This story was inspired by the prompt for Magpie Tales this week but is really about the oil spill in the Gulf.
I feel so sad about it I almost feel like I’m turned to stone.
I’d like to dedicate this story to my dear friend, Heather, whom I know is deeply saddened by the oil spill. As we all are.
Love you, Not Hannah.
Dealing with human folly was like constantly setting out from the same shore. You took the boat out every day, watching the oars cut through shadows cast by trees, smelling the wind full of salt and sometimes stillness, sometimes fury. Every day, every blessed day the journey was the same. It was never complete because it could never be complete not until the entire human race listened and heard at exactly the same time.
Agnes’ wings were damp at the edges. The wind was spitting brine. She could see eddies of malcontent beneath the water. For the thousandth time she wondered at her decision to come to earth; she hadn’t fallen, she had descended, but she was earthbound nonetheless.
She had thought she could help. All the angels who had descended had. She couldn’t interfere directly in the path of human existence but she could suggest. Strongly.
At times it was a challenge. Even she, a divine being formed from starlight itself gave way to feelings of despair.
Agnes was worried. The angels who followed the Ancient One – a being more god than spirit – the one the humans called Mother Earth – were in revolt. There had been three killings. Immolation. Men not with blood on their hands, but oil. It was more than a sin for an angel to kill a human. It was a door closing for eternity. Agnes could not bear to think of those beings of the the light crawling through the dark forever. There would be no death. No forgiveness.
She had another thing on her mind. Just as bad. Maybe worse. For some immortality was a curse. On earth. The repetitive nature of human history became harder to watch with every passing century.
There was a way out. They all knew it. It wasn’t death, it was stasis. Born of sorrow, of the shapelessness of loss.
The angels who could no longer cope with life on earth turned themselves to stone.
Agnes saw them every day on church walls, in gardens, on the roof of the Supreme Court. She had known them all.
Those that remained were afraid. It was hard to see a creature born of hope give up. It was hard to say the word that must never be said.
The streets were made of glass, waiting to shatter beneath her feet. They were more luminous than a lake frozen solid, glistening with all the sighs of all the faces in the world.
She found Muriel in the park by the water, kneeling at the feet of a stone angel. It was Temperance, the angel of the elixir of life. She was newly turned, her hands were still warm.
Agnes saw a flicker in the shrubbery, heard a cruel laugh. It was one of the fallen, enjoying bearing witness.
Get up, she said to Muriel. Get up.
Across the water it appeared as if the city was dissolving into the sea; neon, concrete and steel staining the shore cinnamon and cobalt.
If Agnes wanted it the world, the entire world would crumble right here, right now. And be no more.
Agnes had been swimming with the whales at midnight.
She had seen Euclid paint circles in the sand.
She had seen a poet named Keats write of beauty and love as he coughed blood into his hands.
Agnes had seen the Four Horsemen ride out more often than she cared to remember. She had seen people dying, animals dying, lands dying. For nothing at all.
But she had heard music and laughter and birds singing in the dawn light.
And she had heard the waves caressing the shore.
Agnes wanted to tell the angels turned to stone that love was enough to conquer devastation and fear, but she could not. Sometimes nothing was enough to keep out the dark.
Even knowing that Agnes wouldn’t give up.
Don’t give up, she whispered across the water.
The water prevailed. There through it all, always, like armor, a talisman, a nest, the question, the answer, how it began, but not how it ended. Not yet.
Agnes stood at the water’s edge, calling to her sisters, her brothers, the lost, the found, the people of the world one and all. Hands were linked across the world. Together they stood at the water.
No matter how bad, they would be there.
No matter how sad.
Forgive us, Agnes whispered. We know not what we do.
Her whisper fell down like stones, like words, like tears into the water. She closed her eyes and held on to hope.
This is how you learn to pray, she said.
Her whisper rose, the breath of the smallest child, weaving like ashes in wind.
She held out her hand and the whisper came back to her, forever changed by the water, but in the end, still hers.
In the world to change the world.
Warm like skin.