DEMON V.S. ANGEL

Some are lurking in the shadows of humanity. Others are shining bright above the darkness of sin. Only those in the middle are caught in a merciless battle. Collateral damage? A million lives and counting. Otherworldly forces are dominating the sole battleground: Earth.

A single man steps out from the shadows, walking toward a local restaurant. Step by step, he strides, almost nonchalant, without a care in the world. He twirls, dancing to an imaginary beat, half- and two- stepping to his own natural rhythm, letting his feet move to their own beat. Just as two men leap out from the shadows wielding a bat and a knife, the man jumps up into the air, legs out, and effectively kicks the two men in the face, one with each foot. The two men stagger backwards. The man with the bat falls backwards into a trash bin. The other knife-wielding man falls against a solid wall, unconscious. Without even missing a beat, the lone man dances on, striding on into the night.

A pair of eyes watch as the man walks into the restaurant.

"Hmm... He will bring much more trouble, unless I dispose of him..." The eyes fade into the surrounding darkness. Moments later, a shadow creeps across the rooftops, heading toward the restaurant.

The lone man walks into the restaurant, sitting at the bar.

"What'll it be, Mac?" The bartender walks up.

"A Tequila Sunrise."

"You got it." The bartender steps back, picking up a glass, putting it on the counter, and starts to mix up the drink. The door suddenly slams open as a cold air rushes in. Standing in the doorway is a humanoid shadow, with piercing eyes.

"You...! I have had enough of you causing trouble for us demons. Come here... So I can rip your throat out with my bare hands!" The shadow growls angrily as it moves closer to the lone man. Several screams could be heard throughout the restaurant. The bartender suddenly appears next to the man with a shotgun pointed at the shadow. The lone man takes some money out of his pocket and sets it on the bar, taking a long sip from the just-completed drink. He puts his hand out, lowering the shotgun and directing it away from the shadow.

"I'll take care of him. You just mix me another Tequila Sunrise, and try to do a little better this time, okay?" The bartender hides behind the bar, staring blankly at the lone man in disbelief. He then shakily retrieves the ingredients for another drink, setting the shotgun nearby on the counter. The lone man walks up to the shadow, flashing a smile.

"Shall we dance?" The lone man stands, posing in a flamenco-style footing as he begins to swing his leg under. The demon easily jumps over the man and is about to deliver a killing blow when the man suddenly wheels around with surprising speed, knocking the demon into the nearby wall. Seeming to flash in and out of existence, the lone man delivers multiple blows to the chest and lower area of the demon at lightning speed, ending the barrage with a well-placed, double-fist strike into the head, effectively knocking the demon into the wall. The demon slumps onto the floor, unconscious.

The lone man stands over him and thrusts his open hand into the demon's chest, drawing out a small, luminous orb, glowing dark red. Putting his other hand over the orb, the man chants a few words in Latin as the orb begins to glow pure white. The shadows surrounding the demon slip away into the darkness of the night outside, leaving an ordinary, middle-aged man in its absence. Placing the orb back into the man, he pulls him up over his shoulder and settles him into a nearby booth to recover. He then casually walks over to the bar and sits down, looking straight at the bartender.

"Is my drink ready yet?" The astonished bartender could only nod as he slides a full glass toward the man. The lone man sits at his seat for some time, occasionally sipping from his glass, seemingly deep in thought.

A few minutes later, the middle-aged man walks over to the lone man at the bar and taps him on the shoulder. The lone man doesn't respond, still deep in thought and still occasionally sipping from his tall glass.

"Sir? Did you just do something to me? I don't know what it is, I can't explain it, but somehow, you did something to me. I want to know what it is you did to me." The lone man turns around to face the middle-aged man.

"Dan, you shouldn't worry," The lone man speaks softly, "but you must not mention this to anyone. You have been possessed by a demon, a very strong one. I did not kill it, but I did manage to drive it out of you. I have also made your soul pure, so that no more demons can possess you. But there is one thing I would ask of you, in exchange for this purification. You must promise to stop gambling, to stop lying. Go home and be with your real family, go away from all the drugs, the money, everything that drove you into the darkness. Go home, and into the light. If you do this, then I can promise you, you will be aptly rewarded after you leave this world. Do you understand?" The man named Dan stares blankly at the lone man for a few moments, then, as if he had suddenly realized something, nodded quickly, saying a quick "Thank you!" just before heading out the door. The lone man smiles warmly, turning back to his drink in silence.

"Are you... an angel?" The lone man turns toward the small voice. A child, barely ten, looks up toward him. Smiling, the lone man takes the child in his arms and sets him on his lap.

"Are you not afraid of me? Did you not see what I just did, the violence you have just seen? Such things were not meant for a child's eyes. Tell me, child, are you afraid?"

"No, sir. I'm not afraid. You look like an okay guy to me. I was scared when you started to hurt the other man, but I was more afraid of the other man. Then when I saw that dark thing go away from him, I thought you had hurt him for no reason, and I was sad, and mad, at the same time. But then when that man walked away from you, like he was the happiest person in the world, I could feel the same way, and I don't know why. I think it's because you're an angel. You have the power to make people happy when you need to, right? Am I right?" The lone man chuckles, and turns the child toward him, looking the boy in the eyes.

"Yes, Adam. You are right. I am an angel. I am sorry you had to see all that, but I'm so glad you feel happy about it at the end. I had just saved someone, and if you are careful, and follow all the rules, someday, I may come for you, and take you to a beautiful place."

"When? I'd like to go with you!" The lone man chuckles, setting the boy down on the floor.

"I'm sorry, I won't be able to take you there now, or even soon. You have many, many years ahead of you, and taking you there now would be a very, very bad thing for me to do. And I know your mother would miss you, so very much."

"Well... okay... I guess I can wait... Do you know if I'll ever see you again?"

"Maybe someday. Maybe soon. Keep an eye out, you never know. Okay, Adam, you'd better get going back to your mom. I have some business to take care of. You be good, okay?" The boy nods, smiling, and runs toward the back of the restaurant, where a woman was sitting at a table, smoking. The woman stands, scolding the boy. She takes his hands and leads him past the bar toward the exit. The lone man winks at the boy as he passes by, smiling.

After sitting at the bar for several more moments, the lone man finishes his drink in silence, and begins to walk toward the front door.

"Sir?" The lone man stops, turning toward the bar. The bartender lifts up the counter, walking through, and sets it back down after passing. He walks toward the lone man, motioning for him to sit down at a nearby booth. The lone man nods, walking over to the nearest booth and sitting down. The bartender sits down across from him.

"What's the problem, Jim? I can tell you've got something on your mind." The bartender, Jim, looks at the lone man in surprise, but then sighs wearily.

"Listen. I don't know who you are, but... If you are really an angel, like that boy said... Well..." Jim looks around nervously, leaning in closer to the lone man as if to whisper in his ear. The lone man holds up his hand as if to push Jim back into his seat.

"There's no need for that, Jim. I can sense everything about you. You're worried about your family, worried about the crime in this city, worried about losing your home, your kids, your wife, at any given moment. You're worried, always, about running out of money, about being thrown into the streets. Well, worry not!" The lone man laughs. Jim's eyes grow wide with surprise.

"W-w-what do you mean?" Jim stares blankly at the lone man, who smiles in return. He motions for the bartender to lean over. Jim nervously leans over as if straining to listen.

"Worry not. As long as you and your family shall live, you will never lose anything. As long as you believe that my master is with you, you'll never have to worry. He provides everything. He is the one in charge. Leave it to him to manage your family's troubles, and you will never have to worry about crime, money, or losing a single thing! That, my friend, is the true power of belief." The lone man puts a hand on Jim's shoulder.

"Come. I want to show you something. I want you to believe nothing will ever happen to you that my master would not intend." The lone man takes Jim by the hand and with a flash both men disappear from the restaurant without a trace, seemingly unnoticed. The two men appear on the rooftop of the nearby building, one of the tallest in the city.

"Look there," The lone man points toward a dark corner in one part of the city. Several men surrounded a beautiful, innocent young woman, with evil looks on their faces. Just as one of the men grabbed the woman's blouse, a man, previously unseen, suddenly came in and kicked the other man in the face, facing off against seven men, seemingly alone and unarmed.

"Where did he come from?! He's gonna get himself killed!" Jim panics, and starts to move, trying to squirm out of the lone man's grasp, but the man holds him firmly.

"Calm down! He has nothing to fear. Watch closely, Jim. Do you not see someone else with him?" Jim looks carefully toward the man standing against the seven. Within moments, he notices that another, stronger man is lurking in the shadows, standing strong behind the protector. The protector moves so quickly the thugs have no chance to react before each one is struck unconscious by the man's own strength combined with the strength of the man hiding in the shadows.

"You see? Even when you think you are alone, when you go out of your way to protect another from harm, my master and any one of his legion will always be there. You will never be alone as long as you believe." The two men on the rooftop suddenly vanish, reappearing in the booth back at the restaurant. Jim gasps in surprise and exhilaration at his newfound belief.

"Oh! I have never felt like this before! Oh, thank you! Thank you for showing me that I have nothing to fear! I swear, I will always believe that I am never alone, that He can take care of everything! Thank you so much! I'm going back to my family now, to tell them! I want them to experience this belief with me! I want them to know they needn't be afraid anymore! Oh, thank you! Thank you!" Jim jumps out of the booth, excited. He jumps the counter, clocks his ticket, and runs out of the restaurant in a hurry. The lone man chuckles to himself, smiling warmly. He stands up from the booth and walks out the door and into the night.