An Angel's Tears

One of the nine greatest archangels, Remiel is entrusted with the safe-keeping of the souls of the dead. But when a mortal invades his mind, filling his lonesome thoughts with strange new desires, he discovers that even God's heavenly Plan can have faults - and his disobedience has horrible consequences, as he plummets from the heavens. Ariadne is just a normal girl - if you overlook her recently murdered family, the resultant speech impediment, and her aptitude for drawing. Together, can these two broken souls find their redemption? Or will their growing bond lead only to more pain?

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3. Chapter 3-1: Angel

Ariadne

            I saw the bird falling at exactly 10:47 A.M., Thursday, March 9th. Not that I was counting or anything. I just knew that it was two minutes into break, and I had a research paper topic due next class. As usual, I’d forgotten to print it at home, and was preparing my fake-tears for their moment of glory.

            It shouldn’t have been a memorable moment either, because it wasn’t like I hadn’t seen a bird fall out of the sky before. But, even from this far away, I could tell that this bird was special. He was pure white, the color of new-fallen snow, and somehow both strong and delicate looking as he tumbled through the dense canopy of trees that had grown in around the school fence.

            I had an almost overpowering urge to find him. To find the bird. But I didn’t. I turned away, and strode back down the dirty hallway to my over-crowded locker, and retrieved my books. Just like the good student I pretended to be. When I passed by the water fountain, some kids were blowing spitballs at the nearby faculty. Mr. Morris – the chemistry teacher – of course, didn’t notice, even when one of the globs stuck to the back of his jacket. Typical. His custom was to be totally oblivious to all of his surroundings, unless they involved dead cats or vials of acid.

            I didn’t speak to anyone in the halls, as was my custom. I just walked, head down and shoulders shrugged up to my ears, as fast as I could without drawing attention to myself, until I could find an area without anyone around. Today, that was behind the trashcan outside the library.

            As soon as I was alone I opened my sketchbook and began to draw what I could never put into words. Words were just so… flat. There was no texture, no color to them. True, there was mockery, sarcasm, disbelief. I guess if you wanted to, you could find a way to color your words. I just hadn’t discovered that way yet. And trust me, it wasn’t for lack of trying.

            The book was almost full by now. I had to get a new one every few weeks, as the pages filled up. I flipped to the middle, the first open page, and lightly pressed my pencil to the paper. Then I paused. I’d never been at a loss for what to draw before. Sketching came as easy as breathing for me. So why this sudden hesitation?

            Because I still had that bird stuck in my head. I could picture it so clearly, the way it had fallen, the strange angle of the wings, the color and size. I closed my eyes and luxuriated in the image. That bird seemed to want to tell me something. I just had to pay attention and listen, and I’d find out what.

            When I sighed and opened my eyes again, at first I thought I was still daydreaming. But no, there it was. Exactly as I’d seen it, the picture was sketched in my book, down to the last detail. It was haunting how clearly my thoughts had taken shape this time.

            I was still studying the page – looking for the minor flaw that just had to be there – when the bell rang. At the shrill sound, I jumped, startled from my reverie. And my pencil jerked. Well, I thought, looking down at my ruined picture.  Guess I found a flaw now.

            I was late to English and Mrs. S’mone – we all called her Mrs. Alone, because she was such a bitch – made me go all the way to the attendance office for an admittance slip. Ridiculous. When I got back, it was almost like she was just waiting for a chance to publicly humiliate me. Again.

            “Well well, Miss Wight, so good of you to join us,” she said with a too-nice smile. “We were just about to start a discussion. Why don’t you go first. What are your views on Machiavelli’s laws for good monarchs?”

            I groaned internally. Sure, I could take about five minutes to sketch out the rules, because my mind thought in pictures. But she wanted an oral answer. And now, not in a few minutes. I knew that because the last time I’d been forced to participate in discussion, I’d asked to draw Dante’s Inferno rather than describe it. Apparently, that wasn’t allowed. She’d confiscated my sketchbook after that, looked though the pictures, and then told my uncle I needed counseling.

            “Ummh, well… Ummh, Machiavelli states… He said that a prince should want to be seen as miserly, rather than generous because… because…” She didn’t even let me finish. To be honest, I was glad. I hated having all thirty plus pairs of eyes on me at once. It made me nervous, and that made me stutter. And then I got embarrassed, and stuttered more as well as blushing red as a tomato.

            “Good, now sit down Miss Wight. Mr. McArthur, would you like to add to what she said?”

            I counted down the seconds until the bell rang, hoping and praying that I wouldn’t be called on again. Then, when the discussion was over, I almost cried because, not only had Mrs. S’mone not called on me. She also forgot to collect the homework.

            At lunch I looked for an empty area, but in the March sunshine, everyone was outside enjoying the warmth and the faculty had locked the buildings to keep it that way. So, with all three-thousand-ninety-four students spread between the quad and the grassy knoll, there was nowhere I could sit unobserved.

            I wandered for the first five minutes of lunch in the center of the high school campus. But, as lunch progressed and I realized the hopelessness of my endeavor, I journeyed further out toward the gate. Before I knew it, I was at the cast-iron fence that kept us on campus and “predators” out of it. And I was facing where that bird had fallen.

            It was like my mind had subconsciously drawn me to that area, at that moment. I almost could feel the invisible pull directing me a few feet over, where I found a hole in the gate. Normally I wouldn’t risk getting caught just for the sake of a little freedom, but this would be worth it. Even if I didn’t find the bird. It would be worth it for just a little quiet aloneness before I had to return to class.

            I pulled out my book and looked at the drawing. There was one tree, on the far left, that was taller than the others, the branches sticking out a few feet over the canopy line. Turning in a circle, I scanned for the tree. It took only one pass to find it, and then another minute to orient myself according to it. When I was relatively certain that I was facing the right way, I pushed through the hole and into the trees.

            Under the branches and leaves, it was dark enough to be night, even though it was noon. Any light that managed to penetrate the thick layer of moss and leaves was tinged green and gave the entire forest a sinister cast. Like the bad lighting in alleys in horror movies, where the young girl is caught by the murderer to be killed in an incredibly creative way.

            Even dark as it was, I found what I was looking for pretty quick. Or at least, I think it was what I sought. I stumbled into the clearing more than tracked it down, though.

            I knew instantly, even from as far as I was, that it was too big to be a normal bird. The hole it had made in the trees was enough to spotlight me in sudden, blinding sunshine. I followed the track that looked like a small plane crashing for about a hundred feet. After that, it faded a little. Like the bird or animal or whatever it was had tried to crawl further but couldn’t walk or fly.

            I was just standing there, considering my next move – after all, what if it was dangerous. The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind until then, and by that time it was too late. I was hesitating, and then I saw it. That glint of whiteness further ahead. It pulled me forward, brought me closer.

            At first I only took in small, minor details. The wings were dazzlingly bright, even covered in mud and grime as they were. They were also much bigger than I’d assumed, spanning at least twenty feet, although it was hard to tell. They were bent at strange angles, like the hollow, fragile bones inside had been crushed to pulverized bits.

            Then I saw the whole picture, and I chocked back my scream by shoving a fist in my mouth and biting until I tasted blood. The pain helped me think a little. I backed up, wanting to run but afraid to make any sudden movements.

            Because I’d seen him. It wasn’t a bird that had fallen from the sky. It was a boy.

            My artist’s mind took over, curiosity overriding caution. After all, he wasn’t moving, so what did it matter? Judging by the tracks, he could barely move, let alone catch me if I ran. As soon as I was close enough to take in the details of his body, I sat down and pulled open a new page.

            I started with his face. The boy’s eyes were closed, his long black lashes brushing his cheeks. His nose was straight, his face angular. White hair stuck up in unruly spikes around his head in a strange parody of a halo.

            Then I moved to the boy’s body. He was wearing only a pair of dirty once-white pants. I, being the unsocial loner that I was, had never seen a boy’s chest this close before, and it took longer to draw than I thought it would. The hardest part there was shading in the bruises and scars that crisscrossed him, the blood pooling in a gash on his shoulder. The unnatural bend of his right arm. Luckily, he was lying on his stomach, with most of his back covered by the white expanses of his magnificent wings. After I was reasonable pleased with my drawing, even though it captured almost none of this boy’s beauty, I moved to the wings. Then it got tricky.

            They were made of individual feathers, all whites and silvers, strong and gentle looking simultaneously. The hardest part of drawing them, however, was not attempting to give them the right texture. It was holding back the ridiculous tears that pooled in my eyes when I looked at the shattered remains of his beauty.

The left wing – the one further from me – looked relatively intact, with only a few large, noticeable breaks. A white bone, almost indistinguishable from the white of the feathers, stabbed from the side of it, breaking skin and staining the surrounding plumes red with blood.

The closer wing, however, was much more damaged. In my mind, I saw the boy crash through the trees, imagining his speed as he fell. In my image, he landed on this right side, destroying his body with the force of it. The other wing was probably broken somewhere else on the way down. I drew slowly, savoring every stroke. Every time I put the pencil to paper, it was like I was really beside him, running my hand down the bloody side of this boy’s body.

A warm wind blew through the forest, ruffling leaves on the trees and both the boy’s white hair and my red locks. And, of course, the feathers.

I was just surveying my work, marveling in the sheer joy of looking at the picture – at the memory – when I felt more than saw him move. It was miniscule. Just the tiniest rising of his chest in a shallow breath, but it was enough. I screamed and scrambled to my feet, but they wouldn’t move. They wouldn’t take me away from him. They knew, even when I told myself that I wanted to leave, that I needed to stay.

So I watched the boy come alive. At first it was a few breaths. He’d honestly probably been breathing the entire time, I was just too caught up in my drawing to notice. The almost imperceptible rising and falling of the boy’s back as he breathed eventually lulled me back to a sitting position. But I made sure that I could see his face. If he woke, I would run.

I was about to give up on any more movement when another gust of wind blew through. This time, rather than letting it blow over him, the boy seemed to want to embrace it. His wings ruffled, the left rising a little and the right shifting. But as soon as he moved them, he hissed through his teeth and jerked. Then he went still again.

I’d scooted closer accidentally and was only a few feet away when he opened his eyes. Even my fist didn’t stop my scream then, and it echoed shrilly through the silent forest. The boy winced, and then shuddered again when the wince jostled him.

His eyes locked back onto mine as soon as I stopped screaming, a strange light purple to my dark chocolate brown. His mouth opened in a silent gasp of pain as one hand reached out toward me. I watched, paralyzed and breathless, as the hand dug into the ground, and the boy pulled himself forward. His wings dragged through the dirt behind him like the broken things they were.

Without looking away from me, he reached out again with his left arm and tried to drag himself forward, but collapsed panting when the pain overcame him. I watched him try once more to move his wings. Watched those strange eyes close. And I watched a single tear slide down his immaculate, bruised face.

And I opened my mouth to speak, but the words wouldn’t come. The boy must have heard me open my mouth, heard my little stuttering breath, because he opened his eyes and looked at me again. Wordlessly I closed my mouth and flipped the book around to the picture of him.

The boy seemed incapable of speech, at least at the moment, which was fine with me. We seemed to share this unspoken language of pictures because, as soon as he saw it, he relaxed. He stopped trying to move and just lay there, the silent plea clear in his face.

As perfect as pictures were, there was just no way to draw certain things. “Hold still.” I whispered the words as quietly as I could, hoping against hope that this strange boy could understand me. H didn’t nod, didn’t respond in any way, but he also didn’t move, so it was possible that he understood.

I reached into my backpack for the uneaten lunch I hadn’t touched. I knew that by now the bell had definitely already rung, but I didn’t care. What was one missed class compared to seeing a… an…

“Angel.” I whispered the word reverently, almost silently. I wasn’t talking to the boy. I was telling myself. I was trying to understand it, but in my state of shock, I just couldn’t. But the boy started quivering again, tears leaking from his violet eyes.

“Hey, hey, it’s alright.” I didn’t even stop to congratulate myself for making it though a sentence. I just dropped my bag and moved closer to the boy. As gently as I could, I pressed my hand to his still-outstretched arm, just above his shoulder. I picked up my water bottle and pressed it to the broken lips. “Drink a little, alright?”

He might have swallowed some, but more just poured down the side of his face and soaked into the blood-smeared ground. There was still plenty left, so I dripped a little onto the middle of his back. When the first drops hit, the boy hissed again and I jerked the bottle upright, stopping the tiny flow of liquid.

“Look, I know it hurts, alright. I know. But there’s dirt in it, and I’m just going to try to clean out some of these cuts. Ok?” This time I waited for a response. It was strange that, around this boy, I had no trouble speaking. It was like he unlocked some language block from my mind. I could only hope that it would continue to work after he died.

No. I wasn’t going to think like that. This boy – this angel – was something beautiful and perfect and precious, and I would do what I could to help him because I owed it to him. I owed it to him merely on the grounds of beauty. The picture I had drawn of his unconscious was the best I’d ever done before. Possible the best I’d ever manage to do.

Finally, the boy gave a slight, painful nod. This time, rather than his back, I started with his left arm. Out of every part of him, this seemed the least damaged for some reason. A swollen wrist, some minor cuts, plenty of bruising, torn fingernails. Compared to the shattered bones that seemed present almost everywhere else, this was almost untouched.

That didn’t stop him from cringing from me when I poured the water onto a napkin. I had to grab his arm to hold his hand still, and even that took serious effort. I looked the boy in the eyes and gave him a “Don’t you dare mess this up” scowl, and he blinked. It was the closest to anything but pain or indifference I’d gotten from him so far.

Then his look changed from one of stolid indifference to fear so quickly that I knew it had been there all along. He was just letting his guard down for some reason. “What’s wrong? What are you so afraid of? Me?” I asked, gently using the napkin to clean his hand.

He gave me a tiny shake of his head. So not me, then. “Then what?” I knew he couldn’t answer. It was a rhetorical question anyways. I just wanted to know what an angel could possibly fear.

“Failed.” I jerked my head up so fast it made me dizzy. His voice was halting, broken by pain, but so low and sweet it made my head ache. Now that I knew he could speak, I wanted answers.

“You failed what? Who? How does that have anything to do with anything?”

His eyes met mine once more, and I watched him open his mouth. “Him,” the angel managed to choke out. Then he looked away, back toward the small parch of sunlight that was traveling slowly toward us as the sun moved. Skilled as I was in silent conversation, I knew that this was a hint to stop asking, so I went back to work.

When I’d finished with his left arm, I moved to the cut on the angel’s shoulder. It wasn’t deep, but the crust of dirt and blood made it look worse than it was. After that, I slowly traveled from cut to cut, cleaning them as gently as I could. Every now and then I’d feel the boy wince under my touch, but he never cried out.

I lie on my stomach facing him and put my chin in my hands. Now, when I looked at him, I could see exactly where he was wounded worst. His wings, obviously. I hadn’t even touched them while I was trying to help him. They looked too painful to move and I didn’t want to risk hurting him more. His right arm was also broken, bent under him. But that seemed to cause much less pain than the wings.

Besides those, he’d broken or cracked a few ribs – I could tell because when I touched them he’d flinched – dislocated his right hip and ankle, and managed to obtain a deep stab wound in his side that leaked black blood into the dirt.

I reached toward the remains of my lunch. There was a little bag full of cucumber sandwiches, some carrots, crackers, and humus. My uncle always did forget that I hate humus. In the bottom of the brown bag was another bag with a chocolate chip cookie in it.

When the different bags were laid out on the ground between us, I looked at the boy. “Alright, now here’s how this is going to work. I’m going to point, and if you want it, you blink twice. Got it?” Two blinks.

I pointed to the crackers and looked at him. He stared directly into my eyes, but didn’t blink. “Sandwiches?” I asked, pointing. He didn’t respond, so I moved to the carrots. Again, no response. I smiled and pointed to the last bag, the cookie. “This one?” But again, there was no response.

His violet eyes were holding mine, trying to convey something. Something important, but I couldn’t understand it. “Look, you have to eat something. Maybe you just need some sugar?” I reached into the cookie bag and broke off a single chocolate chip. Holding it up to the angel’s mouth, I nodded, and his lips parted. I watched him swallow, and then his tongue flashed out, licking the parched lips. I smiled and grabbed another bit of cookie.

It took a long time to make him eat the cookie, some crackers, and a sandwich, but eventually I did. I was just about to congratulate myself when the blaring alarm went off.

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