Angels and Sam

Sam's days were full of wonder. There was not a day that went by without an angel. After a while, they seemed quite ordinary.

He hardly ever saw the angels when he was at work. He speculated that there might be something about retail clothing and the divine that just couldn't chime. But walking to or from the bust stop, or at home, there the surface of reality would sometimes twist, like the peel of an orange.

Angels came in all builds. Skinny ones, fat ones, lanky ones, tiny ones, muscular ones, grandmotherly ones, but always with a weird shimmmer-glow. And they were often wrestling with demons, ugly red and black and green monsters that reeked of sewage and ammonia. Sometimes the angel would win, sometimes the demon.

The first time Same saw an angle was on a cold March night. He was walking to the convenience store, huddled into his jacket when he saw the weird glow. The angel was lazily preening its wings. It looked up as Sam approached, looked him over, then went back to work.

Sam wasn't sure what to make of it. He had acquired a kind of skeptical agnosticism in college and had never had any kind of religious upbringing that would prepare him for this. He was usually alone when he saw the angels. He never asked anyone else if they saw angels too, because he couldn't figure out which answer he was hoping to here.

So the days went by. He was seeing angels more and more often. Sometimes, now, they came in groups, standing and conversing, or playing a game with green dice and blue sticks.

Sam started approaching the angels. They were polite enough to him but usually didn't have much to say. What can you say to an angel? Any questions about God and Heaven would seem heresy; any question of less importance would seem mundane.
But when angels were wrestling demons, watch out! Sparks would fly, divine bluewhite bursts against profane oily sparks that would leave stains on the walls and floor. The angels and demons were all incredibly strong hurling each other like pebbles, causing the earth to shake as they landed, then racing right back into the fray.

Sam stood on the balcony of his apartment, watching the battle going on three stories below. He was eating directly from a carton of ice cream, letting each spoonful sit on his tongue, melting into a puddle of sweetness. From time to time one of the combatants would be hurled directly at his apartment building, denting it. Same would steady himself on the porch railing as the entire building shook and swayed, and then he would continue eating.

The battle below raged on for some time. Sam had almost finished the entire carton of strawberry ice cream when finally the angels limped off the battlefield of the parking lot. The demons rejoiced, slobbering and grunting and howling and pounding each other on the back, jumping in and out of trees in their ecstasy. Finally, one by one, they slipped back into their own reality, like individual candles being blown out. Poof, poof, poof.

Sam opened the sliding door back into his apartment, reached and turned on the light.

"Please-- please, too much light," came a voice from the couch.

Sam dropped the spoon and carton. He had thought he was alone. He turned down the dimmer on the wall. From where he stood behind the couch Sam could see the luminous top of a large feathery wing, casting an other-worldly glow on the old orange-and-brown shag carpeting. The voice moaned. It was a beautiful voice, with soft chimes sounding behind it, supporting each syllable.

Sam walked to the other side of the mustard-yellow couch. The angel was a worn, beaten angel, its wing bent at an unnatural angle. It sprawled across the couch, one arm thrown over its face, the other resting on its knee. Its halo throbbed with the rhythm of a heartbeat.

"Water-- have you water?" Again the voice, again the chimes.

Sam hurried to his kitchen, grabbed one of the old jars he used as drinking glasses and filled it with tapwater. He returned to the couch and handed it to the angel.

The angel took it, nodded thanks, then held it to the rapidly fading light from outside, inspecting it. The angel frowned, then placed two fingers in the water. Immediately, the water seemed to be the tiniest bit clearer. The angel brought the glass to its mouth, emptied the contents in three gulps, handed the glass back to Sam.

The angel stood. It was about Sam's height, if you didn't count the halo or the wings, maybe a little shorter. It had a handsome, carved looking face, but without any sign of gender. One of its wings looked decidedly broken, bent along the top where the other wing was a sweeping graceful curve.

"I thank you. I must go now, flee as the shadow flees from light," it said, turning from Sam with a loud rustling of wings. Sam had seen other angels do this before, a second before they skipped into their own dimension. But this time, nothing happened. The angle blinked, re-examined the room as if it wasn't expecting to be there. "Oh," it said, and sighed.

Sam went back and picked up the ice cream carton and spoon. He was at a loss for words. He returned to the kitchen, threw the carton in the trash, placed the spoon in the sink, wet a paper towel to clean up the spilled ice cream with. The angel watched him glumly, standing unnaturally still.

Sam finished cleaning and cautiously approached the angel. "Do you have a name?" he asked.

The angel started. "What? Oh yes, I am Zeniya. Zeniya."

"Are you hungry? Can I get you something to eat?"

"Hunger?" asked Zeniya, "No, I am not hungry. I need to sleep, just as the sun must turn its back on the earth for the hours of night," Zeniya said, and collapsed into a lotus position, its wings wrapped around its body.
Sam watched TV as Zeniya slept. The reception was a little worse than usual; Sam wondered if that had anything to do with the luminous being nesting near the center of his living room.

Finally Zeniya stirred.

"How do you feel?" ventured Sam.

"Feel? I do not feel unwell, although I am now incomplete, I am alone. I am the cried tear removed from the ocean."

"I watched the battle this afternoon. Are you in those battles a lot?" asked Sam.

"The conflicts? There are conflict such as that happening at a thousand thousand places every moment. The outcome of any one is of no consequence; it is as a dust mote in a hurricane."

"Will you be going back?"

"Back? I do not think so. When a man loses a cell of his skin in a scrape, does he morn? Does he return for it? Does he ensure its safe journey in to the next land? I am that cell."

Sam thought about this. An angel, a divine being, in his apartment. A depressed angel, a casualty of holy war. He went to offer Zeniya more water, but the angel had fallen asleep once more. Sam went to bed.

The next morning Sam found Zeniya sitting on the living room floor, the stack of typing paper from Sam's desk spread around it. The angle was intently folding one of the sheets, tiny ornate folds, never looking up, when Sam approached.

Sam showered, dressed. Before he left for work, he asked Zeniya, "Do you need anything?" Zeniya looked up, gave a small sad shake of the head.

Work for Sam was uneventful that day, no angels by the bus stop, no demons at the clothing store or Sam's favorite coffee shop, no divine beings at the lunch counter. On his way home Sam thought he saw an angel, but it was a streetlamp that hadn't shut off during the day.

Zeniya was gone when Sam got back to his apartment. The sliding door to his porch open; the heavy yellow curtains rustling in the small wind. Across the floor was a collection of delicate, beautiful origami jars with lids, the smallest the size of a thimble, the largest the size of a soda can, all the pure white of Sam's typing paper.

Sam shut the sliding door, sat down heavily on the couch, turning one of the jars over in his hands. He saw a few angels after that time, but never any demons.