II. IN BIRTH
Some believe that when you die, you see a light. A shining gateway into the afterlife— Heaven—if you have lived a pious and sinless life. Jophiel Morales, however, claims that he remembers seeing that light when he was born. It was his gateway into life. Perhaps it wasn’t his arrival to heaven, but it sure was a grand entrance into hell. That memory, imaginary or not, has forever convinced him that he’s special. That he was born to be divine. Escorted by heavenly light into this world, and therefore, was destined to transcend.
That is all a lie, one that even he himself truly believes. The story really began as a way to impress others, because no one remembers the day that they were born. Yet the ignorant believed him, claimed him to be a prodigy at the church. They were compelled by the story of this self-proclaimed Messiah. Like anyone who was swayed by the words of Charles Manson, the key to manipulation is in the execution.
II. SURVIVAL, THE FITTEST
Drops of cold water dripped from his rigid face. He was all sharp edges and hard features now. Usually Jophiel was the epitome of angelic appearances; with his warm skin and his soft smile, thick lashes sprouted over gentle brown eyes. He was hard to look away from. It’s not often you find someone who looked so pure, although no one knew what devils he hid within.
The light’s flickered endlessly. The confusion between the brightness and darkness caused sharp pains in his head. He could not see his reflection clearly in the dusty mirror, rusted and chipped. The blood still stained his mouth, the swollen lip irritated him. It was a dent in his perfect appearance. The sink basin filled to the brim with water and he gripped the sides with bloody fingers. The only thing that brought him comfort was the pain of his bruised knuckles as he clenctched tighter.
Jophiel dipped his head deep in the water, his mouth shut to keep his throat from burning. Yet he could not keep his nose from allowing his lungs to swallow. He held himself under for as long as possible, water overflowed onto the floor—dyed red with blood. After a minute, his head snapped up and he heaved for air. His second failed attempt. He drove his fists with full force into the mirror and it cracked. More blood ran down his arm, thick and desperate.
One more time, one more time.
He did not take another breath, only shoved his head into the basin once more. Even against the resistance of the water, Jophiel’s head hit the bottom and he was greeted with sudden darkness. No more confusion…this was it.
A sharp light welcomed him back into life. It was cold and clinical, like the scent he inhaled. Jophiel blinked back tears of irritation, taking deep breaths as if they were his first. He didn’t really need to look around to know where he was. This clearly was not Heaven, and he definitely wasn’t dead. He could feel a weight on his legs, and slowly, Jophiel propped himself up on his elbows to see.
A woman with dark, wavy brown hair and oatmeal skin. Thick lashes like his, though her other features were not as soft. She was more like their mother. Everything about her looked cold, like the Russian air. Her hard green eyes, her pointed cheekbones, her razor-edge jawline. She was beautiful the way swords were. Even asleep at his feet, there was nothing kind about his sister. It had been a few years since he had last seen her but still, she looked no different.
He recalled spending a lot of time in his life admiring her. The way she was always true to herself, always showing her true nature. She never hid anything, never deceived anyone. This was something that Jophiel could never do. He envied her because of that. Jo always felt the need to pretend, to be a more “acceptable” version of himself. He had to gain the love of his mother and earn the approval of his father. To do that, he had to love God more than anything else. When he realized that he couldn’t possibly love God more than he loved himself, he knew it was better to keep that to himself. This was a world of mortals and morals and he had to abide by the laws set by them. No matter how divine he thought himself to be.
Jophiel continued to play the part of a loving, generous, pious boy. He treasured his mother and was spoiled by her; he adored his father and was praised by him. He envied his sister while she was envying him. But there was one thing they both knew very well. No matter how much he was coddled and doted on, no matter how much they treated him so saintly—they always loved God more. They were hopelessly devoted, and Jophiel could only blame them. Seeing his sister again, it only reminded him of all this.
And did he not just evade death, even when he so deserved it? It must be a sign. All this time, it wasn’t love that Jophiel wanted. It was the same utter devotion and complete loyalty that so many gave to God.
“Mom and Dad…you know they love you, right? They’d be here if they could,” his sister had told him later on, after she had awoken.
“I don’t want to be loved, Katya. I want to be worshiped.”