Prom Nights from Hell Chapter Four part three
“Poor Sheeb, still locked in half-human form,” Jezebel teased. “I remember how good everything smells all the time. Ugh. And the temperature! Do the humans have to freeze everything with their wretched air-conditioning?”
Sheba’s face was smooth now, controlled. “I get by. There’s plenty of misery to go around.”
“That’s the spirit! Just another few centuries, and you’ll be in the big-time with me.”
Sheba allowed a smirk to curl her lips. “Or maybe not quite so long.”
One black eyebrow arched high against Jezebel’s white forehead, raising almost to an ebony horn.
“Is that so? Got something particularly evil up your sleeve, little sister?”
Sheba didn’t answer, tensing again as Jezebel sent her own thoughts snaking invisibly through the crowd inside the ballroom. Sheba locked her jaw, ready to strike back if Jezebel tried to undo any of her schemes. But Jezebel just looked, touching nothing.
“Hmm,” Jezebel hummed to herself. “Hmm.”
Sheba’s fists clenched hard as Jezebel’s search touched Cooper Silverdale, but again, Jezebel merely observed.
“Well, well,” the horned demoness murmured. “Wow. Sheeb, I’ve got to say it, I’m impressed. You got a gun in. And a motivated hand-full of alcohol to weaken his free will!” The older demoness smiled with something that looked strangely like sincerity. “This is really evil. I mean, sure, a middle demon working homicide or mayhem or maybe riots could set something like this up at a prom, but a human-form child on misery detail? What are you, two, three hundred?”
“Just one-eighty-six at my last spawn day,” Sheba answered brusquely, still wary.
Jezebel whistled a tongue of flame through her lips. “Very impressed. And I can see that you aren’t neglecting your assignment, either. That’s one miserable crowd in there.” Jezebel laughed. “You’ve ended nearly every promising relationship, broken a few dozen lifelong friendships, made new enemies… three, four, five fights brewing,” Jezebel counted, her mind with the humans. “You’ve even got the DJ listening to you! Such attention to detail. Ha-ha! I can count on one hand the humans who aren’t completely wretched.”
Sheba smiled grimly. “I’ll get to them.”
“Ghastly, Sheeb. Seriously nasty. You do our name proud. If every prom had a demoness like you involved, we’d own this world.”
“Aw, Jez, you’re making me blush,” Sheba said with heavy sarcasm.
Jezebel laughed. “Of course, you’ve got a little help.”
Jezebel’s thoughts twisted in a circle around Celeste, who had just twisted herself around a new boy. Jilted girls cried, while the boys Celeste carelessly tossed aside flexed their fists and glowered wrathfully at their competition; burning with lust, each was determined that Celeste was finishing the night with him.
Celeste was doing half the work tonight.
“I use the tools available to me,” Sheba said.
“What an ironic name! What an evil mind! Is she fully human?”
“I passed her in the hall, just to check,” Sheba admitted. “Pure, clean human scent. Revolting.”
“Huh. I would have sworn she had some demon in her ancestry. Good find. But, Sheba, asking a date? Pretty amateur, involving yourself physically that way.”
Sheba’s chin jabbed upward defensively, but she did not answer. Jezebel was right; it was crude and time-consuming to use one’s human form rather than one’s demon mind. However, it was the results that counted. Sheba’s timely interference had kept Logan from discovering his true love.
“Well, it in no way diminishes your accomplishments here tonight.” Jezebel’s tone was conciliatory. “You pull this one off, and they’ll put you in the baby demons’ textbooks.”
“Thanks,” Sheba snapped. Did Jezebel really think she could flatter Sheba into letting her guard down?
Jezebel smiled, and her mists curled up on the edges, mirroring the expression.
“A tip, Sheba. Keep them confused in there. If you can get Cooper to pull the trigger, then you might make some of these wannabe gangsters think they’re under fire.” Jezebel shook her head in wonder. “You’ve got so much potential mayhem here. Of course, they’ll bring in a riot demon if it really gets hot… but you’d still get some of the credit for stirring it up.”
Sheba grimaced, and glimmers of red flashed at her ears. What was Jezebel doing? Where was the trick? Her mind ran over and over the humans she was assigned to torment, but she could find no trace of Jezebel’s distinct brimstone flavor in the ballroom. There was nothing but the misery Sheba had caused herself, and the few little pockets of repellent happiness that Sheba would attend to shortly.
“You’re certainly helpful tonight,” Sheba said, being deliberately insulting.
Jezebel sighed, and there was something about the way her mists rolled back in on themselves that made her look… embarrassed. For the first time, Sheba felt a hint of doubt about her assumptions. But Jezebel’s motives had to be malicious. That’s the only kind of motives demons had.
With a rueful expression on her face, Jezebel asked quietly, “Is it so impossible to believe that I might want you to get promoted?”
Jezebel sighed again. And again, the way her mists writhed in chagrin made Sheba uncertain.
“Why?” Sheba demanded. “What do you get out of this?”
“I know it’s all wrong-or rather right-for me to be giving you advice you can work with. Not very evil of me.”
Sheba nodded cautiously.
“It’s in our nature to trip up everyone, demons, humans-even angels if we get the chance. We’re evil. Naturally we’re going to backstab, whether it hurts our side or not. We wouldn’t be demons if we didn’t let envy, greed, lust, and wrath rule us.” Jezebel chuckled. “I remember-how many years ago was it? – Lilith almost got you booted back a few grades, didn’t she?”
Red fire smoldered in Sheba’s eyes at the memory. “Almost.”
“You handled it better than most. You’re one of the very worst working misery right now, you know.”
Flattery again? Sheba stiffened.
Jezebel twisted her mists up with a finger, and then circled that finger so that the mists drew a smoky orb against the night sky.
“There’s a bigger picture, though, Sheba. Demons like Lilith can’t see past the evil at hand. But there’s a whole world out there, full of humans making millions of decisions every minute of the day and night. We can only be there to sway a fraction of those decisions. And sometimes, well, from where I’m standing, it feels like the angels are getting ahead…”
“But, Jezebel!” Sheba gasped, shock breaking through her suspicion. “We’re winning. Just watch the news-it’s obvious we’re winning.”
“I know, I know. But even with all the wars and destruction… it’s odd, Sheba. There’s still an awful lot of happiness out there. For every mugging I turn into a homicide, across town some angel has a bystander jumping another mugger to save the day. Or convincing the mugger to give up his wicked ways! Ugh. We’re losing ground.”
“But the angels are weak, Jezebel. Everyone knows that. They’re so full of love that they can’t concentrate. Half the time the stupid birdbrains fall in love with a human and trade their wings for a human body. Though why even an idiot angel would want this!” Sheba scowled down the length of her human form. So limiting. “I’ve never really understood the point of having to wear these around for half a millennium. I guess it’s probably just to torture us, isn’t it? The dark lords must enjoy watching us squirm.”
“It’s more than that. It’s to make you really hate them. The humans, I mean.”
Sheba stared at her. “Why would I need a reason? Hate is what I do.”
“It happens, you know,” Jezebel said slowly. “The angels aren’t the only ones to give it all up. There are demons who’ve traded their horns for a human.”
“No!” Sheba’s eyes widened, then narrowed in disbelief. “You’re exaggerating. Now and then a demon shacks up with a human, but it’s just to torment them. Just a bit of malicious fun.”
Jezebel winced, swishing her mists into figure eights, but she didn’t argue back. That’s what made Sheba realize she was serious.
Sheba swallowed hard. “Wow.”
She couldn’t imagine that. Taking all this delicious evil and throwing it away. Giving up a hard-earned pair of horns-horns that Sheba would destroy anything to have right now-and getting stuck with a weak, fully mortal body in return.
Sheba eyed Jezebel’s glistening onyx horns and frowned. “I don’t understand how anyone could do that.”
“Remember what you said about the angels? Getting distracted by love?” Jezebel asked. “Well, hate can be a distraction, too. Look at Lilith and her spiteful good deeds. Maybe it starts out with sticking it to the lesser demons, but who knows where it will lead? Virtue corrupts.”
“I can’t believe a few tricks against another demon could make you as stupid as a birdbrain,” Sheba mumbled under her breath.
“Sheba, don’t underestimate the angels,” Jezebel chastised. “You don’t mess with them-you hear? Even a strong middle demon like me knows better than to lock horns with the feather-backs. They steer clear of us, and we steer clear of them. Let the Demon Lords deal with the angels.”
“I know that, Jezebel. I wasn’t spawned this decade.”
“Sorry. I’m being helpful again.” She shuddered. “I just get so frustrated sometimes! Goodness and light on every side!”
Sheba shook her head. “I don’t see that. Misery is everywhere.”
“Happiness is, too, sis. It’s all over the place,” Jezebel said sadly.
It was silent for a long moment as Jezebel’s words lingered in the air. The sticky breeze washed across Sheba’s skin. Miami was no hell, but it was comfortable at least.
“Not at my prom!” Sheba retorted with sudden fierceness.
Jezebel smiled widely-her teeth were black as the night sky. “That’s just it-that’s why I’m being so un-damnedly helpful. Because we need demonesses like you out there. We need the worst we can get on the front lines. Let the Liliths of the underworld mess around with petty tricks. Get me the Shebas on my side. Get me a thousand Shebas. We’ll win this fight once and for all.”
Sheba considered that for a moment, weighing the fierce purpose in Jezebel’s voice. “That’s evil in such a strange way. It almost sounds like good.”
“Twisted, I know.”
They laughed together for the first time.
“Well, get back in there and destroy that prom.”
“I’m on it. Go to hell, Jezebel.”