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Touched by an Angel
by Todd Robbins
A desireor rather, a needfor urgency imbedded itself into the back of my mind, like a seed. Once planted, the desire sprouted and began to grow at an exponential rate. Almost unconsciously, I ran, away from the others. They couldn't have kept up with me if they had wanted to. My limbs were strained from exhaustion, yet I ran on, fueled by adrenaline, and again, that same desire. As I leaped through a translucent blue window on the ground and fell through to the other side, I blinked.
Unfortunately, that was what got me thinking, and time seemed to stop. What am I doing here? What is the rush?
For the first time since I had entered the crumbling ruins of the city, I paused to take a look around. I dropped to one knee on the ground, panting heavily and taking notice of the fatigue of the past few days. My clothes were dirty and torn, and my muscles still tense from the surge of energy I had experienced. The struggle to catch my breath reminded me that though time had apparently stopped, that wasn't truly the case. The seconds passed by meaninglessly. What makes it different here? I glanced around the large room I was in, as if searching the pristine marble walls would provide an answer to my mental question.
Still, though, nothing came. Not from the walls, the fathomless pools of water, the flowing waterfalls, nor from the multicolored windows above me. I kept searching, searching for understanding in this foreign environment. Why have I come? There was the original question.
You ran away from them, I told myself, Time has no meaning because you're safe. There's nobody else here. And I was right. There truly was nobody else there. It was just me and---and who? I searched once more, my eyes focusing on the round, stone steps that lead up to a large altar in the center of the room. My heart practically leaped out of my chest when I saw her there, kneeling, her eyes closed as if in prayer. And, instinctively, the seeds of desire planted themselves again, though somehow differently. I leaped to my feet and ran to the small staircase faster than I could comprehend. I wanted to hold her in my embrace, and kiss her. I never wanted to let her go.
It was the initial thought that stopped me dead in my tracks as I began to climb the steps, but it was the implications of the thought that chilled me. I shivered, as I wondered absently how love and hate could be so intertwined. Time had slowed down again. The constant change in speed was beginning to sicken me.
If you were to get rid of her now, the sickness would disappear.
My initial shivering increased as my entire body began to tremble. Slowly, unsteadily, I unstrapped the sword from my back and held it out in front of me. The large blade shimmered, reflecting the early morning light that streamed in from above. I walked up the remaining steps with my sword drawn, and when I reached the altar, she was still there. I breathed a sigh of relief as I began to lift my weapon, preparing for a strike. Two actions at the same time, each contradicting the other. Why am I doing this? She doesn't even notice.
Indeed, her eyes hadn't even opened since my approach. Her position was no different than it had been since I had seen her from a distance. It was disappointing, that she hadn't even bothered to acknowledge my presence. Surely she had to have heard the clatter of my footsteps on the floor, the sound moving closer to her? Surely she had to notice that I was nearby. Surely she had to sense me somehow...right...?
I thrust my upraised sword downwards as a lumberjack would thrust an axe to split a log in half...and stopped, mere centimeters away from her head.
I couldn't help but admire her in what were almost her final seconds of peace. Everything about her--from her beautiful hair to her slender form to her perfect complexion--seemed to radiate such an aura of peace and happiness that while it repulsed me at the same time, it also welcomed me, and I threw my sword to the side. Her eyes opened slowly, revealing an inner shine that I had waited for for so long, a shine that only I was privy to. This was my moment of recognition, and, for what seemed like the first time in years, I smiled. I smiled for her, if only for a fleeting moment.
In that one moment, I felt complete. I knew I had found my love.
So quickly was the joy ripped from my grasp that it was impossible to comprehend completely, yet were I to try to remember it, the memories would be crystal clear. A shadow appeared above the two of us, and fell downwards upon her, sword aimed with precision. The metal blade, thin and long as opposed to my wider sword, pierced her body clean through as her attacker landed gracefully on his feet behind her, smirking.
Strangely, there was no ear-piercing shriek of pain or surprise as the blade tore through her insides, blood splattering messily to the floor. Instead she looked almost calm, as if she had expected the strike all along. As her body went limp and the sparkle faded from her eyes, her assailant wrenched his weapon free of her body. She fell towards me, and I rushed to catch her limp form in my arms. I cradled her gently as her wounds gushed blood, and she took a final look at me.
She smiled, returning the one I had given her moments earlier. Was it moments? It seemed like years ago. My body trembled and shook almost violently as angry, bitter, mournful tears made their way to my eyes. I gazed down at my love, my angel, and ran my fingers through her long brown hair or was it short and blonde? My vision was blurred; my memory inaccessible. I couldnt remember anymore.
Youre trash. Couldnt you save her? Couldnt you at least have made an effort?
With those words flooding my mind, I glared up angrily at her assassin for the first time. He towered over me, looking down upon me, mocking me as if he were Cain taunting Abel in the final moments before his murder. Doesnt he know Im already dead? My life had slipped away when hers had; she had taken my soul with her to the great beyond. It wasnt that she had intended to kill me when she left, but rather that my soul was inexplicably and inexorably intertwined with hers.
You killed her.
For perhaps the thousandth time, a thought crossed my mind that wholly shocked me. I continued to stare up at him, my vision still blurred by tears. I blinked once, twice, and forced the teardrops away.
I saw myself. There was no mistaking the figure- he was of average height, with overly dark brown hair and brown eyes. It was a description that could perhaps be applied to many, but to me it was like staring into a mirror. He smiled unapologetically, his eyes blazing with an insane fury I believed I could never match as he turned away and disappeared. Though he had never spoken, words that seemed to be his echoed inside my mind:
I have no time to waste on you. You are merely a puppet.
The others had found me now; they were beginning to ascend the stairs leading up to the altar. Holding her lifeless body close to me, I stood and walked down to them, saving them the trouble of coming after me. One by one, expressions of disbelief crossed their faces as they saw her and my bloodstained hands. But I shook my head silently, and they seemed to understand. Though they were my companions, I felt nothing for them. I had lost myself inside her.
They all moved away from me as I carried her towards the exit of the room, and none of them bothered or dared to follow. How could they know my pain? Outside, tall trees grew on either side of the building I had come from. Across a small chasm, I could see the entrance to the city that we had all gone into, hoping to find her. But my pursuits had lead me underground to the opposite side of the structure, and now, outside the building, I was more alone than ever. I wandered forever it seemed, still holding her body in my arms, until I came to a small lake.
Something came over me when I saw the lake. It wasnt an emotionI wasnt happy, or relieved, or ashamedin fact, by that time I had convinced myself that I was blank, that I was done caring. But something like a natural instinct compelled me to make my way with her to the middle of the lake and then let go. I expected her to simply float on the clear waters surface, but instead I saw that the currents would pull her body under. I gazed at her gently as she moved away from me, but even after her body had disappeared, I didnt move my gaze from the spot where I had last seen her.
As night fell and the stars came out, I found myself walking away from the lake where I had laid her to rest. I afforded myself one look back, to see the moonlight on the waters surface. And still, a sight so beautiful could not quell the voice in my head.
You are worthless. You aspire to greatness and still you cannot protect even one simple woman? You cannot protect your love? Why cant you stand up to yourself? You were garbage to begin with, and now youve been mutilated beyond repair. Theres nothing left for you in this life.
Those words running through my mind over and over again, I headed back towards the lake. When I reached the shore I swam out into the water as far as I could go, until my aching body finally gave out. I closed my eyes with a soft smile as I began to slip beneath the surface of the water; I would be united with her again.
It would feel like being touched by an angel.
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