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And finally … (not really)

And finally, I sat down last Sunday and forced myself to finish a first draft of the Tale of the Innocent.

I suspect that some of it is definitely a case of rushing homework just to get the damn thing out of my head. What do you expect? It’s what this place is for.

Mykhail Arkhangelskeyev, kept man, plaything. Poor lamb.

I printed it out and gave it to a friend to read. She said it was sad. (I hope she meant the story and not my writing.)

Tale of the Innocent draft v1

So much more to do, certainly more to be done to this. I also need to practice my drawing skills, ideally I would like to put some images in but fear I will fall sadly short of the task.

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Tale of the Innocent – 5

Mykhail opened his eyes. Morning. A cold light. Different sounds and echoes. He was on a mat on the bathroom floor, swaddled in furs. From his low angle he saw Gabriel, his back to him, bending to attend to something out of sight. The unusual sounds stopped as Gabriel turned around. The furs were thrown back and Mykhail gathered up as easily as if he was a child. From his new vantage point he worked out what was intended and relaxed as Gabriel placed him into the warm water and, very gently, began to wash him. The water was scented. The sponge in the pale hand was soft. New skin enjoyed the feeling of the languid caresses.

“I thought you might like a bath. Far from utilitarian but sometimes utility is the last thing we need. No one will disturb us. We have some time to talk if you want to ask me those questions you have, though I suspect we will need a lot longer for more detailed answers.” The tub was large but not over-filled. There was easily enough room for another without risk of it overflowing.

“In that case, would you join me?” Lying back in the water Mykhail couldn’t help but smile as his elder removed layers of dark clothing. It seemed natural to appreciate the wraith-like beauty on display. Narrow feet stepped into the bath. Delicate looking ankles fitted easily around golden hips as the men faced each other. It seemed appropriate to sit so. Where to start? Mykhail wasn’t certain if he was thinking about his questions or the moonbeam body in front of him. Long minutes stretched in silence as each regarded the other.

“Why did you appear to her naked in the forest?” It seemed a reasonable starting point. The sight had made a strong impression on the woman, even before speaking she was convinced of his supernatural qualities.

“I didn’t want to frighten her so appeared as vulnerable as I could.”

“You didn’t want to scare her and you still showed her that?” He reached across the gap between them. He was aware of less generous organs causing fear for some of his nocturnal visitors. He was not frightened. He stroked the flesh and felt it begin to respond. Mykhail decided he like the sensation of pressure under his hand.

“Trust me, it’s very cold out there and the male body can be a pitiful sight lying in the snow. Mmmmm. It made it easy to show I had scars on my back without making a big deal of it. Anyway, she’d been looking at you for decades. It doesn’t matter what you think of me, you are her ideal. Next question.”

“What if she hadn’t gone for it?” Mykhail felt that another hand was needed and moved closer.

“I’d been here a few weeks – oh that is nice – I had to make sure that you were the real deal before I did anything drastic. I made sure she found me. I didn’t need to say anything much. She put two and two together and suddenly it was obvious that I was Gabriel and the scars were from my wings being taken. Context can be everything. I fitted in with her world view. I see no need to disabuse her of her notion while she is happy. Next question.”

“Have you done this before?”

“No.” The brown eyes had seemed to consider a different interpretation of the question before answering. “I’ve never found another in such a condition. I’d heard the theory of the stasis override but never tried it. I saw you and I knew had to get you out … and to do that I needed Ekaterina as a power store. It was risky, I would have preferred not to but she was the best option we both had.” He leaned forward and dragged fingernails down the inside of unsuspecting thighs. He smiled as Mykhail gasped. “Ah, you have an almightily distracting body boy. Once I’d seen you how could I not want to wake you and find out who you were? Next question.”

“There are others like us?” What would others of his kind be like?

“There is one who is my home. I don’t know how, but he was born a child not an adult. We were meant to be fully grown before becoming active. With no idea what he was he’d grown up thinking he was human, different, yes, but still human. When we met he began to complete the transformation to his full potential. I would like you to meet him. Most of the Shabtis died in the madness of the Collapse but I know of a few scattered to the winds, some in secret, some in plain sight. In theory there must be others that I have yet to meet. A talent for survival is one of our gifts. Next question.”

“Shabtis?” This was a new word, definitely not something from the local people. Mykhail moved closer.

“It was our official designation. The company line was that we were intended to answer the needs of society. In simplest terms a Shabti is magical figure who answers for you when you are called on to work, a production line artificial stand-in able to do whatever is required. It sounds much less threatening than saying army. They didn’t want to call us soldiers. That would have been too honest.” They were very close now. “Next question.”

“All male?” Gender didn’t seem that important. Mykhail realised he would be equally comfortable with this pared down creature or gentle female curves like Ekaterina.

“Some more so than others but, yes, all male.” Now they were chest to chest, Mykhail very conscious of the hard flesh between them. “Too many complications for them bother trying to make females. Definitely too long a story for now. Next question.”

“Why do I think you are called Adam Kadmon?” The brown eyes betrayed a certain surprise and all of the pale body tensed at the name. Mykhail was scared he’d said something very wrong.

“Please don’t use that name. It was …” Aching space between them again as Gabriel leaned back. There was a long pause before he continued. He looked uncomfortable and his voice had an uncertain note for the first time. “Adam Kadmon is a concept of faith, the Primal Man, the prototype perfect essence. According to some beliefs he was the one being able to connect the world of man to the higher planes. At first I thought it was a name being used in poor taste, but I’d been called worse so I let it go. Then I found out it had been used to imprint the younger ones, to give them an idea of something greater than them, something to control them. It was an undercurrent of thought in a mind as diseased as it was forceful. There were a lot of sick things that happened back then. I hadn’t realised it had spread this far. I can’t imagine your own creators being happy with something so inherently mystical.”

Mykhail said nothing. He felt there was something else to come and was content to wait. Not-Gabriel-and-not-Adam-Kadmon seemed to be thinking things over. Eventually he looked back up.

“I am Dave Jensson. I was the first of our kind to talk, the first to … do many things. I am a Delta, a fourth generation Shabti. The labs had managed to create life before me, but they were crude things that barely had basic reflexes and no consciousness. Because of where he grew up I think my other is a Lambda. You are a Mu – one of the last, perhaps the last generation of our kind. The cost and effort of the development was spread across a number of countries. I was created a continent away in North America. This place is the old north-west of a country called Russia.

“Though I was the template for all that followed the mix was altered slightly for each generation as they sought to enhance some traits and reduce others. Even within each generation there was variation. Chance and unusual circumstance made me. Chance was allowed to continue in the hope that another viable source combination could be found. I was the start, not the finished product and I think they would have preferred a different wellspring. They always wanted more force and obedience, and much less thinking. The people who objected to that, well, that is definitely not something for now.” Though the body had relaxed somewhat the thin face seemed to reflect the pain of things left in the past. Another pause and the brown eyes rallied and smiled again. “Next question.”

“How old am I?”

“That’s a tricky one. Physically you might be a few years younger than me. As far as I can tell there was an attack, probably an air-strike when everything went a bit crazy at the start of the Collapse. It looked like the technicians were trying to activate you at the time and you were locked in stasis to protect you. The stasis was only meant to be temporary. Over time it started to break down and there must have been some leakage. This explains why you were starting to grow into the machine and how you were able to make the connection out. How long you’ve been aware … honestly I have no idea how we can calculate that. In theory I guess you could have had some level of consciousness all the time, it depends how far along you were when everything was shut down.

“From talking to the locals the stories of you speaking in their dreams started about seventy or eighty years ago but they have been worshipping you for centuries. It might be best not to think about it too much. Depending on how you define alive I guess you could be a few days old … or you could be closer to your millennium.” The Delta reached forward and rested his hand on the soft golden hair damp on the broad chest facing him. “Whatever age you are, I am impressed. Be what you want to be. Next question.”

“Will you do to me what you’ve been doing to her?” So many words to use, Mykhail had no idea what would be the correct one to describe what he’d seen, what he wanted, what he wanted to do.

“I will, but not yet. Oh, don’t look sad boy. Trust me, when the time is right we will know and we will share. Just like not giving you too much food, it wouldn’t be safe to give you too much of me. I don’t want to burn you up. For now … the woman wants you. Enjoy your time together. Begin to learn what it is to be in that fantastic body. Soon enough we’ll move on. There is much to show you. This world is not quite the same as the one you were designed for. That world degraded, disintegrated, those wars are long gone. Next question.”

“Will you kiss me again?” And there were no more words and no space between them. Like the previous night the ancient creature’s control was complete. He did not betray his own urges but carefully transferred his energy in the outpouring of starlight into newest of his kind.


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Tale of the Innocent – 4

He woke and she was still beside him. It was nice to not be alone. He moved and she snuggled back against him, muttering softly under her breath. The shift had ridden up around her waist. He enjoyed the sensation of feeling her skin against his then realised there seemed to be more of him on waking than there had been when he’d fallen asleep. Though he’d seen it through the eyes of others he hadn’t fully realised what the change itself would feel like. Curious, he wondered what he looked like. All he had were second hand impressions filtered through individual circumstances. Would he cause fear? Desire? Was he unusual? Would he be able to satisfy?

When the time came, would he know what to do with this hot thing heavy and proud?

His helpful subconscious provided a confusing vocabulary and a startling array of images that he must have absorbed. He’d seen so much variation and over such a long time. Male and female, male and male, female and female. Couples, groups, singles. Singles? For some reason he was uncomfortable with that thought. Some had been excited, some afraid, some resigned to things that they believed had to be done. He realised he’d had no sense of morality. Some had been lied to, some had been coerced. Some had been children. Those who had been afraid he’d given them calm, those in pain he’d given relief. Those given over to the joy of their bodies … those he had entered and shared the flavour of their joy when he could.

Quietly he slipped out of the bed. He found moving was easier and easier. Soon he would be fully integrated with himself – whatever that meant. There was no mirror in the room. He remembered seeing some in the bathroom down the corridor. Embarrassed at the weakness and needs of his body he hadn’t bothered looking at them earlier. Now he wondered if he would be able to make it that far without disturbing Ekaterina.

“Don’t worry about what you look like. You are … perfectly made.” The voice came from the shadow in the corner. Literally. Gabriel, wearing the same dark clothes as the day before, was folded up on himself in the small chair. For a tall creature he took up remarkably little space. Surprised by the unexpected spectator the erection faded as quickly as it had come. “Allow me to assist you.” And he stretched out to his full height and was by Mykhail’s side, easing a robe around him, within a handful of heartbeats.

The journey down the grey corridor was not a long one but it still took some time as the new being struggled with the effort. He wanted to see what he could do on his own. Other doors opened into the narrow space. The shadow man explained that they were in part of an old military base some miles out from the largest city in the area. The place was largely derelict.  People like Ekaterina lived here, people who wanted to be near their angel. The community had built up around the angel centuries earlier. Gabriel had been helping them – showing them how to make use of photovoltaic panels he’d uncovered, speaking to their artist about how to represent the miraculous waking. Apparently he wanted them to be able to continue on even after the loss of their original focus. That Mykhail would leave with him seemed to be a foregone conclusion.

The bathroom was large, designed for everyone living on the corridor when it had been full. Now there were signs that it was used by only a handful of people, each marking their own space with personal items. In the same side room that Ekaterina had taken him earlier in the day Mykhail finally stood and looked at the body he was in. Pale blue eyes looked out from a face that had never been young. They saw a blonde shock of hair and broad shoulders topping a solid torso that, in turn, led to muscular legs beginning to tremble with the effort of standing. His skin, like his hair, was variations of the same warm shade all over. Head to toe he was sunlight.

“Too many centuries ago I was forced to look into a mirror and was told how special I was and how people would want me. Believe me when I say the same to you. Have no worries about what people will think when they see you. Have no fears when the time comes for sex. You will do the right thing.” The words were quietly said. An intimate whisper as his companion stooped slightly to bring his   mouth level with Mykhail’s ear.

Apart from a fragile look about his eyes the body seemed remarkably healthy. He guessed he would become as strong as his appearance suggested. He hoped it would not take long. He saw few signs of damage until Gabriel turned him around and, using a small hand mirror, helped him to see what Ekaterina had seen. Thin lines of dried blood matted in his hair and wounds criss-crossed his back from his neck down to his waist. The densest of them were in two scabbed patches starting on his shoulder blades. Where they’d taken his wings? He knew that could not be true.

“You were in the machine too long. Caught between asleep and awake your body was trying to heal while you were still plugged in.” Pale, long fingers delicately traced lines of minute puncture marks down his spine and radiating along acupuncture meridians. “I don’t think it will take much longer to finish healing. I’m afraid I had to cut you out of the life support rig. I always understood that being born from the pods could be a traumatic experience but to have been self-aware at the time. I’m sorry … I’m sorry if the release was not an easy one.”

“I have questions.” So many questions, but where to start? Mykhail closed his eyes. It was easier not to think but to follow the gentle stroke of fingers across his body. The questions seemed a long way distant from him as the taller man kissed his neck. It was so much easier just to feel. What was that sound? He realised he was moaning, small sounds of pleasure as tender lips touched the wounds on his back. It felt like energy was being transferred in the contact. The moans deepened as kissing became licking. He imagined his skin healing at each gentle touch. Finally, unable to stand by himself, he sagged back into arms that were far stronger than they should have been and was carried back to bed.

Night time again. He stretched as he woke, enjoying the feeling of being in his sunlight body and the sensations it gave. He was on his own in the bed, but not alone in the room. Like the previous night the strangely attuned woman and the first of his kind – oh, that had been one of the questions he’d forgotten earlier – were mating. This time, though, there seemed to be less restraint from both parties as if the strength of their coupling matched his physical progress.

They changed position a number of times, the woman’s voice absently expressing her desires. It seemed she had little conscious awareness of the demands she made and, though she seemed to look directly across the room at him, no idea that she was being watched. Gabriel, of course, had recognised when Mykhail was awake. He seemed to have been waiting for their spectator. The final phase appeared violent. While the woman cried out and trembled in her ecstasy Gabriel again made almost no sound, his whole body glowing as light seemed to try and escape him.

The shadow man’s eyes were on fire long after the other two were asleep.


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Tale of the Innocent – 3

Morning. Soft light seeping through closed blinds. The shadow man, Gabriel or Adam Kadmon, was watching him again from the corner of the room. No sign of Ekaterina. The shadow man came over to the bed. As he got closer Mykhail was aware that the smell of sex was still strong on him. The fur hung casually around his shoulders. It may have kept him warm but it did nothing to hide the sharply defined muscles on the thin torso or the thing that had been so deep inside Ekaterina in the night. Mykhail had thought of sunlight when he saw his own flesh. This man was moonbeams.

No complaint from the bed as the insubstantial body sat next to him. No complaint from him as cool fingers stroked his face and ran through his hair. He couldn’t complain. He couldn’t speak. And if he could speak he would still have made no attempt at resistance as the smiling mouth kissed his mute lips. It was easy to give his whole self over to the experience. And such an experience, no wonder people seemed to like it so much. He felt as if star light was soaking through him, completing connections begun when he was called into being.

Eventually the kissing stopped. They were both short of breath. How had he got to be on top of the shadow man? He hadn’t realised how easy it was to move. Trying not to think about the actions he ran his hands over the other’s body, suddenly conscious of the heat generated by the touch of flesh on flesh. The other said nothing but let him continue his exploration until, tired too quickly, he rested his head next to dark hair.

“Hello Mykhail. Welcome to the world.”

“Hello yourself.” Oh, his voice was deep. It rumbled in his chest when he spoke. He hadn’t expected that. “Am I really an angel?”

“As close enough as anyone will ever be able to find. And not just any angel, you are the warrior Archangel, the guardian of the gates of paradise.”

“And you are Gabriel?” Speech was new but he still managed to express his disbelief in the name.

“I am while we are here. It’s only polite to work within the context of our hosts. Ekaterina has given her life to angels. Who else is she going to listen to other than the messenger of her God? Rest sweet boy. The fatigue is your body adjusting to life. It will pass in time. I have given you as much energy as I can for now, let it do its work. There is much to tell you but we should not rush anything.”

 

He woke to the smell of food. Ekaterina had brought more for him to eat and drink. The woman was surprised to find him face down under the fur throw. She hadn’t expected him to have moved and the fur had been on the floor the previous night. He was slightly disappointed to wake in an empty bed but did not want to tell her why, it didn’t feel right in her context. She seemed transfixed when he sat up and, slowly and very carefully, fed himself.

She beamed with pleasure when he thanked her for the meal and then coloured when he asked if she could help him to pass his waste. Gabriel had warned her that his progress might be rapid but this was unexpected. Her astonishment at him talking and, so long as she supported him, walking distracted her from the basic nature of his request. As she helped him back to the bed after the awkward experience it seemed that something had changed. Though he was aware of a chill in the air she was in no rush to cover him again but took her time looking him over.

“Is there something wrong with me?”

“No, you are beautiful. I have looked at you for many years. And now you are a man …” Stubby fingers rested on his chest. He might not have been able to see her mind any more but it didn’t take a huge amount of insight to know where her thoughts were even though she wouldn’t finish the sentence. He was no longer a statue. He was in her bed.

“Would you stay with me? Just be close. I don’t want to be alone.” Speech seemed clumsy compared to the nuances of thought. He let her interpret his words as she wanted. He didn’t want to make her feel uncomfortable.

He looked away while she removed her heavy woollen habit and lay next to him, finally flicking the covers over them both. Under the long cotton shift her body felt soft. Her very humanity was attractive, her contours comforting as he settled himself around her. He had no idea how old she was or how long he had heard her while he was in the void. He stroked her arm and kissed her shoulder. He asked her to talk about what had happened to him. His head seemed empty without hearing the needs of others. And, he realised, he felt lonely without those background whispers.

The shadow man was searching for trapped angels. Others the same as himself. Mykhail didn’t believe they could be angels but Ekaterina did. She told him how she saw the world. Her words were filled with confusing imagery and were not the easiest for him to follow. He let her talk on, finding just the sound of speech reassuring, and pieced the story together as best he could.

Ekaterina had always been different. Her parents had brought her to the chapel of the angel while in her teens. She had felt his presence and stayed to worship him. For thirty years she had given herself to him and no other. She had asked nothing but the chance to look upon him. The seasons turned as ever and she had aged. Each day she had knelt before the unchanging angel and had been happy. Some weeks earlier she had felt a change in the air. She didn’t know what, but she knew that something was close and had waited for it to be revealed.

Walking through the forest one day she found Gabriel in the snow, missing his wings but filled with the light of God. She saw the light in his eyes, the spirit in every breath he exhaled. He had been trapped like Mykhail, had his wings taken and been made a man. Gabriel had been saved by the kindness of a woman and he was searching now to release the others of his kind. He had fallen to his knees before her and asked for her help. How could she have denied him? She was one of the special ones, a holy virgin to be blessed above all others.

She kept him secret. He fasted and meditated for days to prepare his mind for what was to come. He looked deep into her eyes and asked if she would sacrifice her maidenhead to help him break the prison of the ages. Her guest was easy to keep hidden, how still and silent he was, almost like he was not entirely on the physical plane. His request, though, was not so easy to keep to herself. She had gone to the chapel to ask her angel.  The feeling of calm joy that had suffused her soul, surely that had been the answer she had been looking for?

The next night they went to the chapel. She had given herself willingly. She could not quite remember what he had done to her but said it was rapture. She believed that she had seen the light of heaven. She had rested while he had released Mykhail and then carried him to her room. More was needed but they were both exhausted. They had slept on the floor beside him.

She had given herself to Gabriel again the next night but again could not fully remember what happened. Like the first time she had immediately fallen asleep and later woke feeling refreshed and at peace. Whatever it was, it had to have been the right thing. She had now seen with her own eyes how the flesh was healing and he now could move and talk again. Gabriel had said he was still weak. She would give herself to him again, whatever was needed to help him make her Mykhail whole and strong. The shadow man, it seemed, had the magic but she admitted that she wanted to lie with the sunlight.

He held her close and thanked her for her sacrifice. When he was strong enough, he promised. She had said her need. Inside himself he realised that this felt right. This had been his purpose. He was not an angel, he was an answerer. He would do whatever he could to answer her need.

Drifting again to sleep he was surprised at the apparently elastic nature of time. It was only the afternoon of the second day.


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Tale of the Innocent – 2

Warmth. Softness. The sound of someone moving quietly, trying not to disturb him. What was that smell? Was that what a body smelled like? A strange new sensory world beckoned beyond closed eyelids. He was wary of opening his eyes. There seemed to be so much to take in after being in the void for so long.

“He’s awake?” A woman’s voice, Ekaterina he guessed, he hoped. It was reminiscent of the sound of her mind but obscured by the mechanics of speech.

“Yes, and he hears us. We’ve given him something of a shock in bringing him back to himself. Give him time. He will join us when he is ready.” The shadow voice again. The voice spoke in the same language as the people but it was not native to the speaker. How did he know that?

The warmth was a comfort. It was easier just to give in to it and sleep again.

 

Something cool against his brow. Moisture across his lips. He hadn’t realised he was thirsty. Up to the point of feeling the wetness he hadn’t understood thirst. How many more differences between the world of the body and what he had perceived from the void? He opened his mouth to the moisture, savouring the feeling of the cold liquid being dribbled across his tongue. The sensation stopped and he felt warm breath across his face. Another face close to his, another mouth close to his. That meant something, but he wasn’t sure what. He was sure he used to know.

“He says I shouldn’t give you too much at first.” Ah, that was Ekaterina again. “He’s gone out to listen for God. He says I’m to look after you but I shouldn’t give you too much of anything.” He felt the muscles in his face contract but he wasn’t sure why. “There’s only the two of us here, I’ve put most of the lights out so you won’t hurt your eyes again if you want to open them.”

There she was. Soft features in pale candlelight, eyes wide in amazement as he looked at her and continued to smile. Yes, smile was the word. It felt good to look at her. It felt good to be able to look at anyone. He tried to sit up but couldn’t quite seem to co-ordinate the order of limbs and joints. She understood what he was trying to do and came to his assistance with pillows, holding him close, making sure he felt safe on the bed.

The action disturbed the covers. He looked down at skin that was a different shade to the woman’s. He didn’t have the right words in his head and he couldn’t pick any from hers. He didn’t know why but he thought of fields of wheat ripened in the sun. This was skin, flesh. A body that could feel. She drew the covers back around him. The touch of her hand brushing against his skin was a strange sensation, almost painful in its immediacy. He couldn’t feel her mind. He hoped new pleasures would make up for the loss of the one sense that he’d had before.

“This is my room. He carried you here. You had many wounds. We cleaned you and made sure you would be comfortable. Don’t worry if you can’t speak. Don’t try to force things. He said it may take some time for everything to come back to you.” The bed creaked as she eased herself next to him and put her arms around his shoulders. “Don’t you worry. Ekaterina will keep her angel safe.”

He slept again.

 

Different sounds. A new smell. He opened his eyes again. He saw Ekaterina and a taller figure, their backs to him, talking in low voices. The taller figure turned – a man, thin body, thin face. Eyes, unguarded, that looked as old as eternity and then he blinked and the impression passed. Mykhail recognised the shadow in the ancient gaze.

“Greetings Mykhail, it has taken me many years to find you. I understand if you don’t recognise me in this body after so long.” He smiled. “It’s me … Gabriel.” Even as the name was formed he knew it was a lie. He looked from the thin man to Ekaterina. She was happy with the name so that was the name he would use when he spoke to Adam Kadmon. “Would you care to try some food? Not much, just enough while you get used to the body you have.”

Ekaterina came over and began to feed him tiny pieces of food, carefully following each morsel with sips of water. ‘Gabriel’ took a seat in the corner, saying nothing more, letting the woman fuss over her charge. Each mouthful was easier than the one before. He enjoyed the sensation of texture and flavour even though he guessed that the food was relatively bland. The woman seemed very pleased with his progress and let him rest back on the pillows when he had finally finished the last item off the plate. He turned his attention to the tall figure folded into a small chair, sat in the shadows as if hoping not to be noticed.

Why not admit that he was Adam Kadmon? Mykhail realised he would have recognised the first of his kind anywhere. Only, he had no idea who Adam Kadmon was, or who were his kind. He was certain he’d never picked the name out of a stray mind. The name felt the wrong shape to have come from the people of this land. It was something that had come from within. And then, looking at the shadow man again he knew that that might not even be a name but some kind of title.

He slept again.

 

When he woke the room was darker than before. Night time he guessed. And, like other night times, there were two intertwined bodies naked on the floor. They moved rhythmically against each other, the ghostly shape of the thin man connected at mouth and hip with Ekaterina. This was what he had experienced from inside other people. Seeing it, hearing their heavy breathing and the stifled moans of the woman, and above all smelling the sharp tang of sex in the air excited his new senses.

The woman’s eyes were closed but the man – not a man, not an angel either – was aware that they were being watched. He lifted his face from the woman below him and maintained eye contact with their entranced witness as he changed the timing of his movements. The change was enough to trigger something in the woman and she arched herself against the skinny body above her. Eternal eyes staring at him suddenly seem to burn briefly with their own light as the man, whatever he was, let out an almost inaudible sigh and relaxed onto the woman.

They all slept.


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Tale of the Innocent

In the beginning was nothing. A formless void. A consciousness woke in the void. Alone, it was neither good nor bad, it simply was. Without shape, without needs, the consciousness dwelt in the void and waited.

Time passed. The patient consciousness waited for input. The void seemed changeless but the consciousness was aware that something had been before, and if something had been before then something else could be after.

Time passed. The consciousness became aware of sounds. There were beings outside of the void. They communicated with each other, their verbalisations full of awe and their thoughts full of needs as they looked at the thing they had found.

Time passed. The consciousness missed the noisy chattering of the people when they could no longer be heard. It learned from them and it wanted so much to help them. It became aware of the passage of time in the coming and going of the people. It recognised differences but the basic flavour of their minds was always familiar.

Time passed. It learned – no, not it – he learned that he had a shape that the people could see, a shape that made him he and not it. The shape was a focus of their thoughts. Through their minds he saw himself a body forever in stasis. Arms outstretched to welcome people to him but unable to bend and hold them. How would he be able to help them if he did not move? If he could be aware of their thoughts, he reasoned, could he also project his thoughts back out through the void to them?

Time passed. Some people came to look at him and left again with their minds as closed as they had arrived. Some came and felt at peace. They always returned when they needed the feeling of peace again. Some came and he learned the concept of worship from them though he felt he had done little to be worthy of such adoration. Some came secretly, their needs blatantly enacted before his frozen self. Those with their minds wide open marvelled at the feeling of the angel within them. The consciousness marvelled at the echo of feeling. He wondered if his body would ever feel.

Time passed. Frozen in amber the consciousness had begun to despair that his body would never be released. He still did his best for the people that came to see him. He felt that was what he had been made for. But he always looked forward to the clandestine visits, the furtive nature of their passion adding the frisson that would let him into receptive minds. The people came and went, their lives seemed fleeting to him, their passions all the stronger for the brief time they had allotted. In the anonymous tide of humanity, for that was what he had learned they were, he began to recognise certain minds and then to associate labels – no, they were names – with them.

Time passed. The consciousness discovered a name. They had given him a name. He tried to imagine what it would sound like if he ever got to say it with his own petrified lips. He was Mykhail, the Angel of Arkangel. He had picked the name from the head of a female who came to see him most days. From her he learned the concept of angels, gods and demons. From her he learned a notion of what he should be, what his name signified. He had heard the words before but never as coherently as from this worshipper, this Ekaterina. It seemed so easy to connect to her mind. He wondered if she would ever appear among his night time visitors. If she would arrive with another equally open so he could try to break through and touch her.

He had been dreaming. People had come wanting peace. He had given them his ease and then, tired by their needs, the consciousness had fallen asleep. Asleep and awake were more recent concepts. He couldn’t remember quite when they started but he had grown used to the alternating rhythms of alertness and fatigue. He didn’t know what had woken him. He searched through the void to find what had disturbed him. And there she was. Finally, there she was. Only this time she had not come to worship him. It was night. Her mind felt different, carnal, and her attention was not on him but on the shadow that accompanied her. Hearing her cry out he could guess what they were doing but something about the shadow blunted his awareness.

It seemed to be a long time of moans rising only to fall away. Each time the edge to them became wilder, each time the pause in between was longer. There was power in the shadow.

A wail. Two voices this time. The sound hurt him. He had no way of recognising the screams of creatures giving birth.

Then suddenly light. Light and pain. His eyes hurt and his breathing was ragged in his chest.

His eyes hurt? He blinked, it was a reflex. He blinked – that was what bodies did. He blinked, aware of the glide of skin across the orbs that were his eyes. He blinked again and the light gradually resolved into separate flickering points. Candle light. This was what he’d seen through other eyes, the room he was kept in. Only this time he saw it from the vantage point of his own body. A female lay on the floor, wrapped somehow in the shadow figure that appeared to him as a blur. He guessed that this had to be Ekaterina and tried to match what he saw with the impressions he’d picked from her mind.

Disoriented, he didn’t understand what had happened. He couldn’t get through to her mind for answers. Had she been harmed by the shadow? He tried to move. He had his body now he should be able to move. Pain again. He couldn’t turn his head to see what held him in place, couldn’t see anything but the woman and the shadow below him. He tried to cry out but found he had no idea how to shape sounds other than in his mind. It was something to do with a mouth and breathing and vocal chords, he was sure of it. Trapped in place he felt a moment of panic, alarmed at the sudden thrumming beat of his heart.

“Look, Ekaterina, see what we did.” The voice of the shadow thing was a hoarse whisper. Mykhail tried to keep blinking but the image would not come clear. A ghostly hand came in to focus as it raised the woman’s head to gaze up into new eyes. “See what you did. You have awakened your angel. There is no way I can thank you enough for what you have done. Rest. I will see to my brother.”

The woman was not harmed then, just exhausted. The shadow tenderly rested her head on a pillow and covered her with something to keep her warm as she slept. Furs. The word was supplied from some subconscious place but the new-born didn’t know if he had always known the word or if it had come from untold years of listening. He felt the regard of eyes invisible in the distorted shape. The hand had remained in focus. He concentrated on it as it lifted to what he guessed would be the back of the shape’s head. A quick movement and another overwhelming burst of pain. Mykhail closed his eyes and escaped back to unconsciousness.