Power Awakened Chapter 4
I can see there’s something wrong with Mara. She is stunningly beautiful, filled as she is, as we all are, with the Spirit of God. Her face is turned slightly upward and resonant with light from within as well as without.
I can’t imagine a face more perfectly formed. Although, I suppose it is easy to think that here, in this place. Everything here is perfectly formed and the more one looks the more one sees exquisite perfection.
It isn’t a static thing though. It is a perfection that’s in constant flux. Constant movement, changes in temperature, changes from light to dark, fluctuations of sound, all of these things are what make it all so wonderful. Then everything will become still and quiet, and I’ll be confounded once again.
How is it possible to be immortal, yet eternally surprised? Eternally delighted?
Mara has a smile on her face, but it seems brittle. She seems brittle. Like a thing that’s been dropped and glued back together. Cracks are showing, but it isn’t His Light that’s spilling through. It is something else. Something… other. She almost appears to be in some sort of distress, but that’s confusing. Why should her existence be stressful? This is bliss.
I glance around at the other angels, bustling to and fro. They are all going about their business, each with their assigned tasks and duties. I can’t even begin to imagine what those might be, but I don’t have to. These angels are not my troops. I have a certainty, a knowing in my Spirit, that whatever they are doing, they are doing it for the Glory of Him. I rest easy knowing that His work will be done. That is as it has always been, and as it will always be.
Mara, however is merely gazing into the distance. She sits still, doing nothing, that odd smile distracting from the beauty of her face. It’s almost as if her attention is focused half within and half without her body. It’s abnormal, an aberration in perfection, and I can sense the inner fissure.
When she turns her gaze on me, her lazy manner reveals she has been aware of me watching her all along. Her smile doesn’t falter, nor does it grow. It’s a fake smile, no sincerity contained within it. Her eyes are gray, shining, dimly lit… but it is not a heavenly light. It’s the light of an imposter.
The sight of her like this sends a chill rippling through my body. As the leader of an immortal army, I have seen countless wondrous and terrifying things, both in heaven and on earth. I have delivered Divine judgment without question, and my sword has always been unflinching and true.
I’ve witnessed death upon death, and I’ve slowly begun to understand that amidst all the ugliness and rebellion, death is a stark contrast for life. How can one come to appreciate truth and light, that which is without spot or blemish, if one does not first witness what is broken and corrupt?
That insight has been of small comfort to me when the blood has been so deep I’ve had to wade through it, when I’m navigating through darkness so profound that almost nothing can illuminate my path, not even the glimmering sword raised high above my head.
I have found awful things thriving in such darkness and I have destroyed them without remorse. I have led my warriors into battle and I have scorched the face of the earth, not ceasing until the bones of my Creator’s enemies blew apart like the petals of a dandelion.
I have killed creatures with no innate right of their own to exist, creatures who have forced themselves onto the earth and inserted themselves into humanity in defiance of Him. Yet none of this prepares me for how I feel when Mara looks at me. It’s like a punch in the gut.
“What is happening to you?” I blurt.
And there it is, out in the open, but Mara’s expression doesn’t change. The lack of animation signals to me that she isn’t trying to hide that there’s something wrong with her, at least not from me. I frown. But why not? Why wouldn’t she try to hide it?
Mara tips her head to one side, her coal black hair spilling over her shoulder. She seems to be considering my question. All the while she maintains that beatific smile, vacant and phony. I come to a stop a few feet away her, and I can see that on closer inspection, her skin is taut and tinged with gray, as is if she has been suffering from an illness for some time. But that’s impossible. Angels don’t get sick.
Not bothering to answer, or perhaps unable to, Mara turns her gaze back to the horizon. It’s a beautiful one, laden with more colors than any human eye could ever perceive. Sheer splendor unfolds before us, and Mara watches it with an air of wonder and sadness. It’s as though inside, she’s reaching for something she knows is impossible to obtain.
Her voice reaches me, her tone laced with reflection. “Are you happy, Kaeden?”
I am taken aback, not only that she is asking such a thing, but that she is asking it of me. Mara is a leader among leaders. I am her junior. Plus, there is no need to ask such a thing. There is no place for it.
“Mara, what are you saying?”
She turns her head in my direction once more, and I cringe inside. Her expression has gone cold. All hint of wonder and what I thought was sadness are replaced with ice.
“Are. You. Happy.”
Something flickers in her eyes, and now she stares at me like a cat might look upon a mouse trapped under its paw. Curious, but not entirely invested in the answer.
“Yes,” I reply, my tone cautious.
Mara stares at me for a long moment, before she turns her beautiful face back toward the tapestry of color and light that permeates the heavens.
Silence stretches out between us.
“Do you even know happiness is?” she asks at last. “Do any of us really know anything? Aside from what He chooses to reveal to us.”
“Mara, where are you going with this?”
She smiles at me then and this time it’s a real smile. I don’t smile back, because we both know where such conversations lead. The more important question is where such ideas begin.
“I’ve been spending time down there. Among the humans,” she clarifies. “They are so… frail, and yet they behave as though they are immortal. They all cling to something. If not Him, then to lies of one kind or another. Their days are so terrifying. And yet, they have such emotions. They feel love and pity and remorse all in the same minute. It sounds awful, I know, but… I can understand the fascination with them.”
From the way she is talking, I can’t deduce whether she is referencing our Creator or the fallen angel, the one called Lucifer. At least that’s what he was called before he fell. Now he’s called by another name, and his madness has permeated the earth and plagued humanity ever since he and his friends were banished from the heavens to the Hell realm. There is a glint in Mara’s eye, because she knows I can’t tell which one she is referring to either.
“I’ve been thinking about what it must be like down there,” Mara says. “Among the humans, I mean. I’ve been wondering what their lives are like.”
I shake my head, not liking the direction this conversation is taking. “We belong here, Mara. As He created us to be.”
“Do we?” Mara asks, forcefully enough to blow the hair back from my face. And just like that, suddenly she is animated, her voice passionate and careless. She rushes through her next words, barely restraining herself from yelling in frustration.
“I want to know what it is to laugh in the face of death, as they do. I want to make love just to feel alive, as they do. I want to share myself with another and live by that imperfect dice throw of reproduction, not by my right as an angel.”
I cast a worried glance around, but no one is paying any attention to us. My voice is sharp, “You shouldn’t be talking like this.”
“And yet here we are,” Mary says her tone flat.
I give her a perplexed look. “Why would I want to feel pain? Why would I want to know that I am going to die and create children who are also doomed to die?”
“Because I suspect that we’ve never really felt anything, until we feel as one of them.”
I shake my head. “Even if you’re right—and you’re not—what you are talking about is prohibited.”
Her lip curls. “Yes. And I intend to find out why.”
“Why do that?”
A ghost of a smile crosses her features. “Because knowledge is power.”
“But we don’t need to know. He already knows all.”
“He doesn’t know me,” Mara whispers. We both know that isn’t true though.
Still, I respond anyway. “Then neither do I.”
“Kaeden, I know that what I’m saying isn’t new to you. I have seen you hesitate on the battlefield. I have seen you watching men with their women and women with their children. Your eyes shine when you look upon them. You like it down there, every bit as much as I do. You want to be one of them.”
I give her a warning look. “You’re going too far.”
“If what you say is true, then you can lie to me, you can even lie to yourself, but you can’t lie to Him. Sooner or later He’ll root you out like a weed and cast you down. You should live on your own terms now, while you still can.”
“The pure of heart will…”
“Everything changes,” Mara says, cutting me off. “Something is going to happen that’s going to shake the very foundation of the heavens. Everything here will be lost, because it’s based on lies and deception. Leave. Leave with me and leave as a leader, on your feet. Don’t leave as a refugee. I wish to spare you that.”
“Whatever your planning, you’ll fail.” I keep my eyes trained on her, and wonder how quickly I can draw my sword if I need it. I’ve seen Mara close in on people, leaving them unable to draw their weapon due to her proximity. She normally follows up the move up by cutting off their head or otherwise gouging them with her dagger. I’d hate to fight her, but I would do it if I was commanded to. Or if whatever madness that is possessing her causes her to attack first.
“The thing you fear has already begun,” she says. “I will leave.”
“And if I’m sent for you, I’ll do my duty,” I respond woodenly.
Mara’s tone is patronizing. “I think you’re a wonderful angel, Kaeden. So brave. So strong. But if I see you again, I will have to kill you. I won’t hesitate.”
I stiffen. “Now that you’ve said that, you know I can’t let you go anywhere.” I slide my hand toward my sword. Mara giggles, the sound shrill and not beautiful at all.
“As if you could stop me.” She shakes her head at me and smiles, studying me carefully, as if she’s memorizing my face. “Do you know what happens when one angel kills another angel?”
She waits, a poisonous silence trickling out between us.
Finally, a sigh. “I didn’t want to leave without giving you the chance to join us, Kaeden. But if you try to stop us, I’ll see that you find out just what dying feels like. If you do manage to find your courage, we are leaving tonight.”
“Who is “we”?”
Mara smirks. “Did you think I couldn’t convince a few angels to come with me? Please. I’ve led entire battalions into His wars with nothing but this,” she says, pointing to her mouth. “The only angel this has never worked on is you. It’s why I made you my second. It’s why I respect you. It’s why I admire you. It’s why I wanted to give you a chance to make the right choice. Obviously, I made a mistake in judgment.”
In one fluid motion she rises to her feet and begins to walk away. “What do you intend to do down there?” I ask to her back.
She turns to face me. “I intend to know them. I intend have my fill of them, in any and every way I choose. As has He.”
“It’s prohibited to show yourselves to them. It’s been decreed,” I remind her.
“Oh, I intend to do more than merely show myself. I intend to share myself. Why should creatures as magnificent as us be locked away up here? Why not go where we will be appreciated? Worshiped? Feared? Loved? If you think about it—and I know you have, Kaeden—there are really dozens of reasons to leave and only One reason to stay. I’m not afraid to be away from Him anymore. I wish you knew what that was like.”
My stomach turns, sickened by her words. “I’m only afraid for you, Mara.”
She purses her lips, making a tsk tsk sound. “What a waste. What a waste.”
I try again. “Mara, humans can’t even stand to look at us too long. They can’t handle it.”
“Then I’ll find one who can.”
“You really think you can lie with a mortal man and not destroy him in the process?”
She waves a hand, dismissive. “Of course not. I have no such illusions.”
I suck in a breath. “Don’t you care?”
Another silence fills the air, rising from the ground up until I’m almost choked by it.
“I want a child, Kaeden. And I want a child that can die.” Her eyes are almost glowing with the wonder of it. “I want something that is precious, something that is mine. Something that is valuable simply because it can be taken quickly, permanently, easily.”
I wince. “Why would you wish that on yourself?”
“Because He gave it to them, to those weak little mortals, and I want to know why! Knowledge, Kaeden. Knowledge is power!”
“Now you’re talking as Lucifer did,” I mutter. There. I said it.
“As Lucifer does,” Mara corrects me. I flinch, not liking the implication behind those words. It means she’s been communicating with him. That much is certain, although the how and the why aren’t as clear.
I give her a beseeching look. “Mara, don’t go. You can still change your mind, turn away from this way of thinking.”
“There’s only one thing can keep me here,” Mara says. “And you know what it is.”
“Mara, we can’t.”
She steps closer, her body brushing against mine. “You know I’ve always wanted you, Kaeden. Touch me. Lie with me. Worship me. Even though you risk losing everything; your mind, your body, your place by His side, your soul. Do it. Do it for me.”
“You know I can’t. I won’t.”
She laughs, then gestures toward the human realm. “Maybe not. But they will.”
I make one last, desperate plea, hoping the Mara I once knew is still somewhere inside of her. “Mara, are you truly prepared for this? Do you really know what you’re doing?”
She turns away, tossing a glib taunt over her shoulder. “See ya, Kaeden. I’ll call you if I ever need someone to look after my kid. I can’t think of a better guardian than you. After all, you never put a foot wrong, now do you? You’ll be perfect for wiping it’s mortal, stinking ass.”