The wise child asks, “What are the laws that God has commanded us?” Teach this child the order and meaning of the Seder, and all of its laws.
Passover. One of the most ancient holy days in the world, absolutely central to the faith and identity of my people, and I hadn’t observed it in centuries. Well, not properly. I could watch from the outside, but it just wasn’t the same.
The wicked child asks, “What does this Passover service mean to you?” Teach this child, “It is because of what God did for me when I came out of Egypt, but not for you, because you did not include yourself in the question. If you had been in Egypt, you would not have been redeemed.”
We Jews had always been outsiders, cut off from the rest of the world. And I was cut off even from my own people. Vampirism was a curse for many reasons, but that one stung the most. Holiness hurting vampires wasn’t for the benefit of our enemies. It was to punish us.
The simple child asks, “What is this Seder service?” The parent should answer, “With a mighty hand God brought us out of Egypt. Therefore, we commemorate that event tonight through this Seder.”
“Faith” hurts vampires, and that word has a pretty open definition. I can sit around and be lazy on Saturday without a problem, but if I do it to observe Shabbat, I might catch on fire. When Death rejects a vampire, it does not come without a price.
And then there is the child who does not know how to ask. The parent tell this child, “This is the story of our journey to freedom.”
But there were still things I could do. Over the years, I had managed to approximate a way of celebrating Hanukkah. It was already sorta-secular, and if I botched some of the ceremony and really sped my way mentally through the prayers, I could manage eight candles before the curse set in. But something like Passover or Sukkot or Yom Kippur was impossible.
Or was it?
On other nights, we eat all kids of bread. Why do we only eat matzoh on this night? On other nights, we eat herbs and vegetables of any kid. Why do we only eat bitter herbs on this night? On other nights, we do not dip even once. Why do we dip twice on this night? On other nights, we eat our meals in any manner. On this night, why do we recline around the table?
“Why don’t you teach it?” Meg said to me over the phone.
Megaera, one of the Furies of Greek Legend, was easily my best and oldest friend. I listened to what she suggested, and needed her to repeat it.
“Teach?” I asked.
“Well, I’ve noticed that you can talk about holy stuff all you want and still be fine,” Meg said. “So I got the idea last night. Passover’s just around the corner, right?”
“Right,” I said.
“So, how about we gather up some of our friends, like Gabe or Rosa or that Lily kid, and you just teach us about a Seder. Demonstrate it a little bit for the Gentiles, you know? That way you could kindasorta observe it for yourself by using us as a proxy.”
I fell silent, which was a more dignified way of saying that I was absolutely dumbfounded.
“Lucy?” Meg asked. “Still there?”
“Um,” I said.
“How eloquent,” Meg said. “So, what do you think of my ingenious plan?”
“Do you really think it’ll work?”
“I don’t see why not,” she said. “Worst case scenario, we just cancel it and have a nice dinner.”
I took another moment to pause and think about it. “You know, I hadn’t thought of anything like this before.”
“It’s because you’re too close to the problem,” Meg said. “Anyway, we’d need to do it at my place, not yours. You don’t have the dining table space for everybody.”
“But your kitchen’s not kosher, Meg,” I said.
“I’ll clean it,” she said.
“It’s different for Passover,” I said. “You have to ritualistically remove every sign of yeast from the kitchen, or the whole thing will be unclean. You either burn it, or sell it to a friend to buy back later. We take this really seriously.”
“That’s not a problem, Lucy,” she said. “Trust me. You want the place clean, I’ll sterilize it. Just let me know what ingredients to buy, and I’ll have everything ready for you. You can come over here to cook it.”
I took another second to stop and catch my breath. This was it. This was really it. If Meg was right, then I could take part in a Seder. Sort of. But sort of was better than not at all, and I had eight centuries of not at all under my belt. I felt so much love for Megaera at that moment that it was all I could do not to squeal at her over the phone.
“Well, the basic ingredients are meat – it used to be lamb but usually we use chicken now – matzoh, bitter herbs, and wine. Oh, and eggs. One boiled egg per person. Are you writing this down?”
We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and God brought us out with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. We do these things to remember that if God had not brought our ancestors out of Egypt, we and our children and our children’s children would still be subjugated to this day. We tell this story to remember.
Megaera was right about one thing. My two-and-a-half bedroom apartment didn’t have enough kitchen space for a bunch of people to recline around the table. Whenever I hosted dinner, it was a couch-and-easy-chair deal. But her home was basically the TARDIS. I mean, sure, I did the measurements once, and it wasn’t really bigger on the inside – she simply owned an entire floor of the building, and used open space very well. It just felt like stepping into another dimension.
Later that night, I stepped into Meg’s home, and met her in the foyer. Megaera, like may supernatural creatures, had a human disguise that she often wore – in her case, an adorable, vivacious redhead. But she rarely used her Glamour when at home. The first time I saw what she really was, I was terrified. But that was lifetimes, and now I probably held more affection for her true form than any number of gorgeous illusions. She was like an angelic-demonic heavy metal harpy, with wings and talons of razor-sharp bronze, inhumanly red skin, and eyes that dripped bloody tears.
I gave her a hug. She reciprocated.
“Meg!” I said, squeezing her tightly. “You have no idea how much this means to me.”
“Well, you’re worth it,” she said. She could be gentle when she wanted to be – in fact, those claws and blade-feathers had never been a liability to me. Sure, the Furies were hellish nightmares to their prey, but being their friend had like a million benefits.
“We’re gonna hold it an hour after sunset,” Meg said. “That gives you time to prep the meal, take a nap, or do whatever else you need. Sound good?”
“I forgot my toothbrush,” I said.
She ruffled my hair. She could do that because she was tall, and I was not. “Yeah, yeah, ,” Meg said. “Tomorrow evening’s going to be great.”
“Meg,” I said, looking into her eyes. “I can’t thank you enough.”
“You deserve it,” she said, letting me go. “And hey, what’s the worst that can happen?”
“I die I a blaze of holy fire,” I said. “But I guess anything less than that is just fine.”
“That’s the spirit,” Meg said. As she walked out the door, her form changed, melting into a human as the Glamour took hold. I had to admit, it was unfair that some immortals could choose their form, while the rest of us were stuck with the same body. I mean, come on, what if I didn’t want to be a tiny little brunette? It was hard to intimidate people when you were cute as a button and squeaky.
The first thing I did was take a nap. Like a boss.
I spent the rest of the day getting everything in order. There was a lot more prep work for a Seder than just cooking the meal. For one thing, the kitchen had to be cleansed of leaven. I trusted that she had listened to my instructions, but I still had to double-check. After a thorough search (and perhaps a little bit of discreet snacking), I was satisfied that Meg really had removed anything inappropriate – hell, even the breakfast cereal (Furies love cereal. It’s a little-known fact).
I started slow-cooking the lamb, and then went to work getting everything else ready. The irony, of course, was that we weren’t actually supposed to eat the lamb shank (or chicken). It represented the old temple sacrifice, but since there has been no temple for about two thousand years, we leave it uneaten. There was a way around that though – meat cooked in gravy and not simply roasted could be eaten, and I had some of that prepping, as well.
The Seder wasn’t just a meal, it was an event. So much went into it – whether it was the four glasses of wine (drink them, don’t get drunk), the blessings over each cup, the sandwich (in imitation of the Great Sage Hillel), the Four Questions, the Four Children Who Ask Questions, the one piece of matzoh that’s hidden until the end of the meal, and every other way in which we repeat and reiterate the reason for the holiday: Remembrance.
Passover is when we remember who we are, where we came from, our deliverance from slavery, and the power of God. We look at our own lives, and see where we have enslaved ourselves – perhaps in pride, perhaps in other ways – and appeal to the Almighty once more for deliverance. Of course, prayer was difficult for me, being a vampire and all, but I could let out a quick one every now and then without taking too much damage.
The Haggadah tells the story of Passover, but it really isn’t a Ten Commandments/Price of Egypt thing. It’s about the suffering of our people and our deliverance. Moses is there for it, sure, but he really isn’t the main character. The purpose of Passover is not to focus on one man. Even when we use Hillel’s sandwich, it’s for a greater point than imitating the old holy man – we wrap bitter herbs inside the matzoh to symbolize both the bitterness and grace within our everyday lives. There is meaning in every single step.
Just in case all of that wasn’t obvious, part of the tradition is to explain it repeatedly. And in case it still wasn’t obvious, we were supposed to ask four questions about why we observe the things we do in Passover. And just in case the audience slept through all of that, we have the dramatization of the four questions, asked by four children. The wise son, the wicked son, the ignorant son, and the son who does not know how to ask. Anything more would require a loudspeaker.
I laid out all the ingredients. The lamb that was symbolic and not meant to be eaten, and the meat that was slow-cooking in the oven because there was an actual meal after the fact. Enough Matzoh to cover the entire table. The bitter herbs, the charoset paste, non-bitter herbs, the salt water, and the…
Meg forgot the eggs! One roasted hard-boiled egg per person, symbolizing the festival sacrifice offered in the Temple. The symbol of mourning that our people have carried with us for thousands of years.
There were no eggs in her fridge. None. Okay, I had to think. This wasn’t that bad a problem. The moment it was dark enough to survive, I could run to the corner store, buy a dozen eggs, race back, hard-boil them, char them a bit, and we would all be fine. I might even have it ready before the people arrived. It was just one element, it was doable. All I had to do was relax and wait.
I paced around in circles until sunset. As soon as the sun had sufficiently gone down, I dashed out Meg’s front door, and ran to the tiny grocery store at the end of the block. Late sunset was survivable for a vampire, and I had always appreciated the view as the sky shifted to red and purple above. But this time, I barely noticed it as I ran to the store. I nearly crashed into their front door, too.
Okay. Calm down. There was no emergency. Everything was just fine. I had nothing to worry about. Unless fire rained from the sky and the world ended, things were going to be okay. I grabbed a carton of eggs and paid for them.
Ever since California banned plastic bags, its citizens have become masters of juggling unbound groceries. I slipped the carton into my biggest coat pocket, and determined to walk carefully back to Meg’s. The darkening sky had turned to red in the time that I was in the store, which seemed odd. Didn’t sunsets usually go the other way?
There is a subtle feeling associated with the supernatural. When something is about to happen, most ordinary people just walk out of the way. They often don’t even think about it, the just don’t want to stay in the area. For people like me who either know about these things or are part of it ourselves, it functions almost like a low-key spider sense. And my spider sense was tingling. Hard.
“Dammit,” I said, and picked up my pace. Meg’s place would be safe. Whatever was out here, it wouldn’t matter once I got past that threshold. Then I could assess the situation and deal with it.
Blackbirds burst from the ground in a swarm around me, filling my field of vision, the sound of their beating wings and squawking caws blocking my hearing. I had an immediate feeling of dread, that this was not a random incident – it was targeted. Focused. I charged forward through the birds, feeling their claws and beaks rake over me in an attack even as I lunged for the door to Meg’s place, for safety.
But the door was not there. I was no longer in the street, or anywhere near Meg’s place. Or San Francisco. Or California, by the looks of it. The room was a perfect cube, with even proportions on floor, ceiling, and walls. The surface and was a deep, translucent wine-red. The same texture covered the walls as floor, and there was no sign of a door leading in or out. Lights behind the walls pulsated, illuminating the dark gems in a heartbeat.
I looked up, and saw a massive pentagram on the ceiling. No, that was wrong. It wasn’t just a five-pointed star, like something made of paint or chalk or even engraved, this was a three-dimensional object that happened to share space with the ruby cobblestone ceiling. Luminescent lines connected to dazzling glowing gems in the spokes, giving the impression of a neon pentagram festooned with jeweled eyes. Ruby, sapphire, topaz and emerald lit the place up like a rave. In the center of the star was a sigil, three crescent moons and a cross. I knew the symbol the moment I saw it.
“I am Decarabia,” an echoing, distorted voice emanated from the pentagram. “Lord of the Star, Master of Precious Stones and of Familiars. Marquis of Hell. You stand now within my domain, a prisoner.”
Decarabia. One of the more surreal of Solomon’s demons. Appears as a pentacle, teaches about precious stones, gives birds as familiars. Stuff like that. Kind of low-ranking for a member of the Seventy-Two, a fact that wasn’t much help considering that I was caught in his mousetrap.
“Okay,” I said, looking up at the star for a moment. “So you’ve got me here. Sure. I suppose you want to talk or something?”
“I want more than that,” the voice bounced off the walls. Supernatural Surround Sound.
“Well, I’m in a little bit of a hurry,” I said. “So maybe we could take a raincheck on this whole thing.”
The laughter came from everywhere. The gems making up this chamber and the eyes of the pentagram sparkled and flashed. I shut my eyes.
“I can’t deal with this,” I said. “I don’t care whatever asshole plan you have, just stop the strobe light thing.”
“You are not in a position to make demands,” Decarabia said.
Another flock of birds burst from out of nowhere and swarmed me. I threw my arms up in front of my face and used my coat to protect myself. The attack lasted for four agonizing seconds.
“You attacked and defeated one of my order,” Decarabia said. “You humiliated him. And yet, I have conquered you without effort.”
Oh, crap. So that’s what this was about.
A few months ago, a couple of very misguided individuals attempted to summon a hellhound named Caacrinolaas, one of Solomon’s Seventy-Two, and the demonic author of murder. I just barely defeated the demon and ruined their entire plan. And now here was another one, aiming specifically for me.
“Is that what this is about?” I asked, and opened my eyes, glaring up at the star. “I beat up one of your buddies, so you’re trying to give me a bloody nose?”
More laughter, and more flashing lights.
“Stop that,” I said. “I’m done talking unless you stop acting like a disco ball.”
I felt something materialize in front of me, and opened my eyes. It had the form of a man, tall and seemingly nondescript, but his skin was dark, inhuman gray. Eyes the color of blood-red gems stared out at me.
I looked up. The illuminated pentagra was still there. Black birds had also settled around us in a flock.
“Okay, so which one is you?” I asked.
“I am Decarabia,” the man said. “I am the star. I am the birds. I am the man. They are all me, and I am all of them.”
Some demons had more than one form they could take. I had never met one using all of them at once. I reached inside my coat.
“Is this supposed to intimidate me?” I asked.
“It does not matter whether you are intimidated,” Decarabia said.
“Oh?” I asked.
“Because I have you in my grasp,” he said. “And you will remain here until you starve from lack of blood Until you wither and fall. You have no way to resist me. You have no resources, no friends, no weapons. You cannot escape. You cannot fight. You have no hope. You have nothing.”
I threw an egg into his face. Decarabia closed his eyes as it splattered against the bridge of his nose.
“I have eleven more eggs,” I said.
The human-form Decarabia reached and wiped most of the egg from his face. “Of course. Your Passover egg,” he said. “The height of foolishness.”
I reached for another egg in the carton inside my coat.
“Why do you care about any of that?” Decarabia asked. The star above pulsated, as if for emphasis. “Why do you insist on clinging to a faith that no longer has any meaning to you?”
I got ready to throw the egg.
“Accept what you are,” the demon said. “When your god rejected you, you should have done the same. But instead, you play-act at being religious, with silly, meaningless pageantry.”
“It’s not meaningless,” I said.
“It is a waste of time,” Decarabia said. “Do you really think that your god will accept you because you made a few empty gestures? Do you believe that cooking an irregular meal makes you holier?”
“Cooking it doesn’t mean anything,” I said. “But it’s part of the observation. That means everything.”
Decarabia shook his head at me, and smirked, even with egg on his face. “It means less than nothing. Come, let me show you something.”
I folded my arms and stood in place. Not that I thought the demon was actually going to lead me anywhere, but it was the principal of the thing.
Part of the wall shifted, those rubylike gems moving aside, leaving a smooth pane of red crystal. It lit p, turning into a screen.
Megaera’s apartment. Meg was there. Everybody was there, in fact. Rosalinde Giancarla, the witch. Gabriel Evergreen, the monster hunter. Lily Harper, a teenage girl I had rescued and sort of mentored. Lily’s parents. Jim Walker, Sarah Fielding, Tony and Gloria Ortiz – the whole list. Gentiles, all of them, but still, they came. I could hear them, though their words sounded tinny and distorted, as if coming through a bad speaker.
“Where is she?” Rosa asked.
“I don’t know,” Jim said. “but something smells good in the kitchen. She can’t be that far away.”
Meg stood apart from the others, a thoughtful look on her face.
“I don’t like this,” she said.
“She probably ran off to get some last-minute ingredients,” Gabriel said. “The Seder plate is complicated.”
“Wow, look at all of this,” Lily said, looking at the arrangement that I had already set out. “That’s a lot of wine. Um, Mom?”
“You’re underage,” Isabella Harper said.
“It’s legal for a minor to consume alcohol if provided by his or her parents,” Tony said.
“Lieutenant!” Ed said.
“That’s what the law says,” Tony shrugged. “But I’m sure she has a substitute ready.”
I turned to look at the human Decarabia. “You know,” I said. “All that this is doing is warming my heart.”
“They will soon understand that you are gone,” the demon said. “And they are powerless to find you. You belong to me, now.”
“I don’t belong to you!” I shouted up at the star. “And I don’t care what you do to me!”
“How long will you take to starve?” Decarabia asked. “A week? More, perhaps less?”
On-screen, Meg stepped away from the others, moving out of sight. Rosa watched her go. Meanwhile, Gabe checked the oven and Jim added his two cents to the underage drinking debate.
“There’s some grape juice in the cupboard,” Sarah said. “Maybe you could try that, Lily?”
“It depends on whether it’s allowed,” Gabe called back to them. “I don’t know the law, I’m Protestant.”
“I have to admit, they are amusing,” Decarabia’s voixe whispered into my ear, even tough neither the star nor the man were that close to me. “Perhaps I will pursue them after you are dealt with. Which one should I target first?”
I ignored him, and watched my friends, instead. Rosa seemed to be deep in thought, ignoring the animated discussion happening all around her.
“Aren’t you supposed to be a preacher or something?” Ed Harper asked Gabe. “Isn’t this just Ten Commandments stuff?”
“It’s different,” Gabe said. “I know the principle, yes, but a Seder isn’t anything like my traditions. I’m looking forward to what Lucy has to say about it.”
“I guess grape juice is okay,” Lily said.
“Should I start with the young one?” Decarabia asked. “Or should I save her for last, and let her experience loss first?
“She’s already been through enough,” I growled. “You aren’t going to touch her.”
Decarabia laughed, the gems in the walls rippling and flashing in tandem. “And what do you propose to do to stop me? You are nothing. I am everything.”
I glanced back to the screen. If this demon wanted to touch Lily, he’d have to chew through literally everybody else in that room. And I knew they were more than capable. Gabriel alone could probably take him on singlehandedly. Well, probably.
“And yes, I’m ordained, he said to Ed. “But I’m a counselor, not a pastor. There’s a difference.”
Meg returned suddenly, and approached Rosa.
“Everybody, our dinner is delayed,” she said. “Just sit tight. Gabe, can you make sure the meat doesn’t overcook? Jim, I need you and Sarah to go get some eggs. I totally bobbleheaded and forgot those. When you come back, hard boil them and then roast them just a little bit. Rosa, can I see you for a moment?”
“Megaera,” Rosalinde began to say something, but Meg took her by the hand and began to lead her away.
“Take a look at this,” Meg said to Rosa as they walked out of frame.
An idea dawned on me, and I decided at once that Decarabia did not need to pay attention to my friends anymore.
“Hey!” I shouted. “Just what makes you think you can threaten my friends and get away with it, huh?”
Scornful laughter filled the room again. I took another egg out of my coat and smashed it directly into the human Decarabia’s face, grinding it in with the heel of my hand. I felt an impact somewhere between a battering ram and a truck, and was thrown across the square room. My back slammed against the far wall, and it knocked the breath from my lungs.
“You dare disrespect me? I am god here!” the voice of Decarabia shouted, and the birds attacked me. Swarmed me, pecking and scratching and gouging. I covered my eyes as I took those blows.
“You’re nothing,” I said. “You’re petty and stupid. And so what if you’re a god? Just what are you god of, huh? There are bathrooms bigger than this place!”
Another major impact, which hurt but miraculously did not break any more eggs. Seriously, the carton was still intact in my coat pocket. Sure, my ribs weren’t, but those eggs were survivors.
“That’s not a very convincing argument,” I wheezed. “My God’s still better than you.”
“You don’t have a god!” the demon’s voice was loud enough to make my teeth rattle. The human form ran up to me and lifted me by the collar, slamming me into the wall with each point he made. “Why won’t you understand? You are abandoned! You are alone! You have nothing! Why do you keep fighting me?”
“Egypt,” I said, still so dazed that my voice was barely more than a whisper.
“What does Egypt have to do with anything?” Decarabia asked.
“My people were slaves in Egypt for four hundred years,” I said. “And at one point, they even killed our babies. Does that sound like abandonment to you?”
Decarabia dropped me, and shook his head dismissively. I landed on my ass, but those damn eggs were still intact.
“But we weren’t abandoned,” I said. “God heard the cry of my people, and sent someone to save us. But you know what’s funny about that? Moses was amazing and wonderful and holy, but he really isn’t the point of anything. If not for Moses, it would have been somebody else. It could have been anybody. Because God saved us.”
“You don’t have four hundred years,” the demon said.
I looked directly up at the lit pentagram. “I don’t need four hundred years!” I said. “I’m going to get out of here, and you’ll be left with egg on your face. Metaphorically as well as literally.”
“If you dare insult me with those eggs again, I will make you feel unimaginable pain.”
“I’ve already felt unimaginable pain,” I said. “It’s called being a vampire. I’m not afraid of anything you can do to me.”
I could feel Decarabia’s anger, palpable, filling the room, making even the walls and floor tremble. And yet I stood, and looked his human form in the eyes, staring him down.
“You know, we ask four questions every Passover,” I said. “Why do we eat only Matzoh, why do we dip our food in salt water, why do we eat bitter herbs, and why do we all sit around the table in a certain way? When really, all those questions are about why we treat this night so differently than other nights. And it’s funny, really. Sure, they’ve got their own explanations – the salt water represents our tears, Matzoh is the bread of slavery, the herbs remind us of bitterness of slavery, and reclining around the table represents our freedom. But all of the symbolism points to one thing.”
“To what?” the demon asked.
“We were enslaved, but now we are free,” I said, taking a step toward him. “We suffered, but now we celebrate. And even though we suffer now, we can still remember, and we can still worship. Even if we are enslaved again, we know that we will be freed. Passover isn’t just about celebrating the past, it’s about celebrating our present and our future. Right now, I’m in Egypt. Everyone has their Egypt. My personal Egypt is this damned curse. But that’s what faith is. I observe because I know that I will be freed. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, maybe in this life, but I still celebrate my people’s salvation from Egypt. Any Egypt. And you aren’t going to change that.”
I had to admit, he wasn’t lying about the pain. A beam of light came down from the pentagram above, straight from the sigil, and surrounded me like a spotlight. It felt like being in the sun. My skin didn’t catch on fire, and I didn’t think I took actual damage, but I could feel myself burning, my entire body lighting up in agony. I forced myself to stay on my feet, though. I didn’t want to let this asshole have the satisfaction.
“I can open up your every nerve,” Decarabia said, the human form stepping up to my face, glaring into my eyes. “I can flay your skin, bleed you on the floor. I can pull off your limbs one by one I can burn out your eyes with light, rip out your tongue by the roots. I can pry out those pretty little fangs of yours, and then what? Do you still think that you will be ‘saved from Egypt?’”
I could barely stand, much less speak in full sentences. I drew in a long, slow breath, ready to force out an answer.
“Do you think your god even cares? The Jews are not your people. You are a vampire. The Jews never have to fear Hell, but your kind burns for all eternity. Any pain I mete upon you now will be nothing compared to when your soul is trapped within my kingdom. And there is nothing you can do to stop me.”
“I still have ten eggs,” I gasped.
The spotlight changed into pressure, forcing me onto my knees. The weight was too much to stand under, and it was all I could do to brace my hands against the floor and keep myself propped up, trembling. I could tilt my head, however, and I looked straight up. The star was now blood red, its gems turned to rubies, the strands of light connecting them now burning like fire. The sigil glowed like molten metal.
“And now you bow to me,” Decarabia said. “You never had any choice.”
The light forced me down again, my face touching the ground.
“I’m not bowing on the inside,” I said.
The roar of rage filled the room. Sudden heat rose, stifling, causing the air to shimmer all around me. The floor became as hot as a frying pan, burning through my clothes and into my flesh.
“Submit to me!” Decarabia’s voice was all-encompassing, everywhere. “Submit!”
“My people were slaves in Egypt for four hundred years,” I said. “Before we were freed. I can handle you for a few minutes.”
Decarabia’s fury was as loud as a freight train, his anger producing noise and heat and pressure and pain.
“I will tear you apart!” he declared.
“But you’ll never get me to submit,” I said, and found just enough strength to look up again. “And you know what? Caacrinolaas was ten times the demon you are. You’re nothing.”
I stared the giant pentagram in the face, daring him. He could destroy me, but he’d have to do it without any satisfaction. Ruby light filled the room, bathing everything in crimson until I could barely even make out the details of the star. Very soon now, one way or the other.
The red light vanished in an instant, the room returning to normal a mere half-second before the wall opened up. Red gems parted like the red sea as a fire-rimmed hole tore through the fabric of reality. The portal widened and two figures stepped through. One human, one winged.
“There she is!” Megaera pointed at me. “I knew it!”
Rosalinde looked upward, arcane energy surrounding her hands in twin glowing auras. “The demon’s up there!” she said. “Abiurare!”
Strands of blue light began to criss-cross over the shape of the Pentagram in the ceiling, forming a web not dissimilar to a dreamcatcher. The flock of birds lifted off, filling the air in a storm of feathers. Decarabia roared. I found that I could suddenly stand again.
“You have two seconds to give her back,” Meg said. She was in full Fury form, her metal talons gleaming in the reflected light. “Or we’re going to get very angry.”
Decarabia roared again, and the two went into action. Rosa, as statuesque and beautiful as ever, stepped into the center of the room and thrust both of her hands at the massive star above her. Beams of blue light drowned out the neon red, binding and entrapping the star. Three shafts shot through the demon sigil in the core, obliterating it. Cracks started to form in the room, the crystals in the walls and floor crumbling as Decaraba’s power began to wane.
The demonic birds swarmed into one huge mass, and dove at Rosa. Megaera stepped in between them and her, and the stench of sulfur presaged the holy, cleansing fire that appeared in her hands. She engulfed the entire swarm at once, lighting them up like paper.
From the corner of my eye, I saw the human Decarabia turn to run toward the crumbling walls in an attempt to escape. I reached in my coat, grabbed the entire carton of eggs, and hurled it at his head. It hit, splitting open and splattering him with yolk, the impact just enough of a surprise to make the weakened demon stumble. And in that brief moment when he was off his footing, I dashed to catch up, wrapping my arms around his waist. I held on as Decarabia began to struggle, and planted my feet.
“Told ya so,” I said, and then suplexed him.
The body broke apart upon impact, shattering like fragile ceramic. I scrambled back to my feet just as the floor began to crumble from beneath us.
“Lucy!” Meg shouted, and grabbed me by the arm. “Hang on!”
I held on to Megaera as the three of us jumped back through the portal Rosa’s magic had made, and we tumbled down onto the sidewalk outside.
Cool, clean night air. San Francisco once again. I could have kissed the ground. Or Meg, for that matter.
“You were right,” Rosalinde said, standing up and brushing herself off. “That was easy.”
“It’s not my fault that Decarabia left a trail,” Meg said and stood, helping me to my feet. I put an arm around her waist for support. “Lucy, how are you feeling? Are you okay?”
“Ten minutes on the couch and a glass of cold water,” I said. “And I’ll be fine.”
“What happened back there?” she asked.
I looked at Megaera, the terrifying harpy with bloody eyes, and smiled. I couldn’t help it, really, it was good to see her.
“Decarabia trapped me when I went out to buy some eggs,” I said. “I guess he wanted to take me down for bragging rights. You know, defeating the enemy that Caacrinolaas couldn’t.”
“That’s what I thought,” Meg said. Rosa rolled her eyes, took a twenty from her purse, and handed it to her.
“Wait a second,” I asked. “Did you two make a bet?”
“Yes, and I won,” Meg said. “Rosa here thought that it was part of some sort of grand demonic conspiracy. Turns out you just kinda stumbled into it.”
“But you would not have found her if not for my scrying spell,” Rosa said. “Don’t forget that.”
“You both saved me, and I love you both,” I said. “So guys, can we go have dinner?”
I had observed Passover plenty of times before I became a vampire, all those lifetimes ago. I held every memory dear to my heart, as clear and close as if it happened yesterday. Reclining around the table with my family, observing each and every rite, every reading, recitation, and song. The kiddush, the karpas, the matzoh, the maror – every sight, smell, touch, taste, and word. Every thought and prayer, every recitation and feeling. Every truth.
This time, I observed Passover surrounded by Gentiles in a strange house, with underboiled eggs and overcooked lamb, the youngest person drinking grape juice and forgetting where the afikoman was hidden, and everything read in English instead of Hebrew for my own personal health. But I got to share the story of my people’s deliverance with the ones I loved, and it was the best Passover ever.
I lifted the empty glass and looked at my friends and loved ones as I spoke the final blessing.
“Next year, in Jerusalem!”