I have twenty minutes before my evening class starts. I sit on a bench in Central Park enjoying an exquisite sunset. The trees veil the horizon but the sky illuminates with brilliant color and I bask in its talented painting.
Sunsets do not exist in Heaven. How could anyone choose to forgo such vivid scenery for the same white walls day after day? There is no imagination in Heaven: only blank canvases with empty paint bottles walking in circles.
My fingers trace the gold lining of a book in my lap. “The Beginning of Heaven.”
It is a book that has been remade dozens of times since Angels first learned how to write. In each of these books that I’ve borrowed from the Regal Library, they’ve been written by a number of people congregating together to create a full narration of actual events. Metatron is once again a lead source.
I lay open the pages and read the beginning paragraph gloomily named, ‘Leaving Earth.’
’Atlantis drowned and so did its people. The most advanced civilization the world had yet seen reached for the heavens and sank in the seas. It is said for days afterwards, screams could be heard. Victims calling for aid, floating on wood and debris until the sun and dehydration ended their suffering. But as we know now, it was imagination or perhaps hope that stirred such thoughts. There was nothing left of the four thousand people buried beneath the waters.
The end of Atlantis started the transition of separation. In a time of such tragedy is it hard to process reason but it is because of Atlantis that Heaven exists today. We can only speculate what was going through God’s mind during the chaos but with personal accounts from the Supreme Chancellor Metatron, Jamatis, and Eragon, we can achieve an approximate layout of the emotions stirring between God and Nature.’
A light clicks on as night settles interrupting my daze. I stare at the water floating in the river recalling the accounts of Atlantis. My image of Nature is chilling. She is a beast of a woman, resolute and unrestrained. To kill so swiftly appalls me but somehow I can’t imagine a woman so poisonous can help create a world so beautiful.
Her touch is in the trees and in the grass. Her affection reflects in every sunset and into the intricate designs of a sunrise. A person with such attention to detail cannot be without thought or empathy. She is not a callous individual. She did what needed to be done. She loves God and for Him, took on the burden of destroying his enemies.
I feel like only this woman would understand me.
My yazatas enter from the Dust and I observe them. They are early and they don’t realize I am here. They play with one another, weaving in and out of humans like it is a game.
I look down to my book. I wonder what it was like when we used to live amongst the human race as one. Before Atlantis, humans could see Light as easy as they see each other. It was a fact that God existed, not just a belief.
I know no matter what humans believe they will still squabble. They don’t deserve us. We are the better breed. Atlantis and its foul class earned its end for seeking more than they merited.
“Mistress Anna!” A sudden cry has me on my feet.
A yazata rushes to my side, “It’s Melody. I can’t find her.”
With the Source directing me, I exit the Dust in a secluded area of the park. Streetlights keep the sidewalk aglow but there isn’t a Soul in sight. I find the quivering Yazata standing alone and wide-eyed, frightened by every sound.
“Melody.” I glower, rushing to her with a stern lip, “Pathetic, really. Does the wind frighten you?” Flicking my gaze around, I chastise, “There is nothing here to harm you, stop your whimpering. You strayed too far, this is Karma.”
Snarling whispers echo with the breeze. I can barely hear over the sounds of her tremble. “Quiet.” I scold shifting my gaze toward the path of her gawking.
Beside a tree in the shadow of the dark, I catch of glimmer of gold: two small spheres watching me.
Exiting the Dust, Fallen encircle us. To the left, the right, behind and forward; all around me, I am immured by the enemy. Cleophas steps into the light of a streetlamp, holding the chains to his hellhounds. The metal clinks and pulls as the Alu claw at the ground in wild desperation, snapping at the air. Black tar drips from their jaws and speckles the sidewalk.
“Anna.” He greets with a somber air, steadying his feet to keep a firm grip on his eager canines.
I keep Melody close beside me, managing to maneuver my wings around her. “What is this, Cleophas?”
His eyes narrow, the spider tattoo on his face wrinkling as he growls. “I think you know what this is, Anna. Why don’t you send that kid away?”
Fear rises but I’ll be damned to show it. “Good idea. Melody, would you alert Puriel I’m being accosted by low grade Fallen?” I shift my wing low so I can meet her gaze. She shivers and flips her orbs all about.
I push her out and she stumbles for the closest exit. “Be quick about it.”
The moment she’s through, she turns around.
I wonder then if she had ever truly been afraid or if I had only seen what I wanted to see.
She puts a finger to her chin, questioning innocently, “It was just the wind, wasn’t it?” She waves impishly and disappears into the Dust.
The Fallen laugh and enjoy this moment of victory. They are imprudent to believe I’ll go down without a fight.
It’s true I could run into the Dust, but if I don’t stop them here it will never stop. I’m not going to hide and I’m not going to be afraid. I am Soul Mate to Dane Monte. I am worthy of his love and I am worthy of God’s.
I snatch the thin needlepoint dagger from my boot and run at the stranger to my right. He is, as I knew he would be, unprepared for my sudden strike and trips over himself backing up, choking on his laughter while fear tackles his throat. He falls upon his back and I jump, flapping my wings coming down upon him with my blade ready to pin in his heart.
I slam to the ground, my left wing in the jaws of an alarming Alu. I feel its teeth gnaw on bone. I get to my knees, shoving the dagger up into its neck and yank my bloody wing from its mouth.
Feathers and blood decorate the ground around me. I push away from the body, holding my wounded appendage with tender care while my other hand keeps hold to the knife, daring the sinful creatures to come for me. Adrenaline eases most of the pain and fights my fear while I keep my thoughts on repeat.
I am Soul Mate to Dane Monte. I will be worthy. I am meant for something grand.
Cleophas knells beside his dead hellhound, running a hand along the rot infested skin mournfully. His living Alu whines and nudges his noose against it, lying down. “I do not enjoy this, Anna. We’re not bad people. We were Angels once too. You killed Will, Jenny, and Sumi. Sumi was his,” He points one of his friends, “Soul Mate.” He stands, looking down on me in contempt. “The Angels forgive you so easily.”
My lips curl in disgust. It wasn’t easy, I want to scream at him. The fifty years was a fucking Hell but I believe in what I do. God deserves only love. Those that deny Him are unfit to take from Him. I am not wrong!
I pant through my nose, fast and harsh. I don’t know how to get out of this. There are too many and no one is coming to help me. My hands shake. Pain is pulsing.
I only have one option.
I fling upon Cleophas, embedding the blade deep into his heart. It sinks so quickly to its hilt and blood gushes upon my hand warm and wet. His face is close to mine; I can make out the intricate design to the spider tattoo I’ve come to recognize. Pain riddles upon his brow and stretches his lips as he breathes out.
I release my hand staring at the horrible blood and jump fearful as he falls back. His friends fasten around him, calling his name, dragging him into the Dust paying me no attention. They hope to save him but I’m naive. His dead eyes are shining in my vision.
I fall back upon my butt, staring at the open portal with the rotting corpse of the Alu in front of me. I hold tight to my bleeding wing, the only thing that seems real to me.
Random thoughts bounce around in my head. I need a witness but no one saw. They will lock me up again for sure. They won’t listen to my plea. They will judge me and condemn me.
The only facts that remain are his blood on my hands and I am alone.
Frantically, I rub the liquid on my pants, using my shirt to get between my fingers.
I will go to Dane’s. I will explain the situation. He will believe me. He will have to help. The Fallen attacked me. Dane will fix it.
I stand upon shaking feet, finding myself unsteady, and off balanced. My damaged wing affects my equilibrium. I tuck it harshly tight, cringing as I do. It balks and flinches but I force it to obey nonetheless. It will be safer coiled behind me until I can get proper treatment.
I search for evidence, grasping at feathers, pushing the body of the Alu off multiple blood soaked quills. I will have to burn them. As I reach down for one more, my eyes widen in realization.
The Fallen Dust remains open.
Perhaps it senses the dead Alu but for whatever reason the white walls of the Dust to Sheol prevail.
I step over the carcass, observing the entrance like a foreign object. It is no different from ours in appearance. Rumor is that touching it would cause serious harm but I didn’t read anything like that in the books. There was no information about the Dust Realms.
Pain quivers in my back. I want to leave. I desire Dane to make everything better. Blood lingers on my fingers and the wound on my wing throbs. Yet how can I give up this moment? If I can get into Sheol, then I can kill Satan himself. What better way to prove to God how much I love Him?
I lift my hands, opening them wide and allowing all the feathers to float away. My fingers sordid by blood tremble but straighten and as I take a deep breath, courage and excitement enforce my movements. I shove them against the Dust.
Electrocution and fire eats at my hands. I scream and cry yanking hard against it but it’s as if tentacles snake around my arms and lock me in place. My wings flap anxious and loud, pulling on my body yet the wall is strong and refuses to uncoil its piercing barbwire from my skin. Tears flow freely and sobs wreck my throat. I pounded my feet, praying God saves me from the agony, willing Him to cut my arms free if He must.
Then so suddenly, it releases me. I fling back, tripping over the body of the Alu, and falling upon my delicate wings. My shaking hands decay before me. The palms are open sores, puss and blood pooling down my wrists while the back of my hands blacken and char. They smoke from the recent inferno. The wall had held me for over a minute and the brutality done to my skin tore through to the bone.
I fix my legs under me, flicking my gaze to glare at the impudent wall.
I still, unable to breathe.
The Devil stands before me just inside the Dust. The enormity of the glowing white wings expands the length of the door. His full height towers over my drained form upon the Earth floor. My gaze widens and horror makes me dig my heels into the gravel, caring nil as I drag my wings against the pavement, ripping feathers from my back, a pathetic attempt to gain space between me and the creator of Hell.
Satan steps with me, moving the Dust door along with him. He taunts me, following me in my haste. Logic would tell me he can’t reach me. Coming to Earth in his complete form would alert everyone but agony and terror has left me without any weapon against one of the strongest Fallen in history.
“Anna Martholow.” His deep voice vibrates in my chest making it hard to breath. “Do not be afraid.”
How does he know my name? Does he want to kill me? Terror is intense and I swallow in an attempt to quell it. I do not want to fear this beast. I am better than fear.
God loves me and that is all I need to conquer Darkness.
“I see in you what others should see. Conviction. Dedication. Strength.”
My brows knit, forcing attention upon words and not my dreading thoughts. My hands sizzle in front of me and tears streak down my face.
His bright blue eyes glance down upon my injuries. “You lack knowledge it would seem. Do you wish to come inside?” He holds up a hand, “You are welcome to come.”
I set my jaw as I realize his insult. I will not be mocked by the Devil of Hell. Pain has made me victim to fright but I will rectified my fallibility now. “You can’t fool me, Satan.”
His hand lowers. “No. It seems not. You are exceptional, Annamartholow. I can see that. I wonder if anyone else does.”
Sourly I glare at him, “What do you mean by that?”
“How many would go so far for God?”
None. I can answer that quickly enough.
“Daily you sacrifice and daily your sacrifices are ignored. They do not appreciate you. That is clear enough. They have not made you an Elder yet.”
I raise my chin. How can he know these things? He has to be bluffing. He doesn’t know about the Fallen I have just killed and yet he talks about my life like an open book.
“I know I would make you an Elder.”
“I would never join you!”
His white hair flickers when his head shifts, looking down at me. “You would do well with me, Annamarthlow. Your cunning and your wit would serve better here. All the Angels look down on you. They know you don’t belong.”
“That’s not true!”
“Isn’t it? They see your scars as bright as I do.”
I look down at myself but all I see are my burning hands. I know I have scars. The souls I have stolen rip across me. Three scars that have not faded with time. Now another will be fresh and bare. What story will I be able to conjure up for this one?
“Angels are meant to save lives, not steal them. Do not betray God further by lying to His children. Come with me and you will not have to lie any further. You will be accepted here. You will be greater. Perhaps as great as Dane Monte.”
My head shakes. I am an Angel. I had to take those lives. God understands. God knows. If He hadn’t wanted me to take those lives He would have stopped me.
But He didn’t. He hasn’t said anything to me.
My body quivers feverishly. The pain is quickly riding in waves. I lift my gaze up to Satan trying to sound convincing but distress is in my unsteady voice and a tear drops down my cheek. “Be gone Satan. Or I will call upon all those that oppose you.”
A smirk rises on his red lips. His wings fold behind him. “When you Fall, Annamartholow, remember this day. I gave you a choice and you chose wrong. Perhaps I will be forgiving. Perhaps I will forget how you have destroyed four of my Angels. Kill for me a Fallen named Kyla and when you Fall, Anna martholow, I will grant you all of your wishes for greatness.”
The silence blares in the night air. Only mosquitoes continue their drudging racket and crickets occasionally join in as if on cue.
Satan just offered me a deal. There is something wrong with me. I keep thinking that everything I am doing is for God and it is justified. But if Satan is coming to me, then what if the path that I am on is not the right one? Why isn’t God saying anything? Why isn’t He helping me?
Tears continue. I’m not pathetic. I can handle anything. So why does Satan’s offering hurt me more than the burning of my hands?
I open the Dust to throw myself through it, ending up in Dane’s crappy run-down cave. I attempt to use my wings but I have injured them too much and they hang useless in their upset. They bleed and I can feel stones wedged in to some of my feathers. I edge toward his office at a slow and degrading pace. I don’t call out. I feel that would be too beneath my pride.
Dane must feel my presence because he comes through the doorway. Taking off his reading classes, he looks out into the darkness, “Anna?” He connects with the Source.
I’m ashamed because he’ll instantly see the added scar to my growing collection. If I could only hide that as well as my emotions, would I be as ashamed as I am?
Dane rushes to me, “Oh God, Anna.” He drops to his knees grabbing my elbows, “Anna, what happened, what did you do?”
“I was attacked,” I harden my voice but tears produce nonetheless and strain my voice. I swallow to keep the sobs at bay “Fallen attacked me. I had to protect myself.”
Dane’s hands, they drift away. As if touching me is a disease. It’s the moment I know he doesn’t believe me. “Another one, Anna?” He murmurs. He speaks as if he had been the one betrayed and beaten.
“I was attacked!”
“Just like last time! You were innocent then too!” he yells cruel and cold. I slink back against the stone, gaining more comfort from its solid, unyielding surface.
I push against him with my knees, “Forget it, I’ll go somewhere else.”
He shoves me back, “Where would you go? Who loves you but me?”
I stare at the floor. God loves me, doesn’t He? That’s enough. I don’t need anyone else. But what if, what if He doesn’t? What if He can’t?
“Why do you do this, Anna? Why do I have to love someone like you?”
“Like what? What am I like?”
“Like her. You’re so much like Eve it scares me.” Dane sighs, tiredly and with a sadness that I don’t understand.
Would that be so terrible if I were like Mother Nature? She would do anything for God. I would do anything for Dane. We both are trying to prove ourselves to better men and yet we fail. We are misunderstood. We are taken for granted.
Dane leans in and presses his lips against my temple but I am unresponsive.
“I’ll call out to Ariel or Gula. One of the healers will come.”
It doesn’t matter. Everyone sees only the worst in me. Even the man I love.
Yet, Satan realizes my goals. He sees me as I wish to be seen. Is he what I need? Will he help where God fails?