The General’s Request

The whole thing happened, when we get down to it, because of a vanilla frappuccino.

Why the general requested a vanilla frappuccino, no one knows. Maybe he felt especially parched that day, as he stood in the dusty, hot command tent and shouted orders at his inferiors. Maybe a couple neurons got crossed in his brain, and he had a momentary flashback to a conversation with his teenage daughter, who was going through that particularly disagreeable phase in her life when she felt as if she ought to be completely independent, despite still needing her parents to provide her with everything.

In any case, when the unfortunate lieutenant who pulled that week’s “drinks bitch” duty sidled up to the general and asked if he’d like something to drink, the general spun to glare at him from beneath stormy, overgrown eyebrows, a pair of gray caterpillars writhing across his face.

“Vanilla frappuccino!” he snapped at the hapless lieutenant. “And make sure it’s cold!” Continue reading

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Welcome to my Evil Lair!

I fought against the bonds that pinned my wrists and ankles to the examination table, struggling helplessly. “Release me, foul doctor!” I shouted out into the darkness.

“What- oh, is someone there?” drifted back a response.

I paused. “Hello? Yes, please, I have been captured and need your assistance!” I called out next, pitching my voice a bit lower. Perhaps this was a janitor, not understanding that he cleaned an evil lair, or maybe a beautiful daughter that I could seduce to earn my freedom-

“Give me a minute,” the other voice called out, and I heard someone shuffling about, muttering to himself. Probably not a daughter, then, but I pinned my hopes on the janitor theory. Continue reading

[AGttA] Chapter 6.1: Step Down to Move Up

Continued from Chapter 6.0, here.

Read it from the beginning, starting here.

Axiom 6: Formulate a long-term plan.

Our tenuous little alliance lasted for about five minutes, until we started actually considering the logistical implications of getting from the United States to Israel in a post-Apocalyptic world.

“Plane?” I suggested, flopped across one of the armchairs.

“None of us knows how to fly,” Alice answered from the other.

“Boat?”

“We’re not near a coast.  And none of us knows how to drive a boat, much less across an ocean.”

“Drive?”

Alice lifted her head up to look incredulously at me.  “You realize that Israel’s across an ocean, right?” Continue reading

Flintholm

He walked up the path, his eyes hazy with clouded memories.

The weeds and grass had overgrown everything, but he still could see the lay of the land, recognize landmarks from when he shrieked and climbed and ran over every inch of the property. That was back before his knees hurt, before the War, before the bombs, before everything changed and his innocence fled, never to return.

The grass beneath his feet shifted, and he looked down at the cobblestone path that lay beneath. Many of the stones were cracked and broken. He’d found a snail, once, crawling along slowly between two stones, and he spent an entire afternoon building a shelter for the little creature out of sticks and leaves. Continue reading

Pestilence’s Retirement

“Are you sure that we can’t convince you to reconsider?”

On the other side of the cracked laminate table, Pestilence shook his head. “Afraid not,” he repeated. “Look, you’ve all seen the writing on the wall for a while. I’m just not useful any longer.”

Pestilence’s three companions all shuffled their feet, or lower appendages, rather uncomfortably. That silence was enough to confirm Pestilence’s suspicions, although he held his tongue out of respect for their shared history.

“It just won’t be the same without you, buddy,” grunted the very large man wedged into the booth on the other side, shaking his massive head sadly. “We’ve had a hell of a run together.” Continue reading

[AGttA] Chapter 6.0: Peacekeeping

Continued from Chapter 5.3, here.

Read it from the beginning, starting here.

Axiom 6: Formulate a long-term plan.

It turns out that a furious and bloodthirsty woman is a fairly decent opponent for a distracted and disarmed angel.

After a couple of minutes of holding back, worried about catching a blow if I tried to interfere, I finally managed to scoot between Alice and Eremiel, praying that the bloodlust hadn’t clouded Alice’s vision to the point where she wouldn’t recognize me as a friend, rather than just another enemy.

She held her next punch, although her eyes blazed at me.  “Get out of my way, Jack,” she snarled. Continue reading

Boreray

My arms ached as I bent my back over the oars. The boat cut clumsily through the water, sending up splashes of spray whenever I hit a wave. I cursed at the oars of the blocky little rowboat, but kept on pulling.

Every now and then, I’d cast a glance over my shoulder, up at Boreray. The island, gloomy and wild, towered up out of the mist. Cliffs rose up in uneven teeth that bit at the dim sky, and birds winged constantly around their peaks, shrieking with harsh, hoarse cries.

My fate lay on Boreray. Continue reading

“The only ones who should kill are those willing to be killed.”

The grizzled old man glared around the courtyard at us as we stood, shivering and huddled together. Despite the chill in the air, he wore only a cuirass strapped over a thin shirt and a pair of trousers, and he didn’t show any sign of feeling the cold.

His pale eyes, unblinking in the weak sunlight, roamed over us. Most of my companions flinched away from that gaze. We all knew the stories.

Roland Amarain, former First Prince of the Sword. The man had stood in defense of the kingdom for decades, and I’d heard countless legends of him wading into battle, his great blade Calador slicing through hundreds of his opponents. He’d taken dozens of arrows and wounds, but stubbornly refused to fall, performing miracles to defend his Queen.

Now, no longer a bodyguard, he was tasked with training us. The next class of Guardians, men who hoped to one day stand beside their Queens and defend them against all threats. Continue reading

[AGttA] Chapter 5.3: The Word, the Book, and the Lord

Continued from Chapter 5.2, here.

Read it from the beginning, starting here.

Axiom 5: Learn as much as possible.

In the beginning, Eremiel began, existed the Word.

And yea, the Word did come straight from the Lord himself, and it was law.  Obviously.  

Yea, for the angels leapt to happily obey the Word, and all was good.  For the angels knew that the Lord had a plan for the universe, and they did trust in His judgment.  Given as how he had brought them into the world, had been as their Creator, well, why wouldn’t they trust said judgment?

However, yea for as more Words came forth, a new problem did emerge.  For all created by the Lord was infinite, and nothing that the Lord created was ever truly destroyed, and this included the Word that he spoke.  Yea, instead of dissipating after a little while, like normal words, the Words did remain eternal, bouncing around the highest chambers of Heaven and causing all sorts of problems when they snuck up on some of the lower angels who’d just popped in to do a little bit of cleaning and dusting around the place.

So issuances of the Word grew less frequent, and the Lord instead began delegating the running of the Universe to the highest of his angels.  This approach also did seem to work, but some of the lower ranks of angels began to worry that there might be some misinterpretation of the Lord’s true desires for the future.

And so, to remedy this, the Books were created.

*

I sat up, groaning as I rubbed my head.  Eremiel looked up as I interrupted his story, but I had to interject.

“Do you really need to say so many capital words?” I asked him, pushing one finger into my ear to try and scratch the itch on my brain.  “Those things really give me a headache after a while.”

“But if I don’t emphasize that this is the Word, or the Book-” I winced again at Eremiel’s emphasis, “-how will you know that they aren’t just everyday words or books?”

“We’ll get it from context clues,” Alice insisted.  She didn’t look any more thrilled than I felt at hearing the capital letters drop in with heavy emphasis at the start of those particular nouns.  “We can figure it out.”

Eremiel frowned at us both, but after letting out a long sigh, he nodded.  “Very well.  I forget about the weakness of mortal ears.  I will attempt to speak more freely.”

“Thank you,” I said, settling back in my chair once again.

Eremiel nodded, and after a moment, continued speaking.

*

The Books – sorry, the books, you know what I meant – were created using the power of the speech of the Lord himself.  No, stop glaring at me, I’m still saying that one with the capital letter.  He deserves respect.

Anyway, the books were created using the power of the words that floated about the chamber, imprisoning them in their volumes and simultaneously allowing for them to express much more as they spread across the blank pages.  They told us what would happen to the universe and when, and they were given to the archangels to guard, and so that our commanders would know their orders.

Some of the books were relatively mundane in the topics that they covered; they talked about how to make sure the universe continued to run smoothly, checking on some of the trickier subatomic functions, everyday stuff like that.  Other books contained instructions for minor miracles, like the 1980 Winter Olympics.  

But one of the books, the book entrusted to the archangel Metatron, contained the instructions for the Apocalypse.

The contents of that book were dark and powerful, given as how the Apocalypse was meant to represent the judgment call of the universe, measuring whether this creation of the Lord’s proved to be up to snuff.  Metatron guarded his charge fiercely, and we all hoped that the book would not be opened for as long as possible.  After building a big tower of blocks, no child wants to have to put away his toys.

But then, Metatron announced to us, the day had come.  The book had opened and spoken to him, and the time of the Apocalypse was at hand.

We all went to work.

The end of the universe, you see, is all about judgment – or, more accurately, measurement.  Everything has to be weighed, measured, examined, and its value determined.  Basically, the angels are tasked with summing up the worth of the universe, all to determine if it meets the criteria listed in the book entrusted to Metatron.

*

At this point, Eremiel once again had to pause his story, as both Alice and I shot forward with questions.

“We’re just some number to you?” Alice burst out, and I wondered how Eremiel managed to avoid bursting into flames under the heat of her glare.  “Really?  That’s how you angels see us?  We have lives, you know!”

Eremiel shrank back a little from her blazing anger, but he didn’t quite have the good sense to keep his mouth shut.

“Well, had,” he responded, and the fury in Alice’s eyes told me that the angel’s life expectancy had dropped to the point where it was being measured in seconds.

“So what’s the number, then?” I asked instead, jumping in quickly in hopes of avoiding violence.  “How good does the universe have to be to pass?”

He shrugged.  It’s rather strange, seeing an angel shrug; the wings make the gesture a lot more expressive than it would have been otherwise.  “I don’t know.  I don’t even know how they do the counting.  I’m just assigned to guard the Earth after the counting has begun.”

“Yeah, on that,” I continued, keeping one wary eye on a fuming Alice.  “So you took all the good people and bad people up to be judged, right?  That’s the point of the Rapture?”

Eremiel nodded.

“So,” I finished, “what does that make the rest of us, stuck down here still?”

The angel frowned, shrugged again.  “Zeroes?”

This time, I wasn’t fast enough to stop Alice from shrieking bloody murder as she lunged at Eremiel.

Too Close to Home

Groaning to myself, I risked another glance up at the clock, taunting me from the far wall.

Forty more minutes to go. Forty minutes until my shift ended, and I could get out of this soul-crushing office and go back home, where I’d…

Well, I didn’t really have any plans for the night. Watch some television? Crack open the last couple of beers in my fridge, finish them off? Lay on my couch and stare up at the ceiling, wondering about where my life had somehow taken a wrong turn, ending up so mundane and banal that I had to self-medicate most nights with booze in order to forget about how much everything sucked?

So many possibilities, I darkly told myself. Continue reading