I was never the most religious person (although I never told my parents that), but my father was deeply protestant, and occasionally told me bible stories when the two of us just hung out. It was always either before I had gone to bed or if I had woken up sobbing from a nightmare in the middle of the night that the topic of guardian angels was brought up, although more often in the latter situation in an attempt to calm me down. Oddly enough, his talks about someone in heaven watching over me while he wrapped me in his arms almost always managed to soothe me. Everyone always wants that sense of security; that no matter where you are, you’ll always be protected. I was no different.
“I’m sure your grandma is smiling down at you right now,” my father always told me, “I’m confident that she’s proud of you.”
“Do you have one?” I asked one night. He smiled warmly at the question. “I do, and one day when I join your grandma in heaven, I'll be your guardian angel too.”
I liked that idea as a child.
I distinctly remember the day I got a call from my mother about my father being in critical condition at the hospital.
It was a couple weeks before Christmas, and I was already in university at the time. I was just driving back to my dorm after getting groceries when I got the call. My mother was in hysterics, wailing that all the doctors can do now is make my father as comfortable as possible. My father was diagnosed with lung cancer a few years prior, and while I was away my mother gave me constant updates about his health. I planned on surprising them with a visit on Christmas day, but I had to be there as soon as possible now.
After making a beeline to the hospital and up to his room, I could hardly recognize the man I saw in the hospital bed. He was so pale and skinny, and I feared that if my grip on his hand was too firm I would break something. Tubes were hooked to his arms and in his nose like he was some sort of puppet, and the heart monitor above him beeped in a slow, calm rhythm. I felt like I was looking at a stranger. The only thing that still stayed with him, even while on his deathbed, was the warm smile he had always given me ever since I was a child.
“Remember,” he croaked, “I’ll always protect and watch over you.”
He passed on December 24, 2015 at 3:40 AM.
The funeral was hosted about a week after his death, and surprisingly my memory of the events during the funeral to this day are rather foggy. My hunch was always that I subconsciously wanted to suppress the trauma of my father’s death, but something that always stuck clear in my mind was that, after almost everyone had left, I stayed by his casket. I stared at his face for a good, long while. He looked so peaceful laying in his velvet permanent bed, like he was asleep. It was such a stark contrast to when I saw him in his hospital room, but the grin he had before was a straight line now.
I wished I could see him smile again.
I met my boyfriend a couple years later while looking for a roommate. I graduated uni, but the pay from my part time job was by no means livable. I hopped on Craigslist to find a roommate to share rent with until I could find a proper job. It took awhile, but eventually that’s when I met Tom. He was a nice guy, good sense of humor and helped out with household chores. He even managed to land me a spot in his father’s company, something I was extremely grateful for at the time. We became good friends and eventually we started dating. For a while, I thought that I was living the dream.
Until I wasn’t.
It was such a slow and gradual process that I only noticed until it was too late, but eventually it felt like Tom became a completely different man. He started to grow increasingly paranoid, and every time I mentioned hanging out with friends, he kept trying to talk me out of it in the belief that I was going to cheat on him. We started to argue more and more often, but it got to the point where I couldn’t find the energy to do it anymore and just agreed with whatever his argument was, no matter how batshit it was.
He verbally abused me for god knows how long, cooing about how I would be nothing without him or his help and simultaneously calling me useless. Eventually I believed this. Right when I was on the brink of running off in the middle of the night while he was asleep, he’d shower me with compliments and gifts in an attempt to get me to stay.
He told me he loved me during those days, and, for a while, I believed him. I kept convincing myself that he actually loved me, even though sometimes during our arguing, I feared things would get physical. He made me believe that the issues I had with him were stupid and childish, and I believed him. I thought that this was my life now, stuck in a relationship I cried thinking about.
Until I heard his screech on the night of Christmas eve.
Almost immediately when I heard it, I nearly fell off my bed. I stared at the doorway, my only source of light being the dim red and green lights from the Christmas tree we put up a week prior. I could already feel a cold sweat beading down my forehead as I got up and frantically rummaged through my drawer. There was a slight wave of relief when I found the pistol I had hidden in case of an emergency, but adrenaline quickly diminished that relief. Everything felt like it was moving in slow motion as I crept towards the door and out into the hallway. I couldn’t see much at first, since the tree’s fake branches and glowing lights blocked my sight of the living room, so with a careful, shaky hand, I moved some of the branches to get a better look.
I couldn’t move when I saw the scene laid out in the living room.
From what the Christmas lights reflected, near the center of the room was a large, dark puddle. The lights brightened it and showed that it had a crimson tint. My stomach churned when I realized that it was blood. There were splatters of it on the walls near it too, like it was a grotesque abstract painting. My eyes went back to the main spot, and they followed a streak of dark liquid, like someone had been dragged. At the end of it, I noticed something moving out on the balcony. I could hear something slowly sliding along the tiled floors along with it.
With a lump in my throat and my hand on the trigger, I finally gained the courage to rush out into the living room and pointed my gun at the doorway.
What I was looking at was by no means human.
Whatever the creature was, it slowly started to climb up on the rails on the edge of the balcony. It was tall and lanky, and one of its arms was curled around something. I only recognized it as a body when I saw one of their arms dangling by the being’s side. Tom’s body. I was grateful it was too dark to see what the being did to the man. My breath caught in my throat, stifling any sort of scream that I wanted to desperately let out. What caught my attention the most about the creature were the black masses protruding out of its back. The Christmas lights weren’t enough to fully see them, but they looked similar to wings.
I felt paralyzed in my spot, and I silently screamed at myself to pull the trigger, but I felt like I was frozen in place. All it took though was a whine that escaped through my mouth, and the creature whipped around to look at me. Its eyes were stark white and wide like saucers. They glowed much brighter than the lights decorated around the Christmas tree. I’d assume in any other scenario I would’ve either ran or shot it, but to my own surprise, I lowered the gun.
When it looked at me, I suddenly felt calm.
Even to this day, I don’t know what exactly compelled me to drop the gun, the clatter of the pistol hitting the floor was deafening among the tense silence. The monster stared at me, unblinking with its empty, pupiless eyes. Tom’s body still dangled beside it, but all I did was stare right back, and it began to feel like I wasn’t looking at just a monster, but something... familiar. I felt like I was staring at an old friend. I don’t know what it was, but suddenly I wasn’t afraid anymore.
I blinked after taking a couple of steps forward, and when I opened my eyes, the creature had already disappeared, along with Tom’s corpse.
The police came 30 minutes after I made the call. I could hear the chatter of a news reporter near the window I was standing at, along with the various other mumbles of the officers as they examined the crime scene. When they questioned me about what happened, I only told them about the scream and the bloody mess that I had found in the living room. I knew none of them would’ve believed me had I told them what I really saw.
It’s been roughly 4 years since that day, and sometimes when I sit in my room, I think back about that day, about the soothing effect that monster had when I looked into its eyes. My father’s message echoed in my mind every time I think about it: “Remember, I’ll always protect and watch over you.”
I've begun to put more faith in the existence of guardian angels.