Negative Zero (Book 1)

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Chapter 7: I Am Legend

Chapter Seven I Am Legend

Hayden started the story off with the very beginning of the legend. The Creator had to find a means of punishment for souls who died before they ever repented prior to their entrance into the World of Light, so he created an angel named Alysto, Keeper of the Wicked, to imprison the souls until it was their day of judgment. Alysto’s duty was to release the souls once they’d reconciled on the horrid things they’d done as living humans. He was to release them and let them move on to the World of Light, where we are all meant to go. Alysto was essentially their final judgment. Eventually, he became cold-hearted and never saw the good in the souls once they’d paid their dues in the underworld. He kept the souls in the dark realm with him and soon spawned children of his own by turning some of the fallen angels that sided with him. He promised them power and great things, but all they became were his minions. Their duty was to become Watchers of the souls.

Alysto’s power was becoming too great as the dark realm populated more and more with the fallen angels who’d chosen to follow him. The Creator had to develop a new means of passage for the souls to escape him, so the legend of the Warrior - the Soldier of Light - was born. A human with a relatively good and strong soul would be born, a human who would be marked with the gift that the Creator would choose for him or her. The human would be guarded by his angel throughout his life, as all humans are, and once his First Death took place, he will have been reborn - the process known as Crossing - with the spirit-eye and the ability to see into the other realms along with the ability to see his Guardian. After the First Death takes place, the Guardian and the Soldier must stay together in order to complete the mission of releasing the Seekers - or prisoners - of Alysto.

Hayden explained that my father, Jack Stormer, was the Soldier before me. My father’s First Death was incidental, just like mine. At the age of nineteen, his car ran over the side of a bridge. It was winter, and he skidded on black ice while driving home carelessly one evening. His car landed in the deep river below, sinking with him trapped inside. He was soon brought back by his Guardian, Lavinia. She took him out of his body while it healed in the hospital, just as Hayden did for me. She was to guide him, guard him, and take the pain away when needed, for he was to become the vessel for the souls he was to save when his mission began.

My father and his angel soon fell in love. Hayden explained that Lavinia was my true mother. She had done something called Fading, a process through which angels can become fully human if they so choose. It is the free will granted to angels by the Creator. Hayden said that the process is extremely dangerous for a brief window of time because the transition leaves the angel physically and mentally vulnerable, a time of high emotions for the fading angel. The means by which angels fade is by the breaking of their wings. In most cases, another Guardian must do it. The scars are left to heal on their backs, and once the scars have completely disappeared, they are human. They have all the gifts they had as angels to complete the missions with their humans but, in most cases, they will need a Guardian themselves once they’ve completed the Fade in order to remain a strong protector.

Jack and Lavinia married shortly after she Faded for him. She was fully human before giving birth to me, but her health was poor, and she became very ill, dying only months after I was born. My father was devastated and became very sullen and callous after losing her. He felt that it wasn’t her time and too soon for her to have passed. He concluded that it was something evil that had caused her death and went out to seek the answers for himself. During the times he wasn’t accusing every other Guardian for having something to do with her death, he would drink himself into oblivion every, single night. Despite his insensibility with his horrible habit, he knew he had a child to raise. This was when he turned to his twin sister, Nora, the mother I knew all my life, for help. She knew of the life my father led and supported him. There was no surprise to me that she’d accepted him for whatever he was or whatever he did. They lived together in Ravenna, Ohio, where there was lots of land and open fields so my dad could continue his mission in privacy, saving the souls he was meant to save. Helping Jack through the thick of his chaotic life, Nora raised me as her own.

The Guardian Council, head of all the angels, sent my father a new Guardian. Luka was determined to save my father from his depression and to keep him level-headed, at least to help with the portion from which Nora couldn’t save him on her own. Luka saw the hurt that my father went through and tried to explain to him that Lavinia was at peace and waiting for Jack in the World of Light, and once his time came, they’d be together again. But Jack wouldn’t listen. He was so far gone after the emotional ride he’d been on, and the Council knew it. After losing Lavinia, life would never be the same for my father ever again. Luka reported to them, as he was meant to do, and they advised that Jack was going to do more harm than good if he remained the Soldier of Light.

My father was in possession of four spheric transporters called castors. These were the means by which he was able to communicate to the souls on a one-by-one basis, breathing in their spirit, and then transporting himself to the moment of their deaths in order to take their places as they died. Hayden was missioned by the Council to collect these castors from my father and advise him the mission was over. They wanted Jack to lead a normal life and raise me along with Nora, even though the Seekers would have to wait longer to be saved. My father’s pride was hurt, but he relented, handing the castors over to Hayden.

But the story didn’t end there. The Council explained to my father that I would become the next Soldier of Light. Jack knew I was a half-life, A half-souled human conceived between a Crossed human and a completely Faded angel that could easily fall into the darkness of Alysto’s hands. Being a half-life normally wouldn’t have been an issue, but with the destiny that awaited me, my father knew there would be a challenge upon my First Death. On the day that I was destined to die, Alysto would have the power to turn me easily into what he wanted. If I were not strong enough to turn against him, I would become part of his world and unable to escape it unless I was saved. But the saving would have to come before my First Death.

When I was four-years old, Jack and Nora drove us to the bridge where my father first died. My mother and I were dropped off at the end of the bridge while Jack replayed his entire death, driving the car off of the bridge; this time he not come back. As his spirit left his body, he directed it into me, giving me a full soul, a full life, the ability to Cross when the time came. In the end, I was his last save, as he knew that, one day, I’d be taking his place to continue the life he’d once led: the Soldier of Light, hero of the Seekers.

My mouth was agape for what seemed like way too long. My head was spinning, wondering if I should have just taken Hayden’s advice and waited until tomorrow. Without moving my eyes from a spot on the comforter, I reluctantly reached out for the mug and slowly pulled it to my lips to drink. I gulped down the water until it was gone and remained motionless and speechless, gripping the empty mug.

“Say something, Evika,” Hayden prompted quietly.

Finally, snapping out of my stupor, I managed to speak. “So, that’s what I am now? A legend?” I asked Hayden.

“More or less,” he answered with a nod. “You are the vessel which the Seekers need in order to move on to their final destination, the World of Light.”

I looked into Hayden’s eyes. I could have gotten lost in them if I let myself. “You said I’ve Crossed and that I have a gift? You really are my Guardian? And only you and I can see those things out there?” I rolled my eyes. “The people, I mean,” I corrected myself.

“Yes. Yes. And another yes.”

“World of Light. What, is that like your version of Heaven?”

“More like Heaven is your version of the World of Light. Just as the devil is your version of Alysto. Alysto is the true devil. He is the Keeper of the Wicked.”

I let his words sink in for a moment. “What is he?” I whispered, not realizing I’d spoken aloud. I didn’t really know what I meant by that question, but the answer I received was a pivotal moment in the conversation.

Hayden looked at me intensely. “There is no light left in him. He is nothing like anything you could ever imagine.”

His words sent a shiver up my spine. “If Watchers are the fallen angels who serve him now, then where did the Drones come from?”

“Drones are fallen angels as well, just given a higher rank. They’re the pets that Alysto takes pride in. Like his dogs,” he spat out.

“So there really is a hell?”

“Technically, there is no hell. It is not a place, per se. It’s a state of mind.” He gestured to the window with his hand, “They are a portion of the souls that have been in their own hell longer than they were meant to be. The dark realm. They need to be set free. That’s where you come in.”

I shook my head. “I’m sorry. I don’t understand this. Are you saying that I have to save people who have been cast into their own hell after they died?”

“It’s more like a temporary purgatory. The stories you’ve learned, like most religions, mention hell as the final destination for those who are cast there, but that’s not how this works. Everyone is meant to go to the World of Light; It is the ultimate destination, but things got a bit out of hand after Alysto started realizing he was becoming more powerful by keeping the wicked souls with him, especially after the fallen angels followed. The dark realm was only supposed to be a detour, not a permanent destination.”

“This sounds like a jacked up translation of everything I’ve ever been taught.”

“No,” he assured me. “You’ve had the right idea, just some things are missing and names have been changed in the human version. It’s supposed to be that way, so no one has the whole, true story unless they are meant to know. It’s a lot of truth to handle.” He thought for a moment before continuing. “Kind of like a movie when it’s based on a true story. Names of people and places are changed, but the events are mostly the same with a few embellishments.”

“This is not a movie. This is a real, live nightmare,” I said to him.

Hayden shook his head. “Nah, more like a ghost story. You’ve always liked those, by the way.”

I gave him a disapproving glance, but felt amazement as I recalled his storytelling. “You knew my father?”

He nodded. “Yes, quite well, actually. The night before you were born, he appointed me to be your official Guardian. The Council agreed to it, of course.”

“What happened to Luka?”

“Your father was very angry with him for going to the Council about his behavior.” He chuckled. “But, he’s still around though. You’ll meet him soon enough.”

“But that was the best thing to do, right? Obviously, something bad could have happened if the Guardian Council hadn’t intervened with my father.”

He gave me a solemn look. “You are absolutely right.”

I recalled the part of Hayden’s story when he was ordered to end my father’s mission. “The castors, are those what I will have to use?”

“Yes, I have them in a safe place until we need them,” he assured me.

“And my real mother? She was an angel?”

“She was at one time, but she was completely human when she had you.”

“Why would that happen? Why would she die so suddenly if she was meant to be with my dad?”

“It’s something that baffled us all, Evika. She was very sick. Fading for a human is a serious risk. That small window of time where we are most vulnerable is a true gamble for the angel. It is even more of a risk when an angel fades for a Soldier of Light. It needs to be done during a time that they are both safe. Lavinia may have just chosen the wrong moment; a result of a bad choice in timing.”

“You said that when angels fade they have to break their wings?” I grimaced.

Hayden nodded. “Yes. When the Creator made all of the angels, they were given the choice of free will as well, to live a normal, human life if they so choose to do. When angels choose to become human, for whatever reason, they must break the thick of their wings and let the transformation begin.”

I winced again at the last part. “Ugh, that sounds so horrible and painful.”

He looked at me. “Not at all. I think it’s beautiful, in a morbid sort of way.”

I was shocked at his opinion. “Well, does it hurt?”

“How would I know?”

“You’ve never asked any of the angels who have done it?”

“Never asked. Why would I?” He gave me a funny look.

“I don’t know. Curiosity? Like, maybe you’re determined to know what the heck is going on in their angel-brains when they did something like that just to be human?”

“I don’t find it something about which I care to know.”

I studied him, wondering what he meant. It was quite possible he was just a callous prick and would never, ever do anything that hopelessly romantic. Or on the other hand, he didn’t care to know because he would do it anyway...no matter how much pain it involved. I was hoping for the latter, then realized I was being pitifully stupid for even questioning the subject because I would never in a million years ask anyone to do something that desperately amorous for me.

I thought about Hayden as a human, and, to me, there really was no difference from what he was already. In fact, there wasn’t anything different at all about him after finding out he was an angel, other than the fact that he carried a hydro-gun that shot holy water bullets. Then I thought about the very thing that made Hayden what he truly was.

“So you’ve got wings?” I declared.

“Yup,” he answered with a smirk.

“Where are yours?” I was getting brave with my questions.

“They appear when I want them to.”

“Hmm.” I thought. “And can you fly?”

“Sure can,” he said smugly.

“Then why do you have a motorcycle?”

“It’s obviously less conspicuous if I use a Harley as my means of transportation. Flying over the city with wings may cause a bit of havoc, and we have enough of that already on our plate, don’t you think?”

“Guess so,” I said with a simper. I thought for a moment. “Where exactly is the Guardian Council?”

“They move around a lot, but we always know where they are. Right now, they are stationed in L.A.”

“L.A?”

“Yes, Los Angeles, California.”

“Why L.A?”

“Because that is where the next disaster will strike and they have to be there when it does. They always remain close to the place in which the next devastating event will happen. Try to, anyway.”

“Like an earthquake?”

Hayden bobbed his head. “Prime example.”

“How do they know where to be and when the disasters will occur?”

“Elka,” Hayden said, “she is a Guardian on the council and has the ability to foresee huge events that will make an impact, anywhere from a small city to the entire world.” He looked at me for a moment, then continued. “She’s the female friend I had come in and help get you cleaned up tonight.”

I sucked air. “Oh, my God. How embarrassing!”

“Hey, better her than me, right?” He held up his palms.

He had a point. I sighed. “Are they like you?” I wasn’t sure what I meant by my random question and I was hoping I wouldn’t have to explain myself.

“How so?”

Drats. I sighed. “Well, for starters, can they be seen?”

“Only if they want to be. You, on the other hand, have the ability to see them anytime now that you’ve Crossed.”

“And what about you? I can see you, but what about other people?”

“Now, I’m kind of a permanence, if you will, so every other human will be able to see me with you. Don’t worry, you won’t have to go walking around looking as if you’re talking to an imaginary friend.” He laughed at the thought.

“Well, that’s good news,” I said with little enthusiasm. Then a yawn took me over.

“Oooookay, that’s the cue. You need to get some sleep. We’ll finish up with the endless questions in the morning.” He winked at me.

My eyes widened as he stood from the chair. “Where are you---”

“Relax, Evika. I already told you I wasn’t going anywhere.” He rummaged through the cupboards. “Do you have any coffee?”

“Angels drink coffee?”

He chuckled. “Nevermind. I’ll just grab some water. Hey,” his eyes widened, “here’s some Kool-Aid.”

“Good, ’cuz I don’t have coffee.”

“Don’t worry about me. I’ll make myself at home. You get some rest.”

I rolled my eyes and nestled into the bed, exhausted, watching him in the light of the refrigerator. I admired the curves of his arm muscles as he made himself a bowl of the pasta salad that Ms. Makerov left for me. He started shoveling the food into his mouth, not even bothering to get to the table first. I quietly giggled at how human he seemed. So perfectly imperfect.

“Hey, Hayden?”

His head perked up. “Yeah?”

“What kind of angel are you, anyway?” I laughed out the question.

“The only kind there is, the good kind,” he answered matter-of-factually. He gulped down his huge mug of cherry Kool-Aid and paused to throw me an innocent smile. “G’night, Evika.”

For an angel, he seemed human enough for me. “G’night, Angel-man.” I sighed and listened to the song playing on the radio. Content, I let my heavy eyes shut.

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