GUARDIAN, Eleah Webb

This story contains themes of sexual abuse

There was a point in the existence of the universe before humans when beings known as angels reigned supreme; they were creatures of infinite hope designed to keep the peace. With the universe requiring balance, the angels wondered, what was the purpose of keeping peace if there is no chaos to subvert? So, these creatures held a lottery amongst their people and a select few were chosen to perform the far too easy task of sowing the seeds of dissent. Those chosen came to be known as demons. For a while, in the space between the stars, these angels and demons fought amongst themselves; neither side winning nor losing but rather thriving off the actions of the other.

 Then, in one tiny speck of the vast cosmos, something new began to grow. Life where there was no life before; a new toy for these beings of cosmic power to play with. In the blink of an eye, a small but colourful planet emerged with a species that dubbed themselves ‘human’ and the angels and demons found their jobs almost obsolete. These humans were capable of both sustaining and destroying themselves in equal measure. When the angels went to plant the hope of relief from tyranny in the minds of those in need, they found the humans already devising plans for revolution. When the demons went to plant ideas for devious and bloodthirsty acts, heads were already rolling across the floor. What purpose did these cosmic beings have, if a few tiny animals could already do what they had always done? The angels and demons had grown bored of fighting amongst themselves, and these humans were the most interesting thing they had seen since before time even existed. If they weren’t needed for creating peace and chaos then, like the humans, they would find a new way to keep themselves busy.

The angels, who could never remain still, devised a new role for themselves. They would each be assigned to a newly born human being and they would follow them through life as a guardian of sorts, keeping them safe from harm and the horrors of the world. The demons, whose job had never been all that difficult to do anyway, were quite happy with this new game. Their role hadn’t changed all that much, now they simply messed with the humans rather than their siblings. Most demons could be found lurking in the shadows, whispering in the ears of the deranged and tormented, and hiding under the beds of small children. The angels and demons became content with their new roles in the universe. There was one demon, however, who wasn’t content; one demon who was incredibly disheartened with their lot in life as they spent each revolution of this small planet creeping through its dark and dreary corners.

This demon, whose shape was barely distinguishable from shadow and who moved like a billowing mist during an early winter morning, called themselves Seraph. They had spent eons tormenting and corrupting the souls of the tenacious human beings and even longer fighting with their siblings in a war with no possible resolution. Though Seraph was good at the role they were forced to take, they found it lacklustre, pointless…completely unfulfilling. Something was missing in their life, and it seemed to leave a gaping hole within them that no amount of terrified screaming or complete mental collapse of their victims could fill.

Seraph continued on in their role as the creature of nightmares as the world of humans continued to grow. More and more of the fascinating little beings popped out of one another and the angels quickly realised that they couldn’t keep up; unlike the humans their species were not made to reproduce. With a limited number of angels and an ever-growing number of humans, the angels moved from caring for all newly born humans to choosing a ward and following them throughout their entire life. This, of course, meant that a great deal of humans went through life without an angel looking out for them. The angels did not care, and the demons enjoyed the easier prey.

On a brisk autumn evening, Seraph was lurking amongst the trees of a small, wooded park. The interlocking branches blocked out the light of the moon and the path that crossed through the area was blanketed by a layer of fallen leaves. Seraph waited patiently and sure enough, their next victim entered the vicinity, a young woman rushing home in the dark from a day at work. Already fearful of her circumstance, the woman kept her head down, her pace quick, and her keys clutched in her fist. Seraph scoffed at the fear wafting from the woman (Were they even necessary on this planet?) which caused a gust of cold air to blow the leaves up off the ground. The woman jumped at the sound of rustling, looking quickly over her shoulder to ensure no one was there.

Seraph slipped from one shadow to the next, following closely behind the woman as they let their presence exude out into the world. The woman looked again, sure that she had felt a breath at the back of her neck, but the path was empty. Despite this reassurance of her solitude, she sped up as she exited the park onto a street of modern houses that shared the same facade. The streetlamps placed at regular intervals flickered ominously at Seraph’s insistence, all except one which glowed a bright warm yellow, and as the woman stepped into its field she stopped. Her shoulders relaxed and she felt calm for the first time that night, her house was two doors down and she could see the lights on. She knew that her partner would be in the kitchen cooking dinner, ready to welcome her home after a long day. This time, as she kept up a brisk pace, it wasn’t because she was scared but rather it was because she was home.

Seraph stopped, their form came in and out of focus as the other streetlamps flickered. They watched as the young woman opened her front door and escaped into her home. Seraph’s eyes found those of the being perched on top of the light that had ruined their night. The angel grinned at Seraph, their twinkling eyes and teeth camouflaging with the night sky, before taking off like a shooting star to follow their charge. Seraph rolled their eyes; they had a quota of terror to fill, and they were running behind. It was then, coming from a barely ajar window of a house across the street, carried through the air to Seraph’s sorrow-attuned ears, that they heard the sound of a child quietly crying. This was perfect, Seraph thought, it was always easier to terrorise someone who was already scared.  

It was the middle of the night, and the shadows were at their darkest as Seraph slunk through the window of the mundane suburban house. The bedroom they entered was full of stuffed toys, bears, rabbits, unicorns, and even some that depicted creatures Seraph had never before encountered. The plastic glossy eyes of these childhood defenders glinted in the rays of blue coming from the small glowing orb of a night light. They seemed to say to Seraph, be cautious of what you do here for we protect this realm. Seraph turned from the army of toys and made their way to the small bed in the centre of the room, they drew themselves up, looming in a hulking shadow on the wall. Spindly fingers of darkness reached down to pull the covers back on the bed, and as they did another small and pitiful whimper was heard. Children were such easy prey, but the lump underneath the flannel purple sheets was not a child but a large golden yellow bear. Where was the young one hiding Seraph thought, placing the sheet back over the bear.  As they gazed around the small room the quiet crying continued, seeming to echo all around. Seraph didn’t take pleasure in these cries; they were only doing their job; they never took pleasure in their job.

Heavy footsteps alerted them to the presence of another human and as the handle to the bedroom door began to rattle and turn Seraph quickly slid under the bed. The crying got louder, and Seraph turned their head to see a small golden-haired child huddled in a ball beside them. This child had been terrified before Seraph had even entered the room. In a room so cosy and protected by the many brave warriors within it, what could this small child be so scared of that they would rather hide under the bed than sleep in it? The door creaked open and peering out from their vantage point Seraph watched as a man, that closely resembled the weeping child, crept up to the bed. The man leant over the decoy bear lying under the sheets, reaching out with a large hand he whispered, ‘Shh Lucy, you know the rules. Now be a good girl.’

The crying of the child had stopped as soon as the man spoke, but beside Seraph she still trembled in fear. Seraph had not felt such terror in a very long time, even the acts they performed did not produce this much.
            ‘Why do you always try to hide from me?’ The child’s ruse had been discovered.
            Lucy’s father searched the room, each stuffed toy moved from its post before being replaced when it revealed nothing. Lucy attempted to make herself smaller as one by one her stuffed soldiers were defeated by a monster whose calculated calm reminded Seraph of his siblings. Eventually, there was nowhere else to look but under the bed.
            Lucy’s father approached the bed and crouched down to reach a hand under the hanging covers, he felt around blindly for a small ankle or wrist.
            ‘Please, no, Daddy!’ Lucy whimpered.
            The father remained silent as he searched, there was no need to speak. It was only a matter of time before he had what he desired within his grasp.

            As Lucy tried to keep out of reach of her father’s searching hand, Seraph made a choice. Why should angels be the only ones to watch over the humans? As the stuffed toys had proven, there was more than one way to be a guardian. Seraph could protect this child and still produce terror within the world. They wrapped Lucy in a cloak of darkness and let the seeking hand grasp one of their tendrils.
            ‘There you are,’ the father said as he pulled Seraph out.
            Seraph’s form grew and grew, filling the room with cold misty air and shadow as they spoke in a twisted, eldritch form of Lucy’s voice.
            ‘Here I am…and here I’ll stay.’
            As Seraph smothered the petrified shriek of the man, they felt content for the first time in their existence, it was as if they finally had a purpose for their actions. Lucy would sleep peacefully in her bed from now on, but her father would forever cower in his. Seraph knew they had found what they had been missing as a demon; to produce terror with a purpose, as a guardian.

Eleah Webb is an author and illustrator who dips her toe in many different genres, even though she doesn’t like swimming. She currently lives in Queensland, Australia surrounded by much-loved friends and family. Rumours abound that she is actually a robot sent to Earth to assimilate with the humans.