The aroma of coffee wafting through the window woke her. She smiled. Suddenly, she sat up. She had no idea where she was. At a first glance, she thought she'd fallen asleep at work. The couch she was on was exactly like the one in Michael's office and she sometimes dozed off there when she was pulling an all-nighter. But that's where the similarities to Michael's office ended.
She was on a red couch, old but of good fabric. It felt soft under her, as if she could just fall through and through. The couch was in a great big hall. The kind where you might expect an artist to set up his studio. Either that or the type of places where you'd expect to see a shoot-out. Anyway, neither was the kind of place she usually hung around and last night had been unusually bleak.
She didn't remember going far from the office. But she didn't remember being in the office, strictly speaking either. It was most weird, because when she tried to bring to mind her last memory before waking up here, she could not. It was all just a great big jumble of images and voices in her head. People she'd met, or thought she'd met. Some strangers, even fewer friends. She saw Michael, in half a dozen shots.
'Wakey-wakey,' she heard a voice sing-song behind her and when she turned, there he was. Michael, standing in front of her. He'd taken his tie off, but other than that, he was just like she always knew him. Dressed down, handsome, strong-jawed. With one noticeable difference. This Michael she was staring at was clearly not the Michael who allowed her to nap in his office when she was feeling a bit off. Oh no, this Michael was utterly terrifying.
He was standing in the doorway – the only entrance and exit, it seemed, to this immense place. And he was holding a wooden tray with two steaming mugs of coffee (a good roast, by the smell of it, too) and something she couldn't quite see clearly.
'Michael,' the woman gasped, more because she felt like she had to say something.
'Hush, darling,' he said and grinned wide, revealing a mouth of sharp, knife-like teeth.
'I'm afraid you've got the wrong guy,' and his grin grew wider.
'Most importantly: Feel free to change, dear,' he told her setting down the tray on the floor beside the bed. She had to keep from jumping away, for fear it might anger him. 'After all, you don't want to spend your whole life in those rags, do you?'
The woman looked down at herself for the first time. She was wearing a low-cut top she hadn't known she had. She wondered where it came from, it was the kind of slutty thing she'd never wear. And that was all, besides a pair of tight black boxers. Embarrassed, she struggled to pull up the blanket over herself, but the thing that looked like Michael only laughed.
'Relax, I've seen it all before, both inside and out. You have nothing to fear from me, at least not in that respect. But you can change. You can change your hair, you can change your face, you can change your clothes. You can change anything and everything about yourself.'
It was as if he'd practiced this monologue many times.
'Oh, I have, I'm sorry, but you're not the first one to pass through my couch,' his lips sketched a smile, showing off his teeth once more.
'Who are you?' she whispered, still hugging the blanket to herself. He gave her a cup of coffee, which she took, despite herself. Always was a sucker for good coffee.
And then, he pulled up a chair and sat beside the couch.
'I am myself, I am a Michael-shaped entity, yes, and I believe that's what is confusing you. I am not Michael, however, I simply took his form to make this transition easier for you. It's always best to do this with someone you like. And frankly, dear, this seemed to be the only one. Quite sad, if you ask me, but who am I to meddle,' the thing shrugged and sipped his coffee.
'What transition?' she asked, sipping from her own mug. It was indeed, a phenomenal taste.
'To becoming me,' he said simply.
'Reflect upon the lives you saw while you were on Earth, yes? What was the one key thing that bound them together? Any ideas? No? Well, I figured you wouldn't to be honest, but I thought I'd give you a shot. They were all together. They each had someone that gave them some purpose. I know, not my type of thing, either, but they did. You, however, did not,' he said, watching the woman for a reaction, but she had none.
She just sat there, staring slightly away from him and yet straight through him.
'It's not a bad thing, I'm not saying why didn't you or that you should have. These are just the facts.'
'Am I dead?' she asked, slowly.
'In a manner of speaking. In your limited understanding, yes, you are no longer on Earth,' he replied.
He was tired of all this and wondered if it ever got easier. Always the same questions, always the same reactions. He'd hoped this one was different, but he was beginning to lose hope.
'How did I die?'
'You didn't die, you just stopped existing. Like you were never there. I just plucked you out of your world and put you in here, with me,' he smiled, slightly and made a little welcoming gesture.
Ah,there it was.
'Because,' he searched for the right words, but it seemed they wouldn't come. 'Because I'm no longer of this place.'
'What do you mean? What is this place?' she looked at him and a terrible realization began to dawn on her.
'This place is...hard to explain. It's your new home. It's like an observatory, you have to sit and watch. Yes, you will watch over...someone. Whoever takes your place on Earth – she should be born every minute now – and you guide her. You make sure she does...the right things,' he realized he was stumbling through it and it made him furious. He'd practiced for more than enough time. He should be handling this better.
'Like a guardian angel? Are you my guardian angel?'
'Well, not exactly. See, I'm more of a...guardian devil. You know how you humans are so fond of the idea of guardian angels? Well, it's just us, really, the others gave up long ago and frankly, we're the only ones looking over you.'
The woman didn't understand. She looked around the room and then back at him. 'But why am I here?'
'Because I failed,' the devil said, swallowing hard. 'That's about the long and the short of it. I mean look at you, I'm an utter failure as far as devils go, so I'm leaving. I'm going on vacation, I'm going...to whatever part of this Universe that might need me.'
'But why? Why should I do this?' she asked, not understanding, still.
'Because you failed, too. You were an utterly boring, lifeless human being. Darling, this is your chance to shine.'
He stood up, setting his coffee mug on the chair and he began to walk towards the door.
'Wait!' she screamed, stumbling around, her feet caught in the blanket. 'Who am I?'
'You're me,'* he told her, without looking around and then he was gone.
This has been a weekend freewrite based on the prompts offered by @mariannewest. Check her out, she's awesome!
Thank you for reading,
Photos taken by me.