Eternal Ch. 06byFeotakahari©
Almost everything important in my life started with an L, Ghost began. Love, lust, Leila--I've been told that even Judith was once called Leslie. For now, I'll tell you about the L who was almost my friend.
"Say hello to the new girl, everyone," Judith told the gathered figures. "Her name's Ghost."
Ghost stumbled to one knee, dizzy from shock as much as from teleportation. She opened her human eyes to improve her depth perception, but she succeeded only in fragmenting her vision, and she was forced to rely on the new eye she was so far incapable of closing.
The air here was warmer, but not by much. The sky was the same as before, save for a sort of hole--blacker than the black--from which liquid endlessly fell. It splashed into a lake, far to her left, which led into a river that trailed off out of sight. At the edges of the spray, mushrooms grew as tall as a man.
"Fresh meat, eh?" someone said. The speaker advanced towards Ghost, who recoiled to see that two of her three eyes were sewn shut with thread. "Oh, don't look at me like that," the stranger continued. "I look much more human than you do."
Later, Ghost was to observe that the stranger looked remarkably like a demonic version of a storybook princess--long hair, luscious lips, that tiny nose Disney had probably trademarked . . . At the moment, however, she was still monosyllabic. What is this thing?
"I'm one of Judith's demons, and proud of it." She gave Ghost a very human smile. "And yes, I know what you're thinking, because you're broadcasting it to everyone here. I'll teach you how to muffle yourself, but first, you need to get some liquid in you--you must be starved."
Ghost wondered at the mix of terminology used, until the speaker led her to the liquid, and she knelt again to drink. "That stuff's both your food and your water," she was told. "It's raw emotion, straight from Earth--you can eat the love and the lust from it. If you live through your first battle, and Judith closes your eyes, I'm authorized to ration you a swig of purified love. Best thing you've ever tasted, I assure you."
There were many questions Ghost might have asked, ranging from Who are we fighting? to How do you purify love? The one she actually asked was much simpler. What's your name?
"They call me Lilith, so I assume that's who I am. It's nice to meet you, Ghost."
There is little point to speaking in great detail of the days that followed. Ghost trained alongside the other tempters, preparing to fight with claws and tongues against what both Judith and Lilith called "the sinners." She mock-battled, ate, slept, and mock-battled again, the days a blur from both activity and residual shock, and Lilith was always close by with an encouraging remark.
At first, she wondered why Lilith mothered her so, but she eventually realized that Lilith mothered everyone--she had a very tender demeanor that contrasted with her regal appearance. "I'm the oldest one here," she once explained, "and Judith didn't really know what she was doing when she made me. That's why I'm the most human of us--just the third eye and the long tongue for me--but it's also why I'm so much weaker than the rest of you. I can't fight, so I'm something of a mediator here."
How'd you wind up here, anyways? Ghost had asked.
"After twenty-five years," Lilith had replied, "I can't even remember for sure. Not that I can say I mind--it's guilt that makes people into lesser demons, though it's greater demons who bind them to this world. Whatever I did, it must have been horrible, and I'm happy to atone for it under Judith. She's special, you know."
What do you mean?
"Only the worst of the worst become greater demons. Belial murdered dozens of people, Azazel raped and tortured little boys . . . I don't know how Judith wound up in this place, but she's got a sense of honor you don't often see here, and she has a decent chance of making this a proper Hell. Learn to fight, and you'll be able to help her make bad people pay."
But as the weeks passed, it became clear that Ghost couldn't fight well--or at all. When performing routines, she was perfectly coordinated, but she couldn't improvise in response to an attack.
Her talents, she found, lay elsewhere.
"You've got guts, Ghost," Lilith told her, when all the others were asleep. "Judith's told me the story of Solomon, but I've never tried to apply it."
You were being good cop, Ghost replied, so I thought I ought to be bad cop. I wouldn't really have broken that carving in half--whatever it is, it must be valuable--but threatening to do so was the best way to end the argument over who owned it.
"You're turning out to be pretty good at this mediator stuff. I had an assistant for it, way back when--a little imp named Ruth, Contracted directly to me instead of to Judith--but she died in one of Azazel's attacks, and I never had the heart to replace her. Maybe it's finally time now, though. You'd be better at it than at combat, at least."
I'm perfectly fine at--Ghost found herself flat on her back. Ouch. Landed right on my tail.
"Then let me kiss you and make it better." Suddenly, Lilith was atop Ghost, her body warm in the cold air. Her lips were against Ghost's, her tongue in Ghost's mouth--
Another voice echoed in their minds. I was afraid of this, Judith told them.
Lilith stiffened. Ghost could only assume that she was talking back to Judith along the psychic link.
No excuses, Lilith. I've been watching you these past few days, and I've seen the way you look at Ghost. It's past time I reminded you of your duty. Now, return to what you were doing.
For a moment, Lilith actually struggled against the Contract, but her tongue soon returned to Ghost's mouth. As for Ghost herself, she remained silent.
Ah, love, Judith told them. So sweet, so innocent. Aren't you tempted to go just a little deeper?
Had Ghost still been capable of gagging, she would not have taken well to Lilith's tongue filling her throat. Nonetheless, there was undeniably something erotic about this strange penetration.
And this is romance. Powerful, isn't it? It's so enticing to go deeper.
Lilith's tongue retraced in reverse the path that the spiked bar had taken, and Ghost's body contracted around it. Its end played with Ghost's second tongue, giving her the deepest French kiss imaginable.
Lust. Raw, animal, sinful. But you still have deeper to go.
Lilith's tongue passed out of Ghost's slit, and Ghost realized that Lilith was licking herself.
There is no love. There is no romance. It's all just an excuse that people use to justify self-pleasure. So many men told me they loved me, when they just loved how they felt inside me. The sound of a sigh filled Ghost's head. I don't blame men for their lack of control--hence why I don't make them into tempters--but women should be able to resist these desires. If I was feeling vindictive, I'd wake the others, and let them all see you like this. But I'm not without sin myself, so this once, I won't hold you accountable. Remember this lesson, and don't expect any further mercy if you continue in your so-called love.
Slowly, Lilith withdrew from Ghost, but not without one last French kiss.
I was sent into the very next battle, Ghost finished, and when I survived it, my eyes were stitched shut. Lilith threaded the needle herself. Only then was I allowed to work beside her.
Harry said nothing. What was there to say?
I don't think Lilith was gay, at least not in human terms. It's in a tempter's nature to equate friendship with sex. In time, I followed my instincts as well, and Judith gave me these scars for it. But at the same time, she used both me and Lilith--whenever she needed to broker a deal with a more powerful demon, our bodies were among her bargaining chips. Judith tried to prove to us that sex was horrible and wrong, but she still couldn't quench the need . . .
At this, Harry attempted a response. "I have no right to blame you for what you or Lilith did. You lived through something I can't even imagine."
You're getting predictable, Harry. Next, you'll probably say that you don't care about the scars, or the eye, or the tail. You'll say that you always loved me for my mind.
"And you'll say that Hell changed you. But I can't believe that you've lost yourself completely."
That's exactly my point. Leila would have lost herself. I have enough of her memories to know that within six months, she'd have been talking to imaginary pink elephants. It doesn't make sense that I'm still sane after three years in Hell--unless I'm not Leila. And before Harry could interrupt, This is where you tell me that I have to be Leila. Sometimes, I agree. But other times, I think the real Leila is in Heaven. She's been purified of all her guilt, and Judith found that guilt and made it into me.
"Leila, that's ridiculous." She could feel Harry's irritation through the link.
Ghost knew it was the wrong thing to say, but she couldn't stop herself. Why? Because if I'm Leila, you don't have to feel guilty that Leila's dead?
"What the hell? That's--how dare you?"
Leila wouldn't have said that, would she? Leila was so dainty and feminine. She had a backbone, but not many people saw it. Harry, you keep saying you love me--you love Leila--but you don't even know me anymore. When I think I'm Leila, I try to act like her to make you happy. But when I think I'm Ghost, I feel like I'm pretending to be my own mother, and it doesn't seem right.
"Well, fine! If you're Leila's sins, I'll love Leila's sins!
Even if I'm not the sweet, innocent girl you married? Even if I'm selfish, and jaded, and lustful?
"You keep trying to drive me off, Leila, but it's not going to work. I remember what happened the last time I let us get farther and farther apart. You're just as flawed as I am, and I can accept that."
Ghost smiled at that. You do put up with a lot of crap from me, don't you? I'd like to apologize--I don't mean to be a burden.
"Tell you what-tomorrow morning, I'll start calling you Ghost. We can pretend we just met, and get to know each other all over again. I'll learn all about how you've changed, and I'll show you that you're still the same inside." He attempted to return her smile. "Just, no more trying to push my buttons, okay?"
It's a deal, and I'll look forward to knowing you all over again. But instead of tomorrow, you might want to try it this evening, when you get back home. Do you even remember that you were supposed to meet with someone today about a new job?
". . . Shit. I'm not even dressed!"
He leapt from bed, nearly tripping over the pajamas that were still around his ankles. She watched in amusement as he scrambled to the closet, and for a moment, the two of them were almost normal.