Prayers streamed from Earth, like a multitude of snowflakes all falling up.
However you imagine Heaven -- a land made of clouds, an austere stone city, a dream of a place you've never been but always want to be, a symbol of unattainable perfection, a wonderful amusement park that you visit for a while and then return to the real world -- this much is true: Every moment of every day, wishes and requests flock towards it. Minor ones, children's hopes for horses and passed tests and winning soccer teams, and the major ones, for strength and endurance and a cancer that goes into remission.
It's a lot of messages vying for attention at once. It needs someone to sort them out, throw out the frivolous demands, categorize and pass them on to Higher Up.
There have been angels handling this task since the beginning of time. Boring, repetitive, depressing job, but necessary.
If the beauty of Heaven is a cold, austere beauty, all smooth pavestones and gleaming marble chased with gold, then the beauty of Hell is in sheer <i>excess</i>.
On the corner between the fabric store and the library, there was a pocket-handkerchief of land that the city had set aside some years ago. The mayor had intended that it be converted into a miniature park, a pleasant patch of greenery with benches and butterflies and a fountain to cast wishes into. Good intentions being an unreliable currency in this day and age, the park had grown nothing but cigarette buds, and sprouted sleeping homeless by night.
That was a month ago.
On Sunday morning, Sere Grey came across the demon perched on a stained wooden bench, reading. There was black soil caked in his nails and the knees of his jeans.
The corner was a riot of colour. Bright stars of petals gleamed among dark leaves; they grew in excess, heedless of season. Sere lazily batted away a hollyhock slouching over the pavement.
"He's going to die soon," Sere said.
"Of course," Keele said to the air. "They get sloppy with their methods, picks a target not sick enough or has parents with their eyes open. Prisons aren't kind to child-killers."
"No," Sere said. "I mean, his brain, that headache he has. It doesn't have anything to do with the stress. He's an aneurysm waiting to happen. If he does go to trial he'll probably die before the sentencing anyway."
Keele didn't ask how he knew. The undead belong to no single realm, and are privy to knowledge that they shouldn't have.
"And that's better?" was all he said.
"You know where he's going. You tell me."
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