Although my life had always included a certain amount of bizarre events, of those one can hardly share with other people while trying to keep the appearance of someone sane, I was never one to believe in vague concepts like destiny or fate. I’ve always considered sayings such as ‘superior design’, ‘divine intervention’, and the such - usually spoken of with some measure of reverence - as fascinating and romantic, but completely unreal. Until today.
Today I feel like things will never be the same again and I know that this feeling will endure beyond this moment, beyond tomorrow, or after tomorrow, or even a month or a year from now. For although the world around me apparently remains the same in truth everything has changed. And all because today I’ve met an Angel.
The VII London’s Experimental Pharmacology Conference had just closed its doors, after an interesting but tiring week of continuous scientific communications. As always that fake but instantaneous sense of bonding that always takes root when people from the same nationality meet one another on foreign grounds had been established. Rational, skeptical scientists, or the warmest and friendliest of tourists; all the same, all Human.
In an unexplainable and irrational wave of group cohesion, my professional colleagues had all quickly agreed to indulge in a tour around the local bars. They’d happily justified it as a way to say goodbye, since we’d all be returning to different places of the U.S.A. the next day. In fact, any excuse would have been good enough, as long as it justified a night of partying away from the condemning gazes of families and bosses alike.
The night was cold and the biting wind threatened to freeze ears and noses alike. With my hands tucked inside my wool duffel coat’s pockets, and bending my head in search of some warmth inside my coat’s collar, my mind ferociously searched for a way of getting rid of Mary Belle’s arm, a lab technician from Phoenix, as she dragged me across Westminster’s streets. Her friendly arm wrapped around mine was making my stomach lurch, although we both wore a few layers of thick clothes that successfully avoided any direct contact. Even so my mind kept irrationally screaming, in an almost absolute panic, urgently searching for a plausible excuse that would allow me to leave earlier and return to the hotel.
And then, suddenly, I felt him …
In a sudden mix of signs I easily recognized, a shiver ran through my entire body, stealing my breath away. The involuntary shudder left the hair on my arms standing on end and my heart started beating painfully fast, as if something had just startled me.
I only noticed I’d stopped walking when Mary Bell stood right in front of me, watching me with a concerned expression.
“Sarah? Are you okay?”
I blinked a few times and tried to make sure my thoughts wouldn’t stray any farther, forcing my mind to keep working in the present space and time, as I made sure I smiled just to reassure her.
“Yeah. But I have to go.” Mary seemed confused and I finally managed to gather enough courage to get rid of her unthoughtful, though well intentioned, touch.
“Why? What’s wrong? Are you feeling unwell?”
I was lost for a moment amongst all those questions, not really knowing what to answer, until I was finally able to reach the most adequate response.
“I’m fine, really. Just a little tired. Besides I just remembered I left my cell back at the hotel. The boss always calls me late in the evening. If I don’t pick it up I’ll be in trouble. He’s always nagging me about how the department didn’t finance this trip so I could have a good time in London.”
Mary Bell made a grimace that said she understood my situation all too well and looked anxiously towards the rest of the group, that hadn’t even noticed the lack of two of its members. We could still hear their excited voices and carefree laughter.
“But it’s such a shame! It’s our last night. We should celebrate.”
“Next time. And don’t worry. I’ll be back to the hotel in less than ten minutes,” I added, trying to make it easier for her to leave me there, all alone, since it was getting dark. “You should go before they get out of sight.”
Mary gave me a last look, in a mix of regret and doubt, but none of those feelings lasted long enough to make her reevaluate her decision. With a renewed smile she straightened her coat and ran a hand though her heavy blond hair.
“Okay, then. But I’ll see you in the morning, right? Your flight is more or less the same time as mine. We could go to the airport together,” she suggested hopefully and I sighed at that unnecessary attempt to compensate me. The feeling squeezing my chest was getting stronger by the minute. The anguish was almost smothering and it was really hard to reply her with a smile.
“Sure. Now go!” I insisted shooing her towards the group now crossing the road a block away. Mary nodded and stopped hesitating.
“See you tomorrow,” she shouted and picked up the pace in order to reach the others.
I took a deep breath, relieved that I could stop trying so hard to be at least a bit sociable, and my gaze immediately went towards the direction of that silent call that I knew only I could hear.
My feet took me down and across several streets in urgent steps, as if someone were desperately calling my name, my heart still beating like crazy. My anterior experiences of that nature made me pay special attention to the street names I walked by. It wasn’t the first time that I found myself completely lost, unable to go back home afterwards. Storey’s Gate. Then Birdcage Walk. And when my feet, that seemed to know where to go better than I did, took me to St. James Park, I couldn’t help feel a bit apprehensive.
The street lamps on both sides of the narrow path didn’t illuminate much beyond the first rows of shadowy trees. The cold had driven away any possible romantic couples or mere passing pedestrians. And yet, although the park was apparently deserted, strange noises seemed to follow me, feeding my already all too creative imagination.
And then I saw him.
All air left my chest at the unworldly sight of his bent form, and I felt as if a heavy stone had just landed on my stomach.
Pain, despair, suffering.
His emotions left a bitter taste in my mouth, and although I was normally able to shield myself from the emotions of those who silently called me, with him my mental walls seemed completely useless.
He was sitting on one of the park’s benches. Elbows on his knees. His head buried in his arms. His blond hair falling over his shoulders in soft waves, shining like gold under the white pale light of the nearest lamp. And although I could hardly deny his presence in that place, I couldn’t shake the feeling I was standing before some ghostly supernatural manifestation.
Mesmerized, I saw him move and slowly raise his head to look at me. I’d remained in absolute silence but still he had noticed my presence. And I couldn’t help feeling surprised by his youth and beauty. His soft smile immediately erased any fears that might still fill my mind. But that frail expression failed to reach his bright green eyes that remained drowned in a deep sadness, making my heart ache for him.
“Good evening, Sarah,” he greeted me with a warm voice and the cold that, up till then, had been merciless punishing me, was suddenly gone. My name in his voice sounded like the most sacred of words and, irrationally, I couldn’t feel scared or even suspicious by the fact that he already knew my name. “I’m sorry I made you come all the way here.”
With my own emotions in disarray, I clenched my hands still tucked inside my pockets and couldn’t help feeling embarrassed when unconsciously my voice filled the air.
“I’m the one who’s sorry… for not being able to help you …” I murmured and only then really felt the weight of my own helplessness. His despair was so palpable, his wish that someone could help him so strong, that the whole world around us seemed to echo it. And yet I, the only being able to hear him, couldn’t do anything for him. Although I knew nothing of the reasons behind his anguish I could clearly tell that, near him, I was nothing but a small insignificant bug wishing I could fly to the rescue of a beautiful heron.
He smiled again and took a deep breath, raising his perfect face towards the dark, starless sky.
“I asked for an answer. I could never ask for more than that. My mistake is unforgivable. But you mustn’t feel sorry for me, Sarah,” he added, and being the target of his bright gaze once more made my heart flutter. “You are, in fact, an answer. Certainly someone’s answer. Lamentably not mine.”
“Me? I’m no one special. I only try to help those who need, once in a while. Nothing more,” I disagreed and couldn’t help blushing when he smiled. His beauty was magnificent, if only he could get free from the pain consuming him.
“Most Human Beings come to this world in search of answers. However there are a few that are, themselves, bearers of answers. Sometimes answers to other beings that didn’t even knew that they had questions. You don’t shine, Sarah,” he stated in a sorrowful tone and I couldn’t help feeling as if, somehow, I was lacking or maybe had some unknown anomaly. “Beings like you usually shine. But maybe it was meant to be this way, who knows? However, this also means you’ll always be alone.”
“If I’m the bearer of an answer, who sent it? To whom?” I asked as the more skeptical part of my brain wondered about what I was doing, standing there, talking to a complete stranger, that although admittedly inhumanely beautiful, was certainly somewhat crazy.
“That is one of the greatest mysteries of the Universe. I also have questions just like that. But I do know this much. Answers such as those are only within our reach in certain moments. I’ll be falling asleep, real soon. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to wake up again. My mistake is so great that this is the only solution I have left,” he said bitterly and in a painfully smooth movement reached out his right arm, the palm of his hand opened towards the sky. It took me sometime to notice the white feather slightly shining against his skin. I wondered why I hadn’t immediately seen it, since it was clearly emitting a soft light. And then I wondered if it had just appeared out of nowhere, just like that. “Take it,” he told me in his soft, warm tone. “Since you came to me, who knows? Maybe someday I’ll be able to help you in return.”
“This isn’t how things usually work,” I replied and he smiled again, seeming slightly amused.
“I am not an usual Being. The laws that rule over my existence are different.” I took a step forward and reverently accepted the feather that he silently insisted in giving me. It was light and soft, and it kept on glowing even after I took it. “Aldaraian. It’s my name,” he told me, slowly lowering his arm. “Call me when you need me. And who knows. Maybe your voice will reach me even beyond my sleeping stupor. And maybe I’ll be useful, at least to you.”
I carefully held his feather and wished with all my heart I could save him. His suffering making me feel insignificant and small.
“Thank you,” I just replied and he smiled once again, before he simply disappeared, leaving in his place a soft sad rain of white feathers that eventually also vanished into thin air.