Seeing Red

Seeing Red

~Chapter 1~

Part 2

 

Angels bustled about Heaven. The golden-stone streets were busy with small vehicles, a steady put-put-put puffing from the engines. The angels themselves either walked down the sidewalks or floated lazily through the air. Their majestic, snow-white wings billowed out from their shoulder blades, white robes with golden sashes covering their bodies, golden halos hovering above their heads. Pleasantly soft chatter filled the air, the smells of bakeries making bread and diners grilling meat wafting through their noses. At the corner of an intersection was a cute little cafe, half a dozen outdoor tables set up with two or three angels sitting and casually talking.

 

Well, there was a table with only one entity sitting there. And unlike the other angels, this one was very different. He did not have angel wings or a halo of his own, nor did he have white robes. Rather, this man wore a violet, Japanese kimono-esc garb. Around his waist was a wide belt, like it was a window into the universe, stars and nebulae glimmering in the jet-black emptiness. This is Zodiac, a being known as a wyrm. The Wyrm of Stars, to be exact. Zodiac sat alone at a table in the outdoors cafe, holding a newspaper in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. He pushed his glasses up onto his nose as he sipped from the white paper cup. The angels cast a distasteful glance to Zodiac, halting their chats to do so before passing by. Zodiac didn’t care all that much, his main focus was on the horoscope section.

 

It was pissing him off how wrong they were.

 

An angel in a brown trench coat and a cattleman’s hat shoved past the other angelic beings, his wings flapping in agitation. The man flopped down in the chair and sighed, rubbing his face. “Chester McMason,” said Zodiac in greeting. “How is the honorary Valkyrie status treating you?” Chester grunted and leaned forward, plucking a donut from the tray and taking a bite. “Absolutely atrocious. All the other Valkyries are lazy. Barely train at all. It’s what you get when you arm women with an unlimited amount of one-way tickets to the Great Beyond,” he muttered. Zodiac stared, his newspaper drooping. “I can’t tell if you’re being serious or sexist. Either way, I’d appreciate you shutting your trap.”

“God…I hate this place. Damn angels are so stuck up and just a general bunch of asshats,” muttered Chester. At that, Zodiac snickered and set down his cup. He peered at the other angel across from him. “What’s the matter, Chester? Angels picking on you again?” Chester harrumphed and scowled. The wingless, halo-less angel chuckled and leaned back. “At least you get to be with your daughter again.”

 

At this, Chester’s face softened as he nodded. “True, true. I suppose it’s worth the suffering.” He leaned forward and pulled the newspaper down with an outstretched finger. “Whatcha reading, Zo?” he asked. Zodiac hummed and flipped to the front page. The headline read, “Crimson Figure Single-Handedly Slays Baphomet!” Chester’s eyes flicked across the page, a frown stretching down his face. Zodiac was quiet as well, lost in thought. The two sat together, when Zodiac spoke up. “It’s the first one in four years.” Chester nodded his head, thinking.

 

“And the most obvious one.” Zodiac leaned back in his chair, arms crossed over his chest. He bit his lip, humming. “Baphomet was the most talked about Advocate in Hell for decades. Surely Eros heard of the heretic…right?” Chester sighed and took another bit of his donut. After a moment, he began to speak. “Eros is a lot of things. Stupid and ignorant aren’t part of the list. Besides, it’s getting to be time for another extermination, too. In fact, it’s tomorrow.” Zodiac paused for a moment, humming. “I suspect the Advocate has something to do with this. Something’s about to happen…” Zodiac looked down at the table, dread bubbling his stomach. No doubt Chester felt the same way too, judging on his paler-than-usual face. A thought crossed Zodiac’s mind, causing him to look over at his friend. “Have you ever come across Eros during an extermination?”

 

“No. No angel has. I was about to ask if I could take part.” Chester rubbed his chin, quiet. The two looked down at the picture of the demon on the paper. Each and every leap year, on February twenty-ninth, there was something called an extermination. On that day, angels and Valkyries armed with holy blades of golden sheen and divine shields of silver descended into the realm of torture because of overpopulation. Every four years, these angels slaughter every demon they come across, whether it be hell-born or not. For beings of holiness, many of them have a little competition over who can kill the most hell-children by the end of the day. For such holy beings, they have very sick ideas of fun. And every four years, Chester and Zodiac ask the returning angels if they’ve seen a pale man in a red suit.

 

Every angel they asked replied with no.

 

For the last six hundred years, Eros had gone undetected by the millions of angels that descended into Hell. Someway, somehow, he went unnoticed. And the two deities sitting together just could not figure out how…or why. As the minutes passed, Chester flexed his wings and was about to stand up when a shadow fell over the two of them. Recognition dawned on the winged angel as he promptly sat back down. “Soli. What do you want?” growled Chester. A massive hand reached down and lifted the paper up. “Eros,” the angel grunted. Zodiac smirked and said, “I don’t think he’d want you, though. You’re uglier than Chester’s mom!” At that, Chester raised his middle finger to Zodiac, a silent F you too, buddy. Soli turned and growled, stomping towards the strange angel. “You’re an awfully screwed up angel,” she spat to Zodiac. Zodiac sighed in response, sipping once more at his coffee. “Well, that would be because I am not an angel. We’ve been over this already, but I imagine that your peanut brain is too puny to comprehend my words. I’m not surprised you don’t remember the forty-plus conversations we’ve had discussing the very topic.” Chester snickered as Soli blinked at Zodiac, then grunted. She turned and began walking away, her wings flexing. When the large angel was out of earshot Chester let out a snicker and  looked to Zodiac. “Yeah, maybe we both should sign up for the extermination,” the gunslinger suggested. Zodiac nodded and pushed the chair out from underneath him as he rose.

 

“Yes. Let’s go now.”

 

The two angelic beings walked away from the cafe at a brisk pace, their gaze set on the large white and gold structure up the hill. Soli leaned around a corner, watching them leave. She moved her hulking form out of hiding and strode over to the table. The newspaper laid open to the story, a picture of Eros’s face on the front page. The angel sunk a dagger into the middle of Eros’s forehead, a deep, guttural growl escaping her throat. “Eros…it’s time for you to face Heaven’s wrath,” she muttered, ripping the blade out of the table to walk away. The pull ripped the picture from the newspaper, a breeze lifting it up and carrying it away towards a field and a particularly office building-esc tower. It fluttered into an open window, landing on a desk. An angel, surrounded by paperwork and holding a phone to each ear, looked down. His eyes studied the picture, falling silent. “Yeah, boss, I’ll have to call you back. Harley, get the Valkyries prepped for the execution. What-Harley, it’s not that hard, man, come on! For the love of…Harley, I’m hanging up. Bye.” He slammed the two phones down, sighing. The angel turned his attention back to the picture of Eros, a light frown crossing his face. “Eros…your time is near,” he muttered, gently lifting the scrap of paper. “You better not lose. Coura is going to have my wings mounted on a plaque if you do…”