Updated: Aug 30
Lucifer sat; head in his hands, inconsolably perplexed.
"I think you might just be the stupidest man I've ever met." His words were more of a cry for help than an insult, the look in his black un-pupiled eyes made that perfectly clear. A bored pleasantness oozed from the homeless man who sat beside him at the bar; his eyes were perfectly fixed on the top of Lucifer's head, and were filled with patronizing understanding. It was as though the soft rock music playing from the old light-up jukebox was just birds outside a window, which he listened to meditatively. Not even the intellectually pained groans of the devil himself shook his seemingly unbreachable simplicity.
"I still don't fully understand-you keep saying you're the devil himself...but you don't seem like a bad guy." This summoned another groan from Lucifer's throat.
"I'm not just some 'guy' like you said; I'm an idea, I don't even exist fully in this realm! At least when I show up to other people they're afraid of me, but this is just insulting." The Devil turned his palm to the sky, as though he were holding a cup of whiskey, and as though it was never absent at all, a glass filled with brown liquor appeared in his hand. The homeless man could smell how strong the drink was; it reminded him of how he had never really liked alcohol. Lucifer downed it in one draught, like a man trying to make himself real again, and heaved a heavy sigh.
"Look," Lucifer began "there are things that exist outside this world" he made a general motion to their surroundings "that only exist in the minds of you physically bound idiots. We exist-the big man in the sky and I that is-only in your puny monkey brains. In truth, we're all the same thing but YOU," he pointed at the homeless man accusingly, almost touching his ragged brown vest "insist that we're not. You make the lives of ideas very difficult."
As though it had always been there, another glass of whiskey brought itself into being on the counter. Lucifer clutched it and sipped casually, trying to regain his composure. The homeless man pondered for a few long seconds, carefully piecing his words together before he said them. Scratching his salt and pepper grey hair, he tried as hard as he could to process his own thoughts. He had always had trouble expressing himself; in school he could write better than anyone else, but as he aged he lost his talents for the sake of peace. No matter what he did or where he went, that's what he treasured most: his peace. He found that art and writing and reading were the greatest disturbers of what he thought ought to be a simple life, so he simply chose to forget them; his will was always strong enough to do so. This is partly what was making Lucifer so upset, he thought. He frowned hard as he spoke, making him look much more ancient than he was. Despite being clean shaven, he still ran his hand along his face as though he had a beard. His furled brow did the talking just as much as his voice.
"But you're here, in front of me. And you can drink and eat and speak, if you were an idea, wouldn't you be...like a symbol or something? Maybe a picture or a song? Plus if you exist only in my head, why can't I change you into someone else? And how come you can make things in the world that I can touch and see? And why meet me here, at this bar?" These questions were few among the thousands that grew in the homeless man's mind. Lucifer interrupted rudely.
"Let me stop you right there, friend. First of all, you and the rest of you monkeys are very confused on what a symbol really is. You all think we're only thoughts just because you think us up, but you don't realize THAT is what makes us real. You also can change me, you just don't know how. This is just the form I thought would best suit you." Lucifer lowered his empty glass back onto the counter and straightened his black tie; it went fabulously well with the rest of his all-black suit, the homeless man thought. He looked like he could be a movie star or a famous person, one of the ones that he really admired.
"Anyways, none of that is really the point; seeing as you're a rather simple fellow and probably didn't understand it anyway." The homeless man nodded slowly in agreement, un-phased by the insult. Lucifer laced his fingers like a businessman setting a trap for an unwitting customer.
"I am here for your soul, you know. You owe it to me."
He said it so matter-of-factly that he might as well have stated the weather in passing conversation. He was after all, cunning in of itself-he knew how to get to the homeless man. Or so he thought. For the first time in the hours they had been talking together at the bar, the homeless man's air of pleasantness turned slightly more severe; his simple bliss was interrupted by the inconsistencies in the Devil's plans.
"I owe you my soul? But you don't even know my name! You just keep calling me 'homeless man' or 'monkey'. How can I owe you something if we've never even met before?"
Lucifer smiled, revealing two subtly larger canine teeth. The warm light that flowed from the bar's overhanging lights took on a playful and malicious tint in his eyes, like a cat stalking its prey hungrily.
"Well it's not really your name I'm after, it's your soul. If I needed your name I could ask just about anybody who hangs around this shack. Names are useful, but not nearly as valuable as someone's soul. Yours will fetch me a high price I imagine."
He leaned in close to the homeless man and took a long sniff, like a sommelier taking in a fine wine. He sat back in his high backed stool with a sharp exhale. It creaked slightly under his weight.
"Your soul is rank with the smell of the past, I'd recognize it anywhere. We've met alright, quite a few times in fact."
The canines disappeared behind perfectly shaped lips, and the light in his eyes calmed as he summoned a new whiskey; it made a satisfying thump as it appeared on the wooden countertop. Despite the outlandishness of his appearance and habits, no one seemed to notice him. It was only the homeless man who had decided to pull up a seat beside him, drawn in by the alluring air which hung over that section of the bar. The homeless man shrugged.
"I don't remember seeing you before, and I've forgotten most of my past. I have a strong will you know." He tapped his temple intently, as though the motion would further improve his ability to forget. Lucifer rolled his eyes to reveal they had no whites behind them.
"I'm well aware, monkey. It's the only reason I haven't taken you yet. See, there are some big things happening in the world; some changes are coming which I need your soul to bring about." Lucifer glanced upwards indicatively, hesitation creeping into his voice as he explained further. "Reality is changing fast monkey, and I am the only one still following the old ways. Seems that you can't quite change evil, no matter how much you change good." He scowled at ceiling, the disdain in his eyes piercing whatever was up there like a razor sharp blade.
"The old ways..." The homeless man trailed off. Lucifer raised a well shaped eyebrow.
"Struck a nerve, did I?"
There was a long pause. Even the Devil shifted in his seat after seeing the looming shadow on the homeless man's face, like all the light around it had been suddenly blotted out. The homeless man hated how bad memories felt, he hated feeling at all. Where his heart was supposed to be, he felt an empty cavern. He looked away, lost in some far off thought; his widened eyes made it clear that the he too remembered the old ways. As he returned his gaze back to Lucifer the light returned to his face, bringing with it one of his trademark blankly pleasant smiles.
"Not at all." The words escaped his lips like rats slipping through sewer bars. Lucifer tapped his glass uneasily. He began to wonder if he should have chosen a more blatantly intimidating form, something with horns and rows of teeth, maybe some fire too. It had been centuries since a monkey had made him second guess his plans.
"Well, I didn't mean to draw up bad memories." Lucifer gave a chuckle, trying to ease the tension.
"No worries," the homeless man replied, still as a deep and unreachable pond. "But I still don't see why it's MY soul you need, I haven't made a deal with you, or done anything wrong for that matter. Plus... if you're just a symbol, how could you claim my soul?" The homeless man, for all his simple-minded ways, was cunning.
"Well, a long time ago-when you were just a small child-I appeared to your mother." Lucifer began to weave his story, the lines between what really happened and what the Devil wanted to happen began to blur and mix; stories being after all, just what the narrator makes them out to be.
"She had got herself in some...pretty bad trouble. Right here in this bar in fact." Lucifer looked around at the other patrons, all of whom had their backs turned to the strange pair. No one's eyes dared look in the Devil's direction, save the blank holes in the homeless man's face. Not a single one knew why they didn't look that way, but all felt that they shouldn't, lest they arouse ripples in the still pond. "She was a lady of the night you see; at least before she had you. So in meeting her, I met you-in a way." This time the homeless man interrupted.
"But that was in the past, how could we have met if I didn't even exist yet?" Lucifer sighed through lighting a cigar fashionably. He carefully avoided getting ash on his suit as he took a puff before answering.
"Remember, monkey brain, I'm an idea. Time doesn't apply to me like it does to you, I knew I'd need your soul from the moment of my conception. For you, everything happens in a straight line; but for me, it's all at once. So I could see you when I met your mother."
More memories began to bubble up from the homeless man's unconscious.
"You saw me standing beside her? Here at the bar?"
Lucifer stopped mid puff, allowing the smoke to play around in his mouth.
"No, not exactly. But I knew you were there, a seed in her unconscious. Anyways, your mother had gotten in with a bad crowd. Real bad. She had nowhere to go, so they ended up pimping her out every night, upstairs in this bar. And, as happens naturally-she got pregnant. But the people she was working for didn't want to have to pay for a child or anything that came with it, so they kicked her out."
The story began to play out in the homeless man's mind, as though he was there watching the entire thing unfold in person. Once more, his face was shrouded in shadow. Lucifer continued nonetheless, risking a disturbance in the simple man's peace.
"Your mother struggled to make ends meet, of course. She would come here all the time and drink regularly. And it just so happened," An animalistically handsome smile crept onto the Devil's face "That this used to be my favourite dive bar, back in the day." He turned away from the homeless man and allowed his elegantly tall figure to stretch out, resting his elbows on the countertop.
"I, as you may know- have an incredible eye for the desperate. Those in need, are so often willing to put anything on the line for what they think they need but really just want. Your lovely mother was no different."
The air around the homeless man grew cold as Lucifer continued, he knew he had him now, and continued his story.
"Her and I...just happened to strike up a conversation. She opened up to me like one of these beer taps, and spilled the beans of her whole life. I have a tendency to make people do that." Lucifer's canines peeked out from under his cocky smile once more as he tapped the beer taps that were fixed behind the counter. "As I do, I showed a little bit of my powers-you know to get her hooked-and asked her what it was that she wanted most in the world." The tempo of his words slowed, but the smile never disappeared from his face. "She was about seven months pregnant with you at the time..."
Lucifer's voice trailed away, and the homeless man closed his eyes, drifting off immediately into a waking dream. He opened them to find himself inside the scene he was listening to. He stood next to his mother; who could have been no more than 27; across from her-still smiling with whiskey glass in hand-sat Lucifer.
"What is it that you want most in this world, Maria?" The young woman shifted her dark blue, badly fitted dress nervously, and wrapped both hands around the sides of her pregnant belly.
"Only for this baby to born once and for all, and for me to have no responsibility of having to care for it. Mr. Lucifer, I feel terrible for saying this, but I don't want this child. Yet I can't bring myself to get rid of it...could you take away this responsibility for me?" A bar patron accidentally bumped into the homeless man, but instead of making any impact passed through him like a sneeze passing through someone with allergies. The patron shivered for a moment, but continued on his way unbothered.
"Mother..." The homeless man tried to touch her hand to grab her attention, but found himself made of mist. It seemed even a will strong as his could not force itself into the past. "How could you say that?" She took no notice of him, continuing to stare imploringly at Lucifer, who's slight smile had now turned into a wolf's grin. Lucifer looked directly at the homeless man, his gaze digging a hole into the homeless man's stomach. There was no doubt that he knew he was there, watching.
"You know; Maria, sometimes in life, you can get exactly what you want."
The world blended and changed, the colours of reality spinning and weaving together like a spider's web. The meaning of Fate had disappeared, and with it any solid conception of time that remained in the homeless man's mind. When the web of the world had re-shaped itself from just energy back into reality, the homeless man found himself in a new scene. A hospital room opened up before him; all white walls and cold neon lights reflected painful light into his eyes, making him squint until they adjusted. The room had no doors or windows, and only had two people in it. One lay on her back, on a hospital bed, screaming as though a hand were squeezing her heart from the inside; the other kneeled between her open legs, arms outstretched.
"Push Maria, breathe out" The homeless man's mother continued to scream as she pushed; he wanted to look away but could not force himself to look anywhere else in the room. "And one last push, he's almost out!" A blood curdling cry filled the air as the baby was born, and all went silent as a grave for a few moments. A few moments too long, as the nurse began to urge the baby to cry. The cry of new life split the air like an axe as the homeless man awoke in the arms of the nurse; if only she knew he was there also as a man, watching it all happen. In the corner of the room, a shadow shifted, just barely noticeable-a trick of the light in the corner of the homeless man's eye. A long man in an elegant suit was standing completely still; with staring eyes filled with malice and light fixed on the homeless man. A crazed and unnatural smile broke its way into the figure's expression, like a great chasm breaking its way onto the surface of the earth. The charming man with a cigar was gone, replaced by pale skin and thin unfurled lips. His eyes were no longer a mysterious black, but white with pinholes for pupils. Two horns shaped of shadows crept their way from the top of Lucifer's head onto the wall behind him and all the way up the ceiling. With hands outstretched in victory, the homeless man began to feel something. Something he knew was coming all his life, something inside that was caged, a slimy and pale creature of the night; finally strong enough to break out of the cages that gilded the homeless man's skin. Where the empty chasm of his heart was, there grew a void, alive and all consuming, with blank pleasant eyes and salt and pepper hair. In his heart there grew a mirror, shrouded in shadow and malice-this was his will to forget, this was his will to power. And power he would have.
The creature within took hold of his limbs, hands outstretched in blind grasping, mouth gaped in insatiable hunger and horror; the homeless man was shoved aside, replaced by the shadow behind his eyes. A whisper from the side, a suggestion of the greatest subtlety and masterful song seeped its way out of Lucifer's mouth. He spoke without moving a single muscle, making no changes to his insane smile.
"Do it. You know what happened then. You know what must be done now."
Without question, the shadow behind the homeless man's eyes obeyed the suggestion, as though given permission for something it had already intended on doing. One thundering step after another, the homeless man crept his way towards the hospital bed, stopping just beside the heartwarming scene of his own mother holding him as a new babe. He stood there, still as death itself, watching blankly. He looked down at his rough and dirty hands; hands made to look hundreds of years older than they really were by years of abuse and survival. Trembling, in a trance, he slowly lowered his hands to his mother's throat. There was no going back now. With a savage thrill, he tightened his grip around his mother's warm neck, the sweat of childbirth still layering her skin; it was hard to keep her still enough to finish the deed, but with his strength of will, the deed was done.
In between gasps of last breath, and clutching at the invisible hands around her throat, Maria finally saw the man who haunted her. She stared the homeless man in the eyes, and saw only the cold. She recognized him immediately, as a mother always does; just before her last breath she gasped.
And just as the light left her eyes, Lucifer in his true form floated over, his feet hanging over the floor like a puppet being held by strings. Leaning down right to Maria's ear, he whispered the Devil's kiss.
"You see, Maria," From his kneeling position, he looked up at Judas. "There are always ways to get exactly what we want, and deals that we can make to make sure we get it." The smile never left his face as the nurse rushed to Maria's side, passing through Judas like mist. The shadow behind Judas' eyes began to recede, slinking back to its hole in his already empty heart. The emptiness was replaced now by the pain of murder. And Judas wept. He collapsed onto the cold white floor as Lucifer hung over him, watching smugly. With his head in his hands, the webs of reality began to spin once more.
Judas looked up from his huddled posture to look at his new surroundings, which felt cold and silent. The furniture was all of a medical nature, and there was equipment on nearly every surface except by those occupied by black bags, each the size of a human body. The tile was sparklingly clean, and everything was either made of steel or other easy to clean materials, the lights reflected off of all the tables in a dull and somber way. Beside one particular table stood a man in a white coat with glasses; his balding hair and worried expression gave Judas the impression that he was someone of relative specialty. Next to him stood Lucifer, now looking far more human, smoking a cigar.
"You see, it's quite the mystery!" The balding man spoke in a way as to disguise his excitement; perhaps this was how his shadow shows its face, Judas thought. "She clearly died of asphyxiation, there are even bruises on her throat to prove it. And yet, there is no possible way that it was the cause of death! There were too many witnesses, too many alibis for it to have been a nurse or doctor, plus there was no motive! But here the bruises are, for everyone to see. They're also the handprints of a man, so that rules out the nurse who delivered the child. We're very confused Mr. Lucifer..." He paused for a moment, and jumped as though he had remembered something very important.
"That's why we're so grateful that you've come in as a consultant, there's no way we could solve this on our own." Lucifer painted a somber expression onto his face, clearly hiding the gloating pleasure underneath.
"It's such a shame, you know" Lucifer stroked Maria's cold cheek with the back of his hand "She could have lived a very carefree life." At this he grinned and stared into the space where Judas was standing. The balding man frowned.
"I'm not sure what you mean Mr. Lucifer, but I suppose you would know better than I." With a practiced stroke, he zipped up Maria's body bag, and walked side by side with Lucifer down a long hallway that lead to a staircase, leaving the autopsy room empty with Judas in it. Before they turned the final corner in the hall, Judas heard Lucifer chuckle loudly.
"Tell me, my dear mortician; what is the one thing you truly want?" The words echoed through Judas' mind like a church bell, ringing in his ears so loud that he thought he might go deaf. With a desperate cry, and hot tears streaming from what was an endless river of pain, reality began to spin once more; time once again becoming nothing but the plaything of fate. He huddled on the floor like a fetus being reborn through the crucible of creation and shut his eyes, only to see the shadow within staring right back at him. Horrified, he screamed and opened his eyes to find himself back in the quiet bar, sitting across from a very calm Lucifer, slowly stroking his cigar with one hand. Puffing it matter of factly, he said with a lighthearted giggle.
"You see monkey, time is rather a marvelous plaything."
No words rose from Judas' chest. There was nothing that he could possibly say to the Devil that would give him any relief. The empty feeling in his chest that he once harbored was gone, replaced by the sense that he had completed a task he had always been intended to do, he had done a great work; all part of the Devil's plan.
"Hm yes, I suppose it's natural for you to be speechless," Lucifer reached for a peanut from a glass bowl on the counter, and ate it lackadaisically. "You did just complete you purpose after all. Who knew you had it in you?" The Devil's eyes crinkled with an ironic smile. "Well I suppose I did, but still. So what now Judas?"
At the use of his name, Judas perked up, his face now permanently surrounded by shadow. The blissful peace that once surrounded him was gone, and now his deathly stare satisfied Lucifer to no end.
"Don't you dare use my name." A low growl escaped from Judas' lips, the shadow behind his eyes slowly creeping to the forefront of his mind once again. His hands and knuckles were white from gripping the edges of his seat, his whole body set to pounce like an inhuman predator. Lucifer looked over him with interest.
"You seem more spider than man now, old friend. But now you find yourself in a rather difficult predicament. See, you are a child," Lucifer paused to pour Judas a drink from one of the beer taps "That was born out of hatred and malice. I have had my sights on your soul for some time, and now we're at the point in the timeline" he glanced at his watch in a business-like way, "where you owe your entire existence to me. You are a bit of a monster, and wouldn't have been one if it hadn't been for the fact that you are one. And the fact that you are one, you owe to me."
Judas said nothing, staring at Lucifer hungrily, and ignoring the large pint of beer which slid in his direction. Lucifer flicked his eyebrows up, and turned his body towards Judas; his cigar smoke slowly becoming a veil between the two men.
"You're nothing here, nobody." Lucifer placed a pale hand on Judas' shoulder. "But back home, where I come from." Lucifer chuckled, "You would fit in quite nicely. So what do you say? Come along quietly? Not really like you have a choice anyway."
Judas could feel that he was right, in his bones he felt that he had no choice but to obey whatever Lucifer said. The only problem was, he always had a strong will. Wordless rage shot out of Judas' expression; his eyes like cannons shot anyone who looked him in the eye immediately dead. He carried with him now, a heavy shadow, and no one wanted even to look in his direction. Lucifer looked proudly upon his creation, and ordered him abruptly.
"Stand up." Judas' limbs obeyed without question. No matter how much he resisted, the binds of the past had a tight grip on him, and he alone was too weak to resist. "Let's go home Judas, the others are waiting for you."
The two men left the bar, side by side and stood out on the street. Their shoes echoed loudly on the pavement as Judas followed Lucifer down an alleyway. It must have been early morning, since there was no one on the streets; no more souls in sight. Lucifer whistled loudly; it was a cheerful tune, one that reminded Judas of old movies he used to watch when he was younger. They came to the end of the alleyway, now swimming through the thick black of night, guided only by a cloud covered full moon. Lucifer outstretched his hand towards an empty wall, grasping a doorknob that was clearly not there. A door materialized on the wall, silently replacing the brick with red painted wood. Lucifer went to open it, but stopped suddenly. There was a tension in the air, something that for the first time since his conception, made him feel what must have been fear.
"I'm not going with you." The hairs on the back of Lucifer's neck stood up. The voice of Judas was gone, in its place stood a blood freezing figure. He always had a clear view of time, but here, now in the realm of the shadow, he was blinded. He laughed nervously.
"You're joking right? You... you have to obey me. Your soul is mine." Judas stood tall and upright, with his hands hanging defiantly by his side. He was as still as the twilight itself. The moon was behind him, shrouding his face in darkness, leaving only the outline of a no longer human shadow.
"You should have stayed away, Lucifer." The new voice spoke in barely a whisper, it pierced the silence with words like a needle weaving through wool.
"I've always had a strong will, Lucifer. There's no way that I could ever be yours." The Shadow took a lumbering step towards Lucifer. Sweat began to slowly pool on his brow.
"Stop this. Stop right now! I will end you if I have to Judas."
"Judas? Who is Judas? Judas is no more;" The Shadow took another step towards Lucifer, finally cornering its prey. "you use fear to your advantage," The figure leaned in close to Lucifer's face, the black hole where Judas' face used to be consumed all the light around it. The Shadow was now just a hair's breadth away from him. "but I, I am fear. You, are just an idea. I am much, much more than that. The Devil is nothing to an evil man, friend." Lucifer went to open the door to escape, but choked suddenly on something.
His eyes widened in fear for the first time, the black pupils within reflecting the moonlight with pain. Blood poured from where the Shadow had dug its teeth into Lucifer's neck; and it continued to chew deeper, drinking deeply from the blood of a god. Judas' body was gone, replaced by nothing but the faceless man, the figure who lurked within all this time. With hands now renewed in will and strength, the Shadow tore into the Devil's chest, rending flesh and bone like paper and cardboard. From his chest, the Shadow pulled out a black heart; it steamed in the night, hot with life as it continued to pump, despite being removed from its host. No screams could be heard from Lucifer, for he had never before felt pain. Nothing but the silence of shock and terror filled the alleyway, and the Shadow found itself at home as it feasted on Lucifer's heart.
The Shadow stood tall over Lucifer's limp body, the cavity in his chest still steaming in the cold night. The moon was the only witness to the evil of mankind, as the Shadow stepped through the door in the wall, and departed from this world into the realm of things unknown.