Raphael Come

The Desolate had never been a particularly elegant art form. While he knew this, and the dangers that went along with it, Nikolas had never been very good at containing his curiosity. He knew perfectly well that maintaining an uncontained Desolate orb was incredibly dangerous, he didn’t know why.

So as the orb pulsed in front of him, he noted the timing of the palpitations, the hue and shading—though the Desolate itself was black, its orbs often manifested other colors—the emanating luminosity, the temperature, and anything else he noticed. Unsurprisingly, each measurement was increasing in severity. Other scientists would have called off the experiment, but then, other scientists were dead.

Nikolas got up from his makeshift desk and began to walk around the orb. He noted that the size was increasing with each pulse. Unfortunately, the pulses seemed to have no pattern, and so it was impossible to determine an average growth rate with any certainty.

When he came back around to his desk, he was greeted by a man as black as the Desolate. Of course, it was no man. Nikolas had taken to referring to him as the Watcher, for that is all he ever did. He had heard tales of the Watcher from travelers. They told him of a mysterious silhouetted man that would appear on the horizon and follow from a distance for several minutes before disappearing.

It was Nikolas’s dream to be able to study the Watcher up close, but until now he could only study him from the travelers’ stories; a highly unreliable source. The Watcher seemed to be examining the Desolate orb, but it was hard for him to tell since the Watcher had no visible face. He otherwise appeared human, as if covered in oil.

Nikolas manifested a smaller Desolate orb in his freehand. He had looked into orbs before in hopes of learning more about the Watcher, but he had never seen anything. Perhaps now that the Watcher was so close he would be able to see something about him. Strangely, the orb revealed nothing new, despite there being two distinct differences in the room.

The last time he had attempted to read the Desolate here, he had not had the uncontained orb nor the Watcher in the room. Now, with both present, he saw the same Jenny Jenson and World War III; the woman of no importance and the war of all importance. They were the same things he saw any other time. To the Desolate, the Watcher and itself did not exist. Nikolas made sure to note this.

The Watcher reached out its hand to touch the orb, and Nikolas bolted for the door. It was never wise to touch a Desolate orb, especially one so unstable. Nikolas may have been crazy, but he wasn’t suicidal. He had touched an orb once, and it had shredded his hand. It was a painful, if educational, experience. He struggled with the door as the Watcher made contact. And nothing happened.

Nothing except that the orb’s pulses relaxed, coming to a rhythmic beat. Instead of growing, the orb would grow then shrink with each beat. Aside from the silence, it was like a heart. Nikolas recorded his observations and then approached the Desolate.

The Watcher retracted his hand and began walking around the orb. The Watcher appeared fine. The Desolate had not shredded him as it had Nikolas. In the moment it took Nikolas to glance at his recordings, the Watcher was gone.

The next day, the orb was beginning its instability again when the Watcher reappeared beside it. He again reached out his hand and stabilized it, and again disappeared as soon as Nikolas looked away.

The third day, he came again. Upon stabilizing it, Nikolas blinked, and the Watcher was gone.

On the fourth day, Nikolas was determined to keep an eye on the Watcher. He pulled his cameras out of storage and hooked them up to watch the area around the Desolate orb, and he set up motion sensors around it. This time, when the Watcher came, Nikolas would be watching.

This day, however, was different. The Watcher came as usual, but this time he did not stabilize the orb. He reached out his hand, but did not touch it. The orb began to vibrate. Its pulses became even more irregular. With each beat of the ailing heart, the Desolate orb shrank.

Soon, it was no larger than an apple. It stretched from its point of origin to the Watcher’s hand and seemed to merge with him. To Nikolas, this was profound. Not only was a Desolate orb merging with something else, the last time he had tried that he had broken his arm, but it was no longer an orb. Never had he seen the Desolate take any other form but a sphere. For it to stretch out into an albeit rounded spike was unheard of.

The next moment, the orb was absorbed into the Watcher. He turned and, as best as Nikolas could tell, faced him. If he had blinked, he would have missed it. The edges of the Watcher began to blur, and then he was gone in a flash.

The next time Nikolas heard about the Watcher, it was under a new name. A man as black as night was protecting travelers. He would appear soon after raiders, and when he disappeared a moment later, the raiders were collapsing where they stood.

Azrael, archangel of death, had done his work, now Raphael, archangel of healing, was come to work.

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Forward Bound

He sees her just as she steps from the train platform into the car and without a second thought, he abandons his plans and follows her in. Her name is caught in his throat.

She takes a seat, and though he tries to pass by unnoticed in the crowd, their eyes connect. He sits down across from her, still lacking in words.

She is not.

She asks after his destination. Why hadn’t he told her he was traveling this way?

To each he gives a mumbled response. Says he’s going the same place as her; something about it slipping his mind.

She gives him a smile and adjusts her coat.

Why had he done this? Chased after this woman, of all people. Abandoned his meeting, his boss would give him hell. He asks something about her necklace, or maybe it was her bracelet. Something that would get her talking. Anything to avoid this silence.

She laughs and looks at it. Says it was a present from her sister. A going away present. A joke, really. Her sister had the same one and she’d always hated how it looked on her sister, but she always wears it when she’s away from home, now. Reminds her of her family.

What about him? She asks if he has any mementos from his family.

Only if you count his phone, he replies. He wishes he had something better than that. It was so boring compared to her story.

She doesn’t mind, though. She laughs that melodic laugh of hers and says that was even better, he could call them, at least. She says her phone’s microphone broke last month and she hasn’t had time to get a new phone yet.

He smiles. Looks down.

There’s a pause. It’s uncomfortable for him. She takes it in stride.

He asks if she wants to call her family on his phone.

Thank you, that’s so sweet, she said. But she wouldn’t want to inconvenience him.

He takes out his phone anyway and hands it to her. No words are necessary.

She smiles. Thanks him again. Then gets up and walks down the car a ways.

He sits in silence. Why did he think he had any reason to be here? He couldn’t be her type. They didn’t even know each other that well. She was moving away soon anyway, they probably wouldn’t be together very long even if she would go out with him.

His thoughts go by like snails. It feels like centuries pass before she returns, though it’s only been fifteen minutes.

She hands him back his phone. Thanks him again.

He quickly checks the time on his phone. Asks if she’s done talking to them so soon. He’s definitely late for the meeting.

She waves it off. She can call them at the hotel. She wanted to spend time talking to him. He wouldn’t always be around.

He puts on a mock British accent. Thanks her for deeming him worthy of her time, m’lady.

She replies in equally mock tone. He shouldn’t let it go to his head.

Another pause. This one is slightly longer, but they’re both smiling.

She says she’s parched from all that talking. She gets up to get some water.

When she gets back, he’s ready. He asks if she would go out with him, maybe dinner when they get there.

“Yes!”

I Had a Dream

And that dream was four and a half years ago.

It was right before my first year of high school, or, more accurately, my first year of school. I had been homeschooled all my life, so going to school, in addition to it being high school, was completely new. Add to that all the horror stories my family was giving me, about how hard it would be and how much work there would be, and then also my natural shyness, and I was pretty nervous (for me, that is. Nervous is not something I get very strongly unless it’s interpersonal).

The dream was fairly complex at the time, but since then I have forgotten the details. There were two characters, but the second one was only there to fulfill a third wheel, token minority role, so I won’t talk about him. The other character was a girl named Tiki, and we became quick friends and went on various hijinks together (with the third-wheel. I couldn’t even remember his name when I woke up). She, through that dream, calmed my nerves.

After that, I referred to any of my gal friends who were especially influential in my personal growth as Tiki. Conveniently, I met someone who went by Kiki soon after starting school, and her friend group was an extremely helpful support group, though they didn’t know it. Later I became friends with some other Tikis, each one coming after drifting apart from the last or after the dynamic of our relationship changed so that they were no longer so much the guide.

Now, I am in college, where the previous Tiki is not. I’ve swapped roles with the previous Tiki, but there’s still room for another Tiki. I’m not done growing yet. Fortunately, I’ve found a Tiki here. Tikis are awesome.

Maybe I’ll talk about the Unspoken or my pointer and ring fingers next…

The Synner and the Angel

A soldier has their place. They have a duty and they fulfill it. The same goes for a mother or a farmer or a scavenger. Even the dead have a purpose; rot and decay. Trees turn CO2 into oxygen and provide food and resources. Animals live to reproduce and again provide food and resources in death. Rivers carve into mountains and bring water to new lands.

I have no purpose. I simply exist; no goal, no purpose, no duty. The purpose I was to have is rendered purposeless by the absence of war. War is what I know. It is in my very being. Others in this situation were taught how to function in society, but how can I live in a society where human is normal, Syn is ‘accepted,’ and I am neither?

If I were to somehow integrate into society, I cannot remain long near any one particular person. I cannot prevent myself from listening for months on end. Sooner or later I will learn their deepest, darkest secrets simply by osmosis.

So why am I here? I live in their midst like a house spirit. I’m watching them work. I can do little to help them. Blurring prevents me from carrying objects, but if they need something broken, I can do that.

So am I guarding them? From what? There are no raiders nearby, and there’s a military camp between here and the nearest raider camp. If they were to attack by sea they might fare well, but there is cover aplenty on the beach, and little on boats.

Perhaps I had heard something—like I said, I can’t control it—and that’s why I was there. After the first few weeks, soldiers arrived. They were looking for someone, but they wouldn’t say who; the villagers tried to ask. They were getting rough, but not so rough that I deemed it necessary to intervene. I had no reason to care about these people.

They grabbed a girl and dragged her out to the beaches. The villagers protested, but there’s only so much anyone can do against the military. They still remained silent on their purpose. The one in charge pulled out his pistol and put it to the girl’s head. A man—the girl’s father, I believe—ran forward. He was immediately gunned down by two of the soldiers. The one in charge looked around, not inviting more trouble, but looking for someone still. The girl trembled against the barrel. He pulled the trigger. She was four years old.

I blurred, but remained where I was. I had no reason to care about these people. The entire village was dead silent, and the soldiers marched back the way they’d come.

I had no reason to care about these people, but it didn’t hurt to be curious. I blurred to the military camp. It was much busier than I had ever seen it. The camp general was talking to someone, but there was no one in his office, which means they had communications set up.

“He’s definitely at the village,” he was saying, “But reports are that he didn’t intervene.”

I couldn’t hear the other side of the conversation, nor could I tell who he was talking to.

“Things get done in the night. Things no human could do.”

How did they know about me? I hadn’t thought any that had seen me had lived.

“Why don’t you come check it out? Wouldn’t that be easier than—”

Who was he talking to? Someone looking for me?

“Very well.”

The camp general left his office and began organizing the soldiers. They began to dismantle the camp and load it into trucks. In a matter of hours they were moving out; away from the in between of the village and the raiding camp.

Indeed, it only took the raiders a week to realize there was an undefended village close by. I saw their raid coming while it was still a mile off. Even though they had a quarter of the numbers of the village, there would be no viable resistance. The raiders performed war as a profession. The villagers performed war as a last resort.

The raiders swarmed into the village, turning over every nook and cranny for anything valuable. A few of the raiders broke down locked doors while others repelled down the well. Several of them dug up the graves; that was distasteful. They found little, as the village was not affluent by any standard, but they managed to find a few metals left over from the early days of the village, and packed those up along with most of the village’s food.

Of course, being so preoccupied with observing the raiders, I didn’t see the approaching army until they were a mere half a mile away, at which point the raiders noticed them too. There were soldiers on all sides except the shore. It was a trap, but an ineffective one. If the army wanted the raiders dealt with, there would still be a significant force at their camp; they hadn’t sent all of their men.

Regardless, the raiders weren’t going down without a fight, and certainly weren’t going to play clean. They stripped themselves of anything that might distinguish them as raiders and hid throughout town. They threatened the villagers with death if they said anything; it was the best they could do on such short notice.

The soldiers took up position around the village and waited for orders. The camp general gave them the go ahead. “Kill them all,” he said. He was a good actor. He was reluctant. He ordered a massacre.

I blurred as the soldiers opened fire. I had no reason to care about these people, but if the soldiers wanted me to intervene, I would oblige. I blurred down to the front of the village, getting in the way of several bullets in the process. They crumbled against me and burned from my blur. These man made weapons were of little concern to me. The grenade that landed at my feet did little but tickle me.

The camp general tried to communicate that I had finally intervened, but I blurred to him and reached out my hand to stop his life. Then a man appeared in front of me and punched me into the center of the village. Though my shell remained intact, it was the first time any attack had affected me any more than as a breeze.

He disappeared from where he was and reappeared much closer. Somehow this man was able to teleport. The soldiers were perturbed, to be sure, but that didn’t stop them from continuing their extermination.

“Defeat me, and I will end this,” said the man with a thunderous voice.

As you wish. I blurred forward to end it quickly, but as I reached him, he teleported just behind me and knocked me into the ground hard enough to create a small crater.

“But you won’t listen.” He kicked me through one of the houses.

I blurred back to him in an instant, but again he teleported away. I was ready for him to be behind me again, but in the instant that I turned, he reappeared back where he had been and lunched me into the air with an uppercut.

“You won’t use your gifts,” he said as I traveled upwards and he teleported beside me. When I reached the top of my trajectory, he launched me back down again.

“You won’t do your duty.”

I impacted, releasing energy equivalent to four tons of TNT. He then teleported down to me and landed feet first into me, releasing another blast.

“So you can’t defeat me.”

He teleported back a few yards and I got up. My pride was bruised, but I was still unharmed. A nuclear blast had given me life; it would take much more than a few heavy impacts to harm me.

“I listen.” He teleported to one of the cowering raiders and crushed their head like a grape. “I use my gifts.” He teleported to a villager and ripped out their heart. “I do my duty.” He grabbed another raider, threw them to the ground, and crushed their chest with his foot. “And yet I cannot defeat you.”

What duties do we have? Any duty I may have had ended with the war.

“As long as we both live, the war goes on. You and I are the last great projects of the war. Your loyalties still lie only with the Sinners, as mine lie with the Angels.”

These were the words of the enemy for the war’s factions.

“Since you refuse to listen, this war will never end, but the destruction will be eternal. You will live in hell until you listen and repent, Sinner. From now on, every village that burns, every man that dies, and every child who cries is on you.

“And if you refuse to listen, the second apocalypse is on you.”

It only took three years for the world to devolve into a free-for-all. It was family against family, and often husband against wife, father against son, brother against sister. The Angel of Death had manipulated everyone against each other.

But still, he was right. My only allegiance was to the Syn, the last remnants of my side of the war, and every Syn’s master was ordering them to war. The few Syn left were becoming fewer still.

I tried to confront the Angel several times, to end this pointless destruction, but each time it ended the same as the last. I was not willing to listen. I was not willing to learn secrets I should not know. I was not willing to look into someone’s life and see who they really were. I knew if I let myself listen only to defeat the Angel, it would not be ‘only.’

Ten more years, and life dwindled further. The Angel continued his manipulation until almost no one could trust anyone else. Everyone was fighting and sick of fighting, and no one more than I. I began searching for fighting parties and observing them. I tried stopping them at first, getting them to talk, but there was no point. The Angel’s poison had been served. Instead, I watched.

Occasionally, the Angel would come and stand across from me, waiting for me to listen. I never felt that he was proud of his work. I felt that he was simply doing his duty. I felt that he understood what his purpose was. And that feeling was the beginning of the end.

Five more years, and I returned to the village where this started. The houses had since been dismantled. All that was left was the well and the tombstones. The Angel was there, waiting, listening. Finally, after over half a millennium of holding it back, I listened.

I could hear every muscle spasm of the Angel, every thought, every heartbeat. I could hear his past, his extensive training and augmentation, his loving mother. I could hear how his mother mourned the state of the world, how he was created to fight me, how he was meant to end the war.

I blurred to him. He disappeared, but I could hear where he went. I blurred my hand into the space he was to occupy and stopped his cerebral function as he appeared. It was over in an instant. The Angel of Death was dead, and I was listening once more.

I could hear his purpose, how I had to listen to end the war, that this was his way of making me listen. I could hear the others before, the ones who told me to listen, the ones who would have been saved by me listening.

I could hear his mother, crying with a smile on her face, proud of her baby boy and his best friend.

The Synner’s Rival

“Something churns beneath those dark tides.”

The soldier sleeps.

“Worse than the war?”

It is not his time to wake.

“Much worse. Something is coming that will rival the war in its destruction.”

The timer is running low, though.

“How do you know?”

Soon it will run out.

“Can’t you feel it? You are young, yet. When you are older you will feel the Desolate more.”

Soon he will awaken.

“I feel something, but it’s like a mother’s love.”

My soldier will awaken.

“A mother’s love is dangerous. You sense the pure and think it good. There is more to the Desolate than you can yet sense.”

My child is coming.

“What more is there to sense? How can love be evil?”

My little Death.

“Every soldier had a loving mother, and look where that got us.”

The Grim Reaper grows beneath the waves.

“And now there is a destructive love churning in those dark tides.”

Azrael sleeps no more.