It’s difficult being good, because bad girls have all the fun.
Which is probably why I found myself sitting on the pavement outside the Dog and Duck late one Saturday night. I blinked owlishly at the long denim-clad legs that blocked my vision. Came a deep-chested chuckle and I looked up, and then up some more to find myself looking into the amused face of a very tall man with a blond beard. He grinned down at me.
“How’d I get out here?”
“On my back…”
I must have looked disbelieving because he crouched down in front of me.
“Stand up and have a look inside.”
I don’t usually do what people tell me but there was something compelling about the big guy so I heaved myself onto my feet and walked to the pub doorway. Inside it was chaos. There were punches and bottles being thrown, and the floor was a mess of beer and blood. I automatically looked towards my usual table, to see my friends bending over something on the floor. There were tears and snot running down their faces and they seemed unusually distraught.
I felt the big man come stand beside me and his body heat was surprisingly comfortable. I turned my head.
“What’s on the floor?”
He put his hands on my waist and lifted me so I could look down onto the dirty floor in front of the red leatherette banquette.
What I saw all but defied belief. I shook my head, blinked twice, then fisted my eyes and looked again. It didn’t get any better. My friends were standing around a humped pile of clothing and hair, only it was my clothing and my hair. I screwed my head around and looked down on the blond head of the man who held me in the air. I wriggled and he set me down.
He smiled, not entirely kindly.
“Yes that is you in there on the floor. And yes you are dead.”
I considered that for a moment.
“The me in there is dead. But the me out here don’t seem to be in too much trouble. Why’s that? And who are you?”
“Your body is inside. But your spirit is out here.” His smile had the cutting edge of a razor and he ran a hand along the bare skin of my arm. Then he sobered “Who am I? That’s a bit more complicated…”
He seemed to be struggling for words, but I can be patient so I waited quietly.
“Do you believe in God?”
That seemed to me like an odd question, but it was an odd sort of an evening so I played along.
“Mostly. Sort of.”
“You telling me you’re an Angel?”
This time his grin was genuinely amused.
“No. I’m the opposite.”
“Sort of. Although we don’t like that word.”
“Okay. What do you like to be called?”
I was vaguely surprised by how well I was handling this conversation, but I smiled at him anyway.
“You got wings?”
He moved his shoulders and I saw a pair of huge black feathered wings for the briefest of instants before they disappeared.
“Right. I’m probably hallucinating, but just in case I’m not what do you want with me?”
“You have a choice to make.”
“You do. Mostly when people die there is a clear path to the light or into the dark. But in a very few cases it isn’t clear cut and the deceased gets to make a choice. Gabriel or Lucifer. Good or evil. Heaven or hell.”
He stared deeply into my eyes and whatever he saw there made his grin widen.
“You really are considering, aren’t you?”
I lifted a shoulder.
“I shouldn’t be?”
“No. You should be. But most of he newly dead are in hysterics right about now.”
“So why is it only you here? Shouldn’t there be somebody batting for the other team.”
He jerked his chin and I looked to where a skinny bloke lay unconscious on the deck.
“Who cold cocked him?”
A new voice spoke. Icily. “That’s a very good question.”
My head snapped around as if on elastic and I found my eyes assaulted by a bright whiteness that hurt my teeth it was so shiny.
I put a hand over my eyes. “Sheesh, Angel Wossname, turn the brightness down a tad, you’re blinding me.”
The voice that responded was both patronising and didactic. “Better to be blinded by the servant of God than beguiled by the servant of the Devil.”
For some reason this arrogance got on my nerves.
“Turn it down or bugger off. The choice is yours.”
After a second of affronted silence the white apparition disappeared.
My demon whistled admiringly.
“I’ve never seen that before.”
I shrugged. “It got on my tits. Now. How many lies have you told me?”
“None. So far. Lying to candidates is frowned on.”
“If I go with you, what?”
“You become one of us. A Dark Angel.”
“And if I choose the other path?”
“I don’t know. But you can bet your sweet ass it will be boring…”
I think he was going to say more but I held up a hand for silence.
“Fire and brimstone and eternal torment?”
“Only for murderers and child molesters. They go to The Pit. But that has nothing to do with us.”
I glowered at him.
“You aren’t giving me a lot of confidence. Explain further.”
He looked at me as if reassessing his options. Then he showed his teeth.
“My lord Lucifer wants you. So here’s the deal. There are five places the dead can go. There’s heaven, where you eventually get to be a white angel. There’s the waiting room where you go if you are to be reborn. There’s purgatory where you go to expunge your sins before being reborn. There is hell where you get to be a dark angel. And there’s the pit, where all the torments Lucifer and Gabriel can devise are heaped on your head.”
“This far I’m just about buying it.”
“Good. It’s the unvarnished truth.”
“It is,” the melodious voice came from just behind my right ear. I resisted the temptation to jump and cuss, instead turning my head to look at the new arrival.
He was white and gold and beauty incarnate, and his smile all but melted my heart.
“What Gor neglected to mention was that there hasn’t been a choice for ten of your generations until tonight. Which makes you a very important soul.”
“Gor. May I see your true form.”
The Dark Angel flowed out of his simulacrum of human skin and stood before me, coal black and naked. He was mighty fine. I stared at them for a long moment before speaking.
“So what you are really asking me to choose between is two sides of the same coin.”
They both beamed at me and Gor went so far as to wink.
I held out my hand to the Dark Angel.
“Take me to your leader…”