The ceilings above him were impossibly high, the stained-glass windows seemed unnecessary, and the facility appeared ill equipped to perform as an actual hospital. It was painfully clear “Heaven”, or whatever the hell they called this place, was not all it was cracked up to be.
“I’m going to ask you a few questions.” the angel in front of him spoke.
“Mhm.” Cason grumbled.
“The nature of your Earthly death was rather traumatic?” he asked
“Sure.” Cason answered.
“How does that make you feel?”
“Peachy.” he said with sarcasm.
“Mr. Phillips, it is important we assess your mental state. We must ensure your trauma will not hinder your transition into our society.”
“I will be fine, angel.” He responded with annoyance. The angel reminded him of the psychologists he was required to see after long deployments. Well meaning, but ultimately a waste of time. “Tell me, is my grandmother in this place?” He asked, remembering that his deceased family would most likely be present.
“Once we arrive at the Garden, you will have an opportunity to review our scribes’ records and see if she resides within one of our cities. I must warn you that the war inflicted heavy casualties on all sides.”
“Usually does.” he mumbled, somewhat distraught that his non-violent grandmother may be gone from this world as well. “Are we done here?” Cason bluntly asked.
“I suppose. There is a feast, just beyond the double doors. Eat, rest up, and be prepared for our journey. We will be heading to the Garden in two days’ time.”
“Got it.” he grumbled, as he stood from the chair in the makeshift exam room. It was clear privacy was not as valued in Heaven as on Earth. Cason could easily hear other conversations. He continued walking towards the double doors, still focused on his wife and daughter, until he was distracted by one of the conversations.
“So, you were a part of the New World Order?” Cason overheard. The question froze him in his tracks.
“I…uh…yeah. Can you keep that down?” the mortal quietly responded. “Look…I’m not fucking proud of what I had to do. I didn’t believe in their cause, but they would have killed me if I didn’t play ball.” he quietly, but aggressively whispered.
“Yet, here you are anyway.” the angel condescendingly stated.
“I know…” the mortal said with regret. “You sending me to Hell?”
“Circumstances sometimes force us into unsavory lifestyles. We do not condemn mortals to Hell anymore, but we must make sure your previous misdeeds were a result of circumstance, and not a result of what is in your soul.” the angel responded.
“Well, how do I prove it to you?”
“Our time in the Garden should tell us all we need to know.” the angel answered. “Now, if you will head to the double doors, there is a feast…”
Cason heard enough at this point. He made his way towards the exam area where the voices were coming from, hoping to get a good look at the scum bag about to make his way out. He stood still, waiting, ready. Was he going to attack here…kill him here and now in the open? Is it possible he knew about Michelle and Cassie? No…he needed to wait. He needed to get this bastard alone, where he could ask some questions. Cason was lost in thought, waiting for his mark to exit to the double doors when a hand patted him on the back.
“G’Day, mate!” a voice with a thick Australian accent shouted, startling the usually steady Cason.
Cason’s instincts took over as he spun around and grabbed the man’s arm, twisting it around his back, and placing him into a submissive position on the floor.
“CHRIST, MATE!” the Australian man shouted. Some of the guards in bronze armor made their way over to the scuffle ready to engage.
“Mortal! Back away!” they shouted, with their weapons drawn.
Cason shook his head, snapping out of his instinctual trance. “He startled me.” Cason said, as he tried to look past the guards in bronze. The individual he was attempting to get a good look at was already heading for the double doors. Cason could only see his back, but noted he had brown curly hair, was roughly 5’9, and appeared Caucasian. That would have to do for now as the man disappeared into a small crowd also making their way to the double doors.
The Australian man stood to his feet and dusted himself off. “If I had known I was gonna to be gobsmacked like that, I would have come in for a handshake from the front!” he said with a jovial laugh.
“Mortal…come with us.” the guards in bronze demanded of Cason.
“Now, now! No need to be hasty. It was a misunderstandin.” the Australian said.
The angels in bronze armor grunted and made eye contact with one another. “Do not let it happen again. There is zero tolerance for violence in this city.” she said with conviction.
“Understood.” Cason responded, as he began making his way towards the double doors, eager to locate his target, ready to disregard the order of the angels in bronze.
“Well…your welcome.” The Australian man said to himself, as he also began to make his way to the double doors following Cason.
“Name’s Mickey, if you were wonderin.” He said after catching up to him.
“I wasn’t.” Cason responded.
“Now…a typical response is, nice to meet you Mickey. My name is…” he stated with a pause at the end.
“You can call me Mick, mate! All my friends do…er...did.” the Australian interrupted.
“Mickey…”Cason said again. “I have no desire to be your friend. Leave me be.”
“Come on, mate. Us dead need to stick together!” he said, as the two of them approached the double doors.
Two guards in the gold and white armor pushed them open for Cason and Mickey. Beyond the doors was a seemingly endless room with several incredibly long tables, filled to the brim with food.
“Christ…they know how to put a party on. Come on, mate! Let’s bog in!” he shouted, as he slapped Cason on the back again.
Cason grunted to demonstrate how annoyed he was with the obnoxious Australian; however, he was quite hungry. The smell of the all the exotic foods reminded his body that he needed to eat. Besides, this room was also loaded with guards. He would have to wait and locate his target later. He made his way over to the long table and took a seat in a spot relatively far from the other mortals, all of whom were swapping stories of their lives on Earth.
“Noice spot! We won’t have to share as much on this end!” the Australian said as he pulled up a seat next to Cason.
Cason dropped his head down and shook it back and forth. It was clear the Australian was not going to relent. He looked over to his new unwanted companion. He looked exactly like a cardboard cutout of what Cason would picture if someone told him to think of an Australian. The man appeared to be in his late thirties but had the look of someone who spent a little too much time in the sun. His skin was tan…almost leathery, so Cason deduced that he most likely worked outdoors. His hair was a dark blond and was clearly unkept, though his face appeared smooth and freshly shaved. He wore an annoying grin at all times, and currently had his gaze fixed upon the banquet in front of him.
“So…how’d you die?” Mickey asked, as he took a huge bite of what appeared to be a turkey leg.
“I would rather not talk about-“
“Me…I got rotten, fell, and cracked my skull open on the bar. Bled out right there.”
“Rotten?” Cason inquired.
“Drunk. Had a few too many pints.” he said with another jovial laugh.
“And you are proud of this?”
“Well…we all gotta go at some point. At least my mates will have a good laugh about it!” he said with another mouthful of food. “So…don’t want to talk about it?”
“No.” Cason said.
“You sure? It would feel good to get it off your chest. I’m sure everyone here died in some embarrassin fashion.”
“Five bullet holes to the chest before I blacked out. My wife and daughter were in the room watching.” Cason finally blurted out to get the Australian to shut-up.
“Oh…sorry, mate.” he said with a more respectful tone. “They here?”
“Christ…what the hell is happening in America?”
“America is dead.” Cason responded. “The NWO controls it now.”
“Those loonies who believe they were sent by God?”
“Sorry to hear it.” Mickey said. “Ever since the babies stopped coming, the world went crazy”
Cason hoped that by revealing that tid-bit of information, Mickey would get the hint and stop talking, but it did not deter him. For the next two hours, the Australian blathered on about his job, life, family, sexual conquests, and every other topic that Cason did not care to know of. He tuned him out as he continued scanning the banquet hall, looking for a brown, curly haired, Caucasian male. There were hundreds of newly dead present, and it was difficult to pick out an individual among all the energetic people buzzing about.
Just when Cason was about to give in, he noticed two guards in gold and white walking up to a table. They pulled several mortals away from the meal and escorted them through the double doors on the opposite side of the banquet hall. One of them fit the description that Cason was looking for.
What could the angels want with these mortals? Cason wondered to himself. He needed to break away and investigate. Something felt off.
“Mick.” Cason interrupted his current story.
“Can you create a distraction? Need you to draw all eyes on you.”
“What for, mate?” he questioned.
Mickey was fairly intoxicated from the wine at this point, so he was not very hard to convince. “Just do this for me.” Cason asked again.
The excited and drunken Mickey stood up in the front of the banquet with a tall glass of wine in his hand. He shouted for everyone’s attention at the top of his lungs. His booming voice echoed through the hall, causing the room fall silent. All eyes were focused on him. Guards started quietly making their way to him, prepared to remove him from the room if things got out of hand.
“LET’S ALL HAVE A TOAST AND SONG TO OUR NEW LIVES!” he shouted.
The room erupted into cheers. Mickey continued with his performance, riling up the intoxicated, jovial crowd. It was easy for Cason to slip over to the doors and slink out without anyone noticing. Beyond the doors was another hallway. There were three additional doorways, one on each side, and another set of double doors at the end of the long hall. Cason slowly made his way through until he heard voices on the other side of the door to the left. It was left slightly ajar, leaving enough room for him to slip through undetected. He quickly hid behind a rack of shields that was perched near the doorway and moved from cover to cover towards the other end of the large room. A strange, gigantic mirror-like structure was set in the center of this massive room. The guards and the mortals were standing behind it, having their secretive conversation.
Cason was close enough to overhear them.
“You proved loyal to your causes on Earth. We need loyal soldiers for the battle to come.” one of the angel guards stated.
“What kind of battle?” a mortal piped up.
“The leader of this place believes she can uproot thousands of years of tradition. We believe in the old way of life and seek to restore things.”
“And why would we help you?” one of the mortals questioned.
“Each one of you did what needed to be done on Earth for the greater good. Any mortal that works with us will be handsomely rewarded once we are back in power. You will be showered with riches and given a position of power over other mortals.”
“They are shipping us off to some Garden soon. How could we possibly help?” another one of the mortals asked.
“Because, our final attack is at dawn. We will strike a blow that she cannot recover from.”
“I’m in.” one of the mortals piped up.
“Yeah…me too.” another said.
There were six mortals in the room, not including Cason. All but one immediately signed on to join this rebellion. Cason observed as the brown, curly haired man looked up from the ground. “I…I can’t be a part of this again.”
“A shame.” one of the angels said. “The rest of you, prove your loyalty. Kill him.” he said, as he tossed a dagger onto the floor.
“NO-WAIT!” the curly haired man said as he was restrained from behind. Another mortal covered his mouth, while one scooped up the dagger.
“Should have taken the opportunity.” one of the mortals said, as he plunged the dagger into the curly haired man’s gut. The attacking mortal stabbed him several more times to ensure he was dead.
“Excellent.” the angel guard said. “We’ll clean this mess up. There is a change of robes here and some weapons to hide underneath. Get back to the banquet. Once the attack begins, you will need to sow as much chaos as possible. Kill without hesitation. While the guards are spread thin dealing with all our mortal spies, we will be taking out our target.”
Cason heard all he needed to. He needed to find this Bethrael and alert her. There was no telling who could be trusted. He moved cover to cover again, towards the door that was ajar, and quickly ducked through it. A familiar face was standing on the other side.
Cason recognized the black hair and battle-hardened appearance.
Kushiel...if he recalled correctly.
“Going somewhere?” Kushiel stated.
“Just trying to find a bathroom.” Cason lied.
Kushiel saw through the lie and pulled his sword out. “Now, now…can’t have you have you spoiling our little secret here.”