I have always loved the library. Books have that amazing ability to transport you, anywhere – I can forget everything, all of my problems, by leaving my body and drifting into some place new. A place where adventure is a daily activity: something as ordinary and predictable as brushing your teeth, and where people are important because they have supernatural powers, great destinies to fulfil or magical objects in their possession that send them on life changing quests.
Reality has none of this.
In the real world, being important generally means having money (of which I have none) and the closest thing to adventure that most people will experience in their mundane lives is a bar fight. Ha. Then, there are the mythical creatures. In stories they are spilling out of the walls. Every other tree has a slender man. Every other ocean has a mermaid. Every other cottage has a wicked witch. In reality? Most of our minds are so dried up the only time we’re guaranteed to see something spectacular like this is when we’ve just taken something bad.
But it’s worse than that. Really, I have grown to believe that we all have the potential to see amazing things: that amazing things exist, but that the moment we confess to seeing them they are discarded, at a primary age of babyhood, as imaginings. Those who don’t abandon, by the time they are adults, their “imaginary friends” are deemed to have mental issues, and are consequently then drugged into “normality”. I feel sickened in particular by my own experience of this. Because of a lot of professional looking people in spanking white coats for 30 years of my life I have believed that I am not quite right in the head. “Fucked”, as my brother would put it. He was always a bit blunt like that.
I only stopped taking the pills 3 years ago. Already, the visions have returned. Either my imagination, in all its powers, has been unleashed from dormancy or my primal senses have returned from being quietly oppressed. Now that the drugs have ceased to blunt my brain I once more have that childhood old ability to sense when there are things looming over my shoulder in rooms where I am alone, and to see all the angels and demons of the world. I both love and hate these, for they are both beautiful yet terrifying.
I hate to claim that there is such a distinctive thing as being able to tell what is “good” and “bad”, but it is pretty clear to me in my mind that angels are not “good”. They are pure evil, if there is such a thing. They are self-adoring, arrogant creatures of spite who work miracles to obtain the things that they desire in life. Whatever stories people have made for them about them being pretty white winged fairy-like people who perform wonderful acts that embody all the nicety of humanity are twisted. Sickeningly twisted.
One thing about them is that they only ever appear to people when they are nearing death, which says something about me. I’ve been seeing the dark cloaked suckers for most of my living memory.
Another thing about them is that they are extremely haunting. They sing, hauntingly. It is inexplicable…hard to describe to anyone who has never before heard their voices: and I assume that no one reading this ever has. The closest you can probably get to explaining it is that it is… chilling. So chilling that it plants itself, like ice between a crack, deep inside of you, causing your head to feel leaden heavy and your skin to feel prickled and plucked, as if needles are driven through it. This feeling comes whenever they are near. It makes it hard to stand. It makes it hard not to scream. The fear is permanent.
The last thing I have to say about angels is that they are seducers. Demons can seduce – by jingo, you don’t want to be caught in one of their snares, for they will torture you and dance around your corpse with your head on a stick the moment you’re not paying finite attention to what they’re doing – but angels are worse. I lament, a victim of this exact seduction, in my library, sitting on a throne of books in the dusty aisles so unattended to since the invention of the kindle.
Unlike most oldies, this won’t be a queue for me to start talking about the “summer of ‘69”. However, it will be a queue for me to begin telling you about my angel.
She or he – or rather, It – came to me in my moment of deepest depression. I was reflecting upon many things of horror. Wars and terrors I’d witnessed in my life that need very little description from me. Just type “WW2 trenches” into Google and that should give you the best impression of how things were back then. Admittedly, I was nearing ending it. I had a bottle of pills beside me, and not the kind the doctors gave me. No amount of books provided enough escapism from the mental prison I had devised for myself, I was hopeless… but then It appeared. It was quite a shock to me. My first thought was that I’d forgotten my evening dosage. My second was that I hadn’t fed myself properly again and was probably hallucinating from that. I was also a little bit drunk. But I began to doubt that, when I felt Its “hand” against me, smooth and caressing and most definitely real. It comforted me, a voice so sinister yet so soft telling me that things would be fine, that It was there for me. That It would keep me company... for the rest of my life.
I was a 37 year old veteran. I was lonely. I’d had my share of girlfriends in the past few years, but they’d all left me for someone less… like me. The angel was more glorious than the most beautiful of women I had slept with in all of my life collected. I gave It a chance. The bottle of pills was shoved aside, and after a couple of days, returned to the back of the cupboard.
I lived in a dream. It would always be there, after that moment. When I awoke, thrashing, sweating in the middle of the night, the echo of bullets in my mind, It would soothe me. When I felt alone and my knife began, once more, to look all too comforting It would dissuade me: It would tell me all the reasons why my life still had meaning. And whenever I doubted It – whenever I slipped out of my semi-conscious daze and saw through Its dark veil: saw the shadowy monster beneath, It would enchant me. I became Its little pet, to live by Its side as a member of Its collection of human toys.
One more thing about angels: unlike demons, which live only slightly longer than humans (and so live like reckless hedonists), angels have a life span that is inconceivably long. At the same time, they tend to have very little purpose. This makes them incredibly bored, so they adopt habits, such as collecting things or meddling with people’s lives. We are so short-lived and so inferior that we mean nothing to them. Only the more creative of us are worth a morsel of enjoyment, so they take us on, like taking on a mistress, an orphan or a lost puppy. They keep us induced in a state of mental torture – of being both conscious of the trap we are in, but also becoming dependent on it… never wanting to leave it. A psychological cage, frosted with sugar. And while we are stuck, they feed off of us.
It is painless. That is why I never noticed. But they take you slowly out of time, like reading a book. You leave yourself and become a different person in your head, while all the while conscious of the physical you still sitting, staring blankly at your dining room wall, wasting away with a silvery grey monster muttering harmonic words of manipulation into your ear. A day grows to feel like an eternity and you drift between the dream world induced for you, where everything is perfect, to the real world, where you are slowly dying, and then back again: lost in your own mind.
All the angels will get from this is pleasure. It makes them feel special. It makes them feel immortal. They know they can never be tamed or killed in such an undesirable way. They know they will never be a piece of something else’s entertainment. That’s why they go to spectate death: why they come to you when you are near it. They sing, hauntingly, with joy, for they start to even forget… that they can die too. They think that death is a curse burdened only upon us. But living long isn’t the same as living forever.
As I was drained by my new master, enslaved to be Its pleasurer, stuck in a narcosis fantasy It explored me. And in return, I explored It. As It looked into my head and measured me I snuck into It. I observed everything It did: fought against Its charms as much as I could. This rebellion against a force so strong was seemingly impossible. I would often give up. Forget who I was. Where I was. What I was. I was often convinced of being in an endless empty space, without a physical form – just peaceful nothingness. My dream world… and as the days in my captivity wore on I would wake up to see the real world less and less. I remember sometimes seeing myself in reality in the mirror, and memorising, each time, how I would look gaunter and more wasted with every viewing. I would feel afraid, but the angel would always comfort me dreadfully back to sleep. Till one day its enticements caused me to… to BREAK.
I broke it. With all my wrath. I channelled all my hatred, in that brief moment of freedom towards It. Whatever allowed my escape then, I do not care. It was seconds long, and perhaps the last opportunity I’d have had: in reality, I was in the kitchen, sat on the floor, quavering. I broke from the endless dream state and sent out my thoughts of rage. Vehemence. Despair… and love. For I loved the angel, for all the goodness It made me feel, even though it was false all along. I broke Its ensnarement with disbelief and then rose to face It, no longer deceived by Its façade. For once I saw Its true form and It did not retaliate, only snarled with a toothless hole of a mouth, on a black shrivelled head, tiny on Its shoulders and hidden by a tattered, thick veil covering where there should be eyes with midnight blackness. It was not glorious. It never was. In a fit of anguish, I slammed my body against It and we fell together, into the kitchen sink, Its weight cracking the sideboard. I wanted It dead. I wanted to die with It. I rolled onto my side, before It could gain itself on top of me. It felt transparent, more like pulsing energy taking shape rather than a physical being. I couldn’t let It recover: It was already fighting hard mentally to pull me back into the dream but I forced It back. Desperately. Nothing could stop me. I grabbed matches by the gas cooker. The angel rose before me. I pulled out a match. Its pull on me strengthened: its singing began. I lit the match. My hands shook. The fire crept down the wood. I was paralysed, falling, once more, into delusion. Its voice, again, bewitching… I started to droop… my last thought being… drop it. Before the eternal nothingness of my dream engulfed me once more, I saw the black beast turn blazing red then felt the flames take me, also.
So. That is how angels are. That is what I see. I see many angels still, but I think they don’t like to try their tricks on me, now. It’s rare for them to find a human with the will power to resist their telepathy, and when they do they steer well clear. Demons, too, though I’ve never PERSONALLY had problems with them. I just happen to bump into their rituals in the alleys from time to time. And nothing ever comes to the library anymore. No humans or monsters. So that’s a place of peace for me. My own kind – you lot – don’t accept me either, though you never really did. I started with all number of suppressants and spin doctors, all the things that have taken me through life without me putting a bullet through my head. All stopped three years ago, so I guess I’m hiding now that I can see everything again. I look pretty terrifying, too. Burnt to a cinder, I was, with no hair and patchy, red flesh. It’s still sensitive to the light. Sometimes walking through a pleasant warm day feels like stepping into a steam room.
In my fight with the angel I had burned down most of my house. I had killed It, or shamed It, or taken away Its dreadful ego. I don’t really care. I haven’t seen It again. I wasn’t a very nice toy.
All I have now is my library. I practically live here, and since I stop the place from being empty, they let me stay at my leisure. I read, because reading helps me to forget. Like the angel’s dream prison, I can leave myself behind in the real world for a while as my head goes off on an adventure. Though reading Alice in Wonderland or something is usually less creepy than the fantasy that the angel had caught me, like a butterfly in a net, within, all those years ago…
My library is perfect. For three years, I have not left it. The books are endless, their shelves portals to millions of dreams while all the while I can still imagine myself, how I might have been, sat back in my living room.
Something whispers in my ear. Gently… the sliver of a cloak shimmers by my right eye.
I forget it, and carry on reading.