The Last Temptation
by Pembroke Sinclair
Abigail sat next to her lawyer and doodled absently on a yellow legal pad. The first few days of the inquisition had been interesting, and she was on the edge of her seat anticipating the verdict. But as the days wore on and the jury remained undecided, she grew bored. The demon lawyer, who was a towering eight feet tall and looked like a wild boar standing on hind legs, was addressing the eight jury members. She only half listened as he ran through the list of her sins—again. His deep guttural voice broke through her thoughts as he turned and addressed her directly, but she had stopped looking up days earlier. He wasn’t expecting a response, and one didn’t matter anyway. Abigail had done all she could do; she lived her life. It was now up to the angels and demons to decide her soul’s fate.
As the lawyer rambled on, she drew pictures of her old house and pets that had long since passed. A cold breeze touched the back of her neck, and she shivered but didn’t look up. The breeze blew again, stronger and colder, and Abigail folded her arms across her chest. She glanced up and noticed that the demon lawyer was still talking, but he seemed to be moving in slow motion. The jury members were frozen. She glanced at her lawyer. He seemed to be caught in the same trance as the rest of the room. The only one who could move at a normal speed was Abigail.
She furrowed her brow and stood up. As she turned, she noticed a man sitting behind her; her heart skipped and her breath caught in her throat. She was sure that if she wasn’t already dead, this would have surely given her a heart attack. She took a few steps backward, and the man smiled. There was something familiar about that grin and those eyes. She took a deep breath.
Abigail was six months into her twenty first year when she and two of her friends decided to go out for a night on the town. She was a student at the state’s only university, studying sociology. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to do when she was done, but she still had a year, so she wasn’t too worried about it. Their night started out at a small downtown bar. They were all planning on drinking heavily, and they didn’t want to drive, so they stayed in the area with the greatest concentration of pubs. They were pretty much the only ones in the establishment, save for a few of the regulars who stuck to the dark corners. They had a few beers, did a couple of shots, then decided to find a more happening spot. They walked down the block to another bar and filed in. The second place had more people, louder music, and games, so they decided to play for a while. They ordered more pitchers of beer, had a couple more shots, and decided to play some pool.
While they were playing pool, a group of guys decided to come over and challenge them to a game. By now, they were all feeling pretty good, and the boys were cute, so they agreed. More pitchers were ordered, more shots were taken, and after several games of pool, they all decided to try their chances at darts. Abigail smiled as she remembered that night.
His name was Bryce, and she remembered he had the most beautiful blue eyes she had ever seen. They were pale, yet piercing, and his smile could melt anyone’s heart. They started playing darts, and it was pretty obvious they were both into each other. They would go out of their way to touch every chance they got.
After darts, the girls decided they were feeling adventurous and wanted to go dancing. They convinced the guys that it would be fun, then walked the four blocks to the club. There was a line outside with a bouncer checking IDs, and the music thumped its way onto the street. Once they made it inside, they told the boys to find them a seat, then all three girls went to the bathroom. They talked about how lucky they were to find such hot guys, then went to find them and ordered more drinks. Abigail knew that she was getting pretty drunk, so she decided to slow down and have something to eat. She and Bryce split a greasy bar pizza that burned her tongue before heading onto the dance floor.
As the lights flashed and the music deafened, Abigail and Bryce held each other close, staring into each other’s eyes and forgetting about everyone else on the dance floor. They wiggled and gyrated until sweat dripped from their foreheads and they could barely breathe. As they headed back to the table, Bryce put his arm around her shoulder and kissed her gently on the cheek. Abigail was feeling less drunk at this point, and decided she didn’t really want a hangover in the morning, so she stuck with water for the rest of the night. They stayed at the club for a few more hours before one of the guys suggested heading to their apartment for some quiet time. They all agreed and left the bar with their ears ringing.
Bryce and his friends lived about ten blocks from downtown, and the walk was actually refreshing. Bryce held Abigail’s hand, and they laughed at their friends as they stumbled down the sidewalk. When they made it to the apartment, more beer and shots were poured, and a Bob Marley CD was played at low volume. While her friends sat and consumed more alcohol, she and Bryce headed back to his room.
“Well, I can say I never expected you to be here.”
“I didn’t want to startle you.”
Abigail chuckled. “My lawyer explained everything to me when I first arrived. I would have never guessed you were the Devil. I’m not sure I believe it now. Are you here to argue that I go to Hell?”
Bryce moved so he was standing next to her. “Of course. You have brought my son into the world.” He placed a hand on her shoulder and brought his face close to her ear. “You deserve to be rewarded for what you have done.”
“Why me? What was so special about me?”
Bryce removed his hand and approached the demon lawyer. He stared briefly into the demon’s eyes before returning his gaze to Abigail. He shrugged.
“To be honest, there was nothing special about you. Any one of your friends would have sufficed that night. You just happened to be the easiest to seduce.”
Abigail hugged herself and stared at the ground.
“I’m sorry if you wanted to hear that you had been chosen because of the way the stars aligned, but that is just not the case. You’re not even the first woman to bear one of my children. Aiden was just the first to actually fulfill his destiny.”
Abigail felt dizzy, and placed her hand on the table. It was still hard for her to believe that her first born son, her sensitive, loving child, turned out to be the Antichrist. There was never any inclination that he had a propensity for evil. Aiden learned to walk and talk like any normal child, and he was curious about his surroundings. He would get upset and frustrated when he was tired, and he would cry when he was scared or needed something. The only thing that set him apart from his siblings was his interactions with others. Abigail had noticed when Aiden was two that he had the uncanny ability to become the center of attention wherever he was. Both parents and kids were drawn to him, and she could never figure out why. He was generally a happy child, and he had his father’s eyes and smile, so she assumed everyone was reacting to his charms. They adored him. Abigail never thought much about it because she was blinded with love for her child. She thought he was perfect, why wouldn’t everyone else?
He was always a very cuddly child. From the moment he was born, he loved to be in Abigail’s company. He slept next to her in the bed, and relished in hugs and kisses. She attributed a lot of that to the fact that it was just the two of them until he was three. She was nervous that he would be jealous of her husband, but Aiden adapted quickly. He learned to love and trust his stepfather, and adored his younger brother and sister.
The Antichrist was prophesized to be a man who would rise from the economic, military, and political turmoil that threatened to devastate the world. He would be a charismatic leader that had a foolproof plan that promised world peace and economic stability, and Earth would once again be a prosperous place for many years. He would start out as the leader of one country, but as his popularity grew, he would soon rule the world. Eventually, he would claim that he is greater than God and demand that he be worshipped, which, of course, would spawn a religious war.
If Abigail hadn’t witnessed her son’s transformation with her own eyes, she would have never believed it. After arriving in Purgatory, Abigail was informed exactly as to what the Devil’s intentions had been. The decision for the Devil to want to destroy the world stemmed from his eternal hatred of humans. Abigail assumed that the conception of the Antichrist would occur under the direction and supervision of the Devil’s worshippers, but she was wrong. There were Devil worshippers, certainly, but they were not hiding in secret societies watching the stars for the return of the Dark Prince. Satan loathes humans, so he would not be flattered by or actively seeking worshippers. The reason he was kicked out of Heaven was because he thought God favored man over the angels, and that angered him. He despises the fact that humans live in God’s grace, and does everything in his power to tempt them to the dark side. His decision of when and who would carry his child would be decided by his generals and what was happening on Earth. Since it would take twenty to thirty years before his son would be ready, they had to make sure their timing was right. Satan would more than likely never consult the stars or how the planets align, and he definitely would not trust a covenant of humans to ensure that his son was safe.
Abigail turned to look a Bryce. “If I’m not special, why would you offer me a place in Hell?”
Bryce grimaced. “Oh, Abigail, don’t be so sullen. What I’m offering is better than anything you can get in Heaven. It is far better to rule in Hell than serve is Heaven. Milton was a very smart man.”
She shivered. “But then I would have to be witness to the horrors of tortured souls.”
He shrugged. “You get used to it after a while. Besides, it’s not like anyone down there doesn’t deserve what they get. What makes you think Heaven would be any better? The only difference between Heaven and Hell is that there is no pain in Heaven. Plus, in Hell, you will get to be with Aiden when he dies.”
Abigail sighed and took a seat. Despite what Aiden had become, she did still love him. But it wasn’t just him she had to consider. She did have a husband and two other kids. How could she favor one of them over the others? She was pretty sure the rest of her family would go to Heaven; they had lived their lives in a pristine and Christian-like manner. They weren’t perfect by any sense of the imagination, but their good deeds far outweighed their sins. Abigail had tried, but she had lost her faith early on. Although she tried to live her life by the Golden Rule, she spent most of her young and adult life renouncing God. She regained her faith later in life, mainly to appease her husband, but she never fully put her heart into it.
Even though she knew she shouldn’t favor one over the others, Aiden was her first born, and she always felt a deeper connection with him than with her other children. He was the overachiever in the family, and he was always a constant in her life. He was there when others weren’t, and it was his smile, either the actual or the remembrance of, that would pull her through the tough times.
“Did Aiden know? Did he know he was the Antichrist?”
Bryce smiled. “Of course. You didn’t think we spent our time playing catch and watching football did you? That is what his step dad was for.”
“Why didn’t he ever say anything? What did you two do when he visited?”
Bryce smiled and hopped onto the long table that the jury sat behind. The demon lawyer had just finished his argument and was heading back to his table while Abigail’s lawyer was getting ready to start his. Both Bryce and Abigail watched them for a moment, then Bryce explained.
He told her that he and Aiden spent their time traveling the world, learning about different cultures. He read ancient texts about religion and studied human nature. Aiden learned how to be business savvy, and he mingled with royalty around the world. He never said anything to his family 1) because no one would have believed him and 2) why did he have to?
“What he did was his business. He didn’t need your support. But that is all beside the point. We’re here to talk about you. Aiden has done what he had to, and so have you. Do you really think that they’re going to find you worthy to go to Heaven?”
Abigail squared her shoulders. “Why wouldn’t they? It’s not like I was given a choice. I had no idea my child would turn out the way he did.”
Bryce waved his hand nonchalantly in the air. “Of course not. If I had told you what was going on, you would have never agreed to it. That is your one saving grace in this whole matter. What about the rest of your life? If it wasn’t for me, you would have been in Hell forty years ago. I’m sure you remember the path of self destruction you were headed down. If it wasn’t for me, you would have killed yourself. I gave you a reason to live. I gave you Aiden.”
Abigail smirked. “Do you consider that an act of compassion? Is the Devil capable of compassion?”
Bryce chuckled. “You humans. You truly want everything to be black and white, don’t you? It would make the universe so simple if I would only fit into my mold. Be nothing but pure evil.” He hopped of the table and made his way toward Abigail. He sat on the arm of her chair and folded his hands in his lap. “Do you also believe that my true form is that of a huge red demon with horns and a pitchfork? Of course I’m capable of compassion. I was an angel before I was the Devil. And if you recall, angels are pure love. Over time, that feeling has been replaced with hate and jealousy, but there is a smidge of it there in the blackness of my soul. A smidge that I have reserved for my son.”
Abigail shivered. What kind of love did he feel for his son? Abusive fathers claimed to lover their children, too. And what about his other offspring? Did he not love them because they failed to attain their destiny? She doubted Bryce felt the same about Aiden as she did. And she knew that he had never loved her.
Bryce and Abigail had been dating exclusively, but they still didn’t really know each other. Their relationship was based on sex, they didn’t talk a lot. When she found out she was pregnant, her first inclination was to just get rid of it. She had a year left of school, and didn’t want to throw it away with a child. But Bryce convinced her to keep it, and he promised to help her take care of it. She knew that she should have been grateful that Bryce stuck around, but he turned into a completely different person. He was obsessed with making sure Abigail took care of herself and making sure the baby was all right. She couldn’t take it. He was always there. She finally told him that he would have visitation rights, but she wanted nothing more to do with him. Abigail realized, looking back, that Bryce wasn’t really concerned about her. He had acted the way he did to push her away; to ensure that he would have alone time with their son. Perhaps if she had seen it then, things would have turned out differently.
But on the other hand, Aiden really didn’t turn out that horribly. Despite the fact that he was to usher in the apocalypse, he was still respectful and loving toward his family. He was the first one to help his brother or sister when they had a problem. She wouldn’t say he was sensitive; after he started school, he rarely showed signs of emotions such as crying or disappointment, but he was responsive to the needs of others. Abigail believed that was part of the reason he was so well liked.
Not only was Aiden the most popular boy in school, he was also incredibly intelligent. These two traits served him well throughout his life and got him into the best college and landed him a high profile job. He was always happy to be home and always excited to see everyone, especially her. She always missed him so much when he was gone, and she believe that he felt the same way. Even when he was in high school, his favorite thing was to lay his head on Abigail’s lap while she stroked his hair.
“We don’t have much time, Abigail. Your lawyer will soon be finishing his argument, and the jury will once again go into deliberation. The best that you can hope for is that they place you in limbo. There, you will have to prove that you are worthy to go to Heaven. They will probably assign you to your son and force you to convince him to give up his evil ways. If you are successful, you will get to Heaven. But, you will anger and alienate your son. He will denounce you. Or you can tell them you want to go to Hell. I will give you whatever your heart desires. If it is your family that you’re concerned about, I can guarantee they will be with you. They can’t promise you that in Heaven. And you will be with Aiden. The choice is yours, Abigail, where do you want to go?”
Abigail took a deep breath. “I’ve never said no to you before, why should I start now?”
The Devil smiled.
Pembroke Sinclair has had several stories published in various places. He writes an eclectic mix of stories ranging from western to science fiction to fantasy; although, his passion lies in science fiction. His stories have been published in Static Movement; chuckhawks.com; The Cynic Online Magazine; NVF Magazine online, NVF Magazine Issue 8, NVF Magazine Issue 2, and NVF Magazine Issue 4; and Residential Aliens. The Dark Side of the Moon will be published by Sonar 4 Publishing in September 2009. Also look for his first novel, Coming from Nowhere, which will be published in 2009 by eTreasures Publishing. His story, Sohei, was named one of the Best Stories of 2008 by The Cynic Online Magazine. Other than that, there is not much to say. He enjoys reading, writing, and watching science fiction and fantasy, long hikes in the woods, and poking dead things with a stick. If you would like to contact Pembroke, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or pembrokesinclair.blogspot.com.
Where do you get the ideas for your stories?
The ideas for my stories come from a lot of different places. Sometimes real life is my inspiration, and sometimes I get ideas from my dreams. A lot of what I read or watch, and it doesn't have to be fiction, has an impact as well.