CLICK5: Sticking With The Coughin’ Nails, Thanks…

Extended CLICK5… CLICKB8: Huckleberry Warfare…

CLICK5: China, Canada, Protests…

Extended CLICK5… CLICKB8: A Fourth Turning Tale – Silent But Violent…

CLICK5: The Shots That Were Heard Around The World…

CLICK5: Baa Ram Ewe…

Extended CLICK5… CLICKB8: First Things First…

CLICK5: Stage and Stages…

Extended CLICK5… CLICKB8: A Fourth Turning Tale – Am Nasty Not Sees…

Story Time: Pale Glider

*And they say the Left can’t meme, Clicky… /smirks…*

*You’re right, they do look a bit like the A Team…*

Welcome, Dear Reader 😀

I know it’s a day early, but I thought I’d present you with my Halloween story from Underdog Anthology XVIII: The Hole in the Veil

… It’s Sunday and the clocks went back overnight…

… So I have an extra hour to play with. Pale Glider is the 6th installment of my ‘Ronageddon’ series of stories. If you are at all unfamiliar with any of the previous five…

*LOL…*

… Well, maybe you have an extra hour to spare, too, Dear Reader 😉

What Time Do You Finish?
Christmas Death Wish
Walk I, With You
OK Charon!
In The Grotto

*Yeah, presented like one of Cade’s missive ‘wiki wavy walls’, Clicky… /smiles sadly… The story is dedicated to him…*

So, without further ado, here is Pale Glider for your entertainment…

*******

Pale Glider

by Roo B. Doo

Molly Darling had a secret friend. It wasn’t so much that her friend was ‘a secret’ but that nobody else could see him. She had caught glimpses of him on and off for years, mostly in her peripheral vision or at a distance, but more recently up close. Molly knew he was ‘a friend’ because when he did appear, he would give a wave and sign greetings to her. In her experience only friends took the time to learn to sign; Molly was deaf not dumb.

She strapped her boots tight and stood up to check her appearance in the full-length mirror in her mum’s bedroom. Pulling down on the fabric of the long, black robe she wore, Molly turned from side to side, paying particular attention to her feet. The bedroom carpet was too thick for a proper rolling test but she was satisfied that the fluorescent pink wheels of her roller skates were not visible below the hem of the robe.

Molly lifted the robe’s hood over her head until her face was hidden, and grabbed the plastic scythe that came as part of the costume from the fancy dress shop.

Perfect, she thought, taking one last look in the mirror. I look just like him.

Molly was sure she would win the prize for best Halloween costume at school that day.

***

God was not happy.

I’m not happy, Big D.

Death was neither happy nor unhappy. It didn’t even concern him that God constantly referred to him as ‘Big D’ when he was barely three-foot-three. “Ma’am?”

God strode around her island office, situated high above the swell of increasingly turbulent souls that filled the God Lobby below. Death smoothly glided alongside her as she paced.

Earlier today the Great Birthing Stork Marge Gerana reported to me that birthrates are down. Worryingly so, and now you’re telling me that death rates are up.

Death could understand why God was agitated; birth and death and somewhere to reside between the two states was God’s one true gift to humanity; what humans decided to do with this gift was left entirely up to them.

“It is a concerning turn of events, Ma’am,” Death agreed.

Both War and Famine are back in circulation, yet Pestilence remains elusive.

God was referring to the curious incident that occurred two years previous, when Satan had trapped a lycanthropic War, vampiric Famine and zombified Pestilence in the back of a London taxi. Halloween 2020 had a full Moon and as the clouds parted that evening, War had laid waste to Famine and Pestilence with bestial ferocity, before eventually succumbing to Pestilence’s toxicity. The only reason Satan had brought Death along that night was, apparently, for the ride.

Inexplicably War then turned up 6 months later as Wanda Warren, an entrepreneurial powerhouse, running a small but growing fitness enterprise. Wanda, however, had no memory of her previous incarnation as War. Not until she saw Death that is, but even then she had no recollection of the events of that fateful Halloween. Famine had only shown up this past Christmas. He turned out to be a Chinese Elvis-impersonating naked chef called XiXi Fat. Again, any knowledge of his former self was entirely lacking until XiXi laid eyes on Death.

Pesto had not yet revealed himself and Death wondered how that was possible considering just how busy he’d been of late. So busy in fact that it had become necessary to expand the workforce of the Grim Reaper Service to keep up.

“Ma’am,” Death said slowly; he had a suggestion but wasn’t sure how God would take it. “I’ve been thinking about this and I wonder if it would be a good idea if we could somehow observe what Old Scratch did with the bodies that night, after he let me out of the taxi.”

God looked at him blankly.

“I believe the Situation Room can travel both in space and time?”

God had created the Situation Room as a means of observing any given situation. It was a cube that allowed its occupants to look out but was completely invisible to anyone on the outside.

Death cleared his throat with a rattle and continued. “If we were able to observe what Satan did with the bodies of War, Famine and Pestilence, then maybe we can figure out where Pesto is.”

God stopped pacing.

Are you suggesting we spy on him?

Death shrugged. “He did hack our systems first.”

This was true; the whole Halloween scampocalypse of 2020 took place during a breach of the Cosmic Consciousness Neural Network. Although it had never been conclusively proven that Satan was behind it, all indicators and circumstantial evidence pointed in his direction. The question of who was to blame for the CCNN breakdown was more akin to the ‘who blew up the Nordstream undersea pipelines?’ mystery rather than ‘who shot JFK?’.

God drummed her fingers on her chin.

The Situation Room isn’t mobile, Big D. It can take us to any given spot but that’s all. The cube itself doesn’t actually move.

“But I can. I could follow Satan and see where he takes the bodies, and with this,” Death said, pulling his work PsyPad from beneath his robe, “you can follow me.”

God was not convinced.

Surely that won’t work if the CCNN isn’t operational.

Death flipped open the cover on his Psypad and tapped on an icon. “Look here, Bluetooth was installed in the tech upgrade you ordered as a result of the breach. It uses short-wave radio, so is independent of the network. We could sync up.”

So, I can track you?

“Indeed, Ma’am, from your PsyPad. I’m given to understand that there is an app for that.”

God was still doubtful.

And what if he sees you following him, Big D? That would cause no end of problems.

“Ma’am, I assure you, only very few see Death coming.”

God narrowed her eyes.

“And I’ll be careful.”

God sighed and cocked her head to one side. She placed her hand on top of Death’s bowed head.

Big D, when did you become so crafty?

“I cannot recall, Ma’am.” Death lifted his head and returned his PsyPad to the folds of his robe. “Eternity is an extremely long time.”

The morning was coldly dank and foggy, muffling Wanda Warren’s footsteps as she pounded her way around Victory park, on a solo run before the start of her first class. Wanda had a lot on her mind and none of it was good. She hoped a good, hard run would help to exorcise the frustration she was feeling from being caught on the twin horns of a dilemma that she didn’t like one little bit. As the Rona pandemic and the accompanying lockdowns of the past couple of years had started to fade from the public’s memory, so had interest and, more importantly, clientele from her outdoor, park-based fitness business, ‘Fighting Fit’. That was horn one.

The second stemmed from her previous existence as the second Horseman of the Apocalypse, War. The threat of nuclear annihilation had ramped up considerably during the course of the year as a major battle for hegemony was being conducted by global superpowers in eastern Europe, and Wanda had had nothing to do with it. As War, she thought she should have at least some involvement in the instigation of World War 3, but here she was, running laps around a park, worrying about her fledgling business being run into the ground. She wondered if her friend XiXi was feeling the same, although by all accounts, Famine was due to hit the big time in 2023.

Eat ze bugs. Loose the thugs. Kill the smugs. Wanda didn’t know where the sudden mantra came from, but it pounded through her mind, in time with her footfalls and the techno music blasting through her earphones.

She decided to stop at the bench by the duck pond for a breather and to stretch any remaining tension from her muscles. She thought of Jimbo Collins, the first client she’d ever lost. To be fair, Jimbo’s departure wasn’t of his own volition, as he’d died right here on the bench eighteen months earlier of a heart attack.

Or so it was claimed but who really knew the actual cause of Jimbo’s death; in the intervening time a whole swathe of fit, young people, from elite athletes to Sunday morning footballers, from across the world had also suddenly died for no apparent reason. Every medical authority in the world was dumbfounded and completely bemused as to the cause of these sudden deaths, but to Wanda, it sounded exactly like something Pestilence might have cooked up. And maybe he did; Pesto was still at large after all.

Wanda lifted her left leg and stretched it out along the back of the bench. She grabbed her ankle and rested her forehead on her knee. Closing her eyes, she stretched and breathed, which was why she didn’t see the loping figures emerge out of the fog from behind her. In fact Wanda’s first indication that she was no longer alone was when a rough hand grabbed her arse.

“What the..!” she yelled and opened her eyes. There were two of them, wearing dirty tracksuits and even dirtier leers on their faces.

“Hey lady. You need fuck?” the grabby one said and moved closer so that he could rub his groin against Wanda’s backside. “This is good position. It will be good. We fuck you hard and you enjoy.”

“Argh!” Wanda pushed the man away. “Get off me! Get the fuck away from me, the pair of you.”

The second man grinned at his accomplice and pulled a knife from his pocket. He showed Wanda the blade. “Lady, play nice or I will cut you.”

Wanda was momentarily shocked but she wasn’t scared. She was more furious with herself for letting her guard down; she’d worked long enough in Victory park to know the dregs that frequented it. These two were new.

Wanda mentally rolled her eyes. Tourists!

“You want to play a game?” she asked coquettishly. With her right hand, she slowly unzipped her tracksuit top to reveal heaving breasts and a flat stomach, all whilst dragging the earphones from her ears. She batted her eyes as she lifted up her left breast with the back of her right hand as she placed the earphones in the inside pocket. Sweat rolled across the top of her boob and trickled down into her cleavage. Wanda was immensely proud of her ‘boys’ as she often referred to her spectacular tits, and their ability to charm the pants off of most men.

The two attackers looked at each other. They couldn’t believe their luck. Grabby licked his lips. “A game? Yes, we play game.”

Wanda stretched sideways, provocatively, sliding her left hand down her leg to her ankle. “Let me guess.” The material of her tracksuit bottoms stretched tautly across her crotch. “I bet you want to play poke her.”

The man holding the knife was confused. “Poker? No, we want to fuck.”

Grabby chuckled. “No, she means ‘poke her’.” He thrust his hips backwards and forwards sharply to demonstrate. “Poke her.”

“Ah yes, I want to poke her.” Knife man turned to Wanda, “I want to poke you.”

“Oh, good, I’m so glad,” Wanda cooed, “’Cos I see your metal…” She abruptly flourished the knife she kept strapped to her calf under her tracksuit, before dropping her leg to the floor and taking a defensive stance. “And raise you chemical.”

The two men stepped back but it was nowhere quick or far enough away to avoid the stream of hot, burning agony Wanda sprayed directly into their eyes from the canister in her right hand. The would be rapists screamed and fell to their knees, covering their faces with their hands. The knife slipped from the assailant’s hand, which Wanda calmly kicked away into the long grass.

She took a deep breath and zipped up her tracksuit top. “God, I love the smell of pepper spray in the morning.”

***

The cloud cover was starting to thin and part on the night of Halloween in 2020. The area around Cleopatra’s Needle on the bank of the river Thames was deserted. Or at least it appeared to be deserted.

This is no good, Big D. It is far too bright from the street lamps. You won’t be able exit the Situation Room without being seen.

God and Death stood in the Situation Room, parked in front of one the sphinxes that flanked the towering Egyptian obelisk.

Death looked up at the sky above. Bright shafts of light from the full Moon were starting to break through the clouds; War would be starting to transform into a werewolf.

“Ma’am, Satan’s taxi will arrive here in approximately one minute and forty seconds. If I go now, I can hide in the shadows behind the bus stop across the road.” Death opened the door and prepared to glide out into the night.

God held him back.

Shouldn’t we synchronise our PsyPads or something?

“We synchronized them before we left,” Death replied, but the hint of nervous excitement in God’s voice was enough to give him pause. “We don’t have to do this, Ma’am. We can just leave if you prefer. Perhaps that would be best.”

God shook her head.

No. I’ll follow you on my Psypad and meet you at the end, wherever that is.

Death nodded. “It is exciting?”

Always. Now go.

Gently, God shoved Death through the door and closed it behind him. She watched him glide away, across the road and disappear behind the large bus stop poster of a Rona sufferer’s frightened face, with the instruction to ‘look into his eyes’. God tutted and wondered, not for the first time, if maybe she should get more involved with humanity; they were rather making a pig’s ear of it on their own.

After a short while, the rumble of an approaching taxi could be heard. God watched as it pulled to a stop just before the obelisk and sat there, engine ticking over. Through its windscreen she could see Satan behind the steering wheel, a fat cigar dangled between his even fatter lips. He appeared to be laughing at someone sitting next to him. Presumably the Death of 2020.

God checked the PsyPad screen for Big D’s position. He was represented by a red dot on a map and he seemed to be on the move already. She watched the red blip travel away up the street, double back and stop again.

What is Big D up to?

The front passenger door opened and the small figure of Death climbed out. The thumping sound of reggae filled the night, as Bob Marley’s voice rang out.

We’re jammin’. To think that jammin’ was a thing of the past. We’re jammin’, and I hope this jam is gonna last…

The music stopped as Death closed the taxi door. He glided toward Cleopatra’s Needle and disappeared. The taxi pulled away from the kerb and motored past the Situation Room, on to who knows where. God caught sight of Big D gliding along behind, his skeletal hands tightly gripping onto a chrome lip above the number plate at the rear of the taxi.

Now all God had to do was to wait and watch the progress of the red blip. The words of the song coming from the taxi played on her mind; it was a catchy tune.

We’re jammin’. Jammin’ Jammin’ Jamm-

God stopped singing and snatched up the PsyPad. She scanned the map and enlarged it with her fingertips. The red blip was gone!

He’s jamming! Oh no!

Somehow Satan knew of their plans and was jamming the signal. Big D was on his own.

Jocasta Darling felt exhausted as she wheeled the pushchair containing her sleeping son through the fog. She was glad he was finally sleeping peacefully; Paul was teething and had kept her up all night. It was his first birthday and Jocasta hoped he wouldn’t be crotchety all day. So far, so good, she thought wearily.

Her daughter held on to the handle of the pushchair, rolling along beside her. Molly’s school had encouraged its students to dress up for Halloween, for a fee of course, and Molly was dressed up as the grim reaper. On the importance of wearing roller skates with the outfit, Jocasta was still in the dark, but Molly had insisted on wearing them. Something about the way her imaginary friend moved or something, Jocasta wasn’t sure. All she knew was that Molly had been made up to receive the roller skates for her birthday and had hardly taken them off her feet since.

They were on their way to feed to ducks before school. It was a ritual Molly and her had started during the Rona lockdowns. The park was usually deserted at that time of the morning, except for the exercisers, especially in the summer months, but the weather was less than enticing today and Jocasta doubted they’d be out in force. She liked to smoke a cigarette whilst Molly fed the ducks and although a sit down and smoke appealed, it was too chilly this morning to be hanging around in the fog.

We’ll just feed the ducks and go, Jocasta decided, as they entered Victory park. She started to tick off all the things she had to do that day on her mental list: Feed ducks, drop Molly at school, shop for party food, cook party food, collect Molly from school, hold party, clean up, take Molly trick or treating, iron and go to bed. Jocasta had a full day ahead of her, as well as the million and one other things she would have to do that didn’t warrant a place on her mental list. No wonder she felt exhausted.

Can I hold the bread?” Molly signed.

Jocasta stopped and looked down at her daughter. She brush the hood covering Molly’s head back so that could see her face and Molly could see hers; Jocasta was too tired that morning for signing, and Molly was an excellent lipreader.

“It’s very foggy so I want you to stay with me today. Don’t go skating off. Okay?”

Molly nodded. “OK.”

“What about your scythe?” Jocasta pointed to the plastic scythe Molly carried.

“I can carry both,” Molly said aloud.

Jocasta took the bread bag from her shopping bag hooked to the back of the pushchair and passed it to her daughter. “Okay, if you’re sure. Here’s the bread.”

They continued their journey along the empty path, walking and skating until they reached the rise just before the gentle slope down to the duck pond. Suddenly, Molly let go of the pushchair and started to freewheel forward, letting gravity do the work. She quickly disappeared into the fog.

“Molly!” Jocasta shouted before chiding her self – Molly couldn’t hear her. “Oh fuck!” she snapped and chased after her daughter.

Molly’s shrill scream turned Jocasta’s blood to ice. She plunged the pushchair faster through the fog. “Molly!”

Jocasta nearly ran straight into her as she reached the duck pond. Molly was standing stock still, silently pointing. The fog was less thick here so Jocasta could clearly see what Molly was pointing at: two men lay prone on the grass bank of the duck pond, with their heads submerged in the water. Between them knelt the woman who ran the big fitness classes in the park, and she was tightly gripping the back of their necks.

The woman turned her head toward Molly and Jocasta. “It’s okay,” she called. “It’s not what it looks like.”

The fitness lady yanked the men’s heads from the water. They gasped for breath and blinked their eyes. They looked terrified.

She stood up and bounded over to Jocasta and Molly, wiping her wet hands on her thighs. “Hello, I’m Wanda. I’ve seen you three in the park before, haven’t I? I run the Fighting Fit classes.”

Jocasta stood in awe of Wanda. Of course she’d noticed before that Wanda was attractive with a very nice figure, and that she obviously had a lot of energy, but that was from a distance. Jocasta was quite unprepared for how stunningly beautiful Wanda was up close, and how she exuded confidence and an overpowering sense of presence.

“What happened to them?” Jocasta asked feebly. She nodded toward the men, who were rubbing their eyes and frantically splashing water into their faces. “Were you drowning them?”

“No,” Wanda laughed. Her chuckle was deep and throaty. “No, these two fuc-” She looked down at Molly and stopped herself swearing. “These two ruffians attacked me. I was just defending myself.”

Jocasta was both horrified and impressed. “Oh my God, really? What did you do to them?”

Wanda shrugged. “I pepper sprayed them.”

“Isn’t that stuff illegal?”

“Probably.” Wanda shrugged again. “To be fair, one of them pulled a knife on me.”

“No,” Jocasta whispered and pulled Molly closer. “They’re not going to attack us, are they?”

“Doubtful. I have a knife too and they know that.” Wanda called over to the men, “You two know I’ve got a knife, don’t you?”

“Yes, yes,” one of them cried. “Please don’t hurt us more,” the other blubbered.

“And it’s A LOT BIGGER THAN YOURS!” Wanda shouted back. She turned to Jocasta and gave her a dazzling smile. “They’ve learnt their lesson. But that does remind me.”

Wanda bent down and spoke to Molly. “Can I borrow your plastic bag?”

Molly nodded and pulled the bread slices from their plastic wrapping and handed it to Wanda.

“Thanks, I’ll just be a moment.” Wanda disappeared into the fog.

Jocasta didn’t know whether to stay or run away. She felt like they stumbled into a scene from a Dirty Harry movie or an American TV cop show. This was too surreal for a Monday morning, Jocasta thought.

She pulled a packet from her coat pocket and plucked the single cigarette and lighter from inside. “Fuck it,” she said and lit up. She didn’t feel quite so tired anymore.

Wanda quickly returned, swing the plastic bread bag. She held it up as she approached Jocasta and Molly. “Their knife. Can’t leave something like that lying around. You never know who’ll find it.”

“Can I feed the ducks now?” Molly asked.

“Sure,” Wanda said. “One second.”

She stalked in the direction of the two bedraggled men. “RIGHT, you two. Fuck off, right now and DON’T come back. If I ever fucking SEE you nobheads again, I will slice your FUCKING nuts off and roast them. GOT IT?”

The two men scrambled to their feet. “We go, we go. Please, we go.”

Wanda returned to Jocasta and Molly after the men stumbled away crying. “There you go, darling, it’s safe to feed to duckies now,” she told Molly.

Jocasta puffed on her cigarette nervously. “What if they’re hanging around in the fog? I’ve got to get Molly to school.”

“Not if they know what good for them they won’t,” Wanda growled. “I don’t think so, but I’ll escort you through the park, if you like.”

“Yes, thank you.” Jocasta finished her cigarette and stubbed it out with her foot. She bent down and picked up the butt. She saw Wanda looking. “I don’t like to litter.”

The two women stood awkwardly in silence and watched Molly throw chunks of bread to the gathering ducks.

“I’m Jocasta and that’s Molly, my daughter. By the way, please don’t worry about swearing around her – Molly’s deaf.”

“Oh right.”

“Although she can read lips. So out of sight is out of earshot, or so to speak.”

“Actually, I know Death,” Wanda said casually. “He’s a personal friend. He’s not as tall as Molly, but he does kinda glide when he moves. The skates are a nice touch.”

Jocasta didn’t know how to respond; what could she say to that? “Thank you,” she mumbled.

“So…” she felt like she should say something. “Do you also teach self defence classes?” Jocasta asked. “If not, I really think you should.”

Wanda’s face lit up. “Hey, that’s a good idea.” She smiled and nodded her head. “Something for women. Most women struggle to keep up in my fitness classes.”

Jocasta felt oddly pleased at Wanda’s receptiveness to her suggestion. “I’d join. A self defence class, that is. I couldn’t do one of your fitness workouts. They look brutal.”

“Yeah, you wouldn’t last two minutes,” Wanda said. “No offence.”

“Oh, none taken,” Jocasta assured Wanda. “I would like to know how to throw somebody though. I’ve always fancied throwing someone to the ground. You know, like judo.”

“Oh really?” Wanda seemed amused. “Got anyone in mind for the floor treatment?”

“Golly, I don’t know.” Jocasta didn’t expect to be put on the spot. “Um, there’s a multitude to choose from. Any of the smugs, I guess.”

Wanda’s eyebrows furrowed and her nostrils flared. “Why did you say smugs?”

Jocasta was taken aback at Wanda’s sudden sharp look and tone. “You know, condescending do-gooders. The ‘do as I say’ brigade. And if you don’t as they tell you, they’ll hound you until you do, smug in the illusion that they’re ‘doing good’. Smugs.” Jocasta stopped herself; she was starting to rant. “I’m sorry, did I offend you?”

Wanda glanced at her watch. “No, not at all, but that’s the second time I’ve heard the word ‘smugs’ today and it’s only eight-thirty in the morning. It’s not a term I’m familiar with.”

“Coincidence?”

Wanda shook her head. “There are two things you need to know in life. One, there’s no such thing as coincidence.”

Molly returned from feeding the ducks. She grabbed the handle of the push chair. “I’m ready to go now.”

Wanda crouched down to speak to Molly directly. “If you let me carry your big stick, you can hold my hand and then me and your mum can wheel you through the park.” Wanda looked up to Jocasta. “Right, mum?”

Jocasta nodded.

Really fast,” Wanda silently mouthed to Molly, and winked.

Molly suppressed a giggle and passed the scythe to her mum’s new friend. She slipped her hand inside Wanda’s free hand and they walked and rolled into the fog.

“What’s the second thing in life, I need to know,” Jocasta asked breathlessly. Wanda was setting a stiff pace.

“That floor you want to throw the smugs to, that floor is fucking hard. Be careful what you wish for.”

Jocasta decided that on the whole, she couldn’t disagree.

***

Liquid light reflections of traffic lights, street lamps and neon signage flowed along the sides and across the roof of the London black taxi as it sped through the city. It neither stopped nor slowed; every traffic light was green and every road devoid of other vehicles that may have hindered its passage. Even if the streets had not been empty, nobody would have seen the small, black robed figure clinging to the back of the taxi, skitching a ride.

After a while the streets became narrower, less well lit and the roads bumpier and neglected. A large pothole nearly threw Death off, but he managed to maintain his grip. He was very familiar with these streets; he had visited them many times before. Mostly for plague, cholera and TB, but that was in the past. Now it was more stabbings, drug overdoses and suicides requiring his presence, but Death had never toured them before and certainly not like this.

He suddenly had an inkling of where Satan was headed. He hoped it wasn’t where he suspected, but those hopes were soon dashed when the taxi pulled up in front of Death’s least favourite hangout in the city.

“Lapland,” Death sighed. Lapland nightclub had a seedy reputation for loose liquor and even looser elves. It was also Father Christmas’s main residence save for one day a year.

Satan opened the driver’s door and got out of the taxi. He adjusted the seat of his trousers and walked up to the door of the nightclub. He knocked three times.

Death took the opportunity to move to a covered position and glided silently into a darkened shop doorway across the street. He stood in the shadow and watched as the door to Lapland opened and Father Christmas stepped out.

“Brother!” Santa boomed jovially. He took the cigar from his mouth and held his arms out wide. Satan did likewise. “Brother.” They embraced.

Plot twist? Death wondered. So, the conspiracy theorists on spectral media were right along!

The difference in appearance between Santa and Satan was deep and yet superficial: one was white, bearded and a force for good; the other dark, clean shaven and mercilessly evil. But once seen together, the fraternal resemblance of the two was striking and obvious.

The Slay Brothers? Death mused, or Sleigh Brothers. Spectral media trolls will argue about this for years.

He slid his PsyPad from his robe. He wanted to check if God had arrived yet in the Situation Room, but as he opened the cover he realised that the sudden brightness of the screen could draw attention. Death hoped that God was nearby, also watching the fiendish family reunion unfold, and could corroborate what he was seeing.

Death watched as Satan handed the keys to the taxi over to Santa. The brothers embraced once more before Santa got into driver’s seat and drove away. Satan stood and watched the taxi leave, sucking on his cigar. He turned and started to walk slowly up the street, shaking his head and laughing. When he was level with Death’s hiding place, he stopped.

“You can come out now child,” Satan called and flicked his cigar butt in Death’s direction. “Come on now, I know you’re there. What is it she calls you? Big D.”

Death slowly left the shadows and glided onto the road to face Satan. He remained silent.

“That’s a pretty good joke, her calling you Big D. Would be considered downright cruel, by some folks. Worthy only of someone like me.”

A windblown plastic bag rolled between them. Intercity tumbleweed.

“Cat got your tongue?” Satan taunted. “Oh that’s right, you don’t have a tongue. But you do speak, so do you want to ask me?”

This is a trap, Death thought. He remained silent.

“I’ll wait.” Satan reached into his jacket and pulled out a fresh cigar. He rolled it between his fingers and sniffed the length of it. “Don’t you want to know where Pestilence is? I know you’ve been searching for him.”

Finally Death broke his silence. “Did Soda Pops tell you that?”

“Soda Pops? Is that what she calls my brother? Soda Pops?” Satan bit the top of his cigar off and spat it out. “So disrespectful.” He warmed its foot with a lighter. “And what kooky name has she given me?”

“None.”

Satan paused lighting his cigar and stared at Death.

“I’ve only ever heard her refer to you by your pronouns,” Death continued. “He/him. But then I’ve only ever heard you refer to God by hers,” he added.

Satan nodded and lit his cigar. He took several small puffs and let out a cloud of smoke.

Death pulled his PsyPad from his robes and opened it. He tapped the screen and swiped it several times before replacing it. His retractable scythe sprung from the sleeve of his robe, the blade crackled with electricity. “Well then. It’s been nice to catch up, but I really must be going. Work to do.”

Death turned his back on Satan and glided away.

“Hey!” Satan called after him. “Don’t you want to know where Pestilence is, child?”

“No need. I’m sure Pesto will turn up when he’s ready.”

Death disappeared into thin air.

***

He knew we were there. He jammed the signal.

Death watched Satan stare after him through the transparent wall of the Situation Room. “How did you know where to find us, Ma’am?”

Once I realised I couldn’t track you with the PsyPad, I popped back to the God Lobby and got my binoculars. The Shard building has an excellent viewing platform. I could see for miles.

“I hope I distracted Scratch long enough for you to see where Soda Pops went.”

Indeed you did, Big D.

Death watched Satan finally turn away and go into Lapland. “And?”

God sighed.

I now know where Pestilence is.

Death gazed up at God. “Ma’am?”

A single, crystal clear tear ran down God’s cheek.

He’s everywhere.

*******

*Shush, Clicky, spoilers…*

*Well, logistics and war do go together…*

*Indeed… /lights up and smokes… How about a Song, Clicky?*

I have an idea already for the next installment, Dear Reader, for the next Underdog Anthology, due out for Christmas, and I have November to write it…

*No, he performed in last year’s Christmas story, Clicky…*

Until then, Dearest Dear Reader, have a Song…