Fiction: February 5, 2014 – Pillar of Fire

“So. You’re an angel, huh?”

I meet the most interesting people at sunrise and sunset. Anyone who makes a point of waking the sun or tucking it in bed, so to speak, usually has an interesting reason or story.

“That’s what I said.”

It was unreasonably cold that morning by the water, especially that close to the water fall. The sun hadn’t quite lit up the sky yet. My camera was set up, poised to take an admittedly unoriginal sunrise time lapse. I was bundled up and still cold. My hands and feet, especially, were well on their way to numb.

He, on the other hand, was dressed like a Russian gangster as shown on TV. 80’s style Puma matching track suit. He didn’t look cold at all. In fact — and I would say it was my imagination if I didn’t have the pictures — I could have sworn I saw a heat shimmer around him.

“Right. Well. Then I have questions.”

He turned his thousand yard stare away from the thrashing rapids and looked over his shoulder in my direction. He gave an impatient sigh and said, “Of course you do.”

I was standing with my gloved hands jammed in my coat pockets doing the oh-my-god-it’s-so-cold jig in hopes that it would warm me up.

I said, “How would I know? I mean, even if you did something amazing right here and right now. It could be technology. It could be magic. Hell, you could be a demon. No pun intended. Sorry. Or from the future.”

I gave him a look, inviting him to play the game.

He said, “Are you sure you want to do this?”

I looked around at the rocks, the raging water, the sky and shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t really have anything going on at the moment.”

Then he ripped my soul from my body. Well, that’s a little dramatic. From his point of view it was probably like picking up a Jack Russell Terrier by its tail. But from my point of view it was like being instantly plunged to the deepest part of the ocean — inky darkness and the weight of an ocean crushing you — and simultaneously thrust into outermost space — utter vacuum, the absence of all heat, and endless stars.

He must have put me back down or in but not quite all of the way. Just enough to bridge the gap. Just enough so that I could see him for real. Like dancing lights. Like being nose to nose with a spiral galaxy and feeling just as small in comparison.

After a second the image faded. I suddenly felt the hard, cold rock beneath. I was sitting on the ground, nose running and tears in my eyes. Apparently, the sun had risen in the meanwhile.

He was still standing there and facing the water again. I started to try to say something but my mouth was sore. I had bitten my tongue. I spat a little bloody saliva.

“What the — how long was I –?”

“About half an hour,” he said.

I laid down and breathed for a while just to gather myself. I said, “So that’s what you look like? Big ass cosmic light show? I was expecting wings and robes.”

He thought about that for a second. I’m pretty sure I saw a little grin there. He said, “From the side, give or take. If you saw–”

“No, I get it. Thanks for sparing me the full frontal,” I said. I worked my jaw a little around my sore tongue.

He said, “Satisfied?”

Before I could answer he said, “No. Of course not. Humans. Never satisfied. I guess that’s how you were made. Here come the questions.”

He sat down next to me, resigned.

I said, “That’s good enough for now. I don’t really have anything to compare with, you know. Anyway, I’ve always wondered about this. You’re a guy, right. People write, draw and talk about angels. They’re always men. Are there any female angels?”

“That’s your one question?”

“You never said I only got one question. You didn’t make any conditions.”

I got him with the technicality, I guess. He probably wasn’t expecting that question. I don’t know why I thought of that just then. Sometimes you have to go with the flow.

He said, “Yes. There are female angels. And some beyond gender. Outside of these bodies gender doesn’t have much relevance. Well, more or less. They generally don’t come here, though.”

“By here, you mean–”

“Earth. This solar system. The Milky Way. Three dimensional space with linear, sequential time.”

I said, “So where are they? Are they up there in, you know, Heaven?”

“Oh sure. Like you know something about heaven. More like in the heavens. They have a different assignment. Those of us that are here, we observe you. We oversee the life that’s on this planet.”

“Um. Have you read the news lately? You might want to polish your resume.”

He grunted in assent. “It’s not our place to make people do the right thing. But trust me. Without us here, you’d be a lot worse off. Or out there getting into things you’re not ready for.”

He looked up at the sky or beyond the sky when he said “out there”.

“Wait a minute. That sounds like you’re kind of holding us back. From what? Space exploration?”

He was thoughtful and then he said, “Space. Time. Other dimensions. Whatever you want to call it. I’ll put it this way. The technology and understanding that blurs the line between magic and science.”

“But–”

“Your’e not ready. You have no idea. How many zombie outbreaks have there been in the past few years? How many other-dimensional rifts has the military tried to open? How many strains of DNA unraveling viruses are sitting in a fragile underground bunker? How many sentient computers have almost–”

“We have sentient computers and other-dimensional rifts??”

He said, “That’s just what you’re able to get to while being pretty much bound to this one planet.  And of course you’ve got your ambitious little hearts set on Mars. That’s going to be trouble. You have no idea what’s out there. Some of it is benign. Some of it is hostile. All of it is beyond your ability to survive. Maybe even to comprehend.”

He looked off into the distance with something like sadness. “No idea.”

“You want to tell me?”

“No.”

“Fair enough,” I said. “So where are the lady angels?”

“Why do you want to know?”

“I’m looking to date.”

He laughed for the first time. “Right. They mostly get the harder assignments. Part of that is to keep what’s out there from knowing about or getting to you.”

“Oh,” I said. “So they’re on the front lines.”

“That’s a good way to put it.”

The sun was even higher in the sky now. The mist began to fade away. For the first time in a few minutes I looked around to take in the view. I was surprised that when I looked at him I could see a hint of his truer form. I don’t know if “see” is the right word. His glow, his aura, hovering around his form was — oh, I get it. That’s what they mean by halo. But it’s like the information bypassed the eyes and was perceived directly by the brain. It’s headache-inducing, by the way. I’m pretty sure it also did something to my brain because I still can’t remember my home phone number or how to tie a tie.

I was also surprised to see more halos at the top of the rocky, boulder strewn slope leading up to the parking lot. They were different than his halo but they were definitely there.

I said to him, “So — then why are they here?”

“I told you. They’re not here. They’re–”

He looked where I was pointing. He said, “Oh shit.”

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