“And bend down, touch those-” Kelly glanced a the various appendages that supported the class and corrected course without missing a beat, “-touch the floor! And hold for five, four, three, two, and one and up and breathe and step. Now down again!”
The assorted mass in front of her did again. She walked among them, counting down, correcting posture where she could. Belphegor was struggling to bend down – he claimed the jaw in his midsection wasn’t particularly flexible – but given that his mouth was shrinking with his girth, Kelly figured it had to have more give than he claimed, and pushed him further. He grunted at the exertion, but the jaw distended to allow the motion. “Five and four and knew you could do it, three and two and one and up and breathe and step!”
The praise made him grin, which Kelly liked. It helped distract her from the slight trouble she was having walking today.
Her feet still fit in her shoes, thankfully, but her toes were mostly fused together. It made balance difficult, to say the least. The skin was definitely harder too, and she’d shrunk a shoe size.
Chemosh sat in the back, watching approvingly. Kelly was glad he was here. Following the man last night had lead to more questions.
“Alright, everyone! One more, this time to ten!” she began to count down, moving among them, checking posture. Eisheth, one of the few females of the demons, moved down a few extra inches as Kelly approached. A few flakes of skin shredded off her desiccated form as she did, but Kelly gave her a thumbs up. “And one and rise! Great job everyone! Haagenti, watch those tendrils next time – the goal is to stretch the back, not the limbs. Orobas, great attempt, but keep in mind the limbs you walk on are your feet, not the limbs at the bottom of your torso. Make sure you treat them like feet next time. See you all same time tomorrow!” She strode over to Chemosh, moving quickly in case he’d just come by to check on progress.
He didn’t seem in any hurry to leave, at least. He was still wearing that red suit, perfectly tailored for him. Is that what you really look like? Are you actually a handsome devil? Or do you look like the rest of them under that. “Thanks for stopping by,” she said, still catching her breath from the exertion.
Chemosh gave her a small bow. “I should have checked back in sooner, to be fair. Things became rather…heated.” She noticed with the phrase how stiffly he moved his arm.
“You alright?” she asked, frowning.
“I appreciate the concern,” he said with a smile, “but I am fine.”
“It’s not just concern, Chemosh. Without you, I’m not sure what happens to me.”
“Fair. Trust me that you will be cared for.” She waited to see if he would explain further, but no elaboration seemed forthcoming.
“You know what? Okay, fine. That’s hardly the biggest worry I have.”
“Of course. Shall we step into your office?”
She lead the way, closing the door behind them once they were in. “What’s happening to me, Chemosh?”
“Straight to the point, fair enough.” He smiled blandly at her. “Merely fulfillment of all terms of the contract.”
“I’m becoming a demon.”
Kelly felt her temper flare up, and slapped her desk. The thick wood cracked slightly under the blow. It seemed unimportant. “Don’t ‘of course’ me. I didn’t sign up for that!” Chemosh stared at her hand, and after a moment, she pulled it off the desk. “Sorry. But…how is this what I signed up for?”
Chemosh smiled at the apology, and pulled a contract out of his jacket pocket. “Section 12, subsection B, Paragraph 2. ‘The trainer agrees to the risks of working with demonic forces, including but not limited to corruption of flesh, shifting of ethical considerations, minor alterations to the trainer’s person, visions, and any other unnatural alterations.’”
“Minor alterations? My hair and eyes changed color. I think my feet are turning into hooves!”
“Compared to the extreme variations of your students, those are fairly minor. But that’s not all. Section 12, subsection C, Paragraph 18. ‘The trainer agrees to participate in a trial program to delve further into the nature of the human soul, and at the end of the program acknowledges that s/he will need to choose a rank amongst the demonic hosts.’”
Kelly took a moment to process how he’d managed to pronounce the slash in s/he. She’d just heard it happen, but it hurt her mind to try and recall it. She shook her head to clear it. “What if I don’t want to be a demon, Chemosh? I didn’t…I didn’t understand.”
“Oh, please, don’t think me cruel. You have the option, at the end of you contract, to choose to accept the rank of Attendant. Should you choose that option, you will revert to your mortal form and live out your life normally. Then, when you die, you will be judged on your sins like every other mortal. If you find yourself in the pit, however, we’ll be discussing other options than eternal torment.”
Kelly let out a long sigh of relief. So it’s temporary. Or it can be. She tried not to think about why she felt conflicted about this. “Can I ask some other questions?”
Chemosh nodded. “I can’t promise I’ll answer all of them. Some questions will require a level of commitment before I will elaborate.”
“Fine. Why can I see people’s sins?”
“Ahh. That at least is simple. As part of the trial program, you are sampling the powers of various ranks of our kind. It seems you are sampling the power of a Purifier at the moment. Or at least, you were – tell me, has the desire to find sinners faded today?”
Kelly pursed her lips. “Yeah, it has. After…last night. I followed a…there was a guy. I followed him home. Grabbed him on his way in.”
Chemosh’s smile turned more genuine. “And what happened?”
“He was a professor at State. Had already killed three of his students.” She shuddered at the memory, seeing those kills from this monsters point of view, feeling the sick waves of pleasure flowing over him as they slowly sunk into the concrete, begging for their lives. “I showed him their pain. It…damnit, Chemosh, it killed him.”
“Purifier, yes. Do you regret killing him? Would you prefer this man wandered about, claiming more innocent lives?”
“I mean, no, of course not. But I’m not a killer. I want to help people get into shape, not murder them!” She was nearly shouting, but Chemosh didn’t seem to mind this time.
“Ahh, but you didn’t. You merely let his own sins consume him. No murder was done.”
Kelly wanted to argue with him on that…but part of her really liked the justification that she wasn’t a killer. “So what’s this trial? Does it have to do with your war?”
Chemosh shook his head. “More commitment is needed for that level of trust. I can’t risk you…turning on us. You know a great deal we wouldn’t want our enemies getting ahold of.” He raised a finger before she could object. “I will tell you this trial has nothing to do with the forces of Heaven, as you think of them. Does that satisfy your curiosity enough, Ms. Schmitt?”
Kelly bit her lip in thought, wincing slightly as she did. Were her teeth getting pointed? God I hope not, that’ll be hard to cover up. “No, but it’s better than nothing. Thank you. Why don’t I want to go hunt down sinners anymore?”
“I imagine you’re done with that test for now. You’ll have another soon enough, new gifts to help you fulfill them. Do try to enjoy it, Ms. Schmitt. No sin you commit during this period will stain your immortal soul. Section 71, Subsection Y, Paragraph 34 stipulates that. Any other questions?”
Kelly took a deep breath. “Yeah. One more. Why me?”
Chemosh laughed. “Ahh, yes. You want to know if you are somehow special, somehow chosen, yes?” She nodded. “Ms. Schmitt, you were the first advertisement I saw that mentioned discretion. A trait we were looking for. That is it. I regret to inform you that you weren’t anything special. Although…maybe you will be. Good day, Ms. Schmitt.”
With that, Chemosh was gone, and Kelly slumped into her desk chair. While it was good to have answers, the parts that didn’t get explained were still gnawing at her mind.
They distracted her so much, it was a couple more hours before she thought to wonder what “the forces of Heaven, as you think of them” meant.