Sunday 3 October 2010

This Bright Lie

They never come at night.

Why do you think that is?

The last words Billy ever said to me. Ever said to anyone, as far as I know. They haunt me.

Billy was obsessed with the angels. But not like everyone else. We would all have worshipped them; if they would have allowed it. But not Billy. Billy watched them. He wrote about them. He never had a thought that wasn’t about the angels. And he was always thinking.

Now Billy is gone. Disappeared. Along with his notes. More notebooks than a man could carry by himself.

The first thing he ever said to me. I was stopped watching one fly overhead. I was squinting at the brightness. The sun shining strong from its whiteness.

Why do you think they wear armour? Was what he said.

I’d never heard anyone call it armour before. That was just how the angels were. In suits of rigid white. Overlapping plates. Gauntlets. Greaves. I never looked at them the same after that.

I think that’s why Billy used to talk to me. Everyone else shooed him on. He could see I was really listening, though. Even if I still couldn’t help but see them as a blessing. They were Watchpoint’s good omens.

Billy never said a bad thing about them. He just questioned the way they were. The way we saw them.

Why are their halos so bitterly black? Even in the bright, bright sun. Why do you think that is?

Billy wanted to understand the halos. Twisting chips of crystalline black that orbited their heads in a ring. Each one with a word on it, he said, a rune. He thought it might be their names.

Watchpoint lore says the angels are our protectors.

From what? He would say.

We have had peace for lifetimes. Everyone knows the angels keep us safe. We know that without them we would have enemies. Terrible enemies we have no names for. The angels protect us even from that.

I decide to visit Billy’s apartment. Again. It is due to be refurnished tomorrow, reassigned. It is no one’s at the moment. So no one may enter it. I have never broken the law before. I have never heard of anyone breaking the law in Watchpoint.

I hear something as I approach. A heavy, feathery noise in confined space. Of something too big in too small a room. Some primordial dread wells up from the back of my mind. But it is night time. The angels never come at night.

Why do you think that is?

The noise has stopped. I do not know what Watchpoint sounds like at night. I am about to break the law. Of course I feel dread. I may be hearing things.

I open the door and step inside. My torch sweeps over the space, familiar yet hollow. Empty of the piles of notes and notebooks. Even the walls have been scoured.

There is something unfamiliar too.

The beam of my torch illuminates a feathered wing. In the corner two eyes shine. Red pupilled. They have just opened, hidden from sight as I entered.

I shine the torch on its face. Unable to move more than that. Out of the sun it has no halo.

It speaks.

“Only the sun can reveal their names. Only in the sun can they bind us.”

Its voice is horrible. Its voice is blasphemy and war and rape.

“Billy was clever. Billy left some of his thoughts behind. We found the books, but we almost missed you.”

Its voice is carnage and nightmares and torture.

Why do they never speak?

Why do you think that is?

(author's commentary)

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