A Magnificent Resonance
On Monday mornings, I send out a story via email: ultra-brief tales of 1,000 words or more, usually in genres including horror, science fiction, and the supernatural. Those stories collectively are called Once Upon A Time. I’ve also published several ebooks and compendium volumes of those stories so far.
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A Magnificent Resonance
It always looked the same, but Farrell stopped and stared every single time.
The rough plain stretched away into the mist, the harsh ground having a bluish quality in the fading light of evening. There were no trees or plants, nor even any grasses, but the snow that would be expected at this altitude was also entirely absent.
He zipped his parka up the rest of the way, under the shelf of his chin, against the cold that came down quickly as night fell. He was glad of the chill, though, because it meant that the sun was over the horizon and he had many hours until it returned. It would be suicide to be here under its golden light.
Farrell went forward, his feet knowing the way very well from dozens of previous visits. This whole place, in a way, was a foreign nation, and he was thus an emissary. His own country was distant, and the country he was nominally in now wasn’t a particularly close ally, but special dispensations were in place. Like the Vatican City, all nations had the right to send their diplomats for an audience with those who dwelled here.
How long has it been? he wondered to himself, counting up the months in his mind. Almost a year, all told; probably his longest absence. But his hosts would have no idea of that. Nor would they especially care about the matter he wished to discuss with them, but he hoped to convince them to offer some assistance nonetheless.
The stars were already clearly visible against the twilight, and Farrell tried not to look up into the vault of the sky. The ground was uneven, and it was easy to be tricked by perspective and end up losing your balance. And besides, there was protocol to be followed.
At last, he came within sight of his objective, and as always, his memory served up the satellite imagery he’d been shown when he first attained his special position. The most unremarkable little slab of rock, within the far greater slab of rock that formed the high plateau. It was even on publicly-accessible mapping and navigation systems, as-is. There was no reason to conceal it, because only a very select set of government officials knew of its significance.
Farrell reached the altar and sat down upon it, inwardly cursing how cold it always was. He removed a glove, took out his knife, and made a small cut on his palm, which slashes across the fading scars of several others like it. He allowed a few drops of blood to fall onto the hard surface, then he took out a small first aid kit to clean and cover the wound before once again putting on his glove. He settled down to wait, knowing that it wouldn’t take long.
Bezaliel and Chazaqiel were the first to arrive, followed shortly after by Kokabiel, and — in a very rare appearance — Arakiel.
They descended from the cold sky on wings of flame, and Farrell knew that their features would be indistinct if he were to look directly at them. He also knew that if he did so, he would be overcome with a feeling of awe and terror so profound that it would temporarily deactivate most of his higher brain functions, turning him into a sobbing, grovelling, pitiful heap. That would accomplish nothing, and after a single experience of it years ago which still haunted his nightmares, he didn’t care to repeat the mistake.
He kept his eyes fixed on the ground, knowing the visitors by the individual and unique sonorousness of their wings, and the strangely sweet but metallic scent of them, and of course the ripple-like patterns of deep blue light he could see coursing over the altar. They were like fingerprints.
“Greetings, angels of the Earth,” he said.
YOU ARE AMONG US.
The voice was in his mind, and he knew it was Chazaqiel. Farrell almost smiled, even though the stress of their attention was profound, like an electric current being applied to his spine. They had personalities, these creatures, and it was possible to learn something of their moods and how they were likely to respond to things. Thus translated, Chazaqiel was saying something very like Oh, it’s you again.
Their power was limited at night, but limited was a very relative term. If they so chose, any of them could incinerate him a thousand times over, or break his mind forever. They could send him running off the edge of a precipice, consumed in a spiritual ecstasy of self-destruction. They could turn him inside out, in every sense. But Farrell knew that they wouldn’t. The accords still held.
“I wish to ask for your help,” he continued, and there was a sound like the far-distant lapping of waves on a tropical shore, accompanied by a magnificent resonance which thrummed through the rock beneath him and into his own bones, rattling his teeth in his skull.
Impatient today, Bezaliel, he thought. Not a great quality for an immortal being.
He knew they could hear his thoughts, but they had never seemed to care about them. Words were what mattered. Farrell was fairly sure that they saw all communication as a sort of ritual. Maybe they were right, too.
YOU MAKE A TOMB OF PARADISE, Arakiel boomed in his mind, and Farrell could only nod in both confirmation and agreement. They always caught on quickly. It was a helpful trait.
The climate warming projections were much worse than the public were generally aware of, and it had become necessary to explore even the most outré avenues of amelioration until true political consensus could be achieved. A lot of coastal cities were going to be underwater by the time that happened.
But these creatures can hold it all down within 1.5ºC for a decade, Farrell thought. Though not for free.
He reached into one of the pockets in his parka and brought out the fragment of dark stone, and he sensed a stillness unlike anything that existed in the sane human world. He could feel their attention sharpen further, and he had the sneaking suspicion that he would have a nosebleed soon. Keeping his eyes on the ground, he raised his arm with the stone in his upturned palm. A moment later, his hand was empty, and his glove was warmer than it had been.
I’ll take that as a yes, he thought.
His own government, and a handful of others around the world, still had a few of those stones in reserve. It was macabre, really, procuring favours from celestial beings by returning slivers of their ancestral brethren, but Farrell wasn’t a policymaker, and he tried not to get into debates with himself. Also, he had a holiday home on the beach, and no flood insurance.
The things in the air above him, which were receding into the sky again now as there was nothing more to say, had never made any accusation of foul play, so Farrell wasn’t going to question it either.
Diplomatic ethics didn’t apply to angels.
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