It was when Jeffrey was clearing up his desk at the end of a long Friday afternoon at school he found the notice. His teacher had gone round the class handing out slips, but Jeffrey, being the rebel he was, hadn't taken much notice about it, and he had just shoved the slip back inside his desk like the vermin it was. Jeffrey didn't really think much of schoolwork or any work in general, except maybe one thing. Music lessons was where Jeffrey excelled best at in school.
Looking at the slip, Jeffrey suddenly saw the ad was about a music class taking place down the corridor the next Monday. He was curious, because nothing much in school perked his attention. But this music class, the way it was advertised, was something else. It looked flashy, and it commanded all his attention. It had, in bold letters, A TALENT TO KILL FOR.
Jeffrey felt, well, chosen by this. There was no way he was just going to turn down such a proposal. Music was one of the only things in which he was remotely interested in. Well, aside from science. But the rest of school was just a general waste of time.
Anyway, why not? Jeffrey checked his watch which the evil Miss Clarkson had thrown into her desk halfway through the lesson because "It distracted her" that he was looking at his watch all the time, and then she had thrown back to him at the last minute so it hit him on the head, boing, he was thinking of calling social services but then at the last minute he had found the music class slip.
Jeffrey went down the corridor and checked his watch and then he saw it was about quarter to four. He lived half a mile from school so he wouldn't be needed back for about fifty minutes anyway. He went down to the music room and knocked, hoping he wouldn't find anyone inside. But there was anyway, because Mrs Robbins yelled out when he knocked.
"Yes?" she hollered.
Jeffrey turned the knob and went in, brandishing the slip. "Yes?" asked Mrs Robbins, "if you've come about the detention I don't want any." Jeffrey had been in detention three times that week.
"It's not that, miss," he replied because true to form he was a lot mischievous. "It's just the music class..."
"What about it?" she rapped.
"I'm... here to audition," he said.
"It's too late in the day, go and bother me on Monday," Mrs Robbins said.
"But you don't see miss, I am totally full on Monday and I want to audition today. I have lunchtime maths class and everything too."
"I know it's a bit rude, but I'm going to kick you out now," Mrs Robbins confirmed, "I know its rude but I must ask you to stop intruding..."
Jeffrey knew he didn't have much time so rather than audition formally, he simply opened his mouth and rallied out: "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound..."
There was a silence, then Mrs Robbins was standing there shocked as he belched out-of-tune notes to the room. The sound was worse than the Devil on the toilet.
Almost like he knew he was a failure and would never win, Jeffrey shut up.
Yet he wasn't going to give up so quickly. "I was good, wasn't I?" he asked hesitantly.
"What were you thinking of?" Mrs Robbins yelled, white-faced in fury. "I told you to stop wasting my time! YOU CAN'T SING TO SAVE YOUR LIFE! GET OUT OF HERE!" To avoid a possible beating, Jeffrey scrambled out the room and bolted like the dog he was.
In bed that night, Jeffrey had a dream. Or a vision. Or even a nightmare, not that he remembered it as such. All he recalled was being in a long, dark corridor, faintly lit with torches. The Medieval kind, with mahogany wood. But Jeffrey was stumbling around, lost in the corridor, when suddenly he came upon a gigantic figure. It was too obscure to see much, bit it seemed to be human. He wasn't prepared to believe this though, because the figure alone was about eighteen feet tall. His heart thumping, Jeffrey approached the figure nervously.
Its long gray wings hung down to its ankles, curving two feet above its strong shoulders. Its feet were invisible, it seemed to be wearing a long gray rippling robe of some kind, although it seemed more like hide than clothing. Its long rippling hair shrouded its head in shadow.
Jeffrey approached this menacing sight and it suddenly smiled at him. He wasn't sure if it had, because he couldn't see its face or its lips. But he just got the impression it had smiled at him, in much the same way one gets the impression somebody's behind them even without looking.
It reached out a long hand, and beckoned at him with its finger. Jeffrey wasn't prepared to take its hand, but he followed the figure down the corridor, as it skimmed over the rough ground like that was yesterday's problem.
In the dream, the figure opened a door - or did the door open for it? - and it passed through. Inside, despite the seeming Medieval quality of the corridor, was Jeffrey's school music room, which surprised him tremendously. Or something like it. It was full of schoolkids, all of the ones who were auditioning for the music class, and they were singing proudly and their beautiful voices seemed to reach the sky.
Jeffrey seemed to get a hint from the winged creature, as if it had said "All this can be yours too."
Jeffrey realized he would turn up on Monday and audition for the club no matter what Mrs Robinson thought of him. He wouldn't let anyone else get to him.
The figure looked at him again and it seemed to once again talk to him. Although Jeffrey couldn't see its face or lips move, it seemed to say, "We shall meet again, but you must repay me."
Repay you? But how, Jeffrey wondered as he drifted out of the dream and the alarm went to get him up on Saturday.
Heinous though the dream was, Jeffrey forgot about it, as he did what he normally did in the weekends, chilling around, playing around, acting all cool. Then came Monday and the events surprised even himself. He turned up at the music class, and Mrs Robinson, as he predicted, gave him the evils. But Jeffrey found that, perhaps because of this, he had the ability to open his mouth and belch out beautifully, more than ever before. Mrs Robinson was shocked, because only two days ago this kid hadn't been able to sing a bit. He was not only singing good, but this was a trillion times better than Celine Dion.
"So am I legible?" Jeffrey asked at the end, when he had finished the high note and sat on his desk.
"Well, I won't deny that was a trillion times better than Celine Dion," Mrs Robinson gasped, "so yes, you can start."
Because of his sudden ability, the music class was a much better hobby than Jeffrey had ever expected. He had seemingly been chosen by something, and for the next few weeks, the only thing he looked forward to was music class. He excelled n it, and became top singer of the year, period. Mrs Robinson was tempted to put the kid on air - but all she did was tell his parents, saying had anyone else in their family had such a gift and how lucky Jeffrey Bridges was to have such amazing singing power. It was all audible, in tune, and perfectly, well, angelic. There was nothing else that anyone could say, and Jeffrey's parents read the note with disbelief and tested Jeffrey when he came back home. Proving Mrs Robinson right, Jeffrey opened his mouth and came out with an amazing beautiful song about the Canadian civil war. His parents took him to Chuck E Cheese afterwards as a present, something they'd never done before.
His parents were, also, tempted to put him on the air, and make billions from their son's sudden talent, but they were cautionary, and perhaps it was a good thing they were, because something awful happened in the twentieth night in from Jeffrey's first dream which empowered him with this gift. Jeffrey was in a deep sleep, pleased from the way the amazing music class had gone, and dreaming about being the greatest singer the world had ever seen, when suddenly the angel came back into his dreams.
This time, he was different. Jeffrey was also in a different place. He was not in the Medieval corridor which led to his school's music room, and he was not a horrifying winged creature without a face. Jeffrey was in an official complex, something like a cross between a Job Center and a magnate's office, and he was walking nervously down the corridor, trembling as he did so. He opened two doors in the middle of the corridor then knocked on the final one. Then as he did so, a deep voice said "Enter."
Jeffrey entered the room and there was the angel, sitting there in all his official glory. However, he looked totally different. He had no wings, no faceless shadow, he was fully human in every extent. He wore a dark business pinstripe suit and white open-necked shirt. His black skin was very dark, and his brilliantly black hands were folded on the desk. His white eyes seemed to look deep into Jeffrey's inner organs.
"S-sir," Jeffrey begged, "I did my best."
"Yes, I know," the angel said, and Jeffrey knew it was the angel because although he had not spoken last time, he did speak now, and it was the same kind of voice Jeffrey had heard in his head last time. "But your best was not good enough. You have failed me."
"No!" Jeffrey pleaded, and when the angel did nothing but shake his head, Jeffrey was shaking. He watched as the angel stood, took him out to a door behind his desk, and then opened the door. Behind the door was the same music room, from Jeffrey's school, and he shook. All the students who had put their names down for the music class were there. However, instead of singing beautifully like they had done before, they seemed to be in deep distress. They were all sobbing and pleading and shaking with, it seemed, absolute terror.
"No..." Jeffrey pleaded, as he saw the pain and despair he was inducing on the rest of his friends. "No..."
The angel stood before the suffering students, spread his arms, and spoke to Jeffrey, who was on the verge of breaking down. "You have betrayed Cisum," the angel said, "you have betrayed him through your exploitation and your lack of honesty and faith. Now, you shall suffer the consequences. I shall give you one last chance to redeem yourself. This need not come to pass, what you see before you. However, it may be a future you make for yourself, if you do not obey me. Answer me honestly, Jeffrey Bridges: Are you willing to do anything I order you, without fail, just to keep this gift I, Cisum, the angel of progress, have endowed you with?"
Anything to stop this torture. He never knew angels could torture like this. Jeffrey nodded.
"If I tell you to cut off a treasured possession, will you obey?"
"If I tell you to become - the victim of religious hate, will you obey?"
Jeffrey hesitated, then slowly nodded.
"If I tell you to throw ten random strangers under a train in my name, just to keep your talent and be famous, will you obey?"
Jeffrey, even more cautious then ever, wondering what he was getting himself in to, nodded slower than a frog.
The angel, Cisum, angel of the present, music and progress, studied Jeffrey for a long time, then nodded his head.
"I don't believe you," said the angel finally.
"WHAT?" Jeffrey yelled.
"I am going to give you a little test," the angel said, as the sounds of despair and suffering came from behind him. "Just to prove your faith. I am going to remove this gift from you. Humiliate you. Shame you in front of your loved ones. But then, if you obey my next command, you will get your gift back, you will be rich, famous and successful, you will live a lifestyle beyond your biggest dreams. Is this sounding good?"
"Yes," Jeffrey said, and broke down in a complete outburst of sobbing.
"Great," the angel agreed. "Good, our business is complete," he said, and, clapping his hands, he walked out of the room, as Jeffrey woke up in bed the next morning.
Over breakfast, his mother was at a meeting, and his father didn't get to work until later. So he gave his son a test, and asked him to sing something, "Ave Maria," but he just couldn't do it. No matter how hard Jeffrey tried, he couldn't get the words out. When they did, it came out all horribly out-of-tune, and hoarse, like he hadn't sung for years and what did it matter he had been singing amazingly only yesterday.
Anyway, his father knew this and he wagged his finger and said "Enough! Enough!" halfway through when Jeffrey hadn't even started really. Then his father, getting a beer from the fridge, complained, "What on Earth happened, Jeffrey? Is your voice broken or something? How could it be, you were singing beautifully yesterday. Did you just decide to fail us or something?"
Jeffrey could only sit there and take it. He didn't even have the will to reply.
"Right, I am going to call your mother at work and say how much of a loser and disappointment you are," he said, and rang the number, but his wife was engaged. So, he just left a note, "Call back, awful news," and then looked white-faced and haggard. Jeffrey could only sit there dazed that his life was falling apart.
Jeffrey's mother got home later and she asked what the message was about later on the phone. Jeffrey's dad said that Jeffrey had lost them a million bucks - this proved to Jeffrey that he had been planning to put Jeffrey on the air to show off his son to the world about his sudden talent. Worse still, it turned out that Jeffrey really had lost them a million bucks. Jeffrey's dad had signed a contract with the News to get them an interview, and it cost about £89,000. But now, of course, that Jeffrey had lost his singing voice, it meant that this would never happen. Hearing all this made Jeffrey feel guiltier than ever. His mother was so shocked she sank into her seat. Jeffrey had a razor-sharp shaving razor in his room and he toyed with it for awhile before slipping it into his hand where he clenched it tight. Then his father called Jeffrey downstairs to show. Jeffrey once again sang two lines, but his voice was so badly hoarse and out-of-tune that his mother sank her head in her hands in despair. Jeffrey saw his father looking frighteningly angry at him, glaring, and Jeffrey's face... fell.
Jeffrey suddenly burst into tears.
Despite her feelings of gloom and shock and betrayal, Jeffrey's mother was moved by this outburst, and she suddenly leapt to her feet to hug her son despite the father eyeing her in distaste. "JEFFREY! What's the matter?" she asked Jeffrey.
Sobbing, Jeffrey claimed, "I lost my talent! I was given a bargain, I know what it is now - I let him down... He showed me it all, he wants me to do the best I can, I was given a talent and I didn't listen, I blew it... I squandered it all and the angel told me..."
Suddenly in his mind, Jeffrey heard a voice whisper, "Good, our business is complete." He recognized it. It was the angel - Cisum. So, Jeffrey knew what the angel wanted this time. He let his hand fall open and inside was his razor. His mother was looking right at him. He raised his hand. Two fast slashes - it was all over. Then he approached his father, raising the razor. He knew it would all be OK - Cisum had told him.