Angel Maker – Part Three
Michael woke up in a place that really shouldn’t ever have existed. It looked like a graveyard of forgotten things. Clocks and watches hung in the air like a Dali painting, beside them floated spheres of every size and shade, the orbs looking frosty and opalescent as they bobbed around. Among them were several keys: some for houses, some for safety deposit boxes, one looked like a vault key from a western film. A few wallets dangled in the air, the chains that would have connected them to a belt snapping and dangling mournfully. A thousand other things drifted in the sky: gems, pens, rings, amulets, recipe cards, pages scrawled with love notes and ‘to do’ lists.
He groaned. His head felt like a church bell had been strung behind his ears and rung vigorously. Everything was fuzzy and bright. Even his tongue felt like it had recently grown a patch of fur at the very back. That was without even mentioning the dehydration and slight hint of vomit taste at the back of his throat. Ugh. His first time getting drunk in two thousand years was really not worth the hangover. He rolled over in a pile of moss, the patch beneath his face softer than any pillow he could remember sleeping on in this century. Still, the obnoxiously bright light continued to seep through the trees. Wait, trees?
He rolled over again, finally taking in the giant trees that towered over the very comfortable moss bed he’d had no intention of leaving a moment earlier. He hadn’t been kidding about the trees being huge; they dwarfed the giant redwoods of California. Their roots flowed over, under and above the earth on which they sat. Some curled together and formed archways that were in turn covered by vines and moss, others had twisted themselves into artful pathways that meandered through the boughs and trunks before ascending to the leaves. A few of the sleeping giants had grown above and around equally large rock cubes, the surfaces carved in looping patterns that seemed older than time. Even he couldn’t read them, which shocked him most of all, as Anuk had forced almost all the world’s knowledge into his being while she’d been training him in his Reaper duties.
Finally deciding that getting up was the next course of action, Michael stood, stretching his arms to the sky that, the more he looked at it, seemed to be moving.
“Well, that can’t be right,” he muttered, moaning when the soft words made his head throb even more. Still, he’d yet to visit a dimension where the sky moved the way this one seemed to. A quick check showed that his powers were still working, so he started exploring. Shadows gathered around his hands, forming claws that he used to grip onto the trees, leaping from trunk to trunk effortlessly. Higher and higher he climbed, until the air felt thin and the leaves grew so closely together they engulfed him with every step he took on the ancient limbs. Some, he’d discovered, were actually petrified, the rough bark blooming in blends of colors he’d never seen in his dimension. There were petrified trees of smokey grey-green, tinged with dusky purples that radiated down to the moss floors of the forest. Others were every color ever found in a sunset, while a few more looked like they were trying very hard to mimic a rainbow.
Within the strange trees, were even stranger inhabitants that would have made Dr. Seuss’s star bellied sneetches look normal. They ignored him as he climbed, barley turning clouded eyes to watch him pass. Michael would almost have believed they were drugged, except there was a sad clarity there, one almost as ancient as the forest itself seemed to be. He shuddered, moving as quickly as possible through the leaves until he could see for himself where he was. Finally he broke through, gulping in the sight of the sky over the shimmering treetops.
He’d been right. The sky was moving, but only because it wasn’t a sky at all. A wall of water domed over the forrest as far as his eyes could see, and Michael was proud to say he had eyes like a hawk. The easier to spot lost souls with, my dear, he joked to himself, scanning as far as possible to find an opening in the water wall. Nothing. Nada, zip, zilch… And there was no way he could make his own door. Pocket dimensions were one thing, but a tear in the universe? Reapers weren’t strong enough to do that. Michael growled in irritation. There was no way he was getting stuck in this inverted fishbowl of a world because of some psycho Korrigan. Where was she anyway? She’d dragged his happy ass between worlds, she could damn well send him back.
He started leaping from tree top to tree top, his body arching, arms and legs curving behind him as he threw himself into the air, damp with the smell of salt and fresh earth. Up in the sky his head felt clearer, there was less of the hangover fog. It actually felt freeing to be moving with no agenda like this, just exploring, no limiters, no rules, no Anuk to tell him that he was pushing too far. When was the last time he’d just moved like this? He couldn’t remember. Michael gathered the shadows around him, just because he could, giving himself smokey wings to soar over the green canopy. He flew and glided, zipping over the strange world and skimming his hand in the water ceiling, laughing at the chill that invaded even his frigid skin. He almost forgot about Korri, until she dive bombed him out of the sky by plummeting through the water ceiling and directly onto his back.
“Heya, Pretty Boy!” she shouted, giggling as they plummeted back down to the ground. Michael was too busy regretting every decision he’d ever made as the ground rose up to meet them to respond. Instead of impacting on the ground, the forest floor seemed to cushion them, cradling their bodies as they landed and softening the blow. It still hurt though.
“Sorry about that,” Korri grunted, peeling herself off of his back and leaving Michael face down in the dirt where he’d landed. “But, hey, at least you’re still alive.” Michael pushed himself out of the bed of moss, spitting out what felt like a pound of dirt and bits of green foliage.
“I swear, I’ll kill you,” he hissed. He wrapped an arm around his poor, bruised ribs and rolled over onto his back where it didn’t hurt so much. Korri snorted above him.
“No, you won’t.” He cracked an eye open squinting through the pain and eyeing the figure lying next to him.
Korri looked different. The sharp undercut was still there, the curls falling haphazardly across her forehead and shoulders. She also had the same row of earrings on the curiously pointed ears. Her heavy coat and pastel shirt were gone, as were the torn jeans with doodles along the seams. In their places were rows of scales and thick skin. She looked like the Korrigan she’d claimed to be, tail included. It lay in a pile of sleek muscle, curled over itself in some places, and ended in a point with soft ruffles of fins the size of his hand on either side. It reminded him of eels actually, not what he’d expected from a mermaid.
“You need me alive,” she continued, shifting the massive form of the tail to curl around her body. “You need me because I’m the only one that could tell you where this is and what we are.”
“We?” He sat up, his recently abused body creaking under its own weight. Korri flicked her hands in the direction of a small gathering of creatures, the same ones he’d seen earlier, who’d come out to observe them from the safety of the tree roots.
“Us.” She didn’t elaborate further, hissing as the tail began to shrink. The flesh steamed as it retracted and split into two points. The smell of iron sliced through the air and assaulted Michael’s nose with a vengeance. Still, he watched the process with the same focus you’d use when observing a wreck that you knew was seconds from happening. The split skin gleamed with blood and other fluids as it healed itself and changed to the tan softness of human skin, the now whole areas covered in a mess of white scar tissue. Finally, all signs of the Korrigan were gone, and instead there was just Korri in a white shift that clung to the salt water still on her skin. The creatures began to crowd around her, nuzzling around her ankles like they were saying hello.
“Why’d you bring me here?” Michael asked. The bug-eyed beings were starting to give him the creeps, their empty glances following his movements as he began pacing through the clearing. “Where are we?”
Korru gave him a cocky smirk. “I was told to find you,” she said. “The mistress said you belonged here with us.”
She waved a hand at her small companions. “The forgotten ones. People like you and me and these guys here. The things that time and tide wash out to the shore with the rest of the trash.” She clearly took his blank expression to mean ‘go on’. “Face it, no one remembers what Korrigas were. Or these Kakamora-” she pointed at a fuzzy thing that looked like a troll doll head- “ they forget about us and we fade from sight, erased from human history and mind.”
“Reapers, aren’t forgotten though,” Michael countered. “Nearly every culture has something like us in it’s mythology. So I shouldn’t be here.” The smile she leveled his way was cold and sad. The hair on his arms stood on end.
“Oh, sweetheart, you don’t get it, do you?” she whispered. “No one remembers you, not really. The people that knew you in your human life died in the purging of the Christians. Your mother and sister, they burned.” Michael hadn’t thought it was possible, but he could feel the blood drain out of his face.
“How do you know that?”
“I know a lot of things,” she smirked. “ I even know you took their souls to Heaven. I know how you cried as you carried them, one in each hand. I know that’s why you stuck so close to Erin. She reminded you of them didn’t she? All that spunk and laughter.” With every word Korri moved closer, her feet leaving wet imprints on the ground. “Now she’s gone, and who remembers you? Who knew you the way she did? ”
“Shut up,” he growled, shadows gathering around him as fury spiked through his veins. Korri kept talking, steadily cornering him against one of the giant trees.
“Not your boss, not that old priest in the church. Certainly not the souls you keep ferrying to their afterlives.”
“Shut up.” A little louder this time; still she kept coming.
“No one knows you, Michael, so you fade from their memories like a passing dream. And soon, there won’t be anything left of you for the mortal world to hold onto.”
“Shut up!” he yelled, lashing out with the bevy of shadows that had solidified into giant spikes. Blood poured out of the skin where the spikes made contact, soaking the dingy fabric of Korri’s shift further. She didn’t acknowledge them, not even the cut that sliced across her cheeks and nose.
“You can’t kill memories with shadows, Pretty Boy.” With those words, the wounds began to close up, the bloodstains vanishing as if they never existed. Michael sagged against the tree, finally accepting that he was over his head. “You know I’m right. They’ll forget you, just like they did me.”
“I don’t belong here,” he whispered, but her words were already in his head, echoing in the hollow spaces where his nightmares slept. The more they danced around his skull, the more he was starting to believe them.
“Just let go,” Korri whispered in his ear. “It’s not so bad with us, we’re safe in this place. She won’t forget us.”
Michael’s hand shot out and wrapped around her throat, the blunt tips of his fingers tightening around the thin column.
“I won’t stay here,” he gasped, finally succeeding in pushing back the hazy spell she’d been weaving around his thoughts. Korrigan magic clung to his skin like algae, but he kept it at bay, refusing to fall under the effects of her voice again. Korri frowned, gripping his wrist, but not fighting the strangling hold he had on her neck.
“You’ll have to take that up with the Lady. She’s the one that told me to bring you here.”
“Where is she?” His voice echoed around the clearing, frightening away the strange creatures gathered there. Korri sneered at him, her sharp nails digging into his wrist.
“Find her yourself,” she hissed. Just like that she vanished, leaving him holding a handful of air in a forest that was a lot less welcoming than it had seemed an hour ago.
“Son of a bitch!” Michael screamed to the trees. They didn’t say anything back.