Well, here's Chapter 2. Nothing to say this time except: hope you enjoy. :) Oh, and to those that emailed me and were wanting/expecting a response - if I didn't, just give me a gentle prod and I will reply. I'm not the best correspondent :)
"The Angel and the Boy"
"What Dreams May Come"
The sun was almost dipping below the horizon. The wind had died completely, the sea becoming flat and still, as if the surface was a giant pane of glass, smooth and dark. The beach was deserted except for a single pair, the angel and the boy, pressed together in the sweetest of embraces. They hadn't moved for a long while. For them, time had slowed to a crawl, neither wanted the moment to end.
Zaqariel's mind was in elation. He finally could perceive and understand and know, before the time, what those closest to Him said it would be like - what the rapture would be like. Complete sensory detachment and yet complete joy, all encompassing. This moment was a dream that was reality - paradise come to earth. But behind the dream, the doubts were gnawing and growing, a plague of them, rising out of the back of his mind. He couldn't put this off, he'd have to face it.
He broke off the kiss, pulled away from Tommy. They were still embraced, the boy was gazing up at him, a look of contentment, of bliss spread on his face. He didn't want to leave this moment but he had to, every second longer he stayed, the worse things would become. There'd be hell to pay for this when he returned. Maybe literally. But he had to go .. putting it off would not fix it ...
"Tommy, I .. uh .. I have to go ..." He trailed off, unsure how to say it.
"Go? You've only just appeared ... why are you leaving?" Tommy looked uncertain, almost a little hurt, like a puppy that's been kicked.
"I have to go, Tommy. I .. can't tell you why, I just have to leave"
"But why?!" he cried. "You only just arrive and then you want to leave me. Did I do something wrong? What is it?"
A single teardrop ran down the boy's cheek. Zaqariel gently wiped it away with his thumb, and smoothed back the hair from the boy's forehead.. "It's ok. You did nothing wrong. I just have to go, it's something I have to do."
"Please don't go. Promise me you'll be back. Please, will you promise me that. Please, Zack?" His eyes were wide, pleading, the face open to him, begging him to stay ..
Say NO, a voice inside him shouted. This is wrong, Zaqariel, you know it is wrong. It is sin. It is against the rules. You should not interfere with the mortal's destiny. You should not manifest yourself - only certain individuals are chosen to see angels and this ... boy .. is not one of them. It is unnatural and against the rules that He sets ... but another voice interrupted - that is incorrect. Everyone is given equal chance under His rules, this individual is no different from any other, how can it be unnatural if is the way he was created? Is it not the task of the angel to guard, protect, serve the mortal he is guardian to - to make him feel joy if that is within the angel's power? Would it not be against His own ways to deny this child the joy of Zaqariel's company which he so plainly desires?
The joy is irrelevant. The desire is sinful - it is too close to lust to be virtuous. It is WRONG and it is unforgivable. You must comply to His standard, Zaqariel, to His standard or nothing. If you leave now and never return, He may forgive you, that is the real way ...
No. Compliance is not to be forced, His will is not your every order, is it merely your guidance. Do not forsake the child, you have given him so much - you are his first and only friend. Think of him, be selfless. In that, you will be above all sin, it is a virtue beyond compare ...
The voices continued, his mind arguing with itself. Was it lust or was it companionship? Did it matter? Isn't it a sin? .... but .. think of Tommy. He thought of him and looked at him, the sadness and beauty, waiting for his answer.
"Zack?" Tommy's lower lip trembled. He bit it gently, trying to keep back the tears. Just by saying that he was going to leave, he had hurt the boy. He shouldn't feel attachment to any mortal - let alone interfere with one's life, but to remove Tommy's new found happiness - he could not do that. The mere act of restrained grief was all the persuasion Zaqariel needed.
He took a deep breath.
"I promise. I promise that I'll return."
Instantly, relief broke across Tommy's face, sunlight through the clouds. He let out an almost inaudible sigh. "Thank you," he whispered.
Zaqariel smiled at him. They broke apart, and for the hundredth time, all he could do was stand there and admire him. This boy, this youth was too perfect, too trusting for this world. He longed to take him with him, where he was going, beyond the narrow confines of physicality. But, alas, it wasn't to be, Tommy was stuck here among such graceless individuals, living in fear of them at times. If only he could help ...
Reaching round to his right side, the angel pulled a small item from his belt and handed it to the boy. Tommy took it and turned it over in hands, studying the outline of its edge beneath the leather. He looked back to Zaqariel again.
"I can't take-"
"Yes, you can." The angel interrupted, he had anticipated this. "You don't have to use it, you can just show it to them if they come near you. It will act the same for you as it has done for me."
The boy hesitated. "It'll really work?"
The angel's eyes twinkled mischievously. "To use an expression, it will 'instil into their souls the fear of God'. And that which inspires faith can't possibly be a bad thing, can it?"
Tommy giggled and Zaqariel couldn't help but laugh with him, it was too infectious. As it subsided, he spoke again.
"Tommy, I really REALLY have to go now. But I will be back, just as I said."
The boy nodded. He understood, not why, but he understood that the angel had to leave, for now at least. Zaqariel stood back and the wings opened wide and he tensed himself, about to take off, but he paused, and reached an arm out to the boy's face. For a second, Tommy thought he was going to do the sign of the cross, but all he did was brush back his hair, and run his finger along the cheek. Then, he jumped up, the wings beating, the figure ascending, rapidly, turning as he went, higher and higher, until nothing more could be seen.
Blinking, he began to walk back to the beach, still damp but warm from the angel's touch and his embrace. He was stuck half in a kind of trance, not quite sure whether to trust his own senses at the moment. Maybe this isn't actually happening. Maybe I am dreaming. Well, do what they always do in the movies. He pinched himself, hard, on the arm. Ouch. It hurt. There was a white mark too ... that felt real enough. Well, he would know when he woke up in the morning. If this was still here, he thought, squeezing the leather-bound item, if it was real and solid and where he left it, he'd never doubt his own vision again. If not, it'd all been a dream, a very odd, very memorable dream ...
Tommy passed uneventfully through the scrub, crossed the road and wandered up the street to his house, lights blazing in each home as families settled down to dinner. His own place was a small but comfortable cottage with a roughly trimmed lawn out the front and a trademark picket fence and gate. He walked up the path, noting that the kitchen and lounge lights were on. His mother was through there, watching the TV. She'd obviously heard him come in, because she looked up as he came in.
"Where've you been? I was worried, Tommy." She was almost angry, but more concerned.
"I was down at the beach. I'm sorry mum, I just forgot about the time. It just sorta got away from me"
"Well that's ok, honey. I just hate the thought of what could happen to you out there when you're alone, you've got to be careful."
"I know, mum."
"That's good. There's some pizza in the kitchen, but first go and get changed. You look as if you've been soaked."
He nodded. "Yeah, I did kinda ... fall over." Smiling, before she could ask for an explanation, he sidled carefully past her towards his bedroom, keeping the leather bundle out of sight. He took a shower, got changed and then devoured the rest of the pizza and watched TV the rest of the evening. Much later, he said goodnight to his mother, and went to bed. Relaxing under the covers, he fell asleep thinking not of all the attractive guys that usually filled his thoughts - actors, singers, kids from school ... but of just one person, his newest and only friend ...
He dreamed, a real dream. There was a ticklish sensation. Soft. Light. It was feathers. He could feel them falling on his cheeks, a rain of them. He opened his eyes. He was standing on the path in front of his house, right by the front door. An angel sat on the edge of the roof, directly above him, white feathers falling off the wings, falling into Tommy's hair. His face was noble but the eyes were emotionless pits, empty whirlpools of nothing. Then, the angel spoke.
"He doesn't want you. He's never coming back. Why would he be your friend? He hates you, just like all the others. You're nothing to him. He doesn't want you. He's never coming back ..." He continued, repeating the same things, over and over.
Tommy tried to move, tried to run away from the angel, but the feathers rained down thicker, turning black. They clung to him, stuck him to the ground. He couldn't move, the feathers covered him like a plaster, like a tar. He wanted to get away from those eyes, that voice, but the feathers fell on him higher and higher until he was completely immobile, and they were falling on his mouth and he couldn't breathe ...
He awoke with a start, gasping heavily. He was fine- no tar, no feathers. He sat up. It was early morning. Calming his racing heart and breathing down, he reached over to the curtain and lifted it a fraction. Sunlight poured in through the gap, illuminating the mess on the floor. Tommy let the curtain drop and rubbed his eyes, yawning. Stretching, he reached out and felt the side table, running his hand over it, trying to find his wrist watch. Digital clock-radio, book, bookmark ... shouldn't that be inside the book? Ah well .. coins, paper, the watch! He grabbed it and put it on. Now to get dressed and then, time for breakf-
Wait a second. The item. He'd left it on the side table.
Jumping out of bed, he ripped the curtain open, flooding the room with brightness. After a second, his eyes adjusted. The side table was exactly as he'd left it last night, except for one thing. The item.
It was gone.
Frantically, Tommy looked in the dresser, on it, through the clothes on the floor, under the bed, in the wardrobe. Nothing. It was gone completely. The spot where he'd put it on the table was empty, completely unoccupied, nothing but air with a few dust particles floating through it. How could this be? He was sure, totally sure, that it was real. He'd had the leather in his hands, had felt the angel's embrace, could remember the smooth toughness of the angel's armour as he'd pressed against it, the hint of rose in the hair, felt the wings brushing past as they joined around them to make the cocoon.
It had seemed so real .. but, it couldn't have been. He was out of the dream world, back in reality. He had to face it ... Zack was a figment, he was an illusion. He was real only in Tommy's mind. He was never going to come back, because he couldn't. He didn't exist. Not real, never was.
He calmed himself, stopped back the tears. Control, Tommy, control. Forget this. Continue on, as you do all other mornings. Just continue on into the world, where you have no friends and live the same boring existence over and over, continue being alone, continue being hated. It's all you can do. Just ... continue ....
And so he did. He dressed, left the room, and went forward to face the world, the world to him which played tricks with the mind and laughed when asked for the truth. But it was not just the world playing tricks on him. In his room, on the floor beneath the table, lay the item, leather-bound, sharp and gleaming beneath its cover. Tommy had looked there, he'd looked everywhere in his room, but the item had remained unseen. It had been retaken, had been un-manifested, removed from the perspective of the human eye. Outside the window, the angel who had been watching all that, pressed his hands together in a gesture of prayer to his success and to its continuance. Things were happening as they had been ordered. With that, he took off into the sky.
- - - - -
Elsewhere, Zaqariel had arrived at his destination. A messenger angel swiftly found him and delivered the message. He was to go directly to the council and there to be questioned upon his actions in the first assignment. He re-read the message to make sure. It was a summons. This was something of note, that didn't happen unless serious discussion on some matter was required. Without doubt, Zaqariel would be the centre of attention there. He'd hoped that it wouldn't come to this, but it also a good sign. Obviously, He had to delegate some of his responsibilities to His servants, that was part of why they were there. If He had given this to the council, then that was a sign that He saw the matter of little enough importance to be resolved amongst the angels, rather than deciding Himself. There was hope yet ...
The building was an example of Graeco-Roman architecture at its prime. It was round, with a diameter of about thirty metres, ringed by fluted Ionic columns, rising about five meters high. The entablature was plain and unpatterned, just the marble layers of the architrave and blank frieze resting atop the columns. The edge of the domed roof was also unadorned, with the exception of four antefixes, one facing each direction, north, south, east and west, each antefix being a pair of scales, the universal symbol of justice. Zaqariel strode into the antechamber that was built off the entrance on the south side of the building. A female angel was meditating just in the antechamber doorway, sitting cross legged on the floor, eyes closed, face still and serene, arms crossed in lap, palms upwards. With scarcely a pause and without opening her eyes, she motioned towards the entranceway. Zaqariel stared through, into the darkened room, feeling foreboding, the anticipation making him jumpy. With a thought, he cleared his mind, and let the other angel's aura of calm, of emptiness pervade through him. He was ready. He walked through the doorway and pulled the door to, the massive edifice swinging surprisingly easily, and closing with a soft but definite click.
Inside was completely black, but for a spot in the centre of the amphitheatre. The middle of the dome was clear glass and light, bright and blinding, illuminated a circle of floor about a metre wide, containing a cushioned marble stool. He paced forwards and sat down on the stool. It was positioned so the occupier would catch the full glare of the light and not allow his eyes to adjust to the surrounding pitch, preventing him from ever having a chance of seeing his surroundings, but Zaqariel had seen the amphitheatre before, when it was fully lit. He was in the pit area. Around the outside, in the raised area where the audience would usually sit in a similar mortal structure, were eight seats, spaced regularly atop the edges of the perimeter wall, for the eight of His most important, His most trusted of servants to sit in judgement. But one was empty, as it had been for a long, long time. The rightmost seat was scarred black, and was permanently lit by a single candle, left sitting in the dead centre of the chair. It was a reminder and a warning, even the greatest could, and had fallen.
But for this, he was to be examined by the unknown. As mighty as these archangels were, many angels did not know which ones served on His council, which out of the archangels were the seven for these matters because they did so without any onlookers, and if it was serious enough, kept themselves shrouded in shadow. But he knew they were watching him, evaluating him from the darkness, from all sides.
The first figure to his left spoke. Zaqariel had numbered them mentally, from one to seven, running from left to right. With little surprise, he recognised the voice as Michael's. The second followed and then the third, and so they continued, right round to the seventh.
"Good day." This voice exuded coolness, arrogance. A little harsh too, but a tempered harshness.
"Greetings." This one was softer, quieter. Friendly.
"Many blessings." Soft as well, but not quite as friendly. More neutral.
"May you be pure." This one sounded odd. Almost toneless, neither threat nor comfort. More a suggestion.
"I bid you welcome also." This one was loudish and Zaqariel thought he almost knew it. It sounded quick to anger, and sure of itself. Familiar.
"You are here." This was a flat statement, the voice strong and unfriendly. To the point of open hostility. This voice took no lies from anyone, and listened only to its master, no other.
For a split second, he could have sworn that that an eighth voice had spoken, from the empty chair, the candle with its unwavering flame. But there was silence. Utter silence.
In that moment, Zaqariel had never felt more alone, more isolated than ever. Think of him, think of the boy. This is for him. You're doing this for HIM. HE is what matters here, not you. HE is the importance.
He thought of him. The loneliness drew back. He took heart. He responded to the hidden seven, as clearly as he could.
"I am here, as requested by the summons. What is my lords' command?"
"It was not a request," answered the second voice icily. "It was an order."
"An order that you have obeyed promptly. We are grateful for that," continued the third voice. "But now, we must begin, Zaqariel."
"We have a great many questions for you. In these, you must be totally honest, but I believe you know that already," added the fifth voice.
"As you say, my lord. I am ready."
The darkness swallowed up his words. Then the seventh voice spoke. The voice portended. It contained doom.
"You think you are ready? We shall see."
Zaqariel felt cold. The circle seemed to shrink slightly. The shadows drew closer, edging, wanting to touch at his skin, almost swallowing his wingtips. He felt even emptier and more alone than before, as he'd never thought possible. He was unsure what to do or think. This was the dream and the nightmare of the angel that was not to be known to the mortal, where the waking world mixed with the unreal. He was standing within the greatest and highest reaches of divinity, with the most brilliant, the mightiest and most powerful of his own kind and yet he somehow felt that he was standing on the edge of the outer circles of Hell. On the eighth chair, the candle blazed, the flame blood red.
And up above, through the apex of the dome and further into the light, from the distance, He was watching
That's it. Overall I'm fairly happy with this one. As it was written so long ago, I can't remember what I was trying for when I wrote it. I think I just wrote it, period. Without trying for anything much. Heh. Comments welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.