“I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement.”
Time seemed to slow, my vision sharpening despite the dark. I could feel the veins of every leaf in every tree and the flicker and change of colour in every flame. The fires roared higher with a new life, but I kept my gaze on the ground. Keep backed away from Lucifer, blood trickling down his shoulder and matting his fur to his side as he moved to stand behind me. I was grinning, my teeth bloody and my own blood dripping from the corners of my mouth. I wasn’t drunk with the blood; I was drunk with the madness that consumed my mind. Lucifer stared, watching me as I lifted my kindjal from the ground where Castiel had dropped it, the singing of the blade against stone the only sound in the silence. My movements were slow and measured as I climbed to my feet and ran my fingers along the edge of the blade. At my touch, the black blade ignited with black fire, frost spreading down over the hilt.
“Delante.” I took a relaxed stance and smiled up at Lucifer from behind my raven hair.
“Keyo,” Castiel said the name in a hushed voice and I turned slightly, looking back over my shoulder at him where he still sat on the ground.
“Do me a favor Castiel, get your siblings to stop calling me Keyo, it’s extremely inaccurate.” He gave me a weak smile and I turned back to Lucifer. He and Lucifer were right though, I had become the very monster I had spent so many years hiding from.
“Come with me,” Lucifer offered me a hand with an easy smile as he spoke, “Come watch the world burn with me,” it was my one last chance. I reached out slowly, hesitating a moment before I took his hand.But it wasn’t her that had reached out to him like it once had been, it was me. My grip was iron as I dragged him into me and drove the blade of my kindjal into his stomach up to the hilt, the blade sticking out of his back on the other side.
“I’d rather die.” I held him close enough to whisper the words in his ear and spoke softly, “and I’ll be taking you with me.” Lucifer pulled off the blade and I let go of him as he backed out of my grip, his hand instantly going to the new wound.
“You can’t kill me,” I grinned at his words, “I won’t die.”
“You’re forgetting something,” he stepped back again, “we threw the rules out the window the day you took Alter.” I wasn’t angry when I slashed at him with the kindjal, it wasn’t with hatred that I lashed out at him; I’m not sure what it was, not really. I didn’t care anymore. The melody that I played in my head grew louder; each key played was another heartbeat that became another fluid movement, the rhythm growing faster as I did. Or perhaps I grew faster as the music did. It was a beautifully grim melody and it saddened me that the last piano I would play was the one in my head. So I took that sadness and poured it into the music, I poured in everything: my home and life burning, the loss of Este even though she’d been trying to kill me, the first deaths of the Rivers, Adam Walters passed out at the Diaboli Ball, my love of my Hell Hounds, Ena, the story of Castiel and Hagar, my love of my son whether in the beginning I’d wanted to have him or not, the pain and loss of my life. I poured all of it into the piano and into everything I did in that moment. The blows came faster and harder as the black fire roared up into an inferno around us. Lucifer’s defense began to waver. The flames licked higher and higher, swallowing up the night until Lucifer was on the ground in front of me, scrambling backwards as quickly as he could manage. There was a heavy thud behind me and Keep pulled on the edge of my tattered shirt with sharp teeth. I turned and the melody; my heart stopped when I saw what I had done. There was no blood; perhaps that was what made my stomach turn, the unmistakable signature of black fire. In my frenzy, I had forgotten that Lucifer wasn’t the only Angel there. Castiel lay where he had collapsed in the dirt, most of his body covered in frost and burns. The burns were healing quickly but the damage was already done; that was the dark beauty of black fire, it burned away even the soul. I forgot about Lucifer momentarily as the black faded from my eyes and I was left running over to Castiel in the deafening silence. My knees hit the ground, sliding in the sand before I pulled him across my lap and he gave me a weak smile. “Cas,” I swallowed the lump that had formed in my throat, “I’m so sorry Cas, I never should have dragged you into this, I should have just gone with you to the Eternity Box.” Castiel smiled.
“It’s alright, Arron, I’ll be fine.” I didn’t have it in me to smile back.
“Sophistry.” He gave a breathless laugh and, after a moment, I laughed too, despite the tears that welled in my eyes.
“I guess we know whether or not an Angel will survive without a soul now.” I gave him a brief smile, “I wonder if I’ll see Hagar again.” My smile slipped as he trailed off, his eyes drifting closed as I shook my head.
“Oh Cas,” I forced a smile, “She won’t be there.” He frowned at me.“Just because you don’t believe doesn’t mean it won’t happen.” I chuckled.
“No Cas, I mean it.” He opened his eyes to study me, “I’m sorry; I couldn’t tell you. I knew it would hurt you; I didn’t want to hurt you anymore, but I can’t watch you die with this ridiculous false hope.”
“Arron,” his voice was low, a warning, but I didn’t listen, I just kept talking.
“I lied to you, I told you that she died, but she can’t die, not really. Yes, that part of me did die when I slit my wrists, but I didn’t actually die,” Castiel stared at me as I trailed off. “I’m sorry, I had no right to lie to you after everything you did for me. I spent so long hoping and praying for a miracle; you were my miracle, Cas. All over again.” I broke the silence for a few seconds before I lost my words again. It seemed an eternity before Castiel finally reacted. If it weren’t for the fact that he was still breathing, however shallowly, I’d have thought he died. Then, a sad smile tugged at the corner of his mouth and he lifted the weight of the silence.
“I’m sorry that I left,” he took a deep, shaky breath, “and that I didn’t give you a chance this time around.” I started to reply, to argue with him, but instead his eyes drifted closed and I watched as his soul flickered out. I closed my eyes and told myself to breath, wiping away the tears that had begun to fall from them and containing the mixture of emotions that flooded me. Keep licked my hand to drag me back from the verge of drowning and I opened my eyes to the silence. As I laid Castiel’s body back on the ground I slipped back into Delante’s icy embrace. I needed her calm and her hunger, because at least then I felt something. I stood and turned slowly back to Lucifer, the blade of my kindjal singing death as I lifted it slowly from the ground. The piano returned to fill the silence as Lucifer smiled at me, red-gold eyes glittering.
“I tried to warn you, I told you that you were created for destruction. What did you expect?” Normally, his words would have been enough to send me into a blind rage, but I was empty. I had closed my eyes to the world outside and returned to the piano in my head. I closed my eyes and stood in the silence, letting the music and the darkness fill me. I felt the blade rather than heard it whistle through the air and flung my free hand up to catch it. I took my time opening my eyes to study Lucifer with a cold, dark gaze. The blade of Castiel’s knife burned the palm of my hand and set the blood pumping through my veins on fire as it dripped down into my ragged shirt sleeve and stained it a deeper red as I jerked it from his hand. Lucifer stared at me, something akin to fear in his red gold gaze. I flipped the blade around in my hand and the hilt became slick with my blood. He tried to hit me with another blade produced from God knows where but I knocked it aside with one of the two blades I now held. I drove Castiel’s knife between Lucifer’s ribs and twisted it up, tearing open his lungs. He pulled away from me and I let go of the blade in favor of my kindjal. The music played louder and faster, drowning out the world as it filled my mind with hatred and sadness, fear and happiness, with everything I had ever felt in all my years of being; but I was still empty. I wanted Lucifer to bleed; I wanted to hurt him like he had hurt me. I didn’t want his soul, I wanted him to burn. It was that desire in the silence of Delante’s madness that sparked her anger and her addiction to fire, that suddenly flared up and filled me again. I didn’t want to steal his twisted soul, I wanted to watch him burn away. I caught hold of Lucifer’s throat and slammed him into one of the trees that burned on the edge of the clearing. He cried out in pain as his back was singed and in his outcry I was thrown back, skipping across the surface of the lake again. I didn’t panic this time, I let myself collapse into the water, closing my eyes to the cold embrace. Keep didn’t need to come for me this time because Lucifer had waded out after me and his fingers closed around my throat. When he pulled me up so that my feet no longer reached the lake’s bottom, I gave him a wicked grin. “Why are you smiling?” The frustration bled into his voice as he growled the words. “You said my time here had made me soft,” my grin widened slightly, “really it was just a matter of having one thing left to lose.” My voice turned low and cold, “Well, he’s dead now.”
“It doesn’t matter,” his voice turned bitter and he shook his head, breathing a heavy sigh, “if you won’t join me, then I’ll have to settle for watching you die.” His words almost made me laugh at the irony of it all; he had been the one to make me as durable as I was. His grip tightened and I felt myself running out of air as his fingernails bit into my skin but still I grinned wider. I caught hold of his forearm with both hands, my own nails drawing blood that dripped down into the lake water. Then I spoke.
“You’re in a lake,” my voice was soft as my eyes darkened slightly and the black fire raged closer to the edge of the water, “and water doesn’t stop black fire. Wherever you run now, your soul will burn,” I spoke the exquisite words so simply. Lucifer’s eyes widened slightly and I smiled at the look of fear that flickered in his eyes. The fire licked into the shallows and ignited the water’s surface like it was covered in oil. Lucifer let go of me in a panic and scrambled to get out of the water, but I tightened my grip on his arm as my feet hit the ground and I gasped for air. I wasn’t going to let him escape no matter what he tried, I was going to watch him burn. We were swallowed by the inferno and I watched as his soul was eaten away by the black fire before I let go, only catching a glimpse of the light leaving his eyes as I turned to drag myself back to shore. The fire in the trees had died down so that there was nothing left to prevent my gaze from finding Castiel’s body. The tears returned to well in my eyes and with them came all of my torments. Keep gave a quiet whine from by my side before he moved to stand beside Castiel’s body. I watched in the grim silence as he nosed Castiel’s hand and tugged lightly on his coat, trying to wake him up. I felt the lump begin again to form in my throat and I tore my gaze away; I turned my back to him, because I couldn’t stop the tears anymore. I fell heavily to my knees at the edge of the lake, the black fire flickering behind my eyes as they faded back to silver. I stared into the flames as the silence began again to weigh down on me. My stomach was in knots as I tried and failed again to swallow my tears. I wasn’t dead, but after everything that had happened I couldn’t help but wish I was. I didn’t understand any of it; I was supposed to be dead, not Castiel and not Este. I doubled over, raking my shaking hands through my hair as the first tears fell. I felt numb as my stomach twisted again and found new ways to make me feel sick. I didn’t care that my seventy two hours had run out, and I didn’t hear the quiet flutter of wings, but I knew Michael had come for me when he rested a strong hand on my shoulder.
“Your time is up,” I nodded slightly and climbed slowly to my feet so as not to meet my fate sitting down, but I couldn’t bring myself to look away from the fire. “You lied to me.” I looked up at Michael in a brief moment of confusion, “about my brother.” I looked away again as my gaze narrowed, this time my gaze returning to Castiel’s body.
“He got your bloody punishment, leave him be,” my tone was bitter, defiant even, though I knew it would make no difference now.
“He died a hero.” I looked up at Michael again, my shock robbing me of any smart remarks as the smallest of sad smiles tugged at the corner of his lips for the briefest of moments. “You on the other hand,” I swallowed as he continued and any trace of a smile vanished from his face, “are a different matter.” He paused briefly and I half expected him to draw his sword, but he didn’t. His actions carried a glimmer of hope, but it was quickly swallowed by a rising sense of dread. “You will walk the earth alone for the rest of eternity, staying at the edges of society and quickly forgotten by the human world. You will continue to hunt the monsters of the three realms, no matter the harm that may come to you.”Michael pressed his hand again to my shoulder, replacing my first seal, but I didn’t notice the burn. I was too busy staring at him before swallowed and tried to protest; to beg him to kill me or lock me away in that damned box. Whatever madness the Eternity Box could have held for me would have been a welcome escape for me, but before I could get one word in, Michael vanished with only the quiet echo of his feathery wings to mark his passing. I looked back towards Castiel’s body, but it seemed that Michael had taken it with him. So instead, I began to weep. My knees grew weak and buckled, letting me collapse back into the mud and rocks. I started to lose my hold on the waking world as I fell sideways and crashed to the ground. The last thing I remembered was watching as the sun turned blood red and the stars seemed to be falling from the sky.
I couldn’t say how long I lay there, except that it was at least three and a half days and it had rained a lot. I could feel the lake water lapping up around my arm when I opened my eyes. I found myself staring at Nate and Jenny Rivers as they leaned over me. I hoped against all hope that none of it had happened; that it had all been in my head. Then Keep licked my hand and I began to teeter on the edge of a breakdown; I was so tired. “You survived,” I nodded my thanks as Nate pulled me into a sitting position. “And Castiel?” The name alone was enough to push me back into oblivion as I looked back over at where his body had been. “I’m sorry,” Jenny’s voice was soft as she rested a gentle hand on my back, “I know you cared about him.” I forced myself to give her a weak smile rather than snide remark as I flexed my numb hand and dried it on my bloody shirt. “I’ve lost track of how many I cared about and then lost,” my voice was quiet. I climbed to my feet and we walked back to the ruins of my home, following the trail of fallen trees Lucifer had left in his wake. Nate and Jenny went inside, righting chairs and collecting my burned books from the rubble, but I couldn’t bring myself to step back through the hole. I left them there and made my way down the trail into London, Keep trailing from shadow to shadow behind me. I paused as I passed Este’s home for a brief moment; her body had been buried in the rubble. I continued on until came within a few blocks of Ena’s house; I couldn’t bring myself to move any closer. I sent Keep ahead and stood in the road, watching the pedestrians as I waited. They continued to give me the same wide berth they always had, like I was feral and their instinct told them not to come near. It was funny how some things would likely never change. “Arron,” Ena’s voice was soft as she followed Keep up the road, but my words failed me, “you’re ,” she gave me a sad smile and I returned it briefly. I was simply glad she hadn’t said ‘okay’. She finally broke the silence that followed, “Daniel, he wanted me to apologize for him, he didn’t think you’d want to see him.” I blinked in confusion so she continued, measuring her words carefully, “it’s been four days,” she spoke slowly. I stared at her as her words finally sank in. Four days ago had been the anniversary of my ‘birth’ in Hell. The realization made my head spin and my stomach lurch; it was like it had all been some sick joke.
“I need to leave.” Ena stared at me a moment with a worried expression when I finally found some semblance of my voice. Then she gave a slight nod.
“I’ll see you later, then,” she began but I shook my head, reaching unconsciously for his cross where it still hung around my neck. “No, Ena, I mean England. I need to leave England.” Now she just stared at me in silence.
“Where will you go?” Her voice was barely above a whisper when she finally spoke, but I just shrugged. “I don’t know yet, I just know I need to get away from here for a while. I’ll come back eventually,” I watched the tears well in her amber eyes a moment before I wrapped my arms around her in a hug. “I’ll see you again, when you need me, I’ll find you. I always do.” She was crying as I pressed my lips to the top of her head in a silent farewell. I turned and walked away, ignoring the urge to look back over my shoulder.
Nate and Jenny were waiting for me at the front of the ruins of my old home. Jenny paced the trail while Nate sat on the edge of what was left of the step. They watched Keep and I approach as if they were waiting for me to fall over the edge again. The truth of the matter though, was that I had nothing left to lose short of my Hell Hounds. “When we came to see you, it was to tell you we’re leaving; we’re headed to Ireland on a Dullahan hunting trip with the Church family,” Nate spoke in his usual easy manner, “but after everything, we thought maybe you’d like to accompany us.” I glanced down at Keep, debating a moment in my reply. “Alright,” I nodded slightly as the numbness finally set in; I needed to get back into a rhythm as quickly as possible, “I’m going to need to find my silver in that mess before I go anywhere, though.” They nodded in understanding and watched as I disappeared into my home for what I thought would be the last time.
I paused outside of his room on my way back out, my hand reaching subconsciously for his cross where it still hung around my neck as I hesitated. I opened the door slowly, wishing that it would still be as he left it. The warmth of an angel’s presence still clung to the room and it sent a chill down my spine. I surveyed the damage and reached down to right a fallen chair before I noticed an old, leather bound book not unlike one of my journals. I hesitated a moment, crouched there and staring at the worn and singed leather cover before finally I picked it up from the wreckage. I brushed the dust and ash from it with light fingers before I opened its pages. In the center of the first yellowing page, in a column, was a list of names.
I ran my fingers over the page, not sure what to make of it. The first three names were old and faded ink while the last three seemed fresh, written in sharp pen. My name was dark in both ‘Hagar’ and ‘Arron’, as if the letters had been traced over and over again with his pen. I closed the book, ignoring my curiosity out of respect for the dead. I slipped it into the same pocket as my journal and turned to climb through the rubble and debris back to the front of my house. Quite miraculously, my coat racks still stood in it’s corner by the front door, my coat still hanging dusty but unharmed. On reflex I grabbed it, shrugging it on on my way out the door. Nate climbed to his feet and Jenny stopped pacing when they saw me. “Will you be alright?” I forced a rather weak smile at Jenny’s question. “I’ll be okay,” I lied; what I really meant was “I’ll survive”. “You find your silver?” Nate asked the important question so I rolled up my sleeves to show him the silver bands around my wrists, though I kept the fact I had never replaced the one I’d broken when we first met. He nodded slightly and I let my sleeves back down as I glanced back at Keep. I knelt in front of him and took his muzzle in my hands as I presses my forehead to his. “Bear with me for a moment, love, I know it hurts.” I whispered the words before I closed my eyes and began to murmur the Hell’s Latin that would seal away this side of him. I straightened up when I finished, watching as Keep shrank down to the size of a large dog. His horns grew in reverse and the spines along his back lay flat as the black fire in his eyes went out and he shook the frost from his coat. Nate and Jenny said nothing as they watched, and with my final words we made made our way back to the docks in solemn silence.
There was a ship waiting for us with one of the Church family’s hunters waiting on the deck, a man named Richard Church. I stood back as he came to meet Nate and Jenny on the dock and they explained to him their reason for bringing a demon and a Hell Hound along. I spotted Adam Walters a fair ways off and wove my way through the crowds toward him. I couldn’t say for sure what made me want to say goodbye to someone I barely knew; maybe it was because I hadn’t really been able to say goodbye to anyone else. “Adam!” I called out and he looked up from his work loading boxes as I twisted away from the last group of Londoners.
“Arron,” he almost sounded surprised when he saw me, “I saw the smoke coming from the direction of your house, I thought you were dead.” I gave him a brief smile.
“I’m not that easy to kill, apparently.” I let the smile slip, “I wanted to ask you about Este.” He frowned, “Did you like her?” His face flushed ever so slightly and I gave him a grim smile, “then you should know.” I took a deep breath before continuing, “she died in that house,” I could tell my words hurt him so I continued quickly, “she said she liked you though, before she died,” it wasn’t a lie, not entirely; Este had called him sweet, but she’d been too fixated on the angel. “I’m sorry Adam,” he nodded slightly and swallowed before changing the subject.
“Where are you off to?”
“For now, Ireland. After that though,” I shrugged, “maybe I’ll end up in the Americas somewhere one day.” Adam laughed briefly.
“Come find me when you get there,” I matched his laugh and gave him a slight nod.
“I’ll do that.”
“Arron!” Nate called my attention back just in time for me to see his sister elbow him in the ribs. The two of them brought the smallest of smiles to my otherwise solemn expression as I turned back to Adam.
“I’d best be going then,” I offered a hand, “Goodbye, Adam Walters.” He nodded, matching my expression as he shook my hand.
“Goodbye, Arron Masey, and good luck.” With those words, I turned and ran back to join Nate, Jenny, and Keep on the Ireland bound ship with Richard Church. I was going to get back into my rhythm. I was going to return to my place at the edge of society. I would be forgotten and left behind, but I would never be able to outrun everything that had happened.
~136 years later~
It amazes me how quickly humans forget about things like the apocalypse. I suppose it made sense though, considering how short their lives tended to me. It’s taken me a fair amount longer, although I suppose the fact I had gained so much in that short time, only to have it torn away played a rather large role in that.
“Hey,” I glanced over at the man that drew my attention away from the past and the red lights in front of me, “nice car. ’67 Firebird, right?” I smiled.
“Yeah, your isn’t too bad either,” I studied the Impala a moment.
“I bet it could outrun yours.” I shook my head, “especially with the way most of you people drive.” I grinned at that.
“Careful what you say to people,” I pulled my sunglasses down as my eyes turned black, “you never know what they really might be.” The light changed as I slid the sunglasses back up and my eyes returned to normal. I shot past them down the nearly empty road as the sun began to set behind us. The sky was turning dark in front of me and the cold evening air was refreshing as it blew past. I smiled briefly before I shifted gears and turned the radio up as I sped across North America’s Midwest.
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