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.