Excerpt from The Guardian
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It would be all too easy to get lost in the Slide.
Moving between worlds on a highway of incandescent light could end with a person losing their soul between Heaven, and Hell, and Earth. Some said that to Slide taunted God and the Devil to battle for your soul, but the angelical beings charged with protecting humanity knew better.
In the Slide, bathed in that awesome light, Heaven ardently called a soul home. The phrase “going into the light” had long been termed by Guardians using the Slide. It beckoned more surely than a siren’s song, that entreating crook of a finger beckoning to be followed.
If a human soul were to give in to the pull of Heaven, their life would end forever. The soul would rise to Judgement without any hope of returning to the human realm.
Guardians trained for years to use the Slide effectively. They had to hone the skill, sharpen their own wits to resist the temptation of Heaven. Most Guardians had a difficult time bringing human souls along for the ride. For Dover, it proved nearly impossible.
As her Perception soared around them, searching for a pool of light that would be a safe haven, Dover adjusted her grip on Jon-no-h’s jeans. She held him to her, mind caught between tethering him to her and searching for a place to land. Pain lanced up through her chest from the effort of both tasks. Dover grit her teeth through it, hoping it might pass.
The Call of Heaven grew louder, pulling at the pain in her chest as though to remind her that in Heaven, pain would be a mere afterthought. Dover shoved the feeling away, keeping the pain her body experienced as she fought to maintain her position in the Slide and her grip on Jon.
To her horror, she felt Jon begin to slip away as they streaked toward the upper suburbs of Atlanta.
His consciousness began to fade, forcing Dover to absorb more of the Slide’s shock to her body in an effort to focus Jon back on her. He wanted to fade away, she knew by the rapturous look on his youthful face. Dover threw her Perception out once more, finding with no small measure of relief, that the haven she sought stood mere moments away.
“Don’t.” Dover whispered the commandment through the link she shared with her Charge in the Slide. “Stay with me, Jon. I’m right here.”
He slipped further from her, though her fingers had not loosened on the loops of his jeans. She felt it as well, that calling to come home, the release of pain and worry and doubt. All she had to do was let go, release herself back into the nirvana that awaited in Heaven. She’d done her duty, so many times over, surely she would be allowed to go home?
Dover tried to shake herself again, realizing almost too late that her own grip on reality slackened.
She cried out his name, yanking him back by force as she lost the tenuous grip she’d maintained in the Slide.
“Jon! Hold on! I’ve got you. I have you. Jon!”
A beat before she lost his soul to Heaven, Dover flung both herself and her Charge out of the light.
They landed in an ungraceful heap, all limbs and gasping breath. Dover ended up beneath her Charge, wincing when his heavier form collided with her torso hard enough that she felt the bones of her rib cage snap beneath him.
She heard Jon whisper a prayer, rolling away from her as she tried to catch her breath. Pain still lanced through her chest, and now her rib cage burned. In all her years as a Guardian, Dover had only taken a passenger into the Slide four times. Human souls were so easily led to Heaven, so eager to embrace the end of their human lives to live eternity in God’s grace.
Her Charge moved closer as Dover fought for breath. She knew the wheeze and rattle under the sternum couldn’t be a good thing, but she could scarcely move. Sliding without a full dose of light, with a passenger, after a fight with that Succubus had done what appeared to be serious damage to her supernatural body. Dover shoved Jon away as he tried to help her stand, rolling onto her belly as she felt her gut roil ominously.
Almost the moment she turned over, Dover’s stomach ejected its contents. Bright crimson stained the carpeting at her feet, thick and sending the aroma of copper into the air.
Worry and fear filled Jon’s voice as he called for her again. Dover shrugged him away again, this time almost violently, as blood continued to erupt from her mouth. She could hardly move, locked on her hands and knees, trembling so violently it was a wonder she hadn’t shaken her eyes from their sockets.
Weakness overtook her. Dover’s arms gave out, sending her crashing to the familiar green carpeting without a sound. Jon got to his knees beside her. Dover could dimly hear him calling her name, even as she closed her eyes to give in to the darkness.
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