Monday, November 16, 2009

Because the Dragons Ate the Horses

"I'm bored."

This statement, coming from God, cannot bode well. In fact, Metatron has seen his fair share of bad ideas stem from God declaring She's bored, including the time She failed to separate the Chinese Goddess Hu-Tu (fertility) from the God I-Ti (wine) and the entire Roman wing ended up in a crazed orgy for a week.*

"You have a stack of intake forms to sign," Meta says, frowning at Her over the rims of thick black glasses that they both know he doesn't need. "Those poor people are sitting in limbo right now because You haven't signed off on their intake forms."

She sighs and waves Her hand. "What's a few more days stuck in limbo?"

"Have You ever been to limbo?" he asks and She shakes Her head, curls bouncing. "It's a pea green waiting room with magazines dating back to the Big Bang and coffee so thick it has to be cut with a knife. Sign the forms."

She frowns and picks up the stack of forms, begins to scrawl Her signature across the bottom of each one. She's made it through half the stack when the door to Her office bangs open and the Archangel Raphael appears. He's wearing athletic shorts and a t-shirt that says I'VE GOT WINGS, BITCHES and he's carrying a basketball under one arm. He's out of breath, so much so that it takes him a moment or two before he can explain why he's just burst into God's office, unannounced.

"Thanks for knocking, Raph," God drawls and Raphael bends over, gasping for air, holding a hand up in the air as a signal to give him a moment.

"That's six hundred flights of stairs," Metatron says quietly.

"He has wings, Meta."

"It's still six hundred flights of stairs, Ellie."

"Maybe we should install an elevator," She says, tapping Her finger against Her chin. Meta doesn't mention that he's told Her this a hundred times. She likes to think everything is Her idea. "Talk to Loki about it."**

Raphael straightens and he seems to be breathing a little more normally. He points over his shoulder, to the open office door. "I'm sorry I didn't knock," he says, "but it's an emergency."

"What's wrong?" God asks, suddenly alarmed.

"The dragons in the Eastern Religion complex got loose."

This doesn't strike Her as an emergency demanding a six hundred flight workout. "So?" She asks.

"So they ate the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse's horses." His shoulders slump slightly. "All of them, including the four back-ups. They even ate Conquest's horse." He rests his hands on his hips. "Of course he's super pissed because he's just an alternate."

God looks at Metatron and he gives Her a blank expression.

"Still bored?" he asks dryly.

* * *

Oddly enough, it's Death who seems to be the most broken up about losing his two horses. In fact, he appears to be crying very slightly. It's off-putting and more than a little disturbing.

"Not to downplay the loss or anything, but what the hell are we supposed to ride now?" Conquest asks and the other Horsemen look at him with narrowed eyes and a hint of malice.

"You're just an alternate," Famine says, dusting ash from her shoulders. "You don't get to ride anything."

"Hey, my horse got eaten, too," he says petulantly.

"Your horse was ugly," she says.

"Your face is ugly."

"Enough!" God roars. She's listened to their childish sniping for the last half hour while the seraphim and a few satyrs swept up the charred remnants of the heavenly horses. She's covered in residual ash and becoming less and less impressed with Her Horsemen, including Conquest, by the minute.

"Look, the Dragon Kings have apologized profusely for the mishap and they've agreed to get you all new horses, but it's going to take awhile."***

"And how long is awhile, Madame?" War asks, his accent prim and proper as always.

"They're heavenly horses, War. These things take time."

"Ballpark?" he asks.

She sighs. "Another century or so." The Horsemen all begin to complain at the same time and She silences them with a glare. "Hey, I know it's inconvenient, but it's not like there's an apocalypse coming up any time soon, so just relax and We'll fix it somehow."

She leaves them in the capable hands of Raphael and heads back towards the main building with Metatron in tow. He's frowning at Her again.

"What?" She asks. "What did I do now?"

"You forgot about that meeting You had with Mephisto, Lucifer, and Hades a few Pearly Gates weeks ago, didn't You?"

"What meeting?" She asks, completely drawing a blank.

Meta arches an eyebrow at Her. "The one where the four of You decided to have an apocalypse because the world wasn't paying enough attention."

"Oh..." She says, vividly remembering the two hour conference on all things sharp, pointy, and firey. "Shit."

* * *

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and Conquest are waiting impatiently for God to arrive and unveil Her surprise. She called an hour earlier and asked them to meet Her in the parking lot of the Pearly Gates Corporation. She didn't exactly say what She wanted, just that She had a suprise for the five of them.

"Did you hear?" Conquests asks. War, Famine and Death ignore him, but Pestilence takes the bait.

"Hear what?" he asks. A locust drops out of Pestilence's ear and Conquests watches with thinly veiled disgust as the insect lands on the ground and hops away. Sometimes, he's very glad that's he's just an alternate for this traveling circus.

"She forgot to tell us about an apocalypse. We've only got a month or so in Pearly Gates time before we need to be downstairs for Armageddon."

"First of all," Pestilence says, raising his hand to tick off a list of things on his spindly fingers, "there is no we. It's the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, not five." Conquest wonders what would happen if he punched a Horseman in the face. He immediately thinks better of it, though, when a cockroach crawls out of the Horseman's nose and pauses on his cheek. "Second of all, what's a month in Pearly Gates time equal to downstairs?"

"About five hundred years." Conquest points at Pestilence's face. "You've got something on your cheek."

The Horseman swats at his cheek and the cockroach scuttles away from his hand, coming to a full stop atop Pestilence's nose. "Did I get it?" he asks.

"Nope. Here, let me." Conquest hauls off and smacks Pestilence across the face, hard enough to send the cockroach flying through the air and onto Death's bald head, who idly flicks it onto the ground. "Got it," Conquest says and Pestilence glares at him.

"You did that on purpose," Pestilence whines.

"Maybe," Conquest says with a wide grin.

Conquest is about to suggest the Horseman go blow his nose with some sandpaper when a honking sound reaches the group's ears and they all turn in unison to see God and Michael roll up in a Volkswagon minibus. A green and white Volkswagon minibus. A green and white Volkswagon minibus that technically won't be invented for another four hundred sixty years.

"What is that?" Famine asks and from the driver's seat Michael grins at her.

"This, my dear, is a Volkswagon Mini Bus." He pats the driver's side door affectionately. "Seats eight comfortably, takes diesel so it's not horrible for the environment, and I'm pretty sure there's a stash of doobies in the side compartment in the trunk."

None of them know what a Volkswagon is or what diesel is, or, for that matter, what the hell a doobie is, but they do know that none of what Michael just said equates to a horse.

"Turns out we do have an apocalypse coming up," God says. "So, We had lunch with Porrima and Cassandra**** and asked them what all the hip kids in the future would be driving and they gave Us the idea for this." She's beaming like a proud parent. "Vulcan was kind enough to build it and Loki got it working."

All Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are staring at Her like She's just told them they need to be more touchy feely. Conquest, however, is silently laughing. In fact, he's laughing so hard there are tears streaming down his face.

"What are we supposed to do with it?" Death asks, his voice dripping with disdain.

She stares at them, confused. "You'll use it in the interim, just until your horses are ready." She turns to look at Michael. "Am I speaking in tongues or something?"

"They're just in shock, is all," Conquest says around a mouthful of giggles.

"The Four Volkswagon Minibus Occupants of the Apocalypse," Michael says with a grin he can't contain. "Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?"


* It would have made Hieranymous Bosch blush, and that's saying something.

** Loki is the Norse God of Mischief. God of Mischief making an elevator. Right. That one will end well.

*** Not only are the 4 Dragon Kings incredibly apologetic, but even the dragons themselves seem a little ashamed of themselves. There's a large gray one not too far away from God at the moment who is hanging its head and sighing. She knows this because every now and again the hem of Her dress catches on fire.

**** Porrima and Cassandra are the resident psychics at the Pearly Gates Corporation. They're far more accustomed to visions of death and destruction, so it was a welcomed change of pace when God asked them to dream up an alternative to horses. It helped, too, that She bribed each of them with a box of chocolates She'd stolen from Aphrodite's Love Closet...a place She never ever wants to go into ever again.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Michael, the Archangel. Maybe You've Heard of Me?

It's lunchtime in the Pearly Gates Corporation and Michael the Archangel is enjoying a turkey club and french fries with St. Nicholaus in the atrium of the main Headquarters. They've had to set up at one of the large tables because it's nearing That Time of Year again and Nick is knee deep in his list of names.

"How many kids this year?" Michael asks and Nick sighs around a bite of roast beef sandwich.

"Too many," he says, his German accent thick and tired. "The mortals, they can't stop having children."

Michael laughs at this and brushes crumbs from his beard. "Too many Christians downstairs," he says and Nick nods his head in agreement. "Not enough heathens if you ask me."

"Speaking of heathens," a voice says behind them and Michael cranes his head around to to smile at his Boss.

"Hi, Ellie," he says and motions to the chair next to him. "Nick and I were just talking about Christmas."

God sits down next to Her favorite archangel and steals a french fry from his plate.

"Is it really That Time of Year already?"

Nick's red pen makes a violent scratching noise and both God and Michael look at the saint with wary expressions. He looks up from his List, pen still poised over it, and smiles slightly.

"Gunther Parkinson was a particularly bad boy this year," he says and shrugs.

God waits until Nick has gone back to pouring over the names in front of him before She turns to Michael and quirks an eyebrow. It's an expression that says I should really give St. Nick a vacation. Michael returns the look with an expression of his own which says Don't worry, he's always been this crazy.

"Moving on," She says with a quick shake of Her head. She hands Michael a slip of paper. "A new charge for you," She says, stealing another fry. "I just put her in the prophet program."

Michael looks at the paper and reads the name. He looks up at God, his eyes wide.

"Isn't this Kate's daughter?" he asks and God nods. "Why are you giving her to me?"

"Because it's a conflict of interest to allow her own mother to be her guardian angel." She grins suddenly. "And because she's going to grow up to be a pain in the ass."

Michael frowns. "This is because of that thing in France, isn't it?" he asks and God's grin widens. "I told you I'm sorry."

"You blew up a convent."

"And killed a demon in the process."

"You still blew up a convent. Demon or no demon, those poor nuns had to move in with the neighboring Franciscans." She glares at him. "You know how I feel about Franciscans."

He laughs, pockets the slip of paper. "I'll get down there this week."

She stands and pats his shoulder. "You'll get down there today," She says and Her tone of voice bears no arguments.

"I'm on my way." He waits until she's disappeared down the hallway that leads to the Celtic wing before turning to Nick and getting the saint's attention.* "I need you to check a name for me," he says. "Be nice to know what I'm getting myself into."

* * *

Claire Elizabeth Rogers is a very cranky six year old at the moment. Her attitude has nothing to do with the weather outside, which is rainy and cold though it's December and should be snowy and freezing, but instead has everything to do with being grounded for having decided to make a snowman out of mud - in her school clothes. She's been relegated to her bedroom, without her coloring books and crayons, until she agrees to say she's sorry.

Claire feels as though she may be in her bedroom for a very long time.

She's halfway through a Nancy Drew mystery when there's a knock on her door and a man with curly golden hair wearing a dark blue robe appears in front of her, smiling. "Hi Claire."

She frowns at him over the top of her book. "Who are you?" she asks, eyes narrowed.

"I'm Michael, the Archangel." He flutters his wings for dramatic effect. "Maybe you've heard of me?"

Claire has not heard of the strange man with wings wearing a robe standing in her bedroom and so she does what her teacher told her to do when approached by a stranger. She screams.

"Holy crap!" Michael hollers and he runs from the bedroom, slamming the door behind him. A very pregnant Kate is waiting for him in the hallway and she's smiling. "You've really let yourself go, Kate" he says.

"Hello to you, too. And I'm pregnant, you idiot."

"Your daughter has a serious set of lungs," he tells her as she comes closer.

"She takes after her mother," she says, her smile wider than before. "How about we try this again and I'll introduce you this time." Michael nods, wings rustling under the robe. "When did you get to be such a scaredy cat?" she asks, reaching past him to open up Claire's bedroom door.

"Right about the same time your daughter started screaming like a possessed monkey."

* * *

It takes only a few words from her mother to calm Claire down and a few more encouraging words from Michael to get her to understand that he's her guardian angel. In fact, once Claire understands exactly what's going on, she thinks the whole thing is pretty great.

"Can you bring me a pony?" she asks over chocolate milk and sugar cookies later on that afternoon.**

"No, but I can make sure you never get thrown off of one." Michael's blue robe is covered in sugar cookie crumbs and the pattern reminds Claire of a starry sky.

"What good is that?" she asks, her mouth full of cookie.

Kate smiles at her daughter and steals a cookie from Michael's plate.

"I'd say that's a whole lot of good, little one," he says and pats Kate's stomach for good measure.


* God has lunch every Pearly Gates Wednesday with the Celtic goddesses Anann, Badb and Macha. They're the triplicate goddesses of war, though since they learned about Cosmopolitan, they've become more like the triplicate goddesses of fashion. Today's lunch has something to do with what's in season for the summer...

** Archangels, like small children, love chocolate milk and cookies. Michael's partial to sugar cookies - the side effect of spending too much time with St. Nick.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Wings and Feathers and Teenage Daughters, Oh My!

Claire Elizabeth Rogers, future prophet of God and current pain in her mother's ass, is having one of those typical teenager days where absolutely everything goes wrong and she feels the need to write a really serious poem about it and cry over a few soft rock songs. She's nose deep in her diary, pouring her heart out, when there's a knock on her door.

"Go away," Claire says with as much petulance as a fifteen year old can muster.*

"Claire," Katharine Rogers says as she opens her daughter's door, "this is ridiculous. You've been up here since you got home from school and your father and I just can't take one more Hall & Oates song." She stretches her neck a little. "We're Peter, Paul and Mary people, Claire."

"You ruined everything!" Claire says, slamming her pen down and closing the diary on it. She'd just been relating to the book the torment of having a mother who insisted upon driving her to school her bathrobe. "Sarah Cotter saw you and she told everyone that my mom is a freak, which means I'm a freak. I'll never live it down!"**

Katharine stares at her tearful daughter and comes to a very quick, very irrational decision. She steps further into the room and closes the door behind her. When she turns a serious expression on her daughter, Claire sobers immediately, only a small hiccup belaying her previous emotional state.

"What I am about to tell you does not leave this room, do I make myself clear?" Claire nods her head, her eyes wide. "Good. Now, you are not a freak. I don't care what Sarah Cotter tells you, she's a horrible little child who's been spoiled by her rich parents and who thinks it's perfect manners to treat the rest of the world like her plaything. You, Claire, are better than that for two very important reasons.

"First, because in three more years you're going to become a prophet of God and no one in your graduating class will ever have something so incredible on their resume, and that includes that Hannemaka kid who's already been accepted to Harvard Medical School."

Claire hadn't realized that her mother knew about the job with Heaven, Inc.

"You know about the prophet thing?" she asks and Katharine's expression softens slightly, the corners of her mouth turning up into a small smile.


"But how?"

"That's the second reason." Katharine stands, shakes her shoulders like she's trying to get kinks out of the muscles, and in an instant fills the empty space of Claire's room with wings and feathers and white light.

"Tah-dah!" Katharine says, spreading her arms and wings wide. "I'm an angel."

Were Claire a normal everyday teenager, her first reaction would have been to freak out, but given her past history of having tea parties with God and Metatron in the backyard, Claire is far more prepared for something like this than any mortal should be.

"Holy shit!" she says instead.

"Claire Elizabeth Rogers! Language!"

Claire gets off the bed and takes a few tentative steps towards her mother. The elder Rogers woman is still wearing her work clothes so the wings are highlighted by a very bright polyester pantsuit. Claire doesn't know whether to laugh or cry.

"You're an angel," Claire says and her mother nods, the wings shifting slightly and filling the room with a sound not unlike plastic moving against itself. "Do you work for God?" she asks.

"Of course I work for God," Katharine scoffs. Even at fifteen Claire has perfected the raised eyebrow. Katharine sighs. "Well I used to work for Her, but I beat Her at cribbage one night and She let me pack up and move down here. I met your father shortly thereafter and the rest is history."

"So when I was little, and I fell through the ice and I told you and dad later on that I was going to work for Heaven, Inc. when I was older, you believed me?"

Katharine smiles fully. "Of course. Who do you think recommended you for the job?"

Claire stares at her mother for a few silent moments, processing the events in her head. She's a future prophet of God who just so happens to also be the daughter of an angel and a mortal. Sarah Cotter is the daughter of a man who owns a poultry packaging plant. Claire decides she's definitely more awesome than her classmate.

"Does dad know?" she asks and Katharine shakes her head.

"No," she says, shaking her shoulders once again. Claire watches as the wings disappear under the jacket of the pantsuit, leaving no indication behind that they'd ever been there. Katharine sits down on the edge of the bed and Claire joins her. "I've always thought that it was the kind of thing that would freak him out."

Claire stares at her mother, her expression serious. "You have a ten foot wingspan, mom. What's to freak out about?"

As Claire's elusive smile breaks out, Katharine begins to laugh and the entire house fills with light.***

* * *

Downstairs, in the dining room, nine year-old Patrick Rogers pauses in setting the table for dinner and looks up at his father. The entire house is filled with light and the little boy is a little confused.

"What's going on, dad?" he asks his father and Harry Rogers, ever the knowledgeable man, simply smiles at his son.

"Your mom's laughing," he says.

Patrick shrugs and finishes setting the table. If he thinks it's odd that his mother's laughter means the house is full of light, he doesn't show it. Even at nine years-old he's learned that somethings are better left unexplained, especially when they deal with either his mother or his sister.

* Fifteen year olds invented petulant expressions. Seriously, a group of them in Norway sat down one day and made different faces at each other until they finally settled upon one which conveyed just enough emotion to say they were upset but not enough to say they actually cared about it.

** Too bad for Claire that her ability to see the future pertains only to Heavenly events. Otherwise, she would have been able to see that in ten years' time, Sarah Cotter will be working with the Chattanooga Traveling Circus as the Tattooed Lady in their Freakshow. Oh, the irony.

*** Not to mention most of a three block radius around the Rogers' house on Beacon Street. Angelic laughter could light an entire planet with one well-timed comedic routine. In fact, when he heard Abbot and Costello's "Who's on First" routine, the Archangel Michael lit up the planet Harpsichord for an entire month. Of course, with Harpsichord being full of invisible beings, no one really noticed a difference.