The Infernal Names

by Nikita Bleyer, age 17
The Infernal Names Nikita is a writer living in Brooklyn.

“HER EYES ARE SO GREEN THEY BURN! like the curling pages of a magazine, chemical coating dyeing the flames. The Emerald City ablaze, the serpent’s tongue, the forest floor of the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve sin and sweat. And when you look at me with them, ooh girl, but I feel it all the way to my toes.”

HER EYES ARE SO GREEN THEY BURN! like the curling pages of a magazine, chemical coating dyeing the flames. The Emerald City ablaze, the serpent’s tongue, the forest floor of the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve sin and sweat. And when you look at me with them, ooh girl, but I feel it all the way to my toes.

Bast twirls hair around her finger, nails cut short and painted red. The hair is not her own, but she knows it as though it is. Knows the exact weight, the thickness — the curls and the straight bits. Cassandra’s hair. Her person almost completely captured by the bounce of it, by the way it falls around her shoulders and down the nape of her neck. Cassandra’s eyes flutter slowly open and Bast falls into them, standing at the top of a well and feeling no fear as her body plunges into the cool water. It would sizzle as she fell in, the water would, sharply contrasting with her temperature.

Sharks leaving trails of scarlet blood in clear, blue seawater.

That’s how it is, with the two of them lying in Cassandra’s cotton sheets. Bast’s little body burning flame intertwined with her clear blue.

They both lie awake, pressed against each other, feeling the way their bodies move as their chests rise and fall almost synchronized. Not speaking, listening intently to the creak of the springs under them as they shift in search of sleep.

When Cassandra wakes up, the bed is empty. She lies still for a moment in the buttery sun, blinking, hearing the sound of a mourning dove on the fire escape. Lost in thought? Deep in a trance maybe? Lots to think about maybe.

Bast’s hair flows long, black, silky. She is wearing only this when she appears in the doorway holding two mugs of coffee, the cat slithering between her legs. “Morning, babe.” Mornings are always these short, simple moments, almost routine, almost repetitive.

The girls sit together on the bed. Cassandra burns her tongue on the coffee.

“Too hot!”

Bast smiles and responds, “Can’t help it.”

They don’t have anything to do that morning, anywhere to go, so they lay in the bed and talk and drink their coffee and burn each other with the hot liquid and with their mouths. The silky light of morning is seeping through the breezy curtains and Cassandra is feeling calm, eyes shut and breathing soft. She feels Bast brush the hair back from her forehead with a warm hand, and Bast kisses her, dark and heavy, flicking her forked tongue between Cassandra’s lips. This burns her more than the coffee, this feeling, and shivers of pleasure run through her, so hot she’s cold. Their hands leave UV prints on each others’ bodies, the dragging of skin on skin, the deep inhales, and sighs it’s so good with Bast and Cassandra it’s so, so good. The hair is getting tangled and knotted now. The eyes are rolling into the back of their heads, turning completely inwards behind closed eyelids, so they can see their brains.

And then Cassandra pulls away, out of breath, not wanting anymore.

“What.” Bast slows her breathing, holds Cassandra’s face in her hands.

“Nothing. I dunno.”

Cassandra can feel how Bast is staring at her, searching for a sign in her face to reveal what she won’t. She pulls away.

Bast swings her feet over the edge of the bed not facing her anymore. “This keeps happening. Like, just lately, but like this keeps on happening, Cass.”

She is silent. Bast snorts a little in frustration like the little pig and gets up, paces around the room, around the island of the bed where Cassandra sits. Her hair is swinging as she walks, her tits too, and everything about her movement is mad. She leaves trails of hot smoke in the bedroom, and Cassandra’s sight is warped like through the steam from a radiator. As she paces back and forth, circling the bed, her face loses its red and returns to normal. She calms and slows her motions. And then she stops and turns to Cassandra and says, “It’s okay. I’m not mad or anything, just horny,” laughing like smoothing over wet cement, blowing it off like the steam over a cup. “It’s fine.”

Cassandra goes to the side of the bed where Bast stands, she lifts herself up and hugs her.

Bast kisses her gently and leaves the room to get dressed. Cassandra touches a hand to her scorched lips, the heat of Bast lingering like anger that hasn’t died out.

 

Kassandra

First, I guess you will want to know whose voice this is. Who is in such a prime, primal position, overseeing the temple and its inhabitants tonight. Perhaps on a balcony or an archway, or sitting over the altar in a special, private box. Or you could be theological and tell me I sit on a cloud spinning stringy tales and playing with one malleable piece of clay. Well. Hoo boy. I guess let’s attribute my knowledge and intellect to the stories passed down to me from all my ancestors and their ancestors. On this night, the door opens a crack which then opens up further and a beam of yellow light is cast across the floor. What does yellow feel like? You choose. Chiclets, sunshine, urine, buttery, lemony sour, whatever you want. Kassandra is yellow as she peeks into the temple, and she is very beautiful. Gold swathed over her, her bare feet stepping over the door frame and then resting on the cool marble. I have done this entrance before, gone from the dirty heat outside to the cool, smooth, white interior of the temple. It could really take your breath away. Arching, vaulted ceilings, everything white, smooth, and hard like teeth or something you could break your teeth on. Columns in all four corners, draped with heavy looking snakes that appear to slither, though frozen in marble. Kassandra walks through the room, passing the sculpture of the temple’s deity. She is walking slowly, examining the walls and statues and tables covered with fruits and crystals and paper offerings that have been dipped in honey. She glides to the front of the temple now, one solemnly bare foot in front of the other. Now, Kassandra stands at the altar. She turns to face ghost worshippers and closes her eyes and her hair flows back from her face as if by a gust of ghost wind. Then she lies down, stretches her body out onto the marble floor, and soon she is asleep.

The corners of the room melt away, sharp angles into butter, and the snakes are slithering low on their bellies surrounding the Sleeping Girl. They multiply, and she is in the center of the ring of snakes, flashes of bright green and their white fangs just like the marble. One draws in close to her face, and my breath catches, fearful for her smooth, dark skin. Its mouth opens, and I can almost see it happen, see the jaw clamp around her cheek and the scarlet blood start to spill. But it doesn’t. The snake whispers in her ear, eyes yellow and unblinking like Kassandra, and the girl’s body shifts in sleep to confirm the secret’s reception. The other snakes move in closer, and even I can hear the hushed tones of their whispers that fill her ears and her dreams and resound in the white temple.

It doesn’t surprise me that I wasn’t the one chosen to be their confidant, Kassandra was always right for these things. Sure, I wonder sometimes what the snakes said to her that night in the temple in the astral plane. But I saw her wake with such madness in her eyes, deep-rooted but rising, that I’d almost rather not know.

 

Bastet

Fraying wicker, cat whiskers, thick, savory milk, sweet scent perfume. Beautiful woman, hot, smooth skin, cold shadows. Long, thick lashes, food-filled belly, big belly laugh, soft, sultry smile. Rock salt melting on the tongue. Scorching alcohol down the throat. Creamy, red blood in the veins, heavy with sodium and iron.

“THIS IS THE WAY WE DANCE!!!” SHE cries out to me in a slur of reds and golds and shimmering, shaking fabric.

I laugh and shout over the music, “I KNOW!!” Her mouth is as big as her face, and she is a vision in swaying arms and hips and swinging, long hair. The boys are following her movements, listening for the sounds of her bells and of her kneecaps clicking together. I am too, of course, but I have been trying all night not to let on. Her face is flushed and sweaty when she finally sits down on the silk, cushioned chair next to me. Her eyes are outlined in thick kohl, her lips a fierce red, and skin so creamy, dark, smooth like something so delicious!

“Don’t you want to dance?” She leans in to yell this into my ear.

I shake my head. “I can’t. I’m no good at dancing.”

She pouts and pours glasses of lemon water for us. “I bet you’re fine. Plus, no one will mind even if you aren’t.”

I know she’s right, but truthfully I am far too nervous to dance like she does, knowing what will come later on in the night. I am grateful for the darkness in this sweet-smelling den, where the air is too thick for Bastet to see how my hands shake. I don’t know how she does it, puts on not only a brave face but a beautiful one. Her teeth glint in the colorful lights as she laughs with the boys.

Small talk.

Not the way she talks to me.

They hang onto her every word like needy kittens and the way she entertains their attentions angers me, so I down the rest of my drink and pull her away from them. Hell, maybe it’ll take my mind off things. We dance for hours. Our bodies are practically melding into one, practically melting into a puddle of liquid butter on the dance floor. And I do stop thinking about it, at least for a little while.

After sweating our souls into the thick air, dancing for hours, Bastet drags me to a secluded room. We collapse into pillows and plush carpet and lie there still for a little while. Then she turns to me, “I think it’s time.” I know she’s right. We’ve been waiting for this moment and any more waiting will be too long. I reach a shaky hand to my boot and pull out a long, sleek blade. She clasps my face in her hands.

“This is right. I promise.” The weight of her breath in my nose and of the knife in my palm is enough to hold me here forever.

“We’re doing this for us, we’re doing this for the Gods, and the Goddesses! Baby, we’re doing this for us.”

I know she’s right.

“Fuck these fucking mortals!” She throws in for good measure, as if I needed more convincing.

Fuck these fucking mortals.

I nod into her glassy eyes where I can see myself reflected upside down and we stand, each concealing our blades within the folds of our skirts. Bastet’s hand is outstretched, almost grasping the doorknob. Right before she touches it the door is swung open. A lovesick, little kitty boy is on the other side, clutching glasses of blood-colored beer. His face is pained and pale, as though he is straining to say something. I take the drinks from his clammy hands, and before he can say a word, we shut the door again. Me and Bastet hold our glasses out to each other, and with a shudder, we swallow the blistering alcohol in one go.

Oh, give us strength.

The last thing I remember doing is heading for the door and witnessing Bastet fall one second before I do. The last thing I remember seeing is the humans crowding into the cramped room, watching us fizzle out with weary relief.

In my sleep I saw HER, balancing the sun on her head.

In my sleep I saw HER, burning in the pits of Hell.

 

BAST and CASSANDRA sit on a couch in Bast’s living room. There is tension in the air.

 

BAST

Cass.

 

CASSANDRA

(she doesn’t look up)

What?

 

BAST

I feel like we should talk…

 

CASSANDRA

Not now.

 

BAST

What’s wrong with you. You’ve been so weird lately.

 

CASSANDRA

Please just stop.

 

BAST

Why?

 

CASSANDRA

Just fucking stop!

 

BAST

(Bast’s face is starting to turn red)

No. This isn’t fair.

 

CASSANDRA

Fuck off, Bast.

 

BAST

Fuck you.

 

CASSANDRA

(under her breath)

Jesus Christ.

 

BAST

I can’t tell anymore if you love me.

 

There is a long pause here. Cassandra is thinking while Bast watches her desperately.

 

CASSANDRA

Me neither.

 

BAST

(Bast jumps up, furious)

What the fuck??? You don’t know fucking either??!

 

CASSANDRA

I don’t.

 

BAST

Well can you figure it out?!

 

CASSANDRA

I don’t know.

 

BAST

THAT’S. NOT. FAIR.

 

CASSANDRA

I know.

 

BAST

When did this happen?

 

CASSANDRA

Not sure.

 

BAST

Why couldn’t you have told me before now.

 

CASSANDRA

I wasn’t really sure until now.

 

Long pause.

BAST

This hurts.

 

CASSANDRA

I didn’t want to hurt you.

 

BAST

Well, you did.

 

CASSANDRA

You have to believe I didn’t fucking want to.

 

BAST

You. Did.

 

CASSANDRA

So what now?

 

BAST

Just leave.

 

CASSANDRA

Bast, please, can we talk?

 

BAST

Oh now you want to fucking talk.

 

CASSANDRA

I’m so sorry.

 

BAST

Please go.

 

Lights shut off as door slams shut, Bast is left alone in darkness.

 

It’s almost like she’s in a bunker or closet or cell or something else small and dark and damp. Black, thick air that you could gather up in muslin and squeeze water from. Her little body reverberating with such fire and power in the corner of the room, right where the wall meets the floor.

 

The Contents:

  • Bast
  • Her bones
  • Her blood
  • A flame that is predicted to grow any minute now

Weather forecast calls for forest fire maybe that’s just what this storm needs.

Storm not wet or gray or foggy

Not marbled, warbled sounds or smells

But a flashing hot vortex, a vertical tunnel.

Arms wrap around her knees, crushing her bones and doing it for the sake of the walls that are gradually scraping across the floor, coming closer by the second. The ember that started in her chest has leapt from her mouth, through the Pearly Gates of her rows of teeth, the kindling of her rage feeds it until Bast is surrounded by leaping flames. The little room she’s in is completely ablaze and reflecting in her eyes, so she is unable to realize the situation.

And then, after blinking maybe twenty-something times, her head clears and Bast jumps to her feet. “Oh fuck my fucking house is on fire.” Her fury is still there you best believe, but now there’s fear of burns and scars and suffocation and also amusement at herself for not noticing the impending disaster until now, isn’t that just like her. She wraps her t-shirt around her mouth and nose and slams the door of the room open, running down the hallway with so many doors, each somehow open, each somehow filled with licking flames. Her shirt is singed from where her hot breath caught in it, her hands that guide her down the hallway leave blazing trails on the walls, and her hair is gathered antigravity like in a comic book falling straight up, and maybe it seems like the source of the heat and horrible smoke isn’t the fire at all, but it’s her?

She bursts out onto the toxic waste, green backyard that’s almost waxy in comparison to the sidewalk out front and backed up against the fence she turns and watches her house. Looking down at herself, Bast notices that her palms are like a mirror reflecting the exact image of the flames like they’re right there in her bloodstream which of course they are. She stands like this, in the acidic pool of grass, watching the fire eat away at her house and the inside of her body.

 

Then the flame coming out of the bathroom window is a hand

The flame coming out of the kitchen is a curved rib cage

The flame in the bedroom is a neck and a head

And the legs are poking out the front door

And Bast is face to face with the face in the living room

pressed up against the window and Bast feels magnetic hot force like no other and runs up to the window. The flames are still leaping and now licking and caressing her, running their tongue across Bast’s body. She feels their hands on her waist and then slipping as gracefully and smoothly as only a natural force can under her cotton shirt, into the waistband of her jeans, all over everywhere until she’s burning so hot that she’s cold. Her heart is beating so fast and so hard in her chest, so hard that it could fly from her body on powdery wings and she could become A dark magicked demon or a beam of light, those sharks or that seawater, a slick, marble temple or a damp, dark room she could be any or none MULTIPLICITY of woman. She and the flames intertwined in cosmic spillover between dimensions

Between planets and surfaces

The cratered holy rock of the moon,

projected so it’s right up against your face pressing on your nose and eyelashes.

From here you can see her kneeling in the space between the stars, one strong calf at a right angle with her elbow resting on it and the other lying flat on the astral plane.

You can see the way she holds her arms so rigid, extra support for the way that she balances the sun on her head.

The two of them burning on the sun’s surface or in the pits of Hell with your favorite cast of characters those so shunned and evil, dipped in the rivers that run red, anointed in amnesia.

 

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