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.