I lay down on the bed. I love beds. They bring comfort to you, even when you can stand life no longer. A bed can be your escape. Not anymore. Everything is different. There is no longer screaming from the floor below. No longer preaching coming from the television across the hall. No longer the sounds of a baby crying through the wall next to mine. It’s quiet. Maddeningly quiet. Then the thoughts come back. I am scared. I am alone. I remember…
I am done. I can’t take it anymore. The sounds of their voices raised in fury about nothing. I’m leaving. Like Dorothy with her little companion, Toto the dog. Except I have no faithful companion. I am alone.
I don’t know where I’m going. Maybe Kayla’s? I don’t know if her mom would be okay with that. I don’t think she likes me. Maybe I should have thought a little longer about the plan, but I can’t go back now. They would make me go to a group therapy for troubled teens seeking God. I don’t think I believe in God but I can’t tell my parents that. Then I’d be kicked out and leaving wouldn’t be my choice. Somehow this seems more satisfying.
One of the bushes on the sidewalk rustles. Probably a snake, I think, nothing to worry about. I can’t be scared now that I’ve left. But it’s not a snake, it’s a man. The first thing I think is “Damn he’s handsome” but the fear comes fast. I don’t wasn’t any contact with someone who would cause me harm or, worse, tell my parents where I am.
“Hey,” he says. His voice is as beautiful as he is, deep, but comforting. His brown hair falls slightly over his eyes, but not enough to reveal that they are the most beautiful shade of violet. I’ve never seen violet eyes that were quite that shade. I love them. His jaw moves perfectly as he continues to talk. “You lost?”
“I’m not lost,” my voice says without my permission. “I left home,”
“And where are you headed now?” His eyes flash with sincerity. I think he really cares. He doesn’t seem bad at all.
More word vomit. “I don’t know,”
“Ya know,” he says moving toward me, swiftly, perfectly. “If you need a place to stay, I’ve got a nice place,”
Now I’m scared. He wants me to go back to his house. I know about guys like him, and I am not in the mood to be raped tonight. “I don’t think so,” I answer.
“Oh, come on. It’s not just me there. There are tons of people just like you. Lost, looking, running. I can tell your perfect for us,” His eyes flash again and all I want is to trust him and, somehow, I do.
“Okay,” I can’t believe I’m going with this guy. I guess I was just looking for adventure. I follow his now smiling face to a motorcycle hidden in the bushes. That’s how my adventure began.
It turns out his “place” was a huge garage, the kind where gun shows and antique liquidations are held. There are cars and motorcycles parked all around the garage. On the way over He tells me his name is Michael. It’s too normal a name for someone so beautiful. I tell him my name is Leslie, but it’s not. I think he believes me, even with my slightly hesitant answer.
He parks the bike and he leads me inside. It’s dark and there are candles burning. I smell incense and alcohol and something metallic. There are six people there all gathered in a circle. I become scared.
“This,” says Michael. “Is Leslie,” and he leaves immediately, shutting the door behind him. As soon as there is solid space between the two of us I am scared again. I want to leave. I don’t want to be in a room with six strangers. They stare at me and I don’t know what to do. I wave and immediately feel stupid. One of the people stands up.
“Hi, I’m Harper,” she seems kind. The others don’t. They all eye me suspiciously. The fear doesn’t go away. Harper sees my scared stare, eyeing them cautiously. “Hey,” she says, addressing the other five. “Why don’t you guys take five and I’ll show Leslie around,” One of them begins to blow out the candles as another retreats into the darkness. A light comes on and they all go outside, except for Harper.
“So, how’d you meet Michael?” she asks, as she sits on a brown couch in the corner of the room. It looks more welcoming now that the lights are on and the strange, metallic smell is gone. Her question makes me angry.
“He found me walking on the street and asked if I needed a place to stay the night. Then he brought me here,”
“What’s your name again?”
“L-Leslie,” I stutter. I don’t want her to know my name either.
Her eyebrows rise. “Have you ever heard of the Angels?”
I’m caught off guard. This wasn’t a question I was expecting. I hesitate with an “Ummm,”
She isn’t satisfied. She stares at me with contempt. “Didn’t Michael explain any of this to you?”
“No, not really,” I answer. “He mostly told me his name and that he had a place I could stay,”
“Well I’m not surprised,” she says this mostly to herself. “We mostly just needed a seventh body,”
“Another body for what?” Shit, do they want to kill me? I knew getting on that motorcycle was a bad idea.
“To complete the circle. We need seven bodies to complete the circle that summons the Angel,” she answers.
“Ok, I was cool with the motorcycle. Cool with the mysterious garage. Cool with the candles and incense, but summoning Angels? Are you people crazy, or just plain ironic? Because I don’t need any more angels in my life.”
“Wow, he really didn’t tell you anything,” she sounds small.
“Whatever, Harper, I’m out of here,” I turn but she stars to cry. I turn back.
“I’m not!” she says quietly.
“I’m not crazy!” she shouts this.
“Yes,” I answer coolly. “And this pathetic outburst is because of that,” I turn back and leave.
Outside Michael’s there, like he was waiting for me. I ignore him. This was a stupid idea. I turn in the direction of Kayla’s house.
I hear Michael shout, “Leslie! Hey, Leslie, wait!”
I don’t wait. I continue on the road to Kayla’s house I don’t plan to look back.
He catches up very quickly and walks beside me. “Leslie, why are you leaving?” he sounds concerned.
“Because your friends are crazy,” It’s a lame excuse, I know, but it’s enough for me. I speed up my walking.
He follows my speed. “Well you were only in there for fifteen minutes. Maybe you should stay awhile to let their message sink in,”
“What message? That bullshit about angels?”
“They’re not just angels. They’re the Angels. They’re not biblical or anything like that. They’re spirits that watch over the balance of Good and Evil. And it’s not bullshit. It’s real. As real as you or me or the sidewalk we’re walking on.”
“You really believe that, don’t you?”
“I don’t believe. I know.”
I still haven’t looked at him. He sounds sincere. His beautiful voice flows over the words with amazing clarity and sureness. “Why did you want me?”
He laughs. It’s a symphony of bells. “Oh, that’s easy. I’ve been watching you for awhile, actually,”
I stop in my tracks and look him in the face for the first time since he closed the door at the garage. Those purple eyes engulf me again and the words he says are perfect.
“You’re just like everyone else back there: alone, different, scared, and troubled. We’re a family and we care for each other. You’re in need of a family that cares, just like Harper. Your family didn’t understand you and your friends thought you were strange. Please, Leslie. Please come back,”
And I want to. I don’t think I’ll ever believe in their whole angle thing but his description of everyone back at the garage is just like me. And I need someone to relate to. “Please, Leslie,” he says again. I don’t want him to call me Leslie anymore. “My name isn’t Leslie,” I say. “It’s Arella,” I want to hear him say it. I want his deep, comforting voice to say my name.
“It’s nice to meet you Arella. Will you come back?”
And I do.
He doesn’t care that I lied about my name. He doesn’t care that I only have three changes of clothes. There’s really only one thing the cares about. That I believe in these Angels. I don’t think I can.
There are six other people, including Harper: two guys, Gabriel and Beaux, and four girls, Harper, Marianna, Ronnie, and Gwen. They are all really strange, especially Harper. When I came back to the garage, she avoided me. I tried to apologize, but she ignored me. I ask Gwen about her story. She tells me nothing. Everyone here is very private. I don’t mind. Michael’s hardly ever here. He brings food. He sometimes stays to talk, but most of the time, he is embracing the world on his motorcycle. I wish he lived here with us. I ask Gwen why he doesn’t stay. Again, she tells me nothing.
On my fourth night here they begin a “circle”. They tell me they plan to summon an Angel tonight. Beaux tells me I have to believe if the circle is to work. I don’t tell anyone that I still think its bullshit. I’ve spent the past four days learning of the rituals and convincing them that Michael persuaded me that the Angels are real. No one doubted Michael’s persuasion abilities.
Harper sets the circle. A giant round shape, carved into the concrete floor that is concealed by a carpet. Six of us gather around the circle. Harper begins lighting candles and incense. It becomes the dark and creepy place it was when I first passed over the threshold of the building. Harper gathers one of the bottles of the mysterious red liquid that are kept in the refrigerator and my worst fears are confirmed as she slowly pours it around the circle. It is blood, reeking of that metallic smell. I don’t ask where they got it. Marianna, who is sitting next to me whispers in my ear.
“It’s for the Angel, if we can summon her. She can’t live on Earth without blood, which provides her oxygen,”
That doesn’t make it any less creepy. Through one of the windows, in a crack in the curtain, I can see one violet eye and I know Michael is watching. I don’t alert his presence to anyone. It’s deathly quiet.
Then Gabriel begins to chant. I can’t remember what he said. I don’t think They want me to remember. I see Michael’s purple eye flash and I know he is listening. And for a moment, I feel heaviness in my chest and I think I’m starting to believe. But it lasts for only a second and I think of Mom and Dad, who would kill me if they new what I was doing and my belief vanishes. I vaguely remember a giant purple light in the circle vanishing. I see the violet eye and it flashes with anger this time. All at once, the candles are extinguished. Its pitch black, but for the little specs of fire that are the incense sticks.
The light flashes on and all of the blood is gone. I am still staring at the window when Beaux and Gwen begin to fight. I do not remember much of the fight, but I remember it was about me. Beaux was saying that I was too cowardly to believe and a bunch of similar crap. And Gwen defended me, saying it was my first time and maybe I wasn’t ready yet. Then Michael storms in, his face furious. He doesn’t shout, as I expect him to. Except he quietly stares at me and softly says, “Please leave. I want to talk to Arella,”
There’s nothing I could have done. I do not know why he is mad. I do not know what I’ve done wrong. Everyone leaves. I can hear cars starting and Gabriel’s motorcycle jump-start. It’s just Michael and I.
“Why did you do that?” His voice is still calm. He stares at me with those eyes. I thought they were beautiful, but now they are terrifying and menacing. I want to run away from his gaze.
“I don’t know what you mean,” I say, answering his question.
“She was about to rise!” his voice was rising in anger. “She was ready to come here! Now we’ll have to wait another month before we can attempt to summon her again!”
“How is this my fault?” I try to sound strong, but I just sound small. His angry voice drowns mine.
“Because you didn’t believe! She was coming and then she retreated when she saw you!”
“Why is this so important to you?”
“That doesn’t matter! The only thing that matters is that you’ve slept in my beds and ate my food for days! The only thing that matters is that you repay me with the respects I deserve!”
“I’m sorry,” I still sound small. “But when you’ve been raised the way I have, believing in some creature that shouldn’t exist is hard. You haven’t given me enough time to even digest your stupid lifestyle!”
That was the wrong thing to say. “Stupid lifestyle!” He shouts. “Stupid lifestyle? This is my life! You think I want to be stuck here? You think I wouldn’t go home if I could? But when you’re summoned, you can’t go back!”
At this point, I cannot believe what I’m hearing. Michael’s eyes flash again. He whispers when he speaks this time. “I’ll make you remember,” I only remember seeing his body fall…then blackness.
I’m still lying in my bed. I look at the knife, still covered in blood on my bedside table. It seems to call out to me, take me, take me, you know it’s the only choice now. It’s right. There isn’t an alternative. Not anymore.
I see everything better. I smell the incense, still burning, is strong and sharp on my tongue. I adjust to my surroundings (everything seems so new) and when I have a moment to breathe I see the lifeless body of Michael on the floor. Then I realize I’m still not alone. There’s someone else here, someone in my head. It’s Michael, and this time, I can’t escape him.
He had control of me for days. My actions were not my actions. He controlled every part of me. I couldn’t even take breath without his say so. He’s hidden most of the days from me. But not the one I wish he had.
We begin to summon again, and this time I believe in the Angels. It would have worked, too. I see the Angel appear from the middle of the circle, surrounded by the purple light. She is beautiful and I can feel Michael’s reaction to her. I hear the memories from his past, unbeknownst to him. This was his wife, simply called Angel. He had found the seven of us after a group of lousy teenagers who tried the summoning for themselves had summoned him from below. He longed to be with his wife again, and it was my fault that she didn’t make it through last time. The blood we used to summon her came from the last person Michael had recruited. He didn’t believe, and now he was gone.
One of the windows breaks and Angel retreats into the circle. We’ve failed again. People begin to enter the garage. All of the faces are familiar. People from my church, my pastor, my Sunday School teacher, and most surprising, my father. The preacher cants something and I don’t pay attention. I only see my father, as his eyes turn on me. I hear Michael’s horrible voice in my head. This is your fault, and you will pay.
He grabs a knife from I don’t know where. He lunges at the churchgoers. He slashes the throats of them all. I feel the pain of death. It’s as if I killed them. I feel his murderous rage. I feel the blood on my face. He turns me to face my father, still alive. I hear Michael in my head, and now you’ll know. My father sees my face and whispers “Arella,” and Michael forces my hand across his throat.
He takes me some place. I realize it’s my home. I see my mother heating baby formula through the window. No, I beg him. Not her and the baby. He says nothing to me. He enters the house and forces me to do it. The baby was the hardest. No crying, like my mother and father. I think that’s what made it worse. And Michael says to me, now you’ll know how I feel everyday, and his presence vanishes and I’m me again.
* * * *
I’m still here on the bed. The baby’s body is in the room next to mine. My mother’s body is in the kitchen downstairs. I’m still staring at the bloody knife. Is it worth it? I pick up the knife and stab my chest. The last thing I see is the knife, now soaked with my blood, lying on my bed.