My knuckles are numb and raw and my forearms tingle with an all too familiar sensation of overuse. The bag swings and which each hit it trembles yet I continue in a stupid effort to expel the memories from today.
Friends attempted to weasel their way into my anxiety but my silent looks of death sent them off with their hands held up in surrender.
What am I to say to them? God came to me? No one is going to believe me. I don’t believe it myself. If I didn’t hold the silver cross in my pocket, I would have thrown the dream aside. Now I am at a crossroad I don’t want to be standing at. I have no one to talk to. There are plenty of people I consider my companion, but what friend would bypass logic for me?
Exhaustion collapses me finally and I sit beside the swinging bag, reaching for the bottle of water someone kindly left behind. It’s only midnight but the gym is near empty. There is a match in South Manhattan and ten thousand dollars goes to the winner. I pant as I squirt a shot of liquid into my mouth. Most of it sprays over my lips and trails down my thickening beard, dripping on the black mat beneath my spread legs. I throw the bottle down looking at my hands. They shake as I spread my fingers. Blood peaks through the tape around my knuckles.
Little by little, I slowly undo the wrap and flex the swelling members of my hands, pouring water over it and wiping the blood off on my shorts.
‘You have never needed me, Sable. It is I that needs you.’
My head shakes, flicking my gaze to the ground. I am killing myself over that man. He was just a man. Why do I believe him? He said a few things to me that caught my attention and suddenly I trust in the fact he’s God? Is my faith so fragile that I will cling to anything? It is disgusting how vulnerable I am.
Even as I think these negative tangents, that stranger knew I used to gaze out my window when I was little. Such a habit was private and known by only my parents and my nanny. Friends rarely visited our home. We were the ones that went over others for dinner or birthdays. I have never met that person before. How could he know such an important detail in my early life?
It doesn’t matter, I tell myself. It doesn’t make him God.
I get to my feet, snatching my water bottle, my shirt stiff with sweat, and the shards of the tape to throw out and head to the locker rooms. It’s empty and every noise I make echoes. I sit at the bench, staring at my jeans that hold the cross, wondering if it is still inside my pocket or if time has eroded its existence. If this whole thing had been a dream, I don’t know if I’ll be relieved or not.
I reach in and curl my fingers around the chain, clenching my teeth. The cross twirls as I hold it out in front of me. Disappointment knits my brows and I hang my head with tangible relief. I rest my chin on my arm, staring at the silver trinket, a trinket I hold in my memory as my mother would scold me. It is such a simple item to cause a high volume of stress in someone. I am not a materialistic person but because of that old fellow, my faith in God is slowly renewing itself, all on account that I hold this tiny object in my hand.
I stuff it back in my black jeans. I still haven’t gone home and changed. It will be the third day that I’ve worn the same outfit. I care even less than before. I snatch my phone up and place it to my ear. It isn’t long until a tired voice comes upon the other end and a soft smile stretches as yearning aches in my chest. “Issie.” I murmur. It’s terrible of me to call her but whom else can I reach out too? She wakes instantly in panic. “I’m a’ight.” I assure her, opening my locker to gaze at a picture of her smiling face. “Sorry for calling so late.” I remember taking the photo. We had gone on a random date. Nothing about our relationship was redundant or procedure. Whenever she could track me down, she found it a blessing. How could she love me? How could anyone love me? “Can I come over?”
It gives me direction. I have none otherwise. The geezer was unspecific about what I needed to do and the only thing he did was confuse me and turn my already screwed up world into an unstable environment that I cannot handle.
‘I know who you are, Sable.’
Jumping in the shower, I scrub myself raw staring at the ceiling, wondering if God is up there now. He may know who I am but what does who I am have to do with the fact that I can’t grip what he wants me to do?
Let’s just say I believe that man was God, fine. I’m not going to be resentful or hateful toward Him for everything that’s happened. What good would that do anyone? Things happen. I’m mad at the people that harmed me, not at Him. I’m mad that He didn’t come, but who am I out of the seven billion people suffering on the Earth? Plenty need Him more than I ever did. I made it without Him. There are those that can’t.
But what am I supposed to do now? He renews my faith, he gives me this necklace, tells me I am supposed to help the human race, and then he just leaves! That does nothing! I’m left with nothing!
I snatch a folded towel from the rack and pat myself dry, finding my face in the mirror. I come to a standstill looking straight at my eyes. It’s then I calm this building rage and the churning seas become still waters. Why am I getting so upset over that crooked old fool? I repeat that single question: who am I out of the seven billion people on Earth? Why would God choose me? That doesn’t make sense at all, does it?
A smile spreads across my lips as I scoff, shaking my head. I am being ridiculous.
Returning to my clothes, I’m relieved that I have a hidden pair of boxers stuffed in the back. They’ve been there for a while it seems because they don’t rightly fit over my thighs. I hear a thread tear as I yank them further. I pull up my jeans and snatch a clean white tank. It’s the only thing we have around here that’s shared. I don’t want to wear the same Metallica T-shirt. It’s by far too gross to put on, even for my standards. I do without socks, slipping on my shoes and tying them up. I need to go home. I think it’s time.
Instead of calling Isabelle, I text her that I’m sorry and it isn’t a good idea that I come over. She replies that it’s alright but if I need her don’t be afraid. If anything I’m glad she and I are still friends. I hope we can continue down that road.
Walking the dark streets, I sweat instantly. The warm air stinks of sewage and raw body parts. I hate the summer. I won’t complain when fall finally hits.
My body stiffens when I hear two sets of footprints stalking behind me. I’m paranoid by nature. Growing up as I, you adapt a sixth sense to when you’re being followed and I realize instantly that the two varmints behind me are on my trail. I jeer at their stupidity. I’ve just come from a gym. I may not have enormous muscles or anything but they can surmise that I have good cardio and probably take some type of judo class. Even more so, they can bet I can outrun them. They picked the wrong person to mess with.
When we come to a streetlight, I flip around to face them. “Can I help you?”
They stay just outside the circle of light, keeping to the shadows. I can make out they wear hoodies, their faces covered in darkness. One is short and almost appears to be a girl. They do not respond and it irks my patience. “I ain’t got no money, so go on. There’s a shelter down on Fifth Ave. They still take in people at this time. Don’t give’em no grief, though. They got a cop on duty.”
I turn around and take a few steps, hearing them rightly follow. I turn around again only to find that they have circled the light’s edge and have separated, one on my right and one on my left. I flick my gaze back and forth between them, my fists tight, pained from the exertion from prior. “Dude, I don’t know what you want, but I don’t got nothing.” My heart increases preparing for a fight.
“Are you sure this is him?” My brows knit and I flick my eyes about but I’m pretty sure it came from above. I move up to the buildings around. There is nothing but shadow. “He’s so….” My eyes shift on a will of their own, and I look straight at the light, blinding my gaze but seeing the dark silhouette nonetheless perched right on its head. “Puny.”
I squint, shielding my sight, blinking rapidly to clear my gaze and soon the image clears. Knelled with his hands resting over his knees, a lanky man looks down at me, sitting on top of the streetlight.
“It’s him, Sloth.” The female to the right declares. “The Angel we caught pointed him out. He’s got the pendent.”
“I want to see it.” He tiredly demands.
Without hearing a sound or seeing movement, an arm encircles my neck. It happened within a single moment. The speed wasn’t possible. He only finished his sentence before a crony did as bid. There was no time to think or time to react. His hand digs into my pocket and I reach for it but I can do little as breath becomes scarce in his unflinching hold. I pound my fist upon his forearm yet he reacts to nothing, holding out my necklace. It twinkles in the glow of the light.
The man upon the light leans over nearly to the point of falling until frighteningly he does just that but his feet stay glued to the lamppost. His whole body stretches down toward the ground. His jacket billows up around him. He reaches out to the column snatching a hold of it and hand over hand, climbs down, against the weight of gravity. My eyes widen in terror. I struggle for air and belief. He flips at the last moment, an easy feat as he lands on his feet.
I get a better view of his face now. Bleach dyed hair chopped short and ruff on his egg-shaped head. His cheeks sink in and his eyes are hollow, exposing the black pupils that lay inside them. He smiles wide as he steps up, observing the twirling trinket. “There it is.” He chuckles giddily. “I got me the leader.” His gaze moves to me, looking me up and down as if I’m meat. “I’m doing good.”
He’s a fool if he believes that. His biggest mistake was stepping right in front of me. He must not be a fighter.
As limited as my air is I take a deep breath through my nose, push up and walking my feet up the length of the stranger’s body, kicking him in the face, pushing back on my captor. We fall back to the ground and I twist out of his neck hold, slamming my fist into his face, snatching back my necklace before jumping to my feet and taking off on an all-out sprint. I only hear echoing laughter following behind me.
I stumble, jolting, twisting to keep myself from knocking into the woman of the two muggers who appears in front of me. Again, it’s without a sound, within a single breath of movement and I can’t comprehend such inhumane speed. “What,” I huff, attempting to catch my breath, “What do you want?”
Her head lifts and light reaches into the shadow of her face. Unconsciously I step back, terror clenching every muscle in my body as I meet the holes where her eyes should be and the eaten portion of a nose. Her lips torn from her skin, she spreads them into a grin. She bares blackened teeth, “Your flesh.” She steps forward and I trip backward, “Your bones.”
I grip the floor to get back on my feet ignoring the weakening in my knees.
“Your blood.” She sniggers, “Your Light.” Her sharp claws snatch my arm digging each nail into my bicep.
I cry out, scratching at her hand. “Please. Let me go.” Fear encompasses my will to fight. I can’t hit a girl no matter how diseased or horrible deformed she is. I don’t know what’s going on but I have to reach her some other way other than violence. “Ma’am, I’m begging you. Let me go.”
She ignores my request. Her head flips about in sudden urgency. Her comrades should have arrived and yet they aren’t anywhere. She and I are alone. Her fear is tangible. If she feels such an emotion then I can reach her.
My hand rests upon hers digging into my arm. “You don’t have to do this.”
Her other hand slaps upon mine and pins it to the wall. The holes of her gaze focuses upon me and I look right back at her. I swallow bile. The sight is unforgettable.
“You can still go. I won’t tell anybody. Just go.”
The pressure of her fingertips loosens. I smile, reassuring her I’m not going to attack.
Her face crumbles in terrible agony and her torn lips open wide as a scream pierces through. Her head tilts back and the black of her orbs convert to boiling red. I look on horrified, unable to help and before I understand it, her body crumbles into ashes at my feet.
I stare at the pile frozen, panting, hyperventilating, and comprehending nothing but my heart beating.
I’m not alone. Snapping my head up, in the light of a street lamp there is a white middle-aged man. It is the same man from this afternoon. Even though there is no book in his hand and no glasses on his face, he wears the same emotionless expression as he did before. He stares at me with hands stuffed in a long black jacket. Gold necklaces wrap over his throat and hang, glinting in the light.
My face twists in outrage. My anger, my confusion, I unleash on this stranger. “She was letting me go! What did you do to her?” Tears sting my eyes as I look down at the remains. Shock quakes my nerves to find the sidewalk empty and bare. I glanced around haphazardly for proof that what I saw wasn’t my imagination.
“It was real. Stop your doubt. You will understand everything soon enough but you must follow me.”
Fury boils in my chest, “I’m not doing anything. I don’t know you, bro. Stay away from me.” I step over the disappeared ashes and hurry in the opposite direction, holding tight to my bleeding arm. It’s the sound of my name that stalls me.
“Sable. God needs you.”
I stare at the empty street.
“I haven’t time to deal with your human sentiments. They are not my specialty. We must be quick or others will come. Do you want more death on your hands?”
I swing around, “My hands!” I fastened on him, pointing a rough finger at his chest, “She was letting me go and you killed her!” He’s insanely tall and I back off intimidated.
“Demons have little sympathy and plenty of fear. It might have let you go but not because of anything you have said to it. It was alone with no one to lead it. And mind you, learn this well: You cannot kill what does not live. You however are ripe for the reaping. If you do not follow my instruction, you will fail the entire human race. We have to move, do you understand? God put you in grave danger when He spoke to you. He cannot grasp the Darkness. It is His fallacy. You must find the other portion of your Soul.”
“The portion of my Soul?”
He glances around and the simple act makes me nervous. “Move with me and we will talk.”
I wanted direction. I glance back toward the street that would lead me home. It’s lonely and vacant. There is no knowledge down such a road. My apartment is empty. I have nothing there to return to and no one cares if I ever return to it. If I follow this stranger, I have the ability to learn just what God wants from me. I’m believing in the fact that out of seven billion people, He chose me. I am no one special it is true enough but perhaps God thinks I am. Is it wrong to hope?
“Here” He hands me a card. I gaze at it in a quick haste. It’s for a hotel, the Sofitel on 44th Street in Times Square. I remember watching it built. I was sixteen and I imagined a day I would spend in such a luxurious place. My mother would have rented a night just to say she had. She loved expensive things, if only to prove her worth to the world. “If you ever need help, go there.” On the back, there are two names. Dane and Isis.
“Are you Dane?” He nods once. “How do you know who I am?”
“You’ll understand everything soon.”
I play with my eyebrow piercing. He believes. No, I should say, he knows God exists. He’s helping me for God. “Are you a Saint?” In Roman Catholic religion, Saints are allowed to intercede in God’s plans and oftentimes come to Earth to help the human race.
He chuckles and I feel shame for my stupidity. “I guess you can say that.” I lift my eye to him but he continues to stare straight.
“So, this part about my missing Soul?”
“You have your Soul. You only need the rest of it.” My brows knit in contemplation. He sighs as if with aggravation. “Prophets are born every generation but rarely do we need them.”
He ignores me. “In order to keep them safe from encounters like the one you have just experienced, their souls are split with other people or with objects so no one knows who they are. Right now you are a normal human with a normal Soul.”
Confused in an odd way, “And when we find the rest of my Soul? What will I be then?”
He flicks humorous eyes toward me, “You will be the leader of the human race. The first Prophet since the days of Lysander.” He shrugs, “Well, Jesus, that’s what you humans call him.”
I stop in my tracks unable to pretend to grasp this conversation any longer, “A Prophet? That’s what I am?” I throw my hands up, “I’m following crazy people. First the old man, and now you . I don’t know why I’m doing this to myself. Look I’m going home. “
Splitting my Soul; that’s the first I’ve heard of that. I don’t remember that in bible study. Logic spews at me every lyric I’ve ever memorized in church and I can’t help recall them now. ‘We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of Heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light--’
That woman wanted my Light, didn’t she?
My entire childhood I had faith in the ‘seen and unseen’. I believed there was more to this world than what I saw on the streets every day. I imagined creatures working in secret to help us live our lives. I trusted in God and I put my faith in His hands. I never stopped believing in that. So why can’t I believe in this moment?
“Sable.” I stop my feet, brows knit with indecision. “I don’t know your life. I can’t speak to you as God does. I have no sympathy for your sufferings but as a prophet, no doubt you have many. If you do not do this, people will die. That is the only thing I can assure you of. Lack faith, lack trust, lack belief. It doesn’t matter. None of it will save anyone.” I turn to him. If this is supposed to change my mind he’s doing a crappy job of it. He seems to care little to that fact, gazing at me with an impassive gaze. “What will save them will be you. That alone is enough to change the fate of the world.”
“I’m nothing.” I murmur.
“We are all nothing. Nothing but Light. And Light can do amazing things.”
Pursuing my lips, I play with my piercing for a moment before I trudge toward him. “Show me.”