01 Feb Angels Aren’t Beautiful
My father was a harsh and broken man, nothing more than an empty shell of his former self after serving one too many tours in a war no one ever understood why we fought.
It didn’t help when my mother, who’d already checked out mentally, fell pregnant with an unwanted child. Rather than revelling in the joy of creating life, my father dug himself deeper into the bitter hole of hatred he had spent so many years digging.
Not only had I unwillingly intruded his existence, but I was born with a pretty obvious birth defect; My face never fully developed in the womb, presumably due to the drugs my mother consumed to cope with the stress of abuse; Whatever the case, it left me with only one functioning eye and half a paralysed face.
It’s not excuse for what he did, it’s only an explanation.
He used to tell me that the day I was born was the worst day of his life, that I was nothing more than a burden, an accident not meant for this world.
Needless to day, I hated myself. I felt ugly and my father did everything in his power to make sure I understood just how much of a freak I was.
He never put a hand on me, nor my mother, I’ll give him that I suppose, but abuse comes in so many forms, and despite not having the guts to kill me himself, I knew he wanted nothing more for me to just disappear, and even as a young child, I wished I had never been brought into this world.
That would all change the night I met my very own angel.
On one particularly long night I was kept awake by another shouting match between my drunken father and my drugged out mother. We’d fallen into an extraordinary debt with both my dysfunctional parents unable to hold down and job.
I lied hidden beneath my blanket clutching my one and only friend, my stuffed animal; A swan that had suffered one to many tears, broken and ugly just like myself, but that’s just what made me love it so deeply.
Something shifted in the corner of my room, changing the entire atmosphere; Air turning heavy and the sounds of the heated argument were suddenly drowned out to muffled cries in the distance.
I peeked out from under the blanket thinking my father had come up to shout at me, but the legs that greeted me did not belong to anyone, or anything I had ever seen before. They were beaten and cracked, dark liquid seeping from the tears in the skin.
As I moved my eyes up to see the rest of its naked body it became apparent that this creature was severely wounded, charred skin covering the entirety of its being.
It appeared to be a man, at least shaped like one. Ten feet tall with dark wings extending from his back, half stripped of their feathers alongside the flesh, leaving nothing but exposed bones and tendons.
If monsters could ever be described by their appearance, this thing would perfectly fit.
I should have screamed, run for the door or jumped out the window, anything to escape that horrid sight, but something about the broken creature calmed my young self, soothed the fear that built up in my body.
“Who are you?” I asked, my voice sounding tinier than it ever had.
The creature looked at me in confusion.
“You do not fear me?” He asked.
“No, why? Are you bad?”
He smiled, revealing a row of rotten teeth.
“No, I am not bad, but my form typically evokes a sense of fear in your kind.”
“Is it because you’re ugly, like me?”
For a moment he just looked at me, inspecting my malformed eye and paralysed face, then he laughed.
“You may look different than your fellow humans, but your heart is as pure as the day you were born. I can see the good in you.”
The creature spoke in words my young self couldn’t fully comprehend, but from the little knowledge I had; I could understand what he was.
I never really knew my grandparents, in fact my grandpa was the only one still alive by the time I came to this world, and I only met him the one time. Sick and riddled with tumours he told me a story about the purest creatures in existence, the ones that would look after lost souls such as himself during their final moments in life, and for a reason I cannot fathom, I connected his comforting words with the thing that was standing before me in my room.
“Are you an angel?” I asked.
He thought for a moment before responding.
“I am a type of angel.”
“Then what’s your name?”
“My name? Our kind has no use for names.”
“Everyone has a name, but if you don’t have one, I will choose one for you.”
I thought long and hard before finally settling on the most suitable name I could come up with for the angel.
“I will call you, Garry!” I said excitedly.
“Then that will be my earthly name.”
I glanced over his broken body once more, wondering if he had been born damaged like myself, or if someone had hurt him.
“How come you look like that?”
“Putting myself in a physical form comes at a cost, and it takes a toll on my existence. You see I was not granted permission to come here.”
By then my parents had stopped arguing. I must have been louder than I thought, because shortly after I heard someone pacing through the hallway towards my room. Being loud after bedtime was a strict no-no, a rule that only applied to myself.
My father slammed the door open and barged into my room. Holding onto the neck of a half empty bottle, slurring in his words.
“I’ve had it with this s-“
He stopped dead in his tracks, gasping briefly before suddenly choking. Something invisible stopped him from moving an inch, and I saw the angel staring intently at my father, with a gleaming smile across his face.
“What the fuck are you?” My father manage to push out between gasps of air.
“I am here to protect this child. You have inflicted enough damage, and now you will receive my judgement.”
My father started twitching, joints bending in unnatural directions, cracking beneath the unseen force. He gargled, coughing up blood as his body contorted into an undefinable mess of flesh and viscera. Before I could even process what was happening he expanded, boils and blisters appearing on his skin just moments before he exploded, covering the wall behind with whatever remained of his existence.
I let out a quiet yelp. It was as much as my terrified little body would allow.
“I’m sorry that you had to witness this, had there been another way-“
The creature was interrupted by my sulking.
“He meant you harm, and with time he would have caused your death. Not today, nor tomorrow, but I had to stop him before he caused irreparable damage.”
With a wave of his hand, the remains of my father turned to dust and disappeared, leaving no trace that a murder had just happened.
“I have to go. I will return when the time is right, but I’m afraid this is just the beginning of things to come. I am so sorry.”
I don’t remember much else from that night, apart from my mother hysterically screaming as she realised her husband was gone, the police asking questions as he was reported missing.
Of course, they never found him, and with the assumption that he had simply taken off, the investigation quickly turned cold.
It was a bittersweet turn to a better life.
Things rapidly improved in the couple of years following my father’s death. My mother did her best to get clean from drugs, even got a job, and for the first time in my life, I felt like someone loved me.
The trauma I had experienced did not linger over us. It was if something was protecting my memory, preventing me from reliving that terrible moment.
My mother and I moved away to a different city, attempting to create a fresh start, getting enough money for such an endeavour proved difficult, but somehow we managed, at least so it seemed for a short while.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to last.
Despite her best efforts, it’s not an easy feat to be a single mother trying to battle addiction while hopelessly drowning in debt.
One slip up was all it took, which just happened to occur during my first day at a new school. I could already tell something was wrong when she picked me up from school, and in hindsight I should have understood enough to alert a teacher, but suffering from trust issues and being incapable of thinking even moments ahead, I let her get behind the wheel of a car.
Not five minutes after we started driving she missed a stop sign and we were hit in the side by a bus.
It’s true what they say, time really slows down as adrenaline surges through your body. The sight of glass shattering through the car and metal bending inwards is something that has been stuck in my mind for many years, but no matter how hard I try, a moment of pure terror is all I remember before blacking out.
When I came back to it I found myself lying on the side of the road, somehow unscathed from the ordeal. I could see our car smashed to pieces further down the road, but something had taken me out before it even hit the ground.
“I’m sorry.” A familiar voice said.
I turned around to see my angel standing above me, even more decayed than the first time we’d met. His flesh had fallen from his chest, revealing ribs and organs, still pulsating heavily with each breath.
“Where’s my mommy?” I asked.
“I could only save one of you.” His words carrying the burden of guilt and sadness.
He bent down to my level, reaching out his rotten hand.
“I believe this belongs to you.”
It was the swan plushy. He brushed off some pieces of glass and gave it to me.
“She’s dead, isn’t she?” I asked.
“Why couldn’t you save her?”
“I was not supposed to.”
“One day you will have all the answers, but until then you have to be patient. It is not time for you yet.”
“I don’t understand.”
Before I could ask more questions the angel had disappeared, leaving alone with no one but the mangled corpse of my mother still stuck inside the car.
Years passed and I spent most of my childhood moving from one foster home to another. Trauma and abuse takes its toll on a young child, and as it was I simply couldn’t fit in with a new family, and I found none willing to take care of someone so broken.
Every now and then I would remember the angel’s words from our first meeting, that the bad things were just beginning, but though my childhood was lonely it was relatively safe. I wouldn’t see my angel again until I started high school.
If you ever thought bullying stops at a certain point during education, that people somehow mature as they get older, you’d be sorely mistaken.
Due to my deformed appearance I couldn’t seem to escape the nasty looks nor gangs of bullies. A particularly bad crew of people were lead by a girl named Jennifer, putting chairs in front of bathroom doors as I entered to ‘spare other’s the sight of my disgusting face.’
One day just following physical education I wasn’t fast enough to shower and exit the locker room, and as a result I found myself trapped by Jennifer’s vicious gang of misfits. They had stolen my clothes, pointing out that if I just spent the rest of the day naked maybe it would distract people from my disfigured head.
They laughed together as they shoved me around, cold, wet and naked I could do nothing but hold back my tears.
Out of nowhere, my angel appeared. He placed himself directly behind the squad of girls and looked at me, his wings had mostly fallen off by that point, leaving only a few bone fragments protruding from his back, and his face had become an unrecognisable mess of torn flesh.
He simply nodded before vanishing into thin air as he always did.
No sooner had the angel left before Jennifer started screaming her lungs out. She had glanced in the mirror and seen the angel, but that wasn’t what caused her to get so upset.
“What have you done to me you crazy bitch?” She yelled at me.
I didn’t understand what she was so freaked out about. If not the sight of the angel, then what could be so bothersome, but I didn’t care to stick around, and after getting dressed in record time, I spurted out of the room.
No one bullied me after that day, however the rumours had reached every corner of the school and people genuinely thought I was a witch. Jennifer never returned and no one would tell me what happened to her.
Whatever it was, she didn’t deserve it, despite the things she did to me, no one deserves the wrath of an angel.
I spent the next few weeks searching out the angel, waking up at night yelling for his attention, but he never responded. In a bizarre and cruel turn of fate the bullying had become the only attention anyone ever gave me, and without even that I felt more isolated than ever.
Sleep eluded me, and for each night spent crying I came closer and closer to finally taking the step and ending my miserable existence.
I guess the angel didn’t see that coming, because for some reason he appeared to me once again, only this time I was my own danger.
“You’ve finally come to see me again? Why do you even bother, aren’t there anyone more important you can protect, someone who actually matters?”
“You have a good heart, that is why I chose you.” He said calmly.
“Chose me for what?” I responded, more annoyed than sad.
He didn’t respond to my question.
“I was once a human too. A long time ago, and I was chosen to protect people, and even now I do not know why they chose me.”
“So you were picked to protect people like me?”
“No, my job was to protect important people, those who would have an impact on history, and I followed those orders for millennia without questioning my orders, fully believing that it would shape history, lead it in the right direction, but the people who impact the world aren’t always good at the core, a fact it took me far too long to realise.”
I was confused, at that point in time it didn’t feel like I would have any important impact on history, so I asked the only question I could.
“So you think I’ll have an important impact on the world?”
He shook his head.
“I cannot define importance, nor external beauty, nor fairness. I abandoned my post because I stopped believing in it; That is why I deteriorate each time I visit you. I am not supposed to protect you.”
“So why do you?”
“Because you are a good person.” “Good enough to let other people suffer?” I asked, getting angrier by the minute.
He looked at me in confusion, as if his past actions hadn’t allowed other people to get hurt, to even die.
“I do not understand.”
“What did you do to Jennifer?” I demanded to know.
She had been a horrifying nightmare during the past couple of years, but did her torture warrant whatever the angel had done?
“I only made her see what she truly is.” He said.
“And what is that?”
“Someone with darkness in their heart.”
I shook my head in a mixture of sadness and anger.
“What’s going to happen to her?”
“That does not matter.”
“Yes, it fucking does.”
“The truth about herself will weigh her down, and she’ll eventually give up on herself, because the only thing she sees in the mirror is her own soul. Her life will end by her own hand.”
We stared at each other in silence. Despite no words being spoken we communicated, the angel showed me visions of the future, the pain I would go through because of the evil in people’s hearts, and he showed me that all of it could be fixed if I only allowed him to help me.
“I won’t let you do this. Stop it, right now!”
“I have to protect you.”
“Not like this.”
“You care about her, despite what she has done?”
I thought about the statement for a while. Of course she meant nothing to me, but letting someone kill themselves so I could avoid discomfort was a disturbing thought.
“Whatever you did, undo it, this is not how I want to deal with my problems.”
“So her actions should not be punished?”
“She is a kid like me, she can still change.”
He acknowledged my demand, and I could tell he was about to leave.
I rummaged through my drawer to look for my old things. After a minute I pulled out the swan plushy from my childhood, by then its colour had faded, and each limb was partially torn.
“This is for you, to remind you that just because something is broken, it doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful, and it doesn’t mean it can’t be fixed.”
With that he disappeared once more.
Over the next decade he appeared a couple of times, but never got close enough for us to exchange words. Even from a distance I could see he was falling to pieces, degenerating more with each appearance.
Though my life never felt threatened, I know he must have done something to save my life. I’m not even sure I want to know.
Only hints of dangerous things would let me know that there are horrors in this world around each corner, and if we knew half of it we’d probably be too terrified to even leave our homes. I started wondering if everyone had their own angel like mine, one that had abandoned their post in order to protect insignificant, but decent people.
It wouldn’t be until the summer of 2018 we would be close enough to even exchange words, and as I now know it would be for the very last time.
A simple night out, after years of coming to terms with my past I had gotten an education, a job and even a few friends.
Life had become bearable.
We’d decided to hit the clubs, my friends insisted I try something new, but I left early, clubs were really not my scene, but it’s not always safe to go home alone at night. It’s not safe when people think you’re an easy target.
As I crossed the empty street a heavily dressed stranger approached me. He was wearing a hoodie, just enough to make it impossible to identify him, and it immediately made me uncomfortable.
He bumped into me and demanded that I handed over my wallet. As he did I felt something hard press against my side, either a knife or a gun, I was never good at identifying these things, but I feared for my life.
Immediately after feeling panic set in I saw my angel appear before the both of us. He was missing a leg and half his face had started to slough off.
The mugger screamed in horror and froze. My memory shot back to my paralysed father being torn apart by the angel, but this time nothing happened, the mugger simply stood frozen in place for a minute.
“I will not kill him, but he will be in a great deal of pain when he wakes up.” The angel said.
The mugger fell limp to the ground, a few drops of blood seeping from his nose and ears.
As soon as the threat was eliminated, the angel collapsed as well, he was falling apart. I ran over and embraced what remained of him in my arms. I wanted to say something, provide a few words of comfort, but nothing came out.
“Do you remember the name you gave me?” He asked.
I thought back to our first meeting, it was just a stupid thought by a five year old girl, but I remembered.
“Yes, I called you Garry.”
He smiled at me.
“That is a good name.”
“Thank you.” I said as tears started forming in my eyes.
His flesh tore apart under my fingers, just disintegrating as I held his hand, leaving behind pieces of flesh and bone fragments.
“Please, tell me how I can save you.”
“I have lived for thousands of years, and only by helping you was it worth anything. I made my choice, the question is, will you accept?”
“I chose you for a reason, the world needs someone to keep them safe, normal people just trying to get through life.”
I knew what he was suggesting, he wanted me to be an angel like him, to help others in need.
“How would I even do that?”
“You just have to say yes.”
His face started to fall apart, jaw falling off leaving him unable to speak. All he did was reach out his hand, in it he held the swan I had given him years earlier. That would be his final act before he passed.
I cried, holding my angel’s dead body. He had kept me safe my entire life, and for the first time ever, I was truly alone, wondering what even happens to angels as they die.
It has been once month since I last saw Garry, and since then I’ve tried to make a choice. If I decide to leave my life behind I figure I won’t disintegrate like him, seeing as I haven’t betrayed any higher power.
Life has been hard, and it has left much to be desired, and if I leave now I’ll never live a happy life, but I can spend the rest of eternity protecting the less fortunate people of this world.
I guess no one here will ever see me again, not after I leave. In fact, I’m not entirely sure how all of this will work, but I suppose I’ll have all of eternity to figure it out.