July 1, 2011

Know Thy Enemy

This scene was cut from the book for two reasons. A) It sounded far too preachy and B) it did nothing to move the plot along. In any case, I enjoyed it and thought that I'd share.

A smooth, quiet voice jarred Daniel from his spiraling thoughts about the coldness of a human soul compared to the scorch of his own body.

“Please tell me that you weren’t feeling sympathy for that drug addict.”

“Michael,” Daniel lifted his chin so that he was staring directly at his taller brother. “It’s good to know that you care. Tell me, what flaws have you found in me this time?”

“Nothing I haven’t pointed out to you before.” He winced at the smirk on Michael’s face. Perhaps he shouldn't have asked. “I have to say that you're getting better at managing the pain.”

“Taking in the pain is hardly an easy task. I suppose you wouldn’t know much of it, though. Araboth doesn't need two of me.”

Daniel nearly chuckled. His brother’s sand-colored eyes widened only a fraction of a millimeter, but it was enough to give him a smug, minuscule upturn of his lips.

“Iblis is growing restless,” Michael said, changing the subject. “He longs for the human girl that he helped heal with Gabriel. There’s been rumors that he’s been sneaking off to see Abaddon and Delilah.”

Daniel walked closer to his brother and gazed up at the galaxy of stars. As dark and tumultuous as the heavens were, he always felt more relaxed when he was lost in their glittering majesty. He let the silence float between them for several more moments before he spoke to Michael. “I saw them together. They were with a human called Eileen.”

“He’s in love with her.” Michael’s hands were locked behind his back and his face gave away none of his thoughts, but Daniel still caught the tiniest flex of his muscles. "Much like Samael is in love with Iridessa." The disdain clung to the beat in between his words and Daniel's response.

“Lust is much different than what Iridessa feels for Sam,” Daniel told him blandly, while raising a sculpted, pale eyebrow.

“You don’t think that we're lustful beings?” Michael turned half of his toned body toward his brother and allowed a rueful smile to twist his lips.

“Of course we are. What else would they Fall for?” Daniel asked, now irritated.

“You think that Iblis will fall, don’t you?”

“The signs are everywhere. He will Fall for that human girl and she’ll have his kin. She’ll die like they always do and he’ll be filled with so much hate that he won’t remember the beauty of our race.” Daniel never understood how his kind could ignore the law of Araboth. When Angels Fell, they joined the Fallen in Avarice. Daniel knew his brother well enough to know that he would not, could not, give up on this new human infatuation.

“Your lack of faith is troubling,” Michael whispered, turning back to the stars. “Is it because you spend so much time mingling with the humans?”

Daniel smiled and shook his head, allowing his body to relax. “No. It's because I'm not blind.”

Michael’s wings fluttered. A few feathers fell to Daniel’s feet. “I don't understand you. Do you believe we are all doomed to the fate of Abaddon and Apollyon and the others that Fell before them?”

A purple meteorite blazed through the sky, close enough to one of the dense stars to completely massacre it. The explosion caused both Angels’ attention to be drawn to the downpour of brightly colored sparks and balls of fire falling endlessly through the galaxy. Daniel took this momentary distraction to place a serene expression upon his face. Once the shards of light began to dim, he nodded his head, knowing that Michael would catch it out of the corner of his eye.

“If we can’t keep ourselves under a certain amount of control, then we are going to understand our Fallen brethren a lot better.” He kept his voice passive, as smooth as possible. The idea nagged at his instincts. All of them would Fall one day, he thought.

“Iridessa and Samael?” Michael prompted curiously, causing Daniel to lose his stoic stance for a moment. He glanced at Michael and instantly regretted it, thanks to the quirk of triumph displayed on Michael's lips. “Samael is your closest brother. How can you say those things about him?”

“Sam faces the Fall because of his love for Iridessa.”

“You seem very sure of yourself,” Michael said, in interest of his brother’s observations.

Daniel inclined his chin only an inch. “Unlike many of my kin, I keep a close eye on the shifts in our lives. Iblis will not take kindly to being separated from something he’s found so intriguing. It will cause a war in his heart.”

Both brothers were now facing each other full on. “Why?”

“Because when your heart yearns, your soul becomes attached to the object of yearning. Tell me that you would do nothing if the Celestia asked you to do something you knew was immoral?”

Michael's jaw was slack and his copper eyes were furious. “They would never.”

“And so we feel about those we love,” Daniel pointed out with a small smile on his lips and shrug of his broad shoulders. “Love clouds our vision, tempts us in a way that is blind to imperfection."

Michael contemplated Daniel’s words silently. Daniel watched his eyes narrow and widen as his mind worked around the truth of his words. After several more moments, Michael's wings were drawn tightly to his back, his eyes remained wide, his mouth was moving and emitting a very quiet string of words. “Of course, if you’re correct, it means that we are all susceptible to being damned.”

Daniel spread his wings. “Tell Dinah to be careful the next time she introduces a new pollen to their world, Michael. She's helping sustain the addicts.”

Having said his piece, Daniel flew away while feeling the familiar plea of a desperate soul needing his protection.

The man that Daniel was beckoned to was a smoker, a drug abuser and an alcoholic. His peace had been made over the years, but never as strong as the day that he was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. At the age of forty three, the man had damaged his body, had ruined his stunning voice, and his soul nearly beyond repair. Like most humans faced with death, he prayed for forgiveness. Perhaps for the first time in his pitiful existence, Victor had done the right thing.

Kneeling by the hospital bed, Daniel stroked the hair of the man who was prematurely gray. Daniel's clear, blue eyes were strictly focused on a space just shy of Victor's face. His lips were pressed together, forming an unbendable line. No feeling for the man. No sympathy for his sickness or his death. Apathy came with his duty, just as easily as compassion.

"Please," the old man begged, his breathing coming out ragged and sharp. "I'm sorry. God, forgive me."

Daniel's fingers ruffled Victor’s thin hair, his mind focused on the pain that the older man was feeling, concentrating on his pleas. There was a moment of hesitation before taking Victor's life, but his reluctance was not to cause the man further suffering. It was the sharp, hot-wire pain near his liver that had shocked him. Daniel hunched over and grabbed at his side, closing his eyes in an attempt to remain silent. In the moment that Victor's pain engulfed him, the silence echoed around the hospital room.

Overcome with pain, Daniel used his hand to seize Victor's soul. It wasn't a complete soul, but it was not damned. Not evil. Still, after years of abuse to himself and the temple of his body, Victor was freed and cured of the demons that tormented him through life, thanks to Daniel. He tried to focus on the good that he was doing for this man, but a wave of absolute need washed over him. Daniel's hand slipped momentarily, his control on the soul wavered. He tightened his fist and pushed away from the hospital cot, his face not reflecting the explosion of pain that he felt.

The journey between Araboth and Earth was not significant to an Angel, but to the human soul, the space between existed as a form of Limbo. Souls were purified during the journey through the shifted dimensions. Sometimes the souls screamed, some cried, and some remained silent. The extent of their pain was determined by the way they chose to live their human lives. It had been a thousand years since the last time Daniel had known a peaceful transition.

After the pain ebbed out of Daniel's system and his mind was one hundred percent clear, he allowed his indifferent blue eyes to open so he could witness Victor's transformation. The shadowed patches in the fluid exploited the sin that he hadn’t repented. The bright clouds showed Daniel of the times he attempted to rectify the wrongs he had committed. Even stranger, Daniel noted, was that the lack of color in Victor's soul was not clear, but cloudy. Murky. As Victor's soul came into contact with the purity of Limbo, it hissed; the soul jerked and twisted, but Daniel kept his grasp. He kept his eyes on the soul, a steady stare.

The man’s voice was clearer and even now, not marred by the breathlessness of his humanly disease. His shout was like the cry of a raven, loud and piercing. “Help me! Make the burning stop!”

Daniel’s mouth was trained into a straight line, but his eyes betrayed him. He narrowed them and glared at the fluid soul that was held firmly in place in his hand. It was extremely rare that Daniel felt compelled to allow a soul to slip to purgatory. This man had lived a disgusting life of drugs and deprecation. He didn’t deserve the beauty of Araboth and The Eden. And yet, while Daniel thought it, he knew that the man would be cleansed, his past would not be a matter of the present.

Victor would be saved by the Celestia.

It was the first step to paradise. Daniel knew that the soul would stop struggling, it would become still and then he could leave it. Leave and never look back to this man. A man who had gotten lucky.

The man hissed, his soul whirring. Daniel tightened his hold and closed his eyes to gather strength. Yes, he felt the burning. It was everywhere; his head, his wings, his stomach, his feet. It was no wonder the soul in his hands was jerking around, trying to slither away.

Daniel remained silent as always while he examined the coolness of the soul against his warm, sunburst skin. He felt the torment physically. A war inside of his body, as though it was being ripped into millions of tiny pieces. This was his duty: to help these souls save themselves. He had to remember that. Daniel shook his head with his eyes squeezed tight to attempt to block out the pain.

And then, finally, Victor went limp. Daniel heaved a breath, a motion of tiredness to humans, one of relief for himself. His fist was unclenched as he listened to the quiet humming of Victor’s soul. The pain he felt only moments ago, so intense and debilitating, was slowly rescinding. Unafraid of causing himself more harm, Daniel opened his hand completely and allowed the soul to drift into the bright, open area. He watched it begin to blend in with the surroundings and spread his wings.
It was time to go home to and await the next soul in need of saving.

1 comment:

  1. This was cut??? That makes me sad...It's a good piece of writing.