Ethan stared at the Pearly Gates for a long time.  I stood quietly to one side, using my wings like a cloak, seeking comfort from them as I crossed my arms on my chest.  I had never felt so desolate since losing Hannah, and wondered how Ethan could bear what he must be feeling.  Thinking that way, it was easy to give him time to compose himself.

            “I can’t go in without her,” he said finally.  “How could I say I loved her if I was willing to let her be damned alone?”

            How indeed, I wondered, marvelling at simple human devotion.  At how much he loved my daughter.

            “What am I to do?”  He asked, his eyes brimming with tears he refused to shed.

            “I need you to find her and bring her out,” I said.  “You opened the door in both directions, remember?  Once she is in the world again, perhaps she can have a second chance.”

            “So far as I know, only Christ could conquer Death,” Ethan said, his voice and face unreadable.  I could not tell if he was refusing me, or refusing hope.

            “God alone can save,” I agreed, “So, if it works, perhaps we can trust that it is His will.”

            Ethan shrugged.  “I only know that I have to go to her.  Bringing her out… Well, I’ll worry about that when I get there.”

            He stepped to the edge of the cloud, ready to descend.  Resolute as ever.

            “Watch out for Lucifer.”  I cautioned him.  “Don’t let him mislead you.  This isn’t going to be easy.”

            Ethan looked at me sharply.

            “Lucifer?  Have you even read the Bible?  That name is only in one chapter, and it refers to Nebuchudnezzar, the king of Babylon.  John Milton gave it to the Devil.  That’s fiction, Raphael.  You speak like a character in a book.”

            He shook his head.

            “If you are incapable of choices, then perhaps you should consider who is letting you provide me with this choice.  Who has set all these things in motion.  And who provided you with such an out of date script to work from.”

            Leaving those words ringing in my ears, he was gone.

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