The Council of Angels

Somewhere, deep in the primordial mists of time and space, an angel guides a weary soul along a mysterious path. As it followed Azrael, the spirit’s embrace of the cosmic mist forged uncertainty and fear in their being. No wind blew, no voices cried, indeed nothing but these two seemed to disturb the gaseous plane. Having been reduced from a body to little more than the spark of life the soul felt a keen vulnerability much like that of a freshly molted crustacean.

They began to doubt their guide and thought that they perhaps were false and indeed a kind of hallucination or Demon meant to tote them along a sisyphusian path. The hooded figure bore no face and carried them forth in impersonal silence refusing to answer any questions presented serving only the task at hand.

It was not until sometime into the vexing journey that the angel finally stayed his course and spoke:

“Now my dear friend, before I take you to our next destination I must ask you this:

Do you fear Judgement?”

The soul, embittered by Azrael’s former evasiveness and overwhelmed by such a sweeping and personal question, remained silent for a time, Death with his everlasting patience waited until the final moments when they answered in a feeble affirmative.

“I see, now, come this way.” Death said grimly.

There was a sudden flash of light, and at first, it seemed the angel of death had gone. Seven more beings had taken his place, surrounding the soul as small stars in a crescent.

The centermost, a star of pure white which flared with violent arches spoke in a thunderous voice:

“Here now sits this soul before us

Uncertain, unweighted

Let us calibrate the scales!”

Then, in turn, the stars began to speak. The first of which was Raphael who took the form of a golden sun not dissimilar from Earth’s:

“Once this soul knew faith,

Indeed in their youth

Their voices uttered prayer

Pleads for mercy and forgiveness.

Yet as youth faded

So did their resolve

And they rejected the name.”

 

Then spoke Raguel, a smoldering red ball of gas:

“In desecration they decried us!

Smote our god with contemptuous words!

Accused his laws of injustice!

Claimed in arrogance they knew better!”

 

He was followed by Gabriel a cool blue sphere:

“They took no value from life

Entranced by only taboos.

The shadows spoke to them

And this soul spoke back

Entreated their mysterious calls

Off of the narrow trail

To create their own.”

 

Ariel whose flame arced about him as mane growled:

“For a great while, they hid

The light had scorned them

Like the vampire, like the demon

It sought to smite them

To prey on them

Indeed they feared the very day.”

 

Cassiel, whose lights danced whimsically attested thus:

“Pain was your sovereign

Agony your unholy creed.

You found it and still you did not retreat

From shadow nor devil

As the cosmic clock

Trickled its way around to midnight

Further, you retreated from our sight

Charting lands forbidden

Connecting to them your road!”

 

Then Michael that silver star and the most critical of all:

“A path was laid out for man

So as to keep them from pain

Yet the soul appears to seek it

And at every pass ignored the voice

Of brother Gabriel and brother Azrael alike

Strayed deeper into the shadows

Where devils may lurk.”

The soul quivered under their might. Their judgments, their criticisms had all been heard before in another life. It suddenly felt as if they were in a nightmare, where some damnable echo chamber had formed to torment them for their iniquity. For a moment they wondered how angels could be so cruel when they were so full of grace. They wondered how the path, if so safe, is so easily strayed from. They wondered what devils might say!

Then, the last and wisest of all the council spoke:

“Now my brothers, stay your wicked tongues!

You speak with vitriol and grief for our child

Yet none of you know of hypocrisy!

You speak of their sin

As being pure iniquity

And yet you think little of consequence!”

It was the river-like voice Uriel, the bearer of all truths whose gnosis was sprung forth unto the council so as to fertilize their desolate and dreary manner of thought.

Michael then protested:

“They strayed that path,

that one route

And found shadows where the unknown lurks

They found pain on their own

And lost faith of their own.”

 

Michael’s callousness stirred Raphael and softened his heart:

“Now my brother, perhaps Truth is being fair

Never once did I look in the shadows

For this lost soul.

Never did I heal them in their abandonment!

I must ponder how many were abandoned

By my oversight my objectivity

How many damned wander

Where they do not deserve

When we so selfishly withhold our light?”

 

Raguel then intervened as a prosecutor:

“Laws are as such

And must be enforced.

Our rules were laid out for us

And no exception may be made

Not even by the almighty himself!”

 

Cassiel then returned and said:

“Now my rowdy brethren

Perhaps we have missed

Something vital here.

What is the manner of consequence?

Did this one not create, just as our Lord did?

Are we not a similar mold?

Do we forget how the spark of creation passes

from one unto the other?

They created joyous works

Of flesh and earthly materials

Did they not fulfill their duty?”

 

Raphael returned:

“Indeed, tortured as this soul may be

Wounded and crumpled

They cast not their pain unto others

No! Indeed they healed others

Comfort and solidarity,

They brought them to ease

Such as where I failed

They succeeded!

Pain turned to Empathy, the mastery of such!

It was only then that they did not suffer!”

 

Ariel then spoke:

“Indeed with strength and dignity

In the face of the tumultuous shadows

They carried forth, not prey to demons.”

Michael furious at this tumultuous argument:

“Yet was it not the same shadows

Which consumed brother Lucifer?

Is it not the mystery of shade

The mastery of pain

Which led him to cruelty

And cast him unto the pit?”

 

Uriel:

“Yet here they stand

Neither a devil nor demon’s soul in sight!

You must wonder if Lucifer fell of his own

Or if simply we thrust him below

What wonder could there have been

If our brother angel was treated as such?”

 

Michael:

“You speak blasphemy!

I will hear no more!

This has scorned us

To Hell, it goes forevermore!”

 

Raguel now moved by Michael’s indignation met him with his own:

“No dear brother! Your word is not the only!

Our brothers speak in turmoil

And so no decision may be made!

Due process is also law

And this discourse must yet be resolved!”

 

Uriel, pleased by this continued:

“You worry about faith

But what does that mean?

What is God but a name?

What are we but a brand?”

 

Raphael:

“Yes indeed, although no prayers were uttered

They carried our virtues.

They healed the sick.

Held firm and awarded upon them

That which they justly deserved,

Held true in their self

Their ideals

Their Kin.

How could we condemn one so righteous?”

 

Gabriel:

“Yes, yes! Now I see!

Brother Raguel I know your tender heart!

Surely you can see out of all of us

That there are those dance neither in light

Nor shadow!

For that is where you live!

That is where you work!

That is where this one followed!

They judged not the shadows from afar

But with their own senses!

And brother Michael, temperamental art thou!

Mercurial, don’t you see

That this soul is your kin?”

 

Uriel:

“Indeed I must say

I have had enough of this masquerade

We are not stars

Nor are we scions!

Brothers our nature our souls must reflect!”

It was then that the spirit of Uriel flashed and flickered. The star imploded casting its dust through the primordial lands in a red haze. Upon its clearing the angels no longer stood, Indeed there stood seven men each reflecting familiar character to the soul.

Michael most of all resembled them, almost mirror-like and in response spoke in lament:

“I see my brothers perhaps

I speak with shame

They treat us with such revelry! Such praise!

How can we ever bear that standard?”

 

Uriel now a wizened entity:

“We can as long as we continue this discourse!

In days of old, we taught the humans!

Now, perhaps we allow them to grant us insight!

We too are but men of God

And even then what is he?

Perhaps its because we know that

Infallibility is myth

and we forget

that is what exalts us!”

Azrael reappeared to the soul and in his wake his brothers vanished, returning to their kingdom to spread their new insights. The Angel of Death drew back his hood, revealing a kindly face of a man with a short grey beard and gentle hazel eyes. He reached his hands took hold of the spirit then spoke calmly:

“Now you see my friend, the question was not ‘Do you fear Judgement?’ But rather do you fear your own? You answered what you thought would be truthful, your one and only sin. For clearly you do not, for never did you waver in character, nor did your call upon the demons of Pride and Envy to thrust it upon others even in the direst throes of pain.

Come now weary friend, come! Your wisdom will be invaluable in the next life, just as it had been now. Come! We are proud to call you our kin!”

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The Beast in the Cage

I had always wondered what the other side of that old oak tree looked like. Many times did I wonder how many knots emerged promiscuously about its robust bark or how many birds and squirrels pitched their homes amidst its lush branches. I’ve forever longed to feel the embrace of its cool shade whose inky bulbous form scoured the grassy hill with an alluring serenity. Instead, I am trapped here behind my iron veil, forced to bear witness to it at a fixed angle. I have indeed memorized every crag and twist in the distant bark facing me, counted every branch and its offshoots, thirteen in all. I have counted the thousands of leaves never quite knowing their exact amount being privy to only their one half.

In truth I do not remember my crime, for it was all so hopelessly long ago that I was stolen from the place of my nativity that those years had become a fleeting haze. I only remember flashes of the huntsman’s grim face as he tore me from the family I never knew. His nasty, twisting teeth lining his grin as he chuckled to himself in gratification. I remember the haunting, morose tune he hummed as my body, wounded and dazed was dragged out through the snow and loaded onto a cart headed for alien lands.

When we arrived I was imprisoned, a patch of iron-shaded dirt my only comfort. Day in and out the routine became the same, every morning he would march to the cage with the same, stern expression upon his bearded face. He would throw a haunch of meat at me through the bars, all the while humming that dreadful tune to me. Afterwards, he would disappear, not to be seen until the following day.

It was years I lay in that place staring up at the hill upon which the old oak tree sits, rustling calmly in the breeze. Oh, how peaceful it must have been, I thought, to live as that majestic wood, to bristle calmly in a silent state of meditation, growing, ever growing, shedding old skin to leave room for new.

I became weary of the many strangers who would pass me by in my prison. They were curious creatures I must admit, for they are so brutish in their demeanor. They trod as if the Earth quaked under every step and spoke with booming voices in their guttural, vicious language at me, laughing and grinning.

In that ditch, under the roaming eyes of passersby I felt little more than caustic fear and boiling agony as I peered through my metallic window into a world I was never meant to know. How I wished my throat could parse the words to those strangers, for when I spoke these creatures timidly recoiled in fear as my noble voice howled. I begged I pleaded, I snarled, I screamed “Help me! Help me!” and in their terror they stiffly strolled off, guarding their young as they did so.

There was but one who did not. A youth of theirs, who upon observing me, cast a peculiar look. His eyes grew big and his mouth agape. He looked up to his father, eyes shimmering, hungry, for what I could not say. He spoke with a softness that others lacked, a warm breath that made their tongue almost bearable to my ears. His father turned to him and laughed, head back, malicious voice bounding through the hillside gleefully. He would move on, the youth remaining for but a moment. He would murmur quietly to himself then heed the call of his father.

The child visited frequently, almost daily, sometimes with his father, sometimes not. Every day he would grace me with his sad, heartfelt expression, murmuring to me in his quiet voice. I would sit and I would listen, understanding not his words but his tone. His voice filled my vengeful heart with sadness, empathy even though I could not understand his narrative. Although there was one word which I have committed to memory, It is a strange word to me that he would say ad nauseum. “Free” what a strange word, so harsh yet he spoke it in such a blissful manner that to him it must be something positive. Perhaps it was his name, I had thought.

I sat and I moaned with Free. Speaking to him and he understood my reproach only in essence.

He is my only friend.

One day he and the Huntsman met. Their blithering quickly escalated as they spoke. The man laughed in his cackling, guttural manner while the child’s face twisted and turned crimson. The hunter banged on the bars, causing me to flinch and the boy swung at him, screaming so that his voice pierced the very sky itself. He stormed off, and the hunter fed me.

Then the next day, as I waited, heart restless for the youth to return, he did not. I sat watching as muddy strangers meandered by and as the clouds traveled to the other side of Heaven. I watched the sun, three hours till it set, two, one. Then the darkness crept over the land, smothering the hill and its oak tree with its onyx coat. I waited, but he never came.

Dejected, I curled up in one corner of my prison, feeling the dust grate beneath me. I felt heavy, porous and almost drowning. I snorted, trying to vent my disappointment, twisted and flexed in the dust, unable to sleep.

Then, in the midst of the darkness, a disturbance chattered along the road.

I cast my sorrowful eyes into the shadows and saw a figure shift through the moonlight. It moved gently, freely. A small jingle, playing a neurotic anxious song followed and a heavy slam erupted from the iron veil.

Then, in a moment I thought to be most dream-like the veil opened, its bars screaming as they slowly disappeared into the callous night and at its threshold stood the figure of Free who beckoned me to him. An electric jolt shot through my body and I bounded to him, a cloud of dust being left behind me until I passed out from under the burdensome roof of my once domain and into the air of the valley.

A peculiar odor wafted from my friend, it was metallic like that of my prison. Dark splotches appeared across his peach-like skin and a sort of weary look glinted in his eyes palely.

The smells outside were crisper, the air flowed through me like water. The ground was firm and moist. The grass smelled so fresh and then the tree…the Tree! I sprinted up the hill, my friend following at a ragged pace as I trailed towards the tree. I circled it, reading the bark and the leaves. There was a hole in its center and in it a nest! , es a family of sparrows nestled comfortably in its hollowed out hull! And above it, the squirrels, in their knitted home, snored so quietly! A single knot twisted like a mole at its base. For so long I had yearned for that knowledge! For so long…but now that I had it what else was there? I had only ever known the cage and the tree and the boy. What else could there be?

Then my friend pointed down the hill shouting at me. Then, so many trees! Yes, a whole forest lurked just beyond that hill. He spoke that word to me again “free!” he said voice worn by unknown means.

Free? Is that what that word means? Does it mean the woods?

I bounded off towards the “free”, this time he did not follow. I looked back and he waved me on shouting “free!”

I was hesitant at first, seeing the dark shadows of the wood interweave like a basket. Strange chirps and rustling crept from the underbrush and I quivered as the Earth sighed, causing the leafy jowls of the woodlands to quiver. “Free!” he continued to chant, like a war cry.  He waved me on some more and finally, a spark of trust pushed me in.

I slalomed between the many trunks. Some were white, others nearly black! Some skinny, some thicker than the tree on the hill! It was wonderful to see the foliage and all their knots and holes. I could see where worms nested and all sorts of creatures slept. Was this place Free?

No, No it was not. I soon found myself lost. The woods twisted around me, towering covering the night sky in their canopy. It was an alien place, a veil of iron replaced by a veil of bark. The creatures here did not like me, they were all timid, afraid of my voice.

Saddened and disheartened I turned back and found the oak tree again. I sat upon the hill, looking down at the familiar but now desolate cage. I winced at its sight, a part of me desired its dismal embrace yet as the longer I looked the more the air was torn from my lungs.

I began howling at the stars. Crying “Free! Free! Come back Free!” Yet the boy did not return.

Then one night a particular scent tinged the cool air. It was the scent of iron. I followed the winds as it led me through a rustic village, between its peaked homes and it’s dirt paths where all the muddy creatures slept. I wandered, the metallic scent growing stronger piercing my nose sharply like a nail.

Then I found him. Free, behind a veil of iron. Excitedly I wandered up to its edge and moaned. He sat quietly in the corner of his own dirt patch and upon hearing my call his head rose slowly. The young man grinned and hobbled over speaking to me softly. Perhaps one day I would unlock  his cage.

I visited every night.

I:The Dead Man Walks Free

It’s a perplexing place, the void, to both describe as well as experience. It is an ever-twisting amalgamation of what has been and what is yet to be. Its form, limited to what our minds are able to experience can only be summarized as an ever impermanent realm of pearl light, binding together the dying remnants of memories and semi-opaque windows into the three realms. For it is this void which acts as a space in between the known planes of Heaven, Earth, and Hell and much of it remains a mystery even to us Angels.

Only those disciplined through special means can traverse the largely uncharted space for its tempting and distant prognostications of worlds to be leaves the foolish traveler lured into the maddened trap of mysterious light. Even with such prowess, only a very narrow set of passageways are deemed safe and each step must be calculated carefully in order to pass between each world intact. In good fortune, I had gratuitous experience achieving just that as I must have passed through this wild nether millions of times throughout the ages. Even though it had been millennia since my last endeavor it still was second nature.

Raggedly my soul, now free of the chains that had bound it since The Fall, drifted quickly through the cosmic paths. In my wake, I could see a brilliant golden light erupt creeping across the horizon in my pursuit. It did not take long for my brothers to detect my escape but I was not worried, for amidst the ruinous memories of my past, smoldering around me in a heap of gore, agony, and despondency lay the road to Hell where I would find sanctuary.

I passed through the warning remains of battles such as the fields of Vinnius-tem where the Archangel Michael was first disgraced by our insurgency. It had been a long time since I had experienced any memory other than that of The Fall’s sorrowful wailing. Thousands of Angels were felled on both sides forming heaps of silver like bloody piles of ore plucked from the ground. I could still hear his ravenous, vengeful call whisper across the blood-soaked fields. Pride filled me for it was a glorious day indeed when the reign of my brother would finally meet its end and the upper echelons of our once glorious society would crumble into arrogant dust.

I floated through the marbled streets of a Heaven long absent and entered into the illustrious congressional square whose verdant hedgerows trimmed the low walls about its perimeter and the faint scent of poppies and roses still drifted on the forgotten winds. Looking over all of Heaven was a vast acropolis with immaculate marble and granite steps ascending to its thick doors which presented themselves as a gateway to gnosis and glory. The frozen images of my brethren, intellectuals from all across our domain were locked in a respectable and noble stride decorating this blissful place with soon to be fleeting dignity.

Soon this too was gone and I saw the burning of the Low Cities. I saw silver plated devils prey on innocent horned civilians frozen in eternal agony like a ghoulish collage. They had no right to cleanse the lower streets in the way they did, they had no right to burn these people alive in their homes! I winced because I knew I could never save them and that their terrorizing cries would forever go unanswered. I felt my soul weep for this impermanent moment where I wished I had not been so weak, so indecisive…

I knew then that Hell itself must be close, for to see its images so clearly meant that I would be amidst my allies soon.

However, calamity seems to follow in my wake for amidst the remains of a lower Hell street, A golden light erupted on the horizon in front of me creeping between the ebony buildings whose smooth, mirror-like finishes refracted the overwhelming glow into a distorted mixture of shimmering rods. In a rare moment of shock and awe I recoiled and for a moment I had become unsure of my next action. A brief moment as it was, I was perturbed perhaps because the millennia of isolation which had dulled my wits or perhaps I was finally becoming predictable. Yet what was more harrowing were the conclusions by which were drawn by the Angels to be dwelling amidst the fragments of Hell, would that not mean they were in Hell itself? If they were in Hell itself then…what of the Demons?

A cryptic feeling plagued me and without much discourse I exited the area, drifting off into the Pearl nothing towards Earth. I began to see strange, drab buildings rise around me, loud clamoring sounds like horns and metal crunching echoed through my panic. I drifted amidst filthy streets and callous crowds.

I knew that without the aid of my demonic brethren I would need to take a vessel to evade my brothers. The crowd around me was great but unworthy. Empty, narrow minds and broken spirits while easily manipulated by the likes of me ultimately yielded weak vessels. Then I heard something amidst the cacophony of industrial madness. It was a voice, inarticulate by any means but its cadence drew me to it. It was a desperate sounding prattle, its tone invoked a strange degree of sympathy and dread as I drew closer encapsulated by its tragic pitch.

I found, looming amidst the street a pillar of light, golden just like that of my brothers with the exception that it did not aim to pursue me, it simply stood still uttering its incomprehensible dialect. I could make out that it was not trying to speak, no! Its mysterious language indeed turned out to be a pained sob of which the lost soul choked on. I pondered the oddity of its presence; surely one of the reapers would have come along in order to escort this soul to its proper domain? Why did it loom in the void like a child lost in a crowd? I stood over it, the dreadful feeling an uncanny power waft from its essence captivating me with an additive, masochistic pain.

“Help…me” it whispered quietly in a loathsome hiss. I remained silent, perturbed by what I was witnessing. The soul soon disappeared and in its place, a small building with white clapboard walls and a peaked roof appeared. An oaken rampway in a tapering zig-zag rose up to a modest doorway of which I scaled curiously, the soul’s leaking despondency overwhelming me.

I forced open the door, its cold brass handle stinging me as I turned it. As the portal opened a bright pearl light erupted like a flash of lightning and blinded me with its stunning brilliance and in that moment I felt myself become sucked in.

I awoke in a dark, cramped space and I could hear a faint murmuring like the scratching of rats in a ship’s hull. The body which I had by no direct choice of my own claimed was stiff and below its flesh, a repugnant, writing sensation lurked. Slowly I worked each joint loose so that I may feel around my mysterious domain discovering a plush, silken texture to the walls. I reached for the ceiling and pushed, feeling an entire segment of it shift uncomfortably. With another, more clumsy thrust I was able to dislodge it, forcing it to pivot open so that the world outside leeched in a harsh artificial light. I quickly scurried through the opening, thrusting myself over the polished lip of the wooden container.

Suddenly the murmuring ceased and I stood before an audience of patrons dressed fancifully. I did not take too much time to absorb the scene for I needed to mitigate the risk of my brothers pursuing me into this realm but I did realize I was in a hall of decorative flowers and photographs all featuring the same grim-faced youth. I passed by a whirring horde of make-up smeared faces and mournful scowls all of whom recoiled in uncanny horror. I washed through them awkwardly carrying myself on still stiff legs and left out the very same drab door by which I entered.

The streets were dark and filthy as I had seen prior, Earth’s moon loomed sullenly over-head waxed so far as to look like a sleeping eye. Cold winds echoed through the cracked streets bounding off of dusky storefronts and townhouses. I ran down the street, breathing channeling my focus as I calibrated myself in this vessel feeling every tendon and sinew become loose with each stride. I bore down on my concentration feeling a strange energy thrum through me, a maroon aura burst from my right hand before quickly vanishing.

“Come on, come on” I hissed lowly as I continued to run. Finally, I felt a sustained jolt in my chest and closed my eyes. I felt a gust of air, followed by a feather-like sensation overtaking my body adding to the cocktail of strange discordant sensations I was subjected too. With a moment’s passing, I had traversed several hundred feet down the road. “Weak,” I said, knowing well it would take time to fully recover my strength after executing my escape.

I paused for only a moment as I caught my reflection in a stores window, faint as it was. Having exhumed this body I figured it would have been someone of an elder disposition but it was disturbingly youthful. The boney face that looked back at me was smooth and tight even bearing a few unsightly blemishes above it brow. It glared at me gruesomely as if cursing my presence inside it as its sharp analytical eyes observed me. Its implications were harrowing, disturbing and otherwise morbid.

I had caught sight of a strange mark beneath the black lines of the blazer sleeve I wore. As I rolled them up an unsightly array of long, painful lesions, sewn together with thick stitches marked the wrists. I looked back up to reflection, looking deep into my vessel’s eyes. All I could see beyond their brown irises was the moist, shimmer of pain which seemed to twitch under their crystal expression. “Help me!” they cried, yet I knew not what I could do for the poor soul, except alert a reaper to its plight…

Suddenly a great exhaustion wracked this body, and I stumbled into a nearby alley, slumping over by a filth-encrusted dumpster. It had been a long while since I had rest of any kind and finally if only for a little while I may rest. Others would be looking for me I knew, but I took solace in my prior position and knew well that certain members of that search party were not trying to destroy me. It would not be long until I found one of them, for they are many here on Earth.

Rain

I was on my back porch, sitting in a hard plastic lawn chair on top of an old musty cushion watching as a veil of smoke-like clouds roared quickly across the otherwise crystal canvas. Fast as a passing train it encapsulated the tender turquoise of the heavens with a penumbra of its overbearing essence. A wind carrying unusually cold air blew wildly shaking the trees in a symphonic, bone-like rattle. Then, as if done by a switch, a veil of rain cascaded down onto the earth pummeling the tarp above my head violently. Impromptu puddles opened up amongst the lush grass of my yard and a relief filled me as I wouldn’t need to refill my above ground pool. A small stream formed in the pathway leading through my back garden into the rest of the yard washing away the filth that had accumulated in it over the past couple of dry weeks.

It was another summer storm, which appeared rapidly and disappeared just as quickly. The atmosphere of the storms was always uncanny because it created such a strange feeling in my stomach. It felt that for a brief moment that I was looking into another, more somber world and this guided me to assort of serenity that I could not attain elsewhere. These used to be my favorite part of the summer, except this one was different.

Early on into the storm, a strange splatter erupted from just beyond my tarps cover. It startled me initially but I simply figured it to be built up water tumbling from the tarps loose membrane and once again set back to my enjoyment. Then, as I was looking down the meandering path into my yard I heard another strange splatter and saw it erupt in a peculiar lotus, and it was soon followed by another further out by the garden’s edge. Curiosity came over me and I bemusedly emerged from my cover, bare feet embracing the slick path while letting the violent rain pelt my body as I walked over to the source of the noise. A bolt of lightning antagonized the sky like an errant firework, leaving the brief impression of golden roots among its drab canvas.

What I found was a small pearl object, round and otherwise unremarkable. I debated it was some sort of seed or an egg dropped by a seagull or herring. I picked it up, feeling its slimy outer coating in my hand and suddenly my head received a sharp pain which felt like a nail being driven into my sinuses and my eyes were forced shut in agony.

When I reopened them, I could no longer feel the rain and was instead inside of a strange rust covered tunnel. The walls were made entirely of thick layers of pipework that appeared like interweaving tissues of muscle. A deep hum oozed from them and a thick humidity filled every breath. I still held the seed in my hand and, reeling from the pain it seemingly caused, dropped it.

Then I was back where I stood, the seed being washed away from my feet by the small stream at the bottom of my steps. I followed it, still harrowed by what I had just hallucinated. Another set of strange sounds burst from the surrounding puddles. At first one bounced off the side of my pool. I ran over to observe it and noted that along where it impacted a strange, viscous slime was being eroded away by the rain. At first, I thought it to be a trick of the light but when I reached out to touch it had a definitive, sticky texture. It’s tacky nature resisted my release and an undue amount of pressure was required to remove myself from its grasp.

 Another splashed by the base of the old oak tree, now barren and dying thanks to countless years of gypsy moth infestations. A small cluster of the seeds, suspended in the sticky substance like an amphibians eggs sat intermingled among its roots. My chest began to twist in irrepressible ways and a sharp itch formed on the back of my neck.

Back where my pond, a small vernal pool which during the summer heat often dried out was now suddenly filled to the brim with fluids. I approached its shore and noted a vast array of seeds sat in an eerily still manner.  I also could see that the rain clearly struck the outer surface of the pond, yet no rings formed at its places of impact and instead glistening puddles formed like the surface of a tarp.

 Against my better judgment, I Reached out to touch one of the seeds, except as I approached the water’s surface it felt strange. It resisted my touch like a type of jelly and as soon as my fingertips made contact it recoiled in a ghastly manner. I reeled back in horror, feeling my skin become ensconced in a dead heat as the surface of the pond shifted uneasily. By the shore, a tendril-like stream crept in a menacing, serpentine manner, within it an array of seeds that appeared to be interconnected by a small thread. Bizarre electricity pulsed through the thin tissues, illuminating each seed they passed through.

Soon the entirety of the body rose in an imposing, amorphous manner and began to assault the shore. It moved towards me reaching its tendrils slowly as to block my path. Thankfully its lumbering nature was of no consequence for I could easily outmaneuver it and as a result was yards away from it in a manner of seconds.

A sudden, adrenaline field plan flashed through my head like lightning. I was to grab my car keys and then leave promptly, never to look back at whatever that thing is. As I trod away, however, I felt something roll beneath the arch of my foot as it sunk into a squishy pile. A sharp and familiar sting split my head.

 I was back in the infernal tunnel, unsure of what to do. I tried to run, feet battering the floors forcing the rusted over panels to chatter loudly. Yet no matter how far I ran the tunnel was all the same. More pipes, more rust, more humming. My body quivered and raged as I continued on futilely. Suddenly a strange heat formed at my feet. It was like being submerged in boiling water. Soon a sensation that felt like a razor was being run across my flesh afflicted me. The feeling soon crept up my legs and torso as my skin felt as if it had been cast into a fire. I continued to try and run but the raw feeling overwhelmed me and I collapsed in my tetanus infused prison hopelessly crying out only to be answered by my own ragged echo.

 My face soon became enraptured in an unseen pressure and I could not breathe. I felt like I was suffocating although nothing blocked my air. The strange place became hazy and darkness rolled in around my vision. I felt like prey, strangled to death by a serpent, still conscious still programmed to fight but was resigned to helplessness as all life was drained from it by the primal, crushing force of its predator. As my eyes closed for what I thought to be one last time, I heard a strange guttural noise echo from the shadows.

 To my surprise I opened them again, finding myself wrapped amidst the ghastly creature’s body, submerged in its membranous figure as it quivered and emitted a low whimper. It suddenly ejected me, thrusting me onto my back into a puddle. I looked up to see the clouds beginning to part and the golden glow of the sun bursting through, its intense heat beaming down on the creature as it retreated for the tree line heading for god knows where.

I got up and ran through my back door and through my house, grabbing my car keys. My body was drenched and while and my skin had been turned red as if sunburnt. I loaded myself into my car and screeched out of my driveway speeding down the slippery roads. First I would go to the hospital to treat a mysterious rash. Then I would stay with family claiming a burst pipe and all the while I would search for an apartment. My home as far as I was certain was gone for even though I had the fortune of being released from the beast’s gelatinous clutches who knew if it was truly gone. Perhaps the terrible abomination stalked the woods hunting small creatures and unfortunate hikers. Or perhaps if I returned home I would find it cast out on my floor in a dormant mess, waiting to pull me in once more.

I would need to move far, far away so as to feel safe again. At one point I considered returning home except my hopes of doing so were dashed due to the news of a neighborhood child vanishing one day while exploring the coast of the nearby reservoir.

I don’t care what that thing was, I pray to dear God and Heaven that I never see it again and that I may forever cast it from my memory.

 

Insomnia

I didn’t always have so much trouble sleeping, when I was much younger I could simply drift away into the realm of dreams on a whim. Yet now as I write this it seems that I have forever been severed from the world of sleep due to my condition. The cause of my insomnia may seem strange because it’s not a fear of the dark or a disorder of any kind. It is the result of a nightmare I had, many years ago that stuck with me up until this very moment.

It was a very typical evening in my household. I had spent the evening doing homework and playing whatever game I was obsessed with at the time on my computer. I would then go to bed around nine so that I could be up at six the next day for classes. It was a routine which had worked well for me and I always woke up the next day energized and ready for whatever the day would bring. However, one night I will never forget, that is October 12th, 2005, a date that I have branded into the deepest reaches of my grief and forever is an anniversary of terror.

I fell asleep, almost instantly as I almost always did. I miss that ability because now I am kept awake at night by chronic headaches which bore away at me as I attempt to garner what minimal rest I can.  The night enticed me into a haze of distant dreams, none of which I could remember, except for one which my brain decided to highlight by dragging my consciousness right into its midst.

In an eerily lucid state, I woke up to hear a noise in my room. It was a heavy thump, like a flask of water being dropped on the floor. I looked up tiredly, scanning the canvas of darkness blankly, yielding no answers. Assuming it was a manifestation of my own imagination, my dream self-tried to settle back to sleep but was again disturbed by a gurgling sound coming out of the shadows. Its sound was like a foam filled river of water pouring across the ground and fizzling as it released its entrapped gases. Again I looked around to no avail. A tinge of paranoia laid itself on my mind and I could feel my heart race with an uncanny amount of clarity. I tucked my head under my blanket to feel more secure. Though I knew a bedspread would be little protection if something horrible lurked in the darkness it still helped ease me. It was the irrational solution to an irrational thought.

It was then that I began to feel a strange pressure creep up my legs. Heat shot through my veins, a cold layer of sweat ejecting out of my pours as a curious defense. My heart beat rapidly and my mind sparked. I waited a moment, trying to dispel the idea that it was anything but my own imagination. I tried this but was far too afraid to look from beneath my blanket in fear of what I could see.

Then I felt the pressure grow, sweeping up my legs and onto my torso, growing heavier with every inch. I could then feel strange, moist warmth, like saliva, creeping through the blanket.  I was then frozen as the weight poured onto my chest. It froze there, bearing down on me now like stone, and I prayed to my God that I would wake up.

After a prolonged residence in this state of paralyzed fear, I decided I had to look and see what it was. I lifted the rim of my blanket, slowly revealing the blank room around me. As soon as my eyes could see just over the hem, the pressure vanished and was replaced with an intense pain like a nail driven into my skull and the next few moments became as dark as the onlooking night.

When I awoke, in my dream that is, I was in a strange place. It was a cramped room, full of rusted instruments with needle-like points that skirted around me on guide rails. Behind them, I noticed piped flowing with an undulating blue mass which illuminated the tetanus infested space an eerie hue.

I was affixed to a chair, my arms and legs bound by metal clasps. My head was head straight by two bars which squeezed around me like a vice not allowing for me to turn or bend my neck. I struggled to no avail, the air growing thin as I wrenched every muscle futilely.

I shouted into the unknown, my voice reverberating back to me as a twisted melody amongst the twisting pipes. It was then that one of the many rail-lines shifted around to the front of me. Affixed to it was a tweezer-like structure, sharpened to a fine point. I noticed a hair-like line down its very center. At its base, a clear tube sat dormant, like a hollow eye socket.

The needle shot towards me, bearing down on my forehead. It stopped just before it touched the flesh and its nefarious tip brushed against it almost as a taunt. Suddenly it moved forwards, the machine humming and whirring as it pressed its point into my skin. At first, it felt like a shot from the doctors but quickly turned into an excruciating burning sensation. I could feel my head be pressured backward, stopped only by the crushing clamps.

I hissed and screamed until my throat was raw until finally, it stopped advancing. Its approach then changed, the need beginning to spread apart into two thin rails which rent my flesh further. After a brief moment, they finished and held themselves about an inch apart. Then the tube began to slither down this opening until it was inserted right into where the needle struck me initially. A strange noise, a gurgling like that of falling, foaming water could be heard.

In pain, I passed out before ever learning of the device’s real purpose other than to cause misery. I awoke in a flurry of adrenaline and drum-like heartbeats, my skin feeling cold with sweat and the unsavory stench of fear rising from my pours.

I shot up out of bed and looked around the darkness in a panic. I quickly slipped out the door and crossed my home into the bathroom, all the while reassuring myself that what I had endured was a nightmare. It took some time for my consciousness and my vision to catch up with the fact, the pain in my forehead still seemingly looming into the real world.

I snapped the lights on and looked into the vanity mirror of my bathroom. Across the glassy membrane, I observed my sweat covered face, repeating to myself that it was all just a dream. I turned on the faucet and thrust water onto my face which seemed to calm me down. Then I wiped myself clean with the face cloth, wiping away the senseless fear I felt. As I performed one final stroke on my forehead, however, I noticed something.

It was subtle, but it was there, a faint crescent-shaped mark on my skin right in the center of my head. From it, I could feel a strange pressure, as if my head were filled with fluid. I told myself I must have always had it, that I must have hit my head somewhere in the past few months without noticing.

It wouldn’t have been the first time but…

It was always there, right?

The Stranger: Unleashed I

I am seldom incited to investigate matters such as these on my own time. Normally my associates would be dispensed in order that I may be free to pursue higher level labor than mere soul collecting. This one, however, was prompted by a near and trusted associate of mine whose insistence on my presence could not go unheeded.

We stood beneath the citrine, artificial light of street lamps nestled along a cracked and filth-ridden street. It ran between a maze-like complex of tall, rust-colored buildings which were crafted out of old, weathered brickwork covered in all manner of scars and lesions. Above us, the moon looked down upon the scene with a bright, wide eye that was in full bloom so as to compete with the harsh lighting produced by human engineers. The middle night was still, the air cool and pleasant as is typical in the early fall and all who dwelt on the street were fast retired into slumber, awaiting tomorrow’s meager bounty.

One denizen, however, would never see the dawn. Instead of home, in his bed where he belonged, he lay limp and cold at our feet. He was cast across the pavement on his back, from beneath which a pool of dark crimson had welled into a stagnant puddle. His eyes were typical of his sort, wide-eyed with regret and fear as they stare up to a dusty window high on the overlooking building. It sat open and a golden light glowed in contrast to its darkened neighbors.

“What did you find?” I said, turning to my cloaked associate who knelt over the body.

“His soul is damaged” his wizened voice wheezed as he was pressing a set of two fingers against the deceased’s forehead.

“Yes, so they typically are.” I responded, “These are sad cases, indeed.”

“Are you taking this one sir?” he asked formally, standing up from the body, appearing as a dark mass beneath his garb.

I turned back and looked down onto our victim “Of course, my brother wants nothing to do with his kind.” I said, clenching my jaw with contempt for his fate.

“Such a shame, he led a reasonable life.”

“Unfortunately my brother cares little for ‘reasonable’. His soul is damaged as you say, but my brother wants nothing to do with fixing it.” I said, hardening my tone as I descended into a lecture. “He wants perfection from an imperfect creature.”

“I will mark this one for you, so you can mend it, but that is not why I called for your aid sir.” He said, his voice becoming thin.

“Is that so?’

“His soul is damaged yes, but it is how it was damaged that concerns me.” He said. I tilted my head at him and remained silent, prompting him to continue his report. “Well, you’ll have to have a look, sir.”

My associate took a deep breath and began to mutter a string of ancient words to himself. A harsh silver light shot through the veins of his hand and flowed into the body dispersing across its surface like a mystic salve. From his agape mouth, a majestic game of light flowed gingerly outward into an undulating cloud over his chest which ebbed and twisted, never deciding on a final form. The soul is an intriguing thing; it is deceptively primordial in that its energetic form can seem like nothing more than a mob of chaos to the uninitiated. It lacks the orderly rapport of the sciences seemingly lacking distinct rules and humans fight over its nature with a still shallow perception. However, it, like everything else in the universe was crafted, engineered even and is governed by laws for randomness in its truest form does not exist. The humans can only see the entity as mystic and thenceforth deny either its existence or its rationality. It is what is symptomatic when intelligent beings believe in a false premise. An expert like myself, however, can easily parse the nuances of it with the particularity of a brain surgeon.

I thrust my hands into the cloud, gingerly bending the energy with my hands. The charged mass avoided my flesh like a magnet facing a matching polarity and it would be this force that I would use to my advantage. “The third Aeon is what I’m concerned with,” my associate said as I prodded around inside the entity.

I pulled back layers of light, casting them aside like flaps of skin until I revealed more homogenous pearl colored light just below. I ran my finger across the surface, feeling the energy tinge my skin with certain ferocity like an electrical charge. I did so until I came across a spot which failed to send that very same jolt. In feeling around and through it to ensure thoroughness, I discovered a discoloration. The light it seemed was stained, marked by a foul substance like a melanoma on the dermis. It made a large path glow a drab yellow like a urine soaked rag.

“This is not good,” I said, backing away from the afflicted “Something fed off of this one.”

“Yes, it is unnatural, even for a suicide. This man was prey. I had hoped my eyes were waning” My associate said, stroking his wiry and rugged chin. “What do you think it was?”

I sat and thought “It could be many things, a hex probably or perhaps siphon of some sort… I can’t know without further information however, we should search the area.”

My associated nodded slowly and I, before standing back up, grabbed hold of the soul and whispered to it. Slowly it crept into my fingertips, being absorbed by the signet ring on my finger.

With the soul stored for later repurposing, the two of us traced the perimeter of the building, observing every stone, lamp and crack in the ground for irregularity. We were about to give up our search when my Associate called to me from the alleyway beside the victim’s building.

I trod over and entered into the waste infused pathway. A series of rusted dumpsters sat, brimming with the refuse of all kinds. The scent of rots and apathy assaulted my faculties and I could not help but wince at its pungency. The brickwork, as well as the various discarded items all, seemed to be coated in a thin coat of filth that was visible only to the senses beyond the normal five. Midway through, my associate was once again hunched over, observing something on the ground.

I approached him and he pointed silently downwards. At his finger’s tip, a white scratch, like chalk on a blackboard ran a short distance and stopped at a blackened pool. The sour, iron scent of the mysterious puddle was all too unmistakable. What was more concerning however was what laid in the depth of that pool. An object protruded slender to the point of wispy, with a skin of encrusted fluid sharply like a small atoll.

I reached down and retrieved it. What I beheld in my hands was a small, hard splinter of some kind. It seemed innocuous enough, yet the sheer amount of blood spewed at its expense was worrisome.  I took and placed it before my nostril and smelt it. It had a distinct saltiness wafting from under the bitter stench that coated it. Suddenly I snapped back up into prostration.

“I will need to contact an expert on this matter”, I said, still clutching the tooth its peculiar odor lingering in my sinuses.

“What do you think it is? I find it hard to believe you are baffled.” my associate asked.

“It could be nothing, but I have a suspicion. I do not wish to make any conclusions until I receive a second opinion.” I said. “We may need to hunt.”