Kid Fears Free Fiction Friday: Dark Angels by Emerian Rich

An early story by Emerian Rich. Published in DarkLives ‘Zine 1997.

Dark  Angels
by Emerian Rich

Among the high majestic redwoods, behind a cluster of small shacks, atop steep hill, is a log cabin church. It’s old, drafty, and doesn’t lock. This is the place where the fight of angels began. 

I was eight years old when I first heard the warnings of the crazy preacher. Early on Sunday morning in the middle of summer is not the best time to be in church. So many distractions caught me losing concentration while the old man spoke. The sun was bright, shining through the tiny cracks in the ceiling time had put there and making a strange design on the floor. There were no lights in the church and although the windows were not covered and the door was open, the redwoods shaded it, making the place strangely dim. Birds sang happily and there was a rustle in the bushes that had to be a deer or raccoon.

The black preacher’s voice was deep and commanded attention. He spoke of war and fire. His hands were huge as he mimicked the flight of an angel.

“Listen, children, and beware, for it’s a comin’ and you won’t want to be here when it does. The devil, he got angels, too. And they will take your soul if you let em!”  the preacher said.

The children were scared, their eyes wide with horror, gripping the benches till their knuckles turned white. The adults in the chapel looked around nervously, motioning for the head counselor to “do something.” They moved the children out of the church and told us to go to the playground.

The old preacher still spoke, even though his words were drowned out by the noise erupting from every small little body. He spoke louder, determined that every ear would hear his warnings.

I was being pushed by the children beside me to get up and go outside.

“We can go!  Get out of the way!” a nasty brown-haired kid with mud on his face said as he shoved me toward the door.

I stood, stumbling over the first three rows of wooden bleachers and falling onto the dirty floor. Kids ran past me, shouting and laughing.

“Let’s play!”

“Race you to the swings!”

“I’m first on the slide!” they screamed in a jumbled mess of voices.

I stood, brushing the dirt off my skinned knees and straighten my dress. I looked up slowly, not wanting to meet the eyes of the old preacher. I was the last one listening and he glared at me as he spoke. 

“Fire will explode, little one. Explode!” he screamed as the other adults dragged him away.

An adult pulled me away and out to the campground.

“Beware of the Dark Angels!” the preacher yelled as we were pulled away. 

***

At nap time, I lay in my lower bunk, thinking of how strange the whole day had been. I looked at the other kids who were asleep, faces smashed against their beds. Was I the only one that found some interest in the old man’s story? I wondered what the Dark Angels looked like and snuggled deeper into my sleeping bag. I imagined their massive black wings flapping violently. Why was I the only one listening to the old preacher? Why were the other kids trampling over me to get out and play? Weren’t they scared of the Dark Angels coming to get them?

***

At free time I decided not to go swimming, but to go in search of the old man. I knew where they had taken him. There was some kind of building up in the forest. A place I had only seen from afar when entering the camp in a broken-down stuffy church bus.

When I got to the log cabin church, it was deserted and only gave a few cracking noises from within as if settling back down from being trampled on by tons of kids that morning. I stared up at the steep hill that led to the unknown building. It was the hill that we told ghost stories about in our cabin at night. My body quivered but I kept on. I had to know the secret of the Dark Angels.

The trees above wrestled with the wind and dropped acorns all around me. I screamed, jumping back and tripping on a boulder. My head throbbed and every one of my limbs was skinned. I got up slowly, hoping my leg oozing blood wasn’t broken. I straightened my dress and brushed the leaves and dirt from my face and arms. 

“Kylie…” a voice called out of the woods. 

I turned, searching every tree and bush for the source.

“Kylie Ross, you should not be up here, my dear,” said the old black preacher as he stepped out from behind a huge Redwood.

I was speechless and all of a sudden scared of the man that I had been searching for.  

“Don’t be frightened, young one. I won’t hurt you.”

“How did you know my name?” I asked.

“God told me about you. You are a special child, see?”

“He did?”

The old preacher nodded. “Let’s get you fixed up.” He offered his hand and led me back into the log cabin church. Taking out a first aid kit, he helped me clean up my wounds. I had bandaids on both my knees and one elbow by the time we were done. The sun was fading and my tummy rumbled, but I wasn’t going to leave the preacher man until I found out about the Dark Angels.

A noise outside drew the old preacher’s attention. Scuffling and flapping came from beyond the open door.

“Kylie, you stay here for a spell,” the preacher said and ventured into the waning light. 

I waited for a while. Until the light was so dim I could barely see the outline of the door. 

“Preacher?” I called, but no answer came. My timid footsteps whispered across the floor and I peeked into the darkness.

There were adults outside but no preacher. I knew if I was found up there alone, there would be trouble, so I tried to sneak around the church and back down the camp before any of them caught me. The adults all wore long brown jackets and hats. I was almost in the clear when I tripped on a rock and turned my ankle. Dirt and rocks scattered down the hill and made one of the adults turn my direction. His face was pure white and his eyes fiery red.

“Get her!” he commanded, throwing off his coat to expose massive black wings. 

I screamed as they came after me. Their eyes pierced through me. Ten pairs of wings surrounded me and I knew I was never going to get out of their dark clutches.

A high-pitched tone came out of the darkness, making the Dark Angels clutch their ears and recoil into black-feathered balls. Up over their hunch bodies came the brightest light I’d ever seen.

“Kylie, you are not safe here,” a white-winged angel said, sweeping me up and carrying me to safety away from the dark monsters.

The angel was beautiful and her eyes were ice blue. Her wings encircled me and were as soft as my bed at home. She held me tightly as we soared through the air to a branch out high above. The Dark Angels below woke from their confusion and looked up into the trees.

“Hold on to the tree. Don’t let go. We’ll be back,” the white-winged angel said and jumped off the branch. A dozen angels like her, shining bright with light, swooped down, their white hair blowing behind them as they fell. 

Screams filled the air as the fight of the angels began. 

END

Guest Blog: Not So Hasty, If You Please! By John C Adams

Not So Hasty, If You Please!

By John C Adams

Do you think babies worry about never being born? When you think about the risk of premature burial as a metaphor for our general concerns in life it becomes easier to understand why it frequently appears in horror fiction. There’s something very womblike about being prematurely buried.

The only individuals I can think of, off the top of my head, who don’t seem to worry about premature burial seem to be vampires. In fact, they can’t wait to scurry home to the crypt as dawn breaks over the sky and cuddle back into the womblike environment of a coffin.

The very first vampire story is John Polidori’s The Vampire. It did much to establish the central notion of the vampire rising from the dead after what was later discovered to have been a premature burial. Lord Ruthven, who displayed most of the features readers quickly came to associate with the vampire, is laid to rest by some locals as per his instructions. However, Aubrey his companion finds that Ruthven’s body has disappeared:

“Aubrey was astonished, and taking several of the men, determined to go and bury it upon the spot where it lay. But, when he mounted to the summit, he found no traces of either the corpse or the clothes, though the robbers swore they pointed out the identical rock on which they had laid the body.”

There’s something very infantile about a vampire. Sucking blood from a person to sustain you isn’t so very different from breastfeeding. Perhaps that’s why the baby-like vampire finds being buried alive (as a voluntary act) satisfying rather than traumatic.

For the rest of us, being buried alive is a terrifying prospect, not least of all because in many ways it represents waking up back in a womblike environment to discover the loss of control we have over our lives. The unborn baby lives comfortably in the womb until he or she is ready to be born, and then triggers the labour. It’s the baby’s first act of control as he or she prepares to meet the outside world for the first time and it’s very empowering. But what if that element of control is taken away from us and a mother-like figure reasserts a control from which we cannot escape?

In Edgar Allan Poe’s The Premature Burial the narrator is terrified by the ease with which this disaster could befall him. He provides various examples in the story of how this has happened in the past. Suffice to say, the narrator becomes obsessed with the danger of falling into a fit of unconsciousness and waking up again to discover that he’s been buried alive. He makes elaborate precautions to ensure his rescue:

“I exacted the most sacred oaths, that under no circumstances they would bury me until decomposition had so materially advanced as to render further preservation impossible. And, even then, my mortal terrors would listen to no reason.”

In some ways premature burial can also be interpreted as representing a more general loss of control and helplessness over our own lives and fates. Many of us worry about that quite genuinely on a daily basis and even when things are going well the fear of that happening can be paralysing.

The ‘elaborate precautions’ made by Poe’s narrator to forestall his premature burial as so thorough that one almost wonders if he wants to have it happen:

“The slightest pressure upon a long lever that extended far into the tomb would cause the iron portals to fly back. There were arrangements also for the free admission of air and light, and convenient receptacles for food and water, within immediate reach of the coffin intended for my reception. The coffin was warmly and softly padded.”

Could anything sound more womblike if it tried?

Our suspicions that we might want to return to the maternal embrace are amply born out by the narrator of H P Lovecraft’s early tale The Tomb. As a young boy, Jervas Dudley becomes obsessed by gaining entry into a vault in the woods near his home. The door is slightly open but he remains frustrated by a complicated padlock. Here, we can be in no doubt that a return to the womb would be welcome:

“In that instant of curiosity was born the madly unreasoning desire which has brought me to this hell of confinement. Spurred on by a voice which must have come from the hideous soul of the forest, I resolved to enter the beckoning gloom in spite of the ponderous chains which barred my passage.”

Perhaps the fear of premature burial increases with age. Younger children in fiction are portrayed as being less bothered by the prospect, that’s certainly true. Although maybe that’s just because they are less fearless in general!

Whatever the explanation, I’m not sure what’s more terrifying: dreading waking up back inside our mother’s womb or secretly longing for it to happen?


John C Adams is an emerging horror and fantasy writer. 

http://johncadams.wix.com/johnadamssf