So you think you can tell, heaven from hell?
When the sun again rose, and the birds had started to sing, Alice began to prepare for their departure. Annabelle had been gone, when Alice had awakened. She assumed that she either was somewhere with John, or made sure that the last of the soldiers were feeling better.
Even though both Alice and Annabelle would go away, and it would be best if all the sick and wounded would be gone, Alice had seen to it that Mr. Carson, a middle-aged, recovered soldier would take care of those remaining. It made Alice happy, for she wouldn’t have liked to leave them all by themselves.
She gently folded a bright blue dress, and sighed as her hands swept over the worn fabric that smelled of fresh lavender. Suddenly she realized how good it would be to return to a proper home. She was also relieved to have told her story to Annabelle, because now she only had Annabelle’s own story left to tell.
Mighty oaks swung peacefully above the girls, and only a few out of the sun’s rays shone through the green foliage. The sky was bright blue; not even a single cloud darkened it. They sat down on the soft grass, leaning against a large oak. They both knew that they should be indoors, among those who still demanded their attention, especially now that they were so close to getting home again. Annabelle felt obliged to take care of them, after having left them for the war, and she regretted that she had followed Alice outside.
“Well, you said there was something you wanted to tell me,” she began softly, because however much she might want to, she couldn’t be angry with Alice. It was just the two of them left, and none of them could survive without the other. They needed each other.
“I-, Annabelle, do you trust me?” Alice turned her head to look straight into Annabelle’s dark eyes. Alice’s voice, much like her eyes, was begging and sad, and Annabelle couldn’t bring herself to say no, even if that was the truth.
“I don’t know,” replied Annabelle, turning away her head to avoid seeing Alice’s vulnerable face. Alice could see how the girl struggled with her feelings.
“Annabelle, would you believe me... If I said something - something you knew couldn’t be true. Would you believe me then?” Annabelle let her left hand sweep over the soft grass, as a faint smile shaded her lips. She closed her eyes and her mind brought her far away; home, home to Katherine, Sam and Simone, perhaps to John, to those she held dear. To Dean, Killian and father. She took a deep breath when she realized that she might never see them again. Then she shook her head, and turned her face back, only to gaze into Alice’s worried, emerald eyes.
“Alice, I...” Annabelle cocked her head as her face became sad, filled with remorse and grief. “Trust is something you earn.” Annabelle smiled another smile, but this time her smile was more forgiving. “The only person I can rely on is me.” The words hit Alice hard, like a blow straight in her chest. But it did not matter; she could not wait any longer.
“Whether you believe me or not, there is something I have to say.” Alice took Annabelle’s both hands in hers, as if to show that Annabelle could not get away. She was firm, but gentle; Annabelle had to listen to the story Alice would tell.
“Have you ever heard of angels?” Alice smiled slightly, and then shook her head. “Of course you have. And that is not strange, Annabelle. Angels exist, and they live here, on earth, just like humans. Though they are not what you think. Ever since the beginning of the human race, humans have created myths about the creatures that would come to be called angels. All kinds of things were said; that angels possessed the ability to fly, that they had wings, that they lived in heaven - in paradise, with God, and that they were his warriors; his soldiers. Humans have always been envious of this creation, for a long time because it was said that God kept them the closest. That he loved them the most. For a long time it was said, and maybe it is still being said, that Christians - good people - who die, leave the earth to live with God, to get to heaven, to become angels.” Alice paused, and then took a deep breath to continue.
“But I guess you already knew that, Annabelle, you who are a Believer yourself.” Annabelle nodded silently, all not to interrupt Alice. She was not that sure about her faith any longer, for if there was a God, where had he been when she had needed him the most? Maybe he does exist; maybe he just doesn’t care about me.
“In any case, that is not true. When people die, they do not go to heaven or hell because of their actions, although both heaven and hell do exist. Their souls are only leaving the dead body to be reborn into a new one. Life is an eternal cycle; at least for humans. With angels, it’s quite the opposite. An angel has a soul, just like a human, but that’s where the similarities ends. When an angel dies, her soul dies too. An angel and her soul are bound to together be born, live and die. The souls are nothing but a key to God, to paradise, allowing angels to wander between heaven and earth as they wish. Then, when death comes, one could say that their souls are being released, and for the rest of eternity they get to live in their own fair share of God’s paradise. However, there are not many angels left.” Alice let go of Annabelle’s hands to bring a few black curls of hair away from her face. The wind grew in power, and Annabelle feared that a storm was coming.
“An angel is created by a good man’s actions. When the human then dies, its soul is reborn into a new creation, an angel. But it is not all good people whose soul is reborn into an angel. The human must have performed a magnificent deed; devoted his life to humanity. There are not many people like that, which I am sure you know. Therefore, there have never been that many angels.” Then Alice smiled, as if she would tell Annabelle something funny.
“You have probably heard about witches, vampires and werewolves, too,” she said, still smiling. “They exist as well, and live like angels together on earth, side by side with humans. They look just like the human race, and therefore they do not see any reason to tell their secret to the humans. If I remember correctly, Simone - your maid - is what you would call a witch.” Then she turned her head towards Annabelle, whose both eyebrows were raised. Annabelle breathed deeply, with her body turned away from Alice, but was secretly curious as to what the girl would say next.
“Just like angels, their souls are bound to their bodies, and dies with them. The souls are released, and they return to heaven to spend the rest of eternity there.” Here Alice stopped talking, and let the wind’s eternal whisper be the only thing to be heard. Annabelle cocked her head slightly, and then turned her face to Alice, frowning.
“How do you know all of this?” She said, almost in a whisper, afraid to hear the answer. She found it hard to hide her curiosity, and she had, after all, no reason to be upset. Alice shrugged.
“I am an angel,” she said calmly, as if she had just said what they would get for dinner. Annabelle opened her mouth, only to close it again. Alice could not be an angel. Angels did not exist, except for in fairy tales, like those she used to read to Katherine when it was time for her to go to sleep.
“But you said...” Annabelle shook her head, confused, so that the dark curls bounced around her shoulders. “You said that those like you, angels... That you didn’t tell humans about who you are. Why did you tell me, Alice?” When Alice didn’t respond, Annabelle rose, so that she would stand in front of the girl, only to repeat her question, her voice dark and steady: “Why, Alice?”
Then, suddenly, Alice turned her head up towards Annabelle, and her green eyes sparkled in the sunlight. She looked sad, and Annabelle took a deep breath, preparing herself.
“Because you are an angel, Annabelle.” Then Alice shook her head. “But not like me. You are a fallen angel. Fallen from heaven because your soul was stolen from you; lost somewhere on earth. You have a power that is nothing like the others. You are meant for things greater than you or I could ever imagine. But that is not what matters, not now, not anymore. Annabelle, it is you and only you who can put an end to the war; to the death.” Alice leaned towards the girl and took hold of the necklace that hung around her neck.
“He gave this to you, didn’t he?” Annabelle nodded, for she knew it was Killian that she meant, and Alice continued. “That is why they have not found you yet,” she whispered, too quiet for Annabelle to hear. The sky blue jewel sparkled in the sun, full of power and love. Then Alice let go of the charm, and quickly shook her head. Her voice was once again clear and steady.
“You have to stop the war; you have to stop them. Annabelle, please. Believe me, if you do not stop it now, it will only get worse. Much worse. First, the darkness will come, and then the evil, and then there is nothing we can do.”
Annabelle took a deep breath, and felt how evil and darkness stung in her throat and lungs. She thought about what Alice had said, and painful memories of her brothers, of father and Killian, raced past, half hidden in a dim light, belonging to the past.
She could see all the damage that the war had done, all the death it had brought along, all the grief and misfortune that it had left behind, and she knew she could never make the world the place it once had been; for what had been done could never be changed. She would never become the person she once had been. She knew that the war must be stopped, but she had done enough. Her life’s mission, her revenge, was over. She was now free to do as she wanted, and she no longer had to listen to others.
No matter how close she had been to death, no matter how scary and horrible it had been, she could not bring herself to feel anything other than a peaceful silence. She knew she was ready to die; she wanted nothing more than to see the part of her family she had lost again. She was not sad, for she knew that even if she would miss Katherine, Simone, Sammy and Charlotte, maybe even Alice and John, she would also, in time, see them again. Until then, she promised herself to watch over them.
“No,” she whispered. “No, Alice. I'm sorry, but I can not do what you ask of me. It's too much.” She turned away her head, which ached with sickness and sorrow, for she did not dare to look at Alice. She knew that she had made her disappointed.
“John is gone, Alice.” Annabelle was suddenly behind her, and Alice turned around quickly.
“What?” Suddenly, she was afraid that they would not find their way home, so afraid that she had to lean her body against the old cart they had taken from Mrs. Ericsson and planned to use to get home. She was dead, the old lady, and therefore they were pretty sure that she would not need it any more. Annabelle took a few soft steps forward.
“He has already gone home,” she said, confused, and shook her head, “why would he go without us? At least he left my horse - I can not say I would have been surprised if he had let it loose.” But Alice just looked at her with her eyes wide open; she did not really care whether Annabelle relied on John or not.
“But- but Annabelle, I do not remember the way home!” Annabelle raised her eyebrows.
“Well, I remember. I just wonder why John would leave us, like he did, without saying goodbye. He is your brother, Alice,” she said, “what did you say to him, that caused him to leave without us?” Alice shook her head, unable to give Annabelle a logical response. It did not matter that John had left them; they would get to come home anyway.
The word itself sounded too far away, and she forced herself to resist the urge to pinch her arm hard. At the same time, she saw the look in Annabelle’s eyes, and regretted for a second what she previously had told her.
“Annabelle,” she said, therefore, her voice soft and full of hesitation, “I'm sorry. For what I said. It was not supposed to add further weights on your shoulders, it was just that...” Alice found it difficult to find a word that described why; she was not even sure that there was a real reason, one right answer. “Forgive me.” Annabelle looked up at her, and a child’s innocent eyes suddenly became visible in her hazel gaze.
“Don't worry about it, Alice.” She coughed, and it became harder for her to breathe. Alice thought it seemed like a piece of Annabelle’s life suddenly became blurred, right in front of her eyes. Then she understood.
“You are sick,” Alice whispered, and took out of reflex a small step back, away from the girl. Annabelle closed her eyes, not knowing if she was relieved or shocked. She smiled up towards the sky, which just had burst into a bright blue color.
“Let's go home, Alice.”