1 comment

Fiction Fantasy Contemporary

Alone, Ariel sat in the center of the king-sized bed, holding her knees to her chest, and staring at the closed cabinet across from her in the small hotel room. There was a decent-sized television on the other side of those closed cabinet doors but the electricity in the hotel had gone out at least three weeks ago, rendering it useless. Which meant the air conditioning didn’t work either and that meant something on the coast of California, on the outskirts of Los Angeles.

Ariel didn’t know what day it was or how long it had been since she’d actually left that hotel room. Not only was it hard to keep track of days and weeks and months in a city without seasons, but the country had been quarantined for no less than two years at that point and there was no end in sight. The global pandemic had won, and the world was a wasteland on the other side of the hotel’s four walls.

The three-hundred-and-fifty square foot hotel room in which Ariel had isolated herself was wallpapered in gold and carpeted in a royal red. Tan and red drapes outlined the single window, which was only two feet away from where Ariel sat on the bed adorned with a comforter that matched the elegant drapery. There were dark wooden nightstands on either side of the bed, that matched the coffee table in front of the couch and the desk across from the bed, with ornate golden lamps on both of them. The couch, which was next to the bed on the other side of the nightstand, was tan with red polka dots and had matching tan pillows. And a glowing halo hung around the dark wooden post of the bed closer to the couch.

No, not a glowing halo of light that shows up in photographs that would be seen as a supernatural entity. It was a literal, holier-than-now angel’s halo.

Ariel had removed that very halo from above her head the day she’d arrived in this city that had been referred to as a cesspool numerous times in the past. She hadn’t felt very angelic since the human she was responsible for ended her own life what was probably six months ago. A lot of Guardians felt just as terribly as she did about the loss of their own Guarded during this near-apocalyptic worldwide pandemic, but Ariel was the only one to run away over it.

But Ariel was also the youngest Guardian and the only half-human, half-angel Guardian. Ariel’s father was Gadreel of the Watchers and he’d had a fling with a human over two hundred years ago. That human, Ariel’s mother, died while giving birth to Ariel, and Gadreel showed his true form to her in her last moments – even his scarred black wings and his dented, dim halo. And she used her final breath to beg Gadreel to raise Ariel as one of his kind.

Little did Ariel’s mother know that what she’d requested meant that all Gadreel really had to do was drop Ariel off with the Guardians for two hundred years of training and then she’d be assigned her first Guarded and she’d be off on her own. No father-daughter bonding time required.

Even though she was two-hundred-and-thirty years old, Ariel could hardly even pass for twenty in her Earthly form. She was a slender five-foot-five with iridescently pale skin and eyes that changed color to match her mood. Her features, like those of all Guardians, were soft and inviting, but she believed she must’ve gotten most of her looks from her mother because Gadreel was large and intimidating with harsh features. But she’d never been allowed to see a photo of her mother so she couldn’t know for sure.

And Ariel’s once golden yellow hair was now dyed bright red in honor of her late Guarded.

Erin, although easy in the very beginning, turned out to be a more difficult Guarded, especially for a first time Guardian such as Ariel. The first twelve years of Erin’s life were beautiful and simple with an almost perfect family and a menagerie of wonderful friends. Sure, her parents fought, but she had her brother Jack who she spent just as much time with as she did her friends, so the two of them never let the fighting get to them.

Then the teenage years came, and Erin couldn’t seem to escape from getting bullied. Her orange-red hair already made her different enough and then she isolated herself further by burying her nose in books and being the quietest student in her school. Ariel was proud of her for never changing who she was and never giving up, no matter how close she came during high school.

College was supposed to get better; it didn’t. But Erin survived and things finally seemed to come together after that when she found a career working with dogs. She came out of her shell, opened up to the idea of letting people in, and even fell in love a couple of times. It seemed like the worst was over…until the nightmare of 2020 began.

Ariel did everything she could to protect Erin from the tragedies of 2020 and the Coronavirus. She kept her safe from any exposure to the deadly virus, she made sure her hobbies were kept alive and thriving during quarantine, especially writing fiction and watching Metalocalypse, and she even wagered a deal with the Guardian of a dog breeder to make Basset Hound puppies more accessible after Erin’s Great Dane passed away unexpectedly. A Basset Hound had turned out to be the perfect breed to brighten Erin’s darkest days and Hamlet turned out to be the goofiest Basset Hound and the comic relief of every situation.

And yet, one bad day still sent Erin spiraling downhill so fast that a flat tire led to a fight with her dad, which led to an overdose and she was gone forever.

Erin’s overdose wasn’t a total surprise as worldwide shutdowns had been hard on everyone during the pandemic and suicide rates had gone up exponentially. But it was too much for Ariel because Erin was her first Guarded and she couldn’t help but feel like she’d failed her. Also, nobody would say it, even though everyone was thinking it, that Ariel’s being half-human had to do with how upset she got over Erin’s death. She wasn’t meant for Guardian work, but no one dared tell Gadreel that.

Ariel always knew that she didn’t belong, though. It wasn’t a secret that she was half-human and that the other Guardians looked down on her because of that. So, when the opportunity arose for her to escape to California, she took it without telling anyone where she was going or even that she was leaving.

Erin had loved California, which is why Ariel chose it as her getaway destination. She couldn’t help but think about the one time Erin finally made it out the west coast and treated herself to a five-star hotel in Pasadena. Ariel had been so proud of her for being able to make that trip across the country entirely by herself. Those had been some of her best days.

And now here she sat, not knowing what she was supposed to do with herself or even what was happening on the other side of her four walls, in her late Guarded’s favorite city and her hair dyed to match hers. It could be the end of humanity for all she knew, and she might just be okay with that. That wouldn’t be so bad, at least for Ariel. She could stay on Earth all by herself while the Angels moved on to the next universe without her.

Lost in the daydream of a completely deserted Earth where she was the last remaining human…well, half-human…Ariel didn’t even hear the knock on her door. Not that she was even listening for anything of the sort anyway. She hadn’t come in contact with anybody since her last voyage out of the room and, still, nobody knew she was there. But there was a second knock only seconds later, and Ariel heard that one.

Ariel’s head shot up and her eyes, which were almost black from fear, fixated on the white hotel room door. There was a third knock, louder and angrier this time, and Ariel finally scrambled off of the bed to hurry over to the door. She looked through the peephole but, of course, it was broken. So, she tried to open the door just a crack, but whoever was on the other side got their hand on the door and forced it all the way open before stepping into the room without an invitation.

The man was a stranger with a handsomely chiseled face and with dark hair and darker eyes. He wore a long black cloak over what was probably a very athletic body. And although he was tall and intimidating, there was a nervous gleam in his eye.

“I’m sorry, I must have the wrong room,” the stranger said harshly, looking hard at Ariel as if he were trying to read her like a book.

“Who are you looking for?” Ariel asked, looking just as intensely at the stranger. There was something about him that made Ariel feel like she’d seen him before.

“My daughter,” the stranger told her, cocking an eyebrow in her direction. “She ran away and all roads led me here.”

Ariel swallowed hard and took a step back, away from the stranger. Could he be Gadreel in his Earthly form? But did she really look so different with red hair that he wouldn’t recognize his own daughter? Or was it…?

“Crap,” Ariel muttered under her breath just as the stranger looked past her toward the headboard of the hotel bed where she’d left her halo.

“How angel-like, Ariel,” Gadreel chastised his daughter before shifting into a more comfortable, familiar version of himself.

Gadreel’s bone-white body was as tall as the hotel room and nothing short of beautiful. His black wings hit the ceiling with a thud and Ariel saw that there was another large chunk missing from the left one since the last time she’d seen him. And his dark halo was dimmer than ever. There’d been another battle, and her dad was hurt bad from the looks of it.

“How’d you find me?” Ariel asked quietly, trying to look down at the floor out of intimidation but it was hard to look away from Gadreel’s beauty.

“You’re my only child. How hard did you think it would be?” Gadreel replied calmly, his voice booming in the smallness of the room.

“I’ve been here for quite a while,” Ariel scoffed at him, finally looking away as she kicked her foot at the floor, trying to look innocent.

“I was at war!” Gadreel shouted with a strong flap of his wings.

The gust of wind created by Gadreel’s wings forced Ariel backwards into the wall behind her and she crashed to the floor on her side. A look of regret flashed briefly across Gadreel’s face as he remained where he stood, but his cold look of displeasure quickly returned. Ariel was slow to pick herself up and it was much easier to ignore her father’s beauty now.

“We’re leaving,” Gadreel hissed and motioned for Ariel to stand by his side.

Ariel knew better than to argue with her father, so she walked to him with her head down, holding her arm where it hurt from hitting the floor. She stopped by Gadreel’s side, staying slightly behind him, and could feel his dark eyes on her.

“Aren’t you forgetting something?” Gadreel seethed.

Trembling, Ariel looked around the room, doing all she could to avoid having to look at her dad. She was too scared to focus so it took two full scans of the room to finally remember her halo. Dashing over to the side of the bed, she slid the glowing disc off the bedpost and placed it in its proper spot above her head. Then she sprinted back over to her dad where he grabbed ahold of her waist and flew them out of that hotel. Even on damaged wings, there was no stronger flyer than Gadreel.

March 13, 2021 02:44

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

1 comment

Somegenius Kid
04:08 Mar 19, 2021

Your story was EXCEPTIONAL!! I loved the story and marveled at your timing and delivery.


Show 0 replies