Below is Chapter 2 for – Amanita. This is when the main character, Artemis Lamb, gets to meet her earthly minder. … I’ll be curious as to the reaction, let me know?
Chapter 2 (remember, unedited… )
Artemis stared out her hotel room’s smoked glass window located within downtown Selene, Kentucky. She searched below for any wandering spirits. The dark city streets were still, and calm. It appeared like any normal American town washed in pale light from a line of faux antiqued street lamps set in front of a fancy town square centered by a granite and marble courthouse. She got up and put on her winter coat and headed downstairs to walk outside into the frigid air.
“Git ya truck?” The lone valet asked. He stood inside the hotel chains ordinary lobby, as he was chatting up the uninterested female late-shift desk clerk who barely glanced up at Artemis.
“No,” Artemis said. She stopped. She decided to ask him a question that she knew the answer in hopes to figure out if he might be a useful local. “What’s the best route over to Most High cemetery? I don’t live here.”
“Not sure I’d be out there, ma’am, this time a night,” the valet said. He rubbed at the intersection of his ample belly and well-worn belt. “It ain’t criminals, it’s stray wolves, bears, the druggies – they be up in the forest, it gets thick up in there, easy place to hide.”
“I know,” Artemis said. She pushed open the front glass doors and moved outside as the valet followed her. She looked back at him. “I made a promise to an old friend, you know, for his mother, light a candle, you know – besides, no worries, I’m packing. What’s that smell?”
The valet wobbled back and scratched behind his ear. Artemis suspected from the floppy ear piercing it was a former host for a larger earring. It would likely take him until middle age for the hole to heal over. He moved half his plump body outside, and the other squished behind the glass door.
“Coal smoke, how we heat things here, well, I reckon I’d head down three blocks,” the valet said. He pointed forward, as he cautiously studied Artemis’ blank face as the fog vapor rolled from her calm breath. “Turn right at Oak, there’s a CVS there, it’ll be ‘bout half-mile on down the right. I’ll go with ya, need be?”
“No,” Artemis said. She slipped the valet ten dollars. “But thank you, I’ll be back soon.”
Artemis ignored the valet’s partial grin as he snapped the currency between his smoker’s fingers as he let the door shut behind him. She bundled up her coat, and methodically walked the route beneath a crescent moon; she could see above Orion’s belt in the clear night sky. The shoveled snow banks looked liked piled lengths of lumpy soiled white linen. She moved along the cracked concrete sidewalks, under stripped bare oak trees and modest brick buildings that were from a former time before the internet and strip centers. She turned at the corner across from a CVS and walked then past the neighborhood’s dark front porches. As the valet had directed, she saw the thorny iron gated cemetery, dotted with moon lit bleached headstones, and shadowed by ancient tentacled oaks. She thought it was strange that she had not seen any wandering spirits, or any indication that they were nearby. She stopped. She sensed someone or something was watching her, not following, but nearby.
The cemetery appeared old and well-used as Artemis pushed open the iron gate that ached at its rusty joints. As best she could see the park like setting appeared well manicured. She moved past the first column of headstones. She stared across the cemetery in all directions. Nothing. It was as if the wandering spirits had finally escaped from her vision. Her instincts whispered that she was no longer alone.
A little girl stood silently at the back of the cemetery. In life she was petite, fragile and wore a common department store dress. But then the little girl evaporated into the cold air.
And to Artemis’ right side, there was a large black demonic presence that floated near a child statuary set above a grave. And then another dark presence appeared to her left, but it was farther away near the cemetery’s back gate. She turned around and counted all the cemetery’s gates, there were a total of seven. The cemetery was designed into a large circle with nine large circular sections. Artemis was well aware what she saw were demonic spirits. But they remained sentinel like, and had not moved toward her. For the first time in her life, she wanted to back away, and run toward the hotel.
“I know you’re here,” Artemis said. She stammered. She puffed out foggy steam train breaths as she moved farther across the cemetery toward the center where she stood before a tall mausoleum for a once important local business family and chamber of commerce leaders. A voice emanated from behind the thick marbled structure.
“You know me, Artemis.”
Artemis glanced at the demonic spirits, they had not moved toward her.
“Then show yourself,” Artemis said. She wiped her cold face that was glossed with moisture from the dense humidity. “Who are you?”
“How should I appear? We’ve never met, formally.”
“As you are, I’m confused,” Artemis said. She thought it was an odd question from a creepy sounding voice. “Stop hiding.”
“Very well, but always remember, I am an idea, a spirit – I am not human.”
“You’re sort of dead, I get it, I think.”
“Oh, I’m so much more, as you might say in your English language. Perhaps your father would have spoken of me using Greek, or in Latin words?”
It was silent for a few moments, but for the interlocked tree limbs fighting with each other as the breeze antagonized them. And then, Artemis noticed above her a dark particle cloud slithered over and it caressed the monument like a frothing black ocean wave across a dark sand beach. It then waved downward in a black-ant like mass and formed into a giant black King Cobra head. Its muscled body had giant feathered wings; its hooded face appeared prepared to strike at Artemis as it levitated from its coil just a few steps across from her.
“What – tha?” Artemis said. She resisted the temptation to step backward. Her heart beats thundered inside her chest like it was attempting to escape her body.
“I have many names… “ the serpent hissed, it revealed its sharp fangs. “In many languages, but for you, what should you call me?”
“I – “ Artemis whispered, she stared at the hulking snake that kept wiggling its forked tongue over near her.
Artemis sensed her skin tingle. She lost the ability to breath. She then realized why she had not seen any wandering spirits, lest they end up in hell. She was confident she could not escape from it, it was a powerless sensation from being trapped.
“Fine, I’ll pick, I am Satan.”
“What?” Artemis asked. She reverted to her military training, she focused on calm thoughts, on facts. “I don’t’ understand…”
“Still not afraid, Artemis?” Satan said. “Still a nonbeliever?”
The snake form disappeared into black particles, meshed together into a dense gooey orb.
“If I am to die,” Artemis said. She clenched her hands, and stool still, and solider like. “I’m not afraid, I accept my fate. I know then, now, God will accept me. I never understood, until, now.”
“That’s to easy, I enjoy torture, it’s fun to hate.”
“What do you want?” Artemis said, lowly. Her vision blurred. “I have nothing.”
“I want you, I want your earthly soul, Artemis Lamb,” Satan said. “I have watched you from afar, I watched this magic little girl grow up, and now you have come to me, join me, I’ll show you true power. I want you. Don’t you want to be wanted?”
“I’m not for sale,” Artemis said. The cold air dried out her mouth; her lungs burned. “Where’s God, if you exist, God exists.”
The orb floated upwards. Artemis thought it was inspecting her down to her genetic code.
“Not how things work,” Satan said. “I could bring back that young soldier you loved, the one you think of when you touch that ring on your finger, join me.”
“Why are you so obvious? No,” Artemis said. She thought it best to engage Satan, or her death would have been meaningless. Then she realized Satan could kill her at any moment, so there was something else it wanted. She waited. “What have you done to them, I can’t see them.”
The orb floated closer toward Artemis. She thought it was considering its next move.
“I take the one’s I want, the rest remain searching. I enjoy watching them suffer?” Satan said. The orb cat like growled. “You’re correct. I am the reason you cannot see them. I blocked you. Artemis, protector of little girls, who cannot have her own girls. Named by her dead parents after the goddess of the hunt, and the moon. I know why.”
Artemis resisted her tears. It was poking, prodding, and jabbing at her – easily locating her weak spots.
“Leave them,” Artemis stammered. “Leave me alone.”
The orb glided backwards. Artemis thought it sounded like a purring African lion after a good meal.
“What was his name?” Satan asked. “Your dead lover-”
Tears sprinkled from Artemis’ eyes. They glided involuntarily down her cold face. She sniffled.
“Benjamin,” Artemis said. She breathed in a deep breath through her long nose. She wobbled at her knees. “Benjamin, you know that-”
“Ah yes, Benjamin, let’s see, I know money will not tempt you. I’ve tried that. You’ve accepted being childless, all alone, being without Benjamin,” Satan said, wistfully like a game show host to a losing contestant. “I can make you a bargain. I can bring Benjamin back for you. I know where he’s searching, he’s with them. Just join me? And he’ll be waiting for you. You can worship me.”
Artemis lacked the ability to stop her tears. Her mother had always taught her to be honest, and honest tears flushed toxic fear. She stared down at the brown grass, her shoulders ached. All she had left was a whisper as she saw snapshots of Benjamin in her mind.
And then the orb transformed into a tall, handsome, young man wearing a tailored suit with a fashionable bow tie, and colorful pocket square.
“Now, you see me in a human form. I am the one, from now on, you deal with me,” Satan said. He pointed at Artemis, his fingernails sharp and dagger-like. “I gave you three chances, you denied me three times. I’ve done this before, you know, it didn’t end well on earth for that fellow.”
“Why are you picking on me?” Artemis asked. Her knees were bending, her thoughts cloudy. “I’m not afraid.”
“It’s what I do, for Hell’s sake,” Satan said. His smile was wide-toothed perfection. “Get it, a little play on words from your English language. I enjoy my work, it’s not really work after all if you hate what you do, right? But to be clear, yes, you are afraid, you keep lying to yourself. I enjoy that. It blocks out the truth. I hate the truth.”
“Then just kill me,” Artemis said. She dropped down to her knees like a condemned warrior. “I’ll die like a soldier before I fail Benjamin.”
Satan in a false human form walked toward her. It closely observed her, its hands casually stuffed inside the pants pockets. It shrugged as if it had thoughtlessly shot and killed a helpless squirrel.
“Like I said, to easy,” Satan said. It sighed. “Perhaps I’ll come visit you back in old St. Pete, I have fun down there, too. Actually, I have fun everywhere, all at the same time. It’s God’s gift to humanity. After all, God sent me and my minions down here. But, you decided to invade my fun, here in the Appalachian forest.”
“Leave these people alone,” Artemis said. She thought it was a pointless statement, she lacked any power over Satan. She wondered why God had left her life to Satan’s whims.
“You’re not stupid,” Satan said. “You can see those demons, they are not that bright, get it? Yes, God left you for me.”
“No,” Artemis said. She whimpered. “No, I guess I believe God exists, now, why now?”
“Fine, demons are dark, not bright, get a sense of humor, Artemis,” Satan said. It smirked. “I’ve been having great fun, mass killing of humans I personally manage. I’ve allowed you investigate your little cases, silly human beings, but this one, be warned, you might be over your head. I think your boss, Wylie did warn you, in his office, right?”
Artemis wondered if any thought, or action was hidden from Satan. She was confused why she was not already dead.
“What do you want?” Artemis said.
“I want to play with you, I know your past, so, I’ll make some predictions,” Satan said. It was steepling its fingers together. “You’ll get to see my favorite human flaw, guess what it is?”
“I don’t understand,” Artemis said. She remained fixated on the brown grass, her mind swirled with incomplete thoughts, and uncertain reasons lost within a living nightmare. She touched the cold grass, it seemed real. Her knees sensed the frozen soil. She blinked her eyes.
“Come on, Artemis, play with me,” Satan said. “You’re a tough girl. Right? I’m your ultimate test. You’ve always wondered why you saw the wondering spirits, I’m your answer.”
Artemis tightly closed her eyes. She pushed herself up off the hard ground, and she made herself open her eyes, and she stared over at Satan.
“Guess?” Satan said. It threateningly nudged at her, its eyes glowed dark blue iris, and flamed outward reds and oranges across the sclera. “Or, my demon’s feed on you for a thousand years.”
“Greed,” Artemis said. She huffed, she gulped, her mouth as dry as sand paper. “Or, lust, no, greed.”
Satan nodded in agreement. It pointed at Artemis.
“Ah, smart girl,” Satan said. It started to playfully stroll around Artemis crushing the frozen grass under his shiny shoes. Its laugh sounded like a satisfied hyena before it devoured a fresh kill. “Greed, I love greed. It’s my favorite. Although, lust is a close second, humans are such horny creatures. The others are boring, but – sometimes useful. But, greed, oh, how I hate it – so. You know, I don’t have the capacity to love anything – hate’s so satisfying.”
“I’m not giving you my soul, let Benjamin go on … please,” Artemis said. She was like a beaten prize fighter inside a square ring waiting for the final blow. “Kill me-”
“Nope, you denied me three times,” Satan said. It leaned in near Artemis. It whispered in a suggestive tone. “Just look at me, Artemis, I’m gorgeous. I’m not human, but if I were, good Devil, look at me! Let’s go play while I’m in this human body, you know you want me, wouldn’t that feel amazing, actually, I am amazing. Remember Benjamin, and being at one with him? Take me back to your hotel, I’ll light you on fire.”
“Never,” Artemis said. Instinctively she spat at the ground. “Never.”
Satan continued to stroll around Artemis. It haphazardly poked at her shoulders. It menacingly patted her on the head.
“Pity,” Satan said. “I’m one hell of a human lover.”
“I’m not afraid,” Artemis said. She grasped her fingers and hands together in a prayer position. “I’m not afraid. Be not afraid. Be not afraid.”
“Yes you are, I know that supposedly good book reads, be not afraid,” Satan said with a deep, gravely growl. “I know you’ve read it. Don’t worry, no demons will do my work with you, it’s all me now. Fair warning, you can always run home like a little girl back to Wylie?”
Satan kissed Artemis on her cheek with hard, dead lips.
“Until we meet again, Artemis Lamb. I’ll be watching.”
And then it evaporated into an expansive fog like an unfurled pirate battle flag schoonering away at sea toward a dark summertime storm. And it glided over the monument. Then the demonic spirits disappeared.
Artemis stood alone within the quiet cemetery. She looked up into a nearby oak tree, a silent raven was watching her. She hugged her body, shivered to her core as she turned to stagger back to the hotel.
End. Chapter 2
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