Well, here's chapter one. The response to the first one was great, so thanks to y'all for that. It's neat that you've taken a little of your time to write :)
This bit was actually written first - not the prologue (which appeared randomly sometime after I finished chapter nine). It was originally written in January of 2001 as just a short story that I wrote on some strange whim, but me being me couldn't leave a good thing alone and I proceeded to add chapter after chapter onto it and mutated it into a scifi-fantasy monstrosity that it's become today. Heh.
I forgot to add a copyright earlier, so I'll add one here. This and associated chapters is all my stuff. If you'd like to quote it, for some strange reason, in part or whole in any type of publication, please ask me BEFORE doing so, as it's my intellectual property. Thank you.
Anyway ... now that the prologue has gotten your attention, the characters of the title are introduced and the story proper begins ....
"The Angel and the Boy"
"The Angel and the Boy"
From the impossible heights of the sky, the figure plummeted sharply, twisting around in the breeze and falling sharply, but turning again, around and around in circles, gliding lower. The pirouettes flattened out and came to end, the figure alighting gracefully onto the ground, as if merely stepping out of the front door of the house to go for a stroll.
Magnificent, was the word for him. Well, it would be, if humans were watching - not that it would actually matter - but if they were watching AND could see him, that would be the word for him. Magnificent, wonderful, beautiful, amazing, glorious, divine .. - divine? Yes, divine. And for a reason. The figure, the "him", is, of course, an angel.
Zaqariel was his name. Nothing inspiring as names went, but it served its purpose - a label, to distinguish himself from the others, so he was not lost within the vastness of the celestial masses, to become a replica, a stereotype. That he was an angel set him apart from the mortal crowd to begin with but even among his own he was somewhat different - and he liked that. The unusualness stood out, he thought differently from the others, acted differently, even spoke differently and for a reason that only He, in his ineffability, knew the logic behind, looked exactly like his best friend, almost down to the finest detail. Michael never seemed to even notice that, even when his attention was fully focussed on Zaqariel, and that was seldom, with the war to keep him busy. They were twins - both tall, hair blonde as spun gold, eyes sapphire blue, muscled, with pure white wings, the skin a lustrous light rose, brimming with strength, vitality, the artists conception of divine, glorious and magnificent all rolled into one. He, a common angel, was even permitted to dress in the archangel's garb as Michael did - the full battle dress, armour and weapon. The only difference between them was the beard. Michael had one, he did not ...
Bringing his thoughts into the here-and-now, he shook his head, dislodging the scatteredness, concentrating. Taking in the scenery at a glance, he was glad this was his first assignment. The ground where his journey from above had ended was a stretch of grass above a rocky outcropping that stuck out a little into the ocean. To both sides of the rocks ran the beach, a wide expanse of sand, leading from the scrub which bordered it on one side, to the ocean again on the other, barely submerged sand flats, staying shallow for a long way out. It wasn't crowded, but the occasional couple of people was dotted off into the distance, adults sunbathing and children playing in the gentle surf and chasing each other along the beach.
Zaqariel squinted, trying to find his target. He needed to be closer, at this distance, it was too far to tell. He stepped forward, and picked his way carefully down off the outcropping towards the beach, the greaves scraping loudly against the stone, yet leaving not a scratch on either. He could have simply flown down but somehow that destroyed something of the naturalness, it messed up the ambience. Almost stumbling the last couple of feet, he landed heavily, sinking half a foot into the sand. Kicking it out of his sandals, Zaqariel again scanned the beach. There was a brown haired woman flying a kite with two kids, an old man walking an even older looking dog and a pair of tourists sunbathing on their beachtowels. Hmmmm. He could see more figures but they dwindled into the distance and he knew, could feel that his target was much closer ... but where?
With dramatic timing, his glance settled upon a lone person, a kid or maybe a teenager, standing way out in the surf, pants rolled up to knees, white t-shirt and hair floating in the wind, waves splashing around the shins. There was a sudden *click* in his head and a sound like a thousand voices singing a single note, and he knew, unreservedly, that this was the one. Oh, just great. Yeah, really subtle, why didn't they just illuminate him in a beam of golden light and get a choir of cherubs to do an overture? Zaqariel sighed. They said they'd trust him, that it was in his hands and that it would be fine ...
Anyhow, now that he was here, he could relax and play the waiting part. He trudged over towards the edge of the scrub, wingtips tracing grooves in the sand and sat down, twisting against the foliage to get the wings and his bulky frame within the shadow. Once comfortable, he let out another sigh, this time of relaxation. Now all that was needed was to wait and watch. Zaqariel wondered if there were other hidden watchers out there too, whether he was really trusted at all. He hadn't felt the presence of any others, of his own or the ... other kind. No, they would have told him if anyone else was involved. What had Michael said again? He let his mind drift back a bit...
"Guardian? I can't be a guardian! It .. it isn't my calling, my vocation!" he'd cried, as he slapped the desk in Michael's tent. They were at the front lines, as the archangel was always to be found. The tent was soft blue canvas with silver trim, furnished only with a desk, a few pieces of paper, a pen and a couch to sit on. It was serviceable, but spartan, as the great commander preferred.
Michael had cocked his head to one side, and scratched his beard thoughtfully. "Of course you can, my friend. It isn't much different from the soldiering, just you're down there with the younger ones. It's no longer a battle of swords and fire, it's more ... internal."
"Well .. they're the reason, we're here anyway. We're doing what we do, for them. You know that, just as I do."
"I know that, but .... I'm just not cut out for it. I want to stay as your lieutenant. It's where I belong, here, fighting, not down there..."
Michael and he had held gazes for a second before either spoke.
"Well, I'm telling you it's just the same as soldiering, if not actually easier. Also, like it or not, it IS what you're cut out for. This particular order came not from me, but from Him. And you also know, as I do ... as we all do, there's no arguing with anything that He intends to have his way with. So, get used to it, and fast, I would say, Zaqariel."
Michael had turned away, to him the matter needed no more discussion and he was frowning in contemplation, already beginning to lose himself in the eternal struggle again.
"Well, that just improves things so much more, Michael!" he'd said. "All praise the Lord.." he'd muttered sourly, as an afterthought.
"I heard THAT! Watch your tongue! That's the path Lucifer took and look what happened. You don't want to go that way too, do you?". Michael's reply had been swift and sharp. Zaqariel had shivered at the name and instantly felt sorry for saying it. But the archangel picked this up, his tone had softened.
"Look, just go and do the task set for you. And remember, the important thing is you're just observing, you help when you need to by just gently pushing them, on the inside, so they go the right way. And always, ALWAYS, stay out of their perspective, ok? Never manifest yourself. And now, I really have to leave, I just heard the trumpet go."
He'd donned his armour and rushed outside, wings spread for battle, shouting a hasty goodbye to Zaqariel, who'd seen no point in lingering and returned directly to receive the first assignment...
...blinking, he arrived back in the present. That was the thing to remember. Just keep it on their inside, stay out of the mortal field of view. Things would work out fine. He yawned, tired. Not in the physical sense - angels didn't actually need to sleep at all, they just sometimes grew weary of existence and the best way to exorcise that weariness was to sleep, escape from creation for just a while and be utterly carefree. Yes, it would work out alright, everything would be fine ... just .. yawn ... fine ......
He slept. He dreamed. Of what an angel dreams ... that may never be known.
He woke sudden, and instantly cursed himself. How could he be so stupid? Sitting up straight, he searched for his target. It must have been an hour or two, the shadows had grown longer and the afternoon had dimmed to early evening. The beach had emptied almost completely - the figure was still there, hardly moved at all, just the same as before. But now there was something else, three other figures, tall and dark haired, bigger and bolder, staggering towards the figure in the surf, lurching more than walking, laughing loudly. One was waving a bottle.
Damn it all to heck, this was not good. Zaqariel jumped to his feet and stretched, wings quivering as the muscles woke up again. He launched himself with a leap into the air, wings snapping open and beating powerfully. He gained height and then glided forwards and swooped down over the beach and shallows and landed very cautiously in the surf, making no more than a small splash. The water made his sandals feel heavy and sloshed around the greaves, making wading feel very clumsy. He kept his wings tensed and open, to prevent them from dragging in the water. Wet feathers made flying so difficult, and uncomfortable too ..
He was close enough to see the figure properly. It was a teenager, a boy, tall and slim, blonde hair like his own but darker and smoother, hanging medium length around the ears, the white t-shirt and rolled up grey pants moulded to his figure on the windward side, hanging looser on the other. He was a beautiful child, but with his face, Zaqariel was taken. He wished he could revisit Michelangelo and present this boy to him for his artwork, but the man had been dead for hundreds of years. This was the definition of beauty he was looking for - the smooth cheek, round face, rose red lips, button nose and the eyes ... they were blue, the exact same shade as his own, so wide, so innocent and pure. Breathtaking. This was as close to the definition of perfect that Zaqariel had ever found in a mortal ...
The boy turned around suddenly, the raucous laughing catching both his and Zaqariel's attention. The three drunken teens were taller and closer in build to Zaqariel than the boy, walking slightly unsteadily through the surf, in shorts and shirts, one waving a half empty beer bottle.
"Well, look, if it ain't the little pretty boy. What the fuck are you doing here? This is our beach, y'know, and you gotta have our permission to come here." The leading figure was almost shouting. He nudged his friend.
"Ain't that right, Jolson?"
The second teenager mumbled sullenly. "Yeah .. s'right." He took a swig from the bottle and coughed harshly. The third was silent.
The boy said nothing, he watched them approach dispassionately, as did Zaqariel. They got closer, until the three were standing about a metre away from the kid. No one moved. Zaqariel watched the four, from about a five metre distance. Observe and touch on the inside, observe ...
The lead teen glared at the boy. "Didn't I just ask you a fucking question? Answer me, you little creep. What the fuck are you doing on our beach?"
The boy didn't move his face an inch. Didn't say a word. Zaqariel could see this was only going to get worse. Time to act. He put out his hand as if in a gesture of friendship, and then he reached for the teens, not physically, but he reached out, reach towards, could feel the coldness in them. He added warmth to it, it flowed to them, moved them as he could, he touched them inside. The second teen paused, his resolve wavering.
"Uhh, maybe we should go, just leave him. Deal with him another time."
The first teen stopped. He laughed. "No fucking way. He's trespassing on our fucking beach!"
"Mark, we don't have to do this now, we can do this later. Let's just go back to the club an-"
The third broke his silence, interrupting the second mid-sentence. "Screw you Jolson. Mark'n I are gonna give this little fag a bath."
Jolson stood still while the other two lurched towards the kid, who was backing away. They were drunk, but they were still quick. No escape. Dammit. Zaqariel clenched his fist and concentrated harder. The warmth turned into a heat, a blaze. He poured it through to them, to break the ice and the coldness. But nothing. He concentrated so hard, thought of the boy's beauty and how it would be marred, so hard and so blazing hot that he felt pain course through his tendons and into his fingers. The coldness remained, the teenagers approached, grabbed the boy, pushed him into the water, laughing as his head went under, water coursing through the blondeness, painting it wet-dark.
Zaqariel pushed his strength to the limit and suddenly there was a feeling of weightlessness, the world inverted itself for a second and there was an inrush of air, a small thunderclap.
Blast, damn, confound it all to Hell.
He was visible, completely to the naked mortal eye and he was in the open, in plain view. This was not going well, neither Michael nor He was going to be too happy about this. Oh well, might as well, make the best out of this. He reached over his shoulder, and drew it forth, the steel zinging from the scabbard ...
The teens had all jumped at the thunderclap, and then they realised they were no longer alone.
Three metres away, the figure stood amidst the waves. The angel was slightly taller than the tallest one, a blonde statue of strength, wearing an azure blue breastplate, moulded to the chest shape, and a leather belt and white tunic, ending halfway down the muscled thigh. The greaves were polished silver, the bracers also, encircling the wrists and running halfway to the elbow. Huge wings, pure white, were outspread, eagle fashion, casting shadows across the dimming waters. Both hands were clutching the hilt of an enormous sword, polished steel gleaming so bright as to be almost blinding. The blue eyes were fixed on them and seemed to cut right into them.
Suddenly, all three teenagers felt very, very uncomfortable.
The angel moved forward one step. Ever so slowly, he looked down at his hand and tightened his grip on the sword. He lifted it with ceremonious slowness in front of his face, the muscles of the arms moving smoothly beneath the skin. All four sets of eyes were glued on the figure now. The head bowed until it was almost touching the blade, the eyes closed.
With a soft whoomph, the blade burst into flame, running up and down, flickering shadows over the dimming waves and across the pale faces. He raised his head slowly, eyes still shut, bathed in the glow of the burning sword.
Then the eyes opened. They were blue upon blue. They glowed.
The three teenagers felt the feeling, a primal instinct, of the same kind as a rabbit trapped in the headlights of a car, filled with terror but unable to move. This feeling was so wonderful and so terrible, it cut through the alcohol and the coldness inside right through to the core, bringing about soberness and clarity. It whispered directly into the brain, telling them to do just one thing.
Zaqariel waited until the hysterically running and shouting figures were almost disappearing up into the scrub. He casually gave the sword a little shake, and the flame wavered and went out, blinking his eyes at the same time, the unearthly glow vanishing. The boy was still staring at him and had not moved, sitting where the teens had pushed him, soaked completely, droplets sliding out of his hair and running down across the face, over the red lips and off the chin into the surf. He smiled at the boy and offered him his hand. With a look of wonder on his face, the boy reached out and grasped his hand. Zaqariel pulled him upright. He expected the boy to jump back suddenly as if he was a little green man or the abominable snowman, but to his surprise, the boy just held his hand even tighter, refusing to let go.
"You're ... you're an angel!". It was far more a statement than a question.
Zaqariel nodded and smiled. The boy smiled back, face lighting up with happiness. Emotions clamoured across his features, excitement, elation, uncertainty, confusion .. but the excitement won and the tongue took over.
"Do you speak ... err, I mean, can you speak? What's your name? Mine's Thomas, but my mother calls me Tommy."
"I ... uh .. I do speak, yes. My name is ... Zaqariel." He managed to get that much out. This was his second time with mortals. It was a big jump from talking to Michelangelo five hundred years back.
"Zaqariel. Wow ... cool name. But it's too long. Can I call you .. I don't know, something shorter. Is Zack ok?". Tommy was so excited, he could barely contain himself.
The angel considered this. This was wrong, he was breaking so many rules, he'd already broken too many, this was wrong, but ... but, he couldn't stop now, he was too far in, he at least owed Tommy an explanation ...
"Yes. Zack is fine. Is Tommy what all your friends call you too?"
Tommy stopped. The excitement disappeared, the joy, everything. He took a deep breath.
"I have no friends." He looked up to Zaqariel, squarely into the angel's eyes, his own blue eyes glazing over, tears gathering at the edges. He sniffed, and tried to wipe them away. "None at all, Zack, none."
Zaqariel watched him, lines of crystal flowing across the flawless skin. He felt split, he felt pained. He could no longer control himself. He was taken in. Completely. Going deeper into the depths of wrong-doing, he put his arms around the boy and pressed his head onto his shoulder. The wings folded round, putting them both into a warm shell of white feathers. Tommy cried, the tears running down the angel's arm, mixing with the saltwater and hugged him tightly back, the hands meeting just behind the wings.
They stayed like that for a few minutes, the angel comforting the boy. Eventually Zaqariel knew he had to speak.
"Tommy ... I .. uh .. err .. I .." He couldn't get the words out
"Tommy .. I" He paused and looked down at the damp blonde hair. Tommy felt him move. He looked up. Their faces were inches away, their eyes locked together. From blue to blue.
They couldn't look away. Tommy stretched upward, his lips open a fraction. Zaqariel bent downwards, hair falling forwards against his cheeks.
This was wrong, so very, very wrong. Every alarm bell, every warning system inside him said STOP. But he couldn't stop, he knew that he shouldn't, musn't, couldn't.
But he did
They kissed, so very gently, so very sweetly. The angel knew it was wrong but let go of that, and he didn't care, not at all. The boy did not know it was wrong, but to him it felt so right and he would not let go of anything, not for the world.
It was sweet, it was so beautiful. The angel and the boy, embracing upon the beach in the twilight. It was impossible.
But, up above, there was someone watching after all. It was Him, for there isn't anything that escapes His view. For Him, it did not matter about the rules - for Him, the rules applied where He saw fit to apply them. But here, He chose no rules at all.
And as He watched, He smiled.
Thoughts and comments are quite welcome at email@example.com. I always think I missed something in the initial characterisation. Zaqariel sounds so stereotypical here, like a poster boy Aryan/Nordic bodybuilder crossed with a dove and given a lesson in Shakespearean acting. Trust me on this image (one that I've tried unsuccessfully to get accurate), he isn't bulging with muscles like Schwarznegger; just buff. Michael is stronger and would be closer to Arnie's build, even though him and Zaq are allegedly twins. Just ignore that minor plot detail. :) Heh.