“My Name is Chaos”; Chapter Sixteen Part Two

When I came to, I was tied to a chair. FoxFace was before me, arms crossed and a very sour look on her face. I felt groggy and sluggish.

“Feeling better?” FoxFace asked sharply, marching over to my side.

I eyed her, unable to really move my head. I was exhausted. But still, she irritated me. “No,” I mumbled. “Can I have some painkillers?”

Crack! She punched me across the face. Hard! It stung! My head snapped to the side and pain split across the side of my head.

“Really?” she asked sharply. “Does that feel better?”

I spluttered, head hanging back down. I blinked but couldn’t shake the pain. “No,” my voice cracked. My lips were dry.

“Listen to me, you little shit,” she snapped, hauling my head up by my hair. It hurt! But I was too limp to do anything about it.

For a blissful moment I almost laughed, knowing that Bella wouldn’t like me being treated in such a way. She was possessive, she would react and punish.

But she didn’t. Instead of a surge of possessive anger I felt an emptiness within myself. No more Bella.

Like a whipcrack it struck me. Bella was gone. She’d left me.

FoxFace was saying something, but I wasn’t hearing her. “Where’s Bella?” I blurted, completely interrupting her.

“What do you mean?” she snapped. I managed to focus on her burning eyes.

“Bella,” I spluttered. “Where is she?” I felt near tears. She’d abandoned me?

No smile from FoxFace. “Not here,” she snapped. “What, did you expect to find her?”

I searched her face, hoping to see some clue, something that I was missing. What had happened? I’d found the bones. I’d let Bella use me, send her magic out. She should have returned. We should be together right now. Unless… no, she wouldn’t. She cared about me. She wouldn’t just leave me behind.

Not like this.

I was snapped to by FoxFace glaring at me – and talking. It was more the tone of her voice, honestly. It was somehow sympathetic. “You found Bella. Don’t you remember what you did?”

I felt like crying. Blinking rapidly, I cast my eyes around, not really noticing what I was looking at. Anywhere but at FoxFace.

“What happened?” asked FoxFace staunchly.

I gulped. Where was Bella? She mustn’t have just abandoned me without a reason. There must have been a reason.

Shaking my head, I tried to sort my thoughts out. Focus on the now. FoxFace was standing before me, hands on her hips.

I collected myself somewhat. “I don’t remember,” I fibbed. “I just sort of – something happened. When Leo was talking and -” something clicked in my mind. “Why are you still alive?”

“What makes you think I should be dead?” she asked wryly. “If you don’t remember anything, that is.”

I balked. Stupid, stupid, me.

FoxFace smiled wryly. “If you’d stop lying, don’t you think this could go easier?”

“Really?” I snapped. “You think life gets better with honesty?” It sure as hell didn’t! I’d heard enough life stories to-

“No,” FoxFace said calmly. “I think it gets easier if you know when to make friends and when to make enemies.”

I paused. “You’re not my friend.”

She stooped to look me square in the eye. “I’m not your enemy, either. Don’t make one of me.”

“You’re not?” I sneered. “I seem to remember things differently.”

FoxFace grinned slyly. “Really?” She smirked. “If I were you, I’d rethink that statement, Chaos. You don’t want to be my enemy. Now-”

I spat in her face. On second thought, not the smartest thing to do, considering I was cuffed to the chair and still in head-splitting pain from the last punch.

FoxFace wiped her face on her sleeve. There was a rabid look to her eyes now, and I expected another punch. Instead she was just grinning. “Alright,” she hummed. “That’s the way this is. Well, that leaves me a clear conscience.”

“For what?” I snapped, all bravado and secretly wondering what the hell she had up her sleeve.

But, grin still in place, she didn’t answer. “Sweet dreams, Chaos,” was all she said as she produced another syringe from a nearby table.

“Hey! What’s that?” I fairly yelled, trying to shimmy away from the thing. It was pointless, as she poked it in me without second thought. When she drew it out, empty, my arm was tingling.

FoxFace waved at me. “Bye, bye,” she said way too happily.

Then the world grew dark. But in this darkness was pain, incredible pain. I had the distinct feeling that I was dissolving, being torn apart, and that I was traveling. Returning to the astral plane – yet I didn’t want to go there. Desperately, I wanted Bella. I knew I had to find her, help her, and be by her side.

 

I woke in a field of snow, crashing into it and the icy cold on my hands and face like a harsh bite. I floundered, struggling to my feet, blinded by light and stinging all over in residual pain as I felt myself finish putting itself back together.

For a moment all I did was flail and try to stay standing in the knee- deep snow. Then, as the pain oozed away and my eyes adjusted – I saw that I was standing exactly where Bella and I had once stood together. The view here was beautiful. The rolling fields, the farmhouses – it was all still as it had once been.

A gaping ache opened up like a wound within me. I wanted Bella like an addict wanted their fix – and for a split second I wondered whether I really wanted her, or whether it was that strange sensation of being with her that I wanted. Was it the euphoria, or love?

I shook my head, dismissing that as stupid. At this point, I figured it was probably a bit of both. No – a lot of both. I really needed Bella, and I really –

“Chaos?” a sweet voice said from beside me. I whirled, and there she was, like a mirage.

“Bella?” I grabbed her with both hands, seizing her by the shoulders. She was real! She was solid! I flung my arms around her, squeezing her in the tightest hug I could manage. She was laughing.

“Chaos? How did you get here? What are you doing?” And she pushed back, forcing me a step away from her. I didn’t care, I was filling up with her presence, feelign a strange euphoria at her presence. I just wanted to sink to my knees in the snow, as if it was the only right thing I could do in her presence.

I found myself babbling as this went through my mind. I was pawing at her hands that held me at arms’ length. “I was looking for you – they captured me – you were gone – and now you’re here – ,”

Bella chuckled. “You’re my absolute best,” she murmured, and I felt like she meant it, meant every word and meaning of it. My heart felt like it was going to explode from joy.

She finally drew me in for a slow, purposeful kiss. I wanted to cry from relief. The feel of her was a balm to my wounds – and then she drew back.

“Come with me,” she said sternly. “We can’t stay here, the humans have control of this area.”

“They do?” I asked, mind flubbering around. Of course, they had invaded. Bella had no more land – or did she?

Bella dissolved away before my eyes, her grip still firmly on my arms. When her hands went to dissolve, I began to follow.

This traveling was painless, easy, and fluid. One minute we were in the bitter snow, the next we were slowly reappearing in Bella’s living room. The same one as before, with several vampires still in it.

“I went to investigate the portal,” Bella was drawling as I finished taking full form. “And look who I found.”

There was a murmur of approval from the vampires. A glimmer of jealousy? They didn’t seem fully pleased to see me.

But Bella either didn’t care or didn’t notice. Within moments I was seated in someone else’s spot and Bella had resumed her chair. Swiftly, I was given the summary of the situation. The vampires had retained power over the city, and only the city. The humans who lived within were the reason why – the rest of Canada wasn’t sure how to control a raving bunch of awe-inspired people who insisted Bella was their god and wanted to be left alone. For now, they were being starved out in the dead of winter. The humans, in their devotion to Bella, were simply staying put and starving.

“There are many who have been taken into captivity. Those who lived outside of the city,” said one vampire angrily. “We must rescue them.” And due to the emotion in her voice – did she actually care about these humans? “They are our brothers and sisters!” she said dramatically.

“Yes, yes, all in due time,” muttered Bella, eyes staring off into the distance beyond everyone.

The vampires did not seem pleased. “There are many more who have been made captives in the earth realm, taken away,” grumbled another vampire. “We must rescue them as well.”

A smile lit up Bella’s face. “I think I know what we’re going to do next,” she said with the cheer of someone on a bright new idea.

“But the rescue missions?” whimpered the vampire who was so emotional about it all.

Bella waved her hand in dismissal. “I’m going to challenge the sky god to a duel.”

My jaw fell. She said it so lightly, so easily – but did she know what she was doing?

“My Name is Chaos”; Chapter Thirteen Part One

And the story continues on! For anyone who’s wondering, my life has been pretty good lately. I’ve been working on myself, reading, and knitting up a storm. I’m surprised that I’m back to writing this story, but I feel like I just can’t leave it be! So here, enjoy!

////

I reached home with a sense of accomplishment that I didn’t want to acknowledge. I told myself it was nothing though I clearly knew it wasn’t. I told myself that my life was about to go back to normal, and prepared to pretend like none of it had happened. Except it obviously wasn’t.

“Where have you been?” asked father gently as soon as I stepped in the door.

I paused, one foot still outside in the portal-esque domain between domains. Behind father stood several large, beefy angels with their angry faces on.

“Am I in trouble?” I asked, wondering if I could outrun angels. Probably not. So I stepped fully in and shut the door behind myself.

“Of course not,” said mother icily, glaring around at the angels as if to cow them into silence. But mother, the angel of life where father was the angel of death, just didn’t have that power. People tended not to take her seriously, much to their later regret.

“We need to talk with you,” said the heaviest of the angels, crossing his arms over his chest. “And you just so happen to have woken up. Where were you?”

I instinctively pocketed my hands in search of my dice. But no, I’d lost that in the realm of the incarnates. “I uh,” I looked down at my shoes. “To tell you the truth,” I shrugged. “I went to see the vampires. Okay? And then they all woke up.”

The angels nodded. “So you woke up first.”

Uh? I blinked, looking back up. “I guess?”

The angels watched me mercilessly. “What woke you up?”

“This isn’t an interrogation!” barked mother. “He just woke up-”

“No it’s okay,” I mumbled. Feeling guilty? Maybe. “I just – woke up. And I had this urge to go walk, so I did. I felt better, you know? I feel – fine. I feel fine.”

The angels were wearing big frowns. They looked down at me like I was a sorry little scrub. Father rattled his throat. “We should all sit down for some tea. Explain some things to Chaos.”

“Yeah!” I said, suddenly bolted full of energy. “I’d like that!” And for a moment, I wasn’t sure why. Then I ignored why.

The angels scowled, but loosened up. We all crowded around a living room table, the angels looking ridiculous around our family’s mishmash of dainty doilies and dragon scultpures.

“So,” said the biggest angel as soon as we were all seated, the kettle set on the oven. “Al sent us a message that all things weren’t well while you were on mission. Then once she was shot, it was decided that you were probably being held hostage, and the rescue mission was sent – which is what happened.”

My gut twisted but I tried not to let my guilt show. They had thought I was hostage? Well- was I? I propped my chin on my palm and planted my elbows on the table.

“Who was she?” asked the angel.

Again, father cleared his throat. Mother glared at the angel. I blanked. “Who?”

“The woman who shot herself. Who was holding you hostage. Who you seemed very upset about.”

“Oh,” I ducked my head, trying to ignore the grisly image in my head. The m oment the light went out in Bella’s eyes. “Uh, well she had a name but that’s all I knew,” I said gingerly.

“What was the name?” asked the angel impatiently.

“Bella,” I mumbled, my voice croaking. “It – was after the human novel character. Twilight. You know?”

The angel nodded. Then puzzlement crossed his face. “Bella? After that character? How odd.”

“I know,” I mumbled. “She was really odd.”

“Which pantheon?” The angel continued with his investigative drill. “We haven’t heard of any demons missing from any pantheons yet.”

“She wasn’t a demon!” I barked suddenly.

The table hushed. The angels watched me. Oops. I slumped in my chair. Fiddled with a doily. “She had a blue eye. She must have been part sky realm, at least,” I mumbled, feeling guilty. They were just trying to investigate. Just trying to pierce the mystery of Bella.

I pushed the doily away. “Uh, she liked Buddha. She,” I gestured to my neck. “Wore one, and had them everywhere. Buddhas.”

The angels frowned. The big one steepled his fingers before himself. “Which one? Guan yin? Amidha? This could be important clues to which pantheon-”

“How am I to know?” I snapped, temper flaring again. “It was a Buddha! They all look the fucking same!”

Again, a pause. Again, I was swamped by guilt. “I think it was ‘the’ Buddha.” I grumbled, dropping my eyes to the table. “There was only two arms and,” I imitated the gesture. “Touching the earth and hand up.”

There was a lengthy pause. I didn’t look up.

“And?” father said gently. “What does that tell you?”

I glanced up. The angels were all glaring at me with big frowns.

“It tells us nothing,” snapped the angel in charge. “The demons Buddha defeated with that gesture were hundreds. All the demons of temptation- we can’t hunt them all down!”

I twiddled with my hair. But father nodded serenely. “And?”

The angels turned their ire to him. “And now, we have a new rebellion on our hands.”

“Rebellion?” I perked up.

All heads turned to me. “What rebellion?” I asked bluntly. “They’re all caught- aren’t they?”

“Not all,” muttered the head angel fiercely. “We have most of them in their cells, waiting to detox them from whatever poison that was slipped into them – but there were humans who were contaminated.”

I blanched, remembering the ecstatic séance in the church. A contamination? By what?

“Those humans are left in the incarnate realm and, as such, we cannot touch them. The military has taken them into custody and is studying them as we speak but -” the angel shrugged. “They don’t seem to be holding them for long. They will release them soon, and the contamination might spread.”

“Spread? What – It’s a virus?” I looked around.

The angel pressed his steepled fingers together so much the tips of his fingers were white. “Spiritually, yes. These humans – and all who came into contact with this being – seem to be possessed by strange beliefs. They are praying, believing, and by doing so are warping the fabric of the spiritual world. It was nothing but a blip at first, but since her death it has grown.”

Oh, shit. Because that’s how things worked in the spirit realm, directly influenced by the beliefs and truths on earth.

“So if this spreads,” the angel said darkly. “She will gain according power and dominion over the realms. Which could be disastrous, judging by her mental state.”

I dropped my eyes to the table again. Oh crap indeed. Bella – bella had started a new religion with herself at the center. She was not only promoting herself to deity-hood to claim certain power in the air realm, but she wanted to break into Nirvana and steal that sanctuary as well. And if she controlled the earth realm’s demons… She was going to control the three spirit realms.

“My Name is Chaos”: Chapter Five, Part One

chaos ALJust like that, she said it. “And I’m Chaos’ fiancee.”

I wanted to die of humiliation. Ugh. I crossed my arms and glared her down. “You don’t own me. What are you even doing here?”

“Wait a minute,” said the scientist, scribbling away at his pad. “Fiancee? What’s your name? Who are you?”

“Al is my ‘presenting’ name. It’s what everyone calls me, and what most people can pronounce,” she said snottily. “And,” she pointed to one of the eagles on her coat. “I’m the daughter of the Thunderbird.”

Mark looked like his brain might have exploded. “Thunderbird?”

“Native mythology,” I said, just in case, oh I don’t know, “Which no one cares about!” Which absolutely wasn’t true and I knew it, but I had to throw something at her. My dad was famous! Hers was, well… not so famous. So I considered our engagement to be a step down in my life.

She grinned. “Oh yeah, I’m just a sad little twerp compared to,” and she gestured to me. “This thing.”

“Thing?” I squawked. “You-” but I stopped myself. There was the sound of a car coming down the road.

“Hide!” hissed the scientist.

“In this snow?” Al gestured to the foot of snow all around us. “They’ll just track you.”

“Got a better idea?” I hissed, knowing that, again, she was right.

She squared her shoulders. “Stnad your ground and face them ‘like a man’,” and then she burst into sniggers.

“Oh, very funny,” I sneered.

The car rounded the bend in the distance, lights coming into view. It wasn’t driving particularly fast. Did vampires drive fast? Did they speed? There were (surprisingly) no highways in hell, so I wasn’t sure where they got their driving skills from.

“Al, do you have a dice on you?” I hissed, fidgeting. Should we stay and fight? Run and fight? How could I tell?

“You lost your dice?” she asked, completely shocked. “Wow. This is going bad.”

“I didn’t lose it, someone took it from me!”

She made a face. “That’s even worse.”

I scowled. “You go rot. Do you have a dice or not?”

She shrugged. “Of course not. I’m not an addict like you.”

The car approached, slower and slower. Al kept herself planted before us, practically in the middle of the road. She looked at the car, daring it to run her down.

It didn’t. Whoever it was drew to a stop before it even bumped her highness’ legs.

Because that’s how things always were for her. Everyone was all ‘ooo, a wise spirit!’ or ‘ooo, such majesty’ or ‘ooo, so amazeballs’. She just had to exist and people worshipped her.

And here I was, busting my ass and everyone was calling me stupid.

I wanted to throw a snowball at her face. An ice-cold explosion across the face. Would serve her right.

But uh, the car was stopped. Vampires began piling out. And like, way more than was safely allowed in a car. There was almost ten of them that had been all squished up in that car.

At their head, a big beefy guy with a waxy shaved head stepped forward. “You kids lost or something?” he sneered at Al.

Al turned to me, imitating his sneer. “Yeah, you lost or something?”

“What?” she wasn’t on my side? What the hell, Al? Fiancee from hell, indeed!

“We uh,” I held up my freezing hands to my shoulders as if I was surrendering. Just to show I had no weapons. “Uh,”

Al grinned at me. What a jerk. Such a jerk.

Heyyyyy. She was a jerk, right? And she wasn’t supposed to be here, at all. Like, full nope on the nope-scale.

I tried not to grin. “We’re hunting a demon. You may have noticed it, it killed a bunch of spawns riding in a truck the other day.”

The frown on the chunk’s face told me that yeah, maybe?

I pointed to Al. “She’s right there. Help me catch her.”

“Wait, what?” Al looked from him to me and back again and back again. She pointed to her collarbone. “Did you just – I did not-”

Yeah, I threw her under that bus.

“Be careful,” I said to the vampires. “She’s a high-level demon. She just incarnated so she’s still really powerful-”

The vampires nodded. We were now working together. Like wolves on the prowl, they stepped out to encircle Al.

Al who, to her credit, wasn’t freaking and squealing. She merely adjusted her sunglasses. “I’m going to pay you back for this, kid,” she said.

“Bite me,” I snapped.

She clicked into action like a wound-up toy that had just been let free. Wham! Punch to the beefcake’s face! Double wham! Kick and punch another vamp! Then Yoink! Up she jumped, transforming in a blink into a golden eagle that was pumping its wings and rising up, up.

Several vampires lifted guns. Oh shit.

“No don’t!” I yelped, throwing myself forward. I flung my arms out, trying to block their aim. The large beef of a dude glared me down.

“What?” he barked.

“You don’t want to kill her, you want to capture her!” I invented.

There was a pause. I glanced back up. The eagle, aka Al, had vanished over the forest.

“You’d better have a good reason to have stopped us,” intoned the bald beef.

I lowered my arms. I smelt an opportunity. And who was I to turn that down? “Take me to your leader,” I said. Eyebrows were raised all around. The scientist cleared his throat softly. I repeated, louder this time. “Take me to your leader. I want to work with you. We need to catch this demon. We can join forces.”

“My Name is Chaos”: Chapter Four Part Two

“Hello, Chaos,” she whispered.

“Oh, shit,” I said as I stared at the spirit sitting in the back seat.

“Language, language,” whispered the being. “Children shouldn’t swear.”

“Fuck you!” I snapped without thinking. “What are you doing here?”

“Oh, well, you know,” the blob took on a haphazard shape. Now it had eyes and a mouth and was somewhat of a humanoid shape. “Someone’s gotta babysit.”

“I do not need babysitting!” I yelled.

The scientist looked to her, looked to me, and frowned. “What are you looking at?” he asked. “Is there something-” and he poked at her, going right through her.

Oh crap. She wasn’t incarnated. They couldn’t see her.

She grinned fiendishly at me. “Are you having a mental breakdown?”

Without thinking, I yelled back. “I’m not having a-” I stopped myself just in time. Glaring at her, I turned to Thor.

“There’s a demon in the back seat,” I announced dryly.

“Really?” Thor looked in the rearview mirror and frowned. “I’m not feeling it.”

“Me neither,” said the scientist in awe as he kept passing his hand through her. She kept grinning at me.

“Who is it?” asked Mark grimly. “A vampire hunter? Horseman of the apocalypse? Tell us.”

I groaned and slunk down in my chair. “It’s no one. Just a dumb, lower-level, obnoxious, demon.”

“Yeah, there’s a real dumb spirit around here,” she said loudly from the back. I wanted to plug my ears. Maybe if I ignored her she’d leave? Soon? What was she even doing here?

I threw myself around, making the scientist jump. But my glare was not for him. “How’d you get permission to come here? Huh?”

She grinned and kicked back in her seat, stretching tendril-like arms above her head. “Who said I had permission? You’re not the only rule breaker around here.”

“I have special permission!” I burst. “And I will send you back if- ”I held up my cross pendant. “Or I’ll tell my dad! And he’ll come and get you!”

She leaned forward, putting on a shrill childish voice. “Oh, I’ll tell daddy. Oh, I’m a little snitch and my name is Chaos.”

I just about turned purple in the face. I opened my mouth, but no sound came out. Her grin turned nasty. “Go on, call daddy. Do it.”

I thumped back into my chair, deciding to ignore her again. Whatever. Like I needed her approval.

My fingers traced the cross pendant against my chest. Should I? She wasn’t allowed to be here. What if she interfered? Would it be … bad? Or could I use this to my advantage?

Frowning, I focused on the road ahead. The pine trees lined ever on and the wind blew in icily.

“Hey Chaos!” she yelled in my ear.

I yelled, jumping three feet in the air. “What?” I yelled, turning to see her leaning up between Mark and me.

“I want a body,” she declared. “Get me a body.”

“I’m not getting you a body!” I snapped. “If you’d wanted one, you should have incarnated!”

“Too much paperwork,” she grunted. “Hey, is this guy really attached to himself?” And she poked at the scientist.

“He lives in there so I’d say yeah, pretty attached. And if you try possession, I Will report you!” I was protective of my little mission pals.

“Uhm,” Thor cleared his throat.

“Oh hey, he’s hot,” she said, leering around at him. “Tell him to pull the car over. I can take him over, then we can make out. Neat, right?”

“Shut up!” I squawked.

“What is going on?” asked Thor.

“What’s their name?” asked the scientist, scribbling away at their notepad.

My nerves were beginning to fray. “I want to drive!” she announced, jumping at Thor.

“No!” I yelled, trying to stop her. No luck. If I’d had rolled my dice on it, it would have been a critical 1. A complete failure.

I tackled Mark/Thor, grasping for the immaterial that could not be touched. Thor yelled, shoving me off him. The car skidded, then we must have hit a patch of ice because it really skidded.

“AHH!” I yelled as the ditch came zooming up towards us.

Bwoof!

It was like landing on soft fluffy marshmallows. But at 100 kilometers an hour. So the ‘bwoof’ sent us all flying in all directions. The car keeled over to its side and I was now squished sideways with Thor half on me. There was a scientist’s leg in the air beside my head.

Great, bouncing, burgers.

“AL!” I shrieked, clawing my way up. I scrambled over Thor and pushed his door open. He shoved me and I made it out the door. “I’m going to kill you!” I yelled, stepping out into the crisp air.

A light drifting of snow was fluttering down. There was no noise now. Not a sound. I stood on the side of the car, breath misting before me as I glared out at the pine trees’ depths. Was she hiding in their branches? Or was she right beside me, invisible?

No warning. None at all! Just – CRA-KOOM! Lightning split the sky and struck the road where the car would have been, further down the road. Sparks flew. Smoke spiralled up.

Worse? There was now a dark figure there. The shape of a teen, wearing a long coat that framed their figure. Whisped in dark tendrils of smoke, it began striding forward down the road. Towards us.

“Who is that?” asked Thor, now by my side.

“It’s her,” I grumbled, gritting my teeth, hands balled into fists.

“The demon?” whispered the scientist, climbing up beside Thor.

A cloud drifted away from the moon, allowing light to beam down onto her in a most dramatic of ways.

She was as tall as me, but her hair was cut short around her chin with long bangs that fluttered about her face. Her hair was a deep blue with jet bright streaks in it. Her skin was dark, her face pretty nondescript, especially with those sporty sunglasses she had on. She was wearing a deep purple and pink trenchcoat with orange eagles on it. Oh, and she was had thick black leather boots.

“Hey Chaos,” she said as she stepped to the edge of the road before the car. There was a nasty grin on her face.

“Hey,” I seethed. “Do you have to ruin everything?”

“It’s my duty,” she drawled, running fingers through her hair dramatically.

“Who are you?” asked the scientist, sounding way too impressed for his own good.

She totally let it get to her head. As always. “My name is Al,” she drawled. “And I’m Chaos’ fiancee.”

“My Name is Chaos”: Chapter Four, Part One

“Now would be a good time for a plan,” said the scientist, chuckling nervously.

“I don’t need plans,” I balked, though I knew it was pointless. I really needed a plan. But you know what I needed more? A dice! I fished in my pockets but there was none to be found.

The car was slowing down.

“What are we doing?” roared Thor, looking around. “Do we try and bust through? We can’t, I see spikes on the road.”

“Uh, uh,” and I tried to come up with a plan. “Why don’t we just talk with them?”

And so, like a little weird family going to the drive-through, we pulled up to a stop at the vampire’s impromptu barricade. Thor and I rolled down our windows, playing it cool.

“Hey,” I said.

The vampires just stood and stared like they’d never seen the likes of this before. There were the spawns, spider-like with human heads, but there were also full-fledged vampires in human form. They were all bundled up in winter gear and one even had a hockey stick. They uh, looked significantly less impressive without all their leather gear on.

But what do you expect? Hell spawns to not need winter gear? Please, I was freezing and I was from a different level of hell than them.

One vampire stepped forward. She was wearing a puffy grey winter coat that hung to her thighs, a knit black hat, and had beady dark eyes and a pointed chin. “What?” she demanded.

I couldn’t resist. “Eh?” I asked, leaning out the window. After all, no hellspawn said ‘eh’. That was an obnoxious human thing, from this part of the world only. Did it work?

“I said! WHAT?” she yelled in my face. The baseball bat in her hand flew up menacingly.

Okay well, whatever. I blinked, wiping the spit from my cheeks. I played innocent. “Can we come through? Are you guys looking for someone or something?”

The vamp paused. “We are looking for someone. But that’s none of your business. What are you doing here?”

I turned to Thor. “This is my older brother. We got busted doing one of your deliveries, so we’re coming through on the way to recon with his boss or something.”

The vampire sucked on her teeth, looking around the car. “And the dude in the back?”

“A hostage,” I said cheerfully. “We’re bringing him in. Says he got some info or something.”

I could almost hear the scientist in the back sweating, that’s how nervous he looked in the rearview mirror as the vampire scowled at him. But she thumped a fist on the side of the car. “Okay. You can go.”

Thor looked ready to crap himself. I nodded. “Thanks.”

The vampire stepped away from the car and began ordering the barricade moved. Within minutes it was moved and we were sifting through.

“Wow,” muttered Thor as we began slowly driving on. “You did that.”

“Oh yeah,” I muttered like it was no big deal.

Thor gave me a look. “So you’re the Grim Reaper’s son?”

“Child,” I corrected him. “I’m non-binary.”

“Uh-huh,” grunted Thor. “That newfangled thing.”

“Actually, it’s not really new,” piped up the scientist.

“Yeah,” I snapped, kicking my boots up on the dashboard. “Besides, my genitals are none of anyone’s business.”

Thor shook his head, tapping a hand on the steering wheel. “So now what? We just keep driving until we find a sign saying ‘portal here’?”

I bit my lip. Yeah, true, but uh, I didn’t even know where we were. Like, I’d received some directions but ‘go straight past the blue house’ didn’t seem useful any more.

I picked up my pentacle and nibbled on it. After a moment of silence I spoke. “So,” and that’s as far as my thoughts got. I drew a blank. Ridiculous, really, but I didn’t know what to do or say next. We were just driving on this infernal road past zillions of pine trees that looked like the columns of hell.

But everyone was looking to me for directions.

“Gotta make sure we don’t run into werewolves,” I said nonchalantly, knowing full well there were no werewolves in this world. But did they know that? No. So I looked smart.

“How do we do that?” asked the scientist weakly.

Avoid looking sexily edible? Uh, well, “Stay out of the forest?” I suggested lamely. “We should hit a village or something soon so we can ask for directions-”

“Asking for directions? Really?” asked Thor. “That’s how lost you are?”

“What?” I bit back. “It can’t hurt?”

“Oi hey, dark denizens of doom, can ye tell me the way to hell?” asked Thor, putting on a terrible Irish accent. “Oi noes? You want to tell me to yoink myself? Oi really!”

“Oh shut up!” I snapped. “You don’t have a better idea!”

“That doesn’t mean your idea is good! One shit doesn’t downplay the fact the other shit is still shit!”

I was baffled. My idea wasn’t bad. I’d just talked to the vampires and see? It went well? “Don’t you trust me?” I demanded, deciding to pull the emotional card.

“No,” said everyone in the car. I heard an extra voice in here.

Paling, I turned around in my seat. There, next to the scientist, was a black shape with glowing green eyes.

“Hello, Chaos,” she whispered.