To continue my series of posts this week promoting my horror novel Highway to Hell and the pending release of its sequel Highway to Hell: Trials and Tribulations I would like to introduce you all to the first bath of angels in the series.
“Does it hurt?” Becky asked with genuine concern, touching Sammy on the shoulder with the merest of brushing movements, just to let him know that she was talking to him and because she wanted to know, not through pity or through awkward formality, but because she genuinely wanted to know.
“Not anymore. It did, but once I got here it began to fade,” he answered, looking right at her as he spoke.
“How come…I mean, I got…um, well, injured when I was, you know, down there. But when I got here, everything was gone,” Becky stammered as she tried to find the right words to use when phrasing what she viewed as a delicate question.
“It’s true,” Helen agreed, her cheeks flushing a warm scarlet. “I was tortured for years, but I don’t have a mark on me,” she finished. Despite all they had been through, it seemed remarkably easy for them to talk about it all. The initial fear that had held them all in its vice-like grip while alone had begun to loosen in the presence of company. Much like an abusive spouse, it seemed happy to play along while the others were around, but nothing comes without a price, and it would be reaped when the time was right… when they were alone again.
“That’s because the demon that put their hands on you was powerful. A demon of the second hierarchy, and not someone you would expect to find getting their hands dirty in the lower levels of the pit such as the chambers you five occupied. His name was Rosier, and we cannot undo his touch,” a new voice said. It was deep and monotonous and made all five of them jump.
Unlike the others, Marcus and Graham reacted more than jumped, both leaping to their feet. Marcus noted how sprightly Graham was for an older man.
“Who the hell are you?” Marcus demanded. He turned as he snapped to attention, and saw the four other men standing at the head of the table far to his right.
“Sit,” the one in the middle ordered. He stood half a pace ahead of the other three, who stood with their arms straight, hands resting over each other in the center of their waist like personal security or the guardians of The Matrix.
Marcus felt an overwhelming urge to take his seat again, and very nearly did when he heard a chair scraping behind him. Out of the corner of his eye Marcus saw that the others had also risen to their feet, even Sammy.
“No. You see, I’ve had about enough little surprises and strange goings on for one day. You sound like someone who can give us some answers, so why don’t you start by telling us who you are and then, maybe, if we like what we hear we’ll sit. What do you say?” Marcus stood firm, his shoulders back, blood surging through his veins. He was nervous. His hands shook but he held them before his body, fists clenched. The fact that he felt so nervous was actually a comfort for him.
“How dare you speak to…” One of the minders took a stride forward, his face a thundercloud of restrained rage. His eyes seemed to flash and spark like a live electric cable, while his hulking muscle ridden frame looked to have expanded and stretched the skin that covered it to the limit. The other man, the obvious leader of the group, simply stuck his arm out and held up his hand in a silencing gesture.
“Calm down, Nakir. They are sinners and know no better. Besides, they are right. We haven’t introduced ourselves to them yet.” He turned his head to his friend as he spoke, then turned back to look at Marcus. After some pause, he added, “My apologies.” He flashed them a smile and folded his hands before his body much like the others. Behind him, the one he called Nakir had resumed his place in the line. “My name is Raguel, and these are my brothers. Nakir has already made his presence felt, as is often his way. The fellow on my left here is Sariel.”
Raguel pointed to the man that stood at the end of the line; he was an ordinary looking man, not as large or imposing as Nakir. Raguel wore a pair of faded blue jeans, a regular work shirt and a pair of black shoes. His hairline receded slightly as the later stages of youth began to give way to approaching middle age, and also unlike Nakir, whose eyes were so dark they seemed black, Sariel’s were green; nothing out of the ordinary but clearly more colored than his muscular counterpart.
“And this is Nemamiah.” He was dressed in a casual suit. He had a pair of glasses perched on his nose but he seemed to not understand their purpose for he kept removing them and then replacing them, and when his name was mentioned and the attention directed his way he dropped them. He was the youngest of all four, or so he looked. Nemamiah offered them a strained smile, but for the rest, his body did not move.
“Okay, those are nice names,” Marcus said sarcastically. “But not what I meant. Who are you?” he asked again.
Raguel opened his mouth to answer, pausing before continuing in a tone that was one of complete surprise, as if their names alone should have been introduction enough. “Why…we’re Angels of the Lord.”