A note on this. The thing about this story is that it didn’t begin the way it ended up. It was meant to be a story about a man who met his last love in life. As I sat on the story though the idea changed. It became about a man who was more than, or less than, human who would love women as their last love, giving them a gift he might never have.
Things changed though as I took that idea on and it slowly became what it is. The ending was genuinely a surprise to me that sort of just popped up. It sorta fit, which is how writing works for me. You go with what fits.
Love will always cut you, its edges barbed with razor wire, its surface edged and sharp, but it’s the scars that it leaves that let you know you felt it and which draw you back again and again. First Love is never easy and never clean, the blood from it splashing far into the future and staining you for the rest of your life. First Love you never forget. First Love you never lose, not really. First Love is a shadow that part of you fears and part of you craves. But if First Love is a shadow then what is Last Love? Perhaps Last Love then is the light, the last light, the fading brightness of a waning sun, and that very last love is its warm kiss. Last Love is the comfortable, secure love that sings you Master Death’s lullaby as you fade into the forever darkness. Ah, but for such as me, there is no such comfort. No such solace.
For me, there is only forever, and it simply goes on and on and on and on.
There would be no Last Love for me. Not really. And if there were to be such a thing I would never know its coming or passing. What had once been the blessing of eternity has become the curse of forever and now I had the pleasure of watching humanity rip itself apart century by century, unable to stop it lest I break my holy vows. It is a bleak existence of little and nothing, but there are things I can give, things I can offer and this was to be my gift to Man. I could offer things that mean something and which make life a little less lonely in their small ways. Some of us, some of my kind, chose other ways to help the world, using their gifts and their time here to influence history and society, but I could never do that. Such as we were never meant to directly meddle, no matter what loopholes there may be. Free Will, as much a blessing as a damnation to Man, allowed us to whisper to people to change their mind, but it failed as often as it worked. It must be said that none of us quite knew what we were here for, exactly. We were to influence people as we saw fit, cut off from that which we loved above all things, and we were to do work that would influence the world for the better, but we had to do all this by following hard and strict rules and through the Word, and the Glory. All works must serve the Master first, and Man second, that was how it had to be. I never quite knew what that meant so I wandered. I waited. I wasted.
I wasted so much time, unable to understand what I was to do, or how best I might serve.
And even for someone that may never die, that waste of time and potential is a sin that weighed heavy on my shoulders. But that is indeed the Hell of Free Will – never knowing what you should be doing. Never knowing if you are a disappointment to that which created you. And you never can know because whatever it is you do is what you should do. Whatever you feel best serves Man is what you are meant to do. It is a lonely feeling to know that whatever you do, good or ill, that you are the only one really cares, and that the gaze of the Master is not upon you any longer. But mine was not to ask. Mine was to serve.
It took centuries for me to understand what it was I could give, what it was I could do for Man, and it came to me in a church, which was fitting. It was a widow who gave me my purpose. This woman mourned the passing of her last child in the war of that time, and was in the dark lands of despair. “Dear God, I am just so lonely,” she whispered to the image of the savior. She believed no one had heard her but I had heard her. I heard her and suddenly everything clicked inside me. Her words were like a key in me and it turned and the lock of my destiny opened and I finally found my calling.
Her name was Louisa and she was forty-six and I was her last love. It is the nature of my kind to see the lifeline of humans and to see what their place is upon it, and for Louisa, she was at the end. Death was close, and it was my guess that it was war that would take her, just as it had taken her husband and three children. She was a lost soul. A broken soul. She was alone and her faith was shattered. I did what I was made to do, I loved her. I entered her life as a man of the one I served, which was not so much a lie as a lessening of the truth for I didn’t just serve, I was that which I loved. I came to her, in the image of a man of the cloth, and I took her hand, such a powerful thing that is, and I told her that she was not alone, and that she was loved and I gave her the things she needed, attention, compassion, sympathy, and in the end, love. She had three weeks before a sniper’s bullet sent her to the Light, but in that time she had begun to heal. In that time she began to forgive. And as she lay dying in the street, dying in my arms, she forgave the one she had blamed for all her pain and misery and she entered death with a peaceful heart.
I was found.
I was fulfilled.
And this was my path. This was my righteousness. This was who I was. Many others who had, like me, come here to serve, looked down at me for choosing the path of Last Love but some, some understood well what I was doing and it was they who I thought of in the colds of the night when I questioned what I was doing. For I took no pleasure from the love I gave, nor did I take solace in that warmth. I could only know that this was my path. This was my gift. But it is our nature to question, just as it is the nature of Man to do the same, the difference is that in the end I know the truth of my purpose and they do not. For that I pity them.
The second person whose life I entered was named Anna and she was a grandmother who had been abandoned by her family in a country that was not her own. I met her at a farmer’s market and appeared to her as a man of her own age and I could see in her that she was already deep within brother Death’s shadow, so I knew that each moment mattered more than the last. I heard her speak and knew her accent immediately, having spent a decade in her old homeland, and I spoke to her in her native tongue, shocking her so much that she dropped her vegetables. I introduced myself to her as Milos and she asked what part of the country I was from and I had guessed correctly and told her a town that was five miles from her own. Sudden and fast friends, we walked from the Market to the river, which was across the street, and sat on a bench. She opened her heart to me there and told me of all she had been through – the death of her husband, her children moving away from her, and her loss of faith. I listened. I heard. I cared. We sat there for five hours, I barely speaking and she hardly ceasing, and when she had had her say she smiled at me, and patted my hand, nodded to herself, and then she was gone. It was as I had seen, her time was short. I closed her eyes, I folded her hands in her lap, and I moved on.
This was my life.
This was my fate.
This was my joy.
And there was the sin of it all.
It wasn’t wrong that I took happiness in being the Last Love of these people but that I took such pride in it. I had begun to feel that I wasn’t so much doing the work of the master but was doing my work. And this was my sin. It was my sin and it burned. I felt it strike me after comforting and loving a young boy dying of Cancer in an emergency ward of a hospital. I felt it as he was fading, alone, abandoned by his mother and having never known a father. I felt it as he looked, feverish, into my eyes and asked me to forgive him, and I told him I would, and smiled, and caressed his cheek, and he was gone.
And I burned.
I felt the flames erupt across my skin, spreading in an instant to show the stain of my sin. I felt it singe my skin, bite deep of it, and nestle within me. I screamed, feeling pain as few ever feel, and which fewer of my kind can feel. Next would come the Voice to tell me I had been judged; the Voice and then nothingness, that was how it went. That was Damnation.
But there came no Voice. Only the fire.
I was spared.
I was spared by my flesh was not.
Panicked, I threw myself from the hospital’s window and cherished the moments of cool air as I fell and fell and fell and then it was gone and I was lying in the parking lot, the flames diminished but still there. I crawled then, as people screamed upon seeing me, and made my way to the forest. As I made my way towards water I left Hell in my wake, the forest catching fire from me and turning the world to orange. Instead of water I found a puddle and buried myself in it, and slowly, slowly the flames died. That was the loneliest I had ever felt then. I had offended my master, and had almost paid the ultimate price for such pride. I had almost gone down to follow the one time prince of heaven. I lay there in the mud for hours, and pushed all thoughts from my head and prayed. I was lost and only only one being could help me rediscover my path.
When I finally pulled myself from the mud I turned my back on the flames coming from the forest, a sudden rain quelling their celebration, and made my way home. I lived in a small, modest apartment in the city, and I had made this my temporary home. Each month the rent was paid by a gentleman I had never, nor would ever, meet and the rest was up to me. I went home, the rain hard but comforting on my skin, and I arrived to find the darkness waiting for me. I had sinned and was being punished for that sin.
It was five years before I heard the Voice telling me I was forgiven. While I was forgiven though, my sin would never be forgotten and my skin would forever be a warning and a reminder. I had begun healing but my skin never would. I would never be whole again. This was my fate.
In the years after the fire I worked at the humblest of jobs. I remained in the city and worked with the young, the old, the forgotten, and the lost. I didn’t let my ambition, or my my pride, keep me from the task of the master’s work. It would be a lie though to say that I felt as fulfilled in this cause. I had more to offer. I had more I could do. I was capable of so much more, but this was the path, this was the message, this was the punishment. And so I suffered. Each glance in a mirror showed me my sin so I hid myself but that wasn’t enough. I would see myself reflected in others as they recoiled from me in horror so I cloaked myself. I had once been so beautiful, one of the Blessed Legion. I had been an, an…but we were not to say who we were. We were not to tell people what we were. But this was our lot and this was how we served the master.
So I served.
And slowly, slowly, I learned of another sin.
I learned of hate.
It is hard to serve happily, blindly, when you feel that you are being misused. I would learn of the others of my kind and of their great deeds and would weep afterward, knowing I had done so much more in my time. For over a hundred years I had healed the broken souls of the world, and for one moment of vanity I was damned to this, this half life that was a waste of my talents but through it all I served because I was made to serve. I was made by a master, a creator, and that was my duty, to serve. So in silence, and in darkness, I served. And as I served I did as much as possible to help, and all of it I did from the shadows as the hope that might skin might heal faded. One does not have their sin wiped clean. You are marked, and that mark remains. With all pride, all vanity, all hope gone, I served. I was resigned to my fate.
And then I met the other.
He came to me not in a dream but in person, perched on my window sill at the church, my allowance and apartment both long gone. The trickster was watching me sleep when I awoke, and he told me he had been watching me like that for a year, but that night was the first I had seen him. He told me I was ready. I was ready to talk. I laughed at him, told him he was a fool, that the tales of his legendary pride had not been wrong, but then, neither was his beauty, and he was such as I had never seen before. I had never caught sight of the master, no one had, it being said that the master felt it unbecoming to take physical form, it was too restricting, too small. This one did not have such feelings though. He was beautiful in a way no human could understand, but was similar to a human, at least as similar as I was. He glowed as we spoke and I found him not repulsive, not horrible, not, not evil, but alluring. And I think that was when I fell in love for the first time.
He told me that he did not blame me for my vanity, or my pride. He understood it more than any could, even the other angels who had fallen with him in the war. He knew because he had felt the same way once. He had known he was better than to sit idly by the side of the master and simply be a light to all the angels. He was better than to be a beacon of the master. He could do so much more. He looked upon the earth and saw so much pain, so much sadness and he knew that he could cure it. He could bring the Light and the Word to the people there, and he could lead humans towards a way beyond hate and pain. When he went and told our the master, the master was not pleased at all. To say such things, to think such things was vanity beyond belief and so the master punished him, the master punished Lucifer and he was cast from our creator’s side. Lucifer would be a lower angel, one who looked after the lesser beasts of the earth, and that would be his fate until the end of Time or he was forgiven, whichever came first.
Thus began the war of Heaven.
One thousand angels took the side of Lucifer, judging that he was right, that the pain of the humans was too great to ignore and leave to Free Will, and the rest of Heaven sided against them. One did not question the master, but perhaps, Lucifer offered, it was time that changed. I sided against Lucifer and his army. And in the end, when the war was in the balance, when it looked as if Lucifer might win and prove his point, and hopefully win the good will and ear of the master, but it was not to be. The war was an act of treachery that the creator would not accept, and so Lucifer and his army was cast down, down to a prison of nothingness. Cast away to a world devoid of light, and hope, and music, and anything but the cold emptiness of eternity. Lucifer was damned and so were the rest. It was a fate that had occurred to but five others, others who were not to be named, but who had existed long before we angels and it was a fate more horrible than anyone can truly understand I believe, even the creator. It is an act of utter cruelty, pure and simple. I remember a great celebration in Heaven after the war, as we honored our creator and his mercy in allowing these fallen angels to live, but even then I felt something was wrong. I felt something was unjust about this as I too had wanted to side with Lucifer, feeling sympathy for the humans. But I did not speak up. I did not fight.
I stood silent and awaited my time to serve.
And here I was.
And here too was he.
We spoke until morning, and then well into the day. I ignored the knocks at my door and focused on my guest. His image wavered, and began to fade with the sun as none of the damned could take corporeal form on earth, that was their punishment, to always watch the place they wanted to be, and wanted to serve. But the fallen angels had quickly realized there were always holes, always chinks in the master’s armor, and so here he was, Lucifer, and so too were his angels upon earth, serving their master – Mankind. Lucifer swore to do as he had felt, to work with Man, for Man, and to show humans a new way. He did this not out of anger, or hate, or jealousy, but out of love for our Creator, a love that rose about his punishment. How better to serve the master than to serve the creations? But Free Will was a greater challenge, a greater evil than Lucifer had anticipated, and so was religion, the blind worship of a being that humans could never do more than imagine. Religion corrupted the Word of the creator and spilled blood in the name of a god that did not exist beyond their pulpits. The creator would not step upon the earth, so instead sent a son who was beautiful and frail and unready for the task of uniting a kingdom and who had to die in the hopes of lighting a fire of change. It was testament to this man that he had done as much as he had in his short, human life, but his teachings had been perverted, and thus religion became about hate, and not love.
Lucifer laughed at himself, and apologized. It had been a great many year since he had seen an angel who was still pure, who was still Blessed, even if I was scarred, and so he had let his tongue get the better of him. He reached out to me.
“To answer your unspoken question – I am here for you. I am here to ask your help. I offer my hand in friendship, in love, and ask you to do the one thing you cannot do – I ask you to disobey. I swear to you that in the end, when we have united Man under the banner of love, of peace, under the true message of our master, then we shall be forgiven and seen as the heroes we are. If we have pride, it is because we know we serve the master. If we are traitors then it is against a mistaken ideal that we have turned. An ideal that has to change. I ask you to take my hand and truly do what you have been created for and are meant to do. Love. Love and let happen what will for if we are damned, then let the heavens fall for the Word is a lie.”
I recoiled. To say, to think, to hear these things was blasphemy. This was not my path. This was not my way this…but then I felt something worse. I didn’t recoil out of righteousness, but out of fear for what he said was true. It was true. I closed my eyes and felt tears washing over my once beautiful face. I was damned. My god, my great, great god I was damned.
I reached out my hand.
Lucifer took it and his glow, flowed over me and suddenly all my pain was gone. All my worries were gone. I was at peace. I had made my first step on a new path.
So be it.
If we were damned then let the heaven’s fall. I would serve, as I always had, only I would, for now, serve mankind, and serve love. And whatever came next, I would love, no matter what. And I suppose it was the sweetest of ironies to know that it was Lucifer that was to be my Last Love.