Sleeping Would Be Better
Right now, if you can imagine, the sun is so high in the sky it feels like it's directly over you, one big spotlight. The air is denser than water but lighter than itself and if you close your eyes imagination comes naturally, sweetly, it's draining from the water-air and filing through your ears and then you hear it, soft heartbeats and words. The smoothest words you ever knew.
I'm just saying, is all. You don't have to take my word for it.
There are clouds here, and they don't move or make a sound and the stillness of it all makes you think maybe if you stopped breathing you would float up there with them.
I like the ground beneath my feet usually, but if you really think about it, what differentiates the sky from the ground? What makes us think that the clouds don't have their feet on the earth too?
I've spent nights digging holes through coffins and when I finally came outside…
Breathe in, breath out.
There was the sky again, waiting for me.
Riding on a bicycle in the middle of southern Louisiana where not even the clouds like to hang around, I was. I'm sure that's where I began, like a birth or something close to the border between possession and life. The body I stole belonged to a drinker, a tired old fool who made his living shoveling graves anyway. It's hard to explain how it felt to be inside of someone, feel every creek in their bones and the twists and turns of veins beneath the skin when I started up his heart. It took a few times, like driving an old car. Turn key, turn key again, and again, ignition, drive.
Anyway it shouldn't matter how I got to be what I am, how all of my thoughts are harbored from brain waves instead of spirit.
Riding on a bicycle in the middle of southern Louisiana where not even the clouds like to hang around, I began my way to the Church. It didn't have any other name than that because it was the only one for at least a few hundred miles. It didn't have much of a standing with people coming from bigger communities, it creaked a little and the white paint on the outside had turned a bit grey from "too much use" a lot of the older women like to say. But it had the natural charm of good people in it. Sweet people.
It was a Saturday, a day that sticks to the skin like fly paper. Running around were a mass of people trying to get ready for Sunday – to rest easy. The pastor sat on a lawn chair outside, his bible across his round stomach, talking to a young man fast. His cheeks were covered by a thick beard and every time he spoke the hair would move with him as if it were a creature in and of itself.
The younger man leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees. His eyes were half closed, moving only when the pastor shifted in his chair and I knew instantly what kind of man he was, fluorescent but not fast enough. I wasn't fast enough either.
"Young man, are you a believer in the lord Jesus Christ?"
I stopped my bike so fast the wheel came up in the back and I was afraid of flipping over. A bent over woman whose hair was covered by a hat the size of Louisiana itself stood in front of the bike, she was just really a speed bump though I wouldn't want the trouble of using her. She had a fast walk for a woman her age, moving her can in front of her like it was another limb, then touching my elbow.
I leaned my head slowly toward her with a bit of a smile. "I believe I was once."
"Well what happened?"
"I don't think he believed in me."
Sometimes people don't like being pushed into seeing things they don't want to see.
The man I saw had dark hair, and if I closed my eyes long enough I could see him all over again, the way his shoulders were concave, the way his face was. I guess it shouldn't matter really.
The old woman kept a steady grip on my arm, she was a southern lady of class, with the way she spoke to me I could tell all she could sleep with was gold. Remember the days, darling, when men would come to your doorstep to call on you, hair slicked back with a pressed shirt and flowers? When he would meet your grandmother and mother and charm them with bright eyes?
She pressed me through to the pastor; you could tell who he was easy enough with how everyone acted around him. Reverent, quiet.
"What's your name, son?" The beard spoke through, shaking.
"Aaron. I live up the street." Lies replied.
"That's a biblical name. Just like Caleb." He nodded to the boy next to him, the one with the shy shoulders. His voice came from his diaphragm like leaves being crushed.
"Nice to meet you, Aaron." Caleb nodded.
"My pleasure, Caleb," I paused, looked to the bearded man, "Pastor."
Caleb pressed against his knees with his palms to stand up and shake my hand. His eyes were brown, reminded me of thousand year old bark caught in amber. "You should come along Sunday."
The pastor's laugh made his stomach shake and Caleb couldn't help but smile too. I could tell because then everyone was smiling. Like it spread.
Then a woman yells towards a moving man who has a cardboard box near a shed. "There is absolutely no way you are putting that in there!" She yells and suddenly the attention is off me and I can smile.
That night I had to let the body rest.
Leaving a body kind of feels like having something on the tip of your tongue. It feels like not being able to grasp just what it was that you were thinking about because really you were thinking about everything at once and it's just too much for you to handle so you blank out for a minute and forget it like you forget your dreams and I'm there, I'll always be there in your dreams.
Now breathe again.
I left the body slumped by a tree and let myself, my real self, wander the streets of that small town with my shoes off, without touching my feet to the ground. I found Caleb there, out near the edge of the woods. He was just standing, staring off into them and it was so dark you couldn't see your hand in front of your face if you didn't have a light.
I moved up towards him, slow, reached what would be a hand out to where his cheek was and ran it underneath his jaw. The hairs rose like mini soldiers, I could hear the clatter of their armor. And then I heard his heart beat out a nervous war drum.
"Hello?" He whispered and it came out as a roll of smoky air.
There's a thing I've heard of called a conscience. I think it made me leave.
Out in the woods two girls play house and it's easy to see how human nature comes through in this game. Deeper in the woods I can see Caleb again, laying on a tree branch, and I can smell the sunlight from here that's fresh on his skin. And dew drops, so many dew drops.
In a moment I'm beneath the tree, sinking my back into its backbone closing my eyes. There are limitations to having a body, but speed isn't one of them.
After a while I open my mouth. "Good morning."
"It is, isn't it?"
"It's Sunday. I thought you'd be at church."
"I wanted to talk to you. Don't think I'm dumb." He swallows; I can hear it from the ground. "I know you're an angel."
I breathe. That's all I can think to do because he's so wrong I think he might just have circled back around again to being right.
"I just want to know heaven. Will you take a walk with me?"
"Get down here. I don't have all day."
He kind of has an off center walk, so he moves a little to the east when he's walking north. I've got my hands in my pockets to keep myself from reaching for his face.
He laughs and it slips out anxiety. Decadent ideals make me want to bite my tongue once and a while as he tries to spit out what he wants to ask me. Finally he looks up and blows out, "I don't know what to say to you."
"Are you afraid of me?"
"Should I be? Angels aren't supposed to be frightening." He gives a real fast grin that looks like it would be healthy to have happen to you.
"Sometimes being frightening is angelic."
"I don't understand, exactly." He scratches his neck and then looks over at me. "Do you have wings?"
"Can I see 'em?"
"No. You wouldn't like seeing them."
"You aren't an angel."
"I… was an angel."
I can tell instantly he doesn't understand me. The thing with being in my place is that pouring out the reality of it all isn't going to change anything. If he went and told the world I'd still have another world to stay in.
"If you fall in love you become… You set your feet on ground again," I tell him.
"You know what I sometimes think?" He's trying to make me feel better. He's trying to distract me and I'm willing to let it work. Let him speak his long awaited soliloquy. "Sometimes I think that when someone dies he sinks beneath the earth into its center and then his soul goes there. So that heaven isn't really in the sky but is beneath us. And the center of the earth is just hot with the amount of souls and we're just feeding it and feeding it and we'll never be able to dig that deep and why would we want to?"
I look over at him and we've stopped. The sun rises to the top of the sky and looks down on us like some kind of spotlight, a lighthouse to tell a soul that if it keeps going up it will hit space and never come back.
I reach out a hand and run it beneath his jaw. And he tells me how he knew it was me.
"Why were you standing out there?"
"I was waiting for the sky to fall."
I grin. "You think the sky is falling, Chicken Little?"
"You fell. So it's possible."
And suddenly that smile is gone. My hand is gone, my whole presence is gone from him and I realize that had he thought that I was a bad person I wouldn't be afraid to walk with him. It would be easier.
"Wait." He has to be about 19. He's got the lined up arms and the nice face and the mixed up ideas but suddenly his voice turns 3 years old and I'm watching him. "I'm sorry. I really am."
I find myself behind the tree he's standing by, my back against it. The body I'm in is a bit shaken up, hot and flushed. It wasn't designed to move like that.
"Do you really want to see my wings?" I know he's only caught up in the idea of wrapping his mind around what I am. He's just a xenophile for the abstract, doesn't understand that I am just a gross form of taxidermy, preserving what was once human to get in all the love that I envied – which really wasn't what I envied.
He jumps but then I know he nods.
My wings are made up of when the shoulder blades I have pull outward and then up. The process isn't painful just uncomfortable when the bones split so that the wings expand. There are no feathers or white cloth. Just bone and blood and they look like naked red sticks if you glance fast. If you look through at the back you can see my spine and lungs and rib cage.
I unbuttoned my shirt to show him but by the time the process was over and the plucked wings dripped a bit on the ground he was running. And I really don't blame him.
I count street signs on the ride around the town. I've left my shirt in the woods and wiped away the idea that I'll ever see Caleb again. Last time this happened I drowned out my thoughts with a succubus.
This time I just pedal until I can't feel my feet anymore. Until it gets dark again. I feel like the antichrist…
"We can not stand for the idea that women in our community will succumb to the powers of this immortal being. It is not right that our Lord has to watch over our daughters and realize that they could be attacked at any moment. Think of the children who will grow up in houses that may be infested with these demons. Why, I can't even imagine having my daughter be… raped by such a grotesque creature. The devil does not come to us in horns but in gold and silver. Children, do not be deceived by a beautiful face. This is the devil's mask."
The pastor shouts so loud it's hard not to hear him when moving past.
I can smell his skin when I ride past his house and stop where the road meets the gravel of his driveway. The house is longer than it is tall and the door has a screen over it and that's all. And I'd like to say I didn't know what I was doing when suddenly I was at his window and letting my body through.
He sleeps like he's never going to open his eyes again. So deeply his lips are set in a ridged line and his face is facing his ceiling. His arms are above his head like he's perpetually falling. I guess it's easy to see how much of a fan a body can be for another when you see them sleeping.
"You know, Caleb, a hit to the head with a pillow is four points. One to the stomach is two. But if you're catching someone who is technically not playing yet, I guess it's no points at all." What drives a little girl to speak to a doll is the same thing that made me talk to him. Sitting on his bed without making an indent I wonder if maybe this time will be different. Maybe this time I won't have to force.
In his sleep he reaches his arm up, the only movement so far, and it's almost like a dance the way he keeps it in the air, drunken and limp but still there like gravity is suddenly gone.
I take his hand, kiss his fingertips, wait for him to wake up but he doesn't and if I knew that it was my conscience telling me to stop maybe I would have listened to it. Maybe the core of the earth is made up of a million souls turning around and maybe that closeness makes heat the way closeness does up on the above ground.
Body to body makes skin to skin feel like melting into someone else. Caleb woke up to the feeling of not weight but weightlessness of another human being above him. I know what was wrong was wrong and that his shirt should be on his back and mine as well and yet he reaches his hand to where my shoulder blades are and run his fingers along the bone.
"Angels aren't allowed to be loved too. I'm sure," I find myself whispering onto his shoulder, like it is my own personal microphone.
"This won't happen. You know this can't be happening."
"Angels aren't allowed to be loved too."
He sighs and rolls me over, lets his weight keep us from feeling like gravity doesn't exist. "Then I guess you are no angel."
When he falls asleep I kiss his cheek hard, so hard it must have merited a bruise and then his forehead and then along his chest and I wonder if being in love really wasn't meant for who I am. The day I joined the ranks of the off kilter species I'm apart of was the day I was told I officially became a demon.
But Caleb can make anyone believe they have the conditions to fly.
He rolls over in his sleep and catches my nose against his and suddenly I'm thinking of Eskimo kisses and drinking the rain and how the sun is so low in the sky it must be directly under us and how the air is thin and how words would be so hard and choppy that they would make nothing the same again.
Caleb laughs in his sleep.
A Note: So I know it's impossibly longer than the last ones I did and I hope it makes sense considering this is my first work of fantasy. I didn't know how it would turn out but I just wanted everyone to know that your reviews are awesome to read and that they are really appreciated. And that writing like this keeps me moving. A million kisses, iSee.