Salvation: Chapter Five
“I’m sorry that had to happen to you,” Piers caught up with Gadreel, voice low, after the tools had been stored.
Gadreel shook his head tiredly, settling down on the ground in front of the dwellings. “I understand that I broke one of the rules of this place. I had to accept the consequences.”
“That’s hardly it,” Piers scoffed, setting himself down beside. “They want to make sure they are able to perform their spectacle of beatings to show that they aren’t going soft on us. You’re the newest and just happened to be outta’ place at the right time. There was someone you were talking to though, right?”
Gadreel nodded. “One like me.”
“…Yes. If that is your word for it.”
Piers licked his dry lips. “You said… when you first got here, that this wasn’t your place, after all. I suppose it is like many people to look at someone who isn’t known around here and immediately think the worst of them. I’d even say that you don’t deserve to be behind these bars here. But I guess there’s more to you than I could ever know.”
“I will speak to you of anything you wish.” Gadreel forced himself up, his raw palms sinking into and pushing against the cold ground.
Piers glanced up at the man before looking back away. “Unless you really have a desire to talk about yourself, I don’ think I’ll be pryin’. I don’t think anything you say would stick with me, nor anyone else here. The impression I get from you, though, is that you’re the type that doesn’t belong.”
“It is more than of myself. Do you wish for salvation?” Gadreel asked despite the previous words.
“To be saved? From what— this? This place? I suppose that may come in time. But right now, I can only wish for a good portion of supper tonight,” Piers sighed, rubbing his neck, still sticky with sweat and growing cold.
The young man raised his eyes up at the sky as if to feign himself thinking. “Should I be thinking that far? You can only live in the moment, I’m afraid. At least, that’s what it feels like for me. Tomorrow, the next day, the day after that, next week… who knows for how long… we’ll be working away here behind these walls. Most of us will eventually be freed, made to leave this place. But then we just turn to another form of toiling.”
Gadreel shook his head. “I do not know much of this place, but I can be sure there is more than that.”
“If one has money…”
“In my home, there is no need for money, or toiling, or even suffering.”
“Maybe after we get out, we can find the road back there,” Piers offered a tired smile.
“It is a place where no roads lead,” Gadreel said without hesitation. “You must only open your heart to it, and at the end of your time here, it will accept your arrival.”
Piers nodded and shrugged. “I’m not sure what that means, but if we happen to meet up outside of this place, you can show me… tell me the way to do all that. But as I said, one day at a time.”
Gadreel nodded and glanced back at the others, sitting listlessly or poking at the meager fire, sometimes shifting out of the way of its smoke.
The dead grass growing up from the edge of the walls crinkled as Piers stood up. “You’re bleeding, Gad,” he said lowly.
Gadreel peered back. “Bleeding?”
“The bloodstains are soaking through your tunic. The crack of the whip can be tough on untrained skin. I should know. Nothing to think much about, really, but we should wash it off from the wounds before the flies start to swarm about.”
Gadreel nodded and watched as Piers pick himself off the ground. He followed as they walked towards the old troughs of water, filled little by little with the trickle from an old pipe. “It’s cold, but take off the tunic just for now.”
Gadreel glanced back at the shacks where the others had gone to rest. He slipped the collar up around his head and pulled the rest of the ratty clothes over his shoulders, forcing the bare wings to flex and reveal themselves. The cold air stung his skin and forced the fine hairs upon his body to stand on end.
Piers ripped a section from the hem of his own clothes and soaked them in the water before turning to Gadreel. “I see, the bulk from under your clothes…”
“I recognize no others here in this place possess such a form. These… they have been stripped of their coverings,” Gadreel explained, his back to the other man. “The people of this town did not seem comfortable with their appearance. It is simply the form I was given. Do not feel ashamed to look upon them. If you do not wish to, I will wash my own self.”
“You couldn’t reach these spots easily,” Piers sighed and pressed the clammy rag to Gadreel’s back, rubbing at the spots where the blood had dried. “The people of your land… do they all have… wings?”
“Those of us called Angels. Those who carry out God’s will.”
“I do remember you saying that. I suppose the will that your… God… imposed on you this time was to… be a messenger of sorts?”
“Yes. And to learn.”
“A shame you aren’t learning anything but how awful people can be,” Piers concluded. “There, cleaner than before. The bleeding had already stopped.”
Gadreel carefully pulled the clothing back over his head and shoulder. “The fact of people as a whole being… awful… is not accurate. Despite your place here… you have been kind. Why? To me, of all people?”
“I do not believe anyone needs a reason to be kind to another person.”