PRW Runner-Up Tour: Part of Your Underworld by Felicia Anderson
The Little Mermaid
My eyes scanned the dim bar scene at The Sunken Ship through the hefty tobacco smoke clouding around the lights. That’s when I saw her, sitting at the bar like a peacock, showing off her goods. Her young bosom was zipped tightly in a leather tank-top with jeans that hugged her every curve right down to her sharp, black stilettos. Her body language read like worm on a hook, waiting for a fish to bite.
I strutted forward with powerful grace, catching her attention. She locked her fresh, sea-foam green eyes on me, giving my tall, chiseled body a once over. I caught her eyes with mine of deep brown, and slid a half smile that showed her I was clearly interested. She tossed her gorgeous dark red hair over her shoulder and gave me a wink. She was mine.
“Well, aren’t you easy on the eyes,” she said as I slid into the barstool next to her, crossing one leg over the other.
“I get that a lot,” I replied casually.
My warm, smoldering tone, complete with a nondescript accent, made her flush. It was too late for her, and she didn’t even know it. Phase one complete.
“Can I buy you a drink?”
She smiled as if I had been caught in her spell. I chuckled to myself. If only she knew. What was it with women, treating a drink offer like a badge of honor?
“What would you recommend?”
Ah, a “tester” type. I hadn’t come across one of these in awhile. The line rolled off my lips as easily if I had rehearsed it. Really, I had. Thousands of times with a one hundred percent success rate, thank you very much.
“Depends. Would you like to remember tonight?”
She giggled into her hand.
“I’ll have a beer,” she replied.
Bingo. Phase two complete.
“Two beers, draft,” I told the bartender, sliding a twenty on the bar and giving it a wave to signal that I didn’t want change. Two pints appeared.
She squirmed in her chair, a little more excited, and took a sip.
“What’s your name, princess?”
She smiled coyly. “It’s Erica. And you?”
“Atatziel, but you can call me any time.”
“Well, that’s a very sexy name,” she flirted.
I flashed her an irresistible smile, then I leaned in close to her ear.
“Not as sexy as you,” I teased, letting my hot breath linger on her neck.
I could feel her melting under me. Pulling away slightly, I gently touched her arm, then traced her smooth, alabaster skin gently down to her wrist. I felt her shudder under my caress, and she bat her lashes in approval with a sideways glance. I dipped low and kissed her lightly on her exposed shoulder. She responded with a heavy exhale. Phase three, complete.
I lifted my eyes to meet hers, so full of desire. My heart began pounding at the thrill of the catch. I wanted her more than anything. I wanted to taste those dewy, red lips. The energy from her was sweet, like the cyanide in a cherry pit. I wanted all of her.
I stood and offered her my hand. She took it, and I guided her down from the stool.
“Shall we?” I started.
She leaned in close, whispering in my ear.
“You’re cute, but I’m not easy. Thanks for the drink.”
She kissed my cheek sarcastically and pulled away, giving me a wink before turning and disappearing into the crowd. She hummed to herself as she went, like it was a game. I stood, dumbfounded. I’d been doing this for more than a hundred years and have never had a rejection. There was something magical about that one, and I wanted her badly. I swore under my breath and vowed that it wasn’t over. I’d be back, and I’d have her.
I lost my will to try after that. Frustrated, I took home the drunk blonde hanging over the bar and falling out of her sequined top. It felt cheap, like eating a greasy, unsatisfying burger after watching a porterhouse on the grill for an hour.
“It’s rare, Atatziel, but it does happen. Some humans are stronger-willed than others.”
“Yeah, but she toyed with me, Rahazes,” I replied. We jogged side-by-side around the block. “The cold shoulder from uninterested girls happens, but I’ve never gone so far with a mark and been denied. There’s something special about that one.”
“Don’t go thinking on it too much,” he pat me on the shoulder. “There are always more fish in the sea.”
“Yeah, but I can’t get her out of my head.”
“Atatziel,” he stopped and turned to face me. “We’re incubi. We feed on the sexual energy of women. We don’t fall in love.”
“I didn’t say it was love,” I grumbled back. “It’s more like, intrigue or… or fatal attraction.”
Rahazes rolled his eyes. “Get yourself a few more girls. You’ll see. You’ll forget about that chick in a week.”
I shrugged. “Yeah, you’re right.”
But he wasn’t right. For weeks, I went on a binge of all kinds of women and still couldn’t get her out of my head. I kept calling all of them Erica, not that they were sober enough to remember.
I wasn’t in love. I was in lust. And what was wrong with that? I bet half of those princesses in Disney tales only knew the princes’ names before they said “I do.” My inner demon ached to be with her. I had to have her.
I combed through our trove of dusty books in the library. Most of the incubi in our coven never went in this room. And why would they need to? Our job has always been to get women in bed. Really not that hard with our charming power and a couple of drinks.
I shook the dust off a tome that might be useful: “Help from the Homeland.” Not that the homeland was ever very helpful. I hadn’t been there in five decades, but it was kind of an “every-man-for-himself” atmosphere. Now, though, I was desperate to try.
I collected five candles and a stick of charcoal. Placing the candles equidistant apart, I lit them and then drew the charcoal rune around them the way the book illustrated.
Stepping back, I squatted at the perimeter and placed my hands on the floor.
“Postatem obscuri lateris nescitis. Noster populus facit discrepantiam. Sit vis nobiscum. Te precor dulcissime supplex!”
A dark swirl of mist lifted from the floor, a form solidifying within it. Growls, hisses, and screams spewed from the nether while the portal shifted open. I never wavered in my position, but waited for the smoke and theatrics to clear.
The figure grew more dense and taller, and by the time the black haze and agonized shrieks had subsided, a navy-blue demon stood twice as tall and twice as wide as me. I recognized him, too: Raxahl, keeper of the second ring, punishment for all things lust related. He was a right hand accompaniment to Satan himself, one of his nine generals. His voice shook the walls as he spoke.
“Who dares summon Raxahl the Vile?” he huffed steam from his bull nose, making the nose ring flap. His red-rimmed yellow eyes narrowed in on me, candlelight flickering off his twisted horns.
“It is I, Atatziel.” I bowed my head low. “I seek your help.”
“Ah, lowly incubus, you wish to make a deal with the devil?”
“Yes,” I stood up to face him.
He laughed a most sinister guffaw.
“Do you think that is such a wise decision, oh foolish one?”
“Wise or not,” I answered, “I really want this girl. I must have her and only her forever.”
“You mean you want to be a mortal?”
My silence was his answer. He laughed even harder, shaking the floors. A few books fell from their shelves.
“What will it cost me?” I shouted, causing him to stop dead.
“Your greatest asset,” he replied, regarding me seriously this time.
“Is that all of the terms?” I asked.
“Of course there’s more. There must be something in it for me.”
Raxahl massaged his chin and looked me over.
“This girl. When you kiss her lips, your mortal soul will be permanent. You have three days. If you fail, you will not return as an incubus, but you will become a demon back in the depths of the second ring. My slave.”
I thought for a second. My greatest asset would be what? My charm? My looks? Well, I had so many desirable qualities, I could go with losing one. All I needed was a chance to say, “Hey baby, Atatziel is here.” Wink.
“Yes. I will agree to those terms. It is what I desire.”
“Very well, then,” Raxahl replied. With a snap, there was a sudden popping noise and puff of black smoke. He held a contract with glowing red letters in his fist, a red quill pen in the other. He offered them both to me and I took them, hesitating for but a moment before signing the contract. As soon as I finished, the whole thing caught fire, including the quill. I dropped them both, and they vanished in another puff of smoke before gravity could take its hold.
I bowed low before him. He snapped again and thick black fog filled the room and began to swirl around me. I couldn’t see anything past the dense smoke, and I began to cough, sinking to my knees in a fit of disorientation. Red sparks began to pop around me, and I felt a hot air wrap itself around me, choking me, making me cough even harder. Hot energy pushed through me, and by now I had sunk to the floor completely, gripping into the floorboards as if the world might fall away if I were to let go.
There was a sound like an explosion, the portal opening, and the black fog sucked back into it behind Raxahl. Another popping sound and everything stopped. I opened my eyes to see the floor as it once had been, without the candles or charcoal marks. Like nothing even happened. I sat up slowly, rubbing my forehead with the tips of my fingers to dissuade the dizziness.
I took mental stock of myself. Nope, I didn’t really feel any different. Then I ran my hands over my body. Bummer. My chest was no longer as broad or my arms as big. Now, I was just a regularly-toned human. I shrugged. Could have been worse.
I checked the time on my watch. 8:30 PM. She’d probably be at the bar now if I went. Three days. Challenge accepted. Standing up, I realized that I wasn’t as tall as I used to be. Another bummer, but at least I wasn’t short. Hey, this was the price for humanity.
Rushing over to The Sunken Ship, I stopped in the parking lot to borrow a dark window. Had to make sure my hair was… what the hell? I turned to the left and to the right multiple times. My face was less woodsman and more… “do you want fries with that?” I mean, it was still me, but like, someone turned off all the Photoshop enhancements. My same dark eyes were set wider, and my tan complexion now had a few pimples and a dark patch on my right cheek. The bone structure thinned out, no longer macho, but sunken and a little sallow. My dark, model-perfect hair now had a frizziness to it that made it puff up and sit at odd angles.
I slid inside the bar, snaking my way to the bathroom without being detected. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Erica leaning over a pool table, waving away a mustachioed man-whore. I grumbled under my breath and proceeded to comb water through my hair with my fingers, getting it to lie as flat as possible and failing miserably. Finally, I gave up and decided to try my luck anyway. How did humans deal with this unattractiveness? I shuddered. She’d know I was still the same sexy guy from before. My name was hard to forget. Or my accent.
Hey, gorgeous, I rehearsed in my head.
I approached her, and she turned to look at me.
“Hi. You’re pretty!”
It tumbled out of my mouth in a loud, whiny tone I didn’t recognize as my own. I clapped my hand over my mouth, and she raised both eyebrows at me. My best asset was my smooth talking, buttery lava voice. I mentally face-palmed.
“Sorry,” I replied, trying to deepen my voice. “We’ve met before. You’re Erica.”
No, that didn’t sound stalker-ish at all, I grumbled to myself.
She rolled her eyes. “If we’ve met, and you don’t have my number, there’s a reason.”
“No, wait,” I spit out at her too loudly, putting my hands up. “It’s me, At – Adam.”
Huh? I couldn’t even say my own name? Was it too sexy of a name for me to say?
“Oh…” her face molded to sympathy. “Now that you mention it, you do look vaguely familiar.”
“Really? You remember me?” I asked, with apparent desperation. Not sexy.
“No.” She glared at me, annoyed, and then dodged around me to the bar.
I followed behind her, taking the stool next to her at the bar.
“What do you want?” she asked impatiently.
“Can I buy you a drink?”
“Sure. Martini, dry.” She sounded bored, leaning on the bar and resting her head on her hand. Her eyes darted around the room.
“I thought you drink beer?”
She looked at me confused, and set back into her seat.
“How did you know that?”
“I told you, we’ve met before. You asked me what I recommended,” I reminded her. “And I said, ‘Depends if I can get you into bed.’”
No! That wasn’t it. I slammed my forehead down into my palm. She looked at me curiously again.
“No, that’s not what I said. It was something smooth and witty, and now I can’t talk like that anymore.”
She gave a curt nod, biting her bottom lip.
“Dry martini,” she repeated.
I waved the bartender over and ordered, sliding her the margarita and a Jack and Coke for myself. I slid the bartender a twenty and waved over it so he would know I didn’t want change. She never saw it. Instead she swiveled in her stool, watching the rest of the bar.
Mustachioed man made his return for her, deciding she was better than the pool game. He leaned low over her to whisper in her ear. She hardly blinked, tossed back the rest of the martini and left the bar with him. I shot back the rest of my drink, slamming the glass down onto the bar. Then I ordered another one, keeping the change. I dropped my head onto my arm. Day one: fail.
Day two, I had a full plan, and I got to the bar a little earlier. This time, I chose a scarf, sunglasses, fedora, and I may have even stolen some makeup from a sister succubus to cover the crap on my face. Don’t judge. This called for desperation.
I tugged my scarf up to cover my now-weak jaw line and took a seat at the bar, waiting. When she came in, I ordered two beers on tap. She sat down at the stool next to me, and I cheered internally that she hadn’t recognized me yet. If I couldn’t talk, I’d pull the strong, silent type card.
When the bartender put the beers down in front of me, I slid one sideways to her, not even catching her eyes. I stared straight, sipping my beer with dignity. Her eyes lit with curiosity, and she leaned over the bar to get a better look at me. Seeming satisfied, she sat back and lifted the glass.
“Thanks,” she said.
I gave a quick nod.
“What’s your name?” she asked after taking the first sip.
I drew a pen from my pocket and pulled a bar napkin forward. I still couldn’t write my actual name. I knew, because I’d practiced.
“Aiden,” she read aloud, her eyes tracing me. I nodded.
“Well, aren’t you mysterious,” she flirted.
I shrugged, still facing forward, sipping my beer. Yes! Like a fish on a hook. Now to reel her in.
“Do you come here often?” she asked.
I shook my head and lifted my glass, draining the rest of it. I waved the bartender over with a ten this time, tipping my glass toward him. He nodded, and I waved my hand over the bill to let him know I didn’t want change. I felt Erica shift next to me. She looked over her shoulder to the door a few times while sipping on her beer.
I scrawled again on the napkin: Your name?
She smiled. “It’s Erica.”
She tipped back the last of the beer, and set the empty glass back on the counter. Then she leaned close into my ear.
“Sorry to leave you so soon, but I have to go before this weirdo guy comes in again. Come find me tomorrow. I’m a lifeguard at the lake. I’ll be on the floating dock.”
I hastened a question on the napkin: Will it guarantee me a kiss? ^_~
She blushed, leaning in, and pecking me on the cheek.
“Yes,” she whispered with a brilliant smile. “Thanks for the drink, Aiden.”
Then she slid off her seat and left the bar. I played it cool, sipping my second beer and staring straight ahead. I didn’t even turn to her when she glanced back at me before the door closed behind her.
The following day, I drove out to meet her. Ignoring the hot sand burning my feet (hell is way worse), I walked until I saw the floating dock, way out in the middle of the lake. She stood there in a green bathing suit, her hair blazed red like a beacon.
I tore my shirt off quickly and waded out into the water until I was chest deep. When I thought she might be looking at me, I waved to her. She gave a small wave back. Excellent. I swam the rest of the way. The water got icy cold, and I knew it must have dropped off at least a hundred feet. I kept going, even when my arms started to fatigue a little. It would all be worth it.
She met me at the wooden island’s edge, getting down to her knees and leaning over the water. The sun beat upon her fair skin, making her seem ghastlier pale and her scarlet hair as if it were on fire.
“You?” she said, surprise lighting her sea-foam eyes. She sighed in annoyance.
“You promised me a kiss,” I reminded her.
“Alright,” she conceded. “As promised.”
I put my hands on the dock and pulled myself up to meet her. She leaned over to me. Woot! Woot! Finally! Ever so gently, she laid her lips onto mine, and I pushed into her, deepening the kiss. I let go of the dock and ran my fingers up through her shiny red hair, looping them around the back of her head and pulling her with me as I settled back into the water. The ends of her hair swirled in the water, gleaming like liquid rubies.
A sudden hotness flashed through me, sending a single, dense wave of energy through me. I was suddenly very aware of the heart that beat proudly in my chest. And a conscience. A soul. I could see the contract in my mind’s eye going up in smoke. I did it. I won! She was finally mine.
She pulled away gently, nibbling on my lower lip, toying with me.
“Ow!” I cried, jumping back a little and letting go of the dock.
She bit my lip. I looked up at her and she gave me a sexy, apologetic pout. And then I tried to smile at her. And I do mean tried. My mouth muscles wouldn’t move or so much as twitch. Perplexed, I went to reach for my mouth, but I couldn’t move my arm. I realized that I had been completely paralyzed, and I felt myself sinking back into the water.
The bitch was a siren.
And like thousands of seafarers and sailors before me, I sank down into my watery grave.
Death by lust. Hello, second circle of hell.
“Well, well, look what the hell hound dragged in,” Raxahl laughed. “Death by Siren. Did not see that coming.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I sighed. “Does this mean I’m doomed here, forever blowing in this wind?”
“Depends,” Raxahl answered. “What is it you want to do?”
“I want to strangle a sea witch,” I grumbled.
Raxahl smiled, something that I never imagined possible.
“I had a lot of fun with you. Are you done with this ‘being a human’ phase?”
“More than done.”
“Good,” Raxahl replied. “I’ll return you as an incubus. Do what you… what you wish.”
He clapped his hands together with a loud clap of thunder. A pillar of smoke and fire shot up from the dusty ground, engulfing me. The warmth inside me began to replace itself with an icy cold chill, my heart becoming a solidified mass once again. I blinked twice, and I was lying on the floor of the library.
Pulling myself up, I ran my hands over my body. Buff. Awww, yeah! I dropped a couple of dance moves, because I was awesome. Then I ran my hand through my perfectly shaped, full-bodied hair and made my way back to The Sunken Ship. I didn’t need a mirror, I knew I was hot.
I pushed the door open and let it fly, crashing into wall. I wanted everyone to know I was here, and they did. The bar commotion came to a halt – glasses stopped clinking, all conversation died, and there were no cracks of a pool cue to interrupt my entrance – and all the eyes were on me.
“I’m here about a lady,” I said smoothly. If this were fantasy, the buttons of my shirt would have flown open and the fabric would flap in the non-existent wind, highlighting my extraordinary pectorals and abs, liberally greased and reflecting the hard bar lighting.
My eyes locked with Erica’s. She leaned against the bar, her gorgeous red lips partially dropped open. I tipped my head and flashed her a sexy smile that said “yes, you.” Her eyes flickered with excitement, and she pushed herself away from the bar. She walked quickly toward me with a strut of her own in her teal stilettos. Her matching pleather skinny jeans glistened as she moved, and was sure to highlight the cleavage in her purple lace top. I met her halfway through the bar, against an unused pool table.
“Atatziel,” she flirted with a wink. “Didn’t think you could get any more smokin’.”
“I get that a lot,” I teased back.
“Where have you been,” she asked playfully, walking her finger tips up my chest.
I leaned into her, making her flush as I lowered my mouth to her ear.
“What, don’t you remember me?”
I gave her a vicious smile as she pulled back, eyes wide. Before she could do anything, I grabbed her shoulders and slammed my mouth onto hers. Then I moved her backwards away from me, her eyes still wide in shock.
“I hope you like rejection, sea witch.”
I winked then dropped my hands from her. She stood, open mouthed as I moved around her to the drunk blonde falling out of her sequined top. I whispered a few sexy words to her and she melted into my side. I put my arm around her and escorted her out of the bar.
Before the door closed behind me, I looked back. She stood in the same spot, still trying to reason out what just happened. Her hand went to her chest and clenched the fabric hard. Then I let the door fall shut behind me. I hoped it hurt to die from a broken heart.