Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Chapter 2, continued

What the Heck is Aramaic?
I can still remember my first year at the academy. They tried to teach us westerners how to use our God-given Angel powers in a long, long dead language. Never mind that the whole concept of magic was foreign to us, they were also teaching it to us in a foreign language. Jophiel, our basic Aramaic teacher, ran his fingers through his hair and started again. “All angel powers use the same basic language to activate them. When activating a gift, you invoke the Area of Knowledge, Mind, Body, or Soul, then the appropriate Realm of reality you’re using, then the specific Gift you are going to use. Demons also use about the same system, because all of our powers, for better or worse, come from the same source. The only differences come from different dialects and regions of Aramaic. Some of us use different ones, but the basic system is the same. Each power is activated with hand seals and by using the correct words of power. So if, say, you wanted to move faster than the eye could follow, how would you go about it?” Without even looking, I knew whose hand shot into the air first. Mary Beth Jameson. She died around the same time as I did, and so we were in all of the same classes. She was the ‘Miss-Know-It-All’ of our class, and she annoyed everyone because of it. “I know, I know! Beth Teth Nun! And you do the hand seals like so.” As she demonstrated, she forgot that occasionally new Angels manifest their powers faster than others, and she immediately got up and shot out of the room like she hadn’t peed in weeks. Jophiel shook his head as the rest of us fell out our seats laughing. “Miss Jameson has it correct, though a demonstration wasn’t necessary. Since words are personal, some of us add our own names to a gift in order to make it more personal, and hence, more powerful.
I cross slashed at Thor twice, dodged to my left, jumped up and did two spinning roundhouse kicks to the side of his head. Nothing. He came at me full force but I danced easily out of his way. Behind him, Chike parried Odin’s spear to his left, spun and used his momentum to crash the handle of his sword into Odin’s temple. Then, using his right arm for leverage, he cracked him in the head with the broad side of his sword all inn one swift motion. At least he actually managed to stun his opponent. Thor pulled off his own combo on me, hitting me with lightening (I should have really seen that coming), then a shoulder charge, then whacking me in the chest with that hammer of his. If you need to know what it’s like being hit in the chest by Thor’s hammer, imagine being hit by a speeding freight train. Now imagine that this train had hit you after speeding off of the top of the Empire State Building. Now you may think I’m exaggerating, but I think it’s pretty accurate. The next time Thor hits you in the chest you tell me if I oversold the experience. Thankfully all Angels are given heaven’s Armor, a golden chest plate that absorbs the damage from almost everything. Mine now had a big dent in it, as did I. I flew backwards and slammed into one of the many pillars outside of the statehouse. The experience of pain is strange when you’re dead. It’s the same, but not the same is the only way I can put it. If I were better with words I could explain it, but I’m not. I slumped to the ground, just as Thor’s hammer came up to meet me again, this time in the face. I managed to block at the last second with my sword. It was a nice flight I took from there back to the hard, hard ground some 10 ft away. Chike at this point was not fairing any better. Odin had him against one of the pillars with one arm, and was repeatedly punching him in the stomach with the other. When he grew tired of that he threw Chike over to where I was. He at least managed to recover in midair and land somewhat on his feet. Odin and Thor looked down at us and sneered. “I grow tired of this place Father,. Let us return to Valhalla and find someplace better to spend our time.” Odin seemed to agree, but he wanted us to know something first, “You’re ‘God’ maybe in charge now, but you mark my words. Our day will come again. Even now we gain more followers day by day. Eventually are strength will be back to the point where we can challenge you’re holy father for control of reality again. Then I’ll see you two pigeons again. You just wait.” Then with a blinding bolt of lighting and more thunder than was really necessary, they were gone. I slowly, glacially slowly, got to my feet. My sword was broken, as was my pride. We had just gotten our asses kicked by two guys who looked like Mascots for the Minnesota Vikings. “I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this feeling of pain being an Angel.” Chike was till on one knee, trying to compose himself. “I know what you mean. It’s not a physical pain, it’s a spiritual pain. It is an extraordinary feeling to wake up in the morning and have a sore soul.” There, that’s how I would have described it. “So, uh, what do we tell them when we get back? That we got our asses kicked?” Chike brushed off his coat and somehow managed to look none the worse for wear. “You’re too negative Joe. We came here to cause the disturbance to stop, and we did; Odin and Thor are gone. And if we had to get our butts kicked, as you say, at least we did so in a way that accomplished the mission. I think we can return to HQ with our heads held high.”
I groaned with obvious displeasure, “maybe you can. My neck doesn’t move that way anymore.”

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Chapter 2

Joseph Anthony Ruffino died on March 25th, 1980 in Brooklyn New York. He was 33 years old, and left behind a wife, Paula Ruffino, and two children, Angela and Gina.
The night you die, you almost never see it coming. That’s the consensus I’ve gotten from most of the souls I’ve talked to up here. Mine was no different. I was investigating a murder in Brooklyn, Red Hook to be exact. Three women and two men where found shot in the head, execution style. It took us some work, but we figured out that they were all members of the same gang, and someone was going around systematically exterminating this one blocks’ gang presence. That night I dug around in census records to find out that one of the vic’s had a sister. I called the local precinct and rushed out there to try and get there before whoever was out to get her did. I wasn’t too late. I saw her a few seconds before the bad guys did. I tackled her, fortunately not hurting the 3 month old baby she was carrying. That was the last thought I had on Earth. Well, at least as a living person. I took 4 shots in the back, both lungs were wrecked. I died beside her, her crying over me. I think her name was Susan. It gets hard to remember the day you die; it’s a traumatic thing for all of us, even when faced with the glory of heaven. I heard at my funeral that she was there, and she even planned to name her baby girl after me, Joanne. When you die, you don’t just pop out of your body, it takes a while. I came to in the morgue, apparently, as most of us do. I wandered around, dazed and confused among millions of other restless spirits. I was given a hero’s funeral; bagpipes, horses, the whole 9. My kids looked beautiful. When I saw my wife, my darling Paula, my heart broke. Just when I thought I couldn’t take it any more, I heard the horns. Its cliché and cheesy, but when you experience it, when you see the Divine Light for the first time, the deepest sadness instantly turns into the greatest joy. I had done good, I could tell my mother that when she gets up here. I made it to Heaven. I was shocked to tell you the truth. I wasn’t a choir boy, not by a long shot. But I always tried to be a good person, and I guess I succeeded. St Peter checked me in, and I looked forward to an eternity of R&R. As it turned out though, “my eternal rest” would have to wait. I met Chike the second day I was there. “I know that you are looking forward to your eternal rest Joseph Ruffino, but God needs you to return to Earth. Your work is not done yet.”
These Norse Gods never want to do things the easy way.
When I was at the academy, I got straight A’s in my Divine Weapons class. Each Divine weapon has a classification and a Damage level. For Instance, Gabriel and Michael’s swords are at Level 10, the highest a Divine weapon can get. Mjolnir and Gungir are Level 9’s. Our swords are currently at Level 1. To say that we are at a slight disadvantage would be, you guessed it, an understatement.
Chike is steadily trying to reason with Odin, but it’s nothing doin. Odin may have given up his eye for wisdom, but that doesn’t mean he wants to hear anything about leaving quietly. “You’re out of your jurisdiction! Do you know how far away the Netherlands are?!?” Chike hated to use his sword, but he did when he had to. And this was definitely a “when he had to” type of situation. Our swords are our sidearm. Only the original Angels get the giant, flashy fire-spitting swords. Ours aren’t as nice, but they are pretty much equal to the amount of focus and training we put into our sword training. Chike has been a DBI Angel since the 1800’s, so he’s had a bit longer to hone his skills than I have. That’s why he’s talking on Odin. Me, I just have to deal with the Mighty Thor, God of Thunder and Lightening. “Now Thor, why don’t you just calm down and come along quietly. I mean, we don’t have to do things this way.” Thor picked up the large, heavy object that I had heard scraping against the floor earlier. The object in question was his hammer, which from the angle he was waving it at me from, and the lack of distance it was from my head, looked like it could dwarf most telephone poles. Hell, he might as well have been waving a telephone pole at me for all the intimidation factor my sword had. “Well I got two things ta say ta that. First off, I like doing things this way, and second, I doubt you’re going to be able to stop me with that glorified letter opener you’re brandishin at me.” My mind was racing; I had to concentrate and start to use the powers I had been studying for the last 36 years. When I was alive, 36 years was a long time. In Angel’s terms, I’m a lil bit younger than an infant. Odin and Chike were already getting into it.
Truth be told, two Angels are no match for two Gods, even ones who have lost the greater part of their influence like Odin and Thor. True Angels, the ones who were created when everything was created, could maybe handle this. Michael maybe, or Gabriel, or even Raphael. Chike and Joe? No way in Heaven, Hell, or anywhere in between. For the moment, however, Chike was holding his own. He was using his speed to stay out of the way of Odin’s spear maybe that would work for me too. Ok, “BETH TETH NUN! New York Minute!” And just like that, everything became a blur.