I awake to the familiar smells and sounds of sulfur erupting from the gaseous pits of home sweet home: Hell. I force my eyes to open and there standing beside me in dazzling white robing is the messenger angel Gabriel. Like the rest of his brethren he is surrounded by a blinding gold light, and he extends a glowing hand to help me to my feet. He lifts me with no effort on his part, and once I am steady on my feet, he gazes at me with hopeful eyes. I find his stare to be unnerving, his colorless eyes examining me with a quiet uncertainty.
“Your father has been removed from his duties,” he said sadly. I look at him, the memory of my father’s final words turning my stomach into a tangle of knots.
“Forever?” I ask hoping that there is still some time left for me to find the seal.
His gaze remains focused on mine. “No. Until the seal is found he will remain under heavy guard…but if the seal is not returned in time before it is broken, then…he will be held responsible.”
“Where is he being detained?” I at least needed to know that he was…ok. For all of the misery and extreme punishments he has subjected me to one would think that I would be kicking my heels with joy. And, to a certain extent a part of me did feel slightly vindicated that he may receive a taste of his own brutal medicine, but at the end of the day he was still my father…and he trusted me.
“I cannot reveal that information to you for reasons I am sure you would understand.”
“So why are you here?” Without thinking I summon my father’s Scythe into my possession. Gabriel looks at me alarmed by my sudden offensive act.
“I ask that you do not react in such haste; such actions could further instigate harsher consequences for both you and your father.”
“I have no intentions on threatening you Gabriel,” I say softly. “I just want to know why you are down in the more…baser levels.”
Gabriel studies me once more, his expression changing from alarmed to thoughtful. “You are more like your father than you know,” he says finally after a brief pause. “No one foresaw that he would transfer his powers unto you, a half mortal. But now that he has done it, there are a few things you should know.”
“I’m listening,” I say shifting my weight onto my right foot where I could lean onto the Scythe for support.
“You are to only claim the humans without the mark, and your powers are not meant for you to act on revenge. To do otherwise would result in a punishment worse than what your father may experience. You are the gatekeeper of the afterlife: humans that are allowed entrance into the Heavens will be escorted by one of my brothers. You are never to intervene. Humans that are not allowed entry will be escorted by you to the lower realms where…the fallen will claim ownership….”
He continues on in a speech about what I can and cannot do for what seems like an eternity. Most of the stuff I already knew courtesy of Grim, some of it would take a few practice lessons for me to get it. But what I do not think Gabriel understands is that my new promotion is temporary. I am finding that seal and proving my father’s innocence.
“And last but not least,” He says turning to leave from whatever path he took to get here. “I do not believe your father had something to do with the seal’s disappearance. I believe that my brothers are guided only by their reverence for human life that they see him for what he is not. Grim may be a lot of things that oppose what most of us are designed to do, but ambition is not his motivation. He is nothing like the unnamed one and it saddens me that he is being blamed for such an atrocity.”
“I will find that seal and the human responsible for it,” I declare, now more determined than ever.
“I know you will. That is why I came down to speak to you. But I must leave you be Sin of Sin. Send for me and I shall assist you in any manner that I can…” And with that, he disappeared into a ball of light and was gone.
So even the angels are divided, I think to myself still staring in the direction where the angel had stood. It was then that I realized my father had given me his powers to better aid me in my quest and not so much to prevent a cosmic meltdown. As the Angel of Death, I am now more connected to humanity than ever. I gaze down at my hands, stretching out my palms and I could sense the very vibrations of life right underneath my fingertips. In my mind’s eye I witness human after human whose lives were on the brink of coming to an end ranging from the last few moments of breath after months of battling a terminal illness; the moment their heads make impact through the windshield in a fatal collision; the brush of fear as the really unlucky humans fall victim to a murderous predator and their cries are blotted out by a gun, or a knife, or the overpowering grip of a pair of hands wrapped around their throats choking the life out of them.
So this is why dear old dad is always so damn cranky.
I extend my left arm, summoning the legendary Scythe into my grip. Thank goodness wearing that black hooded robe is not a requirement because I still remain in the leather outfit I purchased. I made a mental note to take Grim shopping as soon as this mess was resolved. He needed a different look, other than his current dreadful appearance. I take one last look at my surroundings. Hellfire, brimstone, lava pits, demons materializing from the physical world in search of a soul to torment; fallen angels lurking about, perhaps on their way to meet with their boss…speaking of boss, now that I am the Angel of Death where are my underlings? Father had a legion of soldiers at his beck and call and here I stand in the middle of Hell alone…. Shouldn’t there have been some sort of ceremony to recognize my promotion? Strange…very strange.
Father mentioned something about being some sort of conspiracy against him, and in Hell, there is always a conspiracy for a power grab. Coups are performed on an almost constant basis, alliances are always formed and agreements made. Everyone down here works for someone, with the exception of my father. He is a sort of free agent, and now that I think of it, that makes him more of a threat than anyone. Someone down here has conspired to remove Grim permanently from his position and used a human to see it through. The question is who? There are millions of demons and most of them work for the Beast. Furthermore, they do not act unless told and I doubt that the Beast has any real interest in destroying Grim considering the fact that he has a war to plan and Grim’s purpose is more beneficial to his cause than not. So that must mean it had to be one or some of Grim’s own soldiers who were responsible.
First things first: find the human. I could terrorize the entire realm and would still find myself unsuccessful. And then I have an idea. Using the Scythe, I send out a telepathic call to every last one of my father’s soldiers to my presence. Instinctively I knew that the one or ones responsible would not make an appearance. They would be somewhere in the earth realm hiding until the time came for the seal to be broken, when my father would meet his end. The caverns vibrated a deep rumbling, creating deep splinters in its wake. Sounds of souls being tormented escalated to a deafening level; cries begging for the Almighty to come and set them free of their eternal torture. Within seconds the first few hundred of my father’s soldiers, now fully under my command are standing in front of me. Some of them sported the black winged/dark angel appearance, while others resembled gargoyles with their clawed hands and feet, stony expressions and grey scaly skin and wings like that of a bat instead of a bird. In just a few minutes I had almost an entire legion standing before me, ready for my command.
All of them stared at me in surprise, and as I mentally counted present heads, I noticed that a good fifty or so were absent-and those that were absent had been my father’s best men. As a matter of fact, those that were missing had accompanied me on several recon missions…just as I thought. They stared at me with curiosity, desperate for answers. As I surveyed these entities, I sensed the vibration of jealousy coming from a few of them, and I knew that if I did not establish myself now as the Angel of Death, I would have to deal with a possible mutiny, and Grim was no longer available for me to run to for obedience issues. I take a deep cleansing breath before speaking.
“As you all may know, Grim has been temporarily removed from his position,” I begin slowly, making eye contact with every one of the warriors that stood in front of me. “For now I will resume as the Angel of Death, fulfilling my father’s duties which is why I felt the need to call this impromptu meeting.” I wait for a response, and when there is none I continue. “Someone or, someones have stolen the Seal of the Apocalypse and somehow my father is being held responsible. When I discover just who the culprits are,” I say, my eyes blazing with rage so dark my unnaturally emerald green eyes turned completely black. “…not only will I skin them alive personally, they will die a second death. Most of you know that I survived the Abaddon Pits, and inside those pits lay a creature that has yet to be unleased onto the earth for a reason. His name is the Devourer and not only does he eat your physical body…he eats your soul. And one more thing,” I add staring beyond the legions and into the deeper pits that made Hell what it was. “I know that this may come as a shock to a lot of you. Some of you even feel that I am not qualified to assume such a prestigious position considering that I am or was half mortal. And I know that some of you feel slighted by Grim after eons of unquestionable allegiance…yet here I stand being given all of the powers of darkness at my disposal… Here is what I present to you: either you stand with me as you had my father or you stand against me and betray my father. You could try to form an alliance with the Unnamed One, but we all know how that goes…betray my father and you die, plain and simple. Have I made myself clear?”