Hours I have laid here in this oversized bed without the will to rise. My Soul requires nourishment, it needs the revitalization of Heaven’s powerful Light but I deny it. I lay here staring at the far wall, as I have done for hours upon hours, sinking further into depression.
My hands lay out before me, hanging off the side of the bed. Wrapped in white thick gauze they remain useless, chunks of flesh horribly deformed by the fire that cursed them. Special ointments and herbs choke the room with its foulness but mercifully, they’ve relieved the pain.
Gula, a frightening, disfigured Angel shuffled around my abode with fluffy slippers and a sheer gown full of wrinkles and stains. She smelt of baby powder and a grave stacked of diseased body parts. After my attack with the Alu beasts, I was incapable of denying such distasteful aid. Dane attempted to produce pity out of me, telling me how witches had cursed her but that did nothing to ease my repugnance. Even her breath had been rank. If not for Dane’s subtle looks of warnings, I would have forgone her distorted touch.
Hairy warts bulged upon each finger. I eyed them as she prayed. Mumbling in languages foreign and fake, she rocked her bulbous body as if possessed, shaking beads and sticks.
I didn’t need her religious garbage. Praying would fix nothing, I wished to scream as I wallowed in agony. But with each minute rolling on, my body relaxed under her ministrations and now, I am numb.
Pray, she told me, and the scarring would be minimal.
Such foolish human antics have never saved me from anything. In the Southern tribes, the one I was born to my first life, they called themselves the Awati-jasi. I can only surmise after everything I have learned now, that they conjured their religion from drifters and nomads, considering we were cut off from nearly every source of building civilization growing around us. We called our woods the Gundu-outis, yet humans would soon dub it, Congo, Africa.
From little tidbits received from strangers, from our own made-up thoughts, from nature that constantly changes around us; we contrived our own religion that personal sacrifice made the rainfall. Our sins made the gods angry. If we starved our bodies and scarred our skin, they would forgive us for our misdeeds.
Multiple times in that life, I stared upon the sky, nearly dying, praying for the gods’ mercy, desiring a minute of rainfall or a possum to fall into one of our many traps. Did the gods know I lacked faith then? Could they read how I did not believe? Every day I witnessed my brothers and sisters go through the same rituals and observed clear skies.
The gods didn’t care if we had water. They didn’t care if we ate. We were human and inconsequential to their livelihood. But I kept quiet. I lived twenty-five years in silence until I died of malnourishment.
It isn’t faith that I lack now. I believe in God and I know God believes in me. But I must pay for my sin. No amount of praying will heal my rotting flesh. Just like no amount of praying made the rainfall.
It is retribution that redeems.
A tear drops off my nose. Aggravation boils. I hate feeling sorry for myself. It’s a human thing to do, it’s what a lesser being does.
I keep thinking back to the Fallen, to Cleophas and the fright so evident in his gaze. How could he be so scared to die? Fallen should not feel anything.
More tears and I desire my wings to offer the comfort they intuitively surrender. Because of the shrouds that infuse this location, I must wear a diffuser. My wings dissolved, a section of my Soul sealed into the amulet that hangs as dead weight around my neck. I am human, as human as I can possibly be. Dane has even lowered my standings by forcing me in drab clothing: gray slacks that must be rolled tight around the ankle and a plain white t-shirt that drools off me. I am a dwarf in a giant’s clothing. The worst of it had been the help warranted. I am invalid, incapable of the slightest competences.
“How long,” I swing my head around, panic striking my heart. Dane leans against the doorway. A jacket in his crook of his arm, his hands deep in the pockets of his pants, “Do you plan to lie here?”
I breathe heavily. Satan isn’t far from my thoughts and Dane’s voice is a dark cavern much similar to that monster’s. Will I ever forget the sound of the Devil?
My head drops and I continue my vigilant stare on the wall. “What does it matter?”
“This isn’t like you. You are keeping something more from me. What else did you do?”
My eyes squeeze shut, “Just go away.”
His bare feet slap against the stone, “Will you have me find out from others, like before? Is that how this will be done?”
He is breaking me, doesn’t he realize it? My body trembles as much as I try to keep control of it. “There is nothing else.” Despite the harshness of my tone, I can hear myself plea.
“I’m to believe you now? After all the lies?” He stands at the edge of the bed, a king looming over his soldier, “Look at me.”
I snap up, with my damaged hands held out before me. I meet his eyes, tears pouring down my face and as pathetically as it may seem, I beseech him, “Enough, il mio amore, si prega abbastanza.” My pride shatters upon such a request and I fold into bed again, burying my face into the pillow hoping now he’ll leave me for good.
Dane is perfection, a rare and irreplaceable creation. How could he understand me? I am diminutive and inconsequential to his grandeur. I constantly labor to gain acceptance and approval. I work with the foulest of creatures to propel my own status further in this rigorous battle for higher end rank and title if only to be worthy of Dane’s gaze.
Soul Mates are supposed to be a grand find. It is what one struggles to obtain, a discovery of never-ending love and a partner who by no means judges or expects more than what they have. I imagine Dane received the ‘short end of the stick’ when he discovered me in human form, at a late age of fifty-one living my sixth life in Milan, Italy.
We were never a perfect match and it’s hard to understand what makes us Soul mates. Our Souls yearn for each other. They pull toward one another and it’s frustrating to keep apart when you’re so close. I keep telling myself that it’s wrong. My Soul chose the wrong man.
How can his Soul need me and not love me?
I feel the bed shift as he rests beside me. I wish I had my wings to protect me, to guard me against the hands I’ve come to trust and know so well. I don’t want him near me. I don’t want him to witness this wretched version of me that needs support. I’m ashamed and the more he sees me like this, the more I desire nothing less than to run away and never return.
Dane is hesitant. He fears my reaction almost as much as I do. I don’t want to go, but how can I stay? As I am, I’m not worth looking upon. A hand tentatively rests upon my hip. Tears drip off my nose and roll down my temple soaking into the pillow beneath. His touch is not welcome and I don’t respond to it. I want him to leave. I’m too foul for such a creature of God.
I haven’t run and encouraged, he moves closer, resting his chin upon my shoulder, “I said harsh things because I worry. I have seen all this before.--”
“All of what?” I bite inhospitably.
“What you’re doing. The way you’re doing it. How you’re doing it. I have lost too many close to me. And now, you are slipping.”
I sit up, breaking any physical contact quickly and I reply, full of insult, “I’m not slipping.”
His anger comes readily at hand, “You’ve killed four Angels, Anna. God’s children.”
Defensive walls spring up and I move away, pacing the floor. Outrage pours into me, killing my sadness. “No. No. They stopped being God’s children when they Fell.”
“They will always be God’s. He loves them all, don’t you see Anna, what you are doing is against everything He wants for us?”
“Then why hasn’t He said anything? Where is He? Why hasn’t He done anything? Don’t I matter? Doesn’t He see me at all?”
Dane’s brows contort in sadness, “Don’t you matter? Anna, of course you matter. He doesn’t intercede because He wants us to choose our own paths. Love and happiness is supposed to be our guide. He won’t tell you what to do. What’s the point of life if He tells you how to live it? And God is always with you, Anna. He created you. He’s inside of you.”
I yearn for my wings, to comfort me in the way Dane is failing to do. “You betray God, Dane. Not I.” My hands lay helpless, big balls of uselessness. I wish to cut them off. “You love those creatures. You love Tymician even after He betrayed all of you.”
Dane rises from the bed and stands firm. Any emotion I’ve woken drains and he is catatonic once again. “You know nothing of what happened, Anna. Don’t speak of things you don’t understand.”
I step up to him with a wicked smirk, proud that I can knock him off his high horse. “I did research.” I smugly reply. “You, Ariel, and Tymician were called the Three Lambs.” His eyes darken and his hands clench but that doesn’t stop me. I want to hurt him, I realize. To cause the same pain he causes me by refusing to love me the way I am. “The three of you all became Angels at the same moment out of sacrifice for God, for love, and for faith. You were inseparable in Heaven.”
He turns to leave.
“He is far worse than me. He betrayed you. Left you. But I haven’t. I’m still here. What makes him so special to deserve your love?”
His back is to me. Why am I pushing him away when all I want is for him to stay? Tears blur my vision and I feel my body tremble.
“When you are ready to tell me what you did, I’ll be in the other room.”
He’s gone. And I’m alone.
I sit on the bed, staring at the muddy stone. My small bare feet press against the cold floor. This entire place is shabby and grungy. A typical location for my Soul Mate to reside. His tastes are shallow in standing. While I would prefer a marble mansion surrounded by lush gardens and a lavish Olympic-sized pool, Dane would opt for a rotting lean two in the desert. Will I ever be able to understand his idiosyncratic ideals? Or will we constantly be two opposing forces, warring?
I am to blame. I push and shove but he stands a statue, unfazed. As I am tornado ripping through a city, tearing down every house and stone building in my path, Dane is an unyielding tree, with roots so deep no amount of wind or rain can bow his branches. If he were any lesser being, I wouldn’t love him with such a fierceness.
I am wrong to think he can’t help me. Who else is capable of saving me from the Devil? God won’t do it, but Dane will if only to save the other half of his Soul. I need to tell him Satan came to me. He will protect me. He will take me into his giant arms and love me as he once loved me before I damaged myself with my first scar.
I lack courage to rise however. I stare at my hands, grotesque and useless in their cast. Will he help me, I wonder. His silence during my trial forbears doubt. I needed him then and he did not show.
Movement sounds from outside my door gaining my attention. I flick my eyes toward it but I can see nothing. I however hear the soft steps of feet. Someone has arrived at our humble home. It is the middle of the night. Who would come here at such a time? Panic sets to quicken my heart. I have no doubt that the Merci seeks my Soul. The Ruling comes for me.
I peek out, stalling when I hear a male’s voice in Dane’s study. “How does she fair?”
“She struggles.” Dane sighs with exhaustion and my guilt rises. It is my fault that he is so weary. “Your audacity is outstanding, Dion.”
My heart pounds. Fallen Dion of the Tiya visits. He must be seeking vengeance for Cleophas. If coincidences exist then it just so happens that the last Fallen I destroyed was under his rule as well. My eyes couldn’t stop venturing to him during the many trial proceedings as he sat silent and vigilant. The monster of a man scared me more than any verdict could.
Replying with a voice full of smugness, his voice booms, “We couldn’t come to an agreement last time but I thought perhaps now, you’ll be more accommodating.”
Dane chuckles, low and barely audible. I hear the squeak of his chair. I tip toe closer, pressing my wrist against the chain around my neck so it makes no sound. I lean around the doorway, only one eye daring enough to have a look upon two Erelim Elders banter.
Dane leans back in his chair, unbothered it seems, with three fingers holding the side of his face, staring up at Dion. Dion stands as a giant in leather sandals, a white skirt with plenty of gold casings surrounding his hips, wrists, and neck. His long brown hair, windblown, unkempt and tangled, dangles just below his shoulders. It reminds me well of Dane’s black locks. Except I know Dane has recently shaved his head much to my dismay.
“Will I be?” Dane replies casually. “Enlighten me on your reasoning.”
Dion doesn’t hesitate. “There were multiple witnesses attesting to Anna’s malevolent murder of Cleophas. It is her second offense on record. There is other evidence developing to her first and second killings. The Merci will not allow an Angel murderer to roam the streets of Earth, no matter if she is your mate or not. When I go in the morning to report her, the Ruling will send out the Gloria Patri and she will be arrested. Unless of course, I don’t go.”
I fall back against the wall. Murderer?
“And why wouldn’t you go?”
“Tymician was hiding something from all of us. I want it.”
“And you think I can get it?”
“You’re Transcending. I’m sure you know where she is.”
“Hn.” Dane seems to already know who he is talking about.
“She’s a danger to our world. You must know that. Kyla needs to be put away.”
My eyes flicker in recognition. The Devil said that name to me. He wants me to kill her for him. I’m a murderer, aren’t I? That’s what murderers do. And if I’m slipping then why not secure my place as an Elder? Satan said he’d make me an Elder. The Angels wish to lock me away so I’ll never see the Earth and it’s beautiful rays of light again. But Satan, he’d award me for all the justice I’ve been doing. He knows how hard I’ve worked to help God, and how God is shunning me. Satan won’t shun me. Satan would give me exactly what I deserve.
Dane’s voice breaks the terrible train of thoughts. “Let me enlighten you now. You may go to the Ruling but this case will be thrown out. Your witnesses are not viable and I will tell you why.” The chair squeaks and I turn to look inside again. Dane stands now, rounding the desk, approaching Dion who is stiff and tense. “They sought to harm my Soul Mate. When I visit them, and surely, I must look into their eyes, I will ask them how they could dare raise a hand to the other portion of my Soul. They will find themselves unable to go through with the trial so ashamed they will be. They will fall to their knees blubbering in forgiveness and perhaps one will admit they had brought the knife and another that they even killed Cleophas himself. Who knows? Not I, certainly.”
Dion shakes his head, a slight smirk on his lips, “You deceive yourself, if you cannot see her for what she is.”
Dane leans upon his desk, his arms folding with interest. “Your jealousy is remarkable. After all this time, do you still burn that Isis did not fight for you?”
Dion’s massive fingers fist and his pectorals twitch beneath the medallion, “You do not fight, Dane. You are a mote of dust, barely viable. You are hardly here now, speaking to me. I remember the days when there was still spark in your eyes. Even after Ariel stopped loving you, you managed to be more than what you are standing here before me. Will you feel anything when she Falls? Can you feel anything now?”
I scurry to my bedroom, reaching the mattress with my hands out before me. I stare at the ground, unseeing. He had been with Ariel? I had never known such a detail. He had never told me. How could I match up to such a superior being? She is an Erelim, a creature of similar proportions, designed for his equal, while I am an ant, meant to be squashed by his shoe.
I maneuver to lie down upon the bed, with my back to the doorway, attempting to put the covers under my legs but it’s a terrible feat. I feel Dane’s gaze and I stiffen.
“I’m going out for a while. Will you be okay?”
“I will always be okay.”
“Rosalind is sleeping but if you need her she can hear you call. Have her change your bandages in an hour.”
Just like that, Dane walks out of my life.
I sit up, staring at the doorway. I listen to the door shut at the bottom of the stairway. The silence is deafening. I drop my gaze to my damaged hands. I look around the foreign room. I have never felt so disconnected from the world, from Dane, from God. There is nothing that keeps me here.
So why stay?
I leave the compound, bare feet tripping in the dirt. I don’t know where I am. The barren land provides no direction. The street is covered in sand. A single street light flickers in the night. To my right and left there is nothing but stars glittering above but they bring me no comfort.
I look down to my necklace wondering how I’m to take this blasted thing off with my wounded appendages. I have to leave and abandon this unknown world. I don’t know where I’ll go but Dane doesn’t want me here. I’m causing trouble for him. I’m a rebellious child and he is a wearisome parent. This is not a relationship. He only loves me because he has to. He only cares because of duty. I’ll be damned if I allow it. I’ll have my pride if nothing else.
Rage boils as I twist with the necklace, my thumbs catching on the chain with much difficulty, I yank it from my skin, throwing it down, stamping on the amulet with the arch of my heel. The glass shatters, piercing my skin, drawing blood as my wings uncoil, whipping out behind me, flapping in greeting, healed, happy and whole. They may be the only thing in this world that truly loves me.
“Anna Martholow.” Satan’s voice whispers and I fling my eyes up to find him before me, standing just inside the Dust. His own three sets of wings lay around him like a billowing pure white blanket. He stares down at me, the crystal of his gaze hypnotizing, “How can anyone or anything love a murderer?”
“Begone, Satan.” My quivering voice forces out.
“I was an Angel, just like you. I strove to make God happy. But it seemed no matter how I struggled, He and I did not agree. You and I are the same, Anna Martholow. You will never be enough in the eyes of God or in the eyes of Dane Monte. How could you be? But with me, you can be great. You can be his equal here.”
I turn to run but Lucius is before me again. No. His name is Satan. Satan is not an Angel. He does not deserve an Angel’s name.
“Leave me alone!”
“Oh, you poor girl. You are scared. Falling is a scary thing. If only God were here.” He chuckles at this and looks around, “But where is he? No where!”
I look down at myself and try to tell myself the words Dane said. God is within me. He created me. But if I am equal to all of God’s creations, then why does no one love me? Lucius looks down on me with his shining blue eyes, light even in the dark.
“You will be loved here, Anna Martholow. You will be accepted here.”
Will I? I don’t know if he speaks true, but so many others have gone to his side and so little have ever returned. Perhaps it won’t be so bad. Tears flow down my cheeks and my wings encircle me in an effort to comfort. I wish to hold their feathers in my hands. I desire to hold Dane in my arms. I crave to be anywhere else in the world but yet here, is the only place that someone notices me.
“You want Kyla.” I whisper on shaking breath. “What do I have to do?”