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The World He Knows

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“Thánatos!”

As soon as our names are called, we angels are generally commanded to appear. With dæmons, the process is a little more complicated because those bastards can be so vain and finicky. Don’t get me wrong, I love my infernal kin. It’s just they can be so difficult sometimes.

“Yes, Edgar,” I answered the Guardian Angel who summoned me. “What is it?”

“I think my mortal is at the Brink.”

“Are you sure?” I asked, concerned. Normally, when a mortal soul was at the Brink I could tell. I was one of the few spirits—angelic or dæmonic—that could be in multiple places at once. Death was timeless.

“I’ve been Guarding him for years,” Edgar reminded me needlessly. “His emotional state has been steadily deteriorating, and it’s getting worse faster than normal. Follow me!”

Though still behind the Veil, Edgar and I followed his mortal as he went through his morning routine. It didn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary. Simple briefcase and black business suit. Reading the news on his smartphone. Buying a cup of coffee and a bagel before boarding the bus with other commuters. Yet unlike his fellow commuters, he seemed aware of the woman begging at the bus stop. While the others either didn’t notice her or simply ignored her, he seemed to notice her and he noticed himself doing nothing for her. He went back to reading the news on his phone, and the very air around him was clouding with sorrow.

After getting off the bus, he continued on his commute, walking and still reading the news.

“Thánatos, I—” Edgar vanished.

When a Guardian Angel just vanishes like that while their mortal charge was still alive, it meant the mortal was truly at the Brink. I could most certainly sense him at that point. Roland, was the mortal’s name, and he was going to kill himself.

“Follow me,” I said to the four lesser dæmons I summoned. “We will be breaking the Rules.”

He turned down a side street that he would normally pass on his commute, tossing his smartphone aside.

“Protect that!” I commanded, and one of the dæmons made sure it landed softly.

Roland started climbing the fire escape of a brick apartment building, dropping his briefcase at the start of his climb.

“Protect anything he drops or throws away!” I commanded, and another dæmon made sure the briefcase stayed closed when it landed. “Take on corporeal bodies, emulating the denizens of this area.”

They looked like what the mortals might have called “hipsters,” having taken the likenesses of a so-called “grunge-pop band.” The dæmons acted as if it had been they who’d dropped the phone and briefcase.

Part the way up, he cast aside his jacket, which another of the dæmons caught and cared for. Eventually, Roland makes it to the roof. Overcome with grief, he starts crying, nearly tearing his hair out in the process. Taking off his shoes, he sits briefly at the edge of the roof before standing barefoot, arms outstretched, eyes closed and head tilted back.

I swooped into action.

Taking the form of a pigeon, I landed on his right hand. This was so against the Rules. I’m supposed to harvest souls and bring them to the Afterworld, not delay the deaths of the living. He was caught by surprise as I alighted on his hand. Roland looked at me in wonder, clearly perceiving me as nothing more than the bird I appeared to be. Carefully, he turned away from the edge, set me down and began to feed me crumbs from his bagel.

“Thánatos! What’re you doing?” It’s Edgar, aghast that I’ve broken the rules. “The One doesn’t permit us to do things like this!”

“Not exactly,” I replied from behind the Veil, so as not to alarm Roland. “The One encourages us to keep our interactions with the mortals to be as subtle as possible.”

Roland then seemed to notice how the the other mortals on the street below reminded him of ants. He began to laugh, throwing the money from his pocket to the people below. Soon, he’s dancing to music no beings can hear except for him and The One, tears still streaming down his face.

“Edgar, Roland isn’t healed completely,” I told the Guardian Angel. “He’ll still need your help. He’ll still have episodes of depression; he’s a tender soul. But I think he’s mostly safe from himself at this point.”

Roland finally sat down with his back to edge he had been preparing to jump from. While not lost in prayer, his state seemed similar in a way. Eventually, he rose and put his shoes back on, taking the fire escape back to the street below.

“Dude, you okay?” one of the hipster dæmons asked Roland, handing him his phone. “We saw you drop your stuff and you seemed upset, but we weren’t sure what to do, so we just kept an eye on it for you.”

“That’s … very kind of you,” Roland replied, musing of the kindness of the dæmons. It seemed in that moment, he began to think that maybe the world wasn’t quite as harsh as it seemed, if one would take the time to care. “Thank you. All of you.”

“Take care, man,” the first dæmon replied and the infernal four turned to walk away.

“I give you license to depart,” I told the dæmons. “When you round the next corner, return to your places behind the Veil.”

Roland headed back to the bus stop, but to go home instead of to work. There seemed to be a slight spring in his step.

“I don’t think you need me anymore, Edgar” I said.

The Guardian Angel smiled. “Yeah. I’ve got it from here, Thánatos.”