Leaving

Over the next two days, Kate got up from the hospital bed only to relieve herself and walk the halls for twenty minutes as part of her recovery. Her mother had arrived in the early morning hours after Kate’s surgery and helped Kate in and out of bed. Kate held her mother’s hand tightly when she woke to find Karen at her bedside. Tears had filled the eyes of both mother and daughter.

The rest of her stay at the hospital, Kate slept as much as possible. The pain medicine she needed caused fogginess in her head that she didn’t like. She tried to abstain from the medication, but found the effects unbearable. The doctor had told her she would be on pain meds for a few weeks, at the least.

As Kate walked to her mother’s rental car on the third day, she paused for a moment and stared at the sidewalk. The events that had led her to this place seemed surreal. She was lucky to be walking out of the hospital. She was lucky to be alive. Her mother had recently informed her that she had been ejected from Ellen’s Tahoe before it had rolled down the hillside.    

According to the paramedics who had worked the scene, all three of the occupants had been thrown. The nurse from the recovery room had checked in on Kate to let her know that Ellen and Elise were at another local hospital. They were both in critical condition, although they were stable at the moment. The doctor had advised that Kate should rest at home before attempting to visit her friends. He wanted her to travel as little as possible for the next month.  It would take at least a month or more for her to make a decent recovery. Complete recovery could take six months.

Kate’s spleen had ruptured during the wreck. Broken ribs had agitated the fragile organ when Kate was thrown from the vehicle. Kate could live without her spleen, but would now be more susceptible to infection. Her broken ribs were tender and would have to stay wrapped for the next few weeks. Kate looked fine on the outside, other than a few scrapes and bruises.

As much as she desired to see her friends, Kate knew that she needed rest. Her body needed rest anyway. She made sure her mom checked in with Elise’s dad on a daily basis to keep her updated. Now that the heavy drugs were out of her system, Kate was beginning to feel guilty about the wreck. This is my fault, she accused herself. They would be safe at home if it wasn’t for me.

Kate did her best to hide her guilt from her mother. As far as Karen knew, Kate had just tagged along on the trip to Nashville. She had no clue that Kate had been the sole reason for the trip. She was unaware of many things in Kate’s life now. Keeping this secret from her mother had been the hardest thing Kate had endured emotionally. Her mother had been her confidant, her friend. Now Kate felt distant, not by choice, but by necessity. Above all, she wanted her mother safe and uninvolved in this chaos that had abdicated her life.

Where is Aidan? Does he even know what happened or where I am?Kate asked herself these questions at least once an hour. Maybe he thinks I skipped out on him. Maybe he left me behind.

“You want something to eat, honey?” Karen asked Kate, bringing her out of her thoughts.

“Maybe later, mom. Thanks though,” Kate returned.

The first day back at home, Kate had been laid up on the sofa downstairs. She hadn’t felt like hiking up the stairs until the second day home. Her mother had walked beside her, supporting her right side as she slowly made the painful trek. Now Kate was in her own bed again with her soft down comforter that had kept her warm for the past six years. Her mother had had it shipped from Alaska after one of her business trips to Juneau.

In her own room, Kate felt better physically. The familiar surroundings cheered her up a little. But Kate knew that her life was never going to be the same. She had a nagging suspicion that Aidan would come for her any day now, if he hadn’t left her behind. She wasn’t ready to leave, not now. Her body was still mending. There was no way she could run from anyone or anything.

Nighttime was the hardest for Kate. She had begged her mother to stay in the room with her on a trundle bed until she could get around better on her own. She really just didn’t want to be alone in the dark. She was afraid something was coming for her, and she didn’t want to face it alone. She still couldn’t say what had caused the accident, but she feared that it wasn’t natural. Kate didn’t know of any breed of dog that could cause that much damage to a full-sized SUV. She had only seen one creature, but the Tahoe had been rammed on each side, making it impossible for only one animal to do that kind of damage.

 Kate tried not to dwell on the accident. Her memory was too hazy to accurately describe what had taken place. All she was sure of was the after effects. She was injured and her friends had almost been killed. This was serious, too serious for Kate to comprehend.

“Hey mom,” Kate asked, “where's dad’s old bible? Do we still have it?”

“I think it’s in the bookcase downstairs. You want me to go look, sweetie?’

“If you don’t mind, there’s something I’d like to look up,” Kate returned.

Kate had a student bible of her own, but she had always preferred looking through her father’s old bible. It was thick and had hundreds of references to remote passages. When she was younger, she had spent lazy Sunday afternoons picking though its worn pages. It was one of the few personal belongings her dad had left behind. She had offered to ship it to him after she noticed that he had forgotten to take it with him. His reply had been, “that’s all right. You can keep it.” That’s when Kate decided not to go to church anymore. It was more of an unconscious decision than anything else.

“Here you go, honey,” Karen popped into the room, placing the bible on Kate’s nightstand.

“Great. Thanks,” Kate returned, picking up the leather bound book.

“Honey, I meant to tell you earlier, I need to pop into town today to pick up a few things from the store. Do you think you’ll be okay while I’m gone?” Karen questioned loudly from the other room.

“Yeah, that’s fine. Go ahead, mom. You need to get out anyway. There’s no need for both of us to have cabin fever.”

“I’ll be back as soon as I can. You can call me on my cell if you need me.”

“Will do, Mom, just be careful,” Kate replied.

Kate could hear her mom gathering her car keys and the other contents of her purse from the dresser in her room across the hall. Kate wasn’t sure why the noise of keys rattling irritated her. Her hearing had become so sensitive in the last few days. She could barely hear at all after the car wreck, and had feared that her eardrums may have been permanently damaged. Now she could hear a pin drop in the next room.

As soon as she heard her mother’s car pull out of the drive, Kate began to wonder if she should try calling her cell phone. Would Aidan answer as he had before? Unsure of what she would say, she slowly picked up the receiver of her bedside phone and dialed her number. Each ring sent a small jolt of panic through Kate’s body. On the fourth ring, her voice mail picked up. She didn’t bother leaving a message. What could she say anyway?

 

 Returning the phone to its cradle, a lone tear crept down Kate’s cheek. Things had seemed so uncertain before. Now what was she supposed to do? There must be some reason Aidan hadn’t come to check on her. Surely there was something keeping him away.

Kate jumped at the sound of the phone ringing. Without hesitation, she jerked the phone up to her ear.

“Hello?”

“How are you feeling?” The voice on the other line questioned.

“Elise? Oh my god. Are you okay?  I’ve been so worried about you and Ellen.”

“We’ve both been moved to a regular room. Luckily, they put us in the same room.”

“Elise, I feel so guilty about all of this. I’ve been sick over it,” Kate cried.

“Kate, this is not your fault, believe me. I talked to mom yesterday when they moved us. She said she actually saw them ramming the car.”

“Saw what, the dogs?”

“Dogs? No, there weren’t any dogs. Kate, they were demons, full-fledged demons. Mom said there were at least three.”

“She saw them? I didn’t see anything,” Kate muttered, “but I did cover my face when we lost control.”

“That could be why, or maybe you just can’t see them. I didn’t see anything either, but I think that was because I was too busy freaking out,” Elise chuckled softly. “Anyway, we should be coming home in the next week or so, maybe sooner if it’s up to mom. She hates being in bed all day.”

“I’m just glad to hear your voice, Elise. I wasn’t sure if you were dead or alive for a while. Mom’s been keeping in touch with your dad. I would’ve called him myself, but I’ve been sleeping most of the time since I’ve been home. Today was the first day I didn’t have to take pain pills.”

“Well, we’re all going to be taking it easy for a while. My leg is broken in four places and I had some internal bleeding that had to be fixed, but other than that, I feel fine. They’ve got me on morphine still, though. It makes me itch like mad, but I’d rather itch than be in pain.”

“How’s your mom? Did she have to have surgery too?”

“She had a collapsed lung and a broken nose. Apparently the steering wheel is responsible for that.”

“The paramedics told mom that we were all thrown from the SUV. I had my seatbelt on, and I know your mom did too.”

“Yeah, mom said she isn’t sure how we all ended up on the roadside. She passed out when she hit the steering wheel.”

“It doesn’t make any sense to me, Elise, none of it. Tell your mom that I’m sorry for all of this. I know you don’t think it’s my fault, but I do. The least I can do is apologize, if nothing else.”

“Don’t worry, Kate, we’ll be right as rain before you know it. I’ll call you when we head home, or I’ll have dad call. Talk to you then.”

“Okay. Get some rest, Elise. Bye.”

Hanging up the phone, Kate was now more confused than she had been previously. The unanswered questions perplexed her, almost to the point of making her brain hurt. She needed to talk to Aidan. Maybe he knew something. Maybe he had been there. What if he was the one who had rescued them from the vehicle?

            Kate was beginning to doze when the phone rang again. Maybe Elise had forgotten to tell her something. She reached over to pick up the phone, slowly lifting it to her ear. She didn’t have time to answer before the voice on the other end said her name. It was him.

            “Aidan,” Kate whispered into the phone.

“How are you feeling, Kate?” Aidan’s voice was like honey.

“I hardly know. I was afraid you had gone,” Kate stammered.

“I’ve been taking care of some things. Can I come see you?”

“My mom will be back in a little while. Aidan, I think you’re going to have to meet my mom at some point. Now is probably a good time, especially since she’s going to be with me until I get better.”

“If that’s what you want, Kate, then I’ll do it. I just didn’t want to make this any harder for you than it already is.”

“At least you can come as often as you like if you meet her. I’m sure she’ll be just as smitten with you as I am,” Kate attempted to laugh.

“I’ll call you when she gets back. Hopefully, she’ll agree to let me see you,” Aidan returned.

“I don’t think you’ll have to worry about that.”

“Okay, Kate, get some rest for now. I’ll see you soon.”

“Bye,” Kate returned softly before hanging up the phone.

Getting up slowly, Kate swung her legs over the side of the bed. She stood for a moment to make sure she wasn’t going to topple over before inching her way to the bathroom. She felt like a penguin, shuffling her feet across the wood floor.

If Aidan was coming over, she was at least going to attempt to make herself presentable. Kate hadn’t even bothered looking in the mirror over the past few days. Her face had escaped without bruising, but her arms, legs, and torso were scattered with scrapes and bruises from gravel and pavement. Most of the bruises were beginning to yellow. Kate thought they looked worse when they yellowed, although she knew that her body was healing.

Combing through her reddish-brown hair, Kate began to think about her mother. Her mother had given her life and had been her closest friend for the last nineteen years. Kate felt like a traitor and a coward for leaving, but Aidan had assured her that it was for her mother’s safety—and her own.

Kate could hear her mother’s car door slamming in the driveway. She knew Aidan would be calling at any moment. She didn’t have to wait long. The phone rang once before Kate had it up to her ear.

“Aidan?” Kate whispered.

“Kate, I want you to let your mom know that I’ll be stopping by in twenty minutes. I’ll do the rest.”

The phone line went silent. Kate could hear her mom shuffling around in the kitchen, probably putting cans of soup in the cupboard. Kate had decimated the soup supply over the last few days. Her appetite had increased since her hospital stay. She had been eating four meals a day, which mainly consisted of soup and baguettes.

“Kate, how are you feeling?” Her mother asked as she brought Kate a glass of lemonade.

“I feel a little better than I did earlier.”

“Do you want a pain pill, or are you managing without them?”

“No, I’m fine. Hey, Mom, Aidan called to check on me. He was hoping to visit in the next few minutes, if that’s okay by you.”

“Are you sure you’re up for it, honey? The doctor told you to rest as much as possible.”

"He’s just visiting. I’m not going to get up, or anything. Mom, please? It’s probably time you met him anyway,” Kate glanced up from her glass of lemonade at Karen.

“So does that mean you and Aidan are serious? I thought you said that the two of you just met a week or so ago.”

“No, I’m not saying that. It’s just that I’m not exactly going to be up for going out anytime soon. So, I thought it would be a good idea if you met him so he could come here.”

“Oh, well I suppose its fine, Kate. I just want to make sure you get plenty of rest. I don’t want you to overdo things. That could mean a longer recovery time.”

“I know, Mom. I promise I’ll get plenty of rest, but you need to meet Aidan. He should be here any minute, so be nice.”

“When am I not nice?” Karen laughed nervously.

“You are nice. I’m just saying….”

Both Karen and Kate heard a car pull into the drive. Kate’s heart began to beat faster as she smoothed her down comforter around her. Karen looked at Kate with an arched eyebrow as she walked towards the stairs. “Not serious, huh?” she muttered to herself as she descended the stairs.

A minute passed before Kate heard a knock on the front door. She held her breath, listening for the dialog that would pass between her mother and Aidan. Muffled sounds were all she could make out for several minutes. Finally, she heard steps ascending the stairs. She thought her heart might stop as she squeezed her eyes shut and exhaled slowly. She wondered if Aidan would be able to hear her rapidly beating heart.

“Kate,” his voice called softly.

Opening her eyes, Kate looked up at the beautiful man standing in her room. Grabbing a chair from the corner, Aidan approached Kate’s bedside and sat down a few inches from where Kate lay. Electricity seemed to radiate throughout Kate’s body at the nearness of Aidan. It was a pleasant, euphoric feeling that eliminated the pain that lingered in Kate’s body from her surgery.

“Kate, I cannot tell you how sorry I am about all of this,” Aidan started with a pained expression on his beautiful face.

“I’m not even sure what happened. Elise said her mother saw demons attacking the vehicle. Is that true, Aidan?” Kate questioned.

“Yes, Kate. I was certain that I had the situation under control, until it was too late. I was hoping to get all of you out before you could be injured, but I failed. I’m so sorry.”

“You saved us from falling into a ravine. I don’t see that as a failure, Aidan. We all would have died. Elise and Ellen were hurt pretty badly, but they’re going to be okay.”

“But I could have prevented this if I had convinced you to leave with me, instead of leaving with your friends. I should have known they would have a plan of attack.”

“So what does this mean now? Do they know that I’m back at home?”

“We have a little time, but not much. I fought them off, but they will only nurse their wounds for so long before they come back to fulfill what they were ordered to do.”

“Aidan, I’m not even supposed to travel for at least a month. How am I supposed to run from demons when I’m like this?”

Aidan reached over and laid his hand on Kate’s. His touch startled her. His hand felt feverishly warm and exerted a strange energy, much like the electricity that Kate felt in Aidan’s presence, but ten times stronger. The energy moved up through Kate’s arm and into her torso. From there, it spread out through her other limbs.

As intense as the feeling was, Kate had no desire to resist Aidan’s touch. She noticed his skin beginning to glow the longer his hand remained upon hers. Aidan’s eyes were closed and his lips moved slightly, as though he was muttering a silent prayer. Kate dared not move. She knew something was happening to her. Her body felt rejuvenated. Her ribs no longer ached when she breathed. The soreness left her body like a heavy fog lifting.

Aidan lifted his eyes to Kate’s and smiled. Kate stared back at him in confusion. She wasn’t sure what had just happened. The euphoria was wearing off and a sense of panic rose in her chest.

“What just happened?” She breathed.

“You’re healed,” Aidan returned with a crooked grin on his face.

Kate placed her hands gently on her rib cage, probing gently to check her injuries. There was nothing—no pain, no tenderness. Her hand grazed over the incision site where her spleen had been removed. No pain came when she pressed with her index and middle fingers.

“Would you like to inspect your wounds?” Aidan laughed as he got up from his chair.

Kate slung her legs over the bed and stood up slowly and cautiously. Even standing, Kate felt no pain or soreness. She glanced sideways at Aidan, and then made her way to the bathroom. Closing the door behind her, Kate lifted her shirt and began to unwind the ace bandages that hugged her ribcage. She carefully pulled at the tape that held gauze in place over her incision site.

Kate stared in disbelief as she looked at her torso in the mirror. There wasn’t even a scar left where she had been cut open. There was no bruising or redness left anywhere on her body. The cuts and road burn were gone. There was no trace of injury on Kate’s body. Kate twisted from side to size, gently at first, and then more aggressively. She was completely normal. Her body was completely healed.

Returning to her room, Kate sat on the edge of her bed. Aidan was standing at the window, gazing into the distance. Kate wasn’t sure what to say, but she felt that something must be said.

“How did you do that? How did you heal me?” Kate stuttered.

“I didn’t heal you. God did,” Aidan replied lightly.

“But you put your hand on me and now I’m healed.”

“I prayed that you would be healed, Kate, that’s all.”

“But you said that God couldn’t hear you,” Kate refuted.

“It was God’s will. Anyone could have prayed for you and the same thing would have happened.”

“No, that’s not true, Aidan. People have prayed for me before and nothing like this happened.”

“Did they lay their hands on you and truly believe that you would be healed when they prayed for you?”

“I don’t know if they really believed that or not. And no, they didn’t lay their hands on me.”

“Okay, then,” Aidan returned.

“So, what does this mean—me being healed and all?”

“It means we can leave as we planned. We’re only a few days behind.”

Kate looked at Aidan in disbelief. How could she leave, especially now that her mom was home? Thinking about leaving was one thing, doing it was something entirely different.

“What am I going to tell my mom? She came home to take care of me, and now I’m just going to up and leave?”

“Kate, have you forgotten the gravity of the situation?”

“It’s starting to come back to me,” Kate answered reluctantly.

“We’re already behind schedule. We should be in Canada by now.”

“Canada? We’re going to Canada?” Kate tried not to raise her voice.

“There are others waiting for us there. Call it a safe haven.”

“When are we leaving?”

“Now that you’re mended, we can leave immediately,” Aidan answered nonchalantly.

“But what about my mom, what am I supposed to tell her Aidan? I can’t tell her the truth. She’ll either think we’re crazy or freak out—or both.”

“I know this is difficult, Kate, but you must say goodbye—at least for now. Write her a letter if you feel the need, but we must leave tonight.”

“How am I supposed to pack with her here?”

“I have everything you need packed and ready to go. I took the liberty of buying you clothes for our journey.”

“My mom will come looking for me, or worse, she’ll send the police looking for me. What then?”

“Kate, they won’t find you, believe me. If I can keep you hidden from demons, don’t you think I can shield you from humans?”

“I guess I didn’t think about it that way. I guess I’ll start writing that letter now,” Kate sighed with resignation.

“I’ll be back in an hour, Kate. Be ready. Your mom is planning to go to her office soon, so she’ll be out when I get back. Have your letter finished by then.”

Aidan left Kate sitting on the corner of her bed. A lone tear crept down her cheek as she walked over to her small desk and pulled out a piece of stationary. This would be the hardest letter she had ever written. What could she possibly say to keep her mother from going crazy and calling the police? What could she say to minimize the pain and anguish her mother would experience while reading this goodbye letter.

With a heavy hand, Kate began to write.

Dear Mom,

First of all, I love you and I’m sorry. There are a lot of things I haven’t been honest with you about lately, but I want you to know that I’m okay. I’m leaving for a while, but it’s for the best. You’re in danger, and the only way for me to help you is by leaving.  I’ll check in with you as soon as I can. Please don’t worry—I know, that’s impossible—please don’t worry too much. Don’t send the police after me. I’m leaving on my own free will. 

I love you, mom.

Kate

Kate folded the letter in half and stuffed it into the matching envelope. Her mother had bought her the stationary she now used. It was made from cotton paper and had a single sparrow embossed in gold at the top of the paper. Kate treasured the stationary, so she had reserved the paper for special letters only.

Slipping the letter into the back pocket of her jeans, Kate scanned her room for any items she might want to take with her. Her father’s bible on the nightstand caught her eye. She grabbed it and tossed it into a messenger bag, along with a spare toothbrush and a few other toiletries. She wasn’t sure exactly what Aidan had bought for the trip, and she hated the idea of not having a toothbrush, even if she was on the run.

“Kate,” Karen yelled from the kitchen, “I’ve got to run to the office for a few minutes. I’ll be back as soon as I can, okay?”

“Yeah, Mom, that’s fine,” Kate returned instantly.

“Hey, let’s watch a movie when I get back. And I want to talk with you about Aidan, too.”

“Okay, Mom, be careful.”

The kitchen door closed below and Kate threw herself on her bed. The tears came as soon as her face hit the mattress. How can I do this? Kate cried to herself. How can I just leave her? Kate knew that every moment she lingered, she was risking her mother’s well being, but she also knew that her mother would rather Kate be there. She knew her mother would risk her life for Kate to remain with her. But what good was it if they both ended up dead? What victory was there in that? She had to think about the future for both her and Karen.

Twenty minutes later, Kate heard a soft knock at the front door. Kate opened the door to find Aidan in a fresh change of clothes.

“Are you ready, Kate?”

“As ready as I’ll ever be, I guess,” she replied, dropping the letter from her back pocket onto the small table in the foyer.

“I’ve got the car running, so we’d better go,” Aidan said as he turned to walk back out the door.

Kate followed him without hesitation. She was beginning to realize that somehow his and her paths were intertwined, and only the future would reveal just how tightly woven their paths would be. Whatever road she was to travel, Kate felt a strange confidence that her journey was for the benefit of mankind. This thought was the only thing that kept her from turning back. She must walk this path—stay this course. Perhaps this was what she had been born for. Perhaps this was her calling. She had always felt that she didn’t fit into the mold of mainstream society. She couldn’t imagine herself in any profession that society had to offer. She had always felt like a social drifter, if only metaphorically.

Climbing into the black sedan, Kate knew there would be no turning back. She was already too far into this to even consider going back to her previous life. Aidan looked at her, sympathetically, as though he could read her thoughts at that moment.

“Will I ever see my mother again?”

“I hope so, Kate. I truly hope so.”

The sun had begun to set as they made their way towards the highway that would lead them northwards. A swirling of purples, pinks, and oranges painted the sky until darkness overtook the landscape. Kate felt that the sun had just set on her old life, and what the future held, she knew not.

Turning to Aidan, she began to ask the questions that had been plaguing her mind for the last few days.

“What’s going to happen now?”

“We’ll meet with others like us, and then we’ll start creating our army.”

“Army, what army, Aidan?”

“The army that is going to put an end to Lucifer’s tyrannical reign over Earth.”

“Is that even possible, though? I thought that Satan would be defeated at the Second Coming.”

“In the literal sense, yes, but when mankind is able to see the supernatural again, they will chose sides. They will choose Lucifer or Christ, and once they have all chosen, the battle will begin.”

“So, if you create an army of nephilim, you’ll usher in the apocalypse?”

“Something like that,” Aidan returned, glancing into his rearview mirror.

“I thought this whole thing was about you gaining some kind of redemption?”

“Yes, that’s mostly what it’s about, but if I can help mankind in the process, then that makes it even better. My original purpose was to aide mankind, but all that changed after the fall. I’m just trying to make up for lost time.”

“You said we’d meet with others like us. What exactly do you mean by that?”

“Other fallen angels who have fled from Lucifer’s service—and their human companions.”

“There are others who are attempting to create nephilim? I thought it was forbidden.”

“It is, but only to followers of Lucifer. We no longer follow him, so we cannot be confined by his orders.”

“And these women are followers of Christ? I thought it was almost impossible to find these women.”

“I’m only going off what I’ve heard through the channels. I’m not the only rogue demon. I’ve never met the others, but I’ve heard that they congregate in remote parts of Canada—far from prying eyes.”

“How long will it take to get there?”

“Hard to say. If we don’t make too many stops, we could be there this week, but then again, I’m not sure exactly where these renegades are sheltered. Finding them could prove difficult, especially since they have no desire to be found.”

“What do we do until then?”

“Stay low and keep traveling.”

Kate pulled her legs up, wrapping her arms around her knees. Her mind was swimming with more questions, but she didn’t want to be a nuisance. Instead, she reached for the radio controls. Not in the mood for anything upbeat, Kate found the station that played classical music. A soft sonata filled the cab, easing the tension of both passengers. Aidan’s shoulders seemed to drop slightly, relaxing his stone like muscles.

Unable to contain the questions any longer, Kate asked the question that had been most pressing on her mind since she had learned what he was.

“What do you look like when you aren’t in human form?” She asked in almost a whisper, half hoping that he wouldn’t hear her.

“We look surprisingly human, but much larger, and stronger, obviously.”

“I was under the impression that demons were hideous to look at,” Kate returned.

“Hollywood is responsible for that, I’m afraid, although, there are some of my kind that are quite hideous and terrifying to look upon. I mentioned the fire that we passed through when we entered the Earth’s atmosphere. The ones that are hideous are the ones who were scarred by the fire. Some have chosen to never take their true form again because of their deformities. They are just shapeless shadows.”

“When you say larger, how much larger are we talking about?”

“Usually around eight or nine feet tall, although I’ve seen taller. I was a watcher, so there was no reason for me to be as large as the warring angels. My height is closer to that of a tall human’s.”

“Would I be able to see you if you weren’t in human form?”

“Probably not, Kate, but there’s only one way to know that for sure.”

“I’m not sure I’m ready for that yet. It’s like a dream…or nightmare. I mean, I believe the Bible and all, but this all seems so extraordinary.”

“The truth always is extraordinary. That’s why Lucifer has gone to such lengths to keep it concealed from mankind. He knows that when the veil is lifted, man will return to his Creator. Seeing is believing, to mankind anyway, and when the nephilim are created, man will be able to see for himself what Lucifer has tried to hide.”

Kate fell into silence for the next couple of hours, trying to absorb the information Aidan had given her about his kind. Her eyelids began to feel weighted, but she fought to stay awake. How could she possibly sleep at such a time as this? The longer silence invaded the car, the heavier Kate’s eyelids became. Finally, she gave into the sleep that forced itself upon her. A dream waited for Kate as she slipped into sleep.

She was running through a dense forest at dusk, tripping on fallen branches and undergrowth. A briar bush snagged at her sleeve, tearing the delicate material and scratching her skin underneath. There was a clearing up ahead, but the light was fading. Kate could hear gusts of wind winding through the trees close behind her. The night around her was calm. The noises she heard was not wind from the natural world. It was a manifestation of her pursuers. They were closing in on her, and unless she made it to the clearing soon, all would be lost. She held a bundle tightly to her chest. The bundle remained still as long as she was in motion, but if she paused for a moment, it would begin to stir. The forest was beginning to thin now. The underbrush had made way to small ferns and moss-covered earth. Kate knew she must be getting closer to her destination. The sun had almost set, but there was still a soft glow of orange and red leading Kate to the clearing ahead. Straining her legs to move faster, Kate fled as quickly as she could, ignoring the cramp in her right side and the burning of her lungs. The sky exploded with light as she leapt from the forest into the knee-high grass that covered the field.

Kate was jerked into the present when the car hit a pothole. She blinked a few times, trying to clear that fogginess that remains after a dream has ended and reality has returned.

“Are you all right, Kate?” Aidan questioned as he glanced at Kate’s blank expression.

“Yeah, I just had a weird dream, that’s all,” she muttered, trying to slow her breathing. She hadn’t realized she’d been breathing heavily until Aidan had spoken.

“Do you have many strange dreams?” Aidan asked with concern.

“I didn’t have any until I met you,” Kate half laughed, “no offence, or anything.”

“No offence taken. Perhaps you should tell me about these dreams you’re having. They could mean something.”

“I’m probably just stressed out, that’s all. My lifehasbeen a bit chaotic over the last couple of weeks.”

“Indeed it has,” Aidan returned, “I’d still like to hear about those dreams sometime, though.”

Signs along the highway indicated a rest stop was a mile up the road. Dawn had just broken over the horizon as Aidan exited onto the ramp that led to the rest area ahead. Kate sighed with relief as she flexed her stiff legs. She glanced over at Aidan, who seemed to be hiding a smile. As soon as Aidan had parked the car, Kate slung the door open and swung her legs out.

“Aidan, did you drive all night?”

“I’m afraid it’s necessary. Perhaps you should try sleeping in the back seat from now on though. You seem a bit stiff this morning,” Aidan smirked.

“Do all demons have a sense of humor, or is it just you?”

“Most don’t possess a healthy sense of humor—to say the least. And for the record, I prefer ‘fallen angel’ to ‘demon.’ Being called a demon comes across too sinister. I stopped considering myself one as soon as I left Lucifer’s service.

“Oh, sorry,” Kate said in a low voice, shoving her hands into her pockets as she walked. “I didn’t realize there was a difference before.”

“There is a big difference, but I didn’t expect you to know that,” Aidan replied lightheartedly.

There was only one other car at the rest stop, which probably belonged to the person manning the information desk. Pulling the glass door open, Aidan motioned for Kate to go inside. Kate made her way to the ladies restroom to empty her bladder after the long car ride. Washing her hands, she glanced up at the mirror. The bags under her eyes were exaggerated by the smeared remnants of mascara she had applied yesterday before Aidan had come by. "Wow, I look like crap", Kate said aloud as she attempted to wipe her eyes with a wet paper towel.

Somewhat satisfied with her appearance, Kate made her way back into the main lobby. Two of the four walls were covered with tourist brochures to the various attractions and landmarks near and far. Spotting a free coffee stand close to the information desk, Kate made her way over to search for a Styrofoam cup. She needed coffee—and sugar.

Downing the weak coffee in three gulps, Kate looked around for Aidan. She spotted him at the far corner of the room, studying a map on the wall. Throwing her cup in the metal trashcan beside the coffee stand, Kate made her way over to his side. Aidan seemed to be lost in thought as she stood beside him.

“I’m ready when you are,” she said softly as Aidan turned to look at her.

“Ok, let’s go.”

As Kate and Aidan walked towards the car, other vehicles began to file into the parking lot. Kate was glad they had missed the rush. She had never liked large crowds, especially when waiting in line to go to the restroom. Aidan opened the passenger side door for Kate and then made his way to the driver’s side of the car. He was about to place the key into the ignition, but paused.

“You’ll have to forgive me, Kate. I forgot that you have to eat several times a day. I promise we’ll stop at the first restaurant we come across. Until then, I grabbed a few candy bars from the vending machines,” he said handing her the candy.

“Thanks,” she replied, taking the bars from his hand. “I honestly wasn’t even thinking about food. The excitement stole my appetite.”

“Please don’t hesitate to remind me when you’re hungry or you need to make a stop. I forget that humans require so much upkeep,” Aidan jested lightly.

“Yeah, I know,” Kate returned, “I think humans got the short end of the stick when it comes to our physical needs.”

            “I think you may be right about that.”

            The engine roared to life as they began the second day of their journey to the north. Kate began thinking about Canada. She had never been to Canada before or anywhere outside of the continental U.S although she had applied for a passport two years ago. She and Elise were supposed to go on a cruise for their senior trip, but Elise had contracted mono the last week of school and had been weak for months. Then she remembered—she forgot her passport.

“Aidan, I didn’t get my passport from my desk. What will I do if we get pulled over?”

            Aidan reached past Kate and opened the glove compartment. He pulled out an envelope and handed it to Kate. Opening the envelope, Kate saw that her passport was inside.

            “I took it from your room yesterday. I hope you don’t mind,” he said apologetically.

“I’m glad you took it, actually. I didn’t even think to grab it,” Kate admitted.

“We’ll stop this afternoon and get you some food—real food—and then I’ll get you a hotel room. You can shower, change clothes, and rest for a few hours. I’ll be driving the rest of the night, so stretch out as much as you can when we check in.”

“Will you be staying with me, or are you going somewhere else?” Kate enquired shyly.

“I need to check out the area before I meet up with you. I’ll meet you for dinner though.”

“Are you going to be in human form when you do this, or will you change to your true form?”

“It’s better if I’m unseen. Humans tend to overreact when they see something other than birds flying through the air,” Aidan answered.

            Kate wasn’t quite sure she could view Aidan as anything other than the perfect man who sat beside her. She was too frightened to view him any other way. She looked away nervously when he glanced over and locked eyes with her. A flock of blackbirds blanketed the field she now stared into. Kate thought it peculiar that so many birds were grouped into one field. Looking over at the other side of the road, she saw the same scene in the field bordering the left side of the road. Aidan followed her gaze.

‘“I see you’ve noticed the birds.”

“I’ve never seen so many of them at one time,” Kate replied.

“Animals tend to pick up on the supernatural quicker than humans,” Aidan began. “They can sense when spirits are nearby and react accordingly.”

“What do you meanreactaccordingly?”

“If they sense a hostile spirit, they act erratically. When they sense a benign spirit—like myself—they tend to congregate.”

“So animals follow you around?” Kate asked.

“Not exactly, no. Humans usually don’t even pick up on it. If they see a flock of birds gather, or a few dogs in the area, they don’t make the connection. They usually blame it on the weather or something like that. It’s always more evident in rural areas. When I’m in large human populations, there are a lesser number of animals nearby anyway.”

Kate sat back in her seat, shielding her eyes from the rising sun. She couldn’t see how Aidan could drive without sunglasses. The sunlight was intense. She pulled the passenger side visor down to help block the blinding rays.

Aidan seemed to notice her discomfort. Reaching into the compartment between the front seats, he pulled out a pair of women’s sunglasses and handed them to Kate.

“Told you I had everything ready,” he beamed.

“Almost everything,” she laughed, “with the exception of food.”

“Yeah, you got me on that one. I promise I’ll get you a decent meal for lunch to make up for such a poor breakfast.”

“I’m just kidding, Aidan. I am looking forward to lunch though. I’ve been living off soup for the past few days, and that hasn’t kept me full.”

“Of course,” Aidan returned.

“So, you don’t ever have to eat?”

“No, not even in human form. I can eat, but I don’t have to for survival.”

“That seems convenient,” Kate jested, rubbing her growling stomach.

“Humans waste so much time eating,” Aidan laughed.

“That’s not the only thing they waste time doing. I’ve heard that the average person wastes years over their lifetime sitting on the toilet.”

“I guess that makes sense. It still puzzles me as to why God made mankind so fragile and different in design than his other creations.”

“Your guess is as good as mine,” Kate replied, her voice filled with a hint of sarcasm.

Kate and Aidan crossed over the Missouri state line before noon. A rundown gas station provided them with a full tank of gas before they headed towards St. Louis, where they would check into a hotel. Kate would be able to shower and rest before dinner, then it was back on the road for the rest of the night.

Kate closed her eyes, wondering what her mother was doing at the exact moment. She prayed that Karen had taken it as well as she possibly could. The thought of her mom being in emotional pain at her expense was almost too much to stomach. Kate strained to fight the tears that were trying to surface. She didn’t want to break down in front of Aidan. She didn’t want to break down at all. She was afraid the tears might lead to regret and she refused to regret her decision. She had left for the right reasons.

Kate felt a light pressure on her hand. Opening her eyes, she saw Aidan looking at her. She smiled weakly and then turned to look out her window as a solitary tear slid down her cheek.

“I know this is difficult, Kate. I can’t imagine how you must feel leaving your mother, but I do understand separation from the person you love most,” Aidan offered sympathetically.

“I just want my mother to be safe. I wouldn’t have left otherwise,” Kate said, wiping a few stray tears with the back of her hand.

“I know I’m not perfect, but I’ve always tried to be good to my mom. When my dad left, she broke down and I was the only one there to comfort her. I’ve done my best ever since trying to make her happy. I can’t stand seeing her sad. She’s probably lying in bed crying herself into a frenzy.”

“You can call her when we get to the hotel to let her know you’re okay. Just keep it under a minute so the call can’t be traced.”

“Really? I can call her?”

“I’m not your captor, Kate. You’re free to call her as often as you like as long as you exercise caution while doing it. It would be best if you left out where you are when you call.”

“Yeah, of course. You don’t know how much better that makes me feel, Aidan. I mean, it’s been a little over twenty-four hours and I’m already feeling super guilty about all of this.”

“It will get easier. The beginning is always the hardest. Separation is never an easy thing when it’s from someone you love.”

“Have you ever loved someone other than God?”

“Sure. I’ve loved the creation of God. I had comrades that didn’t rebel. They were the closest thing to brothers that a spiritual being can have,” Aidan replied.

“Have you ever loved a human?” She asked quietly, keeping her eyes on the road ahead.

“I’ve loved several humans—from a distance, of course.”

“So, you’ve taken the form of a human before?” Kate prodded.

“Only once before, but that was centuries ago. I was assigned to a small town in Northwest Ireland. There had been a spiritual awakening among the inhabitants of the surrounding communities, and I was sent to watch the effects that might follow such an awakening.”

“You needed to be in human form to watch?”

“No, but I needed to be in human form to infiltrate the church that was responsible for the awakening. There were so many people coming and going from all over Ireland during that time, so it wasn’t as noticeable when a stranger came to town.”

“So how did it end?”

“I befriended the minister who led the revival meetings. I had never had interaction with a human before. I had watched humans for thousands of years, but watching humans and trying to act as one are two completely different things.”

“I’m sure humans are pretty easy to fool. It would be impossible for a human to fool a demon, if the roles were reversed,” Kate pointed out.

“You’re certainly right about that,” Aidan laughed. “Your scent and beating heart gives you away instantly. Demons, on the other hand, have to worry about neither.”

“I’ve heard some people say that demons smell like sulfur,” Kate interjected.

“Some do give off foul odors, but only if they chose to give off the smell. It’s a scare tactic of many of the possessing spirits.”

“So all demons can’t possess humans?”

“Only those who have been assigned to possess are allowed to do that. The majority of demons are oppressive or depressive by nature.”

“Which were you—when you were in Lucifer’s service?”

“None of the above. I was strictly a watcher. There are watchers for every region of the Earth. We watched and reported what we saw to higher-ranking demons. I reported to Balor, who then reported to his superior, all the way up to Lucifer himself. Demon hierarchy is similar to many human forms of power.”

“How long have you been on the run?”

“Almost a full century now. Watchers only report when there is any significant information to report, so no one knew I had abandoned my post for almost fifty years. I was lucky to go unnoticed as long as I did.”

“I can’t imagine being alive for a century, much less hundreds of centuries. It almost seems torturous,” Kate mused as she stared at the blur of autumnal foliage.

“It’s only torturous if you’re in the wrong company,” Aidan replied bitterly. 

The End

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