The faucet in the public restroom was running.
No one stood at the faucet, but the water was running. The steady rush of water striking enamel echoed like a whispered admonition through the tiled, acoustically hollowed room. No one stood by the urinals, the five white brooding gargoyles perched on the wall. No one who could be using the faucet. Which kept vomiting its liquid into the sink.
Although the restroom was located in a mundane place, Portland State University, it resembled a creaky, Gothic hospital from a slick Hollywood horror movie. Six sinks hung from a streaked-white plastered wall, right above the top line of sickly green tiles, which marched back toward the rear, made a 90-degree turn, and continued behind the stalls. It was the third faucet down from the front wall that was running. Opposite the urinals were four stalls, doors slightly open, empty. The water flowing into the sink had an uncanny, metallic ring to it. The sound crept slowly through the cavernous space.
Above the sinks, three mirrors trapped the reverse view of the bathroom, doubling it. The glass caught every hard angle and every slimy color of the room, streaking it and blunting its edges. The mirrors had not been washed for a long time, and their dull sheen seemed to poison the space. Flickering white neon lights sent dank, palsied lambency downward, illuminating the restroom only slightly with a dull shine, making the white walls and green tiles even uglier. One, at the far end of the room, was out, and behind the last stall was a dark corner, wrapped in not-quite-black shadows.
Why is the faucet running? was my first thought when I entered the restroom, before noticing anything else. Without the water, the room was normal, a bit darker than usual, but nothing sinister. With the water, all the small details loomed larger, accentuated by the steady stream of liquid spattering into the enamel. The soap dispensers were clogged with bright pink globs, more like diarrhea-relieving paste than cleaning aides. The next paper towel in the dull silver box on the wall was clinging listlessly to its penultimate partner, ready to suicide into the trash bin below it. Something was amiss; I felt it deep down in my gut. There was something off about the entire scene. And yet … when nature calls, you have to answer.
I paused at the faucet, hand hovering over the utilitarian knob, ready to turn it clockwise and staunch the flow. Something stopped me. A feeling of intrusion came over me. Get things done and get out. I began to walk away from the sink, toward the urinal lane, and then felt the presence of something else. Someone else, in the restroom.
There’s that sense everyone has, a prickly nipping at the gut, a frozen breath that glides up the arm and magnetically pulls the hairs with it, that was screaming at me. Never had I felt so certain that another living thing was within my sensory radius. My hand shook, independent of what my brain was telling it. I quickly and inexplicably descended into panic. Stopstopstopstop it! it! Stopitstopitstop its top pitstop pits top my mind screamed at my head, but it ignored the signals. I felt a tear in my eye and my bladder weaken. In the last rational corner of my mind, I marveled at how easily I had gone insane.
Then, like a gentle breeze, a calm swept over me. My hand stopped; I withdrew it from its position over the faucet knob. My mind panted to a stop; synapses winked back into submission to my consciousness. The adrenaline rush that had accompanied the panic attack ebbed from my body, leaving behind sweat, aching kidneys, an erect penis, and wheezing lungs. My brain searched around for answers, and found none. Instinctively, my feet began to move toward the back of the room, toward the unseen presence. The calm in my body passed; apprehension returned. It was not the blind panic of earlier, but rather an anticipatory nervousness, like I was about to enter into the orbit of a powerful potentate. “The emperor has no clothes,” I whispered to myself, not knowing why the words came to me. But once uttered, they became a mantra. I was still repeating them when I reached the final stall.
On the other side of the stall was a narrow space, about two feet wide, between the end of the row and the tiled wall. The shadows were dense and thick, oily, but in them I could see a figure. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness of the corner, I saw the man clearly.
He was about six feet tall, with blond hair down to his waist, neatly braided and shimmering, as if he had just stepped from the shower. His face was beautiful in the cruel way most gorgeous people have, as if they know they are more attractive than you and need nothing else in the world. I couldn’t tell what color his eyes were; it was too dark and I could see that his lashes were inordinately long, sweeping gracefully over his pupils. His lips were small but pouty, and his nose was aquiline. It was a strangely feminine face, and for a brief instant, I wondered if the figure was a woman. But it quickly passed; the person in the corner was definitely male — I could sense it, on an animalistic level. He was a threat to me.
His clothing was black and well kept. He wore a turtleneck with a blazer and jeans. One hand was in his pants pocket, while the other beat out a syncopated rhythm on his legs, as it impatient. It was the only part of the man in motion.
“I have been waiting for you,” he said, and I instantly felt ill. The voice was musical and soft, but insidious in another way. It was like a perfumed corpse. I took a step back, recovered from my momentary revulsion, then thought about what he had said.
“For me? Who are you?”
He clucked his tongue in a malevolent fashion. “The Fates only answer three questions, young man. You have already wasted two. Luckily for you,” he said, with an implacable smile haunting his lips, “I am not a member of the Trinity. Not as such,” he added with a murmur.
I was lost. A cascade of questions flowed through my mind, but I dared not ask any of them. Something told me that this man would not answer them, at least not to my satisfaction.
“You learn quickly. Good. It would not do for you to be an idiot. We have a job for you, Michael.”
How did you know my name? screamed into my head, but I kept my tongue silent. He smiled again, broader this time, and I caught a glimpse of vampiric teeth. This man, whatever else he was, was a predator. I felt a bit calmer. I was not the prey, this I knew. It allowed me to breathe with a more even tempo.
“You are wondering, ‘What job? Who is this man?’ Good. A skeptical nature is what is required for this job. We do not want any accepting religious fanatic, all ‘Yes, sir, whatever you say.’ ” He twisted his face into a scornful mask. “True skepticism is hard to find, Michael. Most people believe in something.”
He leaned forward, a conspiratorial grin on his lips. “But not you, eh, Michael? Not even with Laura.”
That was too much for me. I bolted, back around the stalls, past the running faucet, which now seemed normal even though it was still pouring, and to the heavy door with its steel handle. I pulled. The door refused to open. My fingers felt slippery, and my wrists started to ache. It was as if I had become decrepit in the space of a few seconds, and could no longer grasp and pull anything with any force. I choked back a sob.
Finally, flustered and sweating, I gave up. Knowing the man would be exactly how I had left him, I turned and slouched back into the shadows. His smile had become wider.
“Know this, Michael Sandusky. We know everything about you. Everything you have ever done, everything you have ever thought. It is all up here” — he tapped his temple with a thin right index finger — “and it will be used against you. We have no scruples, understand that.”
His use of the plural did not escape my notice, but as I knew there was no one else in the room, I could only guess that he was part of a secretive, oppressive group — a conspiracy theorist’s fantasy. I struggled to keep silent, remembering that he seemed to respect that.
This time, however, nothing but contempt gleamed in his eyes. “I was against this idea, I will have you know. This, I argued, is neither the time nor the place, not even the correct plane. My presence here means I was overruled. It is also penance, for my defiance.” He chuckled. “Some of us get a kingdom from defiance. Some get this.” He said the last part wistfully, as if I weren’t there and he was musing over events long past. I held my tongue.
He snapped back from his reverie and leveled his gaze at me. I felt like a gnat about to be swatted. “Go,” he said. “An introduction was all that was required at this time. You need to accept that you are extraordinary. Then you will be more receptive.”
He turned away, and I knew I would have to leave him alone in the bathroom, so I would not see where or how he went. Something astonishing had happened, and my mind could not hold it. It was fluttering like a sparrow, completely flustered. I began to back away as if I were leaving the presence of an Eastern emir.
He turned around once more, the rapacious smile still hovering on his lips. “If it will help,” he said, in a manner suggesting that it would do anything but, “I am called Zophiel.”
And then he went back into the shadows, and my mind could not conceive of him anymore. I stumbled backward, past the faucet, which had mysteriously stopped, and to the door. It opened easily when I pulled it, and I staggered out of the restroom and back into the real world.
My apartment was dark when I finally made it home. I let myself in, fumbled around for the switch, and was not comforted when the hall was bathed in pale yellow light. Hanging from the cylindrical glass light frame was a piece of paper fastened by tape. It dangled accusingly in front of me, written in a stylish cursive script I’ve come to know so well. “Michael. You missed dinner. AGAIN. Went out with Fi & Sharon, not that you care. Bastard. Love ya! Laura.” Only Laura could combine venom with bubbliness. I tore the note down and crushed it into my fist. After my experience I had gone straight to The Cheerful Tortoise and downed a few pints of Hefeweizen. I felt it was justified alcohol consumption. Then it was home, across the river to our squalid yet homey two-bedroom place. I forgot to call my girlfriend. Again, I thought, justifiable.
I flicked the switch again, drowning the wan light with comforting darkness. Shapes and shadows leapt up, terrifying me for a brief instant, until I calmed myself with the memory of the man’s words. It sounded as if he had plans for me. Therefore, I was in no danger. At least that was how I saw it.
Moving through the house, I smelled the remnants of Laura’s tomato sauce and regretted missing the spaghetti. She makes brilliant sauce. I fumbled about in the kitchen, afraid to turn on the light, and found the pot with its lid resting on top. The sauce was still warm, and I scooped some onto a plastic plate dug from the pantry and added some pasta I found in the colander in the sink. Mixing this together made a pale imitation of real dinner, but it was food, and that was enough. My mind was too occupied with my brief and disturbing encounter with … Zophiel? Should I know that name? I thought. Why should I? It was my only clue, however, and I knew where to start looking. I walked into our bedroom and turned on the computer. While it warmed up, I thought about Laura. Was I skeptical even about her? We had been together for sixteen months, and I thought she was the woman I could easily spend my life with. Even after living together for the past four months, we still got along — when I wasn’t missing dinner — and the sex continued to be fantastic. None of the claustrophobic bickering I had heard my friends talk about, none of the loss of carnal appetites because of proximity or familiarity. We had our differences, sure, and sometimes they led to anger, but it was always more flare than ember, more flash than substance, and cooled quickly. Our fights were brief supernovae, and occasionally, I caught us enjoying them, because we knew our passion would be subsequently stoked. Therefore, we didn’t take them that seriously.
Nevertheless. Her insistence on my being there for dinner irked me. We’re both students, and sometimes things get in the way, and a phone call isn’t always feasible. My single-minded devotion to college football bothered her, I knew. Saturday afternoons and nights in autumn were for watching television or visiting Eugune or Corvallis for games. Small things like that kept us both from making the final leap of faith, and I always thought it would be a matter of time before we wore each other down and compromised on the minor details. Now, inexplicably, doubt had entered my mind. It was the strange man’s fault.
Keep telling yourself that, I thought. Blame the other. Hang your sins on him and send him out into the desert. I remembered my old grandfather cackling as he read me Leviticus. Fun stuff.
I saw down at the computer and logged onto the internet. Through the tissue of lies on-line, you can usually find some truths. I figured doing a search on “Zophiel,” which didn’t sound like a real name and therefore might be a code of some sort, would yield some results.
I was still there two hours later when Laura came home. I heard her fumbling at the lock outside because I had neglected to turn on the door light. The key scraped at wood, I heard a muffled curse, and then the lock turned. She almost fell through the door and cursed again when she saw that all the lights in the apartment were out. I could see her silhouette freeze as she slowly took in the scene. She knew someone was inside; she had a keen sense of her surroundings. Briefly, I wondered what she would have felt in the highly charged restroom. Then she walked slowly toward the bedroom, not quite tip-toeing but close. She hissed my name, and I didn’t answer for a moment, just to see what she would do. I heard her reach into her purse, and I knew I would have to identify myself soon. In her purse she kept a six-inch switchblade.
“It’s me,” I said, and heard her stop. I could almost see her thoughts: Do I want to use the knife anyway? Then she strode purposefully into the room, hands free, flicking on the light and flooding the monitor-lit room with strangely alien whiteness. I shielded my eyes.
Laura was framed in the doorway, shadows trailing her into the room like demons. Her yellow halo of hair shone with frizzy glory, and a sarcastic smirk curled her lip. She looked like a fallen angel. Despite the trouble I was in, I felt love for her deep in my heart.
Before she could speak, I stood and swept her into my arms, kissing her hard on the mouth. She resisted briefly, and then melted just a little. Laura is a romantic at heart, and I knew kissing her so impetuously would soften her anger — but only a little.
I released her and stepped back, grinning as she caught her breath. She wiped non-existent crumbs from her mouth, and when her hand came down, the sarcasm was back. At least I tried, I thought.
“Very nice, Michael,” she said. “But not good enough. You’re still a little shit.”
What could I do? My fear had passed along with my buzz from the beers, and I was just a repentant boyfriend. I apologized profusely, and we quickly made up. My skepticism retreated back into the darkest cave of my mind.
I started to tell her about my experience in the restroom, but she held up a firm hand and said, “Stop. I don’t want to know about your ablutions. Just tell me what you’re looking for on the ‘net that makes you forget to bring light into our world.”
“That’s what I’m trying to tell you.” I continued my story, explaining my meeting with Zophiel and what he said — omitting the part about his perception about my relationship. Laura didn’t need to know everything. I then directed her to the screen. “This is what I found when I did a search of his name.”
Milton scrolled in front of us. Book VI of Paradise Lost. According to the screen, lines 535-36 read: Zophiel, of Cherubim the swiftest wing / Came flying, and in mid air aloud thus cried. Before Laura could speak, I got out of the page and went into another, which had a chart of the nine orders of angels. The second-highest level read: CHERUBIM are the guardians of the fixed stars, keepers of celestial records, bestowers of knowledge. In the Talmud cherubim are equated with the order of wheels, also called orphanim. Chief rulers are Ophaniel, Rikbiel, Zophiel, and, before his fall, Satan.
She laughed. “Oh, that’s rich. You were stalked by an angel. I must admit, it’s a good excuse.”
“I’m not saying he was an angel. I’m just saying this is all I could find when I entered the name he gave. Obviously it means something to him for him to use it as an alias.”
Laura was intrigued. “And what else did he say to you?”
“Just that I have to accept that I am extraordinary. And then he would show up again.”
“Brrrr. Ignore it, Michael. Crazies inhabit the bathrooms. Including crazy angels. What kind of an angel would appear to you in a bathroom, anyway?”
I tried. I tried. But it kept nagging me. And I couldn’t let it go.
I’m getting my Master’s in literature — my thesis is on the novels of Don DeLillo and his synthesis of history and fantasy — and I couldn’t keep my imagination off Zophiel. “God’s Spy,” according to the sources, a seer and herald of hell, an angelic scout of the “swiftest wing.” I looked up cherubim, and found they weren’t the cute chubby boys in Renaissance paintings and the latest trendy greeting cards. The cherubim were the second-highest order of angels, after only seraphim, and were usually depicted with many eyes, or, in Assyrian lore, as sphinx-like creatures. Other ways to depict them were with the bodies of a winged bull or an eagle and the faces of men or lions. I looked them up in my handy New International Study Bible, and found them mentioned several times, as early as Genesis 3:24, “After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” Images of cherubim were sculpted onto the Ark of the Covenant (they can be seen clearly in the Indiana Jones movie). The most dramatic moment in the Bible involving cherubim is in Ezekiel, when the prophet sees four living creatures with the appearance of a man, but each with four faces and four wings. The faces were of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle. John sees these creatures again in Revelation. They are also often presented with peacock feathers bearing a host of eyes, again in reference to their all-seeing omniscience. My Zophiel didn’t conform to these descriptions, but if he was an angel, I figured he could appear however he wanted.
The meeting continued to obsess me, and after I ignored Laura’s amorous advances once too often and she expressed her extreme disappointment, I started to research surreptitiously, while trying to keep my mind off Zophiel while we were making love. I did a good job, I guess — Laura warmed up to me after a few weeks of anger. She wanted me to forget the weirdo in the bathroom, and so did I. Unfortunately, she didn’t meet the man, so it was easy for her.
I was in the library about three weeks after my experience, writing down notes on cherubim. The cherubim hold the knowledge of God, and it is they who are sent to earth with the most important tasks; I assumed the seraphim — the heavies such as Michael and Gabriel — felt too far above us humans. They were also the charioteers of God, something again confirmed by the Bible, notably David in one of his psalms. I also found out that their wisdom is so great that it is incomprehensible to the mortal mind, and will blind the unfortunate human who actually sees a cherubim. Another strike against Zophiel. In Islamic lore, they were allegedly created out of the tears shed by the archangel Michael for all the sins of humanity. That was an interesting sidebar. They were also given the task of maintaining the records of heaven and seeing to the details necessary to keep order in the Heavenly Host. I was writing all this down, trying to make sense of it. Was the man I met in the bathroom an angel? I doubted it, but in these millennial times, anything was possible. Angels starred in television shows, movies, and plays. There were angel-themed books everywhere. Why couldn’t an angel appear to me? It sounded stupid, but I couldn’t shake the fact that Zophiel, whatever he was, seemed to know me better than even Laura. His words, so eerie and certain, continued to haunt me. I felt sweat bead along the line of my hair. I had to go to the bathroom.
Since my encounter, I had not used the toilet without trepidation. I began checking the stalls, looking around corners, being quicker, and sometimes ignoring my need until I got home to relative sanctuary. I entered the bathroom at the library and looked under the stalls. No feet appeared. The restroom was well lit, clean, and not threatening at all. In one of the stalls, someone had started writing in the grout between the tiles, coming up with corny graffiti and encouraging others to join it. “The Grouts of Wrath” and “Grout Expectations” were just two of the little jokes people had penned. I read them, taking my mind off my business and the ever-present thoughts of my angel.
One of the light bulbs fizzed, crackled, and popped out. The stark white neon tubes in the ceiling instantly began to flicker. The room was plunged into an uncomfortable semi-darkness, eerie and disconcerting. I hitched up my pants as the faucet began to run, water striking the enamel in a strange echoing pattern.
Shitshitshit! I thought, suddenly desperate. I swung the door open, praying I could get out in time. I couldn’t. He was standing in front of me, blocking my exit.
This time he had me in an even more awkward position, and he seemed to be enjoying it. The truculent smile made his face glow, not in any pleasant way, but in the way I had seen dictators of foreign countries on the television news enjoying the questions reporters asked them, knowing they were completely secure because all their opposition was dead. Zophiel looked as if he was about to go for my throat and rip through my arteries. I belted my trousers and swallowed what little saliva was left in my mouth. Something felt like it had died on my tongue.
He was dressed differently this time, in a denim shirt over white jeans. He looked strangely like he was going boating later in the afternoon and had just stopped by to terrorize me for a while.
He giggled, an extremely upsetting sound for someone sane to hear. It was a high-pitched giggled of a child, one who may or may not be mentally disturbed. The hairs on my neck rose as one, and I felt my bowels shifting. Maybe Zophiel appeared in bathrooms because he was well aware of the effect he had on people. At least we were close to the toilets.
I didn’t see him move, but suddenly he was close to me, less than a foot away. I was backed up against the toilet with nowhere to go. He whispered my name seductively, still with that hint of cruelty and unbelievable violence in his voice. I began to think Laura was correct, and he was just crazy, and that I was about to be raped.
“I am not going to hurt you, Michael,” he hissed, and even through the sneer, I felt his sexual presence, musky and overwhelming. This was someone, I knew, who had no trouble getting laid. He repeated the statement, leaning even closer. “You think horrible things about me. If I was going to have my way with you, I would have already done so, and you would have enjoyed every second of it.”
Somehow, I knew this was true.
“So,” he said, standing back up straight, his tone brightening, “you have questions. You have suspicions. Good. Remember, always skeptical.” His smile curled, Grinch-like, toward his ears. “I think that you have accepted that you are extraordinary. Laura doesn’t believe you, and you have told no one else about our first meeting. This means you think that my seeking you out is special. It is.
“You want to ask me questions. As I mentioned last time, you get more than three with me. First.”
Somewhere deep inside me I found a voice. “You’re an angel.” Saying it made it real for me.
He grinned. “Zophiel of the Cherubim, God’s Spy, Standard-Bearer of the Heavenly Host, Keeper of the Records, First Among the Orphanim, Swiftest of Wing, Fleetest of Foot, Signer of the Book of Life, Guardian of the East of Eden — you get the gist. I feel like the Pope sometimes with all these titles.”
“You’re an angel.”
“Don’t bore me, Michael. It does not suit you.”
“You don’t conform with the traditional portraits of angels. Nor cherubim.” Now that the fantastic explanation for Zophiel was out of the way, I had recovered some of my composure. If I could accept that he was an angel, I could deal with him.
His grin seemed to engulf his entire face, then the restroom, until I felt dazzled by beauty and truth. My heart pounded with excitement, and I closed my eyes against the suddenly radiant light that was pouring like molten gold from where his face had been. My heart stopped. I was dead. I opened my eyes.
Zophiel’s physical aspect hadn’t changed, but he was completely different. The bathroom had fallen away, and I was not standing on anything solid. The angel in front of me appeared to have grown to well over twenty feet tall, unless I had shrunk. He still wore the ridiculous white denim pants and blue shirt, but he was holding a flaming sword menacingly, and stretched out from his back were rainbows. They wrapped around him in colorful bands, flowing toward me and encircling me. I reached out and touched one. It quivered into seven solid rods, and then shimmered again into fuzziness. The rainbows receded and hung around his shoulders. I looked into his face and wished I hadn’t. His smile was wide and carnivorous, his eyes were blazing with what I would call hellfire, although that was probably the wrong description of angelic light, and a halo of fire crowned his brow. I whimpered as he brought the sword toward the crown of my head.
“Michael,” his voice boomed inside my head. His lips hadn’t moved. “This will be your only chance to see me as I truly am. Are you ready?”
Somehow I nodded. His face melted away, and I felt myself being pulled into it. My eyes streamed with tears, and then I lost any semblance of consciousness.
There was a buzzing in the back of the blackness in my head. A swarm of heavenly bees, coming closer, coalescing into a form, the shape of a lion, a winged lion, a winged lion with the head of a bird … I fell away from it.
My headache, I was sure, would last until I died. There was an egg in my forehead, trying desperately to split. My eyelids would not open, in the fear that the vitreous fluid behind them would spill out, taking sight with them.
“Michael, wake up. You’re late.”
Someone shook me. Hard. Harder. An irrational violence rose in my throat, through my arms, and I swung a suddenly clenched fist.
“Shit! What the fuck?” I hadn’t connected, but whoever was shaking me let go. My lids finally rose and I saw Laura standing back from me, glaring angrily at me. “What the hell was that for?” she said.
I asked where I was. My mind hadn’t yet caught up to my body.
“In your bed. You were here when I got home, sound asleep. You’ve been asleep for at least twelve hours. Now you’re late for work.”
My job … I couldn’t remember it. It wasn’t important anymore. Something danced around my memory, mocking me. I remembered a supernova, a heavenly spectacle … Zophiel telling me something. What?
“Are you listening to me?”
I looked at her. Did I love her? Did I even know anything about her true self? I looked at my hand as my mind finally coalesced into coherence. I smiled, and Laura gazed down at me, disconcerted. I wondered if I looked like Zophiel when he grinned.
“I saw him again, Laura,” I said, and I saw her face slide into bewilderment. Had she forgotten so quickly? “He showed me wondrous things; he told me wondrous stories.” I knew this was true, although my memory was a haze of light.
I stood up and felt blood flow into my extremities, invigorating me. I felt nine feet tall. Laura, never one to back down from a challenge, took a step back, then held her ground.
“You’re nuts,” she said simply. “You have to stop.”
I brushed past her, ignoring her words. I went into the bathroom and splashed cold water on my face. A running faucet no longer held any fright for me. I left the water on as she followed me to the threshold and stood, arms akimbo, blocking my way.
“What do you expect me to do, Michael?” she said. I continued to ignore her. She was no longer my problem. I heard her say I was delusional, that a strange man had accosted me in the bathroom and was now probably stalking me, and that somehow I had transformed into an angel. Why, she didn’t know, but it was time to give up my elaborate fantasy and return to real life. I turned to her, smiling.
“I have to go,” I said. Maybe she guessed I meant for good. Either way, she didn’t argue. She watched as I strolled through the apartment, gazing at all our knickknacks, convinced I would never see them again. I wanted to leave and make a clean break, amputate my life from my soul in one quick cut. Nothing is ever that easy, however — I know that now. But then, in the clarity of my revelation, I felt like Michael Sandusky no longer existed, and everyone he had known had likewise never existed. Laura was just a figment of my imagination.
I opened the door and smiled again, catching a glimpse of myself in the hall mirror as I did. I really did look slightly mad, and perhaps that was why she was letting me go. Perhaps after I left she would get on the phone and call all our friends, then the hospital, and I would be picked up by the mental health workers and carted off to a padded cell. These thoughts drifted absently through my mind as I stood in the doorway. I murmured a good-bye and blew her a kiss. Despite herself, she smiled. What kind of effect did I suddenly have on people? Had Zophiel imparted to me some of his rakish charm? I didn’t question her acquiescence. Instead I just closed the door behind me. This, I felt, killed Michael Sandusky once and for all. What a fool I was.
The first principle of evangelism is showmanship. Reverend Horace Harold Killington understood this. He traveled the country, setting up his metaphorical tent like a circus, offering a good time to his visitors, preaching to them with vim and vigor, rock ‘n’ roll, and spice and flare. When Reverend Killington was done with you, you knew you had been preached to. He began his career in the early 1970s, weathered the televangelism trend, which he wisely steered clear of and therefore escaped the scandals of the late ’80s, and he navigated through the touchy political issues that the Christian Coalition brought up after the Republicans won Congress in 1994. Now, he was tapping into millennial fever — not a particularly original vein, but a rich one. Reverend Killington was a man who fervently believed in the Revelation of St. John, and even more fervently believed he was living the Last Days, when the Whore of Babylon would be cast down and Christ would come again. The Revelation is far more complicated than that, but for Reverend Killington, nothing was too complicated that it couldn’t be condensed into a handy bumper sticker. His followers lapped it up.
I read about his show in one of the free weekly newspapers that are so prevalent in Portland. He was coming to the Rose Garden, and I knew I had to be there. My instructions were clear on this aspect. In the back of my head, like a stinging fly, was a pricking that told me to go. My hands were steady, my heart was set. But I still didn’t know what I was going to do, why Zophiel chose me, and what a minor preaching celebrity had to do with it.
I was staying with my friend Bill, who had an extra room because his roommate Louis had recently gotten married. I hadn’t spoken to Laura in over a week, since I left, and I heard she wasn’t too worried about me returning. What is it that severs a relationship after so long? I was convinced it was because I was no longer Michael Sandusky, and therefore had no connection to his life.
“So why did you come here?” Bill asked me when I brought that thought forward. “We’ve known each other, what, eight, nine years? You’re Michael Sandusky, my friend.”
I had told him about Zophiel, everything, and he didn’t judge. That was the best thing about him — he accepted life as it was. He was also interested in the mystery, without actually believing. He wanted to know what the angel looked like, how he smelled, the look in his eyes, the leer on his face, my experience when I blacked out. I told him what I remembered, but admitted that once Zophiel asked me if I was ready to see him as he truly was, my memory failed. This failure bothered me, but it didn’t bother him.
“Trauma works in strange ways, Michael. What is it, post-traumatic stress disorder? Does that cause your memory to fail? Call me nuts, but meeting an angel qualifies as stressful.”
I still hadn’t answered his question. I was trying to avoid it, but he wouldn’t let me.
“Laura’s part of your past. So am I. Everyone you’ve ever known, obviously. You can’t contact any of us by your logic. So what? So you’re going to leave now, go see Reverend Killington, and never look back? That’s what you have to do.”
“But why do I have this uncertainty?” I said. “I have been filled with the Spirit of, well, the Lord, to be frank. Why does it leave me searching for more?”
“He told you himself. You’re skeptical. You don’t want to believe, and yet you’ve been chosen — he showed you all the proof you needed. That’s clashing with your basic atheism.”
“I don’t know if he showed me proof.”
“What do you know? Try to remember. Talk it out. If you’re going to be God’s Vessel, you have to at least have a good story. Something that’ll wow ’em on the talk shows.”
I cast my mind back. Zophiel in the restroom, the water running, the tile and neon flickering. Then, no walls, no floor, just a shimmering golden plane, on which stood the angel, taller than any man, dressed in that way that made me think of the skipper on Gilligan’s Island, halo of fire dispelling that notion quickly. I looked into his eyes and saw that his pupils were planets, spinning lazily in a deep dark space. I fell quickly into those eyes, and found myself in a field of red sedge grass. A calm wind blew from the west, or at least I thought it was the west. It felt like late afternoon, and a too-large sun hung just above the horizon. The wind blew straight out of the sun.
Zophiel, once again normal size, stood next to me. He still held his sword, and his rainbow wings still hung eerily around his shoulders. He turned to me and winked. I felt a chill despite the warmth of the day.
“Most people don’t get to see this,” he said. “Someone thinks you’re special.”
At this point, I stopped telling my story. Bill urged me one, fascinated. I couldn’t put into words what I saw next. If I had been a painter, I may have been able to articulate it onto canvas. A stream of angels came out of the sky, pouring down from the sun, which grew larger and redder as the angels emptied it. At the front of the horde was a blonde female angel, tresses miles long, completely naked, hands holding two flags, one white with a black hand on it, the other blood red with a bright green crescent moon on it. Belted to her side was a long sword, and strapped to her back was a longbow and a quiver of arrows. Behind her came two other angels, on of whom I instantly recognized as Zophiel. I hadn’t noticed him leaving my side, but he had grown once again and was also naked. He flew alongside another angel who could have been his twin, except for the fact that it was female. They both carried flags high above their heads. Zophiel’s resembled an American flag, except there were crosses where the stars would be, and the stripes were blue and orange. His counterpart’s showed a strange continental configuration in turquoise on a white field. Behind them streamed the legions of angels, all naked, some male, some female, some not even recognizably humanoid. They came straight at me, until I thought they didn’t see me and were going to swoop too close and scythe my head right off. I think I screamed, but I couldn’t hear myself over the fluttering of thousands of angel wings. They formed an angelic mass, until I couldn’t tell where one ended and another began. The mass flew from the sun clear to the other horizon, then turned and reversed direction as one, like a mighty flock of majestic birds. I blinked, and they were in the field, surrounding me. All were normal size, and all were still naked. The woman in the front stepped toward me, with Zophiel and the other angel flanking her, standards held high.
The lead angel smiled. It dazzled me, and I fell instantly in love with her. My heart felt like it would pound out of my chest.
“My name is –” she said, then pronounced a word that sounded deplorable and beautiful at the same time. I felt the field quiver, and the host of angels rustled their wings, as if her name was not something to be taken lightly.
I swallowed and tried to ask her how I should address her, but my voice didn’t work. She caught my thought, however.
“You may call me Michael, Archangel of the Unseen Presence, First Among the Host, Lord of the Heavens, Eldest Created Entity, General of the Angelic Army, Defender of the Western Gate — call me Michael,” she finished, seeing the confusion in my eyes. I said nothing. Zophiel’s existence had prepared for anything, including a female chief angel. Why not? Do angels have a gender? Why would they?
Instead of questioning her presence, I asked her where I was. I couldn’t believe I was in heaven — unless I was dead.
Michael laughed, and the peals broke over me like waves of comfort. “No, this isn’t Heaven, Michael Sandusky. This is just a field. But you can see Heaven from here, if you had the eyes for it.”
Then she told me what my mission was, and why I had been chosen. As I began to tell Bill, I tried to form it into words, because she had implanted it directly into my mind, bypassing clumsy speech.
I again stopped talking. My hand was shaking. Bill held a glass of water six inches from his lip. It had been there for five minutes. His eyes were small moons in his head.
My gaze was locked in his, and he finally looked away. “So? So? Spill it, Michael! A female archangel? The Heavenly Host? The Elysian Fields? I’m riveted! Your mission, your mission?” He looked back to me, eyes wide with envy.
“She told me that angels are not gods. They are created to be more than men, but they are still just sentient beings, able to die, able to be born, able to fight and love and lie. Lucifer, she said, is the prime example. ‘The Morningstar,’ she said, ‘was the greatest being ever created by the Holy Word. His Fall is an example to us all, that we serve the Presence by our own free will. Any of us can follow The Light-Bringer at any time, if we so choose.’ Angels talk like that, apparently.”
He chuckled and said he wasn’t surprised.
“The ideas about angels kept coming. Angels mate in mid-air, did you know that, like eagles. There is a great deal that is bird-of-prey about angels. They’re also hermaphrodites — Michael told me she felt most comfortable as a female, so that’s what body she was using. Anyway. They mate, they nest in aeries on the slopes of the Mountains of Heaven. All of the angels in the group give birth to a separate part of the offspring’s soul, which comes together in a ceremony right after birth.”
” ‘All the angels in the group’?”
“Apparently they can mate with any number of partners — it’s just a question of whim. The point of all this is that most angels mate with their own kind.”
I sighed. “Zophiel told me, when I first met him, that everything they needed to know about me was in his head — I assume now he meant all the angels’ heads — and that they would use it against me, because they had no scruples. I believe him now.”
He told me I was getting way to obscure, and needed to cut to the chase.
“Angels are shape-shifters. Anything they want to look like, they can become. Apparently they’re also great jokesters. And one of their favorite tricks is taking the shape of a man or woman and seducing a human. The child is part angel.”
He choked. Maybe he had been expecting that, but to hear me say it, and all that it implied, was too much for him. When he got his breath back, he looked at me and said, “And you’re …”
“Michael has two standard-bearers. Zophiel is one. The other, Zadkiel, seduced my father. When Zadkiel became pregnant, he passed the egg on to my mother — another one of their talents. My mother is my birth mother, but I’m not hers. Surrogate motherhood for an absentee angel.”
He was speechless.
“So,” I said, “you see my dilemma. Nobody will believe me. I couldn’t explain it to Laura. She doesn’t even believe in God, much less angels. Hell, I don’t believe it. But what can I do? I was confronted with it head-on.”
“Have you considered the possibility that you’ve gone completely out of your mind?”
I slumped. Bill was reading my mind. I chose to ignore him. “That’s not the worst part of the story. Apparently this is nothing new. Angels have been doing it for millennia. They are the parents of millions of humans. At least that’s what they said. And these people lead happy, healthy lives, never aware that they have angel DNA in them. It doesn’t make you insane, or a genius, or a clairvoyant — it’s just another trait you may have that others share, such as daydreaming at inappropriate times, or being able to break tackles — it’s just that you get it from angels, whereas someone else might get it from their grandmother.”
“Have you considered the possibility that you’ve gone completely out of your mind?”
“And I’m not stupid, Abernathy,” — Bill hated it when people called him by his last name — “and you don’t have to be so condescending. Let me finish, and then I’ll tell you.”
He smiled and nodded, waving his hand. I told him that Michael wanted to meet me because I was the first child born of Zadkiel in over three thousand years, and I was special. Zadkiel, I learned later, is as close to an archangel as you can get without being one — he’s a cherubim, just like Zophiel; the archangels — Michael and Gabriel being the most famous examples — are seraphim, one grade above. The seraphim tended to stay out of human affairs, and so offspring of the cherubim were the best children of angels. AS Zadkiel’s son, I was special. I asked Michael what she meant.
“We watch over the children of the cherubim,” she said. “We guide them to a destiny only they can fulfill. As you are a child of one of the most powerful, we knew you would have a grand destiny.”
She told me that the earth was entering a flashpoint phase in its history. The proliferation of cults, sects, evangelists, fanatics, lunatics, and millennial fever was leading to a cultural apocalypse. The angels could see this coming, because it had happened before, and they could read the signs. They needed someone to make sure it didn’t.
“And you’re it?” Bill asked, incredulous.
“I told you I was special.”
Reverend Killington was in fine form that night at the Rose Garden, the night I now know my whole life was leading to, the night when I realized my potential and then burned like Icarus. After I left Bill’s, I knew he would call Laura. My story was too preposterous, even for a trustworthy guy like him. She would rescue me, he was sure, and allow me to get over this delusion once and for all. His question echoed in my clear head the night I arrived at the Rose Garden. Have you considered the possibility that you’ve gone completely out of your mind? Of course I had. When you enter a restroom and the faucet is running, and no force on earth can cause you to turn the nozzle, and a man is standing in the shadows and telling you your name and your innermost thoughts, you instinctively believe you are losing your mind. But I no longer felt that way. Zophiel had shown me marvels beyond human comprehension and imagination. I couldn’t concoct a world like his, and therefore I knew it was real. Just as I knew my mission was real. My mission that would begin with Reverend Killington.
He was brilliant, I gave him that. He worked the crowd like a rock star, raising their expectations, lowering their guards, filling them with the Holy Spirit and the Power of God. He reached out to them in fellowship, never asking for money, only their hearts. I was sitting with my back against the wall in the highest part of the arena, but even I could feel the glory spilling from his lips. Reverend Killington — 53 years old, tall, thin, hair graying and still thick, eyes blazing with a queer green light — could hold the world in his hand if he so chose. Yet he didn’t. But I still had to expose him for what he was. My mind quickly fled back to the field full of angels.
“What you people fail to understand,” Zophiel had said to me, after I spoke with Michael the archangel and received my mission, “is that it’s a big universe, and there are many planes of existence. Heaven and Hell are just two of them. Occasionally we fight them, or they fight us. Sometimes they win, mostly we do. We’re just like sovereign nations.”
“Hell defeats Heaven?” Even as a lapsed Lutheran, an ultra-modern skeptic, I found this difficult to believe. Ten years of Sunday School had done its work.
“Not in any significant way, no. But of course it does, at times. Lucifer is the most powerful angel, after all, and very crafty. God is most proud of him.”
“But … he’s God. He’s … the Supreme Being. ‘Supreme’ meaning highest. No one can beat him.”
“Sure. That’s why we ultimately win. But something else you don’t realize” — by you I sensed he was talking about humanity, not me personally — “is that God has many responsibilities — ones God is constantly creating. You ceased to be God’s responsibility a long time ago.”
“Since one of you picked up a bone and smashed another one of you on the head. You’ve been on your own ever since.”
“Because we became violent?”
Zophiel shook his head, frustrated. “That has nothing to do with it. You saw the angels. We’re warriors. God can be extremely violent, when the mood strikes. No, violence has nothing to do with it. It’s just that you grew up in that moment. The ability to kill separates adults from children.”
“Today in America there are children killing people.”
“There have always been children killing people. I meant the ability, the desire in the lizard part of your brain, the thought processes necessary to carry out the act, the determination to commit the act, regardless of the consequences. Children killing are just throwing temper tantrums.”
What Zophiel was trying to say, I think, was that God didn’t take much notice of humanity, because He (She? It?) had more important things to do. At least that’s how I saw it. It reminded me of why I was chosen for this mission.
My mission. Reverend Killington was a simple man, the archangel Michael said, a man attempting to do good in a world gone wrong, but a man, nevertheless. She told me that he was a man who in the coming years would wield a great deal of spiritual and temporal power, and ultimately would wield it for good.
“Why do I have to expose him, then?” I had asked her.
“The followers of Reverend Killington will pervert what he says, what he preaches,” she said sadly. “This has already begun to happen, and although our methods are not fool-proof, we see worse in the future. The world needs fewer leaders, Michael, and more visionaries. Your mission is to expose the leaders for the frauds they are.”
“But you said he’s not a fraud. Despite the mistresses, the drug use, the income tax evasion. A hypocrite, maybe, but a man who does not offer himself up as a shining example. A man who says, ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’ We can learn from him because of his failures. Didn’t you say he would be exposed eventually, and his followers would forgive him?”
The angel told me if would not be the same as if I did it. Killington would break down and confess his sins, and because he did it voluntarily, his power would only increase. His followers would grow stronger, and then, after his death, a new, crueler religion would arise from his teachings.
“God failed with Christianity,” she had said, shocking me. “God offered up a new way of looking at the world. But God allowed humans to twist it to suit themselves. Perhaps God did not realize that this is what humans will always do, given a chance. But God did not learn, and erred again with Islam. God thought by convincing someone that Jesus was not divine, the world would come to understand the difference between a religion and a thought process. Since the advent of Islam, God has chosen to stay out of it. Occasionally, however, people have arisen who might set humanity backward again, into the age of superstition. That is when the angels and their progeny intervene. This is one of those times, and you are the most powerful of our progeny currently alive.”
I learned in that field that it’s impossible to argue with an angel, especially an archangel. They’re too smug. So I went along, and realized that keeping humanity from regressing to a time of priest-kings and entrail-reading was a good thing. This realization led me to the Rose Garden.
As I thought about my instructions, I made my way down through the throngs of the faithful. I saw Zophiel suddenly, hovering over the stage, and he nodded grimly at me. His eyes were bright with respect, because he knew what I was doing was difficult, and took courage. I was maneuvering myself to be called up on stage by one of the reverend’s helpers. He wasn’t a faith healer, but he did bring some of the faithful to him and allowed them to tell their stories, which always coincided with some variation on the theme that Reverend Killington saved them. I wanted to get up there, because I knew I could tell the grandest story of them all. The angels had made sure I had plenty to tell.
Reverend Killington called his followers up one by one, and I was impressed by the restraint of it all. There was a blind man who still couldn’t see, but was happy in the Grace of God. Next a woman in a wheelchair, who had gotten the courage to attempt rehabilitation thanks to the reverend. With the entire crowd cheering her on, she stood and took two tentative steps before falling into Killington’s bear hug. These people weren’t doing anything miraculous, but it appeared being a follower of the reverend gave the strength to try. It was a gift, I decided, that all great leaders have, and they all use it in different ways. Reverend Killington used his in the service of God.
Zophiel was still smiling at me as I reached the stage and approached the reverend. I was terrified, more than I had been in the bathroom, more than when I was transported to the magical field. This was something I would do on my own, something I would initiate, and that frightened me. Zophiel, hovering above the stage, nodded at me with green fire in his eyes.
Reverend Killington was asking me what my story was, how I came to be there that night — the usual stuff, played up for the audience. I walked toward him, aware of the subtle presence of bodyguards in the wings and in front of the stage. They looked like the rest of the faithful, but my encounter with the angels had given me an insight into the true nature of people — at least I thought so, because I could tell, instinctively, that these men were there to protect the reverend, and that any hostile move I made would be instantly countered with deadly force. I stepped even more cautiously toward him.
“I’m here tonight, Reverend,” I said meekly and quietly, so that he had to strain to hear, “because I have had encounters with angels. I wanted to share with you what they told me.”
He stiffened slightly, but I couldn’t tell if it was from pleasure or fear. My “problem” wasn’t some physical thing that could be alleviated with soothing words and a promise that in heaven God will take care of me. I had seen angels. Something more spiritual was at work.
Whether he believed me or not was irrelevant. He smiled broadly and took my arm, propelling me toward the front of the stage. I was now the star attraction. “Son,” he said, voice calm, “I want you to tell these good people about your encounter. I want you to spread the good news. We are all of us waiting for a sign from God. If you have one to deliver, please give it to us, God’s Faithful.”
I felt the words forming in my throat. “I met the archangel Michael,” I said, not very loudly. He thrust his microphone at me and I heard my labored breathing ripple out into the audience. I looked up and saw my guardian, his lips twisted in a malicious grin.
Killington stayed silent, knowing when to milk a potentially enlightening experience. I repeated my statement, and the audience let out a collective gasp of surprise.
“What was he like?” Killington whispered, into the microphone, so his words floated out with amplified sibilance.
“Well, Michael is a woman.”
If the reverend was surprised, he didn’t show it. “What was she like?” he said, giving me a knowing wink.
I told him. He grew rapt as I described the field, the army of angels, the wings like rainbows, the swords like lightning, the flashing eyes and cruel lips. I told him about Zophiel and Zadkiel, the standard-bearers, and about the standards they carried. He took it all in with total credulity. A kindred spirit, at last. None of Laura’s and Bill’s skepticism.
“What did the Archangel Michael tell you?” he asked, eyes wide with wonder and anticipation. He was obviously expecting some sort of message to him personally, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. Something about what a great job he was doing, and keep up the good work!
I knew, behind his smile and easy manner, there was a man who routinely cheated on his wife, who snorted cocaine before almost all of his public appearances, who in a few years would grow bloated with power and bilk thousands of elderly people out of their life savings and attempt to defraud the Internal Revenue Service, and who would eventually be exposed to the world. Again, Michael’s words came back to me.
“Angels,” she had said, “live outside of petty human constructs such as time. The paths to the future, while never set, can be mapped with almost total certainty. Reverend Killington, for all his ample power now, will be the inspiration for new revolutionaries, new prophets, and new insanity. Your world cannot afford another religion.”
I knew it was true. I looked in Reverend Killington’s eyes and saw, prosaically, that very future. He could feel it coming, somewhere in the part of his soul that allows humans to know their future. He welcomed it.
I looked up at Zophiel, whose brow was furrowed in concern. I was his protégé, and I was taking too long. Something was wrong with me.
“She said the world is going downhill,” I said, finally. “But do not despair. People will always make the difference. People will always choose what’s good.”
Deep in my bowels, I felt a knife twist. I looked down and saw a blade with a jeweled handle jutting from my stomach. There was no blood, but the pain was unlike any I had ever felt. Zophiel stood in front of me, a smirk on his lips. Everyone else in the arena had frozen.
He was shaking his head as he reached forward and grabbed the handle, dragging the blade upward toward my chest. Again, I saw no blood, but it felt as if my lungs were collapsing and my heart was splitting. I choked, but no words came out. Zophiel casually extracted the knife, and suddenly the pain was gone. I fell to the ground and breathed deeply. Zophiel’s feet moved to within a few inches of my forehead, which was touching the floor.
“I told Michael you couldn’t be trusted,” his haughty voice rang out. “Did she listen? I was overruled. ‘He’s one of us, Zophiel, deep down he’s one of us.’ What bullshit.”
I shakily got to my feet. Zophiel was about twelve feet tall. His sword flamed in his left hand, its blade sharp as night. He knelt down and opened his eyes wide. I saw they were gray, a beautiful color, completely unnatural for eyes, but beautiful nevertheless. Instead of fear, I felt love welling up inside me. I knew that he could make me love him even as he killed me.
“I don’t believe God ever understood what was going on with you people. I know Michael and Gabriel and those arrogant seraphim didn’t. Maybe Lucifer did. Maybe that’s why he fell.”
He was still gazing directly at me, but once again, I felt he wasn’t talking to me. His sword was gone from his hand. He looked almost sorrowful.
“I did like you, Michael. I wanted to believe you would do what we asked. I was a fool, and you have to pay the price.”
I finally got my voice back. “What do you mean?”
“You will be the only one to remember what truly happened here. Everyone else will have … a different memory.” His smile returned and he faded, Cheshire-cat style. I felt a rough hand grab me and drag me backward. Reverend Killington was looking at me with horror. He whispered something to his bodyguards, and I was dragged off-stage. Something jabbed into my arm, and the world swirled around me for an instant, and then I fell into darkness.
Zophiel couldn’t stay away. I still see him, late at night, after they turn the lights out, and all of us in the ward are supposed to be asleep. He comes to my bed and sits there, sometimes sadly, sometimes with a mocking grin on his face. He never speaks, but I tell him what I think. How I tried to do what he asked, what he and the Heavenly Host asked, but I was too weak at the last moment. There’s something about Killington that negates even angels’ instructions. Maybe that was what Zophiel meant when he said that God didn’t understand us. Maybe God’s creation got loose, got out from under His (Her?) thumb, and God didn’t anticipate that. I don’t know, but in the past few months, I’ve had a lot of time to think about it.
Laura and Bill are my only visitors. I think Laura feels guilty that she didn’t believe me, and Bill — I don’t know. He was interested in what I had to say, and he encouraged me to tell my story, but did he ever think it was real? They tell me I’m getting better, and the doctors don’t think I’ll be here much longer, but that’s only because I’m lying to them, and not telling them that Zophiel still visits me. I keep my mouth shut, and answer their questions quietly and lucidly. And soon they’ll let me out, and I can forget about angels.
Reverend Killington has forgiven me, I hear. They found a gun in my pocket and a Gnostic tract in my bedroom drawer, and have linked me to all sorts of millennial groups. I think it’s funny. Laura asked me how I could ever threaten the reverend’s life, and I just shake my head and say I’m sorry, not sure what she’s talking about. I was just trying to fight the angels — it’s a job not many people can understand. But now I’m just trying to get better.
And maybe I am. When I first got here, I saw and heard all the signs, which is how I knew Zophiel was coming. Last night, however, just before he arrived, I listened carefully to the noises of the night in the ward. Last night, I finally heard it — or rather, didn’t hear it. The faucets were silent.
[When you visited the Atomic Junk Shop today (as you do every day, right?), I bet you didn’t think you were going to learn a bunch of angel lore, but you never know what you’ll find here at the blog! Most of the lore is “real,” but some I made up. I remember trying to figure out ways to make angels not quite human, but still recognizable as humanoid. Too much literature just makes them humans with wings. I wanted to try something a bit different. Whether or not I succeeded is up to you, reader, to decide!
The Nineties were a big time for angels, probably because of the millennium. They were everywhere, and I thought it would be interesting to try writing a story with them. I didn’t want them to be complete assholes, like they were in Ennis’s Hellblazer or Preacher, for instance, but angels have always seemed like assholes, haven’t they, so mine couldn’t be too nice. I think I struck a decent balance. Again, it’s up to you to decide.
As it turns out, Michael probably should have completed his mission, as reactionary Christianity has only become worse in this country since the 1990s, when it really started its resurgence (Reagan primed the pump, but it wasn’t until 1994 that politicians really started kowtowing to reactionary Christians). I’ve never been a religious person, but I don’t have a problem with anyone who is … unless they try to impose it on others, and that’s what’s been going on in this country for 30 years, and especially since 11 September 2001. Religion feels anti-democratic in general, so making it a cornerstone of a political platform in a pluralistic country like the U.S. seems completely wrong-headed, but that’s where we are. Such is life.
This is very long, and I apologize for that. I wanted to dig into the weirdness of the angels and how odd it would be to encounter them if they were real, and to do that, I needed atmosphere. This is the most ornate thing I’ve ever written, I think, and I’m not very good at it, I don’t think. This was a difficult thing to write, because I wanted it to be creepy without being obnoxious or gross, and that’s kind of hard. Well, for me. It might be easy for others. Beats me. And hey, another recurring character! Let’s hope he’s gotten over his best friend marrying the girl he was secretly in love with!
Anyway, thanks for reading. The next one is shorter and, well, odder. Yes, odder than angels mating with humans. You heard it here first!]