I jumped awake to the sound of someone knocking on my door frame. In the haze of my return, I hadn’t slid my door shut. No matter. If I had, and it was my father who had discovered me here in bed, I would have been in even more trouble. Trouble. I would be in trouble for sleeping the morning away, but that was nothing next to the trouble I’d be in for… for killing…
My mother’s voice, not my father’s came from the entrance to my room.I sighed in relief, sitting up in bed. “Yes, Mother.”
“Your father said you weren’t feeling well.”
I doubted that he had phrased it so kindly. “I… yeah. I’m not.”
“Well, you’re not going to feel any better just lying in bed. Come sit outside in the sun, and I’ll make you some tea.”
Those were my mom’s solutions to everything: sunlight and tea. She didn’t believe people could be healthy cooped up indoors. She thought that health came from the sun, for whose light she gave thanks to the Angel. She was one of those who had gone regularly to the services of the Angel’s Priest on Sun Days. She spoke kindly of him, but it was clear to me she had preferred the older man that had preceded him in his duties to our town.
Well. She would see his replacement soon enough. The thought made my stomach roil again, as images of blade and blood flashed through my mind. The impact of the sword striking the Priest’s flesh seemed to vibrate up through my arm once again. I closed my eyes, but that only made the memory stronger.
Mother took my arm in hers. She placed her hand on my forehead. “Well, you’re a bit warm, but I don’t think you’re feverish.”
“I’ll be alright,” I said, though the words sounded hollow to me. I didn’t tend to lie to my mother, and this felt like a lie. “I think I just need to rest for a while.”
Mother smiled, patting my arm. She led me outside to the woven chair next to our front door and bade me to sit. She squeezed my shoulder, fingers pressing into muscles I hadn’t realized were tense. Then she left me alone, heading back inside to make the tea.
A slight breeze blew through the town. It felt better to me than the sun. The heat of the sun made me think of the Angel, which made me think of the Priest, which only served to continually refresh the guilt I felt in my stomach. He was a man. He was part of our community, even if he came from outside of it. I had no right to do what I did.
You had every right. The good have the right to deny evil.
He wasn’t evil, though. He had helped the people around the town, using the Angel’s power. The funds he got from the Church went to sustaining him, but he also sent a portion of them to the school, which I didn’t think he had to do. Plus, his presence here meant that members of the Angel’s Guard, from the capital, patrolled through here every few weeks. His presence made us safer.
He was a liar. All of those bound to the Angel are.
Lying wasn’t inherently evil, though. I believed that. I thought I did, anyway. I didn’t like to do it, and I wasn’t good at it, but I could imagine situations where it did good for people. Maybe the Priest saw the good of lying to people. Maybe he knew that people wouldn’t trust the Angel if they knew it was just an entity, like the others its teachings said to fear.
Don’t you see the contradiction? The Angel only teaches you to avoid others like itself so that it can have all the power for itself. It is a selfish being.
From my seat, I could see up the hill to other houses in the town. People walked down the street, going about their days. Sometimes I wondered what it was everyone had to do all the time. There wasn’t that much to do around here, but people always managed to be occupied with something.
I wondered how long it would be until someone missed the Priest. How long would it take, to discover his body? How long until they figured out it was me, and came for me?
I will protect you. You were doing the work of good.
“Enough,” I said. “Leave me alone for a while.”
“Did you say something?” Mother asked. She had my tea. I’d been within my thoughts for longer than I had realized.
“No,” I said quickly. “Just thinking out loud. Sorry.”
She passed me the tea. “It’s angel root and ginger, for upset stomach and fatigue.”
The warmth of the ceramic mug felt good to my hands, though I wasn’t cold. If anything, I was a bit too warm, sitting in the sunlight. If anything, the care and comfort behind the gesture of making tea for me were what made me feel better, not the physical pleasure. The warmth also relaxed my hands, which, like my shoulders, were more tense than I had realized.
“I’ve got some sewing to do,” she said. “Let me know if you need anything.”
I didn’t think of myself as weak, but I was not a strong person. I was the sort of person who was prone to tears at inconvenient times. Crying in front of Father, at any point, was a poor experience. Only my sister could get away with it. I couldn’t explain why, but when mother said that, I nearly cried right then.
I wanted to tell Mother about the voice in my head and the entity in the pond, and the fact that she had made me kill the Priest. For a moment, none of the consequences mattered. I wanted my mom to know so that she could help me. I wanted her to make it go away. I wanted her to make everything better. I knew that she couldn’t, but for a few brief moments, I didn’t care.
Then I came back to reality, and I remembered that I could tell nobody about this. The only person I’d meant to tell had died at my own hand. I couldn’t put anyone in danger like that again. I couldn’t put myself in danger, either. I had fared well against the Priest, alone, by catching him by surprise. If my pact was revealed to the people of the town, I would be faced with a mob of angry people. People that I knew or at least recognized, too. I wouldn’t have the fortitude to fight back against that.
I would grant you the strength, should such evil be inflicted upon you.
“I would not fight back,” I whispered.
I felt her disgust and displeasure ripple through me as though it was my own. I did not form a pact with you for you to discard your life so easily. If you are confronted, you will resist. You must force them to see the good of your actions.
“Once people are determined to see things a certain way, it’s very hard to convince them otherwise,” I said. “People don’t want to be convinced. Continuing to believe something is far easier than accepting something new.”
That’s why we must try. We must bring goodness to humanity. To hide behind the belief of what’s easiest to accept is cowardly. It’s evil, in its own way.
“You are very quick to decry things you don’t like as evil,” I accused.
That which opposes me is evil, for I am a force of good.
“I think you’re falling into the same trap that you despise in others,” I said. “You decide far too quickly whether something is right or wrong — good, or evil — and you refuse to accept alternatives.”
I know what good I seek to achieve in this world. Perhaps I am too quick to call things evil, but my goals have long been decided. I will not let anything stand in my way. That which does will fall before us. You will come to see that I am right. I have faith in that fact.
I did not believe her, then. In fact, I found it hard to listen to her. I had been seduced in the night, but in the light of day, her behavior and rhetoric sounded, to me, like those of someone who had lost their sanity. I no longer wanted her power, but I was stuck with it. I made the mistake of deciding, then, to use it for my own ideals of what good could be. If I had to use her power to make good in the world — if that was my agreement, and the pact by which I was bound — I wanted, at least, to have some autonomy in how I carried it out.