Read A Deafening Silence In Heaven Online

Authors: Thomas E. Sniegoski

Tags: #Remy Chandler

A Deafening Silence In Heaven (5 page)

CHAPTER
FIVE

F
rancis stepped onto a street that looked like something out of a postapocalyptic nightmare.

It took him a minute or so to remember that he was in Detroit.

“What a shit hole,” he muttered as he began to walk the blighted city neighborhood. Miles of abandoned city blocks, the only apparent life being weeds that pushed up through the broken blacktop and swarms of rats and roaches that skittered about in the darkness of the empty buildings.

In a way an apocalypse had happened here; it was just of an economic kind.

He wasn’t sure exactly why places like this, abandoned places, places that had once pulsed with life but were now dead, drew the fallen angels of Heaven. The Denizens, as they were called, having served their time in the Hell prison of Tartarus and now completing their penance here on Earth, seemed drawn to these desolate, hopeless places like lice to a healthy scalp.

The Denizen known in certain circles as the Physician was no different from his penitent brethren.

A ragged dog emerged from an alley, its snout pressed to the ground as it tracked what it probably hoped would be its next meal. It stopped when it saw Francis and studied him with dark, bottomless eyes. It looked as though it would turn tail and run when he spoke.

“I’m looking for Darnell,” Francis said in a language the animal could understand. “I’m looking for the Physician.”

The dog hesitated only a moment before tossing back its mangy head with a woof and heading back the way it had come. Francis did as he was told and followed.

At the end of the alleyway, the dog turned right and trotted through three city blocks before stopping in front of yet another dilapidated tenement building, only this one had a former angel of Heaven sitting on its cracked front stoop, sipping from a bottle of cheap whiskey.

“Fraciel,” the Denizen acknowledged.

The dog continued on its way, occasionally pissing on random objects that littered the deserted streets.

“I’d ask if I could have a sip,” Francis said, nodding toward the bottle, “but I’m in a hurry.”

“I told you I didn’t want to ever see you again.”

“I thought you were joking. What would a life truly be without a little me every now and then?”

“Whenever you come calling, trouble follows like a bad smell.” The Physician was going to take another swig from the bottle but stopped and locked his dark gaze upon Francis. “What do you want?” he demanded.

“I need your skills.”

“My skills?” Darnell asked, then laughed. “The last time you needed my skills, you had a hole in your stomach so big I could put my whole hand into it. You don’t look hurt to me now.”

“It’s not me; it’s a friend.”

“A friend?” he asked incredulously. “I didn’t think you were the type.”

“Not something I’d like to get out,” Francis said. “Will you help?”

Darnell seemed to consider the question, while Francis thought of options in case he refused.

“What’s in it for me?” Darnell finally asked.

“Let’s just say a nice thank-you card might be showing up in your mailbox. Do they even still deliver mail around here?”

The fallen angel shook his head. “Stopped the same week they cut the power and water.”

“Bet the rent is good,” Francis said. He studied the front of the tenement, noticing ghostly faces in some of the windows, peering out at them.

“Can’t complain.”

“Will you come with me?”

“How bad?” Darnell asked as he slowly screwed the cover back on his whiskey bottle.

“Bad enough that this could be a waste of both our time.”

•   •   •

The demon dog pressed down upon him with all its monstrous weight.

“Who. The fuck. Are you?” he growled, the stink of his breath like a slaughterhouse on the hottest day in August.

“I’m who I say I am,” Remy told the beast firmly, looking directly into his large dark eyes. “But at the same time—I’m not.” There, he’d said it—the cat was out of the bag.

“Bullshit!” the dog roared, plunging his enormous head down and sinking his teeth into Remy’s shoulder.

Remy cried out, thrashing beneath the immobilizing weight, and he felt something stir within him, something that had been dormant up until now.

Something that moved with a yawn and a languid, catlike stretch. Something that he had not felt since awakening in this strange, twisted world.

The essence of the Seraphim still existed inside of him, though he could feel that it had changed. It felt weaker—tired.

He had no idea what could have happened to weaken it so—weaken
him
so—but at that moment, it was awake.

Aware.

And angry.

Remy felt the power react to the sudden pain, consuming it, using the searing agony as fuel. He felt it upon his flesh, the mysterious sigils coming alive as his angelic birthright began to flow through them.

“Get off!” he bellowed as a blast of sheer power exploded from the markings on his flesh, propelling the great animal backward and giving him a moment to collect himself.

Remy scrambled to his feet, the pain from the bite in his shoulder excruciating. He watched the dog as he majestically rose to all fours, the musculature of his body rippling beneath the tight black fur.

“You’re going to tell me who you are—what you are—and it doesn’t matter to me if you’re doing it sliding down my gullet or not.”

Samson’s children surrounded them within the confines of the cave. They had weapons in their hands and were ready to use them.

“I told you who I am.” Remy flexed his fingers, feeling the altered power of Heaven collecting there. “Just not the version I’m supposed to be.”

The dog sprang, his powerful back legs kicking up a barrage of rocks. “My patience is at an end!”

Remy instantly threw up his hands, the power of Heaven flowing from them to erect a shield against the beast’s fangs. The beast hit with a grunt, and Remy thrust him away.

“We need to stop this nonsense and try to figure out what the hell is going on.”

“I already know what’s going on,” the dog said, pacing like a caged tiger, his eyes never leaving Remy. “My master has been replaced with a doppelganger—some sort of Shaitan trick, maybe.”

Shaitan.

Another name that caused Remy’s brain to explode outward in ragged imagery as he remembered foes from what seemed like another life. And this is where it became all the more insane—all the more riling—for in his memory, the Shaitan—the shape-shifting and savage precursor to the angels of Heaven—were still trapped within the confines of Eden, the Garden cut loose from Heaven during the Great War to drift through the seas of reality.

Remy remembered that they had tried to escape, but he had stopped them. . . .

•   •   •

Or had he?

There was another memory suddenly present, one that he was afraid to look upon. In this memory, Eden had returned, and the Shaitan . . .

The Shaitan had been set free. . . .

Images played before his eyes, flashes of a film that he had no real recollection of seeing, but they were there just the same. The Shaitan, horrible creatures of violence exploding up from the soil surrounding the Tree of Knowledge, their loathsome numbers descending upon a magnificent city composed of purest yellow light.

A golden city that could exist only in Heaven.

The picture of the air above this place filled with the war of angels versus Shaitan, and the Golden City as it burned below temporarily stole his breath away.

Remy blinked away the nightmarish vision to see the great demon beast staring inquisitively.

The dog came at him again, his growl low and guttural and filled with determination.

Remy felt the shield of tainted Heavenly power solidify on one arm and drove it into the face of the oncoming beast. He needed something to defend himself further, eyes darting about the enclosed space for something—anything that he might use.

His eyes locked with one of Samson’s brood, a teenage girl with a razor-sharp glint in her eye.

Leila. Her name was Leila.

Suddenly she darted forward, and he saw the short-bladed sword in her hand. For a moment Remy thought he might be defending himself on multiple fronts, but instead she surprised him by tossing him the sword.

“It’s only fair,” Leila said as her brothers gawked at her. “It’s only fucking fair.”

Remy gripped the sword, willing more of the sluggish power of divinity into the blade. It sputtered to life, Heavenly fire dancing across the metal surface. He stabbed at the hound, and the great beast leapt back.

“Won’t fucking matter,” the dog growled. “You’ll be gutted before you get the chance to use it.”

“That would be too bad,” Remy said in a crouch, waiting for the inevitable pounce. “’Cause then you’d never get the chance to hear my story.”

“I know your story,” the demon dog spat, pacing back and fourth.

“You think you do.” Remy stared at the animal, the shield of divine power on his arm starting to sputter away. “Look at me,” he commanded. “Really look at me. Do you seriously believe that I’m some sort of imposter?”

The dog continued to snarl, his fleshy upper lip rippling. “Who knows what the fuck the Shaitan are capable of these days?”

“You said my smell was off, but only just a little. How can that be? I either smell like me, or I don’t.”

“I’m getting tired of your yapping,” the hound roared.

“I smell like me—like Remy Chandler—because I
am
Remy Chandler. I’m just not the Remy Chandler that you know.”

The enormous dog cocked his head in a familiar way that caused Remy’s heart to suddenly hurt, reminding him of somebody likely gone, but then again . . .

“What kind of shit are you trying to sell?” the beast asked. “Not the Remy Chandler that I know . . . What does that even mean?”

“I know it’s a lot to swallow. . . .”

“Oh no,” the dog growled, taking a menacing step closer. “I could swallow it just fine.”

“Will you just listen . . . please?” Remy begged.

For some reason, this seemed to work, and the demon dog actually stopped his advance.

“Talk,” the dog barked, sitting his muscular bulk down upon the rocky floor. He glanced at his small army. “Stand down,” he commanded, then returned his attention to Remy. “I’m waiting.”

Remy took a deep breath. “Something happened . . . ,” he began, digging deep into his memory. “I was hurt—badly. Dying, and then I woke up here, but here . . .” He paused, remembering all that he had experienced since regaining consciousness in this twisted version of his body. “This”—he motioned to the world outside the cave—“this isn’t right. . . . I don’t know a world like this.”

The demon dog made a sound that Remy thought might be a laugh. “That’s fucking nuts!”

“Yeah, it is,” Remy agreed. “But it’s true. . . . It’s what I know.”

“So you’re saying that you’re a different Remy . . . a Remy from another time or place, who somehow ended up in this Remy’s body.”

“Wish I had a better answer, but yeah,” Remy said. “That sounds about right.”

The beast seemed to think for a bit, then rose to all fours and turned to the children of Samson, who had gathered behind him. “What do you think?” he asked them.

One of the kids, covered in tattoos, with a wiry yet muscular build and a Mohawk, casually pulled a toothpick from his mouth. Remy suddenly seemed to recall that his name was Sid. “I think it sounds like a load of crap,” he said, and then shrugged his shoulders. “But that’s just me.”

The dog turned his head to Remy.

“Yeah, I think it’s bullshit, too,” he said. “Take him.”

The children of Samson rushed him in a wave. The burning sword in his hand throbbed eagerly, but Remy resisted the urge to strike them, holding the blade down as they swarmed.

The spawn of Samson laid into Remy. Fists like boulders rained down upon him until he could no longer stand, and he went down in a heap of numbing oblivion, dropping his weapon as he welcomed the shroud of darkness that gave him respite from the madness that his life had become.

•   •   •

Steven Mulvehill was certain that his friend was dead.

“I’m too late,” he said again, reaching out to touch the cold flesh of Remy’s hand.

Marlowe stood right beside him, and Mulvehill wrapped his arm around the dog, holding him close. The dog responded with furious licks that wiped away the tears running down Mulvehill’s face.

“He’s not dead,” the woman spoke from the living room entryway.

Mulvehill was certain that he’d heard wrong, immediately stifling the surge of raw emotion that just about stopped his heart. He tore his gaze away from his friend to look at Linda.

“He’s not dead,” she repeated, managing the weakest of smiles. “He’s not doing well, but he isn’t dead—yet.”

There came a surge of adrenaline through Mulvehill then, his brain immediately kicking into full action as he began to formulate what needed to be done next.

“We have to do something,” he said, alarm bells going off in his thoughts as he traipsed through the minefield of what he knew of Remy’s true identity and what he could share with the woman.

Mulvehill stood, tempted to use his phone to call 911, knowing deep down that this would not help in the least and would most likely be a detriment to his friend’s continued health, but he had to do something.

“Francis has gone for help,” Linda then said, and there came the screeching of psychic brakes, and quite possibly the realization that Linda Somerset knew more than he’d imagined.

“Francis?” Steven Mulvehill reiterated.

She nodded. “He said that a special kind of physician was needed to deal with . . .”

Linda stopped, her eyes riveted to the man lying on the living room floor beneath a blanket.

“To deal with . . .” Mulvehill urged her to finish the thought.

“To deal with somebody . . . like Remy.”

“You know,” he stated flatly.

“I know.” She nodded. “I’m not sure what I know exactly . . . but I know that he’s . . .”

She stopped again, and Mulvehill knew exactly how she was feeling. He’d felt that same raw emotion that threatened to push him from his small perch of sanity when he’d first realized what Remy really was.

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