October 31st. All Hallows Eve. The devil's Mardi Gras. Within walls
painted with the scarlet broth of human life, in Devil King Nerul's
court, buried deep within the bowels of an unsuspecting Earth, All Hallows
Eve is celebrated in a way that brings to mind the human holiday, Christmas.
Beneath the holiday tree in Nerul's court however, the only gifts are
corpses, wrapped in their own stink, and tied with the roiling ribbons
of their newly claimed maggot hosts.
Within these walls all manner of horror waits in rabid anticipation
of the culmination of the grand scheme, which was born as long as 2000
years ago, and comes to fruition on this night.
Halloween, 2012. In the spirit world, the year of the devil.
As young, fresh-cheeked toddlers and adolescents choke down their dinners
in their eagerness to don their costumes and hit the streets, their
evil counterparts gather below with putrefying smiles and plan their
evening's delights, preening flesh-clogged claws and razor edged fangs
in preparation for the coming carnage.
The word had spread like wildfire through the spirit world. It had
passed with the tenacity of long told tales and hero's songs. On this
Eve, the proclamation tells, a life could be regained for a life lost.
For a brief time, ending exactly at midnight, death's cold, filthy grasp
could be traded for the warmth and joys of life. The rules, proclaimed
by Devil King Nerul, were simple and grave: Kill a young human brutally,
disfiguringly. And life and beauty would be yours again. No ordinary
killing would do. Only through extreme violence could the exchange be
Brutality among the court's demons, devils, and gargoyles was not a
problem. They regularly paid death its due through excessive carnage.
They only feared the good in man. Goodness served as both a lure and
a killing frost to their type of evil purpose. It was as acid to their
flesh, unutterable despair to their spirits. And in this unwelcome trait,
the sweet, untainted child was of particular danger to them.
With this knowledge in their tortured thoughts, Nerul's monsters gathered
with a mixture of fear and gleeful anticipation. For the sweet syrup
of human goodness was a wine they rarely dared to drink. These dwellers
of subterranean dark generally set their sights on those of human form
whose souls had long ago been bartered away for temporary riches, whether
monetary or of the flesh. Those humans who took the downward spiral
in their humane growth, and passed beyond the hope of ever finding their
way back, were ready and tender targets for Nerul and his kind. This
type of victim the hosts of human nightmares understood and readily
In contrast, their prey on this most important of nights would be heavily
protected from the monsters' lures. The good were constantly guarded
and watched by their guardian Angels. And once they had been separated
from their guardians, their sweet natures would still burn as acid until
it was tainted by evil. It was this task that would prove the most difficult.
Luring the good into evil so that they could be subdued.
As dusk gathered like a mask across the land, children and monsters
alike left the cover of their dwellings and walked out, gleefully anticipating
the coming Halloween delights. Children greeted each other with high-pitched,
Angelic voices and taunted their elders for homemade tidbits and sweet-tasting
treats while tripping happily over their ghostly sheets and bewitching
finery. Among them, short, jolly monsters with bloodied, latex faces
and glowing, green plastic eyes danced from house to house, swinging
bags that bulged with gastronomic delights and sang out a childish challenge
to all that they passed. None of them dreamed that behind the next tree,
beyond the next hill, the stuff of true nightmares awaited them, watching
for the opportunity to drink greedily of their potent human wine.
Hovering watchfully above these sweet human targets, the Angels of
God trained careful, probing eyes on their charges and cast their web
of goodness around the unsuspecting children like a protective wall.
While Nerul's monsters could boast freely to each other of their indifference
to the Angels' powers, nary a one thought to test those powers when
they were gathered en masse as they were this special night. After a
human hour's passage of time, the monsters, disgusted and repelled by
the wall of goodness they'd encountered on those lively streets, retreated
to council beneath a fat and taunting moon. Deep in a cold foreboding
wood, where displaced spirits danced their fearful dance across the
wind-stripped limbs of winter's trees, the monsters bent their terrible
heads and began to plan.
They snatched sleeping squirrels from their peaceful nests and bit
off their tiny heads thoughtfully as they discussed their attack. Encircling
a fire that shot upward from a hole in the earth at the center of their
evil council, they argued and pierced each other with gore-touched claws
and blood-slimed teeth. Then, at last, heads nodding in agreement, they
doused the fires of Hell in their midst and moved out into the night,
to make real the nightmare they'd hatched in that dark, cold wood.
As the monsters settled into place in the shadows just beyond the light,
calling to their king to bend his special powers to fulfillment of their
plan, a lone child emerged from a darkened house, clutching her mother's
work-roughened hand. The child was very small, with bright blue eyes
and hair that was a scarlet spark under the efficient, white glow of
the streetlights. Her name was Astra and, although she was very young
and very small, she moved with the purpose of the very old and her eyes
were filled with an understanding that surpassed time. She was followed
by a single, bright Angel whose name was Myra, and whose scowling countenance
foretold the night to come.
As the child moved through the unsuspecting revelers, she looked often
to her Angel and smiled a bright, childish smile as if to offset the
celestial creature's stern countenance. Angel Myra's response was to
scowl more thoroughly and scan the area around them with increased intensity.
The ghoulish hunters could not avoid being drawn to Astra. Their red-rimmed
eyes followed her tiny form down the streets with a mixture of hunger
and dread. For her part, Astra gathered her treats rather carelessly,
and without apparent joy, as if she were simply playing a part that
could not be avoided. Her weary mother trudged along beside her, yawning
widely and offering sleepy smiles to the treat givers they approached.
The child's bright, angel-lit countenance on those human streets spurred
the monsters on. With renewed vigor they called upon Nerul to help them
set their plan into motion. As the revelers squeezed the last of the
bounty from the dying night, as lights and candles winked off all around
them, and footsteps turned wearily toward home, Nerul raised his awful
countenance and drove his massive powers into the rock and dirt that
formed the roof of his court in the bowels of the Earth. In response,
the very street the children walked upon began to tremble and crack.
With a thunderous roar, the street ripped apart and flew skyward to
expose the fires of Hell beneath.
With screams of surprise and then terror, children scattered or were
whisked away by their guardians. The children who had been standing
in the place where the jagged edges of the fiery pit emerged, teetered
and screamed and fell into it, landing in the hard, leathery arms of
their worst nightmares. While Hell's flames lapped hungrily at soft,
cringing flesh, the monsters bent their terrible heads to whisper words
of temptation into the tender, captive ears. Many of the small victims
succumbed to evil's promise and gave way. These the monsters dove upon
and devoured. A few, good, brave children shook their tiny heads in
denial of Hades' pledge. These the monsters rejected with a roar of
terror and disgust, flinging them from the fires of Hell, where they
were gathered up, once again, by their frantic guardian Angels.
By the hundreds, the guardian Angels left their charges and flew into
the pit to save the howling children. And as they fought the demons
of Hell, the Angels called to the heavens in crystalline tones of supplication.
Demons, devils, and gargoyles; taking advantage of the children’s
newly unguarded state; emerged from the shadows and carried them off,
whispering terrible words of temptation and threat into their helpless
As the smoke of burning flesh filled the air, and the sound of childish
screaming cut into the calm quiet of those human streets, doors and
windows flew open and people ran into the streets to watch in horror
while their world exploded around them.
In the midst of it all, Astra stood quiet and calm, arms outstretched,
and called selected children around her. At her calm insistence, even
the most terror stricken of the chosen few moved to stand quietly at
her side. The demons, seeing in the small child a power greater than
theirs, made no attempt to breach her circle of control and the thirteen,
specially-picked children she'd called to her side were spared.
Moments later, the bells of St. Michael's church on the corner began
to strike the hours of Midnight. As each hour chimed away, the edges
of the earth began to knit themselves back together and the smoke began
to clear. The screams died away to muted cries and then silence, and
the world began to right itself. As the midnight hour was reached, the
revelers seemed to shake themselves off and take a collective, deep
breath. They blinked and moved to retrieve lost bags filled with sweet
delights, resuming their measured steps toward home. Neighbors shook
their heads and returned to their homes, wondering what trick of fate
had brought them out of their warm beds and into the cold, quiet night.
Young Astra looked up and smiled sadly as Myra settled once again at
her back. Quietly they made their way home, dragging Astra's exhausted
mother behind. Once there, young Astra made an excuse to her mother
and stood outside for just a moment longer, glancing at her Angel with
a sad frown.
"How many do you think, my Angel?"
Myra shrugged and her habitual scowl deepened. "At least a dozen
"How many did you save?"
The Angel's soft lips took a downward turn, "Not nearly enough."
Astra nodded and touched her Angel's pale, translucent hand. "Will
their parents know?"
Myra shook her golden head and sighed. "They see what they want
to see, Astra."
Astra lowered her head and turned to enter her house. One by one the
lights of the street winked off and keys turned in locks. Inside the
homes, sleepy children kissed their parents' cheeks and trudged wearily
off to bed. If some of these small, sleepy faces seemed somehow different...somehow
colder...somehow sharper...their parents didn't notice.
The day was spent. The air outside was clear and cold. The moon lay
fat and smiling in the sky. It was time to put aside the cares of the
day. Small forms settled down to sleep in down-covered beds, with softly
glowing nightlights at their heads to protect them from the monsters
under the bed. But many of the monsters had moved from under the bed
to rest upon it. In many beds innocence no longer slept. In these beds,
eyes that had been bright with childish delight that morning, now glowed
with an unearthly fever, demonic with the pleasure of humanity gained.
Until at last, two by two, these cold eyes closed in restless sleep,
to foster dreams of celebrations to come.
October 31st, 2013. In the spirit world, the year of the demon.