Axiom 10: Do what makes you happy.
At first, I was certain that I’d somehow screwed things up.
I had imagined that, upon stepping through that door, I might find myself in some vast tribunal, some sort of huge celestial court where I’d have to argue my case to God himself, standing in a massive room and with a billion angels all staring down at me. No pressure, of course.
But instead, I found myself standing in a small, rather shabby feeling office. I felt like I’d landed back on earth, in one of the rear rooms in some community college department building. This felt like the kind of space where an elderly English professor might spend his tenured twilight days, reading papers that no one else ever touched and writing responses that no one would ever get around to reading.
The office couldn’t be more than forty square feet, and three of the four walls were lined with bookshelves. Books didn’t just fill the shelves; they overflowed, with untidy stacks on the floor adding to the overall impression of clutter. Many of the books sported bookmarks, sticky notes of various colors that poked out on the three sides that weren’t the spine.
The floor was covered with a thick but faded rug that might have once shown an intricate Oriental pattern before hundreds of feet obliterated most of the dye over a pattern of years. A heavy, rectangular desk of dark wood sat in the middle of the room, with two wobbly looking chairs in front of it that looked like they might collapse into heaps of sawdust and dead termites at any time. The wall to my right, the only one not covered by overstuffed bookshelves, had a window with a cheap canvas shade drawn down to block out most of the light from outside.
And behind the desk sat a woman, apparently immersed in a small leather-bound volume that she held open with one hand in front of her face.
I stood there at the entrance for a moment, not sure of what to do. The librarian had sent me here, or at least this is where I ended up. It seemed that I needed to ask this woman in front of me what to do next.
She didn’t look very intimidating, at least. Certainly not like the angels, with their flawless beauty and gorgeous, symmetrical faces that always made my hands itch to just haul off and punch them, rearrange their features so they weren’t quite so damn perfect. This woman looked more like a childhood grandmother, the sort of woman who wore a thick, hand-knitted cardigan that always bore traces of cat hair and showed up to everywhere smelling faintly of cookies and toffee. Slight wrinkles lined her face, not deep but still noticeable, and her gray hair was pulled back into a bun.
I stepped forward, not sure what to say. “Um, excuse me-”
The woman, not taking her eyes off of the page, pointed at the two chairs that stood in front of her desk. I got the message, and lowered myself cautiously into one of them. It creaked rather alarmingly beneath me, but held my weight.
Another few minutes went by. I cleared my throat after a while, wondering if she’d somehow forgotten about me. The woman turned a page, even going so far as to lick one fingertip to gain traction on the paper.
Finally, just as I was about to stand up and reach once again for Eremiel’s sword, the woman gave a single nod. She peeled off a sticky note – a purple one, I noted – from a small pad in front of her and slid it into the book, marking her place. She closed the small little volume and set it in front of her desk. Only once she appeared satisfied with its placement did she nestle her fingers together in front of her and turn her attention to me.
“Jack Travers,” she said mildly, giving me a polite little smile. “What can I do for you today?”
I paused, my angry words drying up in my mouth. “You know my name?” I asked instead, blurting out the first thing that came to mind.
“Of course I do.” She nodded down at the volume that she’d placed in front of her on the desk. “Not a bad story, although the ending is rather abrupt. But that’s not why you’re here.”
I couldn’t reply at first, looking at the book on her desk and trying to understand. Indeed, now that I examined it a little closer, I could see the title embossed on the cover in gold. JACK TRAVERS. The book was named after me.
Or was it even more? I didn’t really want to think about where that rabbit hole might lead.
Instead, I did my best to pull my thoughts together and focus. “The Apocalypse,” I said, attempting to get back on track.
She nodded, as if she’d been waiting for me to say this. “And what about it?”
“It shouldn’t be happening!” I burst out. “That’s why I’m here! When we captured Eremiel, he told us that there should have been an announcement, a judging, but I was never called for any-”
Before I could finish, the woman held up her hand. It was just a little gesture, but my mouth seemed to see it and close itself without letting my brain even interject or weigh in on the action.
“Eremiel,” she repeated. “Cherub of the First Choir, currently assigned to guard duty on the earthly plane against demons?”
Hadn’t Eremiel said something along those lines, back when we first met him? Trapped him? “Something like that,” I hazarded cautiously. “Although he’s not there any longer.”
“And where is he now, then?”
“Last I saw, he was in Hell, fighting to buy me time to escape from a massive demon,” I answered. This realization sent another spike of anger and determination through me. “And that’s another thing! Eremiel and Alice are trapped in Hell! They need to be rescued!”
The woman just sat back, crossing her arms over her chest. “It seems like there’s quite a lot that you need,” she remarked sternly. “But you’re not offering very much in exchange. Why should anyone listen to what you have to say?”
I stared back at her, my mouth hanging open for a moment. “Because I’m right, and what’s happening is wrong!” I finally managed. “Look, aren’t you angels supposed to be the good guys? You’re supposed to be the ones who keep everything on track, stop bad things from happening! Well, they’re happening now, and it doesn’t seem like you lot even care, much less are doing anything to stop it!”
“And what would you have us do, then?”
The question was stated so calmly, so pleasantly, that I didn’t even think before answering. “Stop the Apocalypse! Realize that maybe Metatron jumped the gun, or someone else made a mistake, and own up and fix it! Get my friends out of Hell, make sure they’re safe!” I felt tears growing at the corners of my eyes, but couldn’t do anything to hold them back. “GIve me my old life back!”
“And that’s what you want?”
This time, I stopped, gaping at her for a second before managing a response. “Yes!” I finally demanded.
The woman sighed. “Unfortunately, things aren’t that simple,” she said. She tapped the book, my book, with one finger. “You see, there’s always a price that must be paid. Nothing is ever free. What price are you willing to pay, in order to see these changes?”
“Anything.” The word came out without thinking, but I couldn’t take it back.
The woman just nodded, as if this was exactly what she’d been expecting. Maybe it was. She’d read my book.
“Very well,” she said, a little sadly. “That is the price exactly.”