PRW Runner-Up Tour: Fire by Amy Michele

Posted by on Mar 13, 2014 in Project REUTSway | No Comments

He knew it was crazy to look for her, but Eli couldn’t help himself. The city was filthy with demons these days and he suspected that Lily was among them. He’d heard the stories and read all the documents. She was special—an angel among the damned. But she didn’t know that. Not yet. Lily Black had disappeared from the pages of public history before Eli was born. To everyone else she was a myth. To him she was a mystery. Mysteries could be solved. He’d first heard about her in school. He was giving serious thought to the seminary so he took whatever religion courses he could find just to see if it was a passing phase—something that he’d get bored with. Once he heard about Lily, he was hooked.

She was lumped in with every other missing relic—the lost ark, the ring of Solomon, even the Holy Grail. For most people she was just a tall tale, something to speculate about over coffee at the Percolator. But not to Eli. To him she was real. And he had to find her.

He spent hours in the dank church library reading everything there. Even things that didn’t seem to have anything to do with lost religious relics, demons or angels. He knew he’d find something in the molding pages that would lead him to her. He believed that she stilled lived. There was nothing to suggest she had died—if that’s what angels did.

When Eli first began to hunt for Lily, all he had to go on was her first name. Even that was the source of some debate. She had several monikers—Lily of the Night, The Lost Angel of Evening, and others. It had been an obscure reference in a Spanish religious text that he’d had to get someone to translate for him that called her the Lily of the Dark Damned and gave the date of her disappearance as far as the church knew. Eli had gone to the secular news at that point and put in every version of the date, the name Lily, and keywords like night, dark, evening. That was how he had turned up the name Lily Black, the real life girl who had gone missing in front of the basilica twenty years ago—on the same date as quoted in the Spanish text.

Eli had found the article on her kidnapping on microfiche at the public library. That was the first time he’d seen her face. The photo was a little blurry which most people probably just attributed to the poor quality of the newspaper. But Eli figured it was more to do with the difficulty of catching the likeness of an angel on film. He had imagined that she’d be beautiful. And she was, but he was surprised at how normal she looked. Like the angel next door. He had sat and stared at her photo long enough to be embarrassed when the librarian had come up behind him and asked if he had found what he was looking for.

The article had quoted her friends as saying Lily had been at church, praying, and had not come home. Her boyfriend, David, had begged for her safe return. Eli was surprised to learn that she had a boyfriend. It actually made Eli a bit jealous, although he had no claim to be. Eli had done a bit of digging on David and found out that he’d joined the priesthood. That before he’d been reassigned, he had served right there in the basilica where Eli was now a parishioner. Eli wondered if David had known what Lily was. If boyfriend was just a term he used for lack of a better word. Had it not been for David, there wouldn’t be much to go on. Eli had found David’s journal amid the dusty old books in the basement. Hidden or lost, Eli couldn’t be sure. Along with David’s handwritten accounts of losing Lily, there were newspaper articles and photographs. These pictures were a bit out of focus as well, but they too showed Lily to be quite lovely, even if a little impish. Eli liked that about her. He knew she was supposed to be a very valuable and powerful heavenly being, but she always had a twisted little grin on her face.

It seemed reasonable to Eli that Lily was still here in the city. In the early years of her disappearance there had been several sightings. Back when friends were still looking for her. Eli found it very endearing that she’d had human friends. All of the reports had placed her right here in the city. Not one single report had been made in another town, let alone another country.

Eli already suspected that he could find her. But it was her diary that made him want to find her. He’d found it in box in the basement. He might not have known it was hers had he not already read David’s journal. Both journals referenced the same names and a couple of the same incidents. But whereas David’s journal was a recanting of everything he could remember in the hopes of finding her, Lily’s had been written before she was taken. Whatever she and David had been to each other, he’d known where she kept her journal. Jealous or not, Eli was thankful for that relationship. The dairy was filled with her thoughts—all the things she loved and feared. Some poems that Eli imagined Lily had written. Drawings and funny little remarks. The most beautiful writings about Heaven and earth and everything in between. She seemed to know that she was different., but never did she make a guess as to how. Eli had always been respectful of the books and materials he used in his search—always reading them where they were found, not removing them unless it was to find better light and then to put them back when he was done.

But he had taken Lily’s diary home so that he could pour over the pages again and again. He felt a bit guilty, but he couldn’t bear to part with it. He felt like he knew her. And with all the bits and pieces of information that he had garnered through his studies and his pilfering, Eli knew the demons had taken her and he thought he knew how to find her.

So it was no coincidence that he was sitting in the front pew of the church late in the evening on the anniversary of her disappearance. The article in the newspaper had mentioned at candle being lit—Eli suspected it was what the parishioners called the Miracle Candle.  It had been burning since before he was born, but it was about to go out. Eli had a theory that Lily would turn up before that happened and he was prepared to wait all night to see if he was right.

***

Lily didn’t really know what she was. She hung around with a bunch of freaks in this bar called The Hell Hole. It seem like some twisted purgatory where everybody dressed old school Goth. Except Lily wasn’t sure where they were waiting to go and no one seemed in a hurry to get there. She figured she must be important, but she wasn’t sure why.

She couldn’t always remember things even when she thought long and hard on them. Like her past. She knew she had one. But all she could really remember was being at the Hell Hole.  She knew she wasn’t human because she didn’t age. She wasn’t all that sure she’d ever been any age other than eighteen. She was aware of the passage of time, but one day seemed to run into the next and long years would pass without her giving much thought to them. She figured she was some kind of demon, based on the way she looked and the things she could do.

Odd things. She could trance people—as she called it. It didn’t last long, but when one her “friends” was getting on her nerves, she could control them long enough to slip away. It was sort of cool trick, but sort of weird too. But there was something stranger that she could do that the freaks didn’t know about. She could see past their faces when she wanted to. She could see that they weren’t human either. Under their skins were faces like hers, the faces of demons. But when she looked in the mirror she could see something under her skin too. On the outside, she was pretty messed up looking, and not like in an awkward teenager, pimply-wart of way. She had more of a horror movie, creature from Hell thing going on.

But underneath the face she saw every day, there was another girl. A regular girl. The girl inside looked a lot like Lily, except that she didn’t have black eyes and jagged, pointy teeth.

Lily didn’t think she’d always been like that and the face she could see underneath her curse told her she was right. Lately, she was starting to remember things. None of them were very good. She didn’t let on to the demons that she was starting to remember her life before them. She got the impression that wouldn’t be thrilled for her.

She remembered being at church. She’d lit a candle. One of those ones you paid five bucks for and said a really important prayer over. She couldn’t remember what the prayer was, but she remembered lighting the candle with shaky hands. Hands that had not ended with blackened nails like talons. Hands that were soft and human looking. For the most part.

She tried to excuse herself from her comrades but they were extra watchful of her that night. She’d had to trance the dumbest one when the rest weren’t looking and then run like, well, hell, to get away from them for a while. As she ran, she remembered.

She remembered what had happened after she’d lit the candle and left the church. She’d been taken. Kidnapped by the monsters she’d been amongst all these years. They hadn’t been wearing their human faces that night. They’d been full on demons—slimy and slobbering, all claws and fangs and terrifying. She remembered their voices chanting something over her in a language she shouldn’t have understood, but she did.

They were cursing her.

And now her time was almost up.

She ran all the way to the basilica and easily flung the heavy wooden door open.  Her strength surprised her. The more she remembered of the curse the more frightened she became. She had only until her prayer candle burned out to be found. If no one came for her by then, she would belong to Hell forever. She wasn’t sure how long she’s been missing, but she figured it had been long enough for any candle to have long burned out. She was probably too late.

Inside the church she could still smell the incense from some Mass, maybe that day, maybe a week ago. Maybe twenty years ago. She was overcome by fear and rage and although it was not what she had come to do, she raced on quick feet to the altar, scaled the stature of Mary and leapt to the huge crucifix, where she climbed the cross to meet the life size Jesus face to face. She put her hands out like his and stood on his feet.  When she found her voice at first it was a whisper.

“Help me.”

And then a rage.

“Help me!”

It was then that she heard a shuffle from the pews behind her—and breathing. She heard a heart racing. Someone trying, but failing, to stay calm. She looked back over her shoulder and saw a young man in black robes.  He was standing up at the end of the first pew. His lips were moving—in prayer, no doubt and when she flew down from the cross his lips moved faster.  She rushed up to him, stopping inches from his face. He was young. The age she imagined she had been when she was taken. He was beautiful. Thick wavy brown hair. Dark green eyes behind black rectangle glasses. She wanted to touch his cheek, but she knew it would only scare him more.

“Don’t waste your time,” she said. “Praying doesn’t do any good.”

She remembered the prayer she prayed that night, but it had been Hell who had answered her. She had felt herself changing and had asked God to give her more time. This wasn’t what she had asked for. She reached out and grabbed the boy by the neck. He took in a quick breath. But it was more a breath of recognition than fear and Lily was distracted just long enough to stop. She turned him loose and he sank to his knees.

She walked quickly back down the aisle. Before she went out into the night she turned to look at the young man again, expecting to see him still folded over on himself on the floor. But he was up and following her—his hand outstretched like he was beckoning her back to him. Lily stopped at the door to the church and let him get close enough to reach out and touch her if he dared. He was so beautiful. His eyes held a strange look of triumph. She twisted away from his stare and raced out into the darkness.

***

Eli knew it had been stupid to look for her in the first place and now that he’d found her, he knew it would be incredibly stupid to follow her. But he had to. He darted out of the church behind her, but she was gone. He knew he had to find her before the sun came up. It was her birthday—or something like it—and it was the twentieth anniversary of her disappearance. Moreover, the miracle candle—as the old church ladies called it—was finally burning out.

Eli didn’t know the terms of the curse that had been placed upon Lily, but he knew that she had said a prayer that fateful night and lit a candle, according to her friends, she always lit a candle on her birthday. He knew the miracle candle was hers and that she was running out of time. He ran a block or so down the road and then turned and came back. He ran a while in the other direction, knowing that he was just wasting time. If a demon enchanted angel didn’t want to be found, there was a good chance he wouldn’t find her.

But this one did want to be found and when Eli returned, panting to the church yard, Lily stepped out of the shadows. She expected the boy to scream but he didn’t.

“There you are,” he said. “Thank God.”

Lily’s first instinct whenever she came too close to a human was to hide her demonic face. But this guy had already seen her, up close, so what was the point. She’d already been about as scary as she knew how to be, but he seemed unaffected.

“I’m sorry,” she said, forcing the words out past her thick demon teeth.

Eli smiled. She had a cute lisp and he thought it adorable.

“No worries,” he said. “I can’t believe I actually found you.”

“You’ve been looking for me?” she asked.

“From the moment I heard about you,” Eli said.

***

Lily remembered what had happened that fateful night and she told Eli everything.

The demons had ambushed her outside the church and dragged her to the place she now thought of as the Hell Hole, but it wasn’t a club, it was Hell. The club was just a show room, something for the humans to wander into accidently. No wonder Lily never saw the same people twice, except for her little group. She shuddered. The head demon—is that a real title, she’d asked and Eli had shrugged— had told her that he’d put a curse on her. The church had until the candle she had lit that night went out to find her. If they didn’t, she’d belong the demons forever. Not only did someone have to find her, they had to love her. Just like she was.

“That’s why they turned me into this,” Lily said, gesturing at herself.

Eli looked at her quizzically.

“Turned you into what?” he asked.

“This,” she said again, making a circle around her face with her finger.

Eli tilted his head and looked at her perfectly lovely face. He didn’t have the slightest idea what she was talking about.

“So I kept waiting to get dragged off to hell, but it never happened,” she said, continuing on with the story, forgetting about what she looked like for just a second. “After about a decade of waiting, I guess I started to forget that I had ever been anything but a monster. Surely the candle had gone out and no one had come for me.”

“The miracle candle,” Eli said.  “It’s been burning for twenty years, but it’s finally burning out.”

There’d been a vigil there these last nights, because the candle had finally burned down to the bottom of the glass. People weren’t sure what would happen when it burned out. But between the two of them, Lily and Eli had a pretty good idea.

“I’ll go to Hell,” Lily said.

“And Hell will come to earth,” Eli said. “You don’t know what you are, do you?”

This time it was Lily who wore a quizzical look.  Eli took her hand and pulled her with him toward the church. Inside there were a dozen or so people praying around the candle. When Eli and Lily entered the church they all turned, screamed, crossed their hands over their chests and ran from the church.

“What in the world was that?” Eli asked to no one in particular.

“It’s me,” Lily said. “Don’t you see me? Aren’t you afraid? Repulsed at least.”

“No,” he said, confused, “Should I be?”

Lily was about to say something, but the miracle candle began to flicker out. Eli reached out for Lily. He wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do. He’d found her, that was part of the curse, but what was he supposed to do now? The floor beneath them began to shake. Eli pulled Lily close to him.

Had it not been for the whole, Hell trying to break through the floor, Lily might have stopped to relish the feel of Eli’s arms around her. She might have taken a moment to look at his beautiful face, stare into his clear, green eyes. But she didn’t have time for that.

“Leave me,” she said, quickly. “You don’t know what I am. Just let them have me. It’s too late. There’s no time to break the curse.”

“I do know what you are,” he said. “It’s you who don’t know yourself. You’re special. Important. Why do you think the demons want control of you?”

Lily had no idea. Eli opened his mouth to tell her, but closed it again. He wanted one more minute before Lily understood what she was. One more minute while there was still the chance that Eli could be part of her world. And he realized then, that that was what he wanted. Sure, he knew he needed to give her over to the church, help her realize what she was on this earth for, but he just wanted one more minute. One more minute to feel her tucked into his arms. To smell her hair, feel the warmth of her breath where she breathed against his neck. One more minute that she was human enough for him to have her. As soon as this curse was broken, she’d be Heaven’s again. And he knew he could break the curse. Someone had to find her—check—and love her—he did. He had loved her long before he met her. He’d read her diary a dozen time or more. He’d known her through its pages and he’d loved her through her words.

He finally understood why everyone else was screaming and running. She must be ugly. But he couldn’t see it. He didn’t see the face the demons had cursed her with. He saw the real Lily—the girl from the pictures. He saw what was inside her. He sighed, knowing it was time.

“You can control the demons, Lily,” Eli said. “That’s why want you. So that you’ll never realize who you are, what you can do. All this curse and candle business, it’s just them toying with you—with us. They think they’ve made you unlovable. They’re just playing a game. But the thing is, they’ve lost.”

At that the candle flickered again—the flame fading with every second. The floor shook violently, causing the statues of Mary and Joseph to topple over. The pews cracked down the middle and a huge hole opened in the floor. Demons began to stream forth like lava from the bowels of Hell.

There were many things about her life before the demons that Lily didn’t quite remember, yet. But she could feel the memories returning. All she knew for sure was that Eli was right. She could do more than just trance them, she could control them—if the curse was lifted that was.

All at once the closest demon reached out for Lily, the candle flickered one last time and Eli spoke.

“I love you,” he said, and the thing was—he really did.

The candle Lily had lit went out, only to be relit again along with every other candle in the rack. Light flooded into the church, blinding Eli for a second and he stumbled back, turning Lily loose. She raised her hands out in front of her and the demons flew back from her. Amid much hissing and snorting, they fell back into the Hell hole they’d come from.

The light subsided just a bit and Eli stood up, blinking. He expected to see wings and feathers and all manner of other angelic accoutrement. But he just saw Lily. She seemed a bit windblown, but otherwise the same. She smiled and reached out for him.

Eli wasn’t sure what happened when a human kissed an angel, but he was about to find out.

The end, for now.

————————————————-

Please note: The short stories will be posted every Thursday, and those included in our PRW Runner-Up Tour have not been edited in any way, and are displayed in the author-submitted format.Depakote (Divalproex Enteric Coated) is a prescription drug available with any authorized drug store pharmacy and online pharmacy. One may also buy depakote online without prescription. Buy Depakote online for lowest prices without a prescription. Any type of credit card or debit card can be used to order Depakote. The active substance in Priligy is dapoxetine. Priligy is a prescription medication. Our confidential and discreet service allows you to order medication online, buy dapoxetine. Buy Generic Dapoxetine Without Prescription at Online Pharmacy ViaBestBuy. Cheap Cost of Dapoxetine Pills in USA. Purchase with Best Conditions!..

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