An Angel's Tears

One of the nine greatest archangels, Remiel is entrusted with the safe-keeping of the souls of the dead. But when a mortal invades his mind, filling his lonesome thoughts with strange new desires, he discovers that even God's heavenly Plan can have faults - and his disobedience has horrible consequences, as he plummets from the heavens. Ariadne is just a normal girl - if you overlook her recently murdered family, the resultant speech impediment, and her aptitude for drawing. Together, can these two broken souls find their redemption? Or will their growing bond lead only to more pain?

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4. Chapter 3-2: Phantom

  Remiel

          The pain returned first, an agony beyond thought or word. It just was. It felt as if a thousand knives pierced my body at every conceivable position, tearing and serrating my flesh to ribbons.

            Next came the other feelings. I could feel something slightly damp and itchy underneath me. Something cool and gentle above me. My mind placed words to these sensations, words I’d never heard before but knew instinctively to be true. Earth. Wind. The warmth beating down on me was the sun. That creaking sound was the wind rustling the trees around me. I could feel their awareness, their curiosity. The ancient boughs were watching me, waiting to see what I was, whether I was a threat.

            My body came back in bits and pieces, breaking through the mind-numbing agony. I lay there in the dirt, my eyes closed, slowly coming to myself in this new world. This human world.

            I knew that my hand was the least damaged part of me, along with the arm it belonged to. My entire left side felt relatively intact, at least in comparison to my right side. My right side made me want to scream just thinking about it, because every time I did the pain flared up again.

            Thought was last. My first thought: they’re coming. I knew without a doubt that the other would hunt me, would pursue me to the ends of this earth and beyond, to fulfill their callings. To do anything else would be to deny the Plan, after all. I felt again that terror I’d felt while falling. That feeling of being chased, of being watched. And I knew that I had to run.

            My eyes opened to find a shadowed wood, full of green plants and growing things. The colors were spectacular: deepest jade to bright emerald, olive and chartreus. There were others, colors I didn’t have any name for. They sparkled tantalizingly, just out of my reach, twisted on their sides because of the angle I was looking from. I lay there, mesmerized, for a few moments before another rustle of the wind brought me back to myself.

            I knew that I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t even feel my right leg, but judging by the weight behind me as I dragged myself through the foliage, it was still there. My wings were agony, trailing through the mud like lead weights, making me stop and gasp every time they touched anything. That was the worst loss by far. I didn’t mind the cuts and gouges, the broken and shattered bones of my body. But to lose my wings was unforgivable. Inconceivable.

            I was only a few feet from the light, safely ensconced in a shadowed area of the forest, when I couldn’t go on any more. There was a little clearing there, spreading out around me, so my wings were blissfully untouched. I drew my left arm back to my chest and lay my head upon it, closing my eyes once more.

            I must have dozed off, because a blazing pain in my side woke me. I was just in time to see a small, furry animal scamper away, it’s muzzle and paws coated in something red and shiny. It looked just like the liquid easing from my cuts, so I knew that it came from me. I couldn’t turn my head enough to see what the animal had done, but I knew that it hurt, and that pain reawakened all my other wounds.

            Eventually the pain grew to be too much, and I closed my eyes again. I knew that there was every possibility that the other angels would find me while I slept, but I honestly didn’t care. Anything to escape the pain.

            My dreams were dark and twisted, full of sickly green things covered in glistening red. White rods stuck up from human backs, showing where fallen angels’ wings had been torn from their bodies. Their eyes followed me, accusing. But for the first time in months, I didn’t dream of the girl in her glass room.

            The wind whistled around me, sending a jolt up my wings as I instinctively tried to unfurl them. This world had such beautiful wind, not at all like the mellow, peaceful gusts back home. It was wild, free. Unbound and unfettered. Beholden to no one. I wanted more than anything to fly here, knowing that it would be an experience unlike any other.

            But I was awake now, and my wings were broken and I was broken and no amount of dreaming could ever fix me. I would end up just lying here like a thing already dead until Amon found me.

            An eerie scream echoed through the darkness around me, shattering the silence. It was so similar to my thoughts, to my own fear, that I at first thought it had belonged to me. But no. I hadn’t opened my mouth. I’d never made any sound, really. We conversed directly to each other’s thoughts, so why use words?

            It was as if the shriek called another wave of air, blowing over me in agonizing bliss. Without thinking, I once again stretched for it, trying to cup it in my wings, but I couldn’t. My broken body screamed silently as the pain flared once again. I felt the breath leave me all at once, making this strange whistling sound as it passed through my jaw. After that I lay as still as possible, awaiting the pain of Amon’s fingers wrapping around my feathers and tearing them away.

            But it didn’t come. After a few moments, I opened my eyes, intending to ask why he was waiting, and it was then that I saw the girl. Instantly I knew her, and knew that I was still dreaming. But why had I dreamed myself into this much pain? It was when she looked up, saw me, and shrieked so loudly that it felt like a dagger in my brain that I knew it was real. But why was she here?

            I wanted to ask her, but somehow my thoughts wouldn’t come. Maybe mortal’s minds were weaker, and they needed me to be closer. That was what I told myself as I dug my hand into the dirt once more and pulled myself slowly, laboriously, closer to the girl from my dreams. The girl who had written on the glass walls of her prison in her own blood.

            I wanted so desperately to be closer to her, to this girl who had caused my downfall. I wanted it like a physical ache. But before I reached her my wing hit a stone and the pain was unbearable. I almost blacked out again at the wave of agony, but managed to cling to the faint light of the forest. Dark spots flickered in the periphery of my vision, but I kept my eyes open, not looking away from the girl.

            She made me feel strange. Whole. Like I wasn’t broken at all. Suddenly, I wanted to show this mortal girl the way my feathers would rustle as I drifted among Heaven’s clouds. I wanted to share with her the things I’d never given anyone before. If only I could reach her.

            But it wasn’t possible, and somewhere deep inside me I knew it. My eyes burned, and I flinched at the fire of pain and loss that washed through me. Something cold and wet slid down my cheek, the same way it had when I’d torn one of my plumes free. It was coming to symbolize loss to me, the pain of losing everything.

            I wanted to look away, ashamed of my fears and of my weakness, but I didn’t want to. If I looked away, the girl might disappear, and I’d never find her again. I’d be alone, waiting to die.

            But my shade won out, and I closed my eyes, trapping the wetness inside of me. I heard a little gasp of air and opened my eyes again, just in time to see the girl closing her mouth. My gaze was drawn to the thing she held, a little white thing with darker smudges on it. She turned it toward me and I was shocked. When seen from this angle, I could almost see a picture…

            My eyes cleared finally, and I saw it for what it was. I saw the smudges on the girl’s fingers, the darkness on the page. I saw a broken boy, lying asleep upon the ground, his face serene despite the crooked angles of his limbs. Protruding from his bare back were two great wings, one broken almost beyond recognition, the other more or less whole.

            It was me.

            I went instantly still, letting my muscles – which had been tensed and struggling to move even then – relax and sinking into the dirt. It was comforting, in some way, to know exactly how damaged I was. I looked back up at the girl, hoping she could read the traces of fear and desperation that I let show. I knew that if I showed her everything, she would run. Our emotions were too strong for mortals, too deep.

            “Hold still,” she whispered, her voice soft as the breeze that rattled the trees around us. I immediately did as she said, freezing everything in my body. I watched the girl take a little brown bag from her larger, brighter bag, and place it on the ground. Then she just paused and stared at me, her mouth working silently. Finally she managed to gasp out a single word. “Angel.”

            I jerked, trying to see around me, to determine where the other was. Fear coursed through me hot and fast, an expectation of agony. I blinked, and felt that wetness run down my face again.

            “Hey, hey, it’s alright,” the girl said, scooting closer to me. I was stunned when her hand descended on my arm, touching my skin. The feeling of physical contact was so foreign to me that I didn’t know how to react. We never – never! – touched each other. God had proclaimed that a sin, and so we avoided it at all cost. The only exception was Jofiel, but no one really cared about her, so she didn’t bother. It took me a moment to remind myself that I didn’t care about His rules anymore, because there was really nothing else He could do to me.

            I was startled from my reverie and my shock by the feeling of something cool and damp against my lips. This thing was oddly shaped and smooth, sloshing wetly when the girl’s hand shook. “Drink a little, alright?”

            I felt the water run down my face as I obediently parted my lips and let some of it flow down my throat. After a moment, she took the bottle away and moved from my line of sight.

            Then something hit my back, and I gritted my teeth to stifle a scream, but the air rushed from me once more. Immediately the thing stopped, and the girl appeared once again in my sight.

            “Look, I know it hurts, alright. I know. But there’s dirt in it, and I’m just going to try to clean out some of these cuts. Ok?” The girl’s eyes drilled into mine until I moved my head a little, acquiescing to her demands. I could handle a little more pain, right? Anything to not be alone.

            She wetted a little cloth in preparation for rubbing it on my arm. I tried not to flinch, but failed. Panic seized me as she brought it closer to me, and I tried to pull away. Again the girl’s hand touched me, trapping my arm where it was. She glared at me and brought the cloth closer, and all of a sudden I saw a shadow pass over the trees.

            “What’s wrong? What are you so afraid of? Me?” The girl’s voice was soft, curious, as she gently brushed the cloth over my skin. After the initial shock and pain faded, it was actually a pleasant experience. I shook my head, signaling that I wasn’t afraid of her. The shadow was gone now, but I was sure that it had been an angel. They were getting close.

            “Then what?”

            I tried to speak to the girl’s mind, but it was closed to me. I couldn’t even remember the way to do it. It was like something had torn the ability away from me when I fell. I tried to remember what she did to communicate and opened my mouth, moving my tongue and pushing air from my lungs. “Failed.”

            My voice cracked and sounded harsh and raspy compared to her, but it was a good start, I thought. Speaking orally was such a strange thing! You couldn’t send your companions emotions, or images. Just these flimsy little words – words that failed to accomplish in dozens of moments what could have been done in seconds through mind-speaking.

            “You failed what? Who? How does that have anything to do with anything?”

            I locked my eyes to hers and opened my mouth again. “Him.” I glanced suggestively at the hole I’d made in the trees, trying to make her understand, but she didn’t. I could see it in the hurt that momentarily crossed her face. But I didn’t have the courage to continue with the explanation, so I let the silence stretch.

            After she finished brushing at my arm, she moved slowly over the rest of me, avoiding only my wings, for which I was immensely grateful. I managed to avoid crying out, but barely, and flinched whenever the cloth brushed especially tender places on my body.

            Finally done with her self-imposed task, the girl lay down across from me and reached once more for the little brown bag. She laid out a row of even smaller clear bags, but nothing inside looked even vaguely familiar. “Alright, now here’s how this is going to work. I’m going to point, and if you want it, you blink twice. Got it?” I blinked twice to show that I did.

            She moved to the first bag, and I just stared at her. I didn’t understand what was happening, what she was doing, so I just enjoyed the idea of watching her do anything. “Sandwiches?” she asked me, pointing to the next bag. The girl’s finger traveled down the line, but I didn’t move. “This one?” she asked finally, with a little smile. But again, I did nothing.

            “Look, you have to eat something. Maybe you just need some sugar?” She reached into the last bag and removed a tiny black thing. It looked a little like the dirt underneath us. The girl held it to my mouth and, against my better judgment, I parted my lips once more.

            The taste was, for lack of a better word, heavenly. It was sublime. It exploded on my tongue, all sweetness and glory, like being in Raphiel’s presence. It was the taste of life, of joy, of everything good I could imagine. And I loved it.

            I licked my lips, savoring the lingering taste, and the girl smiled again. Within seconds, there was another… thing… in front of me, and this time I didn’t hesitate.

            It took some time for me to eat the little things she preferred. There was something crunchy and salty, with a little tang after, and something soft with a pleasant, mellow flavor.

            We were sitting there, silent but comfortable, when the sound came.

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