The Angel’s Angel
A short story by Maxim Jago
There's an old man, walking down the street. He's dirty, a little tired, with torn clothes and hair in a mess, but he looks happy.
He comes to a group of homeless men. A short row of them, sitting against a wall. The last of the group is a young man who isn't begging - his head is in his hands and he's sitting absolutely still.
The old man stoops down, crouches next to the younger man and puts his arm around his shoulders. Something magical happens: The young man lifts his head, eyes red with tears and pain, and begins to smile. Perhaps it was the human contact, perhaps he had cried enough, but the old man really had an effect.
But then, as we swing around to the young man's perspective, we see the old man... isn't there at all.
Returning to the old man's viewpoint, it's obvious he's invisible to the young man. And something has changed. The old man is even more tired, he's dirtier, clothes more mangled. He literally took the pain from the young man.
The old man stands, smiles at the young man, and carries on.
Further along, standing in the middle of the street there's an angry man shouting at everyone he sees. He's in such pain, it pours out of him in his words.
The old man walks up behind the man, and puts his arms around him, embracing him from behind.
The man freezes, looks at the sky, then slowly down to the road. A little at first, and then in a torrent of pain, he cries. As he does, his body slowly relaxes, and he slumps.
A mother passes by with a little girl. They stop for the mother to read a bus timetable and as they do, she notices the angry man.
The child sees differently - clear as day, there is the old man with his arms around the angry man.
The old man is smiling so peacefully, and he looks back at the little girl. She waves, giggles, and hides behind her mother's legs.
The old man steps back slowly, leaving the angry man truly alone. No-longer angry, the man walks to a bench and sits down, calm, thoughtful.
The old man is calm too, but now he's darker, exhausted, he struggles to stand upright as he walks on. This cost him a dearly.
Still further, on the old man’s journey, he finds a worker struggles with a heavy trolley. He leans on it, tired and unhappy.
The old man pauses on his way, stands behind the worker, and places one hand on the man's back. The worker straightens, new resolve and focus enters him and he pushes on.
Perhaps this took the last of the old man's energy. He stumbles as he walks, leaning just momentarily on a low wall but continuing on his way.
At a soup kitchen, a line of hungry people wait for food. Unhappy people, desperate for a reason to hope. As the old man passes the line, each of them stands straighter, looks brighter and more at peace, but with each step he slumps more, loses a little life, staggers as he walks.
It's almost as if he were walking against a powerful tide that wills him to go the other way, but he must go on, he must.
He comes to a side-door at an old disused church. All of the old locks on the door are broken, and he slips inside.
Inside there’s a large hall, dark and dirty. No-one has used this place for years, except perhaps the hungry and the homeless looking for shelter. Dust, broken windows, and a simple low stage - the kind you'd see at a school. The remains of a proscenium arch remain.
The old man walks straight through the middle of the empty hall, to the stage. His sits up on the stage, right in middle, his knees over the edge.
He looks broken, almost bereft of life, and slumps with his elbows on his knees. The moment passes. The old man is alone.
From behind his back, slowly, huge wings unfold. Grey, drooping, with missing feathers and a kink on one side, they're so large the tips reach from one side of the stage to the other.
The man looks up to a sky hidden by the roof of the hall. He's weary but peaceful. Perhaps it's time to go at last...
The door to the hall opens, and a young woman walks in. She pauses at the door, seeing the old man. She smiles, and walks to him.
She pauses in front of him, smiles sadly again, and puts her arms around him, and embraces him. As she does, he brightens. His wings straighten and his colour lifts - he looks much younger - and his wings finally turn pure white.
From the old man's point of view, he's alone. But he senses... something.
She smiles. She's a little darker now, a little dirty, a little tired.
She walks back across the hall to the door, but turns to look at him for a moment before she leaves. He flexes his wings and looks full of life.
She opens the door and steps outside.
She is the Angel’s Angel.