The Angel

By Ben B. Bainton

High up on top of the hill they stood, under the shadow of an ancient stone that loomed over them like a giant, jagged tooth and yet didn't frighten them but gave them a feeling of peace and tranquillity, as if they had passed away from reality to the very birth of the world, before the creation of time - and of sorrow. They stood there, reaching for each other, embracing each other, kissing each other - loving each other. He caressed her hair, so soft and golden, and for a moment thought he saw the silvery light of a distant star reflected there, mingling with the golden strands like moonrays sparkling on a golden waterfall. She looked up into his eyes, gray but with a hint of blue that made her think of the sky between shreds of gray clouds after a refreshing rain. Behind him she saw the full moon, rising from the forest beyond and for a moment pausing directly behind his head, creating a halo of pure white light that made his long brown hair sparkle. She thought she had found an angel walking among the dark and violent people that were the world, and in some sense she may have been right. Hand in hand they walked home toward the place they called home, hoping to crawl in between the sheets and curl up in each other's naked warmth.

A year later, as the golden haze of autumn turned into the shadows of winter, the time when he needed her the most, she passed away. The sickness came without warning, creeping on stealthily until it was too late. She withered away like a frail flower in the autumn or a child's snowman in the spring. The last thing she knew before she closed her eyes for the last time was her lover standing by her side, holding her hand, staring into her eyes. Tears flowed unheeded and fell on the white sheets. She died smiling, but his heart died with her.

After the funeral he walked home alone, hands in his pockets and head bent low. Every now and then a tear would roll down his cheek and fall to the ground, melting the snow but eventually becoming one with it forever. Once home he absentmindedly threw his jacket on the floor and kicked off his shoes, walked into the bedroom, past the empty double bed and on to the old desk. He swept away the collection of miscellaneous junk that littered the desktop, sat down, took out an empty sheet of paper and an old chewed pencil, and wrote. He wrote on late into the night, wrote the words that the darkness in his mind was whispering to him, until his hand was too numb to grip the pencil. Then he slept, and dreamed of blackness.

He kept on writing, every day and through several nights as well, only stopping to eat and rest when he remembered, until another year later, thin and worn out, he laid the pencil down and strapped the stack of sheets together with a piece of string. On top he wrote the name and address of a publisher he'd read of in a local newspaper, but didn't bother to mention his own name or address. When he was done he walked into the bathroom and, after using the toilet, paused for a while, staring into the mirror, seeing the thin and pale reflection of his body, nature's reward for his long labour. For a moment he thought he saw a flicker of a smile staring back at him, then shook his head in disbelief. Without any conscious thought he reached into the medicine cabinet, picked up a jar of Valium and stored it in his pocket.

Finding his shoes and picking up his jacket, he walked out into the street. It was already dark, pale stars shone in gaps among the dark shreds of clouds. Dropping the stack of papers in a mailbox, he started walking towards the woods, eventually reaching the small path that lead up to the ancient hill. He walked on, remembering every stone and tree as if they had only yesterday walked down this way together, almost feeling her by his side, walking with her hand in his. On the top he found a group of people he recognised as his closest friends, sitting in a circle under the old dark stone, which loomed above them as if it was a part of the circle, a grim chairman on a high pedestal watching over them. They turned to face him, faces expressionless, silent. Just - waiting.

He stepped into the circle without breaking the silence. One by one he swallowed the pills until his throat was too sore even to whisper. Then he stood still, waiting for the darkness that would relieve him from the pain inside. The moon formed a pale halo around his head and the men and women gathered around him thought of a sad angel, leaving this bitter world forever. Looking up he saw her beside him, looking up into his eyes and taking his hand. As his mortal body dropped to the ground they walked down the path together.

The book's publisher became one of the richest men on earth.