There are good moments, I swear, Tanim says, but when he tries to think of specific memories his mind goes blank. It’s not that he’s forgotten the rare smiles or rarer laughter, the precious glimpses of affection and peace; they just feel disconnected from him, like the remains of a story someone else told long ago. Bled of sound and context, blurred and desaturated, what worth is left in them? Oh, so much, truly, for the right person. What the scribe cannot commit to word, she commits to heart. What the scribe cannot tell others, she tells herself in the deep of the night. There are good moments, she can swear it, even if they are only fragments.
Demons don’t have hearts, technically, but we can still love. I love the taste of fresh blood. I love a long, challenging hunt. I love all the ways humans invent to hurt themselves without our help. But most of all, I love Noah. You might think it’d be forbidden for a demon to fall in love with a human, but it happens all the time; as long as you stick to the rules, no one down below really cares. Himself’s not exactly a stickler about these sorts of things. Free will and all of that.
Here is what I love about Noah. I love how much darkness and rage he contains inside his fragile human form. I love how he takes control when we fuck, which is often and everywhere. I love how when he learned what I am, he bared his teeth in a hungry, feral smile I’ve never seen before and asked me what it’s like to kill. I love his arrogance and his cruelty. I love his intensity and patience. I love his fearlessness in the face of certain death and eternal damnation.
I don’t mind playing the high school bad boy; I’d take just about any form to watch Noah enact his grand plan. The roles suit us, anyway, me the dangerous rake everyone secretly envies and he the silent, brooding loner they all detest. After, the survivors will say they always knew he was strange, creepy, a little off, but right now they suspect nothing. I watch him go about his preparations with ease, no teachers noticing his absence from class, no students or administration catching him in places he shouldn’t be. Humans are so stupid.
I find a good vantage point near the main doors. When the final bell rings at the end of the day, I can hear classroom doors opening all around the building and students streaming into the hallways. That’s when the bombs go off, three simultaneous explosions that rock the very air. Suddenly I’m surrounded by shrieking students running in all directions, their panic causing more chaos than Noah’s detonations. The bombs serve to herd everyone toward the main doors, and as they crush each other in their desperation, the gunshots begin. Taller as I am than any of the kids, I easily spot Noah as he wades effortlessly into the crowd, picking off students one by one like he does this every day. Soon he’s surrounded by a ring of limp bodies, and fuck if he isn’t the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, his face expressionless, his hand steady and swift as he chooses targets.
It must seem like forever to the humans before police arrive, their flashing, wailing vehicles forming a barrier around the entrance. By now everyone has either escaped or fallen to Noah’s bullets, and in the sudden calm he turns and favors me with the smallest of smiles. If I did have a heart, it’d probably burst; instead, I resist the urge to kneel down before him and show him just how proud I am. But there will be time for that later, an eternity of it, and for now I only nod in approval and come to stand at his side. Together we step over the bodies of his victims and walk through the shattered glass doors.
“Drop your weapon!” someone yells through a megaphone, a dozen officers crouched behind SWAT shields with their guns trained on Noah. He offers them a very different smile and lazily raises his gun. I don’t count the shots fired; six pierce my lover, shredding internal organs but nothing so vital that he dies immediately. I catch him as he falls, one hand flung out to freeze time. I will have this final moment with him, before we meet again in that other place.
“So?” Noah coughs, blood bubbling in his mouth, obscuring the subtle smile on his beautiful lips. Cradling him close, I run my fingers through his pale hair and grin, letting my fangs show. “You did wonderfully, my dear. Any demon would be proud to have accomplished such a thing. Himself will be very impressed, I know it. He’ll make you one of us.”
“Good,” Noah’s eyes shine, partly from the praise and partly from the pain. “So…” his breathing has become labored, his body heavier as his muscles give up, “I’ll see you… down there… soon?”
“Yes, love,” I kiss him one last time in this mortal form, savoring the sweetness of his blood, and lay him gently down to rest on the concrete. “I will find you.”
“Well, well, well… isn’t this a surprise. Hello, Alice. How nice of you to visit my little prison in the sub-sub-sub basement. I hope it wasn’t too far of a walk for you.”
“I don’t have time to swap antagonism wrapped in false pleasantries, Mage.”
“Funny, because I have all the time in the worlds.”
“This was a terrible idea. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
“You need my help, hmm?”
“Things must be bad, then, very bad. Who is it? Or what?”
“We don’t know yet. It leaves no useful evidence at the… scene. Just remains.”
“Ooh, a mystery. I’m intrigued.”
“This isn’t a game! People are dying–”
“–and you might be able to help. As nauseous as it makes me to say it. So… will you?”
“Quid pro quo, ‘Ah-leese’. You haven’t said what’s in this for me.”
“I guess it’s too much to hope you just feel like doing something good for a change?”
“Aww. That’s cute. No. This place is boring.”
“I can see about getting you some books, maybe–”
“I want a shark. With legs. I want a crocodile shark.”
“Just a regular shark?”
“What about just a crocodile, then, only it has a machine gun strapped to its–”
“Again, this was a terrible idea. What a waste of time. Have fun being alone in your prison.”
“Wait, wait. Fine, show me what you’ve got there and I’ll see if it’s interesting enough. We can talk trades later. I am pretty serious about the crocodile shark though.”
“I hate you so much.”
They say spirits cannot cross running water; so what happens if someone dies in between? What if some person still closer to boy than man, desperately fleeing a life he escaped once and to which he won’t let himself be dragged back, plunges into the river? The river that crashes forth from the mountains, tumbles through the foothills, and slips with placid power through the town where this not-boy, not-man came of age? What if he relinquishes himself eagerly to the black water’s undertow just as his pursuer, this one more man than boy but still young enough to think love can fix anything, reaches the edge of the sandy bank? What if something happens – maybe he dives purposefully, maybe he slips, maybe the bank gives way under his weight – and suddenly the river has claimed two lives, washing the empty bodies far downstream from where they met their end? What if all this happened in the span of a breath; what would become of these doomed spirits? Trapped within the very water they cannot cross, would they be fated to remain in the river itself, caught forever within the icy current? Would their voices cry out in the thunder of the rapids, unable to ever find the peace they were also denied in life?
I will give my lover this; he does nothing by halves. If he drinks, it is expensive hard liquor he tosses back like cheap shots. If he gets high, it’s on uncounted pills that sink him into a sleep as deep as the dead. If he fucks, it is fervently, anonymously, dangerously. If he hurts, it is never just one punch, but blow after blow until knuckles split and bruise. And if he loves, he loves with body and heart and soul, all-consuming, submissive and possessive.
You were the first, weren’t you. Emerging from their caves in the dawn of time, the earliest humans must have blinked tears away as they stared into your brilliance. Huddled at the mouths of those same caves at night, they must have tracked your progress across the awesome night sky. Rising, setting, waxing, waning, you before all else must have first captured the attention of the collective human psyche. Thus you have been in our blood, our bones, our very DNA since we first began preserving our mythology through cave paintings and storytelling. You are the precursor, the archetype. You are older than the oldest, gods of a thousand times a thousand names and a thousand times a thousand forms. And yet you have but one story – summer to winter, night to day, life to death to resurrection, the great wheel ever turning.
“Don’t call me that,” you say. “I’m no angel.” But you’re wrong. You think I call you Angel as a term of endearment, homage to your sculpted form or unearthly eyes. That isn’t true. I call you Angel because you are like Lucifer himself, so determined to remain free, abhorring any kind of fetter. You jealously guard your autonomy; you covet free will beyond all rationality. You love me, I know you do, and yet the moment you feel less than absolutely in control you fight back, sometimes with words, sometimes with absence, sometimes with a blade. At even the barest hint of a future theoretical threat you make sure I understand in no uncertain terms that you can, and will, disappear from my life without a trace. That is why I call you Angel. Not because of your beauty; because beside you even Lucifer would feel shame for letting himself be cowed.