"Why are there no female angels?"
"There are female angels dear."
"But they don't talk about them in the Bible."
There was silence.
"Mother, why are there no female angels?"
"Because a woman did not write the Bible sweetheart."
"And why did Adam blame Eve?"
"Adam was a man, child."
"But why didn't Adam tell Eve not to eat the apple?"
The mother sighed haphazardly. She turned to the wide-eyed child, and grabbed the young girl's chubby chin in her shaking hand. Mesmerized and thoughtful, the child glowed with innocence. To the mother, that innocence was more pleasant then the ray of the laughing sun, but it was something that was more valuable then any sun. Aware of the value, the mother was gentle.
"You, my dear, ask too many questions for your own good. Perhaps, it would be better for you to ask only me your questions."
The child blinked, unsure as to why her mother sudden drooped with sadness. She did not understand, the blue-eyed child, the pain… or the anger of her mother.
"No Tara," said the mother, this time forceful with both her hand and her voice. Tara winced as the hand tightened on her bone. "Please. This world is not ready for your questions, especially not now… perhaps once, but not now. Maybe someday but-" She stopped, aware that she was rambling.
Still shaking, the mother let her hand fall from her child's chin and turned back to the window that she had been looking out of. Then the mother began to sob. And outside the little window, death was falling.
I grew up in a world wreaked with destruction, but it was covered up with propaganda. War? It was no war, it was obliteration. It was judgment. Religions that once preached life and love twisted their followers into knights for a new world order, and the cults across the world grew until they could do nothing but clash.
And in the first day they destroyed everything.
They kept most of the population, of course. Those who were obedient and dim-headed, and those who made for good minions were left alive to destroy those who were intellectual and intelligent. They were slaughtered in sacrifice to a weeping God, who I believe could do nothing because that is the curse of free will. If brother chooses to slaughter sister, then it is choice, and he cannot choose for us.
Those who escaped slaughter fled into truth, hiding and blending in with the accepted people of the Church. Their numbers were few, easily ignored by the rapidly growing dominion. They became forgotten, but did not forget. Instead the rebels, intellectuals, and creative artists would lay in wait for a leader who could not only keep them together, but had enough courage to lead a revolution.
As for us, my mother and I, we would become one with the empty-headed and dull minded. At least she would. I would never have the temperament to live a lie, nor the patience to lay in wait.
She saw this.
She understood this.
She sent me away and the last thing that she told me was that I would never come back. It wasn't a command, it was the truth.
True to my word, I never asked anyone the questions that constantly barraged me. Instead I turned them into action, and with my newfound family, the Memor, those who lay in wait for a great leader, I began to understand hope.
Under them I learned of history, language, and loss. On the other hand, they learned of choice… and the difference between a leader and a fighter, a reason and a beginning.
20 years after asking my mother those questions… that is where my story starts. Where it ends?
I do not know.
175 A.J. (After Judgement)
"Come on Raef! Don't tell me you are tired!"
"N-n-not t-tired," stuttered the slightly chubby boy behind me as he stumbled over the rocky mountain terrain.
With a shrug I turned back to navigating my way over the dangerous hike, letting my feet fall on instinct rather then precise calculation. It was no trouble to climb something that you had climbed everyday since arriving, and though it had only been 2 weeks…
The past, ever touchy, stopped me from thinking further. The scene before me was what stopped me in my tracks.
Raef shuffled to a stop next to me, surveying the land with his be speckled gray eyes.
"Oh…" was all he could say.
'Yes, oh…' I agreed silently.
It was beautiful, this area which, since Judgment Day, had turned back to the growth and wildness of nature. Vines and undergrowth over took ruins of buildings, sent into oblivion by bio-bombs. They were no different from the over-arching hills of China's natural landscape. Rocky and uncertain, the ruins were silhouetted against the steadily rising sun on the horizon, casting shadows against the crevasses furthest away from the ball of fire. In a world where sadness reigned, this was something pure. I basked in the truth and the wildness.
"What is this place?" asked Raef, breathing heavily in exhaustion, so his words were only half audible.
"It was once a city, before…" I stopped. Before the world collapsed, it had been one of the greatest cities in the world, full of life as well as its share of strife. The beauty that I had basked in was replaced by the sadness, and the knowledge of what had happened.
Raef understood. He did not need to be pressed further.
A center of technology, the Chinese city had been one of the first destroyed. Little regard was given to China in the first place, as the mass of its population had belonged to no World Religion. Not like America or Europe, not like my homeland. Still, intellectuals were dangerous, thus… China had been destroyed.
Now it was considered unwanted and unclaimed by any of the world religions. For an amount of time, it was also my home.
For a time Raef and I stood in silence, not awkward but companionably. We were witnesses to what once was, and remembered what should have been, but was not. In the emptiness, the ghosts whispered their stories to us.
Obligingly, we listened. I was afraid of them, as was Raef, but it was part of our job to stand as witnesses. As an added bonus, we had no vacations.
"The sun's rising," said Raef, whispering so as to not disturb the peace and serenity.
He was right, and the first thing that I had learned was that is was best to stay in the night. If caught by one of the Churches, we would be killed. For though they saw the Memors as small, there was always a need to terminate the rodents.
"We should start heading back," he prompted again. This time instead of agreeing with him I simply nodded.
A good friend would have left with him, or better yet, a better friend would have carried with poor guy down the mountain. I just stood there, reluctant to leave as I always was.
Finally, Raef could stand waiting no longer and turned to start down the mountain.
"You'll never make it down you know," I said, smiling, my blue-almost-black eyes sparkling with mischief. "You know that."
He huffed and ignored me, attempting to step across rocks, only to find himself slipping. With a chuckle, I caught his arm and kept him from tumbling over the side. The speed that it took wasn't hard to accomplish, but it took everything I had to keep him from tumbling.
Unfortunately, I wasn't blessed with strength.
Once he was safely over on the flatter area I fell to the ground with another chuckle, attempting to make it look as if I was in perfect shape. Truthfully, I was exhausted, not as much as Raef was… but still, pride was no reason to go tumbling over the edge.
"Perhaps we should call for transport," I remarked with a grin in his direction. He was still on his back, his dirt-streaked once brown (now almost black) polo rising like the sun with his heavy breathing.
I looked no better in my dirt crusted jeans and shapeless gray tunic, ravaged off a museum dummy in Beijing's version of the National Museum of History. But that's how life was for us, grab what you can and try not to get caught doing it.
"Ya, lets," agreed Raef when his breath came back enough for him to breathe and talk at the same time.
With a flip of my wrist I had the broken Rolex watch up to my ear. While the thing couldn't tell time, it had easily been remade into a communicator.
"Brian?" I asked.
"Right here Tara, what can I do for you?" answered a smooth, cool-headed voice.
"Would you mind sending us a ride? We're on the T of H ruins. Raef and I are a bit too tired to walk down ourselves, and we've got a steadily rising sun at our backs."
"You now you could have just asked. No explanations needed," answered Brian with a sneer in his voice.
"What can I say? I'm a suck up."
"Ree and her team are on their way."
I started to nod in affirmation. Then stopped. "Wait… Ree is a-"
"Aviator. Yeah. Have fun with that Tara. I'll see you when you get back."
My wrist dropped to my side and I leaned back against the ground. Worry and unaware of the conversation with our tech supervisor, Raef leaned over to me. "What's wrong?"
"I hate flying," I said with a moan.
In disbelief my friend sat up with a speed that almost matched mine.
"You're afraid of flying?!" he half shouted.
I scowled deeper. Then he laughed, and I found myself wishing I could pummel him.
"I'm not afraid… I just don't-"
The sound of chopper wings cut me off, and Raef and I watched as Ree and her co-pilot waved from the cockpit of the medieval helicopter.
In the pit of my stomach, something lurched.