I remembered asking Teemie for a hardcore favor before angels marched into my cell and awoke me. To my surprise, they gave me one hour to get ready, including a pair of black pants and a blue collared shirt, for the gig. Afterwards, they wasted no time in bounding my wrists in chains, escorting me to the destination.
“So where are we headed?” I asked, conversationally. My mood held fast with determination and resolve. Whatever Conus did had done wonders. I felt relaxed, not angry. Did he visit just to do something to my psyche that would make the trial easier for them? Don’t get me wrong, I had no intention of pleading guilty to any bullshit. No way. Ladies and gentlemen, I had a plan.
My tank was still full even though I hadn’t filled it after the fallout with Conus. In the dream world, I took the time to think. While there wasn’t a guarantee of said plan working, I’d at least go out with a bang.
“You will be judged at the arena of destiny,” one of the six angels said. That didn’t surprise me. This is the same place legend said Lucifer got the boot. I wanted to object being placed in the same category as that prick—I hadn’t gone all Terminator on Paradise Realm. Legend also stated that the King of gods himself came to our universe to oversee the falling, trialing the first of the Fallen with fire and brimstone. Though, for some reason, Lucifer doesn’t appear to have the black wings and tears of blood going on like the rest of them. Goddammit, Conus. Go big or go home, I guess.
“All I can say is, good luck,” another angel said with a slow, depressing shake of his head. We eventually reached the coliseum, after traveling a few blocks then entering a door that teleported us right to the location. The mini-ascension left me a bit disorientated for a few seconds. My powers were still negated. For now. I had to pull off the escape attempt at the right time, the right away, or else. The audience inside made my jaw drop. So much noise and chatter from millions, maybe billions of beings. Eyes drew to me immediately, watching with curiosity. I scoped the crowd.
The first thing that caught my attention was the Helios Clan logo, an over-glorified golden sun—obviously their section. My immediate family had solemn expressions, except the stepmother, who looked cheerful for the first time ever, the bitch. My cousins, aunts, uncles, and others who didn’t have my blood but were members of the clan, were seated in rows behind them. If you’ve been to any sports stadium or at least seen anything on TV, that’s exactly what the coliseum looked like, only gold.
I turned my gaze from my clan to the other sections consisting of the Mercury Clan, Venus, Mars—you know, all the damn planets plus the angel clans of North, South, East, West and some others I didn’t give two shits about. Oh, let’s not stop there. Misthangers had a nice piece of the pie. Nuisances. I felt relieved that there was no sign of the king of gods, which meant this invitation unraveled for our universe only. If he appeared, I could forget about my plan. He’d simply will the trial go however he saw fit. I was seconds away from turning from the audience when I noticed rare visitors.
Reapers or death gods were on one side. The group next to them were of the Valkyrie Clan. Sitting ahead of them, representing leadership, was the Valkyrie princess. Words cannot describe how beautiful she was—long snow-white hair, perfect face, glistening violet eyes, incredible breasts, badass sword sheathed in a scabbard—every man had a crush on her at least once, maybe a million times. I forced my thoughts away from the crowd. They were irrelevant. Witnesses to mentally document the execution of the guy who was supposed to succeed Conus Helios.
It’s strange, not once had I caught any talk of a new successor.
Not even from Amelia, Karma, Hialucus, or any angels. After all of these years, someone should’ve taken my place. What the hell was going on? And why wasn’t I disowned? The angel guards stopped me, yards from a golden podium.
I hummed the Judge Judy theme quietly to myself. Conus, flanked by the House of Judgment gazed at me. And holy shit—this couldn’t be right...had to be my bad perception—there was no way I should see worry in those glowing eyes. Conus’s eyes reminded me of how a cat’s gaze shined from the aggravation of a flashlight. Unsettling almost, like you can tell that he’s able to end your world with just a thought. Gods are intimidating, but Conus took it to another level. Six feet, seven inches tall with bulging muscle visible through his black robe, he stood as the big boss of them all. Hah—what made people think I could possibly succeed that?
Just then, his voice boomed like the roar of a giant waterfall or the biggest fucking thunder crack ever. Even a deaf man would’ve heard that.
“Open the court, then proceed to announce the charges!”
An archangel stepped up, bowed deeply to the House of Judgment, then turned to the crowd.
It took the fuck nearly an hour to recite some history of Paradise Realm and the arena of destiny in great detail, which Conus hadn’t asked for, saving my charges for last. At the end of the sermon, he asked, “Epex Helios, do you have a statement?”
I was taken aback by the pleading in his eyes—desperation, maybe pity. Sure, I could flip this guy the finger but even I knew the time and place for such things—and shooting the messenger who’s doing his job isn’t the way to go. It’d probably be hilarious, but I no longer felt the rage from yesterday. No, just calm and resolve. I decided to humor them, to give a statement, uncaring about the relief in the eyes of many. I guess the rumors of my lovely attitude had spread like wild fire.
“All odds seem to weigh against me,” I began, then chuckled. “Many of you, perhaps all of you have never experienced what it’s like to live in Hell. Well it sucks. It can do things to a man’s head. I developed a survival instinct like no other. The misthangers, the hunters—we all know they attacked first, and with the intent to kill.
As much as I hate to sound arrogant, I am a son of Conus. I will fight before I let them bowl right over me. I make no excuses but I do sway strongly with self-defense. There is no treason. I simply grabbed, or at least tried to grab, the mundane human life for myself. It’s not like I had anywhere else to go. I do not conspire against Paradise Realm, my birth world. That’s pointless, suicidal, and maddening. However, I do not deny my odd uses of power. I did what I had to do to survive.
“I tapped into some abilities that I still know little of, and managed to use them to escape. Hell, can’t blame me there. Who would willingly stay in a state of agony when an opportunity of relief is in your hands? You guys wanted my side of the story, my statement. Well, there you have it. I will not cast away my dignity and beg but I speak nothing but the truth.”
The archangel nodded, confirming the sincerity to Conus, though I doubted he needed confirmation. He was there for some of it.
“Your statement has been accepted,” Conus said as a solemn expression overtook his face. “The House has decided that I cannot cast a vote of judgment. I do, however, recommend something less distasteful.”
I caught confused expressions on many of the faces of the audience, but turned to the group that would supposedly decide my fate. There were a total of thirteen members of the House of Judgment, including Conus. The other twelve gathered in a circle and stared at each other, indicating telepathic communication. They could include or exclude anyone they wanted in that internal conversation, Conus being no exception. The power to speak directly to the mind using one’s thoughts is something humanity could only dream of—but guys up here live off this shit. It took about fifteen minutes or so for the House of douches to finish their discussion. I wouldn’t put it past them to probably have mentioned the alluring presence of the Valkyrie princess. The group turned to me in unison, expressions hardened. One of them took the lead.
“Epex Helios, son of the Helios Clan. We sentence you to an indeterminate amount of time in the depths. While you spoke in sincerity, crimes were still committed, and lives lost. In your favor, we removed the permanent factor and added the cap of fifty-eight years. When the House has decided time is served, you will be removed from the depths and restored. Stand by as your escort will be arriving shortly.”
I looked at Conus’s angry face, but shook my head at his silence, not surprised at the outcome of the trial. However, if Conus implied in-realm punishment, the House of Judgment normally did it. Hell, was supposed to do it—Conus is the fucking ruler of the universe. Something strange was going on and I was gone too long to catch wind of it. The crowd went silent, probably showering me with gazes of pity or indifference. Yeah, fuck that, it was time to ditch this shit show.
“The escort has arrived,” one of the House douchebags said. My eyes widened at the site of a smug Lucifer, dressed in a white suite, blood red tie. He was a tall, pale-skinned man with a runner’s build, black hair that draped past his neck, and crimson eyes. And for the first time ever, I finally saw the black wings, indicating that he was making this a show. They allowed this fuck back in to personally pick me up. Did that mean my sentence was actually permanent—but no one wanted to voice it in front of Conus? The fifty-eight-year cap must be a bullshit number where they’ll pretend to consider my release. I know there’s no coming back from the depths. As if confirming my thoughts, Satan the dickhead spoke.
“Any last words you’d like to say to your delectable audience?” He bowed to them as if he ran this fucking show. I rolled my eyes.
“Here’s a parting gift to all of you, who let this happen, but including you, Lucifer. Excluding Hialacus and the Valkyrie princess,” I said aloud, then flipped them all off. Lucifer burst into laughter.
“Teemie, now,” I said, softly. All hell broke loose.
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Alvin Atwater is a man of humor, a starving author. With a unique writing style that can outshine even Jim Butcher, Patria Briggs, or Kevin Hearne, he is a character-driven lovable lump of mass. Born in Florida, he's on a mission to defeat his arch nemesis, Florida Man, once and for all.
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Author of the Blood for Soul series and a secret coming-of-the-age epic fantasy. Lover of anime and manga: so yeah, weeb shit? Fun. Sue me haha.
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