(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Cody was written by Pen Gryphon.)
The Half Calf was an unassuming, quaint little coffee shop that sat at the corner of two not-very busy streets. Inside, the cream-and-mocha color scheme seemed to give the place a calm and soothing feel, helped no less by the warm sweet smell of coffee. Booths lined three of the windowed walls, while the coffee bar lined the fourth, opposite the door. A few tables with chairs dotted the open floor space leading to the register. The few people who were present spoke in low tones together, while in one of the corner booths, a man in his early twenties, sat by himself.
His mop of dark brown hair had been combed recently, and his brown eyes warily surveyed the room. His black motorcycle jacket had seen better days, worn and scuffed with a few holes, and billowed at his waist—hiding his precious revolvers from view. His camouflage cargo pants tucked into his boots were likewise worn, and the pockets full of various items. Beyond that, Cody Wesson smelled like motorcycle exhaust and coffee, though the latter was becoming stronger with each swallow. Perhaps less noticeable was the semi-transparent figure of an armored angel with six-wings which hovered just beyond the window near the blue-black motorcycle parked outside. When the bell above the door ringed, indicating a new customer, Cody looked up expectantly. He was waiting for a visitor—something he rarely did, and only if he felt he wasn’t being led in to a trap, which was always a possibility given that he was a wanted terrorist.
Kelly came into the coffee shop, swept her gaze around, saw Cody watching her, and she smiled at him before going to the counter to order a drink. Once she received it, she approached Cody. “Hi, I’m Kelly Blanchard. I believe you’re waiting for me. May I sit?” She motioned to the chair across from him.
Cody gestured at the chair. “Of course.” His eyes glanced out the window briefly, as if checking that no one had followed her, before relaxing an iota. He cupped his hands around the mug. His tone was curious though wary when he asked: “I have to admit, I was caught off guard when I heard someone wanted to ask me some questions. Did you have a safe trip here at least? No run-ins with the overprotective police?”
Kelly smiled at his concern as she sat. “None at all. Thank you though.” She then sat back and observed him. He was a fighter—she could tell that by his body language—and he seemed on edge, which she could understand. She wanted to know how he got to this point but first she had to earn his trust. “So, what’s up with the overprotective police anyway?”
Cody sipped his coffee, taking his time to consider his thoughts. He might have earned the reputation of being trigger-happy, but he wasn’t one to go to his guns unless he was actively threatened. A frown creased his face. “They weren’t always overprotective, but someone seemed to have told them that anyone who disagrees with them is a terrorist. Terrorist is someone who incites fear, and so the police have twisted the word to mean us—people like me and what we stand for—to make the civilians afraid of us. Thus making us terrorists—if that makes sense?” He glanced at her, his brown eyes intense, but searching for understanding.
She nodded. “Yeah, and that’s frustrating and unfair.” She shook her head as she sighed, just imagining it. Then she locked eyes with Cody once more. “What is it that you stand for then?”
A flicker of a smile crossed Cody’s face. “There’s this document called the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The Constitution in short tells us that “We the People of the United States in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.’ The Bill of Rights of course is what gave us the right to freedom of speech, right to bear arms–now illegal–and the right to a fair and speedy trial—which is a joke nowadays. So I suppose you could say we stand for the Constitution and the Rights it provided us before they were voted away.”
Kelly nodded. It sounded a lot like what was happening back in her own world. She crossed an arm over her body and shifted in her seat to get comfortable, and then she once more fixed gazes with Cody. “And how did you get to where you are now? Did you grow up with all this conflict, or is it something that’s happened in your own lifetime?”
A host of emotions played across Cody’s face: pain and regret mostly. “Most of it had already happened by my time. I didn’t find out until I was fifteen or so that my parents were witnesses to the whole thing. They fought to keep it from happening but failed.” He looked down at his coffee mug for a moment, turning it in place. “When I learned of my past and realized that my natural inclinations weren’t something terrible to be ashamed of, I wanted to do everything I could to bring back the Constitution and our freedoms. It was a tough patch though. What we have now, going on, though, is just a tightening of the reins. Kind of like when you have a fractious horse–you want to rein him in, but that just makes him more fractious. That’s basically what’s going on now.” He frowned again into his cup. “It’s a bad cycle to be caught up in.”
“Sounds like it.” She nodded but frowned as she contemplated her next questions–deciding to take a different approach than normal. “Tell me about your family. Do you have any siblings?”
Cody leaned back in his seat, gazing at Kelly. He’d already taken her measure while she was waiting for her drink, and he was feeling generous enough to open up. “I was raised in a foster home with two agents for parents. My earlier memory goes back to being six and witnessing my real parents’ execution at the hands of the agents for being terrorists. My foster parents were…decent, I guess. I was an only child either way. Guess I was too much trouble to have a sibling.” He cracked a grin. “For the most part I went to school, made a good friend who’s stuck by me through thick and thin, and tried to avoid getting into trouble. Well,” he grinned, his brown eyes lighting up with mischief, “assuming you overlooked my stash of hoarded illegal toys.” He sighed wistfully. “Bows and arrows, toy pop guns, army knives…I had it all. Before my foster parents found it…That…that was not a good day.” His tone belied the understatement.
“I’m sorry.” But Kelly was grateful he trusted her so far. “And what set you on the path that you’re on today? You said you didn’t realize the truth until you were fifteen or so?” She furrowed her brows as she watched him. “What happened?”
Cody took another sip of his coffee, a small smile replacing his seriousness. “Fate found me, I suppose you could say. A mysterious package containing a pocket knife with my parents’ names on it showed up with a message to meet the deliverer. Since it was hand-delivered—there’s no way something like that would get through the screening process—I had to find out. And I met Sam Colt, then the leader of the group I’m in charge of now, who introduced me to my current way of life.” He sipped his coffee again. “It wasn’t easy. He worked me hard, had me memorize lots of information including the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence–had to know your history if you wanted to know your future, he said—and then he taught me how to shoot. Of course it was shortly after I met with him that my parents found my stash and…well, I had to run out and he took pity on me and took me in.” He shrugged. “That’s pretty much where I learned what family is about.”
“Interesting.” She tilted her head as she regarded him. “And I understand you’re seeing…apparitions or so?” She watched his body language closely, wondering how he’ll respond.
Cody had juuuust been relaxing enough into the interview to be enjoying it until this question popped up. It was as if he’d been surprised by a squad of agents. He froze, panic and fear flashing across his face, his hands clutching the mug tightly. It was probably good he didn’t have one of those styrofoam ones, or he’d have squashed it. Instead the heat against his palms broke through his surprise and he wiped his palms against his cargo pants. “Ah…” he could lie his way out on this one, or he could test her. He raised his eyes again, testing her with an even tone. “What is your experience with hallucinations?”
She had surprised him, and the mere mention of the visions disturbed him. Kelly took note of this but had to smile at his question. “You’re talking to someone who has an overactive imagination and routinely converses with people who aren’t ‘real’.” She bracketed that last word with air quotations because all her characters insisted they were real. “However, what’s your experience? What are you seeing? Maybe I can help.” She shrugged.
Cody was quiet a moment, sizing her up. She didn’t look like she was trying to pull anything over on him at least. He nodded and the haunted expression crept back over his face a little. “Mostly it’s the nightmares—being attacked at night by black creatures that have no souls.” He shuddered. “But waking is almost worse, because there is something that follows me.” He fell silent for a moment, his gaze drifting out the window briefly to the motorcycle outside and the semi-transparent angel standing beside it. “I suppose it’s an angel, but it has too many wings than I’m familiar with, and it’s terrifying when it swings its sword. I don’t handle things that I can’t shoot or physically harm…and I have no way of dealing with this thing since it doesn’t really—er, I don’t really—try to communicate with it.” He rubbed the back of his neck, glancing back at Kelly. “It’s persistent, but it’s saved my life so…it’s hard for me to work out. Impossible more like. I just try to ignore it, usually.”
“Too many wings? How many? Because the angels with just two wings that most people are familiar with isn’t reality. Usually they have six wings. I don’t remember what they’re supposed to do with all those wings, but it’s like, two to cover their eyes, two to cover their feet, and two to fly? I don’t remember. It’s been a while since I read that part of the Bible, although I think it’s in Revelation.” Kelly shrugged, talking as if this was all perfectly normal to her. “So, you basically have a guardian angel watching out for you. You said you don’t try to communicate with it, but can it communicate with you?” She raised her brows.
Cody stared at her. Was she affirming his hallucination? That would be a first. He nodded dumbly for a minute. “I’ve not read the Bible, to be honest, never had time between driving for my life and staying low, but…maybe I should. As for how they fly…they just do. All six wings in tandem, but they don’t really adhere to the physical realm. I could shoot them all day long, it won’t make a difference but to waste my ammo. They walk through walls—“ he shuddered “—and nothing seems to keep them out for long. This so-called guardian angel calls itself Legion, and basically told me that it’s here to keep me from being possessed by one of the fallen angels.” His hand curled into a fist as he smacked it down on the table. “How the hell am I supposed to combat something like that? Shoot it full of holes, I get that. But…how do you kill something that doesn’t die?!” Clearly his frustration had been pent up too long, because he coughed and looked slightly ashamed of his outburst. “…sorry. It’s just…it haunts me.”
“It’s okay.” She gave him a reassuring smile. “I honestly don’t think you need to worry about the fallen angel. If Legion says he’s here to protect you, then he’s more than equip to do so. It’s exactly because you can’t kill the angels that he’s been sent to protect you because he can fight them.” She then leaned forward, set her elbow on the table and planted her chin in her palm in a thoughtful pose as she stared up at the ceiling thinking. “It actually makes a lot of sense if you think about it.” She glanced back down at Cody. “My only question is why are they here, and why now? Did Legion ever say anything about that?”
Cody calmed with another couple sips of coffee—funny how caffeine worked sometimes—considering Kelly’s words. It actually did make sense, much as he didn’t want to admit it. He scowled, knowing he’d have to come to terms with it one day—probably sooner than later. Fate was funny like that. “Apparently,” his voice went sour with sarcasm, “they were here all along. Just that as time went on, people began to lose their ability to see them. The Legion,” he gestured at the window, forgetting that he wasn’t supposed to be acknowledging it, “claims it isn’t supposed to interfere in mortal affairs. It only interferes where the Fallen are concerned. Also, it seems to have some beef with the fallen angel possessing the commander of the anti-terrorist forces.” He glanced up at Kelly. “Apparently history you know nothing about can still kill you. And I’d rather die than be possessed.” He shuddered.
“That does sound dreadful.” Kelly gave a grave nod. “So, I’m assuming Legion isn’t alone facing these fallen angels, right? I mean, his name alone speaks of thousands. Do you only see him, or have you seen others too?”
Cody’s face went pale.”I’ve only ever seen him. Good God, I don’t even want to consider what seeing a thousand of him would be like. Terrifying. Horrifying.” He buried his head in his hands for a moment, before speaking slightly muffed, “Well, I did run into a girl once who had something similar—didn’t have the sword—but I wasn’t exactly keen to ask her about it. Other than that one, I haven’t seen—or looked for—any others.”
Kelly arched a brow. “Are you willing to consider he’s real? And that he’s here to help and protect you? I really don’t think he’s here to hurt you. If he was, you and I wouldn’t be having this conversation most likely.”
Cody glanced back up at Kelly, his face slightly mystified. “I know he’s not really here to hurt me, but…to consider he’s real means considering those other things are real and…” he let out a groan. “I don’t know if I’m ready to do that yet.”
“Yes, it’s a lot to take in, but…the good news is though, you’re not alone. Those nightmares you described, Legion can see those and fight in them. He’s fighting for you even if you don’t acknowledge that. There is a spiritual warfare going on.” Kelly gestured to their surroundings “Most people are oblivious to it, and that is both good and bad. Good in a way that we don’t have to face those horrors, but bad because we forget it’s real.” She returned her gaze to him. “When did Legion begin appearing to you?”
Cody was rapidly catching onto what Kelly was saying as he started applying what she was saying to what he had been believing and doing so far. He had Sam Colt to thank for that. He licked his lips briefly, the mug of coffee all but forgotten now. “When? Um…” he searched his mind. “I think it’s always been present—I remember seeing something when I was little…five or six…but never thought anything of it.” He inhaled sharply as another more vibrant image caught his attention. “At my parents’ execution,” he breathed. “And then…I was on meds for a while until I stopped around 15. So off and on since I was around five years old, but I have a feeling he’s been around a lot longer than that.” Slowly, almost painfully, he added: “Just because I couldn’t see him, doesn’t mean he wasn’t watching me.”
“That’s usually the case.” Kelly nodded. “I’m sure you’re familiar with the term ‘guardian angel’, and I think everyone has one—just usually they can’t see theirs, so the fact that Legion is visible to you as well as can communicate with you is unique.” She looked over her shoulder in the direction where Cody kept looking, but she didn’t see anything. She sensed though Legion was there, so she turned her gaze back at Cody. “I bet he can hear us now.” She had to chuckle. “Why don’t you try asking him something? If you’re worried this is a hallucinations, I can pull you out of it before you go too far. Unless you prefer not to try right now, which is perfectly understandable.”
Cody looked surprised. “You want me to…talk to it?” He almost choked on the words. But really, what did he have to lose? He cleared his throat. “I don’t suppose you’d mind walking out with me to my bike? I’d rather…have some fresh air for this. Also, anything you’d particularly like me to ask him for you?” He wasn’t sure what he wanted to ask–at least, not without tripping all over himself. What was he doing?
“Sure, we can go.” Kelly smiled warmly and rose to her feet. “Don’t worry. He’s not going to hurt you. As for what to ask him…” She shrugged. “Maybe ask him why he’s started visibly appearing to you.”
Cody rose easily to his feet, leaving the mug behind as he straightened his jacket. “That’s…a good idea.” He led the way out, casting a few furtive glances for suspicious vehicles before holding the door for Kelly, and then heading over to the motorcycle. So far so good. Now how to address the winged incorporeal being on the other side of the motorcycle? He stopped about arm’s distance from the motorcycle, crossing his arms over his chest, and started out oh-so-eloquently: “Oy, um, Legion?” There was a moment’s delay as nothing happened, before the creature turned, staring at him as if surprised and at the same time alarmed. Cody took half a step back, almost losing his gumption. The thing was tall—judging by the way he was looking up. At least six or seven feet. “Um…you mind telling me why you bothered showing yourself to me at all?” A minute or two passed before Cody turned back to look at Kelly. “Well,” he cleared his throat, “apparently he figured the amount of trauma I received during those times was enough to make me see him. Kind of like a…near death experience or something?”
“That would make sense, but what near death experience is he talking about?” Kelly furrowed her brows as she looked at Cody—and kept glancing in the direction that Cody was staring at.
Cody shrugged. “Probably putting my finger in a light socket—or a pocket knife in a socket—“ he joked. “I got a pocket knife for my fifth birthday apparently.” More seriously though he added, “Actually, I think it was the trauma of losing my parents—not so much near-death on my part, as heightened emotional trauma…sometimes that can be enough to set off hallucinations.”
This made sense, so Kelly nodded. “Maybe you should ask him if it’s okay for you to talk with him directly. If so, you’ve got an awesome sidekick,” she had to chuckle.
Cody snorted. “Oh right, sidekick.” His snort turned into a laugh. “An angel with a shotgun, I wonder if I can get him to upgrade?” He glanced back at the Legion—the thing was intimidating much as he tried to convince himself it wasn’t. “So, uh, Legion, you mind if we sort of just…maybe communicate a little more openly? And not like just when the Fallen are coming to attack me? Cuz that’d probably help if we’re going to do this thing…together.” Judging by the look on Cody’s face, he had been given the affirmative. Not that he was exactly all sunshine and smiles. He turned back to Kelly. “He said that could be arranged. So long as I don’t try to get him to interfere too much in mortal affairs.” He snorted. “Like there’s a big difference there.” Maybe there was and he just wasn’t aware of it. His face schooled back together as he finished dealing with his big fear, which had been trying hard to avoid. “You know, I should probably thank you for making me do this…”
Kelly had to grin. “Oh, you’re going to have a fun time, and maybe you can make Legion crack a smile.” She looked at Legion’s direction. “Yes, sir, I’m talking about you. There’s still beauty in life and a reason to smile on occasion.” She then turned back to Cody and gave a big sigh as if pleased with herself. “I’m really glad to have helped. We should meet up again later down the road because I’d love to see how you two work as a team.” She smirked but then shook her head. “Unfortunately though, I need to head out. My time here is up, but it was great chatting with you and getting to know you. You’ll be fine. Legion’s got you back.”
Cody grinned, not only with satisfaction but some relief. “It was a pleasure meeting with you as well, Kelly. Take care and you’re always welcome to look me back up again anytime.” He swung his leg over the motorcycle and grinned almost too broadly. “If you can find me.”
Pen Gryphon’s story, ‘Scion of Truth’, is set to be published sometime in 2017, but be sure to follow her on social media for more updates!