This was a short story I wrote for my Advanced Creative Writing class. The goal was to write a literary story that focused on characters and description more than plot and action, but still manage to balance all aspects well. While our teacher told me that no one has attempted a science fiction short story for this project, she was in full support of me trying to write a literary sci-fi, referencing Ray Bradbury and George Orwell.
While I ended up sticking more to spiritual and “paranormal” (for lack of a better term) than sci-fi, I feel it’s safe to say that the story content hasn’t been done at PCC’s creative writing classes. The story is inspired from a concept my roommate and I are developing about a guardian angel watching over a young troublemaker throughout her entire life. In the original story, Eitan, the angel, is tasked with guarding her from the moment she’s born, keeps her out of childhood dangers, coaxes her to Christ, protects her from wayward rebellious stages, boyfriend problems, eventual marriage problems, and ultimately sits beside her during stages of cancer and taking her home.
This story focuses mainly on one section of this would-be larger story (and animation if we were ever to go through with our plan). Eitan is a character who’s appeared in several of my short stories (originally a response to Frank Peretti’s exquisite novel This Present Darkness), but as of now, this story takes place at the beginning of the canonical timeline.
Eitan and the other angels in the story appear similar to demons because they once were the same creature, which explains the rams horns while the demons have goat horns. Their ears are sheep-like while the demons are more swine-like. Angels have bronze skin and demons have pale skin.
The parkway leading to Highway 27 was mostly abandoned at this time of night. The only vehicles that did pass, tires thundering over bridges and echoing through the underpasses, belonged to those who were returning from a brutally tiresome day’s work, a late taxi from the understaffed and woefully inefficient local airport, or from an unexpectedly long evening of gaiety and frivolousness that parents wouldn’t approve of. Every twenty feet or so the parkway attempted and failed to show off its winning personality by displaying its wide collection of travelers’ trash. Gum spots the size of silver dollars cemented themselves to the shoulder’s asphalt, aluminum beer cans in the shape of pancakes twirled with each pass of an eighteen-wheeler, and the local gangs thought it would be a special kind of genius to graffiti the “55 MPH” speed limit signs. The only signage that successfully avoided wayward teenaged boys was that of the “No Littering” notices. Instead, a shrine of cracked beer bottles was laid at its base.
This was a particularly poor night to be out driving, since the rain attempted to rival that of Noah’s Flood. The runoff, instead of flowing to the drains on the side of the road, filled each pothole on the parkway until there were dozens of small lakes capable of making even the sturdiest car hesitate before plowing forward. And all of it would be ice by morning.
So it was a wonder that Coral Henderson was bent on sloshing through the parkway’s shoulders, boots as overflowing fountains of rainwater. It was even more of a wonder that a seven foot man—dry as Monday morning’s folded laundry—walked beside her, dragging an enormous scythe on the asphalt behind him, and wearing a very grim expression on his chiseled, bronze face.
“You want to turn back,” the big man said. “I know you do. You’re wet, cold—and it’s safe to guess you haven’t been able to feel your feet in over an hour. I’m telling you, Coral, this isn’t the time to run away from home.” The man’s ears, slightly resembling that of a sheep’s, flatted against his head in growing frustration. If he hadn’t heard it explicitly from the Captain of the Host himself to keep hypothermia’s cold fingers from touching Coral’s body, the girl might very well need a hospital bed by the end of the night.
Coral, deaf and ignorant to the voices of doubt in her heart and the man beside her, continued stomping through the floods, reasoning with herself and her conscience that there was nothing to return to. “After all,” she said to herself, “it’s not like Mom and Dad love me. They force me to do what they want, keep me from going places I want. You’d expect a loving family to say more than ‘no’ to their own daughter.”
She’s just a child, Eitan, the big man thought. From his observation of the other guardian angels and their watches, this flawed logic appeared in nearly every human child. Coral was his first. Nearly six millennia of being the Host’s messenger, and the Lamb felt the need to assign him to that of guardian angel. Although he was happy to comply, he’d assumed observing the other guardians with their watches would be training enough—six thousand years of it—but observing and doing turned out to be entirely different things.
Headlights sliced through the sideways rain as a white van rounded the parkway’s bend. It barreled along far too fast in the inclement weather, and Eitan sensed before he saw the driver weave across the rumble strip and swerve drunkenly up behind the oblivious teenaged girl. In a flash of holy silver, the scythe Eitan dragged behind him whirled above Coral’s head and swung directly at the drunk driver’s passenger door, exploding a dazzling blow of white light along the parkway and sent the driver spinning sickly into the far lane. Ram’s horns lowered threateningly, Eitan shot a piercing glare at the demon flailing atop the van, desperately snatching at the roof’s slick surface to keep from slipping off. Its goat horns flashed like two giant steak knives atop its head, and its pale skin—sickly since its banishment from Heaven—seemed to illuminate the drunken car even as it passed through the sheets of rain down the road.
Not with my watch. Eitan’s piercing gaze followed the demon until it disappeared. Never with my watch. Satisfied the creature was gone, he returned pace with Coral and waited for an opportunity to catch the attention of a county officer to take the girl home for the night.
That had been Friday. Eitan sat in the church pew and glanced at Coral, who slumped and used her Bible to conceal her thumbs as they drummed a text to her boyfriend. Her mother had triple checked she was wearing an extra sweater this morning after the weekend’s frigid adventure. It had been nearly two in the morning when Eitan finally flagged an officer.
But Coral, rebellious as usual, removed the extra sweater the moment her parents stepped into Sunday school because wearing two made her look fat, she said. While the preacher thumped on the pulpit on the topic of conviction, Coral might as well have headphones clapped against her ears, which made the demon sitting next to her be abnormally good spirited, considering his location.
“Eitan the messenger angel thinks he can win his first watch,” the demon smirked, swineish ears flapping in glee. “I’ve been in the human business longer than you have, pigeon. I know her type.” He fingered the long chain—worn as if fashionable—hanging from his neck. “Soon enough, she’ll be just another link on my record, another soul ripped from its Maker.”
“And I’m sure you were stoking Paul’s link in hellfire, ready to add him to your collection of bonds, before the road to Damascus,” Eitan said dryly, hardly flinching.
The demon snarled, green pupils narrowing to slits. “It’s a different world they live in, cherub. A world of indulgences and entertainment.”
“Paul’s world would call it ‘bread and circuses.’ I see no difference.”
Angered by Eitan’s calm remark, the demon spat out a profuse string of perverse curses. He brandished his jagged sickle threateningly, but was silenced as every angel in the sanctuary—in the pews, baptistry, and rafters—drew their swords, bows, and scythes.
“Leave this place, demon,” Eitan muttered, pupils also narrowing. “You’ve overspent your welcome in the House of the Lord.”
The demon stood, rolled his shoulders indignantly under the black leather jacket their kind had grown accustomed to, scooped up his sickle, and faded from the sanctuary. And soon after, Eitan noticed, Coral’s phone battery died, obligating her to give the preacher some of her time. At least until the first verse of “Just As I Am.” Then she was out the door.
That evening Eitan slipped into the Henderson’s master bedroom, passing effortlessly through the closed wooden door. Coral’s parents, instead of brushing their teeth and slipping into nightclothes, were knelt in contrite prayer over the far side of the bed’s mattress, their knees making valleys in the room’s deep, vacuumed carpet. Mr. Henderson grasped his wife’s slender hand in his large, gnarled fist. His other hand’s fingers burrowed desperately into closed eyes as they tried to block the flow of tears from his desperate prayers.
Two angels—the Hendersons’ guardians—stood above the humbled prayer warriors, a massive bronze hand resting tenderly on the top of each parents’ head. The angels looked up to see Eitan approach them.
“They’re praying for their daughter,” the bigger of the two explained. “Been here all night, and at the rate they’re going, won’t be finished for some time.”
“Is their prayer going to be enough?” asked Eitan.
The big man sighed through his nose, a deep rumble of a noise that sounded like distant thunder. “We could have prayer cover across the globe, but Salvation depends solely on the heart of the sinner, Eitan. You know that. If Coral Henderson doesn’t want the Lamb’s gift, we will be in no position to change that.”
Eitan glanced back over his shoulder in the direction of Coral’s bedroom, suspecting she was already gathering her things in preparation to sneak out again. The moment her battery was charged, she’d texted an older friend who lived on her own about couch surfing for a few days.
The bigger angel’s deep voice brought him back to attention. “You must consider, Eitan, that not every watch will choose to be saved. It’s only our job to encourage and guard until they make that final decision.”
Eitan deflated slightly in the presence of his two superiors. Although none of them understood the abundant joy the Lamb’s children felt as they accepted His gift, Eitan couldn’t deny the change that was so evident in each convert’s life. To see Coral suffer through her teenaged years, battle her parents, her pastor, her Shepherd…. How could he protect Coral Henderson from her own wicked spirit?
He turned to go, eyes cast at his bare feet as he tried to think of ways to convict her spirit. Over the years, he’d exhausted every resource, tried every tactic. Nudged and nagged. Pushed and prodded. Nothing he did seemed to phase Coral shy of a good spiritual smack over the head.
“Eitan.” The guardian angel turned back around to face the two spirits and the humble prayer warriors at their feet. The bigger angel looked very grave as he spoke his next words. “When the times comes…if…the time comes…you’ll know what to do.”
Coral jerked the wheel of the 2007 Ford, cursing the sticky steering column for causing her to almost turn off Highway 27 and on to Exit 5. Eitan retracted his hand from the wheel and drummed his fingers against the dash irritably, hulking seven-foot figure cramped into the passenger seat of the compact family car. It was just reaching midnight, and he’d tried multiple times to alter Coral’s direction to loop her back home, but each time her stubborn will won out.
You’ll know what to do. A wave of sadness rolled over his big shoulders. Eitan wanted her to learn her lesson on her own, come to the Holy Spirit without that smack over the head, but the phrase seemed suspiciously foreboding, as if the angel knew drastic action must be taken.
By one in the morning, Coral was nodding at the wheel, eyes rolling in desperation to stay focused on the luminescent white lane lines on the road. Yet again, when Eitan tried to guide her to a ramp exit, she awoke and jerked the control from his fingers. She was oblivious to the tender urging of her spirit. Onward she drove, her family and faith to her back, her fantasy utopia along the dark horizon. Eitan sighed as the Ford jostled repetitively over uneven roads, just peaking ten miles over the limit.
A car oncoming from the other lane flashed its headlights over the hill’s horizon edge. A white van. One of those Chevrolet Expresses, with its license plate hanging lopsided from one screw. Long scrapes down the side panels each about an inch apart. As if some translucent, horned creature created them while trying to maintain his grasp on the roof earlier this week.
Eitan glanced at Coral, but her eyes were closed again. The empty energy drink wedged in the sticky cup holder had worn off sooner than she’d expected, and now she began to drift both mentally and physically. Eitan ground his teeth together, jaw working in brief hesitation. He was her guardian angel. It was up to him to keep her safe, and yet…
You’ll know what to do.
Would Coral ever divert from her path if Eitan let her continue down it? The pain, anger, rebellion—would she just continue to stubbornly clench her emotions if she wasn’t shown how much she was neglecting? What she could lose if she didn’t turn to Christ?
The van barreled down the road still, weaving worse than it had been the other night. It was a strange thing, Eitan thought. Not a week ago he would have fought to his last breath to keep Coral from coming in the path of a drunken driver. He’d slice his scythe straight through the motor of the van until it coughed and melted from glorified steel. And now…now he withdrew his hand and rested it in his lap. He saw Coral’s grip slip on the wheel, the nose of the Ford gliding over the white lane lines ever so slightly.
As the van leered in the view of the windshield, he could see the demon looping his long chain around the neck of the comatose drunk driver. Eitan reached for his scythe and watched the hideous translucent face flash gleefully in the beam of the oncoming headlights.
A heart monitor pulsed on the hospital monitor four hours after Coral Henderson had stabilized. Her parents passed out on the couch in the small room, Mrs. Henderson’s hair a matted and greasy bush around her troubled complexion, marred by deep worried lines across her forehead. Eitan’s big frame took up the lower half of Coral’s bed as he sat there pensively, watching the girl’s face. He gripped the staff of his scythe in his big hands, ears tuned for even the slight rattle of a demon’s chains.
“Shouldn’t have survived,” the doctors had murmured. “Four broken ribs and a serious concussion…a miracle, really…an act of God.”
Eitan glanced up when the Hendersons’ guardians breezed through the wall behind the hospital bed’s headboard. Their expressions were unreadable except for a reserved nod.
The big one spoke. “You did well, Eitan. In the few moments Coral was awake, all she said was she wanted her parents. I think, being so close to death…it might have made her reconsider what happened after. The local pastor is paying her a visit tomorrow morning. We’ve sent a messenger to retrieve him.”
“A messenger,” Eitan muttered, looking at his scythe. “You think the Lamb will want me to return to my former role after tonight? Here I was supposed to be protecting my watch, and I let a demon nearly take her life. She’s now broken on the outside as well as the inside.”
The big man shook his head decidedly. “You did protect Coral Henderson. Even though she was hurt physically tonight, you might have saved her from something that could have been far, far worse. Once the pastor meets with her, we’ll see if your actions made a difference. Sometimes God has to break the ones He works to restore.”
Character design heads of Eitan superimposed over concept work of Flynn Rider from Disney’s Tangled.