“For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
Ephesians 6:12 (RSV)
The demon sliced through the heated air of the Texas capitol, a dark moving shadow invisible to the human eye. He wove through the tops of the tall buildings, passing beside Austin’s Frost Tower and its glowing, jagged peak. Eerie blue light spilled over his body, revealing his true form for a flash.
His face was covered in boils and riddled through like Swiss cheese—any skin untouched by decay was translucent and white. Beating his black wings, he turned toward the ground, zipping over the crowded bars on Sixth Street, before disappearing between a tightly spaced cluster of shops and hotels.
At the edge of the brick maze, the demon landed on the dirty cement and transformed his appearance. All his horrid features vanished. His wings were gone. He stood in the alley as a handsome man, unblemished and tanned. The wind kicked up and sent leaves and trash swirling around the hem of his trench coat. When he took his first step, two tiny black flies slipped from beneath the cuff of his pants, fluttering into the bracken before disappearing from sight.
He walked briskly, head down and shoulders hunched. Though no human could see him, though he could have walked straight through the vehicles trafficking the city, he waited at the stoplight, using the crosswalk to pass onto the Congress Bridge.
The capitol building loomed in the near distance, already lit with spotlights that shone in the orange-tinted dusk. Just like any other evening, throngs of people packed against the stone railing as cars zoomed between them. They peered down at Town Lake, and searched up towards the faint stars materializing in the evening sky. A few huddles of humans had cameras draped around their necks while others pointed to the shuttle boats swaying on the waters.
The demon marched past the tourists and the crowd came alive as wave upon wave of squeaking bats spewed into the air, rising up from beneath the bridge like thick smoke. Slowly, the bats formed a black, twittering river that snaked through the golden clouds.
The click and flash of cameras commenced and an excited chatter mixed with the city sounds. The demon smirked and left the bridge behind, hurrying down the sidewalk until he slipped behind an old theater. He knelt next to a manhole and lifted the cap, tossing it aside. As it clanged against the alley floor, he fell gracefully into a dank corridor. His boots sloshed in the shallow puddles as he strolled through tunnels beneath the University of Texas.
He rounded a bend and slowed his pace as he neared a figure standing below a broken oil lamp, shrouded in darkness.
The demon hissed in a hoarse voice. “What news from the Kingdom?”
The shadowy figure pulled deep on a cigarette and puffed out a series of smoky rings. “The rumors are proving true. It appears there are survivors.”
“Impossible,” the demon wheezed. “We’ve kept watch on the Legacy’s financial accounts ever since the Purge. There’ve been no transactions for nearly two decades.”
“The survivors have not had access to the Legacy’s fortune. The boy insists his people have hidden five of their descendents in the human population. They’ve been living on the charity of the Texas foster care system, growing up without knowledge of our world or their heritage. I only became aware of this matter as of yesterday. It’s been a closely guarded secret until now.” He kicked aside a rat and sneered.
“Are they close to finding them?”
“No, but the search is narrowing. They seem to believe the girl will be retrieved in time to fulfill the prophecy.”
A gurgled laugh passed through the demon’s lips and echoed loudly in the tunnel. “She will be but a child,” he scoffed. “They’re grasping for straws—straws that aren’t there. The Fourth of July is only days away. If the girl is found—if the prophecy is true and she finds herself alone and surrounded by her enemies—we will eliminate her. She will not escape.”
The tip of the cigarette glowed red in the shadows. “The girl is one thing. If her death doesn’t take place before the prophesized event, we can finish her then. We should have killed the boy Angel that survived long ago. Every Fallen Angel left on this Earth must be Purged to insure our success. Perhaps Lucien would like me to see to this issue myself?”
“You would suggest that we waste your valuable position within the Kingdom’s inner ranks?” The demon laughed. “No. They will all die sooner or later. Besides, it’s much too late for any of them to impact our forces. The game is about to begin and they’ll never make it to the field—they certainly won’t be allowed to participate.”
The dark figure flicked his cigarette butt. It fell and sizzled in a shallow puddle at his feet. “You’re right—they can’t threaten us while they remain in the pathetic state that their lives have put them in.”
The demon narrowed his gaze. “Never underestimate an Angel of God—no matter how pathetic they appear. At the first sign of risk, they must go. Keep in close communication and we will decide when—and if—the time comes to use you in the assassinations.” He paused and his menacing eyes twinkled with something like delight. His mouth twisted into a vicious grin, revealing crumbling teeth and gums that oozed yellow pus. The skin on his face paled, reverting to its true state of rot. His black wings faded into being behind him. “This will be a welcome change. I must say, I do love the thrill of a good hunt. Hunting humans is so easy. An Angel…an Angel is different. When these foster kids have been located, send word immediately. I will personally lead the demonic forces selected for this operation.”
“It will be my pleasure.”