PROLOGUE 1997

The pain was excruciating. The delivery room was cold and sterile. A strong stench of cleaning chemicals hung in the room like an invisible cloud. The stirrups hurt her bared ankles, and tears ran down her cheeks. She was uncomfortable, weak, all alone and shivering. Nobody ever told her that having a baby would hurt this much. She was stunned that any woman would willingly put herself through this absolute torture, some more than once. For the first time since she'd runaway six months ago, Donatella Bright wished her mother were here. She would certainly be disgusted with her, getting knocked-up at fifteen definitely was not in momma's carefully constructed plans for her, but at least she could've warned her about the damn pain. She knew that the delivery would hurt, of course, but she'd been in pain during her whole pregnancy and she was worn down by it. Overhead, a huge circular light blazed like a fluorescent sun. Donna focused her attention on that light and tried to wish the pain away. All around her, nurses in surgical garb and masks busied themselves. One of the older nurses constantly dabbed a cold washcloth against her forehead and whispered "Don't be scared," and "Everything's all right, child," into her ear. Donna liked her. The others however, they could go to the devil for all she cared. She could tell they were judging her; it was in their eyes. She may be young, but she had a decade and a half of seeing disapproval in her momma's eyes. She knew perfectly well what it looked like. Doctor Joseph W. Eddington, the ancient white-haired man, poked his head over the sheet strung between her legs and looked at her with a very serious expression. "Okay, Donna," he said in a gravelly voice, "I want you to push again. Just a small one this time, okay?" He then barked at one of the judging nurses for a set of fresh towels.

Donna didn't want to push ever again, even just a little. It hurt beyond comprehension for her to push. The kind nurse with the washcloth took Donna's hand and encouraged her with soft words. Donna summoned up the courage to face the pain one more time, gritted her teeth, squeezed the nurse's hand as hard as she could and pushed. She felt something inside of her tear and immediately everything around her started to fade. One of the nurses gasped and Dr. Eddington muttered a curse, and she knew that something was seriously wrong.

*****

Isabella, the guardian angel, was a vision of pure beauty with her long flowing golden hair and inquisitive brown eyes. She tucked her purplish-blue wings tightly against her back as she landed in the delivery room. As per her instructions from her Father, she had come to witness the birth of the new seer. Her fingers fluttered with excitement as she laid her hands upon the stomach of the seer's doomed mother. The child would arrive within a matter of moments, though she would be born blind, as all seers were. It was understood that one could not see the Truth if they were blinded the by illusion of humankind's harsh reality. Isabella stole a quick glance to Ezekiel, the Archangel of Death, and offered him a knowing smile. He had arrived with her to escort the mother's soul to her reward. He looked so elegant with his mighty black wings spread out to their full width, and his arms open wide in a welcoming embrace. The human world would cry and morn for the passing of the seer's mother, for they didn't understand the true ways of Father, and therefore didn't understand that Donatella Bright's death wasn't a tragedy, but rather the ultimate blessing. Ezekiel winked at her and flapped his wings sending an unexplainable breeze across the windowless room. Isabella saw that the humans were too enraptured in their tasks to take notice of Ezekiel's actions. This caused him to wink again. He had always been the mischievous one, thought Isabella behind an amused smile. He loved to bend Father's sacred rules without actually breaking them.

Isabella heard the doctor instruct the mother to push again, and she knew the seeker would now be born. The mother cried out in anguish until Ezekiel rested his palms along her sweat-covered cheeks. The mother calmed instantly with a contented sigh, and a moment later, the seer was among the living. The human doctor quickly snipped the Umbilical Cord, wrapped the seer in a clean white towel and handed her off to a nurse wearing a mask. Isabella wrapped her large wings protectively around the human female and the seer, and greeted the new arrival by placing her finger across the seer's lips. "Shhh," Isabella whispered in a voice only the seer could hear. Even though the child had been on this plane for only a few moments, Isabella knew the seer would understand her words. "Don't tell what you know, for our secret is not yet ready to be revealed. Welcome to this plane of existence, my beautiful girl. As you know, I must take away your humanly sight, so that you will not be blind to Father's Truth. You will need this gift of "True Sight" later in your life. Be at peace, for I shall always be with you. I am yours, precious one. Now through all eternity." Isabella looked to Ezekiel. He held the mother safely within his arms as a sheet was placed over her empty human shell's face. Humans, Isabella had learned long ago, were oddly afraid to look upon death, instead they chose to cover it up with cloth, hide it in long wooden boxes and bury it in the same ground they grew their food. Gone was Donatella Bright's pain and misery caused by this plane's existence. Instead, the mother was smiling at her newborn babe with eyes full of love and total understanding of Father's ways. Since she was the vessel that carried the seer to her earthly destination, she would become a saint. That was the blessed reward for all such vessels. Isabella greeted Father's newest saint with the customary touching of the right cheek. The mother returned the greeting along with a smile. "Your new daughter, our precious seer, needs a human name," Ezekiel whispered into her ear. "It wouldn't be fitting for the world to call Father's Chosen One 'Hey You,' now would it?" Saint Donatella laughed and kissed Ezekiel on the cheek. "I choose the name Megan for the new seer. Let the world know her as Megan Bright." "Then so shall she be known. Now come, Father will be very pleased to meet you again." Ezekiel looked upward, and with the

grace bestowed only to angels, flapped his mighty wings and escorted Saint Donatella back to paradise. Isabella once again wrapped her wings protectively around the human female who was still cradling the seer in her arms. She placed her lips against the human's ear and whispered, "She shall be called Megan." The human cooed at the seer, "You're such a pretty girl, Megan. Yes you are, such a pretty, pretty girl." The doctor raised his eyebrow at the nurse. "So you feel comfortable enough giving the child a name?" The nurse held the seer out to the elderly man so he could see her clearly and smiled. "Have you ever seen anybody else who looked as much like a Megan as this little girl does? And since her mother can't name her, and she has to be called something --" Isabella whispered into the human male's ear, "She shall be called Megan." The doctor shrugged his shoulders. You picked well." "Megan is a fine name. The

Isabella beamed with pleasure and extended her wings. seer had arrived. Now the battle would begin.

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