The Lorelei Signal
Written by Gerri Leen / Artwork by Marge Simon
I sit by a bed; a white coverlet has been thrown off and the naked angel on the bed whimpers and moves restlessly as if in some great fever.
“Agine,” I whisper, and he stills at his name. My breath moves the fine blonde hairs on his chest.
“Lilith,” he says, my name coming out almost as a prayer, an invocation, an invitation to take him. I could kill him and he wouldn’t fight me, no matter how bad it got.
I won’t kill him. Not yet, anyway. I’m hoping he’ll change, once my blood takes effect. That his soul will be mine, and I’ll present it to the dark lord who took me in when He Who is Afraid to Have His Name Voiced expelled me from Eden.
They say I ran away or I snuck out or any number of tales. Don’t let them fool you: I was thrown out and the angels were put on guard to keep me out—and keep Adam and his new woman in.
Agine whimpers again, and I bite into my finger, and let drops of my blood spill onto his skin, onto the crown chakra, then the forehead, down all the chakra points, feeling the power growing: kundalini is often seen as a serpent. I’ve spent a time or two as one myself.
Where my blood drips, Agine’s skin blisters. My blood is like acid, but it’s transformative as well as caustic.
Like any being forced into change, he screams.
No one will hear him. No one will come for him here. We’re in the most warded of my buildings, sitting not in the bad part of the city, but the most respectable. I like to hide in plain sight. I also like to enjoy the luxury of Fifth Avenue and still be far from the eyes of guardian angels or holy men who would take this beautiful creature away from me.
It’s been one hundred and four years since I transformed a man into a companion, one that could traverse my domains with ease. I waited that long because the ending is never a good one.
If Agine were human, he would need more and more of my blood to stay in demon form. Eventually nothing I gave him would be enough, and I would have to strike him down and leave him to die in a puddle of his human-demon blood.
It’s the way of things; I don’t like it, but I’m used to the pattern.
Agine isn’t human, so this will not go as those other times did. Or so I hope.
I confess, this is my first time trying to turn an angel into something…other.
I was never supposed to know of the power of my blood. A bite out of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil fixed that. My blood, my beautiful, horrible blood. I tried it on the animals: Adam had to come up with new names that day as God’s creations changed into monsters of all descriptions.
When the All Knowing One chased me out, he made Adam a new companion. One not born his equal—Adam and I were two conjoined beings until God hacked us apart. He made Eve from Adam’s rib—to be part of him, to be subordinate to him. As I never was.
And her blood… I feel the pain of knowing what she, what all of my sisters, have gone through.
To dilute the blood, to prevent it from getting strong enough to change things, Eve and her daughters bleed out their power once a month from their most womanly parts. Their power is caught up in cloths and pads and thrown away. It isn’t corrosive when it flows this way, although The Almighty played it safe and told his followers not to touch it and not to let those bleeding into the house, into the holy places, into any spot where the one who was bleeding might influence thought, actions, or desire.
He made of women a thing unclean. Cursed them with this monthly flow and then deemed them monsters.
I will show him a monster. This will be my finest creation.
“Agine,” I murmur, close to his ear. The chakra burns are glowing like small white-hot coals. “My darling. Tell me of your home.”
“I live in paradise.”
“Do you sit at the right hand of the Almighty? Does he call you his sweet child and blow his breath”—I remember it as sweet and something like the scent of newly mown grass—“on you?”
“He does. He is my Lord.” Agine begins to cough, and sulphur and soot fly from his mouth. He seems unaware of the mess he is making of my fine coverlet.
I don’t care. Using anything white is a bit of a joke on my part. Nothing stays clean for long in my presence.
I sit back and wait. Agine is mine, whether he knows it or not. I watched him for weeks before I approached him in Central Park, my power turned down as low as I could manage and still have my blood sustaining me. I chose him because he showed an unwavering need to think the best of people. I wooed him, spinning a tale for him that would have made Scheherazade proud. He believes I am good—or that I want to be. He believes I love him—and I probably do. It’s hard to seduce as effectively as I do, to make the lies believable, if I do not fall a little bit in love.
Which won’t stop me from using him as spy. Once my blood stops burning inside him, he should be able to get back into Heaven. To gather information for me.
To give me what I need to stage an offensive. God’s curse was that I birth a hundred demon children a day, and those children grow restive. I have spawned an army, and I intend to use it to bring down heaven.
If my little angelic convert is up the task.
“He’s beautiful.” Eve’s voice, so soft and sweet—nothing like mine—sounds from the doorway.
“He is,” I say, holding my hand out. I didn’t hear her come in; her steps are nearly silent now. She took the stairs and not the elevator: did she wish to sneak up on me?
She walks to me and leans gently, her lustrous hair pressed against mine. I went to her on her deathbed and offered her a choice, which she took. I restored her youth and beauty, and she loves me for it. Now, like me, she no longer bleeds with the moon.
Now she is a demon, the mother of children who do not kill each other like her first two sons, but wait for my orders; her offspring are hard to tell from mine when the troops assemble for inspection. Unlike with the men I’ve turned, my blood doesn’t drive her mad. I don’t know if it’s because she’s the first of the bleeding women or if any of our sex could be turned with no risk. I haven’t had the need to find out. Or maybe I’m afraid to. One woman-turned-demon I can handle, but Eve grows stronger all the time. I have no doubt that I could best her in a fight, but if there were more like her? My time as queen might end. I haven’t endured and fought to be brought down that way. If anyone lays me low, it will be the God who made me, not my replacement and her daughters.
“They will kill him.” She twines a finger through his golden curls. “They will smell him.”
“He’s not done changing yet, love. His body will adjust.” I hope it will, at any rate. My magic is subtle, and there are many types of demons. Horned, slimy creature that can never pass for anything but a monster, of course, but also others nearly indistinguishable from humans—or angels.
“Agine,” I whisper. “Glow for me.” If he’s lost the ability, this will be over before it can begin.
“I must not.” He sounds like he might rebel, so I bite into my finger and smear blood across his forehead, then down his jaw to his ears.
Smoke rises where my blood touches him, his flesh turns momentarily gray and mottled, and his lovely blonde curls are singed.
“Lilith?” he says, and I think he’s finally realized what I’m doing.
“Shine for me, my love.” I reach for Eve’s hand as I say it.
She wraps my hand in both of hers, squeezing lightly. She believes she is my love, not this creature I am making. I’m not sure it’s true. It’s possible the only love I truly have is for myself.
Agine starts to glow, and I smile. He lets his brilliance dim, and I say, “No. Hold it.” He has to retain this power or he’ll never get past the guards at the gates in Heaven.
“You could make him do anything. You could make him bring down heaven.”
“For now, we’ll start with something small.” I help Agine off the bed; he’s sweaty and smells of fear and pain.
I lead him into the adjoining room. A great onyx tub is filled with water, scented with the resins of heaven. I acquired them at great cost. He sinks into the water and sighs, and the glow increases.
“Who do you love?” I whisper, the words more blown breath than sound.
“You.” He frowns. “And…Him.”
“Lean back. Open your mouth.”
He does as I say, and I rip into my finger again, then squeeze, letting the blood drip down his gullet. He winces but doesn’t close his mouth: he’s more mine now than not.
“Your master threw me out of my home. Your master cursed me with this constant childbirth, made me spawn demons like a cat spits out kittens. Your master ruined my life simply because I wanted to know who and what I am.”
“God is…great.” For the first time, he sounds uncertain about that.
“I need to know what the archangels fear.”
He looks uncomfortable. “They’re not for one such as I to bother.”
“Work your way up. Start with the lowest choir and keep going until you find someone who understands what makes Gabriel and his brothers tremble.”
“It’s not you, if that is what you want to hear.”
“I know it’s not me. But they must fear something. Find out what it is.” And once he does, I will search the world over for it.
He frowns. “I…I want to please you. But everything in me is telling me to fight.”
“That will go away,” Eve murmurs, again moving so silently I did not hear her come into the room. “Could he bring us Adam?”
“Adam has no substance, darling. He is soul. My blood needs flesh to work on. The flesh of a dying human.” I smile at her. “Or a living angel.” I run my finger down Agine’s chest, and he trembles. I can see it’s with a mixture of need and disgust.
Soon, all there will be is need. I hold my already healed finger out to Eve, and she bites down delicately, opening the sweetest of cuts for me to squeeze the blood out of. It drips onto Agine’s chest, lower and lower and lower, running through the water but not losing form—you can’t just wash my blood away.
He screams loudly enough that I think perhaps I’ve given him too much. But I must be sure he’s mine: once he gets back to Heaven, I’ll lose him unless his need for me outweighs his angelic nature.
“Surely there’s something we can do to Adam?” Eve walks, or rather dances, about the room. Her love for me is rivaled only by her hatred for Adam. It isn’t his fault, though, that she was driven to cleave to her abhorrence of him: she was made from his rib; it’s her nature to hold on.
She’s been holding on to me for millennia.
“Small steps, my darling. Adam can wait. The war is yet young.”
Time means so little when you’re immortal—revenge, on the other hand, is all.
Gerri Leen lives in Northern Virginia and originally hails from Seattle. In addition to being an avid reader, she's passionate about horse racing, tea, ASMR vids, and creating weird one-pan meals. She has work appearing in Nature, Galaxy's Edge, Deep Magic, Escape Pod, Daily Science Fiction, Cast of Wonders, and others. She's edited several anthologies for independent presses, is finishing some longer projects, and is a member of SFWA and HWA.
See more at gerrileen.com.