When we found the creature, we thought it was an angel. - Chap 3
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The day after witnessing Raphael devour live birds, I woke to a strange silence. I lay in bed for a while, trying to figure out why everything was so quiet. There seemed to be a certain stillness to the air, an utter lack of commotion with no discernible source.
Then the reason for the silence dawned on me. I no longer heard that strange buzzing sound in my head. It had grown so loud and constant over the past few days that I’d begun to consider it a normal part of my life. But now it was gone, and the silence left in its absence was almost deafening.
However, after only a short while, the strange silence was once again filled. But the sound was different this time. It wasn’t like the radio static of before. Rather, it almost sounded like voices whispering in the distance. I closed my eyes and tried to focus on them, feeling my mind reach out as I sought the source of the noise.
I jumped and peered around my room in search of the sudden voice. However, there was no one there. Confused, I closed my eyes once again and attempted to interpret the eerie, shifting whispers that bounced around my skull. I focused harder, envisioning my mind as a hand reaching out toward the source of the noise.
“Can you hear us?”
I jumped again, but less violently this time. It had almost sounded as if…
I closed my eyes and focused again. “I can hear you,” I thought.
“It’s about time,” came a second voice.
This time I thought I recognized it and a sudden realization dawned on me. “Elijah?”
“That’s my name. Don’t wear it out.”
“I’m here too,” came Isaiah’s voice. This time it was clearer and more audible.
I blinked in surprise, unable to fathom what was currently happening. Was I really communicating with the twins in my mind?
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“Telepathy, obviously,” Elijah said as if it was the most normal thing in the world. “Did you hear the buzzing before?”
I nodded then realized they couldn’t see me. “Yeah, I thought I had brain cancer or something.”
“I thought Zayne had just knocked a screw loose,” Isaiah said. “But it turns out we’ve all been hearing it. We think it’s Raphael.”
I nodded again, this time to myself. That would make sense. The strange buzzing sensation had begun after we met the angel. Perhaps this was how it communicated. The vibrations it communicated with were similar to the buzzing I’d heard, although I hadn’t made the connection before.
“Is it…” I trailed off, trying to think of the right word. “Is it here too?”
“Focus harder,” Elijah said.
I did as he asked and put all of my energy into sharpening my mind and fixating on the strange pocket of consciousness that I’d discovered. As I did so, something seemed to reveal itself. At first, it felt like a heavy weight that lurked beneath my thoughts, but as I focused even more intently, it began to feel more like another consciousness. The presence wasn’t anything like Elijah’s or Isaiah’s. It felt enormous, sending tingles across my skin like the air before a thunderstorm.
“I feel him,” I said.
They replied with something less than language, a slight sense of affirmation that I interpreted as the mental equivalent of a nod. So, it was more than just sending thoughts back and forth. We could convey emotions as well.
“How long have you two been able to do this?”
“Since yesterday morning,” Isaiah said.
“Looks like you’re a late bloomer,” Elijah added, and I felt his amusement.
Ignoring his jest, my thoughts returned to the angel, and I suddenly recalled what I’d been meaning to tell them.
“Come outside,” I said. “We need to talk about something.”
Only a few minutes later, the three of us were gathered in front of my house. As we sat on the curb, I described what I’d seen to the twins. They looked on placidly, seeming completely unsurprised by my story. When I finished, the two of them shrugged in unison.
“So what?” Elijah said. “He ate some birds. I wouldn’t call you a monster just because I caught you binging on KFC.”
“It’s different and you know it,” I retorted.
“Maybe that’s just his diet,” Isaiah said. “He was injured when he fell to earth. You saw how messed up his wings were. He probably just needs the nutrients so he can heal.”
I sighed and resisted the urge to shout at them. I should have known the twins wouldn’t take my side. They would defend their stupid angel until their last breath. “Then why doesn’t he just heal himself like he did to Elijah?”
Elijah raised his finger like a teacher about to make a point, and I suddenly knew his next words would only piss me off more.
“Miracles are for the benefit of mankind. They inspire faith and awe in God’s power. It would be blasphemous for an angel to perform a miracle on itself.”
Yep, I was more pissed now.
“That’s…” I trailed off. What could I say to convince them? The twins were utterly convinced of the angel’s holiness, assured that it was good by nothing more than blind faith. There was nothing I could do to convince them otherwise. “Just keep what I said in mind,” I relented. “If he eats living creatures, then it’s entirely possible that he’d eat a human given his size.”
The twins had the audacity to laugh at that, chuckling and glancing at one another as if it was the funniest thing in the world. I could sense their amusement through our telepathic link, which only irritated me even more. Why couldn’t they see the dangers that Raphael posed? Annoyed, I turned and began walking back to my house.
“I’m not going to the shed today,” I said. “I’m not feeling too well.”
As I spoke, I mentally conveyed my frustration to them, letting them know the real reason behind my choice to stay home. As I did so, I sensed that they thought I was being silly. My warnings had fallen upon deaf ears, and I momentarily hoped that Raphael turned out to be a monster just so I could feel the satisfaction of being right.
Chiding myself for that thought, I went inside and retreated to my room. Much of the day was spent in futile attempts at distracting myself. My new telepathic link with the twins had come on so suddenly that I hadn’t yet marveled at the incredibility of it. Just the thought of this newfound power sent tingles of excitement running down my spine.
However, my excitement was dulled by the extreme distraction it caused. The twins’ emotions were laid bare to me, prodding at the back of my consciousness at every moment. It seemed that we couldn’t hear each other speaking unless we consciously attempted to communicate, but our most base emotions spread through the link like fire through a dry forest, seeping into my mind with subtle forcefulness. The flurry of emotions was eerie, and I shifted uncomfortably when I felt their euphoria at seeing Raphael again.
Worse yet, the link seemed to grow stronger as the day dragged on, and I became acutely aware of Raphael’s presence in my mind. It was vastly different from the twins’ presence, lacking their variation in thought and emotion. Instead, the angel’s consciousness was a static entity that seemed to merely observe without thought or feeling. His presence felt ancient, and I imagined it was akin to standing before the Great Sphinx of Giza and shivering beneath its stony, watchful gaze.
Even with its lack of apparent thought, I sensed that there was nothing innocent or simple about Raphael’s mind. Perhaps the complexity of his psyche was beyond human comprehension, even when conveyed through telepathy. Or maybe he was somehow obscuring his thoughts and feelings. Regardless, his presence evoked a sense of something great, a being of innumerable years and immeasurable power. Raphael was intimately familiar with biding his time, and he would wait for eternity if it meant getting what he wanted. If only I could figure out what he wanted in the first place.
The sun reached its zenith and began its slow descent. As the shadows grew longer, I learned to block out the twins’ flurry of emotions. At first it was difficult, like trying to avoid thinking about a particular topic. The very act of doing so inevitably brings it to the forefront of your mind.
However, I’d learned to form a sort of mental wall, a psychic barrier that prevented me from receiving their every emotion. This required intense concentration at first, but it became easier with practice. After a few hours, I was able to maintain the barrier without any conscious effort. It came as easily as breathing, and I finally relaxed, relieved to know that my thoughts were once again wholly my own.
This relaxation was short-lived, as I began to feel a strange rumbling in my mind that penetrated to the very core of my psyche. The sensation was different from anything I’d experienced before, and I puzzled over it. After a moment, I realized that such intense telepathic waves couldn’t come from the likes of Elijah or Isaiah. That left only one other option – Raphael.
I scrambled to tear down the barrier I’d created, only to find that the rumbling was no more intelligible than before. It was muted, as if Raphael had created his own barrier to keep me from listening in. Concentrating harder than ever before, I focused on listening to the angel’s words. But they remained incoherent and elusive. It seemed he only wanted to communicate with Elijah and Isaiah.
As he spoke, I sensed a flurry of emotions from the twins – excitement, awe, fear, euphoria, and finally love. The strength of their emotions chilled me to my very core, and I feared what Raphael was doing to them. Their obscene religious devotion would drive them to do anything for the creature, and I doubted there was anything holy about his desired.
Eventually, the rumbling stopped, but the twins’ profound reverence remained. I could practically see them in my mind’s eye, standing before Raphael with mouths agape, tears streaming down their cheeks as they gazed upon his twisted figure, trembling before what they believed to be an incarnation of the divine.
Sickened by the thought, I rushed to the bathroom and retched into the toilet. As I did so, I shifted my focus and replaced my mental barrier. I couldn’t risk them sensing my fear and revulsion. If they deemed me a threat to Raphael, then the twins would do everything in their power to stop me.
They seemed to notice the sudden change, and I felt their minds prod at the new barrier. However, their curiosity was short-lived, and they quickly returned to focusing on Raphael. I sighed, relieved that they didn’t seem concerned with my odd behavior. The utter obedience conveyed by the twins scared me more than Raphael himself.
From that day forward, I did my best to avoid visiting Raphael with the twins. They asked me to join them every morning, but I would always come up with an excuse to stay home. At first, they seemed disappointed, but I could always sense slight relief when they realized they had Raphael all to themselves. Eventually, they stopped asking me at all and merely traipsed into the woods by themselves.
It was then that I began to notice even more strange behavior from the twins. Their parents enforced a strict bedtime, and they were never allowed up past ten in the evening. On the other hand, I was a night owl, often staying up well past midnight.
As usual, the twins would go to sleep at ten. I could always tell, as the faint mutter of their thoughts would disappear when they drifted into unconsciousness. Although I’d become adept at maintaining a barrier between our psyches, there had always been slight leakage, and those few hours after the twins fell asleep served as a respite from the constant buzzing of their minds.
A week after I stopped visiting Raphael, I sensed them waking up shortly after midnight. Upon doing so, the chatter from their minds became more excited than usual. This pattern continued, night after night, and I grew intensely curious about their nocturnal activities.
I tried to listen in on their thoughts, but when I lowered the barrier, I found that they’d put up one of their own. Their minds were shielded, and I could do nothing to make out their words or thoughts. Several times, I heard them sneak out at night, and I wondered if they were slipping away to spend more time with Raphael. Cold fear gripped my gut as I realized how obsessed they were with the creature. I imagined them spending all day staring at the thing, forgetting to eat and sleep until they slowly withered away, and their fresh corpses were devoured by the putrid angel.
I desperately wanted to stop them, to convince them that Raphael was a monster, but it felt as if there was nothing I could do. The twins would never forego their faith, and I couldn’t kill Raphael. The creature would easily break me in half.
One day, as I walked down the street, I noticed something different about my neighborhood. The change was subtle, so much so that I had to stop and scrutinize the rows of houses to discern what had changed. Finally, my gaze settled on a signpost, and I realized what the difference was.
Every available surface – telephone poles, stop signs, and even mailboxes – were obscured by white papers that fluttered in the wind. This wasn’t particularly strange, as it was common for people to post flyers that promoted local community gatherings or services. However, the sheer number of flyers must have increased tenfold in the past week.
Curious, I strolled to the nearest stop sign and began reading the flyers. There were a few for lawn services and one that promoted an ice cream shop down the road. However, the vast majority of them were for missing pets. Countless images of lost dogs and cats stared out at me from the fluttering papers. They had all gone missing in the past two weeks, and all had disappeared in my neighborhood or those adjacent to it.
My thoughts immediately turned to the day I’d seen Raphael eating live hatchlings, and a sick sensation settled in my gut. As it did so, I began forming even more connections, recalling the twins’ late-night excursions and the barrier they’d created to hide their thoughts. I remembered how Raphael had spoken to them. Perhaps he hadn’t just been communicating. What if he was giving the twins commands?
I nearly gagged as I envisioned countless cats and dogs being offered up to Raphael and swallowed whole. It was so easy to imagine – the twins sneaking out at night and snatching animals from people’s back yards, then bringing them to Raphael and looking on in reverence, convinced that they were helping a divine creature.
As if in response to my sudden realization, a frantic chatter filled my skull. The twins were talking again, but more excitedly this time. Their emotions were strong, and I could sense them easily despite the barrier they’d erected. They washed over me with a newfound intensity: obedience, reverence, hesitation, and most of all, fear.
Their previous thoughts and emotions paled in comparison to what I felt just then, and I suddenly suspected that they were about to do something terrible.
I sprinted toward the shed, desperate to stop whatever they were doing. The trip seemed to take forever, the seconds passing like hours, and I grunted in frustration. As I ran, more emotions flowed over me.
At first there was shame, but the sensation slowly dissipated and was replaced by swirling ecstasy. The waves of religious elation coursing from the twins nearly brought me to my knees. I’d never sensed such strong emotions, and I barely managed to keep myself from falling. Undeterred, I continued forward, slower now, but making progress.
The shed was in sight, and a faint sound came from the ancient wooden structure. It sounded like a wail but only for a moment, and then it was cut off, leaving me questioning whether I’d heard it in the first place. Despite my uncertainty, I was wracked by nausea and convinced that something horrible had just occurred.
Panting heavily and struggling to keep my composure, I reached the shed’s entrance and peered inside.
The twins turned in surprise, fear apparent on their expressions. When they realized it was me, their faces softened. The two were sitting in front of Raphael, who was seated in his usual corner, looking around placidly with his hands folded in his lap. There was no indication that anything unusual had just happened.
“What are you doing out here?” Elijah asked.
My mind whirled as I attempted to come up with a response. Should I accuse them of feeding the neighborhood pets to Raphael? No, they would only deny it. I should just play it cool.
I shrugged and tried to hide the fact that I was breathless from running. “I was just coming out here to hang with you guys. We haven’t seen each other in a few days.”
The twins glanced at one another and shifted uncomfortably in their seats. They eyed me suspiciously, clearly unconvinced.
“We thought you were avoiding us,” Isaiah said. He sounded irritated, as if I’d just interrupted something private.
“Of course not,” I said and offered a halfhearted smile. “I just haven’t been feeling very well lately, and I’ve been busy.”
The twins nodded, but their expressions remained the same, firm and suspicious. They shot another glance at one another, and I sensed that they were communicating telepathically. However, I was still blocked and unable to hear their conversation.
After a moment of tense silence, Elijah turned to me and smiled. “We were actually just about to go home. But we can hang out tomorrow, if you’d like.”
I scrutinized them carefully, then relaxed and attempted to act casual. “Of course! I wouldn’t have been able to hang out long anyway.”
“Want to walk home with us?” Elijah asked.
I nodded and the twins stood to leave. Before exiting the shed, they turned and offered a deep bow to Raphael. As they did so, my eyes fell on the creature. He seemed no different than before, and I considered that maybe I’d been entirely wrong about the twins’ behavior. Maybe they really were just visiting Raphael late at night, and the missing pets were just a coincidence.
However, just before I turned to leave, my gaze settled on Raphael’s wings. When we’d first found him, they’d been twisted from his fall and missing feathers in several places. But now they were much straighter, and there were no visible patches of missing feathers. They were still bent slightly but had undoubtedly healed since I’d last seen him.
Haunted by the angel’s sudden recovery, I followed the twins and headed home. We walked in tense silence, each of us doing our best to ignore the awkwardness that surrounded us. Several times, the twins looked back at me, as if they didn’t trust that I was following them. That could mean only one thing – they wanted me away from the shed.
With that realization in mind, I went home and waited inside, glancing out my window to see if the twins would come back out. However, their door remained closed, and I sensed them drift into unconsciousness shortly after. With them asleep, I crept outside and focused on fortifying my mental barrier. I wasn’t sure if my thoughts could wake them up, but I figured it best to remain as discreet as possible.
Being careful to walk quietly, as if the twins could somehow hear me from their bedrooms, I moved toward the shed. The night weighed down upon me, its darkness exacerbating the fear I already felt. Finally, after what felt like an eternity of creeping through the woods, I stood before the shed. With a deep sigh, I pulled out a flashlight I’d brought and peered into its dark interior.
Raphael sat in the corner as before, and he hummed slightly as I entered. I scrutinized him carefully, looking for any sign that he’d been eating neighborhood pets. I wasn’t even certain what to look for. Tufts of fur scattered about? Blood on his hand? A box of dog collars that had been kept as trophies?
There seemed to be nothing abnormal about Raphael, and he stared at me passively, his one great eye reflecting the flashlight’s beam and appearing to be an enormous, glowing orb. Puzzled, I began aiming my light around the shed, searching for other clues. The twins had clearly wanted me away from here, so there must be some kind of evidence.
After ten minutes of searching, I almost gave up. However, as I moved to leave the shed, I happened to shine my flashlight on the rubber tire that Elijah was sitting on earlier. A bright-colored object peeked out from inside of it, and I stepped forward to investigate further. As I peered down at the tire, my breath was cut short and my heart began pounding against my ribs.
Encircled by the tire was a pile of clothes – a shirt, pants, underwear, socks, and shoes. It was as if someone had stripped naked and left their outfit behind. The clothes were far too big to have belonged to the twins. They probably wouldn’t have even fit me. Given their size, one might have assumed they belonged to an adult, but there was something particularly adolescent about the clothing choice.
In particular, the shoes looked like something a teenage boy might wear. They were red and flashy, not the kind of thing most adults would buy. Additionally, they looked strangely familiar. I felt that I’d seen them before. No. I knew I’d seen them before.
Then, with a sinking realization, I finally remembered where I’d seen the shoes. Zayne wore shoes exactly like that. It was hard to forget what they looked like considering the number of times I’d stared down at them while he held me in a headlock.
Having recognized the shoes, I realized that the shirt and shorts were also familiar. Zayne always wore the same three outfits, and this was one of them – a black t-shirt with a skull on it, black basketball shorts, and his red shoes.
My hands began to tremble, and the flashlight’s beam bounced erratically around the shed. I felt a prickling sensation at my back and turned to see Raphael staring at me. There was something different about his gaze. It wasn’t empty like usual. Rather, he almost looked entertained by my discovery, and an obscene satisfaction played across his sparse features.
The baby birds.
The missing pets.
The twins’ strange behavior.
Raphael’s sudden healing.
And finally, Zayne’s clothes.
It all came together, and bile rose in my throat as I slowly backed away from the creature. It seemed unthinkable, and I rebelled against the intruding thoughts. But there was too much evidence, too many strange occurrences.
It had started with pets. But now Raphael had moved on to bigger things. I didn’t know how they managed to do it, but the twins had fed Zayne to the wretched creature.
I felt that familiar rumbling in my skull. It was the same as when Raphael had communicated with the twins. Except this time, he was communicating with me.
He neither provided explanation nor issued any commands. In truth, he didn’t speak any words at all.
The ghastly, one-eyed creature merely laughed.
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