There was an unusual air of excitement in the city of Exeter that hot summer’s evening as the University students began to flood into the local pubs, bars, and Off Licences. In fact, it wasn’t quite evening, still late afternoon, and already the streets were seething with young revellers following the recent culmination of the academic year. The sweet smells of beers and wines fused together and seemed to linger everywhere with the still impressive heat of day. But in and around all of the celebrations, overhanging them all, was a more sober sense of an impending threat.
Paul stood patiently at the bar, waiting. Despite his athletically tall build it always seemed to take an age for him to get served. He was easily over six feet, and, with his striking blonde hair and sharp features, was popular with the girls. For the moment, though, Paul was with his mates. He definitely felt more comfortable when his Christian friends were there. He wasn’t sure why, just that he often felt overwhelmed with the whole drinking thing. He told himself, and the lads, that he wasn’t very good at it; but he knew that he could probably keep up with the likes of Adie and Pete, especially with the amount of practice they had. Paul knew more intuitively than he cared to admit that the sense of being awkward came from somewhere else.
Two other strikingly tall figures stood near to the bar where the group of friends were now gathered. They stood perfectly still and silent, intently watching the group as they laughed and talked together. Paul remained oblivious to their presence as the evening set in and even later when they were standing in the group, towering above and either side of him. Although they showed no intention of using them, both characters were concealing huge, monolithic swords and they were dressed in beautifully plain clothes with no recognisable style or pattern. They stood with perfect poise and posture, impressive in every conceivable way.
It was now dark outside and Paul’s friends were agitating to move on into the City to find more pubs and more fun. A lot of people were out and it seemed as though everyone he knew was either in the pub or roaming the streets. He could see that it was getting raucous.
As the group finished their drinks and moved towards the door, the two strangers moved aside like a vast automatic door, allowing Paul to return his glass to the bar. The barmaid caught Paul’s eye and thanked him, smiling attractively. He responded with a cheeky wink – he was feeling more comfortable now – almost relaxed.
Apathy, Desire and Deceit were perched awkwardly on the corner of the pub’s roof, watching Paul leave from their evil vantage point. An argument had broken out among the three demons as they waited impatiently for a commanding signal to follow Paul. To avoid any skirmishes with the Lord’s host, Kaalk’s instructions had been for them to remain unseen until his senior command.
Desire was complaining again. Their ambush seemed trivial and insignificant as he fantasised about diving down into the pub with the hoards of other spirits. He prided himself in creating havoc and calamity in the adolescents’ lives – it was his singularly insidious intent. Apathy sat breathing slowly and discontentedly, saying and thinking nothing while Deceit made vain attempts to persuade Desire that it would be better not to wait but to seize the moment right now.
Fortunately for Desire, an eerie cry suddenly resounded throughout the immediate spiritual realm as Kaalk thundered past, wielding a burning sword and screaming obscenities. The other three demons leapt into action, unfolding their leathery wings and brandishing their own swords. They were now in hot pursuit of Paul who was already drinking in the next pub.
As he started another drink, Paul had turned his attention for a moment to a crowd of second-year lads outside the pub. A fight had started. One of them was being badly beaten by another two as several others stared, watched and did nothing. Within moments the crowd vanished as police sirens were heard approaching. Something in Paul’s heart winced as he looked at the boy left lying prostrate on the curb, now unconscious in a pool of his own blood. He wondered how people could be so cruel and his failure to act bothered him.
The two other glorious figures had followed Paul closely into the pub and were now more animated with their hands gently touching his head and chest. They were completely surrounding him. A piercing white light filled the room that emanated from where the two angels stood, shining intensely with palatial majesty as they ministered to him. Aramouth and Guldin knew what approached as they looked at each other in agreement; and they understood why the Lord wanted Paul to stray from their protection.
Between slurps of his pint, Paul continued to stare out of the window, watching the paramedics arrive and the police question others too drunk to talk properly. Adie and Pete were both drunk now and Paul realised that he too was feeling under the influence. He began to think that he should leave when Pete threw a reassuring arm around him. He shouted something in his ear to do with a girl at the bar and handed him another drink, slapping his back as he always did when he was drunk.
Kaalk smashed into the pub as Paul looked at his fresh drink. Aramouth and Guldin rose instantly in billows of air as their wings flexed like a ship’s sail in a storm. They reached for their swords that now shone with heavenly brilliance, bracing themselves for a fight they knew they were not to win. But Aramouth couldn’t resist and defiantly swung his sword in a powerful arch that sent Kaalk flailing to the floor. The other demons had arrived and quickly found Paul still illuminated by the glow of Guldin’s glory. Apathy was first to sink his sharp talons deep into Paul’s mind despite the angelic efforts to prolong his protection. Suddenly, Guldin roared in pain as Deceit bit and clawed into his back. Desire began slashing into Guldin’s wings with his jagged sword, leaving the heavenly warrior crumpled on the floor like an aged cheek. Startled by his friend’s cry, Aramouth instantly spun from his own advance on Kaalk and lifted his companion to safety with his vice-like arm.
Both angels were overwhelmed with grief as they passed through concrete and rafters and steel and rested out of sight, some distance from the city that now echoed with evil laughter. They knew that they had done more than was asked of them and yet every part of them cringed at the thought of their encounter with the kingdom of darkness. All they could do now was wait.
© Nick Franks, 2002