Absolom, AKA The Grey Eyed Lord of Noon, looked out over the space age city.
It had been so much easier before Armageddon, he thought. When evil lurked in the hearts of men, and so many of his race openly served it.
Then he had been young. Now... he lacked even the strength to move. The hover-couch was an improvement over a wheelchair, but to a Sorcerer who had possessed demonically improved strength for thousands of years it was just as humiliating.
Where were his servants? Gone, all gone. Destroyed by the Host. Every demon; every imp and gremlin. The ranks of Ethereals had been culled, and those who remained were under angelic protection. The ghosts had been banished, the undead destroyed.
Heaven had been right to do this, he knew. He approved. He had often risked his life to harm Hell.
And now Hell was gone. His mighty sorceries, and many rituals, were useless. He could no longer summon up a demon and set it a task which would hurt Hell; neither Hell nor demon existed. All gone.
He remembered Armageddon; or, more accurately, he remembered his fortified bunker shaking as Celestials trashed the planet in their thirst to destroy each other. When the rage had passed, and the planet was quiet, he had left his bunker and started to rebuild. He had been a hero for the surviving humans; he summoned the handful of remaining demons and put them to work saving human lives. When the angels had finally arrived they had complimented him, taken over the task, and taken his controlled demons away, to Redeem or destroy.
Humanity had grown strong since then. He missed the powerful Sorceries, but there were other sources of power. And humans were still evil. As society grew strong, they sought to stop that. An amusing folly, he had thought. The psychologists and sociologists studied and learnt. The humans who were merely maladjusted or insane they swiftly healed. All the time, the truly evil continued to operate, undetected, too shrewd and cruel to be stopped by naive idealists.
Humanity still needed him, then. He had taken steps, culling the herd, destroying the truly evil. Not wasting them, oh no...all too many of his abilities had required a sacrifice, or blood, or...He had hunted.
He had not counted on society improving. They came to understand evil; to know it; to recognise it - and to hate it. And then they destroyed it. Humans could not be evil any more - to make that choice was fatal now; Homo Sapiens Sapiens have been genetically re-engineered in Homo Sapiens Sanctus - to choose in your heart to be evil was to die, as your body suicided.
Some old humans remained. Absolom was here. But so few....and the evil ones were all gone, destroyed by his Need.
It was behind him, he knew. He knew every curve and dent in it; every shadow and stain. Created by Hell many thousands of years ago, it was his most priced possession.
And it was useless. When he had first acquired the Bathtub of Youth, it's need for human sacrifice had not disturbed him. He knew all too well how evil his fellow humans could be, and the thought of slowly bleeding to death a child molester or mass murderer had not upset him. The cost seemed no cost at all - there would always be more villains.
And he was old. He had scoured Known Space for one last truly evil person. He had invoked his powerful rituals in the hope that a demon had survived, and was free - trapped in Limbo perhaps, and only just released? He had wandered the ethereal realms.
But they were gone, all gone. Evil had proven a passing thing, had lasted only a score of millennia. And he was going to die.
Well, someone is going to die.
He knew the voice - his own. You couldn't allow a Shedite to be a resident in your head for centuries without some side effects. Alone of the people on this world - in this plane - in all of creation - he still had evil lurking in his heart.
So who will die? Will you? Or one of these oh-so-happy self-righteous youngsters?
He whimpered a little as he listened to his own thoughts. He couldn't kill an innocent.
But if he didn't, he would die.
Someone was going to die.
But does it have to be you?
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