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Defy the Devil

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“Sister,” says Uriel.

Elisheva looks away from the wreckage of demons’ hosts and human bystanders. She’s more aware than she usually is of her vessel—a woman named Maggie, a faint thread of a voice burning up around her, the pulse of blood (red, wet, shiny) through veins intact as others’ no longer are. “Brother,” she says.

“Look at what they do to creation.”

She can’t quite understand the sense she’s getting from him, something like righteous wrath but nothing like it at all, something like—

“Look at the mess they’ve made,” Uriel continues.

There is blood spread across the grass. Elisheva looks beyond that: the night sky, so deep and mysterious through Maggie’s eyes, when all it is is air and light and vacuum. There are lighter patches where the dull orange of city lights catches on the artificial chemicals that fill the air. “It is imperfect,” she agrees.

Uriel steps closer to her. “Do you remember the fifth day in Eden?”

—like envy, like unrighteous wrath, like—

Maggie’s heart is beating quicker, and the stretched-thin essence of the woman shouts danger: wants the pepper spray Elisheva left behind, wants to run.

Uriel and I have been comrades since the dawn of creation, Elisheva reassures her. She has met Uriel in this vessel before, she has fought side-by-side with him. Maggie’s fear is incomprehensible, but it is sinking into Elisheva herself as well.

To Uriel, she says, truthfully, “It was beautiful.”

“Help me then, sister,” he says. “We can cleanse the world of them and make it beautiful again.”

“They’re our Father’s greatest creation,” Elisheva protests. This is wrong, wrong, this is sin and blasphemy and unthinkable. She must have misunderstood. Uriel cannot be suggesting what she thinks he is.

“Not greater than we are.”

—like pride. The sin of the Morningstar, of rebellion.

Run, Maggie says.

The garrison—she needs to warn everyone that Heaven itself and its own armies are not safe, that there are traitors even among the Host. Elisheva turns, opens her wings to retreat.

Maggie feels the blade first, pain and then nothingness. She is dead by the time it pierces Elisheva, within, alone for the first time in her existence, the agony of her wound keeping her from sensing any of her brothers and sisters.

“Brother,” Elisheva gasps, pleads, and it is silent, too strong for her broken throat. Oblivion, when it comes, is a mercy.