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.