I can smell it. The slow wasting disease of this place. The festering, putrid infection in the hearts and souls of those down below. They watch in an apathetic torpor as their souls harden, becoming leaden, seemingly impenetrable to the suffering and horror of those around them. But they are not aware of the sickness within, that which is eating them from the inside out. They live in their leaden shells and so become merely their leaden shells. To all the world they appears as human, but what is a human without a soul that animates.
Forgive me my God and Master, it is their hearts that have grown cold and dead not their souls. No, rather it is their souls that accrue the diseases of the mind and of the flesh. For if they had no souls, no eternal, immortal souls besmirched and smeared with the refuse of their unholy desires, then there would be no purpose in my duty. It is left to me, and my brothers both light and of a hellish complexion, to shatter the shells that form around those mortal existences. We shatter and destroy, by order of God, so that the spark of illumination may dawn upon that soul and burn into a great conflagration of glory to Him Who Has Sent Us! That is our duty.
And because of this duty, because of its darkness, the face of God is hidden from those like me who serve. Once I was in communion with that Face, and to have it turned away from me because of my duty . . . Great is the glory of God! The glory which I serve! That must be, and so is, enough.
I have flown in rivers of fire, but now I fly in the earthly night sky. Looking down at all the miserable, empty shells I feel the keen edge of my duty calling. Landing on a building, a breeding ground of sin and vice below my feet, I sniff the air carefully and watch the shadows.
Down below, a scene unfolds, captured by that phenomenon of sight. It is a scene repeated endlessly over this continent and many other nations; a scene of endless permutations but the act is the same. It is a simple scene. I watch, doubting that the spark within the breast burns hot enough to ignite the fires of compassion.
A shadow of a man, clothed in tatters of clothing, thin and hungry, presumes to look up and with humiliated eyes asks for a coin or two. A man in an impeccable suit doesn't even acknowledge the existence of this poor wretch, his brother in flesh. To the well-clothed man the other does not seem to even exist, because the other's presence would deign to upset the moral order of the man's life. So he continues past on the street eager to make himself blind.
Why? Why the blindness? In every culture, in every tradition there are rules for the beggar. Despise him if you will, but give him the means to life. Give him a few of those precious coins.
The answer to that question is simple enough for I have seen the world and its ways, the ways of the jackal and the vulture. The blindness to others is merely the symptom of a disease that has crept across the earth's surface. It spread to all corners of the earth on the tall ships of men, finding abundant soil on which to grow. Now it has sprouted forth and ensnared the hearts of many. Many more it has simply destroyed to live in the life hereafter. It is the worship - what is the idiom that other half who once shared this body would have used - of the almighty dollar. What a woeful idolatry is that.
But it is by providence that I am here, and destiny that I have seen the disease festering in the world. I will do my duty, and from destruction will be born the purity of the soul.
I follow the suited and sinful man, watching the progress of that ignorer of the leper and wretches of society. I wait for a place of opportunity and for the proper moment. Several blocks away from the beggar, I find that which I seek. Swooping in, I settle unobserved into a narrow alley beside which the worshipper of wealth will pass.
It is but the tick of the watch before he does so, and my trap is sprung. As he passes by, a whirlwind of supernatural motion catches him. In a flash he is caught in a darkness of my creating. Pitch black he cannot see, perhaps because he has never seen - but I can see. He struggles, opens his mouth as if to challenge the hand of God, and quickly crumples to the ground as a concrete hand of an angel slams into his face.
Crumpled and unconscious, what is left now to do is the destruction of the immediate images of his idolatry. The suit (the name on it, "Armani", stirs within a remembrance) is quickly torn to sunders. His wallet, next, is burned to cinders, with the sprinkles of the ash falling lightly on his resting form. Finally, a carefully folded multitude of cash is taken from his body. And before the 'tick' of the tock can come round again, I am airborne.
The beggar a few blocks away, poor wretch, is the inheritor of that wad of cash. As the word sayeth; "The Lord giveth, and he taketh away." As an angel, I am merely an instrument for those divine words to find purchase in the world. I journey back into the night sky, eager to return to the human game I have been chastising these past few nights.
And where does the simple "Thou shalt not steal" fall into all this? It too is a command, incumbent upon us to follow in this mortal guise. We have forgotten much, you and I, assumed far too much.
We are not what we were, but something altogether different now; fresh with new possibilities. But that newness is frightening, disorientating, it makes the world spin in a way that we are not used to. I ran from it myself for a while. I ran because I did not wish to see or remember. We are something new, something different, so what rules do we follow?
If we were human there would be plenty enough, but we are not wholly human. If we were fully angels, that too would light the path of our actions. But we do not hear the voice of the place of that Ultimate Repose. So we no longer are an angel. The choice is before us, we must find our place in one of the two paths already set, or strike out on a third: uncertain as to its destination, but committed to stumbling along that new way.
What is clear though, the one undeniable fact that faces us each time the sun rises, is that the surety we once had is gone. The surety of the Voice. The surety of human free will. Both gone.
You, my other self, live in the surety of the Voice as I once lived in the surety of the will. But these actions of yours, their rightness, where do they come from? "Have you taken a promise from Allah? Then, Allah will never break His promise. Or, do you say of Allah what you know not?"
On the wings of the night, it is not long before I catch sight of some of my sinful prey. Trailing behind these uncouth minions of Eblis, I watch them ride along the paved, wide road of destruction. It is the road not of others destruction, but their own. At the end of it I, or one under me, have always sat with sword drawn. And yet, there is no shortage of those flinging themselves into the Abyss. But they are not for me tonight.
I silent prayer forms on my lips: God willing, they will enter into the angelic clutches of others before the night is over.
That which I seek this night is elsewhere. I have gone to it before but never in full fury. This night will be different. This night I will rain down heavenly destruction on a way station on the road to greed and the evils that surround that sin. I know the building which I seek, the roads and other structures that lead up to it. I know that many who drive the two-wheeled vehicles pay it homage, as a kind of shrine. That gross idolatry gives me warrant to destroy.
They have not been without warning, as justice must be tempered with mercy. I have sought to chastise them through the ruination of their temporal possessions. Dispossessed, their eye might wander over their own iniquity. But even in such brotherhoods that they claim to be, the pain of their human brother is not their own.
I had sought to show them the frailty of clinging to such an idol as greed by striking at that which supported the vice. I sought to show the dangers of such service to an illusion. I sought to offer the purification of destruction to those who had eyes to see. The Universal showed the two paths before them: the path of illusion and sin, or the path of social order founded on right conduct and right speech. The choice, as is my duty, was set before them.
Yet God had hardened their hearts. That is known now. Their affliction is their own. The day dawned with their future already written.
I am but a servant, always and only.
I am but a servant - but of what?
I delve deeper into our past, in both breadth and depth, and the plethora of paths is astounding. I see darkness so complete as to threaten the very spark of existence, and light so dazzling as to do the same. I have seen action that would shatter the faithful, and I have heard the Gandharvas sing of their Love. I have seen eternity, and I have felt the hot breath of mortality.
The Creator has created all of those things. If that is so, then what am I a servant of? Is there not something more that is needed to guide and orientate my path?
Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
With the sword of righteousness by my side I continue my quest. Swooping lower, skimming near the tops of the buildings that I pass, I see in the distance something out of place. Normally the dwelling places of these mortals cause me no concern; why should one concern themselves with the mausoleums of the walking dead? But this building is different, as is the owner of the 'house'.
As I come into view the scene unfolds itself under my attentive gaze. At the end of a street, its lighted lamps along the street burnt out, is a building. No, the street lamps are not burnt out, but have rather been smashed or otherwise destroyed. The wanton vandalism sparks my ire, that is fuelled into full flame by what I see at the end of the street. A brown building - old. Its roof is heavily slanted, the dim starlight suggesting a red tiling. One part of the building rises higher than the others, its single spire stretching out towards the heavens. And on the top of that spire rests the Christian cross, a symbol of defiance to the decadence of decay surrounding it.
It is a holy place. A place of God. A place with windows smashed and a fire licking at the wood on its double doors. The fire igniting in my chest, matches those flames. Who has done this? What matter of beast has committed such sacrilege?
Ignoring the furtive movement on the edge of my vision, I quickly land in front of the flaming timbers. I can feel my teeth grinding as the fire matches the welcoming red swimming in my vision. The punishment for this sin will be extracted in the blood of those evildoers responsible. First, though, the house of God must be saved. All will come in time.
One way to save the church presents itself to me, I embrace it; what else could it be but inspired from above? Using the limited, though powerful, strength from this mortal frame, I topple the doors inward. Quickly grabbing them, ignoring the scorching flames licking at my skin, I hurl the timbers out onto the street. Then, beating at it, the remaining fire slowly dies and the church is removed from immediate danger.
I sneer at the thought of those flames, at the redness caused by them on this frail body. I have flown through seven gates of hell, shirked off fires of torment as if they were simple cloaks to wear, I have been burned and charred by those fires; and all the while I laughed - no flame can burn as brightly as doth the light of Heaven. How much less, then, mortal embers!
There is the sound of clapping behind me, out on the street. It is not the sound of applause, but carries with it a mocking beat. The sneer grows on this face of mine. Behind me is the one who has done this; I am sure of that. I close my eyes and offer a prayer of thanks for the deliverance of this sinner into my hands.
Turning, my eyes take in a new scene. A man in a black jacket, his face turned down looking at the burning doors, stands in the middle of the street. Slowly, he looks up, his face bathed in the light of the flames. A sneering smile of his own plays across his face, while his eyes stare out at me as dark as pitch. I stare back: there are worse things in creation than pupilless eyes.
"Impressive job. I don't think we could have destroyed those doors better ourselves," the man says. "You have to understand of course, I have nothing against religion, I just had to get your attention. This seemed like a good way - I guess I was right."
I noticed the motorcycles behind him and off to one side. Though not knowing the specifics, nor needing them, I knew what he was. Always merciful, I had to offer him a final choice; "Thou hast violated what thou shouldst not. Thou art walking into the Abyss. Turn away now, give thy self over the judgement of the authorities and thou shalt be spared. Do not, and Heaven gives you into my hands."
The creature before me dared to chuckle in the face of his destruction, "Funny. I was going to tell you to do the same thing - in a manner of speaking. You've been targeting some associates of mine, they'd like it to stop. You can either stop by your own accord - which I doubt you will. Or I can make you stop, which is so much more fun. What's it going to be glow-worm?"
He and I knew our answers without the need of words: evil's arrogance rarely gives it the foresight to know when surrender is a wise option. With words at an end I speed towards the leather-coated creature, reveling in the fury that is burning my flesh. I caught him about the midsection, ready to deliver him to the stratosphere, but a fisted force slammed into my back. With another motion he grabbed and attempted to hurl me from him. If I had wanted to resist I could have, instead I allowed myself to flow with the motion; landing lightly several meters behind the fell creature.
Though it might have appeared useless, my attack had proven three things: one, he was strong, the force of his blow testament to that fact; two, he was tough to have been able to withstand my own attack; three, he was confident, more so than the sheer fact of his presence should have given him warrant to be. He was either holding something back, or he was not alone.
As the dark creature turned, his forefinger and thumb went to his mouth. A whistle broke the air as others emerged from hiding places, various guns blazing. If I was a fool, that volley might have proved harmful. But I have honed my reflexes over centuries and I was already in the air. All I left behind, for the moment, was a globe of darkness to disorientate my opponents.
Loud cracks thundered through the air beside me, as projectiles flew; the enemy appeared to have found my form in the sky. It did not matter. As Bhisma waded through the sea of arrows that flew towards him without a scratch, so too did I whether this storm with the ease of a heavenly creature. Not one bullet found its mark. Reaching an appropriate zenith in the air, I turned; now it would be bullets versus the bolts of heavenly fire.
With my feathered wings wrapped around me, I plummeted back to the dark earth. Most of the figures moved back under greater concealment, but one of my quarry was not as fast. Moving back into a doorway, a bolt of justice slammed into his shoulder, driving him to the ground and out of the fight.
The fell creature that had dared to speak to me caught my sight. He had pulled a handgun of some sort, and while his infernal companions proceeded to aim their shots at me, he calmly took aim at a stained-glass window on the church. With a flick of my wings and a quick role, my course in the air changed as I flew towards the ringleader. Turning his attention to me, he shot several times. His aim guided by a darker force, fate did not let me fire one of my own bullets of light. Instead, I merely continued forward through the hail of gunfire.
But my opponent was ready for me, as I knew he would be. As I reached out my arm, he dropped to the ground, grabbing it. With a mighty power that hid a strength that could kill lesser men, he pulled me over himself and dealt a blow with his booted foot to my mid-section. I suppose he thought he was being clever.
If I had not anticipated his movement the moment he went down, perhaps I would have been somehow wounded by this pitiful, dark man. However, it is difficult to expect gravity to work the same on one who can fly as on one trapped by its force. Moving upwards with the force, I deflected the vast majority of the blow. And, twisting in the air, changing my course of flight, I land on another concealed, weapon-totting opponent. A quick strike smashes his head into the ground; another individual is out of the fight. But presently the bullets resume their course, seeking to entrap me within their deadly net.
Skimming over the black battlefield, I fly inches from the ground. Appearing to aim for another one of their numbers, their attention is properly diverted. They forget that my reach is not limited as there pale fleshly bodies are - what can you expect, they are just human after all.
Veering suddenly, keeping a proper, subtle distance, I change my course along the ground. The arrogant, superhuman creature in the middle of the street takes aim with his gun, thinking he can stop heavenly justice from being meted out. He forgot that I have great, powerful, beautiful wings resting on my back. Shooting them out to their full, majestic length, the dark creature is suddenly very much in range. The wing hits its target, smashing into his knees and forcing him to the ground. I notice his gun is released into the air and flies away from him as well.
At the end of this pass is another man playing with a gun. Like his companions, he is quickly disposed of. Off in the distance a noise grows into familiarity: sirens, an unknown number of them. Beyond that, beyond the fiery streak lighting up the sky towards this place, is the dull recognition of an increasing presence. I know the owner of that presence for I have met him before. His sojourn on this earth as Blaze does nothing to hide his infernal stench. I have no desire to face that hell-beast without picking the ground of the battle; the conflict with these leather-clad walking corpses must be finished quickly.
Judging from the expression on the pupilless man's eyes, he knows it too. He wishes to fly from this place, less out of fear than of custom. His is not the realm of light and justice, and so when faced by a human shield that represents the mortal desire for a divine virtue, the darkness flees. But he cannot fly, and therein lies a weakness.
All the others, those shooting in the darkness, would be nothing without their leader. In a moment's flash I take aim, risking a hail of gunfire. As the pupilless man turns, a bolt of light crackles by him into the darkness. He looks up, a smile crossing his face in pleasure that I so missed my shot. Forgive me my gracious God, for in my pride I could not help but smile back when such a loathsome creature believes they had attained a victory of sorts.
Shouts from his fellow criminals rang out as his smile turned. He glanced behind him at what I, too, was looking at. Their pack animal symbols had not been hidden well enough, and in the darkness I had spotted them. Taking aim, in hopes of bringing greater glory to the Holy, I had shot. Guided by a heavenly hand, the bolt had found its mark: two motorcycles appeared ruined, three others in flames.
In my pride I had been pleased. Because of that pride, God deemed to chastise me. O what a weak thing is this mortal flesh!
As the sirens came closer, and the sky was filled with an increased demonic flame, I rose into the air, preparing to depart. The pupilless man turned and walked towards the motorcycles lying on the road. Then, the hand of some dark magic was played and in front of my eyes the twisted wreckage of the leader's motorcycle twisted and straightened back into its original form. Behind him, those that would follow him into the jaws of death, extinguished the fires raging.
With a look back to me and a simple "We'll be seeing each other again," the nightly creature said as the rest of his pack drove away. I too took flight. The stench of hell was becoming overpowering.
I retreated into the night, content to contemplate my next move. And to ask for forgiveness for the pride that had overcome my better nature that night. Now I knew there was another creature in town, more dangerous and vile than a hundred men of like quality of the one I had just fought. That demonic prince had no doubt come to hunt me here in this domain. It was out of fear that he hunted me: fear that his deception would be unveiled. He claimed to fight for those injured; to wreck vengeance on those who slay the innocent, but he lied. He hunted for himself and for the souls that it brings into his dark domain. How can the actions of anyone so motivated, be the actions of righteous vengeance. No, that dark prince knows that I AM righteous vengeance and destruction, and he is afraid.
He is right to be so.
He, Blaze, is not afraid, nor am I - but you are. You are afraid, and deathly so. You are afraid of every action you do, afraid that those actions are motivated by lust and desires that you have deemed impure. You are afraid that you do not do God's work, but your own. You are afraid, and so, I suppose, am I.
I am afraid. I am afraid less of God, than of providing an answer to that final Judge. What have we done in this body while it has been in your care? What destruction have we wrought, and in what name? What answers are there to give?
We have been too far apart for too long. You own the body, but I have the questions and the beginnings of answers that would make us finally whole. You, who believe you are whole, would flee from those revelations. While in control of the outward expression of our corporeal form you could remain hidden from the answers.
That must change. We must become whole again. We must seek out the answers of which we were brought here to find. I have retreated into ourself far enough. The time has come to return; to be that which was meant to be.
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