Axiom 9: Don’t lose hope.
The first thing I saw, after stepping through the portal at the top of Mount Megiddo, was a very surprised looking angel. I barely even had time to notice that he appeared to be wearing a bright orange safety vest with reflective stripes over his white robe, and holding a pair of light-up orange cones, before I instinctively lashed out.
“Hey, what are you-” the angel began before I hit him with Eremiel’s sword.
Unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately – I wasn’t holding the sword firmly, and the blade didn’t cut forward. Instead, however, I smacked the angel in the face with the flat of the blade, knocking him back and probably leaving a nasty welt on his face.
Gripping the sword with both hands, I spun around in a circle, desperately trying to get my bearings. Judging from the fact that I’d just hit an angel, I dared to hope that I was in Heaven – but what I might encounter here, I didn’t know.
As I tried to adjust to the sudden rush of whiteness against my eyes and the maelstrom of noise attacking my ears, I spun around, taking in my new surroundings. Nothing seemed to quite make sense in my head – I couldn’t have ventured a guess as to how Heaven would appear.
But any guess I’d made wouldn’t have come out like this.
I felt like I was standing in the middle of a very busy airport, although maybe a nicer one that had been recently remodeled. “Make it airy,” the airport planning committee had told the architect. “Put windows everywhere. We want light out the wazoo. This place should be blinding – and just to emphasize that effect, paint it all white. Got it?”
The architect, whoever he might have been, at this point probably just nodded and started frantically sketching in more windows, wondering how much overtime he could tack on to his fee before his employers caught wind.
The results of this little pep talk, however, weren’t unnoticed. Everywhere I turned, bright sunlight seemed to be shining into my eyes. Strangely enough, it didn’t really appear to have any definite source – it radiated out from every direction, lighting the surroundings so brightly that I saw no shadows.
The massive room seemed alive with energy as angels bustled back and forth, looking like they were headed off and intent on various errands. As my eyes started to adjust to the sudden brightness, I realized that there were shimmering portals in the air all over, opening up across the massive room to either accept or deposit various groups of angels. The angels, for the most part, seemed to hop in and out of the portals without a second thought, as if stepping in and out of elevators.
There were also, I now saw, various other angels standing around, a good number of them dressed in the same orange vests and holding the same orange-cone flashlights as the one that I’d assaulted. They appeared to be doing some kind of elaborately choreographed dance, waving their batons and shouting to no one I could discern.
“Who are you?” asked the angel I’d assaulted. “Hey, you’re not supposed to be here!”
My attention snapped away from the dizzying scene around me, back to more immediate and pressing matters. “Where am I? Is this Heaven?” I demanded, taking a step towards me.
For a second, he shrank back from me as I charged forward, but then puffed up his chest and stood his ground. In that moment, he reminded me greatly of Eremiel, when he got into one of his fussy little moods. “Where else would this be? And you aren’t cleared to open a portal in this location, you haven’t got the proper paperwork-”
I waved Eremiel’s sword at him until he either had to shut up or chew on the blade. “Where’s the guy in charge?” I demanded.
He blinked at me. “What, of the planeport?”
For a minute, both of us blinked at each other, equally lost on either end of Eremiel’s stolen sword in my hands. The angel’s eyes started to narrow, but driven by adrenaline, I managed to be a little quicker on the uptake.
“This is the planeport?” I asked, looking around at the angels still rushing in and out of portals all around me. “Fine, this will work for a start. Where’s the angel in charge of all of this?”
For a moment, the white-robed, orange-vested figure standing in front of me hesitated. Maybe he was wondering whether he’d be able to get the drop on me, bop me upside the head with one of those orange batons, before I could do any real damage. Or maybe he just couldn’t remember his protocols for a situation like this.
“Don’t try anything,” I warned him, tightening my grip on the sword.
That last sentence apparently did it for him. “That would be Director Raphael,” he said, extending one baton to point towards a set of stairs, almost invisible against the background of the white walls.
“And where do those lead?” I demanded, as I mentally repeated the name Raphael to myself. He sounded familiar. Hadn’t he been a ninja turtle?
“To the Director’s office, up above.” Now, the traffic angel was starting to look a bit worried. “Is that all? Because I’m falling way behind on the portal schedule, I’ve already missed two, and I need to get to the next location to flag in-”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” I said, not able to keep my frayed and strained attention on the angel any longer. I dropped the sword away from his neck and, summoning a last, desperate burst of strength, started running towards the stairs that he’d pointed out.
It was a good thing that I started moving when I did.
I’d scarcely made it more than fifty feet before klaxons started blaring around me. “Warning! Intruder alert!” booming voices called out from seemingly all directions at once. “There is an intruder in the planeport! Remain calm – this is not a drill!”
Angels shouted and scattered all around me, but I didn’t even slow down. I kept my eyes locked on the stairs, praying that I’d have enough energy to make it to this Director, Raphael, before the guards either caught me – or I passed out from sheer exhaustion.