Marty Angelo tossed his heavy back pack onto the back seat of Kirk's green Acadian and climbed in after it. As he leaned back, he caught a glimpse of himself in the rear view mirror. Pale skin, thin angular features, topped with dark hair. He brushed long strands off his forehead. It needed cutting, but he wore it long on purpose—to hide his eyes. He hated them. One brown, the other light blue. A red vertical line, centered above and below his blue eye, ran from his brow to the top of his cheek. A birthmark resembling a scar.
Throughout elementary school, he'd been teased, called a freak. Scarface. The kids didn't know how right they were. As far back as Marty could remember, he'd had fits, like a stranger would take control of his blue eye, and gaze out. His mother had taken him to doctors and psychiatrists, but they’d found nothing wrong.
Marty turned from his reflection and glanced out the side window. He sighed, relieved his Physics exam was over.
Kirk started his car. “So, how do ya think you did on your exam.”
Marty glanced at Kirk then Steven, who sat in the passenger seat. “I think I did pretty good. What about you guys?”
Steven turned. “Same. Actually, I found it quite easy.”
“You would,” Kirk said. He drove slowly through the campus grounds. Other students mingled, enjoying the April sunshine; a welcome reprieve from the usual rain Victoria experienced this time of year.
Yellow daffodils bloomed in the well manicured gardens, and the pink blossom trees were on full display.
Steven shrugged. “If you studied instead of playing video games, then you'd have found it easy, too.”
“Maybe if you spent less time studying I wouldn't kick your ass as often when we play,” Kirk said.
Marty smiled as his two best friends started an all too familiar debate about who was the better gamer.
Truth was, Kirk could and did kick both their asses.
“So here's the plan,” Steven said. “It's three o'clock now. When we get to my house, we'll play video games until six, then we'll study for our Chemistry exam.”
“Sounds good,” Marty said.
Once off campus grounds, Marty placed his head-phones in his ears and listened to his IPOD as Kirk navigated through the busy downtown streets.
Two blocks from Steven's house, Kirk turned onto a curvy, tree-lined street.
A deer leapt from the shadows.
“Watch out,” Steven yelled.
Kirk jerked the steering wheel. The car jackknifed to the left.
Marty slammed into the side of the car, smacking his head on the window.
The vehicle hit a tree, spun around, and flipped onto its side, sliding down an embankment.
Pain laced through Marty's head and chest. The smell of gas clung heavy in the cab. Disoriented, he tried to sit up. Bits of the broke windshield glittered all around him. A groan from the front seat shook the fog from his bruised brain. He looked around, trying to get his bearings. The car lay on the passenger side.
Kirk, still strapped in his seatbelt, hung suspended in his seat, his head hung down at an odd angle. The groan had come again. Steven.
“Steven.” Marty pulled himself to his feet. A wave of nausea rolled over him. “Steven, are you all right?”
Smoke from the engine slowly filled the interior.
“Marty?” Steven's voice was weak.
Marty climbed to the front. “Steven, can you move. We need to get out of here.” He glanced up at Kirk. Blood dripped from a gouge on his forehead. His face was ashen. He didn't move or appear to be breathing.
Dread ate at Marty. “No. No. Kirk?”
“Is he . . . is Kirk all right?” Steven asked, his voice a hoarse whisper.
Marty quickly turned towards Steven, and unsnapped his seat belt. “Can you move?”
Steven grabbed Marty's arm. “Yes. I'm all right.” His green eyes searched Marty's face. “Kirk? Is he--”
“Crawl out the windshield. I'll unbuckle Kirk; you help drag him out.” Marty kicked the remaining glass, scattering small round bits.
Steven pulled himself to his feet and crawled out. “Ready.”
Flames erupted from the engine, making a soft whoosh.
“Hurry,” Steven pleaded.
Marty unclasped the belt and Kirk fell into his arm, taking them both down. “Grab him. Hurry.”
Steven reached in, grasped Kirk around the waist, and pulled him through the opening. Marty scrambled out. They dragged Kirk away from the burning, hissing car.
Safely away, they laid Kirk flat on his back. Steven called for an ambulance as Marty checked Kirk over. Tears blurred his vision. He didn't need to check for a pulse, Kirk was gone; the absence of life was perceptible.
“No,” Marty whispered as Steven came over. “No! Kirk, don't you dare leave.” Marty slammed his fists beside Kirk's head. “Kirk!” Sobs choked him. In his agony he felt Steven try and pull him off Kirk's prone, lifeless body.
“Nooo, he's not dead.” Marty gripped Kirk's face and stared into his empty eyes. Suddenly, Marty's blue eye moved, widening, taking in the scene. With a strength of will he didn't know he had, he shut that eye.
He began to chant, words spoken in a language he didn't know, yet were clear in his mind.
“What the hell are you doing,” Steven asked, voice laced with panic. “You're. . . holy shit, you're glowing.”
Marty ignored him. Kirk no longer laid dead on the grass beside the road, he now walked through a gray, swirling mist towards a warm white light. Marty followed.
“Kirk,” he called out in a deep masculine voice. “Don't go.”
Kirk stopped and turned. “Marty? Is . . . that you? You look different. Where are we?”
Marty halted. “It's not your time.” He reached out and touched Kirk's chest.
With a violent jerk, Kirk bolted up, drawing great gulps of air into his lungs. “Marty? Steven?” He panted, his eyes wide with wonder. “I think I was . . . dead.”
Marty blinked. He glanced over at Steven, then the burning car. Sirens whined in the distance. Dizziness gripped him, he sagged, then fell forward, spiraling down, down through blackness, until he fainted.
When he came to he was lying on his side on a soft mattress.
I'm home. He opened his eyes. He was back in his colorless private chamber. The Sacred Dimension, or Heaven as humans called it.
Mordecai sat up. He was no longer, Marty, a mere human. He was Mordecai, an angel of the Lord. God--the creator of all life-- had sent Mordecai on a mission to find out if mankind was worth saving from Lucifer. But why was he back so soon? His mission wasn't complete.
Ah, yes, he had brought Kirk back from death. He'd interfered.
Sadness sliced through Mordecai's chest when he recalled the eighteen years he'd lived as a mortal. He recalled the people he came to know and love. He yearned to be back. Yearned for the messy chaos life was as a mortal.
Was what he'd learned going to be enough to persuade The Creator to save humans? Granted, his Sire had witnessed everything Mordecai had with the use of The Creator's blue eye, but was it enough? It had to be.
The alternative was unthinkable.
Mordecai sprang from his bed, left the chamber, and ran down a long stone hallway punctuated with many arched doors. While he ran through the house of God, he stretched his cramped wings high above his head.
He slowed as he approached the Great Hall. He checked his appearance in a silver urn sitting on a low table. He stared back at himself with his own brown eyes. His angel's star shone brightly on his forehead.
Murmuring voices drifted from beyond the arched doorway. Mordecai returned the urn, and made the sign of the cross over his chest. He folded his wings until they lay against his back. As he stepped into the throne room, he was struck by the silence. His brothers and sisters lined the path from the entrance to the throne, where The Creator sat with an unreadable expression on His face.
Mordecai dropped to his knees at his father's feet.
Silence pulsed through the room.
“Rise,” The Creator said.
Mordecai stood. “My Lord, I--”
The Creator held up a hand. “I know the whys of what you did. Your love for the human is strong. I feel it. Still, your interference is intolerable.”
“It wasn't his time.”
The Creator's blue eyes bored into him. “That was not your choice to make.”
Mordecai bowed his head. “I am sorry, my Lord.”
“What say you on the plight of mankind?”
Mordecai glanced up. “Don't give up on them, my Lord. They are worth saving from Lucifer's evil clutches. He has turned the earth into a hard, cruel place, far from what you intended for your children.” A bead of sweat trickled down his temple. “Humankind is not altogether to blame. Lucifer's influence is strong. He tempts them at every turn.”
The Creator leaned forward on his throne. “I have given my children free will. Yet what do they do with this gift? They choose to listen to Lucifer's whisperings over and over. I am no longer in their hearts. Most have turned from me, shutting me out.”
“Sadly, tis the truth.” Shame filled his heart. “During my time on earth, even I lost faith, my Lord. In my heart I didn't truly believe. Life is full of struggles. Concern for food and shelter, pain caused by sickness and death take precedence. Surviving leaves little energy for worship.”
His thoughts drifted to his mother—the woman who bore his human vessel. The hardships of life had aged her before her time. Raising a child on her own, working two jobs to keep food on their table and a roof over their head, had taken all she'd had, and she did it for love. He thought of the homeless, the drug addicts, the disasters that left people broken. All the hurt and pain that came with life.
Mordecai's pleading eyes met the Creator's. “They are worth saving, and if you won't, I will try. I will die fighting for them.”
A collective gasp filled the room. Mordecai glanced at his brothers and sister.
The Creator leaned back and studied Mordecai. “I am surprised. Not long ago you agreed with Lucifer. You conceded men were nothing but a disappointment, a source of heartache for me. You concurred that my children should be destroyed.”
“Yea, tis true, and for that I will forever be ashamed. I have walked in their place. I now know what they go through.” He sucked in a breath. “Lucifer must be destroyed. He has inflicted more than enough pain on your children. It is time to rid them of his blight. Give them the life you intended for them.”
The Creator bowed his head. “Tis the truth you speak, but alas, my heart is for creation, not destruction. I cannot destroy what I have created."
“Nay, you may not, but I shall. Set this task to me, my Lord. I will see it done.”
“My angels shall not take a weapon to another unless death be to both of you.”
“So be it. I will die for your children.”
The Creator rose, stretched out a glowing hand, and cupped Mordecai's chin. “My son. You bring new hope to my heart. Though death shall not be the answer. I have another plan for Lucifer. One he will not see coming. Go to his hell castle and bring me back his Grace. I will send him to the earth to live as a human until I deem he is repentant of his sins.”
Mordecai smiled. “Lucifer will learn firsthand the hardships of humanity. I pray he finds compassion and understanding as have I.”
“There in is my hope.” The Creator reached beneath his white robe and pulled forth a golden dagger. He handed it to Mordecai. “Return to me the Grace I have bestowed upon him.”
Mordecai clasped the blade. “Aye, my Lord.”
The Creator kissed Mordecai's star. “My thoughts are with you.” He touched a glowing finger to Mordecai's forehead, and all went dark as he fell through blackness. Endless it seemed before he landed with a jolt.
Mordecai slowly sat up. Sweat from the oppressive heat poured down his face, and dripped from his hair. The putrid stench of rotten flesh and sulfur burned his throat, making him gag. He gazed out from the rocky cliff to the valley far below. A lake of fire surrounded by black mountains was spanned by a long stone bridge, leading to a black castle far in the distance. Lucifer's home.
He glanced up. There was no sky, just black, scorched earth as a ceiling. He was in the center of the globe.
Mordecai scrambled to his feet and descended the jagged peak. Once on the valley floor, a loud bell tolled. No other sound could be heard, yet he knew he was watched.
Halfway across the bridge, Mordecai glanced down at the lake of fire. Millions of human soul squirmed like snakes, reaching out to him with blackened arms, mouths wide as they screamed in agony. Mordecai tore his gaze from their suffering and continued on. Nothing deterred him as he made his way.
The great castle doors stood open and Mordecai stepped through. Two twisted, hideous creatures waited. Mordecai pulled forth his dagger, but the creatures only bowed. In unison they said, “Our master awaits. This way.”
He followed as they led him up a winding staircase to a closed door. One knocked before they departed. The door swung opened. He swallowed his fear, gripped his dagger tight beneath his white robe, and stepped inside. Across the room, sitting upon a golden throne, was Lucifer. It had been centuries since Mordecai had seen his once beloved brother. Golden hair cascaded to his waist. Beauty beyond measure was his face.
Fluid as a gentle wave, Lucifer rose. A smile as dazzling as a thousand stars stretched his lips. “Mordecai, my brother. It has been too long. What brings you hither?”
A shiver coursed through Mordecai. “I come to end your treachery.”
Lucifer's smile faltered. “My treachery? It is our father who plays games. He betrayed us all. We knew nothing of His plans. We blindly did His bidding, toiling, slaving, never asking questions and for what? For God to betray us with his second children and give unto them our earth that we created?” He placed a hand over his heart. “It's ours. Father stole from me—us. For that I'll never forgive.”
“The earth is not ours. It was made for humans.”
Lucifer's smile vanished, replaced by a sneer. “Parasites, all of them. I will never bow to those usurpers.” He stepped over to Mordecai, placing a hand on his shoulder. His voice when he spoke was soft, hypnotic. “You know I'm right. You felt as I did at one time.”
Mordecai's head swam; he didn't know what was right anymore. An overwhelming desire to side with his brother filled him. Suddenly, his sire's voices filled his mind. “Be wary of Lucifer's voice. He will use it to dissuade you.”
Looking deep into his brother's blue eyes, Mordecai stroked a finger across Lucifer's brow, right over the glowing star. “I know different now as you will soon learn.”
Lucifer's face grew hard and he laughed. “Learn? I know all.” His eyes traveled over Mordecai's face. Disgust clear in his expression. “You're a fool if you think you can stop me. You know as well as I an angel can not kill another angel.”
“Aye, but I have something else in store for you. You will become one of whom you despise.” Mordecai raised his dagger and plunged it into Lucifer's chest. Before Lucifer could react, he shoved his other hand through the opening. His fingers tingled as they brushed against his essence. He seized it.
Comprehension dawned on Lucifer's face as Mordecai pulled back his hand. White light, blinding in its intensity, enveloped the chamber.
Lucifer stumbled, sagged to his knees, clutching his chest. “No, you can't do this.”
Raw hatred and rage consumed Mordecai, torturing his mind. The hand clasped around Lucifer's grace burned, the pain white hot.
In a flash, The Creator appeared before them. He held an open golden box towards Mordecai. “Place what's mine inside.”
For a brief moment, Mordecai didn't want to release it. Wanted it for his own.
“My son, let it go. It will destroy you.”
Hand shaking, Mordecai slowly peeled open his fingers, dropping the ball of light inside the box. The instant it was gone from him, his mind cleared. “Father, I am sorry.”
“You've done well.” The Creator straightened and turned to Lucifer. “Your reign is over. You will become mortal until I deem you worthy of my gift.” With a wave of His hand, Lucifer's soul rose from his head and was gone.
The Creator closed the box, sealing it with a chant. “I and the world owe you. Whatever your heart desires shall be yours.”
“You owe me nothing. I did it out of love.”
A gentle hand cupped Mordecai's cheek. “Name it, my son.”
He gazed into his father's bright eyes. “I would--”
Marty Angelo tossed his heavy back pack onto the back seat of Kirk's green Acadian and climbed in after it. He leaned back, catching a glimpse of himself in the rear view mirror. Pale skin, thin angular features, topped with dark hair. He brushed long strands out of his brown eyes. His hair needed cutting, but he wore it long on purpose—to hide the star shaped birthmark on the center of his forehead.
Kirk started the car. “So, how do ya think you did on the exam?”