“We interrupt the scheduled viewing program to bring you current information on the world’s crisis. The following countries—”
Luci turned off the TV, irritated at the interruption. She had been watching a horror movie before the breaking news had cut into a scene that promised to be gripping.
“That’s what I get for relying on American cable,” she murmured, “What’s next? My AC would stop working? Or worse yet…”
“Luci,” an all too familiar voice called out, but the words sounded as if they were coming from afar, not even in the same room. It echoed in the nothingness, somewhere between space, and time. It rang with an authority that Luci, despite having since long fallen, and thus removed from her reign, still felt the urge to immediately obey any uttered command.
The first sign of Her herald was the sound of delicate crystal wind chimes, softly caressing the surrounding air. Then, there was a gentle scent of daisy, and carnation.
Luci twisted on her seat as a figure appeared in the room. But it was not really a figure it was more of a translucent pulsating light in the form of a person.
The prism of colors were too beautiful to describe. Luci felt the warmth of standing in front of a crackling fireplace in a cold winter’s day.
“I need your help,” El the Almighty Creator of heaven, and earth said.
Luci dismissed her words with a wave of her hand, “Why would You, the God of all, the I Am that I Am, Elohim, yada yada yada, need the help of me—the devil?”
“I can’t directly interfere with the doings of mankind.”
“No.” El’s tone never wavered. It remained firm, authoritative, calm, and unshaken.
Luci knew that if it was her that someone was being this insolent with, they would have immediately died before they could move a finger. Unlike her, El was perfect.
“Are you going to tell me, or are you contented in playing the guessing game?” Luci asked, annoyed.
“You already know the reason why I can’t.”
Luci held up a hand to her chin, and leveled a questioning gaze. “Do I?”
“Yes. You used the very thing to lure the first humans into disobedience.”
A lightbulb appeared over Luci’s head as she snapped her fingers. “Apple!”
“Man’s ability to choose.”
“Right…” Luci stressed the word, before stopping once she saw that her actions didn’t incite the desired effect. “…that.”
“Because of man’s greatest weapon, I can’t directly interfere with mankind to stop them from destroying the world.”
“Is that why I have fallen? To save your ass?” Luci asked sardonically, interrupting the few seconds of silence.
“Language,” there came the reprimand, as always. “But yes. As the prince of darkness, you can interfere in ways I deliberately forbid myself from.”
And wasn’t that one of the many sexist titles; humans gave her.
“Why don’t you just… I don’t know… flood them all as you did before? Or send that goody two-shoe son of yours?”
“The covenant I made with Moses is still valid, and sending Jesus again, or anyone else to be their Savior would be a blatant repeat of the past, and may cause unintended results.”
“Unintended results? Now, isn’t that a bit of info? Still…Why don’t you wait till humans kill each other?”
“They are my children!” El sounded appalled. “What kind of parent would sit idle while her children go extinct?”
“Not a very good one, I suppose,” Luci sighed, stretching out on the seat. “Okay. Let’s say I help you, what do I get?”
“Within reason, I’ll… owe you one.”
“An IOU? Well, that would come in handy someday. Yeah, sure, might as well have some fun. I have free reign to… help them as I feel?”
“Again, within reason.” El’s light began fading, becoming no more than a pulsating small ball of light hovering a short distance from Luci’s head. “You are to do the opposite of what you normally do, Luci. There is enough there already.” that was the last thing She said.
Then, suddenly, everything went quiet again. Slowly, Luci stood while sighing. “Some time away from here would do me some good. It was getting a bit boring…”
An owl hooted, joining the cacophony of sounds that pervaded the night. Cars driving along the main road, the chatter of a bird could be heard somewhere in the distance, the footsteps of many people were traveling up, and down the streets, but Luci blocked it all out as she walked; one hand in her gray fleece hoodie, the other holding on a cup of coffee.
She sighed contentedly as she brought it to her lips, enjoying the warmth of the caramel liquid as it cascaded down her throat.
On this side of the city, there was no much scenery other than working factory buildings, and condemned ones. Without even bothering to look, her attention was fixed on the malevolence she sensed few blocks ahead.
She knew that there were drug dealers, and other bad individuals lurking about in those abandoned buildings. She has seen enough strung-out junkies desperate for a fix, trying to manhandle passersby for money.
Her eyes, an unusual shade of silver, roamed around, searching, till her gaze landed on the alley she was looking for.
Pity she was too late to save one of the lives.
She could only watch as a body was flung back by the sheer force of the bullet’s impact, splattering the wall, and the sidewalk with its brain.
Crouching in front of the deceased—Evelin, her powers supplied—she examined the body. The woman’s brown eyes were still open, but showed no emotion, as motionless, and lifeless as a doll’s eyes. A ring peeked securely from a handheld to her chest, even in death.
Luci placed her hands over the deceased’s eyes, and closed them. She turned to the alley where Evelin’s husband was held at gunpoint.
At least she could still save the husband, the one comfort, save for reanimation that she could give to her.
The assailant—Finn, short form for Finnegan—was gangly, with filthy hair that covered his eyes, and rough-looking beard. Dean—the husband—was strong enough to overpower the murderer, but what dissuaded him was the gun, a 45 caliber pistol, pointed at him. At that close range, the powerful handgun was capable of dealing much damage.
“Give me everything!” Finn’s voice was loud-pitched with an undertone of desperation. His hands shook with the guilt of the action he was forced to commit, and would probably commit again, but the gun was still leveled at Dean.
Taking care of sick family members had hardened his heart. If he couldn’t get the money to provide for their medications, and other expenses, they would die, and leave him alone.
He couldn’t bear that thought, and so had resorted to extortion, and if prompted, murder.
It was the harsh truth of reality. Finn was a product of the disease that was humanity.
And I am to save it, Luci thought with an irritated frown.
The world could burn for all she cared. Unfortunately for her, and fortunately for them, their Creator cared.
In the split second before the situation finally dawned on Dean, and the man reacted, Luci waved her hand over the scene. They were both petrified in place, giving her time to organize the facts, and make decisions. Feeling like a famous detective, she got ready to play judge, jury, and executioner on Earth.
Who, among them, deserved eternal damnation? The man doing all he could, including tainting his own soul, to prolong the lives of his loved ones, or the man taking his wife of a year on a languid stroll, after a successful dinner date?
The choice was obvious, yet, looking beneath the underneath, one would find that not all was as it seemed.
Finnegan Wood was a teen that had lost faith in God the moment sickness struck his family. In a decidedly ironic twist of fate, he was the only one that avoided it. With no distant uncles, or aunts to assist, the black sheep of the family, useless little Finn, was obliged to take care of them. It had been a fast spiral into the life of crime, but who could blame him? He had no relevant enough knowledge, or skills to gain cash, unless one would consider drinking a bottle of beer in one go a profitable skill.
His family’s health became his most important concern. Everything else took a backseat as each day was spent grinding. It wasn’t enough though. Slowly, but surely, each member of his family gave up until only his sister remained. By that time, desperation was all he had as a company.
On the other hand, Dean Hill was a well-off man who, despite losing his parents at an early age, was determined enough to succeed, and succeed he did. Using his accumulated knowledge, and cunning, born from a hard life, he was able to climb the corporate ladder, and become the manager of a thriving firm. It was motivational, a typical rag to richness story. But here was the kicker; Dean was a sadist. Therefore, Evelin, if she had made it out of the altercation alive, would have still died later that night. Not due to a random mugging, but by the very hands of the man she loved, and thought loved her back.
Her death here was a mercy because the pain Dean would inflict on her would have been far too cruel for her fragile mind. She would die a broken lady.
Dean’s streak of sadism started with just a glimpse of a BDSM routine gone wrong in his neighbor’s house. Then, he grew a sick fascination for it as his childish mind replayed the scene over, and over again. It wasn’t long before he just had to try it out. He called it experimentation. It was the first of many.
Luci walked over, and stopped in front of Dean. She waved her hand in front of the man, freeing only his senses. He instantly became afraid when he tried to move, and couldn’t. His heart pounded as he realized that he was frozen incapable of running, or crying for help. His bladder, now unable to contain itself, released a torrent of hot urine, spilling down the man’s leg, and running out onto the ground in a puddle.
“You have been judged, and found guilty, human.”
Dean’s eyes widened. His very soul, filled with raw, palpable fear, cried out for help; no one could hear, and the one that did was deaf to his pleas. It was too late.
“Don’t worry, there’s space where you are going.”
Luci’s eyes gleamed red in the darkness, a putrid odor of dead animals baking in the sun, filled the atmosphere as her power flooded his system. The man fell, strings cut like a marionette, eyes wide, glassy, and absolutely afraid. His screams echoed along with the multitude that lived their eternity in the lake of fire.
“Don’t bother looking for your wife,” she whispered as she turned on her heels, and left the alley. “She isn’t there.”
A fair distance away, Luci raised her hand into the night, and snapped her fingers. The night became alive with sounds once again, as if she had somehow flipped a switch, and now time was allowed to move forward again after being halted for some time. Police, and ambulance sirens filled the air as they grew closer.
Back in the alley, time unfroze for one Finnegan Wood. The teen wasn’t expecting to see a wad of cash on the ground, with a note by its side that read:
Not her usual MO, but as per the rules, humans had a choice. Whatever he reaped, in the end, was all on him.
Luci tugged on the bus line, and came to a stop near her apartment. It was in a cozy building, in the good part of the city. She hopped onto the sidewalk, and trudged the rest of the way. She grasped the handle, and opened the door, entering into the living room; a simple yet cozy place.
She didn’t bat her eye at the seated form of the man on her couch, one leg over the other, and back reclined. She just tossed her keys on the coffee table, and shrugged out of her hoodie, and threw it over the other couch. It didn’t mean he couldn’t notify her, or something before dropping, or rather appearing in.
“The fuck you doing here Gaby?”
The archangel Gabriel looked up with silvery-gray eyes, matching—to her forever annoyance—with her favorite hoodie. “Good evening Luci.”
“Fuck your evening,” she sneered as she entered the kitchen, and opened the fridge, pulling out a milk carton. She tore it open, and drank straight from it. Like a boss bitch, she might add.
He shrugged. “I’m sorry, but I can’t…” A press on the remote changed the channel; each one was as depressing as the previous one. After a while of seeing the same facts repeating consecutively, he gave up, and switched off the TV. “I see you’ve logged two more souls today.”
“Yeah, about that,” she uttered as she fell on the couch, her legs propped up on Gaby’s lap. “Do you mind telling me where Evelin is right now? Heaven, or hell?” she asked with a voice as sweet as honey.
“If only the Good Lord would allow me to divulge that information to anyone other than Heavenly beings.”
She didn’t even bother to shrug. “Yeah, if only.”
He watched her with a considerate look as she went about looking for something quick to fix, and eat. “But… I am allowed to say at least, that they would be trialed, and judged accordingly. Their sins, and good deeds would be weighed, and depending on which side the scale tipped, their eternity would be sealed.”
“So in other words, nada.”
Luci turned to face him with a curious expression on her deceptively delicate features as he spoke. “As you know, we angels, fallen, or not have the gift of clairvoyance. We are able to peer into the past of humans, and know their history up to a certain point in time, the present to be exact. From what you must have inferred from the two humans that died this night, it should be easy to make the correct guess of who attained eternal paradise, or damnation.”
“Life’s not so black, and white, Gaby.”
“Maybe,” Gabriel hedged as he stood. Coming to a stop behind, and to the side of her, his large warm hands came to rest on her shoulders. As his face brushed her cheek, his low, and soft voice was filled with kindness, and understanding. “But that doesn’t mean it can’t be sometimes. And if you must know, Evelin is currently resting in the Lord’s embrace.”
Luci felt the gentle brush of air as he walked past her, heading to the door. Unbidden, a smile formed on her face. That creeping sensation of joy rose inside her body, and she did her best to ignore it. While a notice before his arrival would be nice, in the end, she didn’t care despite her contradicting obscene words. He wasn’t perfect as shown by his admission. Somehow, that made her feel less… she shook her head. It didn’t matter anymore.
The truth, a rarity for her to say either to herself, or to others, was that she preferred having him over. But, she would rather scar her body than tell him, or even admit that because of his regular visits, she felt less lonely. That was probably why he was instructed to be her chaperone of sorts.
As she mulled over the whys, she plucked a porcelain blue bowl from the cupboard, and poured a generous amount of cereal, and milk into it before taking it to the living room, and plopping on the couch. The TV turned back on with a glint of her powers.
“As protests over police brutality roil cities, this is an extraordinary moment of pain as civilians bear the brunt of three crises—police violence, crushing unemployment, and the deadliest infectious disease threat in a century. Public health…”
She may not be concerned with the affairs of this world, but she had known when humans started dropping like flies. Stuff like that tended to be noticeable to everyone. Prior to the negotiated deal, she had believed it to be nothing, but a sad coincidence, or the result of a government leaked infection.
The truth was far worse for mankind.
The virus that had swept across world nations was born out of the combined efforts of many spiritual forces. Witches, druids, sorcerers, and other supernatural beings attuned to magic, had pooled together all their resources to achieve one common goal:
The total annihilation of humans.
Guess she wasn’t the only one disgusted with mankind.
The power generated was enough to get Her attention, so much so, that El knew that if She didn’t get involved, it would spell doom for men, women, and children alike. But because of the power she bestowed on humans—choice—She couldn’t directly take part herself.
The truth, sadly enough, was much gloomier, for humans, she meant.
From the moment man committed his first sin by eating from the forbidden fruit, there was a rift—sin—that came between El, and Her creations. That rift had only grown further apart with the new, and inventive ways humans sinned. It effectively stopped Her from coming down, and wiping out all those who sought harm to Her children. However, due to the fact that sin began with Luci herself, she could get involved with the ensuing mess, and stop the perpetrators.
A pity her powers were limited, and she wasn’t omnipotent, omniscient, or omnipresent. That would have made her task way easier.
Even though the virus had affected many, most humans didn’t know about it. Dean, and Evelin certainly didn’t, and an untold number of people too. Humans tended not to believe anything untoward that happened until they became victims themselves. That was how selfish they were.
It was both sickening, and funny to watch them avoid all talks of a problem till it faced them, and they couldn’t escape it any longer; sickening to see them not able to protect themselves from something they had ample time to find protection against, and funny to see them scramble, and flee to their different vices, be it religion, sex, drugs, or even the bottle of liquor. They would indulge in it, and so pray to their god.
Most listened, and helped. Others, stared dispassionately as they were swallowed up. Luci was part of the latter. El, on the other hand, couldn’t bear to see Her creations in pain.
Humans were lucky. They didn’t just know it. They also didn’t know that the grace they took for granted, there would come a time when they would look for it, but wouldn’t find it, a period when that unending grace ended.
Humans were lucky that this wasn’t such a period.
With a sigh, Luci switched off the TV, threw the remote somewhere on the couch, and stood up. Stretching her arms back as she yawned, she idly scratched at her side as she stumbled into her room. She collapsed onto her bed, legs hanging off the side. With another sigh, one of relief this time, she wiggled under the sheets, and closed her eyes, dozing off almost immediately.
They were lucky that even if they sinned, they still had opportunities—multiple ones—to repent.
Luci’s opportunity fell with her.