Gestalt Media continued the Short Story Contest in June 2020. Contributors submitted short stories
of 3,000 words or less on the theme Guest. Then, it
was up to readers to vote on the winning submission.
The winner of $50 is Michael Nadeau for his submission entitled Hunted His story will also appear in the year-end anthology published by Gestalt Media of all short story contest winners.
Sit back, relax, and enjoy this endearing short story by Michael Nadeau.
He paced in front of the statue seemingly oblivious to the stares of his underlings, his silver wings bristling with agitation. He blew a strand of light brown hair out of his face and glared at the statue with a critical look in his grey eyes. It was of Noah and was kept here to remind the hunter angels that some things were worth sacrificing for. His mission had failed, yet now he had a new problem to deal with. He was tasked by Father to bring back all fallen angels into the fold, if possible, and he had just lost his most dispassionate hunter. Evenal had fallen because of his failed mission, and he would see her back no matter the cost. The archangel Uriel stopped suddenly, the clouds he was walking on puffing up at his abruptness. A presence coming had stirred the heavens and his hunters backed away at the look on his face. He saw things that other’s didn’t, things that would happen if the right events were set in motion. “Welcome, Michael,” he said just as his older brother appeared before him, his golden hair falling over broad shoulders.
“Uriel, Gabriel says you have to stop now,” Michael said, his brilliant white wings flexing outwards.
“I have done as requested and ceased the attacks upon the fated children, though I believe you all are wrong.” The prophesy that Gabriel had told him about was dark and ominous, referring to two young men that could throw the heavens into dark times again. He had sent Evenal to erase them, only to lose her too. Now it seems they couldn’t be touched because one of them was one of his Father’s seer’s.
“So why do I hear that you are still sending hunters?”
Uriel spun on his brother, anger flaring in his hard eyes. “Because my job hasn’t changed Michael, I bring the fallen back into the fold, no matter the cost.”
“Like you’ve brought back Lilith, Belial, and the others?” Michael’s voice, while stern, was softer than usual, almost caring.
“You know Mephistopheles, Asmodeus, and Belial have no true forms anymore. They are special cases that have to be dealt with carefully.” He walked away folding his arms behind his back. “As for the others, it has been too long and their transformations have truly made them demons. Evenal though has just fallen and is possible to bring home, like Sephiral was decades ago.”
“Prudence, brother, remember that virtue when you send them against her. Gabriel means to help her we do not want another war amongst brothers.”
Uriel chuckled softly and hung his head. “What happened to you Michael?” the archangel of knowledge asked quietly. “You’ve changed since you were down there amongst the rabble.”
“I learned some things that I had forgotten and since father spoke—”
“And yet I have been in charge up here for millennia,” Uriel interrupted, “While you have been playing mortal and chasing those humans. Now you come back, all soft-hearted and caring and think to issue commands?”
“Warnings, not commands.”
“They are the same from your mouth brother. Now begone and let me instruct my angels on their target.” He turned but Michael was already gone, causing whispers amongst his hunters. “Enough. You know your target and what she looks like. Find Evenal and bring her home at all costs.” He turned back to the statue of Noah and smiled. That was a simpler time to be sure and one he missed dearly.
With the dawn
She stood on the porch and sipped this delightful mixture of dark bean and hot water, mesmerized at the coming dawn as it spilled over the quaint horse ranch. How have I missed this over the centuries? she thought as she took another pull off of her coffee. Who knew humans could come up with something like this? Evenal, now going by the name Eve, looked again at the rising sun and wistfully thought of the life she now had to lead; a life on the run and in hiding.
“Morning Eve.” The tired voice of the old woman echoed across the open porch as she came out and shuffled into her rocking chair. “Sleep well?” Margaret Cain had one of those voices that just drew your attention no matter what you were doing. Not that it was a horrible sound, just a gravely tone that you needed to listen to for some reason.
“I did indeed, Margaret, thank you.” Eve smiled at the woman and couldn’t help but laugh inside at the irony of her lineage. She had married a descendant of Cain, the first murderer and here she was sheltering a fallen angel. Oh the irony.
“Your skin seems to be doing better dear.”
Eve pulled the long-sleeved shirt down over her arms and turned back to the horizon. She had been an angel in heaven sent to kill Margaret’s grandson and his lover, but when she couldn’t do it, she fell from Grace, both figuratively and literally. When an angel fell from Grace they actually lost their wings, their bodies sometimes melting away or deforming. Others changed completely, their bodies adapting, but they were the minority. She had impacted the ground hard, but seemed to walk away unscathed…until that night when the moon rose. Eve’s skin had started to flake high up on her arms and legs, creeping down past her knees and elbows but stopping there. The skin had hardened into some sort of scales, almost like a dragon, and had turned a deep black to match her raven hair. Yeah well the skin cream Aleksandr gave me is helping,” she lied. The two boys she was supposed to erase had brought her here after she fell, a place that they said she could feel safe in for a bit and figure out what to do. The ranch belonged to Aleksandr’s grandmother and she always helped his friends.
“Well that’s good dear, now you make sure you go and feed Whinny and Albert this morning once you’re done.”
“Yes Ma’am.” Eve smiled and walked down the steps towards the barn sipping her coffee again. Whinny and Albert were horses and though Margaret’s husband had passed some years ago, the old woman still kept up the horses that the love of her life had adored. Eve walked into the barn and immediately heard the horses react to her presence. She may not be an angel anymore, but she was far from human. “It’s just me guys,” she said quietly as she set her cup down on the bench just inside the door. She had been here for six days now and the equines had figured out that she wasn’t a threat to them, even though she smelled different. Eve went about brushing the horses and feeding them, marveling at their beauty and power. Whinny was a white, gorgeous mare and Albert was a brown stallion fit for a king in her eyes. She had never bothered with animals before, being singular in her purposes when told to come to earth and fix problems. Now that she had the time to sit back and see certain things she could totally see why Lucifer had never tried to come back home.
It took about two hours but she finally got her morning chores done, including cleaning out the stables, and sat back on a pile of hay with her cold coffee and smiled. It was a small price to pay for the old woman’s hospitality. Eve was a mess, especially since she was dressed in baggy clothes that Margaret had found in her husband’s old closet. The boys had saved her when she fell but all of her original clothes had burned off with her wings. She got up and walked back to the house but stopped at the door when the horses got agitated once more. She turned and frowned, wondering why they were annoyed with her presence so soon. “Usually you guys are fine once you see and hear me…what did I do now?” The horses fretted nervously in their stalls, butting the doors and kicking the back walls. It was more than usual and it suddenly dawned on her that this might be from her. They had found her…
Kalian landed gently outside of the barn, folding his bland brown wings and scouring the area for his target. All angels had wings that no one could see. They’re kept discorporate, almost inside of them. When released, humanity cannot see the angel unless the angel wills them to; something Kalian never wanted anyway. “I could sense you from the sky Evenal, hiding is beneath you so just come out and we can be on our way home.” Kalian was not in the mood and wanted to be back in heaven as fast as he could. He hated retrieval missions and would rather just erase targets and be done with it.
“I’m not going back Kal,” Eve said as she came out of the red structure.
“Well that’s a different look for you sister,” Kalian said almost laughing at her appearance. She was dressed in baggy jeans and a flannel shirt that seemed two sizes too big for her. Comical that she was taking a stand looking like this. “You’ve fallen Evenal; you don’t have much choice in the matter.”
“I go by Eve now, and I can still take you little Kal.”
Kalian’s blue eyes narrowed and he flushed in anger. He had always been the smallest angel, only standing four feet eleven inches. The other hunter angels always picked on him and pushed him around, yet he took it in stride, after all they were all Father’s children. “Eve is it? Ironic that you would choose her name, the traitor to the garden.”
Eve backed up into the barn, leading him after her and away from the house. It was a delaying tactic probably meant to spare the human that was helping hide her. “I don’t think Father saw it that way Kalian, after all he let them go and create humanity just as He planned right?” As Eve passed the stables of the horses she released the latch with a quick flick of her wrist and kept backing up, as the beasts plowed out and ran interference for her.
Kalian saw the panicked animals and stopped, knowing that they could inflict some damage if they were to turn their full attention on him. He may be an angel, but the body he was using could still be ruined and send him home prematurely. He watched her continue back and open the rear doors to the large coral, giving the horses somewhere to go away from him. A coral, how appropriate, he thought as he laughed at her planning. Now she is trapped just like the animals she has been grooming. “Nowhere to go now Eve,” he sneered as he pulled his slim sword out and held it in steady hands. “I didn’t want to use this, but you give me no choice.”
The horses fled out of the open doors and ran for the far corner of the field leaving Eve and Kalian to stare at each other. “Kal, you don’t have to do this…”
“Do you want me to disobey and fall from Grace as well?” he asked as he advanced upon her. He never received and answer as they closed and lunged at each other. They were both well trained, having millennia to study war and styles. Kalian had his sword, but Eve had size and reach to her advantage. Every time he thought he had her she got inside of his reach and he had to resort to close combat, blocking her attacks with his off hand and knees as she came at him like a savage. Even though she had lost her grace she could still fight and Kalian knew that he was in trouble unless he finished this quickly. As an angel he still had superior speed and strength, yet her skill surpassed his to his dismay; yet he was not without tricks. He deliberately left himself open and waited for her to strike, then when she lashed out with a kick, knocking him back several feet, he recovered and lunged with his slim sword impossibly fast and putting all his strength behind the blow. Just when he could see an end to the fight, his strike hit a brown blur which knocked him sideways with such force that he rolled for twenty feet before he could right himself. He could feel several things snap inside his chest and all he could hear was the whooshing of air and Evenal screaming.
Leaving ruin behind
Eve stroked Albert’s head as the horse lay there bleeding out. The slim sword had torn a huge gash in the animal’s side and there was nothing she could do without her powers. She felt totally useless for the first time in her very long existence. Whinny was neighing fitfully in the distance and Eve could completely understand the feeling. She had never felt this ache in her chest before and if these humans went through this for an animal, she could only imagine the weight of losing a loved one. She heard Kalian groan and roll to his knees and her eyes hardened as she stood and stalked towards him.
“It’s over Eve, just come home —” he started to say, then he staggered back as his left shoulder exploded in gore as the deafening roar of a shotgun echoed across the ranch.
“Kill my animal will you, you son of a bitch!” Margaret screamed as she cocked the gun again and took aim.
Eve saw Kalian unfold his wings and knew that the old woman was doomed. “Margaret look out!” she called, knowing the woman wouldn’t be able to see her target anymore. She ran forward to stop the hunter angel but Margaret fired first, aiming in the general direction of where she last saw him, scoring a lucky graze and spinning the angel around as charged her. Eve was on him then, punching and ramming his head into the dirt. In the end she ripped the sword out of his hand and ran him through, sending him back to heaven. She knelt panting, exhausted and covered in blood and mud when she realized Margaret had been quiet…too quiet.
She turned to the old woman who had clutched her chest and sat down in the dirt as well, smiling at the sky, her face a mask pain and fear. “Margaret!” Eve called out and scrambled to her side. “Hold on I’ll call Aleksandr and Simon, they’ll know what to do.”
The old woman’s face cleared then, as if she had seen something that even Eve couldn’t see. “It’s…it’s fine dear, I’ll be with my love soon and…and” with that she grimaced and collapsed, her eyes softening and the breath going out of her quietly as her heart stopped. Eve sat there and cried for awhile, until something nudged her from behind. It was Whinny and as she stood the horse ran off once more, running around the boundary of the fence that kept her in. Eve stood and looked around at the coral as the horse ran free…free yet contained for her own safety. Just like humanity, she thought, and I have to learn the boundaries of that fence I have to live in now.
Two hours later Eve was walking off down the road, a message left for Alek and Simon about their poor grandmother pinned to the fridge. She had called them and told them to hurry, but didn’t want to be here when they arrived. She had placed enough people in danger. It was a long walk to the city, but once there she needed to find someone, someone like her maybe, and try to blend in. First though she needed a shower and some clothes that fit.
He alighted down silently as the boys cried on the porch, his gorgeous two-tone white/brown wings out rustling as he stood. The archangel Gabriel had sensed the fight but it took him too long to get here. His long, dirty blond hair was covering his emerald green eyes as a tear fell down his own face. He had asked his brother Michael silently about Margaret and confirmed that she was indeed with her husband in heaven. He had feared that killing an angel had ruined her chances, but it seems that even Father was paying attention to the circumstances lately, even though some others had said that he had been absent of late.
“Whoever you are, thank you for coming,” Simon said, the dark skinned young man looking in his direction with unfocused eyes.
Gabriel sighed, forgetting that Simon Rand was a Seer of God and could sense things like him, even with his wings out. A sound caught his attention then and he flew off in the direction of the barn. He landed in the field as the white mare ran along the boundary of the fence, a familiar face watching the gorgeous animal. “Ariel, I’m surprised to see you here,” he said as he saw the archangel of nature sitting on the fence. She ran her fingers through her long brown hair, strands the color of the very earth they walked upon, She wore a green shawl and faded jeans with deep brown wings fanned out behind her.
“I felt that death more keenly than any other on this earth Gabriel,” she said, a deep sadness in her voice. “That Stallion sacrificed himself for something greater than either of us can comprehend I think.”
Gabriel walked over and hugged his sister, knowing that she felt these deaths keenly. “I know, and I think it’s time I asked our fallen brother for help.”
“Still protecting Evenal?”
“Everyone has heard.”
“Well then I guess it really is time to get some help.” He smiled as he flew off, knowing that this would divide heaven even further, yet in his heart he knew that he was right. Hang on Eve, help is coming.
Born in the usual way, author Michael D. Nadeau found fantasy at the age of 8 with Dungeons & Dragons. He loved being different people as well as casting magic and in time he discovered his love for reading. He has read hundreds of fantasy books, living in each of their worlds, and after awhile, he created his own. He is the author of the Lythinall series: The Darkness Returns book 1, The Darkness Within book 2 (June 2020) & The Darkness Falls (coming soon), and has several stories in Kyanite Press’s Journal of speculative fiction. His stories all connect and intertwine, but be careful, they don’t always let you leave after you read them.