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she looks in the mirror and wonders about the divine, but not too hard, in case the mirror cracks or lightning strikes her dead. maybe if she believed in the unreality of things, she would be able to see the reality more clearly. maybe.
her eyes are hazel and green, or maybe blue. the eyes are strange to themselves, because they never look directly upon themselves. they can see each other only in a mirror. reality leaps upon the unsuspecting. imagination mirrors truth. fantasy reflects fact.
she stares into her own foreign gaze in the mirror, and wonders about God.
This is the city of angels,
she starts. But they already know that story, and they have no wish to hear it again.
Tell us a different one,
they clamor, beating their feathered wings until dappled grey clouds of down start to irritate. And so she tells them.
This is the city of demons,
she says. They listen avidly, and if they had hearts, they might feel a tug of sorrow.
But as they have neither hearts nor sorrow, it falls to her to remember and ache.
Once they were angels; they never meant to Fall,
she says. And cries.
The night begins as it always does, with the soft brush of moonlight on his face, like an angel's wing. There is no pause when he wakes, no slow slide from sleep into wakefulness. It is a habit left over from his years at War.
He climbs out of bed, stretching until he brushes the ceiling and the walls with his nails. Claws. His brilliant eyes cast haunted shadows on the wall, dark on black, and they dance when he blinks. The whole night lies before him. Pure hope.
Until the fair demons of dawn drive him back to darkness.
It isn't hard to fall in love with a demon. He has perfect cheekbones and brilliantly bright eyes. He has a wicked streak a mile wide, but he only ever tempts you into the things you've always wanted to do anyway. Curse at your parents. Drink until you pass out in his arms.
It isn't hard to love him, either. Because in his eyes, you can see something broken, something that reminds you of yourself. It makes you remember all the happy memories that you never made. Broken and lost, but better than nothing. Pieces of your fall from grace.
Who has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner who needed it most?
He is called Satan, the Adversary, Old Nick, whose great flaw was that of arrogance. Before the dawn of time he fell from grace. It was Divine Will, but that doesn't make it any less grave.
Not one heart in countless centuries has shown him a single scrap of mercy.
He misses Heaven, though. He misses Heaven with such a fierce longing, that sometimes he thinks it might be worth it to give up his rulership -- if they would only let him back in.
Her father was not a good man, nor a handsome one, but he was intelligent, and she loved him as any child loves her parents -- absolutely and with devotion. He knew eveything, she thought, and he always answered her curiosity patiently. He was her hero; she never quite forgot that.
But she did grow up.
What could she do when she discovered that he had been a demon all along? She couldn't argue with it, for she had felt his blithe wickedness in her veins. But she had loved him, hadn't she?
This was his legacy, then: love and doubt.
He was just a child, but there was a lot of grown-up in him, and so he seemed to be old. It happened by chance when he was a baby -- there was some maturity floating around, he was pushed in, and it stuck -- but it messed up his whole life.
Imagine, if you will, a life without a childhood, who has never learned to run for the sheer joy of it or play hide and seek. Imagine a life that has never been carefree.
He knows what eternity feels like, and he knows that this is how demons are made.
In all her six-thousand years, she has never missed a single rising of the Morningstar.
Some would call it grief or hope; she knows that it's nothing but memorial.
People call her Angela, and they think nothing of it -- the days when such a name really meant something are long past.
Many things have passed since she was first made, and she could remember them all -- if she tried.
She doesn't have all her memories hanging over her head, day-in and day-out, and for that small favor, she praises God.
Some things even an angel's grace is hard-pressed to forgive.
She hadn't known it would be like this. Six thousand years ago, when she woke up divine, she hadn't known that the world would become so blind, so callous.
No good deed goes unpunished.
She remembers when that was a laughable idea, but now she also remembers being shot for healing some kid behind a church.
They gave her a female body after
Things that would once have been called miracles are brushed off as mind games and manipulation.
Sometimes, she wonders why humans don't believe in the divine any more.
Sometimes, it's a wonder they ever did.
For millennia, he has guarded this gate. He has almost forgotten that there is an enire world beyond the smooth horizon, so long has he stood here at his post.
Once, two frightened creatures scampered past him and out into the barren wasteland, but nothing else notable has happened in all his time here. He suspects that nothing interesting
happen, ever again, since no one lives here any longer -- well, there are the animals, but they aren't exactly sterling conversationalists.
It's very lonely.
But he trusts his Father, and he never thinks to wonder if he has been forgotten.
She went out to the barren waste, because a demon was in her soul....
She has never liked Lucifer. He always makes her feel his inferior in all things. But she knows that he makes everyone feel that way, and so she blatantly ignores it.
Slaughter amuses him; he treats her children as though they are expendable, nothing more than pawns in his cosmic -- and yet somehow petty -- game of chess.
She wouldn't let her children follow him, if she was able to forbid it.
But that's what makes her blood so remarkable, isn't it... the ability to choose Death.
He remembers the hands of his Creator -- strong, capable hands that were accustomed to the work of Making.
They weren't smooth hands, nor were they rough enough to catch on his scales, but they left warm trails of life wherever they passed.
He was Made to be a bringer of good news and protector for the winged ones. He was a good messenger, at least.
He had always been shy at guardianship, because it seemed so rude to unleash his fearsome claws on anybody who wasn't similarly armed.
His name is Ascalon, and like all dragons, he is an angel.
Azrael's wings are not white. They are dark silver, like steel; the same metallic shade as his sacred sword of office. He is God's Destruction, the End of All Things.
Once, his wings had been white, and he'd been just another admirer of the Divine Creation.
He misses that time, before his world became one of blood and ruin, before he learned that everything -- even cities -- can weep.
Even the Fallen can weep.
These days, Azrael can look at nothing without seeing it spattered with the blood of evertyhing he's destroyed -- all the more tragic for having once been beautiful.
We are not human. Humans have free-will and imagination to carry them through their short lives. They are changeable creatures, exactly opposite our kind.
We are angels and demons; we are the first children of the world and, in our way, more than human. We control the heavens and the underworld; we rule the Unseen.
But we are less than human, also, for we are only dust and divinity, unchanging and baffled by the ways of Earth.
An Earth that no longer reveres us.
We have seen the Beginning, but it seems we shall not live to see the End.
His practice of sacrificing demons by baptizing them in holy water makes even the seraphim uneasy. It seems unnecessarily cruel to submerge demons in what amounts to boiling acid. But he has not Fallen, so it must be Righteous.
He does it for Love.
The word sacrifice means "to make sacred", so baptism is, in a way, a rite of sacrifice. And when a demon is innundated in holy water, it is sacrifice in every sense, destruction but also freedom from sin.
He blesses all demons that die at his hands, commending them to Heaven, that they might live again.
Above their heads, the vast expanse of firmament covers the world firmly, a heavenly saran-wrap over the fruit salad of humanity, but they don't look up.
They have eyes for nothing but each other -- and being in love is only part of the reason for it.
Monia is afraid that if she looks down, she will see all the fires of her home burning just for her.
Deo fears that if he takes his eyes from her reptilian gaze, he'll see his world falling to pieces at her shoulder.
They're in love, and all they want is to be happy.
This is the Dance of Joy.
Her veils fly out around her, like mists or wings; the others look on, mesmerized, not by her beauty, for they have all seen steps more fabulous and more aesthetic. But they are drawn by the holiness of it, for she dances with true Grace, the sort of light-heartedness and -footedness that speaks to the followers of the Old Gods and the New Gods and the One God all the same.
She dances to the music of the Earth living and dying, and in their hearts, they hear the divine lyrics:
Hope. Love. Believe.
Whenever Gabriel ventures down to Earth on some errand, he gets an uncomfortable ache, right in his guts, as though mortality were a sort of contagious stomach-flu that only afffects one on Earth.
The first time it happened, he thought it was the effect of sin on his sensitive divine form. But over the millennia, he's inferred that it isn't sin that makes his viscera churn; it's humans.
They'd be greater than angels if they only learned to love -- really Love -- one another. Instead they look on him in awe, bringing him as close to guilt as he's ever been.
They are called Angel Killers by the few outsiders who know that they exist, but this is a misnomer, for angels are immortal. But they do Hunt.
They gather together, combining their wiles and cunning, and they conspire to Fell an angel.
Their plots are deft, farsighted -- decades are nothing to them -- and they never fail.
Outsiders would be surprised that they do not enjoy their Hunts, but the truth is, they act not out of malice, but out of a need to prove that they are not alone.
They call themselves the Strays, or Ravens, but
You can find angels in the oddest places.
In the walls of your home, for example. Little angels live in the walls of all happy homes.
Little in power that is, not physically small ones -- that would be daft. Angels only come in one size, and that size is larger than life.
What do you mean 'How do they fit in the walls then'? They don't live between your walls in reality, do they. It's just a whatsit... figure of speech.
The angels are
, of course, they just don't operate in Reality. They're above all that stuff-- they're
Rafael knows too much about sacrifice to believe that it truly makes things holy. He has seen the bloody doorposts, the stained altars, the leavings of crusades, and it all seems more wretched than sacred.
It was a relief when the Lord declared there would be no more blood sacrifices, even though it came at the cost of a
sacrifice, one that was felt across Heaven.
Now sacrifices are small, of the material world or of sentiment, and though they aren't as gory, there's still something missing.
Trust, he thinks it is; he's seen people give everything except themselves.
The face of her lover was cold under her touch, and for once, she was not the cause. She traced the lips and jaw that she knew by heart, that she could identify by touch out of a million others.
She wished that she had been there, to hold him when Azrael came, to stand beside him, and to tell the Angel of Death to be gentle.
She thought of his soul among the heavenly host, trying to sing in his off-key tones.
The next day, Hell was short one demon, and a church short one glass of holy water.
He has been assigned to earth for millenna, but the changing of the seasons never ceases to amaze him.
There are no seasons in Heaven, to spare its inhabitants the cold winds of winter and the burning sun of summer.
Sometimes, he misses the perpetually divine weather Up There, but mostly he is intrigued by how well humans have adapted to the turning seasons, and how perfectly the Hand of God modulates nature's tones.
is why some preach the Gospel of the Forest. Profane and crude though it is, he understands now why humans so in love their Earth.
It's difficult to understand the true nature of loneliness in one mortal lifetime, but it's not so hard when one has been alive, in one form or another, since the Start.
Lucifer remembers the first morning, before the sun, when the divine light of countless new angels illuminated everything. His light was the brightest of all.
He remembers that, in Heaven, God's love filled his heart, until there was no room for loneliness.
But now, Lucifer stands apart, in his father's shadow, with agony in his heart, remembering that no one reached out to help him up after he Fell.
An alabaster angel guards this cemetery.
The boy is very young -- too young to know that this place is the domain of the Dead. But perhaps he senses it, for he steps carefully, with his head bowed, as he makes his way across the graveyard to sit in the lee of the stone wall.
He is solemn; silence is his only protection. (Once, he had parents to do that, but they are long gone by now).
Night slips gently over the headstones, and he looks warily out across the stones, watching not for angry ghosts, but for pale stone wings.
They say that demons do not know love, but this is a lie.
Of course demons know love; how else would they be effective in working against it? Not that they all know how to love -- most of them are entirely out of practice and proud of it -- but they certainly know how love works, and why people think it's so wonderous.
Demons don't believe in Perfect Love, and why should they?
A Love like that would mean that someone out there cares about them -- really cares -- but no one has, since the Fall. No one prays for
The Devil has eyes that shine every shade of grey. They should be pure black, infernal fire performing a contorted dance in the depths of his pupils, but they are not.
Lucifer's eyes are a scintillating dove-and-ocean grey. The whites are the palest grey of spring clouds before a rainbow. The charcoal of his pupils is unburnt, untouched by any flame, infernal or otherwise.
Here is the secret: there are as many truths in darkness as in light. Once Satan was an angel. But like Adam, he knew -- wanted to know -- too much.
Here is the secret: Lucifer is human.
The whetstone hisses angrily as it slides down the length of her black blade. War is coming -- she can smell it -- and this time it's going to be big.
Time was, she had a husband, a man to protect her out of love and respect for her mind, body and soul. But that was long ago; he gave her up for Truth, and although she understands that it was Right, it was a bitter blow nonetheless.
She whispers his name in time with the sibilant rhythm of the whetstone and the suffering in her heart.
He's seen -- and been amused by -- all kinds of depravity. This shouldn't faze him. And on some levels, it doesn't.
Some part of him knows that no matter what the Light tries to halt the Darkness, the Night-tide will always flow back to reclaim exactly what it lost.
But a part of him also remembers that once, he was part of the Light, and that it was good, a divine Good that had come straight from God. He thinks of the old righteousness, and feels ashamed.
The next time he checks, his black wings have shaded to grey.
This is the way the world ends...
But it doesn't matter how the world ends -- all that matters is that it
end, eventually. And Afterwards, there's a lot of nothing, only it isnít really nothing, because even nothing is something -- that's why it has a name. What's left is the absence of anything Ė light, thought, life, even words. Itís a clean slate; itís the Beginning.
And then the Infinite comes along and spins the Beginning back into history, and the universe is made, and everything keeps sliding along the twin loops of eternity.
Forever and ever, amen.
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