Rachel and Brigitte are leaving.

That's when all hell broke loose just outside the door.


We heard it, and smelt it, at about the same time. There was a horrible tearing crashing roaring buckling sound, and also an overpowering smell of sulfur just ballooned out. Doc flew up and stood sentinel near my shoulder, beeping and whirring, and Samson whirled around.

“Don’t move,” he said, and waved a hand towards the door that was not that far away. The door opened and I saw through the door we’d entered that the entire convenience store was being sucked down, slowly, into a swirling whirlpool of slowly-liquifying matter, like the store was melting and being pulled down a drain, while sticking up through the drain was a hand, a hand that was larger, even, than the 100-foot-tall demon’s hands had been. I could only imagine how large the thing on the other end of that hand might be.

I screamed and tried to scramble back from the doorway as the hand came towards up.

“Relax,” Samson said calmly. “The door’s not open and I doubt it can get in here.” For a guy who’d only just escaped from Hell… four? Days ago, he was awfully calm. I stayed pressed up against the wall and flattened my hands.

“What is it?” I asked, barely controlling my hysteria.

It is a demon said Doc. Approximately 400 feet tall extrapolating from the hand. Home dimension = number 4, code named: Hell. Breathes sulfur. Eats flesh.

“What?” I asked, and then the door to the bedroom opened and Brigitte stood there, going from sleepy-and-sexy in a flash to scared as she took in the hand that was pressed up against the translucent door.

“What is that?” she yelled, and moved over by me and put her arms around me.

“It’s a demon,” said Samson, calmly. He stood there, with his hands on his hips, shaking his head. “Those idiots. I mean, they should have known better, because this thing’ll never get to me, but the attention they’re drawing.”

“Kill it!” I yelled.

“Kill it? I can’t kill a demon. I can drive it back, probably.” Samson peered a little and said “And the van’s gone. I’m sure. Great. That’s going to slow us down.” He took a step or two over by the monitor while the demon hand became a fist and pounded on the door and the wall. THUD THUD THUD THUD THUD it hit faster than I could have imagined. The whole structure shook. Dust fell from the ceilings Samson got near the screen and snapped his fingers. It came to life with a bored-looking woman on the other side.

She snapped to attention. “Lieutenant,” she said.

“Private,” he acknowledged, and gave a lazy salute.

“Sir, we did not expect…”

“I got out earlier than expected. No time for that. I need an airstrike.”


Samson mumbled something and she said “Fixing location.”

Then, a pause, and we could see her looking at some other screen. “Drones on the way.”

Another pause. She typed. Samson turned back to watch the fist. Most of the building was gone. We were tilted towards the hole, now, and the melting sidewalk and rest of the street were pulling in further.

“Do something,” Brigitte said, but she said it through clenched teeth. I knew why she’d spoken, now: we were tilted far enough that we could see around the edges of the hole that the hand reached through which meant we could see into Hell, the red glow, the acid-water, the horrors, and Brigitte didn’t want to go back there. Neither did I, especially not with my body.

It might be patched together and a zombie body, but it was the only body I had.

“Report,” Samson said.

“Drones en route. Mark, now.

As the woman on the screen said that we heard a high-pitched sort of buzz or whine, rising from behind us, getting louder and louder. There were two booms

“Going supersonic,” Samson muttered. “Good. Could’ve been faster.”

And then the whines were fading away off in front of us. Samson watched the hand, which had changed tactics and was not wrapped around our part of the building and was pulling.

As we watched, the sounds of the drones faded away.

“That didn’t do anything,” I said.

Just as I said that, though, the hand started to glow blue and crackle and there was a sound like lightning. Electricity crackled all over it and the hand shot away from the building. It began writhing and twisting and as it did it shriveled and turned black and began to look crispy and burnt. The blue-crackling stuff still flickered all over it and glazed it as the hand straightened up and shrunk.

I knew where I’d seen things just like that before, too: Reverend Tommy’s praying power.

The hand was now only about ten feet tall and appeared to be in pain. I didn’t know a hand could broadcast emotions like that but this hand was certainly doing a good job of conveying what it was like to be in an extreme amount of pain and dying and being sent back to Hell, which it was. It shriveled more and then sucked into the hole, which sealed up, leaving a depression in the earth, a twisted spirally hole that looked exactly like a whirlpool would look if you made a very realistic sculpture of it, provided that the whirlpool was also a convenience store that sold cheap sodas. And squid jerky, which I’d never learned to like though I’d eaten it three times on the way to Brigitte’s.

“Do you work for the government?” I asked, looking at the monitor where the woman sat again, alternating her attention between looking at us and looking at things off to her right. She wore a black jumpsuit with a label on the right shoulder that said GI in stylized lettering and her hair was long and curly. She had her nails done. I thought that was weird for a soldier.

“Government?” Samson asked, and laughed. “No, no, no. I work for something much more powerful than the government. Well, that’s for certain. That poor boy who worked the counter out there, even under the hypno that made him ignore me and anything I did, even he was more powerful than the “government” that people think exists.” Samson looked out at the frozen-rock-store-whirlpool, where, again, people were starting to gather and stare and point. “Poor kid. He really didn’t deserve that. I doubt he was going to go to end up in Hell if he’d hung on a little longer.” He snapped out of it. “Oh, well. That’s what we’re working to fix, right? Maybe he won’t be there long. Or maybe he will be. Who knows. I don’t know anything about that kid. Other than that he really was prone to hypno and was a great kid to have working the counter. I never liked having to fire people who noticed things, especially because I’d have to fire them and then have them deported to France, and who wants to live in a cave for the rest of their life? But I’m a soft touch. I know. I didn’t want to kill them, especially not now when the gate is blocked.

“But I’m rambling. No, Rachel, I don’t work for the government. I work for someone with actual power – a corporation. In this case, a paramilitary organization that uses a corporation as its profit-making, public-friendly arm to market products it comes up with in this never-ending battle, thereby raising money, and also helps hold the “land” so to speak in this battle, the “land” being not only the physical world that you know, the dimension we’ve tabbed “One” only because it was discovered by us first, which is only natural because we lived in it, but also the minds of the people in dimension one, and also something more important than their minds, which is their souls.

“I work,” he finished up, with a flourish, and I got the feeling that we were being given a pitch or recruitment speech,” For God.”

We just stared at him, Brigitte and I. On the screen, the woman watched him and smiled.

“Actually, to be more correct, I work for God, Inc.” Samson said, with a little less flourish. He seemed disappointed that we did not seem more impressed.

“You work for God?” Brigitte asked, in disbelief. She seemed angry. “How can you say that?”

“What do you mean, how can I say that?”

Brigitte shook her head. “You’re not doing God’s work. Not for real.”

“But I am,” Samson insisted. The woman on the screen nodded, I saw. Then she peered closer and looked from me to Samson.

“Lieutenant?” the woman inquired. Samson held up a hand.

“I work for God, and I can prove it, Brigitte.”

“Why?” Brigitte asked.

That kind of startled me as I tried to follow what was going on here. Brigitte asked why? I looked at her. That was a strange question to ask, especially for a girl from the south who’d attended Church, even a terrible hating church like the Church of Our Savior Of Living People Only, to ask why someone would work for God. Which I didn’t believe Samson was, not for a second.

“Because it’s the right thing to do. Did you see Hell? Did you see it? Is that what you want people to end up in? Is that where you want them to go?”

“No. No, I don’t, but that’s… that’s…”

“That’s what?”

”Sir. Lieutenant.” The woman was looking over at me and at Brigitte and then peering to her right more, and I could hear sounds and beeping and she was doing something with her nicely-manicured hands.

“Not now, Private.” Samson held up his hand again. “What’s wrong with you? Brigitte? Why are you so angry?”

Brigitte was angry. I had my hand on her arm and she was tense and quivering. Her voice, when it came out was low and calm. “I don’t think you should work for God, that’s all. I really think that is a bad idea.”

“How can you say that?” If Samson hadn’t asked, I would have. Brigitte, I could recall, told me that morning we were getting ready for Church, that the “Savior” was more important than anything in the world and that was why she went.

“It’s the wrong side,” Brigitte said.

Sir!” the private interrupted. “I apologize for ignoring orders, sir, but I must. Sir, I’ve been checking and it’s her.” The woman on the screen pointed. It was difficult to tell who she was pointing at because the screen was two-dimensional and all but it was kind of in my general direction.

Samson sounded irrirated: “Private, yes, I know. Quit interrupting. I need to talk with Brigitte. I am aware that it’s her. I’m the one who found her and brought her back here. Why do you think she’s standing in my headquarters?”

I felt a little miserable at that, to be the center of this stuff that I didn’t understand again.

“Not her, sir. Not the zombie. The other one. It’s her.

Samson looked from the screen to Brigitte.

“Are you sure,” he said, slowly and carefully.

“Yes. I’m certain,” the private said.

Brigitte suddenly held up a little device no larger than my thumb and pointed it towards Samson.

“Rachel and I are leaving,” she said.

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