I'm bound. There is nothing but darkness here. I call out, but the hollow silence deafens my voice. No sight, no sound, no reference point in this place—it’s an imageless sleep, like being dead while awake, with no place to turn.
I hold still and watch, I wait and listen, until my breath becomes a wave upon which I drift.
From afar, I catch a whisper of a sound, like a breeze carrying words, an invocation. Rise up and fall in love. . . . Rise up and fall in love. . . . The speaking grows louder and I recognize my own voice.
“Eve, wake up!” Mom’s hand gently shook my shoulder.
I opened my eyes and stretched out my arm. I was on the living room sofa. Everyone was already up having breakfast. The smell of coffee and poppy seed cake drifted in the air. Dad was preparing his pitcher of tea—I could tell by the banging of his spoon on the glass. Upon seeing me awake, relieved Rena turned for the remote control and plopped on an armchair.
“What time is it, Mom?”
“It’s past noon. Phone call for you.”
“Who is it?” I asked with a yawn.
“Not sure. Should I ask him to call back later?”
“No, I’ll take it,” I said, rolling off the couch and walking toward a small bureau in the hallway.
Who could it be? Was Ben coming back around? I would never tell him to his face, but I was beginning to miss him. A lot. I missed the conversations we had, the music we shared, and the questions that took us beyond the mundane. I missed all that and more, down to my daily anticipation of him knocking on my door around suppertime, and the knowing that the best part of my day was just about to begin. The lack of Ben in my life, the lack of simply knowing that he was there and thinking of me, was becoming more devastating than I could ever admit. I used to take all that for granted.
“Hello?” I said into the phone.
“Hey.” It wasn’t Ben, but the voice gave me a taste of familiarity.
“I was wondering if you’re free later today.”
“I am. What’s happening?”
“Nothing really,” Rock said. “I was just hoping for a guitar lesson or a jam session. Or whatever. But it’s okay if you are busy, I mean—”
“Works for me. Wanna come by in an hour?”
“That would be perfect,” he said, and we hung up.
It had been weeks since I touched my instrument, and while I was hardly in the mood to play music, I did crave company. The prospect of another day in front of the television eating holiday leftovers was unbearable. I showered and changed, and by the time Rock arrived, my hair was almost dry and my amp buzzing.
“What’s new?” he asked, untying his polished boots in the foyer.
“Nothing exciting,” I said and Rock followed me to my room.
“What happened to all your tapes?” he asked, taking notice of my empty shelves.
“Gave them away,” I said to avoid unnecessary explanations, before plopping down on the revolving desk chair. Still, part of me wished I could just tell him they were in the garbage and how I wished I hadn’t thrown them away.
“All of them?” His eyes were wide with disbelief, as if asking why I didn’t think of him first. I really had amassed an impressive collection.
I plugged the amp jack into my guitar, which made the sound of crumbled plastic, ending with a fiery pop. Rock sat on my bed and unzipped the black bag that held his wooden, tan-colored acoustic guitar with red trimmings. “What would you like to work on?” I asked.
“I thought that I could practice the pentatonic scale while you hold the chords,” he shrugged, and I swapped my electric guitar for his instrument. It was easier to solo on an electric.
“And then I got this new song and was hoping you could help me rip off a riff or two.”
“What is it?” I asked, taking the tape he pulled out of the inside pocket of his leather jacket.
“It’s a demo by this new band, Daimonion. Out of this world.”
“I could try.”
“Ben got it from Fly. Apparently Fly met these guys at some festival and now can’t stop talking about them.”
Fly was the nickname of the rhythm guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter of Sirrah, a local doom metal band that was experiencing quite the measure of success.
“So, what’s Ben up to these days?” I asked, trying to hide the eagerness in my voice.
“He’s been up in the city a lot, sitting in on rehearsals with Sirrah. They will be playing in our little village at the beginning of February. You should come.”
“Is Ben part of the band now?”
“He wishes. But sometimes he jams with them,” Rock said, getting up. We needed to swap places, as the cord that connected my guitar to the amp was too short to reach my bed.
Rock sat on the chair and scooted it toward the amp while I settled on the edge of my mattress. He cranked up the volume but immediately turned it back down after the deafening squeal of feedback ripped through the air.
“And Art?” I asked while strumming his six-string acoustic. It was in need of a tuning. “What is he up to these days?”
“Art moved up north to live with his father. But he said he would be coming back to town for the New Year.”
I asked Rock to strike each of my freshly tuned strings, bottom to top, while I twisted the pegs of his instrument in search of matching notes. Once both of our guitars sounded the same, we began our lesson. I picked four chords to play in sequence as a background for Rock’s solo improvisation. But it was hard for me to keep the chords clean. My head was too preoccupied throwing off my rhythm, and we had to start multiple times. Finally, we decided to take a break.
Rock plunged the Daimonion tape into my player, pressed play, and turned up the volume.
“The track’s called ‘Night,’” he said, before the sounds reverberated with full force, rattling the glass in my windows and door.
It had been weeks since I started my music cleanse and even longer since I had heard anything new. The combination of melodies and lyrics spilling in lilts and thuds into my room gave rise to astounding visions and sensations. The bass, strings and drums tore up the air, and the vocalist’s gloomy vocals grabbed a hold of my soul. As much as part of me wanted to resist it, hearing this track was like medicine, unlocking a deep longing, reconnecting me with my essence.
Night, night, her sister took away your waking days, the vocalist sang. And the moon, it lights up my path, while you sleep, went the chorus, freeing me from last vestiges of my self-imposed renunciation.
Take me, deliver my life into your heaven. Night, night, her sister took away your waking days . . .
The song ended and I looked at Rock, who was grinning ear to ear.
“Pretty dope, huh?”
I nodded. “I will rip the whole thing for you, but you will need to leave the tape with me.”
“This is your copy,” he said, pointing at the player.
After another shot at a solo jam, way more fruitful this time, Rock left, and I spent the rest of the afternoon locked up in my room, wearing out the six song demo tape with successive replays.
Belly on the floor, feet wiggling in the air, I immersed myself in biblical study, highlighting passages with references to fallen angels. By the time the night reached its darkest hour, I had listened to the tape more than a dozen times and had more than half of the holy text marked and annotated.
Two lines I found in Isaiah inspired an idea. I paused my research and stared at the words I had circled with a pencil:
How you are fallen from heaven,
O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground,
You who laid the nations low!
The passage pointed toward a link between the morning star and Lucifer. I pulled out a clean sheet of paper. Near the top, I drew a star to represent Venus, and angel wings below, connecting the two images with a weaving image of a serpent. Lust. Astrology. Myths. Rites of Passage, I jotted down beside it.
My body responded and for a split second my vision cleared.
There was no evil in nature. There was only massive human misunderstanding. There were those people who used stories long ago in an effort to convey to others the steps of human evolution. This was the true purpose of mythology and religion--to unite people in common understanding on our individual quests for truth, to point a way toward a path, not easily found in a world that muddled our senses with incessant distractions. And then there were those who used those same stories to scare those who might be seeking answers. People like me--those who swam against the current.
I was standing on a precipice of change. I felt it with every fiber of my being. This moment called for drawing from the well of my own strength and not relying on anyone when making decisions. This quest required faith and strong will. My old views would need to be deconstructed--hence the association with destructive forces. But the only thing that would be destroyed was the old self hypnotized by status quo, no longer relevant, no longer useful, and preparing me to question even more.
I looked at my sketch of the wings ascending up the serpentine spiral toward Venus. In it I recognized a map guiding me toward my personal rite of passage. The angel was my catalyst, the agent of change. I knew there would be people and signs guiding me onward, but ultimately it would be a lone journey.
On the last day of 1995, I paced around my phone for hours before mustering the courage to dial Rock’s number. I wasn’t used to being the one to initiate a connection. Ben usually took care of that part. It was already twilight when I finally called. Rock’s mother picked up and told me that he had gone out with Artur. Of course, it was New Year’s Eve. Art was back in town. Fighting initial reticence, I donned my coat and went outside. For all I knew they could be anywhere, but there was one place more likely than others. For the first time since the unfortunate kiss between Ben and me, I ventured to the theater.
The town was desolate, frozen in time, save an occasional vehicle rushing to a party at someone’s house. A light drizzle of snow and rain was falling. I walked wondering whether I would be riding into the New Year with my old pack of friends or hunched over the scripture, collecting new insights, my investigation interrupted by drunken neighbors shouting their felicitations toward the heavens. There could even be a firework or two.
As indicated by a poster with a two fizzing champagne glasses hanging on the front door, tonight the theater would house a private party upstairs, where I knew Rena would be boogieing. Rounding the corner, I entered the plaza, just as a group of four guys were splitting a pack of beer. Two punk rockers I knew vaguely, Sasha and Kal, sat on the concrete stairs while Art and Rock remained standing, likely to not dirty their coats. Feeling a bit as if encroaching upon a closed circle, I approached with a weary gait until Rock noticed me and waved.
“How’s our secret project?” he called.
“What secret project?” Art perked up and turned in my direction. “Long time no see.”
“Eve is helping me rip the chords off the song Ben wants to cover with Fly. I want to beat him to it.”
“I smell rivalry,” I cast toward Rock. “You didn’t tell me that part.”
“You could’ve said no,” Rock said.
“Anyone got a smoke? It’s been ages,” I said to fill the silence. Kal extended his pack and Rock offered his light. I leaned into the flame, feeling Art’s piercing glare.
“Surprised you’re not with Ben tonight,” he murmured. “I heard there is going to be a mad party in the city.”
I shrugged with overstated indifference, sensing that all four of them knew more about what happened between Ben and me than they were willing to admit.
“Where are you guys going from here?”
“My garage,” Kal said. “Wanna come? It will be mostly guys though.”
“She shouldn’t have a problem with that,” Rock said, the guys laughed, and Sasha handed me a bottle of beer he had just opened for me.
I felt much better.
About a dozen of us lingered inside the makeshift space Kal referred to as his living room. Band posters covered the garage’s metal walls floor to ceiling. The music was blaring from a guitar amp connected to a tape player; there were blankets and pillows in each corner and wood stubs for tables atop which rested bowls with potato chips and pretzels. While the food offering was paltry, cases of booze made up for any lack. We must have had enough alcohol to inebriate half of the neighborhood.
As the current music track was coming to a close, we heard a loud slam. The doors parted with a bang and in rushed Crass with his entourage.
“What up, motherfuckers?” he shouted from the open doorway. I stepped behind Rock to get out of his view.
“What is he on today, you think?” Rock elbowed Art.
“Probably everything he could get his hands on,” Art said and called toward the disheveled youth. “Hey, Crass, come over here and join us for a shot!” It didn’t take much for the youth to saunter over and wedge himself between Rock and Art, and plant a loud kiss on Art’s cheek, which Art ostentatiously wiped with the back of his hand. “Easy, man. Easy.”
The difference between them was staggering. Art, polished and tidy in his gray coat, green scarf, and shiny boots, and Crass, unkempt and wild--frayed hair, flannel shirt poking out of his bomber jacket, mangled black skinny jeans.
Crass greeted Rock with a high-five and turned to look at me.
“Good evening, Madame,” he said, tipping an invisible hat and extending his hand. Warmed by his gesture, though not without reluctance, I gave him my hand, which he slowly raised to his mouth. Looking me in the eyes, he turned it palm up, and traced its length with his wet tongue.
“Eww, man! Gross!” Art laughed.
I withdrew my hand quickly and wiped it on my pants, chagrined by the sudden arousal that shot through my body.
“Felt good, right?” Crass whispered, making sure no one besides me heard him. “It could be even better.”
I walked away but before Crass had a chance to call me out on my sheepishness, I returned with a full bottle, jamming a shot glass into his hand. I wouldn’t let Crass intimidate me.
“Here, drink with me,” I said, pouring us shots.
“You really are something,” he squinted his eyes and raised his glass. “The joke’s on me.”
Rock and Art joined us in a round and the four of us went outside to smoke. As the guys talked about some new band they had just discovered, I drifted off thinking about Sariel and what I could possibly do to prepare myself before the next full moon. It was time to initiate a meeting. My eyes landed on Art. I knew he was well read and had dabbled in philosophy.
“Eve is good at ripping music,” Rock said, breaking my daze. “You should ask her.”
I looked up. “What are you guys talking about?”
“Crass wants to know how to play the guitar. He needs to learn a chord or two that he can repeat over and over until it sinks in. That should last a few months, right buddy?” Rock slapped Crass’ shoulder.
“Hey, stay back,” Crass reacted, pointing his finger at Rock. “Hands to yourself!”
“Calm down, I was just trying to help,” Rock blushed, raising his hands in surrender. I sensed we were all thinking the same thing. One wrong move could send Crass reeling, throwing fragile objects at walls and killing innocent animals.
“Somebody give me a fucking drink!” Crass growled, his eyes burrowing through Rock with that hollow gaze that frightened me so much.
Rock glanced at Art, and then back at Crass. “If you want a drink, let’s go in,” he said, and Crass followed him inside the garage. I breathed a sigh of relief.
I asked Art for another cigarette. “Sorry, I came completely unprepared.”
“At this rate, let’s just say you owe me a pack,” he said and we lit up.
The alcohol was surging through my veins and the smoke was making me lightheaded. I swayed to the side, shamelessly ogling Art’s face.
“What?” he finally asked.
“What do you know about fallen angels?”
“You mean the myths?”
“Not myths. The real stuff. Did it really happen, you think? Did the angels have, you know—?”
“Intimate relations with women?”
“Right,” I said. With Rock gone, it was my turn to blush.
“Well. . .first off, if something is a myth, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t represent something true. The original function of myth was to explain the complexity of life, the underpinnings of existence. It used to serve as a roadmap to help navigate reality, to give people an idea how to live, how to move through cycles.”
I stared at Art, who had just reiterated what I had recently discovered through my drawing. If I only had had the courage to talk to him earlier… Clearly, alcohol helped break the ice.
“With time, and as science took over, the whole thing reversed,” Art continued. “So now when we say that something is a myth we often mean that it is false and superficial, completely the opposite of what myths used to stand for.”
“So do you think that the story of the fallen angels is true?”
“I don’t know that. But it could also be a metaphor that describes something transcendent, like a change of state.”
“A rite of passage, maybe?” I asked.
“Exactly. Why do you ask?”
“I feel like they’ve infiltrated my reality.” Art raised his brows, so I continued. “I agree with you that they might point toward something deeper. . . . But I also think that they could actually exist,” I said, feeling an onset of nausea. It was not the best idea to drink and smoke on an empty stomach.
“You know they exist or you want them to exist?”
“Is there a difference?” I asked.
“When you want something bad enough, I guess it can seem like you’re making it real. Is that what you mean?”
“Right. And the more you know you are not supposed to have something, the more you want it,” I noticed that I was beginning to slur my words. “The angels are cursed because they evoke the forbidden aspects of the feminine. They are all male, you see, and they carry with them this raw feeling of lust and desire and we are supposed to stay innocent, you know, we are supposed to be pure,” I said, fighting a wave of queasiness and hoping I was making sense. “We are not supposed to go there, you see, into that place of temptation and pleasure and—” I was so caught up in my rhetoric that I didn’t notice when Crass joined us, dropping my cigarette onto the snow.
“Keep talking. I’m captivated,” he said, handing me a shot glass.
“I don’t think she should have any more,” Art said.
“She should and she will. Cheers!” Crass bumped his glass with mine. “Just returning the generosity,” he winked.
I knew that Art was probably right but I didn’t want to appear weak so I tipped the glass and felt more of the warm liquid spread through my chest.
“So you were saying? Temptation and pleasure?” Crass prompted.
I blushed. “Art and I were just discussing the story of the fallen angels.”
“My favorite topic,” he burped and smiled.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much my peers knew about the subject. Art said that he was cold so he excused himself and went inside, leaving Carss and me alone.
“So what do you know about the fallen?” Crass asked, handing me a new cigarette.
“Very little. But you sound like you do,” I inhaled the smoke. For a moment, Crass went out of focus.
He nodded. “I do. And I know how to experience them directly. Would you like to know what it’s like?”
I couldn’t believe my ears. Crass knew how to contact a fallen angel?
“Why read a book if you can take a field trip, eh?” Crass smiled and I shivered. “Don’t look away. Don’t move. Just watch me. Right in between my eyes.” With his middle finger, he tapped the space where his nose began to jut out from his forehead.
I squinted, trying to focus with all my will, but my vision was blurring while Crass’ face kept growing larger, his brows furrowing, mouth parting. The next moment one of his hands was gripping my jacket, the other reaching between my legs, his wet mouth surrounding my lips.
“Stop!” I screamed, pushing him away as I stumbled backward.
“You wanted me to show you,” he laughed. “So I did!”
You know nothing, I thought falling to the ground.