“Truth” (working title)
My hands started shaking as I tried to wrap my mind around the situation I was in. My eyes widened when I saw the gun he set on top of the counter. Suddenly the adrenaline rushing through my veins was blurring my memory as I tried to recall my training for events such as these. Stay calm, do what he says, push the alarm. I remembered the silent alarm button located just underneath my counter, not three inches from my hand, and I tried to calculate how much time it would take to hit it.
“Did you hear me, darlin, or are you going to make me repeat myself?” He pushed the gun closer to me.
“I-I-I-I heard you, j-j-just give me a minute.” I was flustered, and that was very evident to him, and me.
“I’ve got an idea, darlin, why don’t you come over here and we’ll let your friend get me my money.”
He reached out and grabbed my arm, pulling me across the counter. The pain was momentary as the adrenaline kicked into over drive to numb my senses. He held me close, my back to his chest, and held the gun to my head. He dragged me in front of Sarah, who was frozen in shock.
“Please Sarah!” I whispered as she widened her eyes at me and the Gunman. Her eyes flickered to her counter and I knew she was thinking the same thing I had been just a minute ago. “No!” was all I could mouth before her hand slid to punch the silent alarm.
He had seen her hit it, and as he released his hard grip on me and pointed his gun at Sarah, he pulled the trigger. My ears were ringing at the crash of the gun as I fell to the ground in front of him. He turned to point his still smoking gun in my direction, and squeezed the trigger.
It was one of those outer-body experiences you always hear about. My thought was not that he had pointed a gun and pulled the trigger at me, he had simply fired a gun. His second shot in this small town bank robbery gone terribly wrong.
I closed my eyes fiercely, preparing for the blow. When nothing happened, I slowly opened them. I was surrounded by light. A clean, white light surrounded me from every angle. It wasn’t a blinding light, but a bright, comfortable light. Light that faded everything else in the room, simply by making all the other lights insignificant. And warm! It warmed me to the core. For a brief moment, I felt what I had been searching for this morning. I felt light and airy, and… hopeful. I smiled as I realized I must be dead. My smile grew when my mind proposed I would get to see her. I was almost bouncing for the joy of seeing her face, but I tried to calm myself. I’d waited two years; I could wait a few more minutes.
Dying! It was so peaceful! But I thought I was supposed to see a slideshow of my life or something?. Well, I guess my life after her was not much of a life. So I thought about mom-memories. Ones I had been keeping locked in my heart for this moment, to relive right before I left so I wouldn’t have to deal with the pain that came with opening that room inside me.
And there she was. Us, playing dolls late into the night, way past my bed time; swinging in the park till both our legs were so tired we’d had to call dad to pick us up; coloring with crayons, inventing animals with purple fur and five horns; baking cookies and eating more of the dough than the actual cookies, and burning the ones that made it into the oven.
Tears of pure happiness flowed freely down my face. The joy of those times seemed so real now. The warmth of the light around me burned against my heart and invaded my head. Dying was easier than I had ever imagined.
A pair of hands grabbed me, jerking my memories to a stop. I was suddenly aware of another person in my warm light with me. I looked up through the tears into piercing blue eyes.
“Ben!?” I gasped as I recognized the face.
“Are you alright?” He asked me sternly.
“Did you die, too?” I murmured, feeling a smile on my face.
His face looked down at me in confusion, “What do you remember?”
I stopped at that question, too wrapped up in my plans for my newly acquired after-life and my sweet memories. I was a little upset that he’d stopped my slide show, but I closed my eyes and concentrated for him.
I remembered the Gunman, the sound of the gun being fired, and pointed in my direction. I remembered him holding me tightly, I remembered the gun being pointed at Sarah, I remembered…
“Sarah!” I cried as my eyes shot open. The light in the room began to fade, and I was in the brown bank lobby again, seated on the rough brown carpet. I tried to recall the stories people would tell on 60 minutes about dying: Bright light, check. Tunnel, well, that must be coming. Returning to the scene? Yes, that had been part of the story, but come to think of it, all of those people had almost died.
I saw the Gunman laying, unconscious it would seem, on the floor behind Ben, and I stumbled up and ran to look over the counter at Sarah. She was lying on the ground, with a big red circle in her chest. I looked down at my own shirt, white as it had been when I put it on. All the hope and joy I had felt dissolved as I supposed I would have to wait longer for a reunion. I cringed at the thought of the pain the memories I unlocked would be causing me tonight.
“Oh no!” I gasped as I realized that I wasn’t dead. “Ben, we have to call an ambulance!” I turned to look at him with tears already starting to swell again, half for Sarah, half for my mom.
Then I looked at him.
He was standing in the middle of the dreary bank lobby, but there was absolutely nothing dreary about the creature that stood in front of me.
He was tall, muscular, just like I had supposed in English, but it was much easier to see now with his light gray shirt in rags around him. His skin shimmered softly, almost golden, and drew my attention to what had stopped me in my tracks to begin with: Two brilliant feathery limbs extended behind him, with pieces of the shirt on them as well. They seemed to radiate light themselves. His arms extended to fists at his side, and his head was downcast, throwing his shaggy blonde hair in front of his eyes.
His…wings… were pulsing with each heavy breath he took.
“Ben?” I said meekly, and he peered at me from under his hair. “W-w-what ARE you!?”
That was the wrong thing to say. He turned a pale pink, and quickly began to pick up the shards of shirt that were around him as his huge wings shrunk and disappeared. He turned his back on me and I saw two white pieces slip beneath his skin, then leave nothing but his creamy, muscled back behind.
“I’m sorry.” He mumbled and ran to the door.
“Wait!” I yelled and ran after him.
I followed him outside and reached out, about to grab his bare shoulder when I found myself suddenly in the air. Gushes of wind ripped over me and I fell onto gravel. I saw that I was on the roof of the bank. The only other time I had been up here was when Sarah had taken an extra smoke break and I’d had to find her. But I’d used the stairs that time.
I frantically looked around and saw Ben standing, about five feet away, with a large man holding him. This man had his hands on either side of Ben’s shoulders, restraining him. He was tall, and had light tan skin tone, with jet black hair flowing to his shoulders. He was wearing a simple white skirt, leaving his chest bare, showing he was muscular like Ben, but much more. And, just like Ben, he had two huge wings shadowing him. But if he and Ben were over there, then whose fire-hot hand was around me now?
I stared up into soft black eyes. The man let me go, and I stumbled toward Ben, whose captor also released him. They both walked to meet each other across from us, as their huge white wings disappeared behind them. Ben wrapped his arms protectively around me, and I put my hand on the small of his back. His skin burned under my hand and around my shoulders. A bit, a tiny bit, of my dissolved hope began to resurface around my heart, and I nervously kept it at bay.
We faced them, these strange winged creatures. They looked so similar I would never have known which had been holding me and which had been holding Ben; expect the one holding me was carrying something. It was a long scepter, gold and shiny. On the top of it, where a king would have put an emblem or a jewel, there was a small ball of white light.
“Benjamin!” His voice bellowed in sweet cadence, “What a delight, I am Irieal, and this is my second, Haroot.” He motioned to the man who had been holding Ben with his scepter. “We were friends of your father, before…” His voice trailed off, but he picked right back up, trying to cover for whatever secret he didn’t want to speak about. “How is your father?” His eyes, still soft, were now speculating.
I looked up at Ben, his face hard and unreadable.
“I, I never knew my father.” There was strain and panic in his song.
I gawked at him. So there must have been some truth to the rumors. I still could not figure out why anyone would give up a son with Ben’s features.
The second man, Haroot, spoke, “Never knew him? Then how…?!”
“Quiet Haroot!” Irieal commanded and my knees shook with the authority in his voice. “It seems Benjamin has keen instincts.” He looked over Ben thoughtfully, “Yes. Well, it seems we have much to talk about!” his eyes between me and Ben.
“Sarah” I whispered to Ben, as the tears began to swell up.
“Don’t worry about your friend!” Haroot called to me, “Your authorities will be here when we leave.”
Only then did I take the moment to look around at our view atop the roof. It seemed everything around us, trees, cars, people walking on the street, were all unbelievably still. Even the wind was frozen as my eyes found a little girl frozen in mid air, jumping to catch the string of her pink balloon that was escaping. I gasped at the impossibility of this: me, cradled by a beautiful, winged boy standing in front of two authoritative winged men, while the world below us was caught in time.
“So would you like to know, Benjamin?” Irieal asked with a gleam in his eyes, “About who you are?”
Irieal looked at Ben and I for a long moment. His soft, black eyes seemed to be calculating as they intensified on me. There was a vague sense of amusement as he continued to stare at Ben, his arms still wrapped around my shoulders. The heat coming off of him was teetering on the edge of unbearable, but never made the shift. And the hope… yes, that was beginning to get harder to keep at bay, but I begrudgingly strained to do so, unwilling to cope with the loss of it… again.
Haroot, on the other hand, seemed almost nervous as he paced slowly around where the three of us had taken a seat on the gravel roof in a tight circle.
It was uncomfortable to sit like this. Now that Ben and I were closer to the same height than we had been standing next to each other, his arm weighed me down and curved my spine. It began to pulse with pain, but I was not going to let go of this magnificent boy who found it fitting to hold me, even under these tense circumstances. That I was worth something to anyone, even just to hold, made me relish in a strange happiness.
“Your father’s name was Armaros,” Irieal began in a voice thick with an ancient spirit, “He was an Archangel…once…and very knowledgeable about the moon and dreams. Then, after the fall, he replaced his title with that of ‘Watcher’.”
Haroot hissed behind me and threw chills down my spine.
“A-a-angel?” Ben whispered, with his eyes fixed on an unknown point on the ground.
“Well, yes. I mean…surely you…have you heard nothing?!” Irieal sputtered, while anger flashed across his gentle face.
“I…It all started a few month ago. I didn’t know what was going on, what was wrong with me. I woke up one night covered in sweat, and when I sat up, my….wings,” he grimaced at the word, “opened before I knew I was awake.” He half-smiled, “I almost broke my window when I tried to stand up.
“But I knew I had to hide it from my par- from my foster parents. I was afraid they would get rid of me. I’d be…spoiled in some way.” He whispered that last line, and I didn’t have to look in his face to know he was flush with embarrassment. He muttered something under his breath, and I couldn’t be sure, but it sounded like “Even more unwanted.”
“Oh my.” Irieal exclaimed as he got up to take Haroot’s place (who was as frozen as the world around us with a look of fear stuck on his tan face) pacing around the roof.
“To change… with no guidance…even for a…it’s barbaric!” He muttered as he eagerly rubbed two fingers on his pointed chin.
Suddenly Ben jumped up, fists at his side, “Will you please just TELL ME!?”
I gasped as his chest shuddered once, his wings extending from behind him, and I took him all in: The glowing nature of his skin shimmering in the frozen sunbeams, his wings panting with his breathing, stretched out twice as long as he was tall. I gasped a second time at the beauty of him.
He looked at me apologetically, and with some other emotion behind his eyes. Embarrassment? What could he have to be…
“Just calm down Benjamin,” Irieal was standing, halted by Ben’s outburst, not far from where he’d started. As command broke into my thoughts I felt compelled, as well, to calm myself. “I will explain everything-“
“Then start at the top: What AM I?” Ben glared at him.
Irieal looked down into his hands, took a deep breath, and comliped.“You’re half angel, half human. We call them ‘Nephalims’”
Ben thought about that for a moment, nodding his head just slightly, and then asked another. “Who were my parents?”
“As I said, you’re father was Armaros, powerful among the ranks, before the fall that is. Now he is a Watcher for the Fallen. You do know the story of the fall right?” Irieal looked at Ben with speculation.
“You mean the devil? That he turned against God and took a third of the angels with him?”
“Well, finally you know something!” Irieal chuckled, and quickly continued when Ben intensified his glare. “Yes, Lucifer was The Lord’s favorite Archangel, and His most beautiful. He was put in charge of many other angels and that power began to eat at him. We’ll never know quite was the thought process was that led to the battle, but we do know the end goal: To be like The Almighty.” Irieal’s voice was ominous and filled with hatred. I shuddered at his words.
“When the battle began, we were all in shock. How he had gotten so many of our brothers and sisters to join him….!” He trailed off, lost in his memories. He looked up at Ben with watery eyes. Ben had calmed down and allowed his wings to fold up behind him, but not disappear. He nodded at Irieal in understanding and sorrow.
Irieal continued, “Well, The Righteous One did not let it continue for long. He sent Lucifer and his followers away, to a place unknown to even us remaining Faithful. But that is where your father comes in. Armaros is a Fallen.” Irieal’s voice lighted a little bit, and gained a sharp edge to it. “He and the other Watchers enjoy seducing Humans and breeding with them. When they succeed,” He motioned at Ben, “You get Nephalims. Half-breeds.”
“I’m… I’m an angel?” Ben asked.
“HA!” Haroot scoffed from across the roof. I whipped my head around, unaware he had wandered so far away.
“Half angel.” Irieal corrected. “You have the wings yes, but you have no training! It’s really just an inconvenience to you, I suppose.”
“So, you are Full angel?” Ben questioned, with a hint of annoyance at Irieal’s patronizing.
Irieal just laughed “Yes, I suppose you could say that. We prefer to go by titles. Haroot and I are Dominions. There are three levels of angels, and different titles within each level, and different jobs. You might have heard stories of humans seeing angels? Well, those were mere Angels, in rare cases Archangels. They are the lower ranking, and there are titles and jobs all the way up to the Sephaim and Cherubim!”
“You will never see them!” Haroot snickered, closer to our circle now.
“And what,” Ben paused, bubbling with irritation, “is your job?”
Irieal peered at him from beneath his black flowing hair, eyes harder now.
“To take care of law breakers,” he lowered his voice, sinister with implication, “like you.”
My eyes widened, and I looked at Ben, who’s face was not what I expected. I thought he’d be violent at this point, ready to fight with these presuming and antagonizing men, er, Dominions. They had provoked him out right, and Ben just stood there, wings completely disappeared, nodding his head, eyes down.
“But, “ Irieal’s voice was lighter now, almost regretful “I guess you cannot break the law, when you do not know the law. HE would not approve.” The way he stressed that word made it evident that Irieal would greatly approve.
“So what, are we going to educate the half-breed?” Haroot asked, as if he were speaking about a dog.
I was enraged. How could they be talking about Ben like this? Could they not see the beautiful creature I did, this boy that would not lift a finger even when they deserved it? How could angels be so discriminating?
“I do not think education is nessecary. We’ve told him all he needs to know.” Irieal’s tone was calm and sooth. “Except,” He glanced at me, then looked back at Ben, eyes hardened in his soft face. “the punishment.”
“Punishment? You just acknowledged I was free from your law!” Ben was getting annoyed again at the Dominions’ half-truths. I couldn’t blame him.
“Well, there is only one law you need to know about, half-breed.” Irieal’s voice was lathered in irritation. “Humans are not to know about us.” He nodded in my direction. “We only make ourselves known in rare circumstances, and only when approved by The King. When things like this happen, that is when we come in, take care of things, and dispose of the offender. Destroy them if a fight leads to that.”
I looked over at Ben, his eyes intently focused on the floor at his feet. His arms were crossed on his chest, but he was not breathing heavily anymore. I couldn’t tell if he had decided to accept their terms or if he was preparing for a fight.
I was suddenly all to aware of my heart, beating erratically in my chest, and I looked straight down. I did not want this at all! The terror of these past few minutes (though time was not a factor, us being stuck in it as we were) became over shadowed while I had been in his arms. The hope, the joy, the intense happiness I felt there. It was like my shades of gray were a bright prism, refracting the light he put off, breaking into colors in my soul. It had been two years since I felt that kind of comfort, and, though I couldn’t be sure if it was him or the lack of it for so long, this hope felt stronger. At least I could put my hands on it, look it in the face. Breath the air around it. It was so real.
Yet I felt deep in my stomach that this could not last. The kind of perfection was saved for those who had earned it. Those that took the pain life gave them, and broke past it. The kinds of people who were not easily broken, and, if they had been broken, put themselves back together, instead of waiting for angels to do it.
“You wish to fight?” Ben’s voice broke through, and I looked at him and noticed I had fresh tears in my eyes.
“No! No, there need not be violence.” Irieal shook his head as he spoke. “We will deal with the girl if you agree to our law.”
Ben looked at me with fear. Why fear? Irieal said he was going to be fine. “What do you mean, ‘deal’?”
“We will take care of her memory of the event. No harm.” Irieal looked pleased, and extended his hand to Ben.
Ben walked toward him cautiously. He extended his hand, stopped a few inches short of reaching him, and then, in 3 long strides, picked me off the roof’s ground and embraced me.
I sighed heavily as the pressure took all the air out of my lungs. His bare chest pressed firmly to my body. The warmth greeted my skin, and the colors broke through my soul again. I smiled as they radiated and bounced off the caverns of my broken heart. In one breath, I tasted the sweetness of his skin, and felt a jolt inside my chest. My eyes watered unreasonably, and I closed them tight, forcing this moment to last longer. A strange giggle strained to burst out, but I stifled it, afraid to break the silence.
He let go of me too soon, but allowed his hand to find mine and squeeze. I opened my eyes and stared for half a heartbeat into his soft, watery blues.
He slowly walked over to Irieal and shook his hand, then turned his back to me.
I looked after him for a few seconds, my mind trying to cope with the fact that he was not holding me, though his warmth lingered.
Irieal walked towards me now. My heart skipped.
“Just breath, and sleep.” He began. He started to say something else, but my vision was starting to go dark. I wondered if time had continued and jumped ahead to make up for our lengthy use of this moment. I looked up at the sun to test my theory, as my body went limp.