* * *
So I’m stuck somewhere in Southeast Georgia. I have no money. I have no friends. I have no place to stay. And I have no idea what I’m going to do next. All I have is a .45 and twelve bullets.
* * *
The Greyhound bus dropped me in off in a place called Kingsland. Funny, doesn’t look like too much royalty around here. I knew I was in trouble when I saw that the bus stop shared space with a hardware store, that was in the same building as a butcher’s shop. Oh well. A mission is a mission. Or so I thought. I wasn’t really sure how I was gonna handle it though. I’d never killed anyone before. And wasn’t all that anxious to get started.
* * *
What makes you believe the Devil resides in Hell? When I heard those words… let’s just say my life took a serious turn at that point. I lived in Atlanta and worked at the Cartoon Network. I was a brand new producer, brought in to create adult-themed cartoons. I say this to inform you of my vivid imagination. So as I stood in front of my bathroom mirror, and saw the man appear out of thin air I just knew I was dreaming. Or at the very worst, hallucinating. The cartoon I was developing was about a ghost, so I thought my mind was just playing tricks on me.
“Do you believe the Devil is real?” he said.
I quickly turned my head only to find that the bathroom was empty. However, when I turned back around, there he was. Exact same place. Hadn’t moved.
“I said, do you believe the Devil is real?”
How do you respond to a question like that? To a guy that isn’t there?
“Uh—well I… it’s never come up in a conversation before.”
“It’s come up now.”
At this point I’m thinking about not eating after 7:00 ever again. I’m also trying to figure out what to say in response, but I can’t take my eyes off this guy. He’s black, about 6’5”, with long black hair straight down past his shoulders. He looked almost like Sam Jackson in “Jackie Brown. “ He was definitely a bad motherfucker, or one hell of an illusion. I couldn’t tell which.
“Yeah. I suppose he’s real. There’s a Hell isn’t there?”
Then he had to say it. Back then, I had never really opened myself up to that possibility. We’re taught from the time we’re little kids about Heaven and Hell, and God’s in Heaven and the Devil’s in Hell. So I’m thinking what in the world would make him say that? What did it have to do with me? Was he the Devil?
* * *
Barry Reed. Standing in the half-bus terminal half-Hardware shop I opened up a phone book. It wasn’t that thick, so I figured I might be in luck. Alex Reed. Andre Reed. Brian Reed. My luck didn’t kick in quite how I had hoped. Never mind the fact that I didn’t know what the guy looked like, where he lived, where he worked, nothing like that. I was put on a crowded, smelly, festering Greyhound bus, and the next thing I know I’m here.
“You wouldn’t happen to know a Barry Reed, would you?” I figured it was worth a shot.
“Barry Reed, huh? No… don’t think I know a Barry Reed.” The counter clerk said. He was a short old white man, maybe about 55 years old. He looked like one of those guys you always see in the movies that knows everybody’s business. I was certain he was in the know.
“Now hold on. I’m not done, just yet. I was fixin to say, maybe he’s kin to Greg Reed. I do know Greg and I believe he’s got a brother.”
“Really? Great. Do you know where I can find him?”
“Yeah.” He said as I waited for him to fill in the blanks. And I waited some more, as he looked straight into my eyes for at least thirty seconds without blinking. It kind of freaked me out.
“Can you tell me?”
You’re on a mission. You’re on a mission. I kept repeating it in my head, hoping not to get completely frustrated by Matlock. Damn those eyes.
“Are you going to tell me?”
“I may not be the brightest bulb on the tree, but I’m a damn site brighter than the dimmest. You get off a bus with no luggage. Not even a handbag. Nothing. You come in here ask for a phone book. Don’t make a call. But the next thing you ask me is do I know Barry Reed. Nothing about a hotel, or a restaurant, or even a liquor store. All you want to know is where you can find Barry Reed. Not to mention how you’re dressed. I ain’t Jewish, but I know when something isn’t kosher… Newell.”
I stood there frozen as he began to smile at me.
“I’m not gonna make this easy for you. I want them as much as you do.”
It took a Herculean effort to unlock the muscles in my body, but when I finally did I ran out of that hardware store faster than Usain Bolt with a lump a hot coal in his back pocket. Once I hit the outside, I continued running down the street until I found a convenience store. Gasping for air, I walked over to the beverage section and opened a refrigerator door. As the cool air washed over me, I thought about what the old man said to me. I then came to the realization that the words of my visitor were hauntingly ringing true.
* * *
My life used to be so much simpler before that crazy night. Like I said before I was a producer at Cartoon Network. It took me two years of interviews and weasling my way in, but I finally landed the job. I figured it was the only logical next step. I’d been an artist since I was eight and I have a pretty fantastic imagination. That’s about the only character trait I have that stands out. See I’ve been told on occasion that I’m boring, moody, unfunny, uncaring, stilted, robotic, uncaring… I think you get the point. I lead a rather unremarkable life. I drive a beige Honda accord fully unloaded. I don’t really dress flashy or have an Ikea catalog for an apartment. I must take umbrage with one criticism, however. I think I’m quite funny, boderline hilarious. Although, no one really knows this about me, because I tend to be rather short with people. Don’t think that I’m complaining or begging for help. No, I’m pretty OK with myself. Well I take that back. I was… until I shot someone between the eyes for the first time.
* * *
I must have been giving the girl at the counter a bad vibe, because she was giving me the evil eye. As I caught her glance, I closed the door, and walked toward the counter. When I got there I was about to ask her a question, when a newspaper caught my eye.
“GREG REED PROMOTED TO HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPAL”
Excited, I picked up the paper and read the story. Mr. Reed had been the Vice-Principal at Camden County High School, but obviously a scandal involving the 53 year-old Principal and a 15 year-old boy made the School Board reconsider his occupational worth.
“The library is down Hwy 40 about two miles on the left. You can read the newspaper for free down there. Here it’ll cost ya 75 cents.” The girl said. I couldn’t tell if she was serious or sarcastic. Must’ve been the accent.
“I don’t have any money.”
“Looks like it’s the library for ya, then.”
“Actually. Can you tell me where the high school is?”
“You’re not from around here are you?”
“Really? What gave it away?”
“It’s eighty degrees outside and you’re wearing an overcoat.”
Oh yeah. There is that.
* * *
“So what do you think?” The Visitor said. At this point we, well mostly him, had been talking for several hours. Same positions as when he first appeared in my mirror. I really couldn’t move at that point. What he had just told me… well it was beyond deep. I was also a tad speechless.
“I—it’s… I—you can’t…”
“It’s a lot to grasp isn’t it?”
“You’re wondering, why you right?” Then he suddenly disappeared. I spun around quickly, and there was nothing there.
“Hello?” Nervously I looked around the bathroom, but I was alone. I chalked it up to the chili I ate before I took my shower. It had to be a hallucination or dream. But if it was, the things he said… anyway, I was feeling a little better until I spun back around and looked into the mirror. A shiver the size of Alaska ran down my back when I saw The Visitor’s reflection instead of mine.
“The point Newell, is that sometimes things happen for no apparent reason.” He said. I shook my head and blinked but there he was shaking his head and blinking his eyes. It was obviously his body, but when I moved, his body made the exact same movement. I raise my arm, his raised to the exact same level.
“Events defy logic and explanation. No matter how hard you scratch your head, you won’t come up with an answer. Sort of like our current situation. No matter how much you try, you will never figure out why you currently see what you see. The question is, will you do what has been asked of you?”
How could I not? If you knew what I was told… oh yeah. I’ll get into that at a little later. For the moment, let’s just say that I was an involuntary volunteer. I didn’t really want to do it, but I really had no choice.
“Yes. I will do it.” Suddenly everything went black, and I felt like I was being lifted in the air. My body started to spin. First slowly, then faster… and faster. I was almost ready to vomit when I stopped spinning and immediately found myself on a Greyhound bus.
I was sitting next to a woman that smelled like—well I don’t have a good description but it was horrible. It was then that I noticed the overcoat I was wearing. Inside, I was a nervous wreck and scared half to death. I hoped no one noticed, but the rest of the bus appeared to be in a daze. At any rate, I calmed myself down, and started going through the pockets of my overcoat. I reached into an inside pocket. Whoa. Even though I’d never held one before, I knew what a gun felt like. I had to go to the bathroom.
“I need to go to the bathroom.” I said. She had the nerve to look pissed at me. She slowly got up and let me out, anyway.
When I got to the bathroom, I reached inside my coat and pulled out the .45. It was magical. I pointed it at the mirror. First, with one hand. Then, with two hands. I was amazed and terrified at the same time. I knew I would have to carry a gun, but it didn’t sink in until I actually had it in my hands. Upon closer inspection, I saw that there was no clip in place. I reached into another pocket and pulled out a small box of bullets.
I opened the box and there they were, twelve of them. They seemed unremarkable, until I noticed the writing on them. Each bullet had a name transcribed on it. I picked up the first bullet, and looked at it.
I put it back in the container and tried to pick up the next one, but I couldn’t. I paused. Then I tried to pick it up again. No dice. So I continued to look in my pockets. There were only two things left in there: a small book with a nondescript cover and a bus ticket. The destination on the bus ticket said Kingsland, Ga. The book was thick but with no writing on the pages. I kept saying, “What the fuck?” over and over again. Eventually, I just collapsed down onto the toilet and stayed there for a few moments. It was so much to take in at one time.
* * *
Walking down a highway in 80 degree weather in south GA wearing an overcoat, is jacked up. I just wanted to point that out. Anyway, the girl gave me directions, but I was dying in the oppressive heat. I had to get myself together. At that point, I decided that money, food, shelter, and air conditioning were more important than finding Greg Reed. I knew where he was going to be, so I decided to switch focus. I needed to get my hands on some money, and fast, because I needed a place to stay. I suppose you think a big Producer-type like me has a wallet full of Gold and Platinum cards and tons of cash. That would be the case if I had a wallet. But I had nada. It was going to take either trickery or force to get what I needed. I was hoping for trickery, but hope doesn’t always spring eternal.
* * *
“…And ever since, he has been tormenting Man. Trying to stray him from God’s word. Which brings us to why I’m here.”
“I was hoping you’d get to that.” I was actually hoping he’d leave, but an explanation was nice.
“You’ve never been to Heaven, so you’re under the impression that there has only been one angelic revolt. To the contrary, there have been quite many. Many were insignificant and God handled them as such.”
“More angels have rebelled?”
“Many have rebelled. What makes you think Lucifer was one of a kind?”
“Well, I figured the first smackdown would-“
“You think capital punishment deters crime?”
“What I have to say is very serious. Unless you do what needs to be done, there will be another revolt. But this one will have repercussions beyond your wildest dreams.”
“What do I have to do?”
“There are twelve angels, inhabiting human form on Earth, that you must find. When you find them, you must kill them.”
I opened my mouth to speak.
“Before you say anything. Listen to what I have to say next. It is very important.”
* * *
I walked a little further down the road, eventually running into a Best Western Motel. Walking up to the front door, I tried to think of short cons I could run to possibly get into a room. Yet, my mind was blank. I could hardly think of anything. The ideas I did came up with would take some resources, of which I had none. So I would have to use force of some kind. I tried to psyche myself up, because I would eventually have to commit worse crimes than hitting someone over the head.
I walked around the back of the motel. I didn’t know why I did it, but I just did. Walking up the stairs, I saw a door opening up. Instinctively I ran to the door. As I got there, a woman was just stepping out of it. I rushed through the door and knocked her down. After closing the door, I pulled the .45 and pointed it at her.
“Now I don’t want to hurt you.” My hands here shaking so badly, I looked like I was having a seizure. I tried to sound tough, but I wasn’t tough at all back then.
“Oh my God. You are going to do it.” She said. That wasn’t what I was expecting her to say.
“I’m sorry?” She wasn’t the least bit afraid. She calmly stood up and walked over toward me. I frantically gripped the gun with both hands.
“Get back! I’m serious, I will shoot you.” I nervously extorted.
“Newell, I know the gun isn’t loaded.” Another one.
“Jesus Christ. Lately, too many people know who I am. Well, who the Hell are you?”
“I am Jessica. I’m here to assist you.”
“You are looking for the Lost Angels aren’t you?”
“How do I know? It’s a long story. Here, sit down. Let me explain as best I can.”
I put the gun back in my jacket and slowly walked over to a bed and plopped myself down. Jessica came and sat down beside me.
“OK, here’s the short version. I am an angel. For reasons I won’t go into right now, I was sent to Earth. I have been waiting for what seems like forever for you to find me so that I can assist you.”
“What—forever—what are you—”
“Shush. While you are looking for the First Angel, I am here to assist you.”
“By protecting you from the multitude of demons that will try to stop you.”
“Oh my God.” I was five seconds from going apoplectic.
“Don’t worry, I will protect you. I have to. See it’s the only way I can get back to Heaven.”
“What. The. Fuck? Can my life get any weirder?”
“Yes it will. This is just the beginning.”