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The Ode

Ode to the Writer

By Tom Foster

 

We are the lords and ladies of creation, yet we are still just players.
In the beginning we are as in the end.
We do not aspire, we simply do.
There is the dream, tempered by the reality, and given form by the thought.
By our thought, by our dreams, and by the reality we impose.
It’s a madness of the sort that only poets and writers can truly understand, and even among those only a few can comprehend.
Comprehension, that is a truly frightening thing.
We play with words, we are those that can immortalize, and those that can do what must be said and say what must be done.
It is confusion, this comprehension, and in the midst of it all, it is the single word that carries power, the one among all that is ever elusive, ever there, always waiting for us to return to, to remind us what it is that drives us, what keeps the fountain flowing.
Every last soul that has ever put ink to paper, ever put finger to key, every vague idea that swirls inward from the maelstrom we call the world, the universe, and everything in between and without.
For everything that could come, for everything that has and will come, we are there. We are the ones that do not deny the voice that tells us, “this must come to pass”, or “this must be remembered”.
It is who we are, what we do, and through everything, it is the lifeblood of those who cherish this timeless art form, this undeniable urge to say, in their own manner, “I AM”.
We are not gods, we create, and yet in the process, we are created. It is our words, penned and copied throughout the ages that have helped to shape the world, to say that, “WE ARE”, that “WE EXIST”.
Whether tyrant or savior, good or evil, saint or sinner, the words that are put to time’s test are those that will come to define the world we know. Memory is not enough, though it serves.
As do we.
We are the lords of creation, the ones whose words will last and echo into the ages, for all to see, and all to remember.
Is it truth?
The better question is: Does it matter?
We are the lords and ladies of creation, and by our words, the world we know is shaped, molded, and given to the next generation, and so on and so forth until the whole mess ends, only to be rebuilt, and to crumble again.
We are the lords and ladies of Creation, and this is our legacy.

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It’s Better to Have a Conditional Ally than A Certain Enemy

Enemies And Allies Quotes: top 25 famous quotes about Enemies And Allies

Whatever cause a person champions, be it an issue dealing with race, sex, gender, whatever it might be, it’s often better to earn an ally and possibly a friend than to create another enemy. Unfortunately, this is what ultimatums and the idea that if one isn’t an ally they’re an enemy can do. The distinction between an ally and an enemy is quite easy to figure out. An ally is someone that might not experience the same plight as a given community and/or group, but will do and say whatever they can to show their support for those that believe themselves to be disenfranchised, whether they really are or are not. An enemy is the exact opposite obviously, someone that does not agree and will not agree with those to whose ideals they are opposed. That’s a pretty easy distinction, as it’s black and white, which is sometimes the case.

But what happens when those that are neither an ally or an enemy are given ultimatums by those they don’t know and don’t associate with?

There are people out there that don’t associate with one cause or another, preferring instead to live their lives and show the common respect that is wise to show to their fellow human beings. According to some groups however, not allying with their cause is instant grounds to be labeled as an enemy, as simple respect for other human beings and their lifestyles isn’t enough. In fact, should a person not ally with those that feel that they are in the right, they might very well be labeled in one way or another that paints them in a rather negative light. Thankfully this isn’t a universal method that is practiced by everyone, otherwise the entire world might be resting behind one flimsy dividing line or another. But the practice of claiming that even if one is an ally that it’s not enough, that they need to go above and beyond for a cause that’s not their own, has been seen to grate on some folks, and it’s understandable why this is so.

A conditional ally, someone that is willing to support a cause, is also someone that will do so providing that they are not given ultimatums that make little to no sense. These individuals will do what they can to support those that want their respect, but to ask more of them is not only a poor idea, it’s in poor taste to claim that if they’re not doing ‘enough’ that they’re not true allies. One might think that any cause would be happy to have a conditional ally over an uncertain supporter that might turn on them at any moment if they push too hard. In fact, that’s one of the best ways to make a certain enemy.

To those who champion one cause or another in this world, ease up a bit. Realize that people see you, and that they will respect you, but on their terms. Pushing an ultimatum on those that show support is less likely to win them over, but it’s a great way to make enemies, and thereby give oneself a reason to play the victim card as much as possible.

Accept conditional allies, and realize that respect will be given, but allies and friends have to be earned.

The Goalpost Isn’t Moving, It’s Spinning Out of Control

There are more than a few arguments happening today that could be ended quickly if either side simply admitted fault or, even better, came to an agreeable compromise. Sadly, that last solution appears to be anathema to many individuals who so badly want to be right that even admitting as much is too painful and might cause them to lose whatever societal credit they believe they have.

Moving the Goalposts

There have been compromises made to be certain, some that are voluntary, others that are passed without the consent of those that realize too late that the compromise being made is not in the best interest of both parties, but instead favors those that believe they have the moral high ground when in truth, the ‘victory’ has been stolen using shady circumstances that will continue or begin the argument anew.

Moving the goalposts is a common trait of those that seek to retain power, no matter which side is currently holding said power. As of now, that goalpost is spinning out of control even as it’s teetering on a cliff leading straight into an abyss that likely won’t be to anyone’s liking.

Face It, People WANT to Argue, They Don’t NEED To

Our world has problems, that’s an indisputable fact, and it’s had problems for quite a while. But instead of finding solutions that can work for everyone, y’know, those things called ‘compromises’, a lot of people want to sit and argue with one another. But why? Does it enrich their lives somehow to simply disagree with each other without coming to an agreement of what needs to be done? There’s no one that’s innocent in this matter, since no matter how righteous or misguided a person is, they’re going to stand up for their beliefs, as they’re allowed to do. But in the interest of moving forward, instead of stagnating, why not figure something out that can work for everyone?

Transgender sports debate polarizes women's advocates

One great example is the current argument about transgender athletes. Is it too difficult to come to a compromise here? It might be tough to form a new league, but it’s easy to think that it could, at some level, appease everyone since transgender athletes would have their own league to compete in, those that identify as boys, girls, women, and men would have their own leagues, and people would be able to do as they please. It’s even reasonable to think that plenty of people would be willing to donate to open a new league that could very easily thrive. But the argument appears to be more important than the solution. People are more willing to air their grievances and bring up articles, studies, and various other opinions and bits of research rather than discuss the possible solution.

As of now, the argument appears to be the goal, not the solution.

The Perception of History is Flawed, Not the History Itself

First, how one perceives this flag is up to them, the truth is that no one can force a perception on you if you’re not willing to buy into it. But it is important to remember that this:

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is intended to represent the personal freedoms of every United State citizen. EVERY, United States citizen, not just a select group, not just a certain clique, not anyone who has a specific skin color, religion, ethnic background, but EVERYONE. In fact, this symbol makes it possible for these:

The new rainbow pride flag is a design disaster—but a triumph for LGBTQ  inclusiveness — Quartz
Black Lives Matter Flag - BLM Flag | Visibly Black
antifa flag - The Frontier

to be flown in the first place without fear of being shot on sight or persecuted for speaking one’s beliefs. Obviously there are plenty of arguments against this, the idea that cops are hunting people of color, that there’s no such thing as equal opportunity, and the inane idea that this is a racist country run by white supremacists. Those that fought and held the first image high did so in order that these images below could be flown proudly. It’s true, there’s been persecution, racism, horrors that no person should have had to go through. But continuing that cycle by continuing to divide the nation rather than find a way to heal it and accept the various banners that people employ is not an answer. It’s the cry of spoiled children that haven’t figured out how to stop the cycle by seeking unity instead of division.

My Chat with Gates McFadden

Who Do You Think You Are? is the new podcast with Gates McFadden

It’s not every day that an average person gets to talk with a celebrity, and to be fair it’s kind of nice even if I had to admit when speaking to Gates McFadden that I’ve never been much of a Star Trek fan. The upside of the conversation is that apart from mentioning her costars and how she came to the show, and a few things I might have asked just out of curiosity, Gates didn’t really seem inclined to talk about the show or the movies that much. She was ecstatic to talk about her friend and former costar LeVar Burton when it was mentioned that his turn as a guest host on Jeopardy! is coming up, and in truth that’s how I was contacted to have this little chat for her new podcast, ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’. Writing an article on the fact that Burton is getting his shot managed to gain me at least passing notice which led to the 10 minutes that were an absolute blast talking to this very intriguing actress.

Needless to say the conversation didn’t last as long as it could have since unfortunately, being an introvert, my own fumbling and bumbling cut things short. My only hope is that Gates didn’t think she was speaking to a tongue-tied fool, but I’ll admit that I was content to listen to her speak, since she had a few interesting things to say and did her best to tug a few words out of me. Yes, I’m kind of a quiet person that doesn’t talk much, as my words are sometimes far more eloquent and readily available than my power of speech. But I’ll say this, Gates is a very eloquent and intriguing woman. Some folks might ask ‘how would you know after 10 minutes?’. Well, if you listen, pay attention, and listen to a person’s tone as much as their words, you’ll hear far more than if you simply listen to the gathering of syllables and consonants that a lot of us take for granted so often.

Her career started before Star Trek, which was fun to talk and hear about, as she spent a great deal of time on and around the stage, and was even a teacher at one point. When she took the time to ask anything about me I’ll admit, I fumbled and sputtered a bit since it’s not everyday I get to talk to someone famous, and as someone who barely speaks ten words to anyone other than my family in a month’s time, I don’t always have the words I want to say on hand. My only hope is that Gates didn’t think I was too much of a stuttering bumbler to take seriously when I told her the most important words I feel could describe me to anyone, “I’m all about the story.”

Take that as you will, but there’s more truth in that than in any long-winded explanation I could give to anyone, and it describes what I believe in and what I value, outside of my family and friends, to a tee. All I have to say at this point is a hearty thank you to Gates McFadden for taking the time to speak with me, it was an enjoyable 10 minutes, and I’m going to make sure I don’t forget it.

“Pick and Choose Day” Media-Style

Comparing George Floyd to Cannon Hinnant: A Massive Mistake | by Jay's Pen  | Medium

Aww, does that piss anyone off? No? Yes? There are all sorts of villains out there, but the media is the one that people should be pissed off at the most. It’s a big strange that people don’t want to be called sheep, but they’ll so easily be led about by those that inform them which crimes they need to pay attention to and convince them to forget those they don’t care that much about. I would ask if anyone is feeling stupid right about now, but it’s kind of pointless since unless the media tells you to feel ashamed, you won’t.

Wish for Generational Mental Health, THEN Generational Wealth

I just don't want a heart attack whenever I'm pulled over |  /r/BlackPeopleTwitter | Black Twitter | Know Your Meme

One of the least intelligent things to say, and there are a lot of them, is that generational wealth belongs to one race and one race alone. This makes it obvious that some folks don’t understand how generational wealth works, or that it’s the problem of those that are born into wealth since they didn’t have the choice which family they were born to. But the whole idea of creating a racial divide using generational wealth is beyond disturbing, it’s moronic.

White people have generational wealth, that’s true.

Black people have generational wealth, that’s also true. People of all colors and races can and do have generational wealth, that’s also just as true, but those that cry and moan about generational wealth and how it’s not always shared among those who have so little forget one thing: general wealth and to be generated first by the initial generation that earned those riches, that made sure their descendants might be well off, and worked and sacrificed so that their family would be taken care of. Who are you to these folks? Are you a long-lost relative? Are you someone that did something for them way back in the past? Why in the world would anyone be willing to give up what their family worked so hard to maintain just to please you?

It’s very true that some folks take generational wealth for granted and get away with quite a bit because they have money, but there’s a way to get ahead and create your own wealth.

Work for it. Learn how to earn the kind of money you want, instead of crying and moaning over what you don’t have. Generational wealth isn’t an issue, nor is it something that anyone should be bothering with since the creation of another’s wealth has little if anything to do with anyone other than those that are directly affected by those with generational wealth. Stop crying, start learning, and start earning, those are three steps that are necessary to build your own wealth.

You want to have more money than you know what to do with, and you want to pass it on to your kids? Then earn it, and stop pining over the life you don’t have so that you can earn the life you want.

One Fight in the War (Lenore Legacy 6)

Fighting Your Demons. Becoming a spiritual warrior | by K. Mercurio |  Mental Health and Addictions Community | Medium

Luxor Casino

Las Vegas, NV

            She could feel it, that moment before the storm, the electric feeling that came from the innate knowledge that things were about to change. But she felt uncertainty as well, and she didn’t care for it. Lenore had no concern for those around her, nor did she particularly care that what she would be committing in the next few moments would be considered as one of the strangest mass murders in the history of humanity. That part she was looking forward to, and to be certain she was feeling anxious and a bit moist at the thought.

            It had nothing to do with facing her mother, that was something she’d been hoping to do for a while now. But with the half-breed angel with her, that wasn’t something she was willing to take on by herself, no matter how many powerful demons she had coursing through her veins at the moment. Plus, her mother had obviously sucked up something far stronger than any demon. She had felt it, and seen it from the way the old woman had been walking and talking in an animated fashion that she’d not seen from Gladys in a long time. For a while, her mother had attempted to give up her abilities as a vessel, only to be reminded that if they didn’t seek out the power, it would seek them out eventually.

            Demons could sense them, angels avoided them, because the former wanted a safe space to huddle in and control, while the latter realized the danger therein, the temptation to use a human form for their own desires. Angels were great protectors and guardians, but when it came to doing the dirty things that might help them win the war that had been ongoing between their faction and the evils of the world, a lot of them were ethical, weak-kneed pussies.

            Vessels such as herself were the unfortunate humans that were allowed to become pawns of either side, an excuse to keep things going, since if legends and myths were correct, the big boss could snap His, or Hers, it didn’t matter, metaphysical fingers and just scrap the whole experiment and build it back up again. She couldn’t help but wonder what that would be like, but it was likely that no one would even know what had happened. It would probably be like that stupid comic book movie that people had been raving about for the past couple of years, no one would know unless there were people left behind to tell the story.

            She didn’t give a shit either way. As far as she was concerned the big boss had made her and her mother, and many others this way for one reason and one reason only; the almighty had a sick fucking sense of humor. Lenore had thought this way her entire life, even after trying to think of God as “mysterious”. It was bullshit. If good things happened, then it was because God willed it, if bad things happened, people though they needed to repent, or that it was God’s will. If they couldn’t explain something it was chalked up to “we can’t know His will”. It was mythological bullshit, no different than the Greeks, the Romans, or any other belief system that had come and gone over the years. Christianity just had a better PR department was all.

            There was a reason why it was one of the most practiced religions in the world after all, but there were plenty of reasons why it was also one of the most reviled by some. If anyone ever actually admitted to reading the overblown novel that was known as the Holy Bible, they would be able to admit for all His love and grace, God was one mean old bastard as well since He had sacked cities, demanded sacrifice, and also perpetrated many other things within the reach of human history, most of which were chalked up to his creations being bad boys and girls that needed to be taught a lesson. It was such hypocritical bullshit that she’d stopped reading after a couple of hundred pages into the thing, thinking that the fact that people allowed themselves to be brainwashed into this shit was amazing.

            The world around them was resplendent with pleasures and sights that were amazing to behold, and humans just had to affix some greater meaning to it. They just had to ruin the wonder and mystery of it by crediting some great, mystical force with giving them a world that they were meant to enjoy. It was hard to argue against the existence of God, but to follow blindly along, sticking her nose up the nearest Christian ass as they formed a chain all the way up to the gates of heaven, just wasn’t her style. She was fine being down here on the ground, in the thick of it, where shit was dangerous and difficult, but it was still far more real than the bullshit utopia that people wanted so many to believe in.

            “Excuse me miss, but ah, heh, you’re not supposed to be up here.”

            Turning from the pyramidal structure she’d been leaning against while overlooking the Oasis Pool, Lenore smiled faintly as she took a good look at the younger man that now approached her. He was handsome, there was no doubt of that, and despite being a bit hefty he was in decent shape too. Rolling her hips just a bit she could see something else, a telltale glow behind his eyes that spoke of the creature currently riding him, which was no doubt taking this time to rake the young mans eyes up and down her trim form, perhaps even wondering what she might taste like.

            “Oh?” she asked, pouting just a bit, “I thought this was the VIP section.”

            Her charms might not have worked, especially with such an obviously cheesy line, but the younger man grinned again, his tan, smooth skin not wrinkling in the least as he ran one hand through his closely-cropped brown hair, showing the bulge of a bicep as he did. The khaki shorts and white polo he wore didn’t flatter his figure at all, but she could see a few bulges that she couldn’t help but feel were at least a little exciting.

            “Yeah,” he said, no doubt under the control of the demon that rode within him, “The very intimidating penis section. You wanna go?”

            It took everything she had not to grimace at the line. His was even worse than hers had been.

                                                            *                      *                      *

The Strip

Las Vegas, NV

            Moving from one body to another was easy, but picking those that were on their own, without kids, or spouses, or anyone else that expected them to act differently, was the trick. Spouses and kids tended to act questions and make a scene if their loved ones started acting strangely, and it was to remain as undetectable as possible. Plus, angels didn’t care for his practice of inhabiting children, and had rousted him more than once in very painful ways.

            Man to woman, woman to man, man to man, man to, ye gods to man in a tight-fitting gown and makeup thicker than pancake batter. Azazel exited the drag queen quickly with a sigh of disgust. Even for someone such as him, some individuals were truly distasteful to experience since their delusions were sometimes too much to take. Those that worked against their own nature and even their own biology weren’t necessarily disgusting simply because of what they did and believed, but those that pretended to be one thing while still clinging to a core identity they were ashamed of disgusted him. It was ironic really, but he pushed it aside as he entered another body, this one thankfully alone as he settled for a moment, feeling the human fighting him for just a moment before pushing her consciousness down without fail.

            Not all humans were so weak. He’d been expelled by a few people in his time, but it was rare, and it wasn’t something he was accustomed to. Azazel needed secure spot to work from however as he gave her the equivalent of a bitch-slap, which worked thankfully as her consciousness faded off for the time being, no doubt hurt, scared, and completely unaware of what was going on. He felt almost disappointed in a way since he’d been expecting to come across the vessel by accident. Of course, in a city like Las Vegas that was next to impossible, but it was still a nice thought since he didn’t enjoy doing anything for Gabriel. The half-breed was such a pain in the ass that he’d rather have another go in the body of the drag queen he’d passed up just to have something else to focus on.

            Getting out of the common foot traffic was the first thing he needed to do after taking control, since people weren’t exactly going to notice one of their own standing in the middle of the sidewalk, but he didn’t need this body being jostled continuously as he executed the next part of his plan. Controlling the body was easy as Azazel made his way towards a quiet spot next to a parking lot that was barely in use as only a smattering of cars could be seen across its wide expanse. Azazel smirked as he shook the body’s head in response to the dark, glassed-over pyramid structure of the Luxor, wondering just who had come up with that idea. Humans never ceased to amaze him sometimes.

            Finding a spot where no one else was at the moment, Azazel stretched out with his other senses, tools that every demon and angel were inherently created with. Had he been looking for an angel or a demon he would have already been overwhelmed since there were too many of both in this damned city. But vessels were different, they put off an energy signature all their own that nearly every angel or demon could sense, as it was why demons would go rushing towards vessels and why angels would avoid them. The downside of Gabriel being a half-breed meant that he didn’t have this sense, as his human mother’s own hereditary traits had canceled this aspect of his divine self out. It was one of the many things that Azazel loved to remind Gabe of, especially since it pissed him off to no end. But as his senses stretched out Azazel gasped as he sensed something that he hadn’t expected.

            “Well, close enough,” he said in the voice of the woman he was using, looking back to the Luxor, and wondering just where the vessel might be.

            “Let’s go hunting,” he said, moving forward, deciding that it would be better to find her first, and maybe see just how strong she really was.

                                                            *                      *                      *

Treasure Island Casino

            “I at least want another drink if we’re going to be sitting here for a while.”

            “I don’t need you drunk,” Gabe said impatiently, sitting with his left leg draped over his right.

            “In case you forgot breed, I don’t get drunk,” she smiled sweetly, “But I enjoy the taste and the tingle of it. So if you’ll be a doll and get me another drink that’d be lovely.”

            “Go on and get it yourself then you hag,” Gabe huffed, casting his gaze about as he rested his right elbow upon the arm of his lounge chair, placing his chin in his palm.

            “Ooh, what attitude. Did your heavenly bosses teach you that?”

            “It’s a learned habit from dealing with bitches like you.”

            “Azazel’s demand must have really rattled you, it’s almost like I’m talking to a different person.” She was having fun with this, especially since nettling angels was way more fun than trying to irk a demon or a devil. The infernal spirits knew how to get under peoples’ skin but they were such sore losers when someone did the same to them. It was like trying to take pleasure in outwitting a first-grader and then dealing with the temper tantrum. Angelic spirits could at least pretend that it didn’t bother them.

            “He’s not bound to get it anyway,” Gabe replied, “No one has been able to cross back over in nearly three centuries, so far as I know.”

            Gladys pointed a finger at him, “That’s right, so far as you know. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get a drink and imagine what will happen when I finally get my hands around my daughter’s throat.”

            “You’ll be handing her over to me,” Gabe said, his voice distorted as he didn’t lift his chin from his palm while speaking. Gladys rolled her eyes as she walked away from the table.

            “Keep telling yourself that Feathers.”

            She could almost feel him bristle at the nickname, and it was even more delicious than the last drink she’d polished off as she smiled even wider. Her smile faded quickly as she heard a voice almost right in her ear suddenly as she recoiled, but felt as her left upper arm was held in a firm but gentle grip.

            “Don’t overreact mama,” the voice said, “Just keep walkin’ and we’ll get that drink. You and I have shit to talk about. You wanna get to your daughter you’re gonna listen to me and not walk back to that tightass, since there’s nothin’ back there for you.”

            “Who the hell are you?” she asked, not panicking even as she felt a strangely warm sensation wash over her. She actually had to glance down to make sure she hadn’t wet herself.

            “That’s cute and all, but I don’t generally have that effect on women unless I want to.”

            “I’m assuming you’re going to tell me who you are eventually,” she said in calmer, more reasonable tone, “and that you’ll let me get another drink before we take off.”

            “Absolutely,” the man said, his thin fingers wrapping around her arm a little tighter before loosening again, “Just don’t think about rabbiting, or all the demons you’ve sucked up will be jumping ship at my say-so.”

            “Abel?” she said, her eyes widening.

            “So you’ve heard of me,” he said, keeping his tone light as she turned just enough to get a good look at him. The wiry, white-haired man that looked no older than his 30s smiled at her as he fished a pack of cigarettes from his hip pocket.

            “A lot of people have heard of you,” she nodded at his pack, “You got one for me? You can let go, I’m not going to run.”

            He chuckled, giving the pack a shake to loosen a smoke for her as she turned to retrieve it. “Light?”

            After gripping another smoke between his lips and pocketing the pack again, Abel produced a silver Zippo that made her tremble just a bit, or rather, made the things inside her tremble at the sight of it. Abel noticed of course, she’d heard enough about this man to know that he saw everything. As he lit the wick and held it out for her to light her smoke though, it was all Gladys could do to keep the demons within her from retreating at the mere sight of the lighter. It wasn’t the flame, since they were used to ice, flames, and all sorts of elemental delights. But silver, there was just something about it.

            “So,” she asked, after blowing out a pall of smoke, “Shall we get that drink?”

            “Love to,” he said, “And then we can talk about how to get you and your bitch daughter out of my city.”

                                                            *                      *                      *

Oasis Pool

            She was close. Azazel could feel the vessel as he/she stood near the massive pool that was sparsely populated with guests. The amusing virus that had swept across the world only a short while back had kept quite a few people from traveling, meaning places such as Las Vegas had almost shut down completely due to the lack of tourism. Things were picking up as time went on though and the virus, which had an insanely high survival rate, had finally been seen as more of a political ploy than a serious threat to the world. But still, people were being cautious, much as they usually were when it came to widespread pandemics.

            “Where are you?” Azazel whispered as his host’s gaze took in the sprawling pool area, raking over the inaccurate statues, the heavy columns, and the overall gaudy array of decorations that were meant to give people the feeling of being immersed in ancient Egyptian culture. Obviously the designer had seen a few too many movies in their time, since Azazel knew far more about ancient Egyptian décor than those that had created this place.

            “Mom, what’s that woman doing up there?”

            It felt like a movie moment to be certain, especially since Azazel, who had been around long enough to know better to ignore something that was overheard, panned his host’s head around as though uninterested in the bit of dialogue now going on between a young boy and his mother as she covered his eyes. That was interesting enough to turn back and feel his host’s eyebrows raise at the strange scene that was taking place on top of the pyramidal structure that sat in the middle of the pool area. What was being seen wasn’t entirely clear, but a closer glance would no doubt do wonders. For all intents and purposes it looked like a dark-haired woman in the throes of passion to the demon, but upon peering a little more intently, Azazel could see what looked like wisps of reddish smoke flowing into the woman’s body as she continued to gyrate atop, something. Or someone, perhaps.

            “There you are you sneaky little bitch,” he muttered, advancing on the structure as the woman disappeared from view.

            “Oh no, oh no you don’t,” his host muttered, her legs moving quicker as Azazel sought to reach the top before the woman could leave. He wanted to know just how badass this vessel was, and to hell with Gabe and the other woman.

                                                            *                      *                      *

Treasure Island Casino

            They were almost out the front doors when Gabe found them, and recoiled quickly as he’d seen whose shoulder he was grabbing. The angel had then straightened and attempted to steel himself, but Abel had already been in full control of the situation, and Gabe had seen it. Still, the angel persisted.

            “Where are you going with her?”

            “That’s none of your business pigeon,” Abel said with a grin, straightening his clothing. The people walking around them gave the trio a wide berth, though it was obvious that none of them knew why. They simply did it, like a school of fish avoiding a dangerous obstacle as they continued on their way.

            “She’s in my care at the moment,” Gabe said, doing his best not to let his voice crack, or show any sign of weakness, “You have no-“

            Abel raised a hand to stop him, his eyes widening just a bit as took a step closer. Gabe wanted to step back, it was obvious from his posture and the look in his eyes, but he held his ground.

            “I have no, what?” Abel laughed, “I have no ‘right’? Is that what you were going to say? Is that what it looked like he was going to say?” he asked, turning back to Gladys. He turned back just as quickly to Gabe, taking another step closer. He was almost in striking distance, but instead of doing anything so violent he reached for his pack of cigarettes again, sticking one in his mouth, putting the rest back, and producing his lighter in a series of quick, streamlined movements that was, Gladys had to admit, pretty slick.

            “Remember where you’re at Gabe, and remember this most of all: it’s my city. You angels and whatever demons want to play can come and go as you please. Only the boss gets to tell me when to look the other way, or when to toe the line. And seeing as how I don’t hear His voice at the moment,” Abel craned his head to the left, as though listening intently, “this is gonna happen. So consider yourself dismissed Feathers, and move on to the next shit-kicking detail.”

            Gabe was glowering at Abel now, nearly trembling with anger as he appeared ready to do something. Despite being immortal, Abel wasn’t as strong as a half-breed, or a full-blooded angel, and he could barely give the weakest of demons a run for its money. But they knew better than to touch him or do anything else. The penalty, as all knew, was insanely stiff, and banishment from the city was the absolute least of all the possible punishments. Abel had only seen a few individuals push this line in the past, and the Almighty had seen fit to remind them of the rules rather quickly.

            “I won’t forget this,” Gabe nearly growled, turning on his heel as he walked away.

            “Take a picture then to remind yourself,” Abel called after him. He didn’t turn as he added, “Let’s go Gladys.”

            “You know my name?”

            Abel grinned, “I’ve got ears, I hear things. With enough time I’d know what grade school you went to and whether you prefer thongs or granny panties.”

            “Well I can tell you that,” Gladys said with a dark titter, “I don’t floss my ass for any reason.”

            As she walked out of the doors, Abel close on her heels, she laughed long and loud, not caring for the looks she earned as they continued forward.

                                                            *                      *                      *

The Oasis Pool, Luxor Casino

            There were times that he really hated the fact that he needed a human host to do anything, since a lot of those he took on weren’t fast enough or strong enough for his liking. His current host was in decent shape, but it took an agonizingly long time to reach the top of the structure where he’d seen the woman, and by the time his host did Azazel had to let her rest as her chest was heaving with the exertion. Humans were just pitiful at times, and to be fair he couldn’t remember the last time that he’d been able to do what he wanted without such limitations.

            Immortals were fun to inhabit, but far stronger than any human therefore less likely to be dominated. He’d been kicked out of more than one individual that had seen the sun rise and set over the course of centuries or even millennia, and even the least among them were insanely strong compared to a human. They kind of had to be however, as their kind were always embroiled in one war or another.

            He could hear a few people calling out to him that he/she wasn’t supposed to be up on top of this particular structure, that it wasn’t allowed. But unless there were gunshots or something else intent on stopping this host, Azazel wasn’t letting up. The demon could feel the strain on this body, and could even feel something inside that was about to snap, but he didn’t care. The top of the structure was too close and in only a few more moments the host would be there, at which time he might just cut her loose and let the body collapse. Already he could sense the power that he was closing in on, the wild, unfettered nature of it tainted the air around him in a heady manner he could barely resist. It smelled like sex, like musk, and definitely like sulphur.

            It was intoxicating, and it was probably what kept him from being on point as he heard, “Can I help you?”

            Opening the hosts eyes, which he hadn’t even realized had shut, Azazel saw the woman as she stood to her feet, pulling up her pants to conceal the wetness that he’d scented, a wry smirk on her face as she fastened the single button of her jeans and closed the zipper.

            “You must be Lenore.”

            If his knowledge of her name spooked her, she did well not to show it.

            “And who were you sent by?” she asked with a smirk, “An angel, another pissed off demon that didn’t get what they wanted? How high is the bounty on my by now?”

            “Bitch, all I know is that you’re a vessel, and that’s all I need to know. The rest is just details.”

            “That’s true,” she said, nodding her head in agreement, “But I’ll bet whoever sent you didn’t think to tell you enough. Or are you just another demon dog that thought he smelled some good ol’ pussy and thought he’d take advantage?”

            “I doubt you’ve ever met one like me,” Azazel sneered, “But I’m willing to bet that riding that tight-ass body is gonna give me sensations I’ve been wanting for a while. Do those fingers of yours go all the way in?”

            “They do the trick,” Lenore sneered, “But a day in the saddle’s better than a day riding solo.”

            “Oh you pretty bitch,” Azazel crooned. He could feel the drool coming from his host’s mouth, and without bothering to wipe it away he kept talking, “We’re gonna have some fun.”

            “Come get it then,” Lenore replied, beckoning Azazel with one finger, the middle one at that.

            “Bitch!”

            Azazel rushed her, not bothering to even exit his host as he ran forward, arms outstretched.

            The pain didn’t register until it was too late.

                                                            *                      *                      *

            “Fuck me,” Lenore said, rubbing at her temples only moments later, “That was one tough sonofawhore.”

            She could feel the demon within struggling to get out, but for now she was able to contain him. Lenore had heard of Azazel in the past, and she’d known just what he could do, but experiencing it firsthand was something she hadn’t counted on. The fight hadn’t lasted as long as she had though it would, but she’d taken the time to drain every bit of the woman that the demon had been riding, partially to make certain that she wouldn’t go running off, and partially because it had kept her from feeling too drained after the brief struggle. Lenore could feel the demons she’d consumed deep within her being, each of them in their own place, sequestered within her ethereal form where she continued to feed upon them as needed. Soon enough they would be completely metabolized and she would need more.

            As for now though, the absorption of the demon had left her with more to think about, and so much more to feel as she realized that her senses had stretched forth in a way that she hadn’t expected. Lenore could feel every single person, every life, and hear every heartbeat within the vicinity. She could hear the sounds of the slot machines in the casino, the inane banter of the dealers, and the exultations of joy and the sobs of defeat, and everything in between. The cacophony was nearly deafening, causing the mild headache she was feeling now. But more than that, she could feel them.

            Faint tendrils of light, many tinged with darkened striations, drifted lazily along an unseen current as they wavered within her sight, coming from each and every individual as they went about their way. The Luxor looked as though a nest of snakes had descended upon it, each writhing tendril representing the soul, contaminated or otherwise, that currently resided in this area.

            “Well what a fucking coincidence.”

            The cackling laugh that followed the words alerted Lenore to the appearance of her mother, who apparently had climbed the side of the structure without any issue whatsoever. Glancing behind her, Lenore could see that she was alone.

            “No sweetie, Abel isn’t with me. But he did send a message along. You want to hear it?”

            “I think I already know it mother,” she almost growled, “He’s all for whoever wins getting the fuck out of this place, right?”

            “Ten points to the little whore of my loins,” her mother said, clapping, “But he also told me to tell you that our little spat is just one fight in the war, one drop of piss in the bucket so to speak. Whichever of us walks out of here is still going to be walking into a shit storm.”

            “It wouldn’t be my first,” Lenore replied, cracking her neck to the left, then the right. “You ready to do this, bitch?”

            Her mother smiled in a sardonic fashion, “This old bitch is going to show you what a shit storm really is.”

            “Then come and get it.”

                                                                        *                      *                      *

            Live long enough, and you definitely got to see a few things, and learn a few things as well. Like Azazel’s soul-sucking range, which could vary depending on how he was using it. Abel had had no illusions that the demon would be used, or that he would fall to Lenore’s hunger. He’d met vessels before, and he damned sure didn’t mess around with them unless he had to. This one he would rather just see leave his city and call it square, since he had no quarrel with her, or her mother.

            “Sitting this one out?”

            He hadn’t seen the man now seated across from him take up a chair, nor did he care that he’d just appeared. It was common, the boss didn’t always announce Himself and He didn’t need to. Abel took his smokes from his pocket, popping one out of the pack as he placed it between his lips, grinning slightly. He didn’t even need to speak since the boss knew what he was thinking most times. But the boss also liked the conversation, or so he’d said.

            “I thought it would be the best idea. If she uses Azazel like I think she might it’s just prudent.”

            The boss nodded, His closely-cropped white beard at odds with the tan-skinned form He’d taken on this time, and the salt and pepper mane He sported. As always, He was dressed impeccably in a casual leisure suit, complete with loafers without socks. The boss enjoyed a fine suit, but the creature comforts that most people enjoyed were one of His particular joys.

            “Am I correct in thinking that things are getting out of control?”

            Abel shook his head, “I’d say they’re about to get very much back in control. The vessels will fight, one of them will win, and it’ll be business as usual moving forward. There’ll be a little more collateral damage this time around and I’ll need to arrange a bit of clean-up and a plausible explanation. The Luxor might have to shut down to ‘decontaminate’ for a while, but otherwise the town will likely keep on as it’s been.”

            “You don’t need any assistance then?”

            “I wouldn’t mind a little, but I don’t need much. Just enough to dispose of what’s left and clean the place up. Otherwise, I can handle the rest. I am sorry about Aubrie though, that was too bad.”

            “I’m not pleased about it, either.”

            Abel nodded, “I’d imagine not. But as most know, vessels are unpredictable and they tend to do as they will from time to time. You set them on that path boss, I know you remember that, but it has to be said every now and then.”

            Eyes that had seen far more than any living being ever would closed for just a brief moment as Abel took a drag on his cigarette. The boss’s somber mood affected everyone a little differently, but he’d learned how to sit through it. Nothing the boss did any longer really affected him much.

            “Alright Abel,” the boss said, “I simply came by to check how things are going. You’re sure this will settle itself?”

            “Like you keep telling me, only a fool is ever sure, but I’m confident that whoever wins won’t want to stick around that long. At most, the winner might want a bit of help on her way out.”

            The boss nodded his head, “Okay then. I’ll send a contingent to help clean up. Just say the word when you need them.”

            “Will do boss.”

            “And Abel?”

            “Yeah boss?”

            “Just in case the vessel doesn’t get the point, I’m sending Gabriel and Uriel, just as a precaution.”

            Abel nodded, not even bothering to look away as the old man disappeared, clothing and all. Somehow, he didn’t think getting the vessel to leave would be a problem.

                                                            *                      *                      *

The Oasis Pool

            They might have had a captive audience if not for what had already occurred the moment security attempted to step in. A few bloody furrows that had traced their way down her left cheek and a ripped sleeve were the only marks that Lenore’s mother had managed to score thus far, but she’d already split the bitch’s lip and nearly closed her right eye. Deep inside she could feel Azazel trying to claw his way free, but so far the restraints that she’d set in place were holding, so the demon was going nowhere.

            The guards that had come racing up the side of the structure, or had crawled up it more like, were sprawled across their battlefield, dried out and used up as both women had been drawing heavily upon those that came close. Lenore had one trump card to use, but she was waiting for the perfect moment.

            “I’m gonna carve you up little girl!”

            Gladys came running at her again, no finesse in her step, only hatred and rage driving her on. Had she been using her demons in a wiser manner she might have been able to rely on their superior fighting skills. But she was an old woman, and a creature of habit. She’d already been one for the feeding, not for the learning. Lenore couldn’t say that she’d done any better, but she knew how to take a punch, and how to throw one. She also knew how to get out of the way.

            Her mother went sprawling as Lenore moved aside at the last second, sticking out her left foot as Gladys went tumbling across the roof. She tumbled a few times, scraping herself horribly and no doubt bruising her aged ass in more than a few spots. As she came to a stop, resting on her back, staring up at the sky, Lenore debated ending it there, but instead she decided to play the hand she’d expected to wait on, spreading her arms wide as her mother slowly, and no doubt painfully, rolled to her front.

            The energy was there, but Azazel had to be forced to provide the link she needed, the tendrils of power that he could coax into being pushing forth like sprouts pushing free of the earth. As she continued to squeeze the demon for more she felt them spreading outward, seeking, splitting, and splitting again as the hunger deep within her sought the tantalizing energies of those were nearby. As much of a spectacle as she and her mother were making, many people had remained to watch, much as she had expected they might. The damned fools wouldn’t even know of the doom that was stretching towards them even now.

            They felt it though. As each tendril touched upon those within and around the casino, stretching nearly a hundred yards in all directions, each person stiffened noticeably, feeling the sudden draining sensation as they shuddered and jittered under the strange, foreign touch. To Lenore it was a heady sensation, causing her entire body to throb as she felt herself growing excited, her legs spreading slightly as she gasped, feeling the wetness return as the vitality entered her body, a rush that had every pore wide open, every part of her quivering as she quickly tucked her tongue behind her teeth to avoid chewing on it.

            The life, the power, and the absolute rush of it filled her with such pure excitement that she almost didn’t notice her mother rising to her feet, bloodied and beaten, but still functioning apparently. Lenore saw the old woman wipe her bloodied nose, the scratches and scrapes upon her person standing out starkly against the Gladys’ pale skin. She laughed, feeling the acute sensation of those on the fringe the effect that had been enacted as people attempted to pull the affected along, only to find that it was virtually impossible, as they were stuck upon some invisible thread like flies stuck to a spider’s web.

            “You’re gonna bleed for this bitch,” Gladys snarled, her face shifting slightly as she began to project, her anger allowing the demons within her push forward, asserting their dominance. She even wondered if Gladys was still in control.

            “I wouldn’t get much closer, mother,” Lenore chuckled, still feeling the absolute rush through every orifice, “I mean, if that is you in there.”

            “Damn right you little cunt,” the older woman sneered, “I brought you into this world Leno,” she snarled, “and I can sure as fuck take you out!”

            Gladys groaned as her fingernails were sheared from their moorings, allowing the bloodied claws that now hovered over her fingertips to burst forth. Lenore smiled as she realized that her mother was swiftly losing control even as Gladys surged, forward, her neck cracking one way and then the other as horrific crunching sounds could be heard coming from within her body. She was losing her own battle, and as such she was throwing caution to the wind. That was too bad…for her.

            “Come on then bitch,” she said, still laughing, “Come and get me if you want it.”

            The roar that came out of Gladys’ mouth just then might have been terrifying if not for what Lenore already knew was going to happen. The monster that her mother had become in only a few steps rushed her, each striding step coming quicker than the one before it until the effect took hold when she was just a few paces away. That’s when realization hit.

            Lenore felt the invisible snare take hold as she was tugged forward just a bit, not enough to disrupt the effect, but enough to feel it.

            “What the fuck?!” Gladys roared, “Nononononono! NO! No, you bitch! You fucking whore!”

            “What’s the matter mom? You don’t want to give your girl one final hug?”

            “Get, get off of me! Get it, oh shit, shit, shit! Get that thing out of me!”

            Azazel’s power had allowed Lenore to snare her mother not unlike a fish on a hook as she slowly but surely reeled her in. She easily kept the other tendrils where they were, feeling the energy as it continued to flow into her, fueling Lenore as her mother finally came within reach. She didn’t hesitate, reaching out to grab the older woman in a fierce embrace. Gladys was already weakening, her skin was sagging, liver spots had emerged upon her flesh, her hair was thinning, and she was wasting away even as Lenore held on. In short, she couldn’t stop the drain that had been initiated.

            “It, it will, never, be, enough…” Gladys croaked, chuckling in a dry, rasping manner, “I…I hope you ch-choke, on it…bitch!”

            “Goodbye mother,” Lenore said with a smile, flexing her will as the power came racing into her, leaving Gladys to hiss her last breath as her already dried and desiccated flesh wrinkled and loosened a bit more. Lenore allowed her to drop, spreading her arms wide as the sounds of bodies hitting pavement, carpet, striking solid objects, and falling into the water reached her ears through the tendrils that were now reaching back towards her, just as unseen as she swayed on her feet, waiting for them to return.

            She’d never felt this sated, this, full, and it left her feeling a bit woozy, almost drunk in fact. Lenore could just barely hear the screams and screeching of tires in the distance as people were no doubt seeking a way to understand how so many people had suddenly dropped dead, drained and sucked dry of life in a way that few, if any, could possibly understand. Even as her eyes began to close she was wise enough to find a spot of shade, smiling as she leaned against the stone wall she’d found to sit against. She’d won, but this was only one battle among many. That was okay though, she’d gained a great advantage.

                                                            *                      *                      *

            When her eyes opened again it was night, and the starlight felt brighter, more vibrant somehow. A faint warmth burned near her right side, coming from a dark crimson candle holder in which a single, fat candle burned, the faint light highlighting a slim bottle of vodka and two glasses.

            “To the victor, the spoils.”

            Lenore stretched her arms upward before turning her head to look at Abe, who was sitting easily within arms reach. She wasn’t even tempted to make a play against him, especially since she could easily understand his role in this place. Plus, there was a feeling that surrounded the man, almost like a cautionary detail that warned against even touching him wrong.

            Casting her gaze around the area she then turned back to Abe, “Was the clean-up crew already here?”

            Abe, who was puffing on a cigarette, nodded, blowing out a pall of smoke before saying, “They’re paid to be quick. The explanations have been handed out, the Luxor will be shut down for a complete cleansing from top to bottom, and health inspectors from the state office will be out to check on the place in another couple of weeks.”

            “Wow.”

            “Vegas doesn’t wait for anyone darlin’,” he said with a chuckle, “If people can’t spend their money here then they’re gonna go elsewhere, and that’s not good business. We feed everyone some bullshit story about what happened and they pray that it doesn’t happen again. The boss is happy, the rest of us are happy, and things go on as they were. There’s just one condition.”

            “I’ve got to go?”

            Abe nodded, “Your Las Vegas rights have been heretofore revoked, meaning that you will be on our shit list until the boss says otherwise.”

            “Which means I’ll likely be allowed back within a year or so.”

            “Maybe,” Abe grinned, “But for now, you gotta hit the bricks so shit can get back to business as usual. The creator might be tough, but he still wants things to go as they need to.”

            “I suppose a ‘thank you’ is in order.”

            “It’s not needed, but it’s appreciated,” Abe said with a sigh, “Now if you’ll be so kind, pop that bottle open and let’s get pleasantly shit-faced, or at least try.”

            Lenore grinned as she reached for the bottle. That was a damned fine idea.

The End