Shortly after the Fall

The world is cold, and hard, and not at all what I had expected. Not that I'm exactly sure what I had expected, but crouched here, in the early morning darkness that precedes the first day of the existence of earth, I can't help thinking that this isn't it. Maybe I had been hoping to find peace, a comforting place to make a new beginning, to wipe away the horror of what had happened this night. I wrap my arms around my legs as I huddle closer to myself, hoping to block out the cold, the darkness, the fears crowding around me. I know my enemies will come for me. And when they do, maybe I will welcome the bite of their sword. But until they do, I think about the past hours that had brought me to the lowest point of my existence.

When we had joined the armies of the Morningstar, there hadn't been talks of banishment or damnation. No, there had only been glorious speeches of victory, of our power and fame when we won, which would spread from the east to the west. The Creator has lost the right to rule us, the Morningstar had declared. He has thrown away his love and affection on another race, a race that cannot measure up to us in anyway. Standing before us, his face shining like the sun, his voice full of power and conviction, it's no wonder how easily the Morningstar won us over. I know my own heart leapt in my chest as he spoke, the fire in his eyes reflecting that in my soul. When we won this battle, he had declared, we would be gods, revered and feared for our power that had been harnessed until now. Never for a second had I imagined that this would happen, that we would lose.

The coldness intensifies and I tighten my hold on myself. If only his promises had not proven false, if only victory had been ours, instead of defeat, humiliation, and exile. Things would have been different, so different. I would be sitting in Paradise right now, my radiance shining with that of my brothers and sisters. I would be serving in the court of the Morningstar, ruling over the created human beings. Instead, here I sit, dreading the next few hours more than anything else, certainly not before the battle, when our anticipation had run at its highest.

The excitement was palpable in the air, and I could taste the raw power on my tongue. We had gathered at our side of the battlefield, ready to begin the fighting. I knew that to look across the field, to where our enemies stood would be a bad idea. But I did it anyways. And what I found were the faces of my brothers and sisters- the ones I had lived and worshipped and witnessed creation with- all filled with a grim determination. I could tell that while we celebrated the coming battle, they dreaded it. Because they knew what none of us had bothered to think of: that when we went out there, we would not be fighting faceless enemies. No, we would be slaughtering our friends and companions, those who we had known since the beginning of time. And leading the procession was the archangel Michael. My breath caught in my throat at the sight of him, shining with a radiance to match that of the Morningstar. That was the first time I felt a moment of hesitation.

And maybe that's why, when the trumpets sounded and the battle cry ripped from the throats of the two sides, I found myself disoriented, caught up in the swarm of soldiers, instead of joining in the charge. I was brought back to focus when the first enemy sword hit my armor. I deflected the next blow. And that's when I made the mistake of looking up. The face was one I recognized, that of my companion and friend Sashiel. Her face twisted into a shock and horror that I'm sure mirrored my own. But then I saw the sword rising again in her hands, on its path to cut me down. I lifted my own weapon to block hers, and then, before I became fully conscious of my actions, to slash across her body. She fell to the ground and cried out in shock and pain. Blood spread from her body, pooling in glorious light that reflected her blameless life. In her death throes, she grabbed my leg as I turned to run. "My sister," she could barely manage to whisper. "Why?" That was the first moment that I wished that I had made a different choice, that I had not been part of this cry to bring up arms against my brothers and sisters. But now it was too late for turning back. And so I tore myself from her weakening grip and ran across the field, slashing and fighting as I went. I no longer felt able of conscious thought or decision. I tore across the field, striking down anything and anyone in my path, like a rabid animal, I had no idea what I was doing. I was just fighting and wondering if I would live to see the end of this battle.

After what seemed like forever in a twisted time of blood and screaming, an unnatural silence fell over the field, and all stopped, frozen in place. My sword froze in mid swing, along its murderous descent to my next victim. A voice boomed across the supernatural quiet, full of wrath and power. "Rebels and rioters," declared the voice, one that sent cold shivers down my spine as it came from anywhere and everywhere, to consume and shake my being to its foundations. "You have lost this battle. Your numbers are greatly diminished, and you yourselves are on the verge of extinction. Surrender now and you will not die. Fight and every last one of you will be subjected to my full and just wrath."

The silence left in the aftermath of the all-consuming voice of the Creator hung over all of us, as smothering as a wet blanket. I felt a longing grow in my chest in the absence of His voice, a longing to run into the arms of my Maker and to be once again accepted by His love and mercy. But I knew that time was long past, that I was no longer a being of heaven. And so all that was left in that moment was a choice, one that was no choice at all. I felt a cry rising in my chest, one filled with anguish and misery. But before my grief could leave my lips, another cry pierced the silence. "Never! We will never surrender! We will have victory!" I turned with every other being on the battlefield to seek out the source of the rebellious shout. The Morningstar propelled himself up into the air upon his majestic wings, his proud face only more striking for the newly gained cuts and wounds. "Hear me, Creator, we will never surrender!" He shouted again. "We will be once again the greatest beings in existence!"

"Son of the Morning," Spoke the booming voice once again. "You were once my pride and joy. What has brought you to this point? What has driven you to this rebellion and desecration of your home?"

"It was you!" Shouted back the Morningstar, raising a fist in the air. "This is all your fault! You created those humans! You gave them your attention and affection, affection that only we deserve! You have turned your face from us, and so we must take back your devotion, by force if necessary!"

"So that is what all of this is about, your petty jealousy? All this killing is because you cannot stand to share my love?"

"They don't deserve it! They are not like us! They don't deserve-"

"Silence!" Declared the Creator, cutting off the Morningstar's outraged tirade. "Who created the heavens and the earth, all which is and was and is to be? Was it you? No! I am the Maker of all things, of you and all your followers. Who are you to say who is deserving of my devotion and affection? Who are you but a speck of dust! No, Morningstar, you are no longer in a position of such things. You and all your followers are finished in this place, banished forever from Paradise for your foolhardy rebellion."

"No!" Shouted back the Morningstar. "We will not be exiled! You cannot do this to us! My brothers and sisters! My loyal warriors! Come to me now! We will fight or die!"

I looked around the battlefield, meeting the eyes of my fellow rebels. I could see in their eyes the ghosts of the past few hours, of those they had killed and the pain the felt. I could see the uncertainty and weariness and misery. And I could see that they were done, done fighting, done killing. They were willing to take whatever punishment was dealt to them, whether exile or death. But they were not willing to raise arms against their Maker any longer. One by one, the rebel angels set down their weapons. Many fell upon their knees. A few wept or cried for mercy. But as for me, I drove my sword into the ground, letting it stand there, out of my hand but not bowed or broken. I also just stood there, a hollow feeling rushing over me. I knew I couldn't expect any real mercy or forgiveness, not after what I had done. And I didn't care. I was going to stand and meet my just fate, not beg for a love I didn't deserve and wouldn't receive.

When the Morningstar saw his soldiers lay down their swords in surrender, his face turned bright with outrage. "Cowards! Traitors! How dare you betray your cause? How dare you betray your birthright?"

I looked into his flashing eyes, and I felt none of the respect or admiration of only a few hours ago. Instead, my heart was filled with scorn. It was as if a veil had been lifted from my eyes, and I could, for the first time, see clearly. And what I saw was ugly and not at all what I had expected. The disgust that was aroused at the sight of the angel in the sky provoked my voice. "No, Morningstar," I said, my voice ringing with a surprising strength. "We already did that. We betrayed our birthright as children of our Creator the moment we followed you into battle. That is what marked us as traitors. But we will betray our Maker no more. We are finished."

"Finished?" He snarled, turning to me and pulling out his sword. "I'll finish you, you coward."

"Then do it," I answered simply, opening my arms to welcome his blade. "Either you will or the Creator will, I care not which." The Morningstar flew at me, his sword pointed towards my waiting embrace. But before it pierced my chest, a bolt of lightning struck from above, sending the Morningstar plummeting to the ground.

"How dare you?" Boomed the all-consuming voice of the Creator. "How dare you attack this unarmed creature of mine? Can you not see that the battle has been lost? Give it up, Son of the Morning, or face your final judgment."

"I will never give it up," Vowed the Morningstar from his position on the ground. "As long as I may live I will never stop fighting you, I swear it. On my life, I swear it."

"Very well," The sound in the Creator's voice might have been regret, but I couldn't tell. "Then I cast you out, Morningstar, Son of the Morning, from my holy presence. I give you the name Lucifer, for though you are shrouded in light, you walk in darkness. Now, be gone." And with that another bolt of lightning struck, hurling the brightest star from the heavens. "Now, as for the rest of you," Continued the Creator, and I braced myself for judgment. "You were my children and I loved you. But you foolishly followed Lucifer on his path of destruction, and you must a pay a price same as he. I have prepared a place for you to go, a place where my light does not shine and my presence is not known. This is your punishment."

It began with a mournful wail, torn from the throat of one of the condemned. Then it spread, first to another, then another- a thousand voices crying out with the grief that sprung from the deepest soul of their being. Then, all was chaos. Beings surged towards each other, no one quite sure of what they were doing. But I did. I knew that this place that they would send me to would be the greatest torture my soul could possibly endure. I also knew it was what I deserved. But if I was going to leave my beautiful home, I would do it of my own volition, not by force. And so, in the chaos I started to move again. I pulled by sword from the ground with a mighty heave and returned it to the sheathe by my side. Then I began to run, weaving my way through the masses of chaos and confusion. I set my sights on my goal and saw nothing else.

Soon I reached the darkness that signified the end of heaven. Maybe others followed, maybe not. I didn't know, because without hesitation, I threw myself into the void, embracing the inky darkness.

When I landed on the earth the sun had yet to dawn on the first morning of the new earth and all was silence. I knew that it would also be silent when I died, my body cold before the sun welcomed the world into its new existence. That's why I hadn't bothered to run, or even stand. Instead I had crawled on the ground, lacking the strength or motivation for anything else. I had dragged myself several feet away, under the protection of a large tree. There I had collapsed and waited.

The Creator would send soldiers after me, I knew it. He could not allow any to escape, to avoid His wrath. I decided that when they came I would not fight, would never again raise my sword against my brothers and sisters. Instead I would stay my blade and die. But at least I would perish on this earth that I had been willing to go into the heat of battle against. The last this I would see would be the world that housed the humans that had caused such a faction in heaven.

I break from my reverie when I sense his presence. The alert doesn't come from a rustle in the bushes or a twig snapping on the ground, but a sense deeper than that, one that's forged only through the bond that can be formed in our kind. I glance up, seeing him standing above me. "Hello, Michael," I say. "Come alone? That's a surprise."

"Pick up your sword, Desislava," he says his voice cold.

"Desislava?" I reply, unable to stop myself from speaking. "Has so much changed that I'm no longer Dessie?"

I might see something twitch in his hard face, some sort of regret or longing. But in the next second it's gone, replaced by the cold, impassive mask. "Pick up your sword," he says again.

"No," I answer simply.

"I do not want to kill an unarmed adversary," he said, spitting the words out through clenched teeth, his frustration rising.

I let out a harsh laugh. "That's why I'm choosing to not lift my sword."

"I said I didn't want to kill you. I didn't say I wouldn't," he shot back. "Now fight, or die a coward."

I shrug. "I'm going to die anyways. What does it matter if I do it here on the ground or standing to face you? I don't care. But you will. A thousand years from now, when you look back on this moment, you will see the choice I left you with. You can kill me, an unarmed foe, and live with it. Or, you can let me go, and live with that. Choose the path you'll be able to stand for eternity, because that's how long you've got to live with yourself. But as for me, I will not lift my sword against you." And to prove my point, I unstrap my scabbard and toss it to the side, never once unsheathing the blade. "There. Now make your choice."

The indecision on his face is now written clearly across his disturbed features. Finally, after what felt like an eternity he speaks. But what he says, I had not prepared myself for. "Why?"

"Why?" I repeat listlessly. "Why what?"

"Why would you do this? Everything was perfect, Dessie. It was perfect. We were strong and powerful and beautiful and we worshipped the Creator with every breath we took. We had everything. We even had each other. So why would you ruin it? Why would you jeopardize His love? Why would you jeopardize mine?"

"So you don't love me anymore? I can't say I blame you."

"I didn't say that." I look up into his face again. The pain in his voice is written out across his face, and I want nothing more than to bury myself in his embrace.

But I know the time for that is long past. So instead I sigh and say quietly. "So, here we are. And you're still left with a choice. What are you going to do?"

The sound of his metal sword ringing against his leather scabbard as he unsheathes it rings throughout the predawn silence. I can feel his gaze on me, scrutinizing me. But I do not meet his eyes. Instead, I stare at the ground, knowing it will be the last thing I see. I wait, and wait. But there is no sound of the sword cutting its path through the air, no hard bite of metal against my neck. Instead, I jump as something heavy strikes the ground. I glance up in surprise and see his sword lying on the ground in front of me. My eyes travel from the metal weapon to his face, determined and decided. "Go now," he says. "Take your life, or at least what's left of it. But take care that we never cross paths again. Because they moment we do, I will kill you."

I nod in understanding and pick up my sword again and secure it to my waist. Then I stand and look him levelly in the eyes. "Goodbye Michael."

"Goodbye, Desislava." And with that he turns and walks away, returning to his heaven. I will not see him again for over a thousand years.