Ted Cascio was reading the bible when the book came. It was some sort of notebook, wrapped in brown paper, that had been pushed under the door. He tried to see who had delivered it, but when he opened the apartment door, he didn't see anyone.
Puzzled, Ted took the notebook inside and read it. It was some sort of ritual for summoning some supernatural entity. Ted was about to dismiss it as a practical joke when something caught his eye. A name. Azrael. The angel of death.
Ted sat down slowly at his kitchen table and read some more.
The notebook described a ritual for summoning Azrael. He read it several times. That was definitely the subject.
Ted, while he believed a lot of things, didn't believe the notebook. He thought it was some hoax to make him look stupid, but he resolved to try it anyways. At least where people couldn't see him.
He read through the ritual again and made a list of the ingredients. It was kind of difficult to make out since most of the hand writing was small and crabby.
Leaving his apartment, Ted stepped onto the street. The usual crowd was sitting around.
"Hey! It's the preacher man!" Jose, a thug of indeterminate age, told the rest of his crew.
"He's not really a preacher!" "Hey father, would you bless me?" "I want to get married!" the group of men taunted him.
"The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Ezekiel 25:17" Ted misquoted. He actually enjoyed educating these people (he thought).
"Hey, you better watch out what you say!" Jose was on his feet and in Ted's face. Ted looked down and muttered something. Jose smiled and looked back at his crew. "My man here wants to say he's sorry. Don't you?" he said, turning back to Ted.
"I would rather go to heaven alone, then hell in company." Ted mumbled.
"What was that?" Jose had grabbed Ted by the shoulders.
Slowly and painfully, Ted said "I'm sorry."
Jose smiled widely and put his arm around Ted. He turned to his crew. "You hear that? My man here says he's sorry!" Ted was looking at the ground and frowning.
Jose's crew sniggered.
Ted walked away muttering things under his breath.
"I try to be nice to them and this is what I get..." and "If I ever get a way..." Ted walked down the street.
He walked into a supermarket, picked up a basket, and started shopping. The list contained some common things, like candles, but some weird stuff, like the blood.
He asked one of the butchers. "I know this sounds strange, but do you have any blood?"
"What do you want that for?" a fat man with small eyes, wearing a grubby apron, asked.
"Well, I ah..." Ted trailed off, trying to think of an explanation.
"Are you OK Ted?" came a voice from behind him.
Ted turned and beheld Madalynn. A short, plump girl with a crooked front tooth stood there. Ted smiled.
"No, everything's fine. I was just trying to get some stuff from this gentleman."
"Do you want me to tell her what sort of 'stuff' you were trying to get?" The butcher asked.
Ted turned abruptly to the butcher and shook his head desperately.
"He was trying to get blood." The butcher said, smiling widely.
Ted's face grew red.
"Wh...What did you want that for, Ted?" Madalynn asked, taking a step back.
Ted dropped his basket and rushed away without answering.
Madalynn turned to the butcher, who shrugged and walked away.
Madalynn looked at the retreating form of Ted. Then she thoughtfully picked up Ted's basket and looked to see what he was getting.
It was a strange mix. Here were candles, there was flour and there was incense. It looked, Madalynn thought ruefully, as if Ted were getting the ingredients for a spell...
* * *
A short time later Ted was at a nearby butcher's shop. He was outside, talking with the guy who owned the place.
"All the blood you'll find is in those." He said pointing at some trash cans. Then the man went back inside.
Ted starred at the trash cans for a moment and approached one.
Wrinkling his nose, he took the lid off a can and looked inside. He found some animal organs.
Gingerly taking one out, it didn't seem to have any blood. He was about to confront the butcher, when he had an idea. He squeezed the organ. Some blood oozed out onto the ground.
Ted replaced the organ and took another. This time he put a small glass bottle on the ground. Grimacing, he squeezed the organ, and some blood dribbled out. Some blood missed the jar and some filled it about half way. Ted put the organ away and took another.
This time, there was enough blood to fill the jar. Satisfied, he put away the organ and put the lid on the trash can. It was then that he noticed some of the blood had gotten on his shirt. Rubbing furiously, he managed to spread the blood evenly. Disgusted, he picked up the jar and headed home.
Back outside his apartment, Jose and company were still there. Jose got up and knocked Ted's bag from his hands. The jar of blood broke when it hit the ground.
"Why you little..." Ted began and then, looking at Jose's face, he stopped.
"What was that man?" Jose said, advancing.
"You broke a..." At that point, Jose hit him in the face. Ted fell. The other members of Jose's gang, with a shrug, got up, ambled over, and started kicking Ted.
When they were through, Ted was bloodied, gasping for air, and curled up into a fetal position. Jose and company moved on when they heard a police siren. The police car passed by without stopping.
Ted gathered what he could of his purchases, and stagged back to his apartment. He sat down at the kitchen table, breathing heavily. His eyes strayed to the notebook.
Making a face, Ted took a glass and went to the bathroom. He grimly squeezed out enough blood from his many wounds to fill the glass.
Ted started the ritual.
He laid out the candles and blood and kneeled inside of a pentagram he had drawn.
After a few false starts, he managed to get the words of the spell right.
The Angel appeared.
Ted was on his feet immediately.
"I...I didn't think it would work..." He said, looking at the Angel.
For its part, the angel appeared to be a man dressed in white robes with an unsheathed, flaming sword. It regarded Ted coolly. It had blonde hair, a halo, white wings, and its face appeared neither male nor female, neither young nor old.
When Ted stopped talking, the angel regarded him for a moment and then spoke. Its voice was strange.
"What would you have me do?"
This stopped Ted. He hadn't thought of what to ask it because he didn't think the ritual would work. Then a picture of Jose and his crew formed in his mind...
"Smite the wicked!" Ted smiled.
The angel raised its sword. From its tip, a ray of light appeared. The ray struck the wall of his apartment and the wall burst into flames. The ray continued outside and struck Jose and company. They burst into flames and disappeared.
The angel turned, the ray describing a circle. Everything it touched burst into flames.
Ted stopped talking and sank to his knees, in some sort of trance.
* * *
Madalynn blinked. Everything around her had disappeared. One moment she was talking to someone, the next moment, a blinding white light, and then nothing but smoldering ruins.
She looked around her. She stood in the wreckage of the supermarket.
To her left, Madalynn could make out a wall of light. There were normal things, like buildings and whatnot, off that way. The light was moving towards them, and when it touched them, they burst into flames and were reduced to rubble.
Madalynn looked around some more. There were the shoes of people she had known, complete with bits of leg stuck to them.
She put her face in her hands and started to cry.
* * *
A priest watched the advancing wall of light as some other people ran from it.
He was composed as he strode towards it.
When he entered the light, he seemed to talk to someone.
"I am a priest." he seemed to say.
"Not for my god." seemed to be the reply.
He knew no more.
* * *
Madalynn had stopped crying and was looking around. Everywhere she turned there seemed to be devastation. It seemed to come from one point.
She started walking towards it.
The white light was back, but she strode into it.
She blinked as she stepped out of it. There had just been a period of brightness and then it was gone. Madalynn kept going towards the source.
When Madalynn reached the origin, she found Ted sitting on the ground in some sort of trance, with a man in robes standing near him. The man had wings on his back, a halo, and a flaming sword that seemed to be the source of the light.
"Stop it!" she said.
"But he told me to smite the wicked." the angel said.
"Who are the wicked?" Madalynn asked.
"It's what he considers wicked." the angel said, indicating Ted.
"But that's just what he thinks!"
The angel shrugged. "He summoned me."
"So you have to do whatever he says?" Madalynn asked incredulously.
"And he told you to smite the wicked?"
"And you killed all those people?"
Madalynn was silent for a time, thinking.
"I think you missed one."
"Have you made sure that you're not wicked?"
"Of course I'm not wicked!" the angel said, frowning.
"Have you checked?" Madalynn asked.
The angel looked surprised "I am wicked."
"So what must you do?" Madalynn asked.
"I have to smite myself."
The angel turned his sword on himself. He burned and was gone.
Ted snapped out of his trance.
"What did you do?" Madalynn confronted Ted.
"I told the angel to smite the wicked." Ted told her, still hazy form being in a trance.
"And who are 'The Wicked?'" Madalynn asked, hands on her hips.
"You know...the wicked." Ted seemed to come back to the here and now.
"But nobody measured up...so the angel killed everyone!" Madalynn shouted.
Ted was looking around at the devastation in rising horror.
"Who gave you the ritual for summoning the angel?" Madalynn asked him.
"I...I never saw him."
"Then how do you know that you were supposed to use it?"
"Of course I was supposed to use it!" Ted snapped.
"In the wrong hands, an instrument of good could be turned to evil." Madalynn said.
"But I'm not the 'wrong hands!'" Ted said in desperation. "I follow God! I'm righteous!" Ted put his face in his hands and repeated "I am!" he knelt and rocked back and forth.
"This isn't the way of good: it is the way of evil."
Ted suddenly stood up. "I know, I'll find the person who gave me that book!"
Madalynn watched him run out.
* * *
It took a while, but Madalynn finally found the person who gave Ted the book.
It wasn't what she would have thought of. It was this homeless woman pushing a shopping cart.
When Madalynn met her, the old lady didn't know (at first) what she was talking about.
"I don't know anything about any packages!" the woman, whose name was Miranda, said.
Madalynn was about to give up when Miranda said something else.
"You're as bad as that horned guy!"
"What?" Madalynn said, wondering if it could be so simple.
After 20 minutes of coaxing, Madalynn finally got Miranda to talk about it.
"There was this guy, see, who paid me twenty bucks to slide this package under a door."
"I thought you didn't know anything about packages." Madalynn pointed out.
"Yeah, well, I just remembered that. But twenty bucks is twenty bucks, you know?" Maranda said defensively.
Madalynn was about to give up when she remembered something and said "You said he had horns."
Miranda was quiet for a little while and then spoke in a clear voice "He didn't have them but his shadow did."
"It was at night in an alley. This car passed by and its lights shore on him. He didn't have horns. But he cast this shadow. And it, it had horns."
For reasons she didn't understand, Madalynn gave her $20, and left without another word. Miranda commenced chattering about dog races. Madalynn walked away, unable to hear anything.
"She's just a wino, she could be seeing things." Madalynn told herself desperately "She might have seen anything. And even if she DID see something, what can I do?"