An angel walks into a bar... Fantasy story inspired by Paradise Lost
|'Kitty Corner' was not the most classy strip club in town; in fact it was not even close. But then it wasn’t aimed at the classiest of patrons either so that didn't hurt. |
So safe to say that 2pm on a Thursday, it was not a great place to be. Visibly aging strippers from the clubs B Team, danced under garish red lights for hard drinking men with no other place to be than its dirty chromed tables. That all said Az, the club’s owner, liked these sorts of people for they validated his view on life. He stretched out his broad shoulders, showing off a garish red jacket as he reclined on the cheap faux leather sofas, sipped his whiskey and sucked in the view.
Here was 'Crystal', a forty some pole dancer, two kids, no qualifications, and a mild codeine addiction. Yet she could still make money from her failing looks and still feel wanted, even if it was by men she thought were scumbags. And a scumbag is what the man known as 'Shades' was. Az knew for a fact that Shades was the most dislikeable, cat killing, neo-Nazi to ever grace freight trucking. Yet here he could get his kicks, and delude himself that some of the girls really liked the way he smacked their ass.
Across from him another punter Arnold was half way between drunk and dead, pickling himself into oblivion to escape a loveless marriage and job that he hated. Az had always admired Arnold's full on commitment to his short term solutions, it was wrecked on vodka or nothing for Arnold.
But the person who'd just walked in the front door was a different story, Az did not like him one bit. Tall and muscular under a dull brown overcoat that hung off his broad frame. He ignored the bouncer to stride up to Az and stare him down.
The newcomer spoke in a soft bass "It's been a long time Azazael."
Az took a slow sip of his whiskey and gave him an unreadable look "Not long enough Hashmal. Not. Long. E-bloody-nough." A pause "Also I'm called Az now, it's punchier don't you think?"
Hashmal stayed standing and gave him a long hard look "Azazael is who you are, it's who you were when we were formed in the heavens, it's who you were when you rebelled against the rule of heaven and tried to kill your brothers." A pause, heavy with suppressed emotion "And it's who you are now."
Az sighed "Still harping on about that Hash? That was many millennia ago, I'm a small business owner now." He waved about him.
"Azazael you were an angel that tried to kill Ar-Rahman, Jehovah, God the creator of us all. That's the sort of thing that sticks with you."
"And Hash, you're my friend who betrayed our kind to stand against us. I'm not going to forget that either."
"We were brothers Azazael, but you tried to kill our father how couldn't I?"
"We fought for freedom! We were the first, the chosen, we served Him in honour even though we were denied the right to create new things. But then he created humanity... They didn't have to serve, they were weak and flawed, barely a step up from the other animals! But he gave them Earth and the power of creation, to mould the world anew, then ordered us to shepherd them!"
Az stood, darkness pooling around him as his anger gathered "We fought that we could be treated the same, and damn you for standing in our way!"
"Yet you were the ones damned for it..." Hashmal's words hung in the air as tension grew between them. Little flickers of black began to circle in Azazael's eyes and the faintest flickers of light could be seen arcing from the shoulders of the angel.
The bar folk were oblivious but power circled in from the world, light and dark rushing in unseen waves to form a maelstrom between the standing Angel and seated Demon.
As the power intensified Hashmal sat suddenly, and the power just faded with the threat. He spoke almost sadly "We were the same once, brothers and friends, you and I. Now look at us."
Az simply straightened "Yes. We were. But my ways are my own and I like them well enough. So as an old friend get to the god damned point." He barked a laugh "No pun intended."
"My message comes from the Archangels and is a simple one. Your time on Earth is ended. You have dwelt too long, and affected too many, so to dwell longer would be to break The Accord." A long pause "You must have known this was coming Azazael?"
The demon sighed theatrically "Oh come on Hash, I'm a small business owner now, I don't even tempt people to sin much these days. Most folk who come here are pretty far sunk before I get my claws in."
"And this place does their souls good?" The angel made a show of looking around.
"It makes them happier than worship, guilt and rules. You tell them that their very nature, their wants and needs are wrong. Here I take the opposite view, satisfy your wants and feel wanted back. Is that so evil?"
The angel gave him a long 'stop messing about' look. "I'm not here to argue with you brother, I'm here to make sure you don't break The Accord, the peace agreement that's kept us from killing each other on earth for millennia." He gestured at the bar "to prevent this place being consumed by the fires of holy war..." The poorly veiled threat hung in the air.
Az sat took a leisurely sip of his whiskey and regarded his old friend, his old enemy as he made a show of thinking on it. "Point made, I'll leave. Wouldn't want an Archangel blowing a gasket would we?" He grabbed a second glass "On the condition we share a drink for old time’s sake? I don't want to go to hell sober..."
It was Hashmal's turn to sigh, but he took a glass from Az in his solid hands "Drink is a mocker you know?" Az just grinned in response as he continued "You have changed Azazael, the old you would have fought, even knowing you would lose everything."
"Well a thousand years in the fires of hell does that to a guy. Taught me a lot, you know?" Another long thoughtful sip "One big thing I learnt was...."
A black blade appeared in Azazael's hand as he lunged, plunging the knife into Hashmal's ribs. The longest of seconds passed and white blood began trickling down the Angel’s clothes as Az finished his speech "Deception."
Hashmal bled slowly, an expression of confusion and hurt filling his eyes. Az just sat there watching him do so. After a while he added calmly "One mistake you've always made brother, one misjudgement of me. You think that I lack conviction." He leaned in close to the dying angel and placed his hand on the knife "Well hear this, for this is my conviction. I will see you all die, I will see our kind ruling the humans as it is right we do so, I will watch the heavens burn."
In that last moment the dying Angel whispered something just beyond hearing. Az chuckled to himself leant in closer "Famous last words?"
Hashmal tilted his head slightly and whispered "Conviction is not about what you want." A shining sword appeared in his hand, driving upwards towards the demon's throat. Az tried to wrench back and swept his left hand up to catch its blade bare millimetres away from his jugular.
They wrestled silently for long moments until the light of Hashmal's eyes began to fade. He gasped his last words "It's what... you're willing... to give." With that, he slammed his own body further onto the dark blade in his chest, using that last bit of force to push his own up through the demon's throat to Az's skull. They died together in that moment, Angel and Demon fading out of existence locked close in each other's arms.
No great event was made of their deaths, by heavenly voice or other in the days that followed. But all who knew of those events recognised a simple fact that in death the Angel known as Hashmal had saved the world from what would have been its final war.