Miss Fitsimmons smiled at Jack as he walked into the library, “Hello there Jack, I haven’t seen you in a few weeks. You’re looking well, how are things?”
Jack gave her a wide smile. “Things are great. I just wanted to get a little time to myself.”
“I’ve seen you surrounded by friends.” She said, “I’m glad things are finally turning around for you.”
“I never thought they’d be more annoying as friends than when they were hassling me.” He said, “But turns out even friendly people can get on your nerves when they won’t leave you alone.”
“True, well go ahead and find respite in the stacks.” She said, “I won’t bother you, dear.”
“You know, somehow I feel lonelier now than I did before.” Jack shrugged, and walked back into the tall bookshelves.
‘How can you feel alone?’ Lorethla asked, ‘I am with you always.’
“Sure, but I can’t see you or touch you anymore.” He said bitterly, “I know those people don’t actually like me. They’re just doing what I say. You’re the only one who really likes me and I can’t even hold your hand.”
“You mortals are so tied to this place.” She said, “There is so much more beyond the prison of your meat body. The things I could show you if you were to give it up.”
Jack shivered. Her voice was full of terrible hunger and desire that made his pulse race. He couldn’t imagine what could engender such an emotion. He wasn’t sure he wanted to.
The smell of old books was familiar and comforting. Jack drew in a deep breath through his nose and caught another scent; something like iron filings or rust. It instilled a primal fear that seemed ingrained in his very bones.
‘Jack! Run!’ Lorethla all but shouted in his mind.
He responded without thinking about it; sprinting toward the emergency exit at the back of the library. Something was coming, and it smelled like old blood. The fire alarm started screaming when he slammed the door open and pelted out into the snow-covered parking lot, but Jack didn’t stop running.
The sounds of the city ceased and their absence made his heart sound like rolling thunder. The gently drifting snowflakes stopped in midair all around him and Jack looked wildly around, nearly tripping over his own feet. A figure floated behind him on huge white wings
“Jackson Alden Jones.” The angel said, “You have allowed one of the Ones Below to corrupt your soul. You have brought it into the World Between and used the power it has granted for your own selfish ends.”
He tried to run faster, to escape into a small copse of trees, but when he was crossing the street, pain exploded in his back. Jack stumbled and his voice joined Loethla’s in a scream of agony. The angel floated in front of him, his beautiful face smiling down. Blood coated each of his index fingers.
“Now you face judgment.” The angel spread his arms and more pain wracked Jack’s body as blood was torn from the two wounds on his back.
Jack’s body landed in the middle of the street, the bloody wings falling around him to paint the snow red in the precise shape of wings.