Chapter 14

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“So, Aleister,” the test-giver smiled at me, “I understand you have some experience in magic?”
Halo certification test. After today, I’d be free from Ms. Slaphappy. Three cheers for not getting assaulted by your teacher!
“Yeah, I’ve been learning for…” I tried to remember how long it had been. “Not sure how long.”
The test was one-on-one, in a small room with just a table and chairs. I jokingly thought it looked like an interrogation room. But, you, know, nice. Like those confession booths, with wood paneling… beautiful carpentry, really.
“Can I see your license?”
I handed her my magic license. What, you thought the government would just let anyone learn how to channel supernatural energy? Without any regulation? Think again.
She took a look at the card. “You practice dark magic?”
“Light magic never really interested me.” I shrugged.
She frowned, staring at the card.
“Something wrong?” I asked.
“Um… what does this say your religion is?”
Oh, shit. Forgot that was on there.
“Uh… it says ‘Wicca’.”
“Isn’t– isn’t that a pagan religion?!”
“Yeah. Does that matter?”
“Well… I mean, you’re an angel. You’re supposed to serve God.”
“No. The law just says I need to go through training. After that, I’ve fulfilled my responsibility, and I can get on with my life. No service required.”
She shook her head. “You’re being trusted with holy secrets, Aleister. Techniques and artifacts that God gives to us in exchange for our service and devotion to Him.”
“Look, I don’t care about these ‘holy secrets’. I don’t need them. I’m only here because the angelic government threatened me. If these secrets are only supposed to be taught to divine servants, take it up with the angel government. They’re the ones forcing it upon people.”
“If you don’t want to serve God, you don’t have to. You just–”
“Get mutilated?! Lose my favorite pair of limbs? Fuck no. That’s not an option.”
“Angels were created to serve God. That’s why we have magic, and why–”
“No. We have magic because we evolved magic, and we have wings because we’re birds These wings?” I pulled mine out slightly, gesturing to them. “They’re mine. And I am not giving them up.” I took a deep breath. “Now can we please start the test?”
Start the test? This is part of the test.”
“What? No, it’s a halo certification–”
“Yes.” She smiled. “My job is to determine if you’re safe with a halo. Part of that is testing your skills and understanding, and the other part is to ensure that you will use it responsibly, to serve God.” Another sweet smile while she let that horrible news soak in.
“You have got to be kidding me.” Unbelievable. And yet… I really should have seen it coming. Like the angels would really let people get away without selling their souls.
“From what you’ve said,” she continued, “it seems you can’t be trusted with a halo, and I–”
“So what am I supposed to do?” I slammed a fist against the table. “I can’t move on in training unless I get this certification.”
“You have a choice.” Another warm, empty smile. “You either accept the consequences for rejecting your duty, or you repent your terrible, evil ways, and dedicate your life to the Lord.”
“No. Those are NOT options! I’m not giving up my wings, or my freedom.” Also, fuck you, you holier-than-thou bigot.
“Then I suppose you could stay here and keep retaking the test. But if you don’t even worship God, then you have no hope of ever passing it. I’m sorry, but it’s really not fair for you to–”
“FAIR!!” I stood up, fuming. Struggling to keep myself from igniting. Bursting into wonderful, soothing flames. “How the fuck is any of this fair!? I have the misfortune to hatch into the most hateful, holier-than-thou genus in the world, and for that I’m supposed to become a fucking slave! I’m supposed to just uproot everything I am, everything I want to be, just because some dickhead deity wants me to? That’s not fair.”
“Life isn’t fair, Alex. Sometimes you just have to–”
Suddenly everything felt far away. The tester was still talking, but I could hardly hear her. Or if I could, my brain wasn’t processing it. All I felt was… light-headed. Faint.
And that’s exactly what I did: I fainted. My head hit the table on the way down, and… my neck snapped.

(Alex is now dead)

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