Summary: A young man living in a dingy apartment and barely holding it together is visited by the "Angel of Suicide."
Angel of Suicide
The angel was a frightening sight, but also pathetic. Her hair was dark and lanky, shot through with gray. Her wings were black like a crow’s and one of them was skinned to the bone in places. Her eyes were silver- and not a gray color in that regard. The irises were a kind of silver that shined when she turned her head and the light hit them. They resembled foil with black pupils. Also, she smoked. She held a burning cigarette in her hand casually. The angel took a long drag and David stared at her.
The young man blinked. “Angels aren’t supposed to smoke,” he said as he checked the prescription bottle he’d taken out of the medicine cabinet. All of the pills were there, which wouldn’t make sense if he’d overdosed. The bottle should have been empty, not full.
“You haven’t taken anything yet,” the angel said in a raspy voice as she sat down in a spare chair. “And I wouldn’t recommend it. That stuff isn’t likely to kill you right away, just make you really sick and if it does kill you, you won’t be going easy.”
“I didn’t cut up my wrists, either,” David said, “so I’m not suffering blood loss. If I haven’t taken anything, how else am I seein’ an angel that looks like road kill?”
“Heh, you tell me, kid,” the angel replied, taking another drag.
“You’ve got wings like an angel, but angels don’t smoke.”
“Says you. The pastor of the church down the street smokes. You’ve seen him sometimes, outside the walls.”
“He’s just a human,” David countered, “It may not be holy, but he’s probably coping with stress or something.”
The angel smiled. “This cigarette is a manifestation of that – coping with stress.”
“But if you’re an angel…”
“I’m the Angel of Suicide, kid. It’s not like I really enjoy my job.”
“Angel of Suicide, huh?” David asked. “I suppose you’re here to take me to Heaven or to Hell – that is, if you aren’t a hallucination brought on by my stressed-out brain or something.”
“And what if I am?” the angel asked, “If I’m just a dream, will you learn anything from me?”
“Maybe that smoking is gross,” David snarked.
“What if I am here to take you somewhere?”
“Heaven, Hell… it doesn’t matter,” the young man sighed. “You know, I figured I’d do something before the impulse left me. The impulses come and go. Then you showed up.”
“You have them often.” The angel did not ask a question – her words were a statement.
“I lost my job the other day,” David confessed, “For a stupid reason, too. Boss got up in my face about something, so I got up in his. That happens a lot. I can’t keep a job because I’m too honest when I see something stupid. I can’t wear the masks the world wants me to wear.”
“Is that a good reason to leave the world?”
“Of course it is, you dumb vision! If I can’t dance the world’s dance, I ain’t gonna survive, anyway! I might as well get rid of the burden I present! If I’m living in a world where everyone dies in the end, why prolong it if I’m just not fit…”
“And you really think you are not fit to survive when you have survived this long already?”
“I’m going to have to tell my uncle about losing my job – again. He supports me, you know… pays the rent on this place. This place ain’t fancy, either. Whenever I go out into the hall I get screamed at by that old lady who keeps at least twenty cats despite the rules and smells like pee. She’ll probably die one of these days and no one will know ‘till they smell it and find the cats eating her to the bone. I suppose I’ll die like that, too – alone, and no one will care.”
“So you are thinking of making it happen…” the angel replied, “What kind of sense does that make?”
David cleared his throat and sat down on a cushioned seat across from her. “I don’t think it would be so bad to die alone,” he said, “the only family I’ve got who cares at all about me is my uncle and he knows I’m a good-for-nothing. He’s always telling me so to try to motivate me or whatever. I don’t have any friends… maybe some folks I bullshit with in chats and forums online, but if I disappear….they won’t even know what happened and so won’t care. Everyone will move on with their lives. Heck, I’ll give the cops and crime scene cleanup guys something to do.”
David laughed sardonically. The Angel of Suicide got a sour look on her face. “You shouldn’t take your life so lightly,” she said.
“The world does.”
“So, you really don’t care what happens to your soul, huh?” Smoke curled in front of her nose and fluttered like a windsock banner whipping in the wind of an early March day before vanishing.
“If such a thing exists,” David responded. “Like I said, you might be a hallucination from my addled brain. I suppose I should be happy if I’m on my way to Heaven, but that doesn’t happen to suicides, does it?”
The young man looked to the angel for an answer, but she gave none. She stubbed out her cigarette on a dirty plate that was sitting on the coffee table, grinding the ashes right down into a streak of grease that remained from heat n’ serve fried chicken adjacent to a spat of fossilized mashed-potato. David hadn’t been keeping his place clean. He didn’t see the point when he was the only one living there and had no guests.
“I figured I might just cease to exist, you know?” he continued, “That maybe I’d just ‘go into the dark’ or whatever it means when people say ‘dead is dead.’ I can’t say it doesn’t scare me, but when life has you desperate and you’re sure yours is worthless and you think the future will be nothing but pain and boredom, you feel like a beast in a cage. I feel like I’m in a tiny cage that’s closing in on me and I just want a way out-even if it leads to nothingness.
“As for Hell?” the angel asked.
“Even that’s better than being a burden – glutting up the human race by existing.”
The angel lit another cigarette with a tiny plastic lighter pulled from the pocket of her stained, thrift store coat. “The world’s full of jerks, you know,” she said casually. “What makes you think you’re so important? Why is your life so much worse? You and I both know that you’re not trying to cause anyone any harm. You’re trying the best you can to be as good as you can. It’s not like you’re a killer or anything.”
“No…” David sighed. “I just stay out of the way. Dying is the ultimate staying out of the way.”
“I’d rather not take you by the hand, kid.”
“Do you know what it feels like to have this feeling that everything you enjoy, everything you like, everything you believe in and everything you create or do is flawed, stupid or just plain wrong…even harmful… just because it comes from you? I have that feeling all the time.”
“No,” the angel said, “but I do know what it’s like to watch a man step in front of a train, to watch a woman bleed out in a bathtub…to watch a kid hang himself with his father’s belt because it was the only way to get his bullies to leave him alone… I even saw a guy not long ago revive the ancient art of seppuku – with a sword and everything – and he was American… an ‘otaku’ type who collected swords… What a mess. Most angels don’t resort to bad human habits, but I smoke to calm my nerves… after seeing all that.”
“Nerves…” David began, “Angels have nerves?”
“Maybe not like humans do, but seeing people throw their lives away, whether they’re driven to it or, like you, really think about it and really have a choice – it does something to you… even if one is supposed to be pure spirit.”
“My life is going nowhere and I can see it going nowhere!” David yelped. “I can’t see a future for me – at least not one that doesn’t end with me dying cold and alone! I might as well die here than in an alley, right? Young rather than old and taking people down with me…burdening them along the way…”
The angel looked at him sadly. “I am only here for you,” she said, “To get help – from your uncle or from anyone else is a decision you have to make. You can do that or you can stand and embrace me – a symbol that looks like road kill. It is your choice.”
“I don’t know if I have a choice,” David said dully. The young man slumped in his seat and contemplated the way the rubber soles of his shoes neatly met the floor. He hadn’t smoked a day in his life, but his apartment reeked of tobacco. Even if he decided to live and the angel left, he knew he’d never get that stench out of the furniture.