Alexander- Life among the GateKeepers
A cigarette burns between my lips as I gape at the ceiling. I’ve completely forgotten about it in the last five minutes and it’s nearly finished by the time the woman down on her knees rises and plucks it from my unresponsive mouth.
“Smoking will kill ya.” She winks, taking the last drag out of it.
I zip up my jeans, grasping her arm and shoving her to the wall behind us. She giggles, dropping the dead butt to the floor. My fingers delve in her short red tresses, clenching. “Thanks for the advice.” My tongue dives into her mouth and hers twirls with mine with a hunger that drives me crazy. One of her hands twists in my blond hair while fingernails run down along my bicep. They climb back up again, resting on my cheek fingering a scar splitting down the center of my facial hair. I can’t seem to get enough of her and though it has only been days since I met her, she’s the best thing in my life right now. Well, technically it’s what’s between her legs that has me satisfied. My own hand travels up her shirt, drifting over a ribcage and cupping an amble breast through a lacy bra. I pinch through the fabric and earn a deep-throated moan.
She breaks away with a wicked grin. “Don’t go getting excited again. I’ve got other things to do then gettin’ you off.” Her Irish accent only sounds when she whispers.
“What are you here for then?” I murmur, kissing a path down her neck.
“Are all Angels this horny?” She leans her head back, delighted by my affection. I can feel her heartbeat beneath my lips and her breath sounds ragged in my ear.
“’Make love not war’. Where do you think he got that from?” She cackles, lifting her leg up on my hip.
The door snaps open and we shove away from each other. In the miniature lavatory of an airplane, there isn’t much space we can give one another. She fixes her shirt and I attempt to hide the lump in my pants.
Commander stands before us. Her long braided black hair hangs over her shoulder. She glares dangerously, flipping her gaze from Josie to me. As she sizes me up, I hide my smile behind a quick hand. How does she manage to keep a straight face every time she catches me screwing one of her subordinates?
She takes a step back. “Out.”
Josie rushes forward, fearful, apologizing as she goes.
I follow a bit less hasty, casually finding my seat. Several pairs of eyes peer at me from their spots. I hold my head higher, unwilling to stomach the judgment in their gazes. If they weren’t Fallen and could actually have relations with the opposite sex, they wouldn’t be so quick to criticize me.
I rest comfortably in a chair in the front and await Commander’s reprimand. In the shadows of the hallway, invisible to the other occupants of the cabin I observe Commander as she takes a moment to rest. I don’t need to access the Source to acknowledge the fact that she needs to visit Sheol.
The attack on Fort Dix was a courageous idea. Our main goal was to steal a plane. Josie had previously infiltrated the base a week earlier and provided us with a detailed summary of the army and its occupants. Commander was positive she could take on Isis while we got away with a jet.
The plan went awry, however. Matthias, Isis’ Second was at the compound, an unexpected visit. We wouldn’t have time to get the plane before he broke through Commander’s Net to save his leader. We lost two members we hadn’t calculated on.
Yet, we still consider the infiltration a success. No one could have prepared us for what happened afterwards. Isis’s mental breakdown was a surprise. In the wake of disaster, the Angels at Newark Airport grew careless with their ports. We managed to steal a small twelve person aircraft before anyone could notice.
When Commander arrived at the airfield, she collapsed. She nearly exhausted her Light in her defense against Isis and Matthias. At such dangerously low levels, she must sleep for a few days or she needs to replenish her Soul in Hell. Yet, she refuses to do either. Barely standing as she is, she continues forward.
Commander settles the dizziness and grows taut as she approaches me. She doesn’t even spare Josie a glance. I’m the one who led the human to ‘sin.’ Josie isn’t innocent, I’ll have her know. She’s a little vixen and she has enjoyed every moment we’ve spent together over the last week since I’ve coaxed her into my bed.
“How are you feeling, Commander?” I grin.
“Do you think this is a game, Alexander?”
My eyes drop to the floor as a memory flashes in front of me. My heart pounds in my chest and my cocky air deflates. Guilt drifts up like a searching hand ready to choke me around the neck. The same words, the same tone, the same kind of scene, it’s all too coincidental. Ariel had said the very same thing to me. It makes me wonder if I have changed at all in the few hundred years since I left Ariel’s Council. Could it really be possible to be the same? Or am I being wistful, hoping I haven’t changed as much as I feel?
A whistle from the back of the plane gains our attention. “The thing’s kicking.” Ned informs us.
I get to my feet, walking calmly down the aisle. He’s in a row of seats, standing up, looking over the back of them, watching as Kyla suffers a nightmare, entertained. He absolutely disgusts me. I can hear her kick and moan even though I can’t see her. How can anyone just stand and watch?
I step past him only to turn and slam my fist into his face, not once, not twice, but I manage to get three punches dead center on his cheek before a fellow member seizes my other arm. I quickly surrender, “I’m good.”
Ned falls into a seat, holding his face in outrage. He’ll heal within moments. Fallen have that wonderful quality where they feel no pain and don’t bleed.
Me, however, my hand will swell and writhe in agony for a good few hours before it heals up. One of the perks of being an Angel.
I drop beside Kyla. Lying on a makeshift cot, she thrashes even with the straps pinned around her arms and legs. Her black hair twists and knots, her soft white skin burns red from fever. Streaks of tears mar her cheeks and her muscles tense in agony. I manage to get a cloth between her clenching fingers so she doesn’t bury her nails into her skin as she’s done before. The heart monitor beeps erratically and I read the layout of her brain waves. It’s going to be a bad episode.
I hold her head, grabbing a cloth from the bucket beside her and slowly rub the cool wet rag over her skin, dragging it along her neck, over the ragged scar that stretches from one ear to the next. “Shhh. I’m right here. I know you can hear me, darling.” I murmur in her ear, patting her silk hair. I tighten the bed sheets over her, attempting to keep her as still as possible.
Josie comes and rests her hands upon her feet, serving to restrain her. “This is the third attack in five hours. They’re getting worse.”
I nod silently, paying attention only to Kyla’s face. Her lips are moving. She’s always whispering but I never hear what she’s saying. “Kyla. Kyla. You’re safe, sweetheart.” I clench my teeth, as helpless as ever.
Five minutes pass before the muscles in her body begin to relax. I watch her rapid heart beat decline and wait until they return to the normal fifty pulses per minute. I take a deep breath, pulling away and rest against the wall behind her leaning my head in my hands.
The episodes are longer, coming more frequently. It’s depressing that there is so little I can do about it. Her heartbeat echoes in the silence. It’s the only part that eases the misery.
Sixteen days it’s been since she went into a coma. I thought perhaps as time went on, her Soul would eventually dig itself out from whatever hole it’s in but as the days continue to go by, things kept changing and getting worse.
I’m a doctor, I should be able to heal her and yet, here she is, fallible and diseased.
Commander saunters up and I roll my eyes. “What?” I nip, “We weren’t done?”
“I kept you for a single purpose. You said you could heal her but you have gotten no further than the day I met you. Does her pain not affect you?”
“Of course it does. But--”
“Do not hand me excuses.”
She kneels down and begins to undo the straps over the blankets. It worries me. Kyla is unpredictable when she is having an episode. She clawed open her own skin last week. Blood was everywhere and I still can’t get the image out of my head. Commander lays out Kyla’s arm and I can make out the strap marks. I close my eyes unwilling to face them.
“She is Fallen and yet she bleeds. She cries. Her heart knocks when it should be silent. These developments happened only in the last two weeks. What does that make her now? A Hybrid, you call her? Does she then have a purpose? What does God require her to do? None of these questions can be answered if you don’t do your job.”
“Vetalas hunt my Soul. What do you want from me?”
“A sign.” Commander holds Kyla’s hand, firmly, a subtle reassuring gesture that I find uncharacteristic. “I’ve guarded dozens of Souls in my life so believe in my experience when I say: You cannot be sufficient at your job if you care nothing for yourself.”
The lights on the plane begin to flicker. I can hear the generators fluctuate and the electric hum of the engines flutter.
Josie stands over us, “You’re upsetting her.” She nervously twitters, “You know she can hear you, so please stop arguing.”
I cover my eyes. There is nothing worse when feeling like a failure than someone telling you, you are failing.
Commander gets to her feet. “You’ve changed. When you first came here, you were--”
I toss my hand down, “I was pathetic. I was a scared kid, terrified of my own Soul. I’m thankful, Commander, if you don’t think I am, you’re wrong.”
She looks at me with knit brows. “I was going to say, you were kind. You were eager for our help because you were afraid. Now, a few lessons of self-defense: do you believe yourself better? You have no respect for anyone. Including hers. If you believe you can make it on your own, Alexander, then when we land, part ways.”
I watch her go back to the front, wondering if I could leave. Can I manage being by myself again and protect Kyla?
Somehow, that idea isn’t as scary as it used to be.
When I first started out on this insane mission to save Kyla, there was no question in my mind that I required aid. Baby-sitting did not fit in my sensitive time schedule. When people started dying around me, I would have done anything to hand her over and go back to a lifestyle of one-night stands and hospital rooms full of sick humans.
Why did I stay?
It all happened so fast. Clinging to Commander became the only way to survive it. She caught me at my weakest moment.
Since the journey began, I think I’ve changed. I don’t know if it’s necessarily for the better.
Joe leans over the backend of the seat, peering down at me, “I didn’t teach you how to throw a punch so you can bash my clan mates in the face.”
I cackle, “Next you’re going to say you didn’t teach me how to shoot so I can kill Angels.”
“I didn’t. I taught you how to shoot so if a Vetalas catches you by yourself, you can protect yourself. Only the Darkness deserves to die, Alexander.”
The guilt makes me joke. “Ned had it coming.”
“That’s beside the point.”
Our laughter bothers Ned and we hear him cursing up in the front. Quickly the other Gate keepers gather around us, poking questions about my captivity in Isis’ prison. We spare a moment of silence for the two lost fighters but we are overly proud of ourselves for our achievement. Going up against an Erelim and her Second is like going up against God. We achieved the impossible today and survived.
The cabin to the pilot door shuts and everyone quiets as Commander approaches. She looks us over, deciding if anything we are doing deserves chastisement. Then she calls Josie to the cockpit and disappears again.
“She doesn’t look good.” Joe comments.
“If she uses her Light again, she’ll die. Someone has to coax her to Sheol.”
Wallace bulks at my statement. “She’ll never go.” He throws his long pony tail over his shoulder, pulling back the bracelets on his arm, “Sheol’s dangerous for her. She’s over six thousand years old, don’t you think its odd she’s not an Elder?”
I swim around my memory, pulling up old studies, “To gain Elder status, you are chosen by the Merci.”
“That’s the way they do it in Heaven. In Sheol, Lucius choses you. You have to prove your faithfulness to him. He gave her a chance and she denied him.”
“She denied the Devil? Of course she did, why am I surprised?” The boys laugh but I wasn’t playing around with that remark. “Why is she alive then? I mean, why didn’t Lucius kill her?”
Wallace blankly looks at me, “You don’t know who she is?”
“All I know is her name’s Commander.”
He guffaws. “You’re not too bright, kid.”
The door snaps open and Josie pops out, “Joe, she wants to see you.”
“Ah, what is this about?” He murmurs under his breath but dutifully hurries to do her bidding.
Josie sits beside me on the floor. The crowd disperses, uninterested in two lovers conversing. She adjusts the blanket around Kyla, folding it and tucking it in. She runs her fingers along Kyla’s black hair, fanning it around the pillow. “She’s pretty, isn’t she?”
I nod absentmindedly.
“What do you think she’s like? Pretty girls are usually so vain. What if she’s like,” She sits up, cocking her head to the side, swinging her hair, “All valley girl!”
I hide my laughter behind a weary hand.
“Or maybe, she went in the opposite direction.” She slouches, depressed, “And hates the sun and everything underneath it.”
I pull Josie into my lap kissing her forehead and holding her close. She snuggles into my lap, contently sighing out. I feel her fingertips play with the wrinkles in my shirt.
I don’t have feelings for Josie but its nice having someone to talk too. I simply wish it was Kyla. I want her to open her eyes and look at me. I want her to smile and laugh. I want to hear her voice for the first time in something other than a scream or cry. More than anything, I want her to wake.
“I think I’m going to leave.” I admit softly.
Her hold tightens, “You can’t. You won’t survive on your own.”
“Maybe, maybe not.” I rub my jaw, playing with my scar. “Kyla doesn’t like her.”
Josie springs to her knees, “Commander’s not going to let you take her.”
I stop myself from remarking. No one will ever stop me from taking Kyla anywhere.
“Do you know why Commander keeps me even though I’m human? I’m a Seer. I see Souls all the time. I don’t have to access the Source. My mother gave up her life to save me and since I was young I’ve been able to see things better than most. I see Kyla’s Light. And it terrifies me.”
The heart monitor escalates.
“What do you see, Josie?”
“How can I describe something that doesn’t make sense? A Soul is like a round orb, even Fallen the shape rotates in a mutated circle. Kyla’s Soul isn’t a round, or square, or chained like Elder Light. It’s. It takes up her entire body. Right down into the fingertips and the toes. No one has that much Light. Not Elders, not Erelims. No one.”
The beeping decreases. I watch it slow and wonder what it means. Kyla hears everything and for a moment, did she fear what Josie would say? Did Josie get it wrong? Was there something else about her Light that Josie couldn’t see?
I run my hands through my hair. “I don’t think I can trust Commander anymore.”
When did I start feeling like that?
I stare at Kyla’s face. She is impassive, sleeping soundly with a slight red tint on the white of her cheeks. Her lips are partly chapped and I reach into the bag beside her for some ointment. Placing some on my finger, I rub her lips gently and they fall open from the pressure.
How much is Kyla understanding in her sleeping state? Another question rises, but it’s quiet, barely audible as if a thought is afraid of being heard: How much is she controlling in her sleeping state?