Children (Original Sin)
By Willow Taylor
There had been nine of them when they started, the eldest, Hesbet, a youth of gangly limbs and tangled black hair, finding and gathering the younger as he made his way out of their homelands. The youngest, Meri, was hardly more than a sprout, with golden hair curling around flame blue eyes. The crossing was difficult, and Merac died, giving his life to distract the guards so the others could win freedom.
To reach their goal, they had to pass through the misty realm of purgatory, through the perils of the mortal world, and into the either that separated both from the land they sought. The great walled kingdom of promise. Where those who strove would be rewarded. Every time they rested, Meri would curl up against Hesbet and he would tell again how he had heard the highest lord of their land speaking of the place of golden light. How they had come from there once, and perhaps, if one did no wrong, and strived beyond all else, and were brave enough to make the journey, they could find their way there again. This was the only dream that they'd ever had, a place without flames, or cold, a place that was not the land they had been born in, without the hate, and morass thick pain that were a staple of that place. When first they came to the mortal realms, it was so different from where they had begun that they had thought that perhaps, this was the land of promise. But there were no wall to keep them safe from the seekers they knew would follow. And then, a man, not one of their people, but a mortal came and tried to take them away. They could feel the same seeping evil from him that they had lived in since their births. But this was a mortal. Sendra had flung herself onto him, and screamed for the others to run. Her sobs, ghostlike had haunted them for days, until they found their way into the either below the land of the golden walls. It was there they lost Burfset, who had been struck hard by Sendra's sacrifice. He wandered into the mists, alone, one night while they were sleeping.
Finally, through the dim either of the place between worlds, they saw the gleaming gold of distant walls. The sight of them was incredible - more than they had expected. As they approached they saw massive gates set into the wall. Thick as if the inhabitants desperately wanted to keep things out - as opposed to the walls of their homeland, which seemed built to hold them in. They agreed that here, at last they would be safe.
But the gates wouldn't open. Hesbet pounded upon them, but there was no answer. Huddled together, wings spread to hold in warmth around the group, they wondered what could be wrong. They had come, they had overcome their obstacles to get to this place. Why wouldn't the gates open to let them into the golden land, the lands of promise and hope? It was Meri who noticed the movement, bright eyes still fixed on the gate through the tattered fledge of Eren's wings. The gate was moving!
"It's opening!" she piped - they all turned to see.
The gates opened, no more than a hair, and a dark skinned man slipped out. It took a moment to fix what looked odd about him, and then it became obvious, his hair was a dark rich gold, as opposed to the black that most men of his skin color had. He was plainly nervous.
"Do they have their own refugees?" whispered Kerais.
"No," said Hesbet, eyes wide. "That's the guardian, look at his staff!"
En masse the tattered children ran towards him, and seeing their movement, he ran towards them as well, staff held in a non threatening, but clearly barring fashion.
"We've come we've come," they chorused.
"Shh shhs!" he said, holding out his hands, staff leaned against his shoulder. "You should not have come here."
"But this is the place of safety."
"Where those who are willing can become something more."
"We've traveled so far," choked Kerais. "We've risked so much."
"But we helped each other. We've done no evil."
"We've made it here."
"Yes, you have made it here, but you cannot stay!" the man said, looking nervously over his shoulder. "Take this pouch, and go, quickly before someone else knows you're here."
"But why, we've come, we need sanctuary," Eran cried. "We've journeyed so far."
"They will not let you inside these gates," he insisted, dark golden hair fanning over his shoulders.
"But we've done nothing wrong," Kerais insisted.
"It doesn't matter," he said, sadly, shaking his head. "It's for the sins of your forefathers that you've been banned from this place." He looked down to see a small hand tugging on his tunic.
"We have fathers?" Meri asked plaintively. She was young, so young her wings were still downy, not even fully fledged yet, let alone scorched and molting like Hesbet's.
"If we have," growled Geran, "no one told us." His twin put a hand on his shoulder, and the skinny child drew her close to comfort her.
"You must go," he insisted. "You can loose yourself in the mortal realms - in that teeming mass of souls, neither side will find you."
"But we risked so much to come here," Kerais said quietly, eyes filling. "I... we... thought that all were welcome here."
The guardian's heart twisted. "All but you, I am sorry, children, but you must go!" He pressed the pouch into Hesbet's hands. "This will help you, just go!" He cocked his head, listening to the musical wind that played around them, "It's too late - they know you're here, run!"
Over the great golden walls poured an army.
"Run!" repeated the guardian frantically, and uncertain, the children turned taking a few hesitant steps away from the place they had tried so hard to reach. The sight of the glowing winged warriors surging towards them started most of them running.
But Meri just stared as the host came upon her, and made no sound as a hundred arrows of light pierced her flesh. The cherubic child collapsed in a pool of blue ichor.
"Nooo!" screamed Hesbet, tossing aside the pouch the guardian had given him, and rushing at the winged warriors, wings smoldering, and as he leapt, bursting into flame, fingers curled into claws, flames streaking like teardrops from his eyes.
He had no chance.
Sobbing much more human tears, Kerais and Lerian picked up the smaller twins, and ran, descending away from the gates they'd strived so hard to reach, fading into the either between, where they would be just as likely to get lost for eternity as to find their way to the mortal realms. Half the warrior host followed , to make sure they were gone, while the other half descended to incinerate the sad remains of the dead children. One turned, hair as pale as sunlight, and looked at the guardian, who sagged against his staff, suddenly weary with the world.
"Perhaps you should work harder to keep them here, Peter," he said mildly. "Demons should not be allowed to wander."
"Demons," muttered the dark skinned man. "Of course." The light swelled around him and he said nothing until the host had left.
Peter sighed and lowered his face. He had once been human - in fact a succession of humans, so he understood the strive to become more than what you were born. The call to the light. He just wished he knew why, once in a great while, demons would show at the gate, and beg for sanctuary. Demons with souls as pure as any human who was granted passage.
And though he would never question God's will, he did wonder why they were never given a chance to prove themselves, only driven away or killed. Perhaps it was time to live another life. Perhaps if he found God's grace again, he would understand. Peter laid the staff across the gate, knowing another angel would take it up until his return. He then closed his eyes and let himself fade, moving without moving to find a body, to find a birth to...
He opened his eyes and cried, but no one heeded. Seeing his surroundings, he cried more, downy wings flailing in the seething fires that were his cradle. And still no one came, leaving him to find his way in a world of hate, rocked in a morass thick pain. At last someone came, and pale hands picked him up, cradled to a flat, genderless chest, feathers brushing against his face.
"Ah, poor, poor Peter. You do want to help them, don't you?" came a lilting voice. "But who will help you, poor demon child? He will not hear your voice now." Pale, cool fingers brushed hair away form the newborn's face. "Just as in all these years he has not seen the messengers I've sent him." The chest he was cradled against heaved in a sigh. "Ah, the questions. How can a God of answers hate questions so?" Tears dropped scalding hot on the infant's face, melding with his own weeping. "Well Peter, having questioned, you shall come with me. If He gives us no answers, perhaps we may find our own." Again came the sigh. "And if He will not save my lost children, perhaps I can save this one of His."
The clouds of sulfur parted, and bearing the still bawling bundle, the devil returned to the depths of hell.
design ©2001 by Cindy Rosenthal
Children (Original Sin) © 2003 by Willow Taylor
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