"What am I doing sleeping outside?" She thought silently to herself as she let her eyes focus on the high leafy canopy. She let sensation return to her body and noticed that it was really quite warm and cozy to be asleep here in a grassy glade, not what she would expect at all. She just couldn't remember how she got here.
That's when she sat strait up and looking around, began to feel the first wave of alarm jolting her nerves into sharp awareness. She had no idea where she was or how she had come to be here. In fact, she began to realise, she could remember very little about anything. She ran her hands up and down herself making sure she had no undiscovered wounds and brought the collar of her robe up to her nose. She inhaled the familiar cotton scent.
"This is MY robe." She thought. She saw an image of it hanging on a hook in a room she could almost remember. "My name is Miriam B..." She stopped short, not remembering her last name for a moment. This frightened her and she struggled to force the name into her memory. "Miriam B...."
She held up her right hand and looked hard at it. There should be wrinkles. Gentle folds of skin hanging on the skeletal old hands. Instead she was looking at the smooth, perfect skin of youth.
"Baxter!!" She said out loud. "Miriam Baxter...and I am eighty-nine years old...." She struggled to form the memories in her mind but all she received was a swirl of disjointed images. A wooden rocking chair, a blue and white knit blanket covering aching knees, an old grey cat lying lazily in the windowsill looking on with drowsy and uninterested eyes. She held out both hands and looked on them with amazement. She lifted them to her face and felt the warm, young smoothness. She felt very strange indeed, but amazingly she felt very invigorated.
She stood up and began to brush the stray leaves and grass from her hair and robe. Then she began to look around and survey her surroundings. Sure enough there was forest in every direction, and the speckle of grey sky that shown through gave her no indication of where she could be. All she could think was "I'm Miriam Baxter and I am young again!" and the very thought thrilled her. She revelled in this for a moment until a foggy image started to form in her broken memory. Saints and angels with wings. A grand lofty place with towering gates of gold. She looked into the patchwork of trees and a warm breeze lifted her hair slightly, sending little electric tingles all down her arms and legs.
"Am I dead?" she muttered to herself, seeing images of caskets and musty old parlors filled with the weeping sounds of sorrow. She looked down at her hands again and thought "This is what it must be...I'm dead...." Then she heard a very slight tinkle of laughter. A tiny giggle from behind her like that of a schoolgirl. She spun around instinctively and her eyes came to rest on the shining face of a young girl. Her complexion seemed almost luminous and the strange glow made Miriam's mouth open in astonishment. Then to her utter amazement white glowing wings fluttered behind the smiling face. This was the beautiful shining face of an angel!
"Oh Miriam, no, no..." The voice like musical notes as her wings folded behind her out of sight and she stepped out into the open, into Miriam's full view. "...not an angel in the sense you are thinking anyway." The slight giggle again. A playful mirth that made Miriam smile herself. The shining girl struck her as the picture of perfect beauty. There was a goodness almost sparkling from her very form. Her hair was like spun gold and her eyes glittered like jewels. There was no way she could be afraid of this perfect creature. In fact, the very sight of this small, winged girl made her feel a calmness and completeness that she could almost cling to and never let go. Then her logical mind told her that she hadn't actually called this being an angel out loud. The little shining girl had read her thoughts, as if she had said it loud and clear. Miriam steeled herself and asked her question again, this time she said it in her mind. "Am I dead?" letting her mind fill with the jumbled memories of black clad women weeping under black lace parasols among moss covered gravestones.
"Oh yes, quite irrefutably dead." Came a different voice behind her. A different voice in that there was a harshness in it, a tart pointedness that jabbed at Miriam's back and made her spin around again. There, black feathered wings barely stroking the air, floated another small, angelic female. Only this girl struck Miriam in a totally different way. Her features were very similar to the shining girl, similar enough they could almost be twins, but the differences were striking. Where the other girl had flowing golden hair that seemed almost to glow, this one's hair was pitch black and hung in strangled strands about her grinning, pale face. a grin that immediately struck fear into Miriam. There was a feeling of dread overcoming her as she stared wide eyed at this dark apparition. Not a disgusted kind of fear but a creeping fear, for this girl was also beautiful, but her beauty radiated as strength and fury. Her eyes were like piercing doll eyes and seemed to look strait into Miriam's soul. Uncontrollably her mind formed the words. "Dark Angel" and the girl slumped her shoulders and looked at her in disdain.
"I am no angel." she said in dark liquid tones. Her wings lifted and her frame tensed as if she were about to unleash some hell sprung fury. Miriam cringed, instinctively taking a step backwards.
"Razella!!!" The shining girl raised her voice behind Miriam. The Black haired girl slumped her shoulders again and let out a breath as if to say "Fine!" Miriam relaxed slightly but didn't take her eyes off the angry dark cherub. her nerves had reached their limit and she had had about enough. She spoke, and this time she spoke out loud.
"So what is this? Is this to be some judgment? Some weighing of my life? I'll tell you right now I can barely remember a thing." Images were forming in her mind. Hell, fire upon fire, people reaching for the sky, throngs of bodies, clamouring, screaming, stepping upon the fallen to escape the flames. A hulking shape lumbering in the darkness with horns. The dark cherub named Razella smirked under her breath.
"Oh Miriam, no, not that at all." Came the calming voice behind her. Miriam turned her head just a bit and realised she was trembling. The shining girl was coming toward her, arms outstretched. She folded Miriam into her arms.
"We've been waiting for you. There are no flames. No bodies." The warmth that overcame her was like being plunged in warm water. There was an instant calming effect and Miriam let herself be taken by the holding. There was a familiarity to the body holding her, a deep familiarity that calmed her senses and made the trembling slowly fade.
"My name is Raiel" The girl whispered in her ear. She could feel herself slipping and falling into the love radiating from this shining being. It was like a great gulf of contentment filling her insides, making her close her eyes in complete rapture. She felt a hand on her shoulder and saw that Razella had moved closer as well. Both girls encircled Miriam with their wings.
"You are a lovely fleshling" Razella whispered in her other ear. "Do not fear."
They stayed that way, in that position, for long moments. Miriam standing with her head slightly tilted, eyes closed. Enfolded between their wings as if held safe in a cocoon of feathers. The forest sounds caressed Miriam's ears and she lost all sense of time. She could stay here forever between these two. Her Raiel and Razella, so familiar to her somehow, and yet how could they be? She was Miriam Baxter and she couldn't remember. There was a fuzzy silhouette of a man in her mind, a flash. Was there a man? She couldn't remember, but her hands, so old and wrinkled, and she was dead wasn't she? She had died but it didn't matter, because this was beautiful. This is where she belonged. Between these two fairies, these two Fae, between light and dark. This was the perfect expression of who she was, who she really was. Never too good, never too bad, the perfect blending between night and day. It came at her like a freight train of memories. This was her life and they were showing it to her. Moments set in time like little fragments, tiny leaves flowing down the great river of life, fallen from the tree but on their way home. This was her essence and she could feel both of them there with her looking at it. Her life spread before her like a river and she was set apart from it, watching it, seeing it all at once. At every step the Fae were with her, she had walked the path between them and that is why they were so familiar, they had been with her all along. When her mother had dried her tears when Billy down the street had torn the head off her doll. When she had gotten that ragged apartment in the city her father hated. When she had married Tom. Oh Tom, yes he was the man, the memories of love and bodies entangled in the night. They hadn't had children but they were happy, yes they were. They had stayed together for years and years. Until Tom had died, and she had sat and sat. the stillness of the house. They had always been there with her, and they were showing her. Tears flooded her eyes and she tugged at them both closer. Then it was Razella who broke the silence. The silence that hadn't been silence at all.
"That's why you are chosen, Miriam." she said, never breaking the embrace. Raiel spoke next as if in answer, their voices so similar as to be one.
"Never too good, never too bad." she said.
"The perfect blend of reason and love" Razella added.
"Light and darkness" Raiel finished.
"chosen?" Miriam asked.
"An awesome task." Razella said
"A great responsibility" Raiel said her voice expressing her concern.
"I don't understand." Miriam said. She was still swimming in the warmth of their embrace.
"Let us show you." They both said in perfect unison, and in that instant their wings spread out and began to gently lift them. Lifting them both and Miriam as well. her breath caught in her throat and she looked worriedly from one to the next but they just smiled at her and continued lifting her.
"Does everyone get their own set of angels?" Miriam asked as they began to clear the tree tops. Razella laughed now, a clear laugh with no malice in it.
"No, Miriam, we are just for you." Raiel answered as they began to gain height." You were chosen among many because you see the world a certain way. Forget what you know about angels and let us show you the truth of things."
As they flew Miriam was overcome with the strangeness of her situation. Here she was flying through the sky like an eagle with two beautiful winged girls and she had no fear they would drop her, after all she was already dead. what was there to fear? She almost giggled. Then she let her eyes roll across the landscape. On the horizon she saw something she couldn't explain. There was a great mass like a cloud, moving and writhing. It spread upwards from below like an immense column of smoke, only it clearly wasn't smoke. it seemed a million bees were swarming from the ground toward the sky and gathering into the gulf that was above. here, instead of grey, the sky was alive with colors. Reds and purples swirled in great masses as the cloud of bees swarmed and disappeared in and out of its depths. She was about to ask what this all was, but she didn't have to.
"The tower of souls" Razella said loudly.
"Those humans who die and pass on to the next plane" Raiel said.
"Those are human souls?" Miriam asked, visibly astonished."Is that heaven?"
"It is the plane where energy exists without matter. They can not enter it" Razella said
"within lies the creator. The first. The one.....she who is without end." Raiel said looking solemnly at the cloud of souls
"She?" Miriam asked.
"yes.." Raiel said. "We will show you everything, but first you had to see this. This is where you will come when the time is right, once our task is complete."
Miriam thought about her beliefs. She had believed in God once. Then there were times when she didn't believe at all. She had always known that there was something, some power humans could tap into. Psychic abilities, magic, she had seen these things at work with her own eyes. At one time Miriam called herself a witch, but those were her younger days when she was pumped up full of life and Tom was alive. Oh my Tom, she thought, where is my Tom?
"He is among them." Razella said. They were all quiet for a moment as the words sunk in to Miriam's mind. He was there among all that chaos. She wanted to be with him. Her heart lifted within her chest, she could feel the pang of longing she had felt so many nights. She could hear herself begging them. Take me to him. I want to be there. Please, take me now!
"First we must complete our task." Razella said with finality. Miriam felt stung.
"What is this task?" she asked trying to not let her voice carry the anguish she was feeling. They would sense it anyway, these telepathic angels who didn't want to be called angels. She was saying "lets get on with it then if we must" and she knew they would hear her. As these thoughts crossed her mind their wings stopped their gentle flapping and the trio began to slowly sink toward the ground. The trees had disappeared and had been replaced by a barren rocky moonscape. As they descended the valleys began to fill with water right before her eyes. A puddle, then a lake and then as their feet met the earth a mighty sea with waves crashing against a lifeless shore. In the distance the clouds began to part and a huge visage of the moon itself began to climb the sky. Miriam realised she was seeing time flow by her at an exaggerated rate. This must be the time before humans. When the earth was new and forming itself. The moon of her life had never been so big.
"This is your world reforming itself yes. This is your past. A past long forgotten by humans." Raiel said. Then she pointed off in the distance toward the horizon of the vast sea. "Look there and see what was here before."
Miriam looked and saw objects sticking up out of the sea. She squinted her eyes and they focused into tall spires, buildings, long derelict and forgotten. being swallowed by the raging primordial sea. The realisation hit her what they were showing her. This was the primitive world, before humans, before animals or any life at all, and there on the horizon was the vestige of a human city, ancient and alien. Before she could start asking a million questions Razella spoke.
"Since the first one created this world, two cycles of the great wheel has gone by. The first one had created many different entities, us Fae among them. but when she created this world out of matter she created something entirely new." she paused and looked at Miriam, but Miriam remained quietly paying attention.
"The first one had created men." She continued, letting her gaze drift back to the dead city in the distance. "There had never been men until the time of this world."
"You mean males? There were no men in God's heaven?" Miriam asked incredulously.
"The first one," Razella said with emphasis as if to correct her. "was feminine. She created the entities who exist between the worlds of matter and energy in the feminine form. Here, for the very first time, on this world she created the split between male and female. Men were born and we loved them. They fascinated us. The union between the male and the female fascinated us"
"But as is the way with men.." Raiel continued. "there was war and bloodshed. after the first turn of the wheel the first one chose a female from the humans, one she had watched for a long time, to chose the fate of her race. To continue as things were or to have it perish and begin again. To perhaps give the human race a second chance or a new beginning."
Miriam looked at the dead city in the distance and already knew the answer.
"she decided to have it start over." she said
"Yes,.." Razella interjected. "the world was cleansed and began again right here on this beach. This is where the first fleshlings of your time crawled from the angry sea."
"....And when the world was cleansed this moon was created from the destruction left behind." Raiel said. Miriam followed her gaze to the large visage of the moon hanging nebulously in the dusty sky. There were ancient cultures that worshiped the moon, she had a vision of naked women dancing around a fire in the pale moonlight. Those witches who had worshiped a goddess of the moon. She pondered the irony of how close they were to the truth. Then she realised what the Fae were trying to show her.
"This is what you want me to do, isn't it? choose the fate of the world. me?" She asked. " oh that's just too much to ask!"
Miriam felt panic inside. There was no way a simple woman like her should be deciding the fate of the whole world. Wasn't this Goddess all powerful? All knowing? As these thoughts assailed her mind the sky had begun to darken. twinkling stars began to shine brightly against the black sheet of space. On the horizon the milky way began to rise and they all turned to see it. The great arm of the galaxy spread out slowly in front of them. Miriam looked and then turned to see Razella eyes upon her.
"The great wheel. This was all the first one knew until she created us and then the worlds and the civilizations that populate it." Razella said.
So this was it, The turn of the wheel was the galaxy rotating. The great milky way spinning in the dark. Suddenly other foggy galaxies began to come into view, like great pin-wheels pirouetting in the inky black. Miriam sensed this was the answer, the first one wasn't omnipotent. Her galaxy was one among millions. Millions of goddesses with a billion worlds. The thought took her breath away from her.
"The first one would not decide the fate of that which she has created, that which she loves so much. " Raiel said.
"You see, humans, by their very existence, give her the chance to live life in the flesh. In one way this is the reason she created this and other worlds." Razella said. She crossed her arms and looked over the sea again, her wings rustled slightly.
"the universe aware of itself..." Miriam muttered to herself. Razella reached out and took hold of her wrist.
"Come." she said and turned to walk up the beach guiding Miriam along with her. They walked toward a group of beach dunes and as they approached the sounds of metal clanging and the cries of men began to reach her ears. As they crested the sand dune they came upon a great battlefeild. Thousands of men clashed with each other while the dust swirled about them like clouds of smoke sprung from the very violence they were commiting to each other. The sight was amazing to miriam and she stood transfixed. Razella released her and sat down on the top of the dune, her great black wings spread up behind her. Raiel sat down also at her other side. Miriam remained standing.
"One battle of many." Razella said. Miriam stood quietly and looked down on the horde of male bodies, some clad in golden armor, as they feverishly fought to kill each other. This was war, plain and simple. She put her hand to her mouth in horror as the sand ran red with their blood. As they watched the scene began to shift and change. It seemed the men remained the same but everything around them was changing. Their armor changed from the gleaming romanish gold to the speakled green of modern military fatiges. Catapolts became huge angry tanks that wheeled about and began to fire. The sound was deafening. Miriam's hands went to her ears and she collapsed between them, sitting down hard on the sand.
"rememeber the beauty that can be created as well." Raiel said. As she did, the whole scene changed and was replaced by a beautiful gleaming city with tall arabic spires. There were painters and musicians in the streets and the whole of the scene was peacful and serene. People milled about talking with one another and a group of children caught Miriam's eye, running and laughing as children everywhere should be able to. Then she saw streams of smoke approaching in the sky, like long tendril fingers reaching out for the city. The children stopped to gaze at them.
"Beauty that is usually destroyed." Razella said flatly. As the trails approached, Miriam could see they were missiles, bearing down on the city below. She leapt to her feet and was about to shout when a blinding light shut out all her vision. The city was destroyed. The blast wave passed over the three watchers who sat upon the lonely hill without effecting them. Miriam sat back down and began to weep.
"Man and his folly." Razella said. "you must decide yourself if you are ready as a people to cross on to the next phase of existence."
"oh i can not!!" Miriam began to ramble. "There is no way!"
In her mind she could see the whole of the world writhing in it's violence and pain. She could see the art galleries full of paintings and the urban nightmares that existed right outside thier doors. So much beauty and so much pain, filling her mind. She put her hands to her head to hold back the cacophony of chaos that was assaulting her senses.
"I can not make this decision." she said. Her voiced wracked with defeat.
"you already have." Raiel said.
Miriam looked at her somewhat taken aback. She was about to disagree but her vision began to falter. It seemed the world was falling away from her down a dark tunnel. She reached out her hands and tried to scream but no sound escaped her lips. She closed her eyes and let her body go limp as she spun into the blackness of oblivion.
Miriam awoke with a start. She had been dreaming. She tried in vain to recall what the dream was about but was only rewarded with the vision of two fairies buzzing about her in some green forest far away. She chuckled to herself and lay back on the sofa letting her body streatch. The house was quiet around her and she focused on the stillness. It was a good life, she thought as she rested her head and looked up at the little designs on the ceiling.
Then she heard a sound from the front door, the sound of keys and rattle as someone let themselves in. Tom must be home from work, perfect. She rose and went to meet him.
"Hello...." he called out. " Miriam, come here you have to see this."
"Hi, here i come." She called back to him as she rounded the corner of the hallway.
She could see he had stepped back out the door and was looking up in the sky. It was almost evening and the pretty colors of approaching twilight framed him as she stepped outside and went to stand at his side. He wraped his arm around her shoulder and pulled her to him. She smiled and enjoyed the warm closeness of his body.
"Isn't it beautiful?" He asked, still looking up.
"oh yes..." said Miriam as she looked up.
There, hanging in the golden twilight sky midway up the horizon, the earth's two moons rose slowly, casting an eerily pale glow on the landscape. Miriam sighed and snuggled against Tom. It really was beautiful, just like Tom said.