I am a hideous pulsating mass of billions upon billions of eyes, one for every person who ever was, and ever shall be. For every soul I claim, another eye closes shut, lost to me forever. I am not what most people imagine an angel to look like. But then again, I’m not a normal angel.
The other angels are selfish. Stupid. They’re too busy occupying themselves with the workings of the heavens to notice what happens down below. But I do. I have to. It’s my job to go wherever there is death, to collect the fallen. I must gaze upon humanity. Ugly, filthy, violent, raw humanity. I’ve seen infants suffocated by their own mothers. I’ve seen the crippled and the diseased tossed into the wild and left at the mercy of the elements. I’ve seen men executed for crimes they didn’t commit, a crowd of the masses cheering their demise being the last sound to fall upon their ears. All that is evil in creation, I’ve been forced to watch.
I’ve seen kings and tyrants humbled, learning in their final moments that they’re as weak and pathetic as the commoners they ruled. I saw Saul impaled upon his own sword. I witnessed mighty Caesar bleeding in the streets like an unloved dog. I heard Harold’s screams of agony as the arrow pierced his eye. I have walked through the ruins of Hiroshima, and stood at the foot of Chernobyl. Wherever there is death, I must also be as well.
When I let someone see me, there’s always a reaction. Most of them, the older ones, aren’t fazed. They’re not happy, but they accept it. Some of them are overcome with joy at the sight of me, begging for me to release them. I never dare show it, but I can’t help but feel pity for them. But then there are the others. The young, the sick, those in the wrong place at the wrong time. They gaze upon my presence, they look upon the grotesque visage of an angel, and they plead to me “No! I’m not ready!” I wish I could tell them that I’m not either.
I should stand up, I tell myself. Why do I follow my orders? What sense is there to take those against their wishes? If I were in charge, the only deaths would be planned. Take them when they’re ready, and never a day sooner. But I’m not in charge. I tried to be once.
It was a misty summer afternoon. I had my assignment. I was to go to a cliff over the ocean. There’d be a woman standing over the scenery. The wind would grow too strong, she would lose her footing, and I would take her.
I stood at that cliff, anticipating the event. After a while, she appeared. I don’t know what made me feel the way I did. I’d taken hundreds of millions of maidens just like her before without trouble. But I saw her looking over the cliff, her arms stretched out, her hair blowing in the wind, and something overtook me. After all the millennia of seeing nothing but death after death, murder after accident after illness, I could sense serenity. It seemed almost like I was asked to take this girl away because the other angels had envied her. I didn’t know her name. I didn’t know her life. But I knew this wasn’t her time.
The wind blew strong that afternoon. Strong, but not overpowering. The woman looked over the cliff for a while, admiring the majesty of her world, then walked back home without incident. My monstrous appearance had as many eyes as it had before. I went to where else I was needed. If I could defy God once, if I could spare just one soul that wasn’t yet ready, perhaps I could carry on with just a little less pain in my heart than before.
Years passed after that fateful day. I continued taking souls as always. I wished I could spare others, but I knew I had taken too great a risk already. It’s no easy task hiding a secret from the Almighty. I began to dread every new day, knowing full well I couldn’t carry on with impunity forever. He’d know. He probably knew the whole time. One day, I would meet that woman again.
One day, I was at a hospital. I hate the hospitals. They’re proof that the men down below see all the ugly deaths that shouldn’t happen as simple, bland, acceptable routine. Not even in Hell are the dead treated quite like they are in hospitals. How do they feel no qualm for the premature births, struggling to keep their malformed bodies alive? How can they witness a life end and keep their faces so firm? How can they deny themselves the ability to feel? I can only take comfort knowing they will one day be taken too.
I went to the room of my assignment. As I entered, each one of my billions of eyes widened in shock. There she was, lying on the bed, fighting to breathe. There were people around her. An older man and woman, hugging onto each other in fear. A younger man was holding onto her hand, whispering false assurances with an uneasy smile. It was time for me to kill her, and to hurt all of them.
“You’ll do it this time,” said a voice. The eyes on my back caught sight of him. He was so beautiful. His long hair, his flawless face, his radiant wings. He saw himself better than me. Perhaps it was true. Who but an immortal could mock death?
“You know what happened the last time an angel questioned his orders,” he said smugly. “Be grateful you’re being offered a chance to correct yourself.”
“It isn’t right,” I told the angel. “She hasn’t done anything. It’s not her time yet. I’ve taken too many beautiful things from this Earth already. Why does it have to be now?”
“Because that’s when he declared it to be!” he insisted. “She’s gone on longer than she was meant to already. Take her.” I looked at the girl on the bed, staring as long as I could. The angel drew his sword.
“Take her, or I’ll stab every last one of your eyes until I’ve hit hers.” I silently pray for forgiveness, though I’m not sure to who. It isn’t his forgiveness I want, I know that much. I let myself be seen. I let the girl’s last sight on this earth be the disgusting image of a monster. I whisper “I’m sorry” to her, hoping she’s able to hear it. I close one of my eyes.
One day, I will go blind. One day, there will be no more moments like this. No more slaughter, no more youths taken too soon, no more families left in tears. When that day comes, when there is no more death for me to see, all my eyes will shut, and I’ll never again look upon all that this world has to offer.
I cannot wait for that day.