God is a woman, and She is mortal.

She watched the clock with practiced eyes, time ticking by far too slowly for her liking. Her eyes wandered between the wall where the clock hung, and the prone body before her, stretched out on the hospital bed like a porcelain doll. It was one minute to 3:00 AM, which means there should be …

“Mmmmph … oh, hey. You been here long?”

The young man blinked himself awake, his usually-charming voice groggy from sleep. He carefully sat himself up, rubbing his eyes vigorously before looking around. She shook her head.

“Not at all, I just arrived. How are you feeling?”

He sat up, stretching his arms above his head before scratching his ribs. “Never felt better. It feels like I’ve been asleep forever, aha.” He swung his legs over the edge of the bed, the hospital gown hanging loosely over his fragile frame. His cheeks went slightly pink, suddenly embarrassed. “I just need to …”

She waved away his sentence, the usual smile on her face. “Go ahead, I’ll be here.”

He tottered off to the bathroom, and she turned her attention back to the clock – it passed through exactly fifteen minutes before the young man shuffled back, plunking himself on the edge of the bed. His sleepy pep from before had disappeared entirely, and by the dead look on his face, he had remembered who she really was.

“It’s still inside. I can feel it, crouched just beneath my rib cage and throat. It feels like I’ve had about thirty cigars. Are we any closer?”

She nodded slightly, before leaning forward, her hands clasped tightly. “Progress every day. Tests should be started in about a month. What do you remember?”

The young man nodded sullenly, before pressing his head into his hands. “Dark tunnels, darker than the ones we used to hike through. Someone is singing off key, while someone else is screaming. There was an altar, but I couldn’t see who was standing before it – their back was to me. Black eyes, blood oozing from them, oh heavens … why is this happening to me …”

She half glanced at the clock – ten minutes. “What else?”

His voice became tense, gravelly. “Hosts, Meira. Hundreds of them, spread throughout the hospitals. Third world countries are easy, they said. No one is prepared there, unarmed. But they want more, of course they do. Someone said they need a conduit, but – oh. Oh no, no I won’t! Heavens help me!”

She moved swiftly to his side as his body shook and curled up, wrapped an arm around his shoulders and pulling him close to her. He trembled with the effort to stay himself, tears running down his face.

“I will not serve your ilk, go to hell! Leave me alone, you bastards, you’ve stolen enough of me!”

His shouting died very suddenly, and he went limp against her shoulder. For a moment she thought he had gone back to sleep, until a deep chuckle came from him: not his own.

It’s very endearing how he thinks he’s in control.

She leaped backwards, his body sitting upright once more. His head was tilted towards his feet, studying them.

You cannot win, Creator. Let him go. He would serve me better than he could ever with your people.

Her face twisted into a vicious snarl. “I will not let him die by your hand, demon. Give him back to me!”

The low voice laughed, akin to nails on a chalkboard, and it made her hair stand on end.

You didn’t want him in the first place, isn’t that how he ended up here? Hmph. How your moods change so quickly, Creator. Perhaps that means you were wrong to banish me?

She gave a savage laugh, pulling a book from the bag at her feet, a pair of wings stamped into the leather. The young man shied away slightly, and looked up at her for the first time. His face was gray, eyes black as tar, and the sneer on his face was most definitely not his own. It filled her with horror and pain, but she knew this wasn’t her angel – it was her demon.

“Return him, or I banish you once more.”

You know if you do that, he goes with me. You wouldn’t retrieve him, not without mortally wounding yourself. But if you wanted to trade, I’ve always wanted to taste immortality from another –

A ruthless glint flashed through her eyes, and she threw the book open, a blinding light filling the room. “Challenge accepted, you son of a bitch.”

Her demon screamed shrilly, and the young man’s body convulsed as the light penetrated his skin, burning the demon inside, until he slumped over the bed. She ran to his side, tossing the book aside, and checked his pulse. It was faint, but it was there. She carefully tucked him back into his bed, her adrenaline still firing, and checked the clock: 3:31 AM. Seething, she settled back into her chair, heavily plotting her next move.

For the last eight years, she had sat on Earth in this hospital room with her angel, whilst he slumbered in the deepest of comas. But instead of being oblivious to the world, he traveled through the depths of hell, where her demon was pulling him further and further away from her. And from what he said a moment ago, it wasn’t just him anymore – it was everyone. Anyone who couldn’t fight back for themselves was a target, and that was no small number.

Her angel was different, though. While others stayed asleep, he awoke once a day, at the same time. Each time he would give her another insight as to what was happening, and each day it was becoming bleaker. She had no idea what to do until today. Today, her key had just become available.

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