— City of God, Book IX, Chapter 11, Apuleius
Serge had spent enough time down in the gutter to know that his number was up. There were no two ways about it; he was gonna bite it and it was going to be awful.
He’d been assigned a case by the Myskatonic University’s External Survey division. Something about a Lapis Manalis – a gateway to the underworld, so to speak – popping up in a small town just outside of Springfield. He now recalled wondering if there would be an Evergreen Terrace there – unlikely – and chuckling at the thought. The morning had been just peachy; a promising bout of boring with an extra helping of kill yourself tonight, maybe. Oh, how wrong he had been about that particular forecast.
Fast forward thirteen hours and a few too many wrong turns of conversation and you had Serge in chains, naked, gagged, dehydrated and with a burning case of hemorrhoids the likes of which he’d not experienced since that one time he’d eaten too much Lebanese food. Oh, and the locals just happened to be the hybrid offspring of a chthonic deity bent on world domination through – get this – love. Yeah. That’s right. The ol’ L word baddie. The reason great empires were built and torn down.
Serge wasn’t a fan, and much less now that it was the very reason he was there about to meet an untimely death. There was, after all, only so much a man could take of the dreaded chemical on its own. Couple it with actual threats to his physical well-being and, well, you got one dogged aversion to romantic notions.
Of course, as much as he hated to admit it even to himself, Serge had fallen prey to a woman. Yes, he had swallowed the whole thing, hook and sinker. That very lady was the person responsible for his current predicament. Oh, he was a fool and he knew it.
Speak of the devil! There she was, sharp knives and all, and Serge still found her charming. He really did deserve to get offed. He had sold out the world for a sweet smile and the promise of little tender love and care.
Here comes the blade! Yup, there it is, on his neck, right on… the slash came, as expected, and he felt his lifeblood deluge out through his neck. Samantha, she’d said her name was. If that could be believed. It took seconds and the noise he made was embarrassing, but it’s not like you get to practice dying, now, is it?
A minute later he was a disembodied something, looking at what was the most pathetic thing he had ever seen: his dead, unflatteringly underkept corpse. He had not been kind to himself in life, that was evident.
He felt a strange pull, something beckoned him…
Ah, there it was, the chthonic deity itself. It was a dark, oddly female shape. Voluptuous, full, and every bit the opposite of what most would consider sexually attractive… and yet she stirred feelings in Serge he didn’t even understand how they could happen without, you know, having an actual body any longer.
You are not worthy. Spoke the strange deity. But you are not devoid of value, either.
Oh, shit. He was being judged. Weighed. He had the terrible notion that he would not pass muster. As usual. Why should things change just because he was dead?
You will remain and help. You will remain and either redeem your soul’s worth, or damn it beyond redemption.
This was a far better outlook than Serge had expected. However, he still felt a strange sense of foreboding. Something heavy was just placed upon him.
You will remain.