We were not machines, time moved on. Life is change. It might not always be quick but it does happen. When Selma passed it was a shock. We’d not noticed how old she’d become, how everyone else seemed to have aged around us. Egypt was like that. There was very little sense of the passage of time, and even less when we did not seem to be affected by it. What were the lives of people compare to the houses of eternity? You know, you’ve fallen under the same spell. The stillness in the temple ruins as the sun rises. The light and the endless sky.
We were fascinated by the relationship between gods and men, the ideas of angels and the intercession of the saints. The notion of the gradual dilution of power from the on high, through the different agencies invented by religion, all the way down to a human level was an interesting one when viewed from the long perspective of the Black Land.
You know some of the things we worked on then. The research is easy enough to find, well, it is since we put it back together. Always, always, we found the pull of the ‘other’. The historical development of the political and the secular never seemed to erase the attraction of the irrational and the religious. Millenarianism may still have been an appropriate response to circumstances in the seventeenth century, but the twentieth and twenty-first? All the way up to the Collapse? I was from that mad religious mind set and even I knew that the ‘Great Fall’ was because of man’s irredeemable stupidity not any kind of battle between good and evil.
Anyway, this is just to say that Dave would wander off collecting stories of angels, visitations and miracles in the crumbling wastes of Europe. It got to be a bit of a game. He might be on some dig or other and get news of a miraculous event and be off. Later he would come home with tales of close calls and credulous peasants and swear that he’d learned his lesson. And we would laugh, we both knew he meant ‘until the next time’.
Only one time, he disappeared.
I got one of his usual cryptic messages; he was off to find the Angel of Arkangel. And then nothing. No point going looking for him, he could look after himself. I was confident he would come back when he was ready. I knew he wasn’t dead, he couldn’t be. He was just gone. I carried on doing what I was doing and made sure I would be his safe haven to return to.
Selma had loved parties. She threw some great ones. Among them would always be one big charity bash each year, the Gods and Monsters Ball. Even after she left us we continued the tradition of the big themed masked ball. Just like Egypt, ever changing, ever the same. Five years – five years! – after he dropped off the planet Dave came back during the Gods and Monsters. Just like that, no warning. The theme that year was Norse mythology. Were you at that one? I went as Heimdall. Honestly, some days you couldn’t make up some of the stupid choices I’ve made.
So. The crowd parted and there he was, large as life, half as thin. Hair black and spiked, ebony clothes hanging off him, skin as pale as death. Absolutely perfect gothic version of the Sandman Loki. Bastard always knew how to get my attention. And he wasn’t alone. The creature with him, all blond and tan in furs and armour, he was a stunner. Slightly shorter than us, but stocky, strong, he could have been about our age with his beard shot through with white.
OK, you know it wasn’t like I’d completely locked myself away pining for Dave but when I saw him with this …Viking … I honestly thought I’d lost him. We left the blond thing with the small crowd of hormones, sorry, women he’d attracted and took our private words out to an empty service corridor.
Feeling threatened – no, let me be honest – feeling old, fat and ugly I was suddenly geared up for a fight. All the worry, all the fear, all the deep-seated insecurities I’d ever ignored were bitter gall in my mouth, ready to be spewed in his face. And he kissed me.
Five years without news from him, five years without his touch – what do you want me to say?
It wasn’t pretty, certainly nothing as refined as our reunion here. We weren’t particularly gentle with each other. Hell, we knew what we could take and the need was primal. Kissing is a weak word to describe what we did. Eating, yes, devouring would be more accurate. We tore each other’s clothes to get at the flesh beneath, the need to be close so overwhelming.
In the gaps for breath in our tempest he begged my forgiveness, swore he could never stop loving me and, finally, told me he’d brought me an angel.
The blond thing – he was for me? Dave had brought me gifts before but never a person. Rather strenuously reassured of my place in his affections I allowed my love to take me back into the main room and introduce me to this ‘angel’. What we must have looked like I didn’t particularly care, but I wrapped my cloak about me and Dave buttoned up his long coat to stop others seeing the full extent of our dishevelled and bloodied appearance.
We made our way through the tight knot of ladies vying to welcome the newcomer to Luxor. Sat, flanked by Valkyries, he was being fed grapes and sipping mead. The first look up at me made no strong impression on either of us. The second was longer. The third became an outright stare and his handmaidens began to move away, they had the sense to recognise when they had been upstaged. His eyes were the blue of the clear dawn sky; they were young and impossibly old at the same time. There was none of the mad, drunken, passion of meeting my brown eyed love but still I recognised that he was another like us.
And this time, in my ear, I heard the words whispered to me; this was the Angel of Arkangel, an angel who had lost his wings. Whatever the magic between me and Dave, it hadn’t been the same between him and the Viking. He’d brought the boy back to me he said, to see if I could complete him.
It was amazing. Just when I thought my heart was full there was room for more. Two became three. Should have become three, but things didn’t quite work out. I should have had him that first night but time … oh we thought we had endless time, and I needed Dave so much, what difference if I took time to get to know this new god first. Heimdall? I’ve never been more wrong.
I can’t tell you what happened to Myk, that’s his story, not mine. But it happened and we were all left with the consequences.
Dave did what he did to help him recover. I was kept out of it; he said it would be better, easier for me in the long run, if I wasn’t involved. And, physically, he got better … but it was like something had died inside him. He wouldn’t let either of us near him. All the hopes, all the joy and the happily ever after were crushed out of us. It wasn’t good. No surprise, Dave blamed himself. Eventually he left. He couldn’t take seeing the pain in those dawn sky eyes.
I made my promise to the boy. He knows I’ll never leave him, so I wait. I’ve not cut my hair since then, another part of my early past that is with us every day. The rest you know and I don’t need to say it. It’s been such a long time. Now that Dave is back again … who knows? We have other people to consider now. A different mix may take us to a different outcome. I can only hope.
“That’s enough. Like I said, you want more of that you try asking Myk. If he can talk about it it might a sign that he is getting over it. Actually, does Myk know how we used to know each other in Luxor … before you became Gielen?”
“I’ve never wanted to bring up the past with him, either of our pasts. Anyway, the friend who paid for the change paid for a very, very good surgeon and excellent gene therapy. There’s nothing left of the man I was, I saw no reason to worry Myk with the thought that I wasn’t born a woman. In this city there’s only ever been me and the special friend who knows. Ahh, you won’t say?”
“It’s not my place. Don’t get me wrong, I know how you felt about me at the time, but you do make a stunning woman … much better than the man you were trying to be. The state I got to … I think I would have only hurt you and there’s been far too much of that in my life. I was pleased to see you arrive here and it does my old heart good to see you happy with Elvira. What you have been getting up to with Myk – well, consenting adults and all that.”
“You don’t mind?”
“Gielen, I told you, it’s not my place. The three of you together, the two of you together … what difference does it make? He is not mine until he decides he wants to be. Even then I would not deny him his other pleasures if he wants them. No matter what happens I will love him for as long as I draw breath. Same as Dave.”
“How can you be so calm about it?”
“I’m not always like this. You know what I’ve been like in the past. But, eventually, I guess you just get a different perspective once you accept you’re not human.”
“You’re doing the gaping thing again. Did I miss that out? The thing that Dave had seen when we first met, the thing I didn’t believe at first. Obvious once you know. Time has side-stepped around us. Different, special, separate. Take me at my word, whatever we look like, wherever we came from, we are not the same as you. Give yourself some time to think it over and come back to me with questions later. Kill the recording.”