I laughed. The whole thing was absurd. But I walked over to the box. Unmarred, not a scratch. I still couldn’t see where the lid started. All this for me? I had no sense of unease about any of it. If anything I was entertained, though annoyed about my rug. I had no concern for my safety; I was invincible, truly invincible, unlike my brothers. Untouchable even. I forgot who I was dealing with. And besides, I could never back down from a taunt.
I set my hands on what I supposed the lid was and lifted it. It slid off easily, and I set it aside. There was a knife inside, on a bed of satin, like the box was a coffin and this knife a corpse. There was nothing special about the knife, it wasn’t unmarred like the box. It had been used and was in need of a polishing. I gave Golden Eyes a “That’s all?” look and reached in to pick it up.
I hadn’t noticed that something else was in the box.
Once my fingers touched the knife, that something else reached out, reached into me, wrapped around my heart and mind like a parasite. I was wracked by an inconceivable horror, an excess of emotion, an eternity of guilt. The other thing in the box had been a soul, and it was now mine, in me, a part of me. My soul.
I dropped the knife as if it had burned me and fell to my knees, shrieking and clutching my head, my chest, everywhere, not sure what part of me hurt worst. Everything I had done in my life marched before the eye of my mind and my heart felt it all. I couldn’t catch my breath, something constricted my lungs. Other pieces of me felt hot and numb all at the same time. And I felt emotion upon emotion, some I had never felt before in such quantities and others I had never felt before at all. And always guilt, such guilt.
I don’t know how the angel’s words reached me, writhing on the ground in torture as I was. But they did. “The sinner may find relief and forgiveness,” he said. “But the sin itself never will. Your powers are no more, and you are free to die. But know that should you die, the only place open to you is Hell.”
The one with the dark eyes picked up the knife, but didn’t speak, never spoke. The other continued.
“You are to hunt the six other sons of Lilith and kill them. Should you succeed, you will receive your powers again. Should they or any other of your kind kill you, they will obtain a soul of their own. They are being informed of this even now. Know that they are hunting you, so do as you’re told.”
Even as he spoke, and even as I lay on the floor trying to breathe, I couldn’t process this. Gain their own soul? Who would want this? Who of us would want this? But I knew he was right, that they would hunt me. They couldn’t know. They would only want. For their collections. Their very own soul.
The silent angel reached down to me and grabbed hold of my wings. He sliced through them with the knife, and another pain flooded through me – the pain of injury and vulnerability. And I thought I would die right then, die and find myself in the fires of Hell.
I couldn’t take it. I passed out.