The world has changed.
As a flower rises from a single stem, expanding voluptuous petals and then swiftly blackening into decay and dying, this is the rise and fall of humanity and the rot is prevailing across the lands. I see it as visibly as I see the obscuring sky and lightning flashing in the distance.
Mother Nature greets me, warns me, and tempts me.
But as with all flowers, with life in general, when one dies, another rises.
A gentle touch upon my shoulder signals me to pull from the distant shorelines and rest my attention back inside the balcony.
“Mark.” I acknowledge him with a smile.
He stands beside me observing the streets below. “We haven’t gotten to cars and busses yet, I’m afraid. I hope this doesn’t scare you.”
“You forget one little fact, sir, I can read minds. I am caught up to date, I assure you.”
He warmly chuckles, “Yes, your grace.”
I feel the weight of his stare and I turn to look at him, inquiring with the raise of my brow.
Mark shakes his head, throwing his gaze away, “I’m sorry, your grace, but you seem different. Happier, perhaps.”
“My memories returned, sir. Happy is perhaps the proper word. And I am free. What other emotion can I be?” I turn and kiss his cheek just barely. He is stiff and unresponsive but it only makes it humorous, “It is my thanks. You are a kind Soul, sir, to assist me and are forever a friend to me and to whoever is my ally.”
“I am a humble servant to the Gatekeepers and to you, your grace.” He bows as he takes his leave.
Desna steps in his place.
I view the fading sun; the hues alter in color. The simplicity of a sunset amazes. I’ve yearned for such a thing. Three hundred years ago was the last time I laid eyes on the sky.
“Where is he, Desna?”
Her silence twists the pumping organ in my chest and I close my eyes, gripping the silk of my pants. The word ‘dead’ is not an option and I refuse to believe in it.
The last bit of sun disappears before I manage to witness it. I turn to her instead, missing out on it for one more day. “Look at me.”
Trepidation and sorrow knit on her brow and she keeps her head bowed in submission. “Siyadtak, forgive me.”
“I will not. Why aren’t you searching for Tymician? Does he know you are disloyal? Did he ask this of you?”
Desna drops to her knee, beseeching, “He willed me to save the girl.”
“Unacceptable. Five thousand years ago, you pledged loyalty. Do you betray it? You will find him.”
She only bows lower, “Forgive me, Amir-Panj. But it is too late. It’s been--”
“I care not the excuses or the reasons. You have never failed him. He has relied on you and even when I thought you nothing but a slave, you proved to me that you are truly worthy of being his right hand.”
She looks up, pleading with me to understand but it annoys me.
“I have been jealous of you. I despised you, I shunned the ground you walked on. You stood beside him and followed him everywhere. You took the place that should have been mine. But, you made me a promise long ago. Do you remember this promise?” Tears blur my vision. My emotions are still difficult to control even now. “You must go. Or will you deny me this one last chance to live vicariously through you?”
Desna snaps to her feet and determination burns bright in the brown of her gaze, “No, Siyadtak. I will find him. I swear upon my Light.” She jumps off the balcony and into an open Dust, delving into Sheol, a place I have never been.
I step forward yearning to follow her. To find him myself. To see him again after thousands of years of distance. Tymician cannot be dead. I would have felt the loss to the other half of my Soul, even in my catatonic slumber. I wonder if in my present state, I could for once, be in his world.
My back straightens. My shaking finger rises to my cheek to find a tear. The wetness could be considered extravagant if I didn’t find it confusing. I turn to Alexander with a brilliant smile.
Rugged and weary, he reaches out a dirt-covered hand, “Will you look at her now?”
Vaul stands rigid in the corner of the small apartment. He keeps his hand latched upon his sword and his wings curled up tight against the wall. Feathers gather at his feet. He tends to shed when he is distraught.
Humorously, I wonder, “Do I upset you, sir?”
“Why are you projecting, your grace? You know too well what lies out there.”
“I do. And here I am, an hour on Earth and nothing comes. Not Darkness, Not Light. Why is that? Where are my friends, Vaul? The many Souls I considered family?”
He bows his head. It is shame he feels and he shouldn’t. It wasn’t he who left me locked away beneath the Ruling’s deep-rooted bulwark.
“Why is the Darkness silent, sitting in the shadows unwilling to make futile attempts to capture my Soul?”
“It is Lucius that keeps them sedated. He busies them with war.”
“War.” The word is no foreign term but it has lost its meaning over the many years. When Lucius is at its base, I have little faith in his convictions. Perhaps without a savior to guard against the Devil, he thought he could be victor of this world. But now with my sudden arrival, his courage falters. It is a typical case of the Son of God. “We shall see.”
Directed by Alexander, I sit upon the bed where the silent woman lies. He takes up the opposite side and I observe him as he frets over her with tentative fingers. His love for her warms my heart and now all I desire is to know the woman that has captured his devotion.
The scar running across her neck pulls at my contentment. Such a wound is a sign of Fallen but her Soul is a brilliant spark of Light matching the weight and presence of an Elder Angel. Her Light is an unbroken crystal unblinking, unfathomably large taking up the entire space of its shell to a nearly combustible level. I have only ever seen such a thing from Dane Monte.
I grow uncomfortable as I sit beside her. I realize being next to such an enormous power, I feel nothing. Not her essence, her presence, or her warmth. I rest my fingertips on her hand just to acknowledge the fact that she is not a figment of my imagination. Her brain patterns wave in recognition. Despite her shell comatose and unresponsive, she is awake inside and knowledgeable of her surroundings.
“What is she?” I find myself breathing.
Alexander brushes a few strands of hair from her face. I feel the rise of her heartbeat. “A hybrid.”
Such a thing has not existed before but I will never question God. I readily believe in anything under His creation. I can only assume as I speak, “Part Light, Part Dark. She hibernates as she learns to adapt to her power as any Soul would properly do. How long has she slept?”
“Somewhere around three weeks, now.”
“It is a long time to hibernate.” A smile stretches on my lips, “She is reaching out to me. Yes, my darling.” I whisper to her, brushing her hair in motherly caresses. “I feel you.”
Alexander’s eyes widen, “You understand her?”
I nod happily, “It is a gift that comes with Transcending. Though she can only touch emotions right now, she will one day become a talented telepath.”
He reaches across her stomach and latches onto my arm. Tears burn his eyes as he whispers, “I’m so glad you’re here.”
It’s instant: the wave of disgust, hate, jealousy. It’s a push that shocks my hand, shoving me away from them both. I pant, swallowing bile, attempting to calm my heart, having the utmost desire to latch onto the gun beside the bed and point it at my own chest.
Daringly, I reach a shaking hand out once more and press it to her arm. I search for that strange surge but it’s gone and all that remains is the subdued white patterns of her gentle caresses. It’s a desperate reach, like a baby extending their little fingers probing the air around them.
What sparked the brisk talented slap of aversion? Such skill requires time and practice. Does she play with me, acting like a neophyte one moment to lure me in so she can derail me with the waves of psychosomatic compulsion?
I calm Alexander as he questions me. “Would you like to travel with me?”
“You are going into her Soul?”
“Something you should have done already.”
His blue eyes falter and he swallows. “I’m being hunted by the Vetalas. I haven’t tried because this is the first time they haven’t attacked me.”
I keep my hand held out and hesitantly he slips his deviled fingers upon mine. I slip into his heart first and attempt to find the curse that he speaks of. I should have felt it the moment I touched his cheek earlier. As I thought, it isn’t there. I lift open my eyes to find him panting at the roughness of my intrusion. My ability is quite overpowering. I haven’t used it in so long I’ve forgotten how to control it. “Whoever cursed you, Alexander, has either died or has undone the spell. You are no longer plagued.”
I focus on Kyla. I place my free hand upon her forehead, feeling the warmth press against my skin. She is beautiful with her pure smooth skin and soft cheeks. If the speed bump stretching across her neck did not ruin her angelic features, I wouldn’t know her to be anything but perfect.
The transition is guileless. The apartment fades away and we stand on the precipice of her mind with effortless tact.
The entrance to a healthy psyche is warm and white. It stretches for miles much like the Dust realm. It is up to the owner and its visitor to build a world together if they desire to communicate via cerebrally. They may transform this world into a café, a park, a bustling city; it is an endless canvas. Depending on the ability of a telepath, the painting can be basic or so meticulous there is not a single bit of white left in the expanse of the world.
At the base of our feet, sewage soaks between our toes. It is so foul smelling that Alexander heaves behind me. I stand impassive, analyzing the wall before us. Black, impenetrable gates block our path. They are endless in their height and length, protruding with stakes. Wrapping around the iron, piercing barbed wire encircles each bar. Even from our distance, I can feel the electric pulse, warning any brave Soul to stay away.
He wipes his mouth groaning, “What the hell is this?”
“Someone has entered her mind. It kidnaps her.”
“Sloth.” He spits.
My head snaps towards him. “A Sin?” The fact is attached with an array of questions. If the Sins desire her then she is of more consequence than I can fathom at this point. Desna worried for ample reason.
As I look around, more details reveal. The weeds are cumbersome and crumble as we stand there. I hold up a hand, unsure how powerful the electric force will wear upon me. “Mother Nature was here.”
Alexander speedily denies such a claim, “No. I’ve been with her since the beginning. Mother Nature never came.”
His innocence is still amble despite the many woes stressing his shoulders. “The Sins are her connection. Nature weaves through the Darkness as a nefarious snake slithers through the water lilies. Do not trust anything that grows from soil, Alexander. For she watches you, waiting to sink her teeth in and poison you.”
I shove my Light against the doors and to my surprise, they crumble with little effort. The metal dissolves in on itself. Dust evaporates and slips away. “They’ve gone. Both of them.”
The liquid garbage at our feet solidifies and transforms into sand. I hear the rush of waves crash against the shoreline and a swift wind blows my hair from my neck, bringing the pleasant air of saltwater to assault my nostrils.
Alexander rushes forth, crawling up a sand dune. He whips back around, “She’s here!”
As I step forward, I watch him run across the expanse of land. He trips and stumbles on himself in his grief but he makes it to her form laid out on the edge of the water. From here, I can spot the vines that strangle her legs. He pulls the seaweeds that bind her wrists and attempts to shake her but she does not wake. The blood loss is substantial.
Mother and Sloth took their time in torturing her. She could have killed Kyla if she wished. But she hadn’t and I wonder if it’s for the same old purposes she preaches.
She loves God.
I move toward them. Resting upon my knees, I lay a hand upon Kyla’s head. My brows knit as I do so. The familiarity there strikes me and I feel my heart flutter. Her broken lips, her swollen eyes, the smeared life fluid that drenches her cheeks, it pulls apart my Soul and I feel tears peek at my orbs. I haven’t cried for another in ages. Why would I do so for this unknown woman?
I stare at her for a moment longer and the pull I feel becomes almost a burden. It’s as if my Soul Mate resides in her. As if he is a part of her.
Every portion of me stalls.
A hybrid, half Darkness, half Light. Half me, half him.
My hand delves to Kyla’s hand. I want to be closer, to see her eyes, to hear her voice, to know if any of my attributes are built in her, or if any of his are a part of her. I need answers. I need God to tell me the truth.
A sandstorm to the east. I turn and stand, searching. The detestation that I felt earlier has eyes and it is watching me. A shadow, black and blurry sits in the middle of the twirling tornado and I can’t stop the shiver it causes. “There is someone else here.” I whisper under my breath but it is foolish. I’m positive that this presence hears and sees everything. I step toward it. If this is what is harming Kyla, I must destroy it.
Kyla groans and our attention loses focus as we barrel down upon the sleeping woman. Her lips part and whisper. It’s too quiet, inaudible. It’s disappointing. I want to understand her. I want to hear from her. Does she know the entity that lingers in her soul? Does she protect us from it?
Alex holds her tight. “Let’s get her out of here.”
I watch the distance as we walk out of Kyla’s mutilated mind. I do not feel another Soul. It’s not like Sloth or Nature.
It’s awareness. And it does not like me.
“Your grace?” Mark calls when we open our eyes.
We return to the small apartment and I rest a hand on the bed, more fearful than tired. I stand, “Take Kyla out of the city while my Light still poses as a distraction. There is an Angel faction in London that will serve for a time. I will go to Heaven and find out her purpose.” I turn to Vaul, “And perhaps have a tête-à-tête with the Merci.”
Vaul keeps a hold of his sword as he approaches, his armor clinging together in the silence of the room, “The Ruling and the Merci are one in their ways. There is little that can change them, your grace.”
“Perhaps it is because no one dares to fight against them. It is time for a change. Be ready, sir. I may call on you in the future.”
He fights a smile and bows his head, “I am yours.”
I step out onto the balcony, viewing the night and find a familiar star. There is a slight breeze but the warmth of summer creates a film of sweat on my skin that I’ve not encountered since I was human. The sensations of being so out of touch with this degree of awareness makes me feel like a newborn babe.
What has Father done? Why create this girl? What is her purpose?
There are billions of Light on this planet and ninety-nine percent of them are simply meant to live. There is no reason beside the one true essence that God desired for all humankind. To love and to be loved.
But every so often, there is a single piece that He creates that connects to the pieces of a well-maintained puzzle.
It doesn’t make any Soul less important. It is just like a building. Every piece is important and without one, the structure would fall apart.
Alexander joins me albeit hesitantly. My memories end three hundred years and though time moved on for him, they did not for me. He was the last man I loved and sadly enough I love him still.
“You’ve changed, sir.”
“So have you.”
“You smile now.” He will not be the last person to tell me this. I was not a pleasant person for so long. “I always wanted to be the one to make you smile.”
I rotate on my foot, “But you always were.” Blush expands to his cheeks and I step toward him, grasping his hand. “The day you left, I lost the reason to smile at all. Will you forgive me for what I said?”
“It was all true, wasn’t it?”
“Perhaps.” I hide my laughter against his fingers as I kiss his hand. “But it was wrong of me.”
“For so long I didn’t understand why you said it but I get it now, Ariel. I know what’s out there. And I’ve done.” He swallows, pushing back grief. “I’ve done horrible things. Enough to make my heart cold. I understand you now and why you became so terribly distant.”
My brows knit softly as pity worms in my heart, “I did not want you to understand me, Alexander. Whatever you have done, repent. All sins can be forgiven if you work to obtain such forgiveness.” I lean in and kiss his cheek.
It grieves me. I have lost his heart and I know I am foolish to desire it back.
Swallowing, I murmur, “It will take a few days for her to wake. She was terribly beaten and she is afraid. You are right to assume she is special, Alex. Do what you can to protect her but do not sacrifice anymore of your Soul than you have done. If you continue to drown, Alexander, I do not know how you will ever find the surface.”
He pulls me in, and the hug that I’ve yearned for since the moment I woke is obtained. Such relief to feel another, to be in the arms of another, to have the love and affection of another is a gift from God and I thank my Father as tears formulate in my eyes.
I am alive. I am whole. And I am finally free.
But it ends abruptly as I feel the weight of possessiveness shove its way inside my consciousness. My gaze flickers over to Kyla, sleeping peacefully and unperturbed. I pull away, rubbing the tears from my cheeks and giggling foolishly as Alexander laughs at me.
My attention however never stems far from the comatose woman.