Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
The world burned. Several places only did so until they sank. Congregations sang paeans to the skies, the fires, the waters, or the earth. The rest of us listened to what we had while we could. All of us heard the songs coming from distant hills or clouds above, songs we knew told of melancholy, but never had words we could relate.
I started off riding through the apocalypse in a convoy, sent to help a town defend itself from a rising river and an end-of-days militia. By the time we got there, the townsfolk were screaming like animals as they set the surviving militia on fire one by one.
Our captain got himself gutted trying to control the situation. Then Sergeant Jones recognised one of the militia, and things went the way you’d expect. When the shooting stopped, all the screamers were dead. To our surprise, both townsfolk and a militia emerged from hiding.
We were all at a loss for what to do next when the river made a concerted attempt to drown us all. Those who escaped listened to the news, saw the signs in the sky – not all man-made – and decided to become a tribe.
Eleven winters is all it took for me to go from soldier to tribesman to pack leader to sole survivor. In the five winters since then, I’ve seen things I can’t explain, and survived more by luck than judgement.
I usually avoid supernaturals. Most of them are very, very unhappy with humans. I get the feeling they’re trying to fix our busted planet, which includes killing us to make sure we never get a chance to break it again.
But there’s something about the winged figure on that hill…
A hard slog to get up here, but it’s worth it to stand in the emanated heat. Not even the winter winds dare disturb this one. I join it in looking down at the choppy sea. Skeletal vehicles and dead hedgerows protrude from the shallow waters. I glance sideways. It’s sitting on a broken bench.
Curiosity triumphs over fear.
“What was this place?”
Ruby eyes regard me. I see that tears have left scald marks from eyes to chin.
“They used to call it Mount Caburn. On winter nights they would gather fallen yew branches to make ritual fires.”
There is no menace to this being. I’ve fled from many who were more threatening… But less dangerous. So powerful; too calm. Running would be futile.
But… I know what he’s doing.
“A vigil? Why bother?”
“I’ve talked to many powers during my time down here. I came to realise that humanity had become a force none of us could rein in. We, the chosen, set above the wiles of mortals by groups of mortals needing objects to venerate – or seeking excuses to condemn – were nothing but sideshows.”
“You cry for us?”
His laughter is like a body blow. I collapse to my knees.
“Never. Every winter solstice I keep vigil for those who followed me down. I told Him that humanity should end because man would always ruin Eden, no matter how big He made it. His reply banished me.”
I know this angel.
“Fundamental truths are rarely welcomed, especially by the powerful.”
Taking a seat on the other bit of bench, I dig out my last two cans of beer and offer one to him.
“Drink it before it gets warm, Lucifer.”
The fallen angel and an old soldier, keeping watch through the longest night… Hosanna, for what it’s worth.
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