Send Me an Angel
The sound beyond the door was unmistakably that of footsteps as I prayed for God to send me an angel.
They drew closer, causing Luca to tighten his grip on the quilt and pull it over half of his face. Though the filtered moonlight was dim, he could see that his door was still closed. The faded, brass knob turned slowly and his heart beat faster. He pulled the cover completely over his head and immediately felt beads of sweat begin to form on his forehead as rapid hot breaths filled the gaps under the thick duvet. The room was so quiet that he easily heard the bottom of the door drag along the carpet.
“Luca?” his Dad’s voice was soft but still commanding.
It gave him chills.
He ignored it and hoped he would go away.
“Luca?” slightly louder and filled with expectation, as though Luca should be awake in the early hours of the morning.
He lay quietly, evening his breathing out and praying that that the man wouldn’t come into the room.
But he did. He crept closer, the sound of his footsteps muffled by the thick, worn carpet. Luca could tell that he was wearing shoes.
His father tried one last time to call his name. His breathing was loud and even from the bed, Luca could smell the Whiskey. He waited for a long time, Luca felt that perhaps many minutes went by before he finally heard him leave and close the door. The footsteps receded away from his room and disappeared into the bathroom. He heard the toilet flush a few minutes later, then the footsteps move into the other room.
A door closed.
Luca pulled the quilt down and used a part of it to wipe the sweat – which had already streamed down his face – and caught his breath. After several minutes of silence, Luca swung his bare feet out of bed and stood up. He went to the window and pulled the blind aside a tiny bit so that he could look out.
The bright streetlamps provided enough light to see that the road was empty. Even from inside he could tell that the trees and plants, which lined the neighbour’s gardens, were suffering from the previous day’s heat. The water restrictions meant that many of them would struggle through the summer. He could already see the the leaves that had turned yellow.
Luca closed the blinds and crept back into bed. He picked up his phone and checked his Twitter account, then Facebook. He liked a post and got bored of all the rest and put the phone down. He got back into bed.
Hurried footsteps reappeared in the hallway and got closer. Suddenly his door burst open and the light came on. His father stood there, glaring at him.
“You little shit! You think I can’t see when you’re online?!” Even as he spoke he crept menacingly closer. His hands balled into tight fists, his bottom lip came up and his eyes lit into a dark inferno. There was hatred in those pools of lava.
Luca knew that running was useless, saying anything would be pointless and cowering would be unhelpful. He lay there and waited for the inevitable.
“You think I’m stupid?!” the voice rose even as it deepened, “is that it? You think your father is a fool?” he was standing over him then.
Luca’s small face scrunched. He looked up at the man, defeated but hopeful that his terror could take on the temper.
“Tell me son!” in a move that was so quick, it was almost superhuman, his hand came down and the fist connected with Luca’s nose.
The intensity of the pain momentarily blinded him, as his hands came up to cover his face too late. There was a moment before the blinding flash where Luca felt and saw his father’s rage before it hit.
It was worse than that time he’d hit him with the fire poker with the burning orange point that left a scar on his bottom.
“You think I’m an idiot! You think I don’t know when you’re online!?” the beating started then – hard and constant – as fists beat down on his face and his body. His father’s strong hand pulled one of Luca’s small hands away and hit with his other fist, “I’ll show you who’s stupid around here! It’s my fucking house you little bastard!” and hit him again. The last fist, hit Luca’s chin hard enough to break something. He felt and heard the crack at the same time, then tasted the blood.
He opened his eyes, full of pain, his young eyes begging to be let go.
His father wasn’t finished.
Luca’s arm was almost dislocated as his father yanked him from the bed and with a well-timed move, flung him to the floor. Luca’s hip flared and his knee cracked. With his hands, having protected his fall, his face was exposed. His father struck again; harder.
Then the kicks started, into his back, then his bum and back to his back again. Even without shoes, the kicks were hard and they felt like cement blocks.
Luca uttered an involuntary yelp, then felt nothing. The pain stopped and the darkness became a welcome break from the stifling heat.
Then all the pain went away and he felt wonderful.
The overwhelming sense of peace was incredible. And it was cooler. It wasn’t dark and it wasn’t light either; somewhere in-between. The path ahead was filled with gravel, banked on either side by lush–green grass. Several animals close and far, ate grass and looked at him curiously, but unafraid. When he turned to look behind him, he saw a window in the middle of the path. Through the window, he saw his father, crying and holding a small, lifeless body. He strained to see who the boy was, and then recognised the pyjamas and the bad haircut.
It was his own body.
Luca had never seen his body from outside before and was only mildly curious about it. What would his father do to it if he weren’t there to protect it? He was surprised to realise that he no longer really cared.
When he turned back, it was lighter and it was warm. He edged forward slightly and felt a breeze that carried sweet smells of flowers and nature; fresh grass and the not too distant rain. The path looked more inviting than the window. His steps were propelled by curiosity and Luca took several, often looking back to see how the window looked. He couldn’t see his body anymore and he could barely make out his Dad’s form. When he turned yet again, he discovered movement ahead.
He stopped and watched.
While he still saw the animals, he thought he could see people too. Some were hazy and others were clearer, though none of them were solid, like he was. He checked his arms and his hands and looked at his legs – and noticed that he was still wearing his pyjamas – then continued towards the people.
The first one was a woman who wore the biggest smile and she beckoned him. Her hair was so soft and golden; it blew gently around her slim, pretty face as he approached her. She was nice but he had been told many times that he mustn’t speak to strangers, even though something about her was vaguely familiar. But Luca felt, more than saw, how much this woman loved him. He knew that she wouldn’t hurt him. Besides, his father was busy in the window behind him; he wouldn’t know if Luca talked with her for just a minute.
The woman crouched so that she could face him and she touched his nose playfully. He was glad that his nose didn’t hurt anymore. She laughed and without using her mouth – which Luca thought was strange – she told him that he was all grown up and that she was very proud of him. She stood and faced away, into the grass where the animals ate and extended her hand. He heard her voice in his mind ask, “will you come with me?” he nodded and took her hand. It was so soft and warm and reassuring as she gently led him away. He liked seeing the lambs playing on the hilltop and the ducks nearby chase one another, almost as much as he liked the way this side made him feel safe.
As they crested the hill, the woman slowed as they both heard another man’s voice, it was clear but soft, and Luca thought he recognized it, but not to whom it belonged. At the hill, she stopped again, still listening to the man and she pointed down on the ground. When Luca looked to where she pointed, he was surprised to discover a picnic had appeared that surely hadn’t been there just a moment before.
“It is best that he stays,” the voice said to the woman, but she shook her head and when she looked at Luca, her eyes drew tears.
“Luca, have a seat. We’ll eat something, and then we’ll talk. You’ll need to make a very important decision, but that will come after – after the memories come back. Ok?”
Luca nodded but was already cataloging the picnic’s contents. Brownies and cookies and doughnuts of various colours begged to be devoured. There were other foods, which Luca knew he should remember, but he focused on the sweet things.
The woman watched him, while he ate and he in turn watched the lambs frolic on the hill. Their barh’s were full of joy and playfulness. He envied how simple their life seemed.
When Luca felt that his belly was full, the woman seemed to brighten.
“Do you remember now?”
He remembered his name wasn’t Luca and he wasn’t 9 years old, nor that his father was his father, nor that his mother, who sat there with him on this side, was really his mother. All the memories that he’d thought were so important up until a few moments ago were no longer relevant. He scanned back before his birth and he remembered the meetings and the eons they’d spent trying to find the right combination of events to prepare for his birth. It had been difficult, understanding the precise qualities that his potential parents could raise him with. The timing of the births were as important as the timing of the deaths; to understand how he would remember and bring the message back to himself.
“Are you ready?” she asked him.
He nodded and stood up, then looked around – the serenity of this side, all that he had ever wanted.
“I’m ready and I’ve decided. I’ll stay.”
Her forehead frowned and she looked down, her lips tightened slightly, but then she relaxed and looked up and smiled, “are you sure?” he nodded again.
“The circumstances are too rough; I won’t survive anyway. He’s lost and he isn’t listening. Look at how reckless he’s become. I’m sorry. And I can’t do it again.”
She nodded and took his hand. They walked along the hill and began to ascend.
Samhjodi allowed the body to dissolve and stretched out. The relinquishing of the body was a wonderful recollection. He felt the presence of her beside him and remembered her as Anmbhal. Together, they merged into the everything.
All the voices of all those that were involved morphed into a discussion about what he’d decided and whether he would try again.
Anmbhal said, “it’s not just his choice, is it?”
“It’s for all of us. We need to decide whether we want to live this life again or start another. We merge now and we will consider once more.”
The conversation continued. New parents were considered and new circumstances were analysed. Approximately 10 Earth years later, they found them.
The birth process was always the hardest, and the most painful necessary transition into the new body. The first years went quickly as they always went through the ritual of learning to walk and talk and understand their environment and how to use the body.
As soon as he reached 6 years of age, he knew two things. The first was that he was now a she and her name was Eliza. The second was that these parents were not any better.
The very first beating she received from her father, was the point where she knew. When her mother shed her body shortly after Eliza’s seventh birthday, she’d begun losing her memories of the before. The last moment before she lost communication with everyone was shortly after her Mother’s passing.
When she was nine years old, her father flew into a rage, after consuming considerable amounts of wine and hit her. She’d flown across the room and lent against the wall and regarded him with her big eyes that quickly filled with tears. He regarded her with anger and resentment and moved to strike her again, before his emotions destroyed him. She looked deep into his eyes and tried to show him the little bit she remembered but he was too drunk. Though he stopped.
He sat at the table and poured himself another and watched her, conflicted. He cried and he mourned and he begged for forgiveness and he prayed to have her returned and he offered his daughter in exchange. When he received no response, Eliza knew that he sought to sacrifice her anyway, because he thought that any slim chance of getting her back was better than what he’d ended with. But when he looked at Eliza, he knew he couldn’t and he cried again for his soul mate.
Her mother had been a nurse and a caring woman who seemed to fall in love with everyone she encountered. The neighbours claimed that her heart was very big and the town could fit within it. Her funeral had been a week-long affair, with so much festivity and so much laughter about her life and her humour and her love. The food that everyone had made had filled their bellies for days to come.
Her father had changed immediately. Gone was the doting father who’d cherished her mispronunciations. The man who’d cared deeply about his Pharmacy store and the town and its people and even his beautiful daughter that looked so much like his beautiful wife – was gone.
When her mother died, she’d taken the best part of her father with her.
She leaned against the wall as her eyes implored him to try and remember who he was and who he could be. So many others were going to need him. Eliza needed to impart the knowledge before she forgot it too.
He drank more wine, then loudly set the empty bottle down and lay his head between his arms and sobbed. The photo of her mother smiled at him from the centre of the table.
Eliza didn’t know who fell asleep first. When she woke up, he was gone and she began to look for him but the house was as silent as the answers to her prayers had been.
She checked the roof but the car was gone. Overhead, cars merged on holographic roads and joined the main highway on the border of town. She hoped he’d be safe.
She wrote a story about being somewhere between heaven and hell and that the middle part was confusing. She’d been writing a lot of stories lately and her teacher had given them to the headmaster with the kind eyes, who had shown some concern about them. He’d called her into his office and asked her where she’d gotten her ideas from and who was really writing them. He asked her if she was copying the stories from somewhere but she had shaken her head and told him she liked writing and made the stories up herself.
A man from somewhere else had come to her school and asked her lots of questions about the things she wrote. Eliza didn’t know the man but she liked his jacket with the letters FBI on them and had asked him if he’d been a teacher too. He’d laughed and said no.
She didn’t know too much about hell but she understood that heaven was the place she’d spent a lot of time in and was already forgetting it.
When her father came home that night – having drunk a lot more than was safe for him to fly with – he goaded her into agreeing that it should have been her. Even though she’d acquiesced, he didn’t seem happy. She stood by the storage unit trying to find food when he unexpectedly hit her. She’d hardly had a moment to protect herself; it happened so quickly. One moment she was looking inside the box and the next she was sailing across the room backwards. His strength was something Eliza could not cope with. She hit her head and blacked out.
Minutes later, she walked along the path and saw the animals and was captivated by the lambs on the side of the path. Their frolic made her giggle and she felt compelled to walk the gravel away from the window behind her, in which she could see her frail, lifeless body.
The woman was there and Eliza recognized her.
“Hi,” she said in greeting.
The woman smiled and held out her hand, then spoke directly to her mind. Eliza knew that she was familiar but didn’t know from where.
“Come, let’s eat and we can talk.”
A table appeared with delicious cakes and an assortment of biscuits, which Eliza pounced on. She watched the woman suspiciously for a few moments as she ate.
Then she remembered everything.
She stood and found that she was himself again as Samhjodi. He smiled at Anmbhal and they shed their bodies, and then eased into the everything once again.
“Samhjodi, you no longer have a choice. The war is beginning and the world needs him. You must try harder to help us.”
“I did not hear you. It is impossible in the body, especially as a child. It is confusing and you grow so slowly. It would be at least 16 Earth years before the body can try and by then, we all know it is too late. We can go back though, can’t we?”
The buzz within and around him was charged and excited.
“We’ve been thinking about it and it may be our only choice.”
Movhill’s voice was distinct and as usual, reasonable.
“There is no choice. Either we stop or we go back. Even if we wait, the girl’s body will be 11 when the war starts and that is not enough time.”
It was decided.
One more time.
This is a short story/idea that I may turn into something more. I started thinking a lot about past lives and the afterlife while writing The Life of Q.
Let me know your thoughts.
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