“Our host is showing an interest in you, Alicia.”
“Oh for goodness sake,” I snapped irascibly. “I’m an old woman while he’s rich with many mistresses. He isn’t a man I would want in my life, especially not in that way. Surely you are aware that he was a close friend of my daughter.”
“Strange, isn’t it, that she didn’t mention him to friends or relatives. Alicia, was Samael a friend, or lover?”
“Haven’t got a clue, Sally, we never discussed her private life and it’s too late to ask now, isn’t it? In our world it is safer not to ask questions. Though she never mentioned him to me, I have no doubt he is telling the truth when he claimed to be her friend, after all, why would he lie?”
Our hold smiled as he watched take the young woman’s hand. Her lips trembled. The air pulsated, energised by an unknown force as she struggled to free herself. An involuntary scream silenced his guests as she freed herself and raced out of the house.
“An oncoming storm,” I whispered, “growing ever closer.”
“Storm… what are you talking about? Alicia, the sun is shining.” The pause was brief as Nigel stared out of the window. An expression of terror in his dark brown eyes, Nigel grabbed his wife’s hand. “But not now. Alicia, the rumours are true. We’ll get the hell out of this house.”
Darkness descended and silvery blue lightning danced among dense black storm clouds as shutters crashed into place, protecting the huge glass window from hailstones driven by the fierce wind pounding our host’s home.
“Nigel, we can’t leave. We wouldn’t survive outdoors for more than a few minutes.”
Sensing Samael’s interest, I slowly turned. His expression as the air around him shimmered, like a reflection on a rippling brook, was triumphant. Suddenly, he was by my side. As he grasped my wrist, a slender bladed dagger appeared in his left hand. Paralysed, and terrified by the lack of expression in his inky black eyes, I begged him to let me go.
Excruciating pain as the icy cold blade slid across my palm rendered me helpless. A tiny blud gem dropped into the pool of blood. This vibrant dark blue sapphire deepened to a deep dull red. Our blood mingled, and once again pain surged through my body.
“Body and soul,” he announced, triumphantly, “you belong to me. Mine, for eternity.”
No hint of emotion.
Visions flowed into my consciousness of huge caverns beneath wild stormy seas. “The spirits of your late husband’s ancestors eagerly await our arrival.”
“Why?” I asked when the onslaught ended.
“Though your kind recognise me as Death, I am Samael.”
The image shimmered. Clothed, from head to toe in a black cape, stood a powerful being. A twisted ebony rod struck the marble. The sound of thunder reverberated across the valley, and my skin tingled. Pulsating deep red flashes of lightning imprisoned me within a swirling vortex.
“Death awaits your arrival. I alone pass judgement. The sentence for sins committed is eternal life: forever to wander, in darkness, through the Caverns of Hell.”
Death’s crooked ebony staff struck the marble for a second time. Released from the vortex, I stumbled through the open door but failed to prevent the intrusion. As lightning struck, images of the future flooded into my mind. Not a word was spoken as Nigel’s Jaguar raced down the narrow winding drive leading away from the mansion.
In silence, I brewed a pot of coffee, carefully poured it into three delicate china cups and topped them up with brandy. A rare treat these days. Tears cascaded down my cheeks as I revealed the mark of a pagan cross burned into the palm of my left hand.
“Death introduced himself this day. Eternal life in purgatory is the punishment for crimes committed in life.”
“Are the rumours true, Alicia?”
“Which rumours? The rumour where I murdered my husband, or the one where he was a violent drunk? Nigel returned home just before dawn and demanded that I make breakfast. I refused so he attempted to drag me downstairs. He stumbled and fell down the stone staircase. My husband’s neck was broken, his scull fractured. Nigel, if you were selected for the jury at my trial, would you pronounce me guilty of murder?”