“Madam, is there a problem?” The black robed man hurried down the aisle to me. His face betrayed panic when he recognized who I am.
“I’ve never been in an Anglican Church. I do not know the proper gestures to make before taking a seat.”
The man blinked several times as he processed my statement. “Well. Um. A curtsy to acknowledge that God is Lord of this place would suffice for now.” He took a step back in instinct as he watched my involuntary bracing.
“Hmm.” I remained standing. I have been in many churches since my apostasy. The land and the men have never given me problems. The angels, however…
They were hiding in the shafts of sunlight streaming through the stained glass windows. A few of the parishioners felt their presence and interpreted it as an expression of their god, but none here other than me knew they were there. To mortal eyes, they were the sparkles of dust in sunlight.
To me they were a series of concentric rings of fire that spun and rotated in place like a gyroscope. In the rings were eyes of brighter flame. In the center of each set of rings was a great eye.
Each eye was watching me.
I spoke with measured tones. “Lord… of this place. Yes, I can acknowledge that. As long as it is understood he is not lord of me. I am a guest in this house, after all. But hospitality goes both ways.”
The black robed man shifted his weight nervously as I faced the altar and curtsied with stiff formality. The pew accepted my weight noiselessly. The atmosphere remained peaceful. The angels maintained their vigilance.
“If I may, Madam…” I looked up at him and smiled genuinely. He was not expecting me to be civil and my gesture derailed his thoughts. He flustered, then tried speaking again. “If I may, Madam. Your… contention… with the Holy Church is well known. Infamous, even. You who would wrestle with angels. Why…”
“Why am I here?”
I closed my eyes. “The root of my contention is the abuses I suffered while a member of a Christian church. So much was done to me in the name of your god. So much evil was justified and called good. The scars on my body have faded, but my soul will bleed until my death.” I opened my eyes and looked directly at the angels. They returned my stare without blinking. “But I have learned things since becoming apostate. Things that challenge what I thought I knew about Christianity, about Jehovah, about his angels, and the men that claim authority in Christ’s name.”
I turned my inspection to the sweating priest. “Relax, Sir. I won’t be opening a hellmouth at your feet. I am not here to wrestle with those that guard this place. I needed to know a thing, and the only way to find out that thing is via first hand experience.”
He took a handkerchief and mopped at his brow. “And what did you need to find out?”
“Can I mature past my bitterness and past experiences? Not all Christians are abusive. Not all churches have physical conquest as their mandate. Can I face the symbols of those that [abused] me without assigning their sins to those that have not sinned against me? We are an ocean and a continent away from those that [abused] me in the name of Christ. But nearly every symbol and presentation in this building was in theirs.”
The priest sat down next to me. “Nearly? You are American, so you suffered in a Protestant church, most likely. Very much different.”
“More similar than you think. Especially with the bling.”
“Which symbols were you afraid of? The cross?”
I laughed. “No. Not the cross, not the crucifix, not the INRI, nor the holy water. Not the prayers, the candles, the vestments, nor the altar. I was never afraid of any of these things. They triggered a rage reaction instead, because they were the physical tools used in the abuses. It’s like twitching when you see someone pick up a stirring spoon. You know the spoon means nothing, but your ass remembers the whipping. These things were supposed to represent peace, relief, and mercy to all.” I stared at the polished tools gleaming from the altar. “But I was declared unclean and unworthy. Inhuman. A stain on your god’s perfect world, forced into existence by demons trying to bring the Nephilim back to the earth. I had to atone for my bloodline by submitting to their will, their actions.”
The priest was horrified. He fumbled for words. “You… you can’t be serious. This isn’t the Dark Ages! Humans are humans, no matter what the ethnicity! There are no demonic bloodlines! That’s wrong!”
“The church I was involved in was a cult. No other way to put it. When I left, I thought all of Christianity was like that. Now you see why I am… was… no, I still am… hostile towards any display of Christian goodwill towards me? I am always looking for the dagger wrapped in the scroll. I went on the offensive, because I had been well trained to expect retaliation just for existing. Unfortunately, so many justified my preparations. Angels are dicks.”
The priest’s eyes widened. I looked at him, laughed, then looked to the angels hiding in the sunlight. “Okay. Some angels are dicks. And that, good sir, brings me to why I’m here. Did you know there are at least eight angels surrounding us? Right now? Or rather, eight incorporeal servants of your god, because the word “angel” means something entirely different to me than what the common denotation is. But for brevity’s sake, I’ll call them angels.”
The priest looked around. “I… I know by faith I am surrounded. But I do not see.”
“They’re glorious. Horrifying and terrifying and beyond human understanding. I only see one millionth of their nature, and I haven’t the words to describe the reflection of just one eye.” I noticed in trying to relay to the priest what I saw, my face relaxed and all tenseness melted from my body. The irony bittered my mouth.
“What are they doing?”
“Their duties, as assigned. Which is not kicking my ass. In fact, I’ve noticed, that most every angel of your god that I’ve come across has no interest in fucking with me. Which is not what I was taught in that cult. Not what I experienced there, either.” Concentric rings of flame continued to spin with no regards to what I was doing. “Right now, they are merely filling this place with their presence, and with the presence of their, and your, god. It’s warm and pleasant. And it raises as many questions as it answers.” I closed my physical eyes and felt the weaving of spirits around me. There was no hostility towards me. They reminded me of the angel of the Lost Crucifix. Tears wanted to flow from a forgotten wound in my heart.
I’ll be weak some other time. I have a reputation to maintain.
“Thank you for sitting with me a while, good sir. I have the data I sought, but it will take me some time to process it and find the value within.” I stood and he quickly stood with me.
“Will you be coming back?”
I pondered the multiple meanings of his question. “My travels take me to random places at times. I don’t know if I’ll be back here again.”
His silence confirmed which meaning he meant. I sighed and nodded in recognition. “Some branches of Christianity teach that once an apostate, forever an apostate.” He took a breath to counter. I held my hand up to silence him. “The Christian faith, as I was taught, requires submission to Jehovah as lord and liege, along with the acceptance that man’s spiritual state is incomplete at best, and only the sacrifice of Christ on the cross can atone for man’s sins and provide the missing portion of his spiritual state. All else is gilt on the frame. That is the core of it. And that is something I can never accept for myself ever again. I’ve seen too much, I’ve done too much. I am beyond Christ’s reach. My apostasy is complete. Never shall I be a Christian again.” I excused myself, stepped into the aisle, and began walking towards the main doors.
“I didn’t mean coming back to Christ.” The priest’s voice changed. I recognized it at once and came to a full stop. “My promise remains open for you. My hand is always ready to take yours.”
Why am I crying? I did not turn around. I’m crying because if I had known then, my life would be very different now, assuming I would have lived this long. “If you had interceded then… no… by [that moment], it was already too late. I was broken. Do you know how often I called out to you? How hard I prayed to you? I bled myself out for you.” I felt the bitterness rising in my soul. I reminded myself of what type of angels were surrounding me to keep my anger in check. Hospitality is the rule, after all. “I would have allowed myself to be destroyed for you, if that is what would have made all the torments stop. But you allowed that imposter to claim authority over me. And now that I [know the things I know], I understand that your hands were tied from the beginning. Your hands were removed from me the day I died the first time.” I saw my shadow on the door. Something behind me was very bright and increasing in brightness.
A presence greater than all the angels was filling the church. I watched their central eye close in homage to the glory that was condensing behind me. The eyes on their rings continued to watch me, however. Still, I did not turn around.
“I love you. You have not removed yourself from my love. You never will.”
“You picked a poor language to have this conversation with, sir. I do not know what love is. I know hate. I know rage. I know loathing. I know justice from its lack. I know concern by its impotence. I know pain by breathing. But agape? Phileos? Love?” Despite myself, my face contorted in simmering anger. I blinked rapidly to clear my eyes of unnoticed tears. “It’s a little late for love, dear. I have been made a scourge and a wraith. What do I know of love? It has never been demonstrated to me that I may learn it.” I took a deep breath and pushed the screaming memories back into the depths of my mind. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, your subterfuge has awakened memories that are best not dealt with here. This is your house, and I would be an unlawful guest if I were to attack the lord of this house or his servants after being welcomed within it.” I took a few steps towards the door. “Though, I’m curious as fuck. Why? Why are you reaching out to me now? After… after all that has happened?”
“Because I love you.”
“Hmph.” I was tempted to look back. Tempted to believe it was just that simple. But I am Weaver Brokensoul. It’s never that simple, and it’s never without a cost.
I exited the church and in doing so, exited the dream as well.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to scratch “Visiting Britain” off my bucket list.