For Bethany. You were worth the fight
The deeper into the Valley The Man journeyed the darker it grew. The wind hummed like a locomotive as it pressed against his body. The gust was so powerful it blew and dust into his eyes, further decaying his already obscured vision. He draped his arm over his face and walked with slow, calculated steps.
The Man wondered what abominations awaited him next. Things were already going against the normal routine of the Valley, and a sense of uneasiness suffocated his heart. He reflected on this so-called “order of the Valley” and came to a startling revelation: order was only an attribute and function of Creator God. The Valley was pure evil, and pure evil was always chaotic. There was no order in the Valley, nor was there an order to which satanic brood would attack next. The Valley was pure and adulterated chaos. In the Valley, chaos was king.
The wind slowed its breathing and The Man was able to see again. The moon no longer resembled a lantern in the fog but hung in the sky as the ruler of the night. He stared up at the trees atop the Valley. He swore by God he saw them move.
“But there is no more wind,” he mumbled to himself. He assumed he still had dust in his eyes, so he fetched the water pouch at his side and rinsed them. He blinked numerous times until his vision was clear. He set his sight on the other side of the Valley and saw several branches ripple then disappear.
“It must be them,” The Man whispered and recalled the tales of The Monsters.
These entities were covered in tentacles and there were two types. One species had a spiral body with a black hole in the center. They had no sense of sight but the hole operated as a center for heightened hearing. Their bodies were laced with branch-like tentacles.
The second species had no sight either and the same type of black hole in the center, equipped with the same hyper-sensative hearing. The core of these monsters was shaped like a lily. Their tentacles were more soft and fluid, as string blowing in the wind.
The goal of The Monsters was to wrap their tentacles around each person’s body parts and rip them off with one, powerful yank. A normal man would be lucky to be maimed by only one. A brave man might make it past them with only missing toes, fingers, and an arm. But this man would soon pass out and die from lack of blood or shock. The Man with Hazel Eyes and Broken White Wings was positive there were two hunting him down. One from the east side of the Valley and one from the west.
The Girl with Sunlit Hair and Black wings had heard the roaring of the wind when it rushed through the Valley and wondered how The Man was fairing against the elements. She had heard no screams so she was confident her beloved was still alive and making his way to her. The Girl’s nerves still danced and spun like ballerinas on stage despite her confidence. She knew there was nothing she could do but be patient, so she prayed for The Man to survive and find his way to her.
The Girl wished her angel still had his wings, then he would not have to journey through the treacherous Valley. Rather, he could have flown, like her, to their Willow Tree. They could now be making love under it as in the days before his wings were destroyed.
She reflected on the times when his wings were whole.
“Oh, my angel,” she said. “I remember when you would fly and meet me here and wrap those wings around me. You made me feel so safe.” She reached for a branch on the tree and caressed it with her hand. She slid the leaves between her fingers and felt them tickle her skin.
“Those were enchanting days, my angel,” she said, staring out over the Valley. “The days of ease. The days before Abaddon came.”
It was only one week ago before the satanic beast wreaked havoc on their village. She remembered the day with the utmost clarity. She was kissing her beloved in the field outside the city walls when something blacked out the sun.
The two broke their kiss and gazed upwards. A beast of ungodly size hovered in the sky above them. The thing was as black as total darkness and its wingspan was so wide, it seemed to touch the clouds. Its body was covered in hair and primate-like. It had the head of a goat and the mouth of a dragon. Its horns were long and prominent.
The Man and The Girl stared in awe at the dragon. Its wings flapped and its mouth let out a deafening, apish roar. The two recoiled at the sound as trepidation found its way into the marrow of their bones.
The Girl broke their trance and said, “Dear God, it is heading…”
“Towards the village,” The Man finished for her.
The Man looked at The Girl with wide eyes and grabbed her arm with a firm grip.
His hazel eyes were the most intense and fearful they had ever been.
“Fly with haste to the village,” he had said. “I will go after the beast.”
The Girl stood frozen, as if her feet were cemented to the ground and as if her wings were weighted down by bricks. She didn’t think she could find the courage to move. However, she found herself nodding in agreement to his command. By the grace of Creator God, her wings flapped and she took flight.
The Man watched to make sure the dragon did not turn his attention to The Girl. When he saw she was in the clear, his feet left the ground and he went in pursuit of the beast.
The speed at which the dragon had flown was like none The Man had ever encountered. Each flap of its wings seemed to thrust it ahead one hundred yards. He clenched his fist, gnashed his teeth, and flew faster. Perspiration soaked his body and his muscles locked in knotted balls. The Man had flown so hard, for the first time in his life, some feathers dislodged from his wings. They swirled around him then made a slow descent to the ground.
The dragon neared the village.
The Man looked on. His face contorted and his brow furrowed. “Damn these fucking wings,” he had shouted. “Go faster!” He dug down deep into his being to find more power to exert towards his wings but he could not fly any faster. “God damn these useless wings!”
The Man glanced down to see if he could locate The Girl. He didn’t see her anywhere near the village. He tucked his head to look behind him. She trailed The Man by several hundred yards. The Man knew if he did not gain on the beast, there would be no village left to spare. His children were there and so were The Girl’s.
The dragon picked up seed. The village loomed closer. The Man watched on helpless.
The dragon was now in range of the village. It opened its mouth and flashes of fire exploded forth. The humble stick and hay houses evaporated into flames. Screams from the burning victims ascended into the sky and reached The Man’s ears.
“Cormac! Doriann!” The Man screamed his children’s names as he drew closer to the village.
Everything was engulfed in flames. The dragon was gone just as fast as he came, leaving behind him a path of smoke and fire.
The Man ascended into the chaos. The heat from the fire pressed against his skin like hot irons. The smoke clouded his vision and filled his lungs. He stumbled around in the inferno, calling his children’s names as well as The Girl’s between coughs and gasps of air.
“Cormac! Doriann! Ewing! Duncan!” The Man could not get his bearings and had no idea where in the city he was. He was about to pass out when he felt arms grasp around him. He watched as he ascended from the firestorm and the burning village grew smaller in his sight.
The Girl had rescued him before he passed out and was consumed by the flames.
The Girl with Sunlit Hair and Black Wings tried to push the remaining thoughts out of her mind but found herself powerless against their deluge. The next memories broke her heart and brought tears to her eyes.
She remembered sitting with The Man outside the village as the burning embers still smoked. She watched him rise to his feet and enter the village. She had followed him at a distance, not wanting to see what she knew awaited her–the dead and charcoaled bodies of their children.
The next image in her mind? It was The Man rummaging through his home which was nothing more than a pile of ashes. He found Cormac and Doriann, his seven year old boy-girl twins. He scooped their bodies from the ash heap and held them in his arm, one against each shoulder. Their skin was black and flakey and their hair was burned off. He staggered a few yards then fell to his knees in anguish. He plopped their dead bodies to the ground, then lifted his head to the heavens.
“God! Why! They were my babies! They were innocent!” He gazed at the girl. His face was littered with disappointment and confusion. “I..I..couldn’t save them.” He ran his finger through his long brown hair and gripped it tight. Through tears he cried, “Damn these wings! I couldn’t get here in time. If only I was…” His voice faded to a whisper. “…faster…If only…faster.” He locked eyes with The Girl again. “I failed us. I failed them. I failed you.”
They buried their children outside of the village then flew to the mountain where the Willow Tree sat. The Girl sat next to The Man under the tree. They didn’t speak. She rubbed his back as he breathed heavy breaths. She understood. Her heart broke and she weeped with him over the death of their children and the death of the life they had dreamed about.
Then the unthinkable happened. The Man jumped to his feet.
“What? Where are you going,” The Girl had asked.
The Man answered her not. He took off running full speed to the rocky side of the mountain. The Girl cringed as The Man slammed his back to the mountain. She heard the bones in one of his wings crunch as he let out a laugh filled with pain and anger. The Girl leaped to her feet.
“Stop! What are you doing,” she had said.
The Man’s wings hung broken and mangled from his back. He reached around in a fit of rage and ripped feathers from his wings.
The Girl sprinted over to him. “Stop this madness,” she had yelled. “What are you doing!”
The Man paused and glared at her. “Step away from me, woman. Do not interfere.”
The Girl backed away. Her eyes were heavy and her face, fallen. She watched in agony and heartbreak as The Man slammed his back into the side of the mountain until his wings were a featherless mush.
A shriek jolted her from her memories. “My beloved,” she gasped and eased over closer to the cliff.
The Man with Hazel Eyes and Broken White Wings saw The Monsters rushing down the side of the mountain towards him. They let out an awful sound as they prepared to attack. Their tentacles stuck like lightning and wrapped around The Man’s legs. They pulled hard and The Man fell on his backside. Sword in hand, he rolled onto his stomach and tried to scurry away. The Monsters yanked with more force each in the opposite direction. They spread his legs and The Man could feel the muscles in his legs and groin being stretched to oblivion.
The Monsters whipped their tentacles and flipped The Man over. Survival instincts took over and The Man hacked away at the tentacles with his steel. Orange blood spewed from the wounds and he axed away at them as if he were chopping down a tree. The tentacles severed and The Monsters withdrew them with howls of pain.
The Man unwrapped himself from the severed limbs and flung them aside. He leaped to his feet and gripped his sword with both hands. The Monsters circled him and waved their tentacles in the air with wild motions. The Man’s eyes darted back and forth, trying to gauge the motion of each movement.
Another appendage struck. This one wrapped around his waist. He then felt a tightness around his neck as one began to choke the life from him. There was a snap as one of his ribs broke. His brain was being depleted from oxygen and his vision became blurry. His consciousness was fading and his legs were weak. His strength was being dried out like a potsherd in the desert sun.
In his mind he saw The Girl. They were standing in a field. Her blonde hair glistened under the summer sun. She wore a white dress and had a crown of flowers in her hair. She was smiling up at him and laughing. He could feel his arms around him, pulling him in for a kiss. As their faces met, hers evaporated. He now stared into the black hole of one of the Monsters. With the last bit of consciousness in his grip, The Man raised his arms and made a thrusting motion with his sword. The blade sank deep into the hole of The Monster.
The relief was immediate. The tentacled loosened from his neck and the bleating screams of the Monster brought him back to reality. He withdrew his blade and was then covered in a shower of orange blood. The Monster’s tentacles went limp and it fell to the ground dead.
Pain surged through The Man’s middle as the other Monster squeezed tighter. Another rib snapped.
“Shit,” The Man yelled. An appendage was now wrapped around his free hand. He hacked away in fury at both of them.
The two tentacles bled and pulled back. The Monster paused and The Man took his opportunity. He drew his sword back and sprinted forward. He extended his arms and struck the Monster in its black hole. He twisted the blade back and forth and made a circling motion. Blood seeped from the wound and the Monster twitched. The Man withdrew his steel and the Monster hit the ground. The Man raised his sword over his head to strike but the pain in his ribs stopped him. He decided to let the thing suffer as its life ebbed away.
As the Monster died, the man sliced away on one of the tentacles. He took a piece about two feet long and pierced it through. He grabbed his necklace of heads from the ground and untied it. He placed his sword in its sheath and slipped the tentacle on to add to his trophy. With one hand he held his ribs and with the other dragged the necklace behind him.
“My darling,” The Man called. “I am hurt but I am victorious!” A sharp pain dug into his side as he yelled. He winced and hoped his beloved heard him.
The Girl heard the cry of The Man and her eyes filled with tears of joy. “Oh angel, please take care of yourself. God, please strengthen him in his pain.”
“Abaddon,” The Man whispered. “Your head will be the pendant on my necklace of retribution.”