Heaven’s Shine – End Game
August 19, 2011
Gabriel froze as he felt the ground beneath him shudder. A quick look at Michael and the others convinced him that they were all feeling it. Shine gripped him frantically around the waist and he could feel Sarah’s hand on one of his wings.
“What’s happening?” Shine cried.
Before Gabriel could answer, the entire landscape was overwhelmed with a low, fierce rumbling. The sky erupted into a solid ceiling of flame and a searing hot wind blasted across them all.
“It’s a sirocco,” Gabe shouted. He struggled for a word the humans would understand. “It’s a ghibli, a leveche.”
“It’s a hot fucking wind,” Az supplied, “and it means big trouble.”
“It’s a precursor,” Gabe said.
“A precursor to what?” Sarah asked, shouting to be heard over the primeval roar of wind and fire.
Before he could answer, a massive pillar of flame descended from overhead and touched down in the center of the area, practically blinding them all with its radiance.
Az spun around and drew his wings over his head, cringing away from the fiery light. The other demons were scattered like leaves in the wind, blown out of the light and into the dark recesses of the landscape, their roars of outrage and fear growing steadily more faint until the Dark Ones disappeared completely and took their complaints with them.
Michael sheathed his sword and, with the company of other archangels, turned to face the pillar with his head bowed.
The wind stopped as suddenly as it began and out of the pillar of fire stepped a creature with six fiery wings. One set of wings was crossed over its golden head, another set crossed in front of its body, and the third set – larger than the others – jutted from its shoulder blades and flapped slowly, continuously.
The creature glanced briefly at the archangels before approaching Gabriel and the others. It stopped several yards away as if aware that its fierce light would harm the humans. It stared solemnly at Gabriel for a moment, then Shine, then Sarah and Tawny, and finally Roni.
When it spoke it had the voice of ten people combined, some male, some female, some which weren’t even human. “And so you have come,” it said.
“What is that?” Sarah hissed.
Shine stared in awe. “It’s a seraph. It’s one of the highest order of angels in heaven. It’s like the boss of all angels.”
Gabriel motioned for the girls to be quiet. He returned the seraph’s gaze with a steady look of determination. “I know I can’t win, Metatron,” he said, “but I’ll still fight you. You’ll have to kill me to get to the child.”
The seraph nodded. “You are truly a wonder, Gabriel,” Metatron said. “I am gratified to be chosen for this task.”
Knowing the futility of trying to fight the seraph, Gabe waved his sword nonetheless and said, “Then come try it, Metatron. I won’t go easily.”
Metatron gestured. “Put away the weapon, Archangel. There will be no more fighting here today.”
He turned to the group of archangels. “Michael, step forward.”
Michael raised his head and stepped proudly toward the seraph. “I am here, Most High One,” he said.
The seraph regarded him stoically. “Michael, you have been the Father’s best soldier since the beginning of time. You have performed tasks for the Father which were so egregious that your brethren shied away. You are the best of your kind. But you are blind in your obedience.”
Michael looked at the seraph in surprise. “But Most High One –“ he began.
“Search your heart,” Metatron interrupted. “Tell me of one instance when events took place that were outside the will of the Father. Tell me of one instance when events unfolded in a way unexpected to the Father.”
Searching the ground as if the answer was somewhere around his feet, Michael remained silent.
“You called Gabriel disobedient,” Metatron continued. “Is there no room in your philosophy for those who carry out the will of the Father, even when they aren’t aware that they do so? Even when it seems in contrast to what you perceive as His holy will?”
Metatron turned back to the bloodied, tattered group pressed tightly around Gabriel. “Some souls sent to teach the population were unprotected. Not so with this child. The Father tried you, Gabriel. He tested you and you prevailed. You were sent to protect the child and you have done so. She has divine purpose in her world and will live to fulfill it.”
Reaching out his fiery hand, Metatron pointed at Shine. “The child has the women now, the mystic and the mother. They surround her and will protect and teach her how to survive in their world.
“You, Shining Light of Heaven, will return to earth and grow among the populace with your new guardians.”
Shine squeezed Gabriel tightly around the waist. “I don’t want to go without you,” she wailed to him. “I won’t! I won’t go without you!”
Metatron ignored her. Pointing at Roni, he gestured for the snowy white man to come forward.
Roni padded fearlessly towards the seraph, stopping a few feet away and looking at it expectantly.
Metatron said to him, “We offer you a choice. You have earned a place in the light of the Father. You have only to take my hand and you can join us in His magnificent presence. Or you can return to earth with your humans and finish out your short life as an animal. What do you choose?”
Without hesitation, Roni turned and began walking back toward Sarah. By the time he reached her side, he was a dog again. He sat at her feet and licked her hand.
“A noble creature,” Metatron commented. “The finest work of our Father resides in him.”
Metron pointed once more, this time at Az. “Demon Asmodeus,” the seraph intoned. “Step forward.”
Az’s voice was muffled by his covering of wings. “Ah, if you don’t mind, I’ll just stay right here,” he said.
“Demon Asmodeus,” the seraph repeated with infinite patience, “step forward.”
“I am so screwed,” Az muttered. He lowered his wings and took a cautious glance at the seraph. He stepped warily around Gabriel and inched forward. “Look, Most High One, I gotta tell you, I was just helping the dude out,” he stammered. “It’s not like I did anything except – you know – what I always do. You know. Snagging dirty souls and stuff.”
“Demon Asmodeus,” Metatron said, “you have made yourself an outcast among your own kind because of your affection for this archangel.”
Az shrugged. “Yeah, well – yeah. It does kinda suck to be me right now, I gotta tell you.”
“The Father offers you protection.”
Startled, Az stared at the seraph. “Protection?” he repeated.
“You can rejoin the heavenly hosts just as you were before the Fall. You can rejoin the host of Golden Ones and leave the Dark Ones behind forever.”
For a moment, with the light from the seraph’s fire shining on his face, Gabriel could see the Asmodeus who was his brother before the Dark Times, before the Fall. Gabriel studied Az’s handsome, unblemished face and felt tears fill his eyes at the childlike hope he saw in Az’s expression.
“I can be an angel again?” Az asked softly.
Az turned and looked at Gabe, then looked around the archangel and locked eyes with Tawny. He stared at her a minute, then turned back to Metatron. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, and don’t think I don’t appreciate the offer. I mean, I’m probably gonna want to kick my own ass over this, but – “ He shrugged. “I think I’ll stick with what I know.”
The demon returned to the group and stood looking down at Tawny. Her hand came up and rested gently on his chest.
“Step forward, Gabriel,” Metatron instructed.
Gabe unwound Shine’s arms from around his waist and approached the seraph. A brilliant white light engulfed him, flaring so brightly that the humans were forced to turn away. When they turned back, Gabriel stood before them unwounded, his pale skin shining with a silver glow. His wings were fully formed again, resplendent and iridescent.
“Your place among the host is exalted now,” Metatron told him. “Come, take your place with me beside the Father.”
The archangels around them turned to Gabriel and dropped to their knees in reverence. Gabe stared at them almost sorrowfully. He walked over to Michael and touched the archangel on the shoulder. “I know why you did what you did,” Gabe said softly. “I love you, my brother.”
With his head hanging low, Michael reached up and grasped Gabe’s hand in both of his and brought it to his lips. “You are among the Most High, brother,” he whispered. “Forgive me for my doubt.”
Gabe shook his head. “There’s nothing to forgive.”
Turning back to Metatron, Gabriel said, “Let me make sure I understand this. These two women and Shine are going back to their lives, right? With the bag of money?”
“And I guess the dog and Az are going with them.”
“As they have chosen,” Metatron said.
He walked back to the group and took Sarah’s face in his hands. His magnificent glow engulfed them both as he kissed her lips. Releasing her, he knelt and gathered Shine into his arms.
“I love you, Heaven’s Shine,” he said.
“I love you,” Shine wept. “I love you! I love you! I love you!”
Gabriel pulled away from her and caressed Shine’s face. “I guess there’s only one thing left for me to do,” he sighed.
He searched the ground around them until he spied his leather duster. Picking it up, he shook the dust out of it and began to pull it on, struggling to tuck his huge wings under it. Then, taking Shine by the hand he looked at the others.
“Let’s go,” he said.
“Archangel, do you understand what you are doing?” Metatron called after him. “You will be an outcast among your kind and among theirs. Not a human, not an exalted host of heaven. An outcast.”
Gabriel looked over his shoulder at Metatron. “I understand.”
“There is no turning back after this,” Metatron intoned.
“I understand,” Gabriel repeated. He looked at Sarah. “Let’s go home,” he said.
With one arm around Tawny and holding Roni’s leash with the other, Az fell in behind Gabe, Sarah and Shine. “Dude, we’re totally screwed now, both of us,” he whined. “For fuck’s sake, couldn’t you have bargained a little? You know? You were holding all the cards, man. Shit! Someone take this damned dog, he’s biting me!”