Time has rarely mattered to me. Decades, centuries, eons pile on my lifespan and I have scarcely noticed. The sun rises and the sun sets, the world turns and the seasons change. Generations come and go and with it, fashions and mannerisms scatter to the wind. Wars sporadically threaten and emerge before fading into distant memories leaving only pale line scars.
It is easy to comprehend that for someone like me time is superfluous and I waste it with thoughtless heed. While many seem to think the position of Transcending Erelim is a revering place to be, they need only live ten thousand years to realize how trifling it truly matters. The dulling pace of a three-toed sloth is a fair comparison.
Now, however, I feel like a clock ticks, counting backwards, as if I am running out of irreplaceable moments. I sit here, beside Kyla as she sleeps and I have come to the realization that I’m near my last few hours, and yet, there is nothing else I’d rather be doing with these cherished seconds.
She sleeps peacefully. After several hours of tossing and turning, plagued by devilish nightmares and jolting dreams, she curls tightly wrapped around blankets, still and quiet.
I feel a fool, wasting time. I look down to the cell phone device in my hand praying it rings. I await the phone call that will secure Kyla’s life.
I am distant by nature, fully aware how time erodes and space distends. Faith and loyalty do not prevail against the wear and tear of rain.
Even with this lesson learnt, Kyla managed to thaw out the gelid ice around my Soul and reach me. It is nothing she does purposefully. Most of what Kyla doesn’t know she does, is what sustains my interest.
She likes to play human, many Newborns do, but her oddities shine brightly and cannot be ignored. It is the reason she is in danger and the reason I strive to save her Soul.
To become Fallen, one must first be an Angel.
A Soul evolves, Angel status is awarded and with it, inane and flamboyant wings strap themselves to the skin. To become a Fallen, the first thing that must go are the useless appendages, leaving vibrant scars curving into one’s back.
It is something that Kyla does not have, implicating that she never experienced the degrading and bloody process.
It would explain why she has no knowledge of any of our laws. Kyla didn’t know about God and Nature, how they are two separate beings and yet there cannot be one without the other. I had to explain that there are other worlds, a Heaven and Sheol, where Angels and Fallen interact and Light and Darkness exist. But the more I attempted to expose, the less she wanted to learn. Her only interest seemed to spark in human relationships. As if she were still one of them despite being unavoidably dead.
The phone buzzes. With a heave, I’m on my feet. I gently shut the door to her bedroom and press the button on the phone, placing it to my ear. The harsh electric sounds pulse and bleep before silence echoes. I get to my own bedroom just as a female voice begins. “The line is secure.”
“Are we ready to begin?”
“We are. Package can be delivered at the prearranged time.”
I step down the hallway quietly, passing by each closed door, feeling my wards sleeping soundly. Their help is necessary in procuring Kyla’s escape. I could very well bring an army to this frivolous town but I’d rather news reporters not broadcast to the whole world about odd movements near my home. Humans constantly get in the way and if I didn’t admire them so, I’d have gotten rid of them years ago.
Down the stairs and into the kitchen, I glance around. The sun is only beginning to rise and it shines its light through the multiple windows. Building this house is a rare fond memory. Felix and I had found this lot of land in the summer of 1891. Together we plowed the field and with only our hands and human tools, we proceeded to construct a home. Before Kyla, I think that is the last time I actually felt alive.
I tread out into the backyard. The pool gleams, surrounded by variegated shrubbery. Meryl and Miley love to do yard work and have turned this place into a lagoon. Beyond the screened deck, a stone pathway leads to a bungalow and a fire pit beside a koi filled pond. The property hides well behind an outline of hedges, seven foot high, giving us complete privacy from our prying neighbors.
I discover Felix off to the side. He lounges at the mini bar staring at the bright screen of a laptop mounted on the seat beside him. It appears from his clothing he hasn’t yet been to sleep.
Felix is aging. I would not be surprised if he no longer needs such a Newborn occurrence.
His sausage fingers wave me over, “So I’ve learned ninety percent of all our members, their names, positions, and the like. But I click on this file, the Gatekeepers and it won’t let me in without a password.”
I look at the screen and bright red flashes catching my attention. ‘Restricted. Access Denied,’ it reads.
I lean back, “In a few more years.”
He rolls his navy gaze, slouching. “I’m your Second, Ty. Your heir. If I am to become king of Kio, I have to learn how to be a king and I have to start by learning everything I can. Keeping things from me isn’t a good sign of trust.”He clamps the computer closed, broaching the subject that has been bothering him since I first called, “Will you tell me why you’re moving Kyla?”
I look to the rising sun. “It’s not safe anymore.”
“And this house you’re bringing her to, it’s going to be safer than here? A house that keeps even you safe.” Disapproval sounds in his tone. “When will you be back?”
“I cannot know.”
“I don’t understand.” Felix pushes the bar chair out to plant his feet on the floor, “Kyla’s fine here. What do you know that I don’t?”
Felix used the word trust and trust is exactly what fails us.
It’s not that he wouldn’t protect her or that he wouldn’t do all he can to keep her out of the wrong hands, but he has no idea whose hands are safe. It’s my fault really. He trusts in everything and everyone. He is devoted to Kio. It’s as I bred him to be.
I’ve raised Felix. The moment he Fell, it was into my hands. He trusts our clan and as a future king, he should trust his clan mates. But for someone as special as Kyla, I cannot allow the young, the naïve, the foolish, or the proud to aid me.
I step up to the chair, grasping the edge to meet his eye evenly. “If you needed to know, don’t you think I would tell you?”
He scratches his red scalp clearly upset.
The warning I received two days ago is proof that Kyla is unique and the fact that I know so little about her pushes me to act. I have to find out more and to do that I must expose her.
The first thing I must do is bring her to a safe location with guards and better security. Perhaps I should have done this years ago when she first came into my life. I can’t remember what I was thinking when I decided to bring her here instead.
I turn away from Felix, feeling him watch me as I open the Dust portal and step in. I will not put his young Soul in anymore danger than I already have.
I walk the short distance of the white universe until I land on the rust colored sands of Sheol.
The First Level of Sheol is a desolate wasteland. We see not the condemned Souls, nor the torturers, or the Hell Wolves. We only witness the vast lands of emptiness. It’s supposed to be a sanctuary. Here, we are safe from the sinful devastation that reeks in the levels below and as long as we journey no further, we are selected for God’s forgiveness.
To the right, the gates of Second Hell rise higher than fifty feet and stretch further than the universe can imagine. Made of cast iron and years of rust, they twist and bend with deadly spires on both sides making it impossible to get in as well as out. Guarding it are the Alu. Skinless creatures that stand five feet in height, they are made of bone and tendon. Blood drips from their rotted teeth as they prance before the entrance searching for weak Souls to feed their insatiable hunger. At the sight of me, they scatter in fear, moaning and whining.
Behind me is the only Fallen town entitled Mictlan.
Before Fallen occupied the Earth and after we abandoned Heaven, Sheol became our home.
There is no way to prepare one’s self for the lands of Hell. It was a place unlike any other. To know Heaven and then to drop in this degenerate red desert with monstrosities and obscurity, it is enough to lose who all manner of hope.
Mictlan kept us alive. From rock and gravel, we erected a safe house, bunkers, storage facilities, and cellars to help keep ourselves alive against the forces of Darkness that kept a vigilant watch upon our Souls.
When I think about such a time, living amongst my fellow Fallen, for me it was easier. We were a single race of Fallen and our mission was a simple one: Survive.
After God permitted Angels and Fallen vacancy on Earth, Sheol was abandoned and Mictlan was left behind. It seemed so were its values. Fallen quickly forgot how to care for each other. On Earth they needed no one. Basking in the warmth of the sunlight and in the commodities that Nature provided, they became selfish and even resentful. Thousands of years Fallen lived in Sheol, they had missed simple things such as warmth, compassion, and love. This resentment trickled to the Angels and war broke out.
To end the bloodshed, I, along with others established clans. No Fallen would live alone, or feel alone any longer.
I gaze at Mictlan fondly. I have many memories from the beginning days, when time was undemanding.
Now Mictlan is a place for Fallen to replenish their strength and feed on gossip. It saddens me that I was never able to show this location to Kyla in our many adventures around the world. I taught her so much of human society but she knows so little of her own race.
For a Newborn like Kyla, it is typical that they come to Sheol weekly. Daily, if they use the Source often. Light must be replenished or it can be wiped out. Angels return to Heaven and it is the same for us. Kyla, however, has never been to Sheol. Her Light does not weaken. It stays consistent in its strength. Her oddities continue to grow.
As much as I would like to travel to Mictlan to appreciate the improvements that have been made since last I toured its domain, I will not go and rile its occupants. The site is for substandard Fallen. If I showed my face, I would be either worshipped to my utter annoyance or hunted.
I am an Erelim Elder. Being such has dual implications. I am a spirit that has survived for too many years and I possess a Soul that is more powerful than any duke of Hell.
In addition, I am on the verge of Transcending. Meaning I will soon be too mighty to access the Earth domain. I am not the eldest Fallen in the Realm but I am the only one that travels to the Earth plain and soon I will not be able to do even that.
Where most Fallen and Angels would only revere a being such as I, there are creatures in this world that want my Soul for themselves. Like a black hole, Light can be eaten or sucked dry. I must at all times, be cautious.
Where I head to is not for any low class citizen to trek lightly.
At the epitome of Sheol, Lucius’ castle resides, accessible at every level and daring any potential cutthroat to come face to face with the infamous Devil of Hell.
Guards are useless and there will be none walking the marble encased halls of this glorious masterpiece. I step up the black and white granite staircase, preparing myself for this encounter. No one dares enter without purpose. Lucius welcomes any assassin to come to his door. He appreciates entertainment and relishes surprises. There has been only a few attempts in the past thousand years to his disappointment and I believe he posted an award to whoever makes it into the inner chambers will be allowed to live. A life as the Devil’s jester cannot possible be so ghastly as infinite torture.
I swiftly plow through each passage, every one as lonely as the next. I’m sure there are various Voids walking about, Princes and Dukes needing a word with Lucius yet while I am within First Hell, I am kept ignorant of their presence and they in turn, cannot poison my Soul
I’ve gotten older, my Soul connects with Hell despite the time I spend on earth. I am becoming more and more aware of Souls I don’t want to be.
I sense Lucius in an odd place. The dungeons of the castle are not his favorite area. He used to spend his time out in the fields, hunting. If not the fields then he would visit other levels. He would build abundant homes for the Souls in the Second. If he wasn’t doing that, he was bothering Lilith and the Grigori in the Fourth and Fifth Level. There was always something for him to occupy his time.
Last appearance I made was over a hundred years ago. Time for beings as old as us, is no longer similar to human existence. A year is an hour. A hundred is a week. And a thousand years can pass within a blink of an eye.
I travel deep, stairs upon stairs. Excitement and anxiousness rushes my steps.
From rumors and constant talks from my Elders, I hear Lucius has upset many of my members. Elders, souls that expand from seven to nine thousand years old, tend to understand very little of his complex personality. He is not a bad man but bad things surround him. How can anyone expect him to constantly do the right thing? He is going to lose himself sometimes. He is not perfect despite being the son of God. He needs us to steer him from further wrong. Yet all the Elders desire to shove him aside and treat him like a child.
Lucius is far from foolish. His mind is a magnum opus. No matter what they say of him, I see only the man I stood next to the day I Fell. I will keep him safe. The Elders will not go against him as long as I am here.
As I step into the large open room, I know only by instinct that I am in the torture chamber but again there is no one and nothing. The walls are bare, only stone.
I see him standing with his back toward me and marvel at the sight.
The day we Fell, we Fell together. Lucius, Gerald, and myself; we tore our wings from our backs and denied God’s love in front of the one hundred and thirteen Angels that resided in Heaven at the time. Lucius, in his defiance, snatched our wings before our feet left Heaven’s floor.
Lucius was never human as I was. He was born an Angel. He was capable of reattaching his wings. Gerald and I were not. Out of respect for us, he took our wings and attached them to himself.
They drape down his back like a waterfall of feathers, layer upon layer of pure silk. On top, covering the others like a protective blanket, are his, the Firos, the most intimidating bulbous form an Angel can possess. They are thick in white layers with a height of four feet and a length that can stretch out to over seventeen.
Gerald, who is long since deceased, owned the Wenti. Most Angels own this pair and humans are constantly portraying them with it. When folded they have a nice round arch at the top and when stretched out they appear like a perfect triangle.
The last pair, nestled under all the layers of feathers, barely visible, happens to be my set of wings. Dentai wings are small and compact, barely the size of an arm, with pointed edges and sharp knife-like feathers meant to cut and cause damage to the enemy. They are warrior wings, deadly and fearful.
The sets fidget with each movement, keeping his balance like a cat’s tail. I would always ache to reach out and touch them, to smell the holy Light they still possess and to feel the sweet silk of their spines. I feel nothing now. Not even shock upon the fact that I am stoic.
Those wings were unfit for me. Anyone that ever knew who I was or am, acknowledged that I was never a fighter.
He turns to me. White hair sticks to his sweaty face, dangling down to his shoulders. His hair is as white as God’s and the sight of it reminds me that I once knew my Lord Father so well. Dirt and grime cover him, ruining his smooth, hairless, tanned skin. He is six feet tall and muscled down to the core. He wears no shirt; only lose silk pants that flow over his feet, bright red like human blood. Perspiration covers him, reminding me of my own imperfections. As a son of God, his heart beat when he was born. When he Fell, it was taken from him as punishment. Aside from that, he bleeds, he sweats, he cries, and he loves.
I am always cold, in body and in heart. I have not made love to a woman since I left Heaven. The last time I saw my own blood was when I cut my wings from my back. I’ve lost fear, I’ve lost how to love. I am a shell, searching only for a proper end to my inane life.
Lucius connects his crystal blue eyes with mine and I recognize that no matter how powerful I become, there will always be a gap between us. The eyes are a symbol of God. He is God’s second born child, he possesses powers I will never be able to comprehend.
Lucius steps up to me as a king to his soldier, his chest high, back straight. I bow my head in respect.
“Why do you come?” His voice is a deep canyon, furtive and insular. It is evident his mood is not a positive one.
I came for specific reasons yet my tongue holds weight. I have secrets and they plague my conscious. Lucius is my surrogate brother and I rarely withhold information from him but fear has kept me silent these last few centuries. When Kyla was born to my world, I literally turned my back on him.
Finally showing my face now, do I share her?
Lucius cannot possibly know she exists. I do not comprehend how or why but her presence is a mystery. The fact that she cannot access the Dust or any of her given talents is evident enough. If he had for one moment sensed her, he would have taken her by now. He would sense what I do.
I am tempted to ask about the rumor of War. There is always a rumor, a war between Heaven and Hell, a war between this faction and that. It never ends. For centuries upon centuries, war is on the brink of breaking out. Yet for some reason this rumor seems to be thicker than most.
I figure I would tell him what I’m sure he already knows, if only to break the silence. “Anna Marthalow has come back to Earth.”
“I am aware.” He continues to observe me with those bright orbs. Lucius isn’t so gullible as to believe I’ve come for that petty reason. Anna Marthalow is a Scarred Angel, a killer of Fallen, dangerous to the lower Newborns only because of who her Soul Mate is. She is untouchable. Yet this has nothing to do with anything trivial.
Lucius’ gaze is impenetrable. I can barely withstand it.
Why did I come? At a time now, that is so perilous, why show my face? If he finds out about Kyla, he’ll snatch her from my fingertips. If he learns of any of my misdeeds, he’ll lose faith in me. Yet I needed to see him. I missed Lucius, a man that has been my guide and my compass. Where others use God as their supporter, I rest all my hopes upon this Fallen Angel.
In the years I have been on Earth, I’ve forgotten my path. I struggle to find the direction. Kyla is a piece to the puzzle but what? How do I save her if I know nothing of her enemies? How can I fight for her when I feel nothing for this world? How can I fight when all I want to do, is give up? “I’m lost, Lucius.”
His reactions are none as I expected it to be.
His hand rises, black leather dangles suddenly in front of me, dripping blood. A switch held tight in his hand.
Unable to deny, I wrap my fingers around it. The warmth of the fabric attracts my attention. It’s the first time I’ve felt the tender sensation in so long.
Instantly sound rushes to my ear drums: screams, cries, men wailing, women begging. Movement is everywhere. I flip my eyes all around. I stand in the center of a chaotic hell with the ruler of Sheol in front of me. People, strapped and chained against the walls, some locked in cages melting away from hunger, others waiting for their turn at the whip. Men stripped naked and covered in blood from wounds that can’t be healed. Women raped with their legs tied apart allowing no fighting and no dignity.
The stench is what weakens my knees and I crash to the ground. The splash diverts my attention. Upon the floor, blood, urine, semen, and other bodily fluid floods around the drain. An inch thick, drenching my knees with the warm liquids. I look up. Eyes are on me, the torturers: the ones holding the instruments of pain. I am horrified to realize that they are Fallen like I am. To see these creatures that I once knew. Angels that I had taught, warded, and loved. Now they are monsters, ugly and hideous, warped by the sins they drown in; grotesquely sharpened horns, black fangs, dirt and grime covering their tacky skin, eyes full of sickness and hate. Their very presence defiles my Soul.
“What is this?” Repugnance and indignation boil my empty veins. I look to Lucius with outrage, “This is not our purpose, Lucius. I didn’t choose to be Fallen for this.”
His sky eyes remain vacant and impassive but I notice a flicker, unable to describe its meaning. He simply holds out his hand.
My brows knit. To give it back would terminate my own suffering but end no one else’s. He would still be here, all these Souls would continue to endure their suffering, and I would go on pretending that none of it is happening.
I throw it back before I run. Far and fast and without stopping.
I crash into demons and monsters alike. Alu snarl chasing after me as I run up the steps. They smell weakness and desire my fear. I break out of the castle, slamming shut the wooden doors and falling against it. My lungs feel like fire, I’m panting and yet nothing is coming. I choke on my own throat, swallowing, spitting, and hyperventilating. I’m shaking and I’m terribly cold in this tortured land. I look up, wetting my lips wondering what other horrible things have been going on and why haven’t I allowed myself to realize it, when I see the worst of it.
Flapping their translucent wings, they scream and squawk at one another, these five-foot tall giant beasts.
The Vetalas. Creatures created by the Darkness, a terrible force that woke when Lucius descended from Heaven. The Vetalas are used for one thing: The destruction of Light.
I feel him, Lucius, and I drop my sight. He stands next to me, his eyes to the sky, his wings draped down his back.
“I will confess what I expose to no one else because you are my brother, Tymician.” Lucius brings his bright blue eyes to me. “I have decided I do not want to live anymore.” He says it so simply, like it’s such an easily accomplished goal but it doesn’t work like that for us, for creatures as old as we are. We cannot just die. Our Light is too strong. Our Souls are unbreakable.
I find myself unable to ask why. I know ‘why’. I understand ‘why’. I can’t even find it in myself to protest, to fight for his life. My best friend, a man that I have cherished and cared for, for over ten thousand years and I can’t even fight for his life. I am more lost than I realized.
It is not out of misery or loathing or of any human trait, which drags us to such desperation. It is simply the desire for sleep. It is a toll to last so long. We are not God and we should not have immortality. To sleep and worry not of tomorrow or of a thousand years from now, would be a blessing and only God sent.
Then I remember fear. The fear I felt in that room. It fills me up again. All those Souls suffering and dying slowly at the hands of Angels, of creatures of God and I ran with my tail between my legs! I shake my head, I don’t want that. I don’t want the world, God’s world to ever become like that. I have to force feeling. I have to force life. Even if it’s fake, I must keep my conscious. I will not allow anyone to drown my family in that terrible horror.
“What are you doing, Lucius? This is not what we planned.”
“You are lost. I will guide you as I have before. For nine thousand years we attempted to rid the world of Darkness, Tymician. It is time to surrender vain hopes. I will end our eternity. I will end it all.”
I clutch the door. Shock keeps me there. My eyes are on him, his wings, the purest item in all of Sheol, the brightest and most beautiful Light this world has ever seen sways unbidden down the path to the Second Level. Vetalas circle above him like vultures. They stay far away, fearing more than they desire.
I transcend. I remove myself from Second Hell and I land roughly back on the Earth plain.
The sun is shining and birds chirp distantly, mocking me. I am not fooled. Nature is aware of her son’s undead army building in the dark pits of Hell. She pretends to be innocent but she is anything but the type of woman God thinks she is.
I stare at my house, quiet in the early morning. My path is clear now. Lucius reminded me of what kind of man I am. I will move Kyla to a safe location and then raise the armies against him. I may not be a warrior but I am a Fallen and Fallen are the only creatures capable of defeating the Dark forces of Sheol.