This is the first chapter of my latest work in progress. I don't have a title yet, so for now it's just "the Nephilim book." You can also click here to watch me read it aloud.
Cadiel, largest of the Nephilim, son of Armaros, watches his image in the lake. It is enormous. Horrific. He is as tall as twenty men, and his body swells with power, but his flesh rots. Red muscle glistens through the peeling green skin. White bones show their faces to the crisp morning air. The forest around the lake is wide and high in the mountains. He chose to live here so that he could be alone. His human disguise is exhausting.
Still, he is not at his full power. He is in his true form—a cursed, rotting giant—but still holding back. He yearns to run free, at full speed, at full height. But then, he would stick out above the tree tops, so tall that even the people down in town might spot him. That, and the hunger.
Cadiel remembers the last time he fed the hunger. Not with playthings like grain or gold or concubines, but with his one true source of power. He remembers that other Nephilim, face beaten to pudding, still breathing as it lay in a putrid sprawl. His cousin. He remembers eating. He remembers doubling in size as he stripped the bones clean with his teeth. The thrill of it sends a tingle throughout his body. He grows another dozen feet. His muscles become more massive. More bones find windows in his ruined flesh. He needs to calm back down. The hunger speaks to him.
The hunger is getting louder. Cadiel has indulged it, even with the mere snack of memory. It will never be satisfied. Giving it more will not help. He tries to remember how the taste of his cousin’s rancid flesh disgusted him. No use. Heaven’s curse on the Nephilim is the perfect trap: each time one Nephilim eats another, the victor doubles in size, in power, and in hunger. Thus, each Nephilim must choose to die or dominate. All the while, their rotting flesh reminds them of their sin.
No, not their sin. The sin of their parents, the rebel angels who came down to Earth to mate with human wives. Before destroying those rebels, Heaven showed them how their children would suffer.
“More” means more vileness on his tongue, but it means more power too. More security against his hungry cousins. More terror in the eyes of humanity. More hunger. More suffering for the Nephilim. More shame at their terrible ways.
Cadiel closes his eyes. He sees a burning field, a night sky stained by the flames. A massive Nephilim looms above him. All the mechanics of this monster are laid bare. The grey muscles, without a shred of skin left to contain them, work the awful bones like crude levers, though the smallest is larger than a temple pillar. And it screams. It screams with a hate beyond words. Cadiel needs no words. He knows this hate. He feels it in the depths of his soul. He hates Heaven, like all Nephilim do. Heaven cursed them. Heaven killed their parents. Heaven gave humanity a second chance, and so the Nephilim hate humanity too.
“YES!” Cadiel could say, almost. But somewhere under the roar of the hunger, the shriek of his hate, there are other voices. A woman who spoke with courage. A Nephilim who spoke with kindness. His parents, one angel and one human, who spoke with love.
Cadiel tries to close his eyes. Tries to bury his head in his hands. He is not ready. Whatever his answer will be, he’s not ready. He tries to clear the voice of the hunger from his mind, which is the monster’s voice too. He reminds himself that this abomination, the one Nephilim that has consumed all the others, doesn’t exist yet. Perhaps it never will. Still, his eyes meet with the monster’s, and the monster speaks.
“FOR I AM CADIEL, THE GREATEST OF NEPHILIM, THE DESTROYER OF MEN, THE SHAME OF ANGELS, THE DOOM OF HEAVEN, THE MOUTH THAT EATS ALL THINGS.”
Cadiel grits his teeth. He tries to lock his jaw and seal his lips. But still, his voice joins with the monster’s. Together, they speak its final name.
“I AM THE LAST.”
Cadiel is calm. Somewhere, quietly, he can still hear The Last. He always can, even on the best days. For now, he has pushed aside the angel part of him, which is cursed, and brought forth the human part of him, which is fallen. Fallen, but with a chance at redemption. In his thousands of years on Earth, he has seen human beings act with the same depravity as the Nephilim. Two world wars. Nuclear missiles. The Internet, which, as best he can tell, is a machine for sending hate to every corner of the world. And yet…
He is a mere six feet tall now, small enough to walk around his little cabin by the lake. He looks in the bathroom mirror. He looks like a man. Human women have told him he is attractive this way. Long, dark hair and a full beard. Deep amber skin, without a hint of rotting green. He can see the appeal of his large muscles now that they’re not exposed. He is, in fact, beautiful. Beautiful like his human mother, Zemira. The centuries have blurred her face in his memory, but he can still remember her eyes. Dark, deep, and sweet, like pools of honey. Who could blame Armaros, his angel father, for returning the love in those eyes?
Later, there was another woman. A woman who was everything the Nephilim are not. If only Cadiel could remember her name without weeping.
Cadiel grabs the keys to his truck. He never relishes the thought of getting groceries. The more human eyes he has on him, the more this form feels like a lie. Still, the hunger commands it, so he drives down into town. Inside the store, the cashier is friendly. She looks down at his cart. It’s filled to the brim. Several roast chickens. Five egg cartons. At least a dozen fish. Ten pounds or so of steak. Loaves and loaves of bread. Some cookies and chips. Seasonings and garnishes. Some vegetables, with an abundance of peppers.
“When are you going to invite me to one of your big parties, Cadiel?”
He shakes his head. “I don’t throw any parties up there.”
Her eyes go wide. “So, this is all just for you?”
Cadiel lies. “Some of it’s for my pets. Pets the park service doesn’t need to know about, if you know what I mean.”
She smirks and nods. “My lips are sealed. Still, I don’t know how you stay in such great shape when you eat like this.”
“Magic,” he says, hauling his bags.
Cadiel will not take a single bite of this food. He will store it until it rots then bury it underground. The Nephilim hunger for everything, but there is only one thing they can eat. Cadiel has sworn off eating his cousins. He would rather keep his mind clear and he has learned it’s easier to stay calm when he indulges the hunger in minor ways. Still, he thinks, it’s a pity to waste so much.
Back at the cabin, Cadiel sits down and opens his laptop. Though he still prefers to journal by hand, he’s had to digitize the older ones. He clicks through a folder full of papyrus scans. The file names have numbers, but those are just guesses. He never bothered to include the date back then. Why would he? Why would a Nephilim, a demigod feared among men, concern himself with such details? He chooses a file and clicks it open.
Even before he reads the words, the sight of those tattered yellow sheets takes him back.