December 23rd, 2008
Raphael tossed and turned. The thick blankets tangled around his feet and arms, trapping him in his own bed. He opened his eyes to see a twilight sky above him–not his brother’s bunk.
The young man blinked and looked around. An endless forest of redwoods to one side, and a purple mountain range to the other. Looking down, Raphael could see tall, thready blades of grass twitching in an untraceable wind. He took a steady breath–the air was cool and pure.
“You shouldn’t feel bad,” said a voice.
Raphael spun around, eyes widening at what he saw. First, the voice did not match the body. Secondly, he was stunned by her beauty, yet she was not what he’d have thought of as the most beautiful. Perhaps in his top 10, maybe even 5, but certainly not at the #1 spot.
She was tall, pale, and had thick, wavy black hair. Her shirt and pants were black, and they fit her form nicely.
The woman giggled. An airy, male voice came out.
“Hm?” The person cocked his–her? their?–head to the side.
“I,” Raphael’s throat felt gunky with words that scrambled for an exit. When the person didn’t talk, he could feel his stomach turn, but when the person did, the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end.
“Oh?” The person let out another giggle. They put their hands behind their back and walked over to him.
Raphael wanted to run, but his feet refused to respond.
“How strange!” The person said. She. Raphael was going to go with she–clearly whoever this person was had put a lot of effort into looking like a woman, so that’s probably how they wanted to be addressed.
She grinned. Her mouth was just a little too big for a normal human. “I just can’t seem to truly change my form with you people.” The entity cocked her head to the side, allowing her bangs to part to reveal an eye–an eye that, like the mouth, was just a little too big to belong to a human. A dark red border slowly bled into green and then gold, which wrapped tightly around the pupil.
“I don’t understand,” Raphael said.
“Hm.” The woman sighed and straightened up. Her hair went back to covering both her eyes. “I’ve approached one of your friends before,” she began. “She’s mentioned me, actually. In fact, I’ve met you before, too, but you don’t remember.” She folded her arms, her chest all the more noticeable.
Raphael forced his eyes back to her face.
She smirked. “I can change how I look,” she said. “Though, typically, when working with you beginners, it’s actually far more reliant on you, believe it or not. Anyway,” the woman ran a hand through her hair. She had long fingers–perfect for playing the piano. “As you’ve probably noticed, I’m not the ideal woman for you. Not just in appearance, but the fact that my voice isn’t even able to change. Very fascinating.” She nodded.
Raphael cleared his throat. “Um, how do you know that I know you’re not my ideal woman?” The words were clumsy on his drying lips.
She grinned. “All in good time.” The woman leaned close. “I can’t tell you too much without breaking any rules. But!” She held up a slender finger. “Just know that I know everything about you.” The grin widened. It made Raphael shiver.
“Ah,” Raphael tugged at the collar of his shirt. “I, um, see.” His face felt as if it was on fire.
Her grin fell. “It is odd, though. Your friend, Cassandra, surely she told you about me?”
Raphael squinted with one eye, his mouth hanging open. “Maaaybe?”
She sighed. “Well, how about this?” She snapped her fingers. There was a burst of heat and smoke. In her place stood a man with virtually the exact same features, sans the curves, and slightly shorter hair.
Raphael’s eyes widened. Cassandra had told him about this thing.
The man nodded. “Yes. I don’t blame you for forgetting, really,” Uriel sighed. He folded his arms again. It was far less distracting this time around. “In fact, that’s what I’m here to talk to you about.”
“Talk to me?” Raphael looked around again. Yes, everything fit what Cassandra had said. Clearly, what was happening here, was he was finally dreaming about what she spoke of. It had at last wedged itself into his subconscious and taken root.
Uriel was shaking his head. “No, that’s not what’s happened. You know that.”
Raphael opened his mouth to argue then stopped. Yes. Uriel had a point. Something deep in Raphael’s brain, maybe as far down as the reptilian part, told him this was very much not a dream. He was somewhere else.
“I want you to know,” Uriel began, “that I know what’s bothering you.”
“You’re scared. You feel guilt about the virtually nonexistent guilt that what happened almost two months ago didn’t mess you up like the rest.” Uriel gave him a wry smile. “Bit of a mess of words there, hm? Anyway, I’m here to tell you that is exactly what’s expected of you.” He then looked around and leaned forward, as if to share a secret. “Because, Raphael, there is something very special about you. You know because, despite the world having ended three times before, your friends and you have always come out on top. So why should your world ending for a fourth time be any different?”
The words crashed down on him, much like that Halloween night, when the world may as well have just ended right then and there. Raphael could feel his knees grow weak and the strange ground tip beneath him.
Uriel stepped forward and loomed over him. “You know things, Raphael. You know things many people in your world spend a lifetime never learning. And it, quite reasonably, upsets you because you don’t know what this strange knowledge is. Well, I’m here to remind you you know you are not a terrible person.”
Raphael’s eyes snapped open. He stared up at his brother’s bunk.