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Monday, November 5, 2012

Sneak Peak to The Human Side

                                                                  Chapter One

               I’d been unable to resist, even though I’d been warned time and time again to leave Etta alone. My curiosity always got the best of me, but also my fear for her. It had been over a year since I went from being a Fallen to saving Etta from Hell and getting my wings back, but I still worried another attack on her would come. At least that’s the excuse I’d tell myself when I would sneak away to watch her sleep, and that’s what I told myself tonight.

                 It had been too long since my last midnight visit to Etta’s room. Etta graduated from high school and went off to the hustle and bustle of Duke University. I only made one attempt to visit her there, but the hallways of her dormitory were crowded with drunken students. The risk of word getting back to Father that I had been sighted near her seemed far too great. So I would pop in on her father, John, from time to time to find out when Etta’s next visit to Quantico would be.

                During one of my eavesdropping sessions, I overheard the greatest news I ever imagined possible. Of course I’m being selfish. Unable to concentrate, failing class after class, Etta no longer wished to attend college. After three long grueling months, Etta and her friend Amy rented a house in Quantico Town and enrolled in the local community college, making it much easier for me to visit her more often. On occasion for reasons unknown, she’d go to John’s house just down the street to sleep in the room we once shared. That is where I found her tonight.

               Her long wavy brown hair, resembling tendrils of silk, spread out across her white cotton pillow. Her olive skin glowed in the creeping dawn’s light. The shadows of the falling snow outside the window danced on her exposed belly. Her lips glistened as small droplets of saliva ran down her cheek, pooling onto her pillow.

                As she softly exhaled, my body craved to lie beside her, if only for a second, so once more I might feel her sweet, steady breath against my skin. I hoped one day my secret prayers would be answered. Leaning forward in her uncomfortable white wicker chair next to the bed, I watched her sleep. Though Etta no longer wakes up screaming, every toss, every turn, and every little moan sent my imagination into overdrive. I know the veil closed behind me when I left, but I wondered if she ever dreamt about me. Did the CD and feather I left her ever bring up a hidden memory of our time together? If so, does she see me as I am now, or does she only see the demon I once was? Has her heart forgotten the love she professed for me? Does the heart ever truly forget?

                 I was so deep in my thoughts, Etta’s alarm startled me when it went off. Swiftly putting the chair back at her desk, I snagged my wing against the wall, chipping the sheetrock. Etta stirred as our song, “Taking Care of Business,” blasted on her clock radio, flooding me with the memory of us dancing and lip-synching in her bedroom. The way her hips moved as she sang into her hairbrush made my heart sputter like a car running out of gas, except the memory fueled me. The sound of her yawn snapped me back into the present. With Etta waking, I had no time to fix the wall. Bolting out the window, I took off toward home.

               Another close call. I was getting sloppy. I wasn’t surprised to find Michael waiting in my room when I arrived home.

               “Where have you been? No. Don’t say a word; I know where you’ve been. You can’t keep sneaking off. Rahovart, you have got to stop and let her get on with life.”

                 “I had a bad feeling so I thought I would check it out.” I wasn’t lying.

                  Arches don’t have the ability to lie per say, but the truth isn’t as black and white as one would think. We can only say how we saw it, and I’d done a good job convincing myself I was checking on her safety. At least well enough to use the excuse when questioned about my visits.

              “That’s why she has Guardians. Let them do their job, Rahovart. We need to go. Father has called us to the war room, and we’ve been waiting for you.”

              “How long has he been waiting?” Crap!

                I know Father is all-knowing, but I had hoped at this time of year he might not notice my absence. November and December were always our busiest months as we prepped for our celebrations, but the celebrations on Earth always seemed to draw out Demons in full force. With the big day fast approaching, our meetings in the war room were becoming regular. All the more reason I should have stayed home tonight.

               “Long enough that Father is not happy and growing very impatient,” Michael answered as we both tried walking out of my door at the same time. With a playful nudge, Michael attempted to push me out of the doorway.

              “Oh, you think so?” I laughed as I prodded him with my elbow, harder than he nudged me.

               “Hey, who’s the boss here?” Michael said, with a sly smile as he slid out of the door.

                 I didn’t mind that at every chance he mentioned he was now in charge of the eight Arches. I lost my position as leader when I fell and found myself on the bottom rung of the rank ladder. On the other hand, I became content with fewer responsibilities. It seemed when I had even the slightest power, I messed up, and with my aspiration of waiting for Etta, I couldn’t risk falling again. Plus it afforded me more time to confirm her safety should one of my “bad” feelings arise. I trotted up to Michael, smacking him on the back of the head. “You may be in charge, Brother, but that doesn’t mean you can take me.”

            We made the journey to the war room chasing after each other on the crowded golden streets, slap-boxing like two testosterone-filled teenage boys. I finally got Michael in a headlock when Gabriel walked out of the large arched doorway of the war room.

           “You guys better hurry up and get in here. He’s going to start without you.” Gabriel folded his arms across his chest and gave us the look a mother would give her naughty children.

            Releasing Michael from my perfectly executed headlock, I followed him into the large, round, white room and took my seat at the end of the long white desk. I once sat on the other side of this desk for my Tribunal. The thought of my former state made me shudder in disgust. I had come so close to being damned to Purgatory that day.

           “So glad you finally joined us, Rahovart.” I snapped out of my head when Father showed up in his Angelic form. I flushed with embarrassment as he glanced at me, a hint of frustration in his expression.

            “Now that everyone is here, I want to discuss with you all your duties for today. We have some Catholic priests in Miami, Florida, in need of some reminders of the commandments. Michael and Gabriel, I’m sure you can show them the errors of their ways. Raguel and Ramiel, I need you two in Portage, Michigan, to help an atheist single mother with her drug sickness. Uriel and Saraqael, you’re needed in Rothenberg, Germany, to help a Lutheran suicidal homeless man, and Raphael, I need you in Niles, Ohio, to help a homesick Mormon missionary.”

              These weren’t our usual tasks, but this time of year all ten choirs of Angels were used for more than just their normal duties. We’d all been pulling double duty for two weeks, helping people find and keep their various faiths. As everyone left for their assignments, I remained, curious why I had not been given one. The room was now silent. Father appeared deep in thought as he walked around the blinding white room with his hands behind his back and his eyes on the floor.

             “Rahovart, my son, do you believe I made a mistake?” Father asked, breaking the silence of the room. The question threw me. Father…make a mistake? What is he getting at? Is he doubting his forgiveness of me? Fear of what he might say next swept over me.

               “No, Father.” My voice quavered, revealing the uneasiness he stirred up within me.

           “Sometimes I wonder if when I created you, I gave you too big of a heart.” He stated more to himself than he did me.

             “I’ve tried to be understanding and patient with you, my son. I even looked the other way when you left Etta tokens of your affection, but your constant disobedience and sneaking around is wearing thin. I’m not sure how to get my point across to you. I’ve thought about demoting you, but I do not believe that would be severe enough to do any good.”

             My heart stopped. Severe? Since I’d been back, I’d been desperately trying to prove myself worthy of my place and his forgiveness. Was it all for nothing? Would He strip my wings from me? If I fell again, my soul wouldn’t survive long. I pissed off quite a few Demons in Hell, including Lucifer himself, when I turned sides to rescue Etta from Alastor. Etta? What about Etta? If he damned me now, I’d never have the chance to see her again, let alone have her fall in love with me again. I felt as though invisible hands clasped around my neck, squeezing the air out of my lungs. Bile rose in my throat and black dots flickered before my eyes.

           “Calm down, my son,” Father said, as if sensing my panic. He placed a hand on my shoulder and the sick feeling lifted, the cool air returning to its rightful place in my lungs.

           “I have two solutions, but the decision of which to accept is up to you. There is plenty of time to think about these choices, but remember, whatever you choose, you will be bound to it.”

          “What are the choices, Father?”

          “Your first is an exchange. Swear never to interfere with Etta’s life again, and all you have lost will be restored, including rank and principalities. If and when she returns to Heaven, her memories will be restored. Break the promise at any time for any reason, your soul shall be sent to Purgatory and Etta’s Guardians will be removed from her detail.”

         “Why would you remove her Guardians?”

           “You must learn that your choices not only affect you, but others as well. As for the second choice, go to Earth in human form with no wings, no abilities. Show Etta the same cruelty and disdain as when the Demon Rahovart met her. Etta fell in love with a Demon once. It should be quite interesting to see if she can do it again. She must profess her love without coaxing or prompting. There can be no mention of our deal or what lies beyond the veil, including who you truly are, where you come from. Fail to abide by the rules or rekindle her affections, your days shall be spent on Earth with no recollection of life beyond the veil. But, succeed, and you can return home with the added benefit of continuing your relationship with her. Visit her anytime as long as it does not interfere with work.”

           I listened intently as Father explained my options. Both carried heavy consequences if I failed to abide by their guidelines. He’d given me a life or death decision to make, but I didn’t need time to think. Without thought or question, I gave Father my answer.

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