Reaching for Salvation

The Light brushed her fingertips, close enough to touch but not close enough to grasp. She knew that it held the fading memories of all that was good and happy.

Cassiel looked down at the trap that held her. Her mission had been a simple one – gather intelligence on a Black Mass. She had done it so many times throughout the millennia that she had lost count. She could not remember having ever considered going beyond her orders before.

She stretched up towards the Light again. She touched the edge of it, felt a small amount of His love, but it was fleeting. She knew that He was watching, and always testing her, as He always watched and tested everyone.

The air around her became cold, as the Light shrank away from her. She reflected on the decisions she had made throughout her existence. Which step had brought her away from Salvation? The corpses around her, were these the ones that she had created today? Or were the culmination of her choices?

Over the millennia she had seen too much. She didn’t know what had caused her to snap this time, but she had done it. She had failed her Test, going beyond her assigned intelligence-gathering, to retribution.

Cassiel – could she even use that name anymore? – knelt down among the carnage around her and wept. She had Fallen away from God’s Grace. She had damned herself.

And the worst part was, given the same circumstances, she would have changed nothing.

Image Credits: Nicole Jimenez.

The Game

Arthur woke once again in his hospital bed. The steady beeping of the monitor was a familiar background noise. After so long in this bed – he wasn’t exactly sure how long – the rhythm was a comfort that he would miss if it wasn’t there. Of course, if it wasn’t there, he wouldn’t be in a condition to miss it.

There was a rustling sound and the sudden smell of cigarette smoke. Arthur opened his eyes. There were two shadowy shapes moving around the room. Each one had a chair, and he saw that they were two strangers in robes. One was an extremely thin man in black robes, and was the source of the cigarette scent. The other was a bearded elderly man in white robes.

The two men set up their chairs on either side of Arthur’s bed. The dark-robed one on his left leaned something against the wall. Arthur could dimly see a pole with a blade on the end. Then, with sudden clarity, he saw that it wasn’t a man, but a robed skeleton with a scythe. It was time, then. The Reaper had come.

Arthur struggled to turn his head over to see the other man. He wasn’t illuminated by the room’s lights. Instead, a glowing halo floated inches above his head. Two feathery wings sprouted from the man’s back. An angel, then. This should be an interesting night.

The Reaper pulled a deck of cards from somewhere within his robes. He nodded to the angel, then both sat. The Reaper shuffled, then passed the deck to the angel to cut. Then, he dealt the cards onto Arthur’s blankets, ignoring the man under them.

Arthur watched the game down his body. He frowned as he saw the Reaper’s pile of chips grow. He felt his life fading with each hand. Then, the angel rose and pointed at the Reaper’s seat.

“What are those under you?” he asked. The voice echoed in the small room. “You are cheating!”

The reaper slid over to hide the cards. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” His voice was deep, almost beyond the edge of hearing. Arthur felt the vibrations almost as much as he heard the voice. “Count the deck, you will find all fifty-two cards.”

“We have two jokers! There should be fifty-four cards! No wonder your pile is growing! This man’s life is leaning in the balance, and you have the temerity…”

Arthur raised his hand, knocking the chips over. Both spirits were immediately silent.

“It’s OK,” he rasped. “I know that my time has come. Please, let it come easily.”

The angel touched Arthur’s hand. “Are you sure? There is still a chance.”

“I am,” he replied. “The doctor told me that I can live, but I’ll be stuck in this bed for the rest of my life. Let it end now.”

The angel nodded. The Reaper rose and took up his scythe. He swiped it through Arthur’s body. There was a brief moment where time stood still. Then, Arthur’s spirit rose from the body.

The angel took the spirit’s hand. The Reaper started to protest, then fell silent.

All three left the room.

Image Credits: Hu Zheng.

The Wrong Afterlife

Prehistoric hunters take down a mammoth

The last thing I remember was lying on the ground in the rain, hearing the sounds fade away as I got colder and colder. Then, I saw the light. I went towards it.

I was expecting to find myself in front of St Peter, or at least some other judge of my soul. I was disappointed when, instead, I found myself in the middle of a jungle. I caught occasional glimpses of others around me, but nobody solid. Other ghosts passing through here, maybe?

I decided there was no use in staying here, so I start to walk in a random direction. I got lost several times going around the trees.  Since I didn’t know where I started, there didn’t seem to be much different. I heard a roar like I’ve never heard before. It wasn’t a big roar; in fact, just the opposite. But as small as it was, I could feel it go through me, along with a primal terror. I ran, then found myself running into the only solid person here.

He was a big man. Not a tall man or a fat man, but a big one. Solid muscle, covered in hair. He wore only a simple strip of woven material over his shoulder.  It seemed to be more utility than modesty, as it held spears to his back but covered nothing.

He looked at me and grunted. Then he shook his head and turned toward the roaring sound. That’s when I saw it. It looked like an elephant but was much smaller and hairier. Almost like…a miniature mammoth?

I looked around and realized the truth. Heaven wasn’t created by modern man, it was created by the first men.

I’ve lost track of how long I’ve spent here, hoping to find my way into a more modern heaven. I’m sick of mammoth steak (even if it cooks itself as soon as it’s killed), and I’m not much closer to having a conversation with Gronk. I can’t even kill myself to move on to a different heaven. Believe me. I’ve tried.

Image Credits: Sedeslav.

Santa’s Last Ride

He woke with his body covered in unaccustomed pain. After a few minutes, he realized that most of it came from extremely stiff joints and a throbbing head. The anger in his stomach reminded him that he had too many cookies last night, and drank far too much rum and eggnog.

An eternity later, he felt able to open his eyes, and immediately regretted it. Even the dim light in his room stabbed his eyeballs, causing his stomach to once again rebel. He heard voices that were somehow both near and distant, as if he had gone almost deaf.

A blur entered his vision. He assumed it was a person because of the way it moved, but he couldn’t be sure. It appeared to be mostly green, but that could have just been his current outlook on the world.

“Santa, can you hear me?” the voice said. This time there was no denying it. Someone was talking to him. He groaned an answer that may be kindly taken as an affirmative, with certain polite concessions by the listener. The blurry figure bobbed in his vision, then was joined by another one, mostly red.

“That was a great trip last night. The way you dodged those missiles was amazing. We didn’t think you were going to make it this time.”

He grunted. Something was trying to gain his attention in the back of his mind, but he couldn’t quite grasp it. He tried to sit up, but couldn’t.

“Don’t try to move Santa. Your body took quite a beating, as usual. You need to relax.”

The panicked feeling was rising more. He realized what was causing it. Yesterday was Christmas, which meant he had made most of his deliveries. He had one left, which he feared more than anything. He tried to get up again, but he felt a restraining hand on his head now.

“Come on Santa, you knew this was coming since last year. It’s too late to fight it now.”

Another voice came to him. This one seemed older. “Kringle, it’s time. Take it.”

Santa felt someone reaching under his beard and taking something off his chest. A heavy amulet, hidden from the world under his beard, came off with its chain. There was a burning pain, as all the aches that he had ever known hit him at once, then everything was blackness.

The light returned, the pain gone. He was standing now, looking over the body he had once inhabited. The elves surrounded him as he took in the power.

One of the elves, standing at the body’s head looked at him. “Kringle? Are you OK?”

He looked down at his body, already starting to change. “Not Kringle anymore. Ho ho ho.”