Tonight, as soon as my head hits my pillow, I fall asleep. But this time, for some reason, I’m consciously aware of being asleep -- of dreaming. In the dream, I’m standing on the edge of a cliff overlooking a turbulent sea, and a strange force seems to be pulling me towards it. I try to run away from it; my feet carry me swiftly, with ease, but when I look over my shoulder, the drop is still right behind me. In fact, it seems to be coming even closer.
“Help me! Somebody, anybody!” I scream at the top of my lungs, but just as I’d expected, no one comes.
Finally, the force pulling at me becomes irresistible, and I’m slowly dragged backwards. Losing balance, I trip over my own feet, but when I extend my arms to break the fall, my hands find nothing. I look up and realize that I’ve somehow already fallen off the cliff, and with that realization comes the feeling of plummeting... down, down, down...
Suddenly, out of nowhere, the voice of Seraphim Mortis begins to chant. “Venite ad me Angelus Mortis, propter quod ego sum Seraph, tu autem Angelus, et simul ad hoc tenemur per mortus.”
Come to me, Angelus Mortis, for I am the Seraph and you are the Angel, and together we are bound by death. The words send shivers down my spine, and I almost forget about my present dilemma.
The ground below rushes up, impossibly fast, and my feet slam into them with the force of two-ton barbells. The jolt of the impact rushes up my legs, but the pain that should’ve accompanied it does not take hold. I don’t pay any attention to the strange phenomenon, however; I’m too focused on the figure standing before me.
“Hello, Angelus,” Seraphim Mortis says with a smile. “Long time no see, hmm?”
I blink. “We’ve met?”
He sighs. “Oh, of course not. You wouldn’t know me... it’s just that you remind me of your ancestor.”
I laugh slightly in spite of the situation. “Are you high or something?”
His eyebrows draw together in confusion. “What is this ‘high’ you speak of?”
I roll my eyes. “Never mind. Just explain.”
“Well,” Seraphim starts, “I’m the creator of the Cosmo Prison, but I’m dead right now. I can only communicate with you because of your connection to my sister.”
“Your sister...” I muse. “Angelus Mortis, isn’t it?”
“What happened to her?” I ask.
“She died,” he replies bluntly. “She went to heaven, where the good people go... and I’m stuck here, in the place between earth and sky.”
“Why is that?”
Seraphim shrugs. “I have to ‘right an old wrong,’ as they always say.”
I narrow my eyes. “An old wrong... you mean the creation of the superhuman race.”
His piercing silver gaze meets mine. “I have repented. I will force Christy back into the world where she came from, and all will be well. All you have to do is follow me.”
“Really?” I snarl, suddenly angry. “You think you can just skip into my life, tell me what to do, and expect me to follow you? Even though you’re the Seraph of Death, guilty of inflicting pain upon my loved ones with your stupid superhumans?”
“Calm down, Angelus!” he commands.
“Angelus this, Angelus that!” I explode. “What the heck even is my connection to her? And my name is Alisha Qian, thank you very much; I’m not some cruddy spirit floating around up there--”
“Quiet!” Seraphim shouts. “You will not insult my sister! I’ll explain if you could just keep that little blabbermouth of yours shut--”
“I am not a blabbermouth--”
“SHUT THE ---- UP AND LISTEN TO ME!”
That gets my attention.
“Okay,” I mutter. “Listening.”
“Now that we’re all settled,” the Seraph says, although he’s still breathing hard, “I’ll start from the beginning. As children, my sister Angelus and I discovered that we had unusual abilities. She could see the past, present, and future. I... well, that’s something you must figure out on your own.”
“That’s something we’ll get to later. Patience.”
I sigh. “Okay, then get on with it.”
“All right, all right, no need to get angry again!” Seraphim throws up his hands, feigning surrender. “Anyways, I was young and arrogant... I believed I had the right to do anything I wanted. And I wanted to become the most powerful human alive.
“So, using my power, I summoned the demons from another world. I took their DNA and spliced it with human DNA, then inserted those mutated genes into an infant. Disgusting and unethical, I know, but when the demon infant grew, the outcome wasn’t actually all that bad. It resulted in a new race, and I called it a superhuman. This demon child was the first.”
The gears in my head start turning like mad. “The demon child, the first superhuman... that was Rachel, wasn’t it?”
He nodded. “Yes. In fact, she was so successful that I decided to try again. But this time, I did something differently. For this next superhuman, I experimented with his humanity. And inadvertently I took away his conscience, his sense of right and wrong...”
“So the result was Sid,” I murmur. “Cruel, cunning, and evil. You made him a psychopath.”
“It was an accident!”
“No need to give me excuses, Seraphim. Just tell me what you did to Christy.”
Seraphim Mortis sighs. “I wanted Christy to be the ultimate success, the very embodiment of unlimited power. I made her stronger, faster, and smarter than both Sid and Rachel, but as she grew, I realized that I’d made a crucial mistake. She was loyal to no one, and that made her dangerous. She worked only for herself.
“So I decided that something had to be sacrificed. It couldn’t be anything physical, of course, so I’d have to impede her mental capability somehow. I couldn’t make her dumber, so instead I cut back on her thought processes.”
“Isn’t that the same thing?” I ask, puzzled.
“No. See, she’s still smart and clever, but her ways of thinking is limited. She can be outfoxed using qualities unique to humans.”
I open my mouth to ask another question, but he cuts me off. “Enough on that! You wanted to know about Angelus Mortis, so let me tell you about her.”
I immediately lean forward with interest. “Angelus, my ancestor and your sister?”
He smiles. “Angelus Mortis, the Angel of Death. See, there are two ancient bloodlines that stem from my family: my own, and that of my sister. Angelus and I were like polar opposites. I was quiet and brooding and cruel; she was bright and loving and outgoing. Our descendants are the same. Anyways, Angelus found out what I was doing quite quickly, and tried to convince me to stop, but I wouldn’t listen. Not until it was too late...
“Angelus had two sons and a daughter. One night, Christy came and murdered the girl in her sleep, forcing my sister to watch the gruesome scene. That daughter was the joy of Angelus’ life, and she went mad afterwards.
“Now, I may have been bitter and merciless, but I loved my sister. So when she went mad, and committed suicide...”
Seraphim’s voice cracks slightly, although he almost covers it up. “I decided to take revenge on my own creations. I raised walls of obsidian from Vesuvius, and I unleashed the daemonion de inferna.”
A chill runs down my spine. Daemonion de inferna. Evil spirits from Hell.
“I trapped them within the obsidian and forced the superhumans inside. The walls became their prison, and I called it the Caelus Carcerem.” Cosmo Prison.
“The spirits stayed inside as well, sealing the doors shut, but I kept one spirit behind. I trapped it in a key that would open or close the Prison... just for emergencies. The key was passed down my line, generation to generation, until now. It was lost only a year ago, and now the Prison is open again. Coincidence? I think not.”
“So someone stole the key from your descendants?”
I scowl. “So it’s my job to find it now, isn’t it?”
Seraphim tilts his head. “You could do that. But there is another option.”
“What is it?”
“You can find my youngest and only living descendant. The last Seraph.”
“You must be dumb if you think that’s easier than finding the key,” I sneer. “I’ve never even seen any of your descendants before.”
He fixes me with a cold glare. “The key is in Christy’s possession now. Retaking it would be nearly impossible.”
“Fine,” I snap. “So what do I do once I find your descendant?”
“Take him to the Cosmo Prison,” Seraphim responds. “He is the last Seraph; it runs in his blood. He will know what must happen.”
I narrow my eyes. “The last Seraph?”
“Yes. If the Cosmo Prison closes, there will be no more Seraphs.”
“You mean his children won’t be considered your descendants any more?”
Seraphim sighs. “Don’t you understand? The last Seraph will never live to have children.”
“Let’s stop and rest, Dean. I can’t go on any longer.”
We’ve been travelling towards Obcasa for several hours now. My feet ache and burn like they’re about to melt.
Dean relents. “Fine, but only for one night. Tomorrow morning, we have to get to the Prison.”
I nod. “Just tonight. Can you make a fire?”
“Yeah, but first help me gather some dry sticks and leaves.”
Within minutes, a fire is roaring in front of us, chasing the chill out of my bones, but no amount of heat can warm the darkness in my heart.
Dean looks over and sees the look on my face. Too late, I try to conceal my pain.
“Come here, Sophie. I want to show you something,” he says.
I walk over to him wordlessly.
“I know you’ve had a rough time, but I want you to know that you still have to be strong. You are stronger than your weaknesses. I know you’re devastated, but you have to rise above your emotions and fight.”
I stare into the fire. “I can’t. I’m broken and weak.”
To my surprise, Dean shakes his head. “Broken and weak are two completely different concepts. Take glass, for instance. Glass is weak only when it is unbroken. Every time it breaks, a weakness is purged and it gets a little stronger, its edges a little sharper.
“You are like that piece of glass. There will come a day when you are completely broken, broken beyond repair, when you feel like the world around you has been reduced to dust. When that happens, you can’t give up on life. You’ll be broken, but you’ll be stronger than you ever were before. When you break, your edges will be razor sharp, and you must use the blades your trials have given you -- and fight back.”
Dean reaches into his pocket and pulls out a small, faintly glimmering object. I bend down to get a closer look and see that it’s a shard of broken glass, long and deadly sharp.
“This is my gift to you,” Dean says. He places the shard on my palm and closes my fingers over it. I brace myself for the sting of a cut, but it never comes.
“A piece of glass?”
He nods. “Not just any shard of glass. This one bears both a blessing and a curse. Slay an enemy with it, and a friend will die; slay a friend with it, and an enemy will die. One stab is enough to kill, but it will never cut you unless you will it to.”
“Thank you,” I say.
Dean sighs and stands up. “When the time comes for you to use it, you will curse me to the depths of hell for giving it to you.”He puts out the fire, and the night seems to swallow him whole.