As promised, and with the blessing of my seriously cool editor, here is the first peek at Personal Demons. If you guys tell me you want more, every Tuesday for the next eight weeks, I'll post a snippet from the book.
Below is the first five pages of Personal Demons. As I said yesterday, Personal Demons is told from dual first person points of view. It opens with Luc, my honest to goodness (or badness, I suppose, is more accurate) demon. I had a ton of fun writing from inside a bad boy's head. Hope you have fun reading him. :p
Next Tuesday, we hear from Frannie. =)
If there’s a Hell on Earth, it’s high school. And if there’s anyone distinctly qualified to make that statement, it would be me. I draw a deep breath—mostly out of habit since demons don’t have to breathe—then look up at the threatening sky, hoping it’s a good omen, and pull open the heavy security door. The dingy halls are quiet since the first bell rang almost five minutes ago. It’s just me, the metal detector, and a hunched wisp of a security guard in a rumpled blue uniform. He hauls himself out of his cracked plastic chair, looks me over, and scowls.
“You’re late. ID,” he says in a three-pack-a-day rasp.
I stare him down for a few seconds, sure I could blow him over with a whisper, and I can’t suppress a smile when beads of sweat sprout on his pasty forehead. I’m glad to see I’ve still got the touch even though I’m getting really sick of this job. Five millennia in the same gig will do that to a demon. For this trip, though, the fact that failure will result in dismemberment and the Fiery Pit is all the motivation I need.
“New,” I say.
“Put your bag on the table.”
I shrug, showing him my hands. No bag.
“Give me your belt. Studs’ll set off the detector.”
I pull off my belt and toss it at the old man as I walk through the metal detector. He hands it back and hacks, “Go straight to the office.”
“No problem,” I say, already walking away.
I slide my belt back on and push through the office door. It bangs sharply off the cracked wall and the ancient receptionist looks up, startled. “Can I help you?”
The office is just as drab and poorly lit as the halls except for the brightly colored notices that cover every inch of plaster like psychedelic wallpaper. There’s a nameplate declaring the receptionist is Marian Seagrave, and I swear I can hear her joints creak as she pulls herself out of her chair. She’s got more wrinkles than a shar-pei and the requisite short, blue, curly hair of all hundred-year-old women. Her round body is clad in the uniform of the ancients: turquoise polyester slacks and a matching floral blouse neatly tucked in.
I meander up to the counter and lean toward her. “Luc Cain. First day,” I say, flashing my winning smile—the one that always keeps mortals just a little off balance.
She stares for just a second before finding her voice. “Oh…welcome to Haden High, Luc. Let me pull up your schedule.”
She bangs on her computer keyboard and the printer buzzes to life. It spits out my schedule—the same schedule I’ve had for the last hundred years, since the advent of the modern education system. I do my best to feign interest as she hands it to me and says, “Here it is, and your locker number and combination too. You’ll need to collect an admit slip from each of your teachers and bring it back here at the end of the day. You’ve already missed homeroom, so you should go right to your first class. Let’s see…yes, senior English with Mr. Snyder. Room 616. That’s in building six, just out the door to the right.”
“Will do,” I say, smiling. It won’t hurt to stay on administration’s good side. You never know when they might be useful.
The bell rings as I make my way out the door into the now bustling halls, and the scents of the sea of teenage humanity hit me in waves. There’s the tangy citrus of fear, the bitter garlic of hate, the anise of envy, and ginger—lust. Lots of potential.
I work in Acquisitions, but it isn’t usually my job to tag them, just to sow the seeds and start them down the fiery path. I get them going on the little ones. Starter sins, if you will. Not enough to tag their souls for Hell, but enough to send them in our direction eventually. I don’t even need to use my power…not that I’d feel guilty if I did. Guilt isn’t in the demonic repertoire of emotions. It just feels more honest when they come to sin of their own volition. Again, not that I care about being honest. It’s just too easy the other way.
In truth, the rules are clear. Unless their souls are tagged, we can’t force mortals to do anything out of character or manipulate their actions in any way. For the most part, all I can do with my power is cloud their thoughts, blur the line between right and wrong just a little. Anyone who says the devil made them do it is feeding you a line.
I stroll the hall, taking in the scents of teenage sin, so thick in the air I can taste them. All six of my senses buzz with anticipation. Because this trip is different. I’m here for one soul in particular and, as I make my way toward building 6, a crackle of red-hot energy courses through me—a good sign. I take my time, walking slowly through the throng and scoping out prospects, and am the last to arrive in class, just at the bell.
Room 616 is no brighter than the rest of the school, but at least an attempt has been made at decorating. Prints of Shakespeare’s plays—only the tragedies, I notice—grace the walls. The desks are grouped in twos and are nearly full. I walk up the center aisle to Mr. Snyder’s desk, holding out my schedule. He turns his slender face toward me, glasses perched just at the tip of his long, straight nose.
“Luc Cain. I need an admit slip…or something?” I say.
“Cain…Cain…” He rakes a hand through his thinning gray hair and scans down his class roster, finding my name. “Here you are.” He hands me a yellow admit slip, a composition book, and a copy of The Grapes of Wrath and looks at his roster again. “Okay, you’ll be seated between Mr. Butler and Miss Cavanaugh.” Then he stands, pushing up his glasses and smoothing the unsmoothable creases in his white button-down and khakis. “All right, class,” he announces. “We’re shifting seats. Everyone from Miss Cavanaugh up will shift one seat to your right. You’ll all have a new essay partner for the rest of the semester.”
Many of the good little lemmings grumble, but they all do as they’re told. I sit in the seat Mr. Snyder motions to, between Mr. Butler—a tall, skinny kid with glasses, bad skin, and obvious self-esteem issues—and Miss Cavanaugh, whose sapphire-blue eyes stare straight into mine. No self-esteem issues there. I feel the play of hot electricity under my skin as I stare back, sizing her up. And her size is definitely petite, with wavy, sandy-blond hair that she’s tied in a knot at the base of her neck, fair skin, and fire. A definite prospect. Our desks are grouped together, so it looks like I’ll have plenty of opportunity to feel her…out.