Monday, January 24, 2011

Hell Hath No Burritos - Fiction

Welcome back to my little corner of the web. This week's tale is something I've kicked around for awhile, and though I'm sure there are plenty of bugs to work out I thought I would throw it up to the slings and arrows of you, Constant Reader, and see what happened. I hope you enjoy. - Author

“You sure this is the place?” Mike asked.

“You mean you cannot feel this is the proper place?” Timothy said.

“Tim-” Mike started.

“Timothy,” the angel corrected. Mike spared him a glance then went back to scanning not only the run-down two-story house before them but the many other similar dwellings up and down the street around them.

Timothy, we’re in crack central, here. Do you have any idea what I’m feeling from any one of these places? We’re not in the best part of town,” Mike said. He rubbed his face vigorously with both hands then took a deep breath. “I don’t want to get the wrong place again,” Mike said.

“You still blame me for your error last week? While I am sure that gives you great comfort it is far from the truth of things,” Timothy said.

“For you, it was last week. For me it was yesterday.” Mike said.

“You were still of assistance to that young girl, even if it was not the one to which you were sent,” Timothy said.

“Yeah, but now I have to play catch-up and find the right one. I don’t get credit for philanthropy,” Mike said.

“That is why you do this?” Timothy asked.

“Tim, you have no idea what this is for me. By the grace of God, you’ve got a get out of jail free card. You’ll never have to go where I go,” Mike said.

“Timothy.” the angel reminded. Mike sighed and shook his head.

“Don’t they have nicknames where you come from?” Mike asked.

“No.” Timothy said. Timothy had been assigned to Mike after the Powers That Be realized there were certain impracticalities to having Mike work alone. The angel was nothing much to look at and had no real memorable features save for his propensity for white suits over black, high-necked shirts. Aside from his wardrobe choices, Timothy was one of those men you could see every day and never give a second glance. Mike knew the angel was oh-so-much more, but the only ones that would typically see him as anything else would have that be the last thing they ever saw.

“How do you want to do this? Maybe slip around the back, see if there’s a low window or something…” Mike said as Timothy moved across the weed-choked yard without a word heading for the front door. “Oh, yeah… the direct approach. That always works so well for us,” Mike said as he hustled after the angel.

Timothy was a warrior angel, an Old Testament badass. If this one owned a harp and sat around on a cloud, it was only because the harp played death metal while he rained down destruction from above. Mike caught up to him but stayed a few steps behind as the angel brought up his fist and pounded on the door. “You might want to step away from the door. We don’t want a repeat of Yonkers,” Mike said. Timothy ignored him as he pounded on the door. Even over the loud, pulsing urban music Mike could hear a flurry of activity from within the house. A few seconds later a young Latino man opened the door a crack and peered out at Timothy. His eyes went wide in surprise for just a moment at Timothy’s stark-white suit before a broad smile revealed his crooked teeth.

“What the fuck you supposed to be, baboso? It ain’t Halloween. You about to get that pretty suit all fucked up banging on my door like that, ese,” he said. Mike shook his head again at the metallic pops and the unmistakable sound of the pump action of a shotgun chambering a round coming from within the house. Why was this never easy?

“We are here for Carmalita Eskeban.” Timothy said. At the word “we” the man looked past Timothy to see Mike standing off to the side. Mike shrugged, making sure to display both his empty hands in the process. The man’s eyes narrowed under his wide bandana.

“So that’s what you want, eh gabo?” he said as his smile turned to a leer. “Yeah, she’s a sweet little mamacita, but Carma ain’t up to workin’ tonight. Come back tomorrow.”

“Adán Garza, you will take us to Carmalita Eskeban. Now,” Timothy said. Adán moved just enough to allow his pistol through the narrow opening.

“Great. Here we fucking go again,” Mike muttered. He’d learned the hard way that though he was virtually immortal in his current position he hadn’t been given anything else to go with it. Timothy had the power of Heaven while Mike’s only specialty in the mortal world was to heal wounds quickly and painfully.

“I don’t know how you know my name but you need to get your ass out of here before I make your suit red!” Adán said. The muzzle of his pistol was less than six inches from Timothy’s chest and even Mike could see his finger tensing on the trigger.

“Look, Adán… I wouldn’t do that. All that’s going to do is piss him off. We just need to see Carmalita for a few minutes and we’ll be on our way, okay? No trouble, no fuss. Okay?” Mike said.

“Shut up and get your friend outta here before you get hurt!” Adán said. Several shouts in mixed Spanish and English drifted through the open doorway. Timothy closed his eyes for a moment then slowly opened them to stare at the crucifix around Adán’s neck.

“You wear a symbol of our Lord, Adán Garza, yet you are a thief and a murderer. That will not do,” Timothy said. The small crucifix started smoldering and bubbling against Adán’s chest. He howled and brushed at the molten gold with his free hand and managed only to smear the dripping metal across his body and hand. Adán screamed again and fired several rounds into Timothy’s chest before another hand from inside threw the door completely open. Mike dove from the porch and tucked himself against the house as several more pistols and a shotgun opened up on Timothy. The angel jerked violently with each point-blank bullet until the roar of the shotgun blasted him off the porch and onto the rough lawn just a few feet from Mike.

“It’s gonna be the hard way again, huh?” Mike asked. Timothy turned his head slowly, allowing his left eye to slide out of its socket and down his cheek. Adán had held good to his word. The angel’s white suit was indeed red now, dyed from the blood that seeped and poured from his various wounds. The center of his chest was laid completely open from the shotgun blast and his face had been mangled from the bullets that had torn through its unremarkable countenance.

“I have been given the authority to accomplish this task as I see fit,” Timothy wheezed.

“Yeah, that always fills me with such confidence,” Mike said as Timothy slowly gained his feet. There were five men and two women on the porch now, and all the men were armed. Timothy fixed his gaze on Adán and spread his arms wide as his wounds first stopped their bleeding then slowly mended, the great wound in his chest knitted itself back together as they watched. Some made the sign of the cross over their chests while the rest could only stare at the angel as the blood that had permeated his fine suit rushed from it to land in fat drops on the cracked cement path leading to the porch.

Madre de Dios…” the large man holding the shotgun hissed.

“Yeah, not so much,” Mike said as he stood up from his cover. He looked at both women present and decided neither was Carmalita. “Guys, please… trust me when I say we just need to see Carmalita. We don’t want to hurt her…”

El Diablo!” another of them said. The exclamation roused the rest from their awe and more shots rang out. Mike took a round to the shoulder and grunted as he hit the ground. Timothy calmly reached into his coat as their bullets struck him again, though this time each simply melted as soon as it struck him. Like a magician with a line of scarves, Timothy drew a long, heavy sword from his coat. As soon as it was clear of his lapel the blade came to life in a burst white-blue flame that drove the rest back into the house.

“I don’t care about the sword, but you have got to teach me the bullet trick,” Mike said as he got up from the ground. His shoulder hurt like hell but most of the pain was coming not from the injury but from the healing. “Fuck that hurts!”

“Language,” Timothy warned. His voice had a hollow, resonant quality to it now. No matter how many times Mike heard that voice it still ran chills up his spine. If God was anything, he was a showman. “Are you well enough to accomplish your task?”

Mike looked at the blood seeping around the bullet hole in his leather jacket. The wound still burned and he’d have to replace the coat but he was otherwise well enough. “It’ll hurt like a bitch in the morning, but yeah, I’m good. You need to teach me the suit trick, too. This is the third jacket I’ve gone through.”

The pair went back up the steps but this time instead of knocking Timothy launched a foot at the door that took it off its hinges. Mike peeled off from Timothy and crouched against the wall beside the destroyed doorframe to avoid the predicted barrage of bullets that met Timothy. He waited until he couldn’t hear shots, screams or the whoosh of Timothy’s flaming bastard sword before getting up and coming into the house. The men that had accosted them were laying about the room in parts and pieces while the two women cowered in a corner before Timothy’s holy rage. For all the carnage around them there was a decided lack of blood. Timothy’s sword burned with such fierceness that it instantly cauterized the wounds and severing it caused, keeping the prey’s bodily fluids packaged neatly inside.

“Nice work,” Mike said.

“Michael, death is never so flippant as you make it. I gave each the opportunity to quit the battle and they chose to fall before me. That does not mean you or I should find pleasure or humor in killing such inferior foes,” Timothy said without taking his eyes off the terrified women.

“It’s Mike,” Mike said. He’d only been in the employ of Heaven for a few months but he’d already seen enough to desensitize himself to the violence they were often forced to leave in their wake. He kneeled down beside Timothy to face the women. “Look, I’m sorry about this. We didn’t come here to hurt anyone. I just need to see Carmalita and then we’ll go. Now, where is she?” One of the women raised a trembling hand and pointed to the stairs at the other end of the room.

“Is there anyone else in the house?” Timothy asked them. Both women shook their heads slowly, their eyes on the sword that still burned white-hot in his hand. “Leave here now, both of you. Tell no one what you witnessed here tonight.” Timothy said with a wave of his sword towards the door. The women wasted no time in scrambling across the room on their hands and knees before they felt safe enough to get to their feet and run out of the house.

“You can put the feathersword away now, Conan,” Mike said as he headed for the stairs.

“Why do you keep referring to my blade like that? And my name is Timothy. I do not know this Conan of which you speak,” Timothy said. Mike smirked as the angel followed him up the stairs.

“You need to watch more TV,” Mike said.

“That is the last thing I need to do,” Timothy said as they reached the top of the stairs. Garbage and random detritus was strewn down the length of the hall. Most of the rooms had had their doors removed, allowing them to see the filthy piles of clothes, blankets and more refuse decorating each room. They reached the last room and paused for a moment before going inside.

“Remember, a bottle of water and a burrito. Is that too much for you to remember or should I write it down this time?” Mike said. Timothy frowned and gave Mike a gentle shove into the room.

“I am not your servant,” Timothy said. Mike tried the room’s light switch but nothing happened. He stepped gingerly through the mounds of filth until he reached a small, shade-less lamp on a milk crate and flipped it on. The glare from the naked bulb made his dark-adjusted eyes flinch for a moment and revealed a painfully thin young woman curled up on a vomit-stained mattress. Mike took one of her arms in his hands and turned it over. Half a dozen tiny pockmarks looked back at him from the crook of her elbow and down her forearm.

“Is this Carmalita Eskebar?” Timothy asked.

“You’re the guy that knows anybody’s name that he wants to know, why don’t you tell me?” Mike said.

“They have to be awake for me to discern that information,” Timothy said.

“The one last week was awake,” Timothy said with a bit of bitterness.

“Yes, but you were so certain she was lying about the name she had given and that she was in fact Carmalita that you did not ask me to verify,” Timothy said.

“Great. The one time you decide not to second-guess me,” Mike said. He put her arm down then gently turned her face up to him. She was a pretty girl, or at least she would be much prettier if not for her sunken features and the cracked skin across her lips. “Carmalita… hey, Carmalita… wake up.”

The girl’s eyes fluttered a few times then stayed open though only as slits. “Wha…” she managed to squeak before her head lolled in his hands.

“No no, little girl. Come on, I need you awake for this. Come on now,” Mike said as he tapped her cheeks lightly. Carmalita roused again and turned her face back towards his voice. “You in there, Carmalita? You awake?” Mike asked. She gave a shallow nod, and though her eyes fluttered a few times more she remained at least semi-conscious.

“Go away,” Carmalita managed to say. A spot on her bottom lip cracked open from speaking and a tiny drop of dull blood welled up there.

“Carmalita, you’re killing yourself here. Don’t you want to get better?” Mike asked. A tiny wink of light reflected off the silver chain around her neck. He used his free hand and rooted around under her neck until he fished out a tiny silver crucifix similar to the one Adán had worn. Mike ripped it from her neck, the jolt of which causing Carmalita to wake up just a little more.

“What are you-” Carmalita started to say.

“Look, I don’t have a whole lot of time here,” Mike said as he brought the tiny cross and it’s tinier Savior up to her face. “Do you believe?” Mike asked. Carmalita stared at the crucifix for long moments before finally turning back to him.

“Yes,” Carmalita said.

“Okay, first hurdled jumped,” Mike said.

“You need to hurry, Michael. I am certain one of those women will contact either the police or more of their gang,” Timothy said, putting a great deal of disgust into the word “gang”.

“Yeah, okay, and it’s Mike, damn it,” Mike said. Timothy ignored him and went to the window to check the street below while Mike got back to Carmalita. She was fading again, looking for her solace in whatever concoction she’d pumped into her veins. “Shit! Come on, honey, stay with me,” Mike said. Carmalita gave as much attention to Mike as the angel had and was falling back into her haze. “Shit. Carmalita, listen to me… you’ve got to listen to me, here,” Mike said as he gripped her chin and fought to hold her head still. Her eyes were as wide as her lids would allow but only a low groan escaped her lips. She struggled like this for nearly a minute more before her body finally, thankfully, went limp in his arms.

“You must go now. If she dies before you-” Timothy said.

“Damn it, I know!” Mike interrupted him. He put a hand to her chest then sat back on his haunches and closed his eyes. “You have no idea how much harder this is when they don’t consent,” Mike said.

“We all have our crosses to bear, do we not?” Timothy said.

“For an angel, you sure are a fucking prick,” Mike said.

“If you desire civility, go to a cherub. I am here to perform my duty. It is now time to do yours,” Timothy said.

“Bottle of water and a burrito, okay?” Mike said to Timothy as he closed his eyes again and tilted his head back. A heartbeat later, both Mike and Caramalita were screaming.


The first thing to hit him was the sensation of falling; a wild, tumbling drop through nothingness so hot it felt as if his skin was searing off his bones. Each time his aerial thrashings pointed his face towards the bottom the flickering light of roaring flames burned closer and closer. With every moment the light became brighter and brighter, eventually illuminating the rough, rocky walls surrounding him. He reached out to touch the sides of the cylindrical chasm and was rewarded by such white-hot pain that he nearly lost consciousness. That is, if he was even truly conscious now.

The rocky tube suddenly gave way to absolute nothingness save for the heat of the massive, boiling fire beneath him. Those flames filled his vision now as they reached up to reel him down even faster into their embrace. Everywhere the flames lapped at him burned deep. He could not remember who he was, or where he was, or even why he was, but some long-buried memory told him the flames sought not his flesh; they were looking to burn away at his soul. He was nearly into the pit when he started making out the shapes and forms writhing within it.

Bodies in the thousands and more filled the pit. They were naked save for the flames that constantly shrouded them as they slithered and crawled over each other like a roiling pile of maggots in a deep wound. His body hit the pit of flames like a stone breaking the surface of a calm lake. The figures rushed away from him in ripples and waves at first, but as the friction from his body and theirs slowed then finally stopped his descent they pressed in on him, crushing him in wave after wave of moaning, screaming bodies.

Hands caressed his sudden stiffness and mouths set to work across his body. He responded in kind, his mind so suddenly full of lust and desire for these nameless, faceless souls that nothing else mattered. Tearing pain from his rectum told him a man from somewhere in the pile had entered him while he turned his head and lowered his mouth onto another member. He could see neither man’s face, and frankly he didn’t care to. Faces, names… titles and recognition meant nothing here. Here, there was only pain and pleasure made all the more sweet by its anonymity.

He bucked his hips into the throng and was rewarded with a hot sleeve slick with dripping juices and lost himself in the group rhythm of the throng. He could feel himself growing thicker and harder inside the nameless woman. He couldn’t pick out her moans with his ears, locked as they all were in such a horde of pleasure, but he could feel them reverberating through her walls and across his cock. His pleasure turned to pain though as his body tried valiantly to reach its climax. The penis in his mouth bobbed and thrummed violently against his tongue and he thought for just a moment he could hear its owner’s screams of rage and frustration at his inability to complete such a simple act. The one at his backside thrust even harder now, and he could feel his insides bleeding from the abuse. But try as that one might he could no more climax than any other in this orgy of fire and souls.

Suddenly, the tight, dripping walls cradling his member lessened their grip and began to pull away, like as not to try her luck on some other faceless man. “No!” he both thought and screamed. With strength born from the madness of an unachievable release he thrust his hands into the press of bodies before him. Though he still couldn’t see their owner, he found the hips containing those sweet, glistening muscles just before they were lost to the fray and forced them back over his painfully-throbbing erection. He bit down hard on the cock in his mouth and it instantly pulled away. He forced his mouth and eyes closed and poured every ounce of his will into fucking the unknown woman in his grip.

The woman he serviced bucked and thrashed violently under his single-minded assault, and he was suddenly aware of the blood that ran from under his fingernails were they’d bitten into her soft hips. For him the blood neither added to nor took away from the act. He would achieve climax, if for nothing else but to make the pain ebb. He would fuck this woman until he finally emptied himself into her, until he could finally be free of the sheer agony. “I am a man! I am not an animal!” he screamed again both inside and outside his mind. “I am… I am a man…” he screamed again. The muscles in his body clenched suddenly and all at once as his orgasm blasted through his being. He screamed in agony and pleasure as it rolled through him and continued pummeling the faceless woman until every last drop of his seed had been lost in her.

“I… I am Michael… Mike Fuller…” Mike said though his voice was muffled by the sea of bodies still writhing about him. But the bodies weren’t faceless anymore. He could see them all in detail now; old and young, corpulent and emaciated and all manner in between. These were the souls of men and women whose beliefs in the stains on their souls had brought them to this place, to continually act out their sins of the flesh yet never being able to complete the act that drove them here. Their hell was to be locked in the flesh for eternity with no hope of climax. They would never know themselves and would be reduced only to their nameless, faceless base desires.

“I am Mike Fuller.” Mike said again, this time stronger. He remembered who he was and remembered now how he’d come to be here. He remembered the half-dozen other times he’d made this trip and each of the souls whose stains he’d taken on, suffering the punishments of those sins as if they were his own to allow the sinner to begin anew, their slate cleaned before Heaven’s eyes. Mike didn’t know how or why the Powers That Be chose the recipients for his special brand of absolution. Truth be known, he didn’t care past the normal levels of human curiosity. He only knew he had a lifetime of bad karma to burn away and the unique ability to remember himself, to retain his identity, when in the pits of Hell. It was a rare soul that could rise above the anonymity of Hell, and rarer still for one to crawl its way back through the pits and fields of brimstone and fire and sin with willful direction and purpose. And for every sin he expunged from those chosen ones, some of his own stains were lifted as well.

“I am Mike Fuller,” Mike kept repeating through his clenched jaws as he crawled his way up through the pile of maggots. He batted furiously at the hands, legs and other limbs, parts and pieces that were thrust against and inside him as he crawled ever upward. It may have been only a few moments or a few decades that he’d been here this time. It was always so hard to tell the passage of time in eternity. But whether the time was short or long before his head finally crested the sea of souls didn’t matter. It only mattered that he had once more been able to keep his mind and soul together, that he had once more beat Hell at its own game.

Mike pulled himself completely from the pile and crawled across its pulsing crests like a crab scuttling across the backs of a school of hatchery fish. The heat beat at him with a thousand invisible fists while just as many visible ones came at him from below, seeking to pull him down and have him rejoin their eternal orgy. Small blazes broke out all over his body as he crawled and wide, open blisters replaced his hair and most of his scalp by the time the edge of the pit was in view. With the last of his strength of will and body he threw himself at the side of the pit. He ignored the pain from the red-hot, jagged rocks surrounding the mouth of the pit as he dragged his body up and over them to the only-slightly cooler, ash covered ground beyond. Mike lay for time untold with his arms wrapped around his legs and his chin against his chest. The pain this time had been unbelievable and nearly unbearable, but once again he’d managed to drag himself from one of Hell’s many eternal rewards.

“You again, Michael Fuller?” a grating, hissing voice said from somewhere high above him. Mike recognized that voice and braced himself for what would come next. As if not to disappoint him, something searing and sharp cracked against his shins. The blow threw him back against the thick rocks surrounding the pit and momentarily threatened to send him back into its embraces. Mike rolled away from the rocks and tried to put distance between both it and the demon at the same time. “This is becoming a habit. Back you go!” the demon said as it reached down and with burning hands raised Mike high into the air over its head.

“Fuck you!” Mike managed to wheeze as he looked down at the tops of the demon’s long, serrated horns. It looked up into his eyes with its own reptilian ones and gave him a smile full of far too many sharp fangs.

“Considering where you are going, that is exactly the eternity you can expect,” the demon said. It walked closer to the edge of the pit, allowing Mike a good look over the edge at the ever-boiling pot of sins of the flesh.

“You can’t do this! I know the rules! I beat you! You lose!” Mike said as he found new strength with which to struggle against the demon’s grip. His straining was all for naught, though. The demon simply shifted its grip so that one huge, talon-flecked hand wrapped around Mike’s neck. The demon held Mike over the edge of the pit by his throat, just low enough where the longest fingers of the damned below could caress the soles of his feet.

“It seems you are the one that has lost, Michael Fuller. There are no rules in Hell save for those of my Master, and there is no one here to enforce any other code. It is just you, me and the rest of the damned. Relax, Michael Fuller. We both know this is exactly the eternity to which you belong, though I would be lying if I said I did not gain great pleasure in being the one to finally keep you in your rightful place. My Master will be very pleased,” the demon said. Mike tried to speak but the demon’s crushing fingers around his throat removed any chance at forming words or even drawing a breath. He beat furiously against the demon’s extended arm and swung out with his legs at its chest while the thing laughed at him.

“Ah! A fighter to the end! I like that in a soul,” the demon said as it reeled Mike in so that their faces were almost touching. “Perhaps after a few centuries I will fish you out and dine upon your essence. Once in the belly of a demon you will beg to return to this flesh pit. Goodbye, Michael Fuller,” the demon said. Mike closed his eyes as the demon held him out over the lake of flesh once more and released its grip. Mike clenched his jaw and hissed his own name over and over, keeping it at the front of his mind. If he got out once he may be able to do so again, though his soul was weary and scarred from his last escape. Mike waited for the feeling of falling, waited for the groping hands and grasping fingers of the damned to pull him back into the pit to make him one with them again but neither happened. He remained where he was, suspended just over the masses and knots of flesh below him.

“You have violated the Law, demon,” a flat, monotone voice said. Mike opened his eyes slowly to see a voluminous grey robe a few feet away from them. Its folds and billows seemed to be filled by a body yet one look into its cowl showed only two floating, grey eyes the same shade as its robes and cape.

“I have not! I found him outside of the pit and was merely returning him to his damnation,” the demon said. A large tome appeared before the wraith’s empty cowl. The pages flipped furiously from one end of the book and back again before it slammed shut with a clap louder than thunder then disappeared just as suddenly as it had appeared.

“The Law is clear,” the wraith said.

“This is no ordinary soul. It is a combatant in this war and I do nothing more than claim my spoils. You have no right to-” the demon said.

“I have no rights, I am of the Grey,” the wraith said.

“Your interpretation of the Law is suspect, wraith,” the demon said.

“I do not interpret the Law. I am powerless so long as the Law is followed. If you are within the Law, you have nothing to fear,” the wraith said.

“I fear nothing, wraith… least of all an empty robe,” the demon said. The wraith extended an arm and a ghostly, pale hand materialized at the end of the sleeve. A wide shaft of cold, pale light blasted from it and struck the demon in the chest. The force of the blast sent it reeling. It wind milled comically against the raw power for a moment before its scrabbling feet met the rocks surrounding the chasm. With a roar of impotent rage the demon pitched backwards, over the rocks and into its own pit.

“You are once again narrowly on the side of Law, Michael Fuller,” the wraith said as Mike’s body moved away from the pit and back on the solid, scorching ground.

“It’s Mike, actually,” Mike said. He was scabbed and sore, burnt and blistered and felt as if the slightest breeze would be enough to lay him low forever. At least all his parts and pieces were still with him this time. “Can I go back now?” The wraith hovered closer to him as the demon’s hands appeared over the edge of the rocks to pull his huge, scaly body from the pit.

“I will see you burn, Michael Fuller! I will flay the flesh from your bones a thousand times and make you watch as I consume you over and over again!” the demon said.

“You may, one day…” the wraith said,”…but that day will not be this one.”

Mike felt his feet leave the burning, ash-covered ground once more though this time he kept rising slowly and steadily towards the unseen ceiling of the cavern.


Mike had to force his eyes to open then wished he hadn’t. Even the mild light from the small lamp on the other side of the room hurt. He gripped the bedclothes as his world spun out of control for several moments and fought against his empty stomach’s threat to spew its bile from one end of the dingy hotel room to the other.

“Finally,” Timothy said. Mike focused on the angel’s face hovering over his and used it as a stagnant point of reference to eventually stop his world from spinning.

“How long?” Mike croaked. His throat burned and his lips were painfully dry. He imagined his now looked and felt the same as Carmalita’s had. Timothy nodded towards the bedside table. Mike turned his head to see a bottle of spring water and a large bundle wrapped in wax paper imprinted with a fast food logo. He slowly released his grip on the thin blanket under him and took up the bottle.

“Nine days,” Timothy answered. Mike struggled for a moment with the plastic cap before it gave way then took several long, slow sips from the bottle. His lips burned from the water but he welcomed that sort of burning in place of that which he’d just left.

Nine days,” Mike repeated after a few more sips of water cooled his throat.

“It is better than last time,” Timothy said. Every time Mike’s soul took a trip to hell, his mortal body dropped into a sort of coma. Timothy’s job was to make sure that not only did Mike use his dubious “gift” for the right side but also to make certain Mike had an earthly shell in which to return. Coming back again would be nearly impossible without such an anchor in the mortal world.

“What about Carmalita?” Mike asked.

“I know not of the girl. That is not my duty, nor is it my concern,” Timothy said. Mike looked at the greasy bundle on the nightstand then picked it up and pulled down the wrapper.

“This isn’t your duty, either,” Mike said with a wink. “Does this mean you like me?”

“It means I recognize your mortal body needs sustenance, and it means my desire to not hear you whine and prattle on like an infant is greater than my disdain at having to go to that deplorable taco stand,” Timothy said.

“Well, thanks all the same, Tim. I really appreciate it,” Mike said. He opened his mouth and jammed the burrito into it, bit off a hunk then chewed a few times. His mouth suddenly flew open again and he involuntarily wretched the wad of half-chewed food on the floor. “Eww! Tim, what the hell is this?”

“It is a burrito,” Tim said in the same tone a tired mother would use on her precocious child. Mike poked a finger into the cold layers of refried beans, cheese and meat.

“Oh, ugh! This thing is half-rotten! When did you get this?” Mike asked.

“On the way here,” Tim said. Mike shook his head and couldn’t help but look back inside the burrito at the rancid meat and molding cheese. The angel had no need for food, water or sleep. This made him the perfect guard for Mike’s shell while he was in Hell, but it also meant he had no conception of what it was like to be mortal.

On the way… you bought this nine days ago?” Mike asked.

“You requested a bottle of water and a burrito. I fulfilled your request. Is that not a bottle of water and a burrito?” Timothy asked.

“Yeah, yeah it is,” Mike said. He couldn’t help but give the angel a genuine smile even as he dropped the offending meal in the trash can beside the bed. “You haven’t been around mortals much, have you?”

“As little as I can possibly manage to be,” Timothy answered in that same, tired voice.

“Well, you’ve got a lot to learn,” Mike said as he got to shaky legs. He teetered for a moment before finding his center then picked up his jacket from the chair by the door. “Let’s start by grabbing a burrito that isn’t rancid and work backwards from there, okay?”

Just write, damn it. - Author

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