golden even as nights grew pale
and long, the little light reminisced
glimpses of a tattered face;
it was with eyes that sought in
blindness that he reached for
a figure, and it was with intention
named for an angel he only knew
briefly that he became the little
brother named shealtiel, the one
who asked

and in bitter reconstruction, Heaven built its fabled trees from blood-soiled wreckage, planting wayward flowers and whispering of betrayals— for there were those that had almost-but-not and fewer that had remained wholly loyal.

in a skin that blossomed with
novel sensation, shealtiel recalled
few moments of infancy: there was
sunset, there was warmth, there was
one called abdiel who spoke like he
pained; in the midst of violent hands,
against a backdrop of peril, he stood
like a terrible specter, and had shealtiel
ever known such a love? it burned like
needy bile, retching ugly thoughts of
never finding his memory in the heaps
of lesser brothers or finding abdiel lesser—

so stood abdiel in further corners, sweeping up forgotten feathers, thinking of the light that saved him and of the others' scorn; it was known he spoke to lucifer, and it was known they had been closer, and it was known that murmurs were serpent temptations, seductive and lithe. he closed his eyes and remembered raum's face cast in desirous shadows, that he followed eager because lucifer made all the promises, and he was beautiful, and he promised

things that could not be delivered;
it was to raum that abdiel confessed
his staying, and it was for raum he felt
his only regrets, and it was with raum he sat
for stupid hours, "there is nothing hell has to
offer but sorrow, and there is nothing he has to
offer but lies; brother, i bid you stay, and i bid you
think of sense, and i bid you look at me, for i have—"

"seen light," raum dismissed, and he was enraptured, taken when Heaven lay waste to siege, when michael's sword rang in the last battle, and it was the traitors that fell. abdiel recalled anguish, recalled lucifer's smug visage, the way he said to michael—

"and so be it, so be it, for i have fallen
closer to the ones Father loves, and i will
break their backs and reap their souls and
take a power that Heaven hasn't known because
you're indebted to Father, to the quiet God, to the
God that speaks no longer, and i will take humanity
as my own pillaged prize, to wreck and loathe and conquer."

deep in sifting muck, abdiel knew should he seek survivors, he'd be stripped of privilege like every other who had considered. he thought of yellow and thought of gabriel and thought of raum and thought of michael, michael so steadfast and certain— gabriel less so, and gabriel had been gone for many days now, perhaps fled—

perhaps to earth, and earth looked like
a marble when shealtiel peered at it
from his perch, and he thought of when
he could see it more clearly and wished for
a better look; he remembered the beasts that
crawled upon it, he remembered the new things
striving in a lost paradise— humans, the wondrous
humans that abdiel had shown him: because earth is
beautiful, and angels are beautiful, and abdiel was pretty,
pretty big angel, absent imagery—

drowned, escaped consciousness, it was harder to grasp into the primordial stew; shealtiel's mind blurred its old wanderings, and new pictures, sadder landscapes, came to be his awareness. he searched and found the reconciled palaces, forests growing anew, but it smelled of desert, and it was michael who spotted the young angel—

"little brother," he began, but he was weighted,
God's perfect solider, and he had slain many, taken
lives he would not forget; in shealtiel's eyes he saw them,
and too stunned, he could not speak for many minutes—
"new brother, is it only after you have grown? lucky, little
luck, but have you seen gabriel? or abdiel? there were many
fled or lost, many i need or need to punish."

"abdiel," shealtiel repeated, but he shook his head, and michael had no use for one so strange and small, one that possessed a gaze like guilt. he left him in a flurry, and shealtiel had his own grasping, repeating over and over: abdiel, abdiel—

abdiel stood at the precipice of ice, where
the door had opened and was closed once more, but
beneath there was writhing, bubbling sulfur and stench
like horror; one whispered the whore of babylon was born
the day lucifer took his leave, and one whispered atrocity
was set forth, but abdiel knew there was terror before and
terror was constant, and somewhere there was a little light,
glowing— somewhere more distant was abbadon, but he thought
not of future war, not of past war, but of sun set, sunset.

gabriel, upon earth, heard the call of one child he had cradled, and shealtiel felt his comfort; gabriel was safe and avoidant, but shealtiel had no purpose for caresses that could only ghost his peripheral. he had only one wish, and it was growing strainful, every step that drew him nothing, every effort turned bare—

but abdiel realized he had to return, and they
crossed paths in a spring meadow, lit with lilac
fervor and full of fledgling chatter; said the birds of
Heaven and the saplings that knew no rot that their
meeting was eternal, locked forever in splendor,
even if shealtiel could only utter, "abdiel—"

but the angel bore no recognition, thought it was only a brother sent to find him, yet he smiled because there was something luminous in shealtiel's gaze. "i am returning because there is nothing for me elsewhere, and i never planned to leave; i just thought to survey all the damage, even in lands so far as these, and i accept that i will be distrusted. little brother, have you come to walk me home?"

"yes," was gasped like the first
prayer.