Chapter 22:

Spring (2)

There's a Demon in my Basement!

"I am sorry for ruining your birthday like that." Snow smiled as if everything was fine and shrugged.

Ciana kneeled down in front of her. "What are you even talking about?" The other girl had a grim expression on her face.

“It is just… like I said.” Snow hesitated for a few seconds before she continued to talk. “It is… I can not stay here any longer, I am afraid.”

“And where exactly are you going?” Blake raised an eyebrow but had an otherwise stoic expression on his face.

She chuckled lightly. “If only I knew that…”

Astaroth tilted their head, trying to contemplate what was happening. “I don’t… get it… What do you mean?” A question that might have been redundant since they already had a rather dark premonition. However, that was a possibility they refused to think about too much.

“Well… It is like I said. I do not know what I am, but… I know my soul is unstable. Therefore, my stay here drained it.” She shrugged. “I do not know what will happen to me now. But I am sure it will not be much longer until I find out.”

“What do you mean ‘you don’t know’?!” Drake couldn’t keep their cool. “This isn’t like throwing twice the amount of sugar into the cookies and then see what happens! You can barely walk!”

“Yes… it does look quite dire, does it not?”

“‘Dire’ doesn’t even begin to describe it…” Blake mumbled with a certain bitterness in his voice, “Why didn’t you say anything earlier?”

She scratched her neck as if she was apologizing for being five minutes late to a party. “I did not want any of you to worry. Or try to find a way to help me. I… wanted to spend as much time with all of you as possible. And I wanted all of you to have just as much fun as me!” Before she continued she looked away, down onto the sand. “I… might have been a little bit selfish.” Filled with shame she closed her eyes. “I was… afraid. I thought maybe… Nobody would want to entertain a friendship with someone who would disappear in a few months.”

“Nonsense!” It was Astaroth who kept her from mumbling much further by grabbing her hand. “You’re my friend! The second one I ever made! And nothing will change that!”

“I am delighted you see it this way.” She looked up again into the demon’s red eyes. The light smile on her face was still filled with regret. “It is quite relieving.” By now the sun had completely disappeared and given its spot in the sky to the moon.

“So. What now? You just… gonna die?” Ciana didn’t look at her, trying to do what Drake hadn’t been able to. Keep calm.

She shook her head. “No… Not really… I-... think. I do not know.” Silent laughter followed. “I am sorry. I am not of any help. But… Honestly, I do not know if I had ever been truly alive in the first place. I do know that there is no God responsible for my soul. Not even Hades.”

“Are you kidding me?! You’re not even going to the Underworld?!” Drake’s outrage grew with every passing second. “That has to be a joke! You can’t just disappear!”

“I am afraid I might be able to. ...I am sorry that you have to leave the Mortal Realm unannounced like this.”

“That’s not the point!” Drake’s voice grew louder and they were out of breath despite having done nothing physically challenging in any way.

“No but-”

Astaroth interrupted Snow. “Wait. It really isn’t. Drake’s right, a soul can’t just disappear. You will go somewhere. I don’t know where yet, but I will find you. Promise.”

The girl looked at them in confusion before the smile on her face became less sorrowful and more like she had just been moved to tears. “Please do not do that. It will be dangerous.”

“Hey.” The demon leaned back a little bit. “I am Astaroth. Lord of Destruction and Sage who knows the past, present and future. I will find you and get you out of… wherever you end up.”

Blake rolled his eyes and crossed his arms in front of his chest. “We will find you.”

“What…?” Confused Astaroth blinked. “You really want to tag along?”

“Don’t make me say it again, it was terrible enough to do it once!”

Snow chuckled lightly. “That is really nice of you. Thank you. But please-...”

“Shut it.” Ciana buried her face in her hand, as if she was facepalming, even though it was mainly an act to discreetly wipe away any tears starting to form in her eyes. “I have yet to decide whether or not I cut out your and Blake’s tongue. Can’t leave you out of my sight since then.”

That sentence earned her two disgusted looks. “You were planning to do what?!” Blake grimaced, just like Astaroth.

“It’s the easiest way to keep idiots from summoning demons.” She shrugged. Then her body language relaxed a little bit, as if she had just given up on something. “Even though…” She looked at Drake. “I guess I’ll become one of those idiots myself. Or do you not plan to accompany us?”

The demon’s hands resting on Snow’s shoulders gripped harder. “I will. Under any circumstances.” Drake’s rage had turned into pure, unadulterated determination.

“By the way” Ciana looked directly at Astaroth. “Shouldn’t the ‘sage who knows the past, present and future’ know what will happen to Snow?” She mimicked the demon’s voice as good as she could while quoting them.

“It’s not that easy!” There was a slight blush forming on the demon’s face. “It’s… it would be like looking for a certain sentence in an endlessly long book. I mean, with enough time, I could find it out, but…” They looked at Blake out of the corner of their eyes. “You see, it might take longer than it’s normal for humans to live…”

“Then how did you even get that title?!”

Snow watched her friends going back and forth. Somehow the moment she had always known would come, but feared nonetheless had turned into the usual bickering. How this happened was beyond her, even though she was happy anyways.

“In that case…” As Snow started talking the others stopped. “I am glad. It is only a temporary farwell.” She folded her hands in front of her chest. “I am grateful for finding friends this amazing.”

“Better be,” Drake mumbled, silently appreciating the fact that he didn’t have to look her in the eyes, “Wouldn’t go through that much trouble for most other people. Just try to make it easy.” He shrugged as if they were talking about meeting each other in the mall.

“I will do my best.” She looked down on her hands, realizing that they were slowly turning transparent. “Even though, I am afraid I will not be here as long as I thought I would.”

That silenced the group for a moment. Blake swallowed hard, trying to sooth his dry throat. “Where did you live before? We have to… We need a clue as to where we should start.”

Snow looked up and gave her answer in the most casual way: “Olympus.”

Again, silence.

Astaroth clenched their fists, trying to fight down the fear building itself up in their stomach. There was nothing to fear, they told themselves over and over again. It didn’t do anything to soothe the anxiety. Sure, they had promised, to find Snow and bring her home but there was no way that they could face their fa-

Blake took Astaroth’s hand, intertwining them. “Alright. Then that’s our starting point.”

And suddenly their fear wasn’t as overwhelming anymore. It was still there, lingering somewhere inside them - but it felt much more manageable all of the sudden. “Yes. Just wait for us, Snow.”

“I will.” A single tear ran down her cheek. “Thank you."