Part of Apex of Creation
I sat there, taking a moment to process everything. “What’s going on?”
“The short answer is, I screwed up. Got dispatched to answer the prayer of one Jennifer Exosia-”
“That’s my mother.” “Indeed. And I accidentally ended up making a Hybrid. You were too close to death, and - as evidenced by your recent use of Insight...” Cael gestured to my quiz. “...you picked up some holy power while you were there.”
“A… hybrid?” I asked.
“Yes. Part human, part divine. A member of the only race created in the image of God, but no longer insulated from the eternal war between Heaven and Hell. A dangerous combination, that.”
I pondered the answer. This was, essentially, a Yer a wizard, Harry moment, but in real life. I had apparently obtained my quiz answer by divine inspiration.
“So is this a good thing or a bad thing?”
“That depends. Hybrids tend to be unpredictable - your free will means that your loyalties are always subject to change. So neither Heaven nor Hell want to make a Hybrid that goes to the opposing side.”
“What if I don’t pick a side? What if I just continue my life as I am right now?” I asked.
“It’s too late for that.” Cael replied. “You’ve already changed your life - if only in a small way - just by filling in your quiz differently. Your abilities will only grow from here, and, you will be roped into the conflict, in some form or another. I’ve been around long enough to see it happen before - one side or the other will attempt to recruit you, if for no other purpose than keeping you away from the opposing forces.”
“That’s an encouraging thought.”
“Really? How so?”
“I was being sarcastic.”
“Oh. So, not encouraging, then?”
“I just found out I’m inevitably involved in a war I had no idea existed. How would you feel?”
“No idea. I’ve been around roughly since ‘Let There Be Light.’ The war has been ongoing since Lucifer’s rebellion, which happened shortly after that.”
“And in all that time, you never thought to learn about how we humans - the one race that is, as you say, created in the image of God - operate?”
“I… um… “
“Right now I just want to finish my quiz and get out of here. This is, frankly, overwhelming, on top of the stress of dealing with that clown’s history assignments. To say nothing of organic chemistry. Which I’ve already got at least two hundred flashcards for.”
“Fine. Call my name if you want to talk. And maybe have a little more respect for the gravity of the situation.”
Cael vanished. I turned back to my quiz and finished it.
After turning in my quiz, I packed up, and stormed to the cafeteria for dinner. Fortunately, nothing out of the ordinary happened, and I was able to enjoy a hamburger and fries in quiet solitude. Then I was back to the dorm room to get my engineering books for a study session.
I opened the dorm room door to find another suited man waiting inside.
The other entity from the hospital. A demon.
“You’re a demon.” I stated.
“Indeed. Alocer, at your service.”
“What do you want? Here to recruit me into the army of Hell? Am I destined to be one of the Four Horsemen?”
The demon giggle-snorted. “Nothing of the sort. I heard that Cael pissed you off. Instead of doing that, I just wanted to congratulate you on the manifestation of your power.”
I eyed him warily. “What do you really want?”
“Literally, just congratulate you. The world is your oyster now.”
“Yeah” I grunted, swinging my backpack onto my desk. “Cael implied as much.”
“Cael,” Alocer replied, dispassionately picking something from his fingernails, “is an idiot. Always sure that ‘good will prevail’ and other such nonsense, with zero thought given as to how he might actually execute his plans in an effective fashion. ”
“Well, if I remember correctly, doesn’t the book of Revelation end with your side, you know, losing?” I asked.
Alocer raised an eyebrow. “That’s prophecy. It doesn’t necessarily have to go that way. Especially when Hybrids enter the picture. So much power, so little predictability.”
I wasn’t convinced.
Alocer continued. “But for now, you do you. I know school is important to you, so why don’t you get your grades where you want them for now, then focus on world domination or whatever you want later?”
“I never thought I’d be saying this to a demon, but that sounds like a good idea. The grades bit, at least. World domination, not so much. I told Cael this, but I’d rather not get into this whole Heaven versus Hell thing if I can avoid it.”
“But of course.”
“Thanks for understanding. I appreciate it.”
“Not a problem.” Alocer smiled. “And if you need anything, just call me.”
Organic chemistry study group presented an interesting challenge. It wasn’t, for me, merely an attempt to cram dozens of reaction mechanisms into my head for long enough to regurgitate them on the test. It was also an opportunity to discreetly try out Insight.
That is, it would have been an opportunity to try out Insight, if it was working. Maybe divine powers only manifested in stressful situations? Or perhaps Cael had given me a nudge. Or maybe-
“Hey, James. Earth to James!” My thoughts were interrupted by Emily.
“Yeah. Sorry, I got zoned out there.” I responded.
“Quiz me on this pile?” Emily asked, as she handed me a stack of flashcards.
“Sure. Let’s see… ah…. What’s a Diels Alder reaction?”
Emily scrunched up her face as she thought. It was cute. I should ask her out some time. “Um… reaction between two alkenes to form a cyclohexene?”
“Close. Conjugated diene and an alkene, to form a cyclohexene.”
“Oh, right. I knew that.”
We worked our way through the stack of flashcards, while Tom and David worked their way through another. Then we swapped partners and worked through the stack all over again. And again.
I didn’t get to bed until well past midnight.
The next week passed in relative normalcy. European History continued to be a pain, but I managed to get two flashes of divine inspiration on the next quiz, and three on the quiz after that. Sure, it wasn’t fair to the other students, but I wasn’t going to pass up easy grades on a non-core class. I kept meeting with Tom and David and Emily for chemistry study group, and kept failing to work up the nerve to ask Emily out.
Perhaps most importantly, neither Cael nor Alocer had made a reappearance. For now, it seemed, they were content to let me live a normal - albeit slightly enhanced - life. At least, Alocer was. Cael was more of an ass about it. It was odd, now that I thought about it, that the angel wasn’t the nice one. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?
“Cael? You there?”
“Hi James.” Cael responded, as he seamlessly stepped out of the edge of my peripheral vision.
“Look, I’m sorry for snapping at you last week. I was super stressed out, and I shouldn’t have taken it out on you.”
“Apology accepted. I’m sorry I was overly blunt. It’s been a while since I’ve had to deal with a Hybrid.”
There was a moment of awkward silence. How does one ask something of an angel? I had no idea.
“So.. um… what now?”
“Technically, the answer is whatever you want, really, because you’ve got free will. Practically, I’d love it if you developed your powers and then used them for good. Cure sickness, inspire scientific progress, advance the Kingdom of God, wherever your talents lead you.”
“Do you know Alocer? He suggested world domination.”
“Of course he did. He probably also called me a short-sighted idiot.”
“Something like that, yeah. You two have a history?”
“Well, we’ve both been around since Creation, so yes. And with darn near everyone else, angel, demon, or otherwise. You want to get up to speed on transcendental politics, it’s going to take a while.”
“...Yeah, I probably should have guessed that.”
I paused and thought for a moment.
“So how do I do, you know, divine stuff? I’ve had a couple more flashes of Insight since last week but I can’t really seem to control it.”
Cael chuckled. “That’s one thing nearly every Hybrid has in common. You always want to develop their powers as fast as possible. But it comes with time and understanding. And practice too, but that’s about it.”
“So you can’t just teach me new, uh... spells?”
“I’d call them abilities, but that’s correct. Your powers are your own, to be explored in your own way. And different Hybrids prove apt at different things. Persuasion, Insight, Metaphysics, Divination, you name it and I guarantee there’s been a Hybrid that used and/or abused it. Don’t worry so much about developing it - just be sure to use it appropriately.”
“Fair enough. Thanks for chatting.”
In the molecules pictured below, draw the electron movement sequence demonstrating a reaction by nucleophilic attack.
“How did you do on the quiz?” I asked Emily, after class was over.
“Pretty good, I think.”
“What did you put for the last question? The electron movement sequence?”
Emily screwed her face up. Hot damn that was cute. “Oxygen to carbonyl to the attached double-bonded oxygen.”
“Yeah, I think I had the same thing. Where are you headed now?”
“Coffee shop. You coming?”
Shit. This was my chance. Play it cool. “Y… Yeah, sure, why not.”
Holy crap. Well, recent events considered, maybe not holy crap, per se. But still, holy crap.
“...so everything’s healed up and now here I am.” I finished recounting the story of my accident to Emily as we drank coffee and made the next batch of organic chemistry flashcards. Of course, I left out all of the supernatural bits. Socially inept though I was, I knew I would only come off as crazy.
“That is insane. What happened to the drunk driver?”
“To be honest, I haven’t bothered to check. I just want to leave it behind, you know?”
Emily nodded. “Yeah, i’ve had a few experiences like that of my own. Going back and reliving everything doesn’t help.”
I didn’t bother to press the question. Instead, I pulled up four more Wikipedia pages with various reactions and started copying them down. “I hope your Christmas break was less exciting than mine.”
She chuckled. “Standard stuff. Visit family, open presents, try to get along with everyone.”
“Is that a typical Christmas for you?”
“That’s… um… good? We had Christmas in the hospital this year, because… you know...” I mimed breaking my arm. Emily chuckled.
We worked in silence for a few minutes. “Well I’ve blabbed enough about me, tell me about your family.”
Emily sighed. “Stereotypical middle class, two brothers, one older and one younger. So… yeah.”
“What do your parents do?”
“My mom’s a teacher; my dad’s an accountant. Where’d the electron come from on this one? Oh, right, carboxyl ion.”
“Yeah, that’s got resonant forms. Who do they work for?”
“I… um... The local elementary school and a big accounting outsourcing company. Why?”
“Just curious.” I lied. In reality, I was more than just curious - Emily was smart, cute, friendly, the whole package. After having failed my way through high school dances, I had come to college hoping for a fresh start on the dating front. So far I hadn’t had any luck, until Emily had come along with organic chemistry.
Maybe, just maybe, I might have luck with Emily.
And then a new voice chimed in. I could feel Alocer’s presence almost before he spoke.
Emily looked at me quizzically. “Who’s Alocer?”
I looked at my watch and realized with horror that time had not, in fact, been stopped. I shot Alocer a dirty look. “Sorry, Emily. Brain fart. Hey, could you watch my stuff while I go to the bathroom?”
I got up and went to the restroom. Alocer followed. “Not cool man. Give me warning or pause time at least.”
“I’m a demon. I’m not in the business of being cool. But, I hope I haven’t ruined your fun.”
“What do you want?” I asked bluntly.
“Funny you should ask, really. I recently had the... displeasure... of reporting the creation of a new Hybrid to Lucifer himself. And he would like to see you.”