Authors: Sarah Mussi
For my two Seraphim, Sakky and Minty,
and my own little angel, Alyssa Serenity Tanya Mussi
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n.
Paradise Lost ~ John Milton
Return to the ground, since from it you were taken;
for Dust you are and to Dust you will return.
You picked your time perfectly. It was a glorious summer's day. The sky was blue and it was forever afternoon. I was almost happy. A new trust had been placed in me. I was to keep watch from the Twelfth Gate for St Peter. It is not easy to keep watch from the Twelfth Gate. It is not easy for the Seraphim to be allowed so far from the throne of God. It is not easy for the Twelfth Gate opens on to the road to Hell.
Yes, you picked your time perfectly. I was alone. And for some reason you were singled out in the last ray of the setting sun. I was laughing at the way you sagged your jeans and walked yourself down the street, as if the whole town belonged to you, every brick, every kerb. I was enjoying the way you ducked your head as you spoke. I was quivering at the deepness of your voice. I was glorying in the breadth of your shoulders and marvelling at how bold a man can be.
I think I was already half in love with you even then.
And you made your move. One minute I was so sure of myself, then you lifted up your head, as if you could see me, and you winked.
One look into your dark eyes was all it took.
I leaned out of the Twelfth Gate. There was music booming out of someone's car. I wanted to touch you. The car slowed down. A pretty girl wound down a window. Her boyfriend, a proper gangsta, shouted to you from the driver's seat.
You said, âOi bruv, tonight's the night. Man's eighteen at midnight!' You held up a bottle of champagne.
The gangsta said, âCatch you there.'
He revved his car. He surged forward. You jumped into the street in front of him, waving your arms, being silly. I reached out my hand. Then stopped. I know the Rules. God's rules. I'm not allowed to interfere with your fate. The car swerved. You opened your mouth in mock surprise, like you were scared of nothing.
But the car was going to hit you!
I couldn't help myself. You were joking around. Playing with your life. But for your sake I broke all the rules in Heaven.
I touched you.
And you were safe.
Your friend, the gangsta, slammed on his brakes. The car screeched to a standstill. The pretty girl screamed, âIdiot!'
âI'm Marcus,' you said. âThe original badman! I have angels watching over me!'
And you laughed and laughed and everyone knew you didn't care if you went to Hell and back.
Except there is no way back.
So I just looked wonderingly on. Wondering why I'd risked everything for you. Wondering what would happen next. Wondering at you.
And you were something to wonder at, with your coal-black eyes and your clothes and your gold and your girls. And an unexpected sadness caught my throat, because from the dust shimmering around you, I suddenly knew exactly why St Peter had asked me to watch from the Twelfth Gate. Why I was watching over you.
You were the one.
The one whose soul I had to Collect. And you were young, and you were beautiful, and you were flowing with energy. And my body trembled. I didn't want to watch from the Twelfth Gate any more. I didn't want to see you die.
You were only seventeen. It was your birthday. And I remembered then â another rule. Not a day more. Not a day less. It must be today. I had already trespassed once for your sake. I dared not again.
So there you were and here I was, stepping out of the Twelfth Gate to Collect you. And with a breaking heart I also understood something else. I was never going to save your soul. You were never going to pass the Twelfth Gate. You were doomed to step down the wide and pleasant broad-way, that so many take.
You were not bound for Heaven.
For your sake, I hoped death would be quick. You'd fall. I'd catch you. You'd see me. You'd understand. If there was time, I'd tell you to repent. If there was time, you would. Did I hope death would be quick? No, time should stand still. I should hold you for a thousand years, while you repented everything.
I did not think time would stand still for you. That is, after all, why they'd sent me, Serafina, the fieriest of the Seraphim, to embrace you. A brief caress of flame, for those bound for the fires of Hell.
What a waste.
The bell tolled.
The time had come.
I passed the threshold of the Twelfth Gate. I leapt across the broad and pleasant highway. I stepped down into the city.
Let me remember.
I have time without end. I will go on forever. I will retell your story until the rocks melt.
I will fill eternity with thoughts of you.
I will make you immortal.
The Song of the Seraphim
My God, but aren't cities fantastic? Chip shops and noisy traffic. I was nervous, of course. Anyone would be. We'd heard such tales: streets paved with bad intentions, how even a saint could lose his way in the Eden of those concrete gardens. Terrifying. So of course, I kept my eyes firmly glued to the pavement. I was not going to be tempted. I would be worthy. I would do everything right. I thought of St Peter and the trust he'd placed in me. I would not fail him again.
I bit my lip and kept my wings folded tight. I kept my thoughts focused on my mission. I hadn't got it very right so far, had I? I should never have touched Marcus. What'd possessed me? But if I got the rest right? If I delivered his death on time, asked him to repent, if I Collected his soul? If I led him personally to Hell and left him on the shores of Styx? If I paid Charon, the ferryman, myself?
Such a huge unforgivable mistake.
That was it. No more mistakes. No more temptations. No more excuses. I would be the greatest Angel of Death ever. I would be darkness personified. My mission would become legend. I'd deliver Marcus the best Final Moments in the whole history of Final Moments. He would die at the right place, at the right time, in the right way. I'd add extras: ethereal music, golden glimpses of Elysian Fields, the keening of a thousand weeping souls and tears, bright, falling like shooting stars. Brilliant. I was going to get it so right and make it so romantic, even Azrael would be jealous!
Then surely God would understand?
Anyone can make a mistake.
Plus I'd tell St Peter all about the car thing when I handed in my mission. I'd come clean. After all, there was no actual way of telling if that car
have killed Marcus. Was there?
And it wasn't listed in the Manifest. I was in the clear.
It was going to be all right.
With the speed of angels I got there in good time. And my God, what a place! How it oozed with sin. There were late-night bargain booze bars, twenty-four-hour one-stop shops, kebab cafÃ©s and greasy pizza parlours. Oh, to be human! And there were the basements too. Such mischief. Illegal gambling joints, all-night blues parties, crack dens and dingy little rooms rentable by the hour. Imagine. I squashed my nose against the glass of a burger diner and breathed fire on the windows. I pressed my ear against the brickwork of a tenement block and listened to the groaning inside.
Thank Heaven I was early. No more mistakes for me. I dithered a bit until I found the nightclub where Marcus's party was scheduled. It was called The Mass and housed in the crypt of an old church. Then I checked the place out.
I wafted through the empty rooms with their black leather sofas and upholstered walls. It all reeked a bit, but I didn't mind. I like the smell of humans. I got out the Manifest and double-checked all the deaths scheduled for that evening. Yes, Marcus Montague was on it. There was my name next to his, and all the details. I peered at it very carefully. The Manifest gets updated all the time â at least the when, and where, and how. The day never changes. I super double-checked that the car wasn't supposed to have killed him. There was nothing to suggest it. I breathed a huge sigh of relief, and crossed myself in gratitude, and reminded myself that next time I'd triple-check. I'd put myself on super alert. Even if death was to be delivered at my discretion, no slightest detail would
change without me being on it like a bonnet.
Quickly I found the spot where he'd die and decided where I'd stand. I tried out a strain or two of angelic harps and freshened the place up with a sweet southerly breeze straight from Heaven. That relaxed me a bit. If there were any demons to deal with, they'd find me more than ready. I drew a few fiery breaths and imagined cleaving them with a thunderbolt. On the way out I twirled my wings in the huge mirror by the door. I was very beautiful. My angelic glance alone could have enthralled all men. How perilous my smile! I twirled and spun and filled the club with stardust, made sunbeams dance on its polished floors. Oh, I was beautiful. I was even more lovely then.