by Carlton Herzog
SHE WAS ninety eight pounds soaking wet. He was nearly three hundred. Yet, her dainty pre-pubescent hand kept him down with ease as he struggled to free himself. I watched his face turn beet red from the pressure on his chest. He gasped and hissed, trying to speak. She moved her face right up to his and asked, ‘Can you repeat that, officer?’ Then like a jungle cat, she opened her maw and sunk her teeth into his face.

We grabbed her arms and tried to pull her off Deputy Kemp. But she stuck to him as if they had been welded together. Deputy Hansen tazed her in the neck, back of the head, and even the ears. Still, she would not let go. We tried nightsticks to pry her face from his. Clemens ran to the maintenance closet and came back with a five pound sledge. He hit her arms to no effect. Then he reared back and swung the sledge into her head. That’s when she drew back from Kemp’s face. When she did, she took his lips, nose, and portions of the skull beneath them with her. Five of us pulled her back using a variety of methods. Four pulled on her arms and legs. Another double-wrapped a phone cord around her neck.

She kicked and snapped cursing us in Latin: Im ‘iens ut dilacerant corda sicco vos nihilum cibum saccos. Tum Eo manducare et filii vestri. I didn’t know what she said, but it had an intangible air of menace. Digby, who had studied Latin, said, ‘That was something about killing us and then our children.’ No sooner had he uttered those words, than she broke free, leaped, and kicked Digby in the mouth. She drove her foot insofar as to knock his teeth out the back of his head. She laughed as she twisted her foot free from inside his mouth. When Wilson tried to grab her after she landed, she raked her tiny hands across Wilson’s neck, opening her jugular. Then she rag dolled Deputy Wilson, throwing her through the sheetrock wall.

I had seen enough. I shot her in the right leg. That slowed her a bit, but not enough to control her. I shot her in the left leg twice. When she tried standing on wobbly legs, I shot her in both shoulders. When she dropped for a moment, we dragged her to the restraint chair. For all the bullet holes in her there wasn’t much blood. And strangely enough, she didn’t seem to be in any pain, grinning and laughing as we strapped her into the chair then rolled her into a reinforced isolation cell.

Given the gaping hole in Kemp’s face where his nose and mouth used to be, I told the nurse, ‘Forget about the prisoner. Focus on Jack.’ The frantic nurse mummified Kemp’s face with gauze, leaving openings for him to breathe. The white gauze turned red while Kemp’s blood dripped onto the floor.

Something decidedly alien and malignant had landed in our world. It had taken the form of a seemingly innocent child and turned her into a cackling, bloodthirsty fiend. The horror I just described would pale in comparison to the nightmare that would follow. The demon seed had come and we were at her mercy.

We had found her at 3am wandering the streets. Since she was an unaccompanied minor, we brought her back to the jail. She remained mute the entire time, seemingly amused by our concern for her welfare. While the intake officer placed a call to Social Services, she remained quiescent. Though from time to time, she would mumble in Latin under her breath.

I sat her in a chair away from the adults in custody. I kept a watchful, almost paternal eye on her. As the desk sergeant was speaking to Social Services, all hell broke loose. One of the women waiting to be processed for drunk and disorderly began screaming that she was ‘Hell spawn. You need to kill her now.’ With bulging eyes, and chaotic hair, she charged the little girl. But the little girl turned the tables. She grabbed the hysterical woman, picked her up over her head, spun her like a propeller, and then body-slammed her. She jumped on the unconscious woman and began tearing through her clothes straight into her belly. A moment later, the girl was pulling out the woman’s intestines. We were all stunned. Before anyone could stop her, she yanked out the woman’s kidneys, liver, and spleen. Awash in blood, the tiny fiend stuck her face squarely into the bloody viscera and lapped it up like a cat drinking milk from a bowl.

Kemp was the first to reach her. He yanked on her arm to pull her off, but he might as well have been trying to lift a boulder. The girl would not budge. He hit her arm several times with his baton. That got her attention. When Kemp went to hit her again, she freed an arm to catch his. In one fluid, superhuman motion, she yanked his arm. He flipped in the air, landing on his back. She sprang on him, and just before we grabbed her, her cantilevered mouth opened, and rows of razor sharp teeth sunk into Kemp’s face.

WE ALL BREATHED a premature sigh of relief after the isolation door closed. We gathered around, staring at her through the plexiglass as we waited for the EMTs. But she had not been restrained more than a few minutes before she popped the arm restraints, tore off the chest and leg ones, and bounced out of the chair like a bubbly cheerleader preparing for her next number.

She nonchalantly walked over to the door and held out her hand. In it were the five bullets I had fired. Then she proceeded to explain herself with egotistical magnificence.

‘You humans are so naïve. You can’t hurt me, and you can’t hold me. I let you restrain me.’

‘How is that you are suffering no ill effects from being hit multiple times with a sledgehammer and shot five times at point blank range?’ I asked via the intercom.

‘If she were still with us, the raging second sighted drunk could tell you.’

‘You have strength beyond that of a normal human. Are you Supergirl?’ I asked.

‘Silly boy, you read too many comics. Supergirl’s not real!’

‘Who then?’

‘I am the Devil’s daughter, and I am here to do my Father’s work.’

‘So, you’re possessed,’ I quipped.

‘There’s nobody in here but little old me. Like I said, I am the Devil’s daughter here to do some devilish shit in this trash fire of a world. I can’t make it any plainer than that.’

‘What kind of devilish shit?’ I asked.

‘Make babies. Now that abortion is illegal, I’ll be squirting one out every week or so.’

‘How is that possible?’

‘It’s a Devil thing. I was born three days after he knocked up my mom. I grew to this size three days later. In another three days, I’ll be fit to have a child. I chalk my rapid maturation and powers to a steady diet of souls. I walk up to somebody all innocent and charming, tell them I want to whisper something in their ear, and then I suck all that juicy divine goodness right out of them. But I shouldn’t have to tell you that. The recent wave of depraved killings is a direct result of those I’ve tasted. When you lose your soul to me, all the normal checks and balances of conscience and morality grow wings and fly out the window. A soulless person will kill with reckless abandon, same as I do.’

‘If you feed on souls, then why did you eat that woman’s entrails?’ I asked.

‘Souls are for nutrition. Human meat is like candy to Hell spawn. I’ll let you in on a secret. In Hell, cannibals are punished by being eaten daily by demons. The next day, the process starts all over again. When word got out how good people tasted, several enterprising demons opened eateries catering to the taste of human meat. There’s stir fry human, human tartar, people burger, people fingers, and barbecue people joints all over the place. Demons know a good thing when they see it. Long story short, whatever it is in demons that craves people meat is also in me. But I am more of a human tartar gal. I likes ’em screaming and squirming when I eat them. If I had flat human molars and a weak human jaw, I couldn’t do it. Luckily, my jaw is as strong as that of a mako shark, and I have the shredding razor sharp teeth to match.’

I wanted to ask her more questions, but she stopped me.

‘Enough idle chitchat. I’ll be leaving, ’cause like they say, there’s no rest for the wicked. So, you need to step away from the door before I kick it off its hinges and across the room.’

I stepped away as did my fellow deputies. When we did, the door shot across the room and through the wall. Little Bo Satan stepped through, a mix of blood and smiles. She took my hand, and said, ‘You raised both eyebrows when I said I was the Devil’s daughter. So, let us then you and I take a little trip where I will stretch Hell out before your mortal eye. By the way, my name is Lilith after the mother of all unclean spirits. I even come wrapped in a poem from the Book of Proverbs:

Her house sinks down to death
And her course leads to the shades
All who go to her cannot return
And find again the paths of life

Although I admire the savagery of my condemnation, I must insist that I can lead you into Hell the way Virgil led Dante and I can lead you back out to the ‘paths of life’.

‘Well, that certainly is reassuring to know, Lilith,’ I said. As we stood there hand in hand, a spinning portal of green flame opened in the jail. We floated into and through it. We moved at supraluminal speeds, stars rushing by us as blurs and streaks of coloured light. I felt no sensation of movement. Nor did I want for air or warmth.

Eventually, we slowed and descended. We passed through a large cavern on an unknown world. We came to a desk where sat a man with three dog heads. He said, ‘Welcome, princess. Your wish is my command.’

My hostess said nothing. We continued to float until we saw a multitude of naked people running in a circle, chasing after a wavering banner. They in turn were pursued by swarms of wasps that stung them, producing a constant flow of blood and putrid matter.

‘These are the opportunists. They are doomed to pursue the ever shifting illusion of their own advantage and do so through the filth of the worms and maggots their oozing boils feed. I think it’s the degree of pure nastiness that makes Hell such an exceptional place to torment the damned,’ she offered.

I said nothing. But I was grateful that she was sparing my nose the mephitic stench that horrid place was exuding.

‘Let’s visit the Third Circle. It’s where the gluttons are tormented. I’ve heard it’s always good for a laugh.’

We began floating again through measureless caverns. Under an invisible umbrella of protection, we wafted through a great storm of putrefaction. It was a mixture of stinking snow and freezing rain that formed a vile slush at ground level. The swollen and obscene damned lay in that icy paste as Cerberus, the ravenous three headed dog of hell, ripped and tore them with his claws and teeth.

Lilith said, ‘Cerberus slavers over them as they in life slavered over food. Old Cerby used to man the Vestibule, but after an eternity of watching from the sidelines, he petitioned my Father to put his skin in the game. Now he tortures with the best of them and could not be happier. We should blow this popsicle stand. But before we do, I’ll let you meet my dad.’

We floated off again, but in a downward spiral into the bowels of that alien world. We eventually came to a great frozen chamber. I saw a giant demon at the centre, frozen mid breast in ice. It had three faces and a pair of bat like wings affixed under each chin. As it beat its wings, it created a cold wind that continued to freeze the ice surrounding it and the other sinners in the Ninth Circle.

I heard a loud booming voice say, ‘Greeting daughter. I take it from all the blood things are going well.’

‘Yes. The preparatory measures for establishing your kingdom on earth proceed as planned. Even now the oceans boil and the land bakes. When you come, and come you shall, you and your subject demons will find a suitable soil and atmosphere resembling those of the infernal realms.’

‘And what of this human? Do you plan to eat him yourself or is he a treat for me?’

‘He is a sceptic who needed to be shown the truth. No more no less. But I have given him my word that he shall be returned to the path of the living unharmed after we leave here.’

‘Very well. But I must insist that you find the offspring sired by Asmodeus and procreate with him rather than a mere mortal. No point in unnecessarily diluting your powers.’

‘I understand.’

Without another word between the two, we began our ascent. As we did, I asked Lilith, ‘If your father is imprisoned down here, how did he create you on earth?’

‘He can astral project himself for a short period of time into mortal hosts and mystically reconfigure their soul and DNA to produce devil spawn. That limitation is what makes my reproducing so vital to our plans because there are no such restrictions on me. The ideal partner for me, however, is one conceived by my Father or a Knight of Hell such as Asmodeus.’

With that, we went back the way we came. I reappeared back at the jail. She went I know not where. The other deputies peppered me with questions. I stayed mute and saved my answers for a recorded interview with the captain. After we were done, he said, ‘I want you with me at the hospital. Kemp could use some cheering up. The others here can clean up the mess.’

They had Kemp in the ICU heavily sedated. They let us stick our heads in for a quick peek. Then we sat in the waiting room.

‘You should know I notified certain people in the DOD about what happened. They’ve been in contact with the Vatican. So, you can expect another interview tomorrow. For now, go home at get some rest. I’ll stay a bit longer and call it a night.’

I GOT TO the jail at 8 am. Two men were waiting for me in ecclesiastical attire. The two clerics identified themselves as cardinals. My captain led us to the interview room. As we entered, he told the technician to shut off the camera.

‘Detective Osbourne, your captain tells me you had a remarkable adventure yesterday. We would like to hear all about it,’ said the younger, fresh faced cardinal.

‘As would I,’ said the older one.

I recounted what happened in the jail, the trip to hell, and my return.

The older cardinals asked, ‘Are you sure she said it would be three days before she could be with child?’

‘Yes, your grace. She also said she would procreate with someone born of a demon.’

‘Then we haven’t much time. We need to do a locator spell and find her as well as the potential father.’

I asked, ‘What then? Lilith is unstoppable. We shot, tazed, and clubbed her. All she did was grin.’

The older cardinal smiled and said, ‘That was to be expected. She is the child of a fallen angel, the most powerful of all. Therefore, she is beyond the reach of your weapons. To stop her, we must catch her in a devil’s trap and use the blood of Christ to kill her.’

My captain said, ‘You must find her first.’

‘Yes. For that we shall use a scrying mirror, which is a divination tool.’

He pulled out a shiny black mirror made of polished obsidian. Then both cardinals blessed it. From there they invoked a spell, presumably to pinpoint Lilith’s location: De potestate Christi cogunt te Nigrum Speculum revelare ubi nunc diaboli stawn resides. But rather than disclosing Lilith’s whereabouts, the mirror exploded in a hundred bits. The two cardinals absorbed the brunt of the shrapnel. The younger cardinal was struck in the eyes and throat, bleeding out before we could save him. The elder cardinal, my captain and I, were cut and abraded by the shards, but sustained no serious injury.

The cardinal said, ‘She must have sensed our divination and stopped it. But we must continue another way. For the death of my brother cannot have been in vain. So, it is with great reluctance, I summon Mocata the Reaper to bring her here in exchange for my own soul. Before I do, we must make ready the trap to hold her.’

He pointed to me and said, ‘Remove the table and chairs. Then fetch me a marker.’

I did as he asked. Marker in hand, he drew a perfect circle on the floor. To that outer circle he added an inner circle. Then inside it he drew a five pointed star whose points touched the outer circle and whose valleys touched the inner one. Around the rim, he drew Jehovah’s name forward and backward, the abbreviated names of the holy saints, figures of every adjunct to the heavens, and the characters of certain stars. He sprinkled holy water into and around the circle.

Then he had us all step into the trap with instructions to ‘Stay within its bounds regardless of what happens. You can only safely leave it until Mocata has come and gone. Otherwise, he will take you.’

The cardinal next pulled out a small text titled Et Sephiroth. He opened it to a reveal a Latin text, ancient symbols, and cabbalistic signs. He blessed himself then said, ‘Mocata, Mortis, videntur mihi iam ut paciscor pro anima mea.’ A moment later, the walls of the interview room began to undulate and writhe. A dim phosphorescent blob spread itself along the ceiling. Within it were horrific haunting faces that stared down at us with malefic intent. A black stallion emerged from the wall, carrying a hooded figure. It spoke in a booming voice.

‘Who dares summon Mocata from the darkness? Speak!!’

The cardinal wasted no time cutting his deal.

‘Mocata, Prince of Death, I am Cardinal Vespucci of the Roman Catholic Church. I wish to trade my soul for the capture and imprisonment of Satan’s daughter, Lilith, in this sacred circle as well as safe passage for myself and these others.’

‘Little creature of a temporary and negligible race, endowed with naught but five feeble senses, slave to local passions, conditions, and standards, what makes you think I would deign to trade with one as insignificant as thee for a solitary soul? I swim in the thick viscous ether of unknown dimensions and haunt those places where the black planets roll. One soul is little more than a beggar’s alms to one such as me. Can you do better?’

‘I can. In this vial, I have the blood of Christ. Sprinkle but a drop on any blade or arrow tip, and no demon can survive the wound. Indeed, were you to strike Satan, the current King of Hell, with such a poisoned thing, he would be reduced to ash, even as he stands frozen in the Ninth Circle.’

‘I am of a mind to take your offer. But what of your soul?’

‘Freely given with this vial.’

‘Then let the contract be fulfilled. I will fetch the Devil spawn and place her here. I vouchsafe you and your companions’ wellbeing outside the circle.’

Mocata disappeared in a flash of light. The cardinal ordered us to, ‘Get out of the sacred circle. Make no move to re-enter, for in a moment our unholy quarry will be brought to us.’

The cardinal pulled a dagger from his robe along with a second vial. He anointed the dagger with the blood and then concealed the knife behind his back.

Lilith appeared in a burst of light. But she was anything but a child. She had become a woman. She wore metallic green eye shadow so that her eyes looked like a jungle cat’s. She completed the effect with black mascara gold lip gloss. She wore a skirt—snakelike, shimmering black and red. She added a matching black bib halter around her neck and waist. With her large green eyes, glowing skin, and thick eyelashes, she looked like an enchantress goddess about to own the night.

She looked at us and laughed.

‘So, this is what it has come to. Some magic tricks by a broke-down Prince of Death. To what end? Even now the eldritch bonds that hold me are starting to break.’

I felt the entire building shudder along with me. The cardinal needed to act fast, and he did. He jumped into the circle fully intent on driving the lethal dagger home. But when he struck, she was no longer in front of him. She had somehow gotten behind him. And in one quick move yanked his head from his shoulders. He dropped like a bag of dirt, his blood shooting from his severed artery.

‘We meet again, deputy. That’s a good thing since I can’t seem to find my demonic counterpart with which to procreate. You will have to do.’

She stepped out of the circle, grabbed my hand, and together we stepped through a portal. This time we did not ride the highway to Hell. Instead, we wound up in my apartment. I was in her thrall, so much so that I watched myself perform the mechanical physical act that would produce a second generation hell spawn. She put me on the couch and admired herself in the hallway mirror. Before my very eyes, her belly swelled. Twenty minutes later, a baby dropped from between her legs. From where I sat, the thing looked normal. But there was no umbilical cord, nor any infant cries. She held the bloody thing in her arms until it began to grow. Within a few minutes, it was toddler sized. A few more, and it was the size of a six year old boy.

‘Well, deputy, you are now the proud father of a fiend. Since he’s a boy, and a second generation one at that, he’ll need some time to grow. I will stay here with him and see to his needs. As for you, you will not speak of this matter to anyone. In fact, you will remain here until he is ready to meet the world on his terms. Now clean up that blood.’

I did as Lilith ordered. She left briefly, then returned, parading a group of hypnotized people. I said nothing as she fed them to the child. She forced their faces to his and he sucked the divine spark from them. Every now and then, she put one in the bathtub and ate the person alive.

On the third day, the child she had named Tartarre asked me, ‘Are you my father?’

I said, ‘Yes. I am your father.’

Lilith watched the exchange with amusement.

‘Why don’t you eat with us?’ he asked.

‘I am not like you. I am human. We don’t eat our own kind.’

What he said next shocked me.

‘Why not? Everything is food for something else. Surely you eat the beasts of the field. What is man if not a beast? In the Bible my mother reads me, man was created to serve Satan as a labourer and as food. If I wanted to, my mother would let me eat you, father or not. But you may still have other uses.’

I changed the subject.

‘What are going to do when you leave my house?’

‘I am going to make copies of myself with the local women. Spread my demon seed throughout the land.’

Lilith said, ‘Well, before you become the cock of the walk, you need to be baptized. It’s Sunday. Let’s go to church as a family. Hang out with those bible thumping, tongue talking, devil smashing Pentecostals and soak up some of that old time religion.’

‘Do I have a choice?’ I asked.

‘Come on, Scott. How can there be any good choices when it’s the end of days? Your world and everyone in it are headed for some real Old Testament shit. Fire and brimstone coming from the skies and rivers while the seas boil. Forty years of darkness, earthquakes and volcanoes. The dead rising from the grave, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… Nah, I’m just fucking with you. It’ll just be the loathsome profusion of demon spawn like little Fritz, your son. Now let’s go.’

‘All that blood. Shouldn’t you clean yourself and Tartarre up?’ I asked.

‘Hell no. I want to see the look on those smug Christian faces. Nothing like a blood smeared boy and mother to get things rocking. Now quit stalling and let’s go before I turn you into a spider and have you fight beetles for my amusement.’

I drove us to the Las Vegas Church of the Holy Redeemer. Services were about to get under way. As we passed through the vestibule and walked toward the pulpit, I cringed at the horrified looks from the parishioners. A palpable fear and loathing permeated the place. Some of the fainter hearted swooned, while others retched. Lilith giggled as did Tartarre.

The pastor, wide eyed and slack jawed, asked, ‘Let us help you and your boy. Sister Franklin, call 911 and have them send an ambulance.’

‘No need for that, Padre,’ Lilith intoned. ‘All my boy needs are your souls.’

With that she levitated up to the pulpit and shoved Fritz’s face into that of the pastor. A shimmering wisp of blue light passed from the pastor’s mouth to Tartarre’s. Once the feeding was done, the pastor looked off into space with cold, soulless eyes and walked down from the podium.

Lilith and Tartarre stood between the exit steps and the choir. As if mesmerized by some eldritch force, the choir stood there as Lilith brought Tartarre in close to feed on each one. As he did, he grew geometrically, so much so Lilith put him down. Once grounded, he would tug the robe of a choir member with sufficient force to pull their head close to his and then suck out their soul. By the time he was through, he was the size of a fifteen year old.

In the meantime, the parishioners had tried to leave the church. But some invisible force kept all the exit doors closed. The people prayed for salvation in the bleating tones of sheep that know they are about to be slaughtered.

Tartarre and Lilith made their way toward the cornered believers while I stood helpless to stop what I thought was to come. I considered tackling the two soul suckers. But before I could do anything, a luminous cloud materialized between the hell spawn and the cowering parishioners. From inside the nimbus, a winged figure emerged. Naked and hairless, it carried a flaming sword in each of its four hands. The creature had an egg shaped body mounted on nine long wavering legs. A multitude of eyes covered its neckless, globular head, which had two small sucker like mouths. Around its whole circumference, the creature had a series of short, retractable appendages. Each appendage terminated with a different coloured crystal.

Lilith spoke to it in demeaning terms. ‘Look, son. It’s Michael, the Almighty’s lapdog. To what do we owe the pleasure, Mr. Feathers?’

‘Play time is over. You are to come with me.’

‘And if we refuse?’

‘I will joyfully dismember your bodies and return your souls to Hell.’

At that moment, it struck me that the creature was an angel and I had been made privy to incipient Armageddon. But rather than watching from the bleachers, I intended to fight with the Halo, irrespective of how weird and off putting it appeared. I began slinking toward the front door.

If nothing else, I might be able to get the shuddering congregation out the door to safety.

As I moved, the combatants ceased their back and forth and squared up. Michael raised his crystalline tipped appendages and fired an electric blue fire. The flames reduced whatever they struck to ash, including Lilith’s and Tartarre’s clothes. But the effect on their bodies was akin to a normal person being splashed with hot coffee. Painful in the moment, but hardly life threatening.

‘I’m a little kid and you are trying to barbecue me. And you call yourself an angel of the Lord,’ shrieked Tartarre.

For her part, a now naked Lilith began ripping up and hurling pews like ballistic missiles at the angel. It swatted them away by buzz sawing its flaming swords. After Lilith and Tartarre had retreated to the pulpit, Lilith javelined the large crucifix while Tartarre threw the pulpit itself. The pulpit struck first with nominal effect, but the crucifix hit Michael square in his bulbous head. Stunned, he fell backwards into the parishioners I was trying to reach.

I crept up to him and asked, ‘Can you help me get these people out of here? Lilith has made it impossible for us to get the doors open.’

He said nothing but slowly got to his feet. Even as the diabolical duo continued to pepper him with pulpit missiles. With several combined strokes of his flaming swords, he shredded the twin doors to wood chips. The congregation poured out of the church and into the street.

Michael moved toward Lilith and Tartarre. He let fly a fusillade of blue and red fire from his crystal cannons. I watched him grind the two of them down, moving in for the coup de grace with his swords. I heard a commotion outside. A moment later, there was a rush of people carrying guns, clubs, pitchforks, and bats. They charged Michael.

‘That’s my handpicked soulless army of mindless drones. Pluck a soul make a drone,’ Lilith gleefully sang. ‘I don’t know if they can hurt you with manmade weapons, but they’ll keep you busy until we make our getaway. Until we meet again, Halo, adieu.’

The two of them ran out the back of the church with me in hot pursuit. I needed to keep an eye on them, though in fairness, I was powerless to stop their mischief. So, as I ran, I prayed.

‘If you’re watching, we could use some help. Your angel didn’t do such a hot job of stopping these two maniacs. And if they continue to run free, there’s no telling how much harm they can do.’

I froze in mid-step. I couldn’t move. I watched the sky crack open, and a bright, thick beam of light shoot down onto the mother and son just ahead of me. Then as quickly as it appeared it stopped. Lilith and Tartarre were just standing there with dazed looks on their faces.

When I approached, I found they both had amnesia.

‘What happened? Where am I?’

‘It’s okay, I think.’

A portal opened beside us, and a creature like the one called Michael emerged. Unlike Michael, it was red and green not dark grey. It called itself Uriel.

‘Their bodies and souls are cleansed of Satan’s influence. They are as human as human can be.’

‘That’s great. Now what?’

‘We do not involve ourselves in such matters. Social Services should be able to help them. As for you, we could use someone like you to advance our cause here on earth. Lilith and Tartarre are not the only Progeny of the Adder trying to corrupt your world. You should consider working as an ecclesiastical detective for the Vatican. Just think of all the kids you could save from Satan’s prehensile grasp.’

‘Can I think about it?’

‘Yes, but don’t wait too long. Time is running short. Your world is at the tipping point. I you decide to join the fight, simply get on your knees and let us know through prayer. We will hear you and send a cardinal to iron out the details.’

Then the ‘angel’ vanished. After that, I decided to get good and drunk. To cleanse my mind of all the horrific images clinging to it. I pray liquor will stop me from shuddering at the nameless things crawling about on beds of burning sulphur. I suspect they carve Satan’s detestable likeness on stone and worship it with reckless abandon, even as he carved it into the DNA of his progeny. Yes, sweet booze to numb the brain and kill its more vocal fears. The hangover be damned.

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