After Abaddon has gone from her chamber, Kali arrives with an announcement. “He has come for you.” Lucie knows what this means. Archangel Gabriel has arrived to escort her to the Holy Atrium for her final meeting with Almighty. They are scheduled to review the rules of the Great Game one final time before Lucie’s reign begins. She faces Kali with her head held high. She straightens the layers of her gown. “Is the ceremony set in the auditorium?”
“Yes, my Lord.”
“Very well. Kali, I have decided you will accompany me to Earth. I want you to be the runner between the Lead Demons and myself. You will also continue as my personal assistant. You can keep your appearance as it is now. You are attractive enough to distract the simple men we will encounter. Just lose the tail and get to Earth to assemble a decent wardrobe before I arrive. Go to Jerusalem and meet with Edward Pine. He is the Pope’s personal assistant. His office is in the building by the East Gate housing the people who are rebuilding the Temple. Mention Anna Cohen sent you.
“Edward is setting up the Pope’s new satellite office there. Take care of my arrangements because you’re familiar with my style. Do not compromise on anything before speaking with me. Do not spare any expense to decorate my quarters. I will be entertaining the world’s most powerful kings and presidents in this place. Make sure my office is the most impressive meeting place on Earth. The only metal I want to see is gold. The only stones will be diamonds. Are we clear?”
Kali’s heart sinks at the thought of accompanying Lucie to Earth. She has been counting down the minutes until she left Hades. She’d been longing for a break from the daily insults and physical abuse. Most of all, she does not want to be at Lucie’s side when she is reigning over Earth. Kali knows she will be insufferable for the next seven years. A chill runs up her spine as she thinks of being witness to Lucie running with unbridled hatred. Even though humans had seen some horrible things throughout history, they haven’t seen anything compared to the dark days ahead. She’s in no position to turn down the assignment. She bows her head, rolls her eyes, and offers up a simple, “Yes, my Lord.”
“Kali, you had better adjust your attitude by tomorrow. You’ve known for quite some time this was coming. Don’t start moping around about things not going your way. This is a happy day. I expect you to treat it as such. Get to the ceremony and bring the crowd to attention. I will be there in a few minutes.”
Kali turns to leave, but is called back.
“Kali, I want you to take this to Jerusalem for me. Put it on my desk in the Temple.” Lucie holds out the Golden Apple in the palm of her hand. Kali hesitates. She wonders if this is a trick. Lucie has never allowed anyone to touch the apple.
“You told us that touching the Golden Apple would result in a curse of isolation.”
Lucie breaks into an evil laugh. “What’s this, Kali—have you started believing in fairy tales? My warning of damnation was symbolic—just as Almighty’s warning to Adam and Eve. They were promised death if they ate fruit from the forbidden tree. They are alive and well in Heaven, are they not?”
“Alright then, take the apple.”
“And there won’t be a curse put upon me?”
“No. You will have a heightened sense of good and evil when you’re holding it, that’s all.”
“What is a ‘heightened sense of good and evil?’”
“You’re testing my patience, Kali. It means your senses will be sharpened. You’ll be better able to discern the true intention of others. Believe me, you’ll appreciate being able to see through man’s nonsense. Just take the apple.”
Kali reaches for the Golden Apple. Her fingers tingle as she lifts it from Lucie’s hand. She looks up to Lucie for a reaction. She lets out a small gasp of horror. Lucie is no longer a beautiful woman. She is a hideous creature with sharp fangs and yellow split eyes that wrap around to the sides of her head. Kali quickly pushes the apple into the pocket of her bodysuit. When she does, Lucie returns to her usual form in front of her.
“I should have warned you about the apple’s side effect: The amount of evil in a person dictates the repulsiveness of their appearance. When you are looking at them with the Golden Apple in your hands, you see their authentic looks. You are also restricted from telling a lie with the Golden Apple in your hands. This is a rule that Almighty added. I cannot remove it.
“Oh, get over your horror of my true appearance, Kali. It has come in quite handy to scare the bejesus out of a few self-righteous people on Earth. It inspired many pieces of art for books. Occasionally, I look into a mirror while holding the apple. I take my repulsive appearance as a compliment. My true appearance reassures me I’m still the evilest being in the Great Game.”
“What would I see if I looked at myself in the mirror while holding the Golden Apple?”
“You would see what I see—a fallen angel without hope or discernable purpose. Not at all pretty, and burdened with a sad demeanor… and short, old, and bald.”
“What? Why am I bald?”
“All demons eventually go bald, Kali. In time, your looks will fade as well, and you will resemble the imps. Do you know why I send the imps to collect the souls of dying men destined for Hades?”
“I assumed it was because it was a disgusting assignment.”
“It is, but I do it to terrorize the dying. Right before they take their final breaths, doomed men see a parade of little bald men dancing around their death bed and jumping on their body. This gives them a glimpse into the spirit world that awaits them. I needed something to compete with Almighty. He has his people seeing angels in a white light coming to take them to heaven. My people see tiny old men waiting to escort them to Hades.
“You didn’t laugh. Are you still sulking over your dwindling looks? Get over it. When we fell from Heaven, we all lost our youthful beauty. I negotiated my good looks as part of the Great Game. I also negotiated your good looks and those of the rest of the Lead Demons. Honestly, I couldn’t stand looking at the lot of you any longer. Total hag-fest! We get to remain beautiful while I remain in power. Maybe that will inspire you to take this mission seriously. As far as seeing everyone for who they really are when you hold the apple, you’ll get used to it. Enough of this! We must be on our way. Gabriel thinks way too much of himself to be kept waiting.”
Lucie sneers as she watches Kali walk out with the Golden Apple. Giving her the token was not a last-minute decision. Truth be told, Lucie had been detecting something in Kali that was making her uncomfortable. In meetings of late, she was pleading for lesser sentences for the human prisoners. On a couple of occasions, Lucie noticed when a child was being abused and killed on Earth, Kali looked away. Lucie knows if Kali becomes sympathetic to the plight of man, it can be a serious threat to her reign. The Golden Apple was handed off in hopes of getting into Kali’s head. She’ll encourage her to use it on world leaders to uncover their intent, then observe how Kali reacts to the information. She’ll be sure to see she is holding it when she is questioned about her intentions.
With the passing off the Golden Apple behind her, Lucie focuses on the ceremony to put Abaddon in charge of Hades. The demons have all been briefed on the unfolding of the next seven years in her earlier speech. This ceremony is just a formality. She will place the crown on Abaddon’s head and then travel with Gabriel to speak with Almighty.
As she takes her final walk down the stone path, Lucie places her hands over her mouth and bites her full red lips in delicious anticipation. This day is monumental. An asteroid is threatening the planet, and the natural disasters are about to rid the planet of innocent people. Diseases are being resurrected from the past to rid the surface of many more of Almighty’s prized pupils. The future will see a shortage of clean water, the drownings of tsunamis victims, and a worldwide shortage of food. Only her defiant subjects will survive. World War III is on a three-and-a-half year countdown, and it’s about to be a bad year for religion and the economy. She drops her hands to her side and pulls the cape up high on her long ivory neck.