“Humanity is flawed. People are broken. They wander around a dying planet feeling lost and hollow inside and having to hide those emotions behind a false smile. The small snatches of happiness, the fleeting illusions of love, and the security of belonging with others of our kind is what propels us forward. But tear all of those away. Take away the house and its walls we hide behind, the job we fritter away our time at so we can pay for that house, and the family and friends we use to populate it. Take them all away, and we might actually realize that we’re alone. There are millions of people on this continent alone, and not one of them understands what another feels. We’re overcrowded and suffocating, and at the same time… so alone.”
“Is that why you’re here because you feel alone?”
Khy glanced up at the older woman sitting in an armchair across from him. “I’m here because my job demanded it.”
She sighed and put her notes aside before leaning forward to stare at him. “Mr. Alton, therapy can be very beneficial if one is only open and accepting.”
A tick started in Khy’s jaw at her words. God, he didn’t want to be here. The only thing worse than those that liked giving advice, were the people that made their living doing so. He seriously had no use for therapists.
“Listen doctor,” he said, shifting in his chair, “I appreciate your need to help me, but I don’t need it.”
She pushed aside his words and ploughed on. “You said you feel alone…”
“No, I said we are all alone,” he interrupted, correcting her.
“I don’t understand. Isn’t that the same thing?”
“They aren’t. You see solitude as a negative aspect, but I don’t. It’s natural. We come into this world without anyone and leave it the same way. And the effort to find others to occupy our time with during the in between, only serves as a means to fog up the reality. I don’t need that. For me, solitude is a comfort.”
“Do you truly feel that way? You don’t like being around anyone? What about your loved ones?”
He shifted restlessly, not enjoying the new line of questioning, and from the doctor’s probing stare he knew she could sense his discomfort. He glared at her before he spoke.
“I don’t have any loved ones.”
She quirked a brow, which only served to irritate him further. “Really? Not one, ever? I find that hard to believe.” Yes, he was lying, and the good doctor knew that. But he hadn’t come here to talk about his past. The only reason he was even sitting in this room was because he had been ordered to. “Come on Mr. Alton, we’re here, so why don’t you talk to me,” she prodded.
Images of his past pushed through the fortifications he had erected. He knew there was no way they would stay down now. It was a debilitating realization, but he didn’t push them away contrary to what his mind begged of him. As much as he disliked the thought, the doctor was right. And a part of him knew, for him, there was no leaving until her curiosity was satisfied.
“You want my story then?”
She smiled. “That is why we’re here.”
It wasn’t. Not for him any ways, but he’d play her game.
“Then get comfortable because it’s a long tale.”
She adjusted herself in her chair and grabbed her note pad before looking over at him. “I’m listening.”
Of course she was. It was her job. And she’d be one of the few to know his story, to know how he had become the hollow shell wandering through life unfeeling and numb. But in the end, it wouldn’t matter. He had clutched the hand of darkness, and there was no going back, for him or the good doctor. Their fates were sealed.
Six years ago
Life, the perfect word to describe the crippling period of existence between birth and death, how had humanity survived it? How had he? How was he still alive after his heart had been ripped out of his chest and crushed in front of his eyes? How could anyone survive that?
What good was a person without a heart? What was their purpose? Were they even still human?
Khy certainly didn’t feel human any longer. He was nothing more than an empty vessel full of blinding bitterness and remorse. His soul screamed for justice, for retribution over the unlucky hand Lady Luck had dealt him.
He frowned at that thought. This wasn’t to be blamed on bad luck. No, the blame could be laid at one woman’s feet, a woman that was currently gliding through the doors of the bar he had been occupying the majority of the evening.
Her cold eyes landed straight on him without overly searching, as if she’d known he’d be there. She tossed him a flippant smile which made his stomach churn, before she grabbed her new boyfriend’s arm and led him over to the pool table tucked away in the corner.
Khy could only watch, stunned by her presence, as she leaned over the table, her short mini-skirt riding up higher over her thighs. A familiar surge of lust welled inside him until her new guy pulled her close and kissed her. Bile rose in his throat from the scene. He was going to be ill. He just knew it.
He waved the bartender over in order to pay his tab and get the Hell out of there.
“Man, I can’t believe Alyssa would do that to you man. It sucks,” the bartender said, dropping the bill in front of Khy and staring off in the direction of his ex.
Anger over being the recipient of sympathy ripped through him. How dare the man talk about Khy’s personal issues? Everyone there knew him. After all this was where he and Alyssa had hung out most nights. This was their bar of choice, and these people, the bar’s regulars and staff had been their friends. So it was no surprise they would know that Alyssa had cheated on him after two years and then left him for her current boy toy.
The worse thing was he didn’t even know what he had done to cause her cheating. He had accepted her completely even when others had said that she was bad news. He hadn’t cared that she was a stripper. He had understood that had been the only option for her at the time, and he had never been jealous when other men watched her. After all she was coming home to him at the end of the day, so what did he have to worry about?
Most men wouldn’t have understood Alyssa. She was a wild fire that could never be put out, and he had been the wind driving her to rage further. He had accepted her completely, and still it had never been enough for her.
Khy sighed and shook his head as he glared at Alyssa’s new guy. The man wouldn’t last. He was just another play thing for her amusement until she grew bored with him and tossed him out with the rest of the trash. She would use the man up and suck his soul dry just like she had done to him.
Then she’d come running back to him. She would realize what a great catch she had abused and beg his forgiveness, and he’d push her away.
Alyssa’s soft giggle drew his attention back to her. Who was he kidding? He’d take her back. He wanted her back even now. He loved her. She was beautiful and exciting, and he had devoted so much of his life to their relationship, to their future. He wouldn’t survive starting over in a new relationship again. He had no heart to give. The woman standing on the other side of the room already had it.
Hopping off the barstool, he approached her. He knew it was a bad idea, but he couldn’t stop his feet even if he wanted to. He had to talk to her, make her see that they belonged together. It wasn’t too late for them. But before he could get closer, her boy toy blocked his path.
He held out a hand to Khy. “Hey man, no hard feelings, ok?”
Khy looked at the outstretched hand and couldn’t stop the anger that rose inside him. He slapped the man’s hand away. “No hard feelings? You fucked my girlfriend behind my back,” he bellowed.
“Now Khy,” Alyssa said, coming to stand next to her boyfriend, “Please don’t make a scene. Can’t we be civil,” she asked as she entwined her hands with her guy’s, and that’s when Khy saw it, the tiny diamond ring on her left hand.
His mind went black as the room began to spin.
“You’re engaged?” he wheezed.
Alyssa smiled down at the tiny rock.
“Actually we just got married last week.”
Those words were a knife to his chest.
“We just broke up two weeks ago.”
“Oh, I know that silly,” she giggled. “But when one is in love what’s the point of waiting? Besides,” she patted her tummy, “the baby will need a father.”
“Baby? Father?” Khy couldn’t believe what he was hearing. A dull ache pounded in his head, and reality slowed down. The woman that should be his wife was married to another man and having his child. That should be his baby, his life. He was the one that had dealt with Alyssa’s drama over the past two years. He was the one that had taken her to the hospital after she had taken too many pills and slit her wrists. He was the one who had taken care of her when she had drunk too much and been out of her mind on drugs. He had never let anything bad happen to her, and what had she done in return?
She had run off with the jerk in front of him. The man was a child. He couldn’t be any older than his mid-twenties. He couldn’t take care of Alyssa. Only Khy could do that, but as he stared at the seemingly happy couple in front of him, he grudgingly realized the truth: there was no place for him in Alyssa’s life, and it was the man in front of him that was to blame.
He had taken everything away that had ever meant a damn to Khy. And that thought is what kept him from pushing away the fury that began to choke him from the inside out. The bitterness, that empty hollowness, they were replaced by burning determination and a single goal: to destroy the man that had destroyed him.
With no other desire other than to inflict pain, Khy leapt forward and tackled Alyssa’s husband. The man screamed as Khy’s fist came into contact with flesh. He pummeled him over and over again. The skin on his knuckles tore open, and Khy smiled at the pain. He wallowed in it. Pain had never felt so good before, and today it served to spur him on.
Alyssa’s husband’s blood felt like Heaven as it splashed against Khy’s skin. That beautiful crimson was the most becoming sight he had ever witnessed, and the only testament that the man underneath him was suffering at least a small part of what he had inflicted on Khy.
A warning flare went off in his head then, telling him that if he didn’t stop beating on the man he would kill him, but Khy didn’t stop. He couldn’t. That dark shadow that lingered just underneath the surface, that part of the soul that others locked away and denied existed, had come out to play, and it wanted blood. It wanted destruction, and Khy was more than willing to appease it.
Or, he would have been if strong hands hadn’t pulled him off Alyssa’s husband. He twisted and kicked, struggling to earn his freedom.
“Easy now,” Carl, the police officer that hung out at the bar often, said.
But Khy wasn’t listening. He had a mission to accomplish, and he’d be damned if anyone got in his way.
One benefit of being friends with a cop, you knew their weaknesses, and Carl had just returned to work after taking medical leave for knee surgery, so when Khy kicked him in that sweet spot and Carl doubled over in pain, Khy wasn’t surprised.
He couldn’t help the laugh that escaped his lips at the older officer’s pain. It was about damn time others felt what he did. When he was done he’d make them all suffer.
He pushed Carl back down when the man tried to get up, and that’s when he saw what would save his soul. Reaching for the gun at Carl’s side, he wrapped his fingers around the handle and felt the power surge through him. He was unstoppable. Giddiness welled inside of him. Now, he could finally destroy his enemy.
He turned his eyes back to his ex’s husband and lowered the gun. But as he stood there, the weapon pointed in the desired direction, for some unfathomable reason he couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger. He tried again, but the scene before him halted him.
Alyssa’s tears over her unconscious husband wounded him, and began to drive away some of his anger. The feral beast inside him paused in its madness, and Khy was finally able to see just what he had done.
His friends, the people he had known for years, were scattered about the bar staring at him with mixtures of disbelief and terror on their faces. Carl, a man who had only been kind to him in the past, was struggling to stand because Khy had kicked him to the ground, like a worthless animal.
God, what had he done? Why had he let it go this far? The anger receded further only to be replaced by bitter anguish. He had caused so much pain, and because of his actions he deserved his grief. He deserved to live this life of suffering. But he wasn’t strong enough for that, and there was only one way out for him.
Raising the gun he held, he placed it in his mouth. There was a scream, from who he knew not. And then it grew quiet, the only sound he could hear was the blood pounding in his own ears. The hammer clicked in place before he pulled the trigger. Everything went dark.
Khy closed his eyes as the memories from six years ago resurfaced.
“Do you think about killing yourself often?”
Khy looked over at the doctor. Actual concern glimmered in her eyes. It was an emotion he hadn’t seen directed towards him in a long time, and he couldn’t deny that its presence strangely comforted him.
“I don’t contemplate killing myself, doc. I’m already dead.”
She frowned. “It’s normal to feel that way after a tragedy.”
Khy couldn’t help but smile. She was trying so hard to help him. “Doc, it’s more than a feeling. I am literally dead.”
She sighed and shifted in her seat. “Okay, let’s suspend reality for a second then, and why don’t you explain to me how you can be sitting across from me if you’re dead.”
“Because those that have suffered in life don’t get to rest in death. Their soul is in too much turmoil to move on, so they are brought back to life and they belong to him, to command.”
“Him? Him who?”
Khy looked up at the doctor before answering her.
“The angel of death.”
The disembodied voice broke through the cobwebs of Khy’s mind, forcing him to drag his eyelids open. When he was finally able to focus, he noted the fair face with flaming red hair that was staring down at him.
“Who are you? Where am I?”
“I’m Trina,” the redhead said softly. “The other question isn’t as easy to answer.”
Khy frowned at her words as he tried to push himself into a prone position, but he quickly found the simple task not so easy as his arm muscles quavered in protest of his movements.
Trina wrapped her arms around him. “Let me help,” she said, as she tried to do just that.
He wanted to push her away, but he was too weak.
When he was finally in a sitting position he let his head fall against his chest, too weary to stop its decent. He just breathed in ragged breaths, confusion ripping through his body and mind. Where the Hell was he?
A small hand touched his nape while another gently stroked his cheek. Khy couldn’t stand the gentle touch, the touch of a woman… not after Alyssa… Alyssa… his mind roared. Images of what she had done, what he had done, flashed through his head.
“Don’t touch me,” he snapped, but Trina didn’t do as he ordered. Instead, the infuriating woman pulled him into her arms and squeezed him softly.
“I’m so sorry. No one deserves to love someone so much and in return for their affection and loyalty receive only betrayal.” Trina pulled back then in order to look into his eyes. “Alyssa was an idiot.”
Khy went rigid from her words. How did she know about Alyssa? He was about to demand some answers from the woman when loud footsteps distracted him.
“What are you doing here Katrina? Get out,” a deep voice boomed.
Trina gave him a small smile before placing a kiss on his cheek. “If you ever need me, just call,” she whispered before standing up. Khy felt a strange feeling of solitude at her actions, but he quickly pushed it away and looked up at her. Only then did he notice the white wings attached to her back. She winked at him a moment before she disappeared.
Khy felt his eyes grow wide in shock.
Holy shit, I’m hallucinating.
“You aren’t hallucinating,” the voice from before said. Khy turned his head towards it to see a well dressed man with his own pair or wings, though his were grey.
“You can read my mind?” Khy questioned, feeling rather like Alice lost in Wonderland.
The man simple smiled before answering. “Hardly, but everyone thinks they’re either dreaming or hallucinating when they first get here.”
Khy looked around the white room that was devoid of furniture that he was currently occupying. “And where is here?”
“The void, the other side, limbo… this place has many names.”
Khy’s heart felt like it stopped. “Then, I’m dead?”
“Yes… and no. You’re beyond death, not human, but not spirit, something else entirely, which is why you’re so weak. Your body is adjusting to the transformation.”
“Into what exactly?”
The man pointed to Khy’s neck, and he looked down to see a necklace with two black wings attached.
“An angel,” the man answered, matter-of-factly.
Khy touched the cold wings. “An angel?” he mumbled.
“Normally, a person would have the option of joining our ranks, but those that commit suicide don’t get that choice.”
He dropped the necklace and glared up at the angel. He didn’t want to believe what was happening to him, but he remembered killing himself. He could still feel the remnants of the pain in his temple, so he knew there was no doubting what the angel was telling him, but if he’d spend his afterlife doing anything other than trying to find peace, he’d be damned. “And what if I don’t want to be an angel?”
The angel’s features turned sharp. “You don’t have a choice, but I think you’ll enjoy your new life.”
“I don’t want to be an angel. I don’t want to look over and protect people.”
The angel smiled then. “You won’t be. You see Khy on Earth you are only told about one type of angel in your Sunday schools, but there are actually two. There are those like Katrina, the angels of light, that are guardians, but you and I are different. We are angels of darkness. Our job is to destroy those that have stepped out of line, those that have escaped deserved justice. We right wrongs.”
“And what makes you think I give a damn about any of that?”
“Because that’s not all there is to this job. You see, with this comes the power to banish all that pain that you keep wrapped up inside. I can teach you to bury your emotions so deep that they can never hurt you again. I can give you the control that you lack, turn you into a warrior. And you can either fight me on this, or you can embrace it, and become stronger, powerful.”
The ability to not feel, to not be affected by the mere thought of Alyssa again; there was no debate in Khy’s mind. He glanced up to the angel.
“When do I start?”
“So this man, er… angel, offered to help you heal?” the doctor asked.
Khy shook his head. “His name is Grayson. And there was no healing involved. He gave me something even better.”
“And what was that?”
“Numbness, the ability to not feel.”
She sighed then. “Khy, you can’t deny or push away your feelings. You can’t heal that way, and that’s why you’re here.”
Khy frowned then because he was ten steps ahead of the doctor and had no choice in his future actions, and never before had it bothered him like it did today. “You assume that’s why I’m here, but it’s not.” He stood up then and turned away from her. This would be easier if he didn’t have to see her. “You see doc, you messed up. You lied about a Josh Buchanan’s mental state, and he was released… released to kill again.”
He heard her soft gasp. “How do you know about that?”
“It’s crazy how one little mistake can change a person’s life,” he said, ignoring her question. “How someone can commit a crime, but do so because they think they’re helping. How something believed to be an act so small and innocent can have disastrous results. It isn’t right that a person loses their life because of another’s actions, because of a simple lie.” Khy pulled his sleeve back and glanced down. “I want you to know I won’t enjoy this,” he said the moment before he unsheathed his dagger and turned to plunge it into the doctor’s chest.
Her eyes widened in surprise before she took one last breath. Khy wrenched his dagger free, and her blood flowed liberally. He bowed his head before reaching down to touch her eyelids. He closed them.
“We can never escape our mistakes. They become our sins,” he murmured before turning away from the scene. Six years ago, he had committed a mistake. Her name was Alyssa. And to this day he was paying for being with her. He was paying for the dark place she had driven him to, his punishment to make others pay.
Grayson had gotten rid of every thought of her, of the terrible reality of his past. But the doctor had dragged those memories out of him. He couldn’t hate her for that. Because the past six years of that numbness made him realize that he had only been hurting himself in every possible way in an effort just to feel something.
Now, the gates of turmoil were open once again.
What had he become? What had he done?
Familiar pain surged in him. He didn’t push it away, because he was alone. Everyone had left him. He wouldn’t let the pain go now. It was his only friend.
He looked down at his hands. The doctor’s blood stained them, and he realized he had one more thing aside from the pain. He had his job. He was death. He was destruction. He reached for the office lamp and flicked it off. He was darkness.