Between Heaven and Earth
He painted soft, sweet lines to bring out her eyes. A mixture of pure subtlety to show how her face would glow, an infinite amount of time spent to make sure her lips didn't pout… or smile. She had never smiled at him, and he was honest enough to never paint her so. It was a struggle not to make those eyes twinkle, not make that face seemingly focus on him. He almost lost. And when he won he wept.
When Samyaza was done he watched the painter get up, slowly, tired and spent, broken. This journey guided so brutally by Samyaza, had defeated this man. All the talent in him, every ounce of it, Samyaza had demanded, the price of his gift of vision. He'd done this for as long as his memory stretched, ever since she had ascended and he had been left behind. He made them paint her again and again, from the crude scratching on cave walls to the exquisite murals that killed painters; so her details would not fade; so that humanity would not forget what it had lost. A part of him knew it was just an excuse to see her anew, just an excuse to feel that much closer to her. Samyaza could almost be jealous of the Creator for bringing her about and in the next instant grateful. The painter was still weeping, for something lost. Samyaza almost wept with him. Almost. Beings of fire… no tears.
He wrote them slowly, savouring the taste as they came out. New meaning, more clarity, the paper seemed alive and he could see the words dance. They were laughing at him, mocking him and his mediocrity, telling him in spite how his vision was blurred. But this time it wasn't. He could almost feel the strings and he could almost hear the melody. There were tears in his eyes and voices in his head. He wrote them all down, tears and all.
Penemue felt good. And a part of him wished he had dominion over death. The man was mad… and he would die before the work was finished. And another thing of beauty would be lost. Humanity seemed to be losing more and more of it. And they seemed to doubt it too. It took years to find a compatible mind and it frustrated Penemue to see humans with the potential to be so much more trudging through life with hope dead and gone. Every time he found someone of that ilk he tried his best to help them understand, tried to rekindle something they had let burn down. Most of the time he lost. And the few times he succeeded, the burning anathema that was his touch, the touch of a fallen angel, left the man crushed, utterly. The brunt of humanity never seemed to notice the birth of something extraordinary. They were losing the little understanding he had managed to give them so long ago.
They twinkled. They twinkled with such terrible detachment that his insignificance bore down on him with the weight of gods. And even with that, the allure, on this starry night was palpable, irresistible. They're myriad complexities told of the rises and the falls, the future lay bare in blinding clarity. And the brunt of the understanding, the dawning comprehension of a vast road yet to be truly traversed, tore from him his mind… everything. Emptied him of all being.
Baraqel looked down and he felt nothing. The drooling drooping mind of the mortal was slowly settling, like sodden leaves after a storm, ripped for their branches and sullied into the earth. Almost like a desecrated garden. Baraqel looked down and he still felt nothing. The problem with being aspected was that the aspect defined the being. The future was truly uncaring and so was Baraqel. Sentience had gifted him with reason and thought. And so he wondered, why these men and women down the ages so sought to decipher the future. What could they possibly do to bring a change on something so vast? Could an ant move a mountain? But he had long ago given up trying to add logic to men's actions. They sought the future; they sought meaning from the stars. And every time he came to him, he gave it to them. And witnessed how every one of them bowed down with the weight of it all.
He'd lost, lost it. That place, that state, that moment in time, when, where, things mattered. When, where, happiness had been an actual distinct possibility. It came when you called there, then. Or no, in that place, that state, that moment in time, happiness had never left. That place of black and white, that time of magical twilight, where, when you could feel, almost real. And he'd lost it.
They'd forgotten him. The fact that they still remembered Bezaliel's name felt to him a bigger betrayal, unforgivable. All that he had once given them, all of it forgotten. And it made Bezaliel wonder, if it had been worth it. The love, the fall, and the relentless ennui all the Grigori suffered here on Mount Hermon, and Bezaliel most of all. The others at least had their respective pursuits. For Bezaliel, who had fallen in love with humanity's beauty and colour; this reduced palette, this monochromatic, bleached state that humanity had reduced itself to, was an insult. His sacrifice had been made void. He sought within himself for pity, looking down at that broken, abandoned man. He sought that touch of understanding, that exquisite touch that had made humanity so alluring, so complete. That feeling that had urged them all on to bestow knowledge, power, and the power to change. So he could it give back to them again, all they had lost. But what change could be wrought by the forgotten?
NB: Mythbox is usually a Wikipedia-esque article. This is a different sort of Mythbox. The Grigori are a group of fallen angels out of various apocryphal texts. Some of them are known, some forgotten. They are also referred to as The Watchers.
By Tareq Adnan
“If you were to stroll down the candy-cane façade of a suburban housing estate early on Christmas morning, you couldn't help but observe how the houses in all their tinselled glory are akin to the wrapped parcels that lie beneath the Christmas trees within. For each holds its secrets inside.” Cecilia Ahern
Lou Suffern appears to be in the prime of his enviable life. He's in his thirties, attractive when he wants to be, with a young family and a charming home in one of Dublin's classy suburbs; and a lucrative position at one of the capital's top development firms, where he's tipped for a promotion. Of course, he's worked hard to achieve this and has no intention of slacking off just yet. At the time we find him, Lou is trying to master the art of being in two places at once. While he's in the shower, he's answering emails; while he's saying goodbye to his wife, he's thinking of his pretty new secretary. Balancing these aspects of his life can't be easy so it often leads him to compromise little things like attending his daughter's ballet recital or planning his dad's seventieth birthday party. But he expects people to understand.
A few weeks before Christmas, Lou meets Gabe, a homeless man, sitting outside the office building. An interesting conversation about shoes, and something else that Lou can't put his finger on, makes him think that Gabe might be a 'useful person to have around.' On an uncharacteristic impulse, he hires him to be the office mailman.
The new employee becomes popular around the office but Lou soon finds himself unsettled by his presence. (Saw that coming, didn't you?) Again, he can't quite place what it is that bothers him. Perhaps it's the vague feeling of being judged by Gabe's keen eyes, despite how friendly and obliging the chap is. Or it could be Gabe's uncanny ability to be, quite literally, in two places almost at once. After waving at him from the elevator at the ground floor, Lou barely stepped out at the thirteenth when he sees the new mailman sedately pushing the cart out of his office. It's enough to drive anyone nutty, one would suppose.
Come Christmas week, Gabe gives Lou a present: his secret to being in two places at once. After initially going a little crazy, as humans do on discovering a newfound power; and a couple of royal disasters that compel him to take stock of his life, Lou gets the hang of it and begins to make up for the lost moments and fraying relationships with the people he loves most, just in time for Christmas morning.
So there you go. The storyline is straightforward and it flows well if you can ignore a few jarring notes that might have been dealt with better. You might wonder, for instance, whether a police officer and a juvenile offender are really the best characters to convey the story to you. There is some nice imagery, though nothing distinctly Irish unless you can imagine up a decent brogue. The characters? Effectively, they are only Lou and Gabe; everyone else seems to exist merely to maintain the plot that is Lou's life, highlighting the extent to which he has sidelined his relationships. Simply stated, it feels like the average, Hollywood-friendly, real-life fairy tale.
It feels like that until the final chapters, that is. And, frankly, those are reason enough for you to sit down with this story. True to her word, Cecilia Ahern gives the reader a gift neatly and unremarkably packed, and then unobtrusively peels away the wrapping. What begins with the detachment with which one views 'someone else's' story concludes with a gentle, piercing reminder that this is what reality isn't. It isn't holiday magic or extra time to correct mistakes or opportunities to appreciate what you've always chosen to ignore. Hardly a unique message; in fact it's so universal that it has become trite. However, Ahern manages, for a few moments, to convey that there is some sense left in this cliché that we would do well to remember.
Crafty of her, isn't it? No literary brainteasers that require hours of commitment parsing every passage to shreds; how many of us have the time for that, after all? This is something that you can skim through while stuck in traffic, or come back to during a study break without emptying your mind of vital and terribly fascinating coordinate geometry. Spare a few moments for the ending, though; there are some experiences that you can't quite do justice to if you're in two places at the same time.
By Risana Nahreen Malik
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