I’ve got the bear-eyes in my stomach, a pocketful of hellfire-grade LSD, and I’m walking through the front door of my second-floor apartment, downtown in the fourth ring of hell.
Mephisto is leaning in the hallway, body tall and arching. My terrible fire-licking half-brother, I love and hate every inch of you..
“Where’s Mom,” I say, and I snap snap snap to show my urgency.
“Doesn’t matter. Don’t come over here,” he says, pushing me away, keeping me from the hallway.
“I need to see her now!”
“She’s literally in the middle of giving birth.”
“It’s already happening? Dammit! I need to get in there! Ifel will be here in half-an-hour tops—I owe him mad cash like you would not believe.”
My brother looks past me as we speak, eyes set beyond my scaled skin.He never looks at me. No one ever looks at me.
“Sorry, Fishboy, no hard feelings.”
He’s watching the tube while he’s trying to settle me down.
“Turn off the fucking TV,” I say.“It’s the X-files!”
“Oh my God. They’re re-runs!” My chest is hot, my heart is bursting, and I swear I may be melting. Fish-men don’t sweat. I’ve got no sweat glands to release this fire-hot pressure, just scales and light blue leathery skin. “Whatever, I’m setting up the altar,” I say.
“Fuck, man—she won’t like that.”
“Listen, I’ve got the father-fucking bear eyes in my gut. I’ve gotta move fast.”
The stone altar in our living room is cold. I drag it out onto the red shag carpet—draw the concentric circles all around—take a mandrake root from the pantry and lay at the bottom of my sacrificial stone. I stick two fingers down my throat and cough up the bear-eyes.
“Aye dios mío,” Mephisto says, “It’s the episode with the father-fucking genie again!” He clicks up a few channels and now he’s watching Seinfeld.
The bear-eyes are soft in my hands. I look at my watch. Ifel will be here any minute. I’ve got the LSD, the eyes, the root…I need that damn baby.
I set the bear-eyes on the altar, and then I jump up and make for the unguarded hallway. I leap forward for the bathroom, where I hear screaming and shouting and splashing.
“Hey Fishboy, stop! Don’t go back there!”
“Mom, I need the—”
I open the door. She has the newborn halfway in her mouth, and she’s pulling the rest down her throat, dragging the body with her forked tongue.
Why am I trapped here? In this cliché-hell full of Lucifer’s and Satan’s and whatever other three-headed monsters… I wish I lived with demons who saw me and looked at me and loved me scales and all.
Everything’s set to go—it’s all ready, all waiting. But I need a chimera, like that baby or my mother or my brother or myself, something half-devil and half-clam or dog or whatever. I watch what was the final piece of my ritual’s puzzle be eaten up by my mother. Light and defeated, I fall backwards down the hallway—a weightless body swimming through the air, like a fish floating through the water, drifting belly up and hopeless.
I hear pounding on the front door. Mephisto catches me mid-fall and drags me down the hallway, away from the bathroom. Inspiration is a lightning bolt, cursing me always with her brilliance.
Again I hear the pounding. “Where’s the rest of my LSD, Fishboy!” Ifel says, his voice coming in muffled.
“Brother, you know I’ve always loved you. But I’m out of time.” I turn around and bite my brother’s neck, pull him by the flesh to my altar and then I let go and lay him across the top. “I want to be seen the same by everyone,” I say, loud enough hopefully for my lords to hear me.
My brother gasps and I tear into his skin again with rows of toothcomb-sharp fishy teeth.
My scales disappear. My skin disappears. This is me becoming invisible.
The ritual glow fades, and I grab the bear-eyes to remember this moment always.
Ifel smashes the door and he looks right at me, sees right through me, gropes hopelessly in light of the netherworld for me.
Charles L Crowley lives in Pasadena, California. His work has appeared in or is forthcoming in the West Wind, The Los Angeles Review of Los Angeles, Unbroken Journal, Whale Road Review, and Eunoia. Aside from writing, he enjoys chasing chickens, watching Godzilla films, and consuming coffee and comic books