***Since 2008, I have worked on my current novel, The Hunted One. I’ve rewritten it countless times, tossed thousands and thousands of words to the side. None of it was right. But this story haunted me. I could never leave it. Luck was on my side, and I finally managed to get it close to the story I heard in my head. However, until January (when it’s published), I wanted you all to get a sense of my story about Michaela and Gabriel and the war they wage. I hope you enjoy these upcoming short stories. Pardon any cumbersome writing – I wrote this a few years ago. Sorry for grammar mistakes. I’m not an editor for a reason. Without further ado, meet Gabriel.
The Color Red – Meet Lucifer
The Color Red – Meet Lucifer
I remember the day clearly.
Looking back, it wasn’t that spectacular. The day easily might have been forgotten if not for other events.
But that wasn’t the case. That wasn’t our fate.
I walked the levels of Heaven looking for you. I never had to work hard to find you. If we were separated, I followed the thin filament of string that seemed to stretch the distance between us. Like bread crumbs, I used the filament to track you. It wasn’t a hard hunt. You were in your office. But you weren’t alone. I heard Lucifer’s voice coming through the door.
You and Lucifer had grown to become good friends. He was painfully shy and intensely introverted. But somehow, you pulled him out of his shell. He had started coming more regularly to your office just to talk. Your friendship with Lucifer was a relief to everyone. You softened him, made it easier for him to be around the other angels.
But the conversation today in your office sounded especially tense. Lucifer’s tone was distant when he spoke, like he said everything but what he wanted to talk about. His silences echoed with agitation. I sensed your nerves even through the heavy wooden door.
Normally, I just went into your office. Lucifer had grown accustom to my constant presence. But something I perceived from his manner kept me hovering at the edge of the threshold.
Michaela? I asked through my thoughts.
“Come in, Gabe.”
You sounded almost relieved. Instantly, I knew you were looking for something to put Lucifer at ease. His emotions tended to influence everyone around him. He was a powerful being, and his anxiety clearly had you on edge.
When I entered, I immediately recognized the confusion in your face. My presence did not help Lucifer’s angst, but I would not leave you alone with him like this. Lucifer withdrew back into his shell, unwilling to open up with me in the room.
“Lucifer, was there something else? Is everything okay?” you asked again for what I imagined was the hundredth time. Lucifer ignored your question.
“I just wanted to thank you, Michaela.” Lucifer’s words were genuine, I sensed. But he never looked you in the eye. “Your friendship means more to me than you can know. All I’ve I ever wanted was to earn your respect.”
“Of course you have my respect, Lucifer. You are my Brother,” you said, frowning. “Are you sure there wasn’t something else you wanted to say?”
“It is nothing that cannot wait till later. I doubt if it’s really anything at all. Don’t worry.” Lucifer smiled. It was not Lucifer’s nature to smile.
Before you responded, Lucifer turned toward me and nodded. “Gabriel.”
“Lucifer, good to see you,” I said.
I still stood near the door, so I felt the tension in his body as he walked past. He paused at my side, turning his head slightly over his shoulder to look back at you. He stared at the rug’s pattern on the floor.
“Till we meet again, Michaela. Get some rest.”
“You too,” you murmured.
Once he was out of earshot, you turned toward me still visibly perplexed. “That was the weirdest conversation. Actually, I seriously doubt that even counted as a conversation.”
I silently waited for you to continue as I walked into the room and petted Bruce, your pet tiger. Some would find it odd that you had a pet Bengal tiger lounging on your sofa. Honestly, I thought you and Bruce were perfect for each other. You always had a penchant for the human, Bruce Springsteen, who you named the tiger after.
“We talked around everything but whatever issue he has. But it was like he never mustered the courage to just come out with it. I’m worried, Gabe. It felt weird.”
I looked up at your sweet, frowning face. You took so much personally. It’s one of the reasons you are such a great General. But you make everyone’s problems your own in an effort to lighten our burdens. We all respected your compassion tremendously, but I knew how your great capacity to love us wore you down and tore you apart behind our closed doors.
You stood barely moving, watching my hands pet Bruce. Only when I spoke did you look at me. But I knew you only saw Lucifer’s secretive eyes.
“He will tell you soon enough. Obviously, it wasn’t too important or he would have told you then.”
“Or it’s so important he couldn’t tell me.”
I knew that tone in your voice. That was the conclusion you had come to. As a rule, no one kept anything from you. So, of course you would think the worst when someone actually did. You were very stubborn. It was one of the many tiny reasons I loved you. I sighed.
“Well, there is nothing that can be done now. Let’s head home and get some rest.”
You nodded, looking grim. As I held the door for Bruce to head out in front of us, you gathered scrolls from your desk to take with you. When we stepped outside, all was normal. Life in the City looked typical. Lucifer’s secret could not be as important as you thought.
Hand in hand, we walked toward the courtyard. I remember feeling happy as we walked. It was a careless, thoughtless emotion. I wouldn’t feel it again.
I smiled as we walked. You were wrapped up in your own thoughts, like normal, but we looked like a family, and I remember loving that notion. Bruce twitched about with the grace only a wild cat can possess in front of us; busy angels zoomed about overhead. All was not quiet in the City, but I found peace holding your hand and watching our shadows walk along the pathway.
I knew you were worried, you often were. But something close to relief cycled through me when you laughed as Bruce leapt into the air, barely catching the robe of a low-flying angel with his claw. The poor angel tilted dangerously in the air, nearly crashing into the ground and nearby buildings. I squeezed your hand as you called out an apology. I was always telling you that you needed to lighten up.
You constantly carried the weight of the world on your shoulders.
We didn’t notice how crowded the courtyard was until we were walking up the steps. Knowledgeable angels gave a respectful wide berth to Bruce, allowing us to easily make our way to the middle of the crowd.
Everyone had gathered around the Tree of Knowledge. All eyes were turned upward. Everyone murmured in excited voices. Smiles filled faces. Eyes were especially bright and shining. The abundance of radiant wings caused an extra degree of illumination to the air.
It took me a moment to notice what caught everyone’s attention. But you noticed right away.
The blossoms from the Tree still perpetually floated down in hordes to the courtyard’s floor. But as one passed in front of my face, I understood the cause for excitement. The once pure heavenly white – the only color we had here- of the petals had changed. From the white edges, the pigment started getting darker and stranger, the white fading into a light pink that darkened intensely closer to the center of the blossom. The innermost heart of the flower was stained a vibrant blood red.
All of them were like that. Only on Earth had we seen color. So, we did not know how to classify what we saw before us. The colors were an onslaught of visual dynamics that excited our senses. We all felt the spike of adrenaline race through us. It was shocking.
All around us, we heard voices whisper the word ‘miracle’ and ‘phenomenon’ over and over.
It was beautiful in its strangeness. The red was immensely harsh, almost brutal. It was the color of spilt blood, like the blood of the mankind had splattered onto each petal.
I turned to you with the beginnings of smile spreading across my lips. My mouth opened to speak. I was excited, like the others. But no words came out when I saw your face. My throat dried, tightening in around itself.
You did not smile. Actually, you looked horrified. Your body grew rigid and deadly still against mine. Immediately, my excitement vanished. Your wide, fearful eyes looked into my own. We stood in silence for a moment, me waiting for you to speak and you too afraid to voice your thought.
But when you did speak, I felt a cold chill run down my spine. My wings slunk together tight against my back. I could feel my feathers tremble, like a cold wind had fluttered through them. My skin prickled. An odd clammy sick feeling settled into the pit of my gut. It was an odd sense of foreboding that I had never felt before in this place of perfection. But it was like a cloud had passed over our heads.
“Something is wrong.” Your voice trembled.
From that moment on, nothing was ever right again.