I like to believe I am a man of many talents and patience is one of my superior skills. As a doctor, it becomes a necessity as one digs their way through organs, meticulously stitching up torn muscles and arteries.
As a lover, it’s imperative for, well, obvious reasons.
Over the course of two weeks, hopping around the United States searching for an exit, my supply of patience dwindled. I busied my time with training. Joe taught me how to shoot and box. Wallace educated me on Vetalas weak points. I became a professional killer on Voids. I’ve yet to kill one but I’m no longer so afraid.
And fear had nearly encompassed me.
When I was new to the game and on the run the very first day, I fell into the hands of a Kyonshi. That diseased creature was the one to give me my first scar, the first taste to a morbid transformation. In order to survive, I had to run, to hurt, to kill. I used the Source, knowingly that doing so would call the Vetelas, creatures of Darkness that had somehow attached themselves to my Light. They unintentionally came to my rescue. It was here I witnessed a different kind of death, the type doctors usually never see:
From then on, I felt burdened, too afraid of my own Soul. The Vetelas followed me like a pack of shadows waiting to eat me alive. I lived in terror, trembling from my own image. I could never call on the Light again, I thought. I could never hurt someone else. But then, something changed. I no longer feared for myself. I feared for Kyla. I needed to save her. I needed to do anything to keep her safe. That’s when it all began. When I began to twist the Vetelas’ evil presence and use it as a weapon.
And I think I’ve killed Angels because of it.
It’s nothing that I want to do but it is something that I have to do. Kyla must survive. It is the fact that I have known since Tymician showed up at my doorstep and revealed the crucial detail that she wasn’t Fallen or an Angel. I didn’t want to deal with her in the beginning because I was a selfish man but I knew that she was important. It’s the reason I never left her.
I joined Commander and the Gatekeepers because I had nowhere else to go. I needed help. With them, I’ve grown stronger. I’ve accepted my purpose in life and my guilt isn’t drowning me. I can save her without them. When I get off this plane, I’m taking Kyla and we’re leaving.
The heart monitor suddenly springs to action to my surprise but at the same moment, the plane begins to jolt and jumble. Everyone rises to their feet. Gravity however shoves us back down. Breath comes heavy and cumbersome as I grip the fabric of my shirt looking down the aisle into the cockpit of the plane. Red light flashes and bright alarms sound in high alert as the plane continues to ride this turbulence of unfathomable weight.
Is Kyla doing this? What for? How have I upset her?
“Tell that creature to stop!” Ned screams down the aisle.
“It’s not her.” Commander replies, leaning against the wall with closed eyes, barely capable of withstanding the compression. She grips whatever she can, her knuckles white. “Hold. It will be. Over soon.” She forces, her throat constricts and her very muscles quiver. She is still terribly weak from fighting Isis.
As Commander predicted, the plane re-stabilizes and it’s just in time for the captain flying to announce our landing. We hit the floor hard and jar in our seats. I look back at Kyla but she is well strapped and remains steady. Her heart rate lowers and breathing calms.
“What was that?” Ned questions from his seat two rows up. He hasn’t come near me since I punched in his face a couple hours prior.
Commander sits on the floor, gripping her thighs uneasily. She’s shaking and breathless. “Light. The question,” She pauses taking another deep breath, “Is whose.”
If I could look at her while connected to the Source it might tell me more but being that I don’t want the Vetalas to bombard our plane I’m stuck only assuming. Her Soul is dying. If she doesn’t return to Sheol and regain the Light she’s lost, she will cease to exist. No doubt being so close to the edge is painful, being an Angel or Fallen, it doesn’t seem to matter.
It’s not like I haven’t been there. In the past weeks guarding Kyla, I’ve gotten to that point, the edge, the peak at which the Soul can extend. It feels as if there is fire inside your chest, churning all of your organs, and they soak in a pit of lava in your belly.
I refuse to go to Heaven because of Kyla. Besides the fact that I’ve been with the Gatekeepers all this time, I don’t trust them enough to leave her alone. If I left, they might take off without me and I might never find her again. Instead, I lay beside her and sleep. The first day we were in their protective embraces, I slept twenty hours straight. Sleep and food will rejuvenate her in time. But the fact remains that staying on Earth increases her chances of dying.
What stops Commander? I doubt she cares the Devil of Sheol wants her dead. She doesn’t seem to fear anything. She simply needs a few hours. What is that compared to a week feeling ill and incapable of fighting?
From Commander’s spot on the floor, she divulges all that’s going to transpire when we land. There is a ground team already preparing to take Kyla and I away from the airport. There is a van waiting followed by two escorts, they will take us to Amsterdam Zuid train station. From there we will catch three different trains that will eventually lead us to Frankfurt, Germany where there is a temporary holding loft until we can find another plane to take us to Japan.
There we will attempt to save Ariel.
It sounds perfect, as all her plans usually are. I don’t want to leave. Kyla and I are safe from all forms of the Darkness and Angels alike but we are not safe from her. If Commander chooses to betray Kyla or me, I won’t be able to stop her. I glance back at Kyla. Her heart runs a little faster than typical. She agrees with me.
Or perhaps it is I that agrees with her?
The Gatekeepers rush about the cabin preparing their stuff, gathering their multiple bags from the overhead. I kneel down beside Kyla and reach for the pads upon her chest that monitors her heartbeat.
I remember the day I realized she was breathing. We had moved again: Commander and her never-ending movements. We had been to seven different states in five days. Bomb shelters and holes in the ground that couldn’t pass for a home were how we spent our nights. Yet sometimes we received luxury with waiters to tend to our every need. Kyla always had the best seat in the house. She was comfortable and treated as a prized possession.
We all sat down, hiding, waiting for the Darkness to abandon their search of us. We could hear each other’s breath. That’s when I heard hers. Light and airy she breathed through her nose. I crawled to her side and I watched her stomach rise and fall. It was slow and calming. There wasn’t a care to her world. I reached out a shaking hand, I touched the small of her wrist, and it was there I felt the pulse of her heart, drumming just as lightly. It made it all worth it. The struggles we were fighting became purposeful.
Kyla is growing stronger. Every day she sleeps, her strength only increases.
I rip the small pads off her skin and the monitor ceases blinking. Undoing the straps, I fold them up and put them in my bag. “Are you ready? You got to promise not to have any nightmares for a while. Fight him off, okay? You’re stronger than he is. I know you are.”
My brows knit as a tear drips down her temple. My finger darts to it and rubs at the wetness. “I know Sloth is in there, Kyla. I’m trying to get you help. Stay with me a little while longer, okay?” I fling the bag over my arm and lift her up, cradling her tight.
At the exit of the plane, a gurney awaits and I lie her down, folding the blanket into her sides before they use their own straps to pin her. I close my eyes forcing my attention away. I feel Josie place a hand on my arm and together we watch them roll her away. She whispers lightly in my ear, “’Sleep is the first sign of recovery’, my father always said.” She giggles. “When she wakes, they’ll be no stopping her.” I smirk, meeting Josie’s bright green eyes. I snatch her hand, pulling her down the aisle. I’m not one for showing affection but her attempt to make me feel better meant a lot. I think I might actually miss her when I leave.
She leans against me, “Are you really going?”
Commander leads the brigade with confidence, striding forward through the air bridge followed by the six of us. Kyla is always in the middle, safely guarded and secured. I will miss this. I’m glad I got to see what it’s really like to protect someone. I’ve learned many things while in the care of the Gatekeepers.
Upon coming out into the open airport my brows knit in confusion. Commander stands confronted by a group of individuals, arrogantly jaw tight as they eye us with mild interest. The leader of the four men is obvious. Dressed in a rather expensive leather knee length coat, with fur trimming the edges, he adjusts his cuffs, showing of the gold jewelry decorating his black fingers. He meets each of our faces individually from behind his black rimmed glasses, as if committing each visage to memory.
He pauses upon me. I am the only Angel in the company and it confuses him. It’s the same for Josie whose hand I hold. I feel her shift her fingers from mine and she takes a step away. Shame makes her do this. Angel and human relationships are considered blasphemy in our culture. She would know this better than me. I’m not really mindful of my own kind.
Commander breaks the unruly silence. “Over the phone, I was under the impression, Sir Heinrich, that we would have no need for this.”
“Yes, so was I.” His perfect diction is stressed so much it is annoying. “You stated your case and I was much inclined to allow you to continue on your way. The use of this airport in exchange for the use of your plane: an even barter that I could not detest, despite your malevolent life form. However, what you failed to mention over the phone is that your plane was stolen.”
Heinrich points a bejeweled finger to the window. I glance back and notice aside from the Delta symbol, Isis’ tag clearly marks on its tail. The symbol of Aten: the sun God. A round gold orb and dozens of streaks pull from its circle, the signifying sigil that is impossible to hide.
The man clasps his hands in front of him, resting them at his waist. “Now. I do not have time to waste on you but you have put me in quite a predicament. As it is, this private jet is the only one available for the next few hours. We have already been postponed due to technical difficulties. Humans are impossible to persuade when their lives are in jeopardy. It is a necessity that we leave here immediately. As such, I will contact Erelim Elder Isis, turn you in and as a reward she will allow me to use her plane. You will accommodate me and not put up a fuss. Understood?”
I bow my head, attempting to hide my smile.
Commander allows a moment for thought, as if she was actually thinking about it. “Forgive me, but I must decline your offer. As important as it is for you to leave, it is as imperative for us as well. It is quite dangerous for us to loiter. The Angel with us has the ability to call upon the Vetalas when he so chooses. The Fallen asleep is very ill and tends to attract the Darkness. I assure you, you do not want our company.”
Heinrich adjusts his glasses, “And I assure you, I do not like threats. Especially from the cesspool of society.” He smirks warmly, as if friendly, “Surely you do not mean to put up a fight, girl. You are moments from extinction.”
There is a long pause before Commander replies. “I will agree to this if you will accommodate. You are in danger. The ones you have with you,” His smile falters, “Are in danger. Allow the Angel and the sick girl to go along with two of my wards, and the rest of us will stay as you call upon Erelim Isis.”
He is stiff staring at us. “How do I know you speak true? Fallen are malicious liars.”
“No more so than the Angels that they spring from.” She murmurs. “Do you wish to take that chance, sir? With their lives?”
He bristles and stamps a foot, “Fine, be done with it. Let them go. But you stay close to me, woman. I will take pleasure when Madam Isis lays her eyes on you. No doubt she will be pleased with me.”
Commander turns her brown gaze back upon us. “Ned, Josie, go on. The rest are waiting by the van. Keep Alex and Kyla in your gaze at all time. I am counting on you.”
“What about you?” Ned growls, worry stitching in his tone.
She shakes her head. “There is a rune around this place. We cannot leave it. If I find a way out I will take it but…” She trails off. Her gaze finds me. “Alexander. Ariel resides in the bottom level of the east wing of the Ruling. It’s impenetrable. She’s imprisoned and kept in a coma but she’s well, have no doubt. There’s a man named Mark. He’s on our side. Find him, if you can.” Her eyes flip back to Josie, “Locate the Gloria Patri, tell them what’s happened here.”
Heinrich belittle, cackling, “Why would the Gloria Patri care about what’s happening here?”
As I watch them walk away, I am suddenly unsure. Commander thought of everything. There isn’t any doubt in her voice. She has plans and desires to save Kyla. There isn’t any need for us to go. Have I been misreading Kyla’s instincts? She sleeps soundly beneath the covers. Is something else going on that’s causing me to pick up the wrong clues? I thought I needed to leave because Kyla was telling me too but maybe that wasn’t all of it.
Josie touches my bicep, forcing my feet to follow. The gurney rolls onward toward the exit.
What did Kyla want from me? She needed to get away. She is in danger but from what?
I pull away from Josie’s incessant hand, “Go. I’ll catch up.” I dart off to the bathroom before Ned or her can have an opinion. I need to get away from Kyla to clear my mind. Sometimes I don’t know what thoughts are truly mine anymore.
I wash my hands in the sink, dipping my head down to splash my face with cold water. It’s rejuvenating and it’s mine. It almost feels like I’ve knocked her out of my head and I’ve finally taken back control of my senses.
I want to save Commander. It’s the first thought that springs forward. I don’t want to leave the Gatekeepers. I want to stay with Joe and Wallace and yes, even Ned. They’ve become kind of friends. I don’t know where things are going with Josie but I would like to find out. I think I might have a messed up relationship with her. I’ll end up cheating on her but for the first few months it will be worth staying around for.
I look in the mirror. This is me. My face. My hair. My eyes.
I suck in a breath. Will God forgive me for what I’m about to do?
I connect to the Source. Who knows who I’ll sacrifice this time but I need Commander. And this is my only way.
“You alright, dude?” A deep-rooted New York accent sounds in my ear.
In the middle of washing his hands, all of his movements stall and his eyes widen as we connect.
Though he’s shaven and clean cut now, it’s unmistakable that he and I have met before. The build of his body and the piercing on his eye along with the sound of his voice all pile together and recreate that day in the abandoned house two weeks ago.
I didn’t know who he was then. I didn’t know the Angel that protected him. I was ignorant and stupid. Time however has filled me in and I’m well aware of the irony spinning around me. Vaul, a Erelim Shini, one of God’s greatest warriors in my path protecting mankind’s first Prophet in two thousand years. I had nearly killed them both in my fear.
Now here I am about to do it again.
He flicks off the water, “You’re that guy.” He dries his hands quickly to hold it out in greeting. “I’ve been thinking about that day for a while. I’m Sable.”
I snatch his hand and with vicious panic and mild stupidity, I attempt to shove him under the sink but he’s pretty muscular compared to me and stands undisturbed, regarding me with awkward confusion on his brow.
I flick my eyes all about, “What the hell are you doing here?”
“Are you okay?”
“No! No!” I have thirty seconds until the Vetalas show their ugly faces. I poke my head out the door and then look back at him. “We’re fucked. You have to go. Where’s Vaul?”
“I don’t know. Dude, what’s going on?”
“Dude, you’re gonna die. Who’s with you?”
“Heinrich and the others.”
Heinrich, the snobby Angel that has Commander is his guardian. It’s irony. “Fantastic. Let’s go. Move.” He takes his time as if there is nothing going on. “Little faster.” I push against his back.
“What about the others?”
“The other Prophets?”
My heart drops, “There’s more of you?”
“Lexie and Joshua.”
I begin a wild sprint, “Run!” Thankfully he’s beginning to see the severity of the situation and picks up his pace calling out to his friends who are sitting several feet from where we come running. A odd looking gothic girl in a black dress comes skipping up to us as if she’s going for a stroll in the park and another, who’s fur jacket keeps him well grounded, jogs for only about three seconds before he gives up.
He throws his head back in exhaustion, “I can’t run.” He groans.
I look up to the ceiling, wondering why the Vetalas haven’t come yet. I’m still connected to the Source I realize and quickly drop it.
Sable carries the bags of all three of them considering that neither of the others are capable of running and holding supplies at the same time. He continues to look back at his friends making sure they are keeping up. It isn’t long before we make it where Commander is being captive. “Heinrich.” Sable hollers out. The man shifts in his chair before swiftly standing. “This guy says we’re in danger.”
Heinrich is unresponsive, turning his gaze back upon Commander. “Is this your ploy?”
Commander growls, “You called upon the Vetalas?”
My attention is vague. Where are these monsters? Why haven’t they attacked our position yet?
“The airport is secure, Alexander. Even your curse can’t pierce the extensive protection around it.” Commander hesitates and then she stands up, revealing her hands in cuffs. “Kyla is outside.”
My heart races and I sprint with everything I have inside me. Panic flushes my blood, adrenaline pushes every muscle to the brink. Sable is on my heels and I know that others will no doubt be following too. I twist in between people and dodge around their luggage, tripping over their carry-ons and little children, careless when I knock someone down.
I shove the door open and trip out onto the sidewalk, flicking my head this way and that. Sable is immediately upon me. He managed to keep up. It’s surprising. I’ve become one hell of a runner.
“What’s going on? Is it that girl? Is she okay?”
My chest hurts. Whether it’s from running or from terror, I don’t know.
Sable speaks again, “There’s something over there.” He tells me. “It doesn’t feel… normal.”
He points to the left and I take off running with him right beside me. Our footsteps are hard in the grass as we jump over bushes and shrubs. Coming around the building, I snatch onto his shoulder and shove him against the wall. Burning rubber and smoke assaults my nostrils but most importantly is the black wave of fire gyrating high in the sky. Our getaway van smolders and glass shatters on the ground. Even the tires lay flat and useless.
“Are the Vetalas here?”
Sable is speechless but he manages to slowly shake his head.
“What do you see?”
Panicked, I take off to find Kyla but Sable latches onto my shoulder pulling me back, “Stop, they’ll see you.” He whispers fretfully.
I look around but the carport is vacant. All humans evacuated the area. There must be a Net to ward them off. If there is a Net, then there is someone hosting it. And Vetalas can’t host Nets.
I shake my head, “I’m not connected to the Source. If they aren’t in a human body, I can’t see them.”
“They aren’t human.”
“I have to find Kyla.”
Sable knells down, craning his neck. “I think I see her. She’s on the ground beside the left tire. They seem to be guarding her.”
Too fast for me to stop it, Heinrich and his soldiers jump upon us. Pinning me to the wall, I can’t fight hard enough as they clamp a rag over Sable’s mouth which renders him unconscious. Heinrich adjust the glasses on his face. “Get out of here, child.” He orders me. “The Darkness is not for your sort.”
“Wait, wait, What. What are you going to do with him?”
“I’m doing my job. Do not worry, the prophets are safe.” He looks to his left, toward the Darkness. “Demons on Earth, so boldly coming out. The world must be ending.”
Demons? Is that why the Vetelas didn’t come out? Are they safeguarding Kyla until the Sins can get here and take her Light?
I run out toward the port, grabbing the gun from my waist as I access the Source. The sight of evil would have derailed me weeks ago. Tangible fear would have swallowed me whole and I would have run the opposite way proudly claiming cowardice.
Now, as I witness for the first time Demons, I draw my gun and prepare to fire on the deformity of the bodies.