Mount Barker, South Australia
The storms in space were echoed by earthly tempests that smashed over the ranges, over the town where a mansion-within-a-house sat impervious to noise, wet and wind, wrapping my sleep until I woke to voices snapping out my name. Struggling from a cloud-cushion, I wrapped a soft blanket around my nakedness and nervously trotted out to come upon Aebon and a short redhead circling each other, snarling and yapping like two disgruntled dogs.
I was in Gabe’s house, but there was no Gabe—only these two who, although they weren’t touching, nevertheless seemed to be engaged in a tense struggle. Their voices rose. They spilled into the foyer. I crept along behind, drawing my cover tighter, and attempted to blend into a white corner while fog cleared from my brain. Why was I in Gabe’s house? Why could I not recall anything beyond the last few minutes?
The girl and Aebon fought, faces taught with concentration. She seemed to be triumphing, forcing the dark angel back to the huge front door.
‘Elisabeth asked for it!’ Aebon screeched. ‘She had no business there!’
‘Neither did you.’ The redhead’s voice was harsh.
‘She was all over me in the Garden, Rubes,’ Aebon whined.
‘Tempting me.’ His tone was shrill.
The Garden? My stupefaction fell away in a rush. I jammed fingers into my ears and cringed as the girl shrieked, ‘Get thee hence, thou perfidious piece of scum!’ and the door burst open and Aebon spewed out. Abruptly, the door slammed shut on an almighty concussion and I was thrown to the gold-flecked floor.
Breathing fast with the intensity of her outburst, and radiating censure, the girl with wild red curls bore down on me. Her colour-sense was odd. Swathes of purple and blue draped her; yellow and green stockinged her legs; purple slippers were on her feet; and dainty red wing-tips rose above her shoulders. She was dimpled, chubby, child-like; but there was nothing childish about her eyes. Sharp as steel, they bored into me as she stood with one small foot tapping.
‘How could you?’
‘Pardon?’ I mumbled. My bones ached. ‘What made that noise?’
The redhead sighed. ‘Listen! I’m Ruby—Gabriel’s cherub. I’ve been sent here to clean up your mess. That noise was smart-ass Aebon breaking the sound barrier on his way back to Hell. Now, where’s Gabe?’
I opened my mouth, closed it again in confusion and shook my head.
‘Elisabeth, we have to find him. His hole’s coming. Gabriel wants him. And he’s gone off-wave. Jeepers human, get with it!’ She yanked me to my feet. ‘Dress!’
I stumbled back to the cloud-cushion room, threw off the blanket and began to pull on my clothes.
Ruby leant against the doorpost watching, her glare ferocious as a kraken’s.
‘How could you?’
Hadn’t she asked that earlier?
‘How could you enter the abour? You were forbidden! Totes amazeballs Elisabeth. What in hell possessed you to make a play for Aebon? He’s a freaking angel! I’ve not seen Gabriel so wild since that business with Adam and Eve.’
My mind spun. I said the only thing I could think of: ‘I was tempted’.
Her snarl made me want to shrink to the size of a slater and crawl under her swift little foot,
but an urgent buzz issuing from the folds of her dress saved me. Ruby pulled out a tube, flipped it open into a thin grey tablet and peered at it.
‘Super! He’s back on-wave. Now, where … Ah, found him. What? In jail?’ She hissed and glared at me. Her eyes were knives.
I shrugged, but her attention was back on the flexi-tab. ‘Uh-oh,’ she purred. ‘Cool … look!’
She thrust the tablet under my nose. ‘He’s escaping. Come on, he needs help.’ She pulled me out into the pouring rain and into a waiting taxi.
Surprise after surprise! Who was this girl?
We hurtled towards the city watching Gabe escape and board the bus. Astounded, we realised it was heading, not towards the hills and longed-for wormhole, but directly for the coast.
‘Amazeballs! Why doesn’t the crazy angel get off? Oh, frac. That’s why! Gabriel’s got him.’
Gabe was huddled into a seat, his angel-fire feebly flickering. The bus driver’s aura was so bright that I had to pull my eyes away from the screen.
Quietly I said, ‘I thought Gabe was Gabriel.’
Ruby chuckled. ‘Totes,’ she murmured. ‘Hasn’t that angel told you anything? He’s Gabe—nothing more than a ordinary messenger angel. Gabriel is the Arch Angel on High. Boss of all angels. And on high is where he prefers to remain. He won’t be happy to be down here. But I do want to see what happens to Gabe.’
I stared out the window, fearing for us as I recalled my return from the Garden and the mighty angel in the arbour who had shredded my soul with his scorn.
Ruby’s yelp pulled me back to the present as we shot over a rise and almost collided with a bus parked side-on, head-lights pooling on the curl and crash of waves foaming around wooden jetty piles. We slewed to a stop. I glimpsed two figures pushing towards the jetty’s end. The lesser one flickered dimly in the field of the other’s great aura.
Ruby handed our driver a fifty-dollar note. ‘Here. Wait, we’ll be a while.’
‘Come on, move!’ She tugged me out into the rain and onto the jetty.
I gulped. Around us the weather stormed and, even though it seemed to shelter beneath an invisible canopy, the jetty vibrated alarmingly with the ocean’s thrust and withdrawal. And out to sea something huge, something darker than night, moved swiftly towards us.
‘Wait!’ Ruby stopped and grabbed me. ‘God in Heaven,’ she moaned. ‘A Hell-hole!’
Stretching from heaven to earth at jetty’s end and rent with jagged red flashes an enormous funnel whirled. Beneath the clamour of thunder and ocean, its deep thrum vibrated my bones.
‘Do we pray?’ I muttered.
‘What? Frac no!’
We stood, frozen to the spot. I hardly dared breathe. Above the din of the storm, I thought I heard angels howling.
And then, everything ceased. The jetty was still, the sea calm. There was no noise. Startled, Ruby and I gaped. With a slurp and a great sigh, the behemoth at jetty’s end retracted and disappeared.
And Arch Angel Gabriel stood with us, his light too bright to behold. I threw an arm across my eyes. Beside me, Ruby was as edgy as a mouse caught in the gaze of a cat.
Gabriel’s scrutiny burned across me. ‘Trespassing in the Garden,’ he boomed, flashing his aura. ‘Hmph! Beyond all comprehension!’
What? The angel-fire dimmed. I dropped my arm. Gabriel lowered his voice.
‘Gabe is taking a bit of heat in Hell. Until his return, you might want to attend to his house and garden. NOT the arbour … OR what’s beyond.
He started to walk away, then hesitated. ‘By the way,’ he threw over his folded wings, ‘if those pesky angels topping the pines give you any trouble, just hose them down.’
He faded into the dark. The cocoon of protection broke and the storm crashed over me. I heard Ruby chuckle and turned, but she too had disappeared. I ran. The bus had vanished; but the taxi waited, isolated, a vague shape barely visible in the rain. Sopping wet, I wrenched open the back door and fell in. The driver jerked awake. Gusts of wind rocked the car and drove sheets of water across the esplanade. One solitary street light was all I could see—and the first of the jetty lights. Beyond that, the world had ceased to exist.
The driver stretched and looked in the mirror. ‘Gawd, you’re soaked!’
‘Can we go?’ My teeth chattered.
‘Wait a sec.’ He lifted a large jacket across. ‘Put this on. Don’t want to catch a chill, do you.’
I lie awake staring through dust-streaked glass, wondering if I should clean the windows … and then I remember. Gabe. And Ruby. I think the cherub and I could have been friends. As for Aebon … I shudder.
Wondering what the time is, I look at my smartphone and am shocked to see I have slept through two days and two nights. I need to care for Gabe’s earthly home. Will the house still accept me? Pondering this, I start to make a cup of tea and find a note on my tea caddy. ‘Gabe’s Earthly Abode’ is written on it and under is a small metal key. I pick it up, wondering how it came to be there; but with angels, devils, gods and cherubs, there is no point wondering about anything. I put the key next to me as I breakfast, and watch its intricate teeth change shape again and again.
I gather up mop, bucket, cleaning cloths, and slip next door. The key turns easily in the lock. I enter and hear the door close behind me with a faint click. The mansion-within-a-house is empty, hollow. I look around the foyer: at the vaulted ceiling, translucent as the day I first saw it, the white walls, the gold-flecked floor. After a while, I go into the room with the fireplace where I’d first seen Aebon with Gabe, first seen the angels’ lack of a navel. (‘Not born of woman, Elisabeth.’) The fireplace is empty, the room icy, the cloud cushions like snow-puffs. In the long mirrored passage, I am aged. Despondently, I walk the length of the hallway, glancing with every step, willing the magic to return; but my visage remains old, wrinkled, flawed. Damn you, Gabe. I have too many memories.
I dump the bucket and mop and pass through the back door, unsure about my ability to survive Gabe’s absence. But the hum of bees in the sunny garden lifts my spirits. The conifers neatly reach for the sky. On top of each, a small winged figure turns and bows to me. I’m sure one winks. I grin hugely, stroll along the tiled avenue to where the pond sparkles in morning light, and sink onto the seat near the arbour. The archway is blocked by a dense tangle of thorny roses. I have no wish to enter. Gabe will be back.
Enveloped by cloud-cushion and rose fragrance, I relax and drift …
Bio: Goodbye Gabe … for now 🙂