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Monday, 15 December 2014

Angels Fall

Short Story
Length - 2000 words

What would you do if you encountered an angel? You'd probably expect a serene setting, these visits are usually part of a greater plan and meaningful. Help and comfort in a time of need perhaps. What if the Angel instead needed help from you?

__________

Angels Fall

1

Have you ever seen a shooting star? Consider yourself lucky. An angel fell out of the sky tonight, and with that comes responsibility. Imagine Dustin’s surprise, as he rushed towards the injured marvel through the dark backstreets that he should be the first on the scene. There it lay, in the crater of its ungracious impact with an arm outstretched seeking aid. Their eyes met and Dustin’s decision was made.
                He helped it up, though in truth he doubted he did much of the hauling. When fully stood the angel towered over him at over eight feet tall. It seemed more that he’d passed a test of faith, as their places quickly swapped and it was the angel who pulled Dustin along for the ride.

2

The peculiar location of its fall seemed answered when it led them quickly to a nearby Catholic mission, presumably using the holy building as a sort of beacon in its emergency landing.
                His many questions had met with stoic silence, but when they stalled at the doorway and it still refused to answer he began to wonder if such a divine creature was allowed to speak to him at all.
                ‘In there?’
                The angel looked about impatiently. Apparently it was waiting for him to open the door.
Dustin obliged, stepping through with space for two but it instead chose to hunker down behind him and spring a surprise on the lone unsuspecting priest who came over to greet them, out holy-ing the holy man who fainted on the spot.
                Immediately the angel was off, scanning each statue in turn until it found what it was looking for. There was a look of excitement in its eyes when it saw it.
                ‘St Michael?’
                It pointed vigorously at what the statue was holding and Dustin almost choked a breath.
                ‘You want me to take it?’
                The angel nodded enthusiastically.
                Tentatively, Dustin leaned forward to retrieve the sword. The original stone piece had long since deteriorated so it now held a replica, blunt so that it couldn’t cut or cleave but it still carried some weight and had a handle for swinging.
                When Dustin offered up the stolen relic the angel took a backward step before swiftly changing course for the altar.
                Dustin thought the angel about to pray, but its finger was out again, pointing its request in a way he now recognised as it framed the outline of the table.
                ‘You want the top cloth?’ The angel nodded, clearly seeking its blessed touch.
                Fearing for time, Dustin pulled the cloth out like a failed magician’s trick and littered the floor in holy debris. He folded it hurriedly but again the angel turned his back on the offer when presented, already making for the door.
                Aware he still had the sword to carry, Dustin quickly removed the drawstring bag he was wearing from his back. The angel was almost out of sight, so rather than fiddle about he dumped the contents amongst the existing rubble and shoved the cloth inside before scurrying out of the building.
  

3

They stashed the sword in an old box close to the angel’s dramatic entrance before it guided Dustin back towards the opening they’d used to find the mission.
When they got into the opening the angel gestured for Dustin to stay as it walked back out into the alley.
Since frightening the priest it had concealed its wings, but now it stood first tall, and then bent over double, and Dustin’s ears began to thrum.
                The angel’s back split open, and the wings sprouted back into existence, grand and golden white. The second hung limp after its initial unveiling but the first began to flap, powerful swoops that scattered the debris around them and forced Dustin off balance. It carried the angel a couple of metres skyward but it was awkward and ungainly and it soon dropped back to the ground before running over and hauling Dustin back to his feet, arming him with an old iron bar it’d picked up on the short journey.
                An instant later a beam of light cracked open from the sky a few feet ahead of the angel’s failed effort. It was mute, but the force with which it ripped through the night made Dustin think there was sure to be a delayed burst of sound like distant thunder. He had to keep his eyes slightly beneath the summit due to the intense light.
                Suddenly he became aware of a presence.
                A couple of bare feet appeared in his eye line and he took a backward step, awaiting the descent of the winged figures.
                He hesitated.
Demons, shades, shadows or monsters. He wasn’t expecting their three celestial visitors to look quite so... heavenly.

4

Hesitation wasn’t part of the plan. Dustin was launched forward by an encouraging shove in the back from his new friend to set them back on track.
                As he fought to keep his footing he used the momentum to direct his charge whilst the angel slipped away unseen.
                The bare feet he’d seen were now planted firmly on the ground and belonged to a manlike figure wearing a white robe. Behind it stood a second, with a third moments away from landing, all three pairs of white wings on display and a look of confusion on their perfect faces.
Dustin decided their guise a devious masquerade. They were much closer to his size than the eight foot tall precedent and a steely resolve reinforced his attack.
He swung the bar at the first figure’s head. It stood its ground and the bar crashed against its cheek, but the metal snapped like a twig, leaving it with nothing more painful than an astonished look on its face.
                Dustin’s resolve wavered.
 Attack was the best form of defence though so he stepped forward, using what remained of the bar as a shank, stabbing into its chest repeatedly as more and more broke away like glass until he was left beating against it with his bare fist.
                An arm appeared from beside Dustin’s waist and closed over the opposite shoulder, lifting him away and restraining his attack. He was locked in the figure’s grip, kicking and screaming.
                ‘Is he crazed?’ Asked the third, finally landing. Its voice was smooth despite the concern on its face.
The first gave Dustin a searching look, seeming to appraise him.
                ‘I think not.’ It said somewhat sadly. ‘He seems deliberate in his actions.’
He continued to struggle in the second’s grip.
                ‘You must see that you cannot harm us.’
                Maybe not, but he could think of someone who might.

5

‘We’re here to pursue a dangerous individual cast down from above who somehow escaped into this mortal plane.’ Said the third, stepping forward.
The first must have seen the obvious doubt in Dustin’s face.
                ‘An angel cannot lie.’ It said, trying to smile some reassurance. But there was something about that line that struck Dustin a mental blow.
It’s funny, how doubt can tickle the mind. He’d taken silence for urgency, but that meant dealing heavily in supposition and assumption. An angel cannot lie. But it falls not on the species, who can judge deceit in words unspoken?
                The third must have registered Dustin’s consternation and its face grew worried and alert.
                ‘To charge an angel...’ It said, taking a backward step as if to be further from him. ‘Such a sighting might render a man numb... unless he’d thought to have already seen one.’
                But it was too late. The sword blade burst through its stomach, leaving a bloody exit wound in its wake as its body was levered free by the enormous figure behind it.
                When the giant stepped forward under the radiance of the portal its wings burned black as sin, and its skin appeared several hues darker and matted, its gloss washed away under righteous light.
It was no wonder it’d not wanted to touch the sword until it needed to. Its hands were steaming where it burned and its face seemed locked in a pained grimace.
                Although dull to Dustin’s eyes the sword seemed to have found an edge too, for when the second pushed past to oppose the beast it was cleaved apart from neck to navel. Its broken body hit the floor and the beast was soon upon them, ripping the first aside and cutting it deep, leaving Dustin exposed.
He took a backward step out of the light and his former partner followed him. In doing so its image reverted back to that display of holy splendour. Even the smoke from its hands disappeared, though the burns still remained.
                ‘Angels fall.’ It croaked, and it was clear now why it had previously held its tongue. No creature of heaven could speak in such a deep and guttural tone.
                It reached out and tugged the drawstrings on his shoulder and in a fit of panic Dustin handed over the bag in a desperate act of compliance much more in keeping with the earlier part of the evening.
                It strode back into the light, once again exposing its true nature, and Dustin was powerless to do else but watch as it ended the first’s attempt of recovery with a fierce backhanded club against its face with the sword hilt. It walked around behind and drove the blade into its back, stopping when it penetrated a couple of inches deep, and the first screamed out in pain.
                Kneeling down to lay the sword on the ground the beast then untangled the cords of the bag from its other hand and tore it open to reveal the altar cloth. It gingerly took hold of the corners, adjusting to the pain as its finger tips began to smoulder, and shook it out like a bed sheet, letting it settle on top of the first as though respectfully laying a dead comrade to rest.
                The white cloth gained a red centre piece where it came into contact with the wound and the beast readjusted, standing over the partially covered being with one leg either side about the midsection.
                Crouching down, it drove its hands forward into the crimson patch and the cloth folded around them like a glove as they disappeared inside, the first wailing piteously as it conducted its gruesome search.
                When it located the nervous system it squeezed hard. The first passed out from the pain and its wings twitched in reflex.
                Taking one hand out it reached for the sword and using the tip, calmly guided the cloth aside to expose the leg and then drove the blade inside at an angle to create a makeshift scabbard. Then it returned its hand back to the wound and began to manipulate inside, causing the wings to flap, though they buffeted the ground, uninhibited by a natural pain break.
Eventually it got more control, working the unconscious body up into a standing position as the wings worked in harmony.
As it started to lift off of the floor the beast jumped aboard, hooking on with its legs and once again paid for blessed touch on evil flesh with holy heat. The body began to sag under the weight but the beast quickly added the strength of its own wing, and after a moment of equilibrium, began to ascend once more.

6

Dustin caught a brief look of crazed triumph on the former angel’s face and sunk to his knees.
It rode up out of sight and the light closed off behind it, leaving him in relative darkness. He thought back on the moment their eyes met, that hand up that sealed his fate, and tears came freely.
Given the choice, he’d have taken your star.
The sky then burst to storm and the chaotic, brilliant lightning brought its mercurial accomplice in droves.
He caught a few of his tears in his hand, an offering to the sky as the rain mixed with the wetness in his palm.
It had been a clear night, so whose tears were these?

__________

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