The doorway opened and he stared directly into Hell. Job took a deep breath and gazed inwards. He had seen a lot in his relatively young life yet he still could not get over a crippling fear of enclosed spaces. Thus the involuntary tremor that snaked down his spine as he peered into the elevator. He had just completed an important assignment for his new job and thus was brimming with relative confidence and yet… that tiny, air locked room… but then, the pair of shapely legs poured into a pair of heels, leading up to a knee length skirt: that helped motivate him a bit.
He steeled himself and stepped forwards, straightening his tie in the process. The woman, the sole occupant, smiled back. A friendly gesture masking just the very slightest hint of impatience. Job grinned back, offered a cordial nod and turned towards the floor console. The third floor was already selected and he struck the lobby key to indicate his destination. The doors rumbled shut, a metallic maw sealing him in. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes and straightened his tie again; a nervous tic if there ever was one.
As the car descended steadily from the top of the massive skyscraper, he afforded a glance at his quiet companion. She was about his age, dark hair pulled into a conservative ponytail. Wide set, amber eyes perched upon an almost impossibly smooth and alabaster face. The only spot of color aside from her enchanting gaze were a pair of thin red lines. Her lips turned upwards in a thin, wet smile as their gaze met. He turned away shyly. She shifted, a dark skirt composed of a strange hatch crossed material shifting in the quiet. Job couldn’t decide which to focus on: mentally reviewing his assignment performance or practicing pickup lines. He opted for the latter.
“Hi,” he said quietly. Silence was his reply. Perhaps he should have focused on the former…
He straightened his tie a third time and reached below his jacket to make sure his tool was still secure. The woman behind him shifted again. He stared forward, ever quiet and awkward as one usually finds themselves in an elevator encounter. He put his mind on other thoughts, hoping the conveyance would reach its destination. He thought of his brother, his sister. He thought of their seasoned performances in the family business, a title passed down through multiple generations. He thought of the untimely passing of their parents and how his siblings had taken the time from their studies to train him on his technique. He smiled and hoped they would be proud. He thought of how he perhaps, would want to break away. Try something a bit less daunting. Maybe open a bakery, he did love cooking after all. He thought of how the siblings might react to such a notion. He thought of –
Gravity, G forces, cold blinding terror, suffocation, oh shit what now oh God no not this…
The conveyance screeched. It shuddered. It stopped. The lights flickered out, plunging the pair into a brief darkness alleviated by the salvation of backup emergency illumination. The console lights had turned off, he had no idea what floor they were on, or more likely, in between.
“Oh God…” he whined. Did he say that aloud? He glanced behind. The woman offered a furrowed brow of sympathy. Social awkwardness and crippling claustrophobia. A pleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon. “Uh, looks like we’re stuck here for a bit,” his attempt at small talk. The woman was ever silent.
God, was it heating up in here already? Must have been a full on power surge, the A/C must have crapped out. Job began to sweat, for a multitude of reasons. He removed his jacket, folded it neatly, placed it in a corner and straightened his tie. His fingers came up wet and orange. The woman was watching. He glanced down at the orange, Pollack spatters dotting his white shirt. Time to improvise.
“Problem with the microwave,” he offered meekly. “Damn exploding spaghetti.”
Then the woman did something curious. She leaned forward and burrowed her nose into his chest. This wasn’t the first time it had happened to him, but usually it wasn’t in this particular circumstance. She inhaled deeply, extended her tongue and took a good, long lick of the orange spill. She pulled back, grimacing at a tacky yet not unfamiliar sensation.
“Bulllshit,” came the first words from her near non existent lips. She was sheer white stained with a spot of red and orange, a minimalist work of art that he was sure would have been worth thousands.
“I’m sorry?” he offered back.
“That’s not spaghetti sauce,” she said accusingly. Her voice came quiet, with a pronounced lisp that only added to her mysterious allure in his eyes. “I know the taste of Ichor.”
“Igor?” he sputtered. “I don’t- uh, my name is Job.”
She nodded in reply. “He, the righteous suffered, dweller of the Land of Uz?”
The woman smirked the smirk of a reptile. “Who are you exactly?”
“I just told you, I’m Job. I uh-“ he stumbled on his words. His mind was reeling. It was sweltering hot, he couldn’t breathe. He didn’t know why the elevator wasn’t moving. And this woman, the things she said…
“You’re draped in Ichor, you duplicitous, intriguing bastard.” The things she said.
He wiped the sweat from his brow, straightened his tie and went for broke. “OK, fine, who are you?”
“Lovely,” she grinned back.
“Yeah, and?” He grimaced inwardly at the forced banter. At least she seemed to find it amusing.
She gazed around at their confines. “We’ll be here for a bit it would seem. We might as well do SOMETHING to pass the time.”
“What…did you have in mind?”
“To ask and answer. Ask: why are you covered in Ichor?”
“I’ll ask you right back,” he said. “How do you know it’s not Chef Boyardee?”
“Chef Boyardee tastes like tomato. The holy blood of the brethren tastes like garlic, imported from the Aegean hills.”
“Oh, OK, that makes sense.”
A pause. A very awkward pause. The woman gazed at him with a hunger that was all too familiar. He knew what was going on and he hated it. Looking at her brought pleasure yet conversing with her was business and he knew the pair was a volatile cocktail.
“Why are you here? Who have you slain?” she asked.
“A – a gorgon,” he replied. Why not tell the truth at this point? She obviously knew of his assignment. He glanced back at the dim console, begging for the conveyance to start back up and free him from this situation. No such luck and so he straightened his tie.
She nodded in response, ponytail sliding just a bit back on her scalp. That shouldn’t be, but he expected it at this point. “A gorgon? They’re not important. Why would you waste your time? Unless you knew I was here all along?”
“They kind of are important,” he spoke. “Could you imagine if the secretary of a high level ad executive wandered into his office and found him petrified?”
“Yes, that would be a problem,” she agreed. “Exposure…’
“Well, the secretary actually WAS the gorgon so my hypothetical scenario doesn’t really stand.” He wiped the sweat again but felt confident he was finding his stride. He was actually carrying a full fledged conversation and he felt just a hint of pride.
“Oh yes! Yuriel! I remember her well. She always was a bit of a prudish bitch, wasn’t she?” the female companion said. “I think you did me a favor, Job, dweller of the Land of Uz.”
“I’m not – I’m from Chicago, OK?”
“Dweller of the Land of Wrigley, then.”
“Um, yeah, sure.” He jiggled the buttons. Still nothing, damn it.
“Why are you so nervous?” she asked. She clasped her well manicured, alabaster hands together and titled her head, studying the nervous young man.
“There’s a few reasons,” he said. He stared back at her. He stared at her curvaceous form, her too-red lips, too-red tongue and too-pale face. Oh yes, there were a few reasons he was nervous. Not to mention the slightest hint of teeth when she smiled. Teeth glinting pink beyond multiple rows of wet serration. “Why are YOU here?” he asked, emboldening himself.
She stepped slightly closer. “There’s a daycare center on the third floor.” She licked her lips again and he straightened his tie. It was straight as an arrow by this point. “You remind me of him. Fair of face, for want of tongue..”
“Fair Lycius,” she responded. “A love lost from ages before. He was good to me. He looked at me as you look at me now.”
“No longer with us. He left me when he discovered what I hide beneath this veneer. Are you going to leave me, Dweller of Wrigley?”
“Maybe… once the elevator starts back up..”
The elevator started back up. He breathed a sigh of relief and moaned aloud when it settled back almost immediately with an agitated groan.
“You were almost a soothsayer!” she said mischievously. “At least we made progress though, yes?”
“I guess so, lady.”
“I am Lamia,” she replied.
“Oh shit,” he replied.
“Oh shit, indeed.”
He had heard of her, of course. He knew the legends. The dark haired, fair skinned serpent. She who had held many lovers not the least being a major greek deity. She who had been cursed from a jealous wife for siring the illegitimate children with said immortal being and succumbing to the curse; the curse of the taste of a child’s flesh. Lamia, the devourer-
“Love forgive us, cinders and ashes and dust,” she whispered.
“As am I…” she whispered.
“Fair creature, why do you sigh?” she asked.
He replied: “You know who I am and what I’ll have to do.” He almost felt sorry for her. If the tales were true, her hunger brought her no great joy and yet all other food turned to ash upon her palate. He knew what it meant to kill or be killed, to slay or wither away. He knew because for him, Job, Dweller of Chicago, it was the family way.
“Your parent’s bones in their dusty urns..”
“What do you know about my family?”
“- fell to my own. And here you are to slake the vengeance thirst.”
“Lady, I didn’t know you were here. But I can’t – I can’t let you hurt anyone.” He straightened his tie, it had become wrinkled. Damn it. He wiped off a blot of the orange goo that had sprouted from the neck of Yuriel the gorgon when he removed her head. He reached for the tool embedded in his waistband. Lamia noticed and her amber eyes sparkled.
“I see what’s really on your mind,” she said. She removed her jacket, untucked her blouse, unzipped her skirt. He felt a brief stirring and quelled it immediately. All business now, no pleasure. A lump protruded from her rear and he blinked briefly in surprise.
“Are you going to say it?” he asked.
She smirked. “I’ll show you mine if-“
He showed her his. He withdrew his holy tool, a six inch blade of finely shorn silver. It was dotted with various incantations. Nordic runes and Egyptian hieroglyphs on one side of the steel handle. Japanese kanji, babylonian script. Biblical versed filigreed on the blade. It was still smeared in orange Ichor. She showed him hers. From behind her the tail unfurled. Thick, muscular, scaly, black as obsidian. She ran her hands through her hair and peeled off her scalp. She emerged anew, hair and flesh sloughing to the tiled floor of the elevator. She gazed back through the familiar amber gaze, bald and unblemished. Her nose, ears and brow had sloughed off with the scalp and she stared back with a serpent’s gaze and those wet, too-red lips. God help him, he still felt the stirring and this time it didn’t quell. The Serpent reached for him, caressing his hair in her hands and he allowed himself to be caressed. “What do you think of me?” came a husky, lisped whisper.
A trembling sigh came his response. She grinned her rows of pink tinted teeth. “How to entangle and ensnare, your soul in mine and clasp you there. A sweet kiss, for what mortal hath such a prize?” She spoke words of a poem inscribed from yet another of her lovers. She trembled slightly remembering his honeyed words. “Fate brought us to this broken contraption, much like both of us. Going nowhere, entombed in a suffocating lot in life. You and I, we are not quite so different.”
They kissed. His head swam. She reached down and straightened his tie. The elevator lurched forward as the lights came on. Job lurched forward burying his holy blade much at the same time as Lamia the Serpent’s tail emerged from Job’s gut. Both collapsed forward.
“Sorry Lady,” he whispered. “We don’t even bleed the same.”
Plasma entangled with Ichor as the mortal and the immortal collapsed to the pleasantly maintained floor. The sweltering heat collapsed to chilling cold as Job watched the life seep from his wound. Lamia still clutched him tightly and she shuddered. “Well played, Dweller of Wrigley.” Her amber eyes stared forward and yet saw nothing as the Child Devourer faded. The elevator stopped at the third floor. Graciously, the doors opened and nobody was there, lest a child be traumatized by the gore strewn visage upon the floor of the conveyance.
Job reached to straighten his tie and found it strewn in half amongst his guts and gore.
“Damn it,” he said.
The doors closed as the pair continued to make their descent.
The Collective invites you to peruse the honeyed words of Lamia’s former lover. Their union fell but words are eternal…