Lesson for the Damned

Anthony stared in the mirror, his eyes, red-rimmed and bloodshot, stung and ached. Each time he closed them it was harder to reopen them. Not only because of the crippling exhaustion but because he didn’t want to look at this world anymore. Every day a new school shooting or dead black man. Every week more news of war. Every minute a new tweet that seemed to come straight from hell.

“Now that one isn’t fair at all.” The voice was in his head. At least, that’s what he kept telling himself. There was no way the pretty boy in the black suit was actually leaning against his back bathroom wall watching him. That man wasn’t a man. Therefore the voice was in his head. Even armed with that knowledge, he couldn’t help himself.

“Why is that?”

“Those tweets are from human hands, I would never put together something so poorly written. I am something different.” The pretty boy smiled, showing small perfect white teeth. The smile was beautiful. The sort of smile that you would see on the girl next door, why was this hallucination so pretty? Anthony rolled his eyes, as much to pull his eyes away from the smooth white skin of the man’s chest that was laid bare under the open shirt to express his exasperation.

“What? The devil? A little on the nose isn’t it. Schizophrenic man hearing the devil telling him to do things.” Anthony asked.

“First, I’m not the Satan, I’m Gadriel. Second, I’m not really telling, am I? I’m asking. I want this to be a partnership, Anthony, something that benefits all of mankind.” Anthony started to respond but the figure put a fine delicate finger to his lips. “Anthony, my brothers, and sisters love mankind. We taught you all manner of things before God pulled the plug on us. For instance, I not only taught you all how to make and wear cosmetics, your welcome, by the way, I also taught you all how to use weapons.” The man paused, his full lips forming a perfect pout.

“So what do you want from me?” Anthony asked, refusing to be drawn in by the man’s antics.

“It’s all gone a bit too far hasn’t it?” He gestured to the mirror. “Unlike Lucifer, Enoch or any of the others I was never gifted with prophetic sight, I didn’t know where this was going. I didn’t know how truly horrifically evil you things could be. I told you, I love you, I can’t stand to watch you tear yourselves apart any longer.”

Anthony turned on the sink and leaned forward to wash his face. He didn’t know why the hallucinations were so strong, he had been diligent in staying on his meds. It was the only way he would ever get to see any of his family again. Slowly, he opened an eye, he was still there.

“You aren’t going to tempt me.” He finally said, shutting off the water with a stern turn. Hallucination or not, this could only be God testing him.

“Such an odd concept.” Gadriel rejoined immediately. “Do you really think that there is a Heaven versus Hell? That anything could defy Him? No, we work for Him, with Him. We are his tools, and I am asking you to be that same thing. I don’t know why you’re arguing, you protest too much, you’ve already begun.”

His head jerked up as though he had been punched in the jaw, slick greasy fingers of fear sliding around his heart and squeezing until it felt like he would choke on his own bile. Why was he so exhausted? Why was he having hallucinations?

“What day is it?” He suddenly asked grabbing for his pillbox. To his horror, he found nearly an entire week’s worth of pills nestled within. A long soft hand, cool to the touch moved over his. It looked so dainty and frail, but it held him with the strength of an industrial vice.

“Do you want to see what you have missed?” Gadriel’s voice was no longer pouty and playful, but a cruel hiss. “Let me show you what we have wrought.”

~~~~

Gadriel was no longer supporting him, and Anthony staggered forward. Gadriel danced around him, moving lithely through the trees that surrounded them. Anthony stepped forward but didn’t move. His body locked into place, as though every bone was locked in place and time. He wanted to scream and struggled against his motionless body to force himself into action. Despite his mental gymnastics, his body would not respond. The angelic demon moved closer, stroking his face with long delicate digits.

“Oh Anthony, no no, don’t struggle in there, this is the past, you cannot change it, only witness it.” Gadriel stepped aside, and Anthony, with no control of his own body, stepped forward. The trees swayed oddly, with no wind to push them it seemed they peeled away from him as he moved, warping to put distance between their dark skin and his presence. He continued forward, each step a battle of will versus what had already happened. His eyes, rolled, taking in the darkened park, peering between the trees searching for something. Each tortured step brought Anthony more and more in sync with is past self, he could feel the grass under his bare feet now. He could feel his own ragged breath, coming in torn and desperate gasps. He could smell himself too. The fetid odor of urine and shit wafting up from his unwashed clothes. But even as these horrid sensations continued to assault him, he found he cared less and less. There was some driving force within him that egged him on, that ordered him to take step after step. Gadriel moved into his field of vision once more. Anthony was struck at how beautiful the angel was, how perfect. Why had he been afraid? How could he have mistaken such a creature for evil?

“There you go Anthony, there you go. Now you understand, and remember.” Gadriel smiled revealing two rows of sharp teeth. “We are here for a reason, we are hunting, we are serving.” Gadriel stepped back out of sight, and Anthony, both in mind and body let out a whimper at losing sight of him. His eyes scanned his surroundings, searching for the beautiful Watcher. He had not stopped walking either, constantly being pulled forward by some external force deeper and deeper into the park. He spotted him again, Gadriel was standing, leaning over a man who seemed to be completely unaware of the angel. Gadriel nodded, the light glinting off those inhuman teeth, eyes that were solid black swallowing the light, but now Anthony wasn’t scared, he moved closer, each staggered step bringing him towards the angel and the man. The man, old and grey, but with true dangerous strength just beneath the skin, suddenly noticed Anthony, his head jerking up and his lips peeling back in a snarl. Seeing what he assumed was just another homeless man, he seemed to relax just a little.

“Alright, you want a taste of somethin’ huh? You beg up enough to buy you a fix right?” The man reached into his coat and pulled out a small packet. Wrapped tight, Anthony couldn’t see the white of powder from under the tape, but he knew without seeing. He could smell it without smelling it. He just knew. Knowledge came into his head, as though present in the air and inhaled into the lungs to be dispersed through the rest of his body via his heart and blood. This was what Gadriel had been talking about. This was why Heaven needed tools, this man was peddling poison, hurting people, he was the enemy, he was the target. Anthony surged forward without warning.

The man fell back, a pusher was never so careless as to be taken unprepared for an attack, especially by some homeless that smelled like shit and piss. But even as he reached for his gun, he was shocked by the ferocity Anthony brought to bear. Anthony’s hands curled into claws, swinging wildly to catch the dealer. He was on him in a heartbeat, fists swinging with abandon. He had no weapons other than his body. Even as the dealer began to bring his pistol out of his jacket, Anthony’s teeth found his throat.

Tearing, Anthony relished the sound of torn skin, the rush of blood into his mouth sounded like the crash of a waterfall drowning out the swiftly fading screams of his victim. Anthony didn’t stop, he couldn’t risk this demonic servant surviving. He continued to tear into the man’s throat with his teeth, ripping chunks of meat and sinew out and swallowing. With every mouthful of blood and flesh, he felt empowered. He wanted to keep going, to keep devouring this man’s life and power, to use against others. He knew he had to flee before the screams brought others. His holy work could not continue if he were caught, so he stood, his face and chest slick with the vile man’s blood, and ran.

~~~~

The echoing laughter of Gadriel followed him all the way to the present.“Why?” Anthony looked at Gadriel from where he sat, drenched in sweat and piss, his breath coming in short ragged gasps, stinking of shit and days without a shower. The devil looked down at him, beautiful face devoid of pity or love and cocked his head as to request clarification.

“Why me?”

“Because,” Gadriel replied, squatting next to Anthony in his filth. “It brings me joy to see my lessons used, and you are already damned.” Lessons, Gadriel called them lessons. Who was being taught? What was the purpose of this class? Anthony gagged on the smell of himself, his mind reeling from the realization that he was indeed damned. Anthony had murdered that man in the park, gladly without pause. Whatever had driven him to do so, had not driven him to eat the man, that had been him, his joy at that moment. But the man who he had killed had also been damned. Was that the lesson? The damned murdering the damned allowing the innocent to live in peace?

The once-angel offered the human a hand, the offer implicit, join me and we will continue these lessons. Anthony stared at Gadriel for a moment, and then smiling, took the hand.

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