Authors: Greg Curtis
"The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us and we see nothing but sand;
The angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone."
The words, hissed as quietly as they had been, were never the less forcibly ripped out of him by the shock of discovering the apparition in front of him. For there floating mere feet in front of his eyes was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, - with wings attached.
Not that there was anything wrong with the wings, there wasn’t. They were perfect. Large, gorgeous, covered in the whitest, softest, most luxurious plumage he had ever laid eyes on and gently beating in graceful arcs. It was the fact that they were attached to a woman who was floating, hovering, flying – well something like that, directly in front of him, hundreds of feet above the ground. A woman glowing with her own golden radiance, and smiling serenely. Then again, maybe it was the smile that shocked him most.
Instinctively he made to rub at his eyes, and only lightening fast reactions saved him from certain death, as he grabbed once more for the oh so terribly thin wire that suspended him thirty stories above the unyielding concrete below. The sides of buildings, the star filled sky above and the street far below all streamed past his wildly blurred vision as he spun crazily out of control.
For panicked seconds that lasted an eternity it was all he could do to just regain his balance in the harness. The sounds of the cars and the people so far below echoed quietly to him, while his heart thundered in his chest. Images of his blood soaked body smeared over the concrete pavement danced in front of his eyes. Not for the first time he wondered about the wisdom of his career choice given his pronounced fear of heights.
Eventually the wire stopped shaking, as did he, and his mind returned to the moment. The disciplined thief was once again assuming control. Almost by reflex he felt for the comforting weight of the pouch around his belly, and thanked his lucky stars for its presence. Fifty million plus in stolen diamonds was a lot to splash down on the pavement for the locals. It could run a major hospital for a year, or fifty schools and their many thousands of students.
Loot safe, wire taut, grip secure and with a new sense of purpose – if only to get out of this place alive, he risked a glance forwards to where the apparition had been, daring to hope it had gone. Surely it had never been. It couldn’t have been. He’d simply been blinded by the lights of the city so far below or the stars above.
His wish wasn’t granted. It - she - it was most definitely a she, was still there, hovering easily mere feet in front of him, thirty stories above the ground. If anything her smile had grown, and he knew she was telling him that he couldn’t get rid of her that easily. He had the distinct feeling she was gently laughing at him, though in a very understanding way. At least he didn’t make the mistake of rubbing his eyes again. His hands wouldn’t let him, as he felt his knuckles tighten unbearably on the thin wire. He might have gone mad but at least his hands knew they had a job to do. They had to hang on. They didn’t want to die.
Mikel hung there for the longest time, staring at her from his upside down perspective while she in turn stared back at him, the faintest of smiles gracing her perfect face. At least he thought it was a smile. Being upside down tended to upset his perspective somewhat, but it didn’t look like a frown. Her face could never know a frown.
The silence stretched, with neither venturing to break the moment. In fact he didn’t want to. But eventually someone had to.
“Ahh, I don’t suppose you could see your way clear to letting me pass Ma’am?” For she was floating almost directly in front of him, between him and the safety of the next door building, twenty long feet away, and while she might have wings, he most definitely didn’t. He couldn’t quite get past her without pushing her aside, and he didn’t think confrontation would be a good thing given the vulnerability of his situation. She had wings while he had but a single wire to keep him off the ground. Besides, something deep within him was telling him he didn’t want to touch her. It would be improper.
For an answer she floated, glided away – (there were no words to describe how perfectly she moved), granting him the passage he so desperately needed. Without a second’s hesitation he grabbed at it, arms aching from having hung too long and too tightly to a thin steel wire and began pulling himself to safety as fast as they could. Hand over hand he concentrated on the movement, drawing himself along quickly, the pulley wheel moving smoothly with all his weight on it. It should; he’d spent enough time lubricating it, making sure the mechanism moved freely.
In less than a minute he was once more in the apartment, hanging upside down only a couple of feet above a soft mattress placed upon a wonderfully solid floor. He pulled the release lever and collapsed down onto it, infinitely grateful for the feel of something solid underneath him. Lungs, for so long held in check, started breathing once again as the demands of his body finally caught up, and he found himself gasping for the dirty, foul smelling air that was this city’s calling card. It was suddenly the most wonderful thing he’d known in weeks.
As he lay there thanking every deity known to man, none of whom he’d ever believed in, the woman glided smoothly in through the huge double window that he’d especially refitted to the skyscraper apartment, and hovered gently over him, smiling. There was no doubt anymore; she was really there.
As he lay gasping he found the presence of mind to study her anew, and from his new perspective confirmed what he had already seen and rejected as completely insane.
She was beautiful. Impossibly gorgeous, stunningly ethereal and yet somehow earthy at the same time. Her face was delicate, almost elfin yet with no sign of weakness. Tiny as she was, he suspected, - no, he knew - she’d have the strength of the highest tensile steel alloy. Golden hair flowed down to her waist, in gently cascading waves. Pale gold skin covered her arms and face while wondrously white flowing robes hid everything else, except for her bare feet. Even her feet were beautiful he realized in awe. Every single toe perfectly formed, proportioned as though by an artist, and not an overgrown toenail in sight. If any feet should never have to touch the ground then these were they.
Of course there was also the fact that they didn’t touch the ground. She hovered there above him, on those incredibly white wings. Impossible as that was, impossible as they were. They were enormous and yet for all that looked as light as a feather. They were covered in beautiful white feathers, held together with what looked almost like clouds. In some way the wings were insubstantial and yet they were also solid. He could see the bones and tendons moving underneath as they flapped so very gently, stirring the air like a fan.
She glowed, as though her very skin radiated light impossible as that might be. A warm golden light bathed her completely, and filled the tiny apartment, casting warmth every where it touched, and yet strangely cast no shadows. He didn’t want to think about the countless physical laws that broke. Though in staring at her he really didn’t want to think at all. He only wanted to stare.
Eyes of the deepest and purest blue stared back at him, and on a horribly deep level he knew that they saw far more than his facial features. She saw everything about him, his life, his sins, his very soul. From her he could have no secrets. It seemed wrong to want to. But deep down inside that was simply unacceptable to him. His entire life was a secret. He would have objected if he could have found the presence of mind. Instead he just stared back.
In age she looked to be in her early twenties, but something told him she was far older. Her eyes spoke of timeless wisdom and grace, yet there was still something childlike and innocent in them. Playful and serene at the same time. Like everything else her eyes were both a contradiction and an impossibility, yet he could have dived into their limpid azure with very little hesitation.
Above all else this creature, this woman radiated love. It was in the warmth of the air that glowed about her, it was in her stare, her smile, and it was in him, much as he wanted to deny it. She loved him, he knew it, and despite his disbelief, a massive part of him craved nothing more than to lay down at her feet and bask in her love. An overwhelming part. Try as he might he found he could not break free of her spell. He could not want to break free.
Time passed, his breathing slowed and finally evened out, his heart stopped thumping so loudly in his chest, his hands stopped shaking, and the aches and pains disappeared, and yet still he did nothing but stare at her. For the first time in his life he couldn’t think of anything else to do. Or anything else he might want to do, ever. He knew he could drink in her beauty for eternity and still not quench his thirst. He could bathe in her love without end. But that wasn’t permitted. Not for him, and eventually that understanding returned to him.
Wisdom or years of ingrained paranoia and cynicism finally prevailed and once again he broke through her spell of golden silence, instantly regretting the harshness of his merely human voice as it tripped over his tongue, but knowing it had to be.
“Who are you?” Yet even as he asked he knew the question was a lie, a denial of truth. He knew who she was, or rather what, but he refused to accept that knowledge even from himself. There was a word for creatures such as her, but a word that said so much more about the world than his own meagre understanding of it could allow. A word that implied things he hadn’t believed in since childhood so many years ago. A word that spoke of beliefs he had abandoned even as a young child. Beliefs that had abandoned him even earlier. He put aside the question not wanting to hear the answer.
“What do you want with me?” However painfully, the silence had been broken by his first foolish question and it allowed him to think again. To once more resemble the thinking creature he’d always considered himself. To ask the questions that needed to be asked, and that was the question that most desperately needed to be asked. After all, she wasn’t just with him by chance. She hadn’t simply been floating out there in the night sky and come calling by on a whim. He knew that. She wanted something.
For an answer she just smiled, a smile that began with her mouth and then wrapped her whole body up in it, and caught him in it as well. A smile that somehow communicated in a way that no language could. For without her ever having uttered a single word he knew that there was something she wanted him to do. That she was surprised at him even asking the question considering what he did for a living. The moment he saw her smile, he intuited that she wanted him to steal something. It didn’t make any sense at all, but he knew it was so.
His confusion ran deeper than that, however. He didn’t understand how he could know what she wanted when she still hadn’t uttered a single word. Yet at the same time, a part of him deeper still wondered only why he didn’t understand the oldest and most fundamental form of communication. The language of the soul. To say his mind was in turmoil would have been an understatement. The questions were boiling within him, fighting to be released, and each one just raised more. His well ordered thoughts had become chaos and it was all he could do not to simply cry out his confusion.
Mikel couldn’t even begin to guess what he could possibly steal that an angel might have a use for, and he had no concept of why an angel would want him to steal at all. Theft? She should despise the very act. She should despise him too. Yet he knew she didn’t. Incredibly, she loved him without reservation, and that was all that mattered. Once more he found himself slipping under her spell, sinking without trace until nothing was left, his doubts and his questions disappearing into the void that was his mind, and he couldn’t seem to stop it. He couldn’t seem to want to stop it.
The sound of voices broke him out of his trance, and for a moment he was both grateful for them and annoyed. Then he became worried, as he remembered why he could hear them.
Voices, coming from the speaker by the door in his apartment, could only mean that there were people in the room he’d just looted He’d dropped the bugs behind him for exactly that reason, to warn him when that room would be empty or not, and that was important.
He couldn’t understand their words for some reason. It was as though they were speaking gibberish, but regardless he knew exactly what they were saying. They’d discovered they’d been robbed, the open window and empty safe a certain sign. He understood the anger in their voices, the need to find the culprit. Their desire to kill the thief. In his mind’s eye he could see them making for the open window, looking out along the steel cable swung between the rooms which should no longer be there, seeing in to his apartment, seeing ….