“So where should I begin?” Drake asked taking a seat on the couch and keeping his eye on CJ as I placed him back down to rest.
“The beginning is always nice,” I said joining him on the cushion to his right.
“The beginning; well that takes us back to those four months I was ‘dead’. Technically I wasn’t, I was living in the Pit.”
I gave him a confused look before he began to explain. “Sweetie, there is a reason I never talked to you about this place and blocked you from those thoughts. The pit is a bottomless and fiery chasm of lost souls and demons. There houses the darkest and scariest of creatures you’d ever encounter.”
“When I arrived inside the place, I was lost to say the least. I was met by Evelyn, a beautiful woman with a hunger for human flesh and a predilection for vampires.”
He smiled at me, “Trust me, there is NO reason for you to be jealous of her. No one compares to you, Zoe.”
“Why Mr. Steele, flattery will get you everywhere!”
“She was a Harpy, and yes they exist; wings, razor sharp nails; the whole nine. She was my guide around the hollow.”
“Zoe, I’ve seen more demons than I ever knew existed. Evelyn was part bird, part woman and all evil. She rarely showed her human form, though that’s how I first met her, it was hardly ever present. She preferred evoking fear in people so she stayed in her demon state. I later learned that if she were in human form, one small agitation brought out the other half.”
“She was ordered by a man, a demon, named Karver Styx. I never learned his real name, but that was a nickname he’d received from some horrible chain of events some thousands of years ago. ”
“I quickly learned he was not a man to be trifled with. He was the boss by all definition, the one calling the shots; the one that created nearly every monster that inhabited that realm. When I met him, he quickly let me know exactly what he expected of me and warned that if I crossed him, I’d be joining the ranks of the forever tortured. He already knew who I was thanks to Zavier so he had very high expectations of me.”
“With Evelyn acting as my guide, I was taken to some of the dreariest places I’ve ever seen.”
“There were craters where people would hang by their necks above fires burning endlessly, roasting them to nothing before their flesh was restored only to have the same torture inflicted once more. Others were tied down to a furnace and grilled on an open fire in pits of molten lava.”
“Evelyn remarked that it was her favorite room. She told me it was like having her favorite meal barbecued. And though she was not permitted, she snuck in as often as possible for a quick bite.”
“Similar to the craters of fire was a lake kept frozen by large glaciers on either end. Victims of this area were usually dipped into the freezing water for extended periods of time before lifted up ensuring they didn’t pass out. Once thought well enough, they were returned to the icy liquid for another few hours.”
“There was a swamp with the foulest stench of sulfur. It had a constant thick layer of fog rolling over the surface of the muddy waters and low hanging trees that aided in carrying the smell for miles.”
“It was here where many demons spent most of their time. There was a tavern not too far from the banks of the marsh; the only place to find respite.”
“Nearing the end of the place was a room called the Lichhouse. It was an ossuarium; a place where they stored their dead. Zoe, it was filled to the brim with bones, innards, bodies, blood; this is where they tossed uncooperative people, made them feed on the decaying flesh. It was my job to ensure they did.”
Hearing that reminded me of the dark room Zavier once showed me. Now I knew where he’d got his ideas from.
“In addition to this, I was tasked with the job of adding to the room those that refused Karver’s desires. He gave me my own torture room. I killed these people in some of the most gruesome of ways and not once did I feel guilty. I was angry Zoe. Angry about what Lily had done to me after centuries of friendship, I just needed an outlet.”
“One of my first victims was a nightmare demon. According to Evelyn, he was my test. Karver wanted to ensure I was taking care of business as I should. The first night I was there he was thrown on the rack and I tortured him until his screams dulled to a low moan and all of his limbs were ripped from his body. Pools of his blood quickly covered the room and Evelyn informed Karver.”
“Do you want me to stop? It only gets worse from here, baby.”
“No, continue please.”
“Inside this torture chamber many of the more cruel acts would occur, if you believed Zavier’s room was filled with the scariest of devices, you haven’t seen anything! There were twisted pieces of metals and woods as far as the eye could see, each with their own method for inflicting pain. Some left for my use were things such as the Cat’s Paw; this device was a metal claw you place on your hand. It had four sharp prongs that curved over, similar to a rake. One swipe would tear large pieces of flesh from your victim. It never took long before I was covered in blood.”
“You were enjoying the pain you inflicted?”
He hung his head and hid his eyes from me. “I did what I had to do.”
I took his hand in mine. “I love you, Drake.”
He gave me a slanted smile before continuing. “Every day in that place was the same and it wasn’t long before I began wishing to be far from it.”
“Evelyn overheard my thoughts and made me a proposal.” He again paused and looked at me.
“Drake I’m not going to hold anything against you that you did in there. I understand you were out for survival and from the sounds of the place…I forgive you so don’t worry about that.”
He nodded and continued. “She asked two things of me. The first, she wanted companionship. She warned me that if I didn’t do my best to please her, she’d ensure my time in the Pit increased in misery. I took her to bed as often as was her request.”
“The second, I had to allow her to feed on me. This is why she liked vampires; we’re human flesh and heal quickly, which for her makes an endless meal. Every night she flayed pieces of my skin from my arms, legs and chest and for that, I got a small piece of a story from her.”
“For my services she would tell me how I could escape or what options I had to get out of the Pit. Before long, I had the total picture and ended the deal with her. Needless to say, ending things between us didn’t make her at all happy. She went to Karver and asked that he add to my duties in the Lichhouse.”
“She ripped flesh from your body?”
“Zoe, there wasn’t anything I wasn’t going to try in order to get back home to you.”
“So the deal was your way out. But you only offered to kill Lily and Zavier?”
“Not exactly. She told me the only way out was to offer something that Karver would be interested in; a deal he would not be able to resist. Otherwise I should grow accustomed to spending my every waking hours in the Pit listening to the groans of those being tortured and filling the Lichhouse as ordered.”
“I refused at first Zoe. I wanted no part in this arrangement. The things he was asking me for were more than I was willing to part with. I wanted nothing more than to be able to hold you again, tell you how sorry I was about the fight we had before I was killed. But I knew doing any of the things he was asking of me, you would not have wanted me to do and I couldn’t live with.”
“But you went through with it. What prompted the deal?”
“Karver came to me and told me that you were pregnant,” he glanced over at me to study my reaction.“I thought about what that meant. I knew Zavier and Lily would try to come after you. It seemed to be everyone’s goal to get me out of the way so they could have access to you. I couldn’t let that happen. And then to think about my baby being abused by them.”
“I wanted this baby, you know that. I died thinking about you raising our child alone. I died thinking about the moments I would miss in our child’s life. So I agreed. I made a deal to take back my form and hunt for Lily and Zavier. I agreed to have a small part of whatever demon he created inserted into me, adding that extra bit of power.”
“For my end, I asked for three things. One: that the deal remained between him and me. I didn’t want what happened with Zavier to happen with him. I needed to ensure you’d be safe and could not create a deal with him yourself. Two: I asked that he not make a play for your magics. The deal Zavier wanted involved his gathering of all mystical energy that he could, absorbing the powers from witches he encountered and stealing their family’s wealth of energy which he in turn needed to give to Karver. I had him agree not to try for your source. And last, Christopher; I wanted a male heir.”
“Wait, are you telling me you determined the sex of our child through this deal?”
“Yes. For as long as I can remember Zoe, I’ve wanted a Son. Becoming a vampire at age 25 over 200 years ago, I pretty much thought my chances for a family ended with the deal I’d made with Zavier. My hope was restored when I saw Sarah give birth. So I figured since I had to create new circumstances, getting a little something for myself wouldn’t be all bad.”
“But of course he had stipulations on my requests. I could not talk to you about the deal, any mention of his name or what happened while there, would void the arrangement and force a new deal. I had to allow him to place similar demon traits into the baby and ensure he’d grow as per the arrangement, strong and magical, and I needed to make sure you remained magic free so as not to conflict with the child’s birth.”
“So the sex we had the night I got my memories back?”
“Step one. It was supposed to be sooner but when I returned, you had no idea who I was. I needed to ensure our child’s gender and plant a piece of my new powers within him as well. Baby I’m sorry, I used you in a way that I cannot forgive myself but there was no way I could spend eternity in that place knowing you were in pain over me and that you’d soon have our baby as well.”
“That piece of you, is that the reason for the early labor?”
“It had to have been. To you I was gone four months; it was only six weeks for me. Time moves slower in the Pit allowing your eternal torment to last just that much longer. Hours seemed like days seconds were minutes. Anyway, a few days after that I was clawing my way back out of the ground.”
“So Christopher is part demon? I mean other than vampire?”
“Yes, which allowed him to absorb your magic in the womb and is the reason he is able to use it without the ring.”
“Don’t look at me like that Zoe, please. You don’t understand what it was like; what I was going through. I couldn’t live without you, without Chris.”
“Drake you made a deal to condemn our child. And if you were told not to tell me this, does this mean that the deal has been changed? What does that mean for him now?”
“No. The deal changed when you continued using your magic while pregnant and I don’t know what happens now.”
“So you’re saying it’s my fault? Is that the reason someone is after him? The man you were talking to a few nights ago? Is that Karver?”
“What man Zoe? The only person I talked to in the past few nights is Vincent and it was never here in the house. And baby I’m not blaming you for anything. I made this deal.”
“Drake come on, you’re being open now don’t hide that from me. You told him you were ensuring all was going as planned with Christopher. You told him you would start training him as soon as possible so that you could get him prepared for whatever is to take place!”
“Zoe, listen to me, I have no idea what you are referring to, ok? I didn’t say any of those things.”
“You don’t remember the night you took me from the hall when I went to check on Christopher?”
“Yes of course, he was crying, I woke up to check on him and calmed him enough to get him back to sleep. As I was leaving the room, you were walking up to the door. I stopped you before you woke him again and got you back to bed as well.”
“Drake that’s not how it happened. You were talking to someone that night. I’m sure whoever it was is the same person that was in here tonight and the same person that you overheard on the baby’s monitor.”
“If I were talking to someone Zoe, I don’t remember it, honestly. I’m telling you the truth about everything as I promised. The only person I saw that night other than CJ was you. And you seemed really surprised at my insistence I get you to bed, now I guess I know why.”
“It worries me that you don’t remember this, Drake.”
I suddenly remembered the camera sitting on the shelf above us. The teddy was motionless, hadn’t been touched so I knew the intruder had not discovered it.
“We can see who was here!”
I pointed to the bear and Drake stood to pull him from the shelf. “How did you get these things up here?”
“The same way you are now,” I laughed watching him reach the top shelf.
“A nanny cam?”
He climbed down off the stool and I walked over to join him. “Why did you buy a nanny cam?”
“You were hiding things from me Drake; I wanted to see who this person was you kept talking to!”
“Well, let’s take a look together!”
“I’m not leaving CJ in here.”
“You’re going to wake him?”
“Yes and I want you to move his crib to our room for now please. I would feel more comfortable if he were closer.”
There goes our sex life.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that.”
“Yes you did!”
“Ok, maybe I did. But I have needs you know?”
“And you will be taken care of, when the circumstances allows for it! Besides, you set the bed on fire tonight, literally! I think we need to have a bit of cooling off for you.”
“I’d like to think that was figuratively speaking as well,” he smirked.
“It always is,” I replied.
I smiled as I took Chris from his crib and Drake began dismantling it to carry it to our room.
I walked down to the living with CJ in my arms and waited for Drake to connect the camera to the television. Chris was snoring lightly in my arms and it made me laugh.
I stretched him across my lap as Drake sat with me and pulled me into his arms. “So when did you get this camera?”
He smiled at me already knowing the answer to his question. “Since I’m being less secretive, you think you can start listening to me a little more?”
He pulled me closer and kissed me. “Careful, you don’t want to start something, Drake.”
He smiled and moved away.
“Incidentally, Christopher attacked someone when we went shopping.”
“Yeah, it was funny, well, after the fact. The guy was staring at my chest and it made me uncomfortable, Chris I guess sensed that and tossed him through the room. Kind of like when he threw you into the tree out back. But this is what I was telling you about. He thinks it’s ok to use magic whenever he wants.”
“But he was protecting you. That’s my boy!” Drake said smiling at him and rubbing his stomach. “We’ll work on that, Zoe, ok?”
He pressed play on the remote and the images began displaying across the screen.
The timestamp was 2:35am. “Fast forward to 3:00am.”
“It’s always 3:00am. I don’t know why, but that’s the time he seems to come by every night I’ve encountered him.”
Drake grabbed the remote and went to the time I’d asked. At 2:57am, there was a light in the corner of the room and then a voice spoke. “It’s time!”
Someone approached his crib, but their back was to the camera. The movement of his cloak brushed the bookcase, knocking the monitor to the floor.
“Come on, turn around,” Drake said watching the scene play out.
He stood over Christopher, but the words were inaudible. He leaned over his crib and brushed his hair from his face.
He pulled something from his pocket and started back over Christopher but stopped suddenly.
The man heard as I ran up the hallway, startled he turned towards the window to make his escape.
“Did you see that?” Drake asked of the man’s face.
“No. It moved on the screen too quickly. Do you know who it was?”
He grabbed the remote and rewound to the part just before he turned into the camera and prepared to hit the pause button.
Drake timed it perfectly and hit the pause just as the man turned towards the camera and zoomed in.
“What the hell is that!” I gasped looking at the image on the television.
“That’s bad news,” Drake replied staring at the screen.
Paused at exactly 3:07am was the image of something very scary and very demonic. Paused on the screen was the face of pure evil. And the smirk on his face could only mean we were in for a game he was sure he’d win!