Faustus lay on the basement floor, his acolytes all dead; he was the only one left alive. Alive but unable to move, unable to do anything. Why? He thought. We, I did everything right. He was asking himself this question all the time, what had gone wrong? “Who says it didn’t work?” A voice said. The voice was female, cocky, confident, and full of humour. “I do not suppose it ever occurred to you that I have no interest in being caged and controlled”. Faustus tried to speak, he tried to move, but he was being held in place by the darkness of black magics. His skin was falling from the bone. He was a meat bag with his boney skeleton poking through in places. Protruding through the skin as if all his bones had been neatly shrink-wrapped. He had forgotten how long it had been since he had eaten or drank anything. Days? Weeks? Longer? He had no idea.
“I am guessing you’re hungry”, She said. “I’d offer you some of my lunch, but you seem a little incapacitated”. Faustus heard her lips smacking together as she licked a finger dry. Did she have something to eat? Did it matter? She was just toying with him. “I am sure by now you are starting to question the logic in summoning me. Maybe the idea that you should not have done it is rattling around in that skin suit, maybe it is not. I don’t care”. He had known it was her. Even before she had confirmed it, he had known. He had worshipped her, summoned her, and now she had him like this; why? “Oh my dear silly Faustus”, she said. “Why? Why? Oh, Lilith, Why do you do this to me!” Lilith laughed as she spoke, and she mocked him with her words. In many ways, that was more painful than the starvation and dehydration he had suffered to this point. When the one you love. The one you desire and worship mocks you and rebuffs you. That hurts more than any physical pain ever could. “I’ll let you off a tinsy little bit because you are old fashioned, but I am not going to forgive you for everything. You would have used me for your own ends, and don’t deny it. Oops, sorry, I forgot, you can’t. It is quite a pickle you have gotten yourself into. Now, what are we going to do about this”. Lilith sat on the edge of the well. She swung her feet from side to side. At the same time, she said “dum de dum” to herself out loud.
“Okay, yes, that is what we’ll do”, she said finally. “Any objections, raise your hands”. She laughed loudly and wildly. “How silly of me”, she said. “I keep forgetting that you can’t. Oh silly me”. Lilith pushed herself from the well using both and hopped to the floor. She walked over to Faustus and pushed his body over onto its back. Her heel sunk into his side. It pierced the flesh like a fork sticking into a raw sausage. She pulled her foot back and looked at him with disgust in her eyes. She wiped the heel as best she could on his robes. “Well that was just gross”, she said. Faustus begged for release from this. He begged to be free. “That is not very nice”, she said. “You called me, and here I am. Now be grateful”. Lilith pointed at the fire that had been set and then burnt. “I have no interest in that”, she said, and the remains vanished. They melted away into the ground until all that was left was the soil. “I have no use for those daft fuckers who were silly enough to follow you either”, she grumbled as she turned her finger towards the corpses. The ground opened up around them, and they sank into it. Roots and vines gripped the bodies as they sank and tore at them. Tearing flesh from the bone and then the bone from muscle. Tearing them as quickly as a toddler would a sheet of paper.
The ground closed, and all the evidence left from the summoning was Faustus and Lilith. “Right-oh. Come along then”, she said to Faustus as she clicked her fingers. Faustus felt himself being pulled by his shoulders, pulled forwards and then upwards. His soul being dragged from his body. Lifted from the ground as if by two invisible hooks. He was lifted to six-foot, his spiritual toes stubbed the ground as he was dragged forward. His ghostly arms hung to his side like a deflated balloon animal. His hazy head flopped forwards, so all he could see was the floor. Lilith walked to the wall and pushed a brick, a door opened. The door led to nothing but blackness. She just walked into the dark casually. Faustus had no interest in following, as he could feel the evil pushing from that darkness. He had no choice. The invisible strings of his puppet master dragged him forwards. Faustus vanished into the darkness. He managed to look back right at the end and saw his lifeless body on the ground. Once he had done so, the door swung shut, and the basement was once again silent.
The birds sang and chirped in the mid-morning sunshine. The sun shone through the trees in the Institute courtyard. Lisa stood with her arm around Daniel’s waist, Crystal and Martin on either side of them. “Do you think she is happy?” Lisa asked. A small vase with the name Mary Watkins engraved upon it sits under the tree. “I don’t feel her now, so I hope so”, Crystal said. “I wish we could have done more”, she added as an afterthought. Daniel smiled. It was good to see her back to being slightly ditzy. He would be happy if he never saw the stern and commanding Crystal again. “But, was it ever really her?” Lisa asked. She took the question from Daniel’s lips and spoke it aloud. Stolen like a teenage kiss in a playground, only Daniel was happy that he wasn’t the one to ask. “I don’t know”, Crystal answered hesitantly. “You think it might have been Lilith all along? Lilith and her games?”
“But there was a body”, Martin said and pointed at the vase. “We had it cremated!”
“Maybe it was both, maybe neither”, Danial said. “I don’t think it matters”. Lisa rubbed a tear from her eye. She hoped that nobody would notice, but Daniel did. “What’s wrong?” He asked her. Lisa took a moment to reply. “I just think it’s sad”, she said. “This is a young girl, and nobody can find her parents? Nobody has come forward to claim her body? It feels so wrong, so pointless”. They had all thought the same. This was a woman, a girl, who had been kidnapped and then killed. Someone somewhere must have known her. Nobody had come forward during the appeals, and nobody had spoken up. “Five years is a long time”, Martin said. “Maybe they were immigrants and moved back home? Maybe she just had no family left?”
“I don’t think we’ll ever know”, Crystal said. She looked at the vase and tried again to reach out. To touch something, but the vase was dead and empty. She was not sure how she felt about it. She had seen emptiness before after a soul had moved on. There was usually an echo left behind, a trace of what once was. She would have especially expected it in a traumatic death, but here there was nothing. In this case, though, maybe nothing was better than something she thought to herself. Sometimes it is better to have nothing rather than to have something that can cause you harm or will be troublesome. Maybe nothing is the best in this case.
Daniel sat at home alone and looked at the piece of paper. He had told Lisa that he had gotten rid of it, and that had been true. Only the damn thing kept coming back.
The day after the event, he had binned it. It had been burning a hole in his pocket and rumbling the spaces in his mind. So he had got up early in the morning and thrown the thing into the black wheely bin outside. Done, he had thought. The following day when he had gone downstairs, the page was sitting on his kitchen table.
He had thought about asking Lisa but then decided against it. He did not want to worry her, and it was just a trophy of sorts. It was a trophy that he did not want. He did not feel it was deserved either. Had they won? Not in his mind. David had died, as had other innocents, and for what, because a Deviless was bored? He had looked the page over, and it was still pristine. It should have been covered in bin juice and other nasties, but it was clean and spotless. Thankfully, it was also blank. Daniel had then burnt it. He had sat in the kitchen over the sink and lit the bottom corner. The flames grew and then shrank no quicker or slower than he would have expected. The soot and ash were washed down the sink’s plughole, and that was that, until the following day.
It had been the most Monday of Mondays. The coffee had tasted stale, the weather had teetered between being somewhat okay and boringly miserable, and the power of motivation had taken a holiday. Daniel had pulled his jeans on and headed out into the world. He was shopping when he first felt it. A warmth in his pocket, a glow that radiated down his leg. Daniel thought nothing of it at first. He just presumed he’d caught his leg on something. When he had reached the checkout and put his hand in his pocket, that was when he felt it. Smooth and folded in half, he could feel the smooth edges of the sheet. It was neatly folded and in his pocket. Daniel took his shopping and packed it. He then took the page from his pocket and looked it over. It was still blank, still perfect, and still – it seemed – his.
Daniel left the page on the side in the supermarket, not looking back as he left. A week passed, and the page seemed to be no more. Daniel would wake in the morning and check his pockets only to find them empty. When the letterbox clattered, he expected to see the page lying on his doormat, but it never happened. It would not be accurate to say that Daniel had forgotten about the page. We do not forget things that quickly. The page had, though, been stored in the back of his mind. The week had passed without incident, and by the following Monday, he had stopped jumping to check the mail when it arrived. It was Tuesday evening when it resurfaced. Daniel was heading upstairs to bed, it had been a solid day, and he had finished a fair amount of work. He had decided to lose himself in a book. It was his way to unwind, to unravel the coils of stress. He would travel to a mythical world under the lamplight and forget all about this world. Daniel opened the bedroom door, and then he saw it lying on his pillow. The page was back. This time it was different. There was creasing on the page. He could feel it in his gut, a grumbling groaning telling him that this time it was going to be strange, it was going to have a message. Daniel walked to the bed and picked up the page. He looked at it and read the message.
“Daniel, I’m bored!”