It was drizzling when I entered the cold winter night. I ran splashing through puddles, battling air currents that pushed against me. By the time I got home, I was faint from exhaustion and the effort it took to keep my thoughts at bay. I was growing a suspicion that the angel in Grandpa’s drawing was a representation of Daniel’s father, and that he feared that through my interaction with Sariel I would end up replicating Mom’s fate.
I entered my house, kicked off my boots, and wobbling on my achy feet fell onto my mattress, my head spinning. The walls echoed back my thoughts. Why was everything such a struggle? Didn’t he see that I all I wanted was to help restore the equilibrium? Or was I going mad again? The succession of thoughts gave rise to a deluge of emotions. I turned over and screamed into my pillow, letting my tears soak the sheets and cleanse my body like a torrent of rain. If I wanted to see Sariel again, I needed to do something now before my grandfather had a chance to stop me.
I wiped my face, sat up on my bed and took a deep breath, trying to think. I was home alone, but I could pick up a certain residue of something or someone’s fleeting presence. That’s when I noticed a huge plastic bag on my desk. How could I have missed it?
Crawling off the mattress on my hands and knees, I reached out my hand for the sack, pulling it down the way a child yanks down a toy from a shelf. I didn’t expect it to be so heavy. It rattled and fell onto the floor with a crash. I jolted, aware that I may have broken or at least damaged what was inside. My impatient hands ran across the plastic surface searching for the opening. Finally, I tore the bag open, and peeked inside. All the tapes I had thrown away and thought I’d never see again, all my music that I thought I’d lost was there. My mood experienced an instant uplift. I searched around my desk until I found a note that read: Miss you, R. My sister never ceased to amaze me.
Outside, it stopped raining but dark clouds continued to obstruct the setting sun. I turned on the lights and got startled by the mess in my room. Rolling up my sleeves, I brought in the vacuum and began going through everything, bookshelves to windowsills. My shelves went from disheveled to spotless, all items rearranged into aesthetic tidiness, tapes put back in their rightful place. Clothes were refolded and rehung according to varying shades of blackness.
Wiping my brow, I let the eye-pleasing symmetry penetrate my mind. And by the time I stood under a warm shower, thinking of which tape I wanted to listen to first, my mind was ready to receive new visions. The next full moon was only two days away. I didn’t want to miss a chance. I wanted to draw him in, push against any opposing forces grandfather could have unleashed.
Cleansed and dressed in a dry pair of black leggings and a T-shirt, I lit a candle and placed it on top of my wardrobe for its light to fill distant corners. My space sparkled from all the care I’d given it. I dropped a cassette into my boombox, pressed play and before the first notes sounded out of the speaker, I was supine on my bed, curling my toes, ready for the melancholy melodies to set off my imagination.
I landed inside of an old gothic cathedral alight with the radiance of a hundred burning candelabras. The flames bounced off the gold-accented rims of paintings and altarpieces, puffs of myrrh smoke wafted through air, the echo of my footsteps traveling to the main altar where he stood waiting for me. Dressed in a red satin dress, I glided down the long walkway of the nave, from the narthex to the altar, carrying a bouquet of white lilies. As I approached, the closer I came to the angel’s tall figure, the air between us grew denser and warmer, pressing on me from all directions. But I kept on, the thick air not affecting my resolve.
“Is it true this love will only bring me pain?” I asked and reached out my hand, but my fingertips encountered an obstacle; the barrier of air solidified into a pane of glass. “Sariel!” I cried. “Why can’t I get through?”
“They won’t allow it,” he said, the sound of his voice vibrating the pane.
“Who won’t allow it?”
“Your ancestors. They believe I want to hurt you.”
“Do you? This is what I need to know.”
Sariel approached the glass from the other side and placed his palm, nearly twice the size of mine, on the pane. I looked into his glowing eyes that looked at me from beneath black, arched brows, like wings of a bird in flight. His hair was loose, falling over his shoulders and sparked like coal. His skin was pale, exposing multiple scars. My eyes skimmed his nose and stopped on the lips that looked dry and cracked and in need of a kiss.
He opened his mouth to speak. “All I want is to feel your love. I can’t get enough of it. It is the only thing that keeps my spirit alive this long.”
I dropped my bouquet to the ground and pounded my fists on the glass, igniting sparks over its surface. “Why can’t they just leave us alone?” A rumbling thunder roared inside the cathedral shaking its foundations.
“It’s against the law. But you can break it.”
“By surrendering yourself to me,” he said.
“Will that make you cross into my world?” I asked, my heart filling with hope.
Sariel shook his head. “The only way is for you to cross into mine.”
Sariel remained silent until I comprehended what he meant. Death. The only way I could cross into his realm was by leaving mine. All the warnings I had received along the way were screaming inside my head at once.
“I am scared, Sariel,” I whispered. “I want you more than anything and yet I’m now terrified of your words and their meaning.” My legs grew weak and my hands were starting to slide down the glass. I collapsed to the ground, the white lilies already decaying at my feet. “I thought you wanted me to free you.”
“You did. You transformed me from a cold image—a thought buried within the collective memory, into a living being. Though I shall remain cursed in my loneliness.”
“I’m so sorry, Sariel, I don’t know what else to do. What can I do?” I asked. Part of me regretted this sobering encounter and wished I had remained in blissful ignorance, daydreaming about my angel, feeding my old desire to escape the mundane.
“Shatter this pane and stay with me.” A wind blew across the nave, tousling the feathers behind his shoulders. I felt an instant implosion within my belly that yearned for surrender. “I met you in your temple. Do you remember that day?” he asked.
“The memories are returning,” I said and stood up, placing my hands back on the glass. Next to his towering stature, I felt so small and fragile. Sariel reached his hands toward my face. His eyes ignited with light. I was no longer merely besotted with him. I was in love.
“I had never felt more pleasure sharing myself with anyone,” Sariel said, “the way I did with you.”
“And I had never felt more pleasure than when I shared my warmth with you.”
“Ninsal . . . you were always so hungry to know all the secrets of the universe. For so long your desires have been denied.”
“What happened to us? Why were you taken away from me?”
“Close your eyes,” he whispered, “and you will see.”
A cool breeze skimmed my forehead. I blinked and looked around.
Sariel and I stood on the banks of the frozen lake high up in the mountains, no more barriers between us. He reached his arms to greet me and I leaned into him, his wings forming a protective shield around me. I was no longer Evelina. I was Ninsal, the earthly priestess in love with an angel.
“This will be the last time we meet,” Sariel said to me. “I received my sentence for transgressing the immutable law,” he said. “I must leave and will not be coming back.”
I moved away and looked into Sariel’s eyes. “Where must you go?”
“Away from the Earth,” he said, and I could sense a hint of fear in his countenance. I’d never seen him afraid before.
I looked down and rubbed my round belly. “I won’t go back to the temple,” I cried. “It is no longer my home. The priestesses have been taken to the king’s castle as prisoners.”
Sariel took my face in his hands. “Take me with you,” I said to him.
“Where I must go, dear Ninsal, you could not survive.”
“I’d rather die than go on without you.”
Sariel found a place for us away from the lake under a solitary tree. There he took off his long cape and set it down on the ground. We knew we were only delaying the inevitable but every moment was precious. We settled beneath the tree, embracing until night befell the cold mountain valley.
“Look up,” Sariel gestured at the full moon.
I opened my eyes to see the moon’s face crowned by a pale arc of stars. Just then an intense stab pierced my body. I folded in half and moaned. “Sariel, I think it is time. . . .The child.”
He tried everything to save me. He offered his heat and whispered magical words of love. But the baby could not be delivered without me passing away. I bled and bled until the snow around me was tinted with crimson and my vision faded away.
“Last time you died in my arms. I don’t want the same fate to befall you twice,” Sariel’s voice brought me back to the cathedral.
“What happened to the child?”
“He became a warrior who united with others of his kind. Together they formed the first nation of the Nephilim.”
“And what happened to you? Where did you go?”
He smiled at me with tenderness. “Look up.”
The cathedral did not have a roof. Past the rugged edges of the building that had collapsed under the weight of time, was the black expanse of the night sky. Directly above our heads I saw the glowing face of the moon.
“I’ve been watching you for a long time Ninsal.”
“My faithful companion,” I whispered.
“Tartarus,” Sariel said. As he spoke, a rock fell from the edge of a roof and shattered by the altar.
“What’s happening, Sariel?”
“They are coming to shut the door between us. You need to make a choice.”
The cathedral was crumbling before my eyes. “Sariel, I can’t,” I said, watching all the gold in the altar turn to lackluster stone. The more it came undone, the more it resembled the ruined castle I once visited with my friends. Another stone fell to the ground, rattling its foundations.
“Come with me, Ninsal,” Sariel said, and opened his wings and arms. A gust of wind swept the space.
“But what if I cannot become her?” I said. “I am Evelina now, not Ninsal. She is dead.” I noticed that his body was starting to dissolve.
“Her memory lives within you,” he said. “You can bring her back. Or forget I had ever existed.”
“Sariel, please don’t go yet. I am not ready to let you go! And I am not ready to die. Please, let me see you again.”
“The shaman will not allow it,” Sariel said through the rumble of a wall that collapsed behind him. He was becoming a shadow.
“Doesn’t he owe you his life?” I asked. “Didn’t you save him from death?”
His image was but a faint afterglow when he answered. “It was Ramiel, the angel of truth and thunder.”
My hands traveled to my face. It, as well as my hair and the pillow, were drenched in tears. I felt dizzy and emotionally spent. I lifted myself on my elbows. The tape had long stopped playing, and the candle flame was jumping, pulling the halo with it. “I will not let you go just yet,” I whispered, but to my great distress I noticed I was quickly forgetting what Sariel looked like. All I could recall was his immense stature and burning eyes.
The outside was pitch dark and I felt cold and lonely, suddenly missing Mom, Rena, Daniel, and even Dad. I went into the living room to look for my brother but he was still not home, so I poked my head into Mom’s bedroom. She was in her bed sound asleep. I approached her bed.
“Ramiel,” I spoke the name of the angel into her ear. Was he the one who conceived Daniel? I wondered, closing the door to her bedroom.
I stumbled back into my room, grief stymieing my motion, seeping the life force from my cells. The void Sariel’s departure left radiated cold emptiness. Lying down on my mattress, I curled up on my side and closed my eyes, wishing for sleep to come quick so that I didn’t drown myself in loss. After months of Sariel’s presence filling my life with mystery and magic, it was hard to imagine that it would all end this way and I would never see him again. I contorted into a tiny ball, trying to shut off the pain.
“Uriel, please come back. I need your key.”