Un-expected encounter

From the Story Arc: Finding the way home

Previous Story in the Arc: A worst Fate by Arch Angel X (Tuesday, July 12, 2005)

(posted Friday, October 07, 2005)

Hot ashes windblown are burning my eyes
Both daytime and night seem completely disguised
The wind keeps on whispering of tortures untold
While my pain keeps on growing but my spirit still holds
How long have I been here how much time has gone by?

The poem of hell, the place where nothing ever changes. A place where there is no dark of night but only light of day. There is no need for a heat-source like the sun, and the Flames give plenty enough light. Enough light to illuminate the entire sky in a constant sickening shade of red-orange.

Paragon, Galaxy City

A soft, warbling chime eased Xavier from his heavy slumber. His aching brain spasemed into life, struggling as it tried to separate his conscious from his subconscious. Yolk from white; two sides of the same coin. Propping himself up on one elbow, he shook the remnants of dreams from his head. The throbs in his skull transformed into a stabbing white-hot needle as he pried open his sleep-sticky eyes. Wincing, he squinted past the shaft of sunlight which streamed in from between the curtains. The infernal compulsive tone continued to vibrate from somewhere within the room. He traced the irritating noise to a red plastic telephone, rigged to the wall by a single carpenter’s nail. Beneath the telephone was his alarm clock, ticking happily away atop a small three-drawer dresser. He stared for a few seconds at the clock face trying to outmaneuver the floating bacterium image swimming lazily across the surface of his eyes.

He made his way to the metal balcony on the far side wall of the bedroom. Stepping over the small wall the sound of metal hitting metal echoed through the empty room as his boots clanged against the rusting steel. Xavier had a feeling of weightlessness, of displacement, a sensation akin to falling upwards. The sharp, chemical tang of whiskey and ginger in the back of his throat brought him once again to the brink of nausea. The air reeked of ammonia and cheap perfume, its combined smell overpowering and sickly sweet.

He let the air out from between his pursed lips in a serpentine hiss how he despised this place.

Light filtered through the lush, green canopy of the trees below, bathing the banks of a shallow, lazy river in shafts of ethereal light. A swarm of flying insects milled in the air above the clearing, tracing their dance of geometric choreography in the heavy air; a stark contrast against the constant, drifting swell that tugged gently at the shoreline of fallen branches and fertile river-mud.
The dreamy whine of insects and the burbling river water lapping at the bank was interrupted by a rustling as the foliage at the end of the clearing spread slowly open.

Xavier stood and stared, awed at the site of these poor people damned to be out of His presence. He watched them writhe and spiral. He heard the moan and sing.

Negotiating the thickening crowd, making gradual progress by way of graceful strategy in favor of physical force; side step, give-way, proceed into the space. An intermittent push, shove and whispered apology were an occasional necessity. Half the city's population, it seemed, were out enjoying the rising heat of summer, watching the brightly colored floats drift along Carnival Row with their cargo of dancers, jugglers and people in exceptional fancy dress

They never even looked in his direction - instead, they stood side-by-side, ludicrous grinning mannequins pointing toward the motionless floats. They knew he was there but to look at a fallen angel in the eyes would only bring pain and sorrow.

He watched as a small girl in a pretty white dress, face transfixed in reverent awe, gripped in her tiny fist the ribbon of a helium-filled balloon. The silver bubble hung on a fixed point in time and space, and the yellow ribbon, slackened in mid-bob, bridged the space with a golden arc. Her hair, richly red in the sunshine, had been blown across her features by a breeze now gone, and formed a rusty claw that threatened to rake the innocence from her face. Two floats further up, a juggler, her face a mask of concentration and siphoned dry of intelligence, was fixed in an unnatural poise somewhere between calculation and manipulation of the torches she tossed.

Two of the batons marked the air with luminous trails, which flowed from their amber crowns; one on ascension to glory while the other embraced its fate.

The flames streamed from the fuel-soaked torch-heads in static, convoluted sheets of light. Fire-children played in the torch’s wake but never strayed far from the parent flame, and tiny sparks rested on the air like catatonic fireflies.
A third torch levitated in the near-grip of the juggler’s right hand, the moment gravid with anticipation that the flesh would close around its shaft and complete the artistic cycle. Alas that moment was never to come.

Xavier shuffled threw the crowded streets making his way to the subway entrance. He took the long descent down the grapheteed cement steps, watching the light of day being replaced by the fluorescent lights. Each light was blinking in a rhythmic fashion.

The clutter of the underground was a pale reflection of the heaving traffic that dominated the streets above, but without the endless gridlock, the impatient revving of motors and the greasy aftertaste of perspiration and monoxide fume. By day the station existed as a single platform, which supported the daily hustle and bustle of commuters, but at night it was sanctuary to the infernal; the tramp whose only solace was the pain in his stomach – the only constant of his uncertain future; the station whore, stalked by her omnipresent pimp; and the strung-out insomniac, incapable of sleep, but too weary to do anything but worry about his flagging business and apathetic family - his restless nights haunted by impotent musings, like whether to catch the horizon-bound dawn train, forever to leave behind his decaying life, or instead to embrace that growing, nagging urge and succumb to the lure of the tracks, beckoning siren-like from their bed of loose stones.

The empty train was docked at the platform, windows dark but its doors wide open, waiting for him. There was no driver, but Xavier felt that somehow there was no need for one. His head was, by this time, a raging maelstrom of ice and razorblades.

He strolled across the vacant platform and stepped aboard. Inside, the carriage was dark and empty. Xavier felt ill like something was gnawing on the pit of his stomach. He glanced down the carriage seeking out the seat he had used before, and found it. It might actually help him make sense of things, to sit as before and remember.

Weary, he sank down into the foam seat, clutching the back of his skull with both hands. His head hurt like hell. This was no caffeine migraine. Despite the pain, he had to think, but all he could remember of the train journey was that pulsing tunnel lighting, and the way it had made everything seem unreal, somehow false.

It was no use. He couldn’t concentrate. The pressure in his sinuses was incredible; his nose felt about to explode in a cloud of bloody cartilage. His eyes had started to sting and water, and the surrounding compartment blurred crazily, as if some deranged optician had plucked his eye from its socket and proceeded to slowly crush it between forefinger and thumb. Through a dark, swirling vignette he could barely make out a thing, some shining, indistinguishable appendage from an unseen body, extending, reaching toward him, warped by the dysfunctional perspective of his ruined sight. Then the world faded to blackness and somewhere far, far away he thought he heard himself scream.

Xavier caught a glimpse of something moving at the edge of his vision, coasting in spasmodic stop-motion away from the blue-flash as the tunnel lighting sped down the length of the train. He jerked his head up. It was gone, lost in the shadows and kinetic brilliance. Yet, there it was again, at the top of the aisle, moving with liquid grace. And again it was gone.

Soon enough the light show started. As the train gained speed and rattled down the underground tubes, it passed beneath the tunnel’s fluorescent lights, illuminating the carriages in flashes of anemic ice blue. Always in three's. Flash---flash---flash.

Xavier shivered. An unsettling feeling scuttled insect-like across the back of his neck. A notion struck him that in the intermittent darkness he was being watched. He cast about the carriage. A man sat across the aisle from him, on the diagonal opposite, his face a silver mask, painted by the oppressed light. He looked a little like an extra from a string-and-matchbox science fiction film, face powdered with glittering moon-dust.

Flash---flash---flash.

Two rows down an old woman had died in her seat, the color and life drained from her with the expulsion of the warm spectrum. However dead she might have first appeared, dead she was not. A tightening of her hands upon her purse followed a nervous facial tick, as she flinched under scrutiny.

The train had arrived at the station and all the passengers had already disembarked, leaving the impression that the train had in fact been stationed for several minutes. But how could he not have noticed? There were no discernible announcements or the judder of deceleration, and he had even gazed from the train window at the speeding tunnel walls only moments before.
Xavier struggled to make sense of the unease that gripped him as he stepped from the carriage to the desolate platform. A black spot in his mind, he had been brought here---but by whom?

Out of the darkness, in from the shadows moved a silhouette that flowed in and out of the flashing fluorescent lights. A large statuesque figure protruded the darkness hidden in the farthest corners. Standing the same height as Xavier but with a tanner skin and hair strung like gold flowing with a white robe.

“Gabriel…?” Xavier’s faced dropped his mouth remained open; the Arch Angel Gabriel was the last being he expected to encounter in the dank underworld.

“Yes Xavier…it has been awhile hasn’t it?”

Xavier sneered his distaste for the angels left a bad taste in his mouth. “You summoned me here? It was you who dragged me to this…place. Not exactly your cup of tea I would imagine”.

“Yes…” Gabriel wiped some debris that had come in contact with his whitened robe. “Far to long…you have been busy Xavier…far to busy. I must say there are many who are displeased with your lack of vision”. Gabriel snapped his fingers “Come let us leave this filth”.

The savage aroma of the Subway had forced the two beings into the more breathable atmosphere of a popular picturesque coffee-house, where they continued their discussion over cappuccinos.

“Why are you here?”

“For you…” Gabriel peered upward at the vacant lifeless eyes of Xavier while sipping on his coffee.

“So this comes from the top, huh, Gabriel?” Xavier forced out a sarcastic laugh.

“To say the least,” agreed Gabriel. Gabriel nodded, a stray lock of his limp blonde hair flopped over his brow. He brushed it out of his eyes as his old friend continued.

“And they need me why?”

“Because you will provide the necessary balance. Remember, this situation, if it is allowed to get out of control, will affect both our peoples.”

“So…why should I care… why me?”

Gabriel averted his gaze, staring instead out through the coffee-house window. Outside, the sun was an angry orange ball hanging low in the west. Nearby, a woman, young and pretty, hurried between the tables and chairs set out on the pavement, her aura dark with worry and grave frustration. Gabriel frowned.

“Hello? Anyone home?”

He turned back and addressed Xavier, who was staring at him intently.

“I’m sorry, Xavier. I was distracted there for a second...They chose you because of me.”

“Because of you…very high on yourself aren’t you?”

He nodded. “That’s right. My only request was that it would be you I worked with. Nobody up there opposed it.”

Xavier leaned forward across the table, his fingers bridged. “Why?” he said. “For company? Certainly not for my good nature.”

“For your talents, Xavier. We worked well together, you know it and I know it. And so, it seems, do the Unity.”

“Well I don’t need their charity,” said Xavier getting up to leave. “Tell them to find you another partner.”

“Xavier, wait.” Gabriel stood up, grabbing the him by the shoulder.

“You want to take your hand off me, Gabriel?”

“I’ll let go, but you have to listen. It’s important.”

Xavier stared at him, long and hard. “Go on,” he said.

“The deal is non-negotiable, Xavier. You have heard what is at stake. We need to do the job, and we need to succeed.”

“Ah, the old “failure is not an option” cliché.”

“I’m afraid so.” Gabriel released his grip.

Xavier breathed heavily, shaking his head. “What is it we have to do?”

To be continued…