Knocking on Helen’s Door by Eve Langlais



The ninth ring was gone.It didn’t matter how many times Lucifer replayed its end, it remained missing.

Lucifer’s office wall flickered as images played upon it, Hell’s version of surveillance. The fine-tuned magic paused videos and tagged them if the esoteric algorithms detected items of interest. Underlings usually handled the monitoring of juicy bits, but for certain items, the devil himself needed to take a closer look.

Lucifer stood in front of the many scrolling images, his gaze unfocused, his mind empty. In this state of relaxation, it proved easy to zoom in on footage of interest. By simply willing it, the entire wall became an aerial view of the eighth ring, skinnier than before, having lost a few feet. Overtaken by the Wilds.

Or so he assumed. Could also be the ring had shrunk. Lucifer hated to admit he didn’t quite understand what was happening. If he were asked to guess, he’d say the Wilds beyond his kingdom was expanding, moving the border of its domain to overtake Hell.

And not just take but remake. The ninth ring used to have towns, not the most elaborate setup, yet there were buildings and roads. Not anymore. They’d vanished and didn’t leave behind any rubble. The Wilds took and reshaped in its image. Without warning. Not even a scream.

Whole hamlets disappeared when it first started. Citizens—the damned and demonic alike—went to bed and were never seen again.

Which led to other villages grabbing their shit and fleeing. At least the smart ones did. No one knew what happened to those who were absorbed by the Wilds. No one wanted to find out.

The refugees from the ninth ring crowded the eighth and seventh. His aerial eye in the sky dipped and zipped in and out of buildings, taking stock of the situation. Overcrowded, and the mood highly anxious, which led to greater than usual violence. A powder keg ready to explode. He’d need to act before things got too critical.

The towns in the eighth ring overflowed with citizens, the noise and uncertainty a troubling hum that permeated the air. The amount of people crammed in there disquieted, but the fact the eighth ring didn’t bulge as fatly as the day before gave him a more intense chill than the time Hell froze over.

Apparently, it wasn’t enough that he lost people to the growing Wilds. He now also had citizens fleeing into it. He’d even caught groups of them on surveillance, entire families with no possessions in hand or on their backs, walking into the Wilds and not coming back, which wasn’t entirely surprising. The Wilds didn’t treat visitors kindly, yet the idiots kept wandering in there.

Why did they do it? Did they hear or sense something in there? Because he sure as fuck didn’t.

The video lifted from the eighth ring and focused on where the Wilds spread. Stunted and twisted trees, boggy swamps, even grassy fields with blades sharp as daggers. A veritable jungle that turned gray as he watched, a mist seeping up over the highest treetops, spreading over fields. Obscuring all.

Fascinating. He snapped his fingers, and an imp appeared. “I’m going to send you to the border. I want you to take three steps into the fog then return immediately and report.”

“Yes, Dark Lord.”

Lucifer snapped his fingers again and watched on screen as his imp appeared and immediately leaped into the fog.

Didn’t return.

So he sent another.

And another.

By the sixty-ninth, his daughter Bambi appeared. “I hear you’re decimating your army.”

He glared. “There’s something wrong with the Wilds.” A problem with the fog at the very least. No one had returned. Every single person who went in stayed in. Even those with instructions to turn right back around.

It didn’t help the fog mocked by taking another foot off the eighth ring.

What the fuck was going on? Did the Wilds—an ungoverned, unmapped place beyond the nine rings of Hell—still exist under the gray mist? Was it the Wilds or something else eating his kingdom?

“You’re right. I’m wasting my time sending minions. I need hunters. Good ones who won’t die within the first step or get distracted if there happens to be buxom nymphs on the other side.” Lucifer owned the souls of many who’d gotten killed because they stared at boobs.

“You know of a hunter that won’t be distracted by nymphs?” Bambi asked, putting a hand on her hip, drawing attention to her business suit, snug in all the right places but not revealing any cleavage or thigh.

It brought a frown to the devil’s face. “Are you okay? You’ve been dressing awfully conservatively lately.”

“Sometimes less is more. Which you should know. You haven’t worn any of your capes in a while.”

Because every time he did, someone threw up on it. He’d tried wearing it by himself, hiding in his closet, drinking to the good ol’ days, and ended up puking on it.

“My cape days are over. Long live the fanny pack.” Better than a diaper bag. He kept everything he needed in it, including a fake identity and cash to start over somewhere in South America.

“Fanny packs are a thing of the past. It’s now the era of the crossbody satchel.”

“Satchels are back?” His expression brightened. “Do you know how much you can fit in those?” He might be able to sneak in a dragon because even the Dark Lord never knew when he’d need a dragon.

“Might be a good idea for everyone to start carrying one given what’s going on.” Bambi pointed to the screen. “This is not good.”

“I know. Which is why I’ll send Teivel in for a peek.” One of Lucifer’s finest hunters. A vampire who’d served him many years until his daughter stole him for her harem.

Bambi cackled. “You’re kidding, right? Muriel will lose her shit if you ask.”

Muriel being one of his daughters. Disrespectful as fuck, which really made him proud and angry all at once.

“Why would she say no? It’s for the good of the kingdom.”

“Go ahead and call her. Ask. See how that goes.” Bambi offered him a smirk he’d perfected over the centuries.

“I will call her. She’ll understand the seriousness of the situation and totally agree we have to send our best to fix it.” He rang his daughter, his latest Helldroid phone crackling in his ear. Electronics, even infused with magic, didn’t fare well on the Hell plane.

Muriel replied after two rings, sounding out of breath. “Daddy, dearest, your timing is shitty as always.”

“Once a cock blocker, always a cock blocker.”

That drew a giggle from Muriel. “Who says she’s got a cock?”

His brows rose. “You took another?”

“Thinking about it. Problem being, then I’d have to share her with my boys. I kind of like being the only woman in the mix.” She gasped and laughed then obviously spoke to someone else as she said, “Brat. I’ll get you back for that.”

“This is actually great news. Since you don’t currently have need of Teivel’s dick, can I borrow him for a teensy tiny job?”

“What job?” Muriel’s humor immediately faded.

“I just need him to check out the Wilds. Make sure things are okay.”

“Like fuck.” Low and firm. “I heard what happened to the minor demons you sent in.”

News got around much too quickly when it was bad. “Obviously, their minds weren’t strong enough to fight whatever allure lies within.”

“Teivel isn’t going.”

Pride and annoyance warred within him at her firmness and refusal to obey. “He’s the best hunter I’ve got.”

“Still a no. We’ve all seen what happens in the movies when people walk into mysterious fogs and mists,”Muriel reminded.

“Good point.” It was why, despite his curiosity, Lucifer hadn’t yet gone himself. First rule of laziness, delegate! “Well, then, I guess I should let you return to your debauchery.”

“Your jealousy is showing.”

Was it? Probably. He’d had some epic orgies in his time. Damn Gaia for insisting on monogamy. “Have fun with your new partner.”

“I will.” With a giggle, his daughter hung up and he sighed.

Bambi eyed him. “Let me guess, she said no.”

“Utterly disrespectful and disobedient. Just for that, I’m going to throttle her internet again.”

“Way to act your age.”

“If I acted my age, I would have her decapitated,” he growled. “I need to do something about that fog.” Which was why he next sent in some prisoners with one instruction: go in and return for forgiveness of their sins.

They disappeared the moment they stepped past the border of what had been the ninth ring. For all he knew they turned to dust or mooned him. He never found out. The fog hid all.

And obsessed him even after Bambi left claiming she had a date. With who? A Mormon? Because she was wearing way too many clothes.

A mere thought opened a portal. He stepped through and stood in front of the swirling mist. Not having bothered to change, he wore his slippers—the bunny ones with floppy ears, red eyes, and fangs—along with a robe, the rich burgundy of it trimmed in gold thread.

He eyed the fog. Dense enough to foil sight.

He sniffed. No scent.

He held out a hand and stuck it inside. He couldn’t see it at all. He let it sit there for a few seconds before pulling it back to see if it had disintegrated. The flesh didn’t slough, nor did he sense any moisture.


Perhaps a giant fan would blow the mist away?

If only it were that simple.

For a brief moment, he thought about putting his face in the fog and taking a deep breath. Could be the fog emitted a drug that enticed his citizens into entering.

He stepped close enough the toes of his sleepers disappeared past the edge. He just had to lean forward.

Lucifer stepped back. He didn’t have time to enjoy a good hallucination. Fate of Hell and all that. Not mention, he had to be careful. Drugs often had the side effect of making him hornier than usual and led to some epic sexcapades. While he wouldn’t mind some good harem action, his wife would bitch. Spoilsport.

His study of the fog was interrupted by the strident voice of a damned soul. “Alonzo, don’t go in there,” a woman pleaded. “Please.”

The man, the big burly sort, who, in a previous life, probably had the nickname Tiny, smiled at the woman—who’d managed to find enough plaid fabric in Hell to make a shirt. Alonzo had a vacuous expression. “Can’t you hear them calling?”

“Hear who?” asked the woman, looking perplexed.

Lucifer was wondering the same damned thing. He cocked an ear but only heard a sob as Alonzo tore free from the woman’s grip and disappeared from sight, into the mist.

A moment later, a group of hellcats charged past the woman’s shaking body. Five of them, eyes rolling and wild as they barreled into the fog.

Oh fuck no. He couldn’t afford to lose any more minions. His legions were already winnowed as it were from recent skirmishes and low birth rates.

He shouldn’t panic yet. In the past, Lucifer had enjoyed lesser numbers than this—especially after that hundred-year war with his brother. If he’d only had a few more dragons, he wouldn’t have had to agree to the pesky clause in their treaty that restricted him from openly interfering on Earth.

So, he did it subtly, and when his minions got caught, he pled innocent. In other words, lied.

But he couldn’t keep hiding the calamity befalling his kingdom. The Wilds and this fog were only the newest threat. He also dealt with a diminishing number of souls and a drastically lower demonic birth rate. Which reminded him, Grim Dating appeared to be having success on Earth.

Now if only Heaven would stop meddling.