This would not be in the best interests of humanity. He had gone “offline” as it were to tell me this, maybe even a little out on a limb. I said quietly, “Understood.”
“Why me,” he went on, back in his double voice. He was answering my questions as I had posed them, one by one. “I am the youngest amongst us. It was determined that I—” I stifled a laugh, trying not to interrupt. He had shown patience with me so far, but I didn’t want to push my luck. After all, laughing at another Angel had got me tossed out to the winds. But he stopped, and in what I perceived as a carefully neutral tone said, “I have said something amusing/humorous/laughable.”
I knew I was in dangerous territory. “No. I laughed in a… sympathetic reaction to your situation, your status with the other Angels. You are… we have an American expression—‘low man on the totem pole.’ It’s a position I know quite well.”
“Then you misunderstand. I am not ‘lower’ than the others, merely younger. My comparative youth means that I am most able to… abide/tolerate/endure close association with a human, to successfully collaborate, as I have no previous experience with your kind to create… prejudice.”
“‘Comparative youth.’ How old are you?”
“It is not as simply measured as your question implies, but by your reckoning, approximately three hundred and fifty years.”
And he was the youngest. “What about the others? How old is Gabriel?”
“No other is less than three thousand of your years. Michael and Raphael for instance are over twelve thousand. Gabriel is perhaps twenty.”
Wow. I had understood that Angels were long-lived, but I had thought on the order of hundreds of years, not thousands. Then it finally hit me: these Angels weren’t just the same race of beings returning to Earth to follow up on their ancestors’ meddling—they were the same individuals. “Wait a minute. You’re telling me that Gabriel is the real Gabriel, the one and only Gabriel from the Bible?” I know, I know: duh.
“I have limited knowledge so far of your so-called Bible, but enough to know that it is more a work of… inspiration than history. True.”
Still no question mark, but I answered: “Bloody, terrible wars have been fought over just that question, but, yes, fair enough.”
“Then, conceding that point, yes. Gabriel and most of the others have been here many times before. In large numbers, as now, rarely; last, perhaps six thousand years ago. In smaller numbers, many times; last, approximately two thousand years ago.”
“Any rogue missions? Individuals, off the grid?”
“If by ‘off the grid’ you mean without the knowledge/cooperation/support of the greater community, then no sensible answer is possible. If we have no knowledge of it, then how can we know.”
Good point. I looked around for a place to sit. The hassock-hump that had supported my clothes had faded away, so I sat on the floor. He studied me for a moment. “You are fatigued.”
“What? No. Just a little tired of standing. I’m fine.”
“Stand.” He gestured to encourage me to my feet. I’d have to work on adding “please” to his vocabulary.
“Okay. Sure.” I stood.
“On your harness…” Harness? I didn’t much care for the sound of that. Still, he was wearing one just like it. Maybe it was just a semantic slip. Right. “…are controls.” He reached out and touched, just over each hipbone. “Here and here. With them, and… directed thought, you can partially counteract the effects of gravity.”
“Really?” I touched my thumbs to the spots and tried to direct my thoughts. My feet flew out from under me as if the place was carpeted in banana peels. I slammed down flat on my back. The gray floor was very forgiving, but it was still quite a jolt. I looked up at Eloi. His expression was neutral. As I said, no sense of humor. If our positions had been reversed, I’d have laughed myself sick. He reached out a hand to help me up.
As I rose, he said, “You have an expression, ‘easy does it.’ Yes.”
“Try again. Easy does it.”
I touched the belt again, and thought, honestly, Easy does it. Immediately I felt my weight cut in half. Like the sensation when you’ve been carrying someone around on your shoulders for a while, then put them down? It felt just like that. I grinned. This could come in handy. “This is great! Thanks, Eloi.”
A smile in return was too much to hope for. But he did say, “You’re welcome,” so we were making progress.
“Eloi…” Saying his name aloud brought back to mind the question I’d had when I first heard it. “Your name, it’s not like the others. I’m saying ‘Eloi,’ but it’s really more like ‘Elohim,’ isn’t it? The first Hebrew word for God.” Now that I’d said it out loud, I was starting to get a headache. If the other Angel’s names were the same as the ancient Hebrews understood them, how could the youngster here be named “God”? “I don’t understand.”
“It is indeed incongruent/ironical/paradoxical: I am the youngest, but I share my name with the eldest of us. It is our… tradition. As I am genetically identical to the Eldest, I take on the same name. Understand, we do not ‘reproduce’ in the primitive biological manner. We are not truly immortal, but death among us is now rare. Our numbers are stable, by common assent. When the Eldest left us, I was… cloned.”
“You were cloned… from God.”
“When you say ‘God’ in this singular manner, you mean an omniscient, spiritual creator of the Universe. But you also mean a living, physical being who spoke to Abraham and Moses and the Prophets. Many believe this same being is the father of a human Messiah, who is also ‘God.’ Some resolve these somewhat conflicting beliefs by worshiping a Trinity, ‘God in three persons,’ Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Is this accurate.”
“Close enough.” Funny how when you lay religious tenets out on the table like that, they wind up sounding silly.
“So. The Eldest may in fact be the source of some of these beliefs. But Elohim certainly did not create the Universe.”
Still, here I was rubbing elbows with a clone of the Biblical God. My headache was expanding exponentially. “You said the Eldest ‘left us.’ The original Elohim is dead?” If only my mother were here to hear this.
“We do not know. The Eldest left our community/society/collective consciousness over a thousand years ago. We do not expect a return. Hence my very existence.”
Gravity belt or not, I was getting a little weak in the knees. I sat on the floor again. I felt as if little gates were being unlocked in my brain by magic keys. But for everything that was clearer to me, far more remained a mystery. My head seriously hurt.
“Are you not well.”
I looked up at him. “I’m fine. I’ve just been a little slow to process all this… Eloi, earlier I asked, ‘To what end?’ Why are you—all of you, the Angels—here? If I’m to act as some sort of latter-day Prophet, fine. Why? What do you hope to accomplish? To what end?” No answer. His eyes closed. “Eloi? To what end?”
He looked down at me. “That I cannot say.” Already he was using English for its ambiguousness—‘cannot say?’ Isn’t allowed to say? Doesn’t know how to say? Or just doesn’t know?
Again he spoke quietly in only his physical voice. This time his pronunciation was clear: “That you must not ask.”
Since this all began I’ve been asking myself why? Why the pyramid over Disneyland? Why the time manipulation inside? Why did so many people have to die? Why are they here? More than once it has occurred to me that maybe there aren’t any real answers. They are superior beings; their ways are ineffable.
Sitting there on that gray floor in that mind-numbing gray space, looking up at this impossibly beautiful, perfectly arrogant young conqueror, I realized that maybe there’s no higher purpose to any of this than to intimidate us mere mortals. Or maybe even the intimidation is incidental. There’s only one answer that matters as to why they do anything:
Because they can.