Miranda brushed his hand against the artificial flowers. The rainbow teardrop prism hanging in the bedroom window cast all sorts of hues and shades upon the white petals, leaking onto his fingernails.
“It was a good idea to stop and get these,” Miranda muttered to himself, drawing his right hand back from the flowers and returning his attention to the green pen laid across the notebook. The monochrome landscape resting on the page, almost seeming to writhe under the touch of the pen, was a stark contrast to the dullness of the faded carpet beneath his feet and the intricately carved wooden desk.
“Indeed, it was.” A voice of low timbre rumbled behind Miranda, startling him into swiveling around in his wooden chair. Standing before him was a gentlemanly figure, garbed in a simple white suit and a bleached wide-brimmed hat not unlike what LaJean had stepped out of the house wearing just a few hours before.
“Who- who are you?” Miranda felt goose bumps rise on his arms as the man’s smirk widened, exposing his sharpened teeth. “Am I about to be sent to the mental ward because I’m hallucinating?”
Miranda’s breath quickened as the man closed his mouth and pulled the hat off of his head, allowing it to slip through his fingers to the floor. His eyes opened all the way, exposing a pair of very familiar golden and crimson irises.
“I’m Bes. I believe we’ve met before, Miranda.” The androgyne felt the sensation of ice dripping down his back as he locked eyes with Bes, feeling his own widen. Bes snapped his fingers, and the suit disappeared in a cloud of smoke, metamorphosing the demon into a grey-skinned and horned figure.
“What do you want, Bes?”
“The same thing I wanted when I accosted you in that basement all those weeks ago.” Bes dragged one clawed finger along the crack running over his chest, exposing a glowing core, and then along Miranda’s cheek. “Freedom from Anders. Freedom from worrying about being dragged back to the Laboratory. Freedom from the world.”
“For yourself, or for me?”
“For yourself.” Bes withdrew his arm from Miranda, hissing when his shoulder rubbed against one of the crucifixes on the wall. “Although it would certainly be nice if I could get a break from dealing with Anders.”
“Why don’t you just leave him alone?” Miranda swiped the green pen from its place on the desk and uncapped it, clenching it in his right hand as a poor attempt at a weapon. “Why bother with me or him or any of this and just return to Hell? I bet the devil is having a wild party and you’re missing out on all the fun.”
Bes tittered, shaking his head and resting one arm against a blank space on the wall. “The ruler of Gehenna rarely leaves his throne nowadays.” He took Miranda’s chin into his hand, tilting his head up to meet Bes’ gaze. “Why don’t you come with me? Then I can show you how he just lazes around all day and sends others out to do his bidding.”
Miranda slapped Bes’ hand away from where it was slowly creeping to his neck, and he arose from his chair. “Being killed by a demon and dragged into the afterlife prematurely isn’t exactly on my list of things today.”
“But think of the advantages, Miranda.” Bes studied the claws on one of this hands. “You want to be independent from Anders, but you don’t want him to die in order to fulfill that. I want a good portion of Gehenna-Altaris, my homeland, to stop freaking out about some ancient prophecy that was most likely faked.” Bes momentarily glanced up at Miranda before returning his attention to his ebony claws. “A prophecy that involves you, by the way. We both want to thwart Anders’ plans. It looks like a win-win situation.”
Miranda’s lips trembled, and he increased his grip on the pen to the point where he was more worried about his knuckles blanching than the plastic shattering in his fingers.”Just leave me alone, Bes.”
“Why? It’s so much fun playing with the Shews.” Bes turned to Miranda, and he shook his right hand out. A wisp of smoke drifted out of the claw on his pointer finger and wrapped itself around the pen that Miranda was holding. As soon as the smoke made contact with his hand, the flesh spasmed and contorted, hardening to the same murky and leathery texture as the skin on Bes’ own hands.
Miranda shrieked and released the pen, which softly handed on the floor. Bes cackled as Miranda took hold of his wrist just as the smoke webbed out to it, and his left hand became infected and began to harden as claws germinated on his fingertips. “What are you doing?”
“I was simply allowing you to test one of the many forms that the Mithrae are able to bear.” Bes held his hand out towards the androgyne. The smoke drifted off of Miranda’s hands just as it reached his elbows, and the hallucination stopped. “Would you like to try another form? Maybe of a Mithral this time?”
The temperature in the room dropped sharply, and Miranda drew his arms close to him, attempting not to shiver. “Please leave, Bes. LaJean will be here soon.”
“I don’t fear a godly woman.” Bes kicked at the ground, and a small swirling portal opened up beneath him. “But I’ll leave so that LaJean doesn’t call the police and accidentally give your location away to Anders.”
“I think I’d rather take my chances with the police than with you.”
“Goodbye, Miranda…” Bes fluttered his hand and disappeared through the portal, which closed behind him. The climate in the room improved drastically as LaJean and company streamed in from the front door. Their laughter and chattering permeated through the walls, and Miranda picked up his pen and resumed his place at the desk as he resolved to let the lines in the paper forget what had just happened.