Eden was a wasteland.
A thick grey blanket of ash covered the landscape. The scorched trees were merely stumps rising out of the ground and the sky was overcast with ash and smoke, choking out the sun so its light barely penetrated the darkness. All was quiet save the howling of the wind which swept up the ash and carried it away. The Garden of Eden, a place that was once teeming with life and God’s infinite wonders, was now reduced to nothing but a toxic land where death and chaos reigned.
Michael stood alone amidst the ruins of Paradise. Ash clung onto the tips of his feathers, his hair and armour, mingling with the blood streaked across his person and making him appear as a haunting grey spectre. He tucked his wings close around his body to shield himself from the wind and bowed his head in sorrow, his blond hair falling into his face.
It was gone. His home was destroyed and he had failed to defend it. His brothers and entire army were dead because of him. If only he hadn’t given in to despair and lost his will to fight then perhaps he could have provided his angels with the courage they needed! The Archangel had panicked, causing a ripple of fear to pass through the ranks of angels, and abandoned his post. Now because of his cowardice, only Michael, the greatest of the Archangels, was left to mourn the destruction of Heaven.
The Archangel had come to the Garden of Eden despite knowing of its ruined state. Anything to get away from the aftermath of the war. He couldn’t stand to be in the great halls of Heaven where his kin lay in mutilated piles of bodies and limbs, their blood adorning the walls and floors. He felt their blank, staring eyes judging him, accusing him of their deaths. Michael’s worst fears had come true and that reality was too overwhelming for him to bear.
Where has Father gone? His presence had been lifted from Heaven and Michael tried desperately to reach his Lord. The angel cried out to God in the emptiness of Eden, begged Him to save him and all of Creation, begged Him to come back. “Please don’t abandon me! Do not leave me here! Come back Father!” Michael cried over and over again into the smoky air around him. When prolonged silence was the only response given, the Archangel’s great heart shattered and he fell to his knees in grief. God had forsaken him! He allowed His angels and holy Kingdom to be destroyed. God was gone and wasn’t going to come back.
Why would God return? He had suffered the greatest defeat in all of existence; no one had ever defeated Him in battle before and now His armies were crushed. Of course God had vanished; who would want to face the shame of defeat after so many years of being on top? The human race was oblivious to the absence of their creator, but they would become aware of it when Lucifer set his sights on earth. Humans were safe for now but without God and angels, they were defenceless.
Michael wept bitterly, letting out loud, mournful howls of agony; the sound of his cries echoing across Eden, a reminder of how alone he was. He sobbed until his head began to hurt and his throat and lungs burned. In anguish he ripped off his armour and weapons, throwing them away so he was only clad in a torn and bloodstained tunic. The angel collapsed in exhaustion, too weak and helpless without the power of God to aid him.
He lay in the dust, his head resting on his arms, his face hidden behind his wings. Michael did not know how long he lay still, time ceased to have any meaning, but he soon sensed a presence draw near. Did a fellow angel somehow survive the slaughter of their kin?
Michael slowly raised his head and saw a black figure approach. The hair on the nape of his neck stood up as he final made out who it must be. “Lucifer, have you come to finish the job?” He called out.
The lord of darkness stared down at his adversary in pity, his dark eyes gleaming. “No. It is not my wish to strike you down Michael.”
“And yet you had the heart to slaughter every angel in Heaven!” Michael seethed. Anger coursed through his veins and he desperately wished to cross swords with Lucifer again but he had no strength left. He dug his fingers into the ground in anger.
Lucifer stepped closer and knelt in front of the Archangel. “I told you that I would defeat God didn’t I?”
Michael said nothing and began to crawl away from Lucifer, making a valiant attempt to stand up but his limbs could not hold his weight and he fell to his hands and knees. He sat on the ground and hung his head in shame. How weak he was without his Lord! How pathetic he was to his enemy!
Lucifer did not laugh nor crack a smile as Michael expected but inched closer as if he were afraid to provoke the Archangel. He took his place next to Michael. “I did what I had to.” Lucifer said.
Michael snorted. “No you didn’t, you disgusting wretch!”
Lucifer gestured to the endless ruin around them. “Why do you resist? Look around you; God is not coming back and no angel stands in my way. Creation now belongs to me and humanity won’t have God to save them.”
“You killed Gabriel and Raphael.” Michael whispered. He squeezed his eyes shut to hold back tears. His brothers were killed by Lucifer’s own hand in the Temple of Heaven. They had confronted the fallen angel and he had struck them down, ensuring that both Archangels died slow, painful deaths. The willful desecration of the Temple by spilling the blood of angels was a horrid offense against Father, as if invading Heaven wasn’t enough of an insult.
Raphael was the first Archangel to fall, giving a dreadful shriek of agony, before being followed by Gabriel who had flown in to avenge his gentle brother. Michael had watched in horror as Lucifer had cut through the ranks of Archangels, butchering every last one until only Michael remained and he ran and hid like the coward he truly was. With no leaders in sight, the armies of Heaven lost their courage and were quickly defeated.
“They stood in the way of the inevitable. Do you wish to join them?” Lucifer reasoned. His calm façade was beginning to irritate Michael and the Archangel wished he would go away.
“Leave me alone.” Michael wheezed.
“If I leave you to your own devices, you’ll cause nothing but trouble for me.” Lucifer sighed. “That is why I am giving you the chance to live by joining me. Which one will it be Michael? Do you want to die, or do you want to live?”
“I’ll never join you serpent! I’d rather die.” Michael thundered. He got to his feet and swayed on unsteady legs. His head spun and he staggered, his hands reaching for something to hold onto. Lucifer grabbed Michael’s arm and held the angel still. In response, the Archangel spat in the fallen angel’s face. Lucifer calmly wiped his face off and regarded his adversary with an annoyed expression.
“Look at you, so weak without God. You’re going to die Michael if you keep going along this path. God’s power and your immortality have left your body and you’ll rapidly become more frail and sickly until your body dies.” Lucifer said, fixing the Archangel in his gaze. “Join me Michael and you won’t have to suffer death. I’ll give you the power to sustain you. There is no future for you on the side of God.”
Angels were never meant to be mortal. Their immortality spared them of the suffering that only mortal Man endured and the Archangel was terrified to face that state of being. Michael shook his head frantically and tried to wrest himself from Lucifer’s grip. He couldn’t give in to Lucifer no matter how frightened he was of being mortal. However, his efforts seemed to be in vain and he gave up his struggles, bowing his head in defeat.
The faces of the Archangels, the faithful humans he had aided, and the angels under his command flashed through his mind. To bow down to his adversary would be the highest insult to the memory of those who were slain by Hell’s lot. To bow down would bring only disgrace to his Father’s holy name. He was Michael; the Prince of the angels, the greatest of all his kin and he had a duty to defend Heaven’s honour.
Lucifer patiently awaited Michael’s response with an expectant look upon his face. Michael stood up as straight he could, his head held high, his azure blue eyes hardening, as he spoke his defiance once again. “No, I refuse. I will never call you ‘Master’ neither will I ever obey you. To do so would be an insult to my kin and God Himself! I choose death!”
Lucifer closed his eyes for a brief moment and sighed, his face filled with disappointment and pity. “You are a stubborn fool. But if it is death that you wish for then so be it.” The fallen angel let go of his enemy and took a step back. Michael sank to his knees, still feeling weak and feeble. However, a fire of rebellion burned in his eyes as he glared at Lucifer.
Lucifer drew his sword and stared into Michael’s eyes. There was no trace of fear in them, only anger and outrage. “Do your work murderer!” Michael challenged. The Archangel was ready to die, there was doubt about that. Death did not frighten Michael, not when his heart was so choked with grief that he was too numb to feel much of anything.
The fallen angel was in awe of such courage, but if the fool wanted to die then Lucifer was more than willing to oblige him. He drew his arm back and, with all the strength he possessed, drove his sword through Michael’s heart, killing the Archangel and putting an end to the last of the Heavenly Host. Michael’s eyes and mouth flew open in shock and he looked as if he were about to speak but whatever he wanted to say would never be spoken out loud. A great red stain began to form on the slain angel’s chest and drops of blood fell into the ash, staining it crimson. Lucifer sheathed his bloodied sword and watched the Archangel’s corpse collapse into the dust, causing a great cloud to waft up into the air before resettling.
He stared at the slain angel, considering the life he had taken. What a pity the Archangel chose death instead of saving his life! Lucifer shook his head. “What a fool.” He muttered. What a waste of a good warrior and a useful ally, but he should have known that Michael would resist and refuse him. The warrior had always been so loyal to both God and Creation.
Lucifer turned away from Michael’s fallen form and walked away, kicking up ash with his movements. He had no one to stop him now. No angels, no Michael, and certainly no God was around to prevent him from exterminating humanity. He could carry out his plans with few obstacles.
The fallen angel smiled to himself. At last he would finally get what he always wanted.