A quiet space, maybe a barn, maybe somewhere else. A horse, large, black, and and strong, at rest, eyes closed. On his back a cat curled up, eyes mostly closed in contentment, purring. A scene that is familiar to anyone who’s had horses and barn cats, very likely; warm and quiet and calm, companions at peace with each other and the world.
Shift a little. In the half-light the horse’s eyes are open… and you see suddenly that they’re glowing red, now and then flashing gold. Nothing else has changed about the scene, but you recognize this, somewhere in your mind, in recesses of memory and myth. The old tales start coming to mind, and you shiver uneasily and wonder where, and when, you really are.
Shift a little. The horse’s eyes are closed, but the cat’s are open and she is looking directly at you. Somehow her gaze is more unnerving than the previous shift. There is a sensation of movement in the shadows at the edges of the picture, but when you look more closely there’s nothing except the cat. Watching.
Shift a little. Both horse and cat are awake. Do you want to be the focus of their attention? Think carefully. Examine your conscience.
Where are they looking? What has their attention?
Is it safe?
Is it you?
A stone floor, unclear if it’s a courtyard or a great hallway, circular. The walls are either shrouded in mist or crumbling. The angelic figure is in the center, nearly prostrate, her right wing broken and nearly gone, blood streaking and smearing the flagstones around her, spattered on her robes and her hands. The armored figure is visible nearby, still not clearly seen in feature, heroic in stature, but holding blood-soaked cloths as though he’d just been trying to stanch the bleeding. The children are barely visible as glimmers behind a wall, peeking over; the angelic figure is angled to shield the worst of her wounds from them.
Looking closer, it becomes apparent that the garments over her breast are rent and torn, as is the flesh under them; it looks like an attempt has been made to tear out her heart with claws and teeth, and the wounds run very deep… deep enough that it’s not clear if the attempt was successful. It also becomes apparent that not all of the blood is hers; there is some under her nails, as though she’s done her own share of clawing and fighting.
Looking at the scene, something about the set of her face, the shadows of her battered and broken wings, a hint of doubt appears. Is she actually an angel? Or something darker? Not demonic, the cast of true darkness or evil isn’t on her, but unease sets in. What do you call an angel without the restriction of being good, but without evil? Angelic and demonic are the same base stock; there is grey between Good and Evil, Dark and Light. Looking at her, awareness of this grows.
Pulling back some to take in the whole scene, outside the edges of the broken walls, there are figures approaching. Their intent isn’t clear, but doesn’t seem overtly malicious. Some, a few, are paused at blockages in the paths; others seem to be looking back at damage in the wood, as though something fled rapidly. Looking down the avenue of damage, there are a few figures walking away… one smirking and seeming to guide the others, a whisper in an ear, pointing back to the clearing.
I wish sometimes that I could draw. I get pictures in my head that I want desperately to draw or paint.
Today’s: A forest by the sea. In it, in a sheltered clearing, an angel, her wings battered and stained and one possibly broken, gathered around her; her robes dirty and torn, an expression of equal parts sadness, pain, and love on her face. Looking closer, you can see that she is sheltering someone with her broken wings — two children, young and just past infant, both shining brightly and clinging to her while peeking out. It’s clear that she’s been protecting them.
Pulling back for a broader view, there is another figure lost in the trees, at the edge of the forest by the sea; apparently male, and you can see bulky armor on him through the mist. He seems to be standing guard, but is not approaching the figure; her head is turned to him, but bowed, looking down.
And another figure, closer by, in the clearing as well. Upon examination he appears to be demonic in nature. He’s close to the angel… but not threatening. Instead he’s perched on a rock quite close to her, watching over her and the children, as though he is also guarding and protecting. His expression is hard to read, but has elements of fear and hope mixed into the usual demonic traits.
It’s all in how you look at things, isn’t it?