Demons have crossed into the realm of humankind, and the war between good and evil has begun. In a world on the brink of destruction, fate still pulls all the strings.
Word Count: 840
He stood in the enormous Gathering Room, surrounded by pillars of pristine grey-flecked marble and accents of mirrors and ornate crosses. His hands clasped at the base of his spine, he simply waited. The crowd around him murmured and cooed, whispering amongst themselves, but he ignored them all. His onyx eyes fixated on the unoccupied podium. They were all waiting, really; and it was unusual to wait. There was no one more punctual than the Holy One.
The murmurs in the back of the room grew stronger, louder, and Judah was growing as restless as the others. He forcefully quieted his mind, resisting the urges and wayward tendencies brewing within him.
It was then, as he acclimated to the stillness of tranquility, his eyes closed to the world, that the Holy One spoke. Respectfully, Judah kept his eyes closed. It was standard behavior; only those with special favor could look upon him without burning their eyes. His Holiness was too much to behold without the gift.
“Good evening, my children. I am sure you have all been wondering what could keep me from you, but you needn’t question any further. The war is elevating, the battle is changing, and so we must also change. Tonight, I will draw not two, but ten names. We must increase our army, my children. All hope of the future rests in your hands, now.”
And then the lottery began.
He felt centered. His mind did not war with itself, his body did not become anxious. He was at peace when his name was read aloud in the Holy Father’s proud voice, and the calmness did not wash away when his eyes opened and he met the Father’s gaze over the ocean of angels between them.
All who fought for him were given the sight. It was an honor and a curse; it allowed one to see the truth of things with crystal clarity – to spot a demon in a sea of people, to know everything the Holy One wished one to know. It was with the sight that the Holy One armed his troops, it was with the sight that he showed his favor to them.
He bowed, once, and left the Gathering Room. He had a bag to pack and a free fall waiting for him. He did not have time to linger. The others would be along behind him, mostly after the ceremonies, but Judah was eager to begin. His very existence had been devoted to training for this day, and he would not linger, not waste a meager instant – he would squander nothing during the proudest of his days.
When he stood before the Gatekeeper he did not flinch beneath the giant’s cold, scrutinizing eyes. He bore the weight of judgment upon his shoulders and kept his posture straight and precise. Judah had seen other men weep, he’d watched fellow angels fall to their knees with pleas for immunity to the rules. Judah knew that others, ones with their names being read aloud as he stood there, would do the same; but they were weak, they were the very reason the battle had not been finished already. Judah did not fear the bloodbath below; he did not fear the coming apocalypse. Judah feared nothing, as his Father had designed him to.
The Gatekeeper leaned forward, bringing his scalding eyes mere inches away, and breathed one long, searing breath across Judah’s face. Even though he knew to expect it, the agony was astounding; his eyes watered but he gritted his teeth and held his control. Beneath the fabric of his shirt, his skin sizzled and popped and blistered and hissed. The Gatekeeper’s brand was rumored to be the most pain any angel would ever live through, it was said that an angel that could not take the pain would be relieved of military duty but Judah had never seen it happen. Judah understood, then, as his vision blurred and he struggled to keep his eyes open.
He took a breath, breaking the rigid tension of his body, and the Gatekeeper opened the portal. A breeze tugged at his hair and at the feathers of his wings. Vertigo swallowed him up and he could do nothing except free-fall through the atmosphere; he’d been to earth before, but the trip had seemed so much shorter. His weight crushed the ground beneath his boots as he landed, crouching low to brace himself.
The air was cold and wet, and smelled of a fresh storm. There was still a crackle of electricity on the breeze. The obscene scent of sulfur curdled the air around him. He could not help the roar of agony that broke free from the confines of his throat as he willed his wings to retract. Curling and constricting, condensing and compacting, they folded in on themselves until they nestled into his spine; the darkness in his onyx eyes leaking to the corners and spilling out over the edges.
He rose to his feet and cast storm grey eyes upon the city.