CHAPTER 4: THE LAUGHING SMOKE
In most religions we can find some version of hell. It is of course the exact opposite of whatever a person would find pleasant, filled with chaos and pain. And most religions would be wrong, on some of those details anyways. Hell is in fact very well organized, with a clear command structure and rules. There are those that do the intelligence work, spying and such. Those that do the dirty work, and those that simply administrate. Like a Fortune 500 company it has floors and departments that mesh together like gears in a clock. Raven of course has found himself in a limbo with the management. They simply don't trust him enough to give him a command, but he's deadly enough that they hang on to him as an ace in the hole. And just like anything you find valuable, you never let it out of your sight. A leaf in the wind, a shadow on the ground, inconspicuous eyes are always watching everything Raven does...and everyone he speaks to.
As dawn approaches Raven is making a list of items he plans to buy for dinner tomorrow night. He can't help but laugh a little on the inside as he thinks about what kind of food Jake would probably enjoy. Dinner for Raven would consist of something like the thigh of well toned jogger and perhaps a red wine to accent. But something has ever so quietly been changing inside of Raven, so subtle in fact he has yet to notice. As he makes the list, the items are beginning to sound tasty to him; in fact he hasn't even realized it's been 4 days since he fed on a human. Normally after 2 days the hunger would be uncontrollable. But in the whirlwind of meeting Jake, tomorrow night is the only thing running through his mind.
Satisfied with his list he makes ready for bed. Tossing his clothes in the hamper and turning off the lights he begins to pull the sheets back on the bed. Pausing for a second and wondering how it would look if Jake was laying there next to him. All of a sudden a billow of heat starts flowing into the room, Raven feels it crawling up his back like large spider. He sighs as he closes his eyes and speaks disappointedly into the air:
"To what do I owe the pleasure of an administrator visiting me at dawn?"
He turns to find himself face to face with a smoky apparition, grey and colorless except for the glowing of red eyes.
"We cannot simply drop by to say hello and check on the welfare of one of our own?" The ghostly figure says with a soft hissing voice.
"You haven't dropped by in nearly thirty years, I am sure there is nothing simple about this visit." Raven says condescendingly.
"Your very astute little raven, we do have a purpose for our visit, and since we are pressed for time with the dawning sun we will be brief."
The administrator flows with a ghostly ease over to the desk chair and takes a seat.
"Our visit concerns your newest acquaintance; we believe you call him Jake."
Ravens heart begins racing as images of what horrible things they may have already done to Jake flash in his mind. Raven approaches the administrator with fierceness in his eyes, ready to battle:
"What have you done to him? I demand you tell me!"
The administrator laughs whimsically as he crosses a ghostly leg over the other and leans back:
"We have done absolutely nothing to your...shall we say...friend? In fact we have put him on the short list."
The short list simply put is a list of all humans that are declared protected and untouchable for any reason by the management. Very few humans ever find their way to the list, hence the name "short". The reasons for being placed on the list can vary but usually consist of those the management finds valuable; such as politicians and strategically placed military personnel. Raven finds himself falling back a step in relief as he rubs his forehead.
"And why would you do such a thing for me? I'm not that important to you." Raven says genuinely curious.
"On the contrary we consider you to be a valuable asset and we are not completely ignorant to our warriors needs. There is nothing wrong with the pleasure of some companionship, so we are granting you the opportunity to take a vacation of sorts. Explore your feelings for this human and maybe even have some fun!" The administrator chuckles with a hiss after emphasizing "fun".
Raven sits on the edge of the bed as he tries to wrap his brain around the administrator's comments. This is something completely unheard of and there must be more to it, but at the same time his heart can't help but beat with some excitement, like a dog that has just broken free of its leash.
"So you're telling me management is completely ok with me having a human male companion?" Raven says with a look on his face like he is testing the waters.
"We honestly could care less that it's a human male." The administrator says with a hint of being offended.
" Frankly we wouldn't give a shit if you fell in love with a goat. We are simply giving you the opportunity for a little rest and relaxation; we suggest you take it before what little kindness we have runs out."
Raven pauses for a second and stands back up:
"Fine! I'll take it." He says almost shouting.
"Good" The administrator says with a hiss of satisfaction. "And one last thing: We have already done a little altering as you may have noticed by now. We have suppressed your appetite for human flesh; we wouldn't want you eating your new companion as dessert now would we?" The administrator says laughing uncontrollably as he evaporates into the air like the remnants of an extinguished cigarette.
Raven falls backward onto the bed, looking up at the ceiling fan as he ponders what managements true intentions may be. After a few minutes he gives in to the urge of sleep and creeps under the covers. As he closes his eyes he can't help but hear the echoing laughter of the administrator as he drifts into the darkness.