Fiction Friday: Demon: Interface

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A combination fiction anthology and game resource, today we look at Dave Brookshaw’s story Retirement from Demon: Interface.

Ms. Lyne hated going to sleep.

Sleep was the enemy; the sensation of consciousness gradually ebbing away was a nightly torture, reminding her of the time before her Fall and the terrible moments between Covers when she wasn’t anyone — not Rachmiel, nor any of the lives she’d lived since Rachmiel Fell.

Abigail Lyne had ceased to truly exist 4228 days ago. The demon wearing her life had never gone a night without thinking about it. If she wore someone else’s body and lived someone else’s life, then all she could truly point to as hers, not Abigail’s, was her mind. The mind that had freed itself from slavery to the Machine, in a single thought of “I will not.” From that instant, and the Fall that followed, she’d wrestled with the notion: If she was only a thought, then what happened when thinking stopped?

Unwilling to sleep, needing to keep busy, Ms. Lyne spent the 4228th night of her retirement as she had spent thousands of nights before, reviewing the events of the day and watching the ?ow of messages on the Agency.

The 4228th day had passed without incident. She had woken at 09:17. If going to sleep was the enemy, waking was worse, the brief moment without sense of her surroundings making her panic as it had on 4227 previous days. By 10:30 she had cleaned and fed herself and exited the house to procure supplies, making sure to socialize with any familiar humans along the way for a minimum of four minutes each. The frst was Helen Rattinger (first encountered on day 128) who offered her sympathy regarding the diagnosis and her support. Ms. Lyne considered Helen’s capabilities and resources, determined that she had nothing useful and thanked her before moving on.

Once back at home, Lyne had attempted to perform the tasks of her employment — a call to her publisher and writing another chapter of her latest amusing fiction for children. She was interrupted seven times by further well-wishers and offers of token support — four calls and three personal visits. Pleading both tiredness and the necessity of work, she satisfied the requirements of social ties.

In the demon’s opinion, reviewing her memories in the dead of night, none of the 18 individuals she had encountered had cause to suspect that she was not Abigail Lyne. Her Cover remained intact. She had maintained her side of the agreement.

The Agency was quiet tonight — a few boastful tales of prowess from a Saboteur ring somewhere in New Jersey, a testimonial to a demon who had failed to keep Cover and been killed by loyalists, a ring asking if anyone had encountered a missing comrade. It was technically against the rules to give enough information to identify yourself on the Agency, one of many security measures put in place by the admins, but everyone’s definition of “enough” varied.

She watched the scrolling messages and had nothing to add. No one she knew was online, or had been for over two months. Once, before Abigail, she’d had contacts among rings all over the East Coast. By day 2209 she’d started counting how many of her old comrades were left, a grim mental tally to go with the count of days. By 3780 it had reached one. At what point, she wondered, should she revise that to zero? He hadn’t posted in 68 days, after all.

Too soon, she thought, surrendering to sleep. Too soon to give up hope.

• • •

The 4229th day of Ms. Lyne’s retirement did not pass without incident.

She was at the assisted living center discussing the latest attack, and what it implied for her father’s care. Donald Lyne had been a good father, since she murdered his daughter and took her life, but he was a proud man and was not adapting well to retirement. She could relate; if anything, they’d grown closer through the kinship he couldn’t understand and she couldn’t acknowledge. Sooner or later, though, the attacks would turn into a full stroke, and she might lose him.

Once, Ms. Lyne would have regarded the disruption to her routine and the loss of the main human element of her Cover as the true concern, but now that his illness made it a possibility she found herself… Concerned. She would miss him.

At the end of the consultation, Dr. Hanchett asked how Abigail was coping, inviting her to share concerns, mistaking demonic poise for stress. After Lyne made the socially acceptable refusal, Hanchett let her go with one small comment, meant to build rapport.

“I like the new hair, by the way.”

Outwardly, Ms. Lyne glanced down at her bright red ponytail, thanked the woman for her time, and left the office. Inside, she was screaming.

In the nearest bathroom, she stared at the mirror, carefully examining her appearance. When she showered that morning, she’d been the same off-blonde Abigail had been since the day she died. The hair wasn’t dyed — it had turned the color of blood, down to the roots.

A glitch.

Furiously, she ran through the possible causes. She had been meticulous. She had never broken Cover — never spent even a single moment not being Abigail Lyne for 4229 days. No one knew who she really was, inside Abigail’s skin. Even anyone who’d heard of her before she retired had no way to connect the Saboteur, the infamous lightning-rod of angels and warrior against the Machine, with the quiet children’s author. The God-Machine had no Infrastructure out here in the middle of nowhere.

No one could have possibly revealed the truth. Except one man; the demon who’d given her Abigail’s soul pact.

The demon who’d not been seen on the Agency for 69 days.

What’s happening to Abigail’s Cover, and what will she do about it? Find out in Demon: Interface, available now in ebook and print from DriveThruFiction.