Good Friday morning, folks!
It has been a really busy week this week. I haven’t written anything, though I was editing the Father’s Day story (I am hoping to have a title by the time I’m done the first edit). I had appointments on Monday (therapy), Tuesday (spine surgery clinic), and Thursday (shots). I am taking my daughter to her doctor’s appointment later this afternoon. Wednesday was pretty much spent in a haze of the after effects of so much exposure the previous two days. Today is kind of the same way but my brain is functioning.
Sort of. There are a lot of SQUIRREL!! moments. I keep finding myself drifting. It’s taking a lot of discipline to come back.
Good news though! NO SURGERY! Woo hoo! [Okay, had to let my my wander away a bit there. Now I’m back.] The doc went through the MRI imagery – that was creepy and really cool at the same time – and showed us where the desiccation is and told us that those two discs are bulging and showed us that it really is just a tiny bit. Spine and spinal fluid are not compromised at all. He did confirm that there are vertebrae joints with arthritis in them, seemed to point to 4 of them.
There’s a plan of action (that involves fluoroscopic injections and rehab – and when I explained that going to rehab was next to impossible because of the MCS he said “It really is better if you actually go.” Duh.) and I couldn’t be happier.
I am spending the day hydrating and resting, up to the appointment, and then more hydrating and resting this weekend. I intend to go down to the private beach and take a bunch of pictures. My intentions and The Boyfriend’s thoughts don’t always match up though. 😉 We’ll see what happens.
Meanwhile! Fiction Friday, week two. Today, since I haven’t done any writing, I am sharing with you an old story I stumbled upon last week. It’s called To You I am Given and was inspired by something I read (which, really, is one reason writers should be readers). I think it was a wedding vow in the book. It’s been a number of years since I wrote it. I had forgotten all about it, really. I have no idea why I have all the damn caps in it and it’s only had one (very fast) edit. It’s kind of cringe worthy that way but… I’m sharing it anyway. I like the way the theme is written and the moral of the story.
Enjoy! I’m off to edit pictures.
To You, I am Given
Azezeal sat on a mushroom cloud, high above the first of the endless round of explosions and watched as the world died.
Sammamuel had finally won the battle with Jehovah and humanity was His. A few concessions had been ceded to the loser – such as the brightest and purest of souls going to the newly humbled God. Azezeal figured that might mean a hundred or two in the billions on the planet. Not a big loss. Everything and everyone else belong to Him. Them, Azezeal amended. The Kings of Hell would rule the world and walk freely upon the face of the Earth, once it was rid of the pesky conglomeration of sentient beings that made it so uncomfortable to live on. And Sammamuel had chosen a prime spot to begin the Apocalypse – what was once the most holy of holy places, the Garden of Eden; otherwise known as Iran. Unconsecrated though it may be, humans still considered it a holy land.
It started with the air superheating. The water in the ground boiled and exploded from the earth and sewers as steam only to evaporate so quickly people thought the explosions were hallucinations. The water in the foolishly built and frail human bodies began to bubble and boil. Sammamuel merely grinned as those prone to madness went there in a blink and tore into the people nearest them with bare hands. The Lords of Hell watched gleefully as the Garden turned crimson then began to burn. With a flick of long, elegant fingers, Sammamuel spread the destruction outward like ripples in a pond.
As seas boiled and the world began to die, screaming in pain. Azezeal puzzled over the nagging feeling that they had missed something. For more millennia than He could count, the Lords had indulged in every human emotion and whim They could. Lust was, by far, Their favourite; all of the many, many ways sex could be had was well known to Them and They were hard pressed to think of anything new; though not for a lack of trying. Billions of lives, human and animal, were lost in the ongoing, spreading destruction. The deep blue hue of human life that covered the planet was snuffed out, sometimes one at a time, sometimes in groups of hundreds of thousands. The blue was replaced by the auric colours of each person. The colours showed precisely what each person had done with their lives, announcing their quality of character loud and clear to those who could see.
Azezeal watched as a cloud of blue poofed out of existence, turning into a roiling mass of black. The mass shifted as it rose and a flash of pale pink light shone for just a moment. The sight arrested Azezeal’s musings and He shifted on the cloud to try to see it better.
“Azezeal! Lose something?” Mammon’s mocking voice drifted over the destruction and screams of the dying.
Azezeal rolled his eyes and schooled His face before turning to the Third Lord of Hell. “Of course not Mammon, though I can see you’ve already lost your mind.” He gestured to the cage floating behind Mammon, “Showing your true self I see.”
“I am the patron of lust and greed after all! These creatures worshipped me in life, it’s fitting they do so in death.” Mammon reached into the cloud and grabbed a grey soul, one tinged with just enough white to make her start rethinking her sins, and pulled the hapless soul to Him. He set her in His lap and began to pet her. She turned pleading eyes to Azezeal and He shifted His gaze back to the roiling cloud of black souls that had so interested him.
There! Azezeal again caught the flash of pink and left His perch to investigate. He dove into the mass of souls, great leathery wings catching the air to slow Him as He neared His goal. He flung the souls out of the way, shoving them off Him as they pressed close to beg forgiveness. “I am not your God!” He bellowed the words as He pushed His way through. Several thousand scattered in fear, even as they continued their ascent to Hell and the Demons who awaited them.
He caught sight of the bright, pale pink soul again and folded His wings close to His body as He dove towards her, navigating the air currents until He found it. He spread His wings again, using them like a parachute, until He came to a halt before the purity lost in a sea of sin. His breath caught as His heart stopped. It was a woman. He could see how she had looked in life – a brunette with silver gracing her temples, deep blue eyes darkened further as she scowled at him, twisting a perfect mouth and flawless features into something nearly ugly.
“What do You want?” There was respect in her voice that warred with her hatred of His kind.
“You. I think.” Azezeal frowned, confused. His heart started beating again, this time on a different rhythm and a curious warmth spread through His chest. He looked down at Himself and gasped in shock to see a bright white light creeping across His upper body.
He looked back up at her to see her smirking now. “It seems, King of Hell, that You are experiencing the purest of all emotions.”
Azezeal turned to a purely male defence mechanism in the face of His confusion and the riotous amount of unknown emotion tumbling through Him – rage. He scowled and grabbed her, shaking her hard enough to make even her incorporeal self dizzy. “Who are you and what have you done to me?”
She pushed her hair out of her face and glared at Him. “I did nothing!” She flung a hand out at the world, the destruction that was rapidly taking over. “It is YOU! All of You! You did this; You ruined everything I was working for!”
He dragged her back to His former perch. “What in the name of Hell are you talking about?” His eyes raked her from head to toe, trying to convey nothing but disgust for her kind. He failed spectacularly as His body heated. He suddenly wanted nothing more than to protect her, keep her safe and spend weeks touching her until she purred with pleasure.
Somehow she managed to stomp her foot. “I had them! They were going to turn their lives around, live for the Light!”
Azezeal snorted, “Your soul is pink. You are not perfect, not worthy of seeing Jehovah.”
To His utter shock, her face crumpled and she turned away in pain. “My sister’s death was an accident but it was my fault. I took the blame and the smut for the spell we’d been trying to work.” Her agonized whisper reached His ears and He shocked Himself further by scooping her into His arms and cradling her against His chest. He stroked her hair, whispering soothing words in her ear.
That’s when it hit Him. That’s when Jehovah’s voice whispered in His ear with the answer to His puzzle. “Love. Love is the only thing you have not yet experienced. And it must be experienced.”
It was suddenly clear to Azezeal. Even beings as Dark as They could love, SHOULD love! If all humanity was destroyed before this happened, then everything Sammamuel had fought for would be lost. The existence of everything would wink out and be gone.
Azezeal turned to where He knew the Fourth Lords of Hell sat, Lady Fierna and Lord Belial. They were in love. It was obvious now that He knew what to look for. How could They not tell Sammamuel what was going to happen?
Fierna turned to Him as if She’d heard His thoughts. Because we are tired and we wish to die together. Enjoy your woman in the last few moments you have.
He dipped His head in acknowledgement of Her words, the trust She implied by sharing the path to her innermost thoughts. But I cannot let it end if this is what awaits Us. He set His woman down. “Remain here. You will be safe, I swear it.”
She looked startled as He set a ward around her, the crimson and black of His aura flashing around her. She scrambled to the edge of His cloud as He turned away to head for Sammamuel. “Wait!” She reached out a hand, jerking it back as the shield zapped her. “What are You going to do? What is Your name?”
“I am going to put an end to the destruction. And My name is Azezeal.” He dipped His head to her in silent homage, His eyes drinking her in then He turned from her and flew for the King of Kings.
Azezeal halted, hovering before the cloud Sammamuel had housed Himself on. He sketched a quick bow then said, “Sammamuel! My Lord! You must stop this destruction. It must cease! Allow the few remaining humans what is left of their planet.”
Sammamuel turned red eyes to the Lord before Him. Dual sets of lids blinked, giving Azezeal a brief respite from the reptilian pupils and nova bright irises. “And just why should I spoil My fun and that of Your Brothers and Sister?”
Azezeal blushed, much to His chagrin. “I have learned something in the last few moments.”
Sammamuel looked down at His hand, studying the buff, well shaped fingernails in seeming boredom. He dropped the hand to the head of the black coloured soul who was worshipping Him with his mouth. “What have You learned, little Brother.”
Azezeal heard the warning in Sammamuel’s tone and swallowed back His fear. He opened His mouth to speak and was silenced by Sammamuel’s sudden appearance in front of Him.
Sammamuel looked Azezeal over closely. “You have… fallen in love.” Sammamuel peered over to Azezeal’s cloud, trying to see through the shield that surrounded it. “Does that have something to do with this?” Sammamuel sneered, “Are you suddenly sympathising with the mortals?”
Azezeal chose His words carefully. He knew that to tell Sammamuel that His Father had told Azezeal, rather than Sammamuel Himself, this lesson would anger Him. “I have had the nagging feeling that We have forgotten something for some time now.” He swallowed visibly as Sammamuel’s brow lifted. “It wasn’t until I saw this woman, a pale pink soul in a mass of sin, that it hit me with the force of lightning.” He spread His hands to show His earnestness and honesty. He framed the white light glowing in His chest. “We have experienced all humanity has to offer except this one thing.”
“So?” Sammamuel returned to His seat and the worshipping human.
“I believe,” Azezeal’s voice cracked, mortifying Him, “if We allow humanity to perish and the world to burn without having experienced this emotion, everything will vanish in a blink. Everything We… You … have worked for will disappear and nothing will remain.”
“THAT IS A LIE!” Mammon’s voice echoed across the space dividing Sammamuel from the rest. He flew across that space, crashing into Azezeal in a fury. “This is precisely what We have been working for!” The debate got loud, competing with the screams of the dying and complimented for a few moments with the sounds of fists on flesh, as the other Lords joined in. Sammamuel watched impassively, noting that Fierna and Belial did not join in. He suspected that Azezeal may have the right of it.
It was because of that small suspicion that Sammamuel did nothing as Azezeal slipped from the grasp of Mammon and moved away, leaving His Brothers to fight it out. Sammamuel watched closely as Azezeal moved to His perch, abolished the shield and bent low to pick someone up. A bubble formed around them a moment later as Azezeal once again flew away. The King of Darkness watched as the lone Prince descended towards the planet. He sent a fragment of Himself to follow.
Azezeal looked at the woman in His arms. “What is your name?”
“Lena .” She was stiff, arms crossed over her chest.
Azezeal smiled. “It’s almost as beautiful as you are.”
She tipped her head back and looked up at Him. “Are You kidding? What do you want with me?”
Azezeal’s descent stopped suddenly. “You don’t know?”
Lena shook her head slowly. She closed her eyes, prayed to Yahweh for an answer and opened her eyes again. She looked Azezeal over and again noted the blossom of white light over the Demon’s chest. The bloom was starkly white on the deep red of His flesh. She touched it, wonder in her eyes.
Azezeal cleared His throat as His ardour rose. Lena snatched her hand back, suddenly aware she’d been caressing His chest. Heat bloomed in her face and she cleared her throat. She tried for the brutally honest approach that had always worked for her in life. “Is that what happens when a Demon falls in love?”
Azezeal lifted His shoulders in a shrug. “I don’t know. I’ve never seen the chests of the Lords of the Fourth, but since this is what happened to me, I’m guessing it probably is.” He suddenly skidded to a halt, His arms tightening around her. “My Lady, Lord Belial.”
Lena lifted her head and peeked over His arm. She ducked back down immediately as Lord Belial turned bright yellow eyes on her.
Lady Fierna’s voice compelled Lena to lift her head again and look at Her. “It is indeed what happens when a Demon such as we fall in love.” Her hand slid into Belial’s. “We do not wish to exist any longer, Azezeal.”
Belial took up where she left off, His voice a deep bass rumble that was almost indistinguishable from the explosions on the planet. “But that is our choice, my Brother. We will find a way to end our lives and leave you and your Mate our House.”
Sammamuel’s gasp of shock could be heard to Jehovah and back. Jehovah merely smiled and returned to His collection. Azezeal and the Lord and Lady turned as Sammamuel flew over to them. The great, black feathered wings moved slowly as He hovered before the small group. He took in the couple who ruled the Fourth, Azezeal and the human in Azezeal’s arms. Then He returned His gaze to Azezeal.
Azezeal shivered, almost imperceptibly under the dark, powerful gaze of his ruler. Lena felt it and surprised herself by stroking His arm soothingly. Sammamuel caught the gesture and a light appeared in His eyes. Azezeal looked alarmed.
He backed up a micron of space, then several more when Sammamuel’s gaze moved to the Demon couple now holding hands. Azezeal cleared his throat and jumped into the silence just before Sammamuel spoke. “Is there something troubling You, my liege?”
Sammamuel’s gaze snapped back to Azezeal. “Why yes,” He drawled, “there is.” Before any of them could blink, He was wrist deep in the chests of Fierna and Belial. He smiled cruelly at them. “You wished to die and now you may.” He pulled His hands out and held up their black, still pulsing hearts. “You are now mortal, die like the humans are.” With that He blew at them gently, savouring the horror and pain in their faces. The two clasped hands as they plummeted towards the planet below and Sammamuel snorted in disgust. Then He turned back to Azezeal and the human.
Azezeal tightened His grip on Lena, glancing down at her as He did. He nearly groaned in dismay at how fragile and small she looked in His huge arms. Sammamuel reached towards them and Azezeal nearly flinched. Sammamuel just stared Him in the eye, daring the Demon to move as His hand moved over Azezeal’s chest and then over Lena ’s hair.
Lena shrank back briefly as heat scorched her scalp and she smelled the acrid odour of burning hair. She scrambled for her courage and hardened her spine. Sammamuel’s face transformed from His demon visage to one of a handsome man, electric blue eyes looked into hers and she felt a curious shuffling in her head.
Sammamuel’s smile chilled them both to the bone. Then He reached out again and touched Lena. She screamed, her back arching with pain as fire burned through her, reshaping her. Azezeal clung to her with difficulty, afraid of what would happen if she slipped from His arms. Sammamuel smiled grimly, watching her. His voice was deceptively soft. “It seems my Father agrees with you, Azezeal. But I am not so generous as He was with Adam, giving him two chances to love and immortality. I have given her a longer life, but she will die. Eventually.”
“Yes, my Lord.” Azezeal’s voice was neutral. He did not think that cursing Adam to be forever tormented by his first wife, Lilith, was generous.
“You will have one chance and one chance only. If you do not succeed in making this human,” Sammamuel spat the word, “love you then you will return to Hell, with her at your side and you will both find yourselves in the pits in My House.”
Lena’s screams subsided to soft whimpering and Sammamuel’s words filtered through the remaining haze created by the pain and changes wrought in her body. She struggled to a more upright position in Azezeal’s arms, one arm locking behind His neck to anchor herself. “What do you mean make me love Him? There is no question about whether I will or not.” Her expression turned scornful. “He is a Demon! I could never love one so Dark.”
Sammamuel laughed as Azezeal’s face momentarily reflected the pain her last words caused him. “Good luck, Brother.”
Azezeal bowed His head to Sammamuel. “And to You, my Lord, for We must all experience love before this world ends.”
Sammamuel’s eyes darkened, His face reverting back to its natural form. “Do not think to tell Me what to do, runt. I do not need love.” Then He reached out and tore Lena from Azezeal’s arms and threw her towards the planet. She plummeted screaming again. Azezeal turned to dive after her. Sammamuel stopped Him with a hand on His arm. “You have one year to make her love you. If that time passes and she does not, you will turn mortal and your death will be her death. That way you will suffer the torments of My House together.”
Azezeal’s eyes narrowed. “And when I succeed, my lord?”
Sammamuel laughed again, this time it was rich and enchanting, drawing all the souls within hearing distance towards Him. “Why then you’ll have a century together before returning to Hell. Where,” Sammamuel added reluctantly, “You may reclaim your House and the Fourth.” With His word given, Sammamuel disappeared, shifting back to His House.
Azezeal dove after Lena, straining to reach her before she hit the ground. He snagged her by the wrist and pulled her to him before she hit the ash dusted remains of a city in Iran. He flew off with her, seeking a place less ravaged by Sammamuel’s whims. He found an oasis on the continent known as Australia and landed there. He listened to the planet and found that it was cooling, the destruction stopping. And for the first time in His existence, He prayed to the Father, begging Him for help in providing for the first love of His long life.
Shortly after, searing pain shot through Azezeal. Sweat broke out all over his body as he fought to contain the screams. Lena watched with a worried fascination as Azezeal became human looking, His skin changing colour and His wings melting from His back. Frowning, Lena took in her surroundings and tried to remember what had happened. Her mind was frustratingly empty. She couldn’t even remember her name. She looked at the tall, well built and devastatingly handsome man on all fours in front of her. Twice she opened and closed her mouth. Twice she reached out to touch his shoulder.
Finally she found her courage and reached out to touch his shoulder. “Excuse me? Do you know my name or where I am? Do you know where I came from? Who are you?”
Azezeal looked up, face pale and lined with the effort of holding in the screams as his body changed. “Your name is Lena and you are to be my wife.” He forced his voice to remain calm and friendly, not showing the dismay at her memory loss. Azezeal pushed himself to his feet and looked down at her. “I love you more than my own existence. We came to be here, in Australia, because of an accident that has left the world a war zone. This is the only safe place.”
Eyes wide, Lena stared at the muscled chest in front of her. “A war? Is it over?”
Azezeal grimaced and glanced towards the sky, towards Heaven and Hell. “It was, briefly. It has just started again.” He took Lena by the hand and took her to begin their life together.