A short story first posted November 2012, dusted, polished and presented anew.
Friday, and I flew through the door, excitement bubbling, impatient to tell Bill what had happened. I dropped my jacket on the floor, dropped my butt on the bed and picked up my floppy eared dog. I told him, I’d seen a fairy in the park. It—he—was just sitting there! Sitting right on my bench, the one where I usually eat my sarnies.
Of course, I walked on past. I sat on a bench farther along. Wasn’t like the park was busy. Plenty of benches for many more bums. But I kept looking back at him.
Yea, I know it’s hard to believe, I answered Bill’s bitty growl. But I swear it’s all true. A fairy was sitting on my usual bench in St George’s Park. Well, I thought him a fairy at first. Then I wondered if he was an elf. I mean, do we know the defining features?
Of course, he wasn’t either, neither fairy, nor elf. He was an angel. See, fairies and elves are diminutive things, that’s why we call them the wee folk. But he wasn’t small, he was big. Though not super-big; he wasn’t a giant. He was more … kind of man-sized.
But, as I told Bill, he wasn’t a human. How did I know? Because of the weather.
All morning, totally overcast, not a glimpse or glimmer of blue. Yet there in the park at lunch the sun was shining. Shining! And he was the source. All lit up, he was, like his halo had slipped and ballooned around him.
So, as I told Bill, he must be an angel. Unless he’s a saint. Anyway, disregarding; this was Friday night, so what to do for the weekend? I could play at Farnaby again. But to be honest, that Farnaby game was beginning to bore me.
The first few times, yea, great; I got a kick out of creating my own village and populating it. But now it was toddling along the excitement had gone from it. It was just something to do to pass time, like doing a jigsaw. What it needed was a disaster to kill off a few people. Then I could bring in some more. I pondered that, assessing the situation. Perhaps I could spend the weekend finding a site for the cemetery? Possibly close to the church, though that might require a major clearance. I chuckled, a thought then hitting. What if the villagers woke up on Sunday morning to find an angel asleep on the village green?
I asked Bill his opinion. Who’d be the first of Farnaby’s folk to greet the angel? And which of the residents has he come to help? It wouldn’t be the vicar. I’d made him a perv.
I sighed. If only I could create my own life as easily. I was trying; I’d read the books. But it seemed I was travelling through Sameness Country. Still, I had seen an angel in the park.
Monday, and as soon as I came through the door I had to tell Bill, he was there again today.
He was sitting exactly where he’d sat before, as if he’d not moved all weekend. As before, I kept on walking. But this time he called to me.
‘Hey! Hey, love!’
I ignored him. I mean, I was so embarrassed. There were people today and they could have heard, could have seen. But then I felt bad, so I turned back again.
‘Love!’ he called to me.
I wondered why he didn’t call me by name. As an angel he ought to have known it. But then maybe God hadn’t told him. Maybe God didn’t know it? Now I thought on it, that did seem likely what with me being an atheist. Anyway, I didn’t answer him. The angel that is, not the Big G. In truth, I wasn’t that sure he was actually there. I mean, I could have been hallucinating, though I’d never hallucinated before, and I didn’t want people staring at me, thinking me nuts.
However, I walked back to the bench and stood right in front of him. Being close sent a tingling feeling into my tummy, and tiny invisible feet that danced all over me, shooting a shiver right down my back. It was quite pleasant in a fearful way. Remembering a lesson in one of the How To books, I gathered my courage and tried to speak without moving my lips—just in case he wasn’t real, and someone was watching. ‘Are you talking to me?’
As I told Bill, he looked good enough to eat without salt. Young—or at least younger than me. Yet somehow, looking old—or was that just wise. Old and wise in an unworldly way.
He was wearing a jacket, leather. A flight-jacket. Apt, that, for an angel to wear. But I couldn’t believe what he said to me. ‘Got any change, love?’
And no, before you think it, he’s not one of those winos who congregate there. Winos, I’ve noticed, tend not to have halos. Not unless they’re dark halos of long, greasy uncombed hair. I’ll tell you as I told Bill, he is divine.
Anyway, I hadn’t any change. Well I had, but I needed that for myself. But I was honest, I told him.
‘Sorry,’ I said. ‘But if I give it to you I’ll be skint. What d’you want it for, anyway?’
He laughed. ‘I don’t. I just wanted something to say. Something to keep you here. To keep you talking.’
I sat down then. Well, dropped agog, really. I sat right beside him. Far too close. He was definitely not a wino. I mean, when have you ever seen a well-kept wino sitting on a park bench. And I don’t mean just his clothes, but his body too. I had to keep watch, not to lick my lips. He had a very fit body. And yes, he was definitely there, not a figment of my imagination. I could feel the heat of him. Angels are creatures of fire and light, and he was burning very bright.
At this, Bill gave me such a look. But I told him, I’ll wax lyrical all I like.
He introduced himself. Martin.
I said, ‘That’s not a Jewish name.’
Hey, listen to me: “I said, he said”. But we were sitting on that bench in St George’s Park, talking like regular folk. “Martin the Angel and I conversed—” Isn’t that something! I was so glad to have Bill to tell all this to. I swear I’d have burst if I had to keep it all to myself.
‘Rachel,’ I told him, meaning my name.
He raised his left brow. ‘Jewish?’
‘No,’ I said. ‘Atheist.’ And could have kicked myself for such a reply.
But before I could explain, he came right back with, ‘Snap.’
I blinked several times at him. Snap: such a strange thing to say.
‘Have you fallen?’ I asked. I mean, how else to explain this peculiar anomaly: an atheist angel? Was he best buddy with Satan? One of his Chosen.
‘Fallen from grace?’ he asked. ‘No, I never was there.’
I noticed the people walking past kept giving me glances. Could they see him? Or did they think me off my trolley, another of the nutters we get it the park, just sat there talking no one? I was feeling embarrassed. In a way I was glad that he’d knocked the senses out of me and I’d no more to say. I mean, an atheist angel, who’s ever heard of it. But by then my stomach was reminding me I’d not yet eaten. Yet how could I munch into a cheese and garlic sandwich with him beside me. He might speak again, I might need to answer. I couldn’t do that with a mouth full of raw garlic.
Then he suddenly asked me, ‘Do you?’
I didn’t ask him to clarify: Do I what? I just went into a panic. I shuffled my butt along the bench, an arm’s length between us at least. I mean, here was this guy I’d only just met and there he was asking if ‘I do’. But do I do what? A big dose of sense came clobbering over me. You hear such terrible things. My mother always warned us of strangers. My sisters would have run scared long before now. Mum always said they’d more sense than me. And my brother would be going ape if he knew.
I tell you, I was scared. I hadn’t been till then, but now with him asking me that ….
I sat up straight, business-like, my ‘don’t mess with me, buster, look’, ready to run if I must. Though I hoped that I wouldn’t.
‘Do I do what?’ I asked, cos some clue would be good.
‘Do you smoke?’ he said. ‘Regular, I mean. I don’t mean the funny stuff.’
‘No,’ I said. I was afraid I would laugh. I mean, relief does that and I didn’t want to scare him away.
‘Pity,’ he said and drew a lonely cigarette from a battered box.
Then, clear out of the blue, he said, ‘I’m an angel.’
Yea, I know I’d speculated that, but to hear him say it totally freaked me. Stunned into silence by the revelation, I simply gawped at him.
‘Would you like to come for a walk?’ he asked.
‘Work,’ I said. ‘I have to get back.’ That wasn’t the truth. The town hall clock had just struck the half.
‘I didn’t mean now. Not this moment. I was asking you out. A date.’
‘Oh,’ I said. ‘Yea, okay.’
Now, I expect you’re thinking the same as Bill, that he could be anyone. A serial killer. Am I crazy or what?
He said then that he likes to keep things real. That he isn’t the kind of angel who pops up unexpectedly, like he’s suddenly be there in the middle of the night, sitting at the end of the bed. He says he won’t do that cos it freaks people out. He asked for my number. He said that’s how he prefers to communicate, when not face-to-face. He said he’d bell me and make us a date.
He did lots of explaining, the rest of my lunch hour. He lives in a flat like a regular fella. And he signs on at the dole. See, he can’t get a job cos he’s far too busy being an angel. I had to laugh. I mean, can you imagine him signing on at the Job Centre to? ‘And what was your last job, Mr Angel? And your employer’s name?’ He couldn’t say God, could he, cos like me he’s an atheist.
But how in hell’s name can an angel be an atheist? It was so bugging me, I just had to ask him, though not in those words.
I said, ‘If you’re an angel, how come you don’t believe in God?’
He said, ‘How well versed are you in quantum physics? The Big Bang, photons, neutrons, the mass annihilation. If I talk of Dark Energy would you know what I mean? Or the Dark Dimension?
I couldn’t answer. I shrugged. Puffed. Held wide my ignorant arms.
He said, ‘Well, that’s what I am, and where I’m from. The Dark Dimension.’
But you know what’s bugging me? As I said to Bill, I thought angels were creatures of light.
Still, he’s my boyfriend now. And I am going to drop that bomb on Farnaby.
I append the two comments made, the first by Brian Bixby of Sillyverse; the second, made a year later by Judy of Janthina Images; both have seen become very dear friends. I thank them both for their continuing support.
Brian Bixby (Nov 2012):
An amusing possibility, as explained in your two subsequent posts. So, how would a dark angel be different? To whom or what would they owe allegiance? What would be their values and mission? Or would they even have one as a class? Perhaps being formed out of dark energy, they have no fixed relation to the world of regular matter. You could take this in the direction of an alien life form, or a spiritual guide, or even raise the question of whether there’s any difference.
You’ve hit right on it. Quantum angels are the quintessential all-for-one, one-for-all: they have no overlord, dark or otherwise. However, as in the Zoroastrian religion, (Ahura Mazda v. Ahriman) there has been a division amongst them. Some have been banished. But to say more would reveal too soon the crux of the Feast Fables plot (a fantasy I’m currently structuring as a blogged book). You’ll have to stay tuned.
Judy (Nov 2013):
So interesting …a quantum angel…I guess how quantifiable as energy or light remains to be revealed in your stories? Right now he’s a bit of a dark mystery.
BB of Sillyverse has recently described the underlying theology/cosmology of Feast Fables and Neve as quantum shamanism. I’m apt to agree.
Back then, I was all “What is CP up to, metaphysically?” Now I’m more, “What’s going on between the characters?” Shows what a few years of reading your stuff and writing mine will do.
Rachel’s a bit of a gem: neither all-knowing, nor completely freaked out. OK, she must have had some weird stuff in her life, and she’s none too sure she’s still not a bit off, but for all that, just don’t get to see an angel hanging around every day. And the both of them have small talk problems.
In some ways, this is the horrible-but-I-hope-it-gets-better first date story. “Hey, you’re nice but weird. Let’s misunderstand each other for a bit, and then meet again, because misunderstanding you is more fun than understanding most people.”
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I think they’re both pretty weird. Clearly she has social problems; doesn’t make friends easily, spends weekends playing computer games; talks to Bill, her cuddly dog from years back. Though she does have family. Siblings. Yea, I think she’s never had a boyfriend. As to him . . . ? Is he for real? An atheist angel, who signs on the Dole cos he has to keep his days free to do God’s work, Now, hold on, but he’s atheist. 🙂 Quirky.
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We’re so used to disreputable people being male, and it’s been so long since I read this the first time, that I was imagining Rachel as male for a fair piece of the story.
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Now you have me laughing. I tend to think of her situation as more common in females than males. Though I will admit, there are some pretty weird fellas about.
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Oh wow name front and center…. excellent!
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Thought you’d appreciate. There could be more to come as I slowly go through old posts to see if any are worth the reviving. 🙂