At four months into Kyla’s stay, we went to Mexico. Plane rides were becoming her next favorite thing and though emotion was still far from her grasp, the fact I couldn’t tear her from the window seat was enough to assure me I was beginning to understand her.
I had recently bought a notebook for her to relay all her thoughts. I knew by now how all girls liked privacy and Kyla, though atypical in character, couldn’t be far from female equivalence. Every so often, I’d notice her whip it open, scribble a short paragraph before slapping it closed.
I wasn’t allowed to read it, of course. It was private.
I picked random places for us to visit. Places full of human history and relevance. Kyla was a quiet partner. She loved to listen. I described to her every building, every piece of architecture, the culture and the antiquity of the people. She heeded with vivid interest, occasionally putting a note in her journal but otherwise keeping her eyes on her surroundings.
I observed her with ecstatic anticipation. She was a new puppy in my eyes. God had given me a conundrum and I was eager to figure out what exactly she was. I brought her to Mexico in a futile attempt to unveil her past, to comprehend what kind of creature was underneath the mystery.
We stopped to eat at a small restaurant, sitting outside where I continued to teach my lesson. Her eyes wandered from me quickly however, sparking my interest. I wondered if she felt the newcomers. Canines bounded towards us with tongues drooping from their mouths and tails wagging in tangible jubilation, running into each other, tripping over their own feet in their hustle before the six of them all circled us seeking our attention.
Kyla simply sat in her chair; glowering at them with blank, brown eyes.
"Don’t you like them? They are sweet beasts.” There was a woman on our block back home who had a dog that loved to chat. As I recalled, Kyla didn’t like that hound either.
"No.” She replied, simply. Her gaze flicked upward, paying little attention to the animals and pinning her cold expression on their owner.
Gula sauntered several paces back. She was an Angel, a highly praised doctor, aged and learned in many arts. She however has been trapped in a body not of her chosen, similar to Fallen standards. Her form was dreadfully morbid and cursed. A deformed crooked spine and terribly obese, she approached sluggishly with shuffling feet, dressed in a black and red moo-moo.
I greeted her with giddiness only to be surprised at the fear reflecting in her grayed scrutiny. She began to turn away.
I fastened to my feet, “Gula, darling.” I wrapped a loving arm around her, directing her toward our table. I spoke Spanish for her. Kyla was apt in the language and Gula barely spoke any language well. “We’ve come so far to meet you. Please stay. This is Kyla.”
Gula clenched tight to my hands. The fatty skin hanging off her chin wiggled as she peeled backwards, jerking taut in my arms. Her dogs growled in warning, lowering their jaws to the ground, bearing their sharp fangs. Gula pointed a misshapen finger “No, No. Gula knows what you are.” She trembled. “Gula tell no one.”
I ignored her distress. Gula was superstitious and dreaded the wind and rain. I kept my firm grasp. “Gula, I want you to help her. I think something is affecting her mental state.”
Her fingers, warped by arthritis gripped a hold of my shirt. “Don’t touch her. She no want you- touch her. She fix self.” Gula pushed me but I tentatively kept ahold, unsatisfied with the response. I wanted more. I wanted Kyla whole.
Her dogs bit at my ankles as I eagerly drove on, “Gula, what do you see? Tell me what you see?”
Gula stumbled from me, yelling over her shoulder, “Stay away. She get mad.”
I glanced back at Kyla. She sat writing in her journal, particularly caring little for the conversation at hand. The dogs took off scurrying after their master. I sat beside Kyla, perturbed, observing as she drew little lines on the paper before her.
"Kyla, are you upset?” I questioned, wondering if Gula sensed something I did not.
Her head shook. “No.” Her brown eyes lifted. No hint of aggravation or rage lingered in the light of her eyes. She seemed even content.
"You didn’t like Gula?”
A soft smile approached her lips, “What is Gula? Is that what this meal is called? I like it well enough. It is a bit spicy.”
If I could use my full potential, this skirmish with these young Sins would be over already. They do not know who I am, I have made it a point to keep my distance from the lower levels of Sheol. But I know who and what they are. And for them to come for Kyla only supports the dire need I have to protect her. I can’t however fight with my Light. Alexander’s apartment is on the eighth floor with four remaining levels. If Sloth, Wrath, or I expand our power, the building will collapse and we will put weak Souls like Alex and Kyla in grave danger. Though it is not my enemies’ care, it is mine.
As such, I access only ten percent of my ability. It takes much practice to harness the magnitude of my Light. As I am Transcending, it gets trickier everyday but I endure it to stay on Earth and be with my family. I doubt I have much time left as my Light continues to evolve. And since I refuse to live as Dane Monte, another Transcending Erelim like myself, I will end up leaving Earth for good.
Wrath and Sloth twist from my fingers, shoving dual fists into my ribcage. I am thankful they aren’t truly trying to win. Their cockiness is apparent. They believe I fight with my all. It is the only advantage I have and I must use it at the right moment.
Kyla is behind the door to Alexander’s bedroom. He should be scaling down the emergency hatch with her thrown over his shoulder. He doesn’t comprehend the situation we are in. I guess I shouldn’t expect him too. He is a Newborn Angel barely involved in the remote society that surrounds him. He encompasses the human network, carling little for Angel politics and its hierarchy yet he knows enough to stay out the eyes of the clans and the Ruling. I’ve known Alexander for the past hundred years and he’s apt in staying underground. He can surely get by, running.
If I have to leave Kyla, can I trust him enough with her life?
An opening presents itself. Their swollen pupils search for knives that scattered on the ground. They pluck them up with their black fingernails and in that moment, I expand just a fraction of my strength. The tiles crack at my feet. My speed is faster than they can perceive and I am behind them before they notice. I slam an elbow at the base of Wrath’s neck, so harshly and accurate, I shatter his spine in one hit. His body hits the floor, dead weight beneath me.
My knee catches me as Wrath’s figure disappears, returning to the Darkness. It distracts me for a moment as I get my footing. Sloth doesn’t let me catch my barring and he swings a cutting knife to meet my face. I snatch the blade between my fingers. It doesn’t penetrate my skin but instead shatters into fragments.
Sloth’s black eyes widen in sudden realization. “You tricked us.”
I stand firm, proud. My open vest will reveal who I am if he takes a moment to figure it out. I hope it will be enough to send him running. “Do you know who I am?”
The question stalls him and he studies me, his gaze focusing on the long white incision running deep and straight from my pectorals to my belly button. The scar is substantial and unsightly but it is a well known scar that precedes my name.
“Do you still wish to try without your brother?”
“Hn.” A smile wedges on his thin lips. “Haven’t had fun in a while. I guess I could wake up a bit.”
I panic. If he opens up the doors to the Darkness, this whole town will be demolished. Though he is the weakest of his siblings, he is still a Sin.
I snatch a knife off the floor and whip it up before Sloth can act. His hand plops to the floor with a sickening thud.
Outrage only sets him off and I feel the explosion of his power shove me back, my spine twisting as it hits the counter, shattering the cabinets, pieces of wood splattering around me and decorating the floor. I collapse full bodied against the ground, struggling to regain my composure.
When I look up, I realize he’s gone.
It’s too early in the game for him to give up. Though I, by all means have more sinew, I am not a fighter. It is a possibility I could lose. So why would he run when he has a chance to win?
My eyes dilate.
He isn’t here for me. He didn’t even know I would be here. His goal is and has always been, Kyla.
I trip over pieces of wood in my pathetic haste but I know I’m too late the moment I clutch the cracked and broken doorway of the bedroom. Sloth has Kyla’s unconscious body hooked under his arm like a weightless rag doll.
The day after the Fourth of July obligation required me to visit Naida and Zarek, two of Kio’s Elders, in their fortress at Santa Rosa. The entire train ride there I received text messages from Miley. She sent me pictures from the party of the day before, upset that I didn’t make it. I wasn’t surprised that Kyla was conveniently left out of each one. I was however interested in Eric’s new girlfriend.
The bastion of Santa Rosa is a mile wide. It is one of the best strongholds for Fallen, aside from my own in Bear Valley. Naida and Zarek however do not harbor their own kind there. They instead have sufficient security for a distinctive reason.
They cherish artwork from the Cycladic civilization, the period they themselves were from. Eight large pieces resided on their property. Round, nearly featureless pieces of stone eight thousand years old lay propped up, covered by thick pieces of glass to keep any damage or dust from ruining its perfect shape over the years from its creation.
Connected to their roots, they have a tenacious attitude towards younger Souls. In their minds, they are the ones who assisted civilization to strive. It wasn’t this attitude that tended to irk me, however. Many Elders believe themselves better than the generation before it. They have the answers and the cure. If anyone ever chose to listen to them, the world would be a perfect place.
What vexed me about Naida and Zarek is quite particular.
If I cared at all for human DNA and its genealogy, they could possibly be, a small minuscule of a percentage, my descendants. I had no children in my only life as human. However, I did have three sisters and they all went on to have multiple children.
It is my belief, we are all Light. I am connected to everyone under God and therefore equal. Yet these two Elders held me above the normal standard of hierarchy and since they considered themselves my equivalent, they had egos not many could match.
If I could forego the title of Erelim and live as a common Fallen, I would do so willingly and with pride. I lived with Newborns if only to be treated as a mutual friend and comrade.
But sometimes Elders must be shown their place.
I ogled them with disinterested as they pled their case. They spoke Arcadocypriot Greek, an ancient dialect now dead to man. They chose such a language so as not to insult me by asking if I knew Cycladic dialogue. I much rather them think I was ignorant. If they decided to natter before me, I could listen to their conversation without them being any wiser.
Zarek mushed his thick black unibrow, “You want us to simply overlook these blatant signs, Tymician?”
I shifted uneasily at the usage of my name. He doesn’t recognize the disrespect because to him, we are family. It sounded awkward from his lips and I clenched my teeth to keep myself from disrespecting him in his home.
He pointed at the papers he tossed in front of me. “The Princes are actively rallying troops.”
I had been done with the conversation ever since it started. “Lucius wouldn’t allow it.”
"When was the last time you’ve been to Sheol?” Naida inquired her teal eyes sharp and piercing.
I shrugged, unable to recall. “A century. Perhaps two.”
They exchanged a look of discernment. “He’s,” Zarek searched for a certain word. “Different. Something disturbs him. I believe he knows about the Princes. And he does not mean to stop them. Doesn’t that signify you ought to do something, Tymician? These puerile games you play are surely unsuitable for a man of your caliber.”
I’m greatly confused. I spend months travelling and miss important family holidays because of this clan. “What games are these?”
Naida was fully prepared to answer straightening her spine and narrowing her teal eyes, “You indulge Newborns with petty whims and gifts. They do not merit your time or your energy. The Elders must chase you in order for a moment of your consideration and when we actually do locate you, you’re riding a bus in London, or on a cruise boat in the Caribbean’s. Those tattoos upon you may conceal you from the evils that covet your Soul but it does not give you right to go gallivanting when you have a clan to run. Felix is by far the least appropriate for your Second. There are plenty of others that would do a far better job and I would respect them more so for it.” Zarek placed a hand upon hers from under the table, an act I couldn’t see but I notice it nonetheless. She quieted with her head held high, undaunted despite her little outburst.
I blinked. “Huh.”
Their shrewd observations were quite common and did not upset me. What bothered me was her utter repugnance for Felix. I thought he would make headway into this clan after so many years as my heir. To hear this from her, it can only stem from others. The Elders must all feel the same. She was the only one that felt brave enough to say it to my face.
I stood and they quickly got to their feet. “I will go to Sheol and speak with Lucius. You may tell the other Elders to ease their suspicions. You will also do me one more favor.” They both tightened, fearing reprimand. “Tell the Elders as well that there is nothing they can do to change my mind. Felix is taking over this clan when I pass it on. I’d tear my Soul to pieces first before I let one of you get your grubby hands on it. They can accept it, or leave.”
I wondered as I was walking far from the entrance what sort of backlash I would receive. What Elder would start a rally against me or who would form a coup. There was always something going on. Kio is not as peaceful as it seems. But in my entire reign as King, no one has left Kio. The simple fact remains that I’ve sacrificed much to keep them safe. Without the name to protect them, they wouldn’t last long on their own.
Before I could make it to my waiting taxi, I noticed the same Fallen that had followed me through the last city I was in. How he had managed to find me again was intriguing. Interested in his plight, I ventured further out of the jurisdiction of the Santa Rosa household and waited in a human infested park for him to come from hiding.
Upon seeing him step from behind a thick trunk of a tree, vile nausea boiled in my belly. I swept the area for any friends but he approached me alone, dressed in civilian clothes, unable to conceal any weapons. I refused to connect to the Source, unless I was in immediate danger, otherwise I would have noticed his Soul.
He glared at me, a young breed, and the foulest of Fallen due to the damage infused on his Light.
Soul Mutation dwells in only one faction: the Messiah. Alone they are but trifling experimentations. Together, they are a mighty force of modified Souls.
I stick my hands in my pockets. “What does a single fledgling of the Messiah think he can do with me?” I humorously inquire.
"Boss doesn’t know I’m here.” Interest perked. Messiah fledglings are loyal because they have little choice. Freedom is no longer an option after induction. “I’ve come to warn you, your grace.” His eyes flickered in fear. It’s a good quality to have. I don’t like being threatened. “She’s going to die.”
The wind blew. “Who?”
"They want her and they’ll get her if you don’t stop it. She was sent to you for a reason, your grace. And if you don’t stop it, this world is going to shatter and we will all fail God. So run, and don’t stop until Darkness itself ceases to exist.”
Sloth holds up his stump, glowering. “You didn’t play very nice.”
Alex stands on shaking legs with the help of the bed. Somehow, he managed to get himself hurt. I find it irritating how he achieved to bleed without battling two of the worst creations in this universe. All he had to do was keep Kyla and himself out of the way and he couldn’t even do that. Perhaps I should have told him my plan but this battle had come upon me too fast for us to talk about it.
Kyla is tucked in Sloth’s arm and the longer he touches her the more danger she’s exposed to. I only know rumors of these creatures and what I know isn’t good. The fact that he has touched her means I’m already too late. He could be killing her now, through her dreams.
“I’ll go with you.” I plead quickly.
“Yes. And she’ll be my snack.”
“I’ll destroy you.”
“I’m not alive so I can’t die.” He grins sideways.
Bargaining is the only answer. “What do you want?”
“An Angel.” His eyes slip toward Alex but he knows he could get a much older Soul in this deal.
“Done.” I ignore Alex’s sudden shock. He understands nothing of the Fallen and nothing of what I am capable of achieving. I am a selfish being. Saving Kyla is all that matters.
“How do I know you’ll do it?”
“A Pact.” A pact is easy to explain. I take a piece of my Soul and sign it away. It’s painful but it’s binding.
He reaches out only to growl in disgust at the hand that’s no longer there. He drops Kyla’s body thoughtlessly and grabs my hand before I can go to her.
The moment our hands touch, I feel the bond as slime clings to a sewage wall. It sickens my damaged Soul. I kneel down to Kyla, taking her in my arms and quickly rest her back on the bed. I desperately cling, willingly her to wake up
The pact does not tolerate my lingering. It itches and pulls, and will only get worse until I procure my part of the deal.
“Alex. I need a favor.”
“Take care of Kyla.”I turn to him and find myself begging, “She needs help, Alex. She needs the best doctor there is.”
He stumbles on excuses. How can he deny an Erelim? It’s what he’s thinking before he rests his attention upon her. Interest perks. What makes her so special that an Erelim is willing to risk his life?
“What am I going to do with her?”
“Me.” Sloth struts toward him, scaring him. He picks up the doorknob and eyes the blood on its metal. “My siblings want her now. You won’t be safe for long.” His black tongue darts across the blood. He smiles, moving toward the doorway.
I rise from the bed, my fingertips glued to hers.
Alex panics “What about you, where are you going? You’re coming back, right? Tymician, you’re going to come back?”
I fake a smile. Fallen are experts in lying. “Of course.” I step to the door. “Stay away from the clans. You know more than most how dangerous they can be.”
I turn, if only to go back to Kyla, to say the final goodbye but Sloth latches onto my shoulder.
If I had known I’d never see Kyla alive again, I would have said something memorable, something note-worthy, something she would never be able to forget. As it is, Sloth leads me into the Dust and I can only hope that she’ll survive and become the deliverer I have been waiting for.