21 | Help of God
The inside of Chase’s apartment is almost exactly how I pictured it: a library. The difference is that I thought it’d be a giant room strictly dedicated to books, not an entire house. Huge piles of them are stacked on each other, some looking as old as the house itself—chipped covers, bindings falling apart, seams taped back together several times over. Stained walls are lined with shelves, each one filled with different books; the counters have them stacked in high piles, some piles reaching the ceiling; hell, even the worn carpet has them littered everywhere. There’s barely any room to sit on the couch—most of the cushions are covered with medical texts—but there’s a space cleared on the windowsill, just big enough for Chase to spread out and read...
“I don’t know if anyone’s told you this or not, but you should find a hobby,” I mutter.
He smirks. “Technically, reading is a hobby,” he points out.
“Are you telling me that the only thing you do is read and teach?” I demand, looking at him incredulously.
He raises an eyebrow. “No, I believe you and Darestin have already discussed my favorite pastime.”
I blink. His favorite pastime has always been putting them through trials...
“So when you’re not reading, you’re... testing people?” I demand. “Testing me?”
“Don’t make that face,” he says, smirking as he leans against the wall. “Technically speaking, I didn’t come to Silverstein just to play with humans. I came here to stop the murders.”
“The murders?” I repeat, confused again. “What does some random murderer have to do with anything?”
“In due time,” he says, straightening up. I tense as he heads over to me, mind flashing to the almost-but-not-quite kiss. When all he does is brush past me to pick up a few stray books—anatomy from the looks of it—on the windowsill, though, I have to hide the short pang of disappointment. “Sit. This is going to take some time.”
I grumble under my breath, berating myself, but do as he says, plopping on the ledge of the window with a huff. “Alright, I’m ready.”
He doesn’t look so sure, though. “Before I tell you anything, you have to understand, Vixen: I’m not human—” when I roll my eyes, a corner of his mouth quirks up “—Yes, that may be obvious at this point, but it’s still important. I’m not human. Therefore, what humans consider right or wrong is not the same for me. That will be hard for you to grasp, but you have to remember it: even if it seems as if I’m some sort of hero, the truth is that I’m not, because what you consider noble and what I consider noble don’t always line up.”
I tilt my head, already confused. “I don’t understand,” I confess.
He nods, like he was expecting as much. “Things aren’t black and white for my kind,” he clarifies. “In fact, it’d be more accurate to say that there’s no such thing as black and white; everything’s grey. We do what we have to, and that’s that. Only humans have some notion of ‘good’ and ‘bad.’ For every other being, there’s only ‘is.’”
“I still don’t get it,” I deadpan.
He sighs. “Take saving you from Preston for instance,” he says. “To you—and to most humans, no doubt—it’s probably as if I’m some hero, but to my kind, it’s considered foolish and meddlesome.”
“Because it’s interfering with human life,” he explains. “I know Darestin told you that other beings aren’t particularly fond of humans, and while I wish I could say we were any different, the reality is that it took several millenniums for Darestin to tolerate one speaking to him, let alone living among them. Plus, if we disturb human life, it causes a rift in the Balance, which is a nuisance to restore.”
I stare at him, a mixture of loss and understanding somehow hitting me at the same time. “What are you?” I wonder out loud, more to myself than him.
He smirks a little, but it’s off. “We’re called Comoinis—it roughly translates to ‘neutral’ in English, which is quite fitting, actually, as beings in charge of escorting the dead to their final resting place.”
I blink. “Like a grim reaper or something?”
He chuckles. “Not quite, no. Grim Reapers get their name because they reap, or harvest, the souls of the dead, correct? But my obligation is a little more complicated than that. You see, not only do I escort souls to their final destination—be that Heaven or Hell—I also create and escort new souls to their correct bodies.”
I’m probably gaping, but I can’t help it. ”Create souls? Souls are... created? By you?”
“Of course,” he says, smirking again. “How else could there be more and more humans every millennium? Especially if all souls are being taken to Heaven and Hell?”
“I don’t know,” I mutter. “I don’t even... I don’t really believe in Heaven or Hell.”
“Well, believe in them now, because they’re very real, albeit different from what human religions tell you.”
“Different?” I parrot.
He nods. “Different in the sense that it doesn’t matter whether you believe in it or not—if you live well enough, kind enough, then there’s no way you’ll end up in Hell, even if you vehemently deny the existence of either. God may have a sick sense of humor, but He’s not particularly cruel enough to lock out the selfless.”
I blink, feeling lightheaded. “Right, sick sense of humor...” I take a deep breath, suddenly dizzy. “I think I need to sit down.”
“You’re already sitting,” Chase comments.
“Then I need to lay down,” I grumble, rolling my eyes as I lean the back of my head against the window. “I think the room’s spinning.”
“I’m actually impressed it took you this long to get disoriented,” he notes. “You’re taking this rather well for someone who claims to be an atheist.”
“Well, the evidence is kind of hard to ignore, and you did kind of drop from a third-story window like it was a step, so I don’t have a choice but to believe it. Or maybe it hasn’t sunk in yet and tonight I’ll slip into shock or something. Who knows?”
He doesn’t say anything for a minute, making me open my eyes to look at him. He’s studying me, eyeing me in a way that makes me feel like he’s seeing right through me.
“What?” I ask, hoping to stop whatever he’s thinking. “It was a joke, Chase.”
“But you’re taking this too well,” he says, eyes piercing me, “and something’s felt off ever since I saw you and Preston.”
I roll my eyes. “Of course something seems off; I was almost raped.”
“Yet you have no problems saying it,” he notes. “You didn’t even flinch.”
I stiffen. “And? Your point?”
“Are you relapsing?” he wonders.
“Relapsing,” he repeats, taking a step closer. “Usually, it’s in reference to drugs or alcohol abuse, but, in this case, I mean it in regards to your self-destruction. I thought you were getting better within reason, but now that we’re together...”
“It’s your imagination,” I retort. “I’m not relapsing or whatever. You’re just paranoid.”
“Hmm... Just because someone is paranoid, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re wrong.”
“Well, you’re wrong,” I snap. “We were talking about you here, anyway, not me.”
He eyes me for a moment before nodding. “Fine, but this conversation isn’t over Vixen. We still need to talk about what happened in class today.”
My jaw locks. “Whatever. Just... Just keep going.”
He nods. “As I was saying, my obligation is more complicated than the commonplace grim reaper. Many people who meet us in their everyday lives like to categorize us as angels, but, like with the grim reaper, there are too many differences between us and angels to lump us together.”
“Like what?” I wonder, mainly to keep him talking.
“I told you: humans believe things as black or white, either good or evil, with barely any grey area, but the truth is that there is more grey than anything else. Angels and demons are a good example of this because those who have seen me save someone, no matter the color of my eyes, have always thought me to be an angel, but there’s always the opposite of that: when someone witnesses me killing someone, I’m now a demon. Granted, the eye color doesn’t help, but that’s not necessarily important. They don’t even entertain the idea that I might be neither—that what’s happening is something beyond their ideals.”
“Are you saying you’ve killed people before?”
“Of course,” he says simply. “If I choose to save people, you can assume I’ve chosen to let them die as well.”
“But... why...” The idea that Chase of all people has killed someone just... confuses me. This is the same guy that’s been pestering me for weeks now, the same one that’s saved me countless times. How in the world...
He smirks. “You’re thinking that it doesn’t fit my character, aren’t you? Even after everything I’ve told you, you still can’t imagine it.”
I nod a little.
“Haven’t you wondered what happened to the murder in this town?” he asks. “Over twelve confirmed cases with the same modus operandi? Don’t you find it odd that he’s fallen off the radar lately?”
I blink. “You didn’t...”
“Oh, but I did. He was getting in my way and wreaking havoc on the Balance. Plus, I detest humans that attack other humans.”
“That’s a murderer, though,” I point out. “That’s not exactly right, but it’s not like you killed him in cold blood.”
“Ah, but that doesn’t matter, does it? According to human laws, I’d still be prosecuted, as I should be. I may be given leniency, depending on the judge and the media and public response, but the fact remains that I took someone’s life before it was their time.”
I stare at him, trying to imagine him as he watched the killer. Knowing him, he probably looked indifferent, bored. Chase said that he hated people that killed other people, so I bet he didn’t have any interest watching him. I bet his eyes didn’t even change color—just stayed the earthy green they were in class.
Speaking of... “Why do your eyes change color?”
It was his turn to blink, tilting his head. “Interesting question. I figured that would be answered after I told you what I was.”
“Well, what benefit does changing your eye color have?” I grumble.
He chuckles. “There isn’t one. I told you: God has a sick sense of humor. He loves irony, which is probably why, by nature, angels, demons, and even comoinis look more human despite the fact that most of us aren’t fond of humans.”
“So the reason your eyes were black earlier...?”
He sighs. “Green is technically my “natural” eye color. Essentially, it’s the color my eyes are when I’m not using any sort of supernatural abilities. We all have different eye colors, like humans, but the colors are vastly different. Some of us have pink eyes; others have orange. Darestin and I happen to be the few that have normal, human eye colors—a blessing in my opinion, though Darestin disagrees sometimes. Silver, however, is the same for all of us. It’s a bit more complicated than the other colors, because even though all of our eyes change to it, the reasons they change can vary. Usually, it’s because we strongly feel something, only the what differing. As for black...” He gives me a wry smile. “Well, you got a good look at that one tonight. It’s set off by a mixture of ire and too much power surging at once. The more rage, the more the black spreads.”
I nod. That means he was both pissed and powerful today... Kind of cool...
I clear my throat. “So, what’s this ‘balance’ you keep talking about?”
He stiffens, eyes tightening a fraction before he lets out a breath. “I think that’s enough for one day,” he says. “Anything more than just the basics, and I’m afraid you won’t be able to cope well.”
I scoff. “I just learned my professor is some ancient, paranormal being; you might as well just come completely clean.”
“There are things that are better left to the imagination,” he states.
“Will you at least tell what it is that you did to me the other night?” I demand.
He raises an eyebrow. “You mean the essentia?”
The smirk’s back, and I’m actually irritated by how relieved that makes me. “I forgot to tell you. I suppose with everything else, I forgot to mention the tiny detail of my own name.”
I blink. “Your name?”
The smirk widens. “The name that most know me by, the name that’s written in the scriptures. Comoinis are often featured in things like the Torah and Bible, just warped like everything else. I am Azrael. In English, it means ‘Help of God.’”
“So... you’re a big shot?” I guess. “What does that have to do with the essentia you gave me?”
“I’m the only one who could give it to you,” he says. “As the help of God, I’m the sole being, aside from God Himself, who has the ability to save humans on a whim. It’s frown upon for obvious reasons, but one or two humans every other millennium doesn’t upset the Balance too much. Besides, technically speaking, the amount I gave to you was just enough to stop menial physical injuries, mainly to protect you from yourself—a drop in the ocean compared to what I could have given you. Had someone taken a diamond blade to you, they would have easily broken through it, but since I was mainly worried about you hurting yourself, I thought it was efficient enough.” His eyes harden, silver flaring darker. “Of course, if I would have known Preston would appear so soon, I would have given you more.”
“It’s fine,” I say, shrugging.
“Yes, well, enough of him,” he says, shaking his head as if banishing the thought. He sits down next to me and looks me in the eye. “Now, we need to talk about you.”
Welp, this chapter isn’t nearly as good as I wanted it to be, but I’ll just have to edit it later (if I waited to post this chapter any longer, I’m sure you all would riot, which is cute, in an obsessed kind of way) (I mean that lovingly) (swear).
Anyways~ This chapter is dedicated to AngelLovesOregon because she has basically been playing mind ball with me, bouncing what she thinks Chase is in my inbox every time she gets an idea (if any of you were wondering, that’s the best kind of message to get), and made several covers! Thanks, cupcake, for all the support. It means a lot to a small-time baker~(;