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Author's note: I stayed there for a long time, just staring into those vacant eyes that no longer carried life. I was sad as I watched her go—she’d had so much strength in those baby blue eyes, set deeply into her wrinkled face. It was her heart, in the end—it had just given out. I hated my job, even though it was what I’d been created for. I was a…what was I exactly? A deliver? A carrier? I wasn’t sure. All I knew was that I had been given the job of taking the dead to Heaven, delivering them to await Judgment. Sadly, this job also entitled watching as the last few minutes before Death dragged its victims through the dirt. But, for me, it was the last part that always cut me so deep, forcing me to look away. It was those last few seconds where the victim knew they were dying and that the life that they had fought so hard to keep was now leaving them—it was that part that always got to me.
I stayed there for a long time, just staring into those vacant eyes that no longer carried life. I was sad as I watched her go—she’d had so much strength in those baby blue eyes, set deeply into her wrinkled face. It was her heart, in the end—it had just given out.
I hated my job, even though it was what I’d been created for. I was a…what was I exactly? A deliver? A carrier? I wasn’t sure. All I knew was that I had been given the job of taking the dead to Heaven, delivering them to await Judgment. Sadly, this job also entitled watching as the last few minutes before Death dragged its victims through the dirt. But, for me, it was the last part that always cut me so deep, forcing me to look away. It was those last few seconds where the victim knew they were dying and that the life that they had fought so hard to keep was now leaving them—it was that part that always got to me.
I stood there for a few more minutes, looking at the elderly woman’s lifeless form, and I probably would’ve stayed longer—that is if it wasn’t for the Heavens calling me for my next assignment. With as much respect as I could muster, I leaned down and pressed my lips against the woman’s. They felt as if they were made from old paper, wrinkled and destroyed from age. Then I felt the woman’s soul seeping from her body, forming so that she was standing next to me.
“Am I dead?” the woman asked, her voice thick with an Irish accent.
I couldn’t help but to wonder what she’d looked like when she was younger. Even now I could see traces of beauty in her withered face. I would’ve been willing to bet that she had been very beautiful.
“Yes,” I answered. I was forbidden to say anything else—it was how I’d been trained. I had to keep everything professional.
Without another word, I reached down and grabbed a hold of the woman’s hand. Then, with a flash of light, we were gone. The trip wasn’t a long one, for I had mighty wings that allowed me to travel very fast, even for an angel.
We arrived at the Gates of Heaven, and I couldn’t help but to miss what I’d left behind for this job. My family, my friends, my Creator’s company…
“Wait here,” I told the woman. “Someone will be out to help you in a minute.”
And with that, I spread my wings and soared back down to earth—ready to receive my next soul.
I was on my break when I got the call. I flew down to where the soul was waiting; somewhere in the middle of North America. It was a gunshot wound to the head—instant death—and it was definitely messy. I hated messy deaths—the people were always so scared and confused.
It went by quick; I got the man’s soul and carried him to the Gates. Not once did I stray from my script. I hated my job…
Much later—I wasn’t sure whether it had been minutes or months, for time traveled differently through Heaven. To me, it had only felt like seconds, but I had a feeling that it was much, much later.
Anyway, I stood around with the others in my unit, talking about the souls that we had delivered. If there was only one thing I liked about my job, it was my unit. Over the years, I had grown to love them like my own family. They had my back, and I had theirs.
First and foremost, we’ll start with Micah. Black-haired, black-eyed Micah was new to the unit and hadn’t had enough time to make his mark on us yet, but we still cared for him all the same. Next was Ariia, the only woman. She was tough and rough, and awfully deadly with any weapon. She wasn’t a very big woman and almost resembled a pixie, with pointy features and light complexion, but yet she was the most feared by the unit. Then, there was Ezekiel. Zeke was the biggest and the baddest of them all and had a horrible reputation for causing the most casualties during a fight. Zeke, who towered over people at a staggering six-foot nine, was probably crushing skulls with his fingertips. Last, but certainly not least, was me. I was different, a Light-giver, as they called it. For some reason, whenever Darkness attacked, light would erupt from my body and drive the Darkness away. The only bad thing, the bright light contrasted oddly with my dark-blue eyes and my dark-black hair.
Now, as you may have noticed, words like fighting and attacking were said a few times above. Those words are referring to the fact that the battle for souls between Good and Evil, Light and Dark, is forever raging on. The rule is, whichever side claims the soul on their domain first, that side gets to keep the soul and it is protected by the Creator of that domain. Our job is to deliver the souls safely to the Gates and to not let them be tainted by Darkness…
“I lost one the other day,” Ariia said, leaning up against the wall of the break room. “I could’ve used you, Elijah.”
I let a rueful smile tilt my lips. “Sorry,” I answered her. “I’ve been running double, and sometimes even triple, shifts lately. I think the Creator’s worried about another war; He seems to want me out there all the time. But I don’t mind though…”
I felt bad about lying to Ariia when I said I didn’t mind the extra shifts. Now, most people believe that angels can’t lie, and that’s partly true—most angels can’t lie. But, because we travel to Earth so frequently, we are more susceptible to their faults than the others. So, yes, I can lie, though I always feel remorseful afterwards.
But it was true though, the Creator had been giving me extra shifts for the better part of a year now. I honestly thought that He believed there was going to be another war—and He is never wrong. So, I did as I was told and didn’t ask questions; I had faith in my God.
It was then that another call came in.
The hospital was dark, for it was well past midnight as I walked down the hallway to get to the waiting soul’s room and it seemed that most of the staff had left for the night. It wasn’t hard to find her; the smell of Death’s embrace was lurking all throughout the shadows near the door to her room. I was afraid that I was too late and that the Darkness had already claimed her, but as I walked into the room all of the Darkness scattered and left me alone with the girl in the light that came from my body. The light illuminated the room enough for me to see that it wasn’t very big, and whatever free-space there was it seemed to be occupied by beeping machines and sterile-looking wires that ran to and fro the girl’s body.
She had leukemia. I’d seen it enough times to recognize the signs: the smell of chemicals from the treatment in her blood, the faint smell of vomit, and worse of all, the disease coursing through her delicate body. I let the light fade from my body, moving to her side as I waited for her to pass. It was only then that I saw her.
She was so beautiful. She had long wavy hair, which luckily hadn’t been taken away by her treatments, and it was as dark as a moonless night. Her eyes, which would open and shut randomly in her delirium, were gorgeous. She had heterochromia, or two different color eyes—one ice-blue, the other leaf-green. Her nose and lips were perfectly formed, small and delicate like the rest of her figure. The only thing that was unsettling, yet still stunningly beautiful, was the color of her skin. Her skin was chalky white, but framing her eyes were circles of dark pink.
A golden tear fell from the corner of my eye as I looked at her. I couldn’t help but to fall apart at the sight of a being as perfect as her so close to death. I knew I was being irrational, but I couldn’t help it. I felt something deep for her.
Before I knew it, my lips were on hers. The only bad thing was that she hadn’t died yet. A kiss from an angel is one thing when you’re dead, but if you’re still alive and you receive a kiss from an angel…
I didn’t even want to think about what would happen. I broke from the kiss quicker, and with more intensity, than I had intended. My momentum shot me out the door and into the hallway. Before I could even gather myself again, the Darkness was on her. It covered her entire body and seemed to smother her with its essence. I ran after her, forcing light from my body, but I was already too late. The Darkness, it was bringing the girl with them.
Without thinking, I shot after them, tearing through the unfamiliar domain so that I could reach the girl. The girl that I loved.
It was so dark. Everywhere I looked, all I could see was darkness, but that didn’t keep me from hearing the screams of the tormented souls. It was unsettling after being created in the Kingdom of Light, especially since I had broken the cardinal rule and every single Dark being was on my trail, hunting for my blood.
But, to be honest with you, I was feeling pretty confident. Or at least I was until the light came over the horizon like a haunted sunrise, lighting up enough of the ground below me so that I could see the souls of the damned. I say haunted because, regardless of the screaming souls, it also gave off a light that was totally different than the brilliant light that came from the sun, this light was Dark light. I had heard stories of Dark light, but had never witnessed it for myself.
Dark light was the worst form of light. It was even said that if Dark light were to shine on you for too long, it would take your soul. I had to act, and act fast. So, I flew harder than I ever had in my life as the blood-red Dark light flashed on my skin. I would save her before it was too late, I had to.
Soon after the Dark light came over the horizon the Darkness stopped. The good news: they set the girl down on top of a rock and left her unprotected. The bad news: they turned to face me, baring their teeth and extending their claws. Fear sunk its own claws into my gut and wrenched it into oblivion, but only for a second, as I pushed it away without hesitation. I had been trained for this. I sent out the call for help from my unit.
After I was sure that they had gotten the point and that they were on their way, I set out to fight the Darkness. I tried to use the light from my skin, but it wouldn’t work in the darkly lit cavern. I would have to fight it with something more powerful than that—Heavenly Light. Every angel is equipped with an arsenal of Heavenly Light weapons, or very powerful weapons made of fires from Heaven. They were designed specifically for fighting the darkness.
I pulled out a long sword. The sword was just a normal sword at first, but then I pressed it to my lips and whispered to it in the Creator’s Tongue. It burst into white flames. I only had enough time to take my stance before the Darkness charged, screaming their fury as a war cry. I stood my ground just until they was within my reach, then I swung. With one swipe, the Darkness dissipated and began to fall back. For just one second, I rejoiced—but only for a second, because just then the swarm of Darkness surrounded me on all sides.
I couldn’t take them all, that I knew, but I would sure try. I swung the blade left and right, arc after arc, swing over swing. My feet spun this way and that in the red dirt, kicking up a thick cloud of red dust. I must’ve taken a hundred before the sounds began to echo from above. My unit.
“What have you done?” Ezekiel shouted as he landed.
“Never mind,” I yelled back, swinging his blade around in a wide arc and claiming at least six more. “Fight first, explain later.”
And that’s what we did. We fought. But not only did we fight, we fought as a team, as a unit. We fought as one. Nobody’s back was left uncovered as we fought, taking what we could from the Darkness like we were a herd of hungry lions. The fight was laborious, but we supported each other through it and never let a team member fall. But it wasn’t enough.
“We need to stop trying to destroy them all,” Micah bellowed over the noise. “We just need to destroy enough so that we can get away safely.”
“No,” I yelled into the crowd, not realizing that Micah was right behind me, covering my back. “We have to get the girl first.”
Nobody questioned my motives; they just nodded and began to make their way toward the girl. It was a long time before we made it to her, by which we were covered in sweat and ash. We were tired and fatigued from the fight; we were drained and drowsy from the Dark light. But we got the girl. We got the girl and then took our leave.
It wasn’t a long flight, but it seemed like the Darkness had wings just as powerful as ours because they had no trouble keeping up with us. But finally we made it to the safe zone, and the Darkness fell back. When we made it back to the hospital to return the girl back to her room, she looked almost…better. No, I was just seeing what I wanted to see. Wasn’t I?
“What in the…heck was all that about?” It was Ariia. She had that stern look on her face like a mother would have when she was reprimanding her children. I would never admit it to her face, but I was afraid of her.
“I…” I tried to think up an answer, but none came. “I don’t know.”
We all seemed to exhale at once, trying to take this one step at a time. “Well, you could start by telling us who this girl is,” Ezekiel barked.
“I…I don’t know that, either.”
Ezekiel laughed without humor, sounding more like a dog’s bark than anything else.
“What do you know, Elijah?”
I looked up at Ariia. “I love her,” I whispered.
“What was that?”
They’d heard me—angels had the hearing of a thousand eagles—but they just wanted to make sure that they’d heard right. “Did you say that you love her?” Micah asked.
I nodded. “Yeah, I did—and I do…love her, I mean.”
It was so weird for me to say the words. In Heaven we had love, but not this type of love. Love in Heaven is friendly and respectful; this love was unexplainable by words, so that’s what I called it—love. Had I the words to explain the feelings I had for her, I would’ve said them right there and then. But I had no words for this, so I called it the one word that has always been completely unexplainable—love.
Nobody said anything; they just seemed too shocked to say anything. They had never experienced love either, or at least not with a human.
I walked over to the girl’s side where she lay on the hospital bed and began to stroke the hair from her brow. She was so beautiful, even in her fever-induced delirium. Every once and a while she would sigh and then whimper, making my heart lurch with pain. But every time she sighed, I could imagine her voice whispering in my ear. That’s probably why I didn’t hear her begin to mumble. Finally, it was Ariia’s hand on my shoulder that brought me back from my reverie.
“Mmm…” the girl mumbled, shaking her head as if she were trying to wake up from a nightmare. “Huh…”
She seemed to be waking from her delirium. I put my head on her forehead…
“Her fever’s breaking!” I said, to nobody in particular. Everybody ran to her side, and Micah—who’d begun to show an interest in medicine—ran his angelic hands through the air over her body. He leaned closer and without thinking I growled. Shocked, and embarrassed, that I had just growled at my friend, I backed away and let him continue. He eyed me one last time, then leaned down again and sniffed the air just above her head.
“The leukemia is fading and she seems to be going into remission…” Micah said.
They all looked at me accusingly. “What?” I asked.
“Did you kiss her before she died?” Micah questioned.
I hesitated, but then realized that I couldn’t lie to my friends and nodded. “Yes.”
“Your kiss is healing her, Elijah. Most of the time, a kiss before death will destroy a human being, but for some reason, it’s healing her…”
“So, I saved her, Micah?”
“For now, Elijah, but the cancer may come back. She is still too far under for me to tell, but for right now we need to get back home—we’ll come back and check on her later.”
I hated leaving her, but I had no choice. I nodded, and we all left.
He was livid. A messenger came as soon as we arrived and told us that the Creator was very angry. Apparently, He’d been watching the entire thing and it wasn’t looking very good for us. We risked being expelled from Heaven.
For the next two days—two weeks human time—we balanced our time between waiting for the word to come back from Big Guns Upstairs, and the girl’s hospital room. The girl, who we’d found out was named Olive, was progressing. She’d even woken up and had begun to talk and move around. The only bad thing: she couldn’t see us. The thing that was even worse: she couldn’t see me.
As for the word of our expulsion, it came late that second night after the incident.
“We’ve been sentenced to a year’s probation!?”
Ezekiel was mad! He even tried to charge me, but thankfully Ariia and Micah grabbed a hold of him first and held him back from pummeling me a good one.
“It’s only a year, Zeke! We’re immortal angels! A mortal year isn’t that bad,” Ariia tried to calm Ezekiel down. It took a while, but he finally relaxed to semi-reasonable. “Now, our best bet is to just comply and do as He says—disobedience is our worst choice right now, especially when He’s angry with us. We just have to serve our time, living on Earth as mortals.”
Everybody was silent. We all knew Ariia was right and that we just had to serve our time, living like mortals. But, to be honest, I actually wanted to go to earth and couldn’t wait until we left. I’d be close to Olive, and she’d be able to see me…
We were assigned a house, a school—because we all looked around seventeen or eighteen—and everything else that a mortal needs to survive. We were given a choice to either serve our time alone or with each other…we chose to do it together.
The hardest part was adjusting to not being an eternal being. It was so weird, not being able to fly, or not being able to defend ourselves against the Darkness with the Light. I couldn’t stand being so soft and mushy, while my other form had been perfectly sculpted—which would take forever on a human body, by the way. And to top it all off, I was constantly stubbing my toe on stuff or smacking my elbows on things.
But we had been allowed to keep a few of our angelic traits like: beauty, intelligence, swiftness, healing broken bones within moments, excellent senses, and the ability to persuade or convince people to do whatever we wanted them to do. We had learned that last one pretty quickly when Ariia had gotten pulled over by a cop for driving on the wrong side of the road. All she did was talk to him in her sweetest voice and he immediately gave in, convinced that he’d just seen it wrong and that Ariia had been driving on the right side of the road all along.
Other than that, everything had gone pretty smoothly. Our house was…amazing. It was a contemporary home, painted all different shades of gray, white, and black. On the outside it really looked like a bunch of randomly placed boxes that made up the multi-level home. The inside was vast and open, with lots of white furniture and glass walls.
Our school was…wonderful. It was big and had lots of students and faculty. It had the state of the art of everything and was supposed to be one of the best schools in the nation. But that wasn’t why it was wonderful. It was wonderful because it was the same school that Olive went to, which I found out when I saw that the school was throwing a fundraiser to help pay for her medical bills and her picture was all over the flyers that said: BRING OLIVE LIONII HOME.
I hadn’t seen Olive—the girl that I fell in love with at first sight—since I had first been expelled from Heaven. She was still in the hospital—which I had been to, just to check and see if she was still okay—but she was going to be released in a few days. Her leukemia was now in full remission and she was doing exceptionally well, or at least that’s what the receptionist at the hospital had said. I’d been to afraid to go and see her because she still had no idea who I was, and that’d be a little weird to just walk into a “stranger’s” hospital room and ask, “how’re you were feeling—oh, by the way, I’m in love with you...”
Nah, I’ll just wait. I figured I’d just talk to her at school and I’d introduce myself that way. It was a lot better than informing a person who had no idea who you were that you loved them and couldn’t stop thinking about them. If it were me, I’d be pretty freaked out…
That night we all sat around the dinner table, eating the burnt dinner that Ariia had made for us. That was another thing that we had to get used to. In Heaven, we had great big feasts and we’d eat for hours on end, but it was spiritual food—food of the mind that we ate for the taste, not the sustenance and nutrients. On Earth, we had one course dinners that were prepared by Ariia, which were burnt and dry—but we ate it because it helped us survive, unlike in Heaven, where we ate it for the pleasure.
“Ariia, you know I love you, right?” Ezekiel asked.
Ariia nodded, digging into her burnt soup. “Yeah, why?”
“Then you’ll understand when I beg you, can we please get an in-home chef? We have enough in our budget to afford it, and he can live in the guest house…”
I couldn’t help but to laugh, but cut it short when Ariia gave me a deadly look. But, thankfully, she seemed to be thinking about it. After a bite from the extra-crispy steak she’d made she nodded, spitting the steak out in her napkin.
The next morning, we hired an in-home chef and told him that he could move in that day. The chef seemed to want more time, but we told if he didn’t come soon we would die from lack of nutrients. That night, we ate the best dinner we’d had in a week.
I sat in my desk at school, drawing in a notebook. I already knew everything there was to know about the Crusades, which was what the teacher was talking about, so I’d ended up pulling out my notebook and I began to draw, from memory, Olive’s face. I hadn’t really tried to draw her face, but it just kind of…happened. It was really starting to bug me that I could never concentrate on anything other than a girl who I had never talked to.
Frustrated, I slammed my notebook shut, the sound a little louder than I’d intended. Suddenly, the whole classroom went silent and turned to look at me where I sat in the back. My face turned beat red underneath everybody’s stares and I shrunk down as low as I could into my seat.
“Sorry,” I whispered apologetically. “It was an accident.”
The teacher didn’t give it a second thought and went back to his lecture. But the students would still turn around every once and a while to steal glances at the freak in the back…me.
We hadn’t been the most popular kids in school—being attractive and good-looking, but mysterious and clueless as to how to act in public. People were talking about us behind our backs, talking about how weird the Ange’s were—Ange was the last name that we’d assumed, which is French for angel. But what they thought didn’t really matter to me, only Olive’s opinion mattered…
Damn, curse this mortal brain! I thought, but gave up on trying to keep it all penned up and I let all it out. This is what my mind saw:
The first time I saw her, it was in the same class that I had slammed the notebook in, but we won’t start there. Earlier, before I had even woken up, I had a dream. This is my dream:
Darkness. I was surrounded by nothing but pure darkness. Fear radiated throughout my body and sent cold chills down my spine. It was hot, too hot. I needed to get out of here.
I looked all around for some type of exit or escape, but there was nothing but darkness. But then I saw it—just one small little house. At first I hadn’t seen it because it was the same color black as the darkness, but now somebody had turned on a dim light from inside. I made my way toward the house.
As I got closer, I realized that the house seemed to be made of some type of black clay, and it was cracking and crumbling in some places. Hmm, looks sturdy, I thought sarcastically. But the poor physical appearance didn’t pull me from my task, and I kept on walking until I was on the doorstep.
The door swung open. I took it as an open invitation and walked right in, but that was the wrong thing to do. There, lying on the floor was Olive’s lifeless body. I ran to her side and gathered her up into my arms, shaking her to get her to wake up—but she was dead.
I shot up out of my bed and ran all the way to the hospital. It wasn’t until I walked through the door that I realized that I had no shirt on. No shirt meant that everyone could see the golden angelic tattoos that covered my back, and the scars that covered my chest. But I didn’t really care.
“Sir, you can’t—”
A security guard tried to stop me but I just flicked him on the side of his neck and he dropped like a bag of rocks. I squatted down to where he was laying on the ground and felt for a pulse. He wasn’t dead, just asleep.
I kept going and ran around the corner to the receptionist. “Olive Lionii, is she okay?”
The woman stared at my scarred chest for a second, but didn’t seem to care enough to question me about it. She started typing on her computer, clicking here and there. “Umm, it seems that Miss Lionii was discharged about an hour ago. I’m pretty sure if she was discharged she’s okay. Is there anything else I can do for you?”
Without answering the woman’s question, I ran home. When I got there, I didn’t even stop to answer the others’ questions about where I’d been. I just ran upstairs, took a shower, got dressed, and then went downstairs for breakfast. I ate just as I had done everything else—in a daze. All I could think about was her face, her eyes, her lips, what her voice would sound like…
School was hell (forgive me Father) as I waited for my first sight of her in more than a week. But for every class that I walked into, my hopes sank deeper and deeper as I realized that she was nowhere to be found.
By the time lunch rolled around, I had pretty much given up hope…but not entirely. With the last drop of hope that I could muster, I walked into the lunch room and went to sit by my family.
“No lunch today, Elijah?” asked Micah.
I shook my head. “Nah, I’m not hungry.”
Micah looked worried, but I just waved him away, not having the time or the patience for it. Micah looked away, unhurt. He was used to being brushed aside, so a wave of the hand from me was no big deal to him. But still, I’d have to apologize to him later, but right now I was too busy.
Lunch was about half done before I caught a glimpse of her, or at least I thought it was her until she turned around. Not her. I scanned the lunch room one last time, and then decided that I should probably check outside in the courtyard.
Out in the courtyard, there was probably about one-fourth of the school’s mass all packed into an area that was way too small for them. But they didn’t seem to mind, all of them having smiles on their faces or laughing loudly. They didn’t mind, but I did. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find one person in a sea of tightly packed people? It’s pretty hard.
Two minutes before lunch was over I went to go stand over by the door, hoping that I’d get a glimpse of her as she walked through the doors to get inside, but no such luck. I completely gave up after that, not wanting to feel the pain of crushed hope again. But that still didn’t stop me from looking around in my next hour class, wanting her to be there. But, yet again, she wasn’t.
It was then that the thought came to me. What if she wanted to stay home for the day, or for the week? I know I would’ve stayed home after spending months in the hospital. It suddenly dawned on me that this is what she must’ve done and that I was wasting my time looking for her.
The class dragged on, feeling closer to fifty-five hours rather than minutes. The teacher had no idea what he was talking about and he was informing everybody with the wrong information. Part of me wanted to stand up and teach the class myself, but the other part, the bigger part, was too warn out from my long day of freakishly stalking the school in search of one girl. Then, after what felt like an eternity (and trust me, I know what an eternity feels like), the bell rang. I ran from the classroom and ducked into my next class, which was just next door. This time, I watched for no one. Instead, I pulled out my notebook and began to draw. It was her face again, there was nothing I could do about that, but this time it was different—she was wearing a necklace. I had never seen the necklace before, but I had zoned out for just a minute, and then there it was, dangling from her neck. It was beautiful, that’s for sure, but for some reason the sight of it sent chills up and down my spine. I went to erase it, but then noticed that I had drawn it pen. Damn.
Not wanting to look at the picture anymore, or ever again, I ripped it out of the notebook and threw it at the trash. I missed, and instead, I hit a girl in the back of the head with it. The girl turned around to see who had thrown the piece of paper at her. After not finding anyone that seemed suspicious, she bent down and picked up the piece of paper. I hadn’t seen the girl’s face, but I still knew that I didn’t want that girl to look at the drawing. I got up and ran to get the paper before she could look at it. Too late.
There, in the girl’s hands, was the picture of Olive with the necklace.
I stopped short. If I hadn’t known any better, I would’ve said that the piece of paper was a mirror, because there, in the girl’s hands, was the spitting image of herself looking up at her.
She looked up at me, her eyes widening as they hit my face. It was a weird thought, but was that recognition I saw in her eyes? No, it could be. She looked like she wanted to say something, but she didn’t know what. All she kept doing was looking down at the drawing, and then back up to my face. She did this over and over again. Then the bell rang, breaking her pattern.
“Everyone, please take your seats,” the teacher said as he walked into the classroom. I looked at Olive, unwilling to leave her side.
“We’ll talk later,” she sang with the voice of an angel. “Meet me in the courtyard after school. Oh, and bring your notebook.”
I just nodded. Then, like the smooth guy I am, I just stood there and stared at her. She was so damn beautiful that it actually hurt to look at her, my hands yearning to reach out and touch her skin, still pale from the cancer. I remembered the way her lips felt against mine—cold and lifeless, yet soft and full. I stared at her lips and wondered how they would feel now that the life and warmth had returned—
“Mr. Ange,” the teacher said, pulling my attention from Olive. “Can you please take your seat?”
Embarrassed for the second day in a row, I walked over to my chair with my head hung low. I sat down and tried to pay attention to what the teacher was saying, but I couldn’t help but to steal a quick glimpse at Olive every known and then. She was just flat-out staring at me, her gaze beating down on where I sat, as if she were trying to find out everything about me by staring deep into my soul. For the whole hour, that’s all she did was stare.
She wasn’t in my next hour, and she had taken off way too fast for me to talk to her after our last hour, so I didn’t get a chance to talk to her. Why had she been acting so weird? It was almost as if she knew who I was…
No, that was impossible; humans can’t see us until after their dead, it would’ve been impossible for her to see me unless…
But she hadn’t died. After I’d kissed her, she immediately began to heal. I had stopped death from claiming her the second my lips had pressed against hers. So I was positive that she hadn’t died…But then why was she acting like she’d seen me before?
My next two classes dragged on so slow that I thought I was going to go crazy. All I could think about was meeting Olive in the courtyard…
A cool breeze was making its way throughout the courtyard when I arrived. Olive hadn’t arrived yet, so I just found a random place to sit and got comfortable. I looked at my watch, it was 3:05. Knowing that if I didn’t make it home by 4:00, Ariia was going to send an entire search party out to look for—and angelic search parties are never fun, too much wind from the thousands of beating wings…So, if Olive didn’t make it by 3:30, I’d have to leave.
She came storming into the courtyard at 3:25, leaving only five minutes for us to talk before I had to leave.
“Why are drawing pictures of me?” she asked loudly. “And this necklace, do you know what this is?”
Her hostility shocked me. I hadn’t been expecting her to run into the courtyard, screaming and waving the piece of paper around in the air. It was actually quite comical, but I didn’t want to offend her anymore than I already had so I didn’t laugh, though I sure as heck wanted to.
“I’m sorry.” It wasn’t the best of explanations, seeing that it was an apology, but I didn’t know what else to say. I couldn’t tell her that I was an angel and that, regardless of what her beliefs were, God does exist. If I told her that I was an angel, sent here as a punishment for disregarding the Creator’s Law, she’d probably call the nut-house and have me admitted. And if I mentioned that I was an angel of death…I don’t even want to think about what she’d do if I told her such insanity.
“Sorry? All you have to say for yourself is that you’re sorry?” Olive raged. God, how could something of your creation be so beautiful, even in anger? “That’s not even an explanation—it’s an apology, you dim-wit. I want you to explain why you’re drawing pictures of me, but even more than that, I want to know where in the hell you’ve seen this necklace before. Are you the one that stole it?”
“Oh, don’t play dumb with me. You stole my grandmother’s necklace, you jerk. Give it back, or I’m callin’ the police.”
Wow, a little irrational, wasn’t she? “Relax,” I said. “I just kept seeing your face in my head, and every time I drew it on a piece of paper the necklace would just…appear. I mean, I know that I drew the necklace there, but I can never remember actually drawing it.”
Olive looked up at my face. She just sat there and stared at for a while, then, when she must’ve determined that I was telling the truth, she came over and sat next to me. The scent of her skin wafted through the air as she sat down. It made my mouth water and sent chills down my spine. I shivered.
Olive sighed. “Well if you didn’t take the necklace, then who did?”
She wasn’t talking to me, but I shrugged anyway. “Well, when was it stolen?”
She shook her head. “I don’t know. I was…away for a while. When I got back, it was gone. My parents said that they never went in there, so they couldn’t have taken it, so who was it? That necklace meant a lot to me, and if I can’t get it back…”
“Why was it so important to you?”
She looked at with those beautiful eyes—one blue, and the other green—and I instantly knew that she was going to lie to me. Her eyes began to shift from place to place, anywhere to avoid looking at me as she talked. “It…” she began. “It was the last thing that my grandmother gave me.”
It was touching, but it was still a lie. And, to be honest with you, it bothered me that she couldn’t be honest with me. But then again, why would she feel that way, she just met me. I needed to stop expecting things from her that she couldn’t give—not yet, at least. But even in Heaven I had been that way, expecting way too much of people. It was just my nature, I guess.
“I’m sorry that it was taken from you. If you want, I could help you find out who took it.”
But she was already shaking her head. “No, that’s okay.” Then she stood up and said. “Well, I ought to get going. It was nice to meet you…”
“Oh, Eli—you can call me Eli,” I answered as she began to walk toward the forest that surrounded the school, away from the parking lot. “I have a car,” I told her. “I can give you a ride if you want.”
Again, she shut me down. “Nah, I’m fine. Goodbye, Eli.”
“Goodbye.” And then she was gone.
I pulled into our driveway at exactly 3:58, leaving only two minutes until Ariia called on a search party.
“Where, on God’s green earth, have you been?” Ariia called out from the doorway.
I heaved a sigh, then hopped out of the driver’s seat and walked up to the front door to face Ariia.
It wasn’t pretty; I had to sit at the kitchen table for two hours, listening to Ariia lecture about how dangerous it was for us to stay outside unprotected. We had no way to protect ourselves against the Darkness anymore.
Finally, Ariia got tired and went to bed. I followed soon after, exhausted by how extremely long the day had felt.
But before I could even reach the stairs, Ezekiel called me over to him. Cautiously, I walked over to him.
“Eli, you have to stop this?” he told me.
Confused, I said, “Stop what?”
“This…obsession that you have with that mortal—it needs to stop. It’s dangerous for us to even be around them, but to love them? Eli, it’s gotta stop.”
I looked up at him, realizing that he was being serious. Just to make him happy, I nodded in agreement. The thing was, it was so much easier to lie in this form, and Zeke hadn’t really gotten that yet. So, even though that I’d just agreed to never think about Olive again, I really had every intention in the world of doing just that.
I turned to head for my room again, but Zeke stopped me for the second time. “Don’t make complicated, Eli. Trust me when I say that you don’t want to make things complicated for me.” The words were so calm, but yet haunting at the same time—just as they had been intended. I was actually scared, though I knew that Zeke would never do anything to hurt me. But what he’d do to Olive…
This time, I didn’t do anything. I just turned back around and walked up the stairs. Before those last words, I had been exhausted, but now I don’t think I could’ve slept in a million years. Those words had installed a feeling that I had never felt before. It wasn’t quite fear, but it was more…anger. I was angry at Zeke for even implying that he might hurt Olive. The bastard. How dare he?
But I wouldn’t do anything right now. Zeke was still the one in charge—regardless of what Ariia thought—and to question him would be suicide. But I was going to keep an eye out for him—Zeke was known to be a little rash.
When I finally got to sleep, it was well into the morning hours. I don’t remember what I dreamt of, but I can let you guess who starred in them.
School the next day was slow and wretched. All I could think about was my sixth hour class, the only on that I shared with Olive. What would I say to her? Would it be awkward? No, probably not. I knew exactly what I was going to say to her.
But I didn’t even need to wait that long, because as I was sitting at lunch, I caught a glimpse of long dark hair and the face of a goddess.
I got up and walked over to where she sat. She sat alone, and as I got closer, I noticed that everybody had put at least a table’s berth between her and them. They were afraid of her, of her illness. They probably didn’t know how to act around her, but then again I would never expect them to. Teenagers had an odd way of acting with death, though it was possible to find the occasional exception—the one that accepted death and knew to make the best out of the life they had been granted. Olive seemed to be one of those exceptions.
Fear clenched my throat as I got closer, which I was forced to swallow past, be a man, and get over it. This was the only way for her to get to know me, to get to like me.
“Hello, Olive.” The words flew out of my mouth before I could acknowledge that I was there and I ended up scaring her. She jumped and clenched her chest. I rushed and sat next to her, putting my hand on her back.
“Are you okay? I’m so sorry—I didn’t mean to scare you.”
She only waved me away and laughed. “You’re fine, Eli. I’m…fine.” She had trouble saying the last word, as if she didn’t quite believe that it was the truth yet. But it was—I had made sure of that.
“So, was there a reason you came over here, or did you just want to jumpstart my heart?”
The words came out wrong and it ended up sounding like something that it wasn’t.
“You…you know what I mean,” Olive said, catching her mistake when my eyes went wide. I had to admit that it jumpstarted my heart when implied such things, even if it were on accident.
“Yeah, I know what you meant,” I answered.
She didn’t say anything; I waited for her to say something. Awkward silence.
Finally, I spoke. “Uhh,” I began brilliantly. “Well, I’ve been struggling a little bit in Ancient History, and I was wondering if you could help me some time.”
She seemed taken aback, as if she hadn’t expected me to ever, in a million years, ask for her help. But she nodded anyway, ripping a piece of paper from her notebook to write her address on.
“Tonight at five—be there,” she said. I laughed shortly—it was pretty obvious that she wanted me to leave.
Back at my table, I was getting chewed out.
“I told you last night, Eli, you’re just gonna complicate things for me. I don’t wanna have to clean up your mess.”
Zeke was the angriest. He seemed to take it personally, which I thought was a little odd. But the other two didn’t seem to care as much; they kept looking at Zeke like he was being a little irrational. Thankfully, the lecture didn’t last long—only our entire lunch.
The rest of the day went by even slower than the morning had. Olive must’ve gone home, because she wasn’t in class, meaning that my day went from long to dreadful.
When school was finally over, I started getting nervous. Olive’s house was on the schedule for five o’clock and I had no idea how I was going to make my move. So, basically, I was going in blind.
The drive over to Olive’s house was horrible. My stomach kept knotting into tiny little balls, until it was twisted into something that resembled a Cinna-twist. I was so nervous that by the time I knocked on Olive’s front door I had already forgotten the drive over.
A man answered at the first knock, his face smudged with grease stains. He looked a lot like Olive, with dark hair that was pulled back in a ponytail and defined facial features, but the eyes were different. Where Olive had one blue eye and one green eye, the man had one black eye and one grey eye. It was the weirdest thing I’d ever seen and the sight of it made me stumble back a few steps.
“Can I help you, boy?” The way he said the word boy was like he was addressing the scum on the bottom of his shoes. The threatening tone in his voice forced me to take another step back.
Then, by the grace of God, I heard Olive’s voice calling from somewhere inside the house. “Dad, I told you that I was having somebody over tonight—be nice to him.”
Her voice was like a seraphim’s song—seraphim were the singing angels of Heaven. I’d never felt as safe as I did just then, her voice singing out to my rescue.
“This is your guest.” Olive’s father spat the words. For some reason, he didn’t like me, though I couldn’t have told you why. I must’ve done something to offend him.
“Yes, Daddy, he is,” Olive retorted. “And I’m taking him up to my room to study.”
“Study?” her father roared. “You know, I was young once and I do know what the word study actually means.”
“Oh, Dad, don’t be disgusting now—he’s only a friend.” Yeah, I was, but only for now…
Olive’s dad seemed to be thinking it over in his head. Then, after scratching his hairy face and staring me down, he waved me through.
“Very well,” we heard him say as we walked up the steps to Olive’s room. “But it better not be anatomy you’re studying up there, or somebody’s gonna have to stop me from tearing the flesh from that boy’s body.”
“I’m sorry about that,” Olive said as we reached her bedroom. It wasn’t very big, just like her house, but she had done the best that she could with what she’d been given. Everything was either green or blue—the same color of her eyes. As soon as she turned to look at me, I gasped. Loudly.
“What?” she asked, growing a little self-conscience. “Is there something on my face?”
I shook my head. “Nah,” I mumbled, still mesmerized by how beautiful she looked as her eyes blended in with the colors of her room. “It’s just that... never mind, let’s get to work.”
Olive gave me a funny look, before turning over to her bed where a pile of books sat. “Did you bring your books?”
“Huh? Oh yeah, they’re right here.” I pulled them out from the messenger bag that hung on my shoulder. I walked over and sat sown next to her on the bed. Damn, she smelled so good.
“Alright,” she began. “I haven’t really been to school in a while, so I don’t know a lot about any of this, but I can try. Why don’t we start on chapter twelve—Ancient Egypt?”
I nodded and flipped to the page. I already knew everything there was to know about Egypt, and her history, but Olive didn’t know that. In fact, I had the best grade in the entire class and I was far from struggling with my work. But I wouldn’t be here right now if it weren’t for my little white lie, so I wasn’t that worried about it.
For an hour and a half, we talked about the agriculture, gods, and customs of the ancient Egyptians. I decided to take a break and go to the bathroom.
“Where’s your bathroom?” I asked.
“Second door to the left,” she answered, not looking up from her homework.
I got up and walked out into the hallway. I almost made it to the bathroom, but before I could even open the door a big, beefy hand crashed down on top of my shoulder.
“What are you doing here, angel?” Olive’s father stood there in front of me, his teeth gritted and his face mashed angrily. What did he just call me?
“Oh what, you didn’t think that I’d know the smell—” he sniffed the air around me “—of an angel? A death angel, too, I’d presume. What are you doing in my territory, boy? Did He send you here to kill me and my family?”
I had no idea what he was talking about so I shook my head vigorously. “I have no idea what you’re talking about, sir.”
“Ha,” he laughed shortly, no real humor in it at all. “Please, I’m sure an angel of death with your amount of power has killed thousands of the Fallen, and that was probably just last week. Oh yeah, boy, don’t pretend like you don’t know who I am. I’m the fallen angel Azazel, angel of destruction.”
“Look,” I said, my voice shaking with fear. In training they told us, briefly, about the fallen angels that were still powerful enough to occupy earth and live eternally among the humans. Olive’s dad, who was apparently Azazel, was also apparently one of the Fallen. Azazel was very dangerous—being the right-hand man to Abbadon, the fallen angel of death—Azazel was the second most powerful fallen angel on earth. He, or she—depending on what you want to believe—was very, very dangerous. They were also very, very destructive—hence the part about them being the fallen angel of destruction.
“Look,” I said again, my voice firmer than before. “I’m on probationary leave from Heaven. I was the death angel that was assigned to your daughter. The second I saw Olive, I knew that I couldn’t let her die. I kissed her and immediately the cancer began to disappear. But then she was attacked by the Darkness and they tried to bring her down to their domain—hell, as you know it. I fought them off and escaped, but I was still suspended from Heaven for breaking God’s Law.”
It was a lot to say, but I was so nervous that it all came out in seconds. I shook in Azazel’s hands as his grip tightened on me.
“I don’t believe you, boy. How dare you lie to me in my own home?”
“Angels can’t lie, Azazel, they can only deceive. You’d know that more than any of us.”
Azazel pick me up by the throat and slammed me into the wall. “Don’t you dare speak to me of my deceit—I regret it every single day, heartbroken that my own daughter can never see the glory in which I grew up in. Most children of fallen angels are immortal, but Olive is not. Olive needs to have her necklace in order to live forever, but her mother…”
Azazel stopped short. Pain struck his eyes like a freight train and he seemed to crumple into the form of an old man. “You don’t have to talk about it,” I told him, understanding the pain of loss—I sure had taken care of it enough.
He shook his seemingly frail body and looked up into my eyes. Black ichor dripped from his eyes. “Olive’s mother was the protector of the necklace and she left when Olive was thirteen, then soon after that, the necklace was stolen. That same year, she was diagnosed with leukemia. She doesn’t have any memory of her mother leaving, or of the night the necklace was taken, so she’s always asking new people if they took her necklace. I’m hoping that it’s just a phase and that before long she’ll get over it and remember, but…”
I nodded. “So why don’t you just tell her?” I asked.
“I already tried that, but then the next morning she goes on about finding the person who stole her necklace. The person that took the necklace, an extremely powerful fallen angel, did something to obscure Olive’s recollection of the night it was stolen. I’ve done everything I can to help her, but obviously nothing has changed. I don’t know what else to do…”
“I’ll do my best to help, but I can’t make any promises.”
“Thank you, Elijah, deliverer of souls. Your help will be very much appreciated and—”
“Dad, I told you not to bother him.”
Olive was standing there in the hallway, her arms crossed and her face stern. She looked genuinely mad at her dad for “messing” with me, which was a little endearing that she cared that much about my safety. But she wasn’t even looking at me—she was too busy glaring at her dad.
“I wasn’t bothering him; we were just talking about…things. Look at him, he’s fine.”
I chuckled reassuringly. “I’m fine. Why don’t we get back to studying?”
She seemed skeptical but, with one last glare at her father, we went back to her room to study some more.
I left that night confident that I had made a mark on Olive. I didn’t want it to seem like I was forcing her to like me, so I was trying my hardest to take it slowly. But it was hard though, trying to befriend somebody that may not even want to be your friend in the first place.
I walked inside the house just after eight o’clock, my feet dragging over the carpet from the exhaustion of the long day. It was then, that I was attacked.
Blood spurted across the white paint. It took me a second to realize that it was my own. I’d been hit in the shoulder with something sharp and now the blood was pouring down my arm. The assassin was good; they’d hit an artery in my upper arm and had exponentially lowered my chances for survival. But I was an angel, and just because you’ve given me a nasty cut, I would never die from something so minor.
I turned and faced my attacker. It was a woman, dressed in all black—large matching wings coming from the back. She was a fallen angel. She’d be tough to defeat, but I had no other choice.
I ran over to where Ariia kept her spare weapons and pulled out a gruesome looking blade. The sword was over two feet long and had curves and notches in it that looked as if they were specifically designed to tear the skin from your enemy. Judging from what I’d been taught, it was the sword of a Persian prince.
I swung the blade in wide arcs and twists, cutting at the air next to the assassin. But I could never quite hit them, for they were definitely faster than I—the wings helped them maneuver through the air in unnatural ways. But that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t still win.
I caught my attacker across the chest, blood covering the tip of my blade. The assassin looked down and grabbed their chest. I took the opportunity and stabbed them in the stomach. Out of respect for the life that I was taking, I only put the blade in far enough to where the assassin wouldn’t be able to follow me, but not far enough to kill them.
“Who sent you?” I asked, feeling a little stupid for using such a cheesy line.
“I can’t tell you—they’ll kill me,” the assassin said weakly in a man’s voice. Blood dribbled from his mouth, but I wasn’t afraid that he’d die. The wound I’d given him surely would’ve killed a normal person, but it would only take a few days for an angel to heal from such a wound. With a little medical attention, he’d be up and chasing after me in no time.
“Well, if you don’t tell me, I’ll kill you. So what do you want—to die now, or later?”
But the assassin wasn’t going to answer. Instead, he ruffled his wings and then, before I could stop him, he disappeared. I looked around for some type of clue of where he’d come from, but he had been trained well and had left nothing. And it was only then that I realized my unit was nowhere to be found.
Worried, I tore through the house in search of my friends with an unnatural speed, but nobody was there. I even looked for signs of a struggle or blood, but there was absolutely nothing there. Genuinely worried, I decided to search outside. Again, I found nothing.
Then Olive crossed my mind. Before I even knew what happened, I was standing in front of her house. I rang the door bell…
Nobody answered. I rang the doorbell again…
Nobody answered. I kicked the door down.
Azazel had my by the throat and on the floor in seconds. My head spun and all of the air that I’d been holding earlier had now been knocked out of me.
Azazel must’ve realized that it was me because he released his death grip on my neck, extending out his hand to help me up.
“Sorry ‘bout that,” he apologized after he hauled me up to my feet. “I just got a call that an extraction order was just issued for your unit. I figured they had figured out about you and Olive and they were comin’ for her to. Apparently, someone wants to see you.”
“Yeah, some assassin actually had the nerve to attack me in my own home.”
“What? When?” Azazel looked worried.
“Just now,” I answered. Azazel growled loudly when I said this, almost as if he actually cared about my safety.
“I’m gonna go and check everything out again, then. I want you to go upstairs and take watch over Olive while I’m gone—something’s going on and I’m gonna find out what it is.”
I nodded to him as he walked out the front door, then headed upstairs to Olive’s room. I felt awkward as I knocked on the door, but I had to make sure she was okay. The door opened.
“Da—Eli? What are you doing here?”
I was too distracted to answer. Olive stood in front of me, dressed in nothing but a T-shirt that was two sizes too big and hung down just above her knees. Her hair hung loosely and was still wet from a shower, smelling of lilacs and lavender. I swallowed through the lump in my throat and tried to answer her, but “uhh,” was all that came out. She looked gorgeous, wonderful, and…What else? There were no other words that could explain a beauty that complex.
Olive must’ve realized that she was in her pajamas because she blushed. Umm…
All of a sudden, my jaw clenched with strain. I strained against myself, telling myself everything I could that would keep me from touching her forbidden mortal skin. But she wasn’t really a mortal, was she?
No, I couldn’t. I was here to protect her, and besides, if her father saw me staring at her like I was just then, he’d have my neck on a platter. I averted my gaze and said, “I think I left my text book here—I came to get it.”
Olive nodded. “Yeah, I was just gonna give it to you tomorrow when I saw you at school, but since you’re here…”
She stepped aside and let me in her room. After grabbing my book from off her dresser, I turned to leave, but Olive was right there in front of me.
“You’re lying,” she whispered, placing her fingertips lightly on my chest. Though she intended it to be sexual, I knew it for what it really was; she was trying to seduce me to get the truth from me. Now that I think about it, it probably would’ve worked too, that is if not for Olive’s father coming up the stairs just then and booming, “All clear, Elijah.”
Olive turned to face her father. “What’s all clear, Daddy?”
Azazel suddenly looked uncomfortable, like he had no idea how to answer his daughter’s question. “Uhh…” he said. “Honey, it seems like we have some people after us. But don’t worry, Eli and I have it covered—we’ll protect you.”
“Yeah, my entire unit is missing. But I was thinking about it while you were out, and this is what I came up with.
“Originally, there were multiple assassins in the house. They attacked and, shockingly, overcame my unit. They captured them and then brought them back to whoever sent them, leaving one behind to deal with me when I got home.”
Azazel was nodding. “I think you’re right, boy. Now the only question is, where, and who, is this person that took your friends?”
I only shrugged—I had no idea, otherwise, I would’ve said something. It was then that the phone rang—the phone call that would change our lives forever.
Azazel ran into Olive’s room, took out a duffel bag, and then started packing it full of clothes.
“Dad, what the hell is going on?” Olive asked. She rushed over to her dad’s side and began to help pack her clothes.
“Watch your mouth, young lady. Eli, that was Abbadon. He just called and said that a death order is out for your head, and pretty soon, there’ll be one out for every Fallen in the nation. We need to go—now.”
Without thinking, I rushed over and helped pack the rest of Olive’s stuff. Despite the small size of the room, the girl had a lot of stuff—the majority of it being books.
Olive had stopped packing and was now standing next to her dad with her crossed and her face stern.
“Father, you better tell me what’s going on, right now,” she ordered. “I’m serious, Daddy, what’s going on? Who’s Abbadon? What’s the Fallen? And where are we going?”
“You sure do have a lot of questions, don’t you?” Olive’s father asked her.
“Yeah, I do, and if you won’t answer my questions then I’ll just ask Eli. He looks like he’d be more than happy to answer my questions.”
And that was the truth, too. I would’ve answered any question that Olive asked me, but was there really anything that I could do to help that? I mean, honestly, I had fallen so hard for her already and I don’t think that I could’ve ever denied her anything that she asked for. And when Azazel didn’t answer, she turned to look at me expectantly.
I turned toward Azazel. “Sir?” I managed—it was hard disobeying such an angelic face.
Azazel waved his hand in the air and said, “Go ahead, she’s just gonna find out anyway.”
And so I told her. I told her about what was how we were being attacked by assassins, who the Fallen were, and how we were going to go and see Abbadon.
“Did I forget anything, sir?”
Azazel thought about it for a second then shook his head. “Nope,” he said. “But if we’re all done telling stories, could we please get moving before we all get assassinated.”
On the road, we sped in and out of the traffic on the highway. Angels had started to follow us a few minutes after we left the house and they were now hot on our trail.
“I really don’t think that the highway was the best way to escape from a bunch of flying angels,” Olive said sarcastically. “But that’s just my opinion.”
I laughed, but it died down when Azazel made a U-turn and I was thrown into Olive. I immediately angled my body so that when it hit her she wouldn’t get hurt. But it didn’t really happen that way and then collision ended making an audible crack.
As soon as the car straightened itself back out, I checked on Olive. She was fine, only a small bruise on her forehead, and a hurt wrist from smacking herself in the forehead with it. I reached down and ran my fingers over her wrist. It healed immediately.
“How—never mind, I don’t wanna know.”
I laughed. “You’re right, you don’t wanna know.”
She smiled. “Yeah, well…thanks.”
I nodded. “Don’t mention it.”
After that an awkward silence settled itself in between us and it got real weird for a second there, but then I saved ourselves from anymore humiliation by turning to Azazel.
“Are you alright?” I asked.
“Yeah, I’m fine—you guys?”
“We’re good,” I told him, not bothering to tell him about Olive’s little bumps and scrapes.
We were all kind of silent after that, all thinking about our own separate things. I, for one, was thinking about what it would be like to meet Abbadon, the angel of death. He was a legend—I mean, not a particularly good legend, but he was still a legend. The amount of people he’s taken is astounding. To an angel of death, the angel of death was almost like a patron of sorts, someone that you looked up to.
This was what I was thinking about when the angels caught up with us. They slammed their fists into the hood of the car as we were driving and destroyed the engine. The car shut off and rolled to a stop. Thankfully, we were no longer on the highway; horrifically, we were no longer on a main road and we were completely alone. Well, kind of…
Before I even knew what was going on, the car was sailing through the air. We hung in the air for what felt like an eternity then, with an unnatural quickness, we dropped to ground. The impact forced my head to smack against something hard, then everything went black.
I shot up like I was coming out of an exorcism. I was ready to fight, to defend Olive, but there was nobody to fight. Instead, sitting next to me, was a kind looking man with black hair and a full beard. He was dressed in normal clothing, a t-shirt and jeans, and he looked…normal. Well, that is except for the big black wings that furled from behind him.
“Abbadon?” I asked, taking a guess that it was, hopefully, him.
The man smiled and nodded. “Of course, boy, who else would I be?”
His voice was deep and rich, like the grandfather that would always read you stories. His voice rang out with so much authority that I wasn’t quite sure if I should really talk to him anymore, for fear of my life. That’s how it was in Heaven; the stronger, older, or wiser angels were always the more dominant, and if your valued your status as an angel then you weren’t to mess with them. But this wasn’t Heaven…
“Wha—what happened?” I asked. I realized then that my head was pounding worse than if I had just downed an entire bottle of Tequila, spent the night next to a loud speaker at a concert, and had a lobotomy all in the same day. But it wasn’t just my head, it was my entire body. Everything was sore and stiff, and as I tried to get up my entire body screamed in protest. I decided that it was best to just lie back down.
“Well, boy, you got in a fight with an angel. When I got there, called in from all that ruckus, you were kicking some angel ass. Don’t you remember, boy?”
I shook my head. “I really didn’t remember anything except for the car crash.”
Abbadon smiled. “Not a car crash. Angels were playing monkey-in-the-middle with your car, boy. The others got banged up pretty bad, too, but you—”
“Olive, where is she?” I asked, ignoring the pain as I jumped out of the cot that I was on. I ran to the door and barely heard Abbadon as yelled after me.
“She’s in the next room over.”
I burst into the room, expecting the worst, but I found nothing there. The sheets on the cot weren’t even messed up and were pulled tightly across the bed, as if nobody had ever slept in them.
It wasn’t until I decided to check the next room over, that I found her. She was sitting in the chair next to the cot, just as Abbadon had been doing with me, but the only difference was that it was her father on the cot instead of me. And he didn’t look good.
Azazel’s body looked like somebody had taken a Louiville Slugger to it. He looked bruised and broken, his eyes and lips sullen to the point where he looked unrecognizable. If I hadn’t seen the look of worry in Olive’s face, I would’ve thought that it was a complete stranger on that cot.
I walked up and put a hand on her shoulder. She reached up and rested her hand on top of mine, leaning into it like it was the only thing in the world that could comfort her. I pulled her up and hugged her; it was then that she broke down and began to cry. I held her for a long time, letting her get it all out. It may have been minutes, hours, or even days, but to me it only felt like seconds. Before I wanted to let her go, Olive let go. I’m sure the pain was visible in my eyes.
“Thank you, Eli,” Olive said.
Confused, I asked, “For what?”
Olive turned and looked at me. She smiled brightly and genuinely, as if the accident had never happened and hurt her dad. Looking at her, it was quite clear that she’d been hurt the least in the accident—she two small cuts on her eyebrow and one on her lip. But the look on her face said that she was hurting a lot more than I was, her injuries were just a little deeper than something physical. I wanted to hug her again and console her, but that seemed a little bit intrusive at the moment.
“Thank you for saving me and my dad,” she said quietly. I realized then that I was probably talking a bit too loud. I brought my voice down a little.
“No problem,” I practically whispered. I hung around for a little while longer after that, but the look on Olive’s face told me that she wanted to be alone so I left.
Abbadon was still sitting in my room when I got back, a book spread out in his lap. As soon as he noticed that I’d entered the room he quickly finished up the paragraph he was on before shutting the book, putting a feather between the pages to mark his spot.
“Elijah,” Abbadon said calmly. “I need to talk to you about Azazel’s condition.”
I nodded. “Okay.”
Abbadon sighed. “He’s dying, Eli. Trust me when I say this, for I am the angel of death. He will not last long, only a week or two; he needs your help.”
“Please,” Abbadon interrupted. “Call me Abe.”
I cocked an eyebrow at him, but said nothing on the matter. “Look, Abe, I don’t know what it is that you want me to do to help him. I am no longer a death angel, helping him is something that is now out of my jurisdiction. Why can’t you help him? As you said, you are the angel of death.”
But Abe was shaking his head vigorously. “I cannot help him this time, my child. He is too far gone and the only thing that will help is, as you say, out of my jurisdiction.”
“Heaven? You want me to go to Heaven? I was expelled, Abe. I can’t enter the Gates for another eleven months.”
“Yes, I know,” Abe said suspiciously. “But if you were dead…”
“Oh, hell no.”
“You don’t have a choice, Eli,” Abe tried to reason. “If you want Olive to care for you, which I know you do, you are going to have to make a few sacrifices.”
“A few sacrifices? You want me to give up my life so that I can get the attention of a girl? Let me ask you something, how in the hell am I supposed to enjoy the attention when I’m dead?”
I was yelling now, but Abe didn’t seem to be phased by it. “Let me remind, child, I am the angel of death. I control every soul that enters the afterlife, meaning that if I were to be on standing next to the body and were to accidently let the soul slip back into its body after a certain amount of time, I could do such a thing. All I need, my son, is a little faith. I am your father, Eli, give me a little faith.”
Abe’s revelation hit me like a ton of bricks, a metallic taste spreading throughout my mouth. The way that Abe told me that he was my father was a lot different than you would tell someone you were their patron; he said it like he was telling his long lost son that he was his father.
“Yes, my son, you are my child. Your mother, Amy, was the president in hell. She was one of Lucifer’s best fighters, but when she had you, she…changed. Everyone in her unit, twenty-thousand strong, was soon released from their holds in hell, and now they roam the earth. Your mother, fearful of Lucifer’s wrath, fled from hell.
“It wasn’t long before God noticed her, as He had begun to notice us all, and he made a deal with her. If she agreed to gather up all of the souls that escaped from hell, He would take you into His Kingdom and let you grow up behind the same Gates that she did. Your mother agreed and handed you over, and now she travels the world and gathers up every soul that tries to escape from hell. But every now and again, your mother will check up on you and watch you from afar.”
Now that my father said something, I do remember seeing people—always women—that seemed to be out of place. Like the time I had to deal with the woman that had died from a heart attack and wouldn’t stop screaming, there was a woman that stood outside of the dead woman’s window and she just stared into the room. Or the time that I had to deliver the college student that had had enough from the bullies at school and had seemed grateful to be taken away, there was a woman standing up on the bridge that he’d jumped from, watching as I brought him to the Gates to be Judged. Now that I thought about it, there were multiple times where that same woman was watching, an impassive look in her eyes that always seemed to be forced.
“I’ve seen her,” I said, still feeling dazed from the news. “She’s beautiful.”
“Indeed, she is,” my father said. “And you remind me a lot of her—mostly in your smile and your eyes, though. She’s always wanted to talk to you, but she is forbidden to have any type of contact with you, though she has tried many times. My wife is a very smart woman; she has sent you subtle signs of guidance over the years, her motherly instincts never quite dying down…”
His words died off and hung in the silence like an ax on a ripcord, waiting to be released. The funny thing is, the ax was aimed right at my heart and if he said one more thing, he’d pull the cord and release the ax. I couldn’t take it anymore; I had to think about something else before the tears began to spill over.
“So, about dying—how am I supposed to die?” I asked, purposefully changing the subject. Abe seemed hurt that I could no longer talk about my mother, but he seemed to understand.
“I’ll handle that, son. Why don’t you go and get Olive? I need to talk to her also.”
I nodded and went to get Olive. She didn’t seem to want to leave her father’s side, but when I insisted that she come, she complied. When I walked into the room, Abe was reading again. He placed the feather inside before he closed it then asked me give them a minute. I did.
Twenty minutes later, Olive came storming out of the room. “You are not going to kill yourself, just so that you can save my father,” she screamed in my face, tears spilling over the rims of her eyes.
“You’re right—I’m not going to kill myself, just so that I can save your dad.”
“You’re not?” she asked, her voice growing hopeful. It was endearing to see that she cared about me that much.
“Nope, my dad’s gonna kill me, just so that I can save your dad.”
Olive gasped and turned on my father. “You better not, Abaddon. I’ll never speak to you again if you do,” she pouted.
“Well, my dear, I will take that chance. My son has been trained well and he knows exactly what to do.”
I turned to him. “I do? I don’t remember you ever telling me what I had to do.”
Abe grinned mischievously. “Exactly, my boy, but you will know what to do when you get there.”
Exasperated, I just nodded.
After a few more comments, we all circled in on the cot that I had slept on. I got in it and tried to get comfortable, though it was a little hard to do with everybody circled around me, staring at me expectantly. I took a deep breath.
“Ready?” Abe asked. He seemed sad, as if it pained him dearly to kill his own son.
I nodded. “Ready.”
My dad reached out and put his hand on my shoulder, speaking low so that I couldn’t hear him. I felt it immediately. It was cold, like being dipped in a tub of ice getting out of a nice warm shower. It was then that I realized I had forgotten something. I tried to sit up but I couldn’t. I tried to say something, but my mouth wouldn’t move. I began to thrash around on the cot, but soon I couldn’t even do that.
Then I felt my life escape me. First, my heartbeat began to slow down, only beating once every five seconds. Then it worsened and my heartbeat slowed down even more, only beating once every ten seconds; also, the tips of my fingers and toes grew numb and I could no longer remember how to move them. My heartbeat slowed even more, beating once every fifteen seconds now and it was becoming painful—my body yearning for blood; I could no longer feel my legs or arms, leaving only my head and torso. Lastly, my heartbeat slowed down to once every twenty seconds; my body felt like the numbness was spreading through my body and it going for my heart. It reached my heart and it began to splutter. Once…
Light came from all angles. It blinded me from the sides and from straight on, it came from above and from below, it even came from behind, making it so that I could see nothing. Finally, though, my eyes adjusted and I saw my old home—beautiful and majestic.
I immediately set off to find what my father had killed me for—an elixir that could save Azazel. But, of course, I had landed in the middle of a plain that went for miles on end. There was nothing in sight, but it didn’t take long for me to remember what would save Azazel. Micah had told me about it a couple years ago when there was a small flu bug floating around Heaven—yes, angels and souls do get sick, but instead of the sickness attacking the body, it attacks the faith.
The earth below us had been a disaster ever since Michael got sick. Nobody was sure what he had, but it was attacking his faith in the Lord. Without faith, the Creator could no longer help His best Archangel, which saddened Him deeply. Now, the Lord’s sadness was wreaking havoc on Earth and the people that lived on it. A war is what they called it, but we knew what it really was.
Miguel, Micah’s father, was summoned to find whatever he could to heal Michael. For years, Miguel searched for a remedy, but everything he found was ineffective and he was soon sent out in search of something that would work. Then Miguel met her, Micah’s mother, the Cumaean Sybil. She’d had many names throughout history, but we’ll just call her Sybil.
Sybil, a prophet that foretold of the birth of Jesus, was the most powerful her kind. She was treated as the queen of all other sybils, though she was said to be the ugliest and meanest of them all.
Sybil foretold of a few more prophecies and landed herself a spot as the direct prophet of God. She was moved to Heaven, where she was to delivered prophecies for all of eternity.
It hadn’t been very long since Sybil had become a prophet of God that she foretold of a Michael’s sickness, World War II on Earth, and the sadness that sweep over Heaven. Instead of being grateful, God was furious. He accused her of lying to Him and He banished her to the empty Plains of Paradise. It was said that he forced her to live exactly in the middle, signifying that she was the center of all emptiness.
It was here, in the middle of these fields, where Miguel met Sybil on one of his journeys. She took him and fed, for he hadn’t eaten in days and was beginning to grow weak and tired. She let him rest then, after he woke, she would ask him of what was happening out in the real world. Miguel told her that her prophecy had come true and that Michael was sick.
After a week of staying with Sybil, Miguel began to fall in love with Sybil, her ugliness not bothering him at all. As a favor for his love, Sybil told Miguel that she would help him cure Michael, but first he had to give her a child. So, every night for a year they made love. They tried and tried, hoping that they would conceive a child.
Finally, when Sybil became pregnant, she gave Miguel the cure for Michael. Miguel left soon after that, promising that he would return before the birth of his child.
When Miguel reached the palace of God, he was praised and celebrated as a hero for bringing back the cure for Michael. Michael took the cure as soon as he could and he immediately began to feel better. But, that night when God asked Miguel to explain where the cure had come from and Miguel told him that it was from Sybil, God raged. He ordered that Miguel never see her again, cutting of all ties with her. Miguel told Him that they were expecting a child and that—after all—Sybil had been right. For his insubordination, God banished Miguel to live with Sybil in the empty plains ten years.
Miguel left and, for ten years, he enjoyed his life with Sybil and Micah. Then God came and told Miguel that his banishment was now over, but Miguel was refused to go back with the Lord. He told Him that he was happy where he was and would like to stay. God allowed him stay, but only under one condition—Micah was to come with Him.
As a child born out of wedlock, God had the right to do whatever he wanted to with Micah. Miguel gave up his son that day, sacrificing one great love for another. God felt sorry for them and, as a gift for their sacrifice, he gave them eight more children, who now live all over the plains, making cures and potions for the occasional sick soul or angel…
I didn’t really know exactly where I was, but I had a general idea. I was somewhere near the north-western edge of the Plains of Paradise, heading toward whatever one of Sybil and Miguel’s children lived there.
I didn’t walk for very long before the signs of a village came over the horizon. I could already tell that the village wasn’t very big, but it was still a village, nonetheless. I sped up to a run and was there in minutes.
As soon as I reached the village, children crowded me from all angles. They were all beautiful, and dark-skinned from the days out in the sun. As soon as they reached the age of ten, their muscles seemed to look more defined, and they all ran with stealth and grace. But that was because they were Messengers—messengers of God that ran all throughout the world to deliver messages to people, whether it be in a vision or a dream.
I wasn’t all that great with kids, but I was still grateful that they were so excited to see me. It had been so long since anyone had visited them; they weren’t lonely though, because they all had each other.
The village was falling apart, literally. Everything was made of the worst possible materials for building, but the villagers all seemed content with what they had. It wasn’t long before I was taken to the village Elder, Sybil’s child.
The hut was the best of them all, made from sticks, stones, and mud. It seemed to be the only place in the entire village that wasn’t desolate and ridden with despair.
Inside, I was instructed to sit down and wait for the Elder. As I waited, the same thought kept crossing my mind: What if I don’t make it in time? Abaddon had told me that I only had an hour before my soul was called back into my body, but to tell you the truth, I had no idea how long I’d been up here. Time traveled slower in Heaven, so did he mean an hour in Heaven, or an hour on Earth? Well, obviously he meant an hour in Heaven, because I was pretty sure that more than hour had already passed on Earth.
“The Elder Vapula now makes her entrance,” the herald called out.
A young woman then made her entrance, gliding into the room as if she were floating. It was then that I realized she actually was floating, the tips of her hanging feet inches from the ground. She came over and sat down in a large throne that sat in front of me.
“Please, sit up, Elijah, angel of death.” Her voice was like liquid as it fell from her gloriously pink lips. She was very beautiful…and very unlike her mother. She was tall, with long dark hair that flowed down to the middle of her back and chocolate brown eyes that melted my soul. Her features were all straight, regal, and perfect—the appearance of a true leader. Nothing about her reminded me of Micah.
“Thank you, Elder Vapula.” As I said the words, they felt like they were a lie. She was just way too youthful looking to be anything close to an Elder. But, like I said, time is a totally different complex in Heaven.
Vapula nodded to me, then turned to her guards and waved them away. As soon as they were gone, she turned to me and said, “Why are you here, child of Abaddon?”
I decided to start with something that would strike home. “It’s your brother, Micah. He’s been taken, ma’am, kidnapped by assassins.”
As soon as I mentioned her brother, Vapula perked straight up. “I’m listening.” She said slowly.
And then I told her the story.
I told her about everything that had happened, how I planned to get those that had been kidnapped back, and why I needed her help. She didn’t say anything for a long time after I finished, but finally she spoke, her voice trembling with anger and love.
“I will help you, Death Angel, but only because you are the only hope that I have of getting my brother back. The elixir that you request is quite complicated, but luckily for you, I do believe that I have a few left in the pharmacy.”
I nodded. “Okay, so where’s the pharmacy?”
Vapula seemed to think about it for a moment then raised a finger and crooked it at me. “Come, Elijah, I have something to show you.”
She got up then and grabbed a hold of my hand, dragging me behind a curtain. There, in the middle of the room was a large pool, with glowing blue water that gave light to the room. She led me up to its edge and then knelt down beside me, taking out a tiny vial from her robes to fill it full of the water. She put a cork in the top, and then, as I had seen it done so many times before, she began to pray. As her words began to die down, the water changed color so that it was now a bright white. She handed me the vial.
It was cool to the touch, but I pocketed it and thanked her. She only nodded, a look that seemed like pain marring her gorgeous face. I averted my eyes so that I wouldn’t have to look at such a pain-staking look, and that’s when I saw it.
There, hanging on the wall, was a drawing of the necklace that had been stolen from Olive.
“Do you know where that necklace is?” I asked; Vapula seemed to like the subject change.
“Oh, Lucifer’s Bane? No, nobody knows where it is.”
Lucifer’s Bane? That was its name, Lucifer’s Bane. Just the thought of the name sent shivers down my spine and the hairs on my neck stood up.
“So you don’t know where I can find it?” I asked, just to be sure. Vapula shook her head.
“No, but whoever has is a very lucky soul.”
“Why do you say that?” I asked.
Vapula took a deep breath. “Lucifer’s Bane is a very powerful object. It is rumored to have the ability to restore any fallen angel and give them back their wings. But there’s a catch, too. In order to use the necklace, you must come from the two different families. You must derive from the blood of Lucifer, but you must also derive from the blood of God. So most angels can’t use it, because they don’t have any of Lucifer’s blood in them; and fallen angels can’t use it because every drop of God’s blood that had was drained when they fell.”
It was a lot to take in, I’ll admit that, but I still understood it. I had nothing else to say to her after a long speech like that, so instead I just walked up to the drawing and stroked my finger along with the pencil strokes. I turned and faced Vapula.
It was then that she leaned in and planted a kiss on my lips. It was cool and pleasurable, but I felt nothing like I had when I’d kissed Olive. I was about to push her away, when I realized what she was doing; she was sending me home. My body began to dissipate and vaporize, feeling like it was becoming a mere mist in the wind. And then I was gone.