Chapter 1 - Harke the Herald
The woman awoke moaning, in pain.
Her husband, in tune to her every movement for the last month, woke up alert and ready.
“Hon, you okay?” asked the husband, John.
“Oooo,” moaned the wife, Jenny, “it hurts. My water broke, it really hurts.”
John checked – sure enough the sheets were wet. Quickly he sprang from the bed changing into clothes he had readied for this moment, t-shirt and jeans, and then helped his moaning wife get into hers. It seemed like an eternity to get her from the bed to the car outside, stopping every other step for her to deal with a contraction.
Finally on the road, but still miles from the hospital, things got worse.
“Oh, John!” Jenny shrilled, looking down. “I think something’s wrong. Look, there’s blood.”
Trying to keep his eyes on the road, John saw her blood-drenched sweatpants. As his heart skipped she screamed from yet another contraction – this time sounding weaker.
“Come on Jen, hold on. We’re almost there.”
The car screeched and barely stopped at the hospital’s entrance, he jumped out and ran into the lobby.
“Somebody, please help me!” John called. “My wife’s in labor and she’s bleeding!”
Several hospital workers raced with John outside, one close behind pushing a wheelchair.
In the car, Jenny looked awful. She was pale and unconscious, and blood covered the floor board where she sat. A doctor had reached them as nurses carefully pulled her out of the car and into the wheelchair. After a quick scan of the situation the doctor barked orders to those around him.
“It looks like placenta previa. Page the O.B. on call. We’ll need four units of blood when we get up there. Move people, stat!”
John followed the assembled army of nurses and doctors upto the birthing floor. He was sure he’d be able to enter the operating room when a nurse stopped him short.
“I’m sorry but the situation is” – the nurse looked over her shoulder at the mass of people working on John’s wife – “serious. Please go to the waiting room, someone will come and get you when we’re done.”
For the past twenty minutes all John did in the empty waiting room was pace. He paced wondering what was happening, paced hoping his wife was still alive, and paced hoping beyond hope for his unborn son.
He basically paced himself tired.
Exhausted and almost sick to his stomach John collapsed into a chair. After he put his head to his hands, he began to cry softly and pray.
“Dear God, please protect my wife and child. Don’t let anything happen to them. Take me God; take my life in place of theirs. Let them live, please God.”
The moment John finished praying he heard someone clear their throat. He looked up wiping his eyes then quickly stood realizing this must be news of his wife and child.
“Well,” said John, nervousness in his voice, “are they alright?” His heart pounded waiting for the answer.
“John, everything will be alright,” replied the tall, male nurse, dressed in all-white. A confident smile stretched across his handsome face.
Confused, John glared at the nurse and thought, Why the heck is he here to tell me this? I want to know if they’re alright now. He looked at the badge hanging from around the man’s neck, it looked official and it said ‘Harke.’
“Nurse—Harke—I appreciate the kind words,” said John, slightly irritated, “but do you know anything of my wife’s status? And what about my son?”
“John,” said Harke, still smiling, “I’m here simply to tell you they’ll be okay. I know things looked bad when you got here, and things are still touch-and-go, but they will be fine.” Harke placed a firm hand on John’s shoulder and added, “Soon you’ll be able to see them, we heard you and wanted you to know.”
Something about the way Harke smiled or maybe the feeling John had when the man squeezed his shoulder made him believe. He did not know why but suddenly he was convinced and relaxed.
Yes, he thought, everything’s going to be fine, he’s right.
“John,” said Harke, smiling brightly now, “sit down and rest. Someone will come soon and get you. Okay?”
“Yeah, okay,” sighed John, relieved as though a load had come off his back. After sitting down he offered his hand to shake. “Hey, thanks.”
“No problem, John,” chuckled Harke, shaking hands firmly. “We’re here to serve and it’s best when we can relay good news.” The male nurse nodded once then turned to leave.
It seemed to John that as soon as Harked walked out of the waiting room another nurse, this time the same woman who had stopped him earlier, walked in.
“Sir,” started the woman, “you’re the proud father of a healthy, baby boy, and your wife’s asking to see you, please come with me.”
“Oh, thank you Lord!” exclaimed John, almost jumping out of the chair and looking upto the ceiling. He then rambled, “How’s my wife? Is my son okay too? How much does he weigh?”
The nurse laughed and said, “Everything’s alright. Your wife will stay a few days to recover from the caesarian, and your son weighed in at a whopping eight pounds and two and three-quarter ounces. Gonna be a football player I guess.” She led him out of the waiting room and down the hallway.
“Wow, he’s a big kid,” said John, rubbing his forehead. “And my wife’s awake and fine now?” The nurse smiled and nodded, John then continued, “I guess that other nurse was right after all.”
“What other nurse?” the woman asked, slowing down her pace.
“The other nurse,” replied John, “you know, the male nurse. He came in to tell me everything would be okay. Thank God, he was right.”
The woman’s pace slowed to a crawl then stopped, she said, “Sir, are you sure it was a nurse?”
“Yeah,” said John, noticing the concern on her face, “his name was Harke. He was dressed in white scrubs and had a badge just like yours.”
“Let me get you to your wife,” said the woman, she started to walk briskly. “I’ll need to contact security. We don’t have any male nurses working this floor and I’m pretty certain there’s no-one called Harke who works for the hospital.”
“Oh that’s too bad,” said John, trying to keep up with the nurse, “for what it’s worth, he seemed like a really nice guy. He came in and calmed me down just when I needed it most. I’d thank him again if I ever got the chance.”
The moment Harke had walked out of the room he faded from existence with a very slight, almost imperceptible breeze. It was something strangely felt by the nurse who had just turned the corner going towards the waiting room. She had stopped a moment and glanced around, then shrugged and continued to the door.
Harke meanwhile appeared at messenger headquarters, located at the center of Par Amor, with the guardian’s headquarters flanked to one side and the cherub’s building situated on the other. The room he appeared in, the Mission Room, was the hub of activity within the building. It was the largest room and the only one that was oval in shape, colored with dull-gold walls. It was the room where messenger angels disappeared with their orders to go forth and deliver good news to the world below, and hopefully, reappear later having successfully completed their task. Although angels were able to disappear and reappear from anywhere in Par Amor, or Heaven for that matter, the Mission Room was preferred. It was easier to keep track of every messenger angel coming and going from that same spot.
Harke had started his shift, as he started all of his shifts, from the Mission Room – the enormous space constantly filled with messenger angels appearing and disappearing from all sorts of operations. Materializing amidst a constant and slight breeze from disappearing angels, Harke’s body glowed to a flash and then dimmed to a slight aura outlining his form. His nurses’ scrubs were replaced with a long-sleeved, white t-shirt, a matching white, draw-string breech, and a forearm-length white, crushed-velvet robe. He preferred using long-sleeved t-shirts with shorter-sleeved robes to the arm-length robes worn by others – it felt more comfortable to him, and anyway, it was easier to move around in.
As he zigged and zagged his way out of the Mission Room, he was greeted by practically every other angel that saw him.
“Hey, Harke, how’d it go?” asked one angel appearing, dressed as a businessman.
“Harky, we need to get together sometime,” said another, as the angel in fireman clothes vanished in a breeze.
And there were many other greetings and salutations from angels dressed in all walks of life. Harke acknowledged each and every one of them and all of them the same way– with his patented bright-eyed looks and wide, energetic smile.
Once outside, he combed his fingers through his sandy, brown hair, which he kept almost at shoulder-length, and after adjusting his pants and robes he made his way to Messenger Actual. Called by some as the Room of Assignments, it was better known as the control room for messenger headquarters. As Harke walked to it he noticed with a little disappointment he still had several hours before quitting time.
Approaching Messenger Actual he ran across some friends and asked about the one thing truly on his mind.
“Hey First-Man, how ya doin’?” said Harke cheerfully, the dimple in his chin became pronounced. “Have you seen Lily? I just wanted to sneak a kiss before I go back again.”
The angel Harke had called ‘First-Man’ stared back for a moment before replying, his thick, white eyebrows pinching together tightly. Then very carefully, as though he was speaking to a child, he replied, “No Heralder, I have not seen your fiancée at all today. I have no idea where she is.”
Harke’s brown-eyes glared at the name ‘Heralder.’ He hated it. It sounded so official, so stuffy, so…old. He figured he had it coming, referring to Noel as ‘First-Man.’
“Okay Mr. Noel the First,” Harke laughed off, “thanks for the info.” He then started to walk away.
“Harke, don’t waste time, get your next assignment,” said Noel seriously. “A woman needs comfort and assurance, her young son almost drowned in a pool and she thinks he’s near death. So get moving.”
“I’m heading in right now, Noel,” sighed Harke, “I know the importance of what we do. Sounds like another good mission, I’m already looking forward to it.”
Just as Harke reached the door it opened and out came another angel. They stopped short of crashing into each other and a glimpse told Harke it was a female, though he quickly noticed it wasn’t Lily.
“Oh, hi Gracie,” said Harke dolefully, “how are you?”
“Nice to see you too,” chuckled Grace the Amazing. “Sorry to disappoint you Double-H, but you won’t find Lily in there either.”
“I know,” returned Harke sheepishly, “and sorry. I haven’t seen her in almost a full day. I just want, you know, to tell her I love her.” He started to walk into the Room of Assignments when he stopped and added, “You have any idea where she is?”
“Someone called for her,” said Grace, as she pulled a scrunchie from her head and dirty-blonde hair fell past her shoulders, “don’t know who. Probably her dad.” She grabbed Harke’s jaw and turned his head to her piercing green-eyes, “Don’t worry big guy. She knows how much you love her.” After letting go, Grace pushed him softly and added, “Now get in there, go do some good.”
“Okay, okay,” said Harke, raising his hands giving up, “I’m going. Hey…but…would you mind?”
“Don’t worry loverboy,” interrupted Grace, smiling, “if I see Lily, I’ll let her know you were looking for her. Now go.”
Once inside Messenger Actual, Harke slowly walked to the mission desk. He was always amazed at how big the room was, for at most he only every saw seven to ten angels inside at any one time. The room was a perfect square at seven meters per side, and perfectly white as well – white walls, white floor, white ceiling, and a matching white desk with a grumpy, older angel dressed in, of course, white manning it.
Harke the Herald checked his memory for the name of the angel, Is it John, Jack, or maybe James? He bit his lip trying to remember.
“Hey there—bud, how’ya doin’?”
The angel looked up from the desk, unimpressed, and said, “It’s about time you got here. You’re probably the record holder now for the longest time ever taken to get between the two Rooms.”
“Ah, sorry,” stammered Harke, “I was stopped along the way, talking to some friends—”
“I don’t care,” groused the grumpy angel. He tapped at flat-screen buttons on the desk and continued, “You’re to appear as a police officer this time, the location is Florida.” Under his breath he said, “Can’t they watch their kids more carefully with pools around, humph!”
Harke looked down at himself and instantly his angelic clothes were replaced with a police officer’s uniform, shiny badge and patent leather shoes for effect. Harke thought of asking the grumpy angel how he looked, then decided against it. Better to just go.
As he took a step to leave, the angel barked, “Stop. There’s no time for you to prance back to the Mission Room. Just go from here.”
“Really? From here? But I thought—”
“Stop thinking and start going, I’ll let the bosses know.” The grumpy angel tapped more and added, “Leave, will ya?”
“Okay, wish me luck.”
“There’s no luck involved, you know that. It’s all the will of the Almighty.”
The angel dressed as a police officer looked back mischievously and said, “Yeah, I know. I’m counting on it.” And with that, Harke the Herald disappeared leaving behind a strong gust of wind.