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DADDY’S ANGELS



JESSICA



By Deb Whittam

Copyright 2018 Deb Whittam

Smashwords Edition







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Table of Contents

Daddy's Angels - Jessica

Lesson 21: Only amateurs resorted to this kind of tactic, right?

Lesson 22: Warning - Not recommended for children or zombies.

Lesson 23: Is it disappointing when it's obvious, or is that just me?

Lesson 24: Let's start the drum roll.

Lesson 25: If you don't first succeed - update your social networking status.

Lesson 26: Venturing into darkness? Wear boots.

Lesson 27: Sometimes blood has to be spilt.

Lesson 28: Stalling, it's a legitimate tactic... isn't it?

Lesson 29: Insight, it comes at a price.

Lesson 30: Holding out for a hero? It might be a long wait.

Lesson 31: Seriously, you expect me to believe this?

Lesson 32: Curious, that assumptions are now fact.

Lesson 33: Is there such a thing a legalized torture? Team bonding springs to mind.

Lesson 34: If you’re venturing into the unknown, at least take a torch.

Lesson 35: Water into wine, or zombie into oblivion.

Lesson 36: Time, it doesn't take sides.

Lesson 37: Bravery, just another word for stupidity.

Lesson 38: Why are last stands so dramatic? Wouldn’t a cup of tea be far more civil?

Lesson 39: All’s well that ends, not like this exactly.

Lesson 40: Put on your dancing shoes, it’s going to be a long night.

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DADDY’S ANGELS

JESSICA

If everyone has a plan, why doesn’t anything get done?



Lesson 21: Only amateurs resorted to this kind of tactics, right?



She had managed to evade her Uncle; she had fought her way past a hoard of gossips, she had even pretended to admire the floral arrangements, now, after all she had endured, she was damned if she was going to let a lock deter her.

“Monica, open up,” Who let a teenage girl install a lock on their door anyway? The Reverend would have had a fit if she even suggested such a thing, but Monica appeared to live in a far more liberal household and annoyed Jessica rattled the door handle again. “Monica be real, someone’s going to notice the smell of decomposing flesh eventually.”

The gasp from the other side of the door made her smile and satisfied Jessica took a step back to stare out of the first floor window. She had been hesitant to approach the other but the chances of Monica being discovered were increasing as time passed. It was only good fortune which had prevented discovery, for the neighbour’s sewerage had overflown.

As the door opened Jessica found her wrist seized in an iron grip and then she was hauled over the threshold into a room that was dark and damp.

Squinting she tried to focus and then, as her eyes adjusted to the lack of light, her jaw dropped.

“Ok God girl, you had this coming,” Monica exclaimed.





Lesson 22: Warning - Not recommended for children or zombies.



She had never been inclined to panic, but it suddenly seemed apt, for while Monica looked formidable in a black body suit, full lips pulled into a thin line, brunette hair tied at her nape, that wasn’t the reason her pulse had bumped up a notch.

No, that honor belonged to Monica’s zombie boyfriend, Darcy, who was pointing a gun square at her chest.

“This is your fault, you wanted Darcy and you were willing to do anything to get him.”

“No, I didn’t”

“You knew he could never love you, so you made him a zombie.”

“No, I didn’t”

“Don’t you have any shame? You stole the love of my life.”

“No, I didn’t.”

As far as tirades went, this one was world class and Monica hadn’t hit her stride yet.

“What?”

Jessica swung towards Darcy, unsure what surprised her the most. The fact that Darcy had asked an intelligent question or that Monica shut up. The later, she decided, for nothing short of an earthquake was apt to stop Monica once she got started.

Raising her eyes Jessica stifled the urge to cringe at Darcy’s bloated and mottled flesh, “I said I didn’t do any of that stuff.”

“How can you lie?”

Monica’s words were an agonized accusation and Jessica flinched, “That’s the whole point Monica, I can’t lie. As the daughter of Jesus, I’m not allowed to.”

In different circumstances they would have laughed, but it seemed when that you were standing in a room which stank of rotting flesh, you were inclined to be a bit more accepting.

“So if you didn’t do it, who did?”











Lesson 23: Is it disappointing when it’s obvious, or is that just me?



Even as Monica posed her question Darcy’s head jerked up as enlightenment dawned, bringing an unexpected animation to his emotionless facade.

“Cordelia.”

“So, she really is the Devil’s daughter?”

Jessica nodded, “Yeah, but she isn’t that bad …”

Her words were cut off as Monica continued, “And your Jesus’s daughter, so what am I?”

For a moment she was flummoxed, “You? Well, the innocent victim, I guess.”

Monica’s brow furrowed and Jessica struggled to hold back the inappropriate smile which threatened. That Monica would assume she was the axis on which the world turned was amusing, but it didn’t alter the fact that Darcy still held a gun.

“So, why are you here exactly?” Monica demanded and Jessica felt the first twinge of apprehension.

“Well, I wanted to try something, I’m not sure it will work but there’s a chance it will break the hold Cordelia has over Darcy, he could rest then.”

“Go on, do your best then,” Monica goaded.


Lesson 24: Let’s start the drum roll.



Monica’s disdain had the desired effect, she fumbled as she extracted the flask she had filled that morning, her confidence eroded in an instant. She had risked all to obtain this, for punishment would have been swift if she had been caught but now she knew that Monica’s skeptical gaze was far more intimidating than anything the Reverend could conceive.

“Cordelia was telling the truth when she said holy water renders the bond useless, but,”

“But what?”

“Well, it’s all too simple, isn’t it? To raise a zombie you need a ring, you need blood, you need the incantation but to get rid of everything you just need a bit of holy water.”

Even to her own ears her explanation sounded lame and aware of the increasing tension Jessica reached into her backpack to extract her secret weapon.

“What the hell is that?”

Monica’s dismissive tone made her bristle, even as Darcy shifted, uneasily.

“This is my Father’s cup,” She responded shortly.

“Your Fathers?”

“Yes,” Her reply was short, but it seemed to arouse Monica’s curiosity.

“Any your Father is Jesus?”

“Yes?”

“Wasn’t he a carpenter?”

“Yes,” She couldn’t prevent the note of surprise which had entered her voice, perhaps there was hope after all.

“And he made a wooden cup, that’s his claim to fame?”

“That’s absolutely correct Monica,” Her fuse was lit, “My Father was a carpenter; he wasn’t a corrupt town mayor.”

“How dare you?”

“How dare I? I didn’t ask to be in this mess, this is your fault.”

A knock at the bedroom door silenced them, “Monica, are you ok? Do you want her to leave?”

The glance Monica sent in her direction was furious but at Darcy’s frown she appeared to reconsider her options, “No, it’s alright.”

There was a telling quiver in Monica’s voice but Jessica had her own struggle, for though Monica had taken to burning candles, they did little to mask the scent of decomposing flesh.

“Alright, but you need to come down soon.”

As they listened to the retreating footsteps, Jessica bit back the envious words which hovered on the tip of her tongue, sighing before she uncorked the flask and poured the liquid into her Father’s cup, “Here, drink this.”

Darcy looked directly into her eyes and with complete trust, he drained the cup.

Silence hung over the room for a moment and then Monica demanded, “Well?”

She didn’t know whether to be thankful or thankless that nothing had happened, for while it confirmed her suspicions it meant that her least favoured option was now her only option.

“It didn’t work.”

“I can see that, why?”

“Because you can’t manufacture holy water, my Uncle can bless it all he likes, but it’s just water, nothing more.”









Lesson 25: If you don’t first succeed – update your social networking status.



Monica had been as reluctant as she had envisaged in letting her leave, for the other wanted explanations, demanding them, and the result was a pounding headache. Monica’s assumption that as the daughter of Christ she would have all the answers, was painful, things were never that simple.

“Jessica de Christos.”

The voice was a blast of cold air and Jessica paled, turning to eye the approaching figure with distaste. All of her life this one had been there, like a specter watching from the shadows.

“Jessica de Christos, where have you been?”

Carefully Jessica lowered her backpack to the ground, relieved when it didn’t produce any questionable noises, “To Monica’s.”

“Monica’s?” Mrs. McGaugley echoed, “You haven’t seen Cordelia?”

“No,” There was a note in the others voice that sounded almost like concern and she wondered what the other suspected, “Why?”

Mrs. McGaugley shrugged diffidently, “No reason.”

The urge to challenge the other was considerable but the bag at her feet made her reconsider; instead she held her tongue and watched as the other turned without another word.

Cordelia was absent, interesting but not unexpected.

Jessica smiled, Cordelia thought she had the advantage, but appearances were deceptive.





Lesson 26: Venturing into darkness? Wear Boots.



There just had to be a better way to spend your evening, for the graveyard sure wasn’t doing it for her. Jessica sat down with a grunt, her head was already aching after listening to the Reverend’s droning lecture, now she had to explain to a zombie and his girlfriend the finer points of resurrection. Perhaps she should store a chair here; at least she would be comfortable while doing it.

Jessica glanced up as a low giggle penetrated her fit of petulance, wrinkling her nose in distaste as she spied them. When she had taken her leave of Monica she may have agreed to help place Darcy’s soul at ease, but that didn’t mean she wanted to witness Monica’s untoward display of affection towards what amounted to a walking corpse.

As she watched Darcy lifted Monica’s hand to his lips, invoking a flirtatious giggle and Jessica shuddered. This was positively nauseating.

“Darcy, stop that now, this is neither the time nor the place.”

“You can say that again,” Jessica muttered, rising to her feet, “I’m over here.” She called out, relieved when the pair separated and as she watched them approach, she frowned, something was distinctly wrong.

Monica was no longer looked like a model wantabe, her once perky features were pale and gaunt, dark circles stained the skin beneath her eyes and there was a distinct quiver to her bottom lip. In comparison Darcy looked well, which was surprising considering he was a zombie. Yes he stunk, but he was still handsome, which was plain disturbing.

“Ok, we’re here, so this better be good, oh daughter of Christ.”

There was a bite in Monica’s voice but Jessica ignored it, for Monica’s pain was almost tangible.

“In a minute Monica, we’re waiting on,” She hesitated, uncertain how to explain.

“It’s Cordelia, isn’t it? I knew you couldn’t do this on your own.”

The criticism hit its mark but before she could respond Darcy had turned towards her, “This isn’t what you planned, is it?” He asked and Jessica shifted beneath his knowing gaze, “You don’t want to be responsible for saving mankind.”

In vain she tried to dredge up a response but then she spied it approaching and relief flooded through her, “Here she is now.”

Monica turned to glance over her shoulder, “We’re waiting for a dog?”



Lesson 27: Sometimes blood has to be spilt.



It may have been uncharitable, but she had expected Monica to succumb to hysteria at the sight of the approaching beast, but the others comment stymied her expectations. The girl appeared oblivious to the danger, though Darcy retreated a few steps and in that instant Jessica’s composure departed.

“Listen Monica, that’s no ordinary.”

“My God, it’s drawling on me.”

And it was; the hellhound had emerged from the darkness to tower over Monica, its head level with the others, its gaze intent.

Jessica frowned, horrified as Monica raised her hands to push the hellhound unceremoniously in the chest, demanding in a forthright tone, “Move back dog, sit down.” And as the beast complied, Monica reached out to pet the beast.

“Monica?” Darcy’s voice was low as he endeavoured to attract his girlfriend’s attention, “I wouldn’t do that.”

“Why?”

“Well, that isn’t an ordinary dog, is it?”

Monica frowned, “It is awfully big.”

“And strong.”

“Oh, so why is it here then?”

The pair turned their questioning gazes upon her and from behind her back Jessica drew a knife, ignoring Monica’s startled gasp as she plunged it into the Hellhound’s paw, twisting brutally to open a gaping wound as the beast howled.

“You cow.”

“Shut up Monica,” Jessica snarled, turning to the beast, “Hellhound heed me, heal yourself, heal yourself now.”

She commanded and before their eyes the creature disappeared but this did little to stem Monica’s fury.

“How could you? How could you hurt an innocent creature?”

Innocent? It wasn’t a term she associated with hellhounds but she held up a hand, counting under her breathe.

“Nineteen, twenty …”

Before she could mutter the next number the hellhound reappeared and Jessica let out a delighted shriek.

“Hah!” She bent down to examine the creature’s paw, “Completely healed, not a trace of a wound but...”

“Wet.”

Lesson 28: Stalling, it’s a legitimate tactic … isn’t it?



Jessica tensed; this wasn’t an ideal time for Cordelia to put in an appearance, for she wanted to conceal Darcy’s continued existence.

“What are you doing with my hellhound Jessica?”

Cordelia’s staccato tone was unnerving and in that moment Jessica caught a glimpse of it, a dark cloud which surrounded the other and she shivered. It was anger and this anger held a dark promise. Desperate to distract, she threw out the first thought that came into her mind, “Well I did summon them.”

Cordelia scowled, “You summoned them? Let’s be realistic, you had nothing to do with the hellhound’s appearance.”

Jessica frowned, searching the darkness for Monica and Darcy forms, but they had slipped away and relieved she turned to Cordelia, recognizing that there was a grain of truth in her words, “You didn’t either.” She responded and was surprised when the other stilled.

“If neither of us summoned the hellhounds, why are they here?”

“I was trying to get the hellhounds to help me,” She admitted, ignoring the other’s real query.

“Help you?” Cordelia shook her head, “You’re as crazy as those two old bats.”

For an instant Jessica considered protesting but then she realized what was bothering her. Cordelia’s pallor was accentuated by a bruise across her cheek and the hand she raised to her brow was trembling slightly.

“Are you alright Cordelia?”

Her query brought a snort, “Let’s put it this way, the Historian had her uses.”

Before she could respond, Cordelia was waving her words aside, “I’m going home Jessica, perhaps you should do the same. None of us are invincible on this dark night.”







Lesson 29: Insight, it comes at a price.



There was a routine to life in this household. Every conversation commenced with an accusation and today had been no different, except for one small alteration.

“Your expression has betrayed you.”

At her Aunt’s self-righteous tone she had looked up, wilting beneath the census in the other’s eyes. Guilt had always been her default response but as she had begun to stutter a response she turned towards the Reverend and caught his sympathetic look and she had paused.

Those who are favoured must maintain the dignity of the modest.” Surprised she had remained silent and her Aunt had taken advantage and continued her dirge. “You’re gloating Jessica de Christos. You’re rejoicing at another’s misfortune.”

In her head she had responded, ‘and you are enjoying lambasting me way too much, dear Aunt,’ but she knew from prior experience that any quip she formulated would be ruined in the delivery, so she had decided denial wasn’t an appropriate response.

Pushing her plate aside she had looked up, “You’re right Aunt. I have sinned.”

At her announcement her Aunt’s bottom jaw dropped open but it was the clatter of the Reverend’s cutlery which gave her the opportunity she sought. All evening she had been preoccupied, Cordelia’s situation was intolerable, “Can I be excused Sir? I know of someone who is in trouble and I haven’t acted. Isn’t that a sin?”

The Reverend features flushed as he conceded, “Well, to ignore another’s plight is certainly irresponsible.”

It had been easy to win her freedom after that and now as she trudged along the dirt path, she recalled the last time she had ventured out in the evening, then she had ended up attending an impromptu cremation.

“Jessica.”

The voice was low pitched but she still started in surprise, flushing bright red as she turned towards the speaker.

She had never liked Darcy, he was conceited and arrogant, privately she had labelled him an oxygen thief, but now in the wake of his death she was forced to concede that the other had loved Monica … that he continued to love her, even though he was caught in a nightmarish half-life.

“Darcy you can’t go around like this. If anyone catches sight of you there’s going to be hell to pay.”

Even as she spoke she regretted her words, Darcy’s existence was only one stop short of hell right now.

“You don’t say,” There was a tiredness in his voice; “I had to talk to you about what’s going on, about Monica and me.”

Stepping from the path Jessica queried, “What do you mean?”

“Well, you’ve noticed, haven’t you?”

“Noticed what?”

“That I’m healthy, healthier than when I was alive, while Monica is waning.”

And more intelligent, Jessica added as she nodded.

“I don’t know how she’s doing it, or even if she’s aware that she’s doing it, but Monica’s lifeblood is being transferred to me.” At Darcy’s explanation Jessica stilled, “If this continues Monica will die.”

“Why would Cordelia do that?”

Darcy stilled and then he laughed; the sound ringing with honest amusement, “It’s not Cordelia, Jessica. Monica is doing this; she loves me more than life itself.”

To say she was flabbergasted would be a complete understatement, though gob smacked might suffice and as if sensing her disbelief Darcy continued.

“Do you think the holy water will release me?” Perplexed, she nodded. “But you don’t know where the water is?”

“Short of repeatedly injuring the hellhound so we can follow it, no.” Darcy stared at her and as he turned she called out, “Hey, where are you going?”

“To find it,” He replied and then like all creatures of the night, he slipped away.

Why did evil have that advantage? She would have tripped over if she had tried it.

Sighing deeply Jessica turned, only to stumble and fall and she cursed, one day somebody would pay.



Lesson 30: Holding out for a hero … it might be a long wait.



Jessica stared at Natalie in disbelief, “What do you mean you can’t intervene?”

The other’s lips tightened as she peered through the narrow gap, “Cordelia’s issues are her own, she is not the daughter of the devil, she is just misguided.”

Annoyed at the parroted words Jessica pushed against the door, only slightly surprised when it drifted open.

Natalie’s sigh was completely unconvincing, “Drat, you made me open the door.” She murmured as Mrs. McGaugley glanced up with a scowl. “Sister, we have a visitor.”

While Mrs. McGaugley’s expression denoted her annoyance, it was the large book upon the table which destroyed Natalie’s prior statements.

“Something is hurting Cordelia, she needs help. You can’t just abandon her to the forces of darkness.” Perhaps it was her upbringing, perhaps it was a sense of guilt but suddenly she knew that this was a battle she had to fight.

Mrs. McGaugley huffed as she rose to her feet, “Cordelia’s situation is not our doing, it’s her heritage. She will either learn to rise above it or succumb. My sister was correct, we can’t intervene.”

“Because of the rules?” Jessica injected, and when the other nodded she felt a certain satisfaction, “So you’re willing to interfere and let a young man die but not do the same to save a young woman. I think you’re priorities are just screwy.”

The pair looked baffled as she continued, “Well you two may have decided that Cordelia and I are not that important but let me tell you that I will be there on the day of reckoning and you will pay.”

As she spoke it had grown darker and then a flash of lightening lit the room and for the first time she saw what they had attempted to conceal, they were afraid. It was there in the dark circles beneath their eyes, the paleness of their complexion, the crosses they had strewn around the room. Jessica’s lips tightened.

“Don’t expect God to help you when that time comes.” She muttered, furious beyond compare.

As the door drifted closed she took a deep breathe, her head was pounding, her cheeks were flushed but she was actually proud. Then she heard it, a low chuckle, except it didn’t sound particularly amused.

“Well, that was entertaining,” Cordelia stated, “I was going to confront the old bats myself, but you did such a good job I think you would have upstaged me.”

“If I did such a good job, why will they do nothing?”

“Because there is some truth in their words, this is my heritage and they aren’t meant to interfere. They only went against that rules because we enlisted outside assistance, zombies aren’t designates of heaven or hell.”

Jessica stared at the other in disbelief, “Your defending them?”

Cordelia shrugged, “No, I would love it if they intervened, but what could they do? Look, their intent on that stupid book again.”

As she turned towards the window she heard Natalie’s voice ring out, “This isn’t meant to be happening sister.”

“Try telling them that, the war between heaven and hell is meant to be exactly that, but the book makes it clear that something else has entered the fray. It has the potential to make foes allies and that would be catastrophic.”

“But really it can’t be her; it would be an amazing coincidence.”

There was that word again and Jessica tensed, even as Cordelia glanced over her shoulder.

“Well, there’s a surprise.” Cordelia muttered, “Jessica, get out of here.”

“What?” Distracted she looked back and then she spied it, a dark shape with only one possible identity, “Is that?”

“One of my tiresome visitors? You need to go Jessica.”

“But…”

“They’re after me, not you. Go, I’m still my Father’s daughter if nothing else.”

Even as she turned Jessica realized that she couldn’t take any reassurance from Cordelia’s words, for hell seemed to have changed the rules and they weren’t in Cordelia’s favour anymore.

She glanced towards the pair inside, realized that they had stilled and then back, but Cordelia was gone, so was her dark assailant.

Both had disappeared into the impenetrable darkness.

Lesson 31: Seriously, you expect me to believe this?



The first morning back at school may have been shockwaves and tremors but it was the underlying sense of uneasiness which caused her lips to purse, that and the revelation that the whole school was going on camp. That was just odd.

At the sound of high heels tapping on the laminated floor, Jessica looked up, coming to an immediate halt as she caught sight of Monica striding towards her, an immense tomb of a book clasped to her chest. A book she recognized and horrified Jessica clasped a hand over her mouth.

“This stupid book reckons I’m adopted,” The other announced affronted.

“You can’t have that book Monica,” This wasn’t possible, this wasn’t even comprehendible. “Where, no how, did you get it? Oh my god, we have to take it back right now.”

At her words Monica frowned, “Why can’t I read it? Darcy brought it over; he said it tells where the water is.”

Monica’s words brought a distorted sense of reality to the situation, which did little to calm her thudding heart and she struggled to decide what was more disturbing - Monica’s matter of fact tone, Darcy stealing the Book of Time, or the fact that the Book just happened to be taking an interest in the girl who stood before her. Jessica gritted her teeth, this better not be an indication of how the term was going to play out.

“Monica,” With an effort she kept her voice low, “That is a very special book, it’s not for mortals.” Even as she rebuked the other, it struck her as to what the other had actually said, “How did you read it? You shouldn’t even be able to open it.”

As Monica’s lips tightened Jessica immediately regretted her words.

“Like this,” The other stated, opening the book effortlessly and in that instant all was altered. The sound of bells filled the air, a delightful melody which tantalized the senses and the world expanded before her very eyes, before she reached out and slammed the book shut.

“Don’t do that ever again Monica.” Her words were a whisper for she was touched by a sense of awe.

“The water’s in a cave at the National Park,” Monica’s voice was brimming with excitement, “I’ll come up with my Father, Darcy and the dog can come in the boot.”

It was all happening to fast, “Dog?”

“You know; the one from the graveyard, Becky.”

“Becky? You called the hellhound Becky?”

Monica flushed, “Well that’s her name.”

“Could this get any worse? Give me that damn book, I’ll take it back.”

As she reached out to seize the object she felt it, resistance, the Book of Time refused her. It was a slap in the face and as her arms dropped to her side Monica stepped forward, oblivious to her distress.

“Isn’t it good that we know where the water is?”

Pushing aside her emotions Jessica nodded, “Yep, we just have to find an excuse for going there now.”

“But that’s where it is.”

“What are you talking about Monica?”

“That’s where the school camp is.”

It was a sucker punch to the stomach, another one of those random coincidences that seemed to orbit Monica. No wonder Darcy loved her with such devotion, fate was her constant companion.

“Has anyone ever told you that you’re astonishingly lucky?” She asked caustically.

“Look, there’s Mrs. McGaugley; I have to give her a book.”

She wanted to protest but it all seemed rather pointless and she waved Monica away, but the other wasn’t waiting for her permission, she had already gone.

“Go on then, I’m sure it will all work out; it wouldn’t dare not too.”













Lesson 32: Curious, that assumptions are now fact.



Jessica jumped as the bag landed at her feet, “What’s with the new bestie, Jessica?”

Cordelia’s caustic question may have marked the end to the solitude of the bus ride but as she looked up to see the yellow bruise which stained the others cheek, she knew there were more important questions to be answered.

“I don’t know,” Though she wasn’t afforded the luxury of lying, she was under no obligation to divulge the truth either, a fine tightrope, but one worth walking on this occasion.

Cordelia seemed to muse on her reply, savoring its taste before pronouncing her verdict, “Nah, not buying it, anyway that’s not why I’m here … it’s the hellhounds.”

The others voice had dropped to a whisper and Jessica leant forward, “The hellhounds?”

“Their missing,” Cordelia raised a hand to her face wincing; “I kind of need them.”

The gesture said it all and Jessica bit back the flippant reply that hovered on the tip of her tongue, being the daughter of the Devil seemed to have its disadvantages.

“Can’t your dad do anything?”

Cordelia’s laugh was bitter, “He doesn’t appear inclined. There’s something in the Book of Time that’s taking all of his attention.”

At the mention of the Book, Jessica averted her face, recalling how Monica had opened it without a care. That should have been impossible, but her interaction with the hellhounds fell into the same category.

“Monica …”

Cordelia was all attention now, “What about her?”

“The hellhound was fascinated by Monica.”

“How the hell did Monica come into contact with the hellhounds?”

Jessica shrugged, annoyed at her slip, “Monica was upset about Darcy, so I went with her to the graveyard. The Hellhound turned up and slobbered all over her.”

“Really?” Cordelia’s tone was incredulous, “Tell me you’re joking.”

She shook her head and the Cordelia sighed, “The friends my dad sent are curious about her as well. I don’t like Monica but I like them even less.”

As Cordelia spoke the bus ground to a stop and Cordelia turned to glance out of the window, “Keep an eye on her Jessica, caves are below the surface, closer to my Father’s dominion and he’s acting a bit obsessive at the moment.”

According to Monica the caves weren’t the only thing closer to the devil’s lair, they were also the access point to the Holy Springs.

Why did that fail to surprise her?



Lesson 33: Is there such a thing a legalized torture? Team bonding springs to mind.



Here they were, in one of the most beautiful national parks in the world and what did the school board decide was a fitting activity? Team bonding, it had been a long day.

Wearily Jessica brushed the hair back from her face, grimacing at the scratches and bruises she had acquired through participating in what they termed games. Relegated to a team with the athletic ability of squid she had been unsurprised when they had failed to complete any of the assigned tasks. In the end they had taken to watching, it was safer for all.

Now, as they sat around the campfire burning marshmallows, she wondered what was next on the agenda and how long it would take, for this was the support act to the main event.

“Welcome to your evening of fun and excitement, planned by our clueless school faculty.” The comment was delivered in a blasé tone but Cordelia’s expression was the picture of contempt, “This is going to be so tragic.”

Jessica suppressed the exclamation which sprung to her lips, aware that she was the only one who saw Cordelia’s damaged and sensing Cordelia’s brooding anger she forced a smile, “You did really well today. I had no idea that you were so skilled in throwing the javelin. You only missed Mrs. McGaugley by inches.”

Cordelia’s lips twisted, “Not that skilled, I was trying to skewer the old bat.”

Uncertain, she decided to ignore the comment, “Well, I think she has a few more grey hairs now.”

Cordelia scowled but dropped to the ground, “I was trying to warn them that I’ve had enough.” And as if to emphasis her point she drew up the sleeve of her jumper to reveal an arm mottled with bruises and sliced with festering claw marks, “I’m through with being a punching bag.”

“I gave my Dad an ultimatum,” Cordelia’s voice was low and Jessica felt her fear, it ebbed and flowed, a seething mess, “He said all would be revealed tonight.”

Jessica held her tongue as she watched the teacher’s manhandle a number of large boxes to the camp fire curbing any further discussion and then a pale and wan Monica came to sit beside the head teacher, who smiled at her with feigned concern.

“Quiet students, quiet.”

A murmur of voices, coughs and laughter follows the command before silence fell over the assembled.

“As you are aware a tragic accident led to the death of one of our favourite pupils during the break.”

“I didn’t know theft was classified as a tragic accident.” Cordelia murmured.

“It’s at times like this that we learn and realize that our time on this planet is limited and should be used wisely,” The head teacher continued, reaching out to take Monica’s hand and drew the other to her feet.

“While I am sure we are all grateful to the Mayor for making this trip possible, it is Monica who came up with the reason we are all assembled tonight.” Here she indicated the boxes and Jessica felt a sudden chill. “These packages have been provided by those close to your heart. We requested that they provide a gift which will help you in these dark times, and this one is for you, Monica.”

“Oh how convenient,” Cordelia’s voice was sickly sweet and Jessica sent her a pointed look, “What? You think it’s coincidental that the first just happens to be for Monica?”

Jessica stilled, that word again and as she watched Monica open her gift she reached the only conclusion possible, there were no coincidences.

“Oh,” Monica’s exclamation was soft and then she laughed. It was a joyous sound, “These were Darcy’s favourite. I love these biscuits.” She held them aloft and then turned the card over, “From a true friend.”

Monica’s bafflement was obvious but the teachers were already busy handing out the remainder of the parcels and Jessica watched as Monica turned the pack over, paused and then grew as white as frost before slipping away.

Preoccupied Jessica took receipt of her own parcel, her eyes fixed on Monica’s retreating back and it was only as she pried the lid open did she understand the significance of her gift. “It’s the Reverend’s compass.” At her words Cordelia glanced over, “He got it at his ordination; it’s his most cherished possession.”

“It doesn’t look like a compass.” Cordelia noted and Jessica smiled.

“Of course not, it’s from the Reverend. It’s a moral compass; it shows the one true path.”

Cordelia whistled and Jessica realized that the other was holding her own gift gingerly, as if it was set to explode and curious she asked, “What is it Cordelia?”

“It’s from my Father,” Cordelia responded as she opened the minute box and Jessica leant forward as the other’s lips opened in a soundless gasp.

“What did he give you?” She asked, baffled by the other’s reaction.

Cordelia hesitated before holding up a small glass bottle.

Inside the vial a dark liquid frothed and bubbled, a liquid which seemed transparent, almost insubstantial and Jessica felt a coldness grip her as she stared at it spellbound.

“It’s a vial of my Father’s blood.”

Cordelia’s voice was the sound of death.



Lesson 34: If you’re venturing into the unknown, at least take a torch.



Holding the lantern aloft she stared down the passageway that lay before her, and then she turned, to consider the other opening. Each was dark, each seemed to stretch endlessly ahead, each seemed hauntingly eerie but the first led up, while the second went further underground. The first smelt of fresh air, the second of a dank rottenness. The first led to safety and according to the Reverend’s compass, the second led to hell.

Jessica sighed, as far as choices went, this one was the pits.

“Jessica it’s straight ahead, why are we waiting?”

She scowled at Monica’s words, it had been going well until this point, too well, and her suspicions were well and truly aroused.

They had decided to sneak off at the first opportunity but that it would come in the form of shouts echoing around the campsite, laughs and yells which set the teacher’s running was unexpected.

Unbeknown to them the boys had decided to instigate a panty raid and they had thrown caution aside to plunge headfirst into the first cave they stumbled across. That this cave just happened to lead to a series of interconnected tunnels which, through the use of the compass, just happened to led them to this point, was unconvincing.

Everything just happened to be falling conveniently into place, no wonder her instincts were on high alert. It all stank.

“Jessica,” At Monica’s voice she lifted her eyes from the compasses dial, “Someone’s following us.”

“Really, how can you tell?”

“Bessy told me.”

The response made her grit her teeth, hellhound, zombie and now a stalker, this was getting plain tedious.

“It’s just down there, why are we waiting?”

“Because it’s not the only thing down there,” She muttered but the other had turned back to her zombie boyfriend and pushing aside her fear, Jessica moved forward.

That first night she had gone looking for a zombie she had been woefully unprepared. In the back of her mind she had been certain she could hit pause if it all turned sour, but now she recognized the truth. Death didn’t take hostages and neither did the Devil.

She knew that in her current incarnation she might be vulnerable but she wouldn’t die, Monica on the other hand was a different matter and as she turned the corner Jessica paused. There was a light at the end of the tunnel which revealed a cavern and even from this distance she spied it.

“It’s the spring,” Darcy’s voice may have held a note of expectation but uncertain she paused.

While the spring had initially attracted her attention as it bubbled up through a small hole in the rock’s surface, it was the paraphernalia which surrounded it that drew her eyes. The spring was surrounded by torches that spanned its perimeter, but this light revealed an uncomfortable truth. There were only two exits - the one they stood poised at and a second which veered steeply down and even before casting a glance at the Reverend’s compass, she knew what lay at its conclusion.

As if sensing her reluctance to precede the hellhound, Bessy, pushed through their ranks, a low growl rumbling from her throat.

“Yes, the spring.” Monica echoed; a note of sorrow in her voice that brought Jessica back to the present for this was the moment Monica would lose her one true love forever.

“Jessica, can you get the water?”

For a moment she wanted to protest but at Darcy’s pointed look she pushed aside her reservations and dropping her backpack she retrieved the cup and approached the spring. Frowning at the meagre trickle of water which bubbled through the hole to form a pool Jessica leant down to fill the cup, wondering if it was a sign. Perhaps the holy relics would no longer exist one day, perhaps the world would be abandoned to its own fate.

As she rose to her feet she realized that Darcy was approaching, leaving Monica at the entrance, her head bowed as tears ran freely down her face and as Darcy extended his hand she felt grief – this was her fault, hers and Cordelia’s.

“Well, isn’t this a touching scene.”

As the voice rang, she started and the cup slipped from her grasp.





Lesson 35: Water into wine, or zombie into oblivion.



In that moment one myth was firmly put to rest, for time didn’t slow in moments of crisis, it just kept going and as Jessica watched her Father’s cup plummet towards the floor she felt a little saddened, it would have been nice to witness slow motion.

As it was, she had no time to act, she barely had time to comprehend what was happening, she didn’t even get time to throw a plea to her Father, the only thing she had time to do was squeeze her eyes closed and grimace.

Though she anticipated the thud, the silence was broken by a slow rhythmic clapping instead and surprised Jessica opened her eyes to see Cordelia smirking.

“And there it is folks, the preordained moment we all knew would happen. Dashing Darcy, the supposedly vanquished zombie plucks the cup out of mid-air.” Cordelia leant over to peer at the floor and then clasped a hand to her mouth in mock astonishment, “And he didn’t spill a drop. C’mon girls, three cheers for the zombie.”

If Cordelia expected a reaction she was destined to be disappointed, for her comment fell into a cold pool of silence and Jessica wondered why the other bothered as she watched Monica move forward.

“Darcy, this is it.” Monica’s voice was a low whisper and Jessica acknowledged that Darcy had been correct, somehow Monica was keeping her boyfriend’s physical form from deteriorating, but it had taken its toll.

“It’s for the best babe, I can’t stay here.”

“I know, but I’ll miss you.”

“Oh my God,” Cordelia exclaimed, “I feel like I’ve stepped into a soap opera.” Monica glared but Cordelia held a hand up, “A protest? Well, you know it could be a soap opera, all we need is a villain and a cliffhanger.”

“Ignore her Darcy, she’s a megalomaniac.”

Jessica stilled, recalling the expression on Cordelia’s face when she had received her gift at the campfire, the gift of her Father’s blood.

Surreptitiously Jessica lifted the compass, the arrow was pointing directly at Cordelia.

Panicked she threw a glance towards the hellhound, but it had headed to the mouth of the other tunnel and aware that time was not on her side, she made her decision.

“Darcy, drink the water.” She yelled and whether it was because of her call or because Monica swayed alarmingly, Darcy did as he was bid and gulped the water down.

For a moment nothing happened and then he began to glow, it was a soft light at first but it grew in intensity, consuming Darcy in a cleansing holy fire and as Monica sobbed Jessica turned, only to catch sight of Cordelia wiping a tear from her alabaster cheek.

It was then that she saw it, a movement in the shadows, and instinctively she stepped towards the other tunnel, only to stop as Cordelia called out.

“Going somewhere, God girl? That was just the entrée sweetheart; main course is yet to be served.”

“It’s been a long day Cordelia; can’t we do the bloodshed and retribution tomorrow?”

Cordelia appeared disconcerted, “No we can’t continue this tomorrow, really Jessica; this is it. This is the moment of the final reckoning.”

At her words Monica laughed, the sound infused with bitterness but Cordelia was already extracting the vial from her pocket and Jessica felt her pulse accelerate.

“Cordelia,” The word was a warning but the other only scowled.

“Don’t Cordelia me, you’re not the one being attacked by demons every night, you’re not the one who can’s answer their questions.”

“I can help.”

“Help? You can’t even navigate your way to holy water; you needed a compass from your beloved Uncle, the Reverend.”

“I did not.”

“Yes you did and if I’m going to get those beasts off my back, I have to prove my worth,” Cordelia unstopped the vial, “Polluting your holy water should do the trick.”

“No.”

While her protest may have been anticipated, Monica’s wasn’t and they both turned towards the girl.

“That’s not what the book says,” Monica stated as the cave was flooded by a golden light and music filled the air.

Lesson 36: Time, it doesn’t take sides.



Aghast Jessica stared at Monica; the other was flicking casually through the most sacred book as if it was a weekly gossip magazine, and unable to even formulate a response she turned to Cordelia who whispered in a reverent tone, “Is that?”

“Yes it is,” Jessica hissed, striding towards Monica as fury took hold, “I saw you return the book to Mrs. McGaugley.” She snarled and Monica looked up, bewildered.

“Mrs. McGaugley? Why would I give her this book?” She asked, turning another page over and causing a wave of sound to fill the room, “I gave her my overdue library book.”

At that remark Cordelia laughed, but it was forced and as Jessica shot her a pointed look the other shrugged, “Well you have to admit, it’s kind of funny. She doesn’t know what it is, does she?”

“No,” Jessica responded, “Do you have any idea what you risked by bringing that book here?”

Monica looked up, “But it’s about me? Why would that be dangerous?”

“About you, are you serious? That’s the Book of Time, it records history and it’s the only accurate account that has ever existed and my Father…”

Jessica felt chilled, the other had decided that a demonstration of loyalty would please her Father and what could demonstrate that better?

“No it isn’t,” Monica’s voice was firm, “It’s about me, I know that because it even says what will happen next.” She didn’t want to take the bait but as the silence lengthened Monica prompted, “Don’t you want to know?”

“No,” It was Cordelia who responded, “Regardless of what it says, Jessica is right. It was dangerous to bring the book down here. This is the entrance to evil Monica.”

“Is that why you wanted me to give it to Mrs. McGaugley?”

“She writes the book,” Cordelia responded and for a moment Jessica wondered why the other was indulging Monica’s curiosity and then she noticed the hellhound, the hackles on its back were standing at attention.

“Then she knows my name is really Faith. Why didn’t she tell me?” It was a heartfelt lament but Jessica disregarded it as she shot a glance at the compass. It was spinning madly.

Throwing caution aside she ran towards the tunnel, her heart racing and as she reached the opening she saw it, its eyes were as red as the furnaces of hell.


Lesson 37: Bravery, just another word for stupidity.



There might come a moment in every girl’s life when they give up that dream of being prom queen and settle for something far more achievable, but this wasn’t such a moment for her. For running head first at a demon wasn’t something that featured on her to do list, rather it was death, in capital letters.

As it leant forward, its arms outstretched; its fine lace-like ebony wings creating an insubstantial barrier, its gaze locked upon her, Jessica recognized the deep-seeded hatred reflected in its red eyes. In the back of her mind it struck her that what she beheld wasn’t what she had anticipated. She had visualized demons as large, muscular beasts, but the thing which dropped to the floor, put that idea to rest. She saw all of this, she saw the ivory white talons, the glittering sharpness of teeth which were long and cruel, she even saw the intelligence shining from its red hot gaze, but it was the demon’s fragility which simultaneous repulsed and fascinated.

At first she thought it was an illusion, the gaping holes which exposed bones and muscles, were a figment of her terrified mind, but as the distance between them narrowed she realized that the demon might wear a skin but beneath it was insubstantial. There was nothing, no lungs, no heart, no mortality. This creature was a mockery of life and they were just about to collide.

She wanted to swerve, she wanted to turn tail and run, she wanted to live, but deep down she knew that if the demon got to the Book of Time, there would be nothing left.

As she hit the creature she felt it, an unexpected solidity that belied appearances and as the beast leant into her, its teeth touching her ear, it’s rancid breathe scorching the tender flesh of her neck she felt paralyzed. It took advantage of her fear, lashing out with a striking blow that caused her head to ricochet and stunned she fell to the ground.

Shaky and disorientated she shuffled backwards but the demon was single-minded in its pursuit and though she strived to conjure up a means of repelling it, she knew she had underestimated the hideous beast.

“Get down Jessica,” Cordelia’s voice was close, too close and perhaps in saner times she may have questioned why she obeyed the other, now, when death was millimeters away, she obeyed without a second thought, throwing herself back, eyes wide as fangs missed her face by inches.

Looking up from her prone position she saw Cordelia throw it and she gasped in surprise recognizing the vial of the Devil’s blood as it struck the demon’s torso and spewed its contents forth. Smoke rose from where the blood scorched the demon’s flesh and an acrid scent filled the air as the beast reared back, its neck arching as it screeched and threw its arms wide and cautiously she raised her head, only to meet eyes which glimmered with a dark amusement.

Uncomprehending Jessica scrambled to her feet, more afraid than she had ever been, as Cordelia moved to her side.

“Your Father will be so pleased, Darkling Daughter” The demon smiled, “Pleased that your weakness has been exposed.”

It threw back its head and laughed, even as Cordelia grabbed her arm whispering, “Exit stage left, rapidly.”

Lesson 38: Why are last stands so dramatic? Wouldn’t a cup of tea be far more civil?



She couldn’t explain why, but despite Cordelia’s urgings she just stood there. Watching the demon became larger, stronger, more confident, too stunned to comprehend, her flesh too damaged to react. She was the deer caught in the headlights, until Cordelia, immune to the danger, reacted. Cordelia yanked upon her arm with an unexpected strength, dragging her away from the beast, who considered them with a hungry intent.

“Your Father will be disappointed Darkling Daughter, that you are keeping company with her.”

The beast’s voice was flat and tinny, its words designed to incite a reaction but Cordelia remained silent and surprised Jessica glanced at the other, surprised to see her lips moving soundlessly. Glancing around she realized that the cavern was bathed in a subtle orange hue which seemed to be emanating from Cordelia’s clenched fist.

“Witchcraft, you dare to use witchcraft against me?” The demon snarled.

Cordelia flinched, “I’ll use whatever I have demon.” She replied, her voice resonating with a deep seeded hatred, “My Father may wish me dead, but I’m not ready to die.”

Cordelia’s response seemed to stun the demon, for it paused as they reached the safe haven of the spring, “You dare?” There was a note of warning in the demon’s tone.

“Tell Father I’ll see him in hell, tell him I’m coming.”

“What?” Astounded Jessica turned towards Cordelia and saw a truth reflected upon her youthful visage and in that moment she knew that their childhood was over.

The demon considered Cordelia for a moment and then it turned, dismissing them as it focused upon Monica, who appeared oblivious to the danger of her situation. Her features were calm even as the demon lunged forward, its red eyes glowing bright but before it could reach Monica, a dark figure, all fur and fury, hurtled from the shadows.

The hellhound was enraged, teeth barred as its fur stood on end, it lashed out and the demon came to a halt, reeling back in surprise at the unexpected attack. It cast off its initial surprise with ease, lashing out with one arm that the hellhound evaded before lunging to knock the demon from its feet. The demon grunted at the blow but before it hit the cavern’s wall, it took flight, a graceful figure of dark intent.

It circled the cavern as the hellhound hunkered down and aware of its purpose, Cordelia raised her fist and a fireball erupted from her palm, forcing the demon to swerve in avoidance, and reassess its options. The hellhound retreated to stand before the girl who held the Book of Time protectively to her chest, barring its teeth threateningly. The silence lengthened as each took stock of the situation and Jessica knew that though they were evenly matched, it was evident that only one had nothing to lose, for the demon was a mass of seething madness, empowered by its Master’s blood.

It let loose a furious attack, all talons, teeth and a terrible rage; it threw itself forward and though the hellhound stood its ground, the assault found its mark and the hellhound let forth an agonized howl. Pain vibrated in the sound, but the hellhound didn’t retreat, rather it withheld the brunt force of the demon’s rage, determined to protect the girl, even though it was destined to lose the fight.

As blood stained the cavern’s floor, the hellhound lifted its head to stare at the demon, then it tensed and sprang forward and Jessica winced, hearing the hellhound’s bones crack as the demon kicked out, knocking the beast aside as if it was no more than a shadow.

Cordelia screamed and ran forward but flames leapt forth causing a thick black smoke to rise and obscure their view.

Forced back by the intense heat they heard a yell, a cry of despair, then nothing.



Lesson 39: All’s well that ends, not like this exactly.



As the fire died down and the smoke abated it was the silence which struck Jessica as being the most out of place. It gave the cavern an eerie aspect and despite the heat which still lingered in the air, she shivered, feeling feverish and chilled.

Even as she tried to comprehend what had occurred, Cordelia ran over to where the hellhound lay, its leg twisted at right angles, its skull bleeding profusely and as the other fell to her knees sobbing, she recalled another who had also suffered a loss that evening.

“Monica,” Jessica murmured and then she lurched forward, vaguely surprised that she felt so weak, that pain strummed at every nerve, then as panic beset her she called out, “Cordelia, is Monica alright.”

“Who cares?” The other responded, though she turned her head, “She’s just sitting there.”

“Really?”

“Yes really, if you’re so concerned,” Cordelia’s tone was snide but as she turned her head she paused in her rebuke, “Jessica, use the holy water.” She advised before turning back to the injured hellhound.

Realizing that the other had a valid point, Jessica forced her reluctant legs to carry her to the spring and as she knelt down she frowned. There was only a meagre supply of the water and the need wasn’t limited and with care she scooped a small amount into the palm of her hand, feeling its power immediately.

It was life, it was the essence of true magic, it was also temptation and lifting her hand to her mouth she took a sip. Cold and pure it trickled down her throat, revitalizing, healing, mending and as the pain abated she rose to her feet, casting a concerned glance towards the other.

She was caught in her own world, one where misery wouldn’t abate and recalling all the other had done, all the other had endured, she retrieved her Father’s cup and filled it to the brim.

Moving with care she walked to the other’s side, “How is she?”

“She’s dying,” Cordelia responded, her voice cold and harsh, “But she’s expendable.”

“What?”

“Give it to her, to the princess. She needs it more.”

It took her a moment to realize that Cordelia was referring to Monica, but she hesitated then shook her head, “Give it to Bessy.”

“What?”

“Use it on the hellhound, she’s one of us.” It sounded lame, but it was the truth.

Cordelia looked up astonished, “Really?”

“Yep,” Jessica bent down and before the other’s amazed eyes slowly trickled the last of the holy water over the distressed creature. The contents may have been meagre, the hound may have been an agent of evil but where the water touched a golden light appeared and began to spread over the hellhound’s inert form.

Smiling Jessica placed a hand on Cordelia’s shoulder, “I’ll be back.”

Drawing a deep breath she turned, “Monica?” At her voice the other looked up and Jessica recoiled at the coldness reflected in deep blue eyes, “Are you alright?”

The others lips turned up but the smile lacked warmth, “Sure, where am I? Who are you?”

Glancing at Cordelia she stated the obvious; “I think she has amnesia.”

Cordelia snorted in reply, “Convenient that,” Jessica frowned, “Well you can’t ask her where the book is now, can you?” It was a kick in the gut and her stomach plummeted. “Guess since you saved my dog, I’ll have to tell the old bats that we lost the Book of Time.”

Cordelia’s laugh was humorless.





Lesson 40: Put on your dancing shoes, it’s going to be a long night.



She shivered, as she reached into her backpack, her brow furrowing as she ferreted inside and within seconds the other returned to the room, its red eyes burning as it sidled up to stand beside her.

“See, I spoke the truth, your friends chose to heal the other over you.”

She paused, looking up at the TV which hung in the air before them, “But that isn’t me, is it?”

“Well, no.”

“So, they did the right thing.”

Her companion waved her logic aside, “That isn’t the point; they have left you at a disadvantage.”

Though his voice was oily and slick her attention had already waned, for she had pulled forth the pack of biscuits and now she held one up, squealing in delight, “Look, its shaped like Bessy.”

The other bent close to study it, before she took a bite, chewing heartily on the almond biscuit with obvious delight.

“You can alter this, you know.”

Curious she paused, “Can I?”

Sensing an opportunity he played his trump card, “You hold the Book of Time, you can shape reality.”

Taking another bite she considered his words, watching as the three picked their way back through the tunnels, noticing that Bessy seemed hesitant to leave.

“I don’t like this place,” She stated hollowly, shifting on the cold hard ledge, “It’s too drab, it’s too cold, it’s too dark.”

The other frowned and she hid a smile as she reached for the pencil he had left conveniently within reach. She saw him stiffen, knew his expectations ran high and then she bent to write, watching as the words seemed to sink into the very fabric of the page.


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