WHEN THE LIGHT CAME
Vetis inhaled and peered through the black sky. He could feel the discontent and hostility in the air. In the distance, the mountains spewed red, molten rock. It reminded Vetis of hell, but here on the rocky crust of the earth, he was not ruled by Lucifer. He ruled himself and fed from the discontent and hatred as he pleased. It was freedom.
“Vetis,” a voice said from beside him.
“Forneus,” Vetis said. “Speak.”
“The sky does not look right,” Forneus said.
“I have noticed,” Vetis said. “It is not as dark.” He could see gray in the black of the sky, and long fingers of light that appeared to be coming down from the heavens.
“What do you make of it?” Forneus asked.
Vetis shook his head. “I do not know.”
“Should we be concerned?” Forneus asked.
“Not yet,” Vetis said. “I have seen no harm come from the lightening of the sky.”
“I have heard the finger lights kill,” Forneus said.
“Rumors,” Vetis said. “Nothing more. We still own this planet.” He turned to face Forneus. “Why are you not in hell?”
“Lucifer has demanded your presence,” Forneus said.
“Did he say why?” Vetis asked.
“He did not. He only said, bring Vetis to me,” Forneus said.
Vetis scowled. “So be it.”
Vetis spread his demonic wings and launched himself into the black sky. To spite his words to Forneus, he avoided the beams of light as he flew to the nearest cave. He landed on the rock floor and walked to the back wall. After muttering an incantation, the portal to hell opened with pops, cracks and flashes of light. Vetis walked through into hell, portal closing behind him.
He inhaled the smell of brimstone and flame as he walked toward Lucifer’s throne room. It was across a rock bridge over a lava lake. Vetis did not trust the bridge. Rocks crumbled and fell into the boiling rock below with each footfall, but he had seen lesser demons try to fly across and watched as Lucifer pelted them with brimstone until they fell into the lake. While it wasn’t lethal for demons, you spent the better part of 1000 years healing from the burns.
Vetis did not wish to look like a melted version of himself, so he walked across the narrow bridge to the black archway that signaled the entrance into Lucifer’s throne room.
“What?” Vetis questioned.
“Have you seen the light?” Lucifer asked as Vetis stopped and stood before him.
“I have seen it,” Vetis said.
“Does it concern you?” Lucifer asked.
“It does not,” Vetis said.
“It should,” Lucifer said and stood. “It should concern you greatly.”
“Why?” Vetis asked.
“Because it will kill you and any demon who touches it,” Lucifer said.
Vetis narrowed his gaze. “I have seen no such thing.”
“Just because you have not seen it does not make it untrue,” Lucifer said. “Hades, Set and Beelzebub were caught in the light last night. Lesser demons have been getting caught for the past lunar month.”
“Have you heard from the new god?” Vetis asked.
“Michael has told me the light is his doing,” Lucifer said. “And it is growing.”
“Can we stop it?” Vetis asked.
“I have not found a way yet,” Lucifer said. “But I am looking.”
“Are you commanding the demons to return?” Vetis asked.
“I am not,” Lucifer said. “Every time the light hits one, the light seems to slow.”
Vetis contemplated. “Then, as we devour from the darkness…”
“The light grows,” Lucifer said. “I will not be sending any demons back that succumb to the light. We must maintain the darkness.”
“Then, command the demons to return to hell,” Vetis said.
Lucifer shook his head. “No. I want only my strongest on the surface. Those who would become caught in the light are not the strongest.”
Vetis nodded. He understood the reasoning. “What do you want me to do?”
“Watch the light,” Lucifer said. “And report back to me. There is also a rumor coming from the archangels. There will be other creatures on the planet soon. We may be able to use them.”
“To get our darkness back?” Vetis asked.
“I will watch for them and report to you,” Vetis said.
“You may go,” Lucifer said.
Vetis found himself on his hands and knees back in the cave as the rock behind him cracked closed. Snarling, Vetis stood and walked out of the cave. The world seemed no different than when he had left, but he could not be certain if it was the same night or the next or some time further into the future. Hell’s time-frame was less than reliable.
The only thing that Vetis was certain of was that he no longer saw Forneus. Whether that meant Formeus was called back to hell, burned in a beam of light or somewhere else, Vetis did not know. It was perplexing.
However, Vetis was certain there was more light. He was not pleased, and as he looked across the landscape, he could tell the other demons were not as well fed. This would be a problem. If there was less food, they would wither and become weak. It was something he knew Lucifer would want to know, but Vetis could not risk leaving now. Not if the conditions were changing this rapidly.
“What did Lucifer say?’ Forneus asked as he landed next to Vetis.
“Stay out of the light,” Vetis said as they walked across a large grassy field. The blades withered and turned brown under their footfalls.
“Things have changed,” Forneus said.
“I noticed. How long was I gone?” Vetis asked.
“Almost two lunar months,” Forneus said.
“And it changed this much?”
“It did,” Forneus said. “I watched several demons burn in the light.”
“Lucifer said they were being cast down into hell,” Vetis said.
“I am not sure they are,” Forneus said. “They seem to be burning to dust.”
“What of Beezlebub, Set and Hades?” Vetis questioned.
“They lost hands and feet to the light,” Forneus said. “They returned to hell to regenerate.”
Vetis raised an eyebrow. “And the younger demons are burning to dust?”
“Show me,” Vetis said.
Forneus led them through the field and across an area of rocky terrain. “Here.” He motioned.
Vetis leaned down and brushed a hand through the oddly colored dust. It did not match the dirt of the ground. It was too fine and the wrong color. “It is demon.” He stood. “As I said before. Stay out of the light. It appears to be more dangerous than we originally thought.”
“Lethal,” Forneus said.
“Is there a warning before a new beam appears?” Vetis asked.
“Very little,” Forneus said. “Though, they seem to be more frequent when every demon is feeding.”
Vetis nodded. “Lucifer said as much.”
“What should we do?” Forneus asked.
“When we are resting, we should take cover in the caves,” Vetis said just as something fell from the sky and touched his skin. Whatever it was, it had steamed off his skin. “What was that?”
Forneus contemplated for a moment. “I believe the other demons are calling it water.”
“It falls from the sky,” Forneus said just as a crack of thunder sounded in the near distance. It was quickly followed by a flash of sharp light.
Vetis winced. “And that?”
“That was not the beams of light. We are not sure what it is, but when it lands on the ground, the rocks and dirt are scorched,” Forneus said.
“Then, we should assume that will also kill demons,” Vetis said.
Forneus nodded. “I agree.”
His words were punctuated by an even louder explosion of thunder and more hot, flashing light. Seconds later, the water Forneus spoke of started flooding from the sky, landing in large drops on the parched earth.
Vetis watched as the drop of water steamed from his hot skin. What did not fall on his skin quickly formed puddles around them. “We should get into the caves.” Vetis took flight, soaring into the sky toward the nearest rocky outcrop. He landed in the entrance of a cave that was 10 cubits up the side of a cliff and walked inside. He was quickly joined by Forneus.
“At least the water does not burn,” Forneus said.
“It is one small victory,” Vetis said. “However, it does not look good for us if we do not stop the light.”
Forneus inhaled the wet air as he looked outside the cave entrance. “The storm is getting worse.”
Vetis watched the rain fall. He could hear the thunder. It sounded as though it were right on top of them. The flashes of burning light shattered the darkness faster than Vetis could count. He scowled. Vetis had never seen such a thing. The water was pooling on the ground and running down the paths forged by thousands of demons.
It irritated Vetis. He stepped to the edge of the rock ledge, red eyes peering through the darkness. He could barely see through the rain and fog. “The only good thing to come of this is that the storm is hostile.”
Vetis inhaled the hostility from the storm before walking to the back of the cave. He sat with his back against the rock wall and closed his eyes to rest.
Sometime later, he opened his eyes to view Forneus nudging him. “What?”
“You need to see this,” Forneus said.