To Henry Burkends,
The shadow demons were everywhere, they always had been and I knew they always would be. People told me it was a gift, but it felt more like a curse than anything.
Day in and day out I would see them. They followed people around like mindless sheep, almost like they were attached to the person they were following. I tried to ignore them, but it isn't that easy.
They groan, cry, and scream like children, but they sound like animals. Their voices were raspy and grotesque like they were fighting off the flu. I didn't know if they themselves were hurting, or if they were hurting other people.
Over the course of my life, a few of the shadow demons had stopped and looked at me. I call them demons because their shapes came in all different sizes. Some looked like people, others like animals, and some looked like mutants. The only thing they had in common was their silhouette appearance.
No eyes, no mouth, no nose, no eyebrows, just solid shadows. Some were more transparent than others, I think that means that they weren't as strong as the denser shadow demons.
They each had distinct energy to them as well. Each one felt so similar, yet completely different. I felt anxious around the more transparent shadows, and I became nauseous when around the darker ones. I wasn't sure why that would happen, because I never really talked about it to anyone, and the people I did tell just told me I was special.
Maybe I didn't want to be special. Maybe I just wanted to be normal and experience the peaceful serenity of an empty mind. What's the harm in wanting something anyways?
No matter what happens, the world still spins. War, famine, disease, natural disasters, all of them are meaningless. We keep making the same mistakes over and over again. Nothing will change. We are a flawed species. People die in vain. People die every day.
I, myself, am dying. Perhaps that's why I've chosen to write this, Henry. I know this will never get to you, but writing it is the only thing that will bring me peace. Writing this is the only thing that will make the shadow demons go away.
You were so little, Henry. You didn't deserve to be locked up and treated the way you were. You were nothing more than a child. - A sweet, innocent, helpless, child who only wanted to help people.
You have faced more death than I will ever know in a thousand lifetimes, and for that, I am truly sorry. I should have done something. I should have been there to help you, but I was a coward. I was scared to open your eyes to the world that I had seen every day of my childhood.
I shut down all your questions because I didn't know what to do. I didn't want you to get hurt the way I had been hurt. I didn't want you to end up someplace worse than where you already were, because there are so many places worse than this, Henry. There are so many people who infect this world with their lust, greed, and murderous thoughts.
Earth is stained with the blood of the innocent because evil never sleeps. I should have been there for you. I should have prepared you better in any way that I could.
Attached to this letter is a copy of my book. It will be published after I die as a work of fiction. But you and I both know the truth. I wish you all the best, Henry.
With love, #00647
I coughed as I finished adding the last few details to the letter. With each passing minute, it was getting harder and harder to breathe. There was no help for me now. There was nothing anyone could do to save me. I just wished that Henry could be here when I die.
I stumbled out of the chair. The cement floor was cold against my bare feet. I was in a cold sweat and I could feel my strength leaving me.
"Only..." The sentence was interrupted by a heavy gasp for breath. "Only...a few more...steps...to the bed." Another cough, only this time, blood came out of my mouth.
My throat was tight, and my eyes were heavy. I probably sounded like Darth Vader when I attempted to breathe. I never thought I would die so young. Most of all, I never thought I'd die alone.
"You aren't alone," I heard a muffled whisper. "I will make this process as easy as I can for you."
I collapsed on the ground, feeling my kneecap shatter as it collided with the cement. I wanted to scream, but I couldn't manage to do that. I rolled on my back to hopefully make breathing a little easier, and I noticed that it was darker than it had been a minute ago.
I could no longer see the silver light of the moon piercing through my cell window. But what I did see, was even better.
Standing in the window frame was what I could only hope to be the Angel of Death. With his big, feathered wings, and oversized robes, he was glorious.
"Azrael?" I choked. "Is that you?"
The figure nodded. "Are you ready to die?" He asked me. His deep voice echoed off the walls and seemed to shake the whole room.
Tears filled my eyes. I felt terrible because I was ready to die. I had been ready for a very long time. "Can I-" more coughing. "Can I see him...one last time?"
In a flash, I found myself standing inside Henry's cell. I wasn't weak or coughing, I must have been having an out-of-body experience.
I slowly walked over to Henry's bed. He was sound asleep. His curly red hair hung over his eyes as he snored. He looked so calm and relaxed.
"I love you, Henry," I whispered. "I wish you all the best." A familiar groan filled the room. Standing in the corner was Henry's shadow demon.
"I will watch over him." The shadow promised. "He will have a long and healthy life."
I couldn't help but smile. I had never heard a shadow demon speak so fluently in all my life. I knew Henry was in good hands.
"Thank you," I said. "And if he can hear you the same way I can, tell him I'm sorry."
"Your message shall be delivered," the shadow assured. "I wish you well in the afterlife."
Then, in an instant, I found myself back on the floor in my cell.
"Take my hand," the angel instructed, extending his arm. "The pain will be gone soon."
Although ominous, there was something very comforting about the angel's voice. There was something about his tone that made me feel like everything would be okay.
I found it ironic how I had lived my whole life in fear, only to be unafraid now that my life was ending. I knew I hadn't done much with my life, but I was happy, I knew that Henry would be okay.
I held up my shaking, thin, bony arm and extended it towards the angel. My fingertips touched his, and the feeling of electricity swept through my body.
The pain was gone. All the sorrow and anger were gone. I was gone, and I was at peace.
A bright light filled my vision, and I realized that I was standing on top of a perfectly still ocean. In the distance, I saw three figures slowly walking towards me.
After all these years, could it really be who I think it is?
"Mom?" I gasped. "Dad?... Mikhael?"
I ran. I ran faster than I ever had before. I never thought I would see them again, but after all this time, they had been waiting for me.
Faster and faster, until they all surrounded me, hugging me, and telling me how much they had missed me.
"I'm sorry!" I sobbed. "I'm so sorry, Momma!"
For the first time in a long time, I felt warmth. The heat of their body's enveloped me as we hugged. We were finally reunited, and this time I would make sure nothing bad happened to them.
This time, I would protect them and keep them safe. Because I wasn't afraid anymore. I wasn't alone anymore.
As they continued to hug me, I saw my life replaying inside my mind. And little by little, the memories faded into nothingness and I started to forget every second of the time I spent down on earth. The sickness, the fighting, the hate, the abuse, it was all fading away like a leaf in the autumn wind.
I didn't even try to resist whatever it was that was happening in my mind, because I finally had what I wanted. I finally had my family back.
And as the hug stopped, and I took my brother's hand, we began to walk across the sea together. And as we walked, I forgot about the boy known as Henry Burkends.