For a long time, neither Archangel said a word. Neither moved. Raphael continued to hold the head, but he had ceased to stare at it. Instead, his brown eyes, removed of any light whatsoever, were focused unerringly on Michael.
Michael himself was standing with his feet shoulder width apart, jaw tense, sword arm ready to move at a moment's notice. But there was a curiosity in his stance, also. One that dreaded and begged the information his closest kin was about to reveal. "Well?" Michael said when Raphael remained silent. "Are you going to tell me?"
"Do you want me to?" Raphael countered, that awful smirk wavering on his lips. "Can you handle it?"
Michael pursed his lips and Raphael shrugged before tossing Lulu's head in the air, and, pivoting on the heel of his foot, kicking it straight at his brother. The move wasn't meant to harm Michael and he knew it. Instead, he simply switched his sword to the other hand and caught the head. "Why are you doing this, Raphael?"
Raphael took a few steps back. "It seemed like a noble idea at the time. You know, use what I was created for to do what I considered right by my brethren." He smiled. "I suppose the Creator and I just have different definitions of 'right'."
"But why eyes? What is the purpose of them? What do you want to see that you can't already?"
Raphael seemed to fight back a sneer. "It's not a matter of what I want to see, it is a matter of what our sister can not."
Michael was so taken aback he lost his fighting pose. "Gabrielle? This is about Gabrielle?! Raphael, you can not help her. You are the one with eyes and yet you are blind at the same time. She's wasting away, Raphael. When those monsters took her eyes, they took more than that! They-"
"And don't you think I know that?" Raphael said, seething. "I'm not blind. I realize that I do not have the power to fix her, repair her, but for what power I do have, I will use it, dammit!"
"Moral ends through moral means, Raphael," Michael said. "That is the doctrine we were created in to." He dropped Lulu's head and it bounced once, then rolled under the filing cabinet. "Don't you remember that? Didn't that cross your mind at any point as you were ripping this innocent angels limb from limb?"
Raphael started to chuckle, but stopped short as the growth dug in deep and dragged itself further up his face. "Michael, if I let myself care, even for a second, while I was gutting those 'innocent angels', I wouldn't be talking to you right now. I would be slashing my own throat open for the horrible sins I had committed. But here's the thing about that, brother... I don't care."
Michael leaned back, his mouth a hard line.
"Not for you, not for me, not for any of them," he said, gesturing behind him at the body parts. "All that matters right now is Gabrielle. If I could just give her the ability to see, one last time, before she goes, nothing else in the world would matter. Yet here I am, successful, and you just had to barge in and ruin it all." Raphael's eyes had taken on a livid look. "Do you know how much I have suffered? How much I had to give up for this? Just to watch it all blow up in my face?!"
Michael sucked in a breath and took a step forward. "Raphael, I can still help you. It's not all lost. We can-"
"Help me?" Raphael said, what little hair he had left spilling over his face. "You... you want to help me?" He let out a small laugh and looked around, like this was all a dream. "Michael, there is no help and no hope left for me!"
"You're being pessimistic," Michael said. "There's still-"
"There's nothing!" Raphael screamed, spit flying. Then, he let out another scream and grabbed the back of his neck. When he took his hand away, an entire patch of hair came away with it. "Aah!" he wailed, throwing the hair on the ground.
Michael grimaced. "Raphael, what is wrong with you?"
"Wrong?" Raphael whispered and the sudden change in mood made Michael raise his sword. "There's nothing wrong. Except for maybe the necrosis eating away at my body, I'm perfectly fine."
"Necro... Raphael, show me what you mean," Michael said, edging forward. "Maybe it's not so bad-" He was cut off as Raphael let out another scream, the Archangel stumbling back behind the partition that led into his lab. "Raphael!"
Michael ran forward, jumped over the pile of body parts, and nearly slipped on fresh blood on the return down. Regaining his balance, Michael crept around the curtains. His brother had collapsed to the ground, holding his face. "Raphael, please," he started, reaching down.
"Get away from me," Raphael growled, and it was a real growl, a wild animal sound. Michael pulled back just as Raphael lunged, armed with a set of fangs that had not been there before. Though, now that Michael could see his brother's face clearly, he noticed something else that hadn't been there before.
Black scaly flesh type material was climbing up Raphael's cheeks at an aggressive pace, each tiny brick of flesh burning up from under Raphael's sallow face.
"You-You're... Raphael, you're turning into a..." He dropped to his knees beside his brother, the ring of his sword hitting the ground loud in the heart stopping silence.
"Don't say it," Raphael hissed, eyes squeezed shut. "Just don't. Urrrgh!" At first, Michael, completely transfixed by this process, thought blood was running down from Raphael's hairline, but then he realized it was the necrosis when the rest of his brother's hair began to fall out on its own accord. "Michael," Raphael whispered, so soft, he had to repeat himself. "Michael."
The urgency and pleading in his brother's voice pulled Michael out his horror. When he looked into Raphael's eyes, there was fear; a terror of what had to happen next. "Yes?"
Raphael suddenly seized Michael by the front of his robe. "Promise me, as your brother, that you will not tell Gabrielle... anything about this."
Michael swallowed, not wanting to look into those pleading, frightened eyes, but not daring himself to look away. Very carefully, even though it burned him, he removed Raphael's hand. "My brother is dead. He died a long time ago." He stood, not wanting to see the resigned look in Raphael's eyes, his brown eyes. "Good-bye, Raphael."
Raphael looked at the ceiling. "So be it, then. We will meet again, Archangel. And when we do..." Raphael paused, squeezing his eyes shut and holding back a groan as the necrosis finally finished devouring every inch of angel flesh on Raphael. When he opened his eyes next, they were a mélange of brown and gold and green. "I will kill you," he said.
As if on cue, the floor around Raphael vaporised, sucking the former Archangel down toward the abyss where he belonged.
Matthew felt like a man astray. It had been this way for several days now, but he couldn't quite put his finger on the reason why. Perhaps it was the loss of the voice in his head, or maybe it was because he had lost all inspiration to paint. Or, it was probably the one thing he was trying to forget.
Mims. He had killed something in rage. Not just anger, but blind rage. That had to make him worse than his stepfather. At least the man had never beat his sister or him to death, though there were times when Matthew wished he had.
Matt let out a ghost of a laugh. Death suddenly seemed like a much better alternative to living on this hellish earth for anybody right now.
He stared longingly at the empty aquarium that had once housed all sorts of hamster things. In a sudden fit of rage, he had chucked the entire aquarium at the wall. Now, it lay in the corner, mangled and broken beyond repair.
Against the rest of the room, though, the cage didn't look so out of place. Everything had come down. Everything. The dresser had been knocked over and chainsawed into timber wood. The fan had been unscrewed and dismembered as well. Even his closet had been ripped through with the ferocity of a hurricane.
To the naked eye, there was no rhyme or reason, but to Matt, it made perfect sense. None of this destruction of self had been done without a purpose, but he still wasn't finished. Not yet, anyway.
Matt stared at the bucket of black paint on one side of his feet, then at the chainsaw on the other side. Both were going to be very important tonight.
Matthew felt a roiling mass of worms wake up in his stomach at the thought of tonight, and he wiggled his toes. It was a perfect setting, too. New Years' Eve. Everyone would be too busy counting down the new year and getting ridiculously drunk to notice him. And by the time they did, it would come at a nasty price.
Smiling quietly to himself, Matthew rolled into the bed and snuggled up against his pillow. He was going to need this little nap.
When Matt woke up next, it was to an eerie twilight. Blue and black shadows were pouring in through his curtain-less windows and they made the paintings on the walls look like creatures of legend. Shivering, Matt uprighted himself and searched the floor very cautiously with his feet.
His toes touched the tops of his shoes and he reached down, grabbing them and starting to secure them to his feet. His heart beat sky rocketed without warning and Matthew leaned back, breathing through his nose like a dying bull.
He didn't have to do this. He could step away, right now, go back to sleep and wait for the year to pass. Sweat broke out under his arms and on his back. There were just so many things wrong with this plan. So many people could, and would, get hurt.
But Matthew took one look at his room, at the broken cage in the corner, and knew there was no turning back. It had to be now, because never was not an option.
Swallowing back the guilt, Matt pulled himself out of bed, unaware of the way the springs cried out in despair. Matt crouched down next to the paint can and pried it off, then picked up the large paintbrush next to it. Forcing his mind to be silent, Matt dipped the brush in the viscous black liquid and began to black every painting out.
Despite the amount of time it had taken to create the giant heart, Matt had little trouble desecrating it. Darkness seemed to have exploded from the center and sucked the picture into a voracious black hole. Matt pulled back, his heart going crazy again.
Something in the back of his head was begging him to stop while he was ahead, but Matthew resisted. Going over to the angel, he completely exed out its existence without a second thought. The deed done, Matt dropped the paint bucket, its contents spilling out and oozing toward his shoes. Something screamed in a high, whining manner before exploding in a roar of pops.
Matthew swallowed. Time to go. He tore his eyes away from the are the angel had once been and grabbed the chainsaw, then stalked from the room, closing the door behind him with barely a whisper of a click.
The worms had woken up again and they squirmed relentlessly, sending waves of nausea through Matt's body. Pausing at the base of the steps, Matt took a deep breath. He tried to will his mind above the blood rushing through his skull and the tingling of his body as sweat broke out everywhere. He had no reason to be scared. Not one reason.
Be calm, Matt, he thought. Be calm. He had hurt people plenty of times. The past few weeks were proof enough of that. And it had felt good, hadn't it? Tricking those feeble minds, manipulating them, twisting them up in knots that would never be undone. Matt's face twitched. The sensation of power, so great that it had often left him in hysterics, shaking and laughing and crying... he loved that feeling.
Matthew gasped suddenly, unaware that he had been holding his breath. The world came back to him and he looked around, then mounted the first step. The rest came easy after that and movement quickly dispelled the nervousness that had gripped him so tightly before.
With it gone, Matt could see more clearly than before. He had one last thing to do before he could finally go out with a bang. In just a few hours, he was officially going to be seventeen, which meant he could be tried as an adult in court. There would be little room for appeal if that happened.
"If I must go, then let me have this last thrill," he whispered, hand falling on the door in front of him. It was locked, but Matt was not to be deterred. He set the saw down and dug into his pocket, fishing out a credit card he had taken with him on his exit from the demolished room. Matt searched the door for some sort of leeway and eventually found a small space just above the doorknob.
Being as silent and efficient as possible, Matt worked the card through the door and easily overrode the locking mechanism, the door easing open without a sound. Lying half on the bed and half on the floor was Aaron, his mouth wide open and releasing soft snores. On the other side of the room, his roommate was also knocked out and after a quick survey, he noticed why.
Empty beer bottles and burnt down marijuana joints littered the floor. Matthew tsked, but wasted no time in grabbing a discarded, yellowed sock and shoving it in Aaron's mouth, then quickly snatching up a tie and gagging Aaron with it.
It was only as Matthew was stepping back that Aaron started to come to and Matt sprang into action, slamming one hand over Aaron's nose and mouth, his knees digging into Aaron's arms. Pain registered on Aaron's face and his eyes shot open, bloodshot but lucid.
"Listen to me, Aaron," Matthew said, his mouth right next to Aaron's ear. "I have gagged you for the simple reason that I am about to kill you." Aaron let out a weird animal squeal and started to buck, but Matt pressed down harder on his arms, knees digging into the crook of his elbow. "Shut up," he snarled, using his other hand to grab Aaron by the neck. "Now, I could have just picked anyone, but I like you, Aaron. You're the one who started all this shit between Ben and I. Then that bitch came along, but she doesn't matter anymore. I fucked her up so good, she's having trouble walking."
Matt let out a tiny, high laugh at the horror that glazed Aaron's eyes. "Now, now. You know, at one point, I was thinking of killing Ben, but I already killed my best friend. Twice. So, you're all that's left, huh?" He smiled down at Aaron and licked his lips. "I suppose this is just my own crazy way of saving the best for last. And let me tell you, I am most certainly glad I did."
Aaron let out a noise similar to a growl, but that only made Matthew's smile wider. "Here's the game plan, Aaron. I'm going to let you up. You're going to walk ahead of me with your hands behind your back. We're going to go outside. Oh, yes," he said when Aaron's eyes flashed. "But not so you can escape. That's not the idea at all. No. You and I are going to climb up on to the roof of the school and then, you're going to throw yourself off. So, I guess, in a way, I'm not going to kill you. You're going to kill yourself. How delightful, right?"
Before Aaron could growl out some form of unintelligible obscenity, Matt slithered away and Aaron lunged forward, arms outstretched, ready to wring Matt's skinny little neck, but he stopped short as Matt stood, chainsaw in hand, the blade gleaming. "Hands behind your back, worm," Matt said, circling behind Aaron. "Make a move, and these teeth rip through your flesh and destroy your spinal cord. And then, I'm going to have to hacksaw you to death. Don't you want a little more time to live?"
Aaron was shivering so hard it looked like he was about to explode. His knees were almost clacking together and a thin coat of sweat had appeared on his neck and forehead. Very slowly, mechanically, his arms came down behind his back.
Matt shot a quick glance at the roommate, but he was oblivious. He smirked when he caught Aaron looking the same way. "Regretting that New Years' vodka already? Don't worry. The real hangover has yet to come," he said, eyes darkening. "Move." Pushing Aaron in the back, he sent the muscle head stumbling down the stairs in a daze, every light under the door, every potential savior, blind in his stricken state of mind.
He was going to die. This wasn't like that time in the elevator. And it certainly wasn't like the time he had nearly drowned going kayaking with his cousin last spring. God, he really wished he could thank his cousin again for saving his life. Or maybe he should yell at her. Maybe if he had drowned then, none of this would be happening now.
Aaron tried to breath, but it was so hard. He was dieing already! Dammit all! This was all Ben's fault. No, it was Triscuit's fault. Triscuit had let the guy join the band. If Ben had never joined, Matthew wouldn't have ever messed with him. Aaron would still be in his world, and this would all be happening to someone else.
A headache began pounding away at his temple and Aaron tried to take another breath as they neared the front doors of the dormitory. Oh, he should have gone home with his mother and father when they asked! God, he prayed. If you let me survive this, I'll do so much community service and listen to my parents and shave my head and become a monk and-
"Outside," Matthew said, voice flat.
Aaron wished so desperately that he could bargain with the psychopath, but his mouth was filled with something sour and foul. Still, he shook his head viciously. Anything but this. He had to think of a way to wrestle the chainsaw away from Matthew and then use it against the freak. It had to be quick, too, or else it could end in disaster for him.
Unfortunately, before he could start coming up with some semblance of a plan, Matthew was shoving him through the doors, that puny hand on his back so much stronger than he had once thought.
"Don't make me start to not like you, Aaron," Matt said, guiding Aaron, who was digging his heels as best as his shell shocked legs could manage, around to the side of the building where a rusty fire escape ladder hung. "Up. Climb, now." Aaron made no move. "Or, I can just saw you to bits right here." Matt tugged on the start cord and Aaron let out a moan, forcing his arms out in front of him.
The cold iron and rust bit into his sweaty palms and Aaron shivered, then hauled himself up, one rung at a time. Something let out a high pitched squeal and Aaron looked around in alarm before remembering the fireworks. Of course. People were celebrating while he was about to die.
Then, at the very top, the ladder stopped just a foot or so short of the roof. Aaron let out a sigh of relief. No roof, no show. Now it was just a matter of killing the crazy motherfucker first.
"Keep moving," Matt said from under him. "I realize the ladder doesn't go all the way up, but you're just going to have to haul yourself up."
Aaron let out a noise of indignation before pulling the gag off. "What?! Hell, no! You can't-" Something blindingly sharp rammed into the heel of his foot and Aaron howled, grabbing the ledge of the roof and pulling himself up.
"Did I tell you it was time to take the gag out?" Matt said, his voice barely recognizable under the layers of malice and rage. Had Aaron not been in so much pain, he would have made a grab for the chainsaw as Matthew hauled it over the ledge first, then dragged himself up as well. "You stupid little worm," he snarled, grabbing Aaron's hair and pulling his head back.
A few tears had squeezed past his lashes and Matt snorted, going back to grab the chainsaw. "Whatever. It created the diversion I needed in the end. And you're still going to die, so I don't care. Now, get up. It's time to make good friends with the pavement."
When Aaron refused to move, Matthew kicked him under the ribs, then rolled him over, peering down into the face of fear. It sent a shiver through him and he pulled back. Tugging on the start cord again, he chuckled as Aaron started to make attempts to get up. By the time the blond was on his feet, the chainsaw was roaring with life and heat.
"Are you ready?" Matt asked.
"You're a sick bastard," Aaron said. "I hope you go to Hell."
"Oh, you don't have to hope, Aaron," Matt said, his voice shaking from the ferocity of the chainsaw. "I know I'm going to Hell. About face, soldier."
Another bout of fireworks went off, leaving their ears ringing and eyes dazzled. Aaron swallowed, the sweat bright on his skin in the light of the streetlights. All his plans had gone down the drain as he neared the ledge and his stomach was going from being water to a lead weight so fast, Aaron was sure he would throw up. He couldn't do this, he just couldn't! He wanted to live!
"Please, man," Aaron said, not daring to get on the ledge, content with just looking at the grounds below. It was a long way down. "Please. This isn't right. Come on, can't we work something out? Anything? Please!" He started to hyperventilate when Matthew didn't answer right away. "Come on, don't do this. You can't. My parents, and sister..."
"I don't give a shit about your parents, your sister, or your pet poodle. There's no bargaining. I decided this had to happen a long time ago."
The whirring of the saw got closer and Aaron turned around, hands clasped, dropping to one knee, his eyes wild. "I didn't mean any of those things I did to you, Matthew. Please. This is murder, man. Murder!"
"No, it's not," Matt said, a smile curving on his face. His eyes were also wild, everything about him was rumpled, but he was nearly buzzing with excitement. "It's prearranged, premeditated suicide. On the ledge!"
Aaron's face fell, his features haggard and desperate as he looked behind him. So this was it? He started to move as though to get up, but when he turned around next, there was a primal look in his eye that Matthew didn't register until too late.
In a split second, Aaron lunged forward and instinctively, Matthew thrust the chainsaw in front of him as defense, but Aaron moved in the nick of time, the heat of the blade breathing on his chilled stomach. Then, his hands were grappling for control of the chainsaw while Matt let out screams of fury and fear, trying to turn the saw on Aaron's leg.
It was in this close area, hand to hand combat that Aaron got the upper hand. Even though he was weak with fear and his mind in a static mess from terror, his natural size and strength dominated Matt. "I want to live, I want to live," Aaron panted, shoving Matthew back, back, all the way back until the other was leaning over the edge. "I want to live!"
And in his struggle, he didn't notice how Matthew was slipping over the ledge, or how the smaller teen's eyes had gone from angry to terrified, or even the way he let out a small, squeaking, begging noise before he finally toppled off the roof of the six story building.
On the way down, the blade of the saw caught Aaron on the inside of his arm, but he hardly noticed it as his knees shuddered beneath him, as he watched Matthew make contact with the concrete, the chainsaw smashing to pieces after him.
Only when Aaron was sure Matthew was dead, only when he had watched the blood pool out beneath his body like a pair of misshapen wings, only then did he collapse to the ground and retch til he was sober, while all around him, the city counted down the new year.
Well, that's the end. I do hope you enjoyed the story, it's been quite some time since anyone cared to listen. Angels nowadays are just too busy with their guns and technology to care for sad stories like these. And would you believe the disrespect of these demon whelps? They don't even know who I am!
Aah, but I'm getting off topic. You're probably wondering what became of the school after they found the boy, huh? I hate to say it, but I really don't know. I suppose the ones that had been most affected by the boy were happy he was gone. Some form of compensation was given to the family of the deceased so that they'd keep their mouths shut. It seemed no one at that school cared that much for him. A load of corrupt rubbish, if I've ever known it.
Raphael was a train wreck, as the young ones say, just waiting to happening. However, it just goes to show, once again, that it is much easier to make an animal wild, then it is to tame it. Oh, but as for his experiments with the eyes, they actually didn't go to waste.
Michael was nice enough to give me the single completed eye as compensation for the capture of the angel impersonator. Would you believe that demon leader or whatever he is, Zagan, only gave me a scratch behind the ears? Yeah, a load of good that did me.
As for Kyzekel... well, he was a special case all his own. It can't be exactly determined what happened to him, though I know for sure the hell hounds ripped him apart and then ate him, but the other demons, the ones of old, even till today, still whisper of something strange.
They say, when Kyzekel was ripped apart, a tiny ball of light, no bigger than an imp's fist, floated straight out of the mass of limbs and flesh, and was promptly eaten by Kyzekel's imp, Effy, or whatever it's name was.
Whatever became of that imp, or that strange thing it swallowed, I do not know. However, what I do know is that despite the wrongness of what Kyzekel did, his legacy lives on and has been celebrated all throughout the Society, and made into some sort of ballad in the Establishment.
Speaking of the Establishment, I must be going there now. Tassius, despite his gullible nature, has been assigned to handing out missions, and he's kind enough to remember me every once in a while. He's not that bad of angel, really, once you get to know him. I just wish he would get rid of that pigeon of his that he insists on taking everywhere with him.
Not that I'd ever find the bird scary or anything like that! It's just that, well, for a pigeon, it's amber eyes are the strangest I've ever seen.
And that's a wrap. Thanks everybody, for sticking with me, for reading, for reviewing, even when the writing wasn't exceptional all the time. You guys are the best! :D