GABE Matheson sat in his motor home, hands on the wheel, staring out the front windshield. Breaking his reverie with a sigh, he looked at his cell phone to remind himself since day and time seemed to have little meaning. It was ten a.m., Thursday. The parking space at the police department gave him a distant and partial view of the Pacific Ocean on this clear California morning. He didn’t remember ever swimming in it though he’d been near enough on several occasions. But then, there was always a job to be done. His tasks that were life or death, every time, left no room for things like splashing in waves or lying in the sun.
Yet another case closed, and the report filed. How many had it been now? He’d lost count. The battles, some small, some involving far too many innocents, always violent. The one that took place here was over, for now. Homeland Security knew Gabe’s name as one of the good guys, so the local law enforcement branches had instructions to ask for reports and allow him to go on his way. They knew he fought, but they initially thought it was against the underground al Qaeda making headway into the United States, and now they assumed it was against ISIS cells or internal terrorists. They didn’t know if he was CIA, FBI, or some other “dark” agency, and they didn’t ask. They did know that he was what they considered undercover and highly classified. And that he brought in many serious criminals whose captures wouldn’t be in the headlines because they needed to disappear for reasons only those in charge would know. So, his acceptance was without question. Gabe figured his free pass through their ranks was part of the plan that was his mission. A Divine Plan, he knew.
It was autumn, in other parts of the country, the leaves were beginning to change. His mind raced to Luke, his best friend from college. Gabe had so few that he could call friends. Luke had been in his thoughts because his inner alarm was going off. Gabe felt compelled to travel next to Luke’s town. A phone call was in order, and it wasn’t news that his friend would welcome.
He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, thinking about the first time they were involved in a battle, twenty years ago. The time when he saw what, not whom, he would be battling. The day he learned the meaning of Principalities. He visualized it behind closed eyelids as if it were happening all over again, and he was an observer. His heartbeat quickened as his memory flashed the raw unworldly scene before him while he sat alone in the RV.
He was running for his life, dodging and gasping for breath, both terrified and confused at the scene which met him as he opened the doors to leave the gym. Now his lungs were bursting at the physical exertion. His muscles screamed as he whirled, jumping and ducking to keep from being bludgeoned. And his peripheral vision was working at hyper speed.
CLANG! The sound of metal on metal rang out. CLANG, CLANG!! An echoing cacophony of his steel longsword clashing against lead pipes and machetes flailing perilously in the air.
He leaped from the top of a concrete wall to the ground and rolled, lifting his head as he heard a deadly whoosh, something ferociously parting the oxygen as it sped toward him. Another jagged pipe swung heavily in a wide arc, barely missing his skull but grazing his shoulder, ripping his shirt, and opening a gash. Faces, evil masks filled with hate and murder, were behind the arms that wielded the weapons. Grotesque black, scaly, red-eyed demons appeared to be riding the backs of his attackers.
What was happening? No time to think! The air, the sky, filled with bats? Not bats! More of the demons, stinking of burnt sulfur, drooling, panting, soaring pterodactyls, shrieking as they swooped.
His reflexes came from years of martial arts and boxing, creating a taut, muscular build to balance his six-foot-five gladiator-like frame. On a whim, a class he’d seen offered, Historical Fencing and Weaponry, he had added to his curriculum his last term. He seemed born for it, mastering the skills needed to wield the lethal longsword, only in his hands now because he’d just left a workout with a fencing classmate.
Behind him, he heard the rapid-fire rat-tat-tat-tat of an automatic weapon and screams, hundreds of screams. Then individual shots; one, after another. People ran in mortal fear knocking down and trampling anyone who stumbled. With longsword in hand and blood trickling from his shoulder, he bolted across the Quad toward his dorm, the last place he’d seen his best friend.
Injured bodies lay scattered across the grass and walkways of the Quad. Puddles of red slowly spread around them, staining the concrete and turning the lawns to a muddy maroon. Those chasing him went after slower targets as he ran across the ivy-laced entry portico to the massive carved wooden door of the dorm.
He heard sirens. And more screaming as a machete sliced the backpack and into the skin of a student who hadn’t run fast enough. Bull horns, more gunfire. Clouds of tear gas.
He heaved at the partially open door that someone had tried to block from the inside with piles of furniture. The flying demon bats circled and dipped in the air; their hideous faces contorted and their bodies writhing with glee at the carnage. He could hear no sound from them, but he could hear the fear in the cries of his classmates coming from above on the second floor. He took the stairs three at a time, driven by pure adrenaline, and reached the landing.
For a split second, he stopped, stunned at seeing a dark shape, mouth in a snarling grimace, riding the shoulders of a bearded man with matted hair and a bloody switchblade opened and pointed at Luke. His friend’s back against the wall, a growing red circle claiming the fabric on the front of his shirt as it spread. Luke was in shock, eyes wide and mouth agape, unable to escape as the attacker moved in for a second brutal stab.
Gabe swung his longsword with both hands, slicing the man’s arm at the elbow, the force leaving it cut, bleeding, and dangling. Gabe lunged, and his blade opened the man’s chest. With his eyes frantic, the assailant tried to make a sound, but only bubbles of blood emerged from his mouth. The creature on his back, in a blur of speed, launched itself from the man’s shoulder. Up through the ceiling without even creating dust, it succeeded in fleeing the wrath of the swordsman. But, the bearded man, its previous domination, crumpled heavily, fatally, to the carpeted wooden floor.
If mortal ears could have heard the shrill bellows of the demons, it would have deafened them. Luke’s legs gave out as Gabe grabbed him, supporting his weight in preparation to run. But run where? Where in this insanity?
And then, in the hallway before them, a form materialized. A golden, almost translucent, giant warrior with creamy white wings that spread so wide they disappeared into the rooms on either side of the hallway. It brought its wings in, moving them easily through the solid walls, wrapping the two men in an arc of protection, and Gabe looked up into its amethyst-colored eyes as it nodded gravely to him. Without words, Gabe knew his friend was safe, and he needed to save as many others as he could reach. How did he know?
But there was no time to waste; he bolted toward the screams coming from the rooms down the hall. Somehow, he understood that this was his destiny; his training and strength were part of the plan before he ever knew a plan existed. He was called into action, forever changing his life.
Twelve hours passed, but it seemed like days. Gabe sat in the hospital room next to his friend. Luke was still sedated after emergency surgery to repair the internal damage and stitch the wound. His doctors said he would recuperate after several weeks of rest. The slashing was deep but not life-threatening as it missed vital organs. Luke would carry the scars, a lifetime reminder of the attack.
Through the conversations he’d overheard between victims and the police questioning them, Gabe learned that no one else could see the demons which were so frighteningly visible to him. They only saw the people driven by the demons, like the bearded man who attacked Luke. Police, SWAT, and the National Guard were all involved; together, they’d subdued the monstrous invasion, but not without loss of life and hundreds of injured students and faculty. The media called it a possible terrorist event. How else could it be explained? Gabe wondered if the authorities noticed the strange tattoos on some of the attackers. And if so, why weren’t they talking about it on the news?
After the angel left them, Gabe went through the dorm, ensuring the other students were safe. He returned to Luke, dropped his sword, and carried him downstairs, where first responders were already making their way into the building. With Luke in the hands of paramedics, Gabe went back for his sword and quickly packed some of his clothes. He knew in his gut that he wouldn’t be returning to classes; his institutional learning was over. There were things in this world now revealed to him and him alone. His destiny was ahead, not here.
The look in the angel’s eyes lasted only a moment, but it forged a bond. When their eyes connected, he instantly knew things in his soul with utter certainty. However lonely and challenging, this was a glimpse of his future, impossible to deny. He was now a part of something bigger than anything he could have imagined, accepted, and needed in the ranks of the Warrior Angels. His life would be devoted to fighting and defeating the dark forces threatening the world.
Gabe slowly opened his eyes, sighed, and straightened his shoulders. It was time to move forward. Reaching for his cell phone, he punched the icon with Luke’s picture. They stayed in contact several times a year over the past two decades and had seen each other a few times as well when his quests took him across the country and back again. Gabe would have to tell his friend that the next one, and it would be a big one, would be in his backyard.
“Luke. It’s Gabe. I think you know why I’m calling.”
“Hey, old friend!” Luke said warmly. “I had a feeling I’d hear from you. I’ve been getting some pretty strange vibes lately. Things seem off-balance, the air is different, things I see every day don’t look the same, and I can’t put my finger on it, but the hairs on the back of my neck have been trying to tell me something.”
“Yeah. It looks like my next mission is right under your feet, buddy. I’ll be there in a couple of days.”
“I’m ready for you. Your room is waiting.” The line went dead.
He felt under the seat for his longsword and, reassured it was there, he put the key in the ignition with one hand and ran the other hand through his longish hair. Moving the gearshift in reverse and pulling out of his parking space, he kicked it into drive and began mile number one to his newest destination.
Gabe was heading into some beautiful country at a lovely time of year. Sadly, his life’s work left little time to enjoy God’s bounty. Little did he know that as he was heading east, there were thousands of other beings traveling to the same place, some his allies and some his enemies, and this event would do more to change his life than anything he’d been through before.
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