Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Six Days – Chapter Seven - Judges - Shofetim

I won't even get into the sick and suffering mind of a woman that has been completely thrown out of time and laying around on the floor of the place she works at. I won't get into all of the unconscious thoughts of having seen the place destroyed twice, just to be sitting on the floor inside of it again with a woman that either is or is not the incarnation of Satan's most evil decision. I will just say that everything about me at this point is either delusional, beyond the realm of reality, or so mired in reality that nobody understands anyway. I was just a simple single mother with a dead husband a few minutes ago, and now I have lived extra days, and I can't even accept that it is reality living it. Is there a chance that I am just insane?

The concept of life being better should I just be insane is a wonderful thought, albeit unrealistic, as the most beautiful man I have ever seen walks into the diner, takes a look around and then takes a seat at the counter. I was pouring coffee the last time this scene played out, and now I am on the floor in front of the counter trying to play it off as an accident. Oh God how funny your plan can be? Of course Miss Manners would take issue with Lou as he simply stepped over me and walked by. Perhaps he is playing out the whole event as it had happened, who knows? I brushed myself off as I strolled around the counter to grab a coffee, black and set it down in front of him all the same. At least I have a modicum of decency; I managed to get a smirk off of thinking.

He muttered a “thank you” as he pulled out his book again like he had the last time. I was a little bitter that he was simply letting me stew in what had just happened. I played along for a bit and went to the other end of the counter to deal with the ladies of the town who were fluttering about the beautiful stranger, and make sure that Mary was all set. She was staring at Lou with what were probably unclean thoughts rampant in her head. I had been there after all, and it took getting used to him to start denying the need to rip your clothes off in front of him. Sorry to be blunt but we've been down this road enough so I may as well just call these things strait. Mary on the other hand has just seen him again; well she is just seeing him for the first time, again. I can see how this gets confusing more and more each time anyway. Lou's cup was empty already again; scalding hot coffee doesn't seem to affect him. Boy that really got me when I first saw it, but with pot in hand I walked over to him.

As I filled his coffee, he never pulled his face from that book. That ancient language that it was written in was dead in front of my face, as it had been the last time. Well as it had been before it changed to plain English. He didn't even acknowledge me this time and I was getting rather temperamental about it, but again he just thanked me for refilling his coffee cup. It was odd how quickly he skimmed pages this time like he was more desperate than the last time. I had no idea why he didn’t acknowledge me so I pushed it a little bit, “So what happened this time?”

I didn't take my eyes off of him, and there was a small part of me that wished I had. In less than a fraction of a second his face changed. It was so quick that I don't think I should have even noticed it, but I did. As I explain this it will take a bit of your own imagination, so I hope you are up for it, but it was like a million years were jammed into that fraction of a second. Confusion, distrust, agony, fear, self loathing, hate, definitely hate flooded every ounce of his complexion, and I really should have missed it. As I can only explain with what a fraction of a second holds, it wasn't the normal look of these emotions, because it isn't a human being that had them. It was Deity sized confusion. It was an Angelic form of distrust. It was the agony of Atlas as he tries to hold the earth in the universe. It was the type of fear that no human could survive. It was self loathing beyond any hate that I could muster on my best day, and the hate quite possibly should have set me on fire where I stood. Thankfully it didn't and the only thing he said back to me was, “Excuse me?”

There wasn't the smallest amount of dishonesty in his voice, and the look I had just endured said more than the words. I could see for myself that my question took him completely by surprise based on what he had told me himself. If something falls out of line in the sight of an omnipotent being than it is more terrifying than if it happens to a mortal. Simple logic, is because it just shouldn't. I carefully started thinking about what I was going to say next because; I have no comprehension of how an omnipotent being would handle this exchange especially when you consider that the omnipotent being is technically the most evil thing known to man. I fear also that he may not comprehend that I know who he is, and on top of this entire “why do I know something he doesn't?” complex that must be flooding his brain. This makes no sense whatsoever. A familiar feeling from inside my pocket was trying to get my attention, and the heat of it was really bad.

Lou's eyes were unblinkingly on me, and I was now worried about pulling the parchment from my pocket in front of him. I was also terrified not to, because I was completely mired in the area between human and not human, and the guidance couldn't hurt. I tried to make it look nonchalant as I pulled the scrap from my pocket and looked at the writing on it, and clearly scribbled in that familiar script was “He’s never really talked to you before,” and as I read it in my mind it disappeared and was replaced with, “and neither have I.”

Clearing my throat, of the fear and allowing myself to trust the situation because I had no other choice, I said clearly while looking into his beautiful eyes, “We've done this before, I was dragged back into time and neither of us knows why. You usually remember everything right along with me, but this time it appears that you don't,” and as I waited for him to say something I remembered that he wouldn't so I continued, “I know who you are and why you are here, and I know what happens in four days if you don't do what you came here to do.”

He closed his book with a pop and the half dozen people in the diner looked over at the two of us. I clearly remember dozens of people in here last time talking over their future, but I can only imagine what has gone on since then. Lou took a moment to survey the happenings and then he appeared to be thinking about what he was going to say next. He stood up, but then in an instant sat down again. It was rather strange to see since he hadn't exactly been at a loss for words before. He then pushed the book off to the side, and said “What day is this? I'm at a loss for what I should say next, because I'm sure I must have told you things, but definitely not everything,” and as curious as that was I started to think that he was playing a joke on me.

I reached out instinctively to place my hand on his and tell him that I wasn’t falling for his games, and the speed to which he ripped his hand off of the counter before I could touch him actually had others in the diner take notice. I used the most vacant girlie giggle before I said, “Oh you are fast, I'm impressed,” which made the five or six people in the place go back to what they were doing. I leaned into him and said as quietly as I could, “You snap out of this Lou. I can't fight this battle without you, and it doesn't take a former Angel to realize this. You know as well as I do that it is Thursday and you have been here a total of one day,” and the single mother in me made him smile for some reason. I stopped smiling when I thought that the parchment I had just read wouldn’t have been in on the joke.

He smiled at me, very falsely but he had panic written all over his face, and this was the first time he didn’t have the capability to make it disappear as quickly as I could see it. He leaned in a bit conspiratorially, “I'm only saying this because I fear that for the first time in my existence someone knows more than me,” and after his tongue brushed his lips he continued, “I know this because I am looking at a person that I have no claim to, that I have no memory of ever giving up the claim to,” he swallowed his whole coffee in one gulp which actually made me smirk because a man that can drink scalding hot coffee in one gulp like a gunslinger downs whisky, probably shouldn’t be falling apart emotionally in front of me. His last words were so full of honesty that I had to take note, “You've never had a dishonest moment in your life, and yet you claim to know who I am and laugh at me at the same time. You terrify me,” and I understood exactly what he meant with that, but I didn’t say a word and started walking away.

Mary waved to me as she was leaving, obviously on her way to the school, since she usually just came in for coffee and a bagel between cleaning up after breakfast and making lunch at the school. She was a heck of a lot more involved in this the last time around but as I said it was rather strange. Where were all the unemployed men talking candidly about what they were going to do next, now that the Skillings plant was history? Glancing out the window I noticed that all of the fire equipment that had spent the night dealing with any after effects of the fire weren’t out on the horizon. Clearly I had noted how they were still spraying everything down and the ladder trucks that looked like ants off in the horizon. The plant was still gone anyway. The ladies who had been sitting at the other end of the counter staring longingly at Lou were now being dragged out of the place by their husbands. Strangely now I was all alone in the place with Lou, if you don’t include the cook out in the kitchen. I wondered aloud, “Where’s Burton?” and then grabbed the pot and walked over to Lou.

He looked at me with a wry smile. Oh what a gorgeous smile, I might add and said in a waning voice, “Burton hasn’t been in since Thursday when I told him to stop harassing you,” he then dumped his entire cup of coffee down his throat, “If I were totally paranoid, who would I think you are right now playing a trick on me?”

The question took me by surprise, and since nobody was in here I spoke right up, “Darius I imagine,” and then before he could say anything I added, “I guess because of my gender you could think I am God?”

I was shocked because everything in here looked exactly as it had on Thursday when I had first met Lou, but everything was out of place, and then Jimmy walked out of the kitchen and said, “I’ve got everything cleaned up Stacy, how bout you just throw the last few dishes in the dishwasher and I’ll open tomorrow?” and then I took another look around the place and saw that I needed to take a better look around to begin with. Jimmy would only be asking to leave now on Monday because that is the only day we close at eleven.

I nodded at him and he started rushing into the back to get out of here as fast as he could. I ignored him for the most part assuming he would just let himself out the side door, and I had much bigger fish to fry. Lou was sitting there staring at me, observing everything I had been doing, and I didn’t even bother saying a word to him as I worked my way around the counter and walked over to the front door and swung the open sign to closed. I turned to Lou and said, “Well I guess you only have a couple of days to get Darius back into hell don’t you?” which I wouldn’t have said if I didn’t see Jimmy out the side window walking to his car.

Lou looked at me and then replied blankly, “About a day and a half,” and then he looked down, “I need your help Anna. I have come in here every morning save yesterday, because you were closed. I have said nothing more to you than my food order and you have said nothing to me save the price of my food, and other things that the average waitress would say in return,” and he looked up at me, his eyes pleading, “There’s something that happened to you that I need to know, or we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” and I didn’t force him to beg me to tell him the whole story I just did. You can consider it all a trial run for this book I am writing now, minus everything that happens from here, and I won’t bore you with all of it. I’ll just say that Lou listened to the whole thing and rarely interjected anything but once in a while made me reiterate something so that he could figure out what the point was.

He managed to hide his shock very well, but I can imagine that emotional control is a strong suit with him. I'm still on the short end of the learning curve but the more I find out the happier I am with that. The hardest part for him to endure was when I explained to him the scenario with my wonderful ex-husband, because it was the first time he had realized that he had escaped from Hell. Who would ever think that I could throw out an expression like “escaped from Hell” so casually and with factual intent? I was thinking at the time that if I survived it all I had to start going to church more often if only so I could critique the sermons.

“I can't explain how he escaped, and I can't explain how I didn't know about it,” he reaffirmed to me and then went on, “of course the fact that you know about it before I do isn't even shocking anymore considering the entire story you told me,” and he swooped down another cup of scalding hot coffee, which I had been making pots of for the last hour or so. “I don’t know why I never told you that you’re jumping in and out of time were because you died, perhaps I was honest in saying I didn’t know, but once I had I would have known that it would happen no matter who killed you or what the circumstances. The energy of your life can jump through the time line like a folded piece of paper can soak up a drop of water,” and this made sense to him it didn’t make sense to me, but I did understand what he said next because I was leaning that way already too, “I assume that parchment in your pocket is someone above me or even God, and why they are involved in all this is beyond me.”

I asked him a bit timidly, “Can you know if my ex is in Hell or not now?” the question came out funny because as usual I am dealing with variables that don't exist in the rational mind of others. To be honest I can't even imagine the conversations that I have with the devil could even be understood by the Pope in Rome much less the beggar in the street. I was afraid of Jack and the havoc he brings to all of this as well.

I didn’t feel any better as Lou shook his head and then said, “I can’t be there and here at the same time, and you know what happens if I leave here. God created the heavens and earth in six days, and escaped this plain before she ceased to exist. Congratulations on figuring that out, but like anything else Darius can destroy all of that in an instant, and be infesting the other side with his poison for the rest of eternity,” he looked out the window and then said, “It’s always been that way. Women create, men destroy. There is an angel with a flaming sword guarding Eden from ever being occupied by humans again, and that was the fury that God’s real namesake Eve, had destroyed rather that created,” and in a broken voice like someone who is trying not to cry he finished, “I would hate to see what would be set forth to guard this dimension of reality for all of you if a man had created and because of that arrogance his creation destroyed in far greater ability than ever conceived before.”

Now all of a sudden there was a greater clarity than I had before. The missing piece of the whole thing, it wasn’t just the fact that Lou was required to deal with his own problem, but he actually appeared to feel some fear and remorse over what he had done. The theological debate that they could have over this one on Mother Angelica could last a century. I just wanted to get to the bottom of why I am here and his sanity didn’t come with me, “Why do you think that you don’t remember anything or worse yet, that none of it happened anywhere but in my mind?” and he began to chuckle while he held out his cup for more coffee.

He watched me fill his cup and said to me, “I have some good news and some bad news for you, and which would you like to have first?” and I glared at him because I was too old to play this game, and the circumstances were a bit too dire. He dumped the coffee down his throat, “I assure you that everything that has happened to you really happened. Purely because you know things that you could only know if they had, and if that isn’t enough for you there is a piece of parchment in your pocket that talks to you, that probably didn’t fall off a roof and land in your pocket,” then his face got sullen, “The bad news is your ex husband appears to know how to effect memory when he gets involved. It sounds like I can’t do anything about him either, but hopefully I will figure that one out. With a day left we don’t have the luxury to be secretive, so if you think of anything please tell me, because you seem to know more than I do. Darius has completely avoided me since I came here and the only confrontation that has been had with him is documented in your mind.”

I thought of that for a minute and then realized that it didn’t really mean a hill of beans that I had all this memory of the last four days, and realistically I only had three of it because I had no experience from Sunday. “What good is any of this to your hunt for Darius?” I asked him without even considering the obvious.

He appraised me, and I could actually feel him summing up my worthiness as an ally. I shot him a dirty look, and he smiled for some strange reason. He looked at me for a moment and gave me that swirling of his finger that he had already given me so many yesterdays ago, before as he explained the concept of omnipotence to me again. I started shaking my head and went to make another pot of coffee, and he caught on quickly enough that we had had this discussion before. It was in a completely different context at the time, but it's still gotten rather silly. “Well you have to bear with me as omnipotence is still a common concept to me, and I haven't had the benefit of experience to ruin that,” he drank the refilled cup of coffee and placed it in front of himself again, “I'm not liking this concept of being out of the loop and dependent on a mortal either, but I can adapt,” with a smile he added, “The fact is you know me, better than I know you, but more importantly you know Darius and Jack better than I know them both.”

It didn’t make that much sense to me, but I figured it had something to do with the fact that he considered what I remember to have actually happened. I was about to ask him about this but he seemed to react first and tell me this, “You hurt Darius and his eye continued to be damaged with every leap, even if it was back in time. I haven’t seen him since I chased him away from the destruction at the plant, but I bet you diamonds to donuts he still has a damaged eye even if I and most likely he, doesn’t remember it,” and then he started nodding his head which made me do it along with him almost hypnotically, “and because of that blood hatred that he has for you, he will come after you again like he always does and always has. Until now you figured he was taunting me when in reality he was always trying to draw me away from you,” and the reality of that last comment didn’t make me happy at all.

I knew what he was thinking and decided to add to all of this, “and my ex husband wants to keep me from going back in time. Initially he thought he could do that by killing me…”

Lou cut me off by saying, “and when he realized he couldn’t do that he figured out that he could alter the memories of the immortals, and at the same time direct your jump forward,” and as the recognition of what he just said dawned on me he finished the thought, “I was lucky he didn’t throw you forward another day or two, even if it makes everything that much more difficult,” I still don’t understand his lust to get Lou to cease to exist. I can understand Lou’s romanticizing the whole day that he would cease to exist but what does my scummy ex husband have to do with it all? I asked Lou if he had any ideas, and Lou replied, “I do but it would require him to be a lot smarter than what evidence would dictate,” and after I moved my wrist in circles, he got my point and shared his findings. “If I cease to exist, God finds herself in a couple of quandaries. She has to absorb all of my evil that I carry to keep her free of it in the balance, and Hell disappears flooding heaven with all of the souls that were stored down there.”

Oh boy, now that made sense, even to a relatively un-enlightened mortal such as me. Well I guess if I were to be fair I have a little more enlightenment than most, but that concept had never crossed my mind. On another note, why did it cross Jack’s? I mean it was within an instant that I was able to ascertain that Jack wasn’t smart enough to figure all of this out on his own either. I had to point it out, “I think you are giving Jack far too much credit, if you think that he could comprehend all of that by himself. He really never made anything out of himself because the only thing he did with his life was tried to procreate.”

Lou considered me for a moment and then said, “When I manipulate someone, or more accurately, ‘poison their mind’ like I had done to your friend Burton a few days ago. It happened in your version and my version of time so it is a good example, but also it was his carnal nature that I used against him. Where he was already obsessed with touching you, I was able to fill his mind with another obsession that created panic and terror. I let him see what it would be like to live in Hell and why. Now he is obsessed with avoiding Hell, and had hitchhiked to Wichita where I’m pretty sure he has thrown himself headlong into the Salvation Army, but I lost track of his soul.”

I knew where this was going next which wasn’t a big leap, “That explains why he can transform into Darius, they were in contact with each other and somehow Darius had convinced his carnal side to be obsessed with destroying Hell?” and Lou nodded along with me the whole time I was saying it. Of course I knew instinctively that Darius hadn’t gotten Jack out of Hell, because I have had that explained to me enough by now. He can’t leave the general vicinity because of Lou being here, and even if he could Lou would have been able to trap him in Hell when he had gone down there. It was an unspoken understanding between the two of us, but I did ask, “How did he get out of Hell to begin with?”

Lou shook his head, “Not a clue, just like I never knew he left to begin with until it was well past anything I could fix, but if you split the body the soul will fracture. I suggest you aim for the head because the neck is the weakest point,” and after he saw my expression of disgust he said, “You need to do it quick since he can dematerialize.”

I had to ask him about my son. I wouldn’t be a good mother if I hadn’t, and of all the things I was before this, a bad mother was not one of them. It was almost strange the way he looked at me to be honest with you. It was along the lines of someone taking a moment to try to realize who an old friend is that was being brought up out of the blue. His face shrunk in almost as he replied, in a very frank manner, “I don't have a clue, I have even less concept of his destiny than I do yours,” after the perplexed look on my face I assume, he threw me a freebie. “It's not that hard to understand if you think of it this way. I have known most of the variables of your ex-husband's destiny for many years, as it became more apparent that I would be in control of his afterlife. I never knew you existed, despite my omnipotence, because I realistically was never going to have an opportunity to meet you or deal with you, until recently, and more over I still have to know you, as it would pertain to people meeting each other for the first time. I have a few advantages, because I have been studying human nature for say, ever, but I have no concept of where your life is going. I have no extra ordinary power over you,” he paused long enough for me to think to myself that he should tell that to my legs that lock up whenever he does something particularly sexy. He further demonstrated his point with that simple thought in my head, “It's in your face, like it has been in the face of several trillion human beings that I have seen what you are probably thinking, and shame on you by the way, but Jake, like the Pope is not in my presence so their actual feelings, thoughts and destiny are not my own, so hell if I know?” and then he laughed, “Not this Pope anyway, he’s a pretty good guy.”

I actually smiled for the first time in a little while as I quipped, “I've been around you so long now that I actually understand what you just said,” I thought about it for a second while he polished off another coffee in that creepy manner that he does. It doesn't matter how long you are around him or, even the fact that you understand who he is. Scalding hot coffee just shouldn't be shot down like whiskey. “How are we going to find that loser of an ex-husband of mine and get him out of the way?”

This also gave Lou a shot of agony. His agony is millennium old and far more painful to look at, so I take notice every time it brushes his gorgeous face. While I was refilling his cup he said, “To be honest with you that intimidates me. He has power. He has actual power that has nothing to do with leaving Hell. Somewhere along the lines he was granted the doppelganger like ability and even I can't conceptualize how he got it,” he stopped for a moment and walked over towards the door to look out the window at all of the people passing by. “I couldn't give him those abilities, and every time something strange happens I worry that Darius figured out something new, and is playing with it. You are involved in this, with a 'power' that I can't conceptualize receiving, but I understand that you have it. From what you told me I also figured out how to manipulate it before we came back to this point,” ne appeared to see what he walked to the window to see and then he added, “and now you know of the period of time that was ripped from my memory,” and with that his voice got somewhat angry, “think about how it feels to exist billions of years and then have your own very existence changed and challenged in the blink of an eye?”

I didn't know what to say really so I decided to crack a joke, “You don't look a day over a million,” and he did crack a smile, but never turned his face from the window. I walked over to join him at the window since it appeared so important to him, As I glanced out the window, and saw something even more terrifying than I had thought possible to this point, the coffee pot fell from my hand and shattered on the floor. The coffee pot didn’t even break Lou’s concentration as he stared at the hulking and terrifying shape of the very thing that terrifies me more than Satan himself. The great beast of a man’s figure glaring back at me as if partly menacing, partly mocking of Darius, fists clenched, and my mind didn't comprehend if he was going to come and get me once and for all, or he was just there to try and succeed at scaring me. The real horror was about six or seven feet behind him, as a total clone of the angel of hell was standing there equally as terrifying, but missing his left eye. That Darius had his one good eye focused on me as well. You can’t even imagine how horrific it is when two omnipotent beasts stare you down and are completely fixated on your death one way or another. Knowing that they can’t actually kill me is no real comfort, because it isn’t explainable and when does it just happen to stop?

The Darius with one eye disappeared and reappeared, clutched in the fist of the Darius with two eyes. I said to Lou, just so he knew what I was thinking, “The one with two eyes is Jack and he knows what is going on, you see how the actual Darius forgot everything that has happened and still wants to kill me?”

This was when Lou said, “I usually wouldn’t tip my hand, but in case I forget this moment as I have all the others, you have it all wrong ..” and he never finished what he was saying as the twins of Hell vanished. There was no reassurance from the hand of Lou on my shoulder trying to give me momentary comfort because he was gone too. In the blink of an eye, I was frozen there in terror as the world appeared ready to cave in on itself, and the entire cast of characters wore the black hats in this western. I was all of a sudden standing in the dark, and without my six shooter to defend myself.

I didn’t even look around to make sure that I didn’t offend Lou when I said aloud “One of those fuckers killed me again,” which was both poignant and absolutely accurate. My keys fell out of my hand as I wasn’t really in the moment of opening the diner in my mind as I was in reality. I picked up the stack of newspapers from the ground as I was fetching my keys. Whoever killed me they didn’t manage to send me into the future again? It was Monday and now I am opening the diner. Well I know how the day ends, but I wish I could get my mind around how I get there this time. My mind went out of focus for a moment after I walked into the diner and saw that it was the same as any other Monday. Place was closed since Saturday afternoon, and nothing was out of place in the least. “You can handle this Stacy, just act like its any old Monday,” I said as I dropped the papers and the keys on the counter.

In that last blink of an eye, Lou and the Twins vanished in that speed of omnipotence that I had come to expect. My mind is a bit more focused on the unknown than it had been say two weeks ago and I was at least capable of surmising that perhaps the other Darius was Jack, but that isn't a huge help in this case scenario. The questions were abound as I wondered if he was let out of Hell by Darius to begin with, and that was how he acquired the ability to be Darius. In some of the poorer quality horror movies stars and wanna be good guys have made deals with the evil doers assuming that they could make it work to their advantage. Rarely do they ever have the constitution to maintain their composure under intoxicating evil. I think I finally had an idea what Lou was trying to explain to me about lawfulness, and the ability to remain your own person in the face of great temptation.

This of course was no great reassuring revelation to me because it also reminded me of a woeful facet. Jack has all the lawfulness of a horny dog faced with the dilemma of a particularly sweet smelling leg. I would have loved nothing more than to stand there and assume that the cavalry was in the gates, but I've known Jack and all of his failings for far too long. I felt myself being a bit scared for Lou as he was probably now facing two omnipotent beings that made his own particular brand of “lawful evil” seem comical in comparison to the “chaotic evil” that he was faced with. Ok it was a bit humorous that I was standing there thinking in Dungeons and Dragons terms, but the laugh I let out as I walked back to the counter simply added to the insanity. Fortunately I had jumped into a spot where I was alone for a change, so I could crack up in peace.

I admired what a good job I did prepping the place on Saturday when I closed up shop. This was something of a revelation, pun intended, that I obviously wasn’t up to my armpits in surreal angels and demons crap in this timeline. I distinctly remember how each and every day that I remembered and was at the restaurant around closing time, later today included, I would be too mired in my unreality to even care about getting the place cleaned right or prepped for the next day. Who has time to care about tomorrow when it is a miracle that you live through the rest of the day, or better yet, not sure you’ll remain in today long enough to enjoy the start of tomorrow. This answered a strange little question that had nagged at me through this story. I apparently was doing the right things during the times I don’t remember being in. I stood there for another minute looking at all the clean and put away dishes and spotless counters thinking, “Good girl Stacy,” before I went and started up all the coffee pots.

I had barely started the coffee when I heard the door open and close behind me. Despite all of the horrific crap that has happened to me I didn’t even think to turn around, simply because it was normal. Yes I had thought I relocked the door, and yes the sign said “closed” but again this is not uncommon. This town is so small nobody reads signs, and I am such a scatterbrain in the morning that more often than not I have customers sitting in the diner before we are officially open because I often forget to lock the door. So much for that new found heightened survival instincts I had been bragging about. When I finally had turned around it was a character in this strange story of my life I had forgotten about, for whatever reason I had.

Now as Gabriel walked over to the counter and sat down in the exact same spot that Lou was going to walk in and sit at later today or a few days ago according to which timeline you are thinking of, I had to chuckle a bit. He was glaring at me, which made me wonder if he remembered me or not. Then again he might not like being in a restaurant with a woman he doesn’t recognize laughing to herself while she makes coffee either. I figured the whole ideal of being blunt and acting like he had walked into a closed diner, which he had, by saying, “Can I help you?”

He looked up at me a bit confused and said, “Um, I don't know, can I possibly look at a menu first?” which made me snort. The look on his face was of extreme confusion, and I didn’t know what he was playing at. Now the first hints that I have become jaded started revealing themselves. My near innocence was melting away with every moment, and I started squeezing myself comfortably into the shades of gray between what I was and what I have been faced with for God knows how long. I also in that instance realized that I was faced with another problem and that would be two different points of view on how the angel Gabriel actually behaves. Gabriel himself, even if he doesn't appear to remember told me that he can lie, and Lucifer who quite frankly is the poster child for lying but swears he doesn't backed up Gabriel's story. Oh for the love of Christ why me? In an instant I decided I didn't owe Gabriel anything and more over I don't trust him all that much either, despite the blasphemy that it entails to take the word of the Devil over the word of one of God's most trusted henchmen.

After handing Gabriel a menu I suggested that he try an omelet. It always seems to be the thing that people like most in this place when Jimmy is working, and I was reminded of that when Jimmy opened the blinds between the kitchen and the diner itself. Jimmy walked around to the front and said to both of us, “Sorry kids, just started the grills so omelets aren’t coming up for a half hour or so,” and then I reiterated that it was my fault for letting people in early, but he winked and walked out back again.

When trying to look “normal” it is best to do things that ARE normal, and so far things were starting to morph back into a semi-state of normalcy around me. Gabrielle piped right up and said, “I don't really like hot food, but I'd love an iced tea,” and with that I snorted again. So much for normal, I thought as I walked away past his bewildered look. If he doesn’t actually know who I am or how he and I know each other then he probably doesn’t see the irony through my eyes that Lou likes things extremely hot and he doesn’t like hot food. Come to think of it he might have realized that irony millennium ago, but I had decided at the time to not bring it up and leave it one of those timeless mysteries.

After the iced tea went in front of Gabriel he casually ordered a ham on rye. I thought to myself in a bit of a mocking fashion that he obviously liked the New Testament more than the Old Testament or he cheated on the kosher laws along with the only Jewish family I know. I also wondered if he could read my mind for a second as he has a tendency to grimace at me when I think something particularly mean spirited. Of course if he could read my mind then he wouldn't be so confused now would he? If Lou were the Lou I knew yesterday he'd be so proud of the way I can deduce like an immortal. I was a bit perplexed as to whether Lou jumped back here with me, memories of many hours in the future still lodged in his overtax yet immortal brain? I also knew the look on Gabriel's face because I had seen it less than a few hours ago on Lou's, even if in real time it hadn’t happed yet. A mixture of fear and comprehension that wasn't as terrifying in the least but still very apparent. “I'll get that right up for you, just let me know if you need anything,” I said in the sweetest voice I could muster.

Gabriel grasped my hand and said in all seriousness as he looked in my eyes, but partially under his breath as a generous smattering of the morning customers started coming in like clockwork, “I need you to tell me why you know who I am,” and then he looked around a bit suspiciously to make sure nobody else heard him. At least he was able to keep a level of decorum in public. Who needs to tell someone who is timeless that embarrassing someone isn’t the way to get your questions answered, especially if they are mortal and not omnipotent. As a matter of fact he is taking it a lot better that Lou did.

The sound of his last word was still floating in the air when he heard my reply, “No,”  and you would have thought I had just shot the angel that sat before me. His very expression was that of ageless years that were completely out of their element. He no longer was taking it better than Lou, but then again I hadn’t been so brazen with Lou either. I could have cared less because I was simply an innocent bystander in this war between the immortals and he can just get in line with everyone else that thinks they have the right to throw my world upside down. In the long and short of it I don’t have a clue who to trust and what little information is mine and mine alone better stay that way.
Oh what a jaded web we weave these days. Gabriel finally broke the silence of my thinking by saying, “Can you at least tell me why I am compelled to watch over you?” and I shrugged him off as I went over to deal with another customer out of ear shot, and after taking a few easy orders, thanks to the non creativity of the few regulars that remain, I was putting all of the orders into Jimmy who had timed the grill perfectly for everyone except the angel that walked in too early. If I wasn’t working on the apocalypse in the background I would have thought this was a pretty good start to the day. At the time I was probably still thinking that.

His look was not amused when I came back over to him. There was a part of me that wondered if he was simply lying to me. We all basically learned in Sunday school that Gabriel was one of the good guys and I guess he pretty much still is. Then again, nobody treats someone who acknowledges that they lie as a pal. On that note Gabriel either is lying right now or doesn’t even know that he told me that he lies as I had said. Oh what a twisted web I weave now? I decided to be blunt and let him in on a piece of the puzzle, and see where it goes from there. “You’re rather proud of your ability to lie so you’ll forgive me if I don’t trust you all that much,” and he didn’t even flinch. You have to admit that nobody should be shocked when someone treats them to the truth. I always hated that when my husband would feign shock and dismay after I caught him in a lie.

Looking back on it he didn’t even really look me over as he went back to take another pull off of his iced tea, so even if he was. After a good drink he started speaking in a very calm voice which if I had just met him and knew he was the Angel Gabriel, I would think was his usual voice. “To think I actually laughed at my brother when he told me of a mortal with unexplainable powers,” and then he looked around suspiciously. He started again, “I’d call this about as unexplainable as it gets. More to the point it is a first,” and he then pointed to the ham on rye that Jimmy had put up for him on the serving bar, “Can you grab that for me please, I hate it when they sit in the heat lamps too long.”

I scurried over to grab his sandwich and grabbed a bottle of ketchup to go with his fries. When I turned around he was no longer sitting there alone. The most beautiful man in the world was sitting next to him and the two of them were yammering along in a language that I and apparently everyone else in the diner couldn’t understand. After placing the sandwich and the bottle of ketchup in front of Gabriel I instinctively grabbed a cup and the coffee pot so that I could pour a coffee for Lou. Their voices started transforming right in front of my ears, and I was hearing it stray from whatever language they were speaking into plain English, “You will protect her because you are bound to and you feel it in your center of being. More over if anything happens to her because you’re grumpy over your ignorance we’ll find out once and for all how hot it has to be to make you scream,” came out of Lou’s mouth right in front of me.

“You will NOT start threatening people on my behalf Lou, I won’t have it ..” and I stopped short when I finally did it apparently. Both Angels shot into that cacophony of looks and expressions that signified a million years of pain. Yes even Gabriel had real pain that flowed through his face in that split second that was perhaps scarier coming from him than coming from Lou himself. You expect that hate, loathing, fear, despair, and pain to come from the guardian of Hell. You don’t exactly expect it from the one that Sunday school told you was the guardian of heaven.
Gabriel was the one that looked straight at me and appeared like he was going to pull my innards out of me, before Lou placed his hand on his shoulder and then said, “You understood us, I imagine,” and all I could do was nod because I was kind of scared, which was a far sight out of the cocky that I was five minutes ago. Playing around with immortals is not for the faint of heart, “You can understand me now?” he then added, and both of them looked at me expecting a response.

I almost weakly said something but the burning in my pocket was intense. I actually made a pained noise as I reached into my pocket to grab the parchment, but in that instance I couldn’t remember if either of these two even knew if I had a parchment in my pocket or not. Of course since the parchment had told me that it didn’t much matter if Lou knew or not because he couldn’t read the parchment unless the parchment wanted him to. My own silliness gets to me sometimes as I try to explain that which is unexplainable, you’ll have to forgive me here. I managed to dart out back and I can imagine that the two of them were completely out of sorts over my behavior but as I said before, I don’t care. With the burning parchment in my hand the words read, “I thought it was important for you to keep your upper hand in all of this,” was written there and almost hard to read as it was as small as to fit it all. The words disappeared to be replaced with, “they are both sneaky and will try anything,” came up in the more familiar hastily written but quite elegant script. It disappeared and, “They want to gain advantage over you,” came up and again it disappeared. The writing finally materialized small again making me think that a lot was coming up but I could read it as it was writing itself in, “I will do for you what I can to keep you in the lead, even if it means language lessons.”

I whispered into the parchment keeping my eyes peeled for any roaming onlookers, “Can Gabriel read what is written on you?” and although I had a million questions like I often do in these cases, I felt it important to just get that one question out there and hopefully have it answered.

The words formed on the parchment, thank God, “Nobody can read me except you when I write to you,” and the words disappeared then more reappeared, “You know languages those two don’t now, but get back out there before they leave,” and I quickly tucked the parchment back in my pocket and ran out to see to the two of them. Looking back on this I just want to laugh at how creepy it all was and how not creepy it was at the same time.

They both were staring directly at me from the second I came out the door, until the moment I was standing in front of them. Of course a lot went on between the time I walked out the door and the time I was standing in front of them. I made sure all cups were refilled and all food was served. I had an involuntary reaction to make sure that the world maintained normalcy like I have been saying all along. They said nothing and they had no intention of taking their eyes off of me. In a way they appear to be staring at me with an intensity that could only be explained as fear. I walked over to the two of them and said nothing as I looked at Lou’s full coffee. Now that was different! Gabriel hadn’t touched his sandwich, and they were both staring at me still. It would have been a really good “Three Stooges” gag had it not been so deadly serious. Gabriel finally broke the ice, “So are you going to tell us how you could understand Aramaic or are you going run to the bathroom next?”

I looked directly at Lou and said, “You told me he didn’t have a sense of humor, but I’ve been amused by a lot of the things he’s said,” and Lou shrugged, even though I am sure he doesn’t remember telling me the joke about the three priests. He’s actually a heck of a lot better at dealing with what he doesn’t know and doesn’t remember. Gabriel gave him a look of ice daggers, but said nothing. Gabriel was such a sweet thing when he had the upper hand in understanding, but let me tell you, he is not a happy camper when he doesn’t. There is intensity in him that is intimidating even when he is trying to be passive aggressively humorous. I walked away again to make sure all the customers were all set. This was my first rush as the people that had to open various shops got fed, a few of them put in their lunch orders.

I simply waited on Lou and Gabriel, not really paying them much attention. I actually learned a lot about these two as they stewed in their own juices there at my breakfast counter. In a month of Sundays nobody would believe what I have surmised just standing here watching how they stew. I would get a wry smile as I talked to myself silently, and it would prove my point about what I was thinking and also start the difficulty I was having in not laughing at them both. Realistically any of you out there reading this would understand so let me run it by you in the best way I can.

You see I am a single mother in Kansas and I have about all of the theological training that Sunday school would provide you. No more, no less, since I did what a lot of high school girls who get pregnant do, and I stopped the hypocrisy cold. My father who was deceased would have supported that decision and my mother who was not deceased supported that decision. That was the last thing about me she supported as she announced the day after I announced that Jack and I were getting married, well ok that was the last support as she supported that decision, but as I was saying she announced that she was moving to Arizona. With her gone I never had to go back to church and I was fine with that too. Since you are probably wondering, no she has never met Jake personally. I don’t even know where she lives now, since the last move. She’ll send me a letter some day and I’ll write down her address I tell myself when I throw away the last card or letter.

Back to what I was talking about here but I started looking at both of them to see if there were any similarities. Right down to the fact that they both have different glares and facial expressions they couldn’t be any more different. A casual passerby would do a double take at either of them calling each other “brothers” because they look nothing alike. They don’t act alike either and when I first diagnosed the way the two behaved; it is really hard to tell that they are who they are. Again I have all the brilliant knowledge of these things that your average Sunday school student has. That’s not very much but many of what you know about these two is common knowledge right? Gabriel is good, Lucifer is bad right? When I first noticed that Gabriel has a much harder time dealing with all of this than Lou does I had wondered if that was blasphemy to notice that. I got the smile when I thought that I was going to hell for sure. Then I thought about the fact that Lou must be acclimated to liars, but almost started laughing when I thought about how the worst was probably his brother sitting next to him.

Lou really seemed to love this actually and he hid it very well from everyone but I have that advantage of knowing him a little better than he knows I know him. In the grand scheme of things, I don’t know anything about this entity, but I do know more than he knows I know and that is an advantage. On that note Lou seemed to realize this fact less than Gabriel who so obviously knew this and had huge issues about it. The girl in me didn’t care who he was and how close he is with the big man, oops I mean big lady in the sky. He attempted to speak to Lou in many different languages and no matter what he tried it sounded like English to me and the only reason I knew they had switched languages was the way they both turned to stare at me in unison. Now I am going to hell for pointing out the flaws in the angels but you would think they would be smarter than to give these things away so obviously.

“Would you guys like anything else,” I asked the two of them as I refilled Lou’s coffee, finally. They both stared at me vacantly like they were wondering if I was going to say anything more since I so obviously knew there were other things that they wanted to know. This didn’t faze me, and it was definitely driving Gabriel crazy, Lou was more playing along with the insanity than anything else at this point. Apparently the devil has a much better ability to adapt than Gabriel. More blasphemy, I might just want to start going to church again after all. “How would you like some desert then?” I then added before I walked away, mostly to snigger at them.

They chattered along behind me in various languages I would assume. Given the great gift to understand everything they said you would think that I could at the very least pay attention, but all these years as a waitress has taught me to ignore other people’s conversations. I think for a fact Lou was talking a bit louder at times to make sure I heard it, like when I heard him say loud enough, “No I can’t do anything to enchant her, besides it has been my brilliant meddling that has put us all in this mess anyway,” and then Gabriel would speak softer, as if trying to be secretive. Lou just as loudly as before wanted me to hear it, “She jumps in and out of time, I figured that out and usually she drag us immortal sorts with her, but this last jump she did, had no contagious effects to you and I, so she knows what happened and we don’t,” and before he actually finished he added, “perhaps you could try being nice to her.”

Of course he wasn’t talking to me but I could understand and hear him all the same as I approached him with the bill, “She could try giving us a little respect since we are the only ones that can help her,” which made me snigger since factually speaking it was the help of at least one of them that caused this calamity and from what I already knew it was reluctantly and through trickery that the other one was involved at this point. He looked right at me and talked in what appeared to be plain English, “Look, just because I don’t know what is going on doesn’t mean that I don’t understand YOU,” and on the last word he added a little extra something to create emphasis.

I looked at Lou and decided it was time to press my luck a little as I said to him, “You actually had to be thrown out of heaven just to get away from this guy didn’t you?” which made Lou smile anyway, “If he thinks I’m strange how do you think he’d fare with the mystery of our other little friend who escaped from hell?” and that didn’t sit well with Lou in the least. Gabriel turned to Lou and stared at him, and Lou looked at me with an expression that told me I got to explain myself further on that one. The games were over. I realized as quickly as I could that there was a huge difference between omission and outright lying to these two and there was a big difference between the way the two would be responded to. With that I spoke up rather quickly out of fear, “My ex-husband who walked out of Hell and in a few short hours will be the twin of Darius and thus will kill me again.”

Something completely changed in Gabriel as he seemed a bit defensive and then slammed his hand on the counter. Everyone in the restaurant looked over and a few actually got up and left. Lou turned to Gabriel, who wordlessly nodded at him and then disappeared into thin air leaving me to wonder if he simply used that inhuman ability to be as fast as possible, or he simply disappeared. The rest of the diner remained completely oblivious to the vanishing angel on the end of the counter, and I looked to Lou and I was about to speak when he held up a finger in a shush gesture. That was when Gabriel appeared again in the exact same spot as when he had disappeared and again with nobody the wiser. He looked at Lou and in whatever language he said it, the tone was rather graven as he said, “There’s no explanation, he just left.”

It becomes really hard to tell which of these two live in hell and which in heaven the more time you spend with them, Gabriel looked me dead in the eyes, and when I say dead, I mean he wishes me dead and it’s obvious. When he decided to speak to me it was deliberate and as if he was speaking to a small child. Yeah there was probably a metaphor in all of this but I had a feeling he was having a much harder time controlling his temper, while Lou on the other hand looked a bit concerned but not as concerned as I would have been if I were say a guard over a prison escape. “I think it is time for you to stop playing your games and tell us what you know about your ex-husband and why and how he ended up escaping from hell?”

I looked at Lou trying to gauge from his expression whether or not I should say anything or what his reactions to this were. When you get right down to it, his reactions should tell the story as this is technically his area of expertise you would assume. I had figured out that Gabriel went to look because he knew as I did, and I can’t believe I even remembered through all of this, that Darius would be gone to hell knows where the second Lou left the earth. That made me wonder if Darius in turn had released Jack out of hell to lose Lou in any way he could. Lou looked bored as he started stirring his steaming coffee with his finger. I didn’t want to say anything to Gabriel, and amazingly Lou started talking without even looking up at either of us, “In answer to a lot of your questions, I don’t know and I don’t care. Darius didn’t do it because he would be simmering in the worst atrocity I could imagine for eternity at this very moment had he set foot back down there,” it was amazing how he had a lazy way of explain this but unlike Gabriel I imagine Lou had time to think about it since he’s been in on this for hours. He continued, “Logically you know enough to know that nobody can kill an Angel and that nobody but very few can break someone out of hell, and even if I don’t know who did it the only one who concerns me at the moment is Darius because all the others who can don’t carry the stigma for their reasons that Darius does,” and he trailed off for a moment before holding his hand in front of Gabriel as he was about to say something. He looked at Gabriel and then me and said, “Gabriel only wants to know because he’s nosy. For the life of everyone in hell I don’t know how he hasn’t gotten himself in trouble with his action..”

Infuriated Gabriel stood up from the counter. Lou’s hand shot up at the same moment and sat him back down. Gabriel is not a big fan of being spoken to this way, but I hate to do that whole blasphemy thing, despite how good I am at it these days. You would never see it in him; he was such a gentle character when I had met him before. The fact is I can actually see why Lou treats him the way he does, but it is an honest jealousy and more over sometimes it seems earned. Lou has infinity to remember how caustic his punishment and how it appears that Gabriel simply walks on a tightrope of finally seeing that thing that can’t be undone and ending his innocence. I find him to be impudent and worse I am indebted to him for my life already and I am pretty sure that this isn’t the last time. Now I remembered that Gabriel didn’t really save my life in the least since now I know my death simply shifts time regardless of who does it. I was about to start yelling at Gabriel for lying to me again, but Lou saw it all over my face and stopped me cold by saying, “You already know he lies.”

Of course I am a bit worried that he might have information that the two of us need to get the job accomplished. Oh God if I didn’t just make an epic battle between, well evil versus more evil into an advertisement for the Home Depot. It’s how the mere mortal mind works. Gabriel finally spoke past Lou’s need to shut him up, “You both aren’t as smart as you think you are, because I know who let him out of hell,” and with that he simply shut up and watched our reactions to see if he got the one he wanted. I of course gave him the reaction that he wanted, but Lou certainly did not. No as a matter of fact Lou simply looked at me and smiled. Of course I had already gathered that that was why Lou sent him off to get the info, and somehow we had just got him to drop the ball out of a desperate need to feel superior. Lou knows all about vanity and how to exploit it I would assume.

The parchment in my pocket started making my thigh hurt. I must have been immune to the heat it was giving off as I was enthralled with the conversation. When I reached into my pocket, at first I thought it was going to burn me but it cooled off instantaneously before my fingers touched it. The boys stopped their game and looked at me and more over the piece of parchment that was now in plain view in my hand. The pain had made me forget that I didn’t want them to know about it, but now I guess I get to test the theory as to whether or not they can read what is written. The words were already in plain sight, “These egos are impressive aren’t they?” and I couldn’t help it as I let out a barking laugh that had the whole diner looking at me.

Gabriel looked at the parchment in my fingers and immediately noted that he couldn’t read the words, “What does that say?” and I looked at him wondering where his manners had gone. Lou didn’t even really pay much attention to me or the parchment as he got up and went towards the bathroom. I had never even considered whether he went to the bathroom or not while he was here.

The words disappeared and then were replaced with “Tell him it says that he’s nosey,” and after I did he finally threw his hands up in the air at the whole affair and finally slunk down into his seat. I finally realized where Lou’s attitude was the whole time because now I see that same attitude being mimicked by Gabriel albeit a bit later to the party. The parchment had changed in my hands and the words were scrawled across it, “You should tell Gabriel what you know about Jack,” and as the words disappeared they were replaced with, “it will save the life of one of them,” and that was a bit more information that I think either of them could comprehend. Before I could put the parchment away it got warm and I looked at the words, “Don’t tell either of them that last part.”

Lou came walking back to the counter, and I marveled at how unfair it really is that boys can pee so quickly. Both angels were sitting next to each other now with the identical look of bemusement on their faces. They both have their chin resting on their hands and elbows on the counter. It took everything in me not to start quoting Miss Manners report on elbows and tables but I decided the poor angels have had enough of my lip for one day. I had to get down to business because my imagination as it transpired on a piece of paper told me too. Well that was how I had to look at it to keep my own sanity at the time. It only seems this easy when I am explaining it out of harm’s way. “I don’t know how Jack escaped from hell but he did, and somehow he left his cohesive form behind, and can transform into anyone that he has contact with. It gets really confusing because even Lou can’t tell him from whomever he is mimicking,” I took a second to think about what I was going to say next and they both waited for me to finish. “I don’t think he has control of himself all that well when he takes on a form, because when he turned into Darius..”

It was Lou that broke the shocked silence that he has been mired in from almost the time he came in here, “He can become Darius?” and this was a little strange for him to say, but after I nodded my approval of his statement he continued, “You say he has to have physical contact with whomever he becomes?” and again I nodded. He let out a soft whistle and then said, “That is where we need to start, because even if Darius didn’t let him out of hell, then Darius must have decided that he was going to let him live after Jack managed to have contact with him. Darius has no appreciation for life in general and would kill anyone that came within a touch of him, much less touching him unless he has a very good reason to want that person alive,” and that had crossed my mind when I had noted that he could turn into Darius. He finished with something I also had more information on than he did, “I don’t think I could even stop him from killing whomever he wanted.”

Of course he could and he has. Well actually he had in all of the alternate incarnations of what has happened, or days ago before he forgot, or time had changed. I laid it all on the table for them both, “Lou, you saw Jack turn into Darius and we were both attacked by them when we ended up back here, you should have remembered it,” and the look on his face was pure comedy. He didn’t remember it and he had a cartoonish look on his face as he tried to remember it. I continued, “When I die, time shifts and I come back to life or carry on as if I hadn’t died in a different part of time. When Jack tries to kill me I switch out of time and nobody remembers it except me, and that makes me wonder..”

This was when Gabriel got my attention so that I stopped speaking. I didn’t even have time to explain to him why he was bound to protect me, which was coming up next. He pondered me for a moment and then he pondered Lou. We both stayed quiet, and the only sounds in the diner were a couple of customers that just walked in and sat in an empty table in the corner. Gabriel decided that he was going to share something with us and it was a real shock, “I don’t know why God let Jack out of Hell, but she did, and I definitely don’t know why she would let him leave Hell just to join forces with Darius, but I can’t find her to ask her either.”

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