A/N: I’m going into the Vaults again to post a story I wrote when I was eighteen. (And look at that, it fit this month’s prompt. Also, I might have a thing for Lucifer and fallen angels in general.) It’s heavily influenced by Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and Todd McFarlane’s “Spawn” comic featuring the angel Angela — like I totes stole her name. All grammatical and spelling errors have been preserved for posterity … and hilarity.
Angel in Perdition
I bring death on silent wings and turn the hearts of mortals away from the light. I am Nathus of the First Breed. But I have not come to talk of men … I have come to talk of ‘The Battle’ and the small part I play. This ‘Battle’ has been fought for ages. No one ever claims victory, if that happened, this senseless violence would have ended long ago.
I’m sure you know of the angel’s fall to his own domain, if not, become educated. I was a witness to those final moments. The ‘silent watcher’, always the silent watcher. As I saw the events unfold before me, I rationalized both of the arguments. His way was the pure and good way, but Lucifer’s arguments puzzled me. I found myself being lured into his illusions. When I followed him into those dark caverns, it was I whose outward appearance had changed monsterous. Lucifer became even more beautiful than any of the other angels who had stayed in heaven.
I had been an admired angel in my own right, but now I was feared by all above. My new body ripped through the old one and my hands grew long, scaly, and clawed. My back burst and two giant wings cracked through the surface. My face became elongated and my eyes burned. When I awoke from the lessening of pain, I could bearly recognize the reflection that stood before me. I was now a hideous red-eyed dragon. My skin was a dark muted green. Maybe I was majestic and beautiful in the eyes of mortals, but to my own eyes I was repulsive and dark.
The vulture’s claws scrape my arms like fire and find purchase on the grit of stone. There is a moment where all is quiet, and only the lush fall of wings breaks the silence. Their talons are made to dig deep, and they do. Small chunks of rock splinter off my shoulders like glass and if I could bleed I would be. The missing pieces burn like raw nerves. At least I know they can’t take stone Underground.
Salem glows a little in the fog down below. The Vulture’s wingspan can’t quite drown him out. His brightness is good, they’ll have trouble pulling him down with the energy he’s got. It buys me time. Salem flails, all fists and elbows, as if his suggestions of arms will make a dent in a Vulture. They won’t. His visage flickers like it’s not getting a signal, and I know it’s the pull of the Underground already stealing the tiny bits of his soul.
I look back to the church. Derik watches, and I know this is my test. Salem hangs in the balance. My skin still burns where his own brushed it.
This Vulture that holds me has made a mistake. They never grab us, mostly because we’re heavy but also because we bite. There’s something like venom in us, but we have to be strategic about it. My eyes pan below me, and the Vulture wheels for a crop of trees just as Salem reaches the church. He’ll be safe in there, but much less on the other side. Even if he sprints to the Gate, he’s an easy target if I don’t get out of the sky to cover him.
I stroll down the halls. Detention starts at 4 o’clock, but I don’t want to be early. Or on time. Or even five minutes late. Those times say, “I’m trying.” My locker is gray and bland. I dump the books and papers I’ve collected today inside. A few sheets slip between the cracks and down into the locker below. No reason bringing homework home that I have no intention of completing anyway.
This hallway has no windows, but I feel eyes on me. The hairs on my arms stand on end. I worry the ring on my thumb before slamming my locker door shut. The metallic boom echoes down the empty corridor. There isn’t a student or a teacher in sight. Guess no one wants to be here longer than they have to. The heavy tread of my boots thumps in time to the beat of my heart. I hum the summer’s one-hit wonder and follow my mental map of the school.
A half set of stairs leads down to the Science wing. The temperature drops by ten degrees and the skin on my arms prickles in response. They must keep it cooler down here for health reasons or they lack the funding for fridges. They better have protective clothing. No way I’m dissecting shit and getting formaldehyde all over my vintage 1990-era Screaming Trees threads. The shirt was dad’s … before the accident.
I push past the double-swinging-doors labeled “Dissection Lab – Beware” and find myself in a large room filled from floor to ceiling in stainless steel appliances, tables, cabinets, and flickering fluorescent lights. If I didn’t know better, I’d believe I’d stepped into a morgue. Imagined eyes sweep over me. I ignore the way my skin crawls because the room is as empty as my dad’s spot at the dinner table.
The sunlight plays mockingly under the door to our hut. I squeeze my seanair’s hand, but he does not return the gesture. I have failed him. I have lost count of the times I have tried to watch over him through the night to keep him safe from the evil that would take him from me, but every night I fail. I want to say the words that would bring forgiveness, but my mouth is dry and empty. I stand and rub the tear-salted crust from my eyes and brush the dirt from my kirtle. I am slow in my movements and linger at the fire.
The First Night…
I bury my seanair’s sword under the door. The iron blade heavy and cold when I put it into the ground and claw the dirt back over it. I pat the mound until it is flat. It leaves my nails black and I go to the river to clean myself before my seanair comes home for dinner.
But we had seen the bean-nighe that morning, washing my seanair’s blood soaked shirt in the same death-cold river that cleans the black from my white fingers. In the evening, as the darkness encloses our home, the wind carries her scream through the cracks in the stone.
“It’ll be witchcraft, Eithne,” he warns in hushed tones as we sit with our trenchers.
Decker is tugging on my arm. His dark eyes are so wide the whites show all around.
“Calm down.” I peel his fingers from my sleeve. “It’s just for a look.”
I touch the spot on my forehead where he hit me with a rock when he first saw me. It’s stopped bleeding, but it smarts. Instead of apologizing, he told me it made me look less naff.
Decker kicks at a chunk of brick. He looks up and away, into the gray sky. There used to be towers and high rises blocking the view here, but they’ve all been turned to rubble. When he sniffs and rubs his face on his sleeve, it leaves streaks in the dust on his skin.
I jerk awake in the passenger seat, bang my head against the window glass, then wipe the back of my hand across my mouth. Mmm, drool.
“We’re here,” Mom says. Her hands are like the tiny tremors of a Hollywood Chihuahua. “This is the last one, young lady. Do you hear me?”
Uh oh. She used “young lady,” as if I want to be one of those, along with “do-you-hear-me” when she knows perfectly well I hear her. She’s the only thing I’ve been able to hear during my summer-long grounding. And her voice? It’s about as interesting as those Hollywood Chihuahuas. I twist Dad’s wedding ring around my thumb, careful to keep it under the sleeve of my hoodie. Mom believes he was buried with it. Oops.
For my entire eighteen years I have known nothing but the solid grit of rock. Cast in stone for all my life, I live in the shadows of a world that knows nothing of my kind. They paint us as gargoyles. Concrete monsters, with horns and teeth. Creatures of the night, but that is not what we are. We are the gatekeepers. We safeguard the Souls drifting between the here and away. I don’t know what’s beyond this life on Earth, but I know I am to keep humans moving past it when they die.
For a rock, I have the grace of a falcon. Horns and fangs are actually feathers and skin that is all silk and slate. My perch is at the top spire of a sacred church. I was placed here because I was born here, and I’m sworn to protect the souls brought here after death.
The stone angels are more like shepherds with wings and at night, when the resting souls are vulnerable, we keep them from the Vultures who would lead them Underground to feed their kin. Like I said, I don’t know what’s beyond, but I do know what’s below. It’s no place for a Soul. So I fly, and keep my sheep safe from the darkness of a Vulture’s wing.
This night will be darker than most. Moonless and cloudy, the sky is a soup of vapor and sounds dampened by fog. My knees scrape the edge of the church’s dormer.