As promised last week, today’s Hump Day Hump features an excerpt from All Souls. In this short story, an angel and a demon form a long-time, unholy alliance that reaches its head on All Souls Night.
There was more information to exchange than there often was at these meetings. Pavel had inscribed name upon name on the skin of his arms, his back, his belly, the words only readable when the angel’s fingers brushed over them. Uriel mumbled the names to himself in a soft, careful voice; he remembered them all somehow, though Pavel didn’t know how. He only knew how his skin shivered as the angel’s touch moved over him.
It was the only way he’d found to keep the names safe as he gathered them over the months leading to All Saints. Stored just beneath his skin, they were invisible to everyone else. Uriel had given him the ink a long time ago, when they’d first made this alliance. When Pavel had first seen Uriel’s face in a stretch of sunlight and had known he would do anything—anything—for the chance to be near the angel again.
It hurt. Oh, God, how it hurt. The letters rising just below his skin felt like tiny embers burning into him, then rising out as the words formed and then dissipated. It hurt more than anything Pavel had ever experienced in his life, and his life so far had spent a good number of centuries. It made his body want to shake and tear itself away, but at the same time he wanted nothing more than to move into the touch, closer. His cock strained inside the confines of human-style clothing—jeans, boxer briefs. He thought about the letters he’d written there, on that delicate skin, only a few weeks ago. He wanted Uriel’s fingers there, gently stroking their powerful magic. Wanted his mouth.
The thoughts shattered as Pavel realized Uriel was speaking to him. He had reached a name in the middle of Pavel’s back, was carefully tracing the words. The pain was so precise Pavel could feel the letters, could read them as Uriel took them up.
“This one—are you certain?”
“Yes.” Pavel tried to keep the strain out of his voice but it was difficult, pain and lust warring within him to the point he could barely think.
“We have tried to bring him over for a very long time.” There was a hint of awe in Uriel’s voice. It made Pavel proud—he’d done something to win the angel’s approval.
“It appears recent events have broken him. He’s at a crossroads.”
He could feel Uriel’s nod behind him. “Yes, yes, this is good. I can work with this.” And he moved down the list.
There were so many. More than Pavel had ever brought Uriel before on their appointed night. The world was in upheaval—people stood on crossroads and parapets waiting to choose a direction or take a fall. Which way they fell could change the course of a day, of a life, or of human history. It was Pavel’s job to find these souls on the brink and deliver them to his master, who would decide when and how to push for the desired result. Which Pavel dutifully did. But he also brought them to Uriel.
Only this one night, on the border between fall and winter, between light and darkness, could they meet this way. On any other night, too many doorways were closed between their worlds. On any other night, the names could not pass.
Uriel was mumbling softly now, fingers tapping over the lines on Pavel’s skin. He spoke the names as if committing them to memory. Sometimes his voice held a touch of surprise, and Pavel understood why. Some of these names—even Pavel had been surprised they’d reached a point where the tide could be turned so easily.
His fingers traced the names over Pavel’s chest, down over the plains of his belly…
And then he stopped.
The next line of names was half covered by the waistband of Pavel’s jeans.