Chapter Five: Journey (Raphael’s Point of View)
Emma, the blonde friend of Diana, busies herself just outside the laundromat with dinner. She had set up the fire and the contraption above it, so she could cook the fox squirrel a few hours ago. I watch her from inside the laundromat through the glass wall as Diana tells me about Emma and her long journey here to Ohio from South Dakota.
“We’re on our way to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to find my Aunt Thea,” she says from where she stands beside me. She hands me a folded envelope she produces from out of her back pocket.
I unfold it and read:
Thea De La Cruz
1409 Wellesley Ave
The envelope is yellowed, dirty and aged.
“It’s the only address I have of hers,” she says when I don’t respond.
“It’s quite old,” I point out and hand it back to her. “Have you considered she might not even reside there anymore? In this time and age, people move all the time.”
She strokes her Aunt’s calligraphy on the envelope with her fingertips before she returns it to her pocket for safekeeping. “I have to at least try. She may be the only family I have left.”
“What about your mother?” I wonder. “What does she have to say about this endeavor of yours?”
Her body stiffens. There’s a sadness forming on her face and fear in the depths of her eyes. I don’t understand her sudden mood change yet.
“She’s…gone,” she answers in a low voice and glances out at her friend. “Emma’s all I have left.”
We stand in silence without making eye contact. There’s no real way to say I’m sorry for her loss. My condolences won’t make her mother rise from the grave.
“What about you?” She breaks our deafening silence. “Do you have a family?”
I have a family. Every angel is my family and, by extension, mankind is too. We were all created by the same Heavenly Father. The Archangels, my brethren, and I are the closest since we all were created for the same purpose. I’ve stood side-by-side with them through war and peace since the dawn of time.
“I have three brothers and three sisters.”
She nods and hops onto one of the old washers to sit. “Where are they?”
“I can’t be sure,” I say, and lean against a dryer across from her. I gaze down at the dust build up on the dryer. Absently, I wipe at the dust with my hand. “The day of the battle, some of them were killed. Some returned to the Heavens. Others, like myself, separated and went into hiding on Earth.”
“I didn’t know,” she says in a low, apologetic tone. “I just thought for the longest time that they, your kind, abandoned us.”
There isn’t a clear way to tell her all of what happened that day, yet I feel an obligation to tell her something. I hold her gaze as I speak. “We never gave up on mankind. Unforeseen events unfolded. We had to make a choice.”
Samael, the Angel of Death’s face materializes in my mind. The sadistic grin on his face as he slaughters his brothers, the three horsemen, never fades from my memory. How the blood splatters across his face as he takes their lives twists my stomach into knots. It’s a memory I can’t erase. I can’t forget as much as I try.
Emma opens the door and pops in. “Diana, I need your help with the meat. I can’t tell if it’s done or not.”
“I’ll be right back,” Diana tells me and hops off the washer.
I watch them walk outside.
There’s no way they’ll make it across the territory borders, I know. The border into Pennsylvania, in the Plain Lands, is heavily guarded by demons. If they cross that border the demons will catch them. The sentence for an illegal crossing into another territory, especially into the ungoverned Plain Lands, is execution. If the demons discover Diana’s a Nephilim I fear her fate. Certainly, it’ll be a fate worse than a quick death.
What can I do? Explaining the dangers to them won’t stop them. I can’t force them to stay. How can I protect them? I wonder and already know the answer. I have to go with them.
“I have an offer to make you,” I tell her ominously.
One of her dark eyebrows raise as she stares at me suspiciously. “What kind of offer?”
“A proposal, really,” I explain. “The border is crawling with demons. The demons from the other night are still searching for you. I’m offering to go with Emma and you across the border and help you find your Aunt. You can think of me as your personal bodyguard. In return, I want you to let me train you.”
“Why?” She wonders. I open my mouth to answer, but she rolls her eyes. “I know, I know. We’re stronger together than apart. I got it.”
“Precisely,” I say with a smile.
“What do you want to train me for?” She asks and crosses her arms over her chest. “Do you expect to run into trouble soon?”
I stand straight and approach her slowly. “I came back here to find my brethren, so we can right the wrong we made eighteen years ago by going into hiding like cowards. Because of my kind, humanity has suffered. We’ve kept to the shadows for too long. It’s time we make our stand.”
“I get all of that,” Diana unfolds her arms. “But what does any of it have to do with you training me?”
Sighing, I rest my hand beside her leg on the washer. “There’s a war coming, Diana. I can’t say there are many Angels left on Earth. We’ll need all of ones we can find.”
Her eyes round slightly as she realizes what I’m suggesting. “No. I’m not an Angel. This isn’t my fight.”
“Yes, it is,” I correct her. “You’re half-angel. Whether you like it or not, you were born into this war. The demons will come after you whether you fight on our side or not. At the very least, you need to be able to protect yourself. Let me train you.”
I’m right. She can see this much as she bites her lower lip. “Okay,” she agrees. “I accept your offer, but I’m not promising anything. What you’re asking me to do I have to think about.”
“That’s all that I ask of you.” I move away from her and return to my former position by the dryer. “Consider what I’ve said.”
The rest of the day is rather mundane.
When the sun begins to set, they get ready for sleep. Emma lays in the small room on a blanket. She rests her head on a pillow and pulls another blanket up to her head. Diana lays next to her.
“I can make a place for you to sleep for the night,” Diana offers.
Rest is a luxury I can’t possibly afford.
“No, thank you,” I decline. “I’m going to go patrol. You get some sleep. Besides, Angels hardly ever rest.”
Chapter Six: South (Raphael’s Point of View)
Patrol turns up no threats. I return to the laundromat and lock the door before I pull the metal guards all the way down to the floor. Making my way to the back room, I turn off the lights. The faint perfume of laundry detergent, dust, and pine sol linger in the air as I make my way down a row of dryers and washers.
Diana and Emma are fast asleep on the floor when I enter. I lean against the wall and watch them sleeping. The only sounds in the night is their breathing. Time passes and I slide down the wall. Sitting on the cold floor, I place my sword on the floor beside me.
Quietness gives me time to think and reflect. I wonder how the world would be today if we had won that day. If the prophecy had played out the way it was supposed to, if evil would’ve been defeated. The Earth would’ve been healed and made anew. Why did it have to go this way? I question myself.
The day of the battle replays in my head now. A memory I return to often with no questions answered. I recall how it all went south.
The sky recedes and glows with a blinding light as the Heavens open. Below, a crevasse splits open wide on the Earth’s surface. Demons follow their formidable master out of the abyss and onto the surface.
Michael with a pure heart and unwavering love for mankind leads the Heavenly Father’s Army of Angels out of the Heavens and into battle. A battle that’ll decide the fate of mankind.
Soaring down to Earth, I pull up and land solidly on my feet with my sword in hand burning. My former brethren, the fallen angels, lead their demons towards us. There’s an electric feeling of anticipation and determination in the air around us. Legions of angels collide with the swarm of demons. I position myself near the other Archangels, so we can destroy any Archdemons who try to stop Michael from fulfilling his destiny. We have to ensure Michael will defeat Lucifer and lift the curse from all of mankind.
The struggle tips in favor of darkness in the midst of the battle as I see Samael fighting on Lucifer’s side. He destroys my sisters and brothers without remorse. Yesterday, he was my brother in arms, but today he stands beside the enemy loyally. His betrayal astounds me. No one saw this coming.
The prophecy, thought for so long to be the only outcome, changes. I look around and see my brethren falling one by one, left and right, by the hands of demons. Grief and hate consumes me as I feel more of my brother and my sisters being stripped from the light. I destroy as many of the abominations as possible.
A demon attacks me. We fight until he stops and gazes upward. I follow his gaze and look up toward the darkened sky. Oh, mercy! I see it.
The gates of Heaven are closing.
Lucifer, followed by his Archdemons, fly up towards the closing gates. They’re too late. The Heavens are sealed off. The crevasse in the Earth gone.
“Run. Hide. Don’t return until you hear my call.” Michael orders in all of the minds of the angels. “Go now! Be well, my brothers and sisters.”
I depart from the battle and separate from the others. I’m lost. I know that until the gates of Heaven open again I’m earthbound.