Chapter 1It was a rough day, a really rough day. One of those days, when made men just drop into bed and fall asleep immediately. A day most people are already fed up by lunchtime and only strive to go home. To me, it was a day just like any other. I´ve had worse ones before but also many better ones. This day was still special, but I didn’t know it yet. I hadn't ‘t seen it coming; no one could have.
I was almost home in my small apartment in Camden - a beautiful district in London - and could finally get off the stuffy subway, that was simply too overcrowded for such an exceptionally hot summer day. The smell of sweat was omnipresent and mixed with the odor of the old masonry, turning into an undefinable combination. Here, you could observe people from all social classes: From briefcases carrying well-groomed men in suits to transvestites in colorful clothes to heavily pregnant women and punks in dirty and ragged clothes, holding the mandatory beer-bottle in hands. The subway reached my last stop and the doors opened. Without hesitation, a swarm of people stepped and pushed itself along the waiting passengers. I walked past the various people and went straight to the "Way Out" sign, past a street musician, who was trying to earn a few coins in the subway. I climbed the stairs and quickly paid my trip by card. Finally, I could get outside and breathe some fresh air. It only took five, maybe six minutes to walk from the subway station to my apartment. I enjoyed it as much as possible - the warm breeze blowing around my nose, the loud rock music that appeared to be coming from a crowd across the street and the seagulls, pouncing on the trash bags on the street. London how it lives and moves, nothing unusual but charming in my eyes.
My apartment was in the basement in a colorful painted side street of the High Street. I enjoyed the countless murals that appeared every now and then over-night on the walls and turned the city into a vivid and pretty place. Here, you could breathe life. The city was always noisy and full of impressions from all over the world. I felt comfortable and could easily switch off after a long working day. I was a gravedigger at the Highgate Cemetary. How I became a gravedigger? A long story. I was born in the northern part of Germany, raised by religious parents in a small village in the middle of nowhere. After finishing secondary school and with a lot of pressure from my parents, I completed my education as a male nurse with honors and worked in the same hospital for a couple of years. However, this was not the life I had intended. I just lived it for the sake of my parents. Initially, I wanted to become an artist or musician. Therefore, I played a lot of guitars, drew a lot and from time to time; I tried my luck as an actor. Yet, my only real part was for the annual theatre in my hometown, directed by the sport shooting club I was a member of. In general, a fairly normal life without any great ups and downs and any significant events. Deep inside of me, I wanted to leave this boredom and the small town I lived in - a whole eleven miles from where I grew up. During the week and often on the weekends, I did my job instead. On off days, I would party till the morning hours, probably to escape my dreary everyday life. I don’t know. Here, alcohol and drugs, or rather medicaments were following one another. During work and on the weekends, I was constantly high on something. Since they had given me the key to the medicine cabinet, either the hospital or the stoned boy next door was my dealer. There was not always something available, but I could manage. My physical appearance was in my opinion average and I definitely didn’t look like a model, but girls always took a liking to me. Why? I couldn’t even explain to myself. Still, me managing to find a girl, I was interested in for longer than one night, was extremely unusual. The few relationships I committed to usually failed for my imbalance or the continuously growing lack of interest in my girlfriends. None of them was able to deal with me longer than a couple of months and in hindsight, I can understand each and every one of them.
When once again, after just a couple of weeks, my relationship had hit rock bottom, that ultimately gave me a reason to move away from my hometown and find my luck somewhere else. I’ve had enough of Germany, wanted to gather new experiences and prove my English skills. I considered various places and finally decided for London. During the summer, the city was simply beautiful and in winter, it was still more pleasant than at home. Indeed, it did rain a lot, but I didn't mind. I preferred sunny days, but I couldn’t complain about rain either.
Again, I started to work as a male nurse in a hospital and realized quickly, that the medicine cabinets keeping the good stuff were apparently much more supervised than they were at home. After two weeks and two reminders - I lost my job. In order to afford an apartment and a living, I accepted the first position I could get. Since I didn’t want to live off my savings, therefore needed an employment urgently and - as it couldn´t get any worse in terms of disgust, after working in the hospital for years - I called the number of the next best job advert in the newspapers and became a gravedigger. Here, the people I had to deal with were at least not choleric and invidious. I didn’t have to clean up messes and I’ve had gotten used to death a long time ago. Disadvantages were the constantly dirty and rough hands and the strange co-workers, that I luckily saw little of during the day. Everyone had his own area, he was responsible for, where everybody worked alone. I either gardened the graveyard and the graves or I dug fresh ones. The money was good, probably because nobody else was interested my job. Well, I loved the peace. Nobody complained and if I wanted to, I could listen to music the entire day. On top of that, I also liked the countless angel statues, that were spread across the graveyard. Somehow, I felt comfortable when one of these stone figurines was close by. This was caused by my parents or at least to me; this was proven. They were relatively religious and I guess this had an impact on me. When I was a child, there were always angel sculptures placed around our house. We also went to church once a week; prayed before going to bed and even before dinner. When I got older and puberty kicked in, I often had arguments about this, especially with my mother. I started to revolt and wanted to do my own thing, away from the church. Just not being the way they were. In the meantime, I had reached my apartment and, on the staircase, leading down to my front door, I contemplated my day once again. Somehow, this was indeed a harder work day than usual, even though I only scooped out two small holes, right at the end. But it was those two, that made me struggle. The small graves are always the hardest to dig.
I had often experienced the death of children in the hospital, but I never managed to get used to it. As a gravedigger, things didn´t get any better - especially when my customer wasn´t even five years old. The worst part was to trench the holes right next to each other. They were probably twins, as there was only one mutual birthday written on their wooden cross. Sadly, the mutual day of death of Sarah and Alison Doe was also engraved. I didn’t know what had happened, but it must have been a tragedy in any case. I felt incredibly sorry for their family.
Such incidents just brought me even further away from the church. How could a, his own creation loving God let things like this happen? How could he allow the starving of billions or families being split apart, because of death and idiotic wars? To me, this wasn’t a loving and caring God. He was spiteful and cruel. This creature seemed to like watching people suffer. For what other reason would he, if he even existed, send an entire planet full of life slowly but steadily into their demise? My grandma often read the bible to me. The few passages I could remember told about suffering and pain only. I couldn’t understand any of this; perhaps I simply didn’t want to. It just didn’t make any sense to me. How could mankind blindly follow a book, written by people hundreds of years after those events actually took place? How could someone believe in something nobody could see, feel or touch? I rather believed in myself, even though that didn’t seem to work as great either. With this thought in mind, I put the key into the apartment door, turned it two times to the left and opened the door.
While entering my flat, an unusual scent reached my nostrils. The smell was familiar and yet so strange - a slight blend of incense and the scent of roses, covered every now and then by an absolutely disgusting stench. Usually, my apartment reeked rather like stale air and cigarette smoke. Since I was living in the basement, airing was unfortunately not effective, as there never was any decent draught. Now, the smell was very peculiar. I didn’t think much of it, however – how weird could it be, after all? It was probably just the landlord – maybe he had been in my flat for a moment, checking something. That was very likely the easiest explanation, even though it didn’t make any sense.
As calm as always, I took my shoes off, put my cap on the shoe rack next to the entrance and walked to the living room, that served as a passage room in my apartment. The scent kept getting stronger and seemed to come from either my bedroom or the bathroom, right next to it. First, I went to the bath to finally get rid of my contact lenses. In there, everything seemed to be as usual. Within just a few seconds, I had opened the lens box, freed my eyes from the contact lenses and filled up the containers with the solution. With a quick hand movement, I had my glasses on and was already back in the living room.
To figure out the scent´s origins, I carefully opened the bedroom door. With each inch, the scent got stronger. This could definitely not be from the landlord; he had probably not even been in my apartment. He also would have told me, if he had needed something.
Since the door opened towards the bed, I couldn’t see where the fragrant stench was coming from at first. Only when I stood with one foot in the room, I realized a huge cross with a human silhouette, hanging upside down right above my bed. Some parts were shining and glowing in a bright blue light. At this instant in the dark room, I couldn´t identify much, but at a first glimpse, it gave an impression of absolute perfection - it had to be a wooden figure, carved and painted by an artist. I frightened, stumbled backward out of the room and quickly pulled the door shut. Since the key stuck uncommonly on the outside, I locked the door and thought to myself while panicking: “What is going on? Did someone break in? Did I put the key there? What am I supposed to do? Call the police? Check what happened on my own?“ I could feel the adrenalin, rushing through my veins. At the same time, an important consideration came to my mind: “Is there somebody in my apartment?” Quick-thinking, I ran to the kitchen and grabbed the biggest knife I could find with my right hand and the meat hammer with my left. There I stood, my slippers on, armed and terrified. “What is happening? What is going on?“ Only these thoughts were pulsating through my head, again and again. Even through the closed bedroom door, the scent of incense and roses had now spread throughout the entire apartment - the disgusting stench was gone already.
For some inexplicable reason, the sweet smell had a calming effect and created an unreal feeling, unknown to me. On the one hand, thoughts were pounding through my head: " If there really is someone – will he attack? That must be a massive psychopath. He will certainly fight back!” On the other hand, I felt comfortable and protected. I couldn’t put it in order, didn’t know this feeling. To ask for help, I quickly ran to the living room, threw my knife down and reached for the telephone. I called the emergency hotline, but only got a monotonous sound in return: The line was dead. Then I remembered the yellow note I had found in my mailbox a couple of days ago. I had been informed, that they would change some cables and I would not have any stable internet or phone connection in the next few days. Just like life goes, this was the case today. “Did somebody know and made a plan, counting on this?“ I pushed the thought aside - I could think about this later. Instead, I reached for my mobile phone, lying next to the telephone. Without hesitation, I called 112 to get emergency service. "The number you are calling is not available at present.”, told me an electronic voice. I immediately got goosebumps. "What the hell is happening here?” Frantically, I retried the hotline, but got the same answer. “This can’t be true!“ I panicked and searched my contacts for the phone-number of my only buddy in London. While the connection was building up, I kept mumbling: "Tom, please pick up. Please, please pick up!“ - "The number you are calling is not available at present.“ - "Fuck!“ He probably had his mobile turned off, was at work or riding the subway. Clearly, I was on my own.
Since the stench had disappeared, the soothing odor got stronger. It was still not overpowering but pleasant instead. “What’s left to do now?”, I wondered. "Running out to the street and yelling for help? Definitely not!“ There was only one thing to do: Open the bedroom door, hope for the best and be prepared for the worst. I put my phone into my pocket, grabbed the knife and sneaked to my bedroom door.
While pulling on the handle, I carefully turned the key to the right, to make the least sound possible. After an almost inaudible “click”, the door was unlocked. Still, I cursed the muffled sound. But maybe I was lucky and the intruder hadn’t heard a thing. The bedroom was facing the street and London was as loud as usual on this afternoon. On the other hand, he might know I was about to enter the room. He could definitively not escape from the bedroom. The windows were way too small. I turned the doorknob, opened the door a few inches and kicked it in best action movie manner open. For all I knew, the intruder might be standing right behind it. The door swung fully open and rammed the knob into the wardrobe; I had built up right on the adjoining side. The scent of incense and roses overwhelmed me.
I peered through the gap between the door and the frame, but couldn’t identify anything unusual. As nobody was hiding in the small area, I took a step into the room. Crouching and with the utmost caution, I gazed along the front of the wardrobe. “There’s nobody!“, I whispered and further deliberated: “Either he’s in the wardrobe or lying between the bed and the wall, facing the street.” Momentarily, I felt even more adrenaline circulating through my veins and my pulse shooting up. I could feel the throbbing in my throat.
My huge sliding door cabinet was easily capable of hiding two people. They were probably necessary to move this man-sized wooden figure. However, the doors were heavy and could only be opened using force. From the inside and without a handle, it probably could only be opened slowly and with great effort. Confident and with a loud scream, I jumped to the center of the room, right in front of my bed. This way, I could check the gap between the bed and the wall. I held the knife firm and ready for piercing and swung the meat hammer above my head. In the corner of my eyes, behind the raised foot of my bed, I encountered two large white objects and a bright spot in the middle. In addition, I was finally able to recognize the carving better. It reminded me of a picture from a book I had discovered in my grandmother´s attic as a child. Countless years had passed since the last time I had seen the drawing, but I could remember the title as if it was yesterday: "St. Peter’s Cross". As I could not identify anyone between the bed and the wall and it was impossible to hide under one of the mattresses. There was not even enough room for a shoe box. So, I turned my back to the cross and checked the last possibility: the closet.
I started on the left side and took a deep breath. Without turning my gaze from the wardrobe, I put the hammer down at the flattened foot part of the bed and laid the knife in my left hand. Then I pushed the closet door a powerful jerk aside and took a small step backward. At the same time, I prepared for combat and released a fighting cry in the direction of the dresser. I held the knife with a firm grip and was ready to fight anything, that might come at me. After the door had burst against the other side of the cabinet, I quickly checked the contents. Nothing, except for a bit of linen. The smell of stale air was released into my face but disappeared within a few breaths - overpowered by the rose scent. So, I pushed the door back to its original position and checked the other side of the cabinet. First, I put the knife back into my right hand and grabbed the hammer with the left. My heart was pounding faster and faster. There were no other possibilities – the intruder had to be in this half of the wardrobe. The wildest thoughts went through my head while I inhaled and exhaled furiously: "Is this just a prank? Am I part of some sick TV show?” I positioned myself slightly to the right of the closet and pushed the door with my foot forcefully aside. With a loud scream and my weapons in combat position, I expected someone to jump at me. However, the sliding door crashed in the other side and the room went quiet again. Except for my clothes, there was nothing and nobody in the closet. My apartment was save and I took a deep breath. I inhaled the scent deeply and when I exhaled, I could feel a load being taken off my shoulders. Finally, I could inspect the cross and whatever was laying on the bed.
At first, I had problems to perceive the exact outlines in the not well-lit room. I shut my eyes halfway, blinked a couple of times and gave them more time to adjust. Then, I inhaled in shock, my heart skipped a beat and I jumped a step back. This was not a wooden figure! This was a beautiful woman in a white, sleeveless dress, hanging upside down from my wall!
Someone had crucified her with huge nails that had been driven through her floor-length dress and her feet. Her arms were spread out and fixed through her wrists using the same spikes. Her throat was cut open deeply and her torso was injured on the right side. Here, you could see a crack with a bluish colored edge in the dress and a bright blue shine coming from the wound beneath it. In order to support the body, two nails had been driven through the shoulders. These two protruded a bit out of the body, while the others were even aligned inside the skin. Those spikes, however, were not from the hardware store. They were handmade. I had seen a blacksmith craft similar ones on a medieval market a few years ago. This kind of thumb-thick steel spikes couldn´t be bought anywhere.
The beautiful face was distorted by symbols, scribed in both cheeks and the forehead. The deep blue eyes were wide open and stared into space. Her lips were crimson and shortly drew my attention to the small mouth. Scratched up to the bone, there was an upside-down cross on the forehead and someone had cut two symbols, I had never seen before, into the cheeks. These figures consisted of straight lines of different lengths. All of them cut together in one point. The wounds on her face did not bleed, but only radiated a bluish light. I had seen a lot in my career as a nurse, but here, I had to pull myself together to not black out. The shock stroke deep inside of me - I couldn´t explain why.
The huge wound on the neck was - from all injuries - the largest source of the blue light. The head probably hung only on the spine and supported itself on the wall - a few inches, from where my head had been resting the night before. In addition to the radiant light, a bluish fluid rinsed from the gaping wound. The liquid ran down her chin, past the mouth and across her face. From there, it poured its way across the temple and along the half-curled blond hair onto my pillow. My eyes followed the trickle to the middle of my bed, where a small puddle had formed. This also shone, but with far less radiance than the wound itself. On the right and left side of the puddle, two large objects were laid out. They looked like oversized wings and had some resemblances to those of birds, but were much more muscular. The feather structure was almost perfect and only a few of the snow-white feathers were missing. On the wings, you could recognize upper-arm-thick joints, probably used to move them and fly. Directly at the down-covered joint, you could be certain - those wings had been ripped from their former position. Torn muscles and tendons hung down. The stumps were smeared with the blue fluid. Even someone without a medical background could easily guarantee, that this was the result of raw violence. In spite of the brutality, the interplay of the blue light and the white wings - in contrast to my black linen - gave the impression of a piece of art. Out of nowhere and like an inspiration, a voice echoed through my mind: "Archangel Haniel is dead." Tears shot up my eyes, everything went black and I collapsed.
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