A novel of the Seven Signs
Out on 2 October 2012
Chapter One excerpt
Today, of all days. It was Thursday. The world
couldn’t end on a Thursday.
Luniel, the fallen angel, crouched on the shore of
Liberty Island in a hot August sunset with blood
lapping at his feet. It licked the rocks beneath
his boots, clotting. All the way across the bay,
to the firelit Brooklyn shore and the gleaming
blue arcs of the Narrows Bridge, what used to be
water gleamed sick and scarlet.
The angel sniffed the air, and tasted copper. A
dead fish bobbed belly-up, pale white flesh and
fins. He poked the warm liquid with his finger,
and licked. Yeah. Definitely blood. And human.
There were seaweeds and algae that sported the
same fleshy color. But Luniel had tasted enough
blood in his three thousand years to know this
He straightened. No breeze flicked his long black
hair back. In his human guise, he had no wings. He
scanned the distant shore with sharp blue eyes,
further than any human could see, and his nose
twitched. Hunting. For something. Anything. A
trick. A college prank. A fish slaughterhouse.
Overflow from some industrial accident, one of the
factories along the built-up Jersey waterfront
spilling toxic chemicals.
Not a sign of the Apocalypse. Not God’s wrath.
Across the bloody bay, Babylon’s glittering towers
razored the red sky, the decadent sprawl of
skyscrapers and spires they once called Manhattan.
The sunset flashed on steel and mirrored windows,
glaring in competition with neon lights and
rainbow columns of virtual advertising. Even from
here, Lune’s preternatural ears detected buzzing
electrics, the faint digital beep of comms towers,
snatches of conversations, and in his magical
angelsight, the city glowed, green with the
living, pulsing energy of human souls.
Helicopters lasered their searchlights through
smoke and heat haze, sweeping over burned-out
housing projects and shining condominiums. Traffic
noise hummed, the groaning subway, horns and
engines and wailing sirens, police and fire and
the ever-more-urgent ambulances. At the height of
summer, plague had stolen into the Empire State
like a homicidal houseguest, more frightening than
California dengue and deadlier than arctic flu,
and people were afraid.
But terror happened in Babylon, the world’s
richest, rottenest city of sin. You only had to
look at the shining glass spire piercing the sky,
one hundred and ten stories high, built back in
wiser days where a pair of ill-fated twin towers
once stood. The world had turned ever more rapidly
to shit since then, but Luniel still remembered
that day well. That day, angels dived for earth,
fiery wings flashing, but it was too late. Even
the fallen, like Lune, were powerless. The people
screamed and died and thought the world was
Horrific? Yeah. But the monkeys had no idea what
they were in for.
What the end of the world would really be like.
Luniel shivered. This wasn’t over yet. It couldn’t
He dug into his jeans pocket for his phone, and
speed-dialed. Trendy SIM implants in your ears
were all very well for humans, but fast-healing
angelflesh rejected biotech. The irony was
pleasing and bitter. “Come on, Ithiel,” he
muttered. “Answer your rotted phone.”
Ithiel was still on heaven’s A-list, but he and
Lune stayed in contact. If anything was going
down, Ith would know. But voicemail kicked in, his
brother’s laid-back laughter: I’m busy. Leave
a message. If I give a shit, I’ll call back.
Luniel swore—even after centuries, defiance felt
good—and waited for the beep. “Party never stops
upstairs, huh. Call me, asshole,” he said, and
ended the call.
A week. Ithiel hadn’t answered for a week. And now
It could be stupid luck. Coincidence. Random
events colliding like flotsam.
But after two millennia spent dealing out heaven’s
wrath, and going on another one walking the earth
and seeing it all from the other side, Luniel was
wearily certain that what goes around, comes
around to kick you in the balls.
Coincidence was bullshit. Nothing was random.
Everything happened for a reason, and fate was one
dastardly, despicable motherfucker you just
But inexorably—inexplicably—the blood lapping at
his feet made him angry.
Defiantly, recklessly, sinfully angry.
He unclenched his fingers, and called another
number. Above him, Lady Liberty looked on,
unmoved. “Dash, it’s Lune. There’s something I
think you should see.”
“Lune, you old dog.” Dashiel’s voice, rough with
whiskey and centuries of shouting on the
battlefield. A shuffle, his hand over the phone to
block out music, clinking glass, the laughter and
noise of a party. “Got my hands full here. Can it
“No. I’m on the shore at Liberty Island. Get down
“Okay, but I warn you . . .”
Warm breeze rippled Lune’s hair, and Dashiel
materialized with a white flash and a whoomph! of
displaced air. Dashiel was the leader of their
fallen gang, a bunch of shunned angels called the
Tainted Host, still chained in servitude to a
heaven that liked to pretend they didn’t exist.
The Tainted had done bad things, but not bad
enough to get cast into hell forever. They were
one step away from damnation. Which kinda made it
hard to say no to any of the dirty jobs heaven
“. . . if that luscious little lady
blows me off, I’ll blame you,” finished Dash,
stuffing his phone back into his pocket. Rich
brown hair tied back, sun-bronzed skin, flashing
dark eyes. Lune was taller than most humans, but
Dash stacked inches on that, and pounds of extra
muscle to match. He wore dark jeans, a white shirt
and a golden snakecharm on leather around his
neck, and he had a cherry-red lipstick kiss on his
He folded his wings, ruffling shiny feathers the
color of espresso flecked with gold. “What’s the
Luniel sighed, and slipped his phone away. “Jesus.
Stealth it up, Dash. It’s the twenty-first
century, not the Dark Ages. We’re not exactly top
of the charts these days.”
“Like anyone can see me,” Dashiel scoffed, but he
did cover up, sliding on his human guise. Not that
it helped much. His wings vanished, and his
coloring faded to a more acceptable level, so it
didn’t dazzle human eyes. That was all. He still
They all did. Long ago, when they’d been created,
they’d needed no better disguise. Getting
recognized as heaven’s messenger was totally okay,
back when forty-day floods and burning bushes were
the rage. These days, faith was a war, with every
street corner the battlefield. Nothing like making
yourself a target.
Dash rolled his massive shoulders, adjusting his
balance. “Satisfied? What’s going on, dude? And
what’s that stink?” He stared, and sucked in a
breath. “Holy shit.”
“It’s holy some damn thing. Blood in the ocean.
The second sign. You know anything about this?”
“Nope.” Dash crouched and swiped a sword-callused
hand through the gore, bringing up a clotted
handful. He rubbed his fingers together, and
grimaced. “The archangels don’t tell me anything.
You know that. They just call when they want
someone’s ass kicked.”
Fuck. Lune had hoped it was all under control.
He’d never been too good at saving people. Get too
close, they depend on you, and then splat! Shit
happens, and you’re alone and guilty. “Mike didn’t
“Very funny. Mike never mentions anything. Still,
that doesn’t mean it’s . . .
y’know.” Dash wiggled his fingers in mock mystery.
“The End. Could just be—”
“Ithiel’s missing, Dash.” Luniel’s voice strained
Dash scratched his head, streaking blood. “Uh-huh.
‘Off on heaven’s secret business’ missing? Or,
y’know. ‘Missing’ missing?”
“Hasn’t answered for a week. He always answers.
You know the story, Dash. Seven vials of Himself’s
wrath, hidden by seven guardian angels. Empty them
out, spill the seven plagues and it’s all over.
What if . . .” Lune hesitated.
“What if Ithiel’s a Guardian? And something’s
happened to him?”
Dash frowned. “Like what? Even if you’re right,
which I’m not saying you are, there’s this thing
kicking around called God’s Plan. You might have
heard of it? If the big guy says it’s over, it’s
Lune shook his dark head, stubborn. “No. Ithiel
would’ve told me. Something’s not right, and it’s
not just the sea going O-positive.”
Garbage lapped the shore in bloody clumps. Dash
poked at a dead fish with his boot. “Say you’re
right. Been a while since I read much. The sea
turning to blood is the second plague? What’s
number one? Something about sores and shit?”
“‘The first angel poured out his vial upon the
earth, and there fell a noisome and grievous sore
upon men,’” Lune recited dramatically. A chill
rippled his spine, and he longed to stretch his
wings and fly away. “Shit. The Manhattan virus.”
“Don’t you watch CNN? They’re calling it the
zombie plague. Broke out a few weeks ago in
Babylon. Rots human flesh, eventually kills them.
But it turns them into cunning homicidal maniacs
first. It’s a real beauty.”
Dash stared, silent. And then he laughed,
humorless, shaking his dark head. “Oh, man. Save
my life from becoming a bad movie.”
“Dude, your life is already a bad movie. Complete
with naked girls and bow-chicka-bow-wow.”
“Watch it and weep,” said Dash cheerfully. “A few
more naked girls in your life might pull that
stick from up your ass. When’s the last time you
got some action?”
“That long, huh? It’s not like you’re no one’s
type, Lune. Chicks dig that bad-boy look.”
Oh, yeah. Chicks dug it, all right. Chicks digging
it wasn’t the problem. The problem was getting
them to undig it afterwards. Lune had learned his
lesson a long time ago: don’t get attached. It
only ever ends in disaster.
But still, his body flushed hot and hard thinking
about a woman’s sweet curves. A human woman, by
choice. Now he was Tainted, he didn’t have to
worry too much about the little sins, and Dash was
right about one thing: it’d been one fuck of a
long time. Female angels were beautiful, but
something about human women aroused Lune most
deliciously. He’d always liked their fleshy
scents, their skin’s hot salty flavor, the slick
honey of their sex . . .
He snorted, avoiding the issue. “The last time?
Wait, let me see. Oh, yeah. That was right before
the fucking Apocalypse started and no one told
“Worst damn excuse I ever heard.” Dash sighed,
shoving his hands in his pockets. “Okay. This
could be just coincidence. I’ll call Mike, see if
I can get the latest. But only because I like you,
Lune. You know that asshole makes me want to punch
“So punch him. What’s he gonna do, shun you
Dash guffawed. “Oh, stop it, you saucy hussy.
Don’t tempt me. You wanna come?”
Lune gulped. Ever since he’d fallen foul of
Michael’s wrath—it didn’t matter how you felt
about a woman, lust was still a sin for an angel
of heaven—the saccharine scent of archangel made
him sweat. And Michael himself
was . . . hard to take.
“Ah. No. I’m gonna look for Ithiel. Why don’t you
take Japheth?” he suggested. Japheth was another
of the Tainted, a mighty warrior shunned for the
sin of pride. “He was Mike’s favorite once.”
“And I still wonder about that boy’s taste in men.
I’ll give him a call. Maybe he can flirt Mike into
fessing up.” Dash thumped Lune on the shoulder,
affectionate. “Don’t worry, kid. You’ll find your
brother shacked up with a lady, or on some secret
All this Apocalypse shit will be piss and wind.
Just you watch.”
“Just you watch,” echoed Lune faintly as Dash
He sighed. He should get on and look for Ithiel.
He knew his brother’s scent like he knew his own.
He’d cruise the city, make a few calls. Shouldn’t
be too hard.
But his gaze kept drawing back to the ocean of
Thing was, when the world ended, humans had
somewhere to go, be it heaven or hell. They lived
forever. But unless they earned redemption—or,
more likely, heaven lost patience and finally cast
them into damnation—Tainted angels were soulless.
When it all wrapped up, they’d
be . . . nothing. Emptiness.
Luniel glanced down at the rising blood tide, and
the salty meat stink crawled into his guts and
coiled there, uneasy.
All piss and wind.
For all their sakes, it’d better be.