His keys jingled in his hand as he walked up the stairs to his apartment. He winced at the sound as it rang sharply against the concrete walls and into his skull. It had been too long since he had slept, too long since he had gotten a proper meal.
Hopefully that would change tonight.
He unlocked his door and pushed through, throwing the offending keys at the table next to him, and ignoring them when they bounced then slid off the side and to the ground. Instead he continued on to the kitchen, hopes that food might be present filling his mind. When he opened the refrigerator it was the same as it had been when he had left that morning.
Food yes, but not food that he would want to eat. It was black, and dripping, and he could see things crawling through the packages in the back.
He sighed and closed the door.
Turning he saw her, just as he always did. She floated at the end of the room, her feet hovering just above the floor, and her wings spreading out to brush the walls as they beat a lazy rhythm. The light that always seemed to radiate from her was a dull almost brown, and her face, old and weathered seemed to glare in his general direction.
His angel, and she was not happy with him.
Do you have it?
Her voice slithered through him, cold and harsh, and he stumbled as the feeling mixed with his hunger and exhaustion. He pressed a hand to his head, his eyes sliding closed, even as he braced himself on the counter.
He is waiting.
He knew He was waiting. Knew that He had been waiting.
“I have it, I… I was just hungry.”
“Yes… I thought maybe I could eat.”
Pain shot through him, and he felt his knees give out. Hitting the floor with a cracking thud, he doubled over, his forehead coming to rest on the cool tile.
You think that eating is more important?
No. He wanted to tell her no, that he was sorry for mentioning it, but his tongue seemed to be swelling in his mouth, choking his breath and cutting off his words. Instead, he rolled his head against the floor in the semblance of a negative shake.
So, tell me what I want to hear.
The swelling receded enough for the hoarse croak of his voice to tumble from his lips. “I’ll take it to him right now.”
He pulled himself up along the cabinets next to him, taking time to try and put the pain that still shot through each movement somewhere in the back of his mind. If he just did what they wanted… they would let him be… let him eat… let him rest.
He dragged himself into the living room, the angry spirit floating behind him, her face still set in disdainful lines. As he moved he pulled off the satchel he wore over his shoulder, his hands rummaging through it until they came in contact with the pieces tucked into the bottom.
Finally, he made it to the back of the room, and the effigy that graced the wall of it. The emaciated man hung limply from his cross, his hair falling in stringy clumps around his shoulders and bare chest. Thick black blood oozed from wounds in his hands and his feet where twisted with rusted nails springing from the skin as if they had grown there.
He knelt before the figure, dropping the bag to the side, and cradling his prizes against his chest. Taking a deep breath he slowly laid them out, each one wrapped carefully in cream colored paper, dark red stains just beginning to seep through the heavy layers.
He cleared his throat, trying to remember exactly what he was supposed to say, and knowing what would happen if he didn’t do it right.
“A woman, she spoke falsehoods. A man, he coveted his brother’s wife. A woman, she worshiped a false idol. A girl, she showed no honor to her parents.”
He looked up as he finished speaking, and caught the eye of the man as it glowed out at him through the strands of the hair covering his face. The angel had moved to his side, and her voice, more mollified but still clipped, floated around him.
He carefully unwrapped each package, reverence in his every movement as he uncovered what he had collected; a tongue, pink and small, eyes, their green irises clouded and sightless, a heart, wet and still slightly warm, and a pair of hands, small and pale and perfect.
The room quieted as the offerings were shown, a heavy silence that pressed at him from all sides. He tried to clear his mind, tried to ignore the ache of hunger that still ate at his stomach. Finally, it was if everything around him took a collective, refreshing breath.
He blinked at the sudden shining around him, his body shuddering as warmth enveloped him with startlingly suddenness. When his vision cleared he saw that the angel had turned radiant, her skin clear and smooth as porcelain, her smile bright and caring. Beside her the man had transformed as well, His hands and feet free of scars, and white robes swirling around His body in a sharp contrast to His dark, well combed hair.
He let out a sigh of relief. Pleased then, they were pleased. Giddiness swirled through him as he thought it. He would be able to rest… to eat. He smiled, childlike, at the two before him, arching into their hands when they came to smooth over his head and face, reveling in the knowledge that he had done a job well.
The man knelt before him, His face calm and beautiful, and He took his hands gently. When He spoke His voice soothed over all lingering roughness, like a balm to a still sore wound.
Go, my child, go and claim your reward. You have earned it.
He could only continue smiling as his angel helped him to stand, folding him under her wing as they moved from the room.
Reward. Yes. He deserved it.