Hello and welcome. As one of the authors featured in SciFan Magazine, I’m pleased to be able to present to you my ongoing serial, Stormguard: The Invisible War. I ‘ll be posting it here, from the beginning. A new episode each month. So, I hope you stick around and read my story. Just as a note, this is not your typical guardian angel story. These special, elite agents have high-tech assistance and I think you will find it quite different than some might imagine. Give it a try.
Stormguard: The Invisible War
Copyright © 2016, 2017 by Tom Fallwell
The first thing I remembered was the pain. Nothing but intense pain that seemed to encompass my entire being. It was intense and sharp, yet I couldn’t voice a scream. I wanted to scream, as if that simple act might lessen the agony, reduce the torture.
As the excruciating seconds passed, I became aware of more. I could feel my hands and feet, arms and legs, surprisingly free of any discomfort. Breath moved in and out of my lungs, also without anguish. I felt the soft touch of grass on my back. I finally realized, the pain was not a physical pain, but a torment only in my mind. It felt like part of my soul had been ripped away from me and I ached for its return.
With laborious effort, I opened my eyes. I was immediately blinded by the brightness of the sunlight piercing my vision, but gradually I focused on the sky above me. Wispy clouds drifted high above, barely moving. The blue above the clouds was inviting, comforting, and I could feel the warmth of the sun on my skin.
My first attempt at movement was to turn my head and look around me. The grass around me was blackened and burnt. I seemed to be lying in a shallow hole or depression.
Testing my arms and legs, I found movement stiff, but possible. Slowly I raised myself up and stood on wobbly legs, but my balance and strength returned swiftly.
I was in what looked to be a small blast crater, in the center of a flat area surrounded by large hills. The landscape was covered with high grass and wildflowers, with a few maples scattered in the distance, near the foot of the hills. There were no signs of civilization.
Flexing my arms and back muscles, I turned back to stare in shock at where I’d lain. It looked like a bomb had exploded, burning everything except the patch of grass that had apparently been protected by my body. A pile of red dirt ringed the hole. It was as if I had hit the ground like a meteor, creating this odd crater in the earth.
Then it hit me.
Who am I?
I couldn’t remember my name. In fact, I couldn’t remember anything. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. I knew language. I had educated knowledge, but no memory at all of anything that included me. I felt my pockets. No wallet. Nothing that might tell me who I am.
I felt my face and head, checking myself for any injuries or anything unusual, but all seemed to be in order, which struck me as strange. There were no scars, no cuts, no bruises. In fact, I didn’t seem to have any injuries whatsoever. My heartbeat, my breathing felt relaxed and normal. I seemed to be a picture of health. I felt strong and agile, but couldn’t remember exercising or getting in shape.
Who was I? How did I get here? What had happened to me?
Those thoughts pushed at my mind, demanding answers, but none were forthcoming. I was lost in the middle of nowhere. Yet somehow, I knew I was in the United States of America. If I was going to find answers, I had to start moving.
The sun was just above the horizon, but was it rising or setting? Without that knowledge, I had no sense of direction.
Or did I? A strange sensation came over me, like invisible forces pulling at me from a multitude of directions. I couldn’t explain it, but immediately I knew which way was north. How could I know that? It was as if I could feel the magnetic fields of the earth around me. So, if that was north, then the sun was rising. It was morning.
A roaring sound from overhead caused me to look upward. A plane high in the sky, heading east.
Another odd sensation came over me. It was as if my sight zoomed in on the plane and I was viewing it up close. I could see the markings, the faces in the windows, and I immediately knew the plane was a Boeing 747, carrying eighty-four passengers and crew, and heading for the Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City. How could I know that? It was as if my mind was processing minute information and calculating possibilities. What a strange feeling.
I knew these abilities, these sensations, were not normal. This was something that went beyond normal, and it made me wonder not only who I was, but perhaps what I was.
I had flesh. To confirm that for myself, I picked up a rock and scratched the flesh of my forearm. Blood oozed from the wound. That was normal, at least.
Yet, my mind seemed far more calculating and faster than should be humanly possible. I had no idea how I knew that, but I knew.
Looking at the scratch on my arm, I was shocked to see the wound closing itself, healing at a rapid pace. Within mere seconds, there was no wound at all, only a small amount of blood drying on the surface.
“I guess I better get moving,” I said to myself. Hearing my own voice reassured me that I was alive. My voice was deep and natural, and nothing seemed odd about it. I began a strong and fast-paced stride to the east, easily making my way over the uneven terrain.
A thousand-yard jog brought me to the edge of a field of wheat, the first sign of civilization I’d seen. An asphalt road lay on the other side.
The field was large, the wheat still young and growing. A rolling center-pivot sprinkler system watered the growing crop automatically. I had to dodge the sprinkler to keep from getting soaked, but I eventually made it to the road, a rural two-lane blacktop running north and south.
Not sure which direction to go, I headed north. It wasn’t long before I heard a vehicle approaching from behind me, and turned to see a late model, black Ford truck coming up the road. I stuck out my thumb, hoping to hitch a ride, and the truck graciously pulled over to the side.
“What’n tarnation are ya doin’ out here on foot?” said the elderly gentlemen behind the wheel. His face was worn and rugged from outdoor labor, with bright gray eyes and a concerned smile on his thin-lipped mouth. He wore a plaid shirt and blue jeans, with dirt-caked, brown boots. A wide-brimmed straw hat sat upon his head, shading his face from the bright, summer sun.
“Hi,” I said with a wave of my hand. I figured it best not to have to answer too many questions until I knew more about what was what, so I made up a plausible story to explain my being alone on the highway. “I … uh … broke down and didn’t have my cell phone with me. Can you take me to the nearest town?”
“Well,” he said, “I jus’ left Hinton. I’m headin’ up to El Reno to get some parts for my sprinklers. I can take ya back to Hinton if ya need, or you can ride with me to El Reno.”
I smiled and nodded as I opened the passenger door. “El Reno will be just fine.” The name of the city tugged at my consciousness. Not a memory, exactly, but I felt as if something waited for me there.
He returned the smile and nodded pleasantly as I climbed into the cab. “Not a problem. Bill Hutchins is my name. Glad to give ya a hand.”
I would have loved to tell him my name, but I had no idea what it was. Thinking fast, I made one up on the spot. “Zak Storm. It’s a pleasure.”
We shook hands. He put the truck in gear and continued north along what I suddenly knew was Highway 8. I found that knowledge odd, as I couldn’t recall ever being out here before. I also knew Hinton was a small town in the western part of Oklahoma, and he was heading toward Interstate 40, which would take us east to El Reno.
“Storm, eh? I don’t recall any families around these parts named Storm. You look like ya had a rough time.” Bill nodded at my clothes.
For the first time, I realized my clothes where in shambles, as if I’d been wrestling with a mountain lion. My jeans were covered in dirt and huge rip ran up the lower left leg. My blue-cotton shirt was torn down one side and covered in dirt and black soot, no doubt from the burned-out crater I’d awakened in.
“Uh … I had a hard time under my car, trying to see what was wrong. It’s a ’96 Camaro, low to the ground.” It was amazing how quickly I seemed to be able to pull such plausible explanations out of my –
“You should get ya a truck. Much easier to work on than them sports cars.” He grinned, but kept his eyes on the road ahead. “Did ya lose your ring?”
I was caught off-guard by that question and looked to see a white circle around the middle finger of my right hand, indicating there had been a ring there. The skin around it was darker from sun exposure. These country farmers sure are observant.
“Yeah, not sure what happened to it. Must’ve come off while I was under the car, but it’s nothing special.”
I had no idea if it was special or not. The fact that it was on my middle finger told me it wasn’t a wedding ring. I hadn’t even thought about whether I was married or not. The width of the band on my finger indicated it was a large ring.
Is this something important? Was this a clue to my identity?
I should have searched the area around the crater. Maybe I can come back and search later.
“Zak!” said Bill for the second time, bringing my thoughts back to the present.
It took a second to realize he was calling me by the name I’d made up.
I looked at him apologetically. “Yeah, sorry. Was thinking about my car and how much it’s going to cost me to get a wrecker out there.”
“That’s ok,” he said. “Jus’ wanted to tell ya that there’s some jerky in the glove box if you’re hungry.”
“Thanks.” I opened the glove box to find a large bag of homemade jerky, about a pound or more. I opened the bag and took out a stick, biting into it and chewing. It wasn’t bad. In fact, the taste was very intense and appealing.
The drive didn’t take long, less than thirty minutes. El Reno was a busy if not overly large city. As he drove down a road near the Interstate we came across a donut shop. That same pulling sensation that had prompted me to go to El Reno, pulled at me when I saw the shop. I felt a strong desire to stop here.
“This’ll be fine, Bill,” I said. “Can you let me out here?” Bill pulled over and stopped, allowing me to exit the truck.
“Ya sure you’ll be alright?” he asked.
I nodded and smiled. “I’ll be fine. Thanks for the ride.”
“Anytime.” Bill nodded, gave a polite wave, then pulled away back onto the street.
I looked at the little store. The sign read Heavenly Donuts. It was a small establishment with a large front window and a few booths; a line of six stools sat along the main counter. I had no wallet, no identification, and no money. As I passed through the door, I expected to get some stares at my tattered clothing, but none of the four middle-aged patrons gave me a second glance as I walked to a booth and sat down. A young woman wearing a white apron, and holding a pen and pad, came up to me.
“What can I get ya?” she asked.
I felt really lost, but I was thirsty and didn’t want to come off as a bum.
“How about a coffee and a glass of ice water?” I wondered if I would go to jail if I couldn’t pay.
The woman brought my order within minutes. I drained the cool water, leaving only ice in the glass.
What am I going to do? Why am I here?
I didn’t understand why, but for some reason I felt drawn to this place. I felt as if this was where I was supposed to be, even though I couldn’t remember ever being here before. It was an odd feeling, like a sixth sense that I couldn’t fully comprehend, but I knew I was waiting for something to happen.
I took a sip of the coffee as thoughts raced through my mind. Then I heard a voice that seemed disturbingly familiar. “Geez, Zak, you’re a mess. What happened?”
As I tried to place the voice in my addled mind, a young woman in blue jeans and a white button-down blouse slid into the booth across from me.
The first thing I noticed was her short, dark, pixie cut. Below that was a heart-shaped face, beautiful despite the lack of make-up; full lips, a button nose and intense, sassy blue eyes that now peered at me with a look of utter confusion.
I took in all these details within mere seconds. What hit me like a hammer to the head was the large, golden band on the middle finger of her right hand, and especially the intricately carved symbols across the top. It, too, felt familiar, like it was I that should have been the one wearing that ring.
“Do I know you?” I asked, turning my eyes back to her face.
“What?” she asked with surprise. She noticed my right hand. “Zak? Where’s your ring?”
This woman knew me. My name really was Zak. My mind reeled. Did she have the answers to explain my bizarre situation?
Swallowing hard, I said, “I don’t know. I seem to have lost it.” I met her eyes, which bored straight into my own. “Please, listen. I can’t remember who I am. You know me, right? Can you tell me what’s going on?”
I watched as her eyes reflected first confusion, then concern, and finally settling on pure amusement. This was followed by a sudden outburst of laughter.
“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding. This is truly priceless.”
Her mirth-filled eyes looked at me with delight, but also with a hint of concern. My mind wandered over the possibilities. Was she my sister? A girlfriend? Or just a companion?
She reached across the table and took my hands in hers, her gaze turning to one of compassion. A small and appealing smile remained on her lips.
“Zak? We must find your ring. Do you know where you lost it?”
“I know where I woke up, in a hole in the ground, if that’s what you mean.”
“Come on,” she said. “We have to find it.”
She took me by the hand and pulled me from the booth. She paid the waitress for my coffee and led me outside to a red ‘96 Camaro convertible. The top was down, revealing the white, leather interior. So much for my great imagination and original thinking. Seems what I thought I was making up for Bill was the truth.
“Get in,” she said as she hopped over the door into the driver’s seat.
I climbed into the passenger seat. “Who are you, exactly?” I asked, my mind whirling.
She looked at me and smiled, a warm and loving smile, as she started the engine. “I’m Uriel, your partner.”
“My partner?” More questions began to fill my mind. The confusion was maddening, especially with someone sitting next to me that seemed to know everything I didn’t.
“Look. I’m Uriel. You’re Zachariel. We must get your ring. Once you put your ring back on, all your questions will be answered.”
She peeled out of the lot in a hurry and sped off down the street, back towards I-40.
I turned to Uriel and opened my mouth to ask a question, but she held up a finger to silence me.
“No more questions,” she said, her face scowled with exasperation. “The ring will bring you all the answers. You must have lost it where you woke up. It probably came off during your descent.”
Descent? What in the world was she talking about?
“Just one question,” I said.
She put her hand back on the wheel and sighed. “Ok. One.”
“Am I human?”
Uriel’s eyes shown with delight as she gave a short bark of hilarity. “No.” She said no more.
The drive didn’t take long, and following my directions, we were soon on Highway 8 where I had hitched a ride with Bill.
“It’s just over a thousand yards west, on the other side of that wheat field,” I said. pointing.
Uriel pulled off to the side of the road and stopped the car. “Ok. Get out.”
I climbed out of the car and gazed across the field still being watered. I had a sudden feeling of going in circles, now back where I started, and still having no idea of who – or what – I was.
I suddenly felt Uriel’s arms around me from behind, holding me tightly against her with a strength I found surprising. Without warning, there was a sudden whooshing sound and we rose into the air. Turning my head, I saw a great pair of magnificent, white-feathered wings as she flew us across the field at a swift pace.
Moments later, I saw the crater below. We descended and landed next to the burned-out hole in the ground, where I had first roused from unconsciousness.
“Search the area,” she said. “It has to be here somewhere.”
As she started to look around, I saw those exquisite wings fold, then fade away into nothingness. It was hard to concentrate on searching for a ring with my mind so full of questions and possibilities. I couldn’t have been more confused if I’d fallen down a rabbit hole into the arms of a mad hatter at a tea party. She said we’re not human. What were we?
My head reeled with questions and speculative answers as we searched the crater. It didn’t take me long to find it under a patch of burned grass: a large, golden ring, identical to Uriel’s. I picked it up and it felt familiar. It felt cool to the touch and yet I could feel immense power emanating from the ring.
“I found it,” I said, holding it up and examining it.
“Well, don’t just stand there gawking at it,” she said, crossing her arms. “Put it on!”
As I slipped the ring onto the middle finger of my right hand, a furious rush of energy washed through my body. I felt my strength and stamina increase a hundred-fold, and all I had forgotten came pouring back into my mind. The sensation was one of intense, fantastic relief and comfort, mixed with a veritable surge of power throughout. I was whole again. I was Zachariel.
I was … an angel!
“Zak?” Uriel asked with a touch of concern.
I stuck my right thumb up in the air and nodded, chagrined by the fact I had lost my ring in the first place, not to mention my mind. My ring, my Halo, was what gave me the power and authority to do what angels must do, in service to the Almighty. Without it, my mind was a blank slate and I had no wings. Without it, I was barely more than a mortal.
“I can’t believe that happened,” I said with utter embarrassment, as the biological and electronic interfaces between my nervous system and the Halo integrated once more into a single, cohesive essence.
Uriel’s humorous amusement at what had happened to me, now that I was restored, finally overcame her concern and she burst into a tearful fit of laughter. “At least you got your wings back now, which is better than being one of the Fallen.”
I looked at her, realizing that for a short while, I was exactly that. One of the Fallen, one of the angels whose Halos had been neutralized. One who had permanently lost their wings. Then I realized the hilarity of the situation from her point of view and laughed as well. “Well, I’m not the first angel to have lost his wings. At least, I found mine again.”
“Well, now that the fun is over, what’s the assignment?” she asked, her laughter subsiding. Her eyes grew intense and the smile faded away to a sterner expression, her jaw set tight.
With my memories restored, I remembered why I was here and why I had planned to meet with Uriel at the donut shop in El Reno. I also remembered how I had lost my Halo in the first place. The humor of the entire situation gave way to more dire concerns.
“It was a shard of darkness that dislodged my ring as I descended,” I said. “The Fallen are up to something, and it’s now apparent they didn’t want me arriving on Earth. Or to meet with you.”
Uriel opened her mouth with unspoken shock. It was rare for the Fallen to attack an angel so blatantly. She understood the implications of such an act. The Fallen were well known for trying to cause trouble, but to attack a member of the Stormguard, directly, was an act of sheer desperation.
“What are they up to?” she wondered aloud.
“That’s what we need to find out. Our orders are to search for their coven somewhere near here.”
Uriel’s mirth had now fully given way to her staider nature, which I knew all too well. “Then let’s get started. I assume you have a lead?”
I nodded, ready to get on with our task. “There’s something unnatural going on at a place called Red Rock Canyon.”
Without another word, we both spread our wings to fly back to the car. In this state, we were completely invisible to mortal eyes, but we generally traveled in the guise of mortals. Once at the car, our wings faded away, their substance being absorbed back into our Halos. We got into the Camaro and headed south towards Red Rock Canyon. As we drove, I explained the detected emanation of power that had been picked up in the vicinity, a clear indication of demonic activity.
We hadn’t been sure that this was any reason to worry at first, but with the attack during my descent, it was clear there was indeed a reason. As angels, it was our sworn duty to protect, to battle the forces of Lucifer and his Fallen. They were up to something, and it was our responsibility to find out just what it was. The Stormguard were on the case.
Read more from Tom Fallwell
If you enjoyed my writing, then why not check out what else I’ve written. My latest book is a fantasy adventure called Dragonblood Throne: Legacy, and is currently available at many online retail outlets.
Orphaned as a young child and growing up alone in the forest, Delina lives a life of isolation; her only companion a saber-toothed panther. Her strange eyes frighten those she occasionally encounters, so she keeps to herself, until a young, wounded warrior ends up at her doorstep. As she nurses him back to health, she discovers she is more than just a young woman with unusual eyes, she is a dragonblood, destined to become the ruler of Almar.
Now hunted by the dark sorcerer who murdered her father, usurped his throne, and killed all her kin, she must find out how she can release the essence of the dragon inside her to defeat him. Everything depends upon her willingness to embrace her legacy and reclaim the Dragon Throne.