I must be careful about how I approach this next step. The dear one inside is scared and has been misled. I close my eyes, and all I can see is Hyp’s smug, smiling face. I want to punch it, but I push both that urge and the image from my mind. I clear my throat and gather my will, taking on her father’s likeness. When I speak, it is with his voice.
“Abby! Abby, come here, baby. Come here to me,” I tell her, opening my arms to embrace her.
I am riding high on the hopes that this minor deception will work and coax her out. Her blue eye appears from around the drum. It squints and glares at me. My hopes are dashed like the items that wash up on the shores of the Styx. She is a sharp little thing and very observant.
“Liar! You’re not my daddy. You sent my daddy to Hell, remember?” she says as she pulls back behind the drum.
I stand in front of the garage in my true form, the illusion broken. I could command her to come out, or I could call her soul to me. But I am hesitant to do so. She is already afraid, and to force her would frighten her more. I must think my way out of this box she has put me in, that her Reverend Tim has put me in. I can’t wait till the day I reap him. I will gladly give him a personal tour of the Underworld. One that he may or may not come back from.
“I can bring your father and mother back. I know they want to see you, dear one, make sure you are safe and hold you in their arms. Would you like that?” I say, slowly approaching the building.
“You…you stay away from me!” she screams and recedes further into the garage.
I enter as the back exit door is flung open, and a little specter in yellow darts out and down an alleyway. I growl and kick the yellow drum hard enough to leave a sizable dent. I dash out the back door in pursuit of this young soul. The merry chase has begun, and I am not ready for it.
She screams at the top of her lungs, shaking windows in their panes as she passes by. I chase after her, calling out her name, almost begging her to come back to me. I don’t sound like myself, the panicked shrillness of my voice is something new, but I can’t let her get away. I grit my teeth as she makes it to the corner of the street and bounds across in a few steps. It always amazes me how quickly children adapt to their ghostly forms. I unfurl my wings and take flight over the street to land directly in front of her. Her blue eyes light up in awe and wonder as she back peddles away from me.
“No! Dear one!” I call out to her.
She takes to her heels and bolts, once again screaming. This merry chase will be one for the books when it concludes. I tear after her in full flight, flapping my wings hard and fast as I pursue my young ward. For a moment, she appears to be blue, and the whole world fills with an azure haze. I blink quickly, and my sight clears.
As she runs down the street screaming, her frantic energy disrupts everything in its path. The force of it displaces people and items alike, shattering windows in her wake. I fly heedlessly after her, never minding that I also am upsetting things and people with my flight. They fall under my shadow, some mortals passing out.
“Help! Help! Help!” she yells at the top of her tiny lungs, making her mad dash through the city.
This attempt to escape me is futile, and there are days I wish mortals understood this, but then there would be no merry chase. I land ahead of her, hoping to cut her off as she runs head on towards me. I open my arms to catch and pull my young ward into me, but she slides between my open legs like a baseball player sliding into home base, and continues her mad sprint. I scream out my frustration, blowing out car windows and setting off their alarms. I turn and chase the dear one.
“Abigail! Abigail! No, please come back! I am sorry! I am so, so sorry! Come back!” I yell after her as I run.
I scream how sorry I am as I chase her. She turns the corner and wiggles through a fence, disappearing into a structure, a warehouse, or factory—it doesn’t matter to me at the moment. Only one thing matters as my shrieks of apologies trail after her, and she calls out for angels to save her, for saints to come. But they aren’t coming. There is only me. The only thing that matters is that I have to make this right. If I can just bring this soul peace, maybe I can find absolution.
I barge in after her, but she has disappeared, already having found a hiding spot. I am panting, exhausted and overwhelmed by emotions I have spent weeks denying. But they overtake me, and the first black tears blur my vision and fall. I sink to my knees, my breath hitching in my chest, and I allow myself to sob freely.
I do not cover my face. My tears are for them. I grieve for them. I mourn for them. The remorse I feel is like a weight that would pull a mortal soul to the very depths of Tartarus. I sob my apology.
“I am…I..am…s…o.s..o.. sor…ry… dear…one,” I stammer out through shaky breaths.
My body trembles as I weep for the dead. I finally close my eyes to clear the watery images of the world from my sight. I feel a small hand tentatively reach out and pull back my hood. I open wet eyes and look directly into Abigail’s. She offers me a tiny half-smile. I suck in the snot and try to smile back as I give a small exhale.
“Nothing evil can cry like that. Demons don’t cry,” she says matter-of-factly.
“I am neither, dear one,” I tell her.
“You have wings, are you an angel?” she asks.
“I am a god, and yes, I do have wings. Would you like to touch them? They are very soft,” I say.
Her eyes light up, a wide smile appearing on her face. She nods her head emphatically, and I open and extend my wings to their full length. She slowly reaches out and gingerly touches them. She giggles and strokes them as she realizes how soft they are. I relax, all the tears done and past now. The laughter and that smile on her face lightens my heart and cures my mood. I find myself laughing with her.
“They are so beautiful. I wish I had a pair,” she says, still running her fingers over the feathers.
“Well, there is an island off the coast of Elysium, or what you call Heaven, named the Isle of Children. A shop there makes wings for any who want them. The children climb to the highest point, leap off, and soar. I know, because there is a bench where I sit, eat my lunch and watch them fly,” I say.
The excitement on her face at this news is a bright spot of my day, and I will carry it with me always. She claps her little hands together and almost bounces in place.
“Can I have them black like yours?!” she exclaims.
“They will make them any color you desire, dear one,” I tell her.
“And Mommy and Daddy?” she asks, taking a tiny step back.
“They can watch you soar every day until your young soul is reborn,” I tell her.
She nods, and I offer her my hand. She takes it, smiling up at me. I close my hand around her much smaller one and squeeze it, smiling. Her grin gets bigger, and she squeezes back. We both let out a laugh.
“Come now, Elysium awaits! As do your parents,” I say, leading her out of the building.
As we exit, the sun is setting, and that seems fitting. Hand in hand, we walk off into the sunset together and into her afterlife.