Friday, 6 August 2010

'I Am No Angel' Short Story - New version rewritten

Now some of you may remember most of this story from when I wrote it for the Writers Carnival organised by a blogging/twitter friend of mine but I set myself to improving and lengthening it for the purpose of entering it into the Aesthetica Creatvie Works contest which closes on 31st August (see for more details). I have just finished it. I feel it is a lot better and the character of Mr Garret now is more developed so the reader should feel a bit more for him. So please spare no more than ten minutes to read it below and give as much feedback as you can. All help and support is encouraged and appreciated.

I Am No Angel                                   Word Count: 1965

“Isn’t it a beautiful day?” Kate asked finally joining me at Starbucks for our lunch break.

            “It’s pleasant. Have you started filling your quota yet?”

            “Yes, half way through already, how about you?”

            I nodded, draining the last of my coffee and took out my list of fifty names. “I have a few to visit at the hospital and an old people’s home.”

            “Ugh old people. We weren’t created to watch their inglorious death. We need warriors. Men of honour, courage and strength. Men who died by the sword. Not killed by disease, old age and accidents.”

            “If we didn’t make exceptions you know our numbers would dwindle into non-existence. There are too many faiths and so few believers.”

            “Oh I do miss the old days and our old ways.” She sighed. “Well I have a child to visit in the hospital so why don’t we go together?”

            “Fine by me.” We left our seats in the shade and made our way through the throbbing streets of York.

Once at the hospital car park, we casually walked to a quiet corner, away from curious eyes, where we prepared and equipped ourselves for the job.

            “Mine is on the second floor where is yours?” Kate asked, checking her own quota.

            “Fourth floor. Wait for me here when you are done.”

            With a final nod to each other we strode purposefully back round the corner across the car park and into the building. No one gave us a glance and no one got in our way.


I found the man I sought in a room at the end of the ward. He lay still in his bed, his drips and monitor leads hung loose on the floor. The woman who sat beside him was milk white with red eyes from tears.

            “Mr. Garret?” I said softly, sitting at the end of his bed, watching his eyes flutter open.

            “Huh? Yes?” He became wary once he noticed me. “Who are you? What do you want?”

            “There’s no easy way of saying this Mr Garret, but you have just died.” It was inevitable that he wouldn’t believe me. After all, a woman in a white feathered cloak against a skirt and blouse and holding a tall spear, promote the signs of a deluded mind.

            “Preposterous! I’m sat here talking to you aren’t I? Tell her Laura, you can see I’m quite alive can’t you?” He turned to the pale faced woman sat beside him. She didn’t blink. She didn’t say a word.

            “I’m afraid you are, Mr. Garret. But if you are alive, give your daughter a hug. Prove me wrong.”

            He shot me an angry glare and got out of his bed, unaware yet that his pain had vanished and leaned in towards his daughter. He passed straight through her, landing on all fours on the floor. Panic in his eyes, his breath quickening with fear, disbelief freezing his heart. I stepped towards him and offered him my hand.

            “It’s ok, you can touch me. You can even hit me if it makes you feel any better.”

            “But how? Why? I...I...was sleeping...only sleeping...I felt so tired...I...”

            “I know it’s hard to accept. I went through the same thing. Now can I talk to you about what happens next?”

            “Next?” The puzzlement and possible curiosity seemed to calm him down a bit as I walked him slowly towards the window.

            “Yes, the small matter of life after death.”

            “Oh, I never really believed in that kind of thing.”

            “Yes, I know that Mr. Garret. Now, as you are not a follower of any faith for that matter, my Boss has decided to lay claim on your soul.”

            “Your boss?”

            “Yes, the deity I work for.”

            “Are you an Angel?”

            I laughed. “My job is similar to that of Angels but I am not one of them. My Boss is of an older faith. He has many names but you may refer to him as Odin. His followers once ruled this place when it was known as Jorvik, but you know of them as Vikings. Before you begin your afterlife there is a test you must do first.”

            “Am I being judged?”

“In a way, it tests the person you have become, not the way you lived.” I gave a comforting smile, opening up a window that looked out across a still and silent city. I pointed my spear downwards and engraved runes onto the floor with its silver tip. A rainbow bridge appeared linking our window to the ground below.

            “What do I have to do?” he asked, staring suspiciously at my runes and the rainbow.

            “You must simply walk along this bridge. If you are worthy you will reach the other end and live happily in Asgard, if not, well....”

            He knew what my silence meant. “Will it hold me?” he asked, shaking as I urged him forward.

            “It’s perfectly safe. Trust me, that’s it... steady ...see its fine.” Watching him stand for the first time on his own upon the colours. “Now face forward and walk, reach the end and all will be well. I hope to see you at the other side.”

            He was doing well at first, five steps in and it seemed he might make it, but then the true test of his soul began. Visions of those he had wronged in life appeared before him asking for answers, explanations and apologies. All asking for one thing before he departed. David was too set on self preservation to care about appeasing these spirits. He waved them away, pushed past their pleading faces and ignored their words. Then he came face to face with the vision of his wife. It certainly made his pause. Her lips moved silently with her spiritual plea to him and whatever she said he didn’t like.

            “It wasn’t exactly stealing Margery.” He mumbled thrusting his hands into his hospital gown pockets. “It paid for your new car didn’t it?”

            The vision of Margery paled and began to sob and yell at him.

            “Yes, yes I should have told you the bank was a bit tight but didn’t want you to worry. And my Mum was never going to use all she had whilst in a care home now was she? I mean, she had dementia Margery, she wasn’t aware of anything anymore.”

            His wife asked him something.

            “No we won’t get done by the police, whose going to report us? I’m the person who has legal rights to sign over her money. If I didn’t do it then who knows what mess my Mum would get into. We might find out she has signed away her savings to some scam if I didn’t take control of it all.” He stepped a bit closer to his wife. “Look, I know it may seem what I’ve done is morally wrong but the way I see it is that my Mum would want us to use her money to make us happy. We’d get it all when she passes on anyway.”

            At that remark the vision of Margery sobbed even harder, turning her back on her deceased husband.

            “Oh Margery don’t get so upset. It was a only a few grand. Nothing more. I haven’t touched it for the past few months.”
            The vision of Margery spun back round on him with an angry glare and spat something at him.

            “What about the golf weekend? No, no that was paid for as a collective, I and the lads all chipped in for that. None of Mum’s money funded it at all, Margery.”

            That seemed to appease the vision a bit.

            “Come now, Margery, can we get past this if I promise not to touch Mum’s account again?”

            The vision made another claim on him.
            “The children? Yes, I guess we can save the lot for them, it would please Mum to help fund their education and the grandchildren. And yes, we have already had our fair share but I wouldn’t say I’ve robbed her before she’s in the grave. Now can you please forgive me? I am sorry that you had to find out this way.”

            The vision of Margery gave him a smile and opened her arms for a hug. Upon their embrace all the spirits vanished, leaving Mr. Garret alone on the rainbow bridge.

            I gathered my cloak and glided down to join him.

            “Success Mr. Garrett, you have proved yourself worthy.”

            “That was all a test? Does Margery truly know what I did?”

            “No, but the scenario had to take place to allow you to acknowledge what you had done and accept the responsibility of betraying your Mum and wife’s trust.”

            “What? So that was all unreal? That wasn’t really Margery?”

            “It was her essence…”

            “So I’m off the hook. She doesn’t know.”

            “Oh Mr. Garret that isn’t how you’re meant to react to this experience. You’re meant to join us enlightened not relieved at avoiding such an opportunity for understanding.”

            “How enlightened can I get? I’m dead and I discover there are more than Angels in this world.”

            I sighed wearily, jumping up to hover a few feet above him and the bridge. “And now there are a lot more than Angels after your soul Mr. Garret. I must say I’m not disappointed, your life credentials didn’t bode well for you.”
            “Huh? What do you mean after my soul? Thought I was going somewhere with you. I passed didn’t I?” Panic trembled in his voice as he stumbled around beneath me.

            “You were until a minute ago when you clearly didn’t genuinely accept the fact that you betrayed a loved one’s trust in the vain pursuit of material happiness. Goodbye Mr. Garret, it’s been nice doing business with you.”

            The rainbow bridge had begun to shake, cracks fracturing the colours beneath his feet. A vivid red light glowed through the cracks as they crumbled away and opened up. Mr. Garret tried his best by running back up the bridge to the Hospital floor but within a few steps that end was already receding towards him in pieces, he turned to go the opposite way but that was also falling away.

            “Wait! Please! Help me? I don’t deserve this! I want to live!”

            “The afterlife has no place for those that deceive. No matter the reason.” I replied to him just before he fell into the gathering abyss and the rainbow bridge promptly faded in shattered pieces.

            “Awwwww no demons in the show!” A voice called up from far beneath me. It was Kate, leading against a tree in the odd piece of vegetation in the large car park surrounding the hospital building.

            I laughed as I flew down to join her. “No, not this time, he wasn’t that bad but he had the potential to be.”

            “What did he do?”

            “Not accept when he did wrong. He’d rather live whatever life he can get without ever confessing up to it. Even to himself”

            “He should count himself lucky he’s only going to be a snack for Hel then. I hear the Angels cut out liar’s tongues and make them pronounce ‘Thou Shalt Not Lie’ until the Apocalypse.”

            “Who have you got to visit next?”  I asked shrugging away that gruesome image of eternal punishment.

            She took out her list from her bag. “A Lieutenant Matthews, a world war two veteran.”

            “He’ll get the special treatment then?”

            “Yep the whole silver jar and youth restoration treatment. I might even throw in an old flame to escort him over the bridge if he tells us a good battle story.”

            “Can I join you?”

            “Sure. Don’t you have others to visit?”

            “Yeah, but I enjoy a good story as much as you. Besides, a Valkyries work is never done.”

The End

1 comment:

  1. Becky... I came across this via Twitter. Fun what you can stumble across sometimes by clicking.

    Sorry you haven't gotten any feedback in three weeks. For what it's worth, my gut take:

    I love the concept and enjoy the story and the theme. I think your core characterizations are strong. The story moves at a pretty good pace, too.

    I didn't find Mr. Garrett particularly sympathetic, but I'm not sure just how much you want us to empathize with him.

    One thing that I might recommend taking another look at is how your structure relates to your plot arc. Really, the heart of the story seems to me Mr. Garret's experience. However, the opening and closing passages are focused entirely on the Valkyries. Their voice is pretty detached and while I think that works, that means that the emotional arc really starts and ends independent of the overture and the denouement. To me, in this one casual reading at least, that created a distance between me and Mr. Garrett.

    But I do love the voice of the Valkyries, particularly during their time at Starbucks. And, as I said, I love the concept and the basic story itself.

    Thanks for posting this, and best of luck with it!


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