Dark Hunger


CHAPTER FIFTEEN



"This is bad," I observed. I was pacing in a small circle around Laura while the mist whirled and swirled around us in a sinister and off-putting manner. I was trying not to think about The Mist, The Fog, or any horror movie where the villain was the weather. "Really very bad."

"Oh, you get it now."

"Of course I get it," I snapped back. "I'm not that dim." I was almost positive. "The devil told me this is a dimension that she, being an angel-"

"I know."

"-could come to anytime, could use as a doorway from here to the real world anytime, something ordinary people just can't-"

"I know all this."

"-and not only could she come and go from here, like an interdimensional South Station, her will actually shaped the reality around here, again, something regular people can't do-"

"Betsy, I get it!"

"-but you can because you're half angel."

"Why are you expositioning stuff I already know? This isn't a comic book. I know all this."

"It helps me to think about it again and hear it out loud and, jeez, are you ever going to quit complaining?"

"That's rich, coming from you."

I let that pass because I was determined to be the bigger person, and also, she had a point. "When the devil died, so did her version of Hell. So this"-I gestured to the fog-"is a limbo-type thing. I wonder where everybody is?" The second I asked, I saw the answer. "Probably keeping out of the way while the managerial hierarchy shakes itself out. It's like when you're working at a Hollywood studio and a new boss replaces the old one, all the little fish keep under the radar until they figure out the deal with the new boss." Hmm, Hell and Hollywood in the same analogy. No one's ever done that before.

"This is what you've stuck me with." I couldn't tell from her tone if Laura was accusatory or pissed or scared or a combo. "All this. Hell's literally smoke and mirrors right now and I've got no idea what to do."

"Well, hell, neither do I. Plus, I'm dealing with all this in sock feet." We both looked at my feet. When we'd come in from the yard with the puppies, I'd kicked off my shoes and stolen a pair of Tina's purple fuzzy socks, warm out of the dryer. Ah, the sensual thrill of warm clean fuzzy socks that weren't your own...

I'd been annoyed at the puppies and Sinclair, and-

Sinclair!

No, wait. Like this: Sinclair!

Nothing. Not an answering peep.

Sinclair! Where are you? Why aren't you bugging me from the inside of my brain?

I couldn't hear him. He wasn't there. Oh, Christ, did that mean he couldn't hear me? Was I just a bald patch in his brain, too?

"This is what I had to show you." Laura was whining as if I gave a tin shit about her problems right now. And yeah, that attitude was probably why I was in Hell in stolen socks. I wasn't unaware. Just unimpressed. "I figured the only way you'd get it is if you saw it. So here it is."

Since Laura had never liked my husband, this probably wasn't the time for ahh, God, without my man inside my brain I cannot function in society! Plus, as a card-carrying fembot I probably couldn't say it without cracking up. But I had to say something. And as much as I didn't want to show throat, the Antichrist had a point.

"I'm sorry. I've got no idea what to tell you. If you wanted me to feel bad, I do, but I'm still not going to apologize for not letting your mother murder me. And as long as we're talking about your mom again, where are your wings?" Laura had inherited her mom's wings. (Yeah. Angels really do have wings. Listen up, Mormons: you're wrong about that, too.) Apparently they were always there, but in the other dimension that was Hell, you could see them. The way Satan 1.0 had explained it, her wings were always there and so were her hellfire weapons. But they could only be seen at just the right times. Laura could make them visible if she was upset enough, but that didn't mean she was making them appear. She was just making use of them.

Hers were like big sparrow feathers, an unromantic mixture of dappled browns. When you could see them, anyway. Her mom's had been those of a huge evil crow (like there were any other kind).

"I don't want them," she replied sharply. "I haven't decided if that's who I am yet."

I did an internal eye roll at the absurdity, but managed to keep it off my face. My eyes, actually. "And you never answered my question."

Laura had wandered a few feet away and I could barely see her in the gloom. It was a little like being inside the Gopher Hole in a dense fog. You knew there were eighty thousand seats in the stands and you knew people were in some of those seats, but you didn't know how many or exactly where they were. And whether it was a hundred or it was fifty thousand, you also knew they were waiting.

"Laura?" I prompted. "My question? Don't you want to know what your mom's last words were?" Laura had been there, but things had been chaotic and terrible and very, very fast. I doubted she'd heard much of anyone's dialogue.

"No." She was lying. Her shoulders had gone stiff at "last words," she was edging closer, and she wouldn't look at me. The Antichrist was a terrible liar and had no po-face. She knew I knew it.

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