“Do you remember, Gerard?” the angel asked me from across the battle-scarred table. “Remember how it felt the first time you accepted His will? How good it felt? How loved you felt?” His gaze was intense…burning right through me. His eyes were a brilliant silver color.
I must be dreaming… and I really hoped that the bikers that surrounded us were totally ignoring this conversation.
“Don’t you want to feel that way again?”
I couldn’t answer.
“You still believe.” It was more of a question than a statement.
I just stared at him. The silence was answer enough.
“Don’t you?” Baleful. Chiding.
“I don’t know what I believe anymore.” Fifteen years of doing His work on earth left me scattered emotionally and faithless.
“You were tortured by leaving the work. Can’t even describe how it feels, can you?”
“I have enough to answer for without adding that to His list.”
“At least you had the option of walking away. Some of us don’t get that luxury. But the price for walking away is what you’ve been feeling. Just a tiny taste of Hell.”
“How do you know that? How could you know that?”
Occasionally some biker would glance over at the table and wonder what I was on, sitting by myself and staring intently at the empty seat in front of me. The whole conversation was silent, strictly in the minds of the angel and I.
“You are the curate of lost souls.” The words rang like steel against marble.
My temples started to throb and I felt my blood pressure rising.
“Ezekiel 25:17.” The angel was clearly hopeful that this meant something to me.
“The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness. For he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children.”
“Why me? Don’t you need someone pure? Someone like you?”
He smiled. Indescribable eyes.
“No. We need someone… He needs someone who can think like they do.”
“Who are ‘they’ exactly?”
“The damned. Lost souls. Eternally suffering. God’s lost children. Just like you.”
I felt the creeping sting of shame and anger, like anyone stung by deserved insult.
The angel continued, “You’ve been astray yourself, thinking your deeds unseen. But they weren’t unseen, Gerard. No matter how hard anyone wished they were.”
“So what is this then? Punishment?”
“Atonement? I can see why you might think that. But you never really believed Him to be that way, did you?”
“You were the one who just mentioned my tiny taste of Hell.”
“That wasn’t Him. That was you. Your own soul feeling the pain of knowing His love and then turning your back on Him.”
“I didn’t turn my back… I just simply couldn’t do it anymore.”
The eyes. The angel’s eyes started to glow.
“Couldn’t or wouldn’t? You lost your faith. You lost your belief that your strength came through Him.”
My anger cranked up to full steam. “What is this? I did it. For fucking years I did His work. What did I get for it? A paycheck and the burden of knowing what the true nature of this life is. I saw and I felt the agony of good, faithful people handed tragedy that they did not deserve. I saw countless unanswered prayers from bedsides of the dying…prayers that ‘never fail’. Novena after novena… all the while I’m having to taking dead babies from their mother’s arms…it was just…”
What was that I saw in the angel’s eyes that changed? Did the pain I felt slip in and scatter his focus a bit. I saw an opening and decided to keep digging.
“Where was He when these horrible things were happening? Where was He? It’s a fair question. Go ahead and think about it. I’ll wait for answer.”
The waitress slipped past the table, trying not be noticed. She wondered why I hadn’t said a word since walking in. I hadn’t asked for a drink. She was grateful I hadn’t.
No answer came. I knew it wouldn’t. Long ago, in my studies, I came to the conclusion that when the prayers of His own Son went unanswered, my own would be quite farther down on the list.
“What is it exactly that I am to do?”
There was no answer in the angel. His look intensified. “They will be drawn to you. To destroy you. All you need to do is make them notice you. The rest will just happen.”
“’Drawn to destroy me’…sounds wonderful. You’re not really selling me on this gig. What if they catch up to me? I don’t like the idea of spending my life as demon bait. Tell Him I said ‘no thanks.’” I got up and headed towards the door.
I walked out and threaded through the row of choppers and bikes, cautious not to touch any of them. I was a lot more afraid of pissed-off bikers than I was of supernatural trash.
My car was parked just up the block. I slid in the seat and keyed the engine. As it cranked up, I glanced to my right and nearly jumped through the driver’s side window. The angel was sitting to my right, hands folded in his lap.
“How shall I put this? You really don’t have a choice. Well, you do have a choice. You can either do this with our protection, or do it without. But you will be pursued by them. You always have been. You’ve just never known about it.”
“Why me? What have I done?”
“You’ve simply been chosen. Chosen by both sides,” the angel continued “before you were ever born. You are of the Nephilim bloodline.”
I remember reading of the Nephilim in my seminary days. They were the offspring of Angels and human women, known by their large size and were sought out and destroyed as abominations.
But they must have missed one. One who was able to be sheltered and protected. One who would go on to father future generations. But enemies remained, and they still hunted.
My gut started feeling hot and loose…pure fear.
“You remember feeling terrified at times and not knowing why? It meant that one of them was very close to you. Close enough to feel your heartbeat. You were in the gravest danger and your instincts were putting you on alert. Even though you couldn’t see anything, you could sense the danger.” The intent stare was back.
“But nothing ever happened. It was just nerves. Nothing ever happened.”
“You don’t think so?” The angel’s look was long and telling. “No thanks necessary. You’re welcome.”