Undead and Unsure

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CHAPTER ONE

The devil’s dead, and the Antichrist is pissed. That’s pretty much the whole thing right there.

Well . . . there’s one more thing: I killed the devil. And the Antichrist is my half sister. (Two more things.) Because Christmas isn’t stressful enough, right? Take it from me: if you trick the devil into granting a wish and then kill her while the Antichrist screams at you to stop, family get-togethers thereafter are uncomfortable.

But I was up for the challenge! Of course, the trick is making the family get-together happen at all. Luckily I’d married rich (and dead). And even if I hadn’t married rich (note I’m not saying married well), my best friend and gestating roomie, Jessica, was also rich. It’s weird that I was dead and lived in St. Paul in a snowless winter with two zillionaires, right? Never mind.

I used to be so heavily dependent on Hallmark. It had a card for almost everything. Even better, it had a funny card for almost everything. But I couldn’t depend on a faceless corporate entity to convey my good wishes, condolences, birthday wishes, Mother’s Day howdies, and happy holidays in general, since there were some occasions the good people at Hallmark Cards, Inc., didn’t figure anyone would need to cover.

And even after the make-your-own-card phase popped up, there were some cards that just couldn’t be made, no matter how much money got pissed away at Archiver’s.

Side note: this DIY crap has gotten out of hand. Cards first, but followed by make-your-own pop (which is soooo hard to find, so of course people start making their own), make-your-own beer (see above, re: pop), make-your-own cheese, and make-your-own eggs by raising chickens. In the middle of cities, people are raising chickens! If you don’t believe me, check a Williams-Sonoma catalog sometime. Honest to God. It’s all right there: make-your-own vinegar pot, $89.95. The Reclaimed Rustic Coop with Painted Chicken, $399.95. (I assume the chicken was painted on the side in case there was any doubt that the coop surrounded by chickens was a chicken coop.) A Backyard Beehive and Starter Kit, $89.95, so you can start your own bees (“Gentlemen! Start . . . your . . . bees!”). Make-your-own butter kit: $29.95. Who makes their own butter? When did we all decide we were living in Little House on the Prairie reruns?

All this to say there wasn’t a card at Hallmark or a sticker at Archiver’s to convey “Sorry I killed your mom, who was also Satan. Also, Happy Thanksgiving.” I didn’t even bother looking. Instead, I turned to more sinister methods of getting my “again, so sorry I killed your mom!” message across.

Balloon bouquets. A minstrel greeting (good to see that the Renaissance festival weirdos are employable the rest of the year). Cookie bouquets. Singing telegrams (yep, they still do those, and for a surprisingly reasonable price).

Comedy Central sowed the seeds of my sinister plan by running a John Hughes marathon. Remember when the slutty nurse went to Ferris Bueller’s house to cheer him up and he was at a Cubs game so she ended up singing to his crabby sister instead (played by Jennifer Grey, who went on to ruin her career with a nose job)? John Hughes: creative genius and comedy demigod.

That was why the Antichrist was in my driveway, panting and glaring and stomping up the walk in her awful Uggs (what year did the Seed of Satan think it was? Also, even when Uggs were in they were not in) and shaking a fistful of balloons at me. “Stop sending these. They’re following me.”

Success! Family reunion, take one.

CHAPTER TWO

The Antichrist stood fuming on the—wait, that was just her breath showing because it was cold. And also, she was super pissed at me. So, literal and figurative fuming.

“You weren’t answering my calls or replying to . . . to my . . . my . . .” I nearly gagged on the word, then coughed it out: “. . . texts.” I hate that half the planet has become enslaved by their cell phones. I swore I wouldn’t fall into the sweet sticky trap of tech. But it’s like fighting a slow roll down a slope: you’ll eventually get to the bottom. You can go easy or you can go hard, but eventually you will text. “I’ve been trying to get you for days and you haven’t answered.”

“Because I’m not speaking to you!”

“I know! So I had to resort to texting and you know I hate it. In a way, I’m kind of a victim, too.”

Now she wasn’t just fuming; I could hear her perfect teeth grinding together. The Antichrist had never needed braces and had a cavity-free kisser. They must fluoride the hell out of the water in Dinkytown.

Laura Goodman (yep, you read that right and yep, the irony wasn’t lost on . . . well . . . anybody . . .) began to stomp up and down the cement walk just in front of the porch, the dozen helium-filled Mylar balloons trailing behind her. Early December in Minnesota could be awful, but we were enjoying a balmy stretch of low thirties. There’d been snow a few days before but it was melting. Not that it made a difference to Laura: with her feet cocooned in Uggs, she could have been scrambling for Noah’s Ark and her feet would have stayed dry. And why was I thinking about her feet? Answer: because they were pretty little feet trapped in huge ugly boots, and I felt sorry for them.

“I don’t want to talk to you,” she explained. Pace, pace, turn, pace. She turned so fast I couldn’t see her for a second until she batted the balloons out of her face. I bit the inside of my cheeks so I wouldn’t smirk. “I don’t want to see you. Thanks to you, I have to make some major decisions about my life. Thanks to you, not only my life but the lives and/or afterlives of millions might have changed or will change. I’ve lived with the fact that I am the Desolator since I was thirteen. Now I have to decide if I’ll take up my mother’s sword and I’m not even legal drinking age. Bad enough that I have to tolerate the situation at all. I won’t tolerate you, too.”

Don’t say anything about how “the Desolator” sounds like some kind of super food processor. Want your veggies pureed in a jiff? Try the Desolator!

When I was pretty sure that wasn’t going to come out of my mouth, I began. “Look, I’m sorry—”

“You aren’t.”

“—about the situation. You’re right,” I added with what I hoped she saw as a sympathetic shrug. “I’m not sorry I killed the devil. But I’m sorry you had to see it. And I’m sorry you’re stuck now. Yeah, it’s my fault. I’m owning it. I want to help you.”

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