There is no god, but the angels are real. There were no signs of the consequences from outside the house. Shelly stood on the steps and took a moment of peace from the rain soaking her dark curls. The old place was full of angles. Shelly had always thought the jumble of peaks, dormers, and overstretched eaves made it resemble a disheveled man wearing a bent hat and a tux with lapels askew. She breathed deeply and stepped inside.
It was dark and the switches didn’t work. That was the first sign of trouble. The next was the peeling wallpaper. Rivulets of rainwater trickled across exposed patches of ancient glue, separated, and rejoined in rivers. Someone was weezing somewhere deeper inside. Shelly stepped around splintered holes in the sagging floor and entered the living room. It was bare except for a skeletal floor lamp and a paisley overstuffed chair. And the thing in the chair, which was too big for it.
He was naked, but curled into a fetal position. The wet windows made the moonlight swim through the room and dance across a pair of massive folded dove wings. The angel stood. His body was covered in blood. Shelly gasped.
“What did you do?” she said.
“Me?” he whispered, stretching his arms out as if to embrace her. “This was for you. Don’t say you weren't expecting it. You asked for this.”
She resisted the urge to back away, thus showing weakness. This was a creature who could turn her inside out by only thinking it. He had once been Kumakatok, an angel of death.
He approached and said, “I loved you. I still do.”
“I don’t know what you did.” said Shelly. “But I didn’t ask for anything.” Before he could respond, she raised a finger. “I know what you’re thinking, but I didn’t make up god or take it away from you.”
“You’re human, aren’t you? You’re all alike.”
And yet somehow he had once told her she was special and different from all the rest. She was after all the first to find the truth. They says demons are fallen angels. They say the world was perfect until rebellion split a festering wound in its skin. But the universe began in chaos and gave birth to its first children, titans of immense power and cruelty. The second batch were frail children of dust, and feeble as frail. The first borns, the demons, terrorized humanity until humanity pulled off its greatest achievement.
How do you fool a creature such as Kumakatok? You flatter him. He came forth in emptiness and yet he wanted to believe he had purpose. He was going to kill anyway, but it was better to let him think murder was a higher calling, to keep it contained. Humans would no longer live nine centuries as some of their ancestors had, but at least there would be fewer disembowelled babies. We invented God and tricked the demons into believing the lie. Well, most of them.
Demons are not fallen angels. Angels are delusional demons. And if you're going to invent god to stave the blood thirst of an ancient monster, be sure to create it in your own image. That's how a walking bag of meat gets a giant to do his bidding.
But we forgot. Memory is a powerful human enemy. Once people were desperate for cures to polio and measles. Now the cure is offered and the wealthy turn it down. We didn't experience the suffering. The disease is a lie. God is dead. Well, the viruses in the vaccine are dead too, a lie that fools your body and keeps you alive. Mostly alive.
Shelly had to remind herself it wasn't really her fault. It's not like she could read cuneiform. She didn't know what her ancestors had done all those millennia ago. She was a paranormal researcher. She shuffled through houses looking for ghosts. What she discovered was the truth, the truth everyone had to know, even if she'd look like some fool running through the streets in the bald morning with a flashlight.
And there was Kumakatok. He appeared in the form of a man, meek with a tidy suit and a hat. Kuma could play the piano and paint. He painted dark things.
Had she loved him? Maybe she had.
“I love you.” he repeated, drawing closer. “I am nothing without you.”
What was that expression? Few truer words had been spoken? The nothing he spoke of was the real nothing, not what we often call nothing. It wasn't a chilly day in October, but the absolute zero of interstellar space as the universe slouched toward death. That's what he turned his eyes on if his eyes weren't on Shelly.
“But…” she breathed. “Kuma…”
What was she doing? A part of her screamed...just lie. Just lie. But she knew she couldn't live with herself if she did. She didn't want to look in the mirror and see a person who suppressed the truth, no matter how damning. She remembered those long nights in rehab. She remembered the moment she could finally say that her addiction was no one else's fault and her recovery turned on her own decision, even if the road from there was hard.
“Hello, my name is Shelly and I'm an addict.” she'd once said. From that moment on she'd committed herself to brutal honesty, both from herself and others. It was an immutable part of her identity. The truth had saved her.
“I don't love you.” she said. “Anymore.”
He closed his eyes.
“You fooled me.” said the angel of death.
“This is the last time.”
She shuddered as he walked near her, but then he went by without a sound or a touch. He passed the hole in the floor and the peeling wallpaper. The door opened and the April rain cleared. As Kumakatok stood on the steps and settled his gaze on a world too young to know itself, clouds of fire and ash billowed at the horizon.
image courtesy of pixabay