get me before the spell reversed itself and returned it to Hell.
With a roar which shook the walls and made the copies of precious artwork fall off the walls, the demon became a pillar of black smoke which drove into the ground, leaving a four foot wide crater in the reinforced floor.
I peered down the hole. I could just hear the sound disappearing as the demon sped back to Hell. “But you promised to release me …” I could hear its wail, rising in pitch as it fell in volume. I snorted. So much for trusting me. Death Demons had their virtues, but sticking to their word wasn’t one of them.
When the sound was gone, I straightened up and gazed around the bank. There were a few people still alive, most of them having a least a couple of limbs left. For the rest, heads littered the floor like soccer balls looking for a good striker. I was tempted to go over and give one of them a kick, but time was a-wasting and I needed to make my escape with all that lovely cash.
But I did take the time to kneel down next to the bank’s security officer, only today transferred from the Morton Street branch. The insider I’d cultivated; I’d spent two long tedious months as his lover, creating the ideal conditions for my plan. Today, he was luckier than most; he had all four limbs intact. He cringed away from me as I picked a relatively blood-free spot on the floor and bent down to hear what he was trying to say.
“It wasn’t supposed to be like this,” he croaked. “You told me there’d be no bloodshed.”
I patted him on the cheek and told him the truth. First time for everything. “Never trust a girl Death Demon.”
I’ll give him his due, he was still trying; his voice just audible from the ruined throat. “I thought you loved me. I thought we were going to run away together.”
Fuck that. “Sorry, man. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.” I snapped his neck and left him in a heap on the floor as I strolled out the front door with a couple of million dollars in Benjamins.
Death Demons don’t do happy ever after.