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The sky had been tainted red for months now, as though God’s rage was seeping through the horizon. It wasn’t the sort of warm rose color you might see at sunset, but the burnt crimson the color of hellfire or flesh on a spit. In fact, the latest generations of humans had never seen a sunset. The War had been raging on for close to forty years now. Thirty-eight years, three hundred twenty-three days, and seventeen hours to be exact, and in that time, the only weather one could expect was natural disaster. Constant clouds littered with tornadoes, earthquakes, thunderstorms, and tsunamis for nearly forty years straight. But that meant it was almost over.

It goes by many names. The Rapture, Armageddon, endtimes, the apocalypse, the second coming. This war was like no other in all of history, however, because this was the first war with a winner predestined by prophecy, and therefore many on the losing side didn’t want to fight, as they knew any moment could be—would be—their last. The gates of the Underworld closed at the start of the war, which meant once you were out, there was no way back in. Those that lived would be punished severely for their crimes against heaven.

A pair of icy eyes watched the carnage unfold, both sides fighting ruthlessly even as humans got caught in the crossfire. He froze for a moment too long, and suddenly a sword was swung within mere centimeters of his throat. Unable to do anything else, he put his hand up, the cold metal burying itself in the flesh of his palm. Whipping out his own sword, he hurled the blade toward the Angels fingertips, and she jumped back. He didn’t have any desire to hurt the Angel, and if his say had mattered at all, The War would never had happened in the first place.

He hated violence, but that didn’t stop him from being one of the Underworld’s greatest fighters. Everyone still alive after all this time was the best of the best, after all. The Angels movement gave him enough time to disarm her and run off into the chaos. He cradled his wounded hand for a moment, until he heard something in the distance that made his blood run cold. He raced toward the sound, fighting off Angels and Demons alike as he went, desperately trying not to hurt either his brethren or his ‘enemies.’ His wounded hand long forgotten, he finally came across a little human girl, no older than six, sobbing into her mother’s bloodied corpse. The woman’s intestines were strewn out on the ground and her face was frozen in an expression of permanent horror. Not allowing himself anymore time to take in the scene before him, he scooped the child up, trying not to react as her shrill screams reached his ears. She thrashed against him, trying hard to return to her mother’s embrace, but as he sprinted further and further away from the battlefield, she seemed to accept her fate and curled against him, her loud screams receding into tiny sobs.

He pitied the small human, knowing that what he had just witnessed was the innocence being ripped away from one of the few good things left in the world. He squeezed her tighter as he ran, trying to protect her from the cold as the sky darkened. After what felt like forever, he reached a human settlement far enough from today’s battlefield that no huts were in flames. At the entrance to the tiny village, two gentlemen aimed their guns at the demon, his blue eyes watching them carefully, trying to make them understand. He spoke no human language, so all he could do was hope. He loosened his grip on the child, setting her on the ground, and seeing that the guards were moving to keep the child safe, ran back to The War. He could only hope his general didn’t notice he was gone, because he could be accused of treason if he had. He brushed his Auburn curls away from his eyes, his sweat sticking it to the top of his head. The sounds of war grew louder and louder, ringing in his head as they had for decades.

He noticed the bright light flash before anything else, as by the time the sound reached his ears, it had already rendered him almost deaf. Body parts of Angels and Demons flew the air as though they had been catapulted, and blood splattered on the demon’s cheek as he desperately crawled away from the danger, vaguely aware that one of his wings resembled ground beef. The loud ringing punctured through every cell in his body, making his head feel like it was splitting. A sharp piece of debris flew at him, knocking him in the back of the head, and he collapsed on the ground.

Voices echoed through the demon’s mind, getting louder and louder as consciousness finally returned to him. He recognized the language as human—perhaps something European—but he couldn’t determine which one beyond that. He finally forced his eyes open, and he tried to comprehend what he was seeing. Instinctually, he tried to stand, but found that not only was he still in tremendous pain, but he was also shackled to the ground in holy chains. He was sitting in a field, Demons littering the ground, each one bound in chains like himself and each one just slightly too far from his or her neighbor to touch. He didn’t struggle for another second, because he knew it was useless. The apocalypse was over early, and he was one of the unlucky demons who managed to survive it.

Years passed, then decades. Even as his time spent bolted to the ground neared two centuries, he didn’t fight. No one ever came here, and the Demons had long stopped wanting to talk to one another. All they could do was sit in that field, with aches in their backs and unparalleled starvation making their insides feel as hollow as they looked on the outside. They all rejoiced when it rained, which the Angels made sure was a rare occasion in their field, though that field was now a desert. Now that the sun had returned, it had done so in full force, and the heatwave around them seemed endless. Maybe it was. Maybe it was as hopeless as it seemed.
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