No One Gets Out of Her Alive

rating: +32+x

PREVIOUS: Leather Pig

FIRST: The Chosen Few

“You paralyzed me?!”

“Well I had to remove your limbs,” Natasha says. “Didn't want you to feel that.”

“YOU DISMEMBERED ME?!” I don’t care if my lungs aren’t connected to me anymore, I’m still hyperventilating, goddamnit. The red throttles the back of my head and my throat and my — do I even have a chest — where am I, where’s my body, where’s my breath, where’s my —

“Where’s my heart?” It’s screaming at me, redlining so loud I can’t hear my own thoughts. Tightness in a metal chest, shortness of artificial breath, anticipation flooding every inch of my rubber veins — all my withdrawal symptoms are cranked up to eleven. I'm this close to regaining myself, my true, unfettered, unhinged self, the part of me this bitch literally ripped out and all I have to do is wring her neck

Something pries my brain’s own fingers off my throat and massages it — warm, comforting, safe

“Breathe,” Natasha whispers, holding me tight. “Breathe. Breathe…”

I obey. I breathe. I live. I exhaust myself in her arms and let her hold me together while she takes me apart. I need to do something. I need to be someone. I can’t just lie down and enjoy it… but I haven’t been held like this in a long fucking time. We’re whole again. There’s nowhere to go and nothing to feel except safe in her grip. Our universe won’t allow it.

It does allow for inconvenient questions.

“What are you doing to me?” I ask.

“Cleaning you up!” Natasha chirps. “ Let’s see… you have a punctured oil tank, ruptured nuclear battery, fractured cranial casing, and a can of Shock Top stuffed in your coolant loop. I’m not even going to bother asking about that one. Love the new look by the way. The cat ears suit you! We have so much to talk about. I missed you so damn much!”

“You know that’s Diya’s fault, right? And your… daughters?”

“And whose fault is that after what you did to Ingrid? You’re lucky I put her in time out.”

“I feel so lucky lying here without motor control,” I say. “Or eyes –”

Natasha’s tongue clicks with a sound like a locust swarm. “Oh I just turned those off. Let me just… flip them… on…”

My eyes shoot open and orient me in the center of Hell. Around me, a monstrous assembly line spirals upwards towards the void, colored by walls of lunar regolith and falls of molten nickel. In the center of the dripping scaffold stands the scalped corpse of Belphegor. An army of kawaii demonata automata crawl across the still-breathing carcass, stripping it for parts and weeping green ferrofluid from every seam. Liquid metal drips off every inch of the assembly line, pooling on the ground and metastasizing into a million malachite hands that climb the crimson king’s corpse into an ever-growing expanse of noxious industrial scaffolds. The shrill cries of machinery rise over the beat of an undying heart like an EDM mix custom-made for the devil himself.

“That’s the devil herself, mind you.” The devil stands over me with emerald eyes and a smile that cuts through the volcanic air. Her body is clad in a serrated exoskeleton of jet-black and jade that ends in tripartite tendrils like green licorice instead of limbs. A Barrett XM500, complete with flesh-toned ankle stock, protrudes from her chest. Three bright green horns stab out like bayonets from underneath her streaming blond hair. Fuck! I’m light-headed just looking at her.

“Are we in hell?” I ask.

“Half and half. This used to be a throne room, but I thought it would make a much better workshop under our place. Having a sky view makes it so much airier, dont'cha think?”

“You did all this with my heart?” I don’t bother hiding my amazement.

“You helped!” Natasha sounds thrilled. “You killed the prince of hell and made us heirs to his throne. I just needed your heart to claim it.”

“Holy hell.” I don’t have a snappy retort this time – just a double take. “Where’d you get that gun?”

Natasha looks down at herself and flicks the rifle butt with a tentacle. The clang rings through my ears and makes my phantom teeth rattle. “Your girlfriend left it there. Got here right while I was popping the top off your head! Almost made me scalp you by the way. Real concern for your safety there.”

I sneer at her. “Your hands are wrapped around my spine. Stop jerking me around and tell me what you did!”

The skin on Natasha’s face bubbles and sloughs off. Alliott's eyes blink frantically at me from underneath a foreign face before jade-green skin closes over them.

“I put her in time-out,” Natasha says simply. “She deserves worse, you know. You know she was going to steal your heart from you?”

“From you?”

“From you.” Natasha’s voice drops into a conspiratorial whisper. “She was gonna take my heart and leave you to die.”

“I’m not falling for such an obvious bloody fib,” I say. Is that a twinge in my throat? Do I even have one anymore?

Natasha raps a scornful tendril against the rifle sagging in her chest. “You really think she’s doing this out of the goodness of her heart after a couple weeks in your bed? You really think she’d be satisfied with a payoff as pitiful as revenge? Take it from someone in the know – it isn’t.”

“She took your bullets for me!” I snarl. “What else do I need to know?”

“You know how old she is?” Natasha asks. “Or her favorite color? Or even what color her eyes are? Could you tell me anything about her that doesn’t involve what guns she keeps in her legs?”

I don’t have a response. Only pettiness. “Jealous?”

“I’m furious,” she says. “I can’t blame you for your total lack of judgment or terrible taste in women but I can sure as hell blame Alliott for taking advantage of you. I might be a class traitor but she's a class traitor and arms dealer! She’s a microcosm of everything wrong with the world.”

“If she’s so fucking awful hurry up and brainwash her! Put the whole fucking planet under whatever passes for moral in your capitalist brain.” My voice comes out in frustrated gasps. “Please, Natty. Fix me. Show me you’re less fucked up.”

Hell peels apart in front of us with the sound of fingers snapping. An invisible knife cleaves through the moon’s molten meat and stone skin to reveal the Earth from a quarter-million kilometers up. No matter how many times I see it the view still takes my breath away.

“You know what’s fucked up?” she says. “Post-scarcity thaumaturgy hoarded behind government regulations. Subliminal memetics in our Coke ads. Demonics as a service. We’re fucking gods, Ruku! Gods who turned the Earth into a fucking dump for the profit margins!”

“Don’t look at me,” I say. “I got the hell out of there.”

Natasha pokes my nose. "You ran. I don't blame you for that. You need a fire in you to run, to look for something better. You've got fire in spades! Always moving forward… never being satisfied with what you have — but you won't fight for it either."

She takes my jaw in hand and pulls my gaze to hers. Her eyes are electric.

“I hated you, you know that?” Her tone is almost vulnerable. “I couldn't even go to sleep some nights thinking about how much I wanted to cuddle you or kill you or kill myself. Head empty, no thoughts except how I could get back at you. I relived every moment of being hollowed out and wishing I deserved it so I could think about anything other than how you betrayed me.”

“Natasha –”

"I don’t want to hate you. Or even your fake girlfriend. You know her parents could count as war criminals? She can’t help being so fucked up. None of us can. This shit is in our blood from the day we’re born to the day we die and there’s not enough praxis in the world to cure that.”

“I’m sorry!” I shout. “I really am. For everything I did to you and all the things I didn’t. I wish I had a good reason for running away but don’t – I wish I could put your heart back in your chest, but can’t – so I’ve come to grips with being damned, but not yet. From the bottom of whatever I have in here, I’m sorry and I wish I could have been different. But I’m not, and I’m not leaving without what’s mine. You can give it back so I can try to make it up to you. Or you can play the supervillain with a moon base and I can take it back!”

An electric arc crosses between us. If looks could kill, we’d both be dead. If lips could kill, we’d also be dead. Hers taste like caramel and diesel and for once make me glad my lips are still wired up. Her doppelgangers rise from the muck to help her straddle me, take turns tasting my faceplate in the process — someone pulls my ears but at this point I’m past worrying about how I sound, I’m too busy snogging five different Natasha’s abs she has abs – then she pulls away and I snap at her mouth before remembering I’m supposed to hate her guts. Fuck!

“Okay.” Her smile is full of knives. “I forgive you.”

The single remaining Natasha takes a step back and splits open from the chin down into an acid-green iron maiden. Inside the space where guts should go, a thousand tendrils snake out from a neon sphere hanging in her chest and drag me into her. It feels like being cleansed under a hot shower. Didn’t realize how much I missed being the devil’s concubine.

"God that was so much more cathartic than I thought it would be,” the sphere says. “Ruku, you're the biggest disaster I've ever met in my life and the most incredible woman I’ve met in it too. You showed me what I had to do. Without you I never would have found the strength to come this far. Everything I’ve done is thanks to you."


"You still have that seed of goodness." Her voice pours over me like slag. "I'm going to grow it. Strip away your selfishness. Peel away your impulsiveness. Burn off your self-destructiveness."

I swallow.

"And then we’ll fix the world. Become their conscience and give them the choice: make heaven down there or burn in hell up here. You. Me. Diya. Queens of a new world.”

Natasha holds me tighter. “What do you say?"

I sink into her grasp and consider her offer. If I say no… she does it to me anyways. If I say yes… she forgives me. Maybe even makes nice with Alliott. Replaces Diya. I can see it now – getting our hearts racing – heart, singular. Burning down the old world behind us as Natasha raises the new one ahead. I can be her destroyer and her goddess and her partner at the same time.

Fuck. This better not be what love feels like. I don’t like it, I don’t want it, I don’t need it —

I just need my heart

where are you

I just want to taste the rest of her, not return back to reality


I grab for my heart with a phantom hand and find a solid metal key. It fights back when I twist so I push harder – teasing, coaxing, cajoling, demanding, igniting Natasha’s engine with a reverberating click. In that one split-second before takeoff, I realize I’m riding a rocket.

We go up in flames. I can’t see but have a gut feeling about the nuclear fire racing out of us into the carcass of the crimson king. Every single servitor around us dissolves into the fuel that hell needs to drag itself around the guts of the Moon until a big blue marble hangs squarely in our sights. Belphegor awakes, eyes hollow, mouth open, soundlessly disgorging a boiling pink laser into the industrial nightmare above.

The nightmare commences with the sound of drums. A beam of love amplified by stimulated exposure to the radiance of Hell makes a one-way trip through an intricate system of physical logic gates melting behind it even as they compute, design, and execute a cascade of brute force calculations that tell a living thing’s electrical bits exactly how to twist and bend so their deepest hopes and dreams match Natasha’s desires so Belphegor can beam those calculations into every sentient mind on Earth.

I feel Natasha’s triumph in the thaumic exhaust that incinerates us. It burns, then aches, then softens into concentrated affection burying me in a narcotic haze. A billion tiny hands tear at my exoskeleton and metaphysical being. Part of me wonders frantically what'll happen when they hit my nuclear battery. The rest of me is too far entangled in a shibari of the soul to care. Not a bad way to go, but then death always gets my engine hot.

The dull warmth of my surrender is shattered by the searing pain of my soul being torn apart. It's an instinctual recognition – a defense mechanism to warn me that I am being killed utterly and eternally. I can't see or hear or even feel anymore, but I can still burn.

NEXT: Contempt

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