The tires squeal in an abrupt halt, echoing in a square parking garage. Glaring at the concrete wall in front of me, I clutch the steering wheel until my knuckles whiten. I haven’t had time to process and the longer I sit here, the more I don’t understand.
I’ve abandoned my home and I’m running for my life.
“Do you mind telling me what the fuck that was?” I whirl around to face the back seat. Laid out in my old sheets, the strange woman that’s become my ward, slumbers unperturbed.
“Oh, still asleep?”
I reach over, shaking her shoulder in a futile attempt. If carrying her down seven flights of stairs, running to my car, dumping her in the backseat, and then proceeding to drive like a teenage woman texting for the past hour hadn’t woken her, I doubt anything I do now will have an effect.
She is in a coma. Or as the Undead call it, she hibernates in a critical endeavor to repair her fragmented Soul.
I rub at my eye, the back of my hand coming with blood. There was no time to heal my brow from being hit by the doorknob. As I look in the rearview mirror, there is a chance I might get a scar on my unblemished face.
I use a napkin to clean it. “Don’t think I’ll take care of you. Once I find out where you’re from, you’re going straight back. Tymician should have known me better.”
Snapping off the engine, I fight with the seatbelt. My hands are shaking. “Ruin my life. Ruin my apartment. I was very happy, I’ll have you know.” I hop out of the car, cursing, kicking the door. “I’m a doctor, I’m not a babysitter.”
I yank on her scrawny arms, somehow twisting her into my own hefting her up. “And FYI, you’re not as skinny as you look.”
Inside the building, I’m met with many pensive gazes. My back remains straight and my chest full of dignity even with the unconscious creature in my arms. Nothing can steal my vanity. I approach the secretary’s desk, “I wish to speak to Debra Wallace, please.”
Skeptical and constantly flicking her eyes down to my sleeping partner, she replies, “Mrs. Wallace’ office closes at six. I can make an appointment for tomorrow morning.”
“She’ll see me, just go tell her I’m here.”
“Yes, Mr. Stamford.”
I smile smugly to the fact that she remembered me. There is a good chance I slept with her. I glance to her nameplate but it doesn’t help. I’ve slept with so many Saras. If people were more original when naming their children, I’d be more inclined to remember if I slept with their daughters.
Sara the receptionist leaves the door open for me as she returns to her desk, “Mrs. Wallace will see you, sir.”
“Thank you, beautiful.”
I close the door with my foot and greet Debra with a bright grin, “Did you miss me?” I drop Kyla, semi-gently on the couch. In my defense, my arms are tired. And it’s not like she’ll feel it.
Debra rises from her desk in a red dress, wonderfully tight and perfectly snug in all the right places. “You didn’t give me time to miss you, Alex.” She rests her round rump against the desk. “It’s only been four years. Did you blow your cover already? Is the Ruling after you?” She sighs dejectedly, “I won’t lie for you, no matter how charming you are.”
I smooth out the wrinkles of my collared shirt, “Unfortunately, I’ve been placed in a predicament. I will need new credentials. A new ID, social security, a new cell phone, a new house, a new job: the works. And a background story, I don’t feel like creating my own.”
“That’s going to cost you.”
I reveal my checkbook ecstatically.
“You know it’s illegal for me.”
I feel a lecture coming my way. Why do women feel the need to speak at all? I tuck my checkbook in my pocket and humor her with a dashing smile.
“Here at Animation Corps, we create new lives for Angels and Fallen. If they chose to live on Earth, we give them a brand new life. We help them pick clans, we educate them on the laws, and if they chose to go through this life alone, we always welcome them to come to us if they ever need help.”
I hold out my hands, “That’s why I’m here.”
“But to ‘remake’ someone requires Ruling permission. Now this will be the fourth time, Alex that I’ve altered your life. I’ve done it as a favor because we have a history.” She saunters up to me, rising a manicured hand toward my forehead. “I have to wonder. What are you running from?”
I slip a smirk over my lips, my blond locks dangling at just the right angle. I lean down, my mouth so very close to her ear. Her breath hitches. Her chest rises and falls with haste.
I murmur, “Don’t you like money?”
“I like a lot of things.”
“Then don’t question. Just go with it. You never know where it will lead you.” My fingertips grace the outline of her jaw.
Debra giggles, leaning over, “Who’s the girl?”
The moment falls apart and I step back to scowl at the snoozing monstrosity. “A burden.” I collapse in a chair, crossing my legs, “What would you do if Erelim Elder Tymician gave you his Soul Mate to care for?”
All the blood drains her face and her eyes dilate. Her reaction startles my nerves.
She ogles Kyla, connecting to the Source, scanning the girl’s Soul and putting it to memory. She rushes to the door, locking it and looks back at me, “That’s nothing to joke about, you stupid man. Do you want to die?”
I contemplate the response. Considering how much trouble this stranger is causing me, I doubt life is worth much now.
“I’d run, Alexander.” She replies suddenly. “I’d run and I wouldn’t stop.”
“Interesting. It was a hypothetical question, mind you. This girl is nothing. You did however spark my attention. You said you had all the Fallen on your database, correct?”
She fixes her composure, contemplating whether I’m lying. “That will cost more money.”
I turn the engine over and listen to the purr of a brand new Lexus. My fingertips run over the leather of the steering wheel. I feel the vibration beneath my butt. And if there were a woman beside me, she and I would be having a grand time on the hood of this car.
Instead, I have the pound of flesh rotting in the backseat, a soundless companion constantly reminding me I am not alone.
With a new identity and a new life waiting for me, I feel poised, back in control of my life. I have direction and though I have company, at least I get to make all the decisions.
I glance in the rearview, “So you don’t exist.” I tell ‘Kyla’ simply. “You either did something terrible and Tymician with his grand powers deleted you from the system. Or you don’t like to follow the rules. We might get along yet.”
In the passenger seat, a brand new laptop waits for my fingertips. I gladly begin typing away; accessing a website some Fallen made. I don’t mind using others. “I think I might just drop you off at the nearest Kio rest stop. Let’s have a look shall we?”
Working off via satellite and using the combination of electromagnetic sensors and infrared cameras, I can find Angels and Fallen within moments. Our Light sends a different frequency and rises higher or lower on a spectrum depending on our age or our power.
I’m in South Jersey, my home isn’t far but from the looks of it, a barrage of Undead pack the neighborhood. “I wasn’t prepared for company.”
Even if I wanted to go home to get a few meaningful belongings, there wasn’t a chance.
I move the map. There are areas completely blacked out from my scanners. One specific location is in Manhattan and it is near two miles wide. The New York Council resides inside the obscured area. An Erelim Elder by the name of Isis reigns supreme with a power over nine thousand years. She has Hikmah Angels too, Souls that have seen more than six thousand years of life.
I have only met Newborns like myself. Any Asuras Angels, three thousands and higher, are clan associated or soldiers and I don’t want to know them. They tend to tell their superiors everything. Loyalty is such a vain thing.
I move down the coast, searching for a Fallen House. I shouldn’t be surprised that they all have shrouds keeping them from my satellite. I guess I have to pick a black spot and hope for the best.
“It’s nothing personal, pipsqueak. You’re cute and all but I don’t date Fallen.” I slap the lid shut, “I guess it is personal.”
On the highway, it’s open road. I relax or at least try too. As cliché as it is I think of Tymician. He was so concerned with this girl. He was desperate and he threw her into my lap because he thought, what? That I could save her?
I peek in my rearview again. Kyla’s black hair spreads over her cheek. I placed her awkwardly in the back. I should have done a better job. Her position doesn’t look comfortable in the least.
The facts keep rotating in my head and if I cared long enough to think about them, they would point toward her importance and her safety. But as I’m much more concerned with myself, all I see is danger. I need to separate myself from her. Tymician should have known better.
I do want to see it again though. Just to reassure myself that I wasn’t imagining things.
I connect to the Source, feeling the gradual sensation of God’s presence fill my Soul, allowing me to view the black hole that is her Light. I flick my gaze back and forth from the road to the rear mirror trying to inspect her closer.
Tymician lied to me, telling me she is only thirteen years old. He can see Souls much better than I can, that much is true but there is no way to know how old she is, or what she is for that matter. To add more to such a false statement, Souls do not evolve to Angel status until they are at least three hundred or four hundred years. It is a mental progress that takes time to advance. It isn’t possible to skip the stages that God has set for the human race.
“Let’s get one thing straight, okay?” I glance at her, “I got enough problems. I’ve been running from the Ruling for centuries. They have me on their facebook, alright? I don’t need anyone screwing this up for me. So whatever you are, don’t bring any more shit around me.”
I grip hard to the steering wheel, leaning up pinning my attention on the sky. A ball of gold light glows brightly in the dark night, much brighter than the sun. I would say it’s suspended in midair but it seems to be getting bigger, or in this case, falling.
My eyes widen as I realize its fire.
I shove the wheel to the right, smashing into the vehicle beside me. It’s jarring and the noise is a terrible metallic crushing sound but I keep my foot on the gas as I watch the car slam into the guard rail. It’s the same moment, the fire ball slaps into the lane where I had vacated bursting into hundreds of little bubbles of black curls. “Fuck!”
It’s within a mere minute another one is seen streaking across the sky. Cars panic attempting to get out of its path. I careen straight through them, zigzagging my way across four lanes of halted vehicles, searching for the next exit. It’s a mile away to my upset. I take deep breathes and let them out through tight shaking lips, keeping my eyes on the road and not the fire reigning down from above. I slam on the brakes, zooming around a halted car, cursing my Lord Father’s name before finding the ramp to the exit.
I release my connection to the Source, contemplating if I’ve screwed up somewhere. No one could have found me. It wasn’t possible. I have been playing this farce for long enough to know the weakness of the Ruling. I had gotten a big enough head start.
Just so, they wouldn’t hit me with damned fireballs! They wouldn’t kill an Angel!
I flip my eyes to the rearview mirror. “Is it you? Can the Ruling track you? What did we just talk about?”
I halt at a red light. My blinker is the only noise. The car rattles with the rocking of my foot as I impatiently wait for the passage of ignorant cars to progress through. I hear the distant sound of ambulances wailing. I watch the sky through my sunroof but no light emits. I clench my teeth. I refuse to go back to help. I refuse to take blame. If that was the Ruling then they will care for the destruction they caused. They tend to always clean up after themselves.
If they are after Kyla, then I am only standing in the way.
I rub my eyes with rapid agitation. A honk from behind jerks my attention. I flick them off then jut forward. I connect with 295, southbound wondering if I should change cars again. It’s easy finding a different vehicle but stolen cars tend to be reported. Be sure that the Ruling has police on their side. My best bet is to continue as I am, only faster. I change directions, shove off on random exits, altering my location enough times that even I lose myself at times.
One of my main concerns being a fugitive is memorizing all main freeways, interstates, parkways, excreta, for this exact purpose. GPS is manipulated by the Ruling. Cell phones are obviously in their hold as well.
My numb butt, tacky mouth, and drooping eyelids decide the time has come to end the night. I worked a fourteen-hour shift and then spent my time after enjoying the company of a most energetic woman. Had I known Tymician would come barging in, I might have taken a well-rested nap.
I’ve entered Philadelphia. With signs leading me, I park into the garage of a Hampton. The only parking space left is on the roof, which sets me on my toes. I peek at the skies but just as prior, there are only stars above me. Perhaps I was dreaming it.
Maybe I’m dreaming all of this. An Erelim Elder surges into my apartment with a thirteen-year-old Fallen that is not really a Fallen, has an all-out battle in the middle of my living room, leaving me behind in her care and destructive balls of fire begin raining down from nowhere. I’m either dreaming or I’m losing it.
I glance back at the sleeping woman. She is undisturbed. “Don’t move.” I chuckle shaking my head, locking the car as I leave her. She doesn’t need to breath so what’s the point of leaving a window down? She’s similar to a big giant blow up doll.
Oh, terrible dirty thoughts. I’m a bad Angel.
I’ve chosen to become Lawrence Oliver, a thirty year old heart specialist transferring from California. I’m a single man with an alcoholic father and a recently deceased mother. I like horse races, reading, and the sea and I don’t like watching TV or politics. With these certain aspects in mind, I manage to charm the receptionist into having drinks with me on her break. She giggles an awful lot, which I find somewhat annoying, but gigglers usually become loud moaners so I will suffer one for the other.
The bag boy follows me to my car. I don’t know how exactly I am going to explain Kyla to him. It’s going to get awkward but my money might persuade him to look the other direction.
I managed to take a single bag full of clothes and personal effects from my old home and private papers that I’ve kept with me for decades now. I’d much rather carry my own personal affects but I doubt the bellhop carts bodies.
I yank her roughly out and heft her up, cursing my lack of arm strength. Nurses and attendants usually do the body lifting in my line of work. The only time I touch bodies is for pleasure or when I’m digging my fingers into their organs.
That works both ways I guess.
The human ogles me, “Is she okay, sir?”
I connect with the Source. If the Ruling comes this way, I need him to forget he ever saw me and money won’t be so effective. “You will not remember our faces.”
He stiffens drastically. “I will not remember your faces.” He drones in reply.
“Good. Now hurry with the bags.”
“I will hurry with the bags.”
Light alerts me that something’s about to happen and I jump away just in time as the brand new Lexus blows up. It pops up into the air, ten, twenty feet, then drops back, crash landing on blubbering rubber.
Pieces fly in random directions. The once gorgeous silver doors chuck themselves over onto vehicles, causing random alarms to ring. The windows splatter on the sidewalk, and the trunk dangles as fire eats away at the metal.
I search desperately for the human I had left behind. His body lays distantly from the exploded vehicle unmoving.
I lay Kyla propped against the wall of the elevator. A sweat quickly builds on my brow. Peeping up at the sky, only darkness prevails, the stars twinkles, mockingly. Crouched low to the floor I trudge over to the bellhop, my fumbling fingers probing for a pulse. I fall on my butt, skirting away from the dead body.
I’ve seen many in my line of business but this isn’t like the hospital. This so much worse!
I swallow, forcing my connection to the Source and discover the Soul floating in a terrible uproar, crazily attempting to figure out what has happened. I lick my lips, a trembling hand reaches out. “Come.” I whisper to it. The Light flickers, halting its bilateral movements and noticing me finally for what I am. The Soul instantly ensures its trust to me. “God will greet you soon.” I assure.
All the Light has to do is touch me and it will find the way to Heaven. It’s a constant recurrence in a hospital.
Souls cling to misconceptions of their formal lives. They see themselves in their human bodies. They know they are dead but they believe there is a way to return to the world they miss. So in a pathetic desperation, Souls continue to stick around when they should give up their plight. I make it very easy. Upon seeing my Soul, I am a beacon in their world.
I watch talons ensnare its naïve Light, clutching it ferociously in a terribly agonizing vice grip and with a blast of wind from giant wings that smack me in the face as it departs, it pulls away, disappearing back into the sky.
I search in wild panic but I see nothing. I crawl at the ground to get to my feet at the same moment a crash sounds on the car beside me.
I still, unable to fathom movement as I observe a beast, a bat-like creature, the size of a bear, stand erect before me. The Soul hangs as dead weight in its mouth. It screeches as it munches with multiple rows of lengthy teeth, all working as one unit; gradually bringing in the bellhop’s withering Soul.
Leather wings, transparent and thin, stretch and claw at the dented car, keeping its balance and adjusting itself, perched on two toes that are more bone then muscle. The nails dig into the metal mindlessly scrapping against it.
Fear awakes my senses and I bolt for the door. Movement alerts it and screams echo. It holds the Light inside its mouth, using its wings for arms, clawing and stumbling, unused to walking. I get to the elevator, slamming my hand on the button repeatedly, snatching Kyla’s arm and dragging her closer. Her head rolls, heedless to the happenings around her.
“Shit, shit shit.”
It screeches again, seemingly calling for backup. I examine the sky but I doubt I will find anything. They seem to be able to camouflage themselves in darkness. They must be creatures of Sheol and are apt to such vile conditions.
I am not. I am an Angel, young and foolish and I know so very little of the world. I am not ready for this. I don’t know how to protect anyone let alone myself. Tymician was so stupid to bring this girl here. Who does he think I am? He should know by now I am a selfish man. I shouldn’t even be an Angel!
The door opens but it’s too late. Another winged beast drops by its companion and its black eyes are for me. It expands its wings wide, flapping hungrily forcing its thick body up into the air as I’m pulling Kyla into the elevator.
I have a distant thought to leave her for them; it would allow me to get away. I would be free of this burden and no one would be the wiser.
My hand loosens a fraction.
An Angel falls on top of a beast, pinning his blade right into the crown of its head. The body falls to the ground and he rolls off, flexing out his brown Denitai wings, flipping his sword from one hand to the next, ready to challenge the other creature. The beast cries in outrage, flapping madly, crawling over its partner snapping its ready jaws.
I don’t stick around. I pull in Kyla the rest of the way and slam my hand on the button, dropping next to her.
I pant staring at the wall. Thoughts don’t come. I haven’t an idea what happened and I don’t want to think about it.
I just breathe.
I glance down on the comatose woman in my lap. Unbidden guilt rises and I mindlessly fix her shirt with shaking hands. “About back there,” I swallow, taking in a deep breath. “I wasn’t going to.” I assure her. “I’m not a bad guy. Ty put you in my care and I’ll take care of you.” Tears push on my eyes. Terror has made my emotions weak. “I promise.”
The elevator buzzes and I heft her up into my arms, hurrying to our room. I rest her down in the center of the bed and find myself completely exhausted as I take a seat at the side table. I glance out the window beside me, but the garage is to the left of us and I can’t see anything from this vantage point.
My head falls in my hands and blond hair drapes around me. The image of those creatures prevail all images in my head. I have never seen anything like them before and I wish never to see them again. I’m oblivious to the world of Sheol and I want to keep it that way.
I lower my fingers down and fist them under my chin, staring at Kyla. They are after her. That much is obvious. How will I be able to protect her from beings like that? I am disconnected from God and every Angel I’ve ever come into contact with. I am alone for specific reasons. I have needed no one before but had that strange Angel not been there, we would have been dead.
Or worse, I would have done something… terrible.
Several thumps force me to my feet and I notice quickly my bags thrown carelessly at the center of the room. Charred and somewhat banged up, they lay clumped upon one another. The curtain billows, revealing the window that had been locked shut before, now fully ajar. I stumble over myself putting space between the window and I.
I begin to hyperventilate. I imagine the monsters have for some reason opened my window as civilized beings and tossed in my suitcases for merely taunting purposes.
Mind you, I’m going crazy so this is really quite plausible.
I fasten a hold of the Source and find what I had least expected. The Angel.
Leaning over Kyla, he gazes down upon her with perplexity dripping off his sweat-covered brow. His Denitai wings curve around him, the pointed edges sharp and dangerous pokes at her cheek and the other japs her midsection. He holds tight to the hilt of his sword, every muscle stiff and ready to move.
“What’s this?” His gruff German accent barks in question.
I gawk openly. He may find Kyla fascinating but he himself is a specimen I have only heard of.
The staining of his wings marks him as a Shini. Brown, black and gold feathers shimmer with each threatening bend. A disfigurement such as his is due to his station. Shini are Angels that chose to abandon Heaven. The only difference between the Shini and Fallen is they still believe in the glory of God. They lose the ability to access the Dust but gain their wings. They can’t return to Heaven and thus slowly die.
He gruffly demands, “Explain.”
My panic finds my voice. “What were those things?”
The Angel scoffs, spitting on the ground as if he were outside. His armor, like romans of old days, reveals much of his thick clammy skin. He’s a beastly man and I keep my distance as he stalks about, searching for further enemies, I presume.
“You don’t know what you’re messing with, boy.”
“I don’t. And I don’t want to mess with them either. Why are they following me?”
“My guess is that thing you got there.”
“Aye. I suggest you give it to’em.”
“I’m not doing that.” Guilt billows in my gut considering how close I was to doing just that. “What are they?”
“Tsk. You really don’t know.” He goes on to curse in German but I filter it out. He flaps his wings, stretching the short appendages before tucking them up into his back. “Get out of my city.”
I fasten on him, blocking his exit. “That’s it? You’re just going to go? They’re going to kill me! What are they?”
The massive man is taller than even I am. He looks down on me, sneering. “They’re Vetalas.” My lack of understanding annoys him. “The hunting party for the Sins.” He growls further, “The Sins. Don’t you know nothing, boy. Wrath, Gluttony, Greed, Envy, Pride, Lust, Sloth- The Sins!”
“Okay, I got it!”
“They’re the Seven. The creatures of the Seven Seals of Hell. When all Seven are released, it will be the end of the world. They send their minions, the Vetalas to hunt down powerful bits of Light to make them stronger. Wrath and Sloth are the only ones capable of coming to Earth right now and I plan to keep it that way.”
“Wrath and Sloth.” I turn back to Kyla, recalling the battle that destroyed my apartment. I slightly worry more so of Tymician. “They came for her.”
His gaze alters, “They came?” His wings rustle and he points to the sleeping child. “Unless you want to die, I suggest you kill her because it’s already too late. They’ll get her. Now or later.”
My head shakes on a will of my own. “Kill her? You’re out of your mind.”
“You are not a fighter, boy.” He slams his sword on the table to prove his point. The heavy weapon nearly cracks the wood in half.
“And you are?”
“Aye. It’s my duty for God.”
“Then protect me.” I’ve never been above begging. “I’m just a kid. I’m obviously in over my head. Please.”
He huffs appalled, gripping his wide sword and pointing the tip in my direction. “Now look here. My duty is for God. I protect all here. Except your Fallen.” He bites with such disgust. “That girl, something’s wrong with her Light. Have you seen it for yourself?”
I’m appealing to his Godly duties simply to save my Soul. “She looks like God’s child to me.”
He takes a step closer, the point of his sword touching my neck dangerously, but I wasn’t’ stupid. He had too much honor to hurt an Angel. His wings lengthen around him. The sharp points of his denitai wings appear like daggers in the light. It is plausible to say that I may be a little intimidated. “You young prick, know nothing of war. I’ve been ’round since Lucius betrayed as all and walked out of Heaven. I was there, boy. He’s the reason for this damnation on Earth. When he woke the Darkness, things not even he could imagine emerged. He is to blame for what chases you now. And you have his follower in your sight. You may possess Light, but you walk in black. Now get out of my city and bring your infectious monstrosity with you.”
I put my hands up. “I’ll leave.” The pain in my neck disappears as he backs away. “I have no place to go. I know for a fact that I didn’t do anything to the Sins. Kyla is in a coma I can’t wake her from. And I have no way to protect myself or…her from the Vetalas. Is there no compassion left to help me?”
The soldier glares hard before reaching down to his calf and unbuckling a strap. He throws a dagger at my feet. With that, he turns to take flight.
I reach for it, sighing out. A weapon. I chuckle at the irony of it. Tymician had wondered if I had a weapon.
The Angel perches on the windowpane, holding the roof as he leans in for one more moment. His wings flex with his weight. “Once they latch onto a Soul, they don’t let up. Every time she connects with the Source, they feel it. That’s when they come. None of us can live without the Source. She’s dead already.” My last bit of help flies from the window.
Dangling from the ledge of the windowpane is a Rune. He left it behind for me.
Confusion furrows on my brow. I flick my blue eyes over to Kyla, sleeping soundly on the ginormous bed. She hasn’t woken since I’ve met her. There isn’t a possibility that she’s used the Source. I’ve been the only one to call upon God.
Am I the one the Vetalas are after? I disconnect from the Source, feeling vulnerable as I look out of the window, searching for invisible creatures. How am I supposed to protect myself if I can’t see them?
I collapse on the bed and glance at Kyla. I am inadequate for this job. I am a doctor. The only running I do is when I go jogging to peek at the college girls that live down the block from my apartment. “You’re in the wrong hands, girl.” I point to the window, “You should have picked someone like him.” I adjust a bit of the blanket at her feet, “I guess you didn’t get much of a choice.”
I drop to my knees aside my luggage and peel them open one at time. I desire only sleep but that will come some other time. I have to decide our next step.