Home > The Space Between

The Space Between
Brenna Yovanoff




Once, my mother told a whole host of angels that she’d rather die than go back to a man she didn’t love.

This was a long time ago, before famine or war or the combustion engine. Before my father fell from grace and killed a thousand divine messengers on the way down. Back then, my mother was young and wild. She had another life.

God made Adam out of dirt, complete with a soul, and a heart in his chest, and that was the first man. There was a garden filled with beasts, where Adam lived alone.

Then, because it wasn’t good for man to be alone, God made Lilith. And that was the first mistake. She came to Adam across a meadow delirious with flowers and he was in love.

She didn’t love him back.

He didn’t see the darkness in her. He was young and thought that she could change. My father says that’s just what happens when you’re young, but I still think Adam should have known. He should have seen it in her eyes, seen the truth in her jagged fingernails. He should have known you can’t change a girl with iron teeth.

They lived together in the Garden, and Adam was happy. Lilith, though, was meant for fiercer places. When Adam tried to tame her, she fought him. She wasn’t made to be told how to behave or what to do. When she left, she did it calmly. She simply stood up and walked away. She belonged in the wilds, outside the Garden, and so she stayed, night after night, hovering on a black beach beside a sea like polished glass.

There was no reason to go back to Adam. She didn’t miss him. She thought she could leave behind their entire life together, and that was her mistake.

My brother was born on a bed of black stones, under a blood-red moon. Our mother named him Ohbrin, a name of mysteries, in a language only she knew. He was like her in almost every way, with her sleek black hair and gray eyes, but he laughed sometimes and smiled up at her. She knew she wasn’t meant to raise a child, and she took him back to show Adam a son whose smile was so like his own.

But in the Garden, things had changed. Adam sat beneath a strange, spreading tree and there was a strange woman beside him, heavy and round, made from a piece of Adam’s own body, so she could never stand up and wander away.

When Lilith showed him the baby in her arms, he took one look and turned away. He said he didn’t want him. Didn’t want his own child.

Before, when Lilith left, she’d been stony and remote. Now, she trembled, outraged that a man could refuse his son. She spit in Adam’s face and cursed the day she ever saw him. It was the day she’d been born.

Then she took Obie and left, pelting away through the dark.

In the dark is where she met my father.



I’m watching North by Northwest when the picture goes out on the TV. It’s at the part where Thornhill is being chased by the airplane and the scene is very tense. Then the sound cuts off abruptly and Cary Grant dissolves into a sea of tiny dots.

My mother’s silhouette appears in the glass, dim and faceless. When she speaks, her voice comes from far away, distorted by the hiss of static. “I need you to come up here.”

She vanishes again before I can answer and the picture doesn’t come back. I know I should go up and see what she wants, but just for now, I don’t move.

In Hell, we tell our stories on the surface of things. The histories are forged a piece at a time, hammered on posts and pillars, pounded into the tiled streets. The Spire building, where I’ve lived my whole life, is a celebration of the deeds of my family.

The stairs to the roof are polished to a high shine, carved with engravings of the fallen army. At the top, I push open the little gate and step into the courtyard. Lilith’s garden is a squirming mass of silver flowers and metal vines. My father built it for her. Every leaf and branch is handmade.

She’s sitting with her back to me, on a filigree bench beside a man who isn’t Lucifer. Her hair has slipped loose from its combs, spilling in a black curtain over her shoulders. Her dress is long, red as embers, and open all the way down the back. Her skin is blinding white.

“Come in,” she calls without looking in my direction. “Don’t hover.”

Her companion glances at me and gets to his feet. The heels of his boots are heavy, carved with twin crocodiles, and they clang like bells on the tile roof.

“Look who it is,” he says, smiling broadly, showing gray teeth filed to points. I can tell he doesn’t know my name.

“Daphne,” my mother says, sighing like the word has unbearable weight. Like two syllables can contain a whole tragedy. Then she turns to her latest admirer. She doesn’t even say anything, just lifts a hand and he knows it’s time to go.

When we’re alone, she motions me to sit down. The bench is small and we sit side by side, uncomfortably close.

“I think you should start spending more time with your sisters,” she tells me in a cool, offhand voice, like she’s telling me that smoke rises.

It isn’t what I expected and I don’t answer right away.

She says sisters, but really, she’s talking about the Lilim. She says more, which implies that I spend any time with them at all. They might look like me, but their fathers are all minor demons like the one my mother just dismissed.

“Why?” I say, trying to sound just as indifferent as she does. “I’m nothing like them.”

“Of course you are,” she says without looking at me.

She stares out at the shining garden. Her eyes are silver-gray, flat and pale. Our faces bear more than a passing resemblance, but my eyes are dark like my father’s.

I don’t point out all the things that set me apart from my sisters and would be obvious if she ever really looked. Like my smooth, translucent fingernails and that fact that I can talk about something besides what it’s like to prowl around on Earth, tricking men into offering themselves up for nothing.

“How do you know what I’m like?”

“Smile for me,” she says, like it will prove something.

I don’t smile. My teeth are my most striking feature, but my mother won’t see it. My whole mouth is full of enamel, white like my father’s, but she’s only interested in the flaws—the twin metal points of my dogteeth, which prove, more than my colorless skin or my black hair, that I’m hers.

“Bad blood will out,” she says, as though I’ve illustrated her point. The look she gives me is triumphant. It says that bad blood is the only kind of blood worth mentioning.

What my parents have is nothing like the crumbling marriages in movies. There are no thrown dishes, no tears or arguments, just Lilith’s endless supply of lovers, and all the ways that she can slash at my father without even leaving the rooftop garden. If I start tagging around after the Lilim, then I’m just another one of those ways. He might not care what her other children do, but he’s less cavalier about his own daughters.

“I’m not going to go do something common so you can gloat about it,” I tell her. “If you’re mad at him, that’s got nothing to do with me.”

Lilith acts like she hasn’t heard. She crouches on the bench, staring down at a huge silver sundial set into the roof at her feet, intent on something I can’t see.

My father gave her six daughters before me and all of them are gifted with some kind of sight. They were all born a long time ago, and maybe that’s why. The world was new and raw, still full of magic. Or maybe it’s just that I was born after my parents stopped loving each other.

The face of the sundial is as smooth as a mirror, and Lilith watches it the same way I’d watch the television. She sees the world in flashes, tiny scenes in every reflective surface. After the Fall and the temptation in the Garden, she and my father were punished, exiled to Pandemonium, and now this is the only way she can even pretend to visit Earth.

She holds perfectly still, ignoring the vines that writhe up from the flower beds, creeping over the bench, winding themselves around her ankles and her wrists.

The murals on the roof are all about the war for Heaven and the Fall. Lucifer, the vengeful outcast and fallen revolutionary—villain of the deepest dye. Lilith, standing alone on the black stone beach. She was pale and remote, the beautiful demoness. He was proud but wounded and saw himself in her.

Now, she’s sitting in a metal garden, in a place she can never leave, and my father is somewhere in a gleaming skyscraper, wearing a tailored suit and overseeing an empire. She blames him for everything.

Below us, the city shines silver, as highly polished as a wish. The streets sprawl out in complicated spirals, winding between glossy buildings. Far out at the center, the Pit glows red with the heat of the furnace.

“I’m not going,” I say.

Lilith smiles into the face of the sundial. “Don’t be ridiculous. You love Earth.”

For a moment, I just look at her. I like paper flowers and Cary Grant movies. I like the stories my brother Obie tells when he comes home after one of his jobs. I can’t say that I like Earth, because I’ve never been there.

Life outside of Pandemonium is for girls like the Lilim, girls who crave things, while I’d like to think my own interest in the world is merely scholarly. A fascination for things rather than people. I keep hoping for some piece of undeniable proof that I’m nothing like my sisters.

If I had the gift of sight, even a little—the power to see the future or divine people’s secrets in a sheet of polished metal—it would show I was meant for something else. But sometimes, especially when the phonograph is playing love songs or James Dean is on TV, I feel strangely hollow, gripped by a want that seems to sit inside my bones, and then I suspect I’m just like the rest of them. Made for preying.

“Are you afraid of Earth?” Lilith says, like it’s a challenge. “Don’t be afraid. You might have weak, worthless teeth like your father, but you have my blood.”

Demon blood is powerful, but hard to predict. On Earth, it can burst into flames or eat through the floor like acid. Some demons find that they can escape through tiny cracks or vanish in a flurry of shadows, and others have skin that can’t be cut and bones that can’t be broken. They eat glass and jump from buildings and climb straight up the walls.

In Pandemonium though, those things don’t matter. Down in the Pit, the damned might shriek and suffer, but we can’t feel a thing. The blood only matters on Earth, because it gives us an advantage against Azrael.

He’s there on the wall with the rest of the archangels, looking righteous, but not beautiful. His features are ruined by a thin, ugly mouth, eyes gouged so deep they look black. They seem to bore into me and I prefer the engraving of the angel Michael. Even with his spear leveled at my father’s chest, he seems noble. Azrael looks like he wants to burn down everyone.

“You don’t have to worry about him,” my mother says, turning to follow my gaze. “He doesn’t waste his time on girls like you, as long as they don’t make trouble or stay too long on Earth.”

I’m not studying him though but the engraving of his monstrous beast, Dark Dreadful. She looks like a woman, but sharp-clawed, gaunt, and towering. She does his killing for him because demons are notoriously difficult to destroy. The stories say she’ll tear you open and drink your blood to take away your power, then peel away your skin and string your bones to make garlands.

“He won’t bother you, as long as you don’t stay,” Lilith says again, like the thing I’m scared of is a monster carved on a wall and not the thought of becoming my sisters. “Azrael might do everything he can to keep us from infesting Earth, but he can’t be bothered with the occasional visitor.”

In his portrait, he looks proud and cruel. Behind him, Dark Dreadful towers above a heap of bodies. Her dress is ragged, covered in bones and strands of teeth, braided hanks of hair.

I’ve seen the picture so many times before, but now it bothers me and I sit looking up at it, looking up at Dark Dreadful, and the vengeful face of Azrael. Like something is getting closer and I just don’t see it yet.



My mother finally dismisses me, and I go back my room.

The artisans in the Pit have closed the doors to the furnace to let their newest batch of sheet metal cool and the sky is a deep, smoky gray.

Now, with the city dark, I can take out all my pictures and my books and charms and tiny glass figurines—all my things from Earth—and they won’t melt or burn up like they would if the furnace was at full blaze. My favorite artifacts are delicate and bright—paper streamers and tiny dolls with satin dresses and plastic wings. In the twilight, my whole room is cluttered with trinkets.

I’m sitting on the couch with my feet pulled up, playing with a little snow globe that Obie got in Prague. Inside is a figure of a dancer, standing under a leafless tree. When I shake it, white flakes swirl down around her. The only light is flickering from my television, making everything waver.

It’s hard to know what to do about my mother. The fact is, even when I’m so sure she’s wrong, her voice has the ring of authority. I want to think I’m good for more than creeping around Earth like my sisters do. I want her to think that. Mostly, I just want to be good for something.

I see the shadow behind me reflected in the globe before I hear Obie’s footsteps. When I look around, my brother is standing just inside the doorway.

He’s dressed like the medical staff at a hospital, in elastic-waisted pants and a short-sleeved smock with no buttons. The whole outfit is pale green and looks like pajamas.

“Hey,” he says. “Do you have a minute?”

I nod, cradling the snow globe in both hands.

It’s a strange question—an Earth question, because there, a minute means something. There are no minutes here and time is a vast, looping thing.

“I brought you a bus schedule,” he says, tossing a folded paper booklet onto the couch beside me. “It’s only for a local line, but I thought you might like the colors.”

Against the backdrop of my room, filled with wind chimes and mechanical toys, he is Easter-egg green, like he belongs here. Under the scrubs though, he’s as colorless as I am, all black hair and white skin.

“Thanks,” I say, thumbing through the pages so they riffle one way, then the other. Each route is marked in a different shade.

Like most of the demon men, Obie works in various cities all across the world, but he doesn’t trade in suffering like they do. When it became clear that he wasn’t suited for Collections, my father took pity on him and now Obie is the sole employee of the Department of Good Works. It’s a better job than collecting, although most of the men would disagree. When faced with a choice, most of them would rather reap than save.

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