Billy and Angela walked alone along the halls to the converted operating theater from which they entered the ether. Billy felt heavy apprehension at the thought of going back after what had happened the day before when he was attacked by the pair of demons─ at least that was what Angela had called them. They did look like what Billy thought demons ought to look like, and the fire from those axes had felt hot enough for Hell too. There was something else as well that Billy just couldn’t put his finger on yet.
“Are they really, you know, demons?” Billy asked quietly.
Angela nodded and seemed to be ready to say more, but hesitated.
“I don’t want to go in, Angela,” Billy confided, slowing his steps. Angela matched his pace.
“I know,” she said as she slipped her arm into Billy’s. He hugged her arm enjoying the human contact for a change. “Look, this isn’t really ‘inside,’ it’s a training area Brandt and Scott setup when the program first started.”
“Who’s Scott?” Billy asked. Angela hung her head and slowed their pace even further. Billy realized he might have said something wrong and pulled his arm free creating space between him and Angela. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. He was a good friend who died on a mission,” Angela said smiling sadly and taking Billy’s hand. “We all use this room like they do in the comic books, to train and practice, but it is inside the complex so it’s totally safe.”
“So it’s a real room, we just go in there in the ether and practice?” Billy confirmed.
“Yes. We’re going to the Green Room now. It’s where you’ll go when you go through your door,” Angela said resuming their walking. Billy nodded but he wasn’t really sure he fully understood.
“I’m still scared Angela,” Billy said again.
Angela looked around the hallway. A few people approached from both the front and behind. She stepped up their pace and turned a corner that led down another hallway. Two doors stood on the left side. She looked at the placards on both, then opened the second door and pulled Billy in.
They stood in a small meeting room less lavishly appointed than the one they had been in earlier. Angela closed the door and turned to face Billy. She stared into his eyes and took both his hands into hers before speaking.
“What if I told you there was a way you could stop worrying and never be afraid again?” Angela said, then decided to correct herself slightly. “Well, not never, but at least to have the courage to face the fear.”
Billy rolled his eyes and pulled his hands out of Angela’s grasp. “I don’t do drugs Angela. That stuff is stupid.”
“Not drugs silly,” Angela said smiling and reaching for his hands again. “This is better than any drug ever made, I promise.”
“Why are we in a meeting room? We’re supposed to meet Brandt in his training thingy,” Billy said, trying to move toward the door. Angela moved to block his escape.
“In a minute. This is easy and you can try it out when we go into the training room,” she said.
Billy tried to step around her but she moved again. An uncomfortable sweat began to form on his forehead. He finally decided to play along so he could get back into the hallway. “What is it?”
“When you feel the fear coming on just ask God to help you with the fear, and he will. I promise he will,” she said with force and conviction in her voice. “Oh, and when you’re done asking make sure you tell God you’re asking for this help in the name of Jesus Christ, in his son’s name. Got that?”
“In his son’s name, yeah. I got it. Can we go now?” Billy asked hopefully. Angela scowled at the overt tone of condescension in Billy’s voice.
“Just do it once, one time Billy. You tell me it didn’t work and I’ll never say anything else about it ever again. Promise me?” Angela said reaching for the door handle.
“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Billy said in that same tone he’d always used with adults who tried to give him advice.
“Promise?” Angela repeated stepping closer to the door but making no move to open it.
“Yes,” Billy insisted.
“Say it,” Angela insisted. “You’re a good kid, Billy. I’ve read your file. Loyalty is a big thing for you so I know you’ll do it if you promise.”
“Is there anyone in this place that hasn’t snooped into my life?” Billy accused, trying to change the subject. Angela ignored the feint.
“Promise,” she insisted again. “Say it.”
“Fine. Fine. I promise I’ll try it out the very next time I’m afraid in the ether,” Billy agreed, capitulating so he could escape.
Angela opened the door and let Billy bolt into the hallway. She followed. Billy had already reached the intersection where they’d turned but wasn’t sure which way he should go. Angela caught up to him and pointed to their right. Billy strode purposefully in the direction she indicated, walking fast enough to force her to hurry to catch up. A short time later after several more turns, they turned down a short hallway that ended in a door. The placard on the door said Green Room. Billy slowed his steps as they approached, letting Angela take the lead.
The sign on the door was bright lime green with black lettering. Billy also noticed the handle on the door was a strange old fashioned crystal knob with an immaculately polished plate of solid brass behind it. Under the green sign he saw four names; Scott Carpenter, Brandt Thomas, Angela Magdala, and Cindy Bellfore. Angela produced a black permanent marker and held it out to Billy.
“What’s this for?” Billy asked taking the marker.
“This is the door to the Green Room where we come to train. Write your name under the name plate,” Angela instructed.
“Won’t First Sergeant Wilcox get mad? These military guys seem to like everything so clean,” Billy said, uncapping the marker but not moving to write his name.
“We told them it helps us find the spot when we go through our door,” Angela said, with an evil little conspiratorial smile on her face.
“With that handle and that ugly sign I could find this door from anywhere,” Billy said.
“I know that, and you know that, but they don’t need to know that,” Angela said broadening her smile and rapidly nodding her head as she urged Billy to write his name on the door.
Billy squared himself to the door and raised the marker. He looked at Angela. She was still smiling and widened her eyes waiting for him to pen his name. Finally, Billy set the marker to the paint of the door and wrote Billy Ransom under Angela’s name.
Guardians of the Herald is a weekly serial published and copyright by The Cavalier, Mark Malcolm. For more information about this story please join us on our Facebook page community at www.facebook.com/firstchevalierbooks.