Why am I here?
I'm leaning against a trailer just off the set, watching as the crew takes a break. Mike, the lighting technician, heads over to me with two cups of Starbucks coffee.
"You okay, Tabitha?" he asks, offering a coffee to me. For a moment, I wonder who Tabitha is; then I remember that I am Tabitha Marsh, or rather Tabitha Marsh is the woman who, several months ago, suffocated herself with a plastic bag and unknowingly made her body a host to a demon. Here I am, Rashiel, former Fate, a fallen Angel of the Fourth House, with the agonies of Hell still fresh in my mind, and the only thing I want to do is put my arms around Mike, because I love him. Tabitha loves him, so by default I love him too. I can't explain these feelings, so I take the coffee and hug Mike on an impulse.
He returns the embrace, and I am lost in bliss for a moment. No one had ever touched me physically before, not even God. I've never experienced anything so sublime as this, and I find myself sobbing on his shoulder, loving him for the comfort I never once received in the long millenia of my existence.
"Tabitha... you're up soon. Got some stuff to do." He draws back, smiling sadly. His smile is contagious, and soon I am laughing. I wipe away my tears and follow him to the set.
I lose Rashiel in the simple pleasures of being Tabitha for now, as I fix three squibs under Scott's shirt. Scott is an actor playing a security guard in this film, and the little packets of fake blood are hidden easily under the uniform he wears. A wire runs from my control panel to the tiny explosive charge on each one. I set the controls to go off in time with the gunshots, and then I check the gun itself. I make sure the clip is loaded with blanks, then I snap the clip in and chamber a round. I toss the gun to Johnny, another actor, who is dressed in a white T-shirt and jeans. His character is supposed to be pursuing terrorists or something.
Soon, they are filming. I watch as the man with the gun approaches a bike in the parking garage, and the security guard tries to stop him. Bang-bang-bang, three shots are fired and the squibs go off, bursting red-stained "bullet holes" in his shirt, synchronized perfectly with the gunshot. He jerks and falls, doing a great job of pretending to die. Meanwhile, the shooter hops on the bike and drives off. That's the end of that scene.
"Somebody call 9-1-1!" the director shouts when Scott doesn't get up. Someone checks his pulse, and finds nothing. Scott is dead.
They told me that someone put live rounds in the gun, and I told them that it wasn't me, that I would never do that. They found the blanks tossed onto the floor in Johnny's dressing room, and I am inclined to think that Johnny is at fault here.
I am Rashiel the Fate again, and I must find out what Johnny is going to do next. I concentrate, and lines of causality unfold before me. A torrent of images assaults my mind, showing me what Johnny is most likely to do. I am not pleased by what I see: Johnny committing murder after murder and framing various people for it, Johnny scratching ancient glyphs into concrete with long claws---
I sit in a coffee shop, looking into the face of young Marie Peterson, one of the mortals with whom I have formed a pact.
"So what makes this Anarazel so bad compared to-" Marie begins.
"Me, for example?" I say. "He's determined to destroy humanity, and I fear he might have the means. He found a summoning ritual a few years ago, one that should never have existed."
"I thought you said demons couldn't summon other demons," Marie replies, furrowing her brow.
"We can't. However, a demon as powerful as Anarazel is likely to have servants and thralls."
"Yeah. Our power comes from faith, and if a demon makes a pact with a mortal, the thrall gives strength to the demon simply by believing in him. To us, faith is power. A demon with a ready store of faith can heal wounds and perform feats of superhuman strength and speed."
"So I'm giving you this faith, and what do I get out of it?" Marie sounds more than a bit skeptical.
"Our pact explicitly states that I can't harm you. Have you already forgotten the powers I've granted you?" I had given Marie limited abilities that reflected some of mine. Our pact granted her the ability to manipulate the fundamental forces of Creation to temporarily change how gravity affects her and allowed her to sprout a pair of huge, white-feathered wings at will.
Marie smiles and sets a hand on mine. "Rash---"
"Tabitha," I correct.
"Tabitha, then. We'd better concentrate on the matter at hand. Tell me more about this ritual."
"It's dangerous. If Anarazel manages to find the complete ritual, and his servants perform it correctly, it will drain the souls of millions of mortals, increasing Anarazel's power until none of us can stop him."
"What!?" Marie hisses. "Explain."
"It's simple and grotesque... he just travels all over, finding spiritually corrupt places and having his lackeys perform some kind of ritual. These rites create... focal points, so to speak, for the final rite. The end is when one of his servants draws a summoning circle with---"
"The blood of innocents?" Marie interrupts.
"Blood, yes, but not necessarily innocent. Chances are, several of his followers will die to empower the last part of the summoning ritual. When the ritual is completed, it does two things at once: it summons a number of demons from the Pit and destroys them, using their power to fuel Anarazel and the rest of the ritual---"
"I don't know," I reply. "Please stop interrupting me. It destroys them, and it simultaneously drains the life of every mortal for a thousand miles around, and all of this spiritual energy is channeled into Anarazel. If he succeeds in that, nothing will be able to stop him from doing anything else."
I see the fear in Marie's eyes, and I know it mirrors the fear in my soul. Anarazel wants to destroy the world, and I don't know how to stop him.
Author's Note: Please tell me what you think of this...