Ariel is gone. My last hope. I thought she would fix everything and yet, no questions were answered and I am left with more confusion. I’m starting to think I’m alone in this.
The light on the bedside table flips on. The first time it happened freaked me out but I’m no longer as afraid as I once was. I run a hand through Kyla’s hair. “Stop worrying about me, sweetheart. Wake up and have a real conversation with me. That will make me very happy.”
A knock on the door sounds and I hurry to unlock the deadbolt. Mark hustles in with two bags full and places them at Kyla’s feet. “I wasn’t quite sure your style. I hope you do not mind the clothing.” He tosses me a set of trousers and a collared shirt.
I sneer at it. I remember quite well how the English dress and I was never fond of it. I close the door to the bathroom to change.
“I also brought food. You need it, right?”
“Yes, thank you.” Looking down at my feet, the ankle of the fabric goes high up my calf. Where did he find these clothes?
“Have you bathed her?”
“Not yet.” I fiddle with the shirt. It is puffy at the chest and the sleeves fold high on my bicep. These are a young scholar’s clothing neither of which suit me.
“If you would like to rest, I will do it.”
I snap open the door, visibly unhappy and even more so when he attempts to hide his laughter. “No, Fallen. I will do it.”
“We are on the same team, Alexander. I made a bad guess at your height and build but that doesn’t mean you can be a jerk.”
“We are not on the same team. I don’t even know you.”
Mark tosses me an apple. “I assisted in rescuing Ariel by the order of the Commander, leader of the Gatekeepers. You were in her protection and that leaves you in mine. If Ariel did not order us to take refuge elsewhere, we would be joining with my brothers and sisters as we speak.”
“You’re a Gatekeeper?”
His eyes drift. “I am…a faction of the Gatekeepers.”
“What’s the faction?”
“I don’t know how much detail you are aware of. Being a Newborn Angel, you cannot know much but your duty here makes you very important, doesn’t it?” He digs around in the bag, hesitating. Pulling out a shirt, he nods in decision. “I am a faction of the Grigori. Do you know what that is?”
“The Grigori is a band of Fallen in Sheol that’s main purpose is to destroy the Darkness.”
“Yes, that is correct. That’s what it began as. All factions begin with pious notions.” Mark slips off his dirty shirt. Before he has time to slip on a clean one, I can’t help notice the dozens of scars rippling across his skin. White, jagged marks protrude in horribly deformed lines zigzag and crisscross along his torso and chest.
He ignores my frightened gap as he replaces his shirt. “The Grigori desired only to end the reign of Darkness but it became too complicated. Sheol grew as the years past. Souls, Demons, Alu; the population became extravagant and when you have a king that does not rule, it is in the power of its government to take a lead. The Grigori changed its ideal. Instead of fighting back a thing that will never die, they decided to make a home worth having.”
Mark sits on the edge of the bed, taking off his shoes if only to change his socks. “A faction of the Grigori didn’t approve of this. They believe their purpose is not to embrace Sheol, but to destroy it. The Grigori has split itself in two and you can’t imagine the amount of betrayal that causes.”
“It’s why you’re not an Elder. It’s why Commander Desna and the others aren’t Elders. Lucius knows you want to destroy him.”
“You cannot destroy Lucius. He is a Son of God.” Rising, he steps toward me, “But you can destroy everything he controls and let him rot in a prison as the gifted and insane man he is.”
I chew on the juicy fruit for several moments contemplating. Mark pulls out clothes for Kyla, resting them on the bedside. He throws Vaul’s clothing on the chair and puts a bag of food with it before collecting the garbage.
“It’s been nine thousand years.” I point out, “If you all hate Lucius, or hate the way Sheol is run, why wait so long?”
“I personally have only been in the fight for a little while. But Lucius didn’t start out terrible. From what I heard, he used to be a good man. But I don’t care for how someone used to be. We all start out as children but murderers don’t get a reprieve because they used to be children. There have been attempts to overthrow him. Many people are being tortured right now for trying. There aren’t many who can succeed and those that can, don’t want too. There are hundreds of thousands that would love to be a king or queen. I’d settle to be a prince. But to be the Devil of Hell, doesn’t have the most appealing ring to it. And make no mistake, if you destroy Lucius, you must be willing to take his place. You cannot off set the balance. ”
I throw the core in the trash beside the nightstand and look down at Kyla. Why didn’t anyone try to talk her out of Falling? When she saw Sheol did she feel regret? “Mark.” He comes back from the kitchen with a raised brow. “Why does the Grigori think it can succeed now?”
“Tymician’s gone.” He says it simple, like that’s the most logical response he could give.
“What. What does he have to do with anything?”
“Everything.” He thinks for a moment. “You have a king who does not rule. But your Second in Command, the man behind the throne, has all the power. Tymician kept the kingdom sedated. He owned the Grigori and we are faithful. He manipulated the Elders to a point where they thought they were the Rulers. The Gatekeepers are a part of his clan and were kept quite busy. And Lucius sat back and let him do whatever he wanted. There was nothing Tymician couldn’t do. No one dared defy him, he had the most power in all the kingdom. So imagine now what transpires when you take off all our chains.” He notices the trepidation shining in my gaze and smiles condescendingly. “Yes, Alexander. Chaos will reign.”
The phone rings and I jump. Mark laughs and once again I am the butt of his humor. I don’t like it one bit.
I snatch a hold of it. “Yeah?”
Josie’s voice weakens me and I sit on the bed, staring out the window, “Where are you? Are you alright?”
“I don’t remember anything.” She whimpers. Sorrow hangs heavy in her voice but she holds back sobs. “I found myself in the middle of the street. They must have posted a Net warding off humans. I’m sorry. Did they get her? Kyla?”
“No.” I whisper, grateful she’s alive. “No, I’m glad you’re okay.”
“Where’s Commander? I have to call her. She has to know I didn’t betray her.”
“She’s knows. It was Ned. He’s dead, I think.”
“Ned. I heard him use his phone. I should have said something.”
“She knew. Josie. Where are you?”
“I’m in Amsterdam at the airport. I came back here as soon as I could. Where are you, I’ll come to you.”
“We’re in London, in a small hostel called Safestay next to New Kent road. Can you get here?”
Silence is my response.
My body is stiff staring at the bed, waiting for her to speak.
So softly, I can barely make her whisper, “They’re coming. I’m so sorry.” The phone cuts off.
I don’t move. Alarm is blaring in my brain but I’m still. Josie wouldn’t betray me. I’ve misunderstood. It doesn’t add up. I lower the phone to analyze it. Was it her real voice? Perhaps my enemies had manipulated her vocal cords and used it to trick me. But I’m being silly now, aren’t I?
My faith falters.
Over the weeks, I’ve witnessed the integrity of Angels. It is limited, constrained by the rules they force upon themselves. They rely on status, on rank, on Elders, on Erelims, on their twisted version of faith to make excuses for their actions. It mattered little to them that they chased after me, their own kin. They were following orders and in that, they were justified.
This is the reason it became easy calling upon the Vetelas.
Angels have a blind rationalization for what they do. So many of them have lost sight of what is truly important because of the years they’ve spent following the rules set before them. They’ve stopped thinking for themselves. They are sheep, in need of a Shepherd.
I turn my gaze upon Kyla.
Fallen seem to know more about life and love than both races combined. What is it about them that we don’t understand? They grasp loyalty and conviction. They do not rely on God or faith. They rely on each other and have no expectations besides realistic ideals.
Is it wrong that I’m beginning to think that Falling has made them this way?
Fallen want to improve the world. It’s the reason we rely on them to save us from the Darkness. They have the bodies equipped to fight. They know how to destroy it, they must spend their time honing their skills and constantly be adapting to Sheol’s changing atmosphere.
Does it make me terrible to think I might actually fit in there, where I’ve never fit in anywhere else?
And I bet, when they are betrayed, it doesn’t hurt. They don’t have a heart that beats and breaks. They are stone and ice. I envy such strength. They are the perfect soldiers.
I could be perfect for her.
“Alexander?” Mark questions, studying my face.
I lick my lips. “Does it hurt?”
“What? Does what hurt?”
The door whisks open and Vaul slaps it shut behind him, locking the deadbolt. “The Children of God will let us stay.”
Mark’s attention leaves me in haste, “The C. O. G.? You cannot be serious?”
“It is the best we can do at the moment.”
“No, sir, it is not. Let me call the Gatekeepers.”
Vaul spits at the floor, “Monstrous lot. I won’t have it.”
“I implore you, Master Vaul. I respect you and who you are. But please, the C. O. G. are no longer an acceptable Angel clan. They are odious occultists. We have them under monitor at the Ruling. They will harm her, have no doubt.”
My hand slips into Kyla’s as they continue to argue. I desire her to flex her fingers . Tell me that she’ll wake any moment now. I would love it. It would heal me. I want to meet the color of her eyes and hear the sound of her voice. It would be the greatest gift she could bestow.
“I will hear no more of it.” Vaul declares. “You will obey, as you were commanded. Or leave.”
I brush a finger against her cheek. I hope when she wakes, she’ll know who I am. I don’t know how and I don’t if it is at all possible, but I hope she’ll know. She’ll know that someone loves her very much.
“Please heed my warning-”
“They’re coming.” I murmur. Clearing my throat I speak a little louder as they look back at me, “They’re coming.” I toss the phone to the side. “Josie called.”
His massive sausage finger rises, pointing at me, “I told you not to use the phone.” He yanks the covers off Kyla and slips his arms up under her body pulling her close and away from me. Her fingers slide out of mine. “They aren’t going to like us barging in with whatever you have on our tail. They’re not a militia. You best hope it’s not the Darkness coming.”
I’m still. It’s not Josie’s betrayal that keeps me seated. It’s not my bleak thoughts about Falling either. I look at Kyla lying peacefully in Vaul’s massive arms and I realize that she’s exactly where she ought to be. I did what I set out to do. I found her a place that’s safe. Vaul can protect her so much better than I can.
Vaul looks back through the doorway, “Move your ass, boy.”
Mark questions, “Alexander, what are you doing?”
“I’ll distract them.”
“There can be another way. It doesn’t have to be like this.”
“It does for me.” I latch onto the gun on the nightstand. “Go.”
Does Kyla know we’re parting? Does she mourn inside that immobile, frozen body of hers? Is she fighting against Vaul’s arms mentally unable to do so physically?
I close my eyes and I hear their footsteps recede. I lie down on the bed Kyla recently resided on and stare at the ceiling. I will wait for a few minutes before I connect to the Source and begin running for my life. It’s my own Soul I’ll be running for this time. Somehow, I don’t seem to care anymore.
I could go back to normalcy.
Why doesn’t that sound appealing? What else do I want now?
Words whisper from my lips of a distant song. It’s funny, I’m not a music fan and yet this song replays in my head and echoes in the empty room. “’There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done.” I murmur, singing the Beatles.
I think I saw them in concert. I’m pretty sure I got laid that night by multiple females on a field of lush grass.
“No one you can save that can’t be saved.” I can’t remember the last time I heard their music. Why does this song come to my head? It’s peaceful. My heart isn’t nearly so chaotic. I’m not nearly as heartbroken as I thought I would be now that my life is coming to an end. “Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time.”
I sit up and stare out the window. I connect to the Source before rising to my feet. Is it Kyla that sings to me now? Is she pushing this music into my head, soothing the ache?
“All you need is love.” I cock the gun, taking off the safety. “Love is all you need.”
Jotting down the stairs, I step out onto the street. Fresh air greets me and the night is beautiful. The storm in the east quieted down and now it is a clear sky, showing a beautiful moon and bright twinkling stars. I walk up to a random vehicle, short and ugly, rust marring its paint, which is faded and frayed. With the hilt of my gun, I smash the window, looking to my right and left.
No one is about. I think I’m inside a Net. Demon Nets are easy to distinguish but Angel or Fallen Nets are much smoother and do not cause such a degree of disgust.
Brushing off the front seat, I lean down and pull at the wires under the steering wheel. From my back pocket, I use a knife to tear at the color threads and within moments, the car squeals as the engine forces to life. It’s a crappy car, one on the verge of dying. I’m doing this person a favor stealing this piece of garbage. I pray it doesn’t combust on me as I’m running from my pursuers.
Speaking of, footsteps echo in the quiet of the street. I lift my gaze up over the door through the busted window. Two Fallen stand twenty feet away holding a scanner in between them looking at the screen. I climb in the car and slam the door, gaining their quick attention.
I peel out, blowing right by them.
I could very well take off into the Dust but I want them to believe I have Kyla with me. I release my connection to the Source. I don’t want to make this chase too easy for them. I pray this party is the only one coming in my direction. I don’t want to deal with Dion or his slave of Demons. I doubt I would live through that again. It was a miracle the first time.
I see a car swerving behind me within minutes. Their car is ten times better than mine and could probably get up to speeds greater than sixty miles. This buggy I am in shakes and creeks every turn. Perhaps I should have thought better of my selection before I got into a high-speed chase.
I maneuver the car into a straightaway in the backcountry but the light for gas blinks at me. The car sputters in utter dislike at the rate of speed. I’m killing it and it’s bucking underneath my hands.
If I’m going to go out, I’m going out with a sense of style. I wait patiently for them to reach the very butt of my car. I can see their faces in my rearview mirror. They have middle-aged appearances and seem to be from the same Spanish decent, black hair spooling around their cheeks. The female driving is constantly distracted by what the man beside is saying and I find the perfect moment to slam on my brakes and turn my wheel.
I grip tight to the steering wheel, wishing I had put on my seatbelt.
They swerve to miss my car but hit the rear end at top speed. My car spins but aside from a little dizziness I get away without scratch. I hear, however, the terrible metallica wreckage as their car careens against the guardrail, breaking their axis, shattering the windows and crunching the doors.
I get out of the car and spy the smoke from their engine.
It’s not exactly how I envisioned it but it would have killed humans. Fallen will heal in moments and so I pull out my gun and prepare to greet them.
They struggle with the door but it scrunches in on itself and the male gives up, pulling himself out of the window, reaching for his partner. He yanks out a huge chunk of glass from her left ribcage. She cries out, blood pooling around her hand.
I’m not prepared for that.
I never stick around to witness the damage I cause. What kind of person have I become?
Ariel’s voice whispers:
“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.”
“I told you she wasn’t with him.” The male partner bites, dusting debris from his coat.
She focuses her gaze on me, no longer in pain as she straightens. “And I told you you’re missing the point.” She rubs her bloody hands off on her pants as she steps closer.
I tighten my hold on the gun. “Don’t move. I’ve killed before. I’ll do it again.”
She holds up her red-stained hands. She’s a wreak but she manages to stand unfazed, as if she hadn’t just gotten out of a deadly car crash. “My name is Savanna. This is Diego. We didn’t come here to hurt you, Alexander. We came to talk to you.”
“So you’re saying you don’t want Kyla then?”
“Well, yes but--”
“Then there’s nothing to talk about. Get out of here or I’ll kill you.”
The guy leans against the car, tired of me apparently, “A Newborn Angel holding a gun.” He chuckles, “Shoot or don’t. Either way, we got a job to do.”
What other choice do I have? I shoot. Right next to where he stands and the bullet ricochets off the metal loud and echoing. He stills drastically and stares at me with wide eyes.
“Our boss asked us to find you, Alexander.” Savanna calmly interrupts. “He doesn’t want you hurt or Kyla harmed. He wants you safe. He offers protection and guidance.”
“I can get those on my own. I don’t need anyone.”
“Our boss is Felix, the new king of the Fallen clan Kio.”
My sureness hesitates.
It’s the first time Tymician’s clan has come. I knew this day would happen but I didn’t know it would come like this. In the form of friendship, of aid. Does Felix think I’m stupid? Does he think I’m naïve?
Tymician was running from Kio. He pointedly told me not to trust anyone from his own clan. To approach me as if we are comrades fighting for the same cause is lower than I thought a Fallen was capable.
Perhaps I don’t know Fallen as well as I was beginning too.
I’m so lost. Where do I fit if I don’t fit in with them either?
Savanna breaks my silence, “He cares for Kyla and he’s a good man, Alexander. He can help her.”
I shake my head, “If he cares for her so much, then tell him to stay away from us. You’ll only draw attention to our location.” I pull up the Dust, my only form of escape now.
She hastens toward me, “Alexander,” She pleads, “I see you slipping.”
My feet stall, movement ceases and I stare at the cement, bits of twisted metal and glass spread upon its surface.
“You know Fallen only bleed under certain circumstances, right? It’s all about intention. You tried to kill us, Alexander.”
She holds up her bloody hand. “What kind of Angel kills?”
Tears burn my vision and blink attempting to rid myself of them but it’s useless. They come condemning me.
“Felix is a good man. He can help you.”
Clutching the gun to my side, I turn from her, “I don’t need help.”