The glowing red eyes turned their attention to the headlights making their way up the southbound arm of the crossroads. It was a sports car, like a newer model Ford Mustang, blue with two grey racing stripes going from hood to trunk. As it approached the intersection, the Mustang slowed to a stop. A young woman got out of the driver’s side, a large mason jar cradled in her thin, ghost white arms. Her dirty blonde hair was pulled up in a high ponytail, the bottom of which just barely swung between her protruding shoulder blades. Murky green eyes set in sunken eye sockets rested above heavy bags. She could not recall the last time she ate or slept, and lately the rush of energy from the Monsters and Red Bulls she chugged on an hourly basis wasn’t quite enough to chase away the blood red shadows on the edges of her vision. Only the promise of the reward that awaited her once she completed her mission, and the dreadful knowledge that she had already done too much to turn from her present course, kept her going. It wouldn’t be too much longer now. All she had to do was dig a hole, write a circle, say a few words in a really old language, pour the disgusting contents of the jar into the hole, and wait for the dark entity this would summon to appear before her. It was simple really, and the easiest part of her instructions so far. A lot simpler than draining that poor old man of his blood had been at any rate. The way he’d looked at her as his life pooled around him…she pushed the unease and guilt away with a shake of her head and popped the trunk. She had work to do and couldn’t afford to let the past get in her way.
Creeping down the northbound arm of the road was a young black woman and her angel companion. The angel, in the guise of a Palestinian man in his twenties, led the way. Adorning his dark brown arms were what appeared to be super realistic tattoos of eyes in various states of alertness. These covered his entire body and served as feeling, seeing eyes. His human companion, who he was dragging behind him through the thickening foliage, had once jabbed the eye in the middle of his right palm, and the shock and pain of it had him swearing in ancient Sumerian for two straight hours. A half mile from the crossroads he suddenly halted, barely noticing when his companion smashed into his broad back and fell into a blackberry bush with a muffled curse. He crouched next to her struggling form and pressed a finger to his lips, and she stilled with a soft groan. “You could have given me a warning before you stopped, Gabriel,” she whispered furiously after she managed to free herself from the thorny bush. “What if I had broken this jar of holy water you insisted we needed?” He held his hand out and helped steady her as she crouched next to him. Both their eyes were fixed on the dark figure moving around in the light cast by the car.
“I would have prevented the jar from breaking if I thought you were heavy enough to break it, Jamika, but you’re not as heavy as you think nor was I going fast enough for that to happen,” he finally said. Jamika sighed and rearranged her thin jacket to fit more comfortably around her frame. The night had a slight chill to it despite being the middle of July, and Gabriel could only ascribe the unnatural chill to the actions of the young woman presently laboring half a mile down the road.
“I never thought my life would be in more danger in my own hometown than it ever was in Iraq or Afghanistan,” Jamika said after ten minutes of silence. Gabriel thought about this for a moment then nodded. His young companion was only twenty-three years old and had been involved in two human war campaigns that she managed to return from relatively unharmed. She served her country honorably and well, and she reasonably expected to be safe once she came back to her hometown. Yet here she was, not yet six months out of the service, and her life and soul were in danger. “Not just your life, dear Jamika, but your soul as well. Though you were chosen for this, the danger to you is still very real,” he said quietly. Jamika grimaced but nodded, and Gabriel could tell she was slipping into that curious place a human’s mind went to when battle was near.
“Alright, so what do I need to do to stop Gwenn, and what are you going to be doing while I’m stopping her?” Jamika asked, her eyes trained on the slight figure of Gwenn steadily digging a hole in the middle of the crossroads. Gabriel shifted and allowed his eyes to open. He knew his eyes were open and glowing by the quiet whimper that escaped his companion’s mouth. Ignoring her awe and fear, Gabriel allowed his senses to flow out of his vessel and into the physical world around him. They were surrounded by minor demons on all sides. The glowing eyes that comprised their physical bodies on the mortal plane were all trained on the human woman at the crossroads though the ones closest to him either stared at him in abject horror or were banished from the mortal plane by the sheer strength of his angelic aura saturating the air around him. He shifted his attention away from them and focused on the demonic entity sitting in the passenger seat of the Mustang. The demon had encased itself in the body of some typical black haired, blue eyed young man, and the youthful face seemed to be engrossed in some game on the iPhone cradled in its host’s hands. Gabriel knew better. Those dark blue eyes stared unblinkingly at the young woman illuminated in the car headlights. A small cruel smile gently disfigured the thin lips. Gabriel remembered when the demon had been a sweet young angel named Raquel, but that was before. He wondered what name Raquel went by now.
“There are many minor demons and one of intermediate power in the area. They will try to stop you, so I will deal with them. They are not the issue anyway,” he said after he drew himself back into his vessel. The vegetation around him was lusher, and there were flowers blooming on all the plants. Beside him, Jamika was wiping tears from her eyes and wincing from slight sunburn. Gabriel brushed his thumb across one of her tender cheeks in apology. “Sorry about that, sweet saint, this is only my second time in a physical body,” he said softly. Jamika waved his apology away with an absentminded smile and began to take inventory of the supplies he’d told her to bring. She had the jar of holy water which she’d obtained under questionable circumstances, a can of salt, a lighter, one thick white candle, and the switchblade with the three-and-a-half-inch blade she carried in Iraq and Afghanistan and used to defend herself one fateful convoy. “It’s no big deal, Gabriel; I know you didn’t men it. You keep a pretty tight rein on all that scary archangel power you’ve got inside you, so I’d be stupid to think there wouldn’t be some side effects once you let a little bit out,” she said while handing him the knife. He took it and imbued the blade with sanctifying energy before handing it back to her and making his way forward. Jamika followed after him stealthily once she’d arranged her gear to her liking.
By the time they made it to the crossroads undetected, Gwenn was finished digging her hole and was busy tracing complex letters in the dirt with dark red liquid from another, smaller mason jar. The bite of iron wafting from the jar told Jamika it was blood, and the anguished cry of innocent blood gone unavenged made Gabriel’s hidden wings twitch. “We still have some time before she’s ready to summon the archdemon, but don’t be fooled: she doesn’t actually need to finish the written circle so long as she opens that other jar. If she does open the jar, you must do whatever it takes to keep the demon from taking possession of her body. I will attempt to confine the demon if it is summoned.” Jamika let Gabriel’s deep voice wash over her and soothe her agitated nerves. She had never been so afraid in her life, but something about him kept her steady. His being an archangel aside, Gabriel was the type of being you wanted next to you in a tight situation, and his unwavering devotion to his mission and his God always bolstered her own faith when she felt herself faltering. She looked at him fully for the first time in at least a month. Generally, she only allowed herself to look at him out of the corners of her eyes out of respect for the fact that he’s a divine hand of God and as such is not to be coveted or lusted after, but she wanted to have a full measure of him burned on her memory in case she never saw him past this night. Though it was pitch black all around them, the light of the headlights was enough to showcase his lovely curling black hair and topaz skin that, in the sunlight, shone a dazzling array of browns. But his handsome face wasn’t his most defining feature. That honor belonged to the hundreds of eyes decorating his lithe form. Normally most of them were closed, the notable exceptions being the ones on the backs of his hands, palms, and the three on his neck, but now they were all open and staring out in all directions, slowly moving from left to right, up and down. The sight of all those wiggling eyes had her stomach turning over and over, so she pulled out her rosary and pressed the small crucifix at the end of it to her lips.
“I don’t think I have the strength for this, Gabriel,” she whispered. Her eyes were shut tight, and the fingers that held the jar of holy water were nearly white from the force of her grip. Again Gabriel touched her cheek, this time fully cupping it, and stroked the soft skin with his thumb. Jamika opened her eyes, and he noted the tears swimming in her beautiful brown orbs. The light of her soul pulsed gently around her and bathed him in soothing warmth. He smiled reassuringly. She truly was a beautiful saint. “Who do we call on when our own strength begins to fail us?” He asked. A smile tugged at her full lips around the crucifix, and her nose wrinkled up in that particular way of hers that always made his chest tight and his wings flutter. He took his hand away and nodded towards the still laboring Gwenn. She was writing the last few words of her circle. “You’d better get going, sweet saint; she’s nearly done.” He said, his eyes once again focused on the demon in the passenger seat. It still had not noticed their presence, but that wouldn’t last for much longer. Jamika readied herself, tucking the rosary into her shirt, and began to stand. Gabriel gripped her arm and gave her one last long look. “The Lord be with you, Jamika,” he said, voice barely able to make it past the lump in his throat. She removed his hand tenderly and smiled, her eyes bright with the fire he’d seen in many a saint and martyr’s eyes. “And with your spirit,” she said and stepped out of the foliage and into the light of Gwenn’s Mustang.