7 Kali

Kali  slams things into place as she sets up the meeting room inside Lucie’s private chambers. The other Lead Demons will be arriving soon. Kali feels her skin burning with anger. She huffs as she thinks through Lucie’s stupidity for tying up her time to set up a meeting room. In the pecking order of demons, she holds the same rank as the other six who will be attending—which most assuredly proves this task is beneath her. As she shoves Lucie’s throne into place, she screams at the top of her lungs, “This is a job for an Imp—not a Lead Demon!” No one hears her—and no one cares. Such is the lot in Hades.

Though her boss hates everyone, Kali knows she is hated on a whole other level. The hatred began long before the creation of man—and before demons were women. At the time, Lucie was Lucifer—Almighty’s highest-ranking male angel. He was plotting his revolt against the Creator of the Universe, hosting a secret meeting in the basement auditorium of the Crystal Castle to drum up the support he needed. The castle was the ideal setting for planning a coup. Almighty built the luxurious residence for His angels and granted them privacy within its walls. He designed them with “free will,” and so gave them the freedom to discuss any topic without His knowledge. To make this possible, He willfully placed a restriction on His omnipresence.

Taking advantage of the free will agreement, as well as his God-given right to rebel, Lucifer presented the ten reasons why angels could—and should—challenge Almighty’s power over them. He also presented the ten reasons why he should be their new leader. As Lucifer was Almighty’s favored angel, hearing his plan to overthrow the established leadership sent shock waves through the room.

After three hours of debating and weighing options, the issue was ready for a vote. Lucifer insisted all votes be given orally. Kali objected, but was overruled. Even before this vote, Kali was aware of Lucifer’s longing for power. Some of the angels feared that if Lucifer knew who voted against him, he would eventually retaliate. This put the angels in a precarious position. Lucifer was asking them to turn their backs on their Creator, when for the most part they were content with their lives. Some changes might have been nice, but they were not the kind of changes that required a restructuring of leadership. Almighty had given them the free will they enjoyed. Using the gift against the giver seemed to be a major overstep to Kali.

On the other side, Lucifer was popular with his angel peers. He looked out for them. He was their spokesman and had successfully negotiated removable wings, assignment choices, and additional discretionary space for them to exercise their freedom.

At the time of the revolt, there were twelve billion angels in heaven—separated into twelve groups of one billion each. The twelve groups each sent twelve representatives to the meetings on “vote days.” One hundred forty-four voting members could attend these closed sessions. On the night of the infamous vote, all 144 voting angels were present. This included Kali, and Lucifer. For Lucifer to have a majority, he would need seventy-three votes.

Given the room’s setup, Kali was the last angel to vote before the presenter himself. Though the chances of a tied vote were slim—this is exactly how it played out. The vote was 71-71 when it was Kali’s turn. If she voted for the revolt, the tally would be 72-71. Lucifer would cast the last affirmative vote needed for him to win. If Kali voted against the revolt, it would make the tally 71-72. Lucifer would cast the last affirmative vote and push the matter to a tie. Tied votes were tabled indefinitely.

When he observed Kali hesitating to cast his vote, Lucifer walked to where he was sitting. “What say you, Angel Kali?”

Kali sat up straight in his chair, took a deep breath, and answered. “With all due respect, Lucifer, your plan is merely a spin of Almighty’s. The only difference this change makes for us angels is we would answer to you, rather than Him. I think it’s too risky. We have no idea how He will respond.”

“My, my, Kali, I did not peg you as a coward—this is a new layer of you we are seeing. Tell me, Kali, why do you call my plan a ‘spin?’” Kali did not respond. He was very aware of Lucifer’s volatile temperament. For the first time in the three-hour meeting, Almighty’s favored angel was losing his composure. He turned to walk away, but then suddenly spun around in anger and slammed both of his fists down onto Kali’s desk. Leaning over to place his face within inches of Kali’s, he spit out his question: “Do you have anything else to add?”

It was probably a rhetorical question, but Kali decided to push through his sarcasm and seize the opportunity to comment openly. “Your plan, like Almighty’s, gives very little power to the rest of us. In time, the angels who side with you will tire of your leadership and want more power for themselves. When they do, they will exercise their free will and cause another revolt. The cycle will continue. Eventually, both sides will be looking for a ‘savior’ of sorts and relief from suffering largely self-imposed. Why not just meet with Almighty and work through the issues that are causing you to consider challenging his authority?”

Lucifer stood up slowly—all the while keeping his eyes locked on Kali. He turned and faced the audience—obviously wanting every angel present to hear. “I want to thank you for having the courage to question my plan. Every leader needs someone like you who will stand up to them and point out the fallacies within their visions. Though I disagree with the conclusions you have drawn, I respect your candor. You are fearless. I admire this. I would like to keep you close when the revolt ushers in my kingdom. I am extending you an offer to be one of the lead angels in my inner circle. You will be at my side as I lead. You will be the only who is privy to my everyday activities. What say you?”

Kali swallowed hard. He glanced around the room. Every set of eyes was on him. This was the first time he had ever been the center of attention. It felt good to be both relevant and powerful. Years later, he would wonder why he gave in so easily. “I am honored by your invitation. Yes, I will remain your faithful servant. I cast my vote for the revolt.” The angels applauded. Lucifer smiled as he interlocked Kali’s hand in his and raised them high for the cheering crowd.

Within a week, Kali felt regret. He was Lucifer’s personal assistant and a part of his inner circle. To test his loyalty, Lucifer insisted Kali be his second-in-command in the revolt against Almighty. One-third of the angels showed up for the fateful day. They were defeated, banished from Heaven, and sent to inhabit the dark hollow core of Earth. Almighty called the place Sheol. The Greeks would later rename it Hades. That name would remain until the end of time.

The Creator downgraded the fallen angels, stripped them of their beauty, retracted their birthright, and labeled them “demons.” The eight billion angels who remained in Heaven maintained their male gender. The four billion fallen angels who fell to Earth assumed the female gender. All seemed lost for the former hosts of Heaven, but Lucie was not one for giving up. She promised the demons she would find a way to get them out of Hades and back in a place of comfort and relevance. Kali could only hope this was true.

Centuries later, the banished demons are still living in Earth’s horrific core. They spend their days in complete darkness, with the exception of the flicker of the flames and the glow of the lava river. The temperature exceeds 120 degrees in the highest levels, and continues to rise as you move closer to  the Earth’s core. Tempers constantly erupt in this perfect storm of miserable conditions. Lucie pretends there is a kingdom in Hades for her to be queen. She has convinced them she has a special relationship with Almighty and is bargaining for something good, and so the demons play along her with fantasy.

Running a kingdom—real or imagined—of four billion inhabitants requires regular meetings with your inner circle. Sometimes, Lucie calls an emergency meeting like this one. Kali has the mind-numbing job of preparing the room for these meetings. This is her punishment for complaining about a room setup in the past. After arriving late to a meeting last year, she made her way to her assigned seat and noticed an Imp had forgotten to put her name on the back of her chair. She refused to sit down. She interrupted Lucie mid-sentence to draw attention to the oversight.

Lucie’s response made it glaringly clear that the only arrogance she would tolerate in Hades was her own. After being interrupted, she went silent, locked eyes with Kali, and moved towards her in the snake-like slither she uses when she is about to strike. Her elliptical eyes turned bright yellow as she pressed her face close to Kali’s. All the demons in Hades fear Lucie’s yellow eyes. Kali closed her eyes tightly and stiffened her body to accept whatever Lucie might do to her to make a point in front of her peers.

Lucie slowly pressed the long red fingernail of her left thumb deeply into Kali’s windpipe. She wrapped the other four fingers around her neck. “Look at me!” Kali forced her eyes open to a squint. Lucie stared deeply into Kali’s eyes, searching for the fear she craved. Kali could not think of anything to say to improve her situation. Even if she could, Lucie’s fingernail was pressing on her vocal cords—making it impossible for her to speak.

After a minute of weakening Kali by obstructing her breathing, Lucie shifted her weight to her back leg and—with her free hand—slapped Kali hard across the face. Kali recoiled in pain. Before she could right herself to respond, Lucie turned and rammed her speared stinger tail into Kali’s abdomen. The force knocked Kali back into the nameless chair. She doubled over and vomited all over herself. She wanted to strike Lucie—to kill her. She looked around the room at the other demons. No one came to her defense. There is no compassion in Hades.

The Lead Demons snickered as Kali pushed her hair away from her eyes to peer up at her attacker. She knew this episode was not over. Lucie pulled Kali’s hair tight—lifting her head to look her directly in the eyes. “You think you deserve your name on a chair, do you? What makes you think you’re even fit to sit in a chair in the same room with me? You should be bowing at my feet. You are nothing but what I make you to be.

“You think you’re better than the Imps? You are nothing more than a gullible demon who fell from glory. Look at you now—cowering before me like a helpless lamb. Your life is pathetic. Know this: Things will never improve for you—they will only get worse. There is no hope here, no bargaining for anything better. Your condition is set.”

Barely able to breath or stand, Kali knew what she had to do to save herself from banishment to eternal punishment. She wiped the vomit off her lips and found enough oxygen to force a whisper. “Please forgive me my Lord. I remain your faithful servant.”

Lucie released Kali’s hair and stood up slowly—vertebrae by vertebrae—uncoiling like a snake until the entirety of her six-foot frame towered over Kali’s small and battered one. Watching Lucie rise was like watching a cobra lift to a snake charmer’s music. As part of Lucie’s curse after the temptation, when she is at her most evil, she morphs into a black serpent. Only by controlling her anger can she stop the process.

Struggling to keep control of her outburst and to avoid morphing, Lucie took in a long breath and stared down at her Lead Demon in disgust. She began pressing her metal boot deep into Kali’s right foot, increasing pressure until she cried out in pain. With the boot pressure keeping her victim from moving, Lucie continued, “A little chair with your name on it doesn’t seem so important now, does it?

“I’m not going to banish you, Kali. I am much too busy with the Great Game to stop and look for an incompetent Imp to take your place. Since you seem to believe you are the authority on the topic, you will set up the meeting rooms for the rest of the year.

Lucie lifted her foot. “Know this Kali: There will never again be a chair in all of Hades that bears your name.” As she turned to leave, Lucie thrust her spiked boot blade deep into Kali’s thigh, drawing blood. The room erupted in jeers.

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Triple Digit TOC by K.M. Sheridan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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