Far from Acheron, a Short Story by Jason H. Abbott

Lava Lamps, by Pedro de Elizalde. Click here for more of the artist’s work!

“Memfit, I died.”

She rubbed her wrist, eyes wide as she found her once fair skin now a crimson color.

“Yes. Yes you did, Mistress,” Memfit replied. “Humans are fragile, and a sword through the heart tends to do that.”

Aireae looked up from her hand, her gaze meeting that of the foot tall blue imp sitting on a rock halfway across the cave. He turned away shyly after a moment in her sight.

She gulped down a breath, and tried to shake off the waking haze that still had a hold over her. “I have a thousand questions… but tell me if my mother and father were avenged first. Is there justice?”

He nodded returning his gaze to her yellow eyes. “Oh, those evil men are far deader than you right now! I saw their souls claimed by attendants of the lowest levels. Their nasty business won’t be harming anyone else, thanks to you.”

The tension that had kept Aireae on guard for years drained away. “Good.”

Memfit watched her mutter an oath and brush a tear off a cheek before she looked around the cavern. The red hued light that filled the chamber drew her eyes to the cave’s mouth not far away, and Aireae gasped on sulfurous air seeing the flaming sky and lake of lava outside.

“Where am I?” she asked. “Hell?”

“No, no Mistress. We’re as far from Hell as I could get us. This is just an inconspicuous little place in the cosmos.”

The wavering heat would have boiled Aireae’s human flesh, but to her red skin it was a pleasant breeze. She took a step towards the opening to see more of the landscape, then tripped, discovering her stride was no longer as it was.

“Careful, Mistress!” Memfit shouted as his spaded tail shot to attention.

Aireae yelped and stumbled, stepping not on the feet she was accustomed to but on cloven hooves at the end of a digitigrade legs. She fell to the cave floor as bat-like wings unfurled from her back and softened the fall instinctively with a flap.

“Wings?” She flapped them again, feeling their leathery caress of the air and a beckoning promise of flight.

Memfit swooped down and landed beside her under the power of his own, similar wings. “Many pardons, Mistress! You moved before I could warn you of the new way of things.”

The haze over Aireae’s consciousness continued to abate. Rising to her knees on the rock floor, she confirmed her nakedness with a downward glance. Then Memfit’s cough drew her attention to the blue hand he offered.

Aireae grasped it, and somehow it fit around her own as he helped her to stand on unsteady legs. Then she stared dumbfounded at the formerly tiny imp that was now half a head taller than she was.

“Memfit? What’s going on? I’m naked and devilish, and you’re… big.”

He let go of her hand. “No Mistress, you’re small.”

She started to cover her breasts, then stopped and faced him, putting her hands on bare hips instead. “Small?”

The imp patted the top of his head, then laid his palm flat on the top of her hair eyeballing a measurement. “I’d say about eleven inches. Don’t feel bad, I’m pretty tall at twelve… you’re taller than most lady imps.”

Aireae’s hoof gently tapped on the solid stone beneath it. “Well, I know you never wear a stitch… but if you take me to my old clothes I think I could get creative with my pocket handkerchief.”

“I didn’t even bring your old body, Mistress. We needed to travel light to run so far.”

Her lips parted open, then paused wordless for a moment as she shook her head. “Then forgive me if I feel, exposed, for a while.”

“It’s not like I haven’t seen you without clothes before, Mistress. Some days you treat me like a cat that way.”

Aireae rubbed her brow, sighing as she looked at Memfit’s black hooves and azure furred ankles. She put her own forward, and contrasted her crimson hairs against his. “I suppose it’s nothing to you, but it’s different for me now that we’re alike, and the same… scale.”

Her gaze drifted up, and she missed his smile as her eyes lingered a moment longer on his waist than they should have. “It’s hardly nothing for me either, my Lady.”

She met his eyes. “Memfit, what’s going on? I remember my death. I remember your hands at my lips drawing out the orb of my soul.”

“Yes. And it was a fluttering, uncorrupted soul despite my best efforts to make it otherwise. A gem. A rare beauty my Dark Master would have devoured ravenously and remembered for all eternity.”

“Nothing like this was in the contract. As the world faded and you held me above my body, oblivion is what I expected. Not some new existence.”

Memfit turned away from her, then slowly walked to the cave’s opening. “No, this wasn’t in the contract.”

She watched him stop just outside, then followed with careful, cloven steps.

“Your only assignment was to enforce the contract and deliver my soul upon my death,” she said. “You’ve been saying that for years on my shoulder. Especially when, Gods forbid, I convinced you to do something useful like cast a spell or fetch an item.”

He sat down on the outcropping of rock above the lava outside. “Yes, you were always a difficult assignment!”

Aireae reached the edge. “I’m sorry. I tried to be kind, even when you made me angry or told me to do wrong.”

“You were kind,” he said picking up a pebble. “That’s the problem with you.”

She rubbed her behind and wrinkled her brow studying the rocky ledge. Finding a smooth spot beside him, her wings faired out as she lowered herself to sit.

“I agreed to the contract,” She said, discovering the searing rock was only comfortably warm to her new form’s rump. “I signed it to have a chance to bring justice to my parents’ killers, and save my people. That bargain was upheld, and I was ready to pay its price.”

He looked at the pebble, then threw it into the lava. “But it… wasn’t fair.”

“Memfit, what did you do to me? How do I still exist, albeit in another form? And why are we here? You had my soul in your hands. That’s all you ever wanted from me… wasn’t it?”

He turned to her, framed by the otherworldly landscape of a flaming sky and twin sunsets. “You’re not like any blackheart I’ve dealt with in my millennia of enforcing contracts. They were easy to harvest. Corrupt to the core when they signed, or easily swayed thereafter.”

The blue imp looked down at the lava. “They were cold black souls, not a good woman with a selfless cause. On deliverance they were not an orb of beating light that should have been placed in the hands of a Seraph, and not a lowly devil like me.”

“So you—”

“Failed to deliver, yes.”

“You… have defied the greatest power of evil in all creation, for me?”

He raised his hands in surrender. “Yes, yes I did! I’m a terribly flawed imp!”

Aireae rested a hand on Memfit’s shoulder. “Why?”

He sheepishly looked her in the eye. “It isn’t in the nature of devils…”

She leaned forward, squinting as he tried to wiggle away.

Memfit scrunched his face, struggling to both find and fight the right words. Then he blurted them out. “We shouldn’t be able… to fall in love!”

Aireae drew in a breath as her fingers left him.

“Not with our charges!” he continued, hands clenched on the short dark hair of his head. “Not with anything!”

“Oh, Memfit. I—”

He let go of his scalp, then licked his lips as she felt his eyes drinking in her every feature. “I dismissed it as simple, proper lust at first. A healthy desire to corrupt your virtues.”

The imp reached for her chest, but then stopped well short of touching her. “But I am a weak devil: I let you befriend me! You made me care… damn you! I realized in that one instant I was happier at your side than in all my prior foggy eons of existence.”

Memfit’s head drooped as his hands fell to his lap. “Then you died, and I didn’t want it to end.”

A pungent volcanic breeze blew her dark hair. “I’d reason that what you’ve done has, placed you in great peril?”

He nodded looking up again. “The anger of the Supreme Lord of Hell is a terrible thing. His eyes scour all creation looking for us both.”

Aireae reached up and untangled a midnight colored lock of her hair caught on the black horns atop her forehead. “Both?” she said running fingers up and down the short pair of horns. “He still seeks to devour me?”

“For a devil to break one of his contracts is unheard of! An unforgivable transgression deserving legendary punishment to deter any other hellspawn from ever considering it themselves! And yes, he still feels owed your soul to chew on. But when he finds out what I’ve done with you—”

Aireae lowered her hands. “And what have you done, Memfit? Why am I like, this?”

His guilty gaze looked to the glowing magma once more. “An untethered mortal soul quickly dissipates without a body. I can re-forge a soul into existences with memories intact, but only as devils no greater than myself… so I made you my equal.”

Aireae leaned back. Taking a deep breath she looked up into the fiery colors of the sulfurous sky above.

“I hope you’re not mad,” he said tapping steepled fingers. “It comes with a lot of perks! Magic, nigh-immortality…”

She heard the sound of her spaded tail slapping the cliff side, and her eyes narrowed seeing yet another appendage she’d have to get used to.

“…extra-dimensional travel, Oh! Free passage over the Styx! You’ve got no idea how handy—”

He shut-up as Aireae glared at him. Listening to the slap of her tail, his own prehensile appendage began to swish in time to her beat, back and forth like a nervous metronome.

Memfit cringed. “You’re, mad. Aren’t you, Mistress?”

“You made me a voluptuous little imp, didn’t you?”

“I uh… No!” he said raising his palms in surrender. “There are a lot of constraints I have to deal with. I can make a humanoid, but I can’t make a human… not even a doll-sized one.”

She cleared her throat, slipping hands under her breasts. “These feel a little unconstrained if you ask me.”

“W-well,” he stammered, confronted with his handiwork that he nonetheless still eyed admirably. “Alright, I-I was working from memory so I might have fudged some proportions a little bit higher. But all your human features that I could keep with you, I remade!”

“Right,” Aireae said, tight-faced.

“No, I didn’t do some hack-job and re-forge you into a succubus plaything or whatnot! I think I really pulled it off and you still look like, um… you. I like, you. Now, you’re just an impish… you.”

She lowered her hands and glanced away with an eye-roll. “Well, I see that you gave me all the same devilish features as yourself, but I do like my different color.”

He flashed a grin and nodded. “Because I know you like red!”

Aireae looked back, her tail swishing again. “So we match… Did you make me your type, Memfit?”

His smile collapsed. “I’m about as close to human as an imp can get, so, yeah… because I figured that’s what you’d probably want. By the hells, I’d fetch a mirror and prove it to you if this world had any!”

She continued to eye him. “I’m sure my reflection would be the finest sort of devilish fantasy your mind could imagine.”

“No, no, hold on a moment,” he said pointing. “I’ll show you!”

With a mumbled incantation, Memfit’s finger scratched a vertical line of eldritch energy in the air between them. Reaching into the tiny tear breaching an elemental plane of existence, he pulled it slightly wider and glistening mercury poured from the aperture. The silvery metal splashed and formed a small puddle on the rocky outcropping they sat on.

“There! Take a look!” he said gesturing to the mercury’s reflective surface with one hand while closing the rift like a zipper with the other.

Aireae leaned over as prompted, and Memfit watched her stare at the puddle. Moments passed as her dark pupils and fingers glided over features both devilish and humanly familiar on her face.

He gulped as she looked up from the liquid mirror and met his gaze. Her black lips, a perfect match to her original’s in all but color, smiled.

“Thank you,” Aireae said. “I can still see the face my parents gave me in the one you made.”

Memfit’s tense face eased, and he returned her smile before she turned and looked out over the lava lake. “You’re welcome, Mistress.”

She stretched her arms, then gave a fleeting point to her chest. “These aren’t bad either.”

Aireae gripped the short cliff’s edge, and wiggled her cloven hooves getting used to them. “You’ve done and risked more for me than many Gods would have.”

He joined her in looking at the swirling colors of black, red and yellow not far below them. “I just didn’t want to lose you.”

“You are brave, Memfit.”

“I’m a coward. When I took your soul and darted through six dimensions to get here, I was scared shitless.”

Brave,” she repeated.

“If you say so, Mistress.”

“Just Aireae. The contract’s broken, and you said yourself you made me your equal.”

He smiled. “Do you really mean that, Aireae?”

“Brave and noble,” she said scooting around the mercury puddle to sit close beside him. “I don’t think I’m the only one with a glowing soul on this rock.”

She brushed his wing with hers, and Memfit’s ears perked as she spoke again. “This is better than oblivion, to live and see sights I never could before. With a friend. How long do you think we have before they could find us here?”

“Oh, a l-long time,” he said stuttering as her tail crossed his.

Aireae nodded, her eyes focused on two huge red suns on an orange horizon. “Good. I hadn’t entertained any thoughts beyond my vow and the contract. I don’t know what to do now that they’re gone and fulfilled… I guess I’ll start by watching these suns set.”

Memfit inched a little closer to her. “They never set, actually. This world is tidally locked, it’s always that way here.”

She turned to him. “You brought me to a world of eternal sunsets? Now that’s very sweet.”

He rubbed the short hair behind his horns, grinning. “I thought you’d like it.”

“Brave, noble and romantic,” Aireae said placing a hand on his thigh. “And not alone as the only devil that can love.”

 

 

Copyright © 2017 by Jason H. Abbott, All Rights Reserved.

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12 thoughts on “Far from Acheron, a Short Story by Jason H. Abbott

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    1. Thank you Elizabeth, I’m so glad you enjoyed it! It was as story that cheered me up and an idea I’d had for a while, and hearing that it made a connection with readers like yourself is joyous to know. :-)

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