Beneath the visible surface of forms pulsed a seraphic vein of shadows, an underground haven for bodiless souls eager to enter our world, a thrilling force, for which I had become a vessel. Grandpa was right. Obscure forces permeated our world, and those who didn’t believe it, simply weren’t ready to face this truth. What even I had once suspected as the product of my overactive imagination, turned out to be more real than the common perceived reality that could be nothing more than a sliver of a fleeting dream.
Uri explained that by understanding where we came from, we gained access to reservoirs of our inner potential. But before this power could be fully absorbed and expressed, dramatic shifts would have to take place, a challenging process, akin to walking through personal inferno. For me, Uri’s revelation was like taking a plunge into icy water—momentarily unsettling but ultimately empowering. It also put Daniel at peace, confirming what he already knew.
Daniel had found the missing key to his origin in the hospital basement of all places, at the moment when his mind had almost left his body. The fact that his father was one of the fallen angels confirmed why Daniel couldn’t find any traces in the outside world and reacted so strongly when I told him about Sariel. All Nephilim would likely react this way. Unbeknownst to them, they held the memory of the angels within their cells.
“What do I do now?” I asked Uri.
“I know you’ve been tapping into an archive of memories. I don’t know their contents, but I can feel that you and the angel share more than a dream. I have a feeling you will follow that thread.”
I looked at Daniel, who seemed like his mind was floating in another world.
“Once, in another life, I carried his child. But I think I lost it. That story is still incomplete. And then there is Mom and Grandpa ad their secret. I just don’t understand how they had managed to keep so much hidden for so long.”
Uri nodded. “You have a big story to disentangle. But you have an real ally now,” he said, looking at Daniel who appeared to be sleeping again.
Uri helped me walk Daniel into my bedroom where we sat him on my bed with his back against the wall, and covered in blankets, cup of warm milk in his hands. Despite being nineteen years old, Daniel looked like a child. As he drank, color was returning to his face.
Uri reached for his jacket. He looked like he was anxious to leave before Mom and Rena arrived. I gave him a sad smile but I understood, thinking of what Mom just said to me about not forcing someone to stay. He and Daniel said their goodbyes but neither of them seemed shaken by the parting. It was probably because they would always remain connected with each other, regardless of their physical proximity.
I walked Uri to the entry door and before I had a chance to say anything, he swept me into his arms and held me in a tight embrace until all the tension left my body.
“You’re strong,” he whispered into my ear, and without turning once, walked down the stairs. I watched him until he went out of my view.
In my room, Daniel’s eyes were scanning every detail in sight.
“Is this your home?” he asked.
“Yes. And it is not also your home. I promised I would bring you here.”
“Thank you,” he whispered, bringing the cup to his lips. He took a tiny sip and smiled. “You were right at the hospital about the meaning of the prophecy. I did come home.”
“I always knew it,” I said, also realizing the fragility of that statement. Had Uri and I been any slower, we could have never made it this far. “Why did you change your name to Daniel?”
“It’s my real name. The name my mother gave me.”
“How do you know this?” I asked.
“It was written in Jan’s notebook. Not knowing I already had a name, the nuns at the orphanage named me Peter, after the one who never loses faith. But once I knew my real name was Daniel, I let Peter go. But they were right. I never lost faith that I would find her.”
While Daniel spoke, I reached for my backpack to retrieve the black book and handed it to Daniel, taking the cup from his hands.
“You found it,” he smiled, caressing the front cover with his fingertips.
“Stan gave it to me. He asked me to help you. He was a soul tormented by guilt, just like you told me. He asked for your forgiveness.”
“I’m here because of Stan?” Daniel asked, incredulous.
I nodded. “In a way, he saved your life.”
Daniel closed his eyes and mouthed a few words I couldn’t hear. I could see new radiance emanate from him skin.
“Now he is free,” Daniel said, and opened the black book to its first page. “Right here,” he pointed at the inner flap.
Tucked inside and seeming to be glued to the cover was one additional page, easy to miss. Daniel slipped his fingernail underneath the sheet, pulled it out, and turned the book upside down so I could see what was written there.
To Daniel--the beat of my heart, the light of my soul.
“I believe that my mother wrote these words and left the book and the picture in secret from her father so that one day I could find her,” Daniel said.
“I believe you are right. It does look like Mom’s handwriting,” I said, and paused to listen.
Just then I heard a double car door slam, followed by footsteps galloping up the front stairs. The two of us listened to the key turning in the front door and two people entered the house.
Daniel sat still, his eyes watchful.
“Mom, I’m in my room,” I called into the foyer, my voice shaky, eyes fixed on Daniel.
After so many years, this was it. Would she even recognize him?
Mom and Rena appeared in the doorframe. Rena’s gaze kept shifting from the frail figure of Daniel to me and then back to Daniel. She looked confused, with a hundred questions on her lips.
Mom’s face revealed a mosaic of shifting emotions. I saw an avalanche of thoughts running through her mind and animating her features. It was as if some force was peeling off layers of masks that held my mother’s outer disposition together, the persona she strove to present to the world. I watched the shocking realization finally settle in and transform her face. After guises of convention and customary facades melted away, her face revealed a wounded woman with a broken heart. I’d never seen her look this vulnerable. Her features trembled like a meadow flower in the wind.
“Mom,” I said. “It is all right to cry.”
Keeping her eyes on Daniel, who was weeping now and reaching his thin hand toward her, she approached the mattress and dropped to her knees, a sob folding her body at the waist. It was a moment of release and reckoning, an instant where much fell apart but perhaps even more was mended. She placed her hands where Daniel’s feet rested underneath the covers, her head bowed in anguish, and his hands traveled to her head.
“Mother,” Daniel said to Rena’s utter shock. Her hands were covering her open mouth.
“I am sorry,” Mom sobbed, her back shuddering. “I am so sorry,” she kept repeating.
Daniel leaned his fragile body forward, his tears falling over Mom’s hair.
“Could someone please explain to me what’s going on?” Rena finally said.
I looked at her through a screen of my own tears and said, “This is Daniel, our brother. Someone to, perhaps, one day stand up for you. But until then, we must stand up for him.”
Seven textbooks and five notebooks towered high on the kitchen table. Some were closed, others open, with pencils and markers scattered about. It was a quiet, sunny Monday morning and everyone but me was asleep. But in truth, none of us had slept much that night. We stayed up talking, mostly me describing the rescue story to Mom and Rena, in whose eyes I had grown to the stature of a heroine.
After we broke up to let Daniel rest in my bed, I curled up on the living room sofa, but regardless of how tired I was my restless mind would not let me sleep. So instead of trying to force myself, I abandoned my blanket cocoon and settled in the kitchen to at least try to catch up on my studies. My progress was scant.
Unable to bear rereading the same paragraph for the umpteenth time, I closed the textbook and tiptoed toward my room. Standing in the hallway, I peeked though the crack in the door and smiled. Daniel was sleeping on my bed, the pale rays of the sun skimming over his face.
I heard a commotion behind me and turned around. Mom appeared in the doorway tying the belt of her rope around her waist. Her face was raw from her earlier outpouring of emotions, and eyes tired, but her countenance had visibly shifted and she appeared less burdened though somewhat disoriented.
“Coffee?” I asked, and she nodded.
Mom sat down at the table and rubbed her face with her hands, as if to clean away something obstructing her view.
“How did you sleep?” I asked, scooping coffee into a filter. “Did you sleep at all?”
I pointed toward the pile of textbooks, “I’ve been trying to catch up. Not easy, given the circumstance.”
“This must be very disturbing to you. I’m sorry.”
“Must be much harder for you,” I said.
Mom sighed. “So much is coming out at once. So much has been repressed,” she rubbed her forehead.
“I’m amazed you managed to hold it inside for this long.”
“You know, when something terrible happens to you, you try to forget. It may sound selfish to everyone outside, but that was the only way I could cope.”
“Terrible? What happened, Mom?”
Just then Mom wrapped her arms around her waist and began to bawl.
“Oh, Mom! I’m sorry, Mom.”
She sniffed and sobbed, “I just feel like I’m coming completely undone. My world is shattered. I feel like I’m drowning in this welter of joy and sorrow. It’s like I don’t know who I am anymore. I don’t know how to handle so much at once. So much guilt and grief. It is all coming out. And I can’t stop it. And yet, I am so grateful, so profoundly grateful for what you have done. I’ve carried this deep loss for so long, it had become a part me, coloring everything.”
“It’s okay, Mom. It is good to feel all those things, to let them out.”
“But how can those things be good? I feel like hell is consuming me, like some terrible form of punishment is imminent.”
“What are you talking about, Mom? You’ve been punished long enough. This is the release; this is the beginning of truth and the end of a nightmare. Can’t you see?”
Mom wiped her swollen eyes with the sleeve of her robe. “I just had a dream. I was burning alive and falling into a dark pit. It must be hell, I’m sure of it. Like I’m being punished for abandoning my child. I’ve wasted so much time . . . so much time.”
“You dreamt of falling into a pit?” I asked, tightening my grip around the thread that I all too well recognized. I was eager to find out more about her own relationship with the angelic force. Mom, after all, was a direct recipient of something I myself was hurtling toward, bearing a tangible fruit of the forbidden union in this very lifetime. Did Mom remember what had happened to her the night she conceived her son? Based on what she just said, she’d rather not remember.
Mom blew her nose into a kitchen towel I handed her and looked at me with a crooked smile. She seemed a little calmer.
“Good thing it was only a dream,” she forced a smile. But after a moment of silence and me staring at her, a new wave of sobs shook her shoulders. “There was some presence there, something I cannot define. It existed beyond a wall I couldn’t penetrate. And there was all this pain and something else, something forbidden waiting for me there. Something that promised to take away all this pain. I want to touch it and know it, but part of me believes that if I do so,” she looked up at me, “I will die.”
“Mom, is this the first time you’ve had this dream?”
“No, I think I’ve had it at least once before. But I can’t remember when. It might be one of those recurring nightmares.”
I got up to pour us coffee and handed her a cup. I was convinced that in her dreams Mom was skimming the surface of her repressed memories of the angel.
“Mom,” I began, sitting across from her and taking her hand in mine. Since Daniel and Rena were still sleeping, I used the opportunity of being alone with her to ask the ultimate question. There was no time to waste. I needed to quickly decide if it was safe for me to let Sariel come inside my world. “Ever since meeting Daniel and learning that he’s my brother, I’ve been wondering about his father. I assume it wasn’t Dad.”
“I don’t remember who it was,” she said, her facial expression blank, eyes distant. “And I am glad, because I’d rather not know. It was a terrible accident and you shouldn’t concern yourself with that. It is enough you found Daniel. We need to focus on him now and forget everything else.”
“Were you forced to forget? Did Grandpa help you?”
“Evelina, stop, please!”
“I just don’t understand how you can’t remember!” I raised my voice. “Or why you don’t want to tell me. Haven’t I proven to you that I can handle a lot?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Because I was raped!” Mom shouted and we both went quiet, the echo of her statement dispersing in space. The angel was sounding more sinister by the second. Rape was not something that was ever even implied in my interactions with Sariel. That’s unless my angel had deceived me or Mom’s memory was skewed.
“Raped?” I whispered.
“I can’t believe I’m telling you this,” she said and looked at me. “But maybe it is best you find out sooner rather than later.”
“What happened, Mom?” I asked, fear creeping into my mind. Could the angel be that cruel? Why would he inflict so much pain on an innocent girl? It made me see Sariel in a different light, and I didn’t like it.
“It was like being under a spell. I was lured. It is all that I can recall.”
“And what happened after?”
“He found me in a meadow that night. I was asleep on the grass under the stars, my father said. He tried to wake me up, but I had fallen unconscious and remained asleep for many days. And then one day I found out I was pregnant. Father tried to purge the baby with herbs, but it was too strong. ”
“And all this was happening while Dad was courting you?”
Mom nodded. So I got that part right. “My parents were adamant that I give up the baby or otherwise I would lose your father and likely never have a husband or a normal life.”
“And you agreed?”
“Not initially. I wanted to keep the baby. Every mother does. And then my father took me away. A vacation, he said, to help me rest. But when we got to the mountain cabin, I was getting slowly convinced that he was right and I needed to let this baby go. I was too young to care for him. The pregnancy was very difficult and nearly cost me my life. Father had to cut up my belly before he was due. He said I would’ve died from too much bleeding had I waited for the labor. The baby would’ve been to big.”
“Soon after Daniel was born, he drove us to a local orphanage. My heart broke that day.” I could tell that it was getting harder for Mom to speak. “That’s the whole story. Now you know.”
“But do you recall what it was that led to the meadow?”
Mom shook her head. “No but my father later told me that the encounter was so traumatic, it deeply affected my psyche and distorted my memories.”
I nodded, absorbing her words, but I was getting a strong impression that there was much more to the story. I could sense it. I wanted to show her Daniel’s journal and Grandpa’s drawing to help evoke earlier memories, but having already brought her to the edge of a nervous breakdown with my inquiring, I decided against it. Instead, I leaned in closer and hugged her.
That afternoon, Mom had our family doctor come to the house to check on Daniel. The doctor recommended running tests, which in conjunction with shopping for new wardrobe and rearranging furniture to welcome Daniel into our home, preoccupied Mom to the point where she didn’t even notice that Rena stopped coming home. When one afternoon, freshly from school, I entered our empty house, I decided to go downstairs to check if she was there. This time her room was
much tidier than mine and for a good reason. Most of Rena’s things were gone, her desk empty save a handwritten note simply stating that she had moved in with Dad.
The news devastated Mom. She couldn’t reach Rena as she lacked Dad’s new phone number, so she wanted to try to find her at school. But I advised her against it. “Let her be,” I said to Mom. “This is her way of coping. She will come around when she’s ready.” Mom eventually conceded and started to seek my guidance in other matters as well, like asking me how she should break the news about Daniel to her own parents. I could see she was frightened of them. But I could only tell her what Uri and Daniel had taught me—that she’d need to go within herself to find what felt right.
During his first days with us, Daniel remained introverted and soft-spoken. He often sought solitude. This was a different side of Daniel than the one I saw the day I had met him. Back then there was urgency in his communication with me; a burning desire to share that must arise in those who are facing their imminent mortality, perhaps similar to the impulse that had prompted Grandpa to share with me his shamanic past.
The Daniel who had come home was obscure and mysterious. Maybe his withdrawal was Daniel’s attempt to find himself again? Despite the still cold temperatures, each morning and evening he’d go outside to be in nature, politely declining Mom’s proposals to join him. But the more I watched him, the more I had the growing sense that rather than abate, something within him was mounting, some invisible force gaining momentum, and he was protecting it from the outside world.
Much like Daniel did at home, I became more introverted at school. Alienated from most people, my social world had become a desert. Ben seemed to have vanished from the face of the Earth, Art had moved away north again, and Rock was, well, I didn’t know where Rock was. After everything I had gone through with Uri and Daniel, casual conversations didn’t excite me. Still, part of me craved company and variety. So when one day a classmate invited me to Kal’s party, I made sure to get all the details.