II. ’tis A Pity She Was a Whore
The sky changed its colour slightly, adopting a milkier shade of grey. Still, any source of light and heat remained to be seen and the air was bitingly cold. The angel, however, found himself rather refreshingly chilled than unpleasantly freezing, eager to explore the new world, however inhospitable it seemed.
The Blackstar resembled a hole in the sky now more than ever and no warmth could be expected from there. The angel paid no attention to the dormant portal, moving unhurriedly in the opposite direction. He was able to pierce through the air as fast as any proper jet aircraft, if there was such a need, but choose to hover above the road to examine it closely. The angel was unaware of any possible pursuit, but even if he knew about it he would hardly changed his mind. He was taking his time.
The cities were few and far between in this world and people rarely bothered themselves with travelling. Nevertheless, the road wasn’t entirely deserted. All kinds of people could be seen there, and the angel took great pleasure in examining faces, postures and attitudes of those who passed by. The travelling lot was a curious, often downright preposterous medley of garments and hairstyles from different eras, both ancient and modern. The angel wasted a significant amount of time observing an improvised racing competition, organized on the spot by two previously unacquainted men. One of them, sporting but a single drooping lock of hair on an otherwise completely bald head and wearing a complete ‘white tie’ suit, was riding a bicycle. The other — a plump and hot tempered man, dressed in an exomis – a sort of tunic, worn by hoplites in ancient Greeks times, sat atop a horse, flogging it constantly and yelling shrilly at his adversary. The strange pursuit ended as unexpectedly as it began. The plump man fell of his horse into the nearest bushes, while the bald one, seeing this, snorted with disappointed, abandoned his vehicle and started to walk back where he came from. Soon after that the angel encountered yet another inappropriately dressed lunatic, who choose to wear a XVII century doublet and an astronaut helmet without a front glass. This one, it seemed, considered himself a prophet of some kind, as he was frantically shouting «Repent, ye, sinners! Jesus is a-coming and he wants more!» The angel choose to make himself invisible, having no inclination to be taken for a portent, sent by Heaven in support of the madman’s rambling.
After a long period of observation the angel started to see the pattern. Unfortunately, he couldn’t say that it suited his purpose. Everyone was travelling alone, immersed in his thoughts, paying no attention to the outside world. At best, some people were accompanied by a servant or two, never by somebody equal in rank and status. Interaction of any sort rarely occurred between travellers, and when it did, it was erratic and never lasted long. It seemed like every traveller had an important mission to accomplish, and wasn’t inclined to share the details with anybody else. This wasn’t the angel’s idea of a suitable companion. He had to get very close to the next city, which was called Iman, to find what he was looking for.
Four patrol-men were accompanying a young girl who seemed to be about twenty years old. The girl was dressed in a short white gown, which she somehow managed to keep pristinely clean and elegant braided sandals, which she somehow managed to keep untouched by the road dust. Her long black hair was tied in a ponytail, which she somehow managed to keep from becoming dishevelled. Her eyes, adorned by high eyebrows, observed the world with a mixture of mockery and inquisitive curiosity.
To the patrol-men credit, they weren’t dragging her. Instead, the two of them gingerly yet firmly held her by elbows, while the other two simply flanked their partners.
The angel descended right in front of them, folded his wings and made himself visible.
‘Morning, gentlemen! Why would four servants of the law escort a single girl in such a fashion? What kind of crime could she possibly commit?’
‘We are taking this woman to the city prison for breach of peace, disorderly conduct, corruption of public morals and outraging the sense of public decency!’ – Self-importantly proclaimed the fattest of the four patrol-men, apparently untouched by sudden appearance of a man before him.
‘Bullshit!’ – Muttered the girl not really under her breath – ‘Dissatisfied customers, that’s all!’
‘’Very well.’ – The angel narrowed his eyes – ‘Now, as I’m standing in your way, you have two options. Option number one: I beat the crap out of you and take the girl with me. Option number two…’
At this point the angel spread his wings once again.
‘Each one of you gets a possibility to fulfil his deepest desire’ – The angel took four feathers from his wing and placed them neatly on his palm. – ‘One feather – one wish. Sadly, no more than that. For every man there is only one feather, one most innate wish to grant. You get your wishes. I take the girl with me. So, what are you going to choose, gentlemen?’
The fat patrol-man snatched a feather from the angel’s palm and muttered something excitedly. The feather disappeared without a sound. The huge pack of beer cans, which emerged out of thin air, was deftly snapped up by a plump and hairy hand. After that, the fat patrol-man ran away, clutching his treasure tightly to his chest.
The remaining trio stood still, scratching their heads and exchanging glances, unable to decide what to do. Eventually, the oldest of them, a balding men in his late thirties, whose badge shone bright and whose uniform seemed to be most meticulously ironed and washed, stepped forward and smiled tentatively, revealing a set of teeth, wrecked by various types of malocclusion.
“Well, I guess, we all shall take our… chances” – and as he took a feather, others followed his example. However, only one of the remaining three patrol-men – a long-haired man with a wide nose and bushy eyebrows, used his feather instantly. He whispered his wish, covering his mouth with his hand, and strode off resolutely, heading towards the city. Others remained indecisive.
“Can I make my wish later?” – Asked the balding patrol-man – “I have to… ehm… muse over it for a while.” – Saying that he glanced at the girl and suddenly blushed quite profoundly.
“You’re welcome to use it whenever you feel like it” – encouraged the angel.
“I’ll also use my wish later” – decided the last patrol-man, stroking his goatee excitedly. He opened a pocket on his chest and produced a voluminous leather wallet, which was clearly the most treasured and looked after item in his possession. He placed the feather into the smallest compartment of the wallet and put it back in the pocket. After that, both patrol-men were gone, without saying goodbye.
The girl observed the angel attentively from head to toe, and then lifted her head again, looking directly in his eyes.
“What would you do if they’d refused? You’d produced a flaming sword to punish them?” – asked the girl with genuine curiosity.
“No, I’m not of Archangel Michael lot, so I’m not allowed to carry the sword. I guess my fists would have done the job.” – The angel looked at his large hands a little confusedly.
“Okay. I’m Sue” – the girl extended her delicate hand. – “What’s your name? And why bother saving me from prison?”
“I’m Azrael. Not the one who transports the souls of the dead” – added the angel quickly, seeing that the girl paled a little at the sound of his name – “There is a limited choice of names for an angel. As for helping you… I’m new to this world. I guess, I need someone to show me around. You’re a whore, right?”
The girl nodded unabashedly:
“The best in town!”
“Who could know the city better?” – Continued Azrael – “Except… I can’t promise that it’ll be a profitable venture. Maybe you’d be better off sticking to your usual occupation.”
“Not at all!” – Sue smiled triumphantly – “Thanks to you, I’ve already made trice as much as I make by whoring in a week. I stole their purses. The bearded one watched his wallet too closely, but the others were too busy trying to figure out what’s happening. I’ll be happy to be your guide. What are we going to do next?”
“You tell me” – replied the angel – “You’re the guide here. Where would you like to go?”
“Why, to the motel, of course. I am, after all, a whore.”
“What does this mean? Are you saying that you don’t want anything?”
“Exactly! My name is Sue and I don’t want anything from you! I have no profound, innate desires and I live solely for my own momentary pleasure. Speaking of which…” – Sue regarded Azrael with a professional interest, stretching her lean body seductively on a bed – “Are you even able to do it?”
“If you’re talking about sexual intercourse, then yes, I’m perfectly capable to perform it and all the necessary equipment is at my disposal” – replied the angel confidently – “I am a fallen angel, remember? Of course I’m not exiled, and will be free to come back to Heaven as soon as my task is accomplished. Nevertheless, in the meantime all kinds of human pleasures are available to me. But that’s not what I came here for – Azrael lifted his chin proudly, letting Sue know that the topic is closed.
“Very well. I have a feeling that you might change your mind eventually” – Sue smiled confidently – “Any other suggestions?”
“Let’s see how the wishes of those three will work out” – proposed the angel. – “Let them be our test subjects. You see, I can feel every man who took my feather. If you’ll take my hand, you’ll feel them too. Even the moron with the beer.”
“That’s going to be fun!” – Sue eagerly got up from the bed, positioned herself on Azrael’s knees and laid her hand on the back of his. – “Screw the moron with the beer! Let’s follow the long-haired guy. He knew what to do with his feather!”
“Of course he knew” – said the angel quietly – “He just lost someone very dear to him.”