“It’s where all fallen angels go.” Gabriel helped me onto the creaky row boat and handed me an oar. ”It’s where they’ve gone since…the first angel fell.”
The boulder in my throat wouldn’t let me swallow. ”Lucifer.”
Gabriel dug the oar into the bank and grunted as his arms flexed. With a groan, the tiny rowboat shimmied off the bank. “Even though Lucifer was one of God’s favorite angels, he was jealous of God’s true son. Every jealous thought created this”– he swept an arm around the stark marsh. ”After the mutiny and war, when Lucifer was defeated, he and the angels returned here.”
“War?” I interrupted.
He rolled his eyes. ”Can’t you pretend you’ve been to church?” He motioned for me to start paddling. I picked up the oar and stuck out my tongue as he continued his lecture. ”Because they were exiled, Lucifer was determined to get vengeance. Just as he had rebelled against God’s laws, he would create his own laws. But to keep his creation”– Gabriel’s lips twisted”– he would need new blood. However, the angels could not come voluntarily.”
“Why not?” My arms moved automatically, twisting from side to side with the paddle.
Thick sludge dripped off Gabriel’s paddle. ”This is a world of desolation and hopelessness. A world of sorrow and pain, hatred and anger. There can be no love here, no light, no joy. And that is what an angel is.”
My voice cracked. ”And an old soul?”
“An old soul is an angel’s soul in a human body. You might say they are the historians of our race.” His smile was as bleak as the grey sky. ”For with every generation fewer and fewer are born, and they alone carry the memories of what has been and what will be–the battles of the past and future.”
I shivered. Dark mist shrouded the little light left in the sky. ”But I don’t remember.”
“Yet.” Gabriel’s eyes nearly glowed in the shadows. ”I pray you never have to remember all of it. Hopefully, I can stop her before that.”
My oar ripped from my hands, sucking under the water. Silver teeth snatched at my hand as I jerked back. Gabriel moved before I could cry out, slamming the oar into the water. A manicured hand reached up from the inky depths and snatched it.
“She wouldn’t”– Gabriel tugged at the oar. The boat rocked back and forth and I grasped the sides.
The blood red nails raked across Gabriel’s arm and he swore. He clung onto the oar as the boat rocked, the black waves lapping around us.
“How far away is the prision from here?” I scanned the boat for a rope, a rock, something. The wooden floorboards were bare.
“It’s across the marsh.” Gabriel’s knuckles were white. He pressed his lips in a firm line as the hands began to crawl up the oar. ”Whatever you do, don’t get out of the boat. Whatever happens to me, use your wings and make it across.”
“What do you mean, don’t get out of the boat?” The water around us began to hiss, boiling waves slapping against the side of the boat. Sweat poured down my face as the wood beneath me trembled.
“Don’t let your wings touch the water.” Gabriel shook the oar as the hands turned to long arms snaking up the oar. ”When I say go, paddle as hard as you can.”
“With what?” I shrieked, jerking my head back and forth. ”You told me not to touch the water.”
“One…” A head emerged from the water, thousands of snakes hissing from what should have been eyes. A black serpent tounge flicked towards me and I screamed, ducking.
“Two…” Gabriel’s arms tensed. A black speck appeared in the sky, the sound of wings flapping growing closer and closer. Much as I wished, I knew it wasn’t a bird.
“Go!” In one swift move, Gabriel flung the creature to the side. It smacked against a tree, sliding down the trunk into the murk below. He handed me the oar as the water below us trembled, enormous bubbles fizzling on the surface.
“Gabriel…” I whispered.
He glanced at the sky, where the black wings were growing closer into view. ”Go! Go to your dad!”
Two clawed hands reached up and grabbed his shirt. I screamed and slapped my oar against them. A withered skeleton hand grabbed it and snapped it in two. A black tentacle wrapped around Gabriel’s waist, pulling him towards the water.
“Go!” Gabriel’s head tilted toward the boiling sludge, his eyes closed the boat groaned. Water rushed around my feet, hands grabbing at my jeans. ”Go!”
“You should know by now I don’t listen to you!” Grabbing onto his wings, I closed my eyes as the world went black.
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