The sword flew from my hand and clattered onto the rocks. Smoke stung my eyes as I dropped to my knees, searching for the weapon. Swirling and ebbing like the acrid shadows they hid in, the figures drew closer.
Their voices clawed inside my head. They were telling me things. Things I didn't want to hear.
"Get out of here!" I yelled. I pulled my pistol out of my waistband and fired into the mist. The bullets bounced off the walls of the canyon and echoed harmlessly into the distance. The figures stepped back a few paces, taking their smoke with them. The glow of metal caught my eye. Dropping my now-empty gun I grabbed my sword out of the gravel. The figures hissed.
Sweat dripped into my eye as I wiped the hair out of my face. "Come and get me," I challenged.
One of the figures stepped forward, the smoke swirling around its feet like vipers. "I have an offer for you," it called to me.
I gripped my sword tighter. "Oh yeah?"
"Yeah," it replied. "Let's get some coffee on Tuesday, talk things over. What do you say?"
I let the tip of my heavy sword fall in disbelief.
The Starbucks barista gave me a disapproving look. I clenched my teeth into a smile and tried to hide my sword more thoroughly under my chair. The hilt still poked into the aisle. I covered it with my jacket and checked my watch.
"I wonder...." I muttered. Just then the bells above the coffee-shop door jingled. I turned in my chair.
My mouth dropped in surprise. The handsome young man who stood in front of me laughed at my face expression.
"Have you ordered already?" he asked me, pointing to his billfold. I shook my head. As he walked to the counter I pulled out my pocket mirror and rushed to fix my hair and apply a last-minute coat of lip gloss. I regretted wearing my armor.
After a few minutes he returned, setting a coffee cup in front of me and turning to recline in the chair opposite me. I took a sip.
"How did you know I love the caramel macchiato?" I asked in disbelief.
"I always do my research before a date. Call it what you will, I just like to make a good impression." He laughed, and I noticed his perfect teeth.
"This isn't a date," I objected. "This is business. Do you think I wear this armor because it's comfortable?"
"Whatever you say, babe." He grinned, and emptied two sugar packets into his steaming drink. "So, let's talk. My name's Lucifer."
I looked over my shoulder before speaking again. "I shouldn't even be here," I admitted. "I'm forbidden to meet casually with...you and your kind." I couldn't call him 'the enemy' straight to his face, it didn't seem right.
He looked at me, his brown eyes full of concern. "Forbidden? I'm so sorry, I didn't know. I didn't mean to make you do something that makes you feel uncomfortable."
"No, no," I interjected. "I'm sure it's fine. You seem very different than the others. The General couldn't be talking about...you." I allowed a shy smile to crack my face. Butterflies whirled in my stomach. Jeez.
"Of course not," he agreed, taking my hand. "Honestly, I've never met someone quite like you before. I think this could be the start of a very wonderful friendship."
I blushed and pulled my hand back into my lap. He grinned and sipped his coffee. The bells over the coffee-shop door jingled and Lucifer's smile turned into a grimace. I turned and looked at the door. It was the General.
"Sir!" I exclaimed.
He held his battle sword in his hand. "LOOK BEHIND YOU!" he bellowed, leaping forward. I whirled and ducked just as a knife embedded itself in the back of my chair, an inch from my throat. A forked tongue hissed at me from behind the young man's beautiful teeth. The barista screamed.
The coffee-shop filled with smoke and the whir of the General's sword as it swung through the air. I hid beneath the table, coughing. My sword had disappeared. Lucifer's shrieks pounded through my head and I pressed my hands over my ears. Tables and chairs crashed over each other as I cringed. The demon howled one last time. Then, like magic, the smoke was gone.
The General peered under the table and offered me his hand.
"Come on, soldier. Let's get back to the base."