“Good evening, Andrew.”
From the dimly illuminated
chair near the windowsill, Andrew looked back into the unlit
apartment. “Whatever you want, you’ll have to take it to
Gabriel.” The unwelcome presence made an already bad Holiday
The winged Cherubim stepped
into the light. Andrew momentarily turned and glanced at the
child-like Angel clad in patent leather shoes, black
ruffles, and lace.
“What is she doing?” Raphael
Andrew abhorred the idea of
serving under a few of the Choir’s more twisted
personalities, and this fool in particular. “She’s waiting
tables, the same as yesterday, and the day before. If you
check with Gabriel—”
"Silence, Nephilim.” Raphael
spoke with the pitch of a spoiled child. “Continue your
disrespectful tenor, and I’ll have that tongue.”
Andrew turned in his chair and
bowed ostentatiously. “How might I serve you, Raphael?” He
opened his eyes and met the glacier-blue stare of his
Master’s Master with a wry smile.
Raphael smirked, and turned
back towards the window. “For a start, you can answer my
Andrew nodded. “Since coming on
shift this evening, she’s performed her normal
responsibilities of waiting tables. Aside from the seven
other employees, she’s had no visitors.”
“That is better, Bastard child
of Fallen,” Raphael said. “When did you last hear from your
“Two months,” Andrew replied.
“It was you who approved my mission, wasn’t it?”
Raphael chortled and stared out
the window. “Has there been any sign of Fallen?”
The Cherub crossed his arms and
slightly fluttered his small wings. “Do you remember your
“Stay here and watch.” These
were the tasks given to Heaven’s land-locked soldiers,
Angels like Andrew. A descendant of Fallen, Andrew did not
possess wings, immortality, or rank. “And when required,
“And, do not interfere,”
Raphael added. “No Nephilim has ever stood against a
Raphael walked around Andrew,
his hands held to his back. His hard leather heels clacked
loudly against the bare cement floor. He reached and flipped
up the back of Andrew’s coat. “Your blade tends to speak
Andrew rose quickly, his chair
rattling across the loft. He twisted away from Raphael,
reaching around and adjusting the long, curved kukri
strapped to his back. Among the Choirs, his reputation for
violence always preceded him.
From the back of the apartment
came a new voice. “Raphael, you must forgive him. Andy gets
a little— enthusiastic, from time to time.”
There was the sound of
footsteps and steel dragging across cement. A tall figure
with a naked torso and large wings stepped into the light. A
monstrous unsheathed sword hung from his side.
Andrew fell to a knee, his head
“I could only hope to be the
cause of such a reaction,” Raphael said, annoyed by the
lowest ranking Angel’s genuine reverence.
Andrew grinned. “That’s because
you’re not dragging around an eight-foot sword.”
“Good to see you, Andy,”
Gabriel said, his hands resting on a worn, leather belt.
“Gabriel,” Andrew said. “It’s
great to see you.”
“Some teacher,” the Cherub
pouted, his eyes burning with jealousy at the sight of
Andrew’s Archangel. “You picked an interesting time to show
“Well, when a member of the
Second Choir shows up to interfere with my Angel, it tends
to draw my attention,” Gabriel said. “The Seraph have their
purpose here, Raphael. There is no need for you to check
“I’m not checking up,” Raphael
sneered, and pointed to Andrew. “I’m here to observe.”
“Gabriel, I don’t need to be
observed,” Andrew protested. “I’m overly qualified for your
There, he finally said it.
Andrew didn’t want to be here. Why did the Cherub’s plan
require him in particular? There were plenty of lesser
Nephilim fully capable of sitting in a chair for two months.
“Andrew, I’m sure Raphael has a
very legitimate reason to appear and personally supervise
this simple task,” Gabriel said. “Don’t you, Raphael?”
Raphael motioned to Gabriel,
and they quickly removed their conversation to the shadows,
where they could continue in private. Despite his distaste
for Raphael, Andrew was still uncomfortable listening to a
disagreement between two high-ranking Angels. He felt like a
child caught in an argument between parents.
For his part, Andrew sat back
in his chair and resumed his surveillance. He looked down
and across the street to a small diner tucked into the
corner of a large building. Even from four stories up, the
tall glass windows gave him an excellent view of the inside.
His assignment was Lisa, a
twenty-two year old waitress. Seven days a week, at eleven
a.m., she came to work. She put on her apron with its
ticket-book in the front pocket, and the usual assortment of
straws, loose change, and condiments. For the next eight
hours, she made a living providing services to her human
Andrew checked his watch.
Lisa’s shift would soon end, and his surveillance would go
mobile. Through the restaurant’s windows, he watched her
gathering boxes of the kitchen’s leftovers and placing them
into a large sack.
As Lisa’s hand reached for the
door, Andrew swung open the steel-framed window and allowed
the cold December air to blow into the room. He stepped out
onto the windowsill and glanced back. The two senior Angles
were gone and Andrew didn’t have time to wait for the result
of their conversation. He placed his feet into the breeze,
allowing gravity to claim his wingless form, and draw him
rapidly towards the hard street.
And, from a rooftop several
stories above, a small Cherub smiled.
“Post Proelia Praemia.”
There were a few surprised
gasps when he landed, but amid the throngs of revelers, he
quickly disappeared and made his way across the street.
After two years of delivering messages for the Choirs, he
discovered he could get away with anything as long as he
didn’t stick around for the television interview.
Plus, humans were too quick to
discredit the fantastic.
Andrew never lost sight of
Lisa. She arrived at the soup kitchen several blocks away,
and Andrew assumed his usual position of watching from a
shadowed fire escape across the street. After every shift,
she came here to deliver the diner’s extras for the city’s
less fortunate. From here, she would continue several more
blocks across town to her tiny apartment.
Tonight was different. People
filled the streets walking to the heart of downtown to
celebrate the coming of the New Year. Lisa walked out of the
soup kitchen and was immediately engulfed by a large crowd.
For a moment, Andrew lost sight of her, causing him to run
out to the middle of the street.
He closed his eyes and
concentrated. This was one of his talents, a keen awareness
of his subject’s location at all times. When he opened his
eyes, he watched Lisa’s blonde hair turn into a side alley.
Never one to encroach, he slowly worked his way down the
sidewalk when he heard a scream.
Lisa’s panicked shriek pulled
at him. At the alley’s entrance, Andrew hesitated.
‘And, do not interfere.’
Andrew wasn’t the most
steadfast member of the Choirs, but he did follow orders,
and his orders were to watch. Another cry for help, and he
abandoned his uncertainty, charging into the alley, and
quickly discovering the source of Lisa’s terror.
The man’s features and clothes
reflected years of hard life amid the city’s indigent
environment. Andrew recognized him as a regular from the
soup kitchen. This time, instead of holding a fork and tray,
the man held a rusty knife.
It didn’t take much to scare
him away. A verbal threat and a menacing posture had the
assailant running back to the alley’s dark recesses. Not
wishing to escalate the confrontation, Andrew followed him
only so far as to ensure Lisa’s safety.
Mission accomplished. Already
too involved, it was time to disappear. Lisa was on the
phone, presumably calling the authorities. Andrew kept his
head down and tried to walk passed.
“Whoa, tiger,” Lisa said.
Andrew felt a hand grab his wrist. “You’re not getting away
that easy.” Again, Andrew tried to leave, and again Lisa
responded with a firm tug.
She spoke into her phone. “A
man cornered me with a knife.” Their eyes met. Andrew looked
down. “He was chased away.” Andrew glanced up again; she met
his gaze and smiled. She smiled at him. “We’re at the corner
For thirty minutes, Andrew
found himself responding to the questions posed by the
city’s Police. This was the reason the Choir needed
mixed-blood Angels like Andrew. Born human, he possessed
identification, citizenship, and a history. He answered
their questions without raising any suspicion. Something
Raphael would never be able to do.
Between questions, Andrew stole
glimpses of Lisa over the Patrolman’s shoulder. “I heard a
scream from the alley.” He tried to look anywhere but at her
face. “I was just passing by, and heard her call for help.”
But each time, his eyes found their way back.
The Officers finished their
report and departed. They offered to escort Lisa home, but
She turned towards Andrew, “Are
you my guardian angel or something?”
Andrew grinned sheepishly. He
wanted to say, Yes, I’ve been watching you for two months,
but instead he said, “Sorry, nothing like that.”
“Why are you in such a hurry to
“I was just trying to help
out,” he said. “I apologize for any trouble. If you’ll
excuse me—” He tried to retreat, and again he failed.
She held his hand firmly. “It’s
New Year’s Eve, why don’t you let me thank you with some
dessert?” She released his hand and walked back towards the
To Andrew’s surprise, he
It was the longest ten blocks
of his life. Weaving between throngs of people, Andrew
couldn’t shake Lisa’s sweet fragrance. It was the first time
he recalled being close enough to smell her.
At the entrance, she held open
the door. Andrew paused to look across the street and up
towards his perch. He felt more comfortable up there looking
down. This setting felt too intimate.
“Let’s get a table,” she said.
He turned and followed her down
the path between the long counter and the booths against the
window. She looked over her shoulder at him with a half
smile. For a moment he forgot all about his mission and was
caught spellbound by the rhythm of her movement.
Andrew didn’t notice the bald
customer walk into him and knock him into a booth occupied
by a couple. He glanced quickly towards the door in time to
see a denim-clad man with a shaved head step out in to the
“I’m so sorry.” Andrew reached
and picked up the glass of water he’d knocked across the
Lisa doubled back to check the
commotion. “What happened?”
“One of your customers just
shoved him,” the woman said. She tried desperately to corral
the water from running off the edge of the table and onto
“I’ll have someone get that.”
Lisa motioned to the table’s server. “Are you okay?”
Andrew found his face inches
from Lisa’s, and was unexpectedly flustered. “I’m fine.”
“I can’t leave you alone for a
second.” Lisa grabbed Andrew by the cuff of his sleeve and
led him to an empty table in the back. She smiled at him,
again forcing him to look away. She spun around one of the
chairs. “Have a seat.” Lisa left and quickly returned with a
glass of water. “What do you want?”
“I’ll have the apple pie with
ice cream.” From his observations, it seemed to be the
popular choice. As Lisa scooted off, he did his best to get
comfortable despite the mind-numbing seasonal music
assaulting him from above.
He watched Lisa bounce off to
the kitchen. She always had a genuine smile even when
dealing with complete strangers. Her smile and the loopy,
blonde curls were her best features. She had a glow about
her others lacked. Up close she was— intoxicating.
He looked out the window.
Hundreds of passersby walked towards the heart of downtown
with their ridiculous outfits and silly hats. He didn’t
understand their behavior when he was human and now, even
He blinked passed his daydream
and found hot apple pie and ice cream materialized in the
middle of his place setting. He looked up at Lisa sitting
across the table, her blue eyes staring expectantly.
“Well? Are you going to eat it,
or admire it?” she teased.
Truth was, Andrew hadn’t picked
up a spoon in almost two years. Actually, he hadn’t eaten
food in almost two years, a benefit of Awakening.
The smooth vanilla ice cream
and glazed Granny Smith apples hit his palate, and conjured
a flood of memories. He enjoyed chasing the textures around
his mouth with his tongue.
“So, what’s your name?” Lisa
“Andy.” As soon as he said it,
the ice cream decided to escape from his mouth and onto his
lap. “Ah, sorry.” He couldn’t help but laugh. He’d forgotten
how to swallow, and Lisa laughed right along.
“I’m Lisa,” she said between
giggles. “Where are you from, Andy?”
Andrew forced down a lump of
dessert and discovered the long-lost and uncomfortable
sensation of swallowing something too large. He
instinctively chased it with the cold water.
Which promptly came back
through his nose.
“Oklahoma.” Water dribbled down
the front of his chin.
Lisa laughed again. “You’re
such a mess.”
“I’m not used to eating with
“Obviously,” she said. “What do
you do for a living?”
“I’m in security.” He needed to
turn the tables on the conversation. “What about you? Where
are you from?”
“Here, I grew up in the city.”
Lisa’s eyes tracked along several groups moving past the
long windows. “I wanted to leave, but ran out of college
money and had to drop out. So, here I am. But I have plenty
of time. I’ll finish my degree, then leave town.”
“You always get this personal
with your customers?”
“Only the ones who save me from
knife-wielding psychos.” She pointed down towards his plate.
“How’s the pie?”
“It’s been a long time since
I’ve had anything—” Andrew paused and took a moment to
swallow another bite. He leaned forward, resting his elbows
on the table. “—this good,” he added with a smirk. “You like
“I do, I like the people.
Obviously some are more interesting than others.” She looked
out the window. “Like you.”
He choked on another bite of
pie, this time miraculously keeping it in his mouth.
“Do you believe in
reincarnation?” she asked.
Andrew blinked. Twice. “Where’d
that come from?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “The
moment I saw you, I felt a kind of déjà vu. Do you know what
He paused and slowly chewed
another bite. He was sure the saying didn’t originally apply
to eating, but it really was just like riding a bike. Andrew
was considering how to answer her question without telling
the complete truth. He wasn’t the kind of Angel to lie. But
then again, with no wings, sometimes he didn’t see himself
as much of an Angel at all.
He swallowed again and smiled,
clearing his throat with a drink of water. “I think every
human being on this planet is connected in one way or
another,” Andrew said. “I think the earth is just a place
for mankind to hang out until it’s time to move on.”
“Do you believe in Heaven?”
“Absolutely,” Andrew replied.
I’ve seen it.
“But not everyone gets to go
there,” she said. “That’s pretty unfair.”
“Most everyone gets an equal
“What do you mean, most
everyone?” It was Lisa’s turn to throw a funny expression
across the table.
“Well, there are some
individuals out there who will never get the opportunity.”
People like me, he thought. “It’s not fair, and it’s not
unfair. It’s just the way it is.
“But you shouldn’t worry about
the next life,” he continued. “You have a lot waiting for
you in this one.”
Her chin rested on her hands
and melancholy touched her voice. “I guess I’m waiting for
happiness to find me.”
“It’s not something you wait
for,” Andrew said. “It’s something you take.”
“Have you found yours?” she
Andrew replied with a
half-smile full of ice cream. “I’m still looking.” Something
in her eyes caught his attention. Why didn’t I notice it
Lisa focused outside the
window, staring into the dark night. Her bright, blue eyes
made thousands of tiny movements, twitching back and forth,
examining each person and car moving past the restaurant.
Like a camera’s lens, her pupils dilated and restricted,
capturing images at amazing speeds.
Now Andrew understood the
reason for the two months of surveillance. Lisa didn’t know
it yet, but she was Awakening. Like Andrew, she was
Nephilim. The Choirs had discovered her first, but that
wouldn’t prevent Fallen from attempting to take her to their
He remembered when his Angelic
heritage awoke under the watchful eye of Gabriel, and opened
his eyes to a much broader existence. Any moment now, she
would evolve and be called forward to play her part in the
most ancient of wars.
“Am I boring you?” he asked.
“Sorry,” she said. “Lately my
life has been getting pretty dull. I think I’m ready for a
“Careful what you wish for.”
Just a little longer and it will get a lot more interesting.
“But I do appreciate the ice cream. Thanks.”
She let slip a sigh of relief.
“For a second there I didn’t think you were going to make it
to the table.”
“What do you mean?”
“The guy who knocked into you,”
she said. “He was a complete jerk all night. Just sat at the
bar giving me crap until he left. I thought he was picking a
fight with you, but he didn’t stick around.” She was
rambling and fussing with her drink. “Honestly, who tattoos
wings on the back of their head?”
Andrew looked around the
restaurant, first at the table where he knocked over the
water, then towards the door. His razor-sharp mind latched
on to a brief image of a bald man running out the door. He
rubbed his eyes, desperately trying to pull more information
to the surface.
“Lisa, what did the wings look
“Just a pair of wings pointed
Andrew cursed. There was an
Acolyte here, and I missed it.
He casually reached back under
his coat and undid the catch on the kukri. He looked outside
the window and let his eyes wander. He could process
hundreds of distinct images every second, rapidly
transitioning from one image to another, searching for
anything resembling a threat.
“Your eyes,” she said. “They’re
twitching.” Her eyes focused on his and did the same, taking
note of every insignificant move. She held her hands up over
her face. “It hurts.”
“Your eyes are pulling in more
information than you can handle,” he said, still scanning.
“You’ll get used to it.” If you survive the night.
“What did...” The rest of her
sentence faded as Andrew found the subject of his search. A
His scanning stopped, frozen on
the image of a large man standing in the window behind Lisa.
In his hands materialized an immensely long sword. He drew
it back, poised to strike.
As the blade entered the
restaurant, Andrew grabbed Lisa by the wrist and pulled. Her
body obeyed and followed his lead. The blade followed a
long, smooth arc, cleaving through glass and steel. At
first, the large, tempered glass window held. Then,
gradually, it vibrated and flexed, as a sea of cracks jumped
out towards the edges. Finally, it exploded. Andrew wrapped
Lisa under his arm and ran ahead as the glass blew inwards
and rained over the remaining customers.
He threw her over the long
counter. “Stay here.”
Where’s Gabriel? Andrew looked
back. The Fallen smiled and slung the long blade across its
Andrew looked towards the
entrance for an avenue of escape. As customers rushed out
the front door, four men fought against the flow of panicked
Acolytes were humans who serve
the Fallen, enticed by hollow promises of power and
immortality. Andrew unsheathed the kukri and charged the
front entrance. The Fallen’s Acolytes immediately drew their
weapons and opened fire.
Indiscriminate bullets cut
through air and panicked customer alike. Against Andrew, the
human firearms were a complete waste. Forged on Earth and
scribed in Heaven, his Nepalese knife sang through the air.
He used its flat edge to deflect the copper projectiles into
the ceiling, each impact resonated a tone worthy only of an
Lisa’s inhuman eyes followed
Andrew’s blurred movements as he darted between bystanders
and swatted bullets out of midair. The faster he moved, the
more everything around her stood still. She watched with
morbid fascination as he seemed to magically appear in the
middle of his enemies and artfully dismantle them with his
Against the backdrop of the
chaos, carnage, and panic, Andrew glowed. Like an Angel, she
With the blood of the Acolytes
still hanging in midair, Andrew heard a scream and turned to
see the Fallen pulling Lisa by her hair from behind the
Andrew shook off the fear
permeating his soul and charged, crashing his body against
the foe. Fallen were ancient creatures, bound to the Earth
by their hatred for the Creator.
Andrew felt every inch of their
hatred as the Fallen flung him through the window. He
crashed through the glass, then bounced and skidded across
the cold, damp asphalt to the other side of the street. Only
a wall of hard concrete brought him to a stop.
The Fallen pulled Lisa through
the window and dropped her into the middle of the street. He
pointed his obscenely large sword at her.
Andrew picked himself up off
the pavement. His razor sharp eyes searched desperately for
a crack in the armor of a creature whose existence predated
The Fallen knows, Andrew
realized. He knows Lisa is already Awakened. Andrew walked
into the street and circled his brazen enemy until he stood
“Can you stand?” Andrew asked.
“I want you to run,” Andrew
said, removing his eyes from the Fallen, and looking at her.
“I want you to run until you find your happiness.”
She slowly rose to her feet, a
puzzled look on her face. For a quiet eternity, she watched
the two men stare at each other.
When Andrew moved, she
Her eyes followed as Andrew
danced around the strange man with the large sword. They
moved so fast it defied reality. As the air filled with the
sounds of clashing steel, it became clear the larger man’s
sword overpowered Andrew’s small blade. Then Andrew made his
desperate and final attack.
Lisa watched as the Fallen’s
sword pierced through her hero.
The Fallen smiled, pleased with
himself at having skewered his prey. The young Nephilim
staggered and stared down at the sword running through the
middle of his chest. The Fallen looked into Andrew’s eyes,
searching for panic and despair. Instead, he found—
Andrew clenched his teeth,
reached up, and gripped the hilt of the attacker’s sword.
The Fallen faltered. Its confidence and satisfaction quickly
dissipated as Andrew pulled the sword further into himself.
The Fallen held out a hand, but
Andrew drove against him, the asphalt crumbling beneath the
pressure of his feet. When Andrew could draw himself up the
sword no further, he looked to Lisa.
But she was gone.
Andrew turned his face back to
the Fallen and grinned.
“No Nephilim has ever stood
against a Fallen.” He coughed. Looking at the silver finish
of the sword’s hilt, he saw it covered in his own blood.
The Fallen was puzzled. He did
not understand the futile struggles of such a useless
creature. Why was the Nephilim happy? The Fallen relaxed his
Andrew raised his hands and in
an instant, pushed them forward. The Fallen staggered and
Andrew was free. Andrew reached down and pulled the long
sword from his body. It clattered to the ground, and Andrew
fell to his knees.
The Fallen crashed to the
ground and lay motionless. Locked between the monster's
teeth was the brass and wooden handle of the kukri. The
steel blade protruded from the back of its skull.
In the distance, Andrew
listened to throngs of people counting down in unison and
culminating in a wave of cheers. He looked up as brilliant
red fireworks ignited the Heavens.
Then he collapsed.
His eyes focused on the corner
of the restaurant where just moments ago he shared a table
with a young waitress. In the dim light, Andrew read aloud
the inscription etched into the back of his blade’s handle.
“Post Proelia Praemia.”
After the battles come the
He smiled and as his vision
faded, he thought of apple pie and ice cream.
Lisa, find your happiness.
Andrew, God’s Foot Soldier, had
earned his wings.