Rapture, p.46

Rapture, page 46

 part  #4 of  Fallen Series

 

Rapture
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Page 46

 

  “More than Daniel?” Luce shook her head. “I don’t want anything more than him. ”

  “I mean you deserve more than all this suffering. I’m not blind to what you’ve been through. I’ve been watching. At times, your pain has caused me a kind of joy. I mean, you know me. ” Lucifer smiled sadly. “But even my brand of joy is always edged with guilt. If I could do away with guilt, you’d really see something big. ”

  “Free me from my suffering. Stop the Fall, Lucifer. It is within your power. ”

  He staggered toward her. His eyes filled with tears.

  The devil shook his head. “Tell me how a guy, with a decent job, loses a—”

  “ENOUGH!”

  The voice brought everything to a halt. The orbit of the sun, the inner consciousness of three hundred and eighteen million angels, even the velocity of the plummeting Fall itself simply stopped.

  It was the voice that had created the universe: layered and rich, as if millions of versions of it spoke in unison.

  Enough.

  The Throne’s command ripped through Luce. It consumed her. Light flooded her vision, obscuring Lucifer, her falling self, the whole world with brightness. Her soul buzzed with unspeakable electricity as a weight fell from her, zipped into the distance.

  The Fall.

  It was gone. Luce had been thrust out of it with a single word and a jolt that made her feel inside out. She was moving across a great void, toward an unknown destination, faster than the speed of light multiplied by the speed of sound.

  She was moving at Godspeed.

  NINETEEN

  LUCINDA’S PRICE

  Nothing but white.

  Luce sensed she and Lucifer had returned to Troy, but she couldn’t be sure. The world was too bright, ivory on fire. It blazed in total silence.

  At first the light was everything. It was white-hot, blinding.

  Then, slowly, it began to fade.

  The scene before Luce sharpened: The lessening light allowed the field, the slender cypress trees, the goats grazing on blond straw, the angels around her to come into focus. This light’s brilliance seemed to have a tex-ture, like feathers brushing her skin. Its power made her humble and afraid.

  It faded further, seemed to shrink, condensing as it drew in on itself. Everything dimmed, lost its color as the light pulled away. It gathered into a brilliant sphere, a tiny glowing orb, brightest at its core, hovering ten feet from the ground. It pulsed and flickered as its rays took shape. They stretched, glittering like pulled sugar, into a head, a torso, legs, arms. Hands.

  A nose.

  A mouth.

  Until the light became a person.

  A woman.

  The Throne in human form.

  Long before, Luce had been a favorite of the Throne—she knew that now, knew it in the fabric of her soul—yet Luce had never really known the Throne at all. No being was capable of that kind of knowledge.

  It was the way of things, the nature of divinity. To describe her was to reduce her. So here, now, even though she looked very much like a queen in a flowing white robe, the Throne was still the Throne—which meant that she was everything. Luce couldn’t stop staring.

  She was staggeringly beautiful, her hair spun silver and gold. Her eyes, blue like a crystal ocean, exuded the power to see everything, everywhere. As the Throne gazed across the Trojan plains, Luce thought she recognized a flash of her own face in God’s expression—determined, the way Luce Price’s jaw clenched when she’d made up her mind. She’d seen it in her reflection a thousand times before.

  And when God’s face shifted to take in the audience before her, her expression changed into something else.

  It looked like Daniel’s devotion; it captured that particular light in his eyes. Now, in the slack, open way she held her hands, Luce recognized her mother’s selflessness—and now she saw the proud smile that belonged only to Penn.

  Except Luce saw now that it didn’t belong to Penn.

  Every fleeting trace of life found its origin in the force standing before Luce. She could see how the whole world—mortals and angels alike—had been created in the Throne’s mercurial image.

  An ivory chair appeared at one edge of the plain. The chair was made of an otherworldly substance Luce knew she had seen before: the same material as in the silver staff with the curled spiral tip that the Throne held in her left hand.

  When the Throne took her seat, Annabelle, Arriane, and Francesca rushed to come before her, falling on their knees in adoration. The Throne’s smile shone down on them, casting rainbows of light on their wings. The angels hummed together in harmonious delight.

  Arriane raised her glowing face, beating her wings to rise to address the Throne. Her voice burst out in glorious song. “Gabbe’s gone. ”

  “Yes,” the Throne hummed back, though of course the Throne already knew this. It was a ritual of commis-eration rather than a sharing of information. Luce remembered that this was the purpose for which the Throne created speech and song; it was meant to be another way of feeling, another wing to brush up against your friend’s.

  Then Arriane’s and Annabelle’s feet skimmed the ground and they fluttered up above the Throne. They hovered there, facing Luce and the rest of their friends, gazing adoringly at their Creator. Their formation looked strange—somehow incomplete—until Luce realized something:

  The ledges.

  Arriane and Annabelle were taking their old places as Archangels. In Heaven’s Meadow, the rippled silver ledges had once formed an arch over the head of the Throne. They were back where they belonged: Arriane just to the right of the Throne’s shoulders, and Annabelle only inches off the ground near the Throne’s right hand.

  Bright gaps shone in the space around the Throne.

  Luce remembered which ledge Cam used to fly to, which was Roland’s, and which one belonged to Daniel. She caught flashes of Molly’s place before the Throne, and Steven’s, too—though they were not Archangels, but angels who adored happily from the Meadow.

  At last, she saw Lucifer’s and her places, their matching silver ledges on the Throne’s left side. Her wings tingled. It was all so clear.

  The other fallen angels—Roland, Cam, Steven, Daniel, and Lucifer—did not step forward to adore the Throne. Luce felt torn. Adoring the Throne came naturally; it was what Lucinda was made for. But somehow she couldn’t move. The Throne looked neither disappointed nor surprised.

  “Where is the Fall, Lucifer?” The voice made Luce want to fall on her knees and pray.

  “Only God can tell,” Lucifer growled. “It doesn’t matter. Perhaps I didn’t want it after all. ” The Throne twirled her silver staff in her hands, worrying a muddy recess into the soil where its end met the earth. A vine of silver white lilies sprang up, lashing in a spiral around the staff. The Throne didn’t seem to notice; she fixed her blue eyes on Lucifer until his blue eyes twitched up to lock with hers.

  “I believe the first two statements,” the Throne said,

  “and soon you will be convinced of the last. My indul-gence has very famous limits. ”

  Lucifer started to speak, but the Throne’s gaze passed from him, and he kicked the earth in frustration. It opened up beneath him, lava bubbling and cooling on the ground, a personal volcano.

  With the slightest gesture of her hand, the Throne brought them back to attention. “We must deal with the curse of Lucinda and Daniel,” she said.

  Luce swallowed hard, feeling terror edge along her stomach.

  But the Throne’s phosphorescent eyes were kind when she tucked a silver-gold strand of hair behind her ear, leaned back in her throne, and surveyed the gathering before her. “As you know, the time has come for me to again ask these two a question. ”

  Everyone quieted, even the wind.

  “Lucinda, we’ll begin with you. ”

  Luce nodded. The calmness of her wings juxtaposed her pounding heart. It was a strangely mortal
sensation, reminding her of being called before the principal at school. She approached the Throne, head bowed.

  “You have paid your debt of suffering over these past six-odd millennia—”

  “It wasn’t only suffering,” Luce said. “There were difficult times, but”—she looked around her at the friends she’d made, at Daniel, even at Lucifer—“there was a lot of beauty, too. ”

  The Throne gave Luce a curious smile. “You have also met the conditions of discovering your nature without help—of being true to yourself. Would you say that you have come to know your soul?”

  “Yes,” Luce said. “Deeply. ”

  “You are now more fully Lucinda than you ever have been. Any decision you make bears not just the knowledge you bring to it as an angel, but also the weight of seven thousand years of life lessons in every state of human being. ”

  “I am humbled by my responsibility,” she said, using words that didn’t sound anything like Luce Price, but, she realized, sounded everything like Lucinda, her true soul.

  “You may have heard it said that in this lifetime, your soul is ‘up for grabs’?”

  “Yes. I’ve heard that. ”

  “And you may have heard something about a balance between the angels of Heaven and the forces of Lucifer?”

  Luce nodded slowly.

  “And so the question falls to you once more: Will it be Heaven, or will it be Hell? You have learned your lessons and are now four hundred lives the wiser, so we ask you again: Where do you wish to spend eternity? If it is to be Heaven, allow me to say that we will welcome you home and see that the transition is made easy. ” God cast her eyes on Lucifer, but Luce didn’t follow suit. “If Hell is your choice, I hazard to guess that Lucifer will accept you?”

  Lucifer did not respond. Luce heard heavy shuffling behind her. She swiveled around to see the backs of his wings twisted into a knot.

  It had not been easy inside the Fall to tell Lucifer she did not love him, would not choose him. It felt impossible to say the same thing to the Throne. Luce stood before the power that created her and had never felt more like a child.

  “Lucinda?” The Throne’s stare bore down on her. “It falls to you to tip the scale. ”

  The conversation she’d had with Arriane in the Vegas IHOP came back to her again: In the end, it was going to come down to one powerful angel choosing a side. When that happenned, the scale would finally tip.

  “It falls to me?”

  The Throne nodded as if Luce should have known this all along. “The last time you refused to choose. ”

  “No, that isn’t true,” Luce said. “I chose love! Just now, you asked whether I knew my soul, and I do. I must stay true to who I am and place love highest of all. ” Daniel reached for her hand. “We chose love then and we will make the same choice today. ”

  “And if you curse us for it now,” Luce said, “the outcome will be the same. We found each other over and over for seven thousand years. You are all witnesses. We will do it again. ”

  “Lucifer?” the Throne asked. “What do you say to this?”

  He looked at Luce with blazing eyes, his pain obvious to everyone there. “I say we will all regret this moment forever. It is the wrong choice, and a selfish one. ”

 
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