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I’m sure you have heard it told that each of us possesses an angel and a demon within them; though I must say I have seen this to be false. I have only seen one angel, one demon, and they walk among us. I have witnessed strangers, neighbors, friends, and even family feel the blessings, the wrath of these creatures.
I only call it an angel because over the years I have observed it walk along light; filling those around it with passion, inspiration, love, generosity. These are all traits that we would identify in a superior being who has been placed in existence to improve and protect us; to guide us to something greater. The fact that such celebrations occur whenever this angel blesses the streets of cities throughout the world is not as absurd as I once would have imagined.
I only call it a demon because over the years I have observed it emerge from darkness and greet those foolish enough to defy curfew with an intense stare from a faceless visage; filling them with anger, listlessness, grief and fear. A superior being placed in existence to create chaos and fear, demoralizing and preying on us. The thought of people evacuating the streets upon the coming of nightfall would have once merely vexed me. I would most likely have believed this was all blown out of proportion; martial law for a mere drifter, now I know better.
The first sighting of these creatures was one Friday morning in late June. The sun caressed David’s fair town in its loving embrace and the birds sang their melodies to usher in the beginnings of summer. This is his story.
I began my morning with a routine walk to City Hall. As head of the neighborhood watch, it was my job to maintain knowledge of all that was going on in the village. I ventured toward City Hall and noticed that the streets were eerily quiet.
“Perhaps I had missed a holiday on the calendar,” I pondered “No, I never miss a holidays,” I would have been spearheading a project to decorate the block, as we are frequently recognized for our festive zeal.
I passed by many shops, most notably the baker’s. Thomas was always visible through the window, but for some reason he was not there today. He would frequently be slaving over his stone stove to fill his seemingly impossible quota for the regulars that stopped by religiously. I had recently been concerned for Tom’s health. It seemed as though the baker was waking up earlier and earlier for fear he would fail his customers. I only knew of one day he took off during the week and that was Sunday, for church. I was never much of a church-going man, but I had seen him leaving the church in the afternoon with a glint of hope illuminated behind weary, beaten eyes.
As my mind cycled through ideas of where everyone could be, I made my way up the stairs that led to the entrance of City Hall. The bulletin board, which I check daily, is located around the corner after first entering the building, but that day I found the doors locked, the lights off, and no activity within. Confused, I decided to investigate the village further, hoping to find someone who might have answers to the day’s peculiar activity.
I decided to begin my search at the park (the primary gathering place for our village). As I made my way closer, I could hear commotion in the distance. The panicked voices of the villagers grew louder, and as I turned the corner I saw the source of their fright. Walking down Main Street was a blindingly white figure. It looked as though it wore a flowing ethereal robe. It’s hooded cloak draped delicately over its featureless face. The strange person had no eyes that I could see. If not for the wide, soft smile stretching across it, I would not know how to interpret its mood. People stood around, mouths agape and eyes transfixed on this strange drifter.
“Over here!” A voice bellowed from the crowd lined along the streets; it was Tom, the baker. “David, look at this thing. It’s… it’s not like any sort of man I’ve ever seen,” He called to me, shaken up by the strange new event taking place in the village.
“Has it hurt anyone yet?” I asked, fearful for the answer I might receive.
“Not yet. It’s been wandering town since sunrise, making no movements towards leaving.” Thomas responded. “There has been talk of confrontation or blocking its path and forcing it out of town, but no one will make a move. I fear that brash son of mine will attempt something,” Thomas ran his hands over his face, but it did nothing to relieve his anxiety.
“Where is your son, where is William,” I asked, looking around the crowd. I was becoming desperate to prevent potential catastrophe. At that moment, I saw William emerge from the wall of villagers and stand firm in the path of the stranger.
“What do you want,” William shouted at the cloaked man wandering the streets.
The stranger continued toward him, lifting its head and showing a large smile on its otherwise featureless face.
“Leave now; you have caused enough disruption here,” He raised his voice further but began backing up as the figure moved closer. Gazing into its face, William’s eyes glossed over and gradually his anger subsided, making room for a smile of his own.
Tom charged into the street, standing protectively in front of his son. Seeing his son’s sudden change of demeanor, he turned to the creature and yelled, “What have you done to him? What are you?”
Tom stood his ground as the stranger continued forward, arms sprouting from its ethereal cloak draped in long sleeves that nearly touched the ground.
“It’s alright, Father,” William whispered. “It means us no harm; I can feel it now,” William placed a hand on his father’s shoulder and began to step forward.
“No!” Tom shouted in panic, outstretching his arms out to keep his son back. Tom looked up to the creature pleadingly, now only a few feet away from him. “Please, leave.”
Tears welled up in Tom’s eyes as he begged, but the creature did not slow its advance. Tom clenched his fists and moved forward to strike. As he lunged toward the creature, it effortlessly caught his fist and placed its other hand on his arm, lowering it to his side. Tom was unable to move, stunned and locked in its vision-less stare. The creature placed its hands on Thomas’s face, tenderly holding his gaze. They remained there in the middle of the street for what seemed an eternity before the thing released him. Tom dropped to his knees, tears running down his cheeks, but it was clear they were of joy, not fear or sorrow. Thomas turned to embrace his son as the creature walked past them; its smile beaming with satisfaction while it continued down the road.
William turned to the crowd. “Hear me now! This stranger is no enemy of ours. Please, friends, neighbors, do not fear him. He has come bearing gifts; he has blessed us with his presence and improved our lives from this moment on. Our hostility was unwarranted, and for the good of us all, we must accept these gifts!”
The crowd erupted into conflict. Many began screaming in horror that the creature had possessed Tom and his son. They murmured that it must be stopped or they would all be in peril. Others cheered, knowing in their hearts that William was speaking the truth. Soon, what was once an angry mob was separated into believers and non-believers. Those eager for blessing approached the stranger. The white figure placed its hands on all that were willing. One by one it was filling them with joy and clarity. As the blessings were distributed, more of the people preached the divinity of this being. They implored that the others to come and accept its love. The believers encouraged all others to accept the enrichment the stranger brought into their lives. Several villagers returned to their homes, fearful and angry that so many fell to temptation; others went on to accept the blessing.
I remained along the side of the street, unable to convince myself to take such a leap as I had witnessed drastic changes in all who came into contact with the drifter. As the crowd departed, I waited for a chance to speak with Thomas and find out in person what had happened to him. I did not fear those who had changed, but I was cautious. It was Thomas who approached me first. “Why did you not accept his gift? There is still time David. It will change your life for the better.”
“I’m sorry, Thomas, but I can’t bring myself to do this until I understand further what is going on,” I replied, studying the baker carefully.
“I understand. I am not going to press the subject further.” Tom responded. His eyes showed much wisdom, though he seemed no different physically than the man I knew before.
“I have to ask though, what happened? One moment you were ready to attack the man and the next you were preaching his divinity. What did he do to you,” I asked, unsure if I would be able to trust what would come from his mouth. Every time I looked into his eyes, I did not see deceit and felt at ease in his presence.
“I saw into his soul. I saw everything he has seen, and he enlightened me. He showed me a world of peace, love, unity. He taught me how to improve my life, how to improve my bakery, family, village, every aspect of my existence. The angel did not give me all of the answers, but guided me along the path I must take. I admit, I was terrified at first, but now I have never been surer of my place in this world.” Thomas was ecstatic; each word he spoke seemed to bring great joy to him.
“That sounds amazing Thomas, almost too good to be true. I do wish I could follow you, but I believe there is more to this than what you are telling me; or what you know. Can we keep in contact more frequently? I really feel like it would do good to check in on you and your son, in case anything else comes of this.”
I was still genuinely concerned. There was no way this thing could solve all of life’s problems with a simple touch. I intended to find out more, though I was by no means about to make contact with it. If I let that creature touch me, my perspective could be skewed and I would end up like everyone else. The stranger began to walk out of sight, making no moves to approach anyone else. Doors locked and curtains were closed; others stood at their porches and cheered as it passed by. I wasn’t sure how long this thing would remain in town, but for now I figured I should head home and think things through. A few hours into the day and already I was drained of energy.
I could hear commotion throughout the village as morning turned to afternoon and afternoon turned to evening. It wasn’t until the sun drew close to setting that things really picked up again. For the first time today, there was silence. The silence lasted for a few minutes before the village was in a full uproar. I left my home and investigated once more after a day of seclusion and contemplation. My pace was quick and I wove between buildings, taking whatever shortcut I could find. I arrived at the center of the mixed shouts of panic and joy seeing a large mass of familiar faces I identified as believers. They were surrounding a single point in the street, grasping frantically at the ground. I could make out what appeared to be a shimmering dust. I grabbed Thomas as he shoved his way out of the crowd.
“What’s going on? Where is the stranger,” I asked, curiosity consuming me.
“He up and vanished,” Thomas’s face was lit up brighter than ever, with a grin ear to ear. “But he left us this,” Tom shouted, opening his hands to reveal a pile of dirt.
“I’m sorry, he left you dirt?” I questioned, very confused at the situation.
“What?! No, there was…” Thomas siphoned through the dirt in his hand, “It can’t be! What happened to the shimmering powder.” Thomas was devastated and I was still very confused. “He descended to the heavens and his body transformed into spectacular holy powder. I grabbed some but now it’s dirt, I don’t get it, this is terrible,” he cried out to me.
“I’m sorry...” was all I could say, still unsure as to what I should believe, “Wait,” I continued, gesturing to his hand.
“It’s,” he paused, staring at the dirt in his hand, “It’s turning jet black, do you think this is an omen?” I could see Thomas wanted to drop it to the ground in panic, but he still held it delicately in his hands.
“I don’t know, but I suggest you either get rid of it or contain it. We still have no idea what we are dealing with,” I looked around hopelessly for something that he could store it in.
“Oh god it burns!” he shouted, dropping it to the ground as the rest of the crowd did the same, crying in pain.
The crowd broke apart and began to fall into hysterics as they vigorously tried to rub their hands clean. The powder dissipated into the earth and briefly, an unnatural shadow flickered in the corner of my eye. I turned to face it and it was gone. Throughout my body I had a very ominous feeling.
Like a coin, every story has another side; this is the story of Paul and Emily.
“Hey Pauly, did you hear about the angel spotting downtown earlier today?” Emily asked me excitedly.
“Oh come on, you know I don’t like you calling me that.” I always expressed my dislike of the nickname; though when Emily said it, I wasn’t as bothered as I let on. I returned to the topic at hand, “Yeah, was a few blocks away at the time, doing my Christmas shopping,” I responded, pausing to let her anticipation build for more information. “I couldn’t get close though, the streets were packed shoulder to shoulder, the police had the entire area closed down so it could pass through safely—or so I heard, I didn’t head that way.” I chuckled before taking a sip of my coffee, staring out the window into a sea of smiling faces.
“I wish I could meet him. You know my friend Chelsea met the angel and has done amazing things with her life since,” Emily said. I could feel her stare on me and broke my gaze out the window to meet hers. “Do you think he will come back,” she asked me. She held her cup of tea in both hands eagerly awaiting my response.
“Not sure, from what I’ve seen on the news, it doesn’t often come back to the same place twice,” as I replied I could see the hope begin to drain from her eyes. I knew she wanted to be given meaning by this angel everyone clambered about, but I couldn’t lie to her either. As much as I have researched this being, I hadn’t heard of it coming to a big city like ours before, so maybe… “You never know though, this is the first time it has come to a large city. I can’t imagine it would only bless those that happened to be in a few city blocks. I wouldn’t hold my breath, but I wouldn’t dismiss the idea either; you still have a chance.” I smiled as I spoke to Emily, not only to keep her spirits up, but I didn’t think I could help it anyway. She was a nice young woman, always there for me. She was a little naive but always friendly. The afternoon was turning to evening and the local news stations were constantly producing footage of the angel’s visit.
“Do you think there is still a chance I can see it today?” Emily asked in a pleading tone, seeking even a hint of possibility.
“Maybe, but it’s getting pretty late and I haven’t heard anything that says the angel sticks around through the night,” I sighed, knowing it wouldn’t be enough, but I couldn’t always tell her what she wanted to hear. I looked up to the television and watched some footage of people reaching out to touch the angel, their eyes glossing over and waking up to a happier existence; experiencing enlightenment. “It’s starting to get late, we might want to start heading out,” I reached into my pocket to pull out my wallet and pay for our drinks.
“Do you think we could head towards the crowd? It’s not far out of the way and I want to at least try and see it. Please?” She asked, knowing I wouldn’t be able to decline.
“We will head that way, the news says it has reached 5th street now, so let’s get going.” She was like the sister I never had. I was always an only child and we met at a young age. Going through high school together, attending the same college, comforting each other through difficult relationships. I’ve always tried to keep her safe and she has done the same for me, albeit in different ways. I got up and headed for the door with Emily following close behind; my little shadow was growing up so fast.
“Thank you Pauly, I can’t wait,” She was giddy with anticipation.
“Don’t get your hopes up, thousands of people have been waiting all day for this,” I had a bad feeling, but we had to give it a shot, “Hurry up, if we move quick it will only be about 15 minutes till we reach it.”
Emily smiled and took off running ahead of me, “Right-o, I know the way! Come on slowpoke,” she looked back with a grin and dashed forward. I followed quickly after, struggling to keep up as she darted through traffic and made her way to 5th street.
The sun was falling below the taller buildings making its way to the horizon rapidly. “Almost there,” I remarked, beginning to feel winded; where did she get all this energy from? I could see the crowd as we got closer and couldn’t see how we would be able to maneuver through the masses.
“Only a few more blocks,” she shouted excitedly, giggling at the end, clearly giddy with a chance at receiving blessing. As we got closer the crowd began to dissipate, it seemed like we found a break at last. There would be plenty of room to reach the angel now and Emily would have her dream come true. We excused our way through what remained of the crowd, trying not to knock anyone over to our best ability; though I’m sure I accidentally sent one or two people to the ground.
When we passed by the remainder of the crowd the street was empty, the angel was nowhere to be seen and the only ones who remained were volunteers cleaning the litter from the sidewalks. “He’s gone,” she muttered, walking over to the curb and sitting. Her head slumped down as she stared at the concrete. “How could he leave without blessing me? We were so close.” Her eyes glistened as fresh tears began to bead at their edges. “I just wanted to be complete,” Emily’s voice broke and she choked out a gentle sob.
I moved over to sit by her, putting an arm over her shoulder and my other hand on her knee, trying to console her as best I could. I knew failure would hurt her, but I guess I hadn’t realized how much this truly meant to her. It always seemed a little silly to me, though I wouldn’t have passed up an opportunity to experience it if it fell in my lap. I began to softly rub her back and lay my head against hers; I couldn’t stand her in pain. “It’s not over yet, he may return. A lot of other people missed out and such a divine being wouldn’t let us suffer now that he has shown himself, would he?” I brushed away her tears and tried to make eye contact.
“I should go home, it’s dark and cold,” Her voice was monotone as she slowly rose to her feet, slightly distancing herself from me. It felt like the wind grew more frigid with her sorrow.
The city gets dangerous at night; even with the angel’s arrival I don’t feel the city is much safer. “Let me walk you home, if anything it will help to pass the time.”
“I know the city is dangerous, I’m not as naive as you think,” Her tone hurt, I tried my best to bring her to the angel… “What?” she asked as though I had questioned her.
“I didn’t say anything,” I replied, a subtle uneasy feeling crept up my body.
“If you have something to say you let me know!” She began to get more assertive with her tone, pressing the subject again.
“I’m telling you, I didn’t say anything. I know you are upset but know that I am only trying to be here for you. I wanted you to see your dreams come true, you are like my little sister and I feel a need to protect you,” I pulled her to me while I spoke. I needed her to understand that we will always be there for each other.
“Sorry,” she meekly replied, “I don’t know what came over me, I just feel sick with regret; it wouldn’t go away. I feel..." She paused and stared past me into the shadows between street lamps that began to spring to life. A smile crept along her lips.
“What’s up?” I asked, turning my head to see what had captured her focus. Turning around I peered into the dusk, my eyes continued to adjust as I tried to look past the street lights and into the darkness where I saw the shadows dancing like flames. The sun fell further below the horizon and I could see something materializing before me. A flowing cloak of darkness rose from the ground, its back to us. Its robe looked as though it would take flight with the winter night’s breeze.
“It’s him!” Emily shouted, covering her mouth after her outburst, embarrassed by her enthusiasm. She stared intently and began to walk toward the figure that stood at the end of the block.
The figure turned around and showed its featureless face. It had a smooth visage without eyes, nose or ears. The creature matched the angel perfectly, though one thing was stuck in my mind. This angel was black as a moonless night, it’s mouth curled downward slightly in a scowl as appose to the tender smile that was so imprinted in my mind from countless news broadcasts. This couldn’t be the same thing that appeared today. Arms sprouted from its robe and long sleeves that flowed down nearly brushing the ground. It slowly beckoned for her to come to it while it walked toward the street light. Emily continued toward the figure, excited to have knowledge and enlightenment bestowed upon her. My mind raced, flooded with thoughts of joy for her and a deep unsettling fear coupled with unease. I watched the figure stop at the light as though it were a raging inferno. The creature backed up and made his way around, sticking to the shadows. Emily was not far from its grasp when I reflexively dashed forward and shouted, “Emily no!”
Emily began to turn to face me and the creature reacted immediately, lunging at her at unimaginable speed. The creature grasped her with both its hands, digging the fingers of one hand into her shoulder, jerking her toward it. The other hand grasped her face by the jaw and forced her gaze into its empty face. The beast opened its mouth as her eyes glossed over. It revealed rows of razor sharp teeth while its mouth curved upward into a vicious grin. The teeth shimmered against the street lamp, the only part of it that dared touch light. My legs had never moved so fast; I closed the gap in a matter of heartbeats which had already been pounding at a steady pace. When I reached her, the creature released its grasp and wisped into the alley. It was gone before she hit the ground.
I reached down to pick her up, attempting to cradle her against me. As I pressed her against my body she vomited a black bile onto my chest and broke into violent sobbing. I placed my hand against her chin to lift her gaze to meet mine and she tore away, glaring at me with burning rage. Her mouth frothed as she spat curses at me, thrashing her fists against my body and kicking at me to get away. “I hate you.” she repeated. “I’ll kill you!” she shouted as she ran her fingernails across my face; I was forced to let her go.
Emily ran off into the shadows and I haven’t seen her again.
Written by AlwaysStayIrrelevant