Holidays are Hell: Esther Egg Hunt
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Copyright ©2013 Sam Cheever
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Fire lit the night sky, painting the thin film of clouds with orange and yellow light. Esther Mooring laid her head back and sighed, enjoying the cooler air that came with the night. Another burst of fire lightened the sky, ending in a series of fiery loops that made a funny whirring noise as they plunged toward the ground.
Esther's neighbors cheered, and somebody popped the cork on a bottle of something bubbly. She frowned, wondering what it would be like to celebrate Good Friday eve like a normal person. Well, at least a normal dead person living in Hell.
She sipped white wine and scratched a quickly growing bump from a bug bite. Hell didn't have regular mosquitoes. They were more like small airplanes that buzzed and snapped razor-sharp teeth as they dived toward you.
Esther generally hid in the house at night. But the holiday fireworks display was too tempting to resist. So she'd come out dressed head to toe, with her hand-held flamethrower clutched in one hand to sear the biting bastards when they tried to dive-bomb her.
Good Friday was a major holiday in Hell. Unlike Christmas, which Hellions ridiculed and banned as fiction, the pre-Easter holiday from her youth was celebrated as a happy event, with presents and parties.
Esther had never joined in the fun. Not because of any residual childhood memories about the sober way her parents had treated the day, but because, for her, the spirit of the day was all too real.
The only thing that made it bearable was knowing she would soon see him again... gorgeous Luc with the intense green eyes and perfect, round behind that made her mouth water. Though her sexy perdition guide barely spoke to her, she knew he was interested by the way that serious green gaze followed her every movement when they were together.
A loud buzzing brought Esther's head up and she reacted quickly, pressing the button to send a narrow flame into the sky from her mini-thrower. The fanged bloodsucker spread its wings and tried to stay outside the range of the flame, but it didn't quite make it. The fist-sized bug sizzled into ash in the space of a heartbeat, falling to the ground and joining a dozen of its evil compatriots.
"Happy Good Friday, Esther."
She looked up and smiled at her neighbor, Alice, who'd spoken to her from behind a privacy fence. The woman was painfully shy, but she'd been friendly enough to Esther, even though Esther had been honest with her about her situation from the very first day. "Hey Alice! Thanks. Are you going to any parties?"
"No. How about you?"
Esther shook her head. "I'll be going in to pack as soon as the fireworks are over."
Alice's smile drooped. "Oh. Yeah. I'd forgotten. I'm sorry."
Esther shrugged. "Thanks."
"Maybe they'll put you here again."
Esther shook her head. "I gave up hoping for that a couple of years back. I'm afraid the judges get too much pleasure from jerking me around."
Alice frowned. "I don't get it. Your situation is rare. I don't know why they wouldn't work a little harder to help you. It's not fair."
Esther smiled. "Thanks, Alice. I appreciate your support. Don't worry about me. I'll be fine."
"Whatever happens, take care of yourself, Esther."
"I will. You, too."
Alice nodded and waved before turning away and disappearing behind her fence.
Esther smiled too. Because she hadn't been just making conversation. She fully intended to get control of her situation this time. She was done letting fate decide her future. She'd been bitch-slapped by that evil hag more than enough.
It was time for Esther to grab fate by the hair and send her packing.
She frowned, thinking of what was ahead of her. She'd thought she'd known what Hell was. But she hadn't realized that, for her at least, it meant reliving her death, over and over again.
Killed in a rockslide.
She shook her head, still not believing she'd died so stupidly. Esther had been active all her life. A true daredevil, she'd functioned under a continuous bucket list mentality. She'd jumped from airplanes, swum with sharks, traveled the Serengeti, and climbed the highest mountain peaks she could find.
She'd been caught in an avalanche in the Rocky Mountains.
She'd been badly stung by a jellyfish, and had come this close to being eaten by a lion.
None of that scared her as much as reliving her death -- and resurrection -- every year.
That first year she'd just stood there and watched the rocks bear down on her. The second year she hadn't acted quickly enough to escape dying again. But this time -- the third year of her resurrection -- Esther intended to take steps.
Then she thought of Luc. Sexy, wonderful Luc. She'd really only spent time with him when she was newly dead. Not the best time or place for building a relationship. But over the years they'd formed a certain kind of comfortable relationship built on silence and understanding.
He was mostly silent, and Esther understood he was going to be that way.
Only thing was, she thought of nothing else all year long. Even her ongoing and impending death didn't hold her thoughts as often as Luc did. She thought about the way his sexy, dark green gaze raked over her, touching her with heat, and the way his big, calloused hands pressured her so gently as he guided her toward the portal that would lead to her doom.
And the way he fought for her, every single year, trying to get the evil, nasty judges to give her a permanent place to return to every time. He'd nearly gotten himself thrown into the fiery pits on her behalf the previous year.
Esther thought that was the moment she'd started to fall in love with him. But something was holding him back. Something was keeping him from taking the next step with her. And Esther was tired of waiting.
So this year, when she faded away from Perdigo and landed in the road behind her car, Esther wasn't going to just stand there and let herself be crushed all over again. She was going to run. And if Luc wanted her badly enough, he would have to chase her. At the thought, she experienced a delightful little thrill.
Esther suddenly realized the hardest part of the whole thing would be resisting the overwhelming urge to let him catch her.