And this: Welcome to the last stretch of Vice. I’ll be posting (9) and (10) today, because I too, keep my promises.
Sticking Pins and Needles in the Stinking Rotten Flesh Like Substitute Pieces of Half Cooked Meat…
I can’t even begin to explain how disturbing it was to realize that my own discomfort was the only bright spot in Gavin’s day. The way he’d laughed through tightly clenched teeth as they’d wheeled him from the room made me cold. Had it not come right on the heels of being completely inundated with the mess that was his mind it would have just been a creepy laugh, but after seeing what he had shown me it caused me actual physical pain to know how much I’d pleased him by cracking and showing him how much he’d gotten to me.
Of course the doctor had wanted it to be over at that point. It wasn’t his fault; he didn’t know how much was at stake. That was the problem really; none but a small handful knew how important this was. Serielle was right. It had to be Gavin. I could see that now and doubt had fled in the face of resolve. Against the doctor’s protests I had them bring him back in. There was no more time left for playing nice and gentle so Serielle had touched the doctor, letting him see the whole thing all at once. Once you’ve experienced that you can’t stand in the way anymore.
Gavin still hadn’t calmed down from his mirth when I was back in the room with him, but that’s how I’d gotten a foothold in his madness and brought him around. He loved it. He loved seeing how much he was bothering me. He loved grabbing on and shaking like a dog with a rat in his teeth. Being given the opportunity to do that to as many people as we could reach with our new truth, he was willing to step back from the ledge and at least consider it.
Still, it had taken hours. It was probably harder for him than it was for me once we started. I mentally led him through the corridors of his own thoughts. I’d taken him down paths he’d avoided, showing him the outside point of view on his own situation. That kind of perspective is rare; when you get it you either seize it or flee from it. Gavin seized it; somewhere deep inside he truly wanted out of his prison of hate and pain and torment.
Let me be clear though; I really didn’t like him. Neither did Serielle. Cassidy found him curious, like a science project or some bizarre piece of art. I don’t know what bothered me more; his blank acceptance or hers. For Cassidy there was nothing personal about it all; it was strictly professional. She knew who he was of course, most people did. When she told him she was looking forward to working with him I cringed inside. For all their frail temporary existence, humans were capable of some amazing leaps of logic and faith. Perhaps it was because of their frail temporary existence, as Serielle had said to me. They had no time to let the mountains wear down, they had to climb them now.
Christopher had contacts none of the rest of us had. I don’t know who he talked to or what he said to them, but within an hour of Gavin agreeing he was released into our custody. He was more a ward of the state than a prisoner due to his mental state, and it turns out if you know the right people who have the rights forms on their desk you can get a signature on almost anything. We soon learned that despite media hoaxes and lies there were people in offices in various government buildings that knew exactly who we were and exactly what we were doing and why. It was refreshing to know that we weren’t as alone as we thought. All the same, there was nothing simple or easy about what we had begun. It was impossible to forget that having aid from somewhere on high meant little compared to what those aligned against us were capable of. There was the human view of ‘on high’ and then there was ours. The credentials we were provided with within hours of leaving the asylum would open doors and turn questions aside; but the Seraphim and their soldiers wouldn’t care about those any more than they cared about the mortals they’d have to plow through to get to us. I made a promise to myself that when this was all over I’d be having a little sit down with Christopher to ask him some rather pointed questions about exactly how he could make one phone call to an NSA office and get a criminally psychotic patient released from a high security institution and have the four of us listed as security consultants for a government agency. We’ve all got our runnings; I intended to learn more about this very unique human Avrielle had fallen so deeply in love with.
To his credit, Gavin was all business once we’d begun. He didn’t make conversation, he didn’t try to be friendly, and he didn’t pretend that any of us liked him or wanted him around. After he had the equipment he’d specified he disappeared inside himself again, just doing the job and keeping his head down. Cassidy couldn’t have been happier; she’d lost her media credibility in certain high powered circles by interviewing me outside the hospital while wearing sweat pants and no makeup, but now she was working with an infamous videographer on the project of a lifetime. The mainstream couldn’t ignore the message we were bringing; it was right there in front of them, updated daily in stunning high definition and gritty realism.
So that’s how Serielle and I basically became superheroes. Over the next months we found every wrong doing we could and stopped it while Cassidy reported on it and Christopher shot it. With more help from Christopher’s paranoid friend Davis we were able to get it out untouched. There were attempts to shut us down, but he made sure they all failed.
That’s also how Mark and Lisa became parents of a sort. The only way to be certain that her children would be safe was for Jasmine and Becca to move in with them. Aliona had been right; the Seraphim were many things, but they weren’t stupid enough to move directly against her family. That would have forced a confrontation that none of us, not even the Council, were ready for. I don’t know if they’d been happy about it or not, but they’d been more than willing to do whatever they could to help. We all played what parts we could.
Aliona, Avrielle, and Christopher went back overseas, leaving this part to us; they were on the trail of something so important that nothing could come between them and their goal. The same way there were elements in powerful offices and agencies working behind the scenes to help us, there were just as many working against us. The Seraphim web of power and influence went back as far as civilized society, groomed and manipulated over millennia to ensure their own version of ‘Truth’. As hard as what we were doing seemed to us, what they were getting into over there went far deeper and was far darker and more dangerous.
When the Nephilim started coming for us it made things harder for me and Serielle, but Gavin and Cassidy were thrilled on a professional level. Well, Cassidy was thrilled; Gavin might have been but he didn’t show it. He just held the camera straight and caught it all so the world could see. The attention was working though. We’d received emails from others like us across the country who had heard the rumors but hadn’t had anything confirmed until seeing one of our broadcasts. We met others; angels unhappy with how they’d been manipulated and steered by the Council, Fallen who had been convinced they could never fly again, rebels and malcontents and their mortal allies. Sometimes we’d have to destroy those that tried to stop us; usually though they became allies, raising our flag in other cities across the country and taking a stand. It felt like progress.
We knew that we were really getting somewhere when the Nephilim stopped coming, and the Seraphim started taking matters into their own hands…
Fascists Can You Hear It Has Begun; Seen the Devil, The Outlived Symptom…
“That was perfect!” Cassidy said, sounding overjoyed. “Gavin, did you get all that?”
He just nodded behind the camera, still shooting with that morbidly detached look on his face. Samael had just kicked the last Nephilim through a window, the force of the blow tearing its arms off as he’d held it by the wrists. I panted to catch my breath; most of the blood on me wasn’t my own, but some of it was. The wounds were closing, as were Sam’s, healing fueled by the love we felt for each other. It felt as though there was nothing we couldn’t accomplish as long as we were together.
“He might have once been someone’s husband, or father,” Samael was saying to Cassidy while Gavin walked in a small semicircle, catching every angle. “So I’d hardly call it ‘perfect’, yeah?”
“They do this, though,” Cassidy said, turning to face the camera. “Those we fight against use you all, taking even your bodies for their own purposes if they have to. This is why we fight them. So that we can all of us live free. No one needs to die like this. No one needs to serve them. We came here today to take apart one of their outposts, this church you see behind me, and as you’ve just witnessed once more they sacrifice and throw away the lives of others to try to stop us. They may be powerful in a way that few can comprehend, but even they can’t force you to do anything you don’t already believe in. I’m Cassidy Swanson.”
Gavin lowered the camera and turned immediately to walk towards the van full of his editing gear. It didn’t matter how useful he was; I still didn’t like him. I felt as though perhaps we were almost as bad as the Seraphim, like we had somehow tricked him into this. I wondered if Cassidy felt the same; probably not, but there was no way to tell. Not only could she resist the wink but she could block her thoughts from us without even trying. We still hadn’t found out how, nor had we discovered how Becca had been able to hear me and Samael the first day we’d met her. We were making progress of a sort, but there were still so many questions.
“There’ll be time when we’re done to sort that all out, yeah?” Sam thought to me. “Meanwhile we need to….wait, do you feel that?”
It was like wooden chimes, a long row of them being raked back and forth with a stick, growing rapidly louder and closer. The Choir was shifting, jangled out of the way as something moved through it. “Oh fuck Sam, Seraphim…”
“Get in the van,” Sam said sharply to Cassidy.
“What? Why?” she asked stubbornly.
“Just do it,” Sam said to her. “Now.”
“Gavin!” Cassidy yelled. He stepped out of the back of the van with that blank stare on his face. “Get that camera, something’s happening!”
He had the camera back on his shoulder in an instant, pointing it at us. “No!” Sam shouted. “Not this time! Get in the fucking van and get ready to run!”
Cassidy’s eyes went wide as the light appeared in the sky, descending towards us. Gavin raised the camera to it. It drifted to the ground, an orb of white brilliance, and faded to reveal the woman we’d seen here months ago before rushing off to rescue Becca from her school. She stood with her arms hanging limply at her sides and her head tilted to the right. The same grey business suit clung tightly to her and her black framed glasses perched on the end of her nose. With one index finger she pushed them up and straightened her head.
“Hello, children,” she said. Sam and I stood ready, waiting, quiet. My hands shook and I clenched my fists to try to stop them. She could lay waste with a thought, and the look on her face said she was about to.
“Get in the van, guys” I said without looking away from her. “Seriously, get in the van and go.”
“Where would they go to hide from me?” the Seraph asked incredulously.
“No more hiding,” Gavin said plainly, taking a few steps to his left to change the angle of his shot. “She’s right; there’s nowhere to hide anymore.”
“Get on your knees,” the Seraph said in a flat but menacing tone, “and beg for forgiveness. This is the last chance left for any of you.”
“Sorry, love. We left begging behind a long time ago, yeah?” Sam said to her. His voice shook a bit as he spoke. “Getting on your knees is for slaves.”
“You’ve forgotten your place Cherub,” she rasped in a breathy voice, her body still calm and still. “You lost those wings, they were not hers to return to you.”
“You’re right about that. They weren’t yours to take though, now were they?” he asked her.
“I’ll not ask again,” she stated. “On your knees and beg, child.”
“I’d rather not,” he said, clenching his right fist and bracing himself on his feet. “You could always come with us, yeah? Switch sides?”
Her laugh was like the sound of feet crunching through dry leaves in fall. Despite her appearance there was nothing human about her. Seraphim rarely took vessels, and when they did they didn’t wear them well. Hers was like a poorly fitted suit, doing little to hide the truth of the power locked inside of it.
“You know that cannot happen,” the Seraph hissed. “There is but one Truth, Samael. The Truth that all serve the Council. We are the light, we are the divine, we are the Truth. I can smell Raguel’s stink on you, Samael. His Spark corrupts you. You know not what you do.”
“Are you getting all of this?” Cassidy asked Gavin quietly. He nodded impassively, still circling.
There was a flash of light, white and hot, in the Seraph’s eyes. The lens of the camera cracked and split. Gavin pulled a small handheld from the large pouch on the belt that held up his black cargo pants and kept shooting as he set the larger damaged one on the ground. She took her gaze from him and looked at me and my heart stopped for a second.
“And you, Serielle,” she said to me menacingly. “Your father is displeased with you. For you there is not even the option of penance. You will be snuffed out like a candle between my fingers.”
“Fuck ‘em then,” I said, my voice betraying me. I had wanted to sound rebellious and proud, not weak and scared. She sneered at me.
“You fight the Council and destroy your own kind when you cannot lead them astray from the True path. The punishment for this was once Falling. Now…it is destruction,” she went on.
“I guess we all do what we think is right,” Samael said to her. “Thing is love, we do what we want. You do what you’re told. If you were on the Council I’d know who you are, and I don’t. They’re pulling your strings too, yeah? How’s that working out for you so far?”
“You do not recognize Vasaa?” she asked. “Then you are foolish as well as petulant.”
Fuck me. Vasaa. When the Council needed mortals to be punished, before she turned against them they would send the Lamb; Aliona with her spear and her wrath. When they needed to smite their own kind, usually demons that had gone too far, they sent Vasaa. I’d only ever heard stories and rumors; you don’t get to meet her and walk away.
“Sam, maybe we should get out of here while we…” I started.
“No,” he cut in, his voice shaking as well. “Gavin’s right. No more running. No more hiding.”
“Not foolish then,” Vasaa said calmly. “Just stupid.”
“Maybe…but I’d rather be stupid than be a slave, yeah?” Sam said to her, gesturing towards himself with his fingers. “Bring it, bitch.”
My heart leapt into my throat when he said it, the finality of what we were doing hit me like a slap across the face. The past months had felt like winning but they had really just been a run up to the inevitability of this one moment in time. Vasaa’s mouth turned up at the corners in a small smile of sadistic glee and she twitched her legs once, lunging towards us as her wings sprung into view and pushed her through the air. Sam sprung at the same time and they collided together with the force of a car crash.
Knees and elbows and wings swirling in a frenzied cloud of fury; that’s all I could see. I panicked for a second, every instinct in me told me to run, to fly, to flee, to get as far from here as possible. As they whirled around in the air, too fast to follow with the eyes, I was almost overcome with my terror. Suddenly Samael was thrown from their tangled spiral of battle to smash into the side of a car across the street hard enough to bend it almost in half at the middle, and the wrath took me.
A savage battle cry erupted from my lungs and I sprang at Vasaa, my right leg stretched out in front of me to connect with her spine. She didn’t issue the slightest sound, spinning in the air to face me and grabbing me by the throat. She spun a complete circle six inches above the ground like a ballerina and pushed me to my back on the street, cracking the concrete when I hit. There was no pause in her perfect motions but it seemed to me the whole world stood still for an instant as she hovered above me and bent her leg upwards at the hip and knee and drove it downwards towards my face. There was no time to move, nothing I could do, and I braced myself for my own destruction.
Samael slammed into her like a rocket, bending her in half at the waist and driving her through the brick wall of the grimy chapel. Twisted and awkward he was thrown back through the hole and slid across the street towards me; his clothes, already ripped and torn from our battle with the Nephilim we’d found here, shredded from the left side of his body with the force of his slide. As we helped each other to our feet Vasaa stepped through the gap in the wall, her eyes blazing with white fire.
“You’re beyond your depth, Cherubs.”
“What’s new?” Samael asked her, crouching to spring again.
I could hear the wrath in his voice as well; it had claimed us both as we watched her hurt the one we loved beyond anything else. The strands and tethers between us flared and writhed, the power and energy of our love looping back and forth and feeding us. Vasaa stalked forward with horrifying grace and beauty, a creature with one sole purpose; destroying angels.
The time for words had passed.
We both flew towards her at the same time, Samael taking one of her arms and I the other as we attempted to rip her in half. With one twitch of her arms she slammed us together, spinning in the air to throw us to the ground again. Concrete pushed up in chunks as we gouged into its surface. As I pulled myself up to my feet she was already there, grabbing my hair and neck and flinging me into the air over her head. I flipped around like a rag doll, trying to right myself with my wings. When I was stable I looked down to see I was two whole blocks away and Vasaa was stomping on Samael where he had fallen. I screamed long and loud as I plummeted back towards them with all the speed I could muster. With my arms flat against my sides and my legs and wings stretched out behind me I slammed straight into her chest with my right shoulder, driving her back from him and into the street. I came up still screaming with my legs on either side of her, Vasaa’s lips were pressed tight together and her jaw muscles tensed as she came to her feet while I pummeled her head and neck with fast jabs of my fist. It was almost too effortless how she batted first one of my arms and then the other to the side and then shot her arm out to slam her open palm into the bottom of my chin. I flipped head over heels off and away from her, out of the small crater to crash to the ground many feet away.
Samael was standing on unsteady feet, his left arm held crookedly over his ribs, slumped to one side. Vasaa rose into the air above the hole in the street with her arms and wings spread to the sides. Fire flared bright in her burning eyes and raced down her right arm to form a blade of white metal, long and curved. Her tight grin spread into a terrible smile. I fought my way to my feet and stumbled to stand next to Samael. Cassidy had taken cover behind a ruined car, but Gavin still just stood in the middle of it all, calm and still as he filmed.
“Cherubs are not the only ones who love their jobs,” Vasaa said evenly, her voice sounded metallic and reverberated around us in the street. “Repent and I shall show you mercy.”
“Oh, fuck off,” Samael said through his teeth, and we launched ourselves at her again.
He grabbed her jaw in his right hand and her wrist in the other to keep her from swinging her flaming blade at us while I slammed my left knee into her stomach and both fists into her throat. Vasaa’s face was still and calm as I slammed my fists into her face; right, left, right, left, over and over again as fast as I could while bringing my knee to her groin and stomach. The three of us twisted and spun in the air as she fought to free herself. An invisible wall of force exploded out from her, pushing us back and lifting cars from the street to land several feet from where they rested. The van was on its side, Cassidy was nowhere to be seen, and Gavin had fallen to the ground. He still had the camera pointed at Vasaa though, and was back on his feet quickly.
“Give up yet?” Samael asked her. We were on opposite sides of where she hovered in the air with small undulating motions of her white wings. She looked over her shoulder at me, her eyes trailing white hot fire, then back to Samael.
“You’ve grown strong on the Spark of those you’ve destroyed,” she hissed. Her voice was like water on a hot iron. “But it will not save you from your fate this day.”
“I don’t believe in fate,” I ground out through my clenched jaw and then launched myself through the air towards her.
As she spun to face me Samael came from behind and wrapped his arms around her neck with his knees in the small of her back. I came inside the arc of her swing and locked my teeth on her face. All rational thought had left my mind and I tore at her like a primal animal, my nails digging into her cheeks and ripping at her flesh. It was Germany all over again and I reveled in it. She was growling as I savaged her and Samael wrenched hard on her neck, trying to break it. I brought my knees up one at a time, held aloft by my wings and my grip on her face, ramming them over and over into her midriff as fast as I could.
A searing pain shot through my back and suddenly I was on the ground, on my back and staring up at Vasaa. A cloud of red mist hung in the air between us and steam rose from her hot blade as she reversed her grip on its hilt and raised it over her head. I could see Samael’s face over her shoulder, his eyes wide in shock and rage as his mouth twisted into a primal mask of wrath. She brought it downwards towards me and into me and my own blood flew up out of my mouth to land across my face and eyes.
“NOOOOOOOOO!!!” Samael was screaming. My head lolled to the side and I could see something white and soft and spattered with the blood of our enemies lying a few feet away beside me.
It was one of my wings.
It was hard to focus my eyes but as the final darkness took me I saw Samael wrench the blade from her grasp and drive its point through Vasaa from behind; once, twice, and then again. He spun in the air, swinging it like a scythe, and her head span free from her body. He kicked her body to the side as it fell and he dropped to his knees beside me. The sword fell with a clatter as he took me in his arms and pulled my up to his chest.
“I…love you..Samael.” As much blood as sound came from my mouth, cascading down my chin.
“I love you too Serielle,” he said into my ear, his voice raw and harsh. He held me so tight I couldn’t breathe, and then I realized it wasn’t him stopping me, it was the end. “Don’t go. Please don’t go.”