A Game

Let’s play a game called “My life was awesome, then it was shitty.”

The rules are simple.  First I’m going to tell you about how my life was awesome, and then I’m going to tell you how it abruptly turned shitty.  Your role is to respectively envy and pity me.  Then we all go home feeling mildly disappointed.  The number of people who enjoy this game is exactly zero.

Ready?

Okay.  So on Sunday the fiance and I went to see Lorde perform live.

It.

Was.

Amazing!

She had her own personalized confetti!

She had her own personalized confetti!

She is not even eighteen years old yet, but she is a captivating performer.  You can tell she really, truly enjoys it, too.  She also did two quick-changes for just one short concert.  Her performance of “Royals” was out of this world.  She is going places.  Awesome places.

Now for the second part:

On Monday I went in to work a lunch shift.  (For those who don’t know: I am a waitress.)  At the end of my very short shift, I went to grab my purse and put my tip money into my wallet only to find that, well…my purse was half unzipped (Odd because I always zip it up 100%) and my wallet was nowhere to be found.

There was between 100 and 200 dollars in that wallet.  As well as a credit card, a debit card, and my health insurance cards.

Gone.

Needless to say…I was not happy.  I called the police, and then I set about cancelling my cards and doing all the other annoying things you have to do when your wallet gets stolen.

The policeman looked exactly like you’d expect a policeman to look.  He was youngish, white, had a strong jaw and a buzzcut.  He stood with his arms not quite rested at his sides like he was ready for action at any second.  But for all that readiness, there wasn’t actually much he could do for me.  He did ask me if I thought someone I worked with could have committed the crime.

My answer was a resolute “No.”

Yesterday my wallet appeared again.

In the kitchen.

Without any cash in it.

You know…in the kitchen.  Where only employees go.

I am happy and relieved to have my driver’s license and all my cards back.  Unfortunately my credit and debit cards remain useless, but that’s okay.

What’s not okay is that someone I work with stole from me.  You might even call it shitty.

Thus ends the game.  I have nothing else to report…OH!  Right.  There were some signed signature cards in my wallet as well.  Really happy to get those back.  Here’s an updated count:

Cards

45!!!  That’s great!

Radar + Cards

Radar and I are both very happy with this outcome.

Remember it’s never too late to join in the fun!  The more the merrier!  It’s easy and free!  Look at how happy you’ll make my dog!  There will still be prizes for writing in to get a card.  Read all about it by clicking “signed signature cards” above or clicking right here.

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Filed under Humor, writing

First Count

I have here a picture of all the signature cards I have received so far.

33 cards

That’s 33 signatures all told.  You can click on it to zoom in if you want, see if your name is on there.  If it isn’t, don’t worry.  I’ve actually acquired some more cards since then, so a new count will be due soon.

By the way…this is great!  33 signatures!  That is 30 more than I was expecting to get.  If yours is among them, thank you so much.  If yours isn’t, read on because I have come up with some new ways to sign!

You now have three options.

1. The original — Send me an email with your mailing address at WriteRightWithBex@gmail.com.  I will mail you a card with an SASE so you can sign it and mail it right back.  Read this post for further instructions and details, as well as the excerpt of my book, Hellbound.

2. Electronic signature type 1 — Send me an email requesting this type of signature and I will send you one back with a Word document of the Hellbound support card.  Print out the document, sign it, then scan it or take a picture of it and send the file back to me.  I will place a small “El.” at the bottom of the “card” to signify that it has been signed electronically.

3. Electronic signature type 2 — For those without a printer.  Keep in mind that I know what I’m about to say is going to sound sketchy, but that the only way this can happen is with your signed consent.  This one is pretty simple.  Sign a piece of white paper with black pen, or a dark-colored sharpie.  Then take a picture or scan the signature and email me the file.  I will use the powers of photoshop to lift your signature off of the page and place it on a card.  Sketchy, I know.  But I’m trying to make this easier for you.  Also I will send you a picture of the finished product so you can approve it, and this form of signature will also get an “El.” on it.

That email address again is WriteRightWithBex@gmail.com.

Let’s show those publishers we mean business!

I know I kinda left you hanging in the middle of a book the other day, but I am currently back to working on The Dreamcatchers.  As long as I am writing, I am happy.  This means you might have to wait a little longer for updates on Bandu Pole.  Sorry.

Next time I’ll talk about my progress with The Dreamcatchers.  Until then, it’s time to sign some cards!

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Filed under books, Humor, writing

Short Update, Long Rant

I’ve got a good chunk of signatures going for all who are wondering.  I have not yet put them up in any type of display which is why I don’t have pictures.  But obviously this kind of thing is in the “more the merrier” type category.  Meaning write in!  Don’t know what I’m talking about?  Click here.  Do know what I’m talking about?  You can still write in to WriteRightWithBex@gmail.com.  I’m working on figuring out a way to incorporate an electronic signing system.  I think many people are wary of giving out their addresses despite my incredibly reassuring disclaimer.  Remember, I’m a twenty-something blogger who is interested only in signed business cards.  I’m not going to sell your information, and you’re not going to start getting daily newsletters in the mail from me about the newest sales at Macy’s.

Now that that’s out of the way, we are going to have a little (read: super long) post for those who have missed Ranty Bex.

So the story goes like this.  My fiance and I went to the movies to see the newest Woody Allen flick for lack of anything better to see.  It was alright…not that great.  As we walked out of the movie theater, I caught a glimpse of a poster.  I have Googled it for you (Incognito window…don’t want Google thinking I’m actually interested in this thing).  Here is a picture:

HNNGNGNG

Yup.  That’s what I saw.  And honestly it took me a second to figure out what it was, but something in my brain was desperately shying away from it even as I came to the inevitable, terrifying conclusion.

They made 50 Shades of Grey into a movie.

They actually did it.

Now…some may think they know why I have a problem with this, but I think some are only partly right.

I have written about this before, but I will reiterate: You can read and enjoy trashy novels.  I have.  I still do occasionally.  They’re fun.  This is not what bothers me.  See what bothers me is that 50 Shades was never a novel.  It. Was. A. FANFICTION!!!  For whatever reason, either because E. L. James found a spectacularly good lawyer or because Stephenie Meyer isn’t particularly litigious, a Twilight FanFiction got published and started making money.

THIS IS ILLEGAL!!

The only reason people get away with writing their own stories using other peoples characters, settings, worlds, etc. is that they do not make money from it.  Because when you do make money from it, that means you are making money from plagiarizing!  From stealing!  E. L. James is a thief and everyone is letting her get away with it.  Which brings me to point #2…

This was not a secret!!  Everybody knows this started as a Fan Fiction (No I don’t know why I’m capitalizing it.  Just looks better this way).  Even people who know nothing about this book know that it was a Fan Fic.  Seriously.  Despite E. L. James desperately sweeping the internet, trying to take it down.  Which screams guilt right there.  She or someone who works for her knows exactly what she did.  What she got away with.  With enough Googling you can still find the old story.  I’ve read some of it.  I have seen the exact same words that I first saw on the pages of 50 Shades on some website somewhere.  Only there was one difference.  The names Christian and Anastasia had mysteriously disappeared.  Now there was nothing but “Edward” and “Bella.”  Whoever they are.

Okay, so if you’ve read this far, you get my point.  But there is one more tiny thing I want to bring up.

It's-Porn

Yeah.  There’s no going around that.  This book started as a Fan Fiction written by a woman who wanted to see Edward and Bella get kinky.  And that’s exactly what happened.  Granted it’s a very poor representation of how BDSM actually works.  Can’t say that enough.  But it’s still just pages and pages of build up to, and then the enactment of, sex and kink.  It is a pornographic novel.  It was written to be pornographic.  And it should, as such, be rated NC-17 at the very least.  BUT!!

But….

IT’S COMING OUT ON VALENTINE’S DAY!!!!

They want people to take dates to see this movie!!

“Hey, honey, remember that book I couldn’t stop masturbating to?”

“Yeah…You called me Christian in bed for like a week…”

“Yeah!  They made a movie out of it!  Let’s go see it on Valentine’s Day!”

“……”

Seriously!!  Look at the poster!  This is what they want!

TL;DR:

50 Shades of Grey is a Fan Fiction that got published (illegal) and it’s now being made into a movie (even more illegal) which is (presumably) not a porno (not true to source material) and they want people to see it on Valentine’s Day!

So yeah…I’m royally pissed.  I’m trying to get my original work published, but I can’t.  Because we need to leave room on the shelf for 50 Shades of Grey.

Which leads me back to: Please join the Support Hellbound Initiative!  It is not the most original book in the world but I am 100% confident it is better than 50 Shades of Grey.

The End!

 

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Filed under Animation, books, Humor, Movies

Hellbound Again

Guess where I am right now?

If you guessed Barnes & Noble, then you win the prize.  (Spoiler alert: There is no prize)

I am sitting in the cafe with a sign on my computer inviting people to ask about my book if they have the time.  And when they do ask, I hand them a packet with information about the Support Hellbound Initiative.  Don’t know what I’m talking about?  Shame on you!  You can either click that link or click back to the post before this one.  It will give you all the info you need to know.  The next couple posts are probably going to be more of the same.  I don’t have a lot of blog followers so I need to spread the word as much as possible.  Of course if you have already signed a card for me, I am so grateful.  But I demand more!

Remember, the cards look like this:

card

If you’re interested in signing one, all you have to do is send an email with your name and address to WriteRightWithBex@gmail.com.  That’s it.  There will be absolutely no cost to you, aside from a few minutes of your time and some pen ink.  I will pay for all postage; the SASE in the envelope will already have a stamp on it.

Below I am going to post my excerpt of Hellbound again.  Remember, if you like what you read you can request a card.  Every tenth person to request one is going to get an extra surprise inside their envelope. (Spoiler alert: These prizes are real and will really happen)

Here it is:

Prologue

A quiet night in September finds a pair of bloodied hands drawing occult symbols in a secluded plot of dirt. Not a sound can be heard except for erratic, frenzied breathing.

Nervous thoughts compete for attention.

This is so wrong.

It won’t even work.

It’s a school night.

I should be sleeping.

But it could make everything better. There must have been a reason for finding this book. It was meant to be.

The symbols are complete. What next?

Smudged fingers hover over the yellowed pages.

The pentacle…on the forehead. Sweat mixes with blood and dirt as it is drawn.

The hands drop. Waiting.

The pages are consulted again. It should have worked.

Silence. Pressing silence.

It didn’t work. Of course it didn’t work. It was ridiculous to think it would.

“You have freed me. In exchange I am required to offer you one service.”

The voice sends a jolt down the spine; it came out of nowhere. In the middle of all the symbols on the ground is now a tall, dark figure. A living shadow. Its cavernous eyes are cast down on the quivering human before it, waiting. Expectant.

Quickly, the pages are consulted again. The required response. The contract must be completed!

“I…I understand my part in this. I accept your boon with gratitude.”

The creature gives the slightest of nods.

Dry lips are licked.

“This is what I need you to do…”

 

Chapter One

Aiden woke up to the sound of screams, as usual. They sounded more outraged than normal, which he knew meant bad news for him. He blinked and stretched, stood up and shook himself. It was dark, and he had no idea what time it was. Clocks were hard to come by in Hell. Working clocks even harder. Without the need for a light source, he found his way to his dresser, pulled out clothes, put them on.

It was the same old routine. Strangely enough, he knew something was going to break up the monotony of his life very soon, and it was that fact that made him dread leaving his room. So he did what any normal teenage boy would do – he stalled. Running his fingers through his light brown hair, he looked absently around his room for a mirror before he remembered he didn’t have one.

“Kairn?”

He stooped to look under his bed as he called his friend’s name again.

“I know you’re here, Kairn. Quit dicking around.”

The expressions of the twenty-first century were fairly new to him, but he had to admit he liked them. If there was one good thing about the constant influx of souls in Hell, it was that he was able to keep up with the times by listening to their various speech patterns.

A large, red gecko with black spots skittered down from the ceiling and turned its black eyes on Aiden’s back. Its footprints glowed in the pitch darkness, creating enough light to catch Aiden’s attention.

“There you are,” he said, standing. “I need a mirror.”

The lizard cocked its head at him. Aiden scoffed.

“I don’t owe you a reason. Maybe I just want to remind myself of what I look like today.”

Kairn raised his shoulders in a shrug and turned into a small, round mirror with an ornate gold frame that was encrusted with rubies.

“Dude, come on,” Aiden moaned. “I’m not exactly in the mood.”

A head appeared out of the top of the mirror to look questioningly at Aiden.

“I’m going to get a new assignment today,” he grumbled. “Now could you give me a less girly mirror, please?”

It wasn’t that he didn’t want this assignment – he always craved the brief periods of time when he was allowed to go to Earth – but it was starting to weigh on him. It was so hard to go to Earth, a place that held so much more promise than Hell, only to have it ripped away from him time and time again.

Kairn made a kind of sympathetic clicking noise and then quickly rearranged himself until he was a full-length mirror with a simple, black frame.

“Thanks, buddy.”

Aiden stood in front of the mirror and looked at himself. He did that for about fifteen minutes, standing as still as a statue, so nervous that he found himself holding his breath. His reflection stared back at him with his own golden yellow eyes.

After another five minutes had passed, someone knocked on Aiden’s door so hard that it jostled bits and pieces loose from the stalactites on the ceiling.

“What?” he called.

“You know what,” came a bored, female voice with an unmistakable Irish accent. “Your father’s waiting for you on the other side of the Infinite Cavern. Get your butt up there within the next thirty seconds or I’ll lock you in one of the serial killer cages and watch the carnage unfold while I eat my breakfast.”

Aiden didn’t respond. He wasn’t sure if he didn’t actually prefer that threat to whatever his father had in store for him.

“Move!” the voice on the other side of the door barked.

Aiden sighed at Kairn, who was back to being a giant gecko, and walked out of his room. He didn’t expect anyone to be outside when he got there, and he wasn’t disappointed. The woman on the other side of the door had already flitted away to her next errand.

The dull roar of screams that he had managed to block from his mind until that point rose into a crescendo of rage again. They had sensed his presence and were shouting their disapproval already.

Much as he hated to admit it, Aiden felt for the souls incarcerated in Tor. They wanted to be on Earth as desperately as he did, but whenever one of them was summoned from its cell by a desperate human, it was his job to bring them back. And they loathed him for it. Even though only a select few entered into such pacts, they all knew he was responsible for destroying their chance at freedom.

Aiden took on his true form before he stepped into the Infinite Cavern. The Res-du-Tor were never allowed to show their human faces to the souls, in case one escaped. If the escapee were able to recognize the Re-du-Tor’s human form, it would know exactly who to run from.

Transformation complete, Aiden closed his eyes and took a deep breath before stepping through the archway at the end of the hall. The noise in the Infinite Cavern was deafening, as always. The place was home to hundreds of thousands of souls, or rather, the physical manifestations of people’s worse sides. All the good halves of people’s essence went to Lux, leaving Aiden and Tor to deal with the incarnations of pure evil.

The Infinite Cavern consisted of two walls that were infinitely tall, hence its name. Dug into the walls were large pits that were closed off with metal bars. Inside these cages were the souls. They were forced to stay there until it was time for them to be mixed with one of their good counterparts and reborn.

This process was all Tor’s and Lux’s jurisdiction, though. They were the ones who mixed the good and bad souls together in human babies. The new soul would have no memory of its past lives, and it would be neither good nor bad, since babies had no concept of right or wrong. As the baby grew up, it would develop or diminish the good and bad sides of its soul according to the way it was raised. Aiden’s job had nothing to do with soul production, though; his line of work was in soul retrieval.

Tor had taken to making Aiden cross the Infinite Cavern to receive his assignments. It was supposed to act as a reminder of the consequences that could result from him not doing his job; letting a powerful, evil soul run amok on Earth could, and would, have disastrous results. People could die. The balance of Good and Evil in the world could be tipped. Or worse, humans could find out what really lay beyond Death’s door. The information could drive them crazy, make them commit suicide, make them kill others, stop caring about life.

This didn’t stop Aiden from avoiding his job. It wasn’t like he cared about the humans who were endangered by the soul’s presence.

Aiden tried to look straight ahead and ignore the souls, but they refused to ignore him. Long, boneless arms reached out through the bars of their cages to swipe at his legs, his neck, his wings, anything they thought they could reach. He was safe, though. Part of the magic of the Infinite Cavern made it so they could never reach. No matter how long their limbs got, they would always be just a few inches too short to grab hold of anyone or anything on the outside.

“Going topside again, are you, boy?”

Aiden turned towards what seemed to be the only creature in Hell that wasn’t attempting to strangle him. Interesting that it was talking to him. They didn’t usually bother doing that. Most of them couldn’t, since they hadn’t retained much of their humanity. The shadowy figure sat in the back of his cell, black eyes and unsettlingly toothless grin turned in his direction. Aiden felt like he was staring at a demonic Cheshire cat.

“Don’t get too attached to the fresh air, mind,” the gravelly voice continued as Aiden shook his head and walked on. Its voice followed him as he finished crossing the Infinite Cavern. “No matter how much you try to convince yourself otherwise, you’re still a prisoner here just like the rest of us. You’re no freer than I am.”

Aiden tried to push the soul’s voice out of his mind. Of course it knew exactly how to push his buttons. It was evil, after all.

He stepped through the doorway at the end of the cavern and followed the curve of the tunnel, past the Door, all the way to where it dead-ended in a large alcove. Then, safely out of sight of the souls, he turned back into a human. His father was waiting for him, his face red with frustration, while some minor servants danced around him trying to get him to sign various forms. Tor’s work was never done. Most of his time was spent approving souls to be reborn on Earth and monitoring the souls’ activity to make sure that no escapes had been made without his noticing.

“You’re trying my patience, Re-du-Tor,” the Devil gritted out. “You have a job to do and I expect you to do it.”

“Yes, Tor,” Aiden sneered. “What will it be this time, Tor?”

“I like that tone. You remind me of your mother. Keep it up.”

He turned to one of his servants and signed yet another form, which disappeared a second later.

“Your new assignment,” he began, “is in the United States. You will find the idiotic human who invoked the Rit-du-Malos, extract the soul, and bring it back. Promptly.”

Aiden couldn’t help but feel intrigued at the prospect of going to the United States. His last assignment had been in…Europe? France maybe. They all tended to blend together. At any rate, he hadn’t seen anything of modern-day America, and it sounded like he could waste some truly glorious time there.

“How long do I have?” he asked.

Tor sighed and rolled his eyes.

“Get rid of that hopeful glint in your eye. I’m giving you a month. One. Month. Just get up there, do your job, and come back. Please. For once.”

“That’s not fair,” Aiden grumbled. “One month isn’t even enough time to stretch my legs.”

“One month is generous,” Tor countered. “I could have given you half that time, but I thought you might want to avoid Luther for once.”

Aiden shuddered. His run-ins with the Re-du-Lux – his counterpart in Heaven, whose job it was to keep Aiden on schedule – were never fun, or painless.

“I just want to get a chance to live a real life,” he pleaded, knowing it would do no good. Tor had heard all his best arguments a million times. “I want to…I don’t know, see movies. Watch TV. Go to school, hang out with kids my age.”

“Your age? Kids your age?” Tor paused to bark out a laugh. “There are no kids your age. You’re three hundred and seventy-five years old!”

“Three seventy-six, dad. You missed my last birthday.”

“The point is, you cannot hope to lead a normal life among mortals, Aiden. I don’t know how many times I have to tell you this before it sinks in. You will never be like them. You have powers they can’t even dream of.” Aiden was a little taken aback. Tor’s tone had become almost…fatherly. Before he could think that his father had turned over a new leaf, however, Tor continued what he was saying. “And you have a deadline. One month. No leeway on this one, Aiden. I will have Luther rip your wings off if you’re not back in time.”

“Yes, father,” Aiden said, bowing.

He knew there was no point in arguing further. He also knew he wasn’t going to let Luther, Tor, or any stupid soul land him back in Tor in just one measly month.

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Filed under books, Humor, writing

The Support Hellbound Initiative

We’re going to have a very brief hiatus on the chapter updates for now.  I am clearly unsure where I’m going with the book, and my brother highly recommends outlining, so I’m trying that.  I actually have an outline for chapter eight already, but I don’t want to write it until I know what’s going to happen in subsequent chapters.

But this is good because it gives me a chance to tell you about that project I hinted at a while back.  You know that stupid thing I’m trying?  Basically I am not very happy with the idea of sitting around and doing nothing to help promote or sell my own book.  So I’m starting the Support Hellbound Initiative.  It’s probably too little too late, but I’ve got to try something.

The short summary of the project is this: I’m going to collect signatures, not unlike signatures for a petition.  The signatures will be on cards, and the cards will be arranged in a visual type of way.  Updates will happen on this blog, and you can be a part of it.

Here’s how:

Step 1 – Read all these steps carefully.

Step 2 – After you have read all the steps, read the excerpt of my novel Hellbound at the bottom of this post.

Step 3 – If you like what you read, or you think someone else would like it, or you at least acknowledge that the writing is decent, then please send me an email at WriteRightWithBex@gmail.com.  In that email, please provide your name and mailing address.

Step 4 – I will mail you an envelope.

Large Envelope

Inside that envelope will be a smaller envelope.

Both Envelopes

Inside that smaller envelope will be a card.

Envelopes and cards

The card will look like this.

card

Sign the card.

Signed Card

Personalize it a bit if you want to.  You can draw a butterfly or sign in rainbow.  I only ask that the words and signature are visible, and that you put nothing obscene on the card.  We are all adults here, after all.

Step 5 – You will notice that the smaller envelope is what we in the business call an “SASE.”  Self Addressed Stamped Envelope.  Basically it means that I will do all the work for you.  All you have to do is sign the card, seal it in the smaller envelope, write a return address if you want, and stick that sucker in the mail.

Small envelope + writing

Step 6 (Optional) – Tell your friends!  Tell your family!  Tell your neighbors in between asking them to pick up after their dog and requesting that they stop having loud parties on weekday nights.  If you feel there are other people in your life who would be amenable to signing a card, feel free to ask me in your email for multiple cards.  I’m going to cap it at ten, since you know…you gotta draw the line somewhere.  But you can request up to ten cards.

Step 7 (DEFINITELY NOT OPTIONAL) – READ THIS REASSURING DISCLAIMER:

First of all, I am not a company.  I am not a corporation.  I am not an evil CEO or even a kind CEO.  I’m just one person trying to make a living doing something I love.  I am not going to sell your address or personal information to the highest bidder, or use the information you provide for ANYTHING other than mailing you these cards.  Also, just to point it out, you’re going to have my address, too.  So it’s a fair exchange.  Another also…please don’t do anything weird with my address.  Because I’m not going to do anything weird with yours.

Second, signing this card is in NO WAY legally binding. I CAN NOT use your signature on a business card to force you to purchase a copy of my book should it get published.

That being said, if you do help to get my book published, I thank you with every fiber of my being. I mean that. Furthermore, if you help my book get published and purchase a copy of the novel…well…I have no more fibers of my being to thank you with. Just know that you have earned my eternal gratitude.

Finally, a reminder: I wrote Hellbound. Don’t steal it please. I’m taking a big risk sharing even this much of it with you.

Step 8: This isn’t actually a step.  I just want to let you know that this should be fun for everyone.  So I’m going to offer a little bonus gift (like a drawing or something) to the first person who writes in for a card, and then every tenth person after that.  The exciting thing is you won’t know if you qualify as one of those people until you open the envelope.  So that could be fun right?  Like a game of chance.

Also, anyone who sends me ten signed signature cards will have the option of requesting a signed, laminated print of one of my Writer’s Block comics.  If you want.  You have to send the cards first, but if I receive ten from you I’ll email you and ask you if you want a print.  I know I have no way of knowing if real people signed cards or if you just signed ten yourself, but hopefully I can trust you to be honest.  Sound fair?

Okay that’s it!  Thank you for reading this far.  Here is the excerpt of the most recent version of Hellbound:

Prologue

A quiet night in September finds a pair of bloodied hands drawing occult symbols in a secluded plot of dirt. Not a sound can be heard except for erratic, frenzied breathing.

Nervous thoughts compete for attention.

This is so wrong.

It won’t even work.

It’s a school night.

I should be sleeping.

But it could make everything better. There must have been a reason for finding this book. It was meant to be.

The symbols are complete. What next?

Smudged fingers hover over the yellowed pages.

The pentacle…on the forehead. Sweat mixes with blood and dirt as it is drawn.

The hands drop. Waiting.

The pages are consulted again. It should have worked.

Silence. Pressing silence.

It didn’t work. Of course it didn’t work. It was ridiculous to think it would.

“You have freed me. In exchange I am required to offer you one service.”

The voice sends a jolt down the spine; it came out of nowhere. In the middle of all the symbols on the ground is now a tall, dark figure. A living shadow. Its cavernous eyes are cast down on the quivering human before it, waiting. Expectant.

Quickly, the pages are consulted again. The required response. The contract must be completed!

“I…I understand my part in this. I accept your boon with gratitude.”

The creature gives the slightest of nods.

Dry lips are licked.

“This is what I need you to do…”

 

Chapter One

Aiden woke up to the sound of screams, as usual. They sounded more outraged than normal, which he knew meant bad news for him. He blinked and stretched, stood up and shook himself. It was dark, and he had no idea what time it was. Clocks were hard to come by in Hell. Working clocks even harder. Without the need for a light source, he found his way to his dresser, pulled out clothes, put them on.

It was the same old routine. Strangely enough, he knew something was going to break up the monotony of his life very soon, and it was that fact that made him dread leaving his room. So he did what any normal teenage boy would do – he stalled. Running his fingers through his light brown hair, he looked absently around his room for a mirror before he remembered he didn’t have one.

“Kairn?”

He stooped to look under his bed as he called his friend’s name again.

“I know you’re here, Kairn. Quit dicking around.”

The expressions of the twenty-first century were fairly new to him, but he had to admit he liked them. If there was one good thing about the constant influx of souls in Hell, it was that he was able to keep up with the times by listening to their various speech patterns.

A large, red gecko with black spots skittered down from the ceiling and turned its black eyes on Aiden’s back. Its footprints glowed in the pitch darkness, creating enough light to catch Aiden’s attention.

“There you are,” he said, standing. “I need a mirror.”

The lizard cocked its head at him. Aiden scoffed.

“I don’t owe you a reason. Maybe I just want to remind myself of what I look like today.”

Kairn raised his shoulders in a shrug and turned into a small, round mirror with an ornate gold frame that was encrusted with rubies.

“Dude, come on,” Aiden moaned. “I’m not exactly in the mood.”

A head appeared out of the top of the mirror to look questioningly at Aiden.

“I’m going to get a new assignment today,” he grumbled. “Now could you give me a less girly mirror, please?”

It wasn’t that he didn’t want this assignment – he always craved the brief periods of time when he was allowed to go to Earth – but it was starting to weigh on him. It was so hard to go to Earth, a place that held so much more promise than Hell, only to have it ripped away from him time and time again.

Kairn made a kind of sympathetic clicking noise and then quickly rearranged himself until he was a full-length mirror with a simple, black frame.

“Thanks, buddy.”

Aiden stood in front of the mirror and looked at himself. He did that for about fifteen minutes, standing as still as a statue, so nervous that he found himself holding his breath. His reflection stared back at him with his own golden yellow eyes.

After another five minutes had passed, someone knocked on Aiden’s door so hard that it jostled bits and pieces loose from the stalactites on the ceiling.

“What?” he called.

“You know what,” came a bored, female voice with an unmistakable Irish accent. “Your father’s waiting for you on the other side of the Infinite Cavern. Get your butt up there within the next thirty seconds or I’ll lock you in one of the serial killer cages and watch the carnage unfold while I eat my breakfast.”

Aiden didn’t respond. He wasn’t sure if he didn’t actually prefer that threat to whatever his father had in store for him.

“Move!” the voice on the other side of the door barked.

Aiden sighed at Kairn, who was back to being a giant gecko, and walked out of his room. He didn’t expect anyone to be outside when he got there, and he wasn’t disappointed. The woman on the other side of the door had already flitted away to her next errand.

The dull roar of screams that he had managed to block from his mind until that point rose into a crescendo of rage again. They had sensed his presence and were shouting their disapproval already.

Much as he hated to admit it, Aiden felt for the souls incarcerated in Tor. They wanted to be on Earth as desperately as he did, but whenever one of them was summoned from its cell by a desperate human, it was his job to bring them back. And they loathed him for it. Even though only a select few entered into such pacts, they all knew he was responsible for destroying their chance at freedom.

Aiden took on his true form before he stepped into the Infinite Cavern. The Res-du-Tor were never allowed to show their human faces to the souls, in case one escaped. If the escapee were able to recognize the Re-du-Tor’s human form, it would know exactly who to run from.

Transformation complete, Aiden closed his eyes and took a deep breath before stepping through the archway at the end of the hall. The noise in the Infinite Cavern was deafening, as always. The place was home to hundreds of thousands of souls, or rather, the physical manifestations of people’s worse sides. All the good halves of people’s essence went to Lux, leaving Aiden and Tor to deal with the incarnations of pure evil.

The Infinite Cavern consisted of two walls that were infinitely tall, hence its name. Dug into the walls were large pits that were closed off with metal bars. Inside these cages were the souls. They were forced to stay there until it was time for them to be mixed with one of their good counterparts and reborn.

This process was all Tor’s and Lux’s jurisdiction, though. They were the ones who mixed the good and bad souls together in human babies. The new soul would have no memory of its past lives, and it would be neither good nor bad, since babies had no concept of right or wrong. As the baby grew up, it would develop or diminish the good and bad sides of its soul according to the way it was raised. Aiden’s job had nothing to do with soul production, though; his line of work was in soul retrieval.

Tor had taken to making Aiden cross the Infinite Cavern to receive his assignments. It was supposed to act as a reminder of the consequences that could result from him not doing his job; letting a powerful, evil soul run amok on Earth could, and would, have disastrous results. People could die. The balance of Good and Evil in the world could be tipped. Or worse, humans could find out what really lay beyond Death’s door. The information could drive them crazy, make them commit suicide, make them kill others, stop caring about life.

This didn’t stop Aiden from avoiding his job. It wasn’t like he cared about the humans who were endangered by the soul’s presence.

Aiden tried to look straight ahead and ignore the souls, but they refused to ignore him. Long, boneless arms reached out through the bars of their cages to swipe at his legs, his neck, his wings, anything they thought they could reach. He was safe, though. Part of the magic of the Infinite Cavern made it so they could never reach. No matter how long their limbs got, they would always be just a few inches too short to grab hold of anyone or anything on the outside.

“Going topside again, are you, boy?”

Aiden turned towards what seemed to be the only creature in Hell that wasn’t attempting to strangle him. Interesting that it was talking to him. They didn’t usually bother doing that. Most of them couldn’t, since they hadn’t retained much of their humanity. The shadowy figure sat in the back of his cell, black eyes and unsettlingly toothless grin turned in his direction. Aiden felt like he was staring at a demonic Cheshire cat.

“Don’t get too attached to the fresh air, mind,” the gravelly voice continued as Aiden shook his head and walked on. Its voice followed him as he finished crossing the Infinite Cavern. “No matter how much you try to convince yourself otherwise, you’re still a prisoner here just like the rest of us. You’re no freer than I am.”

Aiden tried to push the soul’s voice out of his mind. Of course it knew exactly how to push his buttons. It was evil, after all.

He stepped through the doorway at the end of the cavern and followed the curve of the tunnel, past the Door, all the way to where it dead-ended in a large alcove. Then, safely out of sight of the souls, he turned back into a human. His father was waiting for him, his face red with frustration, while some minor servants danced around him trying to get him to sign various forms. Tor’s work was never done. Most of his time was spent approving souls to be reborn on Earth and monitoring the souls’ activity to make sure that no escapes had been made without his noticing.

“You’re trying my patience, Re-du-Tor,” the Devil gritted out. “You have a job to do and I expect you to do it.”

“Yes, Tor,” Aiden sneered. “What will it be this time, Tor?”

“I like that tone. You remind me of your mother. Keep it up.”

He turned to one of his servants and signed yet another form, which disappeared a second later.

“Your new assignment,” he began, “is in the United States. You will find the idiotic human who invoked the Rit-du-Malos, extract the soul, and bring it back. Promptly.”

Aiden couldn’t help but feel intrigued at the prospect of going to the United States. His last assignment had been in…Europe? France maybe. They all tended to blend together. At any rate, he hadn’t seen anything of modern-day America, and it sounded like he could waste some truly glorious time there.

“How long do I have?” he asked.

Tor sighed and rolled his eyes.

“Get rid of that hopeful glint in your eye. I’m giving you a month. One. Month. Just get up there, do your job, and come back. Please. For once.”

“That’s not fair,” Aiden grumbled. “One month isn’t even enough time to stretch my legs.”

“One month is generous,” Tor countered. “I could have given you half that time, but I thought you might want to avoid Luther for once.”

Aiden shuddered. His run-ins with the Re-du-Lux – his counterpart in Heaven, whose job it was to keep Aiden on schedule – were never fun, or painless.

“I just want to get a chance to live a real life,” he pleaded, knowing it would do no good. Tor had heard all his best arguments a million times. “I want to…I don’t know, see movies. Watch TV. Go to school, hang out with kids my age.”

“Your age? Kids your age?” Tor paused to bark out a laugh. “There are no kids your age. You’re three hundred and seventy-five years old!”

“Three seventy-six, dad. You missed my last birthday.”

“The point is, you cannot hope to lead a normal life among mortals, Aiden. I don’t know how many times I have to tell you this before it sinks in. You will never be like them. You have powers they can’t even dream of.” Aiden was a little taken aback. Tor’s tone had become almost…fatherly. Before he could think that his father had turned over a new leaf, however, Tor continued what he was saying. “And you have a deadline. One month. No leeway on this one, Aiden. I will have Luther rip your wings off if you’re not back in time.”

“Yes, father,” Aiden said, bowing.

He knew there was no point in arguing further. He also knew he wasn’t going to let Luther, Tor, or any stupid soul land him back in Tor in just one measly month.

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