When we found the creature, we thought it was an angel. - Chap 4
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As the monster’s laugh resounded in my skull, I backpedaled away from it, frantically trying to find the doorway without taking my eyes off Raphael. He merely sat there, watching me flee like a frightened rabbit, never deigning to chase after me. Nonetheless, having worked up the courage to take my eyes from the creature, I turned and sprinted back home.
Raphael’s laughing continued as I ran, seeming to vibrate in my very bones with each resounding boom. My legs pumped faster than ever before, burning as they carried me away from the shed and the horror it contained.
I needed to get home, to tell someone about what was happening. This was too much for me to handle on my own. I’d kept Raphael a secret from my parents, figuring they wouldn’t believe me. But now wasn’t the time to worry about sounding crazy. Surely, they would know what to do. They were adults, people who had witnessed the horrors of the world and survived. They always knew what to do. They had to.
I was almost out of the forest when I skidded to a stop, startled by the appearance of two figures in front of me. Desperate to get home, I lashed out at the two strange figures, attempting to fend them off before Raphael finally took chase. However, just before my fist connected with one of them, the trees shifted, and moonlight fell across their features.
It was Elijah, and Isaiah stood beside him. I’d been so caught up in the horror of my discovery that I hadn’t even noticed they were awake.
“What are you doing out so late?” Elijah asked.
My mouth moved, but no words came. I couldn’t even comprehend my recent realization, let along put it into words. I opted to point accusingly at the twins, my finger trembling wildly with a mixture of terror and rage.
“You know,” I managed to croak.
Elijah cocked his head. “What are you talking about?”
“I saw the clothes in the cabin. I know what you did. What Raphael did.”
The brothers looked to one another, and I sensed them speaking telepathically, though I couldn’t hear what they said. After a moment, Elijah nodded and turned to me, his eyes cold.
“I guess there’s no point in hiding it,” he shrugged. “But Zayne had it coming. If anything, we’re jealous of him. He gets to become part of something greater, of something holy.”
My hands began to tremble even more fiercely. They weren’t even bothering to deny it anymore? “You fed Zayne to Raphael?” I asked, hoping that somehow this was all one big misunderstanding.
To my disappointment, the twins nodded.
“Aren’t you happy to have him gone?” Isaiah asked.
I stared at him, dumbfounded. “I mean, he was a pain in the ass, but…” I trailed off. It seemed so obvious that their acts were heinous, but the twins were utterly oblivious to the nature of their actions. “Don’t you see? You killed an innocent person.”
“He was anything but innocent,” Elijah scoffed. “He was a heathen.” He moved forward and tried to take my hand, but I jerked out of reach.
“What are you doing?”
Elijah shot me a quizzical look. “I’m taking you back to the shed, of course. If you just look at Raphael, and I mean really look, I’m sure you’ll see his holiness. You’ll understand the ecstasy of serving God so directly.”
Isaiah nodded along as he spoke, a smile playing across his features.
“Like hell, I will.” I took several steps back, then teetered forward upon realizing that I’d moved closer to the shed. I was trapped between Raphael and the twins.
“Just come with us,” Isaiah pleaded. “We just want you to understand how important this is. Raphael needs to heal, or he won’t be able to go home and serve God.”
There was no response for such a statement. The twins were beyond saving, and nothing I said would help them see the truth of their angel. I was done trying to reason with them. If they wanted to get themselves killed, then that was their business. For now, I needed to go home.
Wordlessly, I strode forward and pushed past the twins. They both grabbed at me, but I shrugged off their attempts to hold me back. They must have sensed my anger, because their icy hands slid off with little resistance, and they watched in silence as I walked away.
After only a few steps, I sensed a rumbling in my skull. The sensation stopped me in my tracks, and I immediately bent over, clutching at my head and trying to shake off the sudden painful sound. It was like when Raphael had spoken with the twins, except it was far more intense this time. That had been like listening to distant thunder, but this was more like having your head shoved in the clouds just as the thunderclap struck.
The sensation vibrated my teeth, and I worried they’d be shaken from my gums. I fell to my knees, rendered completely immobile by the force that battered at my skull. Then, while I knelt, groaning and helpless, Raphael finally spoke.
The voice resounded in my head, seeming to come from an infinite number of directions while simultaneously originating from somewhere deep within myself. I became disoriented and a splitting headache struck me.
In response to the command, my body began to move of its own accord. I stood and turned to face the cabin. My mind rebelled against the foreign consciousness, fighting to retain control of my limbs, but to no avail. Raphael’s command was too strong, his power too great. Despite my best efforts, I began to walk stiffly toward the shed.
The twins smiled and fell in step with me.
“Do you see it now?” Elijah asked. “His true power?”
I tried to curse in response, but my mouth felt wired shut. Every muscle in my body felt foreign and completely beyond my control.
Isaiah grinned and bounced with excitement. “I think something big is going to happen tonight. I can just feel it.”
“And he wants you to witness it,” Elijah said, gesturing toward me.
I bent all of my willpower on stopping the motion of my legs, but they just kept moving. Is this what Raphael had been doing to the twins? I glanced at them, thankful that I was still able to move my eyes and muster the slightest motion of my head. However, their movements were far different from mine. They were steady and willing. The twins didn’t oppose Raphael, and so he felt no need to control them. Everything they’d done had been of their own accord.
After fruitlessly attempting to regain control of my body, dread settled in my gut as the shed came into view. Darkness enveloped the dilapidated structure, but I knew that an even deeper darkness lurked within, one which threatened to swallow me and everything I loved. As it grew closer, my dread became hopelessness, and I stopped resisting and went limp. Of course, my body didn’t go limp, as it was no longer my own. Instead, it just kept moving forward, a mere puppet being dragged across the stage by its heinous, one-eyed master.
We entered the shed, and utter darkness fell upon us. Raphael made no sound, but I could feel him in the darkness, watching, waiting. It seemed that he would burst forth at any moment and swallow me whole, and I resigned myself to such a fate.
To my surprise, the shed suddenly burst into light. I glanced over to see Isaiah holding a battery-powered lamp. Though it was small, the bright LED light pushed away much of the darkness, and I saw Raphael sitting in the corner, his single eye focused on me.
“Sit,” it commanded, speaking directly into my mind.
I immediately collapsed before the creature, my legs crossed like a preschooler sitting in front of their teacher. The twins followed suit, arranging themselves in a semicircle around Raphael.
“Would you like to hear a story?” Raphael asked.
The twins nodded excitedly. I tried to tell the creature to fuck off, but my mouth still felt wired shut. Against my will, I felt my own head nod along with the others.
“Very good,” Raphael said.
His voice sounded strange in my head. It cycled through countless different tones and even accents, as if someone had taken syllables from people all around the world and pieced them together into sentences. The effect made me feel even more disoriented, and my headache returned.
“I’m going to tell you about my mission and my past,” he said, leaning forward. “Listen closely, as it’s all so very important.”
The twins nodded, grinning and bouncing slightly in their excitement. After only a split second, I felt my own body mimicking their movement. I sensed that Raphael was consciously forcing me to act like them, using it to annoy me even further.
Then, he leaned back and began his story.
“It all began a very long time ago, before humans had built their first homes, before the fish that became them first crawled upon the land, and before that very land had congealed into more than cosmic dust.” He leaned forward and pointed to himself. “In that time before time, I didn’t look like this. You see, I was more than the form before you now. Back then, I was part of something greater.”
He paused, and as he did so, Isaiah spoke up.
“Do you mean like God?”
Raphael nodded. “Yes, my child. I mean like God.” He raised his hands and motioned toward the sky. “I was one part of a greater whole, an infinite body comprised of infinite parts which stood above all things.”
As he spoke, images flowed into my mind. I first saw little squirming speckles, like static on a TV screen that writhed to and fro. Then, the image seemed to pan out, and I saw infinitesimal parasites feasting on the even smaller squirming things. After only a moment, it panned out further, and I saw worms writhing and tangled about each other, seeming to suffocate themselves, driven perhaps by the parasites that floundered within them. Once more, the scene grew larger, and I saw a rotting human corpse. It moved, but not like the previous things. Instead, its skin bubbled and churned, constantly shifting due to some internal motion.
The images passed through my mind in less than a second, but their effect remained long after they’d disappeared, and nausea overcame me.
“This greater being,” Raphael continued, “is the one you call God. I existed within him, and he within me. As one unified body, we created the universe, we created all things, and we ensured that all things were good.”
He leaned forward, and his voice became softer, though it retained its previous power.
“However, there came a cataclysmic event, that which is now known as the Great Undoing.”
“The Great Undoing?” Elijah asked. His tone indicated that he’d never heard of such a thing.
Raphael nodded. “Yes, evil grew rampant within the universe, reaching out with its vulgar claws in the hopes of one day enveloping the world. Its effect was so deep, that it even managed to seep into God’s core. There it began prying at his parts, at the faithful servants who acted within the whole. It changed them, pulling relentlessly until they were torn from his bosom.”
“The Fall,” Isaiah said, and Elijah nodded in agreement.
I wanted to refute their sudden claim, but my body still wasn’t my own. All I could do was watch helplessly as they twisted Raphael’s story into something that suited their beliefs.
“Indeed, I’m speaking of The Fall,” Raphael said, clearly sensing an opportunity to leverage their faith. “It was then that the body was torn apart, and my brothers were scattered to the cosmos. Without those pieces holding us together, even those who didn’t succumb to evil were cast away and lost in the endless movement of time and space. I was among them, and I drifted for an eternity before finally finding myself here.”
He leaned down, and the voice in my head grew intense, seeming to swell until his thoughts enveloped us like a storm cloud.
“Thus, it is my mission to seek out my fallen brethren and guide them back toward our core so that we may once again become whole. Only then will the world once again be good.”
The twins clapped at his words, and I felt my own hands forced into a hollow imitation of their action. I tried to convey my disdain at this, but my mouth was drawn into a broad smile that threatened to split my face.
Raphael held his hands up, and we all stopped clapping.
“However, my brethren are scattered far and wide, lost to places far beyond the reach of those bound to earth.” He gestured to his broken wings. They seemed better than when I’d first seen them but still incapable of flight. “As you can see, it’s currently impossible for me to fulfill my mission in this state.”
Elijah shot to his feet. “We can help! We’ll bring you more pets and you can get all better.”
“Yeah, just tell us what you need,” Isaiah added.
I focused all my willpower on telling them to shut up. My mouth twitched a little, but no words escaped my throat.
Raphael shook his head. “I’m afraid mere cats and dogs will no longer suffice. At first, I thought they would, but after receiving that wonderful offering you provided earlier, I’ve realized that there is only one thing that can heal me in time. This is precisely why I’ve gathered you here today.”
The room fell silent, and the twins watched Raphael with bated breath. I already sensed what was coming. I tried to tell them no, to stop this madness, but I was still a mere puppet, and it was not yet my line.
Raphael extended a hand toward the boys. “Will you join me as part of the body and help me on my quest to restore good to the world?”
There was only silence then. Each second seemed an eternity as it grew longer, and I saw a hint of hesitation on Isaiah’s face. Elijah’s was turned away from me, so I couldn’t see his expression, but I held onto the slim hope that they would reject the creature’s offer.
“Of course we will,” Elijah said suddenly. He looked up at the creature, and I glimpsed a tear rolling down his cheek.
Isaiah still seemed hesitant, but his expression hardened upon hearing his brother’s words and he set his jaw. “I will too.”
My mind reeled, and I struggled at the bonds which held me. I had to stop them. I had to prevent this monster from devouring them. Not only for their sake, but for the sake of everyone else. Who knew how powerful Raphael would be once fully healed? It was unlikely, but we might stand a chance of stopping him now. However, I had little doubt that he’d be unstoppable once restored to his former state.
But the bonds remained steadfast, and I sensed the faintest hint of Raphael’s amusement at my desperate attempts to regain control.
Raphael nodded, and the boys wordlessly began removing their clothes. I watched in horror as they stripped naked before the creature. They must have made Zayne do the same thing. It was all too easy to imagine. They tricked him into following them into the forest and led him to the shed. Once inside, he would be paralyzed before Raphael’s wretched form, just as we were on the day we found him. The monster would have wrapped his tendrils around the boy’s psyche and forced him to strip down. Then, once bare, he would have grabbed Zayne and swallowed him whole.
The twins finished stripping, and Raphael gestured to Elijah, nodding as the boy moved forward.
“Are you prepared to become one with the body, to exist within the eternal whole, and aid in the quest to restore what once was?”
Elijah nodded but trembled slightly. “Will it hurt?”
“Of course not,” Raphael responded. “You will feel nothing but utter peace and content. There won’t be a moment’s pain, and you will be happy within the body.”
Seemingly satisfied, Elijah stepped forward so that he was mere inches from the creature.
Raphael’s face split as it had before, widening to a cavernous size, his jaw moving lower and lower until it hung level with his abdomen. His face stretched until it was four or five times wider than before. No teeth were visible, but a slick black tongue peered out from within, and thick ooze coated the surface of his mouth.
Then, in a motion that was strangely reminiscent of a frog capturing a fly, Raphael’s gangly arms darted out and grabbed Elijah. With immense strength, he lifted the boy and shoved him headfirst into his cavernous jaws, all in the blink of an eye. The hair-like tendrils on his head reached out and began shoveling his prey hungrily into his mouth, rapidly pulling Elijah’s body inward until only the tips of his toes were visible. Then with one great gulp, what remained of Elijah’s body disappeared, and Raphael buzzed contentedly.
He sat still for a moment, seeming to savor the sensation of having fed. Despite Raphael’s thin body, there was no indication of Elijah’s presence in his throat or stomach. It was as if the boy had simply disappeared upon being swallowed, and Raphael was left looking just as before.
He turned to Isaiah and held out his hand once again. This time, it felt more like a command than an invitation.
Isaiah glanced back at me, and I attempted to communicate with my eyes, silently begging him to run. For a moment, it almost felt like he received my message, and he smiled grimly. But, instead of running, he turned to face Raphael and stepped forward.
Once again, the creature’s arms darted out, grasping Isaiah and forcing him into his cavernous mouth. The tendrils pulled him inward, seeming to work even faster this time, and the boy quickly slid down the monster’s throat. Another pause, and Raphael buzzed contentedly, the sound lasting longer this time.
I waited in silence as horror twisted my gut, waiting for the creature to finally turn toward me. However, it only sat there, perhaps savoring its meal. My fear grew as the moments passed, and I frantically tried to think of a way to free myself. Perhaps now that he was distracted, I would be able to escape the bonds that held me.
I willed my limbs to move, tears welling in my eyes at the effort. There had to be a way. I couldn’t just let the creature eat me. There had to be some method of escaping Raphael’s psychic hold.
My efforts were interrupted by a loud cracking sound that echoed throughout the small shed. I glanced up to see Raphael stretching, his wings straightening and popping back into place as he did so. The once broken appendages flexed and spread to their full breadth, the ends pressing up against the shed’s walls and curling inward.
Then, with his body now restored, Raphael turned and began strolling toward me. This was it. There was nothing I could do to stop the creature. Just like Elijah and Isaiah, I would be devoured whole, used to make this monster even stronger than before. And I wouldn’t be the last. He would move throughout the town, first the neighbors, then my parents, tearing down the street until there was no one left.
Raphael stepped before me, and I gritted my teeth in anticipation of what would come next.
A moment passed.
Confused, I glanced up to see that Raphael had stepped past me and was now ducking out of the shed. He stepped onto the forest floor and glanced up at the sky, flexing his wings as he did so.
Like a rubber band snapping, I felt his psychic hold release, and my body was once again my own. I instinctively scrambled away, kicking up clods of dirt as I skittered across the floor, putting as much distance between the creature and myself as possible.
His gaze fell on me for a moment, then it returned to the sky. He flexed his wings again, then flapped them a couple times, and I saw his body tense as if preparing to take flight.
“Wait,” I said, unsure of what possessed me to do so. If he wanted to leave me alive, then why not let him? It was a stupid thing to do, but I simply couldn’t allow him go without first asking a question.
Raphael’s gaze once again fell on me, and he stopped moving.
“Why?” I asked. “If you can control us, like you did to me, then why manipulate the twins into doing your bidding? Why not just use your power to control people and make them come to you themselves? Why…” I trailed off, unsure of what to say next. “Why leave me alive?”
Raphael turned toward me, and his face once again split to reveal a broad toothless mouth. Then he spoke, but not using a telepathic link. The perverse, garbled imitation of human speech came from his slimy, toothless mouth.
“Because it was fun.”
With that, Raphael turned his gaze to the sky, flexed his wings, and shot upward, returning to wherever he came from and cursing me to live with the knowledge of his existence.
For twelve years, those final words haunted me. I heard them every day upon waking, I heard them in horrid moments when I could find nothing to fill the silence, and I heard them every night as I fell asleep.
“Because it was fun.”
Was that all we were to him? Just objects to be toyed with and thrown aside for fun. Was that how puny we are compared to such a creature? If so, then how long before my fate befalls the rest of the world.
I haven’t seen Raphael since the day he left. The twins’ disappearance became a huge scandal, and countless search parties investigated the woods. Of course, they eventually found the boys’ clothes in addition to those left by Zayne. After several months with no trace, they eventually concluded that the boys had fallen victim to some sicko with a penchant for kids. To this day, they’re still looking for him.
If only they knew the truth.
Although, it’s not as if I’m much different. I’ve spent every day for the past twelve years scanning the skies in search of a gangly, winged figure tucked among its clouds. Sometimes, after I haven’t eaten or slept for several days, I think I see Raphael’s silhouette suspended above me, his shadow casting me in darkness and following wherever I go.
And of course, there’s that phrase I hear every night – because it was fun.
However, over the past several nights, I’ve begun to hear something different. It’s not like the horrors I’m usually subjected to when the moon is high. It’s distinctly foreign, and I’m unable to tell if I’m merely imagining it or if the sound is real.
It sounds a lot like radio static.
Well, it did, at first. But it’s beginning to change, growing more distinct with every passing night. Now it’s grown louder, sounding almost like a voice muttering in my skull and reverberating through my body with a deep rumble.
But that’s not quite right either. It’s not just one voice. It’s several, almost like a group of brothers all speaking to one another, growing closer with every passing night. Sometimes, the link grows strong, and I’m suddenly able to feel their emotions as if they were my own.
In those moments, I feel impossibly hungry. But it’s okay, because my destination grows closer, and soon I can feast to my heart’s content.
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