Word Count: 1,041
There were no demons for at least half a dozen miles in any direction; he could smell the nearest one, located to the north-west, and he began his search in the opposite direction. There were a few humans lurking about the rubble of the abandoned city, but none of any interest to him – that was, save one, but he thought she would soon lose interest and wander off; humans were, after all, closer to children in the eyes of angels. Unreliable, temperamental, irrational; this fact was the sole source of the one flaw that angels had: jealousy.
He stumbled upon a stout building, no more than five stories high, with sturdy stone walls and a solid foundation. Based on the creaking sign and what remained of the lettering, it appeared to be a government building. Judah broke the lock off the back door with a single good tug, and the doors opened on their own. Stepping inside, he did a thorough evaluation of the structure and its fault points. After an hour or so of inspecting, he decided it would do for his current purposes and he went about securing it further.
When dusk settled over the city, he shrugged his leather jacket on over his filthy t-shirt and left. The woman that had begun following him was still tailing him, but he paid her no mind – still suspecting she would lose interest. He made his way into the depths of the city, the seedier, labyrinthine alleyways that spread like cancer from the heart of it. He could smell demons strongly, then; they grew closer with every step he took, but he did not fear his path. If there was to be considered a sign of his emotions toward his path, it would be that he did nothing to shield his presence from their knowledge – he traveled along the sidewalk, stepping into the flickering streetlights without concern for who might be watching. He lit a cigarette as he walked and smiled up at the harvest moon hanging in the wide expanse of dead, black space. So deceptive, the sky was.
He became curious about his stalker when she continued to follow him into the wastelands of the city, but still, he made no move to reveal his knowledge of her.
He came to the base of the tallest building and peered up at it from the doorstep. The widows were broken out and sheltered nothing of the darkened caves of the rooms; predatory birds perched on the rooftop and stared down at him, their beady eyes winking at him in the wavering lights. He put out his cigarette and went inside, climbing the rickety stairs three at a time until he reached the top floor. Just outside of the single in-tact door of the whole building, he stopped and knocked, once.
“Who is it?” The voice from inside was faint, barely a whisper, and feminine. That was unexpected, Judah thought, but not entirely surprising.
He said, “Judah,” and the door swung open.
“Thank the Heavens,” she said, yanking him inside with her delicate fingers locked around his wrist like a clamp. Her expression was frustrated and frantic; she scanned the hallway in a millisecond before she slammed the door shut. “You’re late and you have a tail,” she snapped, her pale silver eyes angry and cold.
“Yes,” he said, shrugging off his coat and hanging it on the back of a nearby seat. He sat down, crossing one ankle over his knee and his arms over his chest. “I needed a safe house more than a gun, so I found one.”
“You had an appointment,” she huffed, shaking her head. “Forget about it, Judah; I’m just glad you’re here. This place is a war zone. It’s nothing like they ever said it would be.”
“You must not have been listening hard enough.”
She frowned and the expression darkened her eyes to a stormy grey that could match his. She said, “Not all of us were designed to be machines, in case you’ve overlooked that.”
He rolled his shoulders and gave an unconvinced purse of his lips. “You would be equally displeased if you were the machine, Gabriel.” He slid a cigarette out of his pack and lit it, ignoring her disapproving scowl.
She said, “You know He hates it when you smoke.”
Judah quirked a brow at her and blew a smoke ring into the space between them. His eyes said, do not toy with me, but for a moment, he said nothing; he simply allowed his gaze to linger on the phantom outlines he could see along her shoulder that vanished beneath the worn cotton of her sweater. When understanding crept into her expression, he said, “Thine body is a temple; it is not your own, for it was bought at a great price.”
He laughed as she tried to tug her loose collar up over her exposed shoulder, murmuring, “Fair enough,” and dropping her eyes. She grabbed a small tablet from the table top between them and her finger gently flipped through a few screens. She said, “Did you have anything in mind or do you just want the standard supplies?”
He smirked, and said, “I had a few ideas.”
He lifted the duffle bag straps onto his shoulders easily, one on each side, and accepted a third from Gabriel with his free hands. As she shut the door, she said, “I hope I don’t have to see you again, Judah.”
He said, “No, I don’t think you will be seeing me again.” Briefly, as he descended the staircase, he wondered when animosity had developed between the angels themselves; was it simply being on earth? The weight of life and death, the gravity of the physical existence, the stink of slow decay.
Outside, he lit another cigarette and made motions to return to his safe house, but then he paused. Smoke billowing from his nostrils, the weight of the weapons in the duffle bags holding him in place, he shifted his gaze to the woman that had been following him, and he looked at her for the first time.
Before she could react to her fight or flight instincts, he said, “Why have you been following me so insistently?”