Chapter 1.1 "You came with me"
🏆 Honourable Mention in The Mysfic Awards (December 2020 - January 2021)
13th of May 2005
The man shoved the clutch to the floor. The car was running on the lit highway, disregarding the showery weather and the traffic. Steve took a moment to observe the rain droplets reflecting the bright yellowish lights, drawing diffuse yellow spots on the surface of the windscreen. Then, he diverted his attention to the shifting scenery. It was three o’clock in the afternoon; the ominous sky was throwing thunders and outbursts of lightning frantically in the perfectly aligned ghosted areas. His thoughts were mixed and turbid, flashes of the preceding days marching in his mind.
The ringing of the mobile woke him up from fantasising. He located it behind a bunch of clothes flung on the passenger’s seat, snatched the phone with his left and answered without looking at the screen.
“What did you do?” a voice was lamenting over the phone.
“What I had to,” he said, tears of sorrow running down his cheeks.
“You don’t have the right. Please bring her back. Please, honey,” the woman whined.
“I won’t!” he replied, determined. “I cannot.” He finished the conversation but held the phone to his ear, only to hear her cursing, imploring. As Steve ended the conversation, he found himself in an industrial area on the city’s outskirts. The rain stopped, filling the air with an electrical heaviness that made him feel awkward in his skin. His shirt clung to his damp body.
The dashboard was fluttering, buzzing, sending errors on its screens. Irritated, Steve smacked the solid plastic.
“Damn car!” he bustled. He turned the key, yet the automobile refused to start. The lights continued flickering, making him nervous. Finally, the man exited the car, searching for a particular number on his phone list.
He couldn’t make the call; the reception was gone. Then, the air turned tropical, making it excessively hard to breathe. Next, the ground split, bringing to the surface tremendous hot steam. He looked back, skin bunching around his eyes. A dense red mist crawled at his feet, clothing him.
Suddenly, a loud song could pe heard from inside the car. Muttered lyrics filled the air, and Steve faltered towards the vehicle. The music got louder and louder and then stopped. The windows were steamed, and the man fumbled for the car key. A message written by an invisible hand showed gradually. Give us the girl!
Steve picked up a growl, and quick steps resounded close to him. He felt the oxygen cut off by a scaled hand squeezing his throat. Through the thick smog, the man saw a face gaining contour. He longed to scream, but his body refused to listen.
Forgive me, Lord, for I have sinned.
16th of April 2020
The man was dangling his feet in pleasure, his imposing stature casting a vast shadow on the store lane. The air seeped through his clothes, the soft fabric touching his mortal flesh.
He was observing the crowd ahead from the top shelf of the spacious sweets department. The dark chocolate & creme pralines box was lying empty next to him. He touched it avidly, only to hear the plastic rustling under his fingertips. He sighed and extended his arm for another box.
A few noisy people interrupted his action, and he stretched his neck, curious about the commotion. Somewhere in the back, a woman was scolding her three-year-old for whining. Then, the sound of his watch alarm covered her reproaching words.
He looked down at his watch and read the new message he had just received. Some work to do, at last, he thought. Being a senior left him with less fieldwork. He thought of the pile of files on his desk and shivered in disgust. It will have to wait until he finishes this job and gets the poor soul to the Chamber of Sins. Everything should happen fast - he only had to grab it and fly to Heaven.
His watch kept beeping, and the message followed on the screen.
‘Margo Bayard - daughter of Clare and Albert Bayard; known address - Saint Paul Orphanage, 106 The Smithfields; age - 17 years old; time of death - 10:37 a.m.; place - Simson’s, Groom’s Alley, Wellington, sweets department; cause - chocked with candy.’
His eyes bounced from his wristwatch to the brown praline in his right hand. Then, full of sorrow, he put it away; he had had enough for the day, anyway.
The time read 10:29 - not long now.
His gadget beeped again.
“Yes? What is it, Ramiel?”
“Azrael? Azrael? Can you hear me?” a dull voice cried.
“Shh,” he looked around, “Could you not call me that? I told you. My name is Derek. I like it better,” he whispered into the receiver.
“OK, DEREK. I need you here as soon as possible,” Ramiel said.
“I am busy,” Azrael ended the conversation.
“I know you are, but a demon horde attacked us.”
“What is your status?”
“We annihilated them; it was the Xenruay group. But the demons are regrouping their forces. So the Elders demand a solution.”
“I will be there as soon as I finish here. Bye.”
Bored, Derek jumped from the shelf straight into the middle of the crowd. He flew in the air for a second with his obsidian wings half-open. He loved being surrounded by people. His passion was studying them daily and learning from their behaviour and emotions. Yet, not even a flick of excitement did get through his mind or body. Well, technically, that was not his body. He negotiated with a death broker from Birmingham in exchange for a few undeclared sins.
He peeked at his watch in search of the soul’s physical description.
A short-haired girl was staring at him with mocking eyes. Her pallid face with distinctive features contrasted with her midnight hair.
“An orphan, did you say?” Derek murmured.
He strode through the crowd towards the girl’s death place. He had to be there at the very moment of her succumbing to catch the fresh soul; otherwise, it would wander on Earth for thousands of years.
There she was, browsing among the shelves. Relaxed and murmuring a song, she picked a few bags full of sweets and studied them undecided. Occasionally, she would grab a rebel strip of hair and hide it behind her ear, only for it to come out again and cover her sharp eyes. She let a bag fall on the shelf and picked another one in shiny colours. She smiled and dropped it somewhere inside her jacket.
“We are a petty thief, are we not?” Derek smirked.
He followed the girl between shelves, watching her take various sweets and even tasting some of them. She browsed until the end of the row and returned to take something else. Margo chose a pack and opened it relaxedly. Looking at it with lust, she took one sweet, put it in her mouth and started munching it.
The naughty child from earlier was behind her, brushing bags with sweets and chocolates from the shelves on the floor. His mother saw the disaster and turned towards him, threatening the boy with a good beating. The little one grimaced at his mother and ran away. He knocked Margo’s back, pushing her a few yards farther, and fell on his nose.
The girl said nothing, facing the opposite direction. The child started crying, demanding help. Margo began gasping for air, her face crimson red as she was massaging her throat and chest. I am going to be alright, she thought. The boy’s mother hitched the little one and peeked at her, seeking to apologise.
Feeling that something was wrong, she began screaming for help. People were gathering, but nobody intervened. In the end, Margo was on the floor, her eyes imploring for someone’s divine intervention.
10:36:45: Derek materialised in front of Margo. She stared at him with her last breath, the realisation of him not being from this world scaring her. Her sight got glassy, and a mordacious smile appeared in the corner of her mouth.
Derek bent over her lying body and grabbed her wrist. Margo gasped for the last time, and the crowd howled. Then, an old lady fainted in the first row, and a man cried for help.
Confused, the girl rose from the floor and glared at the stranger, who kept her hand in a tight gasp. She felt like she was losing body weight and struggled to stay on the ground. Margo stared at the gathered people. She scanned them all for a familiar face, but she knew nobody and panicked. A lonely feeling monopolised her entire being, as a white explosion covered everything, blinding her for a second. The next moment, she woke up in an empty supermarket; only she and the massive man observing her every movement were standing in the middle. Time expanded, and she felt her soul light.
“Let’s go,” the man said. The air vibrated at the sound of his voice.
“Where are you taking me?” Margo panicked. “Let me go!” she cried, wrenching her hand from his clasp. “Help! Help!” she yelled.
“Stay still and follow me!” The angel ordered.
Desperate, the girl tried to loosen his grip.
“I don’t know you. I don’t want to follow you. Leave me alone, or I will scream,” the girl argued and continued to struggle. Finally, clenching her jaws, Margo launched her left palm, slapped Derek’s face, and punched him violently in the chest.
Derek restrained himself from jumping down at Margo’s throat, and while gripping her arm, he opened his wings and flew away.
A massive golden gate was securing Heaven’s entry. Archangel figures and celestial scenes from the Holy Bible garnished the door and frame. Intricate designs depicting the world and the creation of humankind, sculptures showing the original sin, and predicting humans’ end were adorning the entrance wall.
Derek landed before the gate and touched his chest, searching for something. A long vertical line appeared between his eyebrows. Then, still gripping Margo’s arm, he glared inside his shirt.
“Where is-? Where did I put it?”
Margo struggled to remove her hand from Derek’s sturdy grip. The man’s nostrils flared.
“Where is my key, you thief?” the man went ballistic, and his voice shot up a hundred octaves.
With her eyes frozen open, the girl nodded.
“I know nothing about it,” she said. “I, I do not have it,” she muttered.