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| There Ain't No Justice |
| #86 |
- Date With an Angel -
(for shaunagh-lyn, lisa, alice and all the other angels.)
because this was originally Loki's idea, and this was one of Loki's
friends, i was determined to see this through, to try and make it
work. he had a reputation (that i was determined to disprove), and
it often extended to his associates.
i had been sauntering around the house, having shaved almost two
hours ago, deliberately trying not to get ready for this... this
-date-. that word sat uncomfortably with me. i didn't -date-. it
was a matter of personal preference. i didn't like mushrooms on
pizza; i tried to avoid rap music; and i didn't date. i had only a
vague idea of what normal people actually -did- on dates.
i'd dressed for the nightclub that i'd planned on taking her to;
reasonably neatly, and all in black, of course. black jeans, long
woollen coat, motorcycle boots with a metal-studded collar wrapped
around the left ankle. my `Skinny Puppy' T-shirt was buried
somewhere under the unwashed clothing in my bedroom; mike had spray-
painted a "Bob"-head on the back of the only other decent T-shirt i
owned; fortunately, the coat covered it.
Loki had said she'd be here around eleven; the VCR had just ticked
over to 23:00 when the buzzer sounded. i had been hovering around
the intercom for the past ten minutes, so i leaped to the receiver,
snatched it up (balancing on one leg; we'd never managed to shift
those boxes away from that corner since moving in), shouted, `hello?'
a faint female voice sounded over tinny electronic crackling; i
thought i recognised my name and the word `Loki', so i held down the
foyer door button until i heard it open. i went to our front door
and opened it, curious about what she looked like.
mid-to-early twenties; just a bit shorter than me, with masses of
curly blonde hair, pale, thin face, lively grey eyes; generally,
very attractive, not discounting the two huge, pale-grey-dove-
feathered wings folded neatly behind her shoulders.
always something. where were all the -normal- people?
`come on in.' i said, trying for a Keifer-Sutherland-in-`The-Lost-
Boys' sound, making a determined effort to remain unsurprised. she
smiled and entered, her eyes closed in a demure, i don't know how
you'd describe it, something like batting her eyelashes except
nowhere near as twee. it was a very fetching affectation. i felt
something almost like a knife-blade twisting in a wound, inside;
recognising it for what it was, i ignored it. `would you like a cup
of coffee, or tea or something?' then thinking, maybe she isn't
allowed to drink coffee or anything mortal or vaguely sinful like
that, i added `or, uh, mineral water?' she smiled, as if
understanding my intention, forgiving my confusion. it was then that
i began to believe that she wasn't human.
while she examined the array of `Hellraiser' posters prominently
displayed over mike's computer, i snatched a glimpse of the rest of
her. she was wearing something blurry, almost glowing white, like
television static; still, the outline of the body that it followed
closely wasn't as slim as i'd first thought, behind where the
wing-tips crossed over her legs. the fuzzy dress seemed to merge at
the shoulders, into the wings, which moved slightly with her
breathing. i got a bit closer; the feathers were real. they were
attached to her shoulders. i could see tendons that us regular humans
didn't have. i inhaled gently; there was a scent that i couldn't
quite place; associated with walking past the florist's, the
collected perfume of hundreds of flowers. it unlocked other, strange
associations in my mind.
suddenly, she turned to face me, just a bit too close for comfort,
considering that we'd only just met.
`i'm Zhehrael.' the way her lips moved when she pronounced that `zh'
sound was hypnotic, the sound a soft hiss. `and, no, i haven't slept
with Loki.' i -hadn't- been thinking that. i had been deliberately
-not- thinking that.
`you'd be, possibly, one of the few people in Melbourne who hasn't.'
i heard myself saying. she laughed.
`i'm not from Melbourne.' i moved aside on the pretense of
straightening a loose stack of disks on my desk.
`i got that impression, somehow.' there was a pause, one of those
awkward and embarrassing discontinuities that signalled how much she
was trying to put me at ease. i wasn't deliberately trying to step
on her lines. really.
she moved over to the couch, standing in front of the space left by a
stack of hardware that mike was trying to shift, and sat down. it
was such a smooth, coordinated movement, the wings crossing over
almost like arms folding behind, her legs crossing easily, that i
almost felt like applauding, or at the very least, holding up a card
with 9.8 written on it. i looked about for an empty pizza box and
one of the whiteboard markers that we used for refrigerator messages.
somehow, she knew what i was looking for and why; her chin ducked
down towards her chest and she giggled, looking up at me through her
that might have been a mistake; it was such a calculated, cinematic
move that it looked prearranged. a crack in the armour, a tiny hitch
in the performance. she looked suitably abashed, and for a brief
second i felt like asking her if she was going to be reading my mind
all evening when her attention turned to my notebook, which was
sitting on the coffee-table next to a stack of Monty Python videos
that mike had borrowed. uh oh, i thought, but she ignored the
potentially embarrassing dream diary at the front and instead, began
reading from the back. that was safe territory; nothing more
revealing than stray ideas, anything that drifted by that i thought
noteworthy; taglines, diagrams for jewellery, notes for stories;
general mental detritus. she smiled at some of the more humourous
ideas, reading one of them out (`naked women eating butterflies.
Uh-huh.') and nodding with approval and, uncharacteristically (for a
christian angel, at least) eyes widening in appreciation at some of
the cenobite mask designs. for a moment, she seemed lost in thought
and i had the idea that perhaps she wasn't a traditional christian
perhaps she was one of -them-. a cenobite. this raised my opinion
of Loki considerably. i simply stood in the doorway, staring at her
and considering the possibilities when she stood up again, the book
clasped in both hands like a shield, and asked,
`where had we planned going out to, tonight?' i smiled, picked up my
car keys and gestured that she should follow me. these purely
mechanical motions allowed me to analyse what she'd said, and how.
using `we' could have been accidental, or it could have implied that
she thought of us as a couple, already, and i couldn't overlook the
contrived awkwardness of `to, tonight'. as the cold night air swept
over my face, i wondered if i was over-analysing this situation.
perhaps she did just want to put me at ease. so far, in finding out
what she expected from the evening and doing something to satisfy
this, i was doing about as well as usual. `that bad, huh?'
i opened the passenger-side door for her and helped her in, making
sure that her wings were comfortably nestled between her back and the
seat; she wriggled from side to side, trying to get comfortable; then
she sat forward and half-spread the wings, threading them alongside
the seat, extending them into the back of the car quite neatly.
it was a cold night, and, as usual, the Volkswagon didn't want to
start. i got the feeling she didn't even want to leave the car-park,
as would a horse comfortably stabled for the night. Zhehrael laid one
hand flat to the dashboard, her slim fingers pale in the light of the
overhead fluorescents. the car kicked over immediately. of course.
we seemed to slip through the traffic easily, gaps between cars
appearing as if by magic, traffic lights in our path turning green
whenever we got within shouting distance of them. this allowed us to
continue tossing small talk back and forth safely; i didn't need all
of my concentration on the road. i'd given up over-analysing
everything she said and thought, the hell (heh) with it, just treat
her like anyone else. i just had to try and avoid questions about
her parents, her job, her religion and where she lived. easy.
she opened the glove-box and sorted through the unlabelled tapes,
selected one and slotted it into the glowing green mouth of the tape
deck. David Bowie, `Diamond Dogs.' she turned up the volume and
sang along with the title track unabashedly; by the second verse, i'd
joined in, singing harmony at points:
`That Halloween Jack is a real cool cat,
and he lives on top of Manhattan Chase
the elevator's broke, so he slides down a rope
onto the street below
Oh, Tarzan, go man go...'
we were perfectly in sync well before the last chorus, singing `bow
wow, woof woof, bow wow' and giggling. she'd managed, somehow, to
crank down the window (despite the lack of a window-handle) and sat
there with one elbow draped over the door, her hair blowing in the
most of the evening was uneventful; she didn't attract any undue
attention at the nightclub, possibly because they saw that sort of
thing all the time. we sat well up above the dance-floor, where we
could converse without having to shout. around half-past two in the
morning she went over to the bar and came back with a bottle of
champagne. `The bartender just gave it to me,' she said, swigging
from the open bottle in a most undignified fashion. she offered it
to me and i shook my head. she regarded me with genuine affection.
`you don't have to worry about getting drunk. i can take care of
you. that's one of the things we do, watching over motorists.'
again, i shook my head, pushing it back towards her. she shrugged
and drank a third of the bottle's contents in one go.
an hour later i was sitting in Fast Eddie's, listening to her talk at
machine-gun pace. it was strange; considering how much we knew about
each other, it should have been inconsequential chatter but somehow
it all seemed vitally interesting to me. she was more than a little
drunk, and i had to help her back into the car. i was wondering why
none of the straights coming out of the Metro, just up the road,
could see her wings. perhaps they were drunker than she was.
we sang on the way home, too; more Bowie. she was definitely getting
a bit maudlin by then:
`when you rock and roll with me
there's no-one else i'd rather be
nobody down here can do it for me
i'm in tears again when you rock and roll
and, as we pulled into the driveway:
`to feel that we are paper
choking on you nightly
they tell me: son, we want you
be elusive, but don't walk far
for we're breaking in the new boy
deceive your next of kin
for you're dancing where the dogs decay
you're just an ally of the legion
locator for the virgin king,
but i love you...'
and she was sobbing slightly as i helped her out of the car, tears
running down her face, choking out the words: `we are the dead.
we... are the dead.' at this, she collapsed and i grabbed her just
as she fell, holding her in an awkward fireman's carry, her left wing
dangling free, her right uncomfortably trapped underneath her. she
hardly weighed anything, no more than a large dictionary, or a
continental quilt filled with soft grey feathers.
mike and his significant other had staked out the couch and were
casually ignoring the television; after managing to work open the
front door, i carried Zhehrael to the bedroom. the room was dimly
lit by the street-lamp outside shining on the window-shade; she was
still sobbing slightly as i sat her down on the mattress, picking up
a stray Country Road top (the softest material i had handy) and
carefully wiping away her tears. she sat back on the pillows i'd
stacked against the wall.
`i'm sorry,' she whispered with only a bit of hoarseness in her
voice, clutching the sleeve of the top. `i don't get drunk very
often.' i sat back against the wall, next to her.
`nonetheless, you do it very well.' she bit her lips and, briefly,
glanced down in embarrassment. her head seemed to move naturally down
to my shoulder and suddenly i found myself holding her, one arm over
her right shoulder, the other under her left, stroking the downy
fuzziness between her wings, feeling her sobs pushing against me.
presently she disengaged and she said,
`i can't stay for very long.' i hugged her close to me once more.
`that's okay. as long as you can come back again.'
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