“You ready?” I ignored the question. I’d seen enough war to understand what was coming and Gabriel should know not to expect an answer. I watched the earth turn beneath us. Soon the hour would come for us to return, but for now we were safely beyond the boundary line.
There was a disturbance in the air. A plane was headed towards us. Gabriel moved out of it’s way, but I let it pass through my translucent body. I wanted to see the passengers inside. I studied the indifferent faces of those who were unaware of my existence. The dog in the cargo area sensed my presence, but no one would hear his bark.
Gabriel returned to my side and we drifted. The repose had not been long. No rest was enough to recover, but the battles were more difficult of late. I glanced at my friend. He’d wanted to keep fighting, but we were ordered to this respite. This night on the human calendar always brought on the worst of the enemy's soldiers. The end of the war was on the horizon and they would draw as much blood as possible before it was over.
I could feel Gabriel’s readiness and tried to draw from his strength. He’d always shown bravery in battle. The only time I could remember him waver was at the fall. The enemy was marked for death that day and thousands of our kind followed. I couldn’t blame him for showing fear. Anger spread through my form. The haunting memory was enough to keep me fighting.
I turned back towards the earth as I remembered what followed. The enemy ruled there. He knew which beasts would welcome him. Animals have no spirit so it is easy for us to possess the gap between their soul and body. It was a cowardice trick. With the serpent’s help, he managed to spread the mark of death to the spirit of mankind. It was this act which divided our worlds and separated the Commander from his beloved. There were few who understood his suffering, but I had loved before.
I looked beyond the surface of the earth to the great void. Pain echoed through my core until it gripped every part of me. It was too late for my Rose, but I still treasured her memory. She’d walked the earth while it was still very young. The morning sun would glisten through her hair and accentuate the curve of her form. Her soul would radiate as she danced through the flowers. Even with a defiled spirit, her body and soul were more precious to me than the thousands that followed.
The enemy laughed as he rewarded his soldiers for the serpent's success. “Take the form of mankind and caress its daughters. Why should the favored creatures be withheld from our kind?” The Commander had already assured us he would restore the humans. He said they would command us in eternity when the war ended. I had hope for Rose, but who could resist the beauty of our kind? They blinded her and many others, dooming her to the void meant for the enemy and his soldiers. I would never have a chance to bask in her presence when the worlds reunite, but I would rescue others from her fate as if I could. Thanks to the child, there was hope.
It was the Commander’s design. It involved the kind of pain only someone in love could endure, but there was no other way. Having been marked for death, the spirit of man would drag his soul to the void as soon as the body perished and released him. Man needed a living spirit. My kind wanted to help, but death would spread to us as soon as we filled the void. Only the Commander was immune to the mark.
His flesh was not like man’s because it could not expire. To become weak enough to perish, he had to take the form of a child. His flesh mixed with that of man, but still, he could not die. He suffered more than any human could have been able to bear. A sharp pain ripped through my chest remembering his face. When he finally willed his spirit and soul from his body, we all turned away. When we looked again, things had become even worse for him. He was not satisfied just giving his spirit, but dipped his soul into the void and rescued as many as he could find. My Rose was not among them.
“Do you ever wonder why so many humans refuse his spirit?” Gabriel spoke again as if he could sense my thoughts. “Don’t they understand what will happen without it?”
“It is not as easy for them.” I brought my attention back to the surface of the earth. “Flesh only sees flesh. They feel the war, but can easily ignore it. If you could, wouldn’t you rather pretend everything was fine?” I knew not to expect an answer.
I abandoned my thoughts and picked up my sword. It was time to return. Tonight marked the anniversary of the Commander's birth into weaker flesh. As a mockery, the enemy would mount its largest attacks. Gabriel turned to his assignment as I continued. My feet hit the pavement near a large group of children. I walked carefully in their midst. There was a shift above me. I turned my sword to catch his. “Scabious.”
He snarled. “What is it, Michael? The important jobs not good enough for you anymore? You had to come here and ruin my fun?”
I held him back as he clawed towards the children. A boy turned as if to watch our squabble. His eyes were wide, and his face curious, but he could not see we were there. I looked back at Scabious. He’d spotted the boy and his mouth was watering. “Not tonight.” I held my sword to the demon’s neck.
He laughed as the door behind us opened. “Do you really think you can stop us all?” I turned to see one of the enemy’s agents answering the children’s knock. He had taken over a woman, and held in his hands a bag of poison. “By morning, half of these will have fallen into the void.”
I turned and wrapped my arms around the boy. “Not this one.” He must have wondered why he had the urge to lag behind, but he didn’t fight my embrace. Scabious fled but I remained with the child. He was my mission. He hadn’t accepted the Commander’s spirit, but I wasn’t going to let him be robbed of the chance.
I lifted my sword and plunged it through the heart of Scabious’ ally. There was a shuffle behind me. My shield stopped the oncoming blade. Gabriel intercepted another enemy descending from above. “Who sent you?” I asked in relief.
“His mother sent me.” Gabriel motioned to the boy just before his sword clashed with his attacker. I knew hundreds more would be coming and hoped for more prayers. The children were knocking again. We pushed our enemies aside and turned to the next doorway.
A human answered this time. “Trick or treat!” We held our shields above their heads to stop another demon and readied our swords. It would be a long night.