Axiom 5: Learn as much as possible.
“Oh my god,” I said for at least the fourth time, staring down at the angel trapped in our messy collection of weighted cables and wires. “Oh my god. It worked.”
“Of course it worked,” Alice replied, although the expression on her face looked just as shocked as I felt. “I told you it would work, didn’t I?”
“Yeah, but I didn’t believe you.” We started picking our way cautiously down towards where the angel still struggled and grunted, working carefully to keep mostly hidden back behind the rocks.
In my hands, I hefted the baseball bat that I’d brought along as a weapon. I doubted that it would really do much to an angelic messenger of God, but it still felt comforting in my grip, and I hefted it in front of me like a sword. On the other side of the narrowed pathway, Alice held a shotgun that she’d retrieved from a sporting goods store, and that she carried with a sense of disturbing familiarity.
Two humans against an angel. I wondered how far we were from even odds.
Probably pretty far away.
As we got closer to the angel, I took the chance to size it up, this being only the second time that I’d seen one up close. He had delicate features, I observed when I caught a glimpse of his face as he tugged against the heavy metal cables, but he was still definitely male. His hair was pure gold, looking almost as if it had been crafted by a master artisan from tens of thousands of strands of gold thread spun out into thin fibres. His skin looked as white as alabaster, perfect and unmarred by any imperfection.
He was sprawled out on the ground under the boulders and cables we’d dropped on top of him, and his wings hid much of his body, but I saw that he was dressed in pure white robes that wrapped around his body in a fashion somewhat reminiscent of a toga. I guessed that he would stand close to eight feet tall if he could get up. He wore golden sandals on his feet, and his wings were covered in thick white feathers, but I didn’t see any sign of a halo.
Alice and I made it down to the path, but I paused. I really didn’t know what was supposed to happen next at this point in our plan. We hadn’t honestly figured on making it this far without something going wrong.
So instead, I hung back and watched Alice, as she marched right up to the angel’s head and prodded it (him?) with the barrel of her shotgun.
“Hey. You alive?” she snapped, as if interrogating some sort of lowlife thug, and not one of God’s chosen messengers.
The angel stopped struggling for a moment as he realized that there were others around. “Hello?” he asked, turning his head to look up at us.
I saw a pair of huge, green-blue eyes stare up at us, and I froze. The angel’s face was truly beautiful, the kind of face that would make a master sculptor from the Renaissance weep at never being able to truly capture that kind of perfection. He looked slightly affronted, but not angry, just sorrowful.
Even Alice froze for a second at that face, but she recovered, although her fingers tightened on the shotgun until her knuckles were white. “I’ll take that as a yes,” she replied. “Now listen up – we’ve got some questions that we want you to answer-”
“You did this to me?” the angel asked, his full tenor rolling over Alice’s own voice like a wave crashing over a child’s sand castle. He twisted under the cables that trapped him, trying to see us. “But why?”
I saw Alice’s expression twist, and I guessed that she was about to do something bullheaded. I quickly stepped forward, putting one hand on her shoulder. She jumped at the touch, but at least held off from attempting to commit angelic murder.
“Listen, this is the Apocalypse, isn’t it?” I asked the angel quickly, not knowing how much longer my companion could contain her murderous urges. “It’s happening right now, isn’t it?”
“Well, technically it already happened, but yes,” the angel replied, sounding more like a rather peeved college professor than a wrathful deliverer of Heaven’s anger. “This is just the aftermath, Purgatory, all of that. But I’m sure you’re aware of that already.”
I exchanged a glance with Alice. “Um, no, we’re not,” I said slowly.
“You’re not? But the Metatron surely informed you.”
The angel stared at us blankly. “Metatron,” he repeated. When the blank looks on our faces didn’t turn to understanding, he tried again. “The Voice of God? The Chancellor of Heaven?”
“Never heard of him,” I said with a shrug.
The angel frowned. “Weren’t you listening when the Apocalyptic Proclamation rang out?”
I assayed a glance over at Alice, to see if she had any idea what the angel might be talking about, but she looked as confused as I felt. “Again, we have no idea what that is,” I pointed out.
As we watched, the angel’s frown deepened. “This does not seem right,” he grumbled. He glanced down again at the cables that pinned him in place. “Release me, mortals, and I shall investigate this.”
It seemed like a decent trade. I looked questioningly over at Alice, but she was already shaking her head. “Not so fast, angel,” she snapped. “First, we want some guarantees from you.”
He looked over at her, and for just an instant, I had a wild vision in my head of an angel rolling his eyes. “What?” he asked grumpily.
She held up some fingers. “First, we want your promise that you won’t take revenge on us for trapping you. No smiting.”
“Revenge? Angels are far above such petty concepts!” he replied, looking hurt that she would assume such a low opinion of him.
“Very well. What else?”
Another finger went up. “You get us out of here.”
He frowned. “What do you mean?”
Alice gestured around at the wasteland on all sides. “Here! This purgatory, or whatever you called it! I don’t know why we were left behind when everything fell apart, but I don’t want to be here any longer!”
For a moment, the angel just studied her angry face, and I saw a very deep anger simmering in his eyes for an instant. This, I realized, was not a being that we wanted to cross. “I will see what I can do,” he said slowly, his voice so menacing that not even Alice could argue against it. “Anything else?”
“Your name,” I broke in.
Alice frowned over at me, but I forged ahead. “Swear it on your name, that you won’t hurt us, or let us get hurt.”
For a minute, I thought that the angel might refuse. But finally, he dipped his head.
“I, Eremiel, do so swear.”