Meet Lucifer & Michael (part one)

On religious paintings …

Lucifer: At least I’m wearing some clothes in this one.

Michael: Alas, I’m still dressed as a ballerina.

whitelucifer

A scene from Roots and Wings, book 2 of the not*the*same*river series.

***

“I thought you had horns,” said Ezra.

Lucifer looked at him, presumably assessing whether it was a serious observation. “I’m not a goat.”

“There have been sightings of you, though,” said Ben. “The New Jersey Devil, for instance.”

“Probably just a goat,” said Lucifer.

“Aren’t you eating?” I said. “Don’t you get hungry?”

His eyes widened in surprise, then crinkled at the edges when he smiled cautiously, like he wasn’t sure if he was operating his facial muscles correctly. His eyes were gold-flecked, but mostly a mossy green. If he’d been anyone else, I wouldn’t have seen the other things that lurked behind them. Lucifer wore the world’s pain in his eyes, and he let me see it.

“Actually, I’m famished, but … er,” he leaned towards me and said in a stage whisper, “have you got any Weetabix?”

“Our goats like Weetabix,” said Ezra.

I kicked him under the table, then went to get Lucifer’s cereal. It was a bit awkward with one hand. I realised how useless my left hand was. My right hand made art, my left hand made crumbs. I frowned at the state of the sideboard. I plonked the bowl of Weetabix in front of Lucifer and sat back down. I knew he wasn’t actually the devil, but it was funny how Lucifer could get in our house, when other less dangerous beings couldn’t.

“Do you ever get any visitors, Luce?” said Michael.

“I’ve been told my demeanour doesn’t inspire visitors,” he said.

“You must get bored,” said Ezra.

“Not really. People annoy me,” he said pointedly. “Actually, I did have a visitor once. The one with the funny name.”

“That really doesn’t narrow it down,” said Michael, looking at Lucifer from beneath arched eyebrows.

“He played the trumpet.”

“Malachi? Haniel? Cassiel? Fenix? Pheron? Saraph?” said Michael, shoving bacon into his face with his fingers.

Lucifer snorted. “Are they even real people? Anyway, didn’t Saraph play the lute?”

“Oh yes, he did. God, he was annoying.”

“Still, that lute kept the fire going for an extra five minutes,” said Lucifer.

“It did, indeed.” Michael laughed. “To tell the truth, I don’t remember anyone who played the trumpet.”

“Perhaps played is a bit strong,” said Lucifer, scooping his cereal onto the spoon. “He made a dreadful noise with it. Well, whoever it was, he came to see me once. Reminded me why I don’t like visitors.”

“I see what you mean about Michael,” I whispered to Eden.

“I knew that you would,” she said.

“I need to paint him.”

She laughed. “Good luck getting him to agree to that.”

Michael’s tongue came out to lick his fingers, his face smothered in meat grease.

I laughed. “I mean, he has the table manners of Henry the eighth but …”

“What about him?” said Amethyst.

“That he’s magnificent,” I whispered, faking a swoon.

Amethyst rose her eyebrows, looked at Michael, then said “Hmm.”

“Did you ditch those shares, Grandad?” said Archer.

Michael scowled. “I wish you wouldn’t call me that.”

Archer shrugged. “Did you?”

“Of course. Back in May, when you told me to. Right on time too.”

“But didn’t you tell Magnus you were at the AGM?” said Eden.

“So, I lied.”

“What were you doing?” said Eden.

Michael ignored this. “I hated those meetings,” he said instead, a disdainful look crossing his greasy face. “Why do they need to get their ducks in a row? They don’t even sell ducks. They should get their quinoa salads in a row, or their admittedly very comfortable underwear. The only thing worse than the AGM is school staff meetings. Yawn.”

“The only thing?” said Lucifer, mouth twisted into a smirk.

Michael pointed his barely used fork at Lucifer. “You’re right. Cascade meetings are the worst. But at least when Raguel says we’re singing from the same hymn sheet, we actually are.”

“Oh god, really?” said Lucifer. “He still does the hymns?”

“He thinks Azrael can hear him,” said Michael. “And God.”

“He sings to God?” said Eden.

“Oh no,” said Michael. “He sings at God.”

“What’s Cascade?” I said.

Michael looked at Eden, who said nothing. “I’ll tell you when you’re older.”

***

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Roots and Wings: Being Human

Sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives put us directly on the path to the best things that will ever happen to us.

From the second book in the not*the*same*river series. When you find out you’re powerful and have a real-life nemesis, and all you want is to be normal, to be human. Violet goes out with neighbourhood bad boy, Jed, earning herself a hangover.

The series features angels, demons, vampires, vaewolves and a mesmerising nipple ring.

This isn’t one scene, but snippets of a few.

***

I didn’t remember much of what came next. We spilled out of a kebab shop, throwing salad at the gutter, leaving just greasy meat and pitta bread behind in the paper. I couldn’t even eat mine, because, a) who the hell thought greasy meat was good drunk food? And, b) I was assaulted with brain pictures of Leia’s will-somebody-think-of-the-animals face. Jordan’s Scottish friend, who was called Shelley, even though he was at least six-four, and built like Archer, kindly offered to take the unwanted kebab off my hands.

I fell over a hedge into someone’s garden, then insisted Jed count all the scratches on my arms while the rest of us tried to make him lose count. I sang an Elvis song that I knew almost none of the words to, from a horizontal position in the middle of a grassy roundabout. I told a knock-knock joke using Ollie’s nipple ring as a door-knocker. Then I listened to him waffle on about job opportunities in London, and watched him get dragged into an alley by Jordan’s enormous Scottish friend, where they kissed the life out of each other. And I got pissed on. Violently and inadvertently—when I leant against a wall that wasn’t there and landed on my butt in a shop doorway—but pissed on nonetheless. I would like to claim the urinator wasn’t human. I can’t claim that. Me and alcohol are not friends. The less said about it, the better.

***

Eden and Daniel looked at me in a way I should’ve recognised but didn’t. At least I didn’t smell like I’d slept in a skip anymore. I tried to remember the night before, but my head was a noisy room. My ears buzzed, some synapses died, the backs of my eyeballs got pins and needles. My stomach felt like it had been taken out and rolled in salt and vinegar. It shrivelled and spat and itched.

I was vaguely aware of shouting voices when Jed carried me into the house, but I didn’t remember the drive home. I only had snatches of memory—Jed arguing with Daniel, Jed sticking up for me, Daniel asking why the hell I smelled like piss, and did Jed know that I was only sixteen, Eden and Glenda making clucking sounds, and threatening Daniel and Jed with something unrepeatable if they didn’t keep the noise down. Not unrepeatable because it was too rude to repeat, though it could’ve been—Eden did a fine line in Shakespearian put-downs—but because I couldn’t remember the actual words. It may have involved genitals. I was pretty sure something unsavoury was peeled off my face at one point.

Maybe this was my second shot at being ordinary. I got drunk and stayed out late when I shouldn’t have gone out at all. Shouldn’t I get grounded for that? Or have my cracked phone taken away? Or my laptop? I shuffled in my chair. Apparently neither of them planned to say anything.

“I’m sorry. I drank shots. I stayed out late. I came home reeking of unholiness.”

***

Jed: How are you feeling?

I dragged my scaly tongue around my rancid, dry mouth, wishing I’d brushed my teeth before leaving the house. Magnus’ hangover cure was grim with a furry residue.

Me: Like I licked my way home.

Jed: Shit! I should’ve stopped you. I thought you just liked the taste of pavement.

Me: Funny boy. Hope Daniel didn’t give you too much grief.

Jed: Not really. Eden called me a vexatious skank-maggot. I felt kinda proud to be worthy of one of her insults.

Me: She’s Queen Shakespeare.

Jed: Grandad writes them down. What are you up to?

Me: Right now? Multi-tasking. Dying, hating myself, praying for clarity, wondering if birds have always been this loud, and exploring the feasibility of a brightness slider for the sky.

Jed: You’re not dying. Please don’t hate yourself. Clarity might just be wishful thinking. That’s what earplugs are for. And sunglasses.

Me: You can’t see me right now. Let me wallow. Clarity will be mine. Nobody likes a smartarse x2.

I rolled onto my back, feeling a bit less on the verge of death. Someone had turned the brightness down, or maybe the sun had taken pity on me.

I marvelled at the size of the sky. It felt different here. When I lived in London, there were buildings crammed in everywhere, making the sky smaller and further away. Even the parks had trees shielding the sky. People who planned cities made it that way to hole us in. There was too much freedom in the sky. It made us think of escape. But lying on my back in the north field, arms stretched out in the grass above my head, the sky reached from the tips of my fingers to the toes of my boots. I stretched my body, butt and shoulder-blades connected to the earth, to its heat, and all around me, sky. Thick, rolling waves of it. Tickling, whispering puffs of it.

Jed: I kind of want to see you right now. I want us to be proper friends. Are you busy?

Me: Yeah, picking Leia up from Heathrow. I should go actually. But I can’t get a signal indoors, so don’t think I’m ignoring you.

Jed: OK, some other time then.

Me: Sure. And thanks for being there last night.

Jed: No probs.

Me: I don’t hate you.

Jed: I know.

Big-headed arse. I hate you.

***

Picture by Prawny on Pixabay.