I'd like to share a preview of my upcoming novella Hell is Where the Heart Is
The door flew open without so much as a knock. Oh, Home and damnation! Didn’t anyone respect privacy anymore? Vik snapped his fingers, banishing his PlayStation and Black Veil Brides posters back to the ninth level of Hell where no self-respecting upper level demon dared go. While the sixth level ruler didn’t embrace the trappings of modern humanity like heads of other levels did, lately she’d learned a new human word: slacker—and wasn’t afraid to use it. After all, any son who’d reached the ripe old age of two centuries should be out of the parental cave by now.
A flickery little fire minion hopped up onto the coffee table and bowed low. He’d better not leave any ashes or scorch marks. The maid service would have Vik’s hide. “Your Royal Highness, Prince Noorvik Metlakatla Hoonah Emmonak, Master of the Sixth Level of…”
Yeah, yeah. Yadda, yadda. Vik wafted out a puff of smoke. A minion didn’t deserve a full-flame snort, and what the Home had Mother been thinking to hang a guy with so many barely-pronounceable names? Writing his name and phone number on matchboxes at bars gave his quarry too much time to get away.
“Can you call me Vik like everyone else?”
“But sire, I’m on official business, summoning you to a private audience with Her Supreme Highness, the Most Glorious Sovereign of the Sixth Level of Hades, Mistress of All Things Dark and Sinister, Anaktuvuk Iliamna—”
“Mom. Go ahead, say it. She’s my mom. The Big Fucking Deal of the Sixth Level.” The only level worth inhabiting, in his mother’s eyes. Lower levels fell to chaos and ignorance, and the denizens of the upper levels grew too snooty to tolerate. She carefully guarded her turf from outside influences. Big Fucking Deal, indeed.
The fire minion shaded from red to blue, his edges tinged with white. He dropped his already hissing voice to a lower susurrus. “Don’t let her hear you say that…”
Vik emitted another sigh, offering up a touch of flame through his nostrils. Pompous ass of a minion. Why couldn’t Mother simply install intercoms or hand out cell phones? Sometimes the temperatures reached a bit on the high side on the sixth level, but surely someone could figure out how to make a cell phone work in the netherworld. Oh yeah. Her Royal Badness was the biggest technology snob ever. With single-minded determination she kept her people in the Dark Ages, where men were men, demons were demons, and Grand Theft Auto were three words that had yet to be used together.
Ah, no use crying over old times. Old times. Hah! Back before the rulers of levels five and six had some kind of falling out, declared a silent war on each other, and sealed the passageways between the two domains. What glorious times Vik once had, entertaining himself on the fifth level. There was this one young prince named Diomede…He and Vik had gotten up to a lot of mischief behind the brimstone pile.
Yes, those were the days, spent with a handsome young demon prince with blue skin, yellow eyes, and an endless fascination for Vik’s body. Whatever happened to Prince Diomede? Diomede. Heh. Vik had certainly yelled his name enough in the past.
For fifty years or so Vik had tested the wards between the levels. The resulting scorch marks served as visible reminders of his failed attempts. Whoever sealed the doors didn’t mean for them to be breached.
Sigh. Diomede. Vik’s very own “Big Blue.” Where was he now? Did he ever think of Vik, or had he moved on, like Vik tried to do, burying himself in video games and the occasional hookup?
The messenger cleared what passed for a throat on a fire minion. Oh, yeah. Not alone. Vik stopped his hand midway up his thigh where it seemed to have wandered on its own while he’d recalled his exploits from years gone by. He’d save those memories for later and some privacy.
“So what brings you down here?”
The minion sucked in air, his little chest heaving. “As I was saying, The Mistress of All Things Dark and Sinister cordially requests your presence.”
“In other words, she screamed, ‘Get my slacker son’s ass down here—now!’”
The minion’s flames shaded to green. “Something to that effect.”
Ah, Home. No hope for it now. When the BFD called, Vik came trotting. He passed by a mirror on his way out the door for a fang and zipper check, and added a bit more eyeliner to highlight his glowing golden eyes. Maybe the sexy new lieutenant would be in attendance tonight. Vik would love to get his mitts on Lt. Sex-on-Legs. That is, as long as his mother didn’t find out.
Two centuries were a long time to stay in the closet, but somehow Vik managed. Mostly because his mother, the workaholic, was too busy wreaking havoc on humankind to pry into his personal life. She had underlings for spying on her son, and they could usually be bought off with movie tickets and a day pass to the surface—another transgression to hide from Mother.
The residents of level six were an easy lot, with a voracious appetite for human vices. Vik had even dodged a scandal of epic proportions with a pack of chewing gum once, given to a very dense fire minion. Too bad it melted in the little cretin’s mouth. Gobs of greenish goo oozed from a ball of rainbow-colored flames. Took a month to clean up the mess.
“Ah-hem,” the current fire minion said. “We mustn’t keep her waiting. You know how she can be.”
Yes, Vik did. Last time he pissed her off the resulting earthquake formed a new island off the coast of Pakistan.
He closed his apartment door on the conjured image of a Manhattan high-rise, for as long as the illusion lasted. It’d take another decade or so to learn long-distance glamour maintenance, or how to maintain the façade while sleeping. One more reason to kick out his one-night stands before they actually spent the night and quite literally woke up in Hell.
From the semblance of a big city to the very real caverns of Hades: outside his front door the scent of brimstone overrode his patchouli incense and the rough stone walls were hot to the touch, hinting at his true location. He’d love to extend his glamour to the rest of the immediate area, but the re-creation of a human city would tip his mother off about his continued surface exploring. Plus, he pretty much sucked at glamour.
He followed the fire minion, taking care to step clear of the trail of live sparks the servant shed like cat fur. What did Mother want this time? Vik had been on his best behavior since his last foray to the surface, when he’d made tabloid headlines by getting caught in a photographer’s lens and ending up on the cover of a tabloid. “Demons Exist!” the headline blared. Bah. It wasn’t even a good likeness. Still, it’d cost him a huge portion of his DVD collection to arrange the cover up. Greedy little minions.
The closer they came to headquarters, the livelier the minion bounced. He hopped into a broad chamber, lit by strategically placed flames. Crystal stalagmites rose from the floor of the cavern, their inner fire cast flickering light along the wall. Her Supreme Highness, the Big Fucking Deal of the Sixth Level—although the unofficial title wasn’t used to her face—reclined on her stone throne. No way could a hunk of carved brimstone be comfortable. The gorgeous lieutenant was nowhere in sight, just two ugly bodyguards who could pass for trolls. A handful of hangers-on mingled at the far end of the chamber, bearing silent testament to his mother’s foul mood.