Another two gunshots, closer this time. Bullets whizzed past Quinn’s head, splintering the tree trunk. Cowards, he thought, swearing under his breath. Damn cowards all of them angels, shooting an unarmed man, seven of them and just one of him. Even though they knew he’d never willingly hurt a soul, knew he took the transition from life to death seriously, they were taking — what had they called it? “First class offence preventative measures”.
God himself could testify that Quinn had never — would never! — commit a first class offence. How anyone could bring themselves to guide a soul astray by leading them to Hell instead of Heaven was beyond him. If he had nearly done it once himself, well, that time had been an accident!
Just ahead of Quinn was the river, his boat moored firmly against its closest shore. Keeping behind the protective cover of the trees, Quinn edged closer to the boat, his every step cringing with the anticipation of another gunshot. Loud shouts echoed through the woods behind him, underscored by the beating of wings, the cracking of tree branches. Mouth dry, Quinn licked his lips, took a deep breath, and made a beeline for his boat.
No gunshots rang out, no shouting nor triumphant singing. Only when Quinn had slipped into his boat and pushed off did he find out why. Poor Gabriel’s robe was tangled in the tree branches; his wings beat uselessly as the others circled him, shouting suggestions and waving their guns, like children at play.
Quinn patted the hull of his boat affectionately, confidence restored. “Ride on slow, lass,” he whispered, lying down to avoid being noticed. “Should be able to escape these galumphing angels now.”
Then a great and terrible cry rose out from behind him, sending chills down Quinn’s spine. Uriel had caught sight of him, of the boat, was rallying the others back into the hunt, leaving Gabriel to his fate. Very soon the six angels swooped down on him, brandishing their guns, circling the boat as it approached the critical junction — the two smaller streams, one to Heaven, one to Hell.
“Will you surrender now?” Xaphan said, white teeth flashing. Xaphan had always been the most exuberant with his arrows, now with a Smith & Wesson in his hands he looked all the more dangerous.
“Yes, I surrender!” Quinn cried, willing to do anything — everything — to escape the frighting burn of those eyes, the heaviness in his chest as he was Judged by creatures that had no understanding of life, had no right to be judging.
Zacharael smiled, cruelly, beautifully, and pushed his boat down the stream towards Hell.
Yet another ABC Challenge-inspired story. Slight cop-out by using lots of odd names, but oh well!