Falling was a familiar sensation to Mizal, but it didn't make a difference that this was second time around. She still loved it. Her wings, useless appendages in this supernatural descent, lay still against her back, as her other limbs seemed to be glued to the rest of her form. She could not move of her own accord in this headlong dive, nor did she want to move. For once, she was free from the sensation of standing or flying, free from the guilt that had plagued her endlessly. She fell faster and faster, with only a phantom wind rustling her robes to occupy her senses. She would worry about her destination later. It was better to enjoy the moment anyway; the pain of impact would come soon enough.
Whispers of her own thoughts began to occupy the nothingness of her mind, the brushstrokes of memory coating the canvas with swathes of feeling and blotches of images. She remembered at once the warm tears that trickled down her sister's face, the hard, sharp edges of the Black Diamond, and the wet passionate kisses planted on her lips. She remembered cries of her name, from the cries of the battlefield, to the veneration of heaven, and from there to her death. And she remembered falling the first time, finally understanding all too well the sweet sorrow of fallen angels she had once considered her sisters and brothers. There would be no forgiveness for her, no end to her torment. She let herself plunge into the darkness in the same way Rashidi had plunged into her heart. The only difference was that in Rashidi's case her heart shattered from the impact. In this case, her very soul would break apart.
In the same way as the subtle, gentle voices of regret and remorse pulled at her, her descent slowed almost unnoticeably at first. Her velocity lessened by ever-increasing degrees, and with this deceleration her control over her own form grew. She righted herself in mid-air, her head and shoulders now pointing in a direction away from her fall, while her boots were oriented toward it. Without even thinking she spread her wings and nearly ceased to fall. But she did not dare attempt to fly. Her fate was both unavoidable and deserved. All she hoped for was the execution of justice to begin.
Instead, her feet tapped a surface, and then stuck to it like a magnet. It took Mizal a moment to realize she was standing, and that she was unharmed. She still could see nothing, not even her own form. Would darkness itself be her punishment? If so, it was a disappointment. Ignoble sloth would hardly be suffering.
"Mizal," a familiar, male voice cried.
Mizal jumped in recognition, satisfied upon hearing her name. The voice of another fallen angel called her, indicating that she had reached her destination. Part of her also rejoiced at the thought of not being alone, but she quickly chided herself that she did not deserve company. Her attention soon turned to other matters, as a speck of light appeared before her eyes. The tiny spot of light duplicated itself, and each granule repeated this action until the area brightened. Mizal could see her form, the true spiritual essence of her soul that her earthly body had once emulated. She did not dare look at it. She half imagined it would have twisted into a demonic shape to fit her crimes, yet her astonishment over the increasing luminescence rendered all thought silent. The light grew so bright that she could barely stand it, yet kept her eyes open in confusion. The wave of brightness abated to a comfortable level, and an angel stood in front of her. His snow white wings, matching the robe that was draped over his frame, were open in welcome. His long silver hair flowed from his head with the grace and power of a waterfall. A series of bracelets jingled on his left arm upon his arrival. He pulsed with puissant pulchritude, like the dawn of an eternal sunrise.
Mizal literally flung herself at him, and he cradled her form with his left arm, the clanging of the metal rings reminding her she was safe. She almost didn't notice the woman who appeared next to him, her hand clasped in his. She had an angelic air about her, and her mid-length blonde hair could easily have been that of a celestial being. But no wings adorned her back, and she wore only a short, white mantle over her blue shirt and shorts. It was her presence that reminded Mizal that this was all wrong.
The Shaher that stood before her had long ago ceased to exist. He turned his back on God and took many followers with him. In response his body had begun to assume the form of the vilest of the fallen. God sealed him away out of pity and love. Now Shaher stood before her, restored to his former glory. Mizal had once vowed as High Angel, she would never fall as he did. Yet the irony of the situation could not stop her from asking him a simple question.
"How did this happen?"
"Through her,” Shaher answered, looking to his right. "Eleanor gave her life to help me realize I didn't have to be lonely. I wanted God's love all for myself, wanted someone to love me as much as I loved him. So I isolated myself, just as you do now."
"No, I have sinned far worse than you."
"You have not fallen as far as I have." At his comment, Mizal spied him once more for a hoof, a horn, or any of the signs of a demon. Yet, he was as he was pristine and unblemished as though had never rebelled. "You realize and regret your mistakes. There is no need for you to continue to punish yourself."
"I do not deserve forgiveness."
"You mean you don't expect it," Eleanor said.
Mizal narrowed her eyes and gave Eleanor a piercing, angry stare. What did this human know of the affairs of angels? Unless, of course, her punishment was to be lectured by this inferior being. She swallowed the thought, clearing it from her mind.
"No," Mizal replied. "I do not deserve it. I would only betray God again. I would only bring my sisters pain."
"You bring them more pain by remaining here," Shaher replied. "This place will feed off your despair. Please Mizal." He placed his soft hand on her shoulder. "I've been where you are right now, and so has she."
"I know what it's like to be lonely," Eleanor continued, "to lose my family, to not know the depths of a sister’s love until it's too late." She lowered her head, a habit brought over from her former life. "And I know what it is like to see the man you love turn to chaos and cruelty."
Shaher spoke again. "Besides, if you want to be punished, it wouldn't be much of a punishment, would it? If you really feel you are unworthy of forgiveness, then you should ask for it all the more. If mercy is your fate, you should accept it."
Accept it? Mizal thought. Never! This is too easy, it must be a trap. Angels could not be forgiven for their crimes. Their spiritual nature allowed them no room for error. Her eyes met Shaher's comforting pupils. He had deceived so many angels into following him and turning their backs on humanity. But the Shaher who fell would have never stood next to a human, nor would any other human stand next to him knowing who he was. Mizal glanced at Eleanor then turned her eyes back to Shaher. It didn't seem like a trick...
She shook off the ease and comfort with a new train of thought. Even if it were possible, I don't deserve it. Why, I should just run away. If it is the divine will, I'll ask for forgiveness after I've finished suffering. I must receive my wages. She prepared herself to become airborne, and to fly away from these beings of light.
But her feet remained planted on the ground.
"O God," she whispered, "please forgive me." She wanted to say so much more. Forgive me for being weak enough to try to escape punishment. Forgive me for giving into despair and not being able to help Yushis. Forgive me for siding with Rashidi and for stealing the Black Diamond. Forgive me...for my pride. Those words she did not utter, but instead she silently lowered her head then extended her hands. Shaher took his free hand and clasped her right hand. Eleanor grabbed her left hand and a soft, sweet feeling swept over Mizal once the circle of limbs was completed. The three began to glow, then faded away from the darkness, leaving the pit to chew on its own loneliness once again.