Chapter Seven: Grounded (Diana’s Point of View)
We walk under cloudy skies down street after street. Raphael walks ahead of us, looking over my map to keep us moving in the right direction. Emma walks beside me and keeps her eyes trained on him. I can’t force her to like him, but I hope she comes to terms with him being here with us.
“How much longer until we reach the border?” Emma asks me without looking away from him.
“Two days, or so. Why?”
She stops walking and pulls me aside. “Diana, are you 100% sure we can trust him?”
Am I 100% sure? No, but I can’t tell her that. If I did, she won’t ever trust or tolerate him. I say the only fact I’m sure of instead. “He saved my life, Emma. That counts for something.”
We continue walking, so Raphael doesn’t notice we stopped in the first place. Emma doesn’t ask me anymore prying questions about him, but she still doubts trusting him.
“What have you been doing since you were grounded on Earth, Raphael?” Emma asks during a momentary break from walking.
I give her a look that tells her not to pry.
“I can ask him a question or two, can’t I?” She raised her eyebrows and arms.
I shake my head in reprove. I know why she’s asking. She wants to know if he’s changed sides. She wants to pick his brain to figure out what he really wants with us. I haven’t told her about Raphael and my arrangement yet. I don’t want her to grow any more paranoid, or concerned, about me. As much as I disapprove of her prying, it does have me curious about his possible answers.
“It’s alright,” Raphael assures me and doesn’t sound irritated or like his privacy is being invaded. “In answer to your question, Emma, I’ve spent most of my time travelling.”
“Yeah? Where to?” She continues questioning.
He shrugs, reflecting. “Everywhere. I was in Europe and Asia for almost fifteen years. The Europeans aren’t fairing much better than the people here in the territories.”
“I wonder why Lucifer chose to make the United States his home instead of another country in Europe or Asia?” I say, verbalizing my thought.
He folds up the map and lowers it to his side. “I guess because countries in Europe and Asia are older, with a deep rooted mindset. Whereas, the United States’ still young. This country is easier to shape and mold into his image than others.”
“So is that all you’ve done?” Emma narrows her gaze. “You’ve just been travelling.”
“Not in the beginning,” he admits. “Weeks after the battle I met a woman named Willow. She took me into her home. We guided each other through hard times. She was the reason I begun travelling.”
Emma loses her edge and grows with fascination. “Did you love her?”
Raphael smiles and looks at the ground as he speaks. “Yes, I loved her. She showed me how to find a new path. I travelled the world to help others and destroy demons. My world had changed, yet my mission to help protect mankind hadn’t.”
The interrogation is over. Emma watches him with curiosity instead of suspicion. Her face softens. The rest of the walk is peaceful, except for my legs wanting to give out beneath me.
Twilight hovers in the sky as night is close approaching. Raphael finds an abandoned house for us to stay the night in. Emma and I set up camp for the night in a windowless bedroom upstairs while Raphael does his patrol outside. Emma and I lay on the blanket. My tired legs relax.
“We’ll make it to the border by tomorrow evening,” I say to Emma excitedly.
Her eyes are ready to shut. “We’re almost there.”
Chapter Eight: Borders (Diana’s Point of View)
Exhaustion weighs me down as we travel at daybreak. Hours of walking wares on me and takes a toll on my leg muscles. Emma drags her feet beside me as she pushes on. She flashes me a tired smile and returns to taking in the scenery. I can barely make out the sounds of Raphael’s light footsteps behind us.
The street is almost vacant, except for a family of four scurrying off down a side street. Two guys are on the sidewalk trading poultry. A woman in her mid-forties is on a porch step yelling at her young son for walking off too far. I glance over at a yellow shuttered house and catch the eye of an elderly woman. She locks her window and draws the shades close.
Further down the road no one’s insight. Day is slowly fading with night blooming soon.
Raphael looks over the map and folds it up. “We should be at the border by now,” he says more to himself than us and shakes his head.
“We are,” Emma clarifies and points down the street.
I follow her direction and see it. A rectangular, metal green sign that says Now Leaving Ohio and across from it is another sign saying Welcome to Pennsylvania. I enrapture in excitement. Our long journey is almost to an end. Emma shares in my thrill, but Raphael doesn’t. He has a serious look plastered on his face as he motions for us to follow him with the wave of his hand. We follow behind him and end up behind a bush to a duplex building.
“Stay here,” he orders us.
I don’t understand. “Why? The border’s right there,” I say, pointing in its direction. “If we go now we can make it there before its dark.”
“Exactly,” he replies. “The border’s right there. The demons guarding it are going to be right there too. Let me go check it out. I’ll try to find a safe way across. Unless, you want to take your chances and go now?”
His tone makes my cheeks burn in anger. I don’t like that he’s looking down on me. Like I can’t handle taking care of myself. I exhale my frustration and let it go because I know he’s right. “You go. We’ll stay here.”
He nods and walks off.
Emma and I kneel down and hide behind the bush. My heartbeat quickens and pounds harder with each beat against my ribcage. Sweat makes my hands clammy. Fear prickles up my spine, but I try to keep my face composed for Emma’s sake. She doesn’t appear any more confident than me.
“What if we don’t make it?” She asks in a quivering, small voice minutes later.
I don’t want to answer her question. The very thought of one of us not making it across makes my stomach twist into knots. “We’ll make it,” I tell her in a façade of bravado. “I promise you.”
“Hey,” Raphael whispers from beside us and makes the both of us jump with fright. “It’s clear. Let’s move.”
We stand and distance ourselves from the bush. I feel like a spy as we move along the buildings incognito and inch our way towards the border. The signs are almost in reaching distance now. Relief awaits me on the other side.
Almost there, I think as we approach the signs. I glance in all directions while Emma crosses over. I see nothing or anyone suspicious watching us.
“You next,” he tells me and remains vigilant.
One foot passes over, and then the other. I’m in Pennsylvania now. Raphael is right behind me. Now that we’re safe across, I exhale the breath I held in. Emma can barely contain her joy as we carry on.
I was worried for nothing. My disappointment and worry release from my body. The gravel crunches beneath my feet as we head down another road. Emma hums a song I can’t name. I can’t help but to grin at her. It’s the first time in a long while since I’ve seen her really happy.
Raphael’s long arm shoots out in front of us and blocks us. We all stop. He puts a finger to his mouth silencing us.
“What is it?” I whisper.
“Shush,” he whispers back. His head tilts in the opposite direction like he’s listening for something. A second later, his head snaps in our direction alarmingly. “Run! Run to the church!” He yells at us.
Emma takes off sprinting to the white church down the street off to the right. I run right behind her without any question.
Halfway to the church, I look back at Raphael. He’s still where we left him, standing in the middle of a three-way street intersection. Demons begin to manifest out of the shadows around him. There has to be twelve or fifteen of them. I know there’s too many demons for Raphael to take on his own and make it out alive.
This isn’t right. I stop dead in my tracks, almost spraining my neck in the process, as I glance in between Raphael and Emma.
She notices I’ve stopped and halts. “Come on, Diana!”
“No,” I tell her. “I have to help him.”
“I’m coming with you,” she tells me and tries to walk over.
“Stay,” I demand of her. “Get to the church and lock yourself inside.”
Our eyes meet for a moment. There’s a grave look on her face like she’s trying to memorize my face. Like this might be the last time she’ll ever gazes upon it. Emma turns and keeps on running for the church obediently without looking back. I won’t be able to help Raphael if I know she isn’t safe. I exert all of my muscles to run faster and get to Raphael in time. Fear envelopes me, but I can’t let it hold me back now. I have to help him.
Two demons hold him down on the ground while he struggles to get back on his feet. The others see me coming as I get closer. There’s no turning back now. I pull my sword out of its black sheath and raise it level to my arms. A growl almost like a cry gurgles its way up my chest and out of my mouth.
A demon with a sadistic grin on his face comes at me. Our swords make a clinging sound as they clash. Soon enough, I’m taking on three of them at once. I find an inner strength in myself hidden deep within I never knew was there before. An instinct, a drive, a light to defend myself from their attacks.
I barely notice Raphael’s standing as I destroy another demon. Movement from behind alarms me. Spinning around, I have my sword knocked from my grasp. It lands a few feet away on the ground. A bald demon shoves me and causes me to lose my balance.
The gravel and I collide hard as I fall. He lifts his sword high above himself and drives it down over my heart. My body reacts before I can think of what to do. I roll over and get to my feet. He’s just as quick. The cold metal of his sword is pressed against the flesh of my neck.
Frozen, I stare at him without looking into his black eyes. I know if I move he’ll end me.
His triumphant smile fades and his eyes round as he looks down. I gaze down too. The tip of a blade emerges out of his heart and drips with crimson blood. A sigh slips from in-between his pale lips as he falls to his knees. The side of my neck stings as his sword is removed.
Raphael pulls his sword out of the demon and grabs me by the hand. “We need to run. More of them are coming,” he tells me and pulls me along as he sprints.
The hairs on the back of my neck and arms stand on end as I run at full force. I feel the demons coming after us and move even quicker. I don’t look back. Cold, bone tingling chills crawl up my skin like spiders. Every fiber of my being is hypersensitive as adrenaline courses through mr. I’m still reeling from what just happened. I had no idea how strong I was in body and spirit before this very moment.
The arched church doors open as we near. Emma looks behind us and her eyes widen. I can only imagine what she sees. Raphael leaps in the doors with both of our swords in one of his hands. I take one big leap through; she closes the doors hard when I’m inside. Raphael holds the doors shut. Shadows flit and flash around the outside of the stain-glass windows.
Emma crouches down behind a wooden pew shaking and trembling.
A few moments later, there’s no noises coming from outside. No shadows pass in front of the windows. Raphael walks away from the doors and sits on a pew reclining.
“Where did they all go?” I ask him, but I don’t dare take my eyes off the doors.
He places the swords on the carpet in front of him. “They’re gone, but they’ll be back. We’re safe in here. Demons can’t enter a church that’s still holy,” he informs us.
I trust in his words, so I take a seat beside where Emma hides. “We’re going to have to camp out here for the night.”