"What am I meant for? What is my purpose?"
"Jonathan Villanueva or Johnny V," chuckled the voice in the light. "You've always held a special place in my collection, for a human."
"Um, thanks?" I had just watched him speak to Remy, my wife's half-demon bodyguard and childhood friend, who died alongside me. For Remy, the light flickered, transforming him from a muscular surfer to a small reptile. It might have been a large insect, I only saw the silhouette for less than a second before he was dropped through the floor, back to earth (presumably...)
I could only wonder what this entity had in store for me.
"So, do you want to go back?"
"Go back as what?" I was curious if I would get to select my fate.
The voice laughed. "Oh? Johnny V has conditions? Are you saying you wouldn't be willing to return as a spider or a cockroach if it meant watching over your wife and child? I thought your family was everything to you?"
His mocking tone was a little annoying but I knew better than to piss him off. "It is. I apologize for my disrespect. If you are offering, I would very much like to return to earth. I wish to know the fate of my family." I also wanted to know the fate of Azzy's army and the caterpillar.
"It is done."
The floor opened and I fell through at lightspeed. When I awoke I felt normal, human. I had a body, my body. And I was wearing hospital scrubs? Looking around I was in a locker room with cots.
"You're finally here!" Remy sat up from a cot brushing his long hair from his face. "The big guy has one twisted sense of humor."
"I figured as much, how you do explain the platypus?" I said with a smile. I was just happy to be alive. This really didn't seem like such a bad fate.
"You won't be laughing when you learn the full extent of how the Lord All Mighty screwed us over."
"It can't be that bad. God is love, God works in mysterious ways."
"Rainbow!" cried Lucas's little voice from the hallway directly outside the open door. "Mommy, I found Rainbow!"
My heart warmed at the sight of my son. He was taller, with a slimmer face, but still adorably innocent. I was left to wonder, How much time had passed- and who or what was Rainbow?
"Get a load of this," Remy muttered. As Remy stepped into the hallway to meet Lucas, his body transformed into that of a pink lizard with chubby cheeks. He looked like an axolotl but not like any axolotl I'd ever seen. He had rainbow-colored gills and a rainbow-striped tail. The only reason I knew it was Remy was it's green, sugarcane-like wings.
"Oh my God." I covered my mouth to keep from laughing.
"Fuck off," Remy (or Rainbow) muttered. Its voice sounded like an adorable little hiss.
Lucas picked up the creature and bopped it on the nose. "No, Rainbow! No bad words!"
Azzy rolled her eyes as she appeared in a red suit dress. "So, now Rainbow is cursing?" Suddenly, her eyes locked with mine. "Johnny?"
"You see Papa?" Lucas asked, his eyes darted around as he squeezed Rainbow.
"You don't see him?"
"Well, you don't see Rainbow! Maybe Papa is YOUR imaginary friend!" Lucas said in a mocking tone.
"You really don't see him?" Azzy's voice was laced with sadness.
I smiled. "And you don't see a pink lizard with rainbow fins and a miniature version of Remy's wings?" Before she could answer I cupped her face and kissed her beautiful lips.
Tears flowed down her cheeks. "Are you here to stay?"
"Honestly, I don't know what the plan is, but I promise I will do all that I can to stay with you."
Azzy nodded, wiping tears from her eyes. "So Remy got turned in to a pink lizard?"
"With rainbow fins. I wish you could see."
"So, what are you doing here? This is Beloit Hospital, right?" I recognized the pale yellow color the of hallways.
Azzy pursed her lips. "I'm on a tour. I'm actually-" she motioned at the badge on her lanyard.
"You're the new hospital administrator?"
"Let's just say I won the title in a game of chance."
"What do you do here?"
"Admin stuff; payroll, legal. I-I wondered why I was put here, now I know."
She was put here? What did that mean? Olivia appeared from around the opposite corner wearing a white business suit. "Azzy, what's the holdup? Everyone's waiting."
"Auntie Livy!" Lucas shouted. "I found Rainbow!" He lifted the axolotl's adorable face.
My sister burst into laughter. "Um. Hello, um. Rainbow," it was clear she knew it was Remy, "So nice to meet you."
If she could see Remy, maybe she could see me as well. "Hey, Sis."
"Hey," she replied with an emotional whisper. "You look good." She turned back to Azzy. "I'll tell the rest of the group to go on without you. Take as much time as you need." Olivia gave me one last smile as she took Lucas's hand leading him and Rainbow away down the hall.
"You have questions," Azzy said as soon as we were alone.
"You can have three."
"So you can focus on what's most important. And because I don't know how long we have together."
"Fair enough. My first question: are you and Olivia friends now?"
Azzy answered with an irritated sigh. "Olivia is my Intergalactic Heavenly Parole Officer."
"She's been assigned by the man in the glowing light to keep me on the path of righteousness."
"And what about the caterpillar?"
Azzy simply shrugged.
"You draw power from it. Or at least you did. Either it's been destroyed or..."
Azzy grabbed me by the neck, shoving me into the locker room. "It's mine: I may have lost the battle but I will not surrender my sword. The caterpillar, in all its glory, is safely hidden- but as far as you, Lucas, and especially Olivia are concerned- it's been destroyed."
My blood ran cold. "Ok... but I get one more question."
Azzy released my neck. "Yes, you do."
"Do you still love me?"
Azzy took a step back, possibly realizing her aggression. She reached out a hand to touch my face. "Always. In fact, I'll even give you another question."
I pulled my wife close. As I kissed her cheek, I could smell the sweet vanilla of her shampoo. "Do I look like myself?"
"You're not a pink lizard, as far as I can see." Azzy traced her ring finger down my jawline, to my collar." I might need a more thorough examination." She locked the door and kissed me with a raw passion I had not been expecting.
But once I found my footing, we made love against the lockers, our energies merging into one. She wrapped her legs around me and I felt human; I had a body, a mind, a soul. And I had Azzy, I had my family.
Azzy and I slept in a cot. The next morning we awoke to someone putting a key int he door. Azzy quickly adjusted her shirt and skirt, as she stood up. "Hello?"
"Mommy?" Lucas answered. "Aunt Livy said you slept at the hospital by yourself?"
"I'm so sorry, sweetie. I was just a little lonely. Where is Olivia?"
"She's outside talking to Rainbow."
The pink lizard entered the room followed by Olivia. "Good morning Azzy. Why don't you take Lucas to the cafeteria to get some breakfast while I have a hold a very special meeting with our invisible friends?"
"Sure," Azzy muttered, knowing she had no choice in the matter, "Come on Lucas, let's get something to eat."
As soon as they were gone Remy transformed back into his human form. "I can't believe I'm going to be stuck as an axolotl for all of eternity!" He ran his fingers through his long hair as he took a seat on a bench.
"At least you have your wings back," I chuckled.
"Funny," Remy said as he laid his exhausted body down. "I'm a fucking pet! I don't even have a- screw it!- I need some sleep."
Olivia started to giggle. "Rainbow is a female axolotl. Anyway, I need to explain to both of you how this is going to work."
"How what is going to work?" I asked.
"Your assignment, you don't think the big guy sent you back because he likes you."
"I kind of thought he did. He said I was special."
"All of God's creations are special. Even Remy," she said, poking him in the side.
Remy flipped his middle finger. "Your boss can shove his assignment up his holy-"
"My orders come directly from God but my direct supervisor is Jamie."
Her words caused Remy to sit up. He pulled his knees to his chest. "Fine- speak."
"Your assignment is simple. Working as a team you two will make sure that neither Azzy nor Lucas turn evil- for lack of a better term."
"What do you mean Lucas?" I asked. "He's just a kid."
"So was Michael Myers."
"You're comparing my son to the killer in the Halloween movies?"
"That's the issue; he's not your son, he's Remy and Azzy's son. Lucas is a good kid, he's creative, smart- but he also carries not one but two royal demon bloodlines."
I sighed. "So what's the plan?"
"You have probably noticed where you are; Beloit Memorial. This was Jamie's hospital; he was a nurse here, but he was also a guardian. You live here now, you can never leave this hospital."
"What?" My hands were trembling as I spoke. "Jamie lived in his mother's house, he was able to leave! He was able to have a life!"
"He earned it. And you can too. When you exit this room you will exist as an actual doctor. No one will know who you are or where you live- only that you are one of the best doctors in the country. Your job is to bring hope to the hopeless."
"Ok, I understand."
"Remy will be your eyes on the outside. He is allowed to leave the hospital but only in the form of Rainbow, Lucas's imaginary friend."
Remy groaned as he made his way to a cot to officially fall asleep.
"I think I can handle that," I said with a smile. "There are worse ways to spend eternity." I guess this is the end of my story- for now.
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