I promised a few more updates in July, and I didn’t want to disappoint!
Although, I have some disappointing news.
No, I did not win the writing contest I’d entered. However, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t proud of my story (The Evolution ), nor does it mean I hold any ill will toward the winners, who had some truly deserving entries. Truth is, there were hundreds of very solid, well-written pieces, and the judges had a very difficult choice. As always, when faced with rejection, all we can do is keep on learning, and keep marching forward. On to the next!
To kick off the new (hopefully) onslaught of posts that are to come, I thought I’d provide a continuation of my story, Claret. The link to the first part is here: CLARET PART ONE
I apologize for another continuation, but I just can’t seem to put this bad boy to rest. As is often the case in the realm of writing, sometimes stories take on a life of their own. Like an incessant toddler, they scream for attention. We can appease them for a bit, but ultimately they’re going to cry out again until their demands are met. This story, it seems, is still in the throes of a protracted tantrum.
Without further ado, here’s Claret Part Two. Note that this is a far different spin on traditional notions of heaven, for those that might object to such things. I hope you enjoy this latest installment. It feels good to get back to writing again!
CLARET – PART TWO
Apparently heaven didn’t value retinas. Everywhere Claret looked, it was like staring directly into the face of the sun. Slowly, things began to take shape. A cavernous hall with white marble floors, plain and devoid of any decoration. But it wasn’t empty. Blurred outlines gained form, morphed into figures. Astute-looking men and women, clad in a mix of robes and armor. Many of them. Their eyes were the last thing to come into focus.
They were all staring at her.
Her aching eyes shifted to the figure that stood apart from the rest. A blond female, more muscled than most men Claret knew, whose posture indicated someone very used to being in charge. Her face was smooth, not a wrinkle present, but her eyes were that of something ancient.
“We have been eager to meet you.”
Claret cleared her throat. “Is that why I’ve been called a full hour early?” Her gaze darted to Michael, who was bowing low to the woman before him. The muscles in his jaw clenched at Claret’s words.
The woman’s ancient emerald eyes danced with amusement. “An hour amounts to little when eternity awaits,” she said. “I believe that you will find many memories of your earthly life already beginning to fade.”
The thought of forgetting everything terrified Claret. She wracked her brain, forcing herself to recall her date of birth, her hometown, the name of her best friend growing up, her parents’ faces, her favorite color. For the time being, every memory seemed intact.
Was that normal?
“Lie,” a voice whispered into her head. A voice she recognized. ”You remember nothing. Tell them.”
“I… yes,” Claret said, not having to feign the confused expression that crossed her features. “There are holes in my memory. Many holes…. Why can’t I remember?”
The woman was within arm’s reach now. She placed a gentle hand upon Claret’s cheek, like a mother would to her child. “Do not fear,” she said. “It is all part of the process. You are home, Claret. The memories you will make here are all that you need.” She removed her hand and nodded at Michael, who was now standing upright, though his head was still slightly tipped down in a bow.
“Michael, show her to her quarters. We will allow her to settle in before her true training begins. I expect her to be sorted in a fortnight.”
Michael nodded, and the woman left with the rest of the welcoming party, who evidently doubled as her court. Claret bristled.
Sorted. Is that what they called it? They made it seem so… simple, when in actuality, she was about to receive the calling that she’d be stuck with forever. Literally. The thought made Claret’s stomach jump. Her eternal role was to be decided in – what was a fortnight again, two weeks? TWO WEEKS? Did time pass the same in heaven as on earth? How did they measure days here? More importantly, where was here, exactly? Each question screamed for acknowledgement in Claret’s head, but there was only one she needed an immediate answer to.
When she was sure they were alone, Claret turned to Michael and hissed, “Why did you tell me to lie?”
Michael maintained a dull look on his face as he replied, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Don’t play dumb, I recognized your voice in my head. Which leads me to another question – how the hell did you manage to speak to me telepathically?”
His expression hardened. “You will watch your language, and your tone. Along with the volume of your voice. They are always listening, in heaven and on earth alike.”
“So when you came to get me…”
“They were just at the other side of the light. Listening.”
Well, that explained the attitude change. But it didn’t explain so many other things. Claret opened her mouth to ask more.
Michael waved an impatient hand, silencing her. “You’ll keep that thought to yourself.”
“But you don’t even know what I was gonna-“
“Don’t need to. Now, follow me.”
“As if I have a choice,” Claret muttered. She had to put a jog to her step to keep up with Michael, but soon she fell into stride beside him. “Is it normal? Remembering everything from… before?” It was still so fresh, it seemed strange to refer to her human life as before. But it was her new reality. Heeding his advice, she kept her voice low as she spoke. Barely above a whisper.
“Care to elaborate?”
Michael shook his head. ”Not here and not now. I will tell you exactly what you need to know exactly when you need to know it,” his voice rasped into her thoughts, so harsh and sudden she nearly jumped.
Claret huffed as he led her down a marble corridor. An apparently endless corridor. Seriously, where was the end of this thing? Claret hadn’t even seen a door yet.
But then the corridor just… ended. That was the only way to describe it. The white hallway faded into nothingness before her. Like a mirage had disappeared, only for her to immediately step into another. The sounds of rushing water greeted her. There was a vast, tree-lined courtyard, surrounded by lush greenery the likes of which she’d never seen, crowned with a gushing waterfall that flowed from above. She craned her neck and couldn’t even make out the source, as though it originated from the clouds themselves.
Michael didn’t slow his pace, and before she knew what was happening, he’d disappeared through the curtain of water. Claret hesitated.
She jumped when an arm shot back out through the water a heartbeat later, giving an impatient wave.
“Are you coming? Or do you plan to dawdle all day?” Michael’s commanding voice huffed.
Rolling her eyes, Claret drew in a deep breath, and stepped through the waterfall. It gave as though she were walking through not water, but mist. She was surprised to find that she didn’t even get wet.
Michael stood inside the opening of what appeared to be a limestone cave. Caves were usually dark but this one was as bright as the corridor they’d started in. Where was the light even coming from?
“Alright, now you may speak,” Michael said.
Claret crossed her arms over her chest and lifted her chin, eyeing Michael up and down.
“For starters, who are you, really?”
He met her gaze, his already impeccable posture seeming to grow even straighter. More imposing. “My name is Michael. I am an archangel. My job is to help you complete your training and determine your eternal path. But my personal mission is vastly different.”
“What personal mission?”
“I wish to turn you into a warrior, Claret. Because you are different. You are obstinate, and strong, and steadfast. You are the perfect choice.”
Claret’s brows shot up. She shook her head as she processed his words. “A warrior? To fight against whom?”
“Things aren’t as they seem here. There is much you don’t know. So much.” Michael gulped as though almost choking on his last word. When he spoke again, she was surprised to hear his voice laden with emotion. “Anthony wasn’t assigned to another recruit, Claret. He was murdered.”
Claret could count on one hand the number of times in her life when she was rendered utterly speechless. Of all of them, this was the hardest moment to swallow.
A shiver skittered down Claret’s spine. Anthony, murdered? He’d always been kind to her, the whole time he was training her. Far more warm than the other angels who were all-business all the time. Her blood only ran cold for a moment before it began to run warm. Very warm. She imagined it blistering to the surface beneath her skin, heated with her anger. Suddenly, she wanted vengeance just as bad as Michael did.
“So how do we proceed?”
Michael walked past her then, towards the waterfall which covered the cave mouth. For a long while, he stared at it, seemingly transfixed, body rigid. The only sounds were the roaring water, punctuated with the ever-faster beating of Claret’s own heart in her ears. But then he once again turned to face her. Resolute, his eyes locked with hers and he spoke only three words, laced with poisonous intent.
“They must die.”
TO BE CONTINUED IN PART THREE