We drove, Gabriel and I, toward the city. I didn’t know where we were going. I didn’t really care. When one’s understanding of reality is soundly dismantled in the matter of half an hour or so, it puts life in perspective. When a divine being tells you that your new-perspective-equipped life is probably going to end in the near to immediate future your priorities change. Sometimes the only think you can do to stay functional amid the intense ontological shock is to remain as petty and mundane as possible. It helps to maintain the illusion of normalcy.
“I really don’t like her,” I said. “I’ve never hit a woman but she makes me want to kick her ass.”
Gabriel said, “Or die trying.”
“Why is she giving me crap?”
“She doesn’t like people in general,” he said. “And you in particular.”
“I noticed. Why? And where we going?”
He was silent for for a second and then said, “You ask too many question.”
“I ask just the right amount of questions. You know, I wouldn’t have to ask any questions if you, like, talked. Explained things here and there. Preemptive strike on the whole zillion questions thing.”
He didn’t say anything.
“Okay. I’ll keep going then. If the Sisterhood of the Traveling Halos is here — that can’t be good. Maybe something slipped through the lines. Have you ever been there? The front lines?”
“I wouldn’t make it.”
“I’ve kind of seen you in full splendor, man,” I said. “You’re like a one man Death Star. What are you talking about?”
“I can’t really go where they go. In most of the places they go the rules are different. The laws.”
“Oh. I get it. You mean the physical laws.”
He looked at me like maybe I wasn’t one hundred percent clueless.
“What?” I said. “I watch ‘Beyond the Wormhole’. Morgan Freeman. Good show.”
“‘Through the Wormhole’,” he said.
“They changed the name.”
“Right,” he said. “You look at me and see what?”
“I don’t know what I’m seeing. Energy. Light, heat, glowing, coronas, things orbiting other things. Galactic fireworks.”
“Close enough for this conversation. Where Edna goes, the gravitational constant could be different. The wavelength of light is different or maybe there’s no sustainable electromagnetic wave. Sometimes it’s an all encompassing void of dark matter. Some places she can get to in a blink of an eye that would take me a few billion light years.”
I said, “That’s hard to wrap your head around.”
“That’s impossible for you to wrap your head around, Speck. Think of it this way. Your body is about 65% water. What would happen to your body if all of a sudden the properties of water changed? Say, water molecules repel each other instead of coalescing. She’s been places where the periodic table ends at carbon.”
“That would ruin my day.”
“Yes it would.”
We drove along the winding road toward Washington DC in silence for a bit. We crossed over 495 with traffic clogging its arteries in both directions. All of those people blissfully unaware of the strange and epic activities happening outside of the narrow band of electromagnetic stimuli that comprise all of our experience, emotion and existence.
I had been putting off asking the question in hopes that he would volunteer information but that wasn’t going to happen on its own.
“So what was that thing? In the photo.”
“I don’t know,” he said.
“You. You don’t know. You’re an angel. I assume you’re ancient and have seen things beyond all reason and comprehension and you don’t know.”
I said, “Is that why they’re here? Grace, Beautiful, and Edna?”
“That’s part of the reason.”
“They’ve got to know something. I mean, it seems like the kind of thing they’d deal with. Right? A still photograph is a recording of light at a point in time. Key word: ‘still’. This isn’t Harry Potter World.”
Gabriel said, “Is that science?”
“What? I don’t know. Whatever.”
There was a momentary silence.
“Is it after me? Like, could you see it if it were following me?”
He said, “Probably. To be safe, if I were you, I wouldn’t go dangling your soul around like a fishing lure.”
That was sobering to think about. The scenic parkway began to turn into a generic freeway.
“Hey, wait a minute,” I said. “Forget calling in reinforcements from here — from Earth. Why don’t you all call in the big guns from, you know, the home office. Just tell them, ‘Houston, we have a problem’.”
There was another awkward silence. Not a lull in conversation silence. More of a “I shouldn’t answer that question” silence. Finally, he said, “Would if I could.”
I almost drove off the side of the road when I realized what he had said and I gawked in his direction.
“What?” I said.
“We kind of haven’t been able to get in touch with the — the home office for a while.”
“Well, that sucks.”
“You have no idea,” he said.
“Hold on. How long is a while?”
Another pause. He said, “That depends on who you ask. I’d say about 2,000 years ago.”
“Get the f— outta here!”
“Would if I could,” he said.
“So you guys have been here, stranded, for a few thousand years. Basically since B.C. became A.D. Holding down your posts all that time. Why?”
He didn’t say anything.
I said, “So what about the — you know — the other side?”
“Same thing,” he said. “Although, things aren’t as black and white when neither side has gotten orders to follow for a few millennia.”
There were implications here that I couldn’t wrap my head around.
“No more questions,” he said. “For f — let’s just have some quiet.”
I was quiet for a minute.
Finally, he said, “Let’s just worry about here and now. We need to get you sorted out so you can — do whatever it is that you do. Go to work.”
“Where are we going?”
He said, “I need to talk to someone.”
“You can use my phone.”
He did and I heard his side of the brief conversation with someone named Lily. He handed me my phone and said, “Connecticut Avenue. Woodley Park Metro.”
“Can do,” I said.
You know what sucks? Being snared into some kind of adventure quest to save your own life and maybe defend the world against reality-warping shadow creatures and still having to spend thirty minutes stuck in traffic. Gabriel looked like he was dozing off in the passenger seat.
“Gabriel. We’re here.”
“That’s not my name, Speck,” he said.
“Well, Speck isn’t my name either.”
He said, “It’s more of a title at this point, though.”
“Yeh. That’s funny.”
He said, “Pull over.”
I pulled over in a no standing zone near the metro entrance. Out of habit I started putzing around on the phone since thirty seconds is too long for the post-modern mind to not receive stimuli. About two minutes later the back door opened and someone slid in. I looked in he rear view mirror.
“No way,” I said.
“You,” she said.
“You two know each other?” she, Gabriel and I said at the same time.
Gabriel said, “Lily, this is Speck.”
“That’s not my name.”
“Speck,” she said as a greeting. To Gabriel she said, “Speck here has the worst pick up lines. Something about my — assets?”
I said, “No no, I said ‘equipment’. I was not trying to — Gabriel, what does she have to do with this?”
Entertained by my embarrassment, Lily winked at me. She said to Gabriel, “What’s going on, sir?”
Gabriel said, “Edna is here.”
“And her BFFs?” Lily said.
“That’s not good,” Lily said. “Not good at all.”
“Wait,” I said. “How do you know about all of this?”
Lily said, “Because Mossad is the official, global census keeper for angels.”
“Mossad? Do you know Krav Maga?”
“Anyway,” Gabriel said, “I halo’d this guy. I need to get him sorted out.”
Lily laughed. She gave me a look like she was performing triage on the battlefield. She said, “Nice one, sir. He looks like he’s holding up okay, though. Why am I here?”
“It’s complicated,” Gabriel said. “He somehow managed to — I don’t know what he did, but it may be permanent.”
“What I did?” I said.
Gabriel continued, “There might be something after him. We’re not sure what but we’d rather know where it is and what it’s doing.”
“Oh,” Lily said. “You’re the bait, Speck.”
“Yeh, I’ve been told,” I said.
Lily said to Gabriel, “You know who can help, sir?”
Gabriel gave her a questioning glance.
She said, “Homeless Joe.”
“Nice,” Gabriel said. “You know where Farragut Square is, Speck?”
“Yeh. I do. Wait a minute. Homeless Joe? Big guy? Voice like gravel and tar?”
“That’s the guy,” Lily said.
Gabriel said, “Interesting. Let’s go.”