Caiden woke up early and got on his computer. Gaming was one way for him to pass time on the weekends. Brad gave him a call around noon. It was storming, thunder and lightning crashing constantly. Outside the sky was a dark purple, this was a serious storm.
"Hey... Caiden, uhm... it's about the park." Brad said slowly.
"What about it?" Caiden asked, he was confused.
"The tree... her tree... It just burst into flames. We were driving past, and it just caught fire."
"The storm must have caused it, lightning must have hit it. I don't know, a fire truck drove by us as we passed. It didn't look good, the tree's a goner Caiden."
"I... I don't understand." Caiden said. He was absolutely speechless.
"I'm sorry." Brad said. Caiden hung up the phone without saying anything else. He looked around and then made a quick decision and grabbed his coat. He ran out of the house and to his car. He drove to town and towards the park. He could see the flames before anything else, they were sky high. He slammed on his breaks and put the car into park. Caiden jumped from the car and ran forward.
The tree was still on fire. The ground around it already dead. In minutes Caiden was soaked by the rain. Thunder crashed around him, but the only thing he could hear was the crackle from the flames. Firemen were surrounding it and attempting to put it out; nothing they attempted worked. It burned until there was nothing left but ash, and then it was gone. No smoke, nothing. Just ash. Everything about Ava was gone, just gone.
Ava sat alone for what felt like hours thinking. She was at a loss as for what to do. She had her sanity back, and now she felt alone as ever. She looked around to the souls around her, they all had the same facial expression as she did. But they also put their heads in their hands when she did.
"Hello poppet." Red Eyes said from behind. Ava turned around and saw him looming over her. Ava stood up and looked him in the eyes. His skin was burnt to ash, as always and his horns seemed longer. Ava spoke up, she wanted answers.
"Tell me the truth." She said firmly.
"Poppet..." Red Eyes started.
"Now." Ava stepped forward. Her fingers running across the bars of her cage. With one finger she pushed the door open and stepped daintily out.
"How did you manage to get out of there?" He asked, unconcerned.
"Blue eyes. He shared something very interesting with me." Ava circled the demon.
"And that was?" He asked with an eyebrow raised. Ava shrugged, as if she were going to say something unimportant.
"You can't hold me here."
"Of course I can. I have your soul." He gestured to a pendant on his neck. It glowed a blue white at his touch.
"Yes, but you can't keep it according to Blue Eyes." Ava said with a finger to her lips in thought.
"I suggest you do as I say." He held his hands up preparing to unleash hell onto Ava once more.
"I want the truth." She said more loudly, but her voice shook. She was still afraid of his power. "Who was he? Did you plant the guilt in my head with your torture, is this ALL in my head? Have you created a personal hell, just for me?"
"Hell is different for everyone. I've customized it for each individual soul in this blasted place. So yes, the torture is all in your head." He said slowly. Red Eyes looked at Ava intently and snapped his fingers. Ava flinched, but after a moment she realized that nothing had happened. Looking herself over she saw that everything was as it had been. She was still in the long black dress, and there was no fire... not a hair was misplaced.
"Ha," She laughed softly. Red Eyes looked astonished, but in a flash the shock was gone from his eyes. "Tell me the truth." Behind them, the other souls were chanting the word 'truth'. Ava felt confident now, he had no power over her. If she wanted, she could take the pendent right now and reclaim her soul. She reached out to pull it from his neck.
"Not so fast my pretty." His reflexes were like that of a cat, his hand caught hers and he squeezed. Ava's skin burned on contact, she let out a small yelp and pulled away. "I CAN still hurt you, even if you aren't under my control."
"Tell me the truth." Ava demanded once more.
"Our little friend Blue Eyes, as you call him, is like me... He is heaven's soldier. I do not know why he paid us a visit, but if he is free lancing... His 'boss' will not be pleased."
"Why not, he is giving people peace?"
"There are rules you know. An angel doesn't just waltz down into hell without purpose. It is in the agreement." Red Eyes spat the word 'angel'. Ava was in shock, Blue Eyes had been an angel...
"Maybe someone you brought down here doesn't belong." Ava said suggestively.
"Pish posh. We made a deal honey, rules are rules." Red Eyes said waving his hand at her.
"Now about my soul. I want it."
"It's mine!" He exclaimed. Flames started to grow around them, Ava didn't back down.
"Not according to Blue Eyes."
"Regardless, obtaining it wont be easy." He grabbed Ava by the shoulder and everything faded to black.
They landed hard in the woods once more. Ava didn't need to be reminded of where she was. She stood up immediately and looked around, ready to run at any moment.
"Purgatory," She whispered.
"Yes, my clever darling." He whispered in her ear. Ava spun around and pedaled backwards away from Red Eyes. He was in his human form now, aside from his ruby eyes. He smiled wickedly and stepped forward. "We are going to make one last deal." He chuckled.
"No." Ava said firmly. "That's absurd!"
"Then I will leave you here to die." He shrugged and walked away. He had no care in the world what happened to her, Ava saw that in his eyes.
"Wait." Ava said running through her options in her head. She didn't have many. Sounds were coming from all over, and movement in the woods made her heart pound. "What is the offer?"
"Survive." Red Eyes said without turning around.
"Survive... for how long?" Ava asked hesitantly.
"Well... Let's say six months human time." He turned around smiling, his face had morphed, fangs protruding. Six months that couldn't be too bad, but what had he meant by human time? Ava thought for a moment, contemplating the option. Six months was still a long time.
"Okay, simple enough. Survive for six months; is there anything else I need to know?"
"I said six months in human time. Here, in the realm of hell," he gestured around them in the mist filled forest. "That is 5 years."
"No..." Ava said in shock.
"This is the only offer I am making." He laughed softly and put a finger under Ava's chin lifting her head up. "You didn't think I would make it easy, did you? You are my prized possession, you made yourself worth to be a ruler in hell. You can't just walk out of here, I am going to make it hell for you." He laughed at his own pun and traced Ava's jaw with the tip of his finger.
"If I do this, what do I get?" She asked, slapping his hand away from her.
"Your soul, your freedom." He shrugged.
"How can I be sure you aren't lying?" Ava said squinting at him.
"I came through on our last deal." He said batting his eyes in mock innocent.
"That was the only time you told the truth in our relationship." Ava popped the 'p' and rolled her eyes. "I need something truthful out of you. No more of the lies you fed me in my cage."
"It was clever though, using your lover against you. You sacrificed so much to save him. It would be totally ironic if he had thrown it back in your face. It was a great thought." He said, tooting his own horn.
"I won't make a deal unless I see something truthful."
"What do I care if we make a deal. You'll probably die either way." Red Eyes said pretending to tend to his nails.
"Exactly. What is the harm in showing me the truth if I am going to die regardless? Wouldn't it be more entertaining to see me suffer, dying, knowing what the truth was and never being able to go back to earth? You could think of it as the finale of torment, the torture of all tortures." Ava hated that she was giving him this idea, but she needed to know... even if it did kill her in the long run.
"You would make one hell of a demon my love." He said, twirling her hair in his hands.
"I would never become one of you. You are a sick son of a bitch." Ava spat.
"You thought of it darling, not me." He said leaning in and nibbling her ear. He made her sick, she cringed at his touch and tried to push him away. His hand reached up and grabbed her temples and then the world began to spin.
"That's a lovely choice sir. You've got one lucky woman." Someone said. From what Ava could see she was in a jewelry store. She looked around and saw two men inspecting a ring, Caiden and a salesman.
"I'm the lucky man, if she says yes." Caiden smiled. All Ava could see was the glimmer of a ring, her breath caught in her throat.
'God...' She thought to herself. As she watched Caiden leave the store with a smile across his face, the scene changed.
"We'll have to stop before dinner so I can change." He smiled. Ava remembered this. It was their anniversary... 40 years ago. Ava had been waiting at the front door for him. He was in the bedroom looking himself over in the mirror. Then he walked to his sock drawer and stifled through it. He picked up a small black box, smiled to himself and put it back in place before leaving.
The scene changed one last time. They were still in the apartment, but it was dark now and empty. No one was home.
Caiden stepped inside and slammed the front door. Ava could here him walking towards the bedroom. He fell onto the bed and stared at the ceiling for a long time, tears dried up on his cheeks. Ava felt tears of her own roll down her cheeks and fall to the ground. Caiden stood up and looked around the room, in search of something. He rummaged through the closet, taking her clothes and holding them against his face. His entire body was shaking when he found the box, it was the gift she had put together for him. He sat on the bed and opened it slowly. His eyes grew wider and wider as he flipped through the photo albums pages. At the end he found the locket.
"Oh my..." Ava whispered.
Caiden stood and walked back to his drawer. He pulled the black box out from underneath his socks and popped it open. Wiping away tears he put the ring around the chain of the locket. Looking it over one last time, he put it around his neck. He held the locket and the ring up so he could see them and sank to the floor. He leaned against the door and cried.
"Makes me sick." Red Eyes said. The scene blurred and they were back in the terrifying woods or Purgatory. Ava didn't listen to him. She was replaying everything in her head, over and over. She spun around and met the demon's eyes.
"It's a deal." She said softly.
"Wonderful." He smiled slyly and pulled Ava close to him, kissing her hard. "The deal is sealed." Then with a burst of flames, Red Eyes was gone.
Ava had to count... 5 years. She had to survive for that long before she could go home. She was determined to do it; a new fire burning within her heart. But first, she had to find shelter and a weapon. Howls and cackles came from all around. The wind picked up and the temperature dropped. It was as if everything in Purgatory had been notified that she had arrived and was here to stay.
"Let the game begin." Ava said sarcastically. Then she ran off in search of a weapon, her first priority over anything else.