And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon.

Revelation 9:11

 

I nearly wept with relief when I saw Ethan emerge out of a bank of clouds, blinking with confusion and rubbing his eyes.

            “Ethan!  Over here!”  I called to him, waving, and he looked up at me.

            “Raphael?” He asked in the perplexed tone of one who has just awakened from a mysterious dream.  Ethan approached me where I stood by the gold and ivory gates of the Kingdom of Heaven.

            “What’s going on?”  He queried.

            “You’ve been through the Judgement.”  I told him.  “And now you’re standing at Heaven’s Gate.  You have but to knock and Simon Peter will let you in.”

            He stepped forward eagerly, raising his right hand.

            “Fantastic!  I can’t wait to see Mara…”

            I put my hand on his shoulder.  He turned and looked at my face.  Immediately his brow furrowed with concern.

            “Something’s wrong.”  He said.  It wasn’t a question.  He knew.

            “I’m afraid so.”  I admitted. 

            “What is it?” 

            “She isn’t here.”  I said quietly, feeling limitless sorrow ripple through me again at the thought.  The same pain was reflected in Ethan’s eyes.  He gripped my shoulders.

            “What do you mean she isn’t here?  She’s an angel!”  He was angry with worry and shock, and took it out on me, the only available person to blame.

            “No, she isn’t.  She took human form, and the risks that go with it.  She killed Simon Lamb and her last thoughts were hateful.  There was no way for her to come back here under those conditions.”  I found the strength to tell him, but the entire time I was weeping.

            “What?”  He asked again, unbelieving. 

            “The Drake was a demon, and Mara had an inborn duty to destroy them, as an angel.  But Simon Lamb was a man whom the demon possessed, and murder is a mortal sin.  Unrepentant, Mara’s Judgement was a foregone conclusion.”

            Ethan sank to his knees, crying bitterly, cradling his head in his hands.  Having all eternity, and nowhere to go, I waited until his sobbing ceased before speaking again.

            “There is more.”

            “What?” He asked, his voice choked with emotion, strained by his cries.  His face was streaked with tears, and his eyes had gone red around the edges.

            “Your Judgement was not so easy to conclude.”

            “I don’t understand what you mean.”

            “Most people are easy to place.  They’re meant to be here.  Or, they’re not.  It’s based on the choices they made in life.  But you presented a unique case.”

            Ethan stood up weakly.  He didn’t seem to care, but asked anyway.

            “How so?”

            “At the end, you called upon Christ to save you.  That brings you here.”  I gestured to indicate the Gate.  “But part of you was equally unrepentant about your rage and the destruction it caused.”

            Ethan raised an eyebrow as if to question my sanity.  Then, realization hit.

            “You mean Reza.”

            “Yes.  That half of you didn’t want to be here, rejected what it stands for.  So, now that the whole has been fused back together, you have been found simultaneously guilty and innocent.”

            Ethan ran a hand through his already dishevelled hair, trying to take it all in.  He was clearly exhausted.

            “I thought Donovan was a demon,” he began, bewildered.  “When all of us were in the desert, we were tempted.  I cast out Satan, I thought he had caused the rest…”

            He was clearly thinking out loud, and began to pace.  I could see his exasperation, but chose to interrupt.

            “Satan is a word with many connotations.  Its root lies simply in the meaning of a block, or an adversary.  You weren’t necessarily dealing with ‘the Devil.’ For the record.”  I said.

            “So we were being tempted by our own inner demons, the dark side of ourselves?”  He asked, almost immediately.  Even pushed to his limit, he was still quick on his feet.  “I became my own worst enemy.  But what about the beast?”

            “Your dark half was perfectly designed to accept its more savage impulses, and that drew the attention of the demon Rage.  It gained strength from that alliance, and so did your shadow nature.  More demons flocked to the assemblage, drawn by your friend Jason.  So much evil energy connected you to the greater demon, the Beast.  The destroyer.”

            Ethan quoted scripture.  “‘They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit: his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon.’  The Destroyer.”

            “Your memory is as sharp as ever, I see.  But did you know that Abaddon in Hebrew could properly be pronounced ‘Avaddon,’ as B and V are the same letter in the Hebrew alphabet.”

            “Avaddon, Donovan, almost an anagram.”  Ethan mused.

            “Not quite, but close enough to amuse the demon.  A private joke, of a sort.”

            “So, I was two, and now I’m one.”  Ethan said, getting the conversation away from linguistics.

            “Yes, and back to being what every human being should be.  Split, you naturally chose good, the dark half chose evil, but no real choice was ever made.  The two sides followed the predispositions of their natures, they never actually deliberated over what was right or wrong.  A human being is a creature of dichotomies, they necessarily use free will to choose between good and evil.”

            “So I stopped being human.”  Ethan stared into the distance, and a lifetime of loneliness and isolation became apparent in his face.  There was a troubling look in his eyes, speaking of the regret and sorrow at the core of his being.  As if he had just realized a truth he had always known but never faced.

            “But you have your humanity back now.”  I reminded him.  “And I need you to make a difficult choice.”

            “Why can’t you make it for yourself?!!”  He whirled on me in anger, his eyes fierce.

            I took a step back in surprise, but kept my composure, softening my voice.

            “The principle difference between the two children of God, angel and man, is that angels have no free will.  Their nature is a life of service to God, unquestioning.”

            His eyes softened somewhat, but then he smirked.

            “You’re rather behind the times, Raphael.  It’s quite out of fashion to refer to humanity as ‘man.’  Sexist, even.”

            I looked at him, startled.  The idea had never occurred to me.

            “It seems that your lack of ability to choose has also impaired your ability to change.”  I remembered Ethan in the desert:  focused, pure in intention.  Now his tone was biting and harsh.

            I knew that he was still reeling from the news of Mara’s damnation, so I maintained my patience.  Nevertheless, his words struck me hard.  He made me sound like a cardboard cliché cut out of the past.

            Ethan stared at me in silence for a moment.

            “So, what is this big choice you need me to make?”

            “I need you to choose between Heaven and Hell.”

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