Authors: Jeremy Shipp
Attic Clowns: Volume Four
Jeremy C. Shipp
Attic Clowns: Volume Four
by Jeremy C. Shipp
Copyright 2012. All Rights Reserved.
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored, or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means (electronically, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the proper written permission of the copyright owner, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. People, places, events and situations are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or historical events, is purely coincidental.
To my family, as well as George Peyton, Dave Hutchinson, and josh.
Many thanks to my wonderful readers and supporters, including Briana Malmstrom (Rough Ride Creations), Charles Day AKA Evil Jester, Samantha Benedetto Nelson, Gary McCluskey, Steffany Thees, Keith Dugger, Paul Phillips, Pamela Pierce, James Keeling - Synaptic Jam, Kate Jonez, Cameron Callahan, Bill Cassinelli, Nathan M. Schilz, Steve Youngs, Justin Lowmaster - thespaceturtle.com, Joseph Bouthiette Jr - Perfect Protector of Pickles, M.T. Murphy, Amanda Kelly, Samuel Montgomery-Blinn, Sam Reeve, Brent Millis, Jason Rennie, Kate Sherrod, Ange, Simon K Lloyd, Raymond Conlon, Kelley L. O'Neill, Philip Harris, Narrelle M Harris, Kevin Noble Hellon, Marilyn Gerber, Margie Velez, J.C. Hutchins, PJ Church, George Peyton, Dave Hutchinson, josh, Michael Nazarek Jr, Darius McCaskey, Penh Gwyn, Philip 'Norvaljoe' Carroll, Phil Hickes, Angie Booth, James Melzer, and Ed Kurtz. And a big thank you to my wife and my father for reading this book before anyone else and providing me with invaluable feedback.
Table of Contents
I am no Seraph, and my work is not at all integral to the smooth running of the Universe. Nevertheless, I take pride in what I do. And why should I not? Albert Einstein would not have lived to the ripe old age of seventy-six had I not entered his mind and convinced him to exit the park before the crazed killer arrived. Did I not, at one point or another, prevent the unsanctioned deaths of Charles Dickens, Annie Oakley, and Ronald Reagan? I have, of course, saved the lives of unknown but equally precious individuals. However, their names are not as easy to recall.
Obviously, I would not call myself extraordinary in any shape or form. I merely make a habit of sacrificing my own desires and creature comforts for the good of humanity. Maintaining such an extreme level of selflessness can wreak havoc on my mind and body, as you might imagine. I sleep very little, and I rarely allow myself time to socialize with my colleagues. There are times when I feel disheartened by the solitude of my work, but I would not change anything in my life for a thousand close friends.
Once in a great while, lest exhaustion consume my very soul, I give myself permission to step away from my desk and stand at the window of my Attic. Now is such a moment. With my weather-beaten hands resting on the wooden pane, I look out at the darkness beyond. Outside, countless souls swarm like fireflies in the blackness of the Maker’s Womb. The little lights arc and spiral and zigzag. At times, two or more souls collide with one another and they burst with ecstatic green sparks. The erratic dance of the spirits lulls me into a state of childlike awe.
If you were to see me gazing out of the window like this, you might imagine that I am unhappy with my lot in life. You might even go so far as to perceive me as some kind of prisoner, and this attic as my cell. However, let me assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. The fact of the matter is that I almost pity the souls swimming outside these walls. It is true that they alone will know the everlasting peace that comes with being immersed in the Maker’s Love, but what good is peace without hardships to compare it to? Those souls outside cannot even recall what suffering feels like. They do not appreciate what they have. For that, I am perfectly content where I am.
As soon as my five minute break is over, I return to my desk and discover a luminous letter from Archangel Geltharidge. She wants to see me immediately. I sigh. This is yet another problem caused by the severity of my dedication to my job. My superiors find themselves so impressed by my devotion that they feel the need to bathe me continuously with needless flattery. Take last year’s mandatory gala, for example. Archangel Coronorth wrapped his pale arm around me and said, “Zabareth, you are one of the finest angels I have ever known.” Those were his exact words. You can image that moments such as these, which I am forced to suffer often, are almost too embarrassing to bear.
I cross my Attic and approach the Everydoor, which is, for the time being, a gray door with the word “Geltharidge” printed on the frosted glass. Through the glass, I can see the Archangel’s fedora-topped silhouette. Once inside the office, the scents of cigarettes and hard liquor assault my nostrils. And, as always, Geltharidge has chosen to color her Attic and herself solely in shades of gray. I would not go so far as to say that Geltharidge is unprofessional, but I will say that were I in her place, I would make a concerted effort to choose for my workspace a form of reality that would accurately reflect the importance of my position.
As usual, I find Geltharidge standing behind her desk, peeking through the open blinds of her window. Her attire consists of the fedora that I already mentioned, as well as a dark overcoat and trousers. The room is so poorly lit that I can hardly see her, aside from the sections of her body illuminated by the vertical strips of light shining through the blinds. For quite some time, Geltharidge stands in silence, smoking her cigarette, despite my efforts to apprise her of my presence by clearing my throat.
At last, the Archangel faces me and holds out a glass filled with amber liquid. “Drink?”
“I appreciate the offer,” I say. “However, I never indulge when I am on the job.”
“So then your last drink was during the Paleozoic era, I take it?”
“Was that a joke, Madam?”
“Only a failed attempt at one, Zab.”
I laugh politely. “Your wit is as sharp as always, Madam.”
“Uh huh. Anyway, the reason I called you here is because you’re one of the best angels on our team. I need—”
“The sentiment is music to my ears, and yet I am ill deserving of such praise. I merely perform the way any angel would had they my work ethic and my propensity for diligence.”
“Right. So, a rather difficult case landed on my lap this morning, and I thought it wise to pull out an ace in the hole. That’s where you come in, Zab.”
I have been an angel since the beginning of time, and yet my heart still thunders in my chest whenever I find myself on the verge of embarking on a formidable mission. You might misconstrue the sudden whiteness of my cheeks and the sweat on my forehead as symptoms of fear. However, let me assure you that my reaction is merely a manifestation of joy at the thought of benefiting humankind.
“Are you alright, Zab?” Geltharidge says.
“I am perfectly content, Madam. What would you have me do for my beloved Earth?”
Of course, I know what she will say. My colleagues speak to me very little, and yet even I have heard whisperings that the life of world leader might be in danger in the near future. Some would dismiss these whisperings as mere rumors, but I have discovered that even in the capricious realm of gossip, there is rarely smoke without some semblance of fire.
After the Archangel extinguishes her cigarette, she turns and gazes out the window once more. “Recently, one of the Seraphim received a letter from a demon.”
I attempt to swallow, but I cannot seem to manage even such a simple feat at the moment. “A…demon?”
“It’s on my desk right in front of you.”
I take a step back, fearful that by “it,” Geltharidge is referring to the demon itself. However, when I glance at the desk, I catch sight of the letter of correspondence the Archangel spoke of and nothing more.
“Read it,” she says.
Obviously, there is no good reason for me to sully my hands by grasping the chthonic missive. Therefore, I bring myself to reading distance by leaning forward over the desk. The note appears to be written in black ink on parchment paper. However, I am not naïve to the ways of the underworld, and the letter is in all likelihood written on dried human skin using, for ink, the blood of infants or female virgins.
As soon as I look up from the letter, the Archangel turns to me, lighting another of her perpetual cigarettes. Every time I witness this vulgar sight, I cannot help but execute a silent prayer. Just because Geltharidge is immortal does not make this habit inoffensive. The smoke offends my senses, and beyond this, the act itself offends me on a moral level. Far be it from me to ask my superior to deny herself a smoke as an act of solidarity with all those dying of lung cancer in the mortal realm. However, sometimes I desire to say as much.
After a few more puffs, Geltharidge says, “What do you think?”
“To what are you referring?” I say.
“Ah. I fear this spasmodic scratching is completely illegible to my eyes.”
The Archangel sits at her desk. “Basically, the letter’s a plea for help. The demon wants to atone for his sins, but he’s having a hard time of it. You don’t really get a lot of opportunities for redemption in hell. He has no soul, so there’s no place for him in the Maker’s Womb. And we certainly can’t transport him into the mortal realm. The temptation to cause mayhem would be too great, even for someone like him looking to do the right thing. So. The only avenue left to him is to reside with us.”
I shake my head. “With all due respect, Madam, there is no place for a demon in our Attics, no matter how noble his intentions. This is a celestial institution, devoted to the care and betterment of our mortal brothers and sisters. We cannot allow anyone or anything to distract us or detain us from our divine duty.”
“My thinking exactly, Zab. And that’s why we’re going to help this demon become one of us. If he ends up joining the team, then everything we do for him will be for the greater good.”
My intense astonishment causes my vision to blur and my face to heat up. After a few moments, I say, “You are joking. This is one of those elaborate pranks you are famous for.”
“I know the situation’s not…normal. But you know the Maker’s policy. If it’s at all possible, we have to help anyone who reaches out to us.”
“But surely that rule does not apply to a creature without a soul.”
“Coronorth and a few of the other Archangels thought the same thing. But according the Seraphim, God loves demons as much as he loves people. As much as he loves us.”
I am aware that the Seraphim exist in a reality very close to the center of the Maker’s being. However, they have been known to misinterpret the Maker’s thoughts from time to time, and I am almost positive that this is one of those instances. The Maker I know and love would never allow a mere demon to threaten the order of the Attics. We are the foundation of all this is good and right in the Universe.
“I’ve talked it over with the others,” Geltharidge says. “We’re all agreed that you’re the angel for the job.”
“And what job are you referring to exactly, Madam?”
“We want to you take on the demon. Show him the ropes. What do you say? Will you take the case?”
“I…I am obligated by the Law of the Maker to acquiesce my will to your adjuration.”
“Is that a yes?”
Why Geltharidge always insists on asking me whether or not I wish to obey her commands, I cannot begin to fathom. I am not a creature of free will, and I could no more deny her request than she could deny that of her superiors. The responsibility for the demon has been passed on to me. There is nothing I can do or say to change that.
“When exactly is this Overdemon to arrive?” I say.
“Tomorrow morning,” Geltharidge says. “And, Zab, he’s no Overdemon. He’s just your run-of-the-mill underling.”
“I…I see. Are you positive?”
“Overdemons know a thing or two about writing, and that letter we received was a grammatical shipwreck. It had to come from an underling.”
“Are you alright, Zab? You’re looking a little pale.”
“As always, I am perfectly content, Madam.”
“You sure you don’t want that drink?”
“I must respectfully decline.”
“Well. Thanks for taking the case. You’re a real man among men.”