Part III. Lilith & Samael
There was another angel in the seventh heaven, different in appearance from all the others, and of frightful mien. His height was so great, it would have taken five hundred years to cover a distance equal to it, and from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet he was studded with glaring eyes, at the sight of which the beholder fell prostrate in awe. “This one,” said Metatron, addressing Moses, “is Samael, who takes the soul away from man.” “Whither goes he now?” asked Moses, and Metatron replied, “To fetch the soul of Job the pious.” Thereupon Moses prayed to God in these words, “O may it be Thy will, my God and the God of my fathers, not to let me fall into the hands of this angel.”
--The Ascension of Moses
Before the war, I am told there were exactly six-hundred and sixty-five angels in Heaven. The war split these numbers between the Sons of Light, who would not surrender Heaven for life among men, and the Sons of Darkness, who were willing to resign themselves to the earth in the case of defeat. Two hundred soldiers stood with the Sons of Darkness, with twenty generals to oversee them; four hundred and five soldiers stood of the Sons of Light, with forty generals to oversee them. At some time between the beginning of the war and the banishment of the fallen, there came to be a six hundred and sixty-sixth angel, who unseated a general among the Sons of Darkness and fought alongside them.
The six-hundred and sixty-sixth angel could not be banished at the end of the war because the Father would not allow him to be. As a general he was called Sariel, yet Father called him Uriel, and said he would be over the deaths of men. He vanished of his own accord, then returned many years later, unable to explain who he was and where he had gone. Michael, disdaining his existence, called him a poison to Heaven: Samael. The others, fearing him, called him the same.
At least, that is what I was told. I did not remember being this general, or why I would rebel against my master Michael so completely. I did not like him, but neither did I much like anyone. This made sense, in some way. I was Death, what reason had I to treasure anything beyond my purpose? I went where Michael told me, bringing pestilence and destruction, curbing the epidemic that was the human population. I plucked threads of Yahweh’s power to scorch the earth and skies. All were brought to submission, with no salvation to be had. Only Enoch’s soul was deemed worthy of Heaven. He became the angel Metatron, self-righteous bringer of “God’s” word. All others were condemned to the veil between worlds, with the spirits of the fallen.
I had a routine with my master, when I returned from my orders.
“Who are you?” Michael asked me.
“I am the angel Samael,” I replied.
“What is your purpose?” he said.
“I am over the deaths of men and punishment of the wicked.”
“Who are the wicked?”
“Those who do not bow to the will of Heaven.”
This was the appropriate response. After hearing it, he would dismiss me to wander the fields of Heaven, apart from the others, until my next assignment. That was better for me, for in the company of my fellow angels I became irrationally angry, and none could defend themselves from me if I lashed out. Bodies broken here were a nuisance, although there was no such thing as fatality; those injured by my hand had no choice but to wait until Raphael the healer had a free moment to mend them. I heard there was once another healer, but he, too, had fallen.
My anger confounded me, perhaps as much as it terrified the others. I think perhaps it had something to do with the young girl who haunted me. It began as glimpses at the corner of my eye, before she began to appear fully in my path: small, wingless, resembling a human child of five or six, pale and white with eyes as red as mine once were. (The body made for me when I reappeared was more standard, eyes glowing blue, yet they chose to make my wings dark against the horizon.) No one else could see her, this I verified. Michael said this fault of vision must have sprung from my inherent corruption. Yet, I was certain she was real.
She spoke to me. She was one of the few beings who did.
“Why are you alone?” she asked me.
“I am meant to be alone,” I told her.
“I don’t believe you,” she said.
“It doesn’t matter what you believe. You’re barely real.”
“Why can’t I be real?”
“You’re not whole. That’s why.”
(My speaking changed when exposed to her, but that is irrelevant to this.)
I had reaped many a man, I knew the texture of a soul when I saw it. My theory for why she only appeared this way was that her soul was only partially formed, and when the mind sees something it cannot make sense of, the eyes approximate. The physical parallel for a soul made yet still less than itself was that of a perpetual child. Hers was the only partially-made soul I ever came upon--this girl seemed a strange accident of the universe, never to be repeated. As for why she attached herself to me, I could not say. But she did not anger me. In that, I found some peace.
Heaven is expansive, so much so that one can walk for centuries and never see more than a single continent. I suppose I might have found its endless colors and vibrant ecosystems beautiful, if they were not so mind-numbingly dull. In a world where life is endless, there are no predators, no prey. Just things circling, exchanging one breath for another, continuing on and on like some frozen mirage of planet Earth. I easily became restless. Sometimes I destroyed things, only to find that unlike angelic bodies, they repaired themselves as soon as I had finished. For Death, this world was a sort of nightmare.
Regardless, in this expanse, it was easy to find new sights. Yet apart from the central city of Heaven, I did not expect to see any angel-built structures, for the philosophy was to build no more than was needed and with only four hundred of us left after the war, there was no need for more than one city. That is how I was both baffled and unsurprised when one day, the little girl led me to a tower in the middle of nowhere, forged from crystal as all city buildings were, with two great doors and no windows. It was of angel make; therefore, it had to have purpose.
“Why have you brought me here?” I asked the child.
“I don’t know,” she said. “It felt like I should.”
It was either luck or fate, if there is any difference, that caused the angel Metatron to emerge from the tower with his notepad in hand. Words cannot describe how much I hated that man. I cannot say if it was his tiny eyes or the pear-shaped body that weighed on his wingspan, or the way his tongue clicked when he was smug, or if it was merely the fact that no matter how many turns of the moons he spent in Heaven, he never smelled less human.
“What is this tower?” I demanded.
“Oh heavens, oh lord,” Metatron wheezed, as prepared for my company as a mouse is prepared for a passing lion. “Pay me no mind, Great Samael, I only stopped by to chat with the prisoner, here for a moment and gone in a flash.”
“I did not know we kept prisoners in Heaven.”
“Oh sweet Michael I’ve said too much. Good day, then, Poison One.”
I allowed him to leave, but he would endure my stare until he was firmly out of sight. I considered finding him again later to dismember him--Raphael was short on work. Still, I was intrigued by what he had betrayed. The war was long past. There were no prisoners on record, unless one counted the angels prisoner in the veil. Because the door was unlocked, and I had nothing better to do, I decided to investigate.
The tower was four stories tall, the stairs unsettlingly transparent as they circled up the opaque walls. I knew I had never been in this tower before--and yet, its steps, its chill, were uncomfortably familiar. The child was gone, when I looked for her now. I was left to open the lone door at the top of the steps, alone.
Inside, I found a room. An ordinary room, except the lone table was filled with sharp objects, the walls mounted with weapons not seen outside the abandoned battlefields apart from the City of Heaven. Also mounted on the wall was a sleeping, naked angel, a beautiful angel whose hair glowed like sunlight, whose veins pulsed white as the moon, and whose wings were broken to nubs. We had no sex organs, yet there was a whiff of female about this angel, left hanging from her wrists like a macabre ornament.
For a long while, I just watched her. She, too, was strangely familiar--but unlike this place, whose familiarity was somehow grotesque, she was like a half-remembered dream, details escaping me the more I grasped at them. I wanted to touch her. I cannot imagine why, for I never wanted to touch anything without intent to harm it. I could never have harmed her, though.
I did not know. Suddenly, nothing was certain.
Still in her sleep, her golden strands shifted slightly with her breath, a trickle of blood seeped from a wound on her temple to trace her cheek. I saw upon her chest a sigil I did not recognize, yet the manner of its branding--burned dark through three layers of flesh--betrayed it as a curse. My jaw clenched, anger rising in me--not at her. Not towards anyone. I covered my eyes, no longer able to stomach the sight.
“Who gave you permission to be in my tower, Samael?”
Michael was outside his body, so I had no way of knowing him until he spoke to me. I turned to find him at the top of the stairs, the outline of him too intense to behold. I averted my gaze.
“Door was unlocked, no one was here. Why I should assume every abandoned building in the realm is yours?”
“You would not go into a home that was not yours, would you?”
“It would be improper,” I admitted.
“Your corruption makes you blind to sense, so I will forgive this, once. Leave now, Samael.”
Michael did not have my physical ability, but he had the loyalty of every angel in Heaven. Among those angels were Seraphim, spell crafters, capable of twisting even my intangible form in agonizing directions, which Michael had demonstrated for me the day I had awoken. I knew better than to press my luck.
“As you command.”
I passed his essence, returning back down the winding stairway. However, his voice stopped me before I passed the doors.
“You are not to return here. That’s an order.”
Curious that he felt the need for specificity.
“I will not return here,” I said.
“Then we are understood.”
I returned to the fields of Heaven, to my aimless wandering, as though nothing had occurred. Walking among the endless flowers, beneath the violet sky, the tower sank further and further into the distance. As it did, I could feel a strange smile come upon me. My direction shifted, as a purpose struck my fancy.
“Where’re you going?” the little girl asked.
She was a few feet in front of me, hovering, her white hair swirling around her head. I noticed her lips were almost like that angel’s, the one who did not deserve to be in the tower.
“To see the healer Raphael,” I said.
“To ask him how to release a sigil. I imagine it keeps her from leaving her body.”
The child tilted her head, like a confused pup.
“You told Michael you wouldn’t see her,” she said.
“I lied,” I said.
“That seems wrong.”
“It probably is.”
“Then why are you doing it?”
I shrugged, watching her touch her small feet on the ground, making motions like she hoped to walk.
“I don’t know. Perhaps I’m bored.”
That change in my speech, again. She giggled at it, a sound I had come to appreciate.
Eventually, she gave up trying to walk. She floated towards me, vanished, then reappeared with her legs draped around my shoulders. It didn’t feel like anything, carrying her; even so, there was something endearing about it.
“Won’t he hurt you?” she asked.
“Only if I get caught.”
My wings expanded, carrying us high. The child hummed a song while we approached the city, one I felt I knew, yet could not echo. Now and again, she waved her white hand in my face to see if I could still see her. I always could. Perhaps I could not, once, I realized--perhaps she had been following me all along, and only now could interact with me as she did now. When I spoke to the angel in the tower, I would ask if she saw her too.