If Azzy, the all-powerful queen was going to select a motorcycle (from her massive vehicle collection) Luke knew better then to try to keep up with her in a normal car. Luke had learned to ride from his father, who had actually biked across Europe as a teen. During the few years of his life when Luke owned a bike, he had seen some very aggressive riders and dangerous situations, which inspired him to switch to public transportation.
Azzy flew out of the underground parking garage on her neon blue Suzuki. Luke matched her style and speed, working under the assumption that Azzy had some kind of supernatural trick up her sleeve that would prevent them from getting pulled over.
The pair rode deep into wine country, past the vineyards and Indian casinos. They swerved around cars, through off-road tunnels and pathways, until they reached an unusual field. Pulling up, it appeared to be a cornfield. But as they passed the gate, the corn opened into a field of wheat, and then hay (with bales appearing out of nowhere.)
“We’re here,” Azzy said as she pulled up behind a massive bale of hay. “Park your bike next to mine, we can hide them in the hay.”
“Where is here?” Luke asked as he did what she asked, allowing his borrowed bike to be engulfed by the bale.
“This is one of many places where the leylines intersect to create a portal to hell itself. Basically, it’s like a specially made table for ritual sacrifice. My dad used to bring me here all the time.”
“Really?” Luke asked as he stretched his back. He looked at his watch- they had been riding for nearly four hours.
“Yeah, I imagine he was a little disappointed that I took after my mom. And when I cut his heart out.”
“You seem really proud of that,” Luke muttered.
“Sorry,” Azzy replied as she searched the bale, pulling out a backpack. “Military Food rations- score!”
“I’m not hungry.”
Azzy shook her head as she took a seat by his side. “Look, I’m sorry I offended you. I know you watched your father die of cancer but that was totally different- my father was not a good person, he was literally a demon king. I mean, he brought me here to witness his followers offering him blood sacrifices.”
“But he loved you.” Luke stared at her with his dark eyes filled with truth and compassion. “Your father could have killed you at any time but he loved you enough to keep you safe.”
Azzy bit her lip in visible confusion. “I-I’ve never thought of it that way. I always thought it was because he wanted me to rule the world as his 2nd in command- but yeah, that would require some level of parental love.” She started to dig through the food, coming up with a package of crackers. “Please, you have to eat something.”
“Fine,” Luke said, opening the package to be polite. The crackers looked like faded cardboard but tasted like typical cheap butter cookies.
“So, what was the last thing your father said to you?” Azzy asked a little too casually.
“He said he was proud of the person I was and the person I would become. You?”
“My dad as he was bleeding out said, with a smile, ‘I couldn’t have asked for a better daughter.'”
“It was all a sick joke to him. My dad wanted to use his last words to cement the fact that everything; my rebellion, his death- it was all part of his plan to make me just like him. ”
“But you’re not like him?”
“Why was that a question?”
Luke stuffed his mouth full of crackers and turned away with a shrug.
Azzy took a handful of hay and hurled it at his back. “Get some sleep. I’ll wake you when the party starts.”
There would be no need. At around midnight the caravan of trucks, vans, and trailers started to arrive, and they weren’t exactly subtle. Luke awoke right away to the sounds of car horns, screams, and dub-step music. “What now, Azzy?” A battle was coming, that much was certain.
“We wait for the psycho-sheep to line up and present their offerings.”
“You don’t want to know,” she muttered. A sword appeared in Azzy’s hand and she quickly made a second one for Luke. “It will be the first, and probably the only time when we can get a view of everyone out in the open.”
Luke scanned the crowd, there were a few people emerging; punks, skinheads, and even a few people in suits. They appeared to be contributing wood, metal and other scrap material towards the creation of a stage-like alter.
“Let’s roll,” Azzy said as she sheathed her sword.
Out of the corner of his eye, Luke saw something sparkly in the bed of a dark blue truck. “Yeah, copy that, right behind you.” Luke made his way to the truck, as Azzy disappeared in the opposite direction. As he got closer he could see a figure in the moonlight; a long-haired woman with his wife’s wedding ring. But it wasn’t Kelsey. This woman was abnormally thin like a heroin addict and a blonde. “Who are you, where is my wife?”
The woman turned her head like a mannequin. “Nevin’s ex? She’ll be dealt with soon enough.” Her lips cracked into a disturbing smile. “But you can take this thing.” The woman threw what appeared to be a trash bag.
Luke knew to catch it. Whatever was inside was trembling, whimpering. He tore open the bag to find little Shannon. The toddler’s face was bruised and bloody but her sparkly blue eyes looked at him with innocence and hope. “Hi Shannon, it’s me,” Luke’s voice was already breaking, “everything is going to be ok. We’re going to find Mommy and we’re going to go home.”
Up until then, Luke had kept his composure but when Shannon opened her mouth to speak and only a gasp came out- something broke in him. By the light of the moon, he could see the bruises on her neck. Someone had tried to strangle her. Tears filled Luke’s eyes, blurring his vision. His mind had no idea what to do, but his body seemed to have a plan of its own.
He was standing over the blonde woman’s dismembered corpse, his new sword dripping with blood. He could feel Shannon gripping his back. Somehow he had crafted a carrier out of the trash bag.
Luke was forcing his way through the crowd while carrying the blonde woman’s severed head. He could hear Azzy screaming for him to stop but he couldn’t even if he wanted to.
His wife, Kelsey, was naked on the altar, her body beaten and bloody. It was clear she had been raped repeatedly and was about to be sexually assaulted again by a man wearing an abnormally realistic bull mask. Yeah, whoever that was had beheaded a live bull: the blood was still dripping down his neck and chest.
Luke was stabbing the man in the neck. Somehow Azzy had rescued Kelsey and was carrying her body in her arms while still screaming at Luke to stop. But his blade had already torn through the man’s back. He twisted the sword with a smile as he tore out his back (while ripping off the man’s mask- it was Nevin Brooks.)
Fire-coated zombie hands reached up from the alter, pinning Nevin’s body to the ‘stage.’
Azzy raised her hand, opening a portal back to the location of the bikes. “Luke, we need to run- NOW!”
Luke took a step back as more burning hands emerged, pulling down the followers one by one as hellish treats for their demon lord.
“Get on your bike and follow me before-” it was too late.
Nevin’s body sat up with a maniacal laughter. He cracked his neck, and then his shoulder. “Hello, princess.” That wasn’t Nevin’s voice.
Luke had only met Nevin a few times but this voice was strange; oddly deep with a distinct accent.
Azzy stood with a death glare. “Hello, Dad.”
Luke made a dash for the bikes, fully expecting a barrage of fireballs.
But no- Azzy’s father was just standing there, laughing. “Don’t worry, my princess, I will allow you to escape, tend to your wounded.”
“How kind of you,” Azzy muttered. “I see your years in hell have made you a better person.”
The demon chuckled. “The next time we meet I will have my grandson at my side.”
“You leave my child out this.”
“This? His bloodline- His destiny?”
“I killed you once I can do it again.”
“I have no doubt. As I said all those years ago, ‘I couldn’t have asked for a better daughter.'” The demon silently clapped his hands, opening a portal of his own.
Luke caught a quick glimpse of where the demon was going before he vanished. ‘Walmart?’ He looked at Azzy to see if she had noticed the same thing.
Her hands were shaking. “This is all your fault.”
“Yes, this was a recon mission- but you had to go full ‘Michael Myers’; hacking people into pieces- you allowed my father to escape from hell!”
“So you weren’t expecting to see your father?”
“No, I was not,” Azzy said as she opened a portal to a hospital parking lot. “I had heard rumors of a powerful demon making an attempt at the mortal realm. I’m sure my father had heard the same and when YOUR little stunt opened the gates of hell he took the opportunity to lock on to my location.”
“I’m really sorry.” Luke held his daughter close as he hopped on his bike and quickly followed Azzy.
She pulled into a parking space. “We’re here.”
Under the light of the moon, she carried Kelsey into the emergency room. It was clear where they were: the hospital Azzy ran as administrator. Also, the place where her husband resided as an angel. “Luke, you stay with your family. My medical staff will take care of everything.”
“Ok,” Luke replied as a nurse took little Shannon from him, to bring her to an exam room. “Where are you going?”
Azzy was already walking away, towards the main elevators. “I need to talk to my husband about protecting my son.”