This whole series sprang out of a title. I’d finished my series Slacker Demons and had realized that the Lair where these incubi hung out on the north side of Chicago was way, way too cool to toss in the ashcan.
But what do you do when you’ve used up an idea about lazy male sex demons?
Duh. You plug in some industrious female sex demons. Since the Chicago theatre scene boasted for years a long-running play called Coed Prison Sluts, it wasn’t a big jump to Coed Demon Sluts.
I realized right away that these ladies would not have stories like the boys with horns. A broad, informal survey of my acquaintance showed that my male friends, and my lesbian friends, all agreed that the reason they would sign up for a gig as a sex demon was simply the sex.
I’d do it for the power.”
“I’d do it to be the boss in bed for once.”
“I’d do it to have more fun in bed.”
“I’d do it for the money.”
“I’d do it because I’m bored.”
“I’d do it to be young / thin / healthy / normal.”
“I’d do it to make myself extraordinary.”
It’s a pretty good gig, actually. You get the nearly immortal, nearly invulnerable demon body, which can be gumbied into any height, weight, size, shape, color, age, you-name-it. You get thirty pieces of silver a month for tempting just three people; if you have sex with them, the bonus is double-bubble; and since silver currency has been out of style for almost a hundred years, they’re all rarities and worth a fortune. You must eat forty-five hundred calories a day, minimum, or else the body gets fatter. You never have to try on a pair of jeans again. You never have to try on another bra.
There are downsides. First of all, the Regional Office (as opposed to the Home Office) doesn’t buy souls anymore. Inhuman Resources ran the numbers and realized they couldn’t afford the overhead—keeping all those full-time people was killing them. So everybody’s a contractor now—you can be fired, you can walk. Second,the monthly online reporting forms are, well, hellish. Third, you have to get your eight-eight-digit Infernal Identification Number tattooed on the sole of your foot, because who can memorize all that?
But the real downsides are very personal. Every member of this team has her own reasons for accepting a deal with the Regional Office, and, while they don’t exactly regret it, they realize soon enough that the deal solves nothing. Hilarity ensues.
If you want to take a look at the sluts, the first book in the series, COED DEMON SLUTS: BETH is being serialized over at InstaFreebie. If you want to read the whole thing for free, months before BETH’s release in May, you can go over there periodically and download all the episodes that are out right now, or you can sign up for my newsletter and get a nudge email every time a new episode is out.
Here’s a sample you can try right now.
COED DEMON SLUTS: BETH
“I have called your brother,” Beth said, trying to keep impatience and desperation out of her voice. “He won’t listen to me. Please listen, Darleen.” Her now-ringless fingers clutched her cell phone. “Your father’s settlement check bounced. I have no money.” She’d sold the last ring three weeks ago.
“But you still have the house.”
“You know he took the house, Darleen,” Beth said, trying not to sound whiny. “You were there. You saw how that girl kept everything. Her yellow stickies on everything.” Her voice trembled. She didn’t care about the furniture. But Darleen seemed wilfully stupid, as if she wouldn’t believe this was happening to her mother.
Beth hadn’t believed it herself. Her numb incredulity had cost her everything.
“Her name is Farrah,” Darleen reminded Beth with reproach. “We were girl scouts together.”
She’s eight years younger than you are and she’s taking my home, my husband, and apparently my settlement as well. Beth didn’t say it. Her pulse beat in her ears. The sickening feeling of drowning and falling from a height intensified. They’d had this conversation before. Yet Darleen made her tell it all over again, as if the truth would be different this time. Beth’s head throbbed.
“Mom, can’t you stay there another month or so? We have the Chinese exchange student in the spare room right now.”
Panic rose in Beth’s chest and stuck in her throat. Something moved on the edge of her view. She turned her head swiftly. A cockroach crawled down the wall of her motel room. She made a sound like a squeak and shrank away in revulsion. A bed thumped rhythmically against the other side of the wall.
Darleen sighed. “I suppose we could let the au pair go. You could have her room. You still don’t have a job?” she said in a voice that implied, You’re not trying, are you, Mom? With immense and audible reluctance she said, “You like babies. It’ll be something for you to do. Only for a month or so, though. We were so hoping they would learn French early. You know you don’t speak French.”
Beth confronted her failures for the hundredth time since Blake filed for divorce. She wasn’t enough, she had never been enough, she would never be enough. Nobody would hire her. Her son was a thousand miles away and apparently too high to talk on the phone. Her daughter would graciously let her babysit for a month or so.
That was a new offer. Beth sensed it was the limit of Darleen’s potential generosity. Somehow in twenty-eight years of endless care and worry and the thoughtless outpouring of her love, she had failed. She hadn’t learned how to get through to her kids. Her heart twisted in her chest. But I love you! she wailed inside, unable to say it aloud for fear of what Darleen would say back. I would do anything for you! What else had Beth done wrong? The list only got longer.
“We can put the money we save into their college funds,” Darleen added, as if talking herself into it.
Beth couldn’t take another word. Very carefully she thumbed the phone off and laid it gently on the bed.
She pulled in a shuddering sigh, and pain tore her in half. Then she breathed in again, and pain tore her in quarters. If she kept doing that, she’d soon be in tiny, tiny shreds.
She’d tried to kill herself six week ago and failed, too angry to die. She’d still had keys to the house at that point. She shut herself in the garage with the engine on. If I kill myself now, she’d thought that terrible night, I won’t have to go through the dreary pulling-myself-together part.
Everyone seemed to see all this as inevitable, survivable, no worse than breaking your leg. Beth’s world had ended. Why didn’t anyone see that?
By the time the rage hit, there was no air left in the garage. She’d forced herself out of the car, forced the door open, stood coughing and vomiting on the driveway, swearing, feeling life return like a pillar of fire inside her.
Then she’d taken as much cash as she could lay hands on, packed one suitcase, and moved to this roach-infested motel in the city.
Tonight, Beth had found herself looking at suicide as an option again.
Her anger had burnt itself out. Now she was just afraid, paralyzed, and every breath brought back the sounds of her children rejecting her when she needed them the most. That betrayal was tearing the heart out of her body. She would die rather than feel it.
Her Coach clutch lay next to her phone, the sensible strap grubby from being carried every day while its companions went one by one to the pawn shop. Beth opened it and found her last two twenty dollar bills. Could she get drunk on that? Drunk enough to kill herself?
If she spent it at a liquor store, definitely, yes. But Beth couldn’t be alone one more minute. The idea of spending her last night in this room, trying to drink herself to death, was too sordid. No. A few cheap margaritas and then she’d step in front of a train.
She went to the bar around the corner.
That was where the evening went strange.
Now Beth sat at a rickety cocktail table in a dark corner of a not very chic fern bar, drinking margaritas and staring in disbelief at the woman who had just offered her a contract with hell.
The woman across from her seemed about thirty-eight. She was physically perfect, but not in-your-face with it, as if her beauty was an afterthought. Because what she had most of all was power. This fascinated drunk Beth.
“No,” the woman said. “I’m not really human any more. Haven’t been for many centuries. One forgets,” she said. “But I’m convinced that you’re suffering.”
Beth’s jaw dropped. “Did I say that out loud?”
“No,” said the demon, if that was what she was. She called herself Delilah. Her business card lay on the rickety table, black with glowing red writing, and orange flames licking around the name, real flames and real smoke—how did that work?
“Three-D printing?” Delilah said and winked. “No, you didn’t ask that either. You didn’t answer my question. When did Blake serve you the papers?”
Beth thought. “Four months…four months and three days ago.”
Delilah nodded. “You’re pretty sure you want this?”
Beth knew she wouldn’t have a lot of opportunities to back out. “I’m pretty sure,” she said slowly.
When Blake had left that long-ago morning, whistling, carrying his briefcase at that cocky angle as usual, she’d wondered why she wasn’t more shocked. Shock had built gradually over the following weeks as Beth assessed her options, her funds, her possibilities. He’d taken the money. He’d taken the house. He’d taken twenty-eight years of her life, along with her chance of being a halfway decent chemist, i.e. her chance at a career and not some pink collar McJob to keep her in a shared apartment until she died. Her kids wouldn’t listen. Her own footloose, self-sufficient parents lived in an RV. They might be in Utah right now. Or Canada. Or Baja.
Whoever said, Home is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in, was never divorced.
The anger came back. Rage made her flush, and the tequila spread the heat down to her toes. “Tell me again what you’re offering and what it’ll cost me.”
Delilah nodded. “You get a new body and you get to design it. You can redesign periodically. Most of the girls change it up a lot in the first few months, before they settle into a look they feel comfortable with. The body can be as young as you like. It won’t age. You will have to feed it a lot to keep it just the way you want it.”
“Boo hoo,” Beth said. “What’s the catch?”
“We’ll get to the catch,” Delilah said. “You also get paid and you get lodging. I haven’t seen the team’s accommodations, but the pay is very nice. It’ll cover a car, jewelry, vacations, all the clothes you can possibly wear.”
“What about the sex?”
“That could be in the win column or the catch column, depending on your perspective,” Delilah said. “You will like sex. That’s a given. Comes with the body. If you have hangups, kinks, whatever, those are your business, and you work that out on your own. You can afford a shrink on what we’ll pay you. But you’ll like it and you’ll be expected to go out and meet men.” Delilah smiled, her teeth gleaming. “And if you want, mess with them.”
This introduced a new line of thought entirely. Beth assumed this would be some exotic and hellish form of prostitution, a fitting end to a life wasted on being good. Apparently there would be emotional compensations as well as all the clothes you liked and all the sushi you could eat.
“Define ‘mess with,’“ Beth said.
“You know. Fuck ‘em. Fuck with their heads. Give ‘em what they want and then make ‘em suffer. Use, abuse, tease, whatever. We’re not fussy. The Home Office,” she said, pointing up, “disapproves of sex. Ergo, no matter what kind of sex happens, the Regional Office,” she pointed down, “approves of it. Of course, if you can pile up other stuff that the Home Office disapproves of, that’s gravy. But basically your charter says, have sex, have it early, have it often. You get paid on a quota, so you have to score three different times a month, that is, three different individuals. If men don’t float your boat, you can try the other fifty-one genders. Temptation is all that’s required. If you go the distance, however, you get a bonus. The girls really like their bonuses.”
Delilah smiled. “Oh, and another plus, no pregancy, no VD. Perfect health, no matter what. So you can skip the condom and make your mark nervous when he notices. Beyond that, well,” She smiled again, “just have fun with it. We like you to enjoy your work.”
Beth wasn’t against enjoying sex. Blake was the one who had withdrawn. At the thought of messing with the kind of men who made you want them and then ignored you, she began to feel alive. “I can make them suffer?” she said now. She was thinking of all Blake’s lies, not just at the settlement hearing but years of them, decades of them. She felt so angry.
“Sure. Knock yourself out.”
“Can I start with my husband?”
Here Delilah smiled warmly and genuinely. “By all means.”
Beth sat a while, letting this sink in. She could feel her plan forming inside her like a dark sword of justice, sharp and pointy. At length she said, “Still waiting for the catch. What do I give up? What do I pay for all this?”
“Well, we no longer buy souls,” Delilah said apologetically. “It’s the overhead. Regional Office Human Resources has determined that outsourcing to independent contractors is way cheaper than maintaining all those full-time people.”
Beth looked at her with polite incredulity. “You’re shitting me.”
“I’m only partly shitting you.” Delilah chuckled. “The truth is, nobody can take your soul. Not us, not the Home Office. It’s yours. You can’t be parted from your soul because your soul is you. People can lose contact with their own souls. But that happens here, in the field, because of all the distractions.”
“In the field.”
“On earth, in life. Lots of distractions. Eating, pooping, fucking, drinking, messing over your wives and husbands. And ex-husbands.” Delilah flashed her an acknowledging grin. “It distracts you from the center of yourself and makes you do shit you’re gonna be sorry for in the morning.” This was a warning if Beth had ever heard one.
“So? Then I can quit anytime?”
“Yes. But you probably won’t. If you’re upset enough to take this step, you probably don’t want to feel the things you’ll have to feel so you can get past all this shit and take your life back again.”
“Nobody can give me my life back,” Beth said sharply. She’d come in here to get drunk enough to kill herself, and this…this succubus was psychoanalyzing her?
“Exactly,” Delilah said, showing her teeth. “So you’ll work for us until you don’t want to any more. No more overhead, remember? All we’re out is thirty pieces of silver a month and your rent.”
“And I’m out…what?” Beth couldn’t believe it would be this easy.
Delilah looked serious. “Depends how long it takes you to get tired of the job. Could be a few hours, days, weeks, months, years. Could be twenty years. Could be two hundred years. The catch is, by the time you’ve decided to move on, the world will be different. You tell me your husband stole twenty-eight years of your life. Well, honey, I’m not here to talk you out of anything. But you helped him do it. You could have walked, just as you can walk out of this contract—”
“No, I could not have walked out,” Beth said strongly. “I had kids. I had a life. We were married,” she shouted, and gasped, choking back the next words, all the words she’d raged aloud to herself in empty rooms for the past two months and three days.
The rage boiled back up in her. How am I going to live with this anger? she thought. I can’t. I can’t breathe. Something is ticking in me, only it’s already exploded, and it won’t stop exploding until I can explode back.
Delilah leaned forward and said kindly, “Why don’t you just buy a gun and shoot him? If you don’t kill him, it’s only about three years, and then you can get on with your life.”
Beth considered this suggestion on its merits. “Because,” she said finally, “you’re right. It’s in me. This ticking bomb. This avalanche of change. I’ve just realized we’re separate people, Blake and I. He obviously saw it sooner than I did. But.”
“All the same, you want to make him suffer.”
Beth looked up. “Well, yeah. Duh.”
Delilah’s brow furrowed, as if she were trying to guess how messed up Beth was. Beth had a crazy idea the woman was actually concerned about her well-being.
“I’d like to be young again,” Beth said. “I’d like to have the hope back that he stole and used up and threw back in my face. I’d like to have the power in a relationship with a man. For five minutes. And then kick his ass,” she grated.
Delilah eyed her a moment longer, then shrugged. “That’ll get old fast.”
“What do you care? I thought outsourcing was cheaper. Or do they dock you if the signee cancels too soon?”
Delilah shook her head. “Nope. My job is to start things. Don’t you worry about me. But think about the catch a little more. With a new body? You won’t look like Mom to your kids any more. Your grandkids won’t recognize you. Your own parents won’t know you. If you stick with it, you’ll learn how to shift your appearance at will, but by then they may all be dead.” She put a forefinger on the table. “Sooner or later, you’ll lose everyone you know and love.”
“I think I missed that boat already,” Beth said sadly. “Show me your contract.”
“Nuh-uh,” Delilah said. “Tomorrow, when you’re hung over and having second thoughts.”
“I won’t have second thoughts,” Beth said.