“So you’re an angel and those things that attacked me last night were demons,” said Virgil, plopping down on his bed.
“That is correct,” said Rona, leaning against the wall.
“How is this possible—I mean I don’t believe any of this,” said Virgil.
“That doesn’t make it any less true,” said Rona. “You believe your own eyes, don’t you? You know what you saw last night and in the park last week.”
Virgil nodded slowly. “This means that God is real.”
“Yes. And so is Satan,” added Rona.
“Unreal,” said Virgil, falling backwards on his bed until he was flat on his back. He crossed both arms in front of his face. “I guess this means I have to start going to church.”
“If you want to,” said Rona, with a laugh.
“I guess the Christians had it all figured out, after all,” said Virgil.
“I wouldn’t say that,” said Rona, taking a seat on the nearby windowsill.
“What do you mean? God, angels, demons; isn’t that all Christian stuff?” asked Virgil.
“Gods, angels and demons exist in all sorts of religions. I use these terms like ‘God’ or ‘angel’ or ‘Satan’ because they are terms that you understand. They’re often called something else in other languages or cultures; or have other differences in origin and characteristics but the story of good vs. evil is as old as time. Details vary but the core is the same. Humans get so caught up in the details that you kill and destroy each other, all the while, missing the big picture. Christianity is one part of that big picture. The Bible tells some of the story but not all. As does the Koran, the Torah, Buddhist and Hindu teachings, ancient religions of Africa and the Americas—and a whole host of other sources; both ancient and modern; treasured and forgotten.
“So long as humans have gazed up at the sky from different parts of the world, you have seen unique angles of it. But no human can see its entirety in every detail from a single perch. A man in Denver can gaze up at a bright sunny day, while a woman in Australia can peer up at winter storm clouds, in the dead of night—at the exact same time! It’s only natural that different philosophies, religions and cultures would spring up. And all of them are relevant. Have you ever heard the word: Aegis? ”
Virgil shook his head.
“It’s a word that predates humankind. To the Greeks it meant ‘protection’ but the true meaning of the word is ‘law of protection’ or more specifically ‘the law that governs the universe’. The universe and everything in it. Including Earth; life; humans and all of your gods and religions; Hell; the planets and stars; and of course Heaven. The Aegis is the law that protects it all and governs all things. The Earth’s rotation, the rising and setting of the Sun, even the boundaries of Heaven.”
“Don’t you have to be Christian to go to heaven?” asked Virgil.
“Not necessarily. Getting into heaven is based on what you do in this life, not what you believe in. One can’t go to church on Sunday and repent for all of the evil that one does Monday through Saturday. Although God is forgiving, it doesn’t work that way. You must strive to do good. You find people of all religions in heaven; from Christian to atheist—the same can be said for Hell. My mission here is to make sure that you don’t have to worry about the afterlife—at least not for a little while longer,” said Rona.
“Why?” said Virgil, sitting up straight.
“I mean, why all of this?” asked Virgil, holding his arms out and spinning his torso. “Why did God create the earth? What are angels and demons? What are we? Why do demons want to hurt us so bad? I want to know everything.”
“That’s a lot of questions. And it’s a long story.”
“I’ve got all day—or at least until dinner.”
“I wouldn’t know where to begin.”
“How about at the beginning?”
“Okay,” said Rona. She closed her eyes as if organizing things in her mind. She let out a sigh, and then began:
“In the beginning, the universe was dark and baron. Life, as you know it, didn’t exist. And then God invented light and forced away the darkness–”
“Wait, wait. Where did God come from?” said Virgil.
“I don’t know, Teenface. Can I continue or are you going to keep interrupting?”
“You may proceed.”
“In His image, God created the first angels in order to help him build heaven and manage the power of the light. They created the city of Empyria, the city of God; from which God ruled over the many kingdoms that had come together to form what you know as heaven. These utopias are populated by entities that are older than light, yet have chosen to be loyal to God. The very first angel God had created, an archangel named Lucifer, became jealous of God’s power. Jealous of His ability to create light and unite the utopias into heaven and have so many loyal followers. He rebelled and started The War—The War—as it is called. One out of three angels sided with Lucifer and battle erupted through the cosmos. God and His angels eventually emerged victorious, driving Lucifer and his angels from heaven and forcing them to flee to Hell—a prison of sorts.
Hell was a realm in the darkness where the only light was fire that could not be tamed. It was there that Lucifer and his followers sat and plotted their revenge.
The aftermath of The War took its toll on heaven. The archangels, once thirteen, had been reduced to seven. Morale was low, and faith in God began to dwindle. It was at that point that God created the earth, and with it: life. He nurtured that life and watched it grow. Eventually that life grew into human beings, tiny, fragile images of God and his angels.”
“So humans evolved? Doesn’t that take millions of years?” asked Virgil, hanging on Rona’s every word.
“In Earth time, perhaps, but for God it happened in the blink of an eye—or seven days to be exact. Humans eventually evolved into something special. They invented technology far more advanced than what you see today. There was no death, no pain or suffering. Earth, like heaven was a utopia. And God loved it more than anything.
It was then, that Lucifer sprung his attack.
During his time in Hell, Lucifer had amassed power and influence that rivaled God’s. There had been things in the darkness that had not chosen to live in the light. Demons. These things became loyal to Lucifer. Lucifer’s army had grown larger than that of Heaven. They invaded earth, bringing death and suffering to this world. God and the angels came down to help the humans. The Earth became nothing more than a battlefield. The war was fought viciously. It lasted for more than 10,000 years. It became known as The Inferno—the time the Earth burned.
“Lucifer enticed some humans into joining his cause; others fought side-by-side with angels against Lucifer and his demons. It is at this time that Lucifer earned the name: Satan or adversary as it translates. God created another choir of angels, designed specifically to fight demons. They are known as Sentinels. Mean and nasty, they live only to crush Satan and his minions. But extended battles on Earth took their toll on angel and demon and human alike. A truce was called. An accord that became known as The Aegis was signed in the blood of all humans, angels and demons. Even Lucifer and God himself. This decree binds us all to the rules established by it. Laws that cannot be broken by either side. Not because of morals or punishments. They physically cannot be broken any more than the laws of gravity.”
“What kind of laws?” asked Virgil.
“For instance, time. Before The Aegis time didn’t exist as you know it. Humans didn’t age. As a result of The Aegis, humans were to be given an expiration date that they could not know beforehand. Death was the result. Souls were to be harvested by the only neutral angel—the angel of death—and delivered to God or Satan, depending on how they had lived their life.
“God can no longer speak directly to humans as he had before. He created Messengers to deliver his messages for Him. But even they have limits to how they can communicate with humans. In most instances even they cannot speak directly with humans, at least not in the form of an angel. They must disguise themselves and get the human to choose to listen to them. Even then, there is only so much information they are allowed to give out without breaking the laws of The Aegis.
“At birth each human is assigned a Guardian to defend their soul from threats in the celestial realm. Battles for human souls take place all day every day. In every corner of space and time. Even in this very room.”
“Why can’t we see them?”
“The battles take place in the Celestial realm, or the spirit world, whichever you prefer. One of the stipulations of the Blood Decree was that angels and demons don’t have bodies. Some can make themselves corporeal, but only for a little while. There are some demons and angels that never returned to the celestial realm after The Inferno, but they’ve stayed mostly hidden. There are also earth demons that reside on earth, such as vampires and werewolves; among other things.”
“Wait, you’re telling me that vampires and werewolves are real?” said Virgil, sitting bolt upright.
“I am,” said Rona. “They’re nasty too. Demons have been better at manipulating the laws of The Aegis than we have, so you’ll find more demons on Earth than angels. However, for every earth demon, there is someone touched by the divine. Oracles of all different sorts, as well as witches and hunters who use their powers for good. There are also some demons that are not allowed to leave Hell at all.”
“How come you have a body?” asked Virgil.
Rona stiffened up. She folded her arms across her chest. “Because I was sent here to protect you.”
“So you’re the best guardian angel they have up there,” said Virgil.
“Something like that,” said Rona, biting her lip.
“Good. As long as they’re sending me the best and not some colossal failure that is going to get me killed,” said Virgil with a sigh of relief.
A look flashed across Rona’s face that Virgil couldn’t place. He decided to change the subject. “These guys in hoods, are they earth demons?”
“Not sure,” said Rona. “That’s something I’m going to have to look into. I’ve never seen anything quite like these guys before. They’re like some kind of cult that worships demons but they’re also demons, or at least, they have demon-like abilities; enhanced strength, limited vulnerability, energy projectiles.”
“What do they want with me?” asked Virgil, gazing at Rona.
Rona shook her head. “I’m not sure, kiddo. But I’m gonna’ find out.”
“Who am I? What am I?” asked Virgil. “I mean, am I the leader of some future human resistance or something?”
“That would be cool, wouldn’t it?” said Rona. “Heaven thinks you’re important. So does Hell. They haven’t told me why. That isn’t my department. They told me to protect you, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
“So you’re like my own personal super-hero,” said Virgil, turning to face Rona with renewed interest.
“Slow down there, Teenface. I’m in charge. So you’re like my personal super-hero: Weiner-boy!” said Rona, flapping an invisible cape.
“Quit calling me that,” said Virgil.
“I will—when you stop being one,” said Rona, walking over and spinning Virgil’s office chair around idly.
“What kind of powers do you have? I know you’re really strong. That’s why you were able to beat up Andy Mowry. I don’t think he’s ever going to recover from getting beat up by a girl,” said Virgil with a smile.
Rona smiled back. “I can make my eyes glow,” she said. With that she held her head straight as if in deep concentration and golden light began to overtake the whole of her eyeballs. Virgil’s eyes grew wide and his mouth fell open. There was something different about the way her eyes glowed then that of the Hoods. There was life in them still, something warm like candlelight.
“Coooool,” he said.
Rona let her eyes return to normal and gave Virgil a knowing smile.
“How did you do that?”
“Just a result of me gathering energy. Don’t ask me why it happens,” said Rona, walking over to Virgil’s bookshelf and looking at his books, games and movies. Every once in a while she would pick something up and look at it. She came across a picture of Virgil and his family. “You’re adopted?” she asked, startled by the revelation.
“Yeah,” said Virgil. “You would think my guardian angel would know that already.”
“Slipped my mind,” said Rona staring at the picture of their family ski vacation.
“What can you tell me about my real parents?” asked Virgil.
Rona put down the picture. She turned around to face Virgil, opened her mouth as if she was going to say something, and then closed it again. Virgil stared at her expectantly, but Rona broke eye contact. She sat down in his spinning office chair by the desk and searched for an answer but couldn’t seem to find one. Virgil raised an eyebrow.
“Dinner is almost ready,” said Virgil’s mom, opening the door while knocking simultaneously. A smile crept across her face when she saw Rona sitting at Virgil’s desk. “I didn’t know you had company.” She gave Rona a smile.
“Hi. I’m Rona.”
“I’m Pam, Virgil’s mom. I’m almost done making dinner. You’re welcome to stay if you want.”
“I don’t know, Mom. She was just about to leave,” said Virgil.
“Actually, I’d love to stay for dinner if it isn’t too much trouble,” said Rona.
“No, we’d love to have you,” said Virgil’s mom. “I’ll call you guys when the food is done.” She left, closing the door behind her.
Rona shot Virgil a look. “What was that all about? You don’t want me around your family?”
“Not really,” said Virgil. “I kinda’ want to keep them separate from all of this demon stuff. But since you already agreed, I guess it’s too late now.”
“I promise not to be too big of a pain. I just need to get out of my house sometimes,” said Rona, walking over to the window, flipping back the curtain and gazing out of it. “They’re a good family, just…intense. Hey! You can see into my window from here. You don’t own a pair of binoculars, do you?”
“Why don’t you know anything?” asked Virgil.
“What?” said Rona, turning to face him.
“Why don’t you have answers to some of my questions?”
“Knowledge is power. And it is one of the many powers that we give up when we come to Earth. If I knew everything on Earth that I knew in Heaven, it would make my head explode—literally. Bodies and minds are frail and can only take so much, so in order to avoid overload, our minds are wiped down to the bare essentials of knowledge, and our bodies are stripped of our wings, halos and some abilities. It’s the price we pay for coming to Earth. Another law of The Aegis,” said Rona.
“What’s the price that humans had to pay as a result of The Aegis?” asked Virgil.
“Besides death? Well, humans had to start over again. You had to re-evolve, from the beginning. You lost your knowledge of angels and demons and of The Inferno. You lost your great cities and technology. The world had to begin anew,” said Rona.
“That’s insane. What were the cities like?” asked Virgil.
“Couldn’t tell ya’. The Inferno happened long before I existed. But according to legend, one of the cities still exists today. It’s been called Shang-ri-La, The Garden of Eden, Atlantis—it’s gone by many different names, but no one has ever found it,” said Rona. “Just a legend, of course.”
“Wow. Remember what you said about too much knowledge making your head literally explode? Well, I think that’s happening to me, right now,” said Virgil, holding his head with both hands.
Rona laughed. “Don’t forget the other part: about knowledge being power. On that note, tell me more about you.”
“About me? What do you want to know?”
“I don’t know,” said Rona. She picked up a beach ball that was designed to look like a globe. She spun it around on her hand. “What are you into? What do you want to be when you grow up? Do you like school?”
“I guess I kind of want to direct movies when I grow up. I just love all the creativity that goes into it.”
“Cool. I love movies.”
“Yeah? Do you like parkour? That’s another thing that I’m into.”
Virgil showed her some parkour videos on his phone.
“I was doing that the other night. I could show you some moves,” said Rona.
“You could?” asked Virgil, his eyes widening with excitement.
“I guess my other favorite thing in the world is Vanessa.”
“Vanessa? I know her. Is she your girlfriend?”
“Then why were you necking with that other girl?”
“I wasn’t—things are complicated. She broke up with me and I’ve been trying to get her back, but she’s been wishy-washy. Any advice?”
“Don’t try to get her back. Let her come to you. Focus on being the best you possible.”
“What if she never comes to me?”
“Then forget her and move on.”
“Not quite the answer I was hoping for.”
“Look, Teenface, love is a racket. I wouldn’t suggest it to anyone.”
There was a bitterness to her tone that gave Virgil some pause. But he shook it off and instead focused on something else that he didn’t understand about Rona.
“Why is your hair blue?”
“My hair isn’t blue, it’s sapphire.”
“Looks blue to me. What’s the difference?”
“Blue is blue, sapphire is sapphire.”
“Which is a shade of…”
Rona picked up a shirt from the floor. “What color is this?”
“It’s not red, it’s terra-cotta. What’s wrong with your eyes, Kid?”
“I’m Asian, this is how they’re supposed to look.”
Rona burst into laughter. It was the first time Virgil had seen her laugh this hard. She had a loud, annoying laugh, but not unpleasant. It was unique and in a way, musical. It reminded Virgil of a barking chihuahua. It began from someplace deep inside before escaping through her mouth. Virgil hadn’t thought that the joke was that funny, but he liked seeing Rona laugh. She was a lot less terrifying when she laughed.
“You’re a wiener,” said Rona when she’d finally composed herself. She tossed the globe-ball at Virgil.
He caught it before it hit him in the face.
He stared down at the world in his hands.
Virgil and Rona joined the rest of the family downstairs for dinner.
“I like your hair. Can I touch it?” asked Celeste.
“Celeste! Don’t be rude,” said Virgil’s mom.
“It’s okay,” said Rona, leaning down so that Celeste could touch a loch of her hair.
“You’re really pretty,” said Celeste with an ear-to-ear smile.
“So are you,” said Rona, tapping Celeste on the nose with her index finger.
The little girl giggled. “Are you gonna’ be Virgil’s girlfriend?”
The whole table went silent as if waiting for an answer.
“No,” said Rona. “You’re brother and I are…friends.”
“Awww, I want you to be his girlfr–”
“Stop,” said Virgil.
“Sorry,” said Celeste, covering her mouth with both hands.
After dinner Virgil walked Rona to the door.
“You have a nice family, Weiner-boy,” said Rona once she was outside. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Good night,” said Virgil before closing the door. When he turned around, Celeste was standing behind him. She was smiling wide and looking cheery.
“She’s awesome!” said Celeste.
“Yeah, she’s okay,” said Virgil, walking past Celeste toward the stairs.
“Is she gonna’ help us fight the monsters?” asked Celeste, in a low voice.
Virgil turned around and gazed at his sister. The smile was still planted firmly on her little face.
“We’ll see,” said Virgil.
“Pitroth, you fool!” said the Red Hood.
“This does not concern you,” said Pitroth.
“No? I practically hand delivered the boy to you and you still managed to fail to capture him. The master will not be pleased. He will turn you inside out,” said the Red Hood’s voice a high-pitched squeal.
“Be gone!” said Pitroth, pointing his broken staff in the direction of the Red Hood.
The Red Hood chuckled. “You know better than to give me orders.”
Pitroth lowered his staff. “The girl; she isn’t human. She keeps interfering.”
“Then I suggest you get rid of her.”
The Red Hood gave a dismissive wave. “You figure it out.” The Red Hood faded into the shadows, leaving Pitroth to stand and ponder.
It was twilight when Pitroth reached the top of the mountain. The sky was clear and the air was chilly. He chanted to the sky, his voice echoing through the mountainous area. As he chanted, the resonance of his voice grew and grew. Clouds gathered above him, seemingly from nowhere. Lightning flashed through the clouds as his voice filled the air. A crack of thunder roared. Pitroth reached into his cloak and produced a dagger. With one swift motion he cut the throat of the goat. The blood ran freely from its body. Pitroth motioned with his hands, sending energy through the blood and pulling it from the goat corpse without touching it. The blood danced in midair, swirling and twirling at his command. He raised the blood in the air, forming it into a wall. Lightning struck the wall and a large tearing sound echoed through the air. The air opened up as if it had been unzipped and an enormous figure stepped through. It walked through the wall of goat’s blood. The blood engulfed the figure until it covered its entire giant body. It fell to the ground on its hands and knees in front of Pitroth. The lightning ceased and the crack in the air ceiled. There was no sound as the blood on the kneeling figure was absorbed by its body until there was none visible and all that was left was a massive man, with a heavily muscled body, kneeling in front on Pitroth.
The giant man gazed up at Pitroth. He had a yellow complexion and a long black ponytail. Slowly, he rose to his full height, towering over Pitroth like a grizzly bear on its hind legs. He was clad only in a loincloth. His hulking chest was covered in hair, and a goatee framed his mouth. A confused and dazed look shone through green, pupil-less eyes.
“Who are you?” said the giant, his voice booming through the mountains like a drum.
“I am Pitroth, your new master,” said Pitroth, shouting his words in order to give them a more commanding sound.
“I serve no master,” said the giant.
“I freed you from your prison and now you will work for me,” said Pitroth.
The giant shook his enormous head. “I will not. Send me back to my prison. I must atone for the wrong that I’ve done.”
“Has not 5,000 years in Hell been enough atonement?”
The giant stared down at Pitroth in silence.
“If you do as I command, then your freedom shall be permanent.”
The giant laughed, deep and throaty. “You? Command me? You are but a tiny sorcerer. What can you do to me, should I not heed your commands?” He leaned his face in until it was a couple of inches from Pitroth’s.
“I do not wish to threaten you, oh great Goliath. What I offer is a second chance. This land will be your kingdom and you can rule it as you see fit,” said Pitroth.
Goliath stroked his goatee. “A chance to rule a new land with honor and wisdom would undo some of the evils I’ve done in the past. I could restore my honor. Very well, tiny sorcerer. What would you have me do? If your request is honorable enough, I may consider it.”
“I need your skills as a warrior.”
“Be warned, sorcerer, I will not kill women and children. I will face only a worthy warrior,” said Goliath.
“The one I want you to face a formidable foe. She will prove to be a worthy challenge for you.”
“She?” laughed Goliath. “There is no such thing as a female warrior. You summoned me here to fight a girl? You are weak, sorcerer! Pull up your cloak so that you are truly a man!”
“This is no ordinary girl. She has power. She may even be a greater warrior than you,” said Pitroth.
“A female warrior,” said Goliath almost to himself. He stroked his goatee as he pondered. “Very well. My interest is piqued. What would you have me do?”
“The female—kill her!”