Gabriel was one of the few angels that only ever existed as an angel. Most angels had evolved from a human soul, experiencing a different life before becoming an angel. The same could be said about demons, but it wasn’t a thought that Gabriel liked to dwell upon. His main task was to watch and guide humans rather than keep the demons back. Angels like him were never made for eternal wars between good and evil. He worked on smaller tasks, most of them involving humans. They still made a difference, so he smiled and accepted his work with ease. It brought him to the paths of different humans throughout time. He watched them grow and die, most becoming angels after their death. There were some unfortunate ones who fell in ways he could never have predicted. He allowed them to go quietly into the arms of the demons, never adding another word to their fates.
No questions about his world and understanding left his lips since humans began to spread across Earth. One of his brothers had once said that Gabriel was more of an observer than an angel. Gabriel had just smiled at the thought.
There was only one time where things were different. It involved a single man.
Their first encounter ended dramatically. It was to the point where the angel allowed time to snatch up his memories and bury them in a desert of blowing sand. It was too painful an experience to allow himself to relive, whether through his own wishes or the dreams that managed to slip into his conscious. They were not completely erased. Instead, he had them dulled and summarized with words rather than feelings. It was enough to keep them out of his thoughts on most nights. All that had remained in his head was the sentence, “Sam is an interesting human. He’ll be an angel of a high order.”
There was no mistaking the intent of his words. The man, Sam, had a blazing aura that spoke to the angel. The words had become one of the gospels of his understanding: there was little proof to them with the lack of memory, but he fully believed them anyways. It was a constant that he trusted in his life. There was never a doubt for his own words. His judgment had never failed to serve the angel in his quests for the higher order. There was no reason for it to fail him then.
The next encounter he had with the man could be called different, at best.
The streets were crowded with a multitude of humans, fitting for such a large city. Once every few moments Gabriel would catch what could have been a flare in aura. There was no sure way to tell at the moment, and he wasn’t about to allow his abilities to dictate his day. Instead, he mentally noted the humans with an impassive face. There was nothing striking about them, but there was potential. He had to work with potential more often than not these days.
It was then that a man took the seat opposite of his. He was fitted with a decent frame that could attract anyone that he wanted. His motions, although appearing soft and caring, had a rough edge to them. His hair was cut short and simple, keeping the brown hair maintained in its style with little effort. The clothes also managed to reflect that idea, keeping with a simple yet elegant style. It was the eyes that drew the angel into curiosity. They were a bright green, a rare shade amongst humans. They were filled with the sunlight that had flooded the city for days, yet were countered with a heavy darkness that Gabriel could only guess at. It had a beautiful effect, overall capturing the attention of those whose gazes fell upon the face. Even angels would have coveted such a feature.
“Hello, Gabriel.” The man’s voice was velvet-like, managing to maintain the façade. “You are still going by the name Gabriel, right?”
It is only then that Gabriel was able to place the sense of familiarity with a name. “Sam.”
“Sam was once my name, yes,” the man agreed. There was grace from the motions as he took the chair opposite of Gabriel. His arms spread outwards as he spoke, emphasizing his words. “I gave it up years ago, though.”
“Has it really been years?” Gabriel did not attempt to count the time that had passed from one moment to the next. Specifics were becoming a lost art to him, only useful in counting small moments rather than a use of long-term measurement. “It feels…”
“Not right?” the other man offered. A gentle shrug came from his shoulders. “It wasn’t exactly a long time ago, but sure feels like it. It’s been five years, Gabriel.”
“Really? I guess I was never one for keeping time.” The angel returned the shrug with his own. “Things have been busy for me. The population on this planet continues to grow at a fast rate, yet there is only a small increase of angels.”
“I’m not surprised. You angels leave the standards so high that it is almost impossible to reach them.” Sam paused for a second, his eyes flashing as he contemplated his own words. “Well, not impossible. If it were impossible, then this world would be ruled by demons.”
Gabriel nodded his head in agreement. His arms crossed themselves as he spoke. “It would not be a pleasant place if the demons managed to take over this world. We must always fight for that.”
“It is always a fight with you beings.” The man across the table frowned. His elbows were lifted to rest upon the table. It tilted with his weight, never being fully stable to begin with. “Because human nature is the thing you must break before you allow a spirit to become an angel. Am I right?”
The question was startling for the angel to hear. In the millenniums that he had spent on Earth, he had never heard such a thing being said. Angels had a human appearance while they were on the planet and their personality was close to those of their mortal counterpart. To think that the requirement to be an angel was so high was baffling. The fact that it was Sam, the man that was assured to be an angel, who was asking the question made the situation all the more confusing.
A different part of Gabriel’s mind, however, had an automatic answer ready. “That is absurd. Human souls evolve into angels. We do not break anything in their spirit.”
“’Evolve.’ Interesting choice of words.”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t understand.”
A chuckle bubbled out of Sam. “Well, first of all, it’s the irony. I’m not sure how much you know about human education, but most people think religious things and evolution are two very different things. But I guess that’s not the point, really.
“My issue is that you say that a soul ‘evolves.’ I’m not sure how much you’ve noticed, but in this realm word choice is pretty important. Human souls do not just change into angels when they pass on. According to you, they evolve. That implies that angels are better.”
As Sam explained his view of the term, Gabriel could feel his discomfort growing. He, unlike many of his brothers, understood what the man before him was saying. It had passed his mind once every century or so. His mind would chart the differences between angels and humans. For every benefit that one of the heavenly beings had over their mortal counterparts, there was some quality that humans had to act as a counterbalance. The list of attributes was long and detailed, never to be finished but always to be balanced.
Despite the cold facts weighing against opinion, there was something about being an angel that was different. Gabriel did not have any firsthand experience as he was never a human himself. He was, however, an observer by nature. Between stories and watching both humans and new angels, Gabriel was able to create his opinion: angels were better on the fact that they had more experience. The majority of them had once been human, drawing all they would need to know from their own lives. Humans had no such experience. They could not understand what angels did.
“Well, yes,” Gabriel admitted. “There is something about being an angel that makes us have an advantage.”
“At least you’re honest,” Sam said. “But even you must know of the things they have. Things that make both demons and angels quake at the thought of.”
“They would destroy themselves if they tried.”
“But they could always try. Remember that.”
The frown on the angel’s lips etched itself deeper. “I hope there was something else that you wanted to tell me besides what is already known.”
“You’re colder than before.” A corner of Sam’s mouth pulled into a quick smile before disappearing. His eyes held onto the humor afterwards, sparkling for a brief second. “I never really knew that about angels. I thought you guys just kept that calm mood. It’s part of what makes you all… well, angels.”
“We have as much of an emotional range as a human does. We are just more careful about which ones we show,” Gabriel said. His left hand, which had moved towards his cup of cooling coffee, twitched slightly as he spoke.
Sam snorted. He shook his head slightly before saying, “And that doesn’t limit you? Not in the slightest?”
“I’m afraid that I don’t understand what you mean.”
“One of the things about being human is the range of emotions they all possess. Their attitudes towards the world are all different. One could go into a fit of rage while the person next to him is the calmest man alive. They are also all capable of showing the whole spectrum if they feel like it. They’re not limited in the slightest.
“Angels, on the other hand, are all the same. There’s a calm smile, there’s disappointment, and there’s the blankness. No matter what you truly think, you can never express it. Your emotions are limited and all of you are convinced that working for the ‘higher order’ is better than your own opinions.” Sam lifted his right hand, which was clutching his own mug of coffee. It didn’t take Gabriel long to realize that something was wrong with the image before him.
“You didn’t come here with a cup. And no one ever came by the table.” The angel’s eyes shot up, checking the area. The street was busier than normal; several people were walking along the sidewalk, exchanging themselves with customers leaving the shops that lined the street. None of them had taken any notice of the two sitting at the café table.
“Boy, you are quick. Most of the others assumed that they just never saw the cup when I sat down. It makes things slightly easier, I’ll admit.” Sam took a sip of his coffee, his eyes never once straying from the angel. “Here’s a question to stump the angel: was it simply a human trick, or was it something more?”
Gabriel frowned at the words and the implied challenge. There were very few people who challenged beings like himself. It was usually only demons who looked into an angel’s eyes and dared them to try and stop them. Humans were less likely to say such things as they lacked the power and were usually in so much awe that such things would dissolve in their observation. While Sam may have been a different kind of human from the rest, even he was not so high to say such things.
Time has changed you, hasn’t it? Five years for a human is such a large chunk of time. His disappointment and the barest hints of anger dissipated with the thoughts. Sam was always different from the rest of the mortal beings. In all of his memory, Gabriel could not recollect a being who found out their destiny to become an angel long before their death. The man sitting across from him had a long life ahead of him, yet he was given the knowledge. It gave him time to come up with questions that no angel would ask. It was a new experience, maybe even a singular event in the chain of history.
The angel pulled himself away from his stray thoughts and back to the question at hand. “Sleight of hand does not get pass me, I’m afraid. I’ve taken an interest in human magicians before. I know all of their tricks.”
“Really? Huh. Never took you for the type.” Sam chuckled at the thought. “Well, you did get it right. No mortal trickery or the like. Just pure, demonic power.”
“From where?” Gabriel asked. His tone gave away his building annoyance; no matter how special of a case Sam was, dealing with a human with such an attitude was almost unbearable. The type of power that the human mentioned also put the angel on edge, but he ignored it in favoring of focusing.
The man on the other side of the table frowned. “And here I had hope for you. You’re smart enough, Gabriel. All you have to do is look.”
The implication of the last word was not lost on the angel. The heavenly beings had sight like any human, taking in what is physically able to reflect light that traveled to the retina. The most beautiful thing about it was the ability to see the colors of the world. It was enjoyable to watch as the different colors come together and define the settings. It was one of the things that human sight had over the angels’.
That was not to say that angel sight was useless. While there were very few colors that could be seen while using it, angels were able to see the auras that people carried within them. It was how they were able to identify souls who were to become angels when the mortal body died. The light that enveloped the body was intense as the potential power they each had. It was a power that the angels cherished, although rarely used due to the things that could be seen with the sight. It was not hard to keep off as most humans had a faint glow surrounding them, never being enough to force the sight to go off.
Gabriel closed his eyes, willing away the distractions his senses were taking in. From the darkness, the angel was able to dim the recognition of his other senses. The low drone of chatter that went unnoticed during the conversation melted away into the air. The cool glass of the table beneath his fingers and the cold metallic press of the chair were the next to go, fading away from his awareness. The aftertaste of the coffee and the aroma that came with it were the last to disappear. It left the angel in self-imposed darkness.
He was careful when he opened his eyes again. His head was angled to look at the table, allowing his some time to adjust. The monotone grays welcomed him with indifference, swirling with movements of energy that humans could only imagine. Steam, passing invisibly from the cooling liquid, pushed against the air like water, leaving delicate patterns in its wake. A plate of cookies that he had ordered but had yet to eat sat static to everything, containing themselves to their form. The glass glimmered once before he pulled his gaze away.
The street was also filled with movement undetectable by human sight. Most of the flow aligned with the contours of the street, following humans that passed through for some time before finding another one to follow. It was constant movement. The mortals that passed through his line of vision were not extraordinary by any means: at best, there were a few that possessed a soft glow to hint towards an angelic or demonic leaning. Nothing was capable of producing enough power to bring a cup of coffee without the angel noticing. Despite the simplicity of the task, it would require a demon of some skill to be able to accomplish such a feat.
Why would Sam be working with a demon, anyways? It was a thought that Gabriel seemed to be avoiding. He was clearly going to be an angel, so why would he allow himself to work with such monsters?
It was then that the angel turned his gaze to the man sitting across the table from him.
“Do you see it now?” The voice had the distinct quality that allowed the angel to identify it as Sam’s. However, the use of his natural sight also caused his other senses to take in everything from a different perspective. The voice that spoke to him was submerged in the power that floated around him, yet carried a quality of clarity that would not allow his words to be mistaken as anything else. His lips had moved with his question. They had released a black wave that reacted with the air the same way the steam did.
Black. He’s a demon.
It was not as if the aura had a faint glow of darkness; the whole of the bright, surrounding energy was pure black. It reeked with the depths of Hell that angels only knew of through rumors that managed to reach them. It also flickered red every few second, as if it were fire. It brought images of burning lava and open flames to Gabriel’s mind.
Somehow, the pictures were more realistic than the ones of the darkness. It created a feeling of uneasiness within the angel.
“You can shut it off now.” There was humor in Sam’s voice. Gabriel noticed how the aura enveloped the man with little trouble. It was a sign of acceptance. “It’s easier if I explained than if I let you strain yourself to guess.”
With the fear seeping into him, Gabriel closed his eyes. It was not as hard to will away the angel sight as it was to call it. It was one of those times that the angel was grateful for the nature of it.
“You became a demon.” It was frightening to hear his voice staying leveled as he spoke. Such a revelation would have shaken even the most experience angel because it was unexpected. Still, Gabriel had unconsciously managed to calm his nerves so he would not try to fight or flee as his first instinct was telling him to do.
“I did. I suppose you don’t remember much of the aftermath of our meeting, do you?” Sam asked. He tilted his head to the side, curiosity washing over his face. “Well, actually, I would be surprised if you remember any of it. I was told I was pretty good at what I do from the get-go.”
The barest traces of an image overtook Gabriel’s memory. There was a hand hovering over his face. It passed by his line of vision once… twice… The voice that accompanied the movements was soft. The words were undistinguishable, yet somehow held a sense of comfort and sorrow within them. It was towards the end of the few seconds of the illusion that gave Gabriel words he could understand. “I’m sorry… You don’t understand…”
The angel ignored the sudden rush of information in favor for the conversation at hand. “I am afraid to say that I have, but I really can’t remember anything that happened.”
“It’s okay. I wasn’t expecting much.” Sam drained his drink in one fluid motion. Traces of coffee slipped past his mouth and ran down to his chin. He wiped the drops away with the back of his hand. “It’s not a pretty memory. No one would want it.”
“Excuse me?” Sam said.
“Tell me,” Gabriel repeated. He could feel his own surprise bubbling up within his mind at the words. There was something forbidden about the knowledge he was asking for, as his mind had kept it away from him. But the sudden reappearance of the man he thought he knew brought about longing for what he lacked. The sudden change from an undisputed truth of the man destined to become an angel to the large demonic force before him drove the angel’s want even further.
Sam stared at Gabriel, who matched his gaze with unwavering eyes. For almost a second, the angel could see a flash of the demon’s power. It was gone within the next instant. The face before him also suddenly appeared calmer. “Alright, I’ll tell you. We’ll call it an exchange for the company with my coffee.
“We met five years ago. I was a college student then. You were pretending to be a prospective student, I think. You looked younger then, so I guess that’s where the assumption came from. We met, got some coffee together, hung out. It was nice. We were really good friends. And then you started to tell me about the supernatural stuff. Angels and demons and all that. You even told me that I was going to become an angel when I died.
“At first, it sounded cool. Who wouldn’t want to be an angel? I could protect people from things they couldn’t even see. I wanted to help. But you kept telling me things about being an angel. And then I noticed how you would never trust your own opinion. You always deferred to whatever big power is controlling the fate of the world or whatever. I didn’t like that idea of losing myself.
“It was January when it happened. You never told me how or why, but somehow a demon got a hold of you and pulled you into Hell. I went and killed the thing myself. It’s no easy feat for a human, but I managed to pull it off. But…” The words appeared to get stuck in Sam’s throat. He struggled for a second to get them out. “It didn’t bring you back. So I did my own summoning and through some fluke, managed to call one of the big shots up. He was willing to give you back. But I kept thinking and thinking.”
“You could have trusted the demon,” Gabriel muttered softly. “They’re not supposed to lie to those that summon them.”
“I knew that already. It was one of the things you taught me. But that wasn’t why I was thinking.” Sam frowned at his own words. “Being an angel would suck. You guys have no will of your own. You have no choice. But there are so few that a demon has to answer to. If they want to help society, then sure! Why not?”
“You wanted a trade. My soul and yours.” The realization hit the angel hard. By direct line of logic, Gabriel was at fault. He had-
“Don’t.” At the word, Gabriel’s thoughts came to a halt. Sam watched, spinning the empty cup in his hand in circles. Coffee slowly began to reappear in the container. A few drops slipped out and fell to the table. “It’s too late to play the blame game. Besides, I would prefer it if you did not put yourself out of commission from overwhelming guilt.”
“Then what am I supposed to do?” The question was quietly spoken, gentle enough that the wind could have swept it away.
“I don’t know.” A look of confusion briefly crossed the demon’s face, dulling his eyes for a moment. After some time had passed, he softly whispered, “You were my first deal, you know.”
“I…” Gabriel paused, allowing the words to run over him. “I made a deal with a demon?”
“You didn’t want to remember. All I asked was for some time to get use to the demon business. It wasn’t that bad.” The demon offered a shrug. “It was better this way.”
The words ran through the angel’s mind, repeating over and over in hopes of getting used to the idea. I made a deal with a demon. I made a deal with a demon.
“It wasn’t a high price,” Gabriel finally muttered after a moment. Some of the color of his face had drained away to fuel his thoughts. The mantra continued to repeat with hushed voices, touching the angel’s hidden wings with a monstrous glee. “Most demons would force an angel into slavery with bargains.”
“You were my friend.” Sam allowed the words to sit in the air, the weight of their meaning contorting the temperature around the table. As an afterthought, he added, “And I was a really new demon. No surprises that I let something really big pass me by.”
“But you have experience now.”
“Yeah,” Sam said. “I make deals with those willing to give. I choose what I want, give them what they want, and watch.”
“And you collect their souls afterwards.” Gabriel’s voice managed to keep an even tone as his stomach churned with the thought.
A frown crossed the other’s face. “I told you, I wanted to help. There was a girl once. Her mother was dying and all she wanted was for the mother to live. I gave her that. Her mother was restored, healthier than she had been for years.”
“You took a little girl’s soul!” the angel hissed, careful not to draw attention to them.
“By whatever thing you want me to swear by, I swear I only took a cookie.” Sam held up his hands defensively. “I’ll admit, it wasn’t the best one ever created, but it was pretty damn good.”
The silence that sat between the two afterwards was almost deafening. An easy smile had fallen onto the demon’s face, his eyes dancing with the mirth. He had just sent the angel into confusion with the truth. It was an accomplishment that few had ever obtained. There was no doubt that Sam was telling the truth, either; demons would never swear to anything and lie afterwards. There was also nothing stopping the demon for asking for something so little for saving a life. A demon was allowed to twist the meaning to their liking as long as they stuck to the literal words. And that was what Sam did.
“I guess I better be leaving you. You’re obviously not taking this as well as I hoped.” The cup disappeared with the words. Sam rested both palms against the glass of the table, ready to push himself up. “Until-“
“Huh?” The demon’s green eyes, which had closed unconsciously, snapped open.
“You said you were not called Sam anymore,” Gabriel said. “What is your name now?”
The easy smile that was on the other’s lips turned into a smirk. “I don’t know. Things like names are just the bits of information others need to ruin kingdoms. Are you willing to make a deal for it?”
Gabriel answered back without any hesitance. “I already made a deal with a demon once.”
“A new demon, yes. An experienced demon would know how to use this. I could make you into a slave, angel.” The last word was hissed, not out of venom, but with the reminder of Gabriel’s identity.
“It may be enough for my brothers and sisters to stop you,” Gabriel answered back. He wouldn’t allow himself to shake at the idea. It is my mess. I will pay anything to fix this damage.
The demon let out a chuckle. “If you say so.” His eyes danced, glee moving within them. For a second, maybe longer, the angel could see them turn red with the subtle glow of Hell.
“All I wanted was a cookie, anyways.”
With that, the demon’s lips fell back into a smile. The traces of red were gone. The face before the angel became more humanlike, almost returning to the same face that he had, as a human, five years ago. There was innocence in the features; nothing had been tainted by the world, mortal or otherwise.
“It’s Lucifer now.”
The demon reached for a cookie that was still sitting on the plate undisturbed by the conversation, completing the deal. He took a small bite before flashing a grin one more time. Afterwards, without any formal farewell, he stepped onto the sidewalk and strolled away. It took seconds for the demon to disappear into the growing crowd of humans. The angel remained at the table, saying nothing.