Afterlife A Fall of Angels Novelette

They always screamed.

There was something satisfying about the intake of breath every single one of them would take, just before the scream came bellowing out. The way their eyes would widen. The way their chests would rise and fall rapidly, despite their need to breathe anymore.

There was just something satisfying about seeing another person writhe in misery.

“Down,” Cole condemned the man before him. His followers around him heckled and cheered from the spiral staircase, sinfully delighted to be having another soul join them in their eternal wretchedness.

For that was what Cole was. Miserable. Damned. Forsaken.

He pressed the red-hot rod to the back of the man’s neck, watching as his flesh gave way to the imprinted X. Moments later the man’s own set of glorious wings burst from his back and Cole simply watched as the newly branded angel was dragged down into the fiery depths by his brothers.

Like it had been after almost every trial since he had been sucked back into the afterlife, shouts and brawls broke out around the cylinder. Some of the council left, mostly the do-gooders. They weren’t ones to fight. Everything was peace and butterflies with them.

But those who served with him were built from contention and upheaval.

That was all the world of the dead felt like lately. Chaos.

Cole rubbed his chest absent mindedly as he zoned out the noise around him. He remembered the chaos that once filled him. He remembered the feeling of his entire being collapsing in on him. It had been a long time since he had felt pain. He barely even remembered what it felt like until he felt the pull from within. But even while he hid, licking his wounds in his crumbling family estate, he wouldn’t return to his world. The pain made him feel… alive. Almost human again.

But a dead man can’t fight the call of the dead any more than the tides could fight the pull of the moon.

Cole closed his eyes, drawing for a moment on his last few minutes in the human world. The feeling of Jessica’s lips against his would be something he clung to for the rest of his never ending existence.

The shout and sound of flesh connecting with flesh brought Cole unwillingly back to the present. His black eyes flashed to the two brawling angels who occupied the catwalk with him. They threw fists, shouting words that were too horrendous to even have meaning in the world of the living.

“That’s enough!” Cole bellowed as his hands curled into fists. The two men froze where they were, their own cold black eyes meeting Cole’s.

“I expect more out of you, Duncan,” Cole said quietly, his voice resonating who he was and just how much power he possessed. “You’re a leader and you’re acting like a freshly made angel. Whatever your quarrel with this man is, surely this is not the way a council member handles it.”

Duncan’s eyes grew hard as he looked back at Cole, the same way they probably had before he shot his mother and father-in-law at Christmas over one hundred and fifty years ago. Giving one last shove to the other lowly angel, enough to knock him into the abyss below, he turned to walk back to the staircase.

Cole tried to ignore his mutterings of “not under his leadership for much longer” as he watched Duncan retreat.

Letting his eyes search the stone walls, Cole looked for the cause of all this trouble.

As soon as Cole returned from the world of the living and reclaimed his position, Jeremiah had started the upheaval, hungry for the position of leader of the condemned back. He had so graciously pointed out Cole’s grave betrayal in returning to the world of the living and abandoning his duties.

And now Cole might lose everything.

Unless Jeremiah was down below, spending time among their fellow men and women, Cole realized he wasn’t in the cylinder. There was stone in the bottom of his stomach, giving him the sinking feeling that he knew where Jeremiah was.

Cole wouldn’t pretend that he didn’t hear the whispers. He sensed the doubt that others had in his ability to lead the condemned. Echoes about Cole losing it brushed the stone walls, each wondering how a woman could drive him to such madness as to return to the world of the living.

He had lost leagues of credibility.

Walking to the stairway, Cole stood in the shadows. He crossed his arms over his chest, his wings folding behind him.

He would wait for Jeremiah.

As much as he didn’t like