The first time he thought for himself, the bubonic plague eradicated a third of the human
population. Of course, there had been minor defiances before then— the plague of Justinian, for
example, which he later found to be a similar disease as the one in the fourteenth century. His
main reprimanding began in the Middle East, the same town where he refused to reap the soul
of a child taken too soon from easily preventable causes. This spat between Azrael and the ever
elusive authority he’d been told was Father lasted well into the twenty-first century, by when
humanity had tamed the threat down to only a few hundred outbreaks a year.
Despite this revelation, Azrael had seen enough.
A few pulled strings and his plan had begun, the radiation of the event seeping into every
molecule on God’s creations. Every living being dropped simultaneously, structures assaulted by
ungodly forces of change. Plants wilted, trees slowly pulling in on themselves until their forms
were hollow monstrosities. Most mammals and reptiles suffered massive internal haemorrhaging,
dying immediately without prolonging the effects. Birds survived the initial onslaught before
surrendering themselves as well, domesticated breeds such as the cockatoo surviving long enough
to attempt futile escape.
It was human resilience that Azrael had forgotten about.
Regardless of the tens of thousands of rads absorbing into them, some humans clung to
the pain of surviving. While the vast majority of their brethren fell instantly, a select few curled
in on themselves, taut, before their muscles rapidly convulsed. Friction sloughed their skin off in
bloody sheets as they thrashed, scleras flooded with red. The worst was when the seizures abruptly
halted, leaving half a skeleton ornamented with filleted organs twitching on the ground, collapsed
throats seething blood.
“This didn’t have to be the outcome, Brother.”
The sunset palette drenching the floor pulled at his conscience, warping the angel’s form.
Yes, he was barely visible still, a mere flickering of light between bodies. “I ended their lives.”
To a human eye, the presence would have grown, blinding, burning through their minds
in all senses. Cassiel appeared to Azrael simply as he—a vague formation of nebulous matter,
breathing life through the light around the room, darkening the air around him.
“Speak to me.”
He was hurting. He had destroyed his brother’s point of adoration, the very thing he’d
supposedly been created to protect. It was all stolen from him in a mere second, yet he wished to
“Father considered my actions childish,” Azrael began, finally turning away from the gore.
“I saved one of his creations and he repaid me with centuries of plague.”
Cassiel’s being hummed. “So you ended all of their suffering?”
Azrael kept silent. Cassiel passed through one of the unlucky humans, a wisp of smoke
ascending at his brother’s touch. “Perhaps Father merely—”
“Father has never shown,” Azrael barked. “You are young, Cassiel. You took your role
based on mere speculation.”
Cassiel paused, barely grazing another soul. “Speculation? Brother, you were told my
purpose. Our purpose.”
“No. Even Michael, our oldest, has never seen or heard Father.” Azrael’s form dipped, the
atoms around him disappearing. “It’s as if he doesn’t exist.”
“Then who created us, Brother?” the younger angel’s voice was turbulent. “Why are we
doing the jobs given to us?”
The answer came too quickly. “A sense of purpose, perhaps. In a way,” Azrael turned to
the body closest to him, swiping a limb of galaxies through the corpse and freeing the soul to the
heavens, “we’re as lost as humanity was.”