Aphelion Issue 289, Volume 27
November 2023
 
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The Devil’s Kiss

by Alexis Child




Selene Jackson had always been the black sheep of the family. A freethinker in a country town is always an outsider, naturally she became the queen of misfits. Friends would come and go, and when she usually needed him the most, her boyfriend was off on some drunken bender, nowhere to be found.

Being a witch in the Town of Mystic Falls, she was not only the black sheep of the family, but also of the coven. With her white hair and weak physical and emotional disabilities, she had been disowned by her family and her coven; but what they did not know was that when she moved to Mystic Falls, bizarre things began to happen: strange dreams that had her triggered for days on end, and apparitions in the woods with similar faces to her own, clutching a hatchet in their hands.

Selene Jackson was known as some bad-ass chick spiralling out of control, and no amount of help would ever lead to balance. She led a crazy, messed up life, not only as an outcast but surely as the devil's spawn.

Now, just one short year later, Selene finds herself trying to replace the pieces of her shattered life. Armed with a frozen heart and a cynical soul, Selene Jackson's jaded ways seem to backfire as she quickly finds herself fighting for her life, horrified by frequent paranormal events, convinced she’d tasted the Devil’s kiss.

***

Selene awoke from a fitful sleep with a pounding headache and curses on her lips. It was sure to be another one of those days, swallowed by the mouth of madness that left her questioning her own sanity, and always begging for more. She reached for her coffee, an antidote to depression and much cheaper than Prozac. It was only a temporary stay of execution. She had a bad feeling from the start things would go awry this morning.

Despite summoning the ancient deities for protection, Selene’s many electronic devices began to malfunction and the lights in her historic manor flickered on and off. These chaotic events seemed to have been done on purpose to vex her, she feared. The air that hung in the room became thick and oppressive. The hairs on her neck stiffened. Would the spirits ever be laid to rest? She had been playing hide and seek with the shadows for what seemed an eternity.

Living in a town that did not want her, she lived in a world that didn’t understand what it was like to be different than the rest, and her existence differed from regular people. She had to navigate the dangers of three implacable worlds: the harms of the physical, the unknown quantity of the spiritual, and the psychological nightmares of her own traumatic past; and was trapped within the confines of her own horrific memories making Selene feel she wasn’t good enough. There seemed to be no safe haven anywhere at all. Inside her soul, a snarling beast howled.

From the mouth of hell, something inhuman reached for Selene. Something unnatural, a demon, Selene believed, had taken root within her. It was clearly trying to kill her, she feared. There was a lump rising up in her throat, and she began to develop breathing issues and other chronic ailments. Selene talked with invisible people, peering around the corner of the door, crouching in the corner, and opening and closing the door. Even the tap water developed a terrible taste. When she spoke, her voice took on a deep and unnatural quality, utterly unlike her own. Later on that day, she felt as if she was being choked and held down so she couldn't speak or move at all.

She heard a deep-throated voice in her head spit out the words, "Have you found out what's in the walls yet?" and "I am pleased to know your name now, and the name of the young blood you have brought to me." This only raised more questions than answers. Her theories ranged from psychotic episodes to demonic possession. She either needed a psychologist or a Catholic Priest.

There was an odor of death and decay and things that should never see the light of day that now clung to every room in the manor. Selene was horrified. She turned towards the light and felt a sharp claw piercing her back. She cried out to the ancient deities she often prayed to for help, but a monstrous, bearded demon with horns and sharply pointed nails appeared. She must have invoked Belphegor, the Assyrian God, one of the seven princes of Hell.

There was horror, horror everywhere and full-on madness as scary as it comes. She couldn't differentiate between the demonic assault on her senses, and her own traumatized past memories – both had become a blurred phantasmagoria of very real nightmares lurking around every corner in her manor home. Was it real, or illusion – or did it even matter? The effects upon her fragile psyche were real enough.

The wall clock measured out Selene’s very destiny every hour on the hour as sure as the day was carved out of darkness and in blood. Fear was her only constant companion in this diabolical plot to drive her to the brink of insanity. Panic set in, and in this whirling state she must have blacked out. When Selene came to, she remembered hardly anything at all.

***

Evening arrived, and with it the hope that life would return from the precipice of a waking nightmare. Selene tried to eliminate the supernatural attacks with spiritual methods she had learned out of ancient tomes, but to no avail. The devil's merciless seas surrounded her and were out for vengeance. This ushered Selene into the ensuing descent into the maelstrom.

***

At the stroke of midnight, Selene let out a loud, painful scream. The once relaxing water in the shower was now painfully burning her skin; hot water pounding on her neck and back with what felt like bruising force. The sound of the shower stopped. She got out shivering and stood silent for a few moments. An ominous siren began to sound, rising in pitch, straight from a Stephen King novel. Satan and his minions were victorious, revelling in their power and glory. Fiercer is the power of ancient deities and angels if we do not procure to ourselves more fear. Selene was succumbing to a spiritual death and that was clear.

***

The clock strikes 3:33 a.m., the hour of Satan. The wolf hides behind Selene’s eyes and the flames consume her soul. This home, Mystic Falls Manor, came with a gruesome history, and an intangible, malefic presence that lived within its walls, drawn by its disturbing past; the challenge was whether she could rule over the manor’s other malignant tenant. Selene's every step seemed dogged and she realized that if she was to survive the manor’s violent forces, she must first uncover the its long-buried secrets and confront the demons of its past and her own inner demons as well.Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder set in blurring the lines of reality like ferocious tongues of fire rising up her body.

Selene indulged her traumatic flashbacks; they were familiar consolations of her past, yet also cut with the sharpness of a keen blade. She knew the familiar feeling all too well of these living scars, like creeping spiders up the wall. Out of confusion, tears began to flow. She didn't understand why this was happening to her. She never did. The strange world of the supernatural was one where she watched and waited for something to invariably happen and then, it did. Selene felt she was such an easy mark to be preyed upon although she had already learned the strange songs that have been sung in the wilderness.

As a witch, psychic, shape-shifter, demon and angel, Selene worshipped Inanna, her Queen of Heaven. Inanna was a warrior whose invocations were believed to bring fertility to the civilization of Sumer. In the power of her womb, Inanna held the cosmic power of sustaining the world, and committing herself as an initiate of the dark by even attempting the journey to the Underworld.

As the Queen of Heaven, Inanna is the enforcer of divine justice and an ancient Mesopotamian goddess of love, war, and fertility, beauty, sex and political power. She was originally worshipped in Sumer under the name "Inanna", and later by the Akkadians, Babylonians, and Assyrians under the name Ishtar. She was associated with the planet Venus and her most prominent symbols included the lion and the eight-pointed star. Her husband was the god Dumuzid (later known as Tammuz) and her sukkal, or personal attendant, was the goddess Ninshubur (who later became conflated with the male deities Ilabrat and Papsukkal).

Selene recited an ancient hymn to Inanna in her dreams. “Come sleep, O' sleep where melancholy cries out my name. From the well that cures, sing me a lullaby of pure water and a lapis lazuli sky enamoured from the light. Enslave me in forgetfulness divine. Forget the old me, find myself and explore, shine as never before.”

Selene continued the chant: “As you sang my name before I was born, you sing to me now. I am yours and you are mine in the murmuring and ruinous night. Strike the phosphorous clock in the shouting and crying prison palace. In the pool of self-pity, I imagine the divine feeling of effacing my white skin leading me into a thousand setting suns; the river in which I have shed my glorious and ancient blood.

Behold; the old has passed away, the new has come. I am the Queen of Hell to stop the escaping demons. It’s a pain inside that burns with the hottest of fires. The dead speak in forbidden tongues. I desire the pale moonlight that surrenders to us. Ghosts of tomorrow come to do their calling. Scrawled in the winds of the highest mountain top, we speak the last word as we go into the house of death where the perishable flesh hides inside us. Something goes but something remains. There is a window towards the west where our heart rests. I shall have with me all my days, my forehead bare, Imperium where the seasons come and go burying secrets we have never found in losing battles.”

The ancient hymn rose higher and higher on the winds of Mystic Falls Manor as Selene recited it. These chants reached the underworld and all four corners of the earth: “At your roaring and rumbling Inanna, Great-hearted Mistress, exalted among all the great princes, you determine their destiny. Who opposes the mistress who raises her head and is supreme over the mountains? Wherever Inanna reigns, cities become ruin mounds and haunted places, and shrines become waste land. When your wrath makes people tremble, the burning sensation and the distress you cause are like an ulu demon ensnaring a man. “

***

No one can oppose her murderous battle -- who rivals her? No one can look at her fierce fight, raging and sweeping over the earth; she leaves nothing behind. Inanna’s great heart performs Selene’s bidding, and the mistress alone fashions great punishments from her body to all Selene’s former adversaries.

Inanna washes their hearts with blood and gore, axes smash heads, and spears puncture, wrapped in ichor. The warrior’s evil mouth howls to the flesh of the land. On their first offerings she pours blood, filling them with blood in the wide and silent plain, darkening the bright daylight, and she turns midday into darkness as she performs the song of her heart.

When Inanna’s wrath subsides, Selene continues the chant that grows shriller in her descent to the Underworld, “It is not over yet-the fight where immortal dreamers failed. The night praises us and prevails. So long ago the cause was lost and is now a curse. We scarcely distinguish friend from foe; but if the dead can help it most-The armies of Legion will grow. Inanna, Goddess of the Underworld, a ferocious name dissolves on my tongue like honey and I whisper, Hades like a broken song.”

Selene hears the fractured melodies that would not set her free, “My dear, my dear, it is not so dreadful here. We’ve always been your friends, your cursed, unlikely companions. Before you became a ghost, you also wanted to escape. You have always been a beast in a cage. It is with us here you belong.”

Upon discovering her secret identity, Selene’s head ignited into fractious life, becoming a flaming skull, and she began a sweeping massacre on her loved ones and the coven that had made her an outcast in the Town of Mystic Falls. She was the spirit of vengeance and sought their demise. The dead spirits of her vengeance were defeated by the Demon Zanototh who eliminated the spirits of her enemies and imprisoned Selene along with these dead spirits in the implacable fires of hell for all eternity. Part of her wanted to go home, but she knew she didn't belong to the others. All who obeyed Selene now in the Underworlds exhausted themselves with weeping and grief and they lamented. "My lady, may your heart be restored for our sake!"

Selene crushed her servants’ heads like a tyrant, drenched in her own blood for she was Inanna’s black-eyed daughter. “Come to me at midnight, though hell bar the way!” she cursed to the sky.

A fire rises in the air. From the heat and smoke, eyes water and the victims of Selene choke. The flames spread, and their houses, their memories, burn, burn to the ground. Trees dead, homes wreathed in flame. All burns until there is naught but ash. All cry and cry and curse their gods. Their tears put out the flames.

When all is quiet, and stillness takes hold, a new fire is kindled, a fire of grace, and of love, a fire she wishes to share. From the ashes, Selene rises to rebuild her memories and her home. The fire inside ignites. From the ashes, she rises.

Selene was like fire burning for the things she loved, for the beauty she saw so wild and alive all around her. She would burn for places, for passion, for people, for memories that had been and will come. She would burn, bringing light into darkness as an energy that could not be extinguished. Here, demons would sleep and Selene would be Queen of the Underworld that had served her so well, both fearful and proud at her feet.

****

The flames that rose and combined beckoned to her soul and their lingering presence soothed her soul. Her wild eyes were bewitched by the fire in the night. A mighty woman with a torch stood at a golden door of the white flame. Selene walked in its path and the flame encircled her and she gave herself over to it, a tiny smile touching her lips. Fire licked her fingers and she suddenly knew she could go to a place of warmth where she belonged. She learned the flame’s ways and all the worlds waiting for her. The flame understood her, she chose her own path, and she was free to burn who she wished. The flame accepted her in a way no mortal never could and it never mocked or judged and it allowed her to feel liberated. She wanted to be with this fire alone that gave her strength and she was free to be herself, and to choose her own destiny from now on. She wanted to be, she could only be... herself.


THE END


2023 Alexis Child

Bio: Alexis Child hails from Toronto, Canada; home to dreams and nightmares. Besides having rare mystical experiences she hopes are not just short circuits in the brain, she offers Tarot Readings and writes poetry and fiction, starving in the garret with her muse. A starving child is a frightful sight. A starving vampire is even worse. Please donate non-perishable food items and B-negative blood (and make it a double!).
Alexis’ poetry and fiction has been featured in numerous online and print publications. Her debut collection of horror poetry, Devil in the Clock, is available on Amazon, followed by Singing the Bones (Cyberwit Publishing, 2022). Her third collection of poetry, Exquisite Corpse, is coming soon. You have been warned...

E-mail: Alexis Child

Website: Alexis Child's Website

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