Updated: Dec 18, 2021
[Part 2 . . . ] [Click here for Part 1]
“Protect her, Father . . . please. . . preserve my daughter’s life . . . ”
Kalai snapped awake. “Augh!” His neck stiffened, and the rest of himself cramped and screamed in protest. He wanted to move, to run, to escape this agony that imprisoned him, but his arms and legs seized up as if crippled. His memories rushed in at a terrifying rate. ‘The demons . . . the abortion . . . Kathy!’
“Woah! Easy! Easy!” A hand pushed Kalai back into his cushioned seat. “It’s okay, Kalai. It’s me. It’s Mati.”
“Where is she? Where is she?” Kalai’s mouth kept blurting the same words on its own. He didn’t even know where they were. Still, his voice ignored all other questions that buzzed in his head in favor of the one.
Kalai’s eyes darted around. A fog hid the room in a smeared gray sheet. Slowly, an ominous tower of clustered blurry dots materialized nearby. Their numbers shifted with every blink, and the hodgepodge colors hung from a million arms that reached for him.
Kalai lurched away from it and dug his heels into the floor.
“Quit moving,” Mati grunted. “You’ll make things worse.”
Kalai aimed his stare at the moving silhouette closest to him. “Tell me where she is, Mati. Please.”
Mati grabbed his left hand. He pulled it aside and pressed it against another.
Kalai sensed thin fingers curled in a loose fist under his palm. A thin paper, crumpled and damp, protruded from its center.
“She’s here, brother,” Mati said. “She’s right here.”
Kalai sucked in a breath. Her presence now known to him, he wrapped his hand around hers. His arms and legs released their tension.
A sudden chill overcame him. Kalai stared down. The mist in his eyes cleared, and he gaped at his exposed chest and the opened cavity in his side. Mati’s whole hand had near disappeared into it. Kalai’s recently awakened senses screamed with every twitch from Mati’s fingers as they probed for the demon’s broken dagger. Kalai hissed.
“Hang in there. I’ve almost got it.” Mati went in deeper. Oozing gold liquid reached his wrist.
The visceral stinging hit a fever pitch, and a short yell popped out Kalai’s tight throat. He clutched the armrest.
After a moment, Mati paused, and his white opal eyes locked onto his. Their prismed colors dimmed—the tell-tale sign of a deeply troubled angel.
Kalai swallowed. He steeled himself for the worst. ‘Perhaps, my regenerative healing sealed the blade inside. He’ll have to cut me open to get-’
Mati yanked it out.
Kalai jolted. “Gah!” It felt like a bomb exploded his insides. Warm energy poured from the wound, but Mati covered it fast with his wing. His feathers hardened, clamping the wound closed.
Kalai flushed cold, but he grinned. It was out. The hateful dagger was out. He inhaled. Like signs of a creeping dawn, relief’s promised coming would be slow yet near, but his heart remained as troubled as before. Comfort would only go so far.
“Kalai, look at me.” Mati’s quiet command came strong as if he yelled it. “You see this?” He presented the piece of dagger between two fingers. Gold glittered along its chipped edge. “This right here is precisely why I keep telling you and telling you. Get. A. Weapon. What will it take to get you to listen?”
Kalai closed his eyes and rolled them under his eyelids. Their age-old argument returned.
Mati glared and flicked his fingers, tossing the shrapnel away. “You think I enjoy seeing you like this?” He produced a bandage roll from his pocket. “You’re the finest hand-to-hand specialist I know, Kalai, but no scout is dumb enough to fight an enemy squad singlehanded, let alone unarmed.”
Kalai shook his head, disgusted. “Those blades . . . butchering and cutting . . . I’m done with them and better with my hands anyway.”
“Yeah. Yeah,” Mati muttered. “Precisely why you’re ever the picture of health.” He snorted to himself. “Honestly, if you weren’t this beat up, I’d slap you myself.”
“Ah, yes,” a rueful Kalai chuckled. “Captain Mati’s famous gentle touch.”
“Oh, you better hope it’s gentle tonight,” Mati retorted. His strong wing straightened and raised Kalai’s back. “Wings up, please.”
Prickling sensations tingled Kalai’s feathers as he raised them inches at a time to fold and adhere to his upper shoulders.
Mati’s fingers anchored the soft fabric to his side. “And for pity’s sake, please hold still.” He removed his wing from the gash then rolled the bandage around and around Kalai’s waist.
Kalai winced, but as more gauze layered and wrapped, its firm hug turned pains into aches. It still hurt but in a way that comforted.
A sigh passed Mati’s lips. His brow dipped low. The palest blue tainted his eyes. “I’m sorry for not patching you up sooner. I didn’t know how long we had before your demon friends recovered. I had to put some distance between us. Besides,” he gave a sad glance towards Kathy, “I had a feeling you needed to be here.”
Though his neck burned, Kalai turned his head to face her. She slept on top of her bed covers - didn’t even bother to untie her shoes. Crumpled tissues littered her mattress as if dumped from a wastebasket. Her moist cheeks glistened beneath the soft glow of the Christmas tree, and her breaths expelled in shudders. One hand rubbed her stomach.
A lump clogged Kalai’s throat. “The baby?”
Mati froze. His head lowered, avoiding Kalai. “I’m sorry, brother.” His hands continued passing the roll between them. Mati raised his head, offering a compassionate smile. “But be at peace. One of our gray-cloaked brethren delivered the child to the Father’s arms tonight.”
Such a vision gladdened Kalai. He leaned back and pictured it, hoping it might cure the lingering anxiety that so ailed him. “Indeed, brother. She’s home.” But then the picture changed. Kalai frowned. Kathy, the girl’s mother, the very one who ended her daughter’s life, haunted him. Her nervous hands, wringing. . . Her quivering and sobbing in quiet. . . .
Kalai closed his eyes yet forbade himself from shedding the tears. He mustn’t upset Mati’s intended encouragement.
“But,” Mati said in careful, measured tones, “I take it the child wasn’t who you were most concerned about, were you.” His fingers guided the end strip in graceful folds then secured the knot.
Kalai stroked his thumb over Kathy’s hand. “Our treacherous kin meant to kill her on the operating table.”
Mati pulled out a spare cloth and wiped his wetted hands.
Kalai thought of her missing Mark. The Lord’s Spirit had not yet sealed her.
“She would have been . . . ” Kalai cut himself off. It even hurt to say it.
Stuffing the used cloth in his pocket, Mati nodded. “I know. I know.” He unrolled Kalai’s bunched up tunic to cover the finished bandage.
Kalai laid back in his seat. He stared meaningless at the ceiling. “I hoped I could save them both.”
Mati sighed. “Hey, you didn’t fail. You saved her. She still has a chance.”
“But what am I to her...besides an empty echo?”
Mati lengthened his back. The diamond feathers of his now-armored wings rustled, tinkling lightly together. Closing his eyes, he pursed his lips, turned his head aside, and nodded to himself. “She’s the daughter of that missionary we lost in India, isn’t she.”
Kalai straightened. The resulting pain didn’t come close to equaling his shock.
Mati produced a silver necklace from another pocket. Its pendant, a polished cross, twisted where it dangled, casting the tree lights about like December stars. “This I found in your pocket.” Mati glanced to his right. “It matches the one in his picture over there.”
Kalai looked past the bed to the far left. On the dresser, two framed familiar faces smiled through smudged glass. Sure enough, the same cross hung from the man’s neck.
“You asked God permission for her guardianship, didn’t you.” Mati tipped his head sideways.
Kalai swallowed. His cheeks heated, but he chose to face his captain anyway.
Mati stood up. “Why? You’re a soldier—my finest scout, Kalai. Not a ministry angel. So why? Why take up that duty?”
Kalai’s eyes drifted past his friend toward the window just across. Lazy snow floated in the winter night. Their calm dance formed brief patterns of unplanned beauty. He sighed. He should never have kept this to himself. “Because...I promised her father that I would.”
Kalai grimaced. His wings wilted off his shoulders like autumn leaves. The faint ring from the gunshot rang through his memory. As he held Kathy’s hand, Kalai imagined her father’s in its place and relived its warmth draining away.
Mati drew close. He placed a tender hand on his shoulder.
“He was so delirious, Mati,” Kalai croaked. “His prayers scratched out in whispers. Yet, he didn’t plead for rescue. He didn’t ask God why. He just said, ‘Please....Please, Lord, rescue my lost daughter. Change her heart for You and give her an angel to guard her path,’.” A ghost of a smile lifted the corner of Kalai’s mouth. “Then God opened his eyes, and...he saw me.” The thrill from that moment coursed through Kalai like he first lived it. “He saw me...and smiled.”
Mati gave Kalai a gentle squeeze. His eyes glistened. Nothing more needed said. The rest of the story told itself, but then a shadow saddened Mati’s face. “So why didn’t you tell me all this?”
Kalai averted his eyes. “Because I didn’t want you thinking I bit off more than I could chew.” He suppressed his embarrassment just enough to dare look Mati in the eye.
Mati cocked an eyebrow but smiled. “Now, what would give me that idea?” He chuckled, but then he gazed at Kathy, and his gaiety vanished.
The silence prolonged. His heartsickness worsening, Kalai bent forward and propped his head in his hands. Warrior or not, he couldn’t keep his tumbling emotions inside anymore. His shaking fingers combed his thick hair in bunches. “Maybe I shouldn’t have volunteered. . . . I shouldn’t have volunteered.” The tears poured from him as he rambled. “I don’t know what I’m doing anymore, Mati. I’ve tried and tried to talk to her; steer her towards God; prove that she’s loved; that the those loose men she chased couldn’t refill the holes in her life, but . . . ” Sitting up, Kalai pressed his fingers against his trembling lips so hard they pinched against his teeth. He finally shook his head in sharp jerks. “What good am I if she can’t hear me?”
Looking toward a corner, Mati half-smiled. “Who says she doesn’t hear you?”
Kalai returned a sarcastic look. “So, she just ignores me. Thanks. That makes things so much better.”
“And so what? Should whether she listens or not stop you?” Mati asked. “That never stopped me from giving you orders you blatantly ignore.” He gestured to Kalai’s side with the tiniest smirk on his face, but then, he knelt, his kind eyes shining. “Kalai, her choices are not your responsibility. Nor is it anyone else’s. Never was, but from what I see, your mere presence here is proof—proof to her that God loves her, and He loved and continues to love her father.” Taking Kalai’s free hand, Mati ever so delicately nestled the silver cross into his palm. “You are His message to her, brother. You need only keep speaking it.”
The bed creaked. A whimpered moan disturbed the silence, and Kalai cast his gaze over Kathy. Again, he stroked his thumb over her fingers. His longing to reach her drew new strength. He trembled like a child. “But what if she never hears it?”
Mati spoke in his ear. “Far wiser to ask, ‘What would she hear?’.”
Kalai wrapped his fingers over the necklace. After thinking it over, he spoke with a gentle timbre. “Kathy?” he began. He licked his chapped lips. “I cannot pretend that I'm not disappointed or angry with what you did. To give up on your child, I can't-. . . I can't understand . . .” His voice broke. More tears escaped, and his neck heated. Wiping his face, Kalai cleared his throat. “But then again, what could an angel know about the fears and doubts that drove you to do it?”
Kalai coughed to pace his ragged breaths. “I never heard you say it, but I’ve seen it behind your eyes.” He studied the red rings on her face. “You think your father didn’t love you enough to stay home and that God didn’t love you enough to save him.” The angel shifted in his seat to rest both hands and the cross necklace over hers. “But if either of those lies were true, Kathy,...I would not be here.”
A subtle spark, a fleeting flicker, triggered Kalai’s inner senses. That still, small, yet familiar voice set his heart to tremor. The angel held a bated breath. The Lord stood near - unseen yet ever-present. His Spirit, in the quiet of that holy night, knocked again at the doors of her fragmented soul.
More tears trekked down Kalai’s cheeks. Not from sorrow but from the same rapturous joy that set his wings to dancing on the day his King took the most fragile of forms. Emmanuel, wrapped in majesty, became the carpenter’s son, wrapped in rags. The beginning of the Sin Curses’s end had begun at long last in a pile of hay.
Mati patted Kalai’s back. He chose a spot at the foot of the bed, beaming a proud smile.
Kalai breathed deep. Squeezing the young lady’s hand, he could almost swear the tension in her body lessened. “A day is coming, Kathy, when the Lord must increase and I must decrease in your life...” The angel leaned back in his seat, considering the bittersweetness of that reality. “But until you accept the greater gift, dear Kathy, I’ll be here. With you. Speaking His message, until the time comes you no longer need me to. For on that day you’ll know it for yourself,...” Kalai settled in the chair cushions, eager for healing rest. “...and I pray that day will be soon.”
The hours passed. Both angels watched the cottony snow thicken and curve up the window’s glass in contented silence. All the while, Kalai’s bound wounds knitted themselves together in peace.
Later that morn, the first rays filtered through the ice-coated glass. The silver cross, which laid neatly beside Kathy’s pillowed head, caught and cast its light as a pure star overhead, and underneath the cross rested a simple note with its simple message.
‘Merry Christmas - from a friend.’
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” - Romans 6:23
Merry Christmas! I hope you enjoyed this ‘Celestial’ short story spinoff! Please, leave a comment, share, and if you’d like to hear more about my main book, subscribe down below!