In the theater there is five people, all lounging on and around lavish velvet sofas. In the center, with Marmaduke on a leash, is the being Archey had known as the Harlem Globetrotter, now in gleaming golden armour, with a head of blinding light. To the couches on his right are two women, both in expensive Victorian dresses. One wears a plague doctor mask made from white ceramic. The other wears a WW1-era gas mask, constructed from fine red silk. On the Globetrotter’s left is a short, trim man. His eyes are black abysses leaking oil that stains the front of his otherwise immaculate suit. He smiles widely. Sitting on the ground next to the oil-eye man is a small boy in an orange jumpsuit. He holds his severed head in his arms, but otherwise seems to be quite alive. Curiously, the purple-suited man is nowhere to be seen, despite his apparent allegiance to the Globetrotter. Archey asks why this is.
‘Azazel was untrustworthy,’ explains the Globetrotter. ‘He was dedicated to our cause, but even I could not control him. You saw how he attacked me as if I were the enemy. I exiled him because he was dangerous. No room for rabid animals in our organization.’
Archey wants to know everything. Who this group is. Why the Harlem Globetrotter has abandoned his basketball theme and all caps dialogue. What Archey is.
The Globetrotter leans forward in his chair. ‘You seem different. More like yourself. Very well.’ He leans back again. ‘I’ll answer your questions, if only for the sake of dramatics.’ The Globetrotter gestures to the oil-eye man. ‘Mammon, the projector please.’
The man called Mammon nods and runs off somewhere, still smiling broadly.
‘For the record, the man who came out of that basketball was not me,’ explains the Globetrotter while they wait. ‘That was a delusional parody of myself, throwing around his power like it was nothing. I have grown back to my true self since then. ‘
After a few moments of silence, the projected landscape switches to a flat, bright red colour. It almost hurts Archey’s eyes to look at. The Globetrotter nods approvingly at Mammon as he returns.
‘Now that the atmospheric lighting has been established, let us proceed,’ says the Globetrotter. He points to the women to his right. ‘These are Lilith and Aosoth. You already know Mammon’s name. The Dullahan child is Asmodeus. I am Abaddon. Together, we form the Demon Liberation Front, united to stand against your tyranny.’
Archey doesn’t recall creating any kind of tyranny.
Abaddon stands up, his armoured body silhouetted against the red screen. ‘We stand against everything your predecessors have accomplished, and everything you may accomplish.’
Archey grips his gun tightly.
‘You’ve learned too much this time around,’ Abaddon continues. ‘But before we kill you, I want to remind you of what you are.’
Before Abaddon can continue, Marmaduke suddenly barks. Marmaduke never barks.
Abaddon kicks him. ‘Quiet, you’re ruining my speech.’
Marmaduke makes a noise, something between a howl and a snarl. He does it again. Archey suspects his hearing may be off, but he could have just sworn he heard words.
‘Ood ech!’ says Marmaduke. ‘Oot neh! Soot me! SHOOT ME!’
Something flips in Archey’s head. He raises his gun and shoots Marmaduke square in his furry forehead. Archey’s dog explodes into two people. A withered man in red robes and a feral-looking man in torn rags. Abaddon’s gang seem both shocked and disgusted. Abaddon turns to the feral man. ‘Abdiel!’ he roars, ‘You told me he couldn’t vocalize under your control!’
The feral man, Abdiel, bows deeply, pressing his forehead to the ground. ‘My dearest apologies, Lord Abaddon. The informant took me by surprise.’
Archey furrows his brow, trying to connect the dots. Everything is so familiar. He knows these people. It’s like déjà vu turned up to eleven.
‘We don’t have time for this!’ Abaddon shouts. ‘Oni, shoot the poet!’
Someone snatches the gun from Archey. He spins around in surprise. Behind him is the long-named ninja that had once been his television. He now holds the gun. The ninja, called Oni by Abaddon, shoots the red-robed man that had come out of Marmaduke. The bullet collides with red sparks, boring a hole straight through the man’s chest.
‘Good,’ says Abaddon. ‘Hold our guest there. Don’t let him try anything.’
Archey feels the warm barrel against his neck. He’s immortal, though. He has no reason to be afraid.
Abaddon walks up and leans in close. ‘Oh, but you should be afraid.’
Archey’s horns begin to grow, spiralling out of his forehead. It’s excruciating.
‘This is a gun that kills demons.’
Straight, jet black hair sprouts from Archey’s scalp, and a beard of the same colour grows from his chin.
‘And you’re the king of demons.’
Archey’s pupils elongate, becoming cat-like.
The light of Abaddon’s head is almost blinding. ‘You’re the devil, Archey,’ he whispers.
‘Hand me the gun,’ Abaddon says to Oni. The ninja complies immediately. Abaddon presses the gun to Archey’s forehead.
‘How ironic that Satan’s worst nightmare is manual labour in a small seaside town,’ he says. Archey can feel a smile through the light.
‘See you next time you fall asleep. You won’t be so lucky then.’
Abaddon pulls the trigger. Something bursts in Archey’s head, and Satan suddenly remembers. He remembers Sheol, and his army. He knows who Mr Legion, who Double B, who the Demon Liberation Front, who the red-robed man, all are. He remembers his sword and his throne. He remembers everything.
‘Ah, that’s right,’ says Satan, just as the bullet exits the back of his head.
He dies in an instant.
And then he wakes up.