“You know, you just don’t see miracles anymore,” Don said as they followed the trail along the steep edge of the valley.
Marie stopped and wiped sweat from her brow.
“What are you talking about?” she asked.
“Oh, just thinking out loud.”
“So, what led you to that conclusion?”
He looked shocked. “Well, have you seen any miracles?”
“Um, no, can’t say I have. But I wouldn’t expect to.”
He was nodding. “That’s right, because they don’t happen anymore.”
She matched his nod with an equal shake. “No, because they never happened.”
“Oh come now, the bible is chock-full of miracles.”
“That doesn’t mean they actually happened. The bible is allegorical at best.”
“And at worst?”
“Some things are better left unsaid.”
He nodded again but said nothing. This wasn’t the first time they had had such a conversation. It was usually at this point that one of them steered to other topics. Their friends always marvelled at them, a devout Catholic and an atheist. Don would’ve been the first to admit that it wasn’t always easy.
Today, though, he wasn’t giving up so easily.
“What would it take for you to believe in miracles?”
“Well, seeing one, to begin with.”
As if on cue a geyser of water and steam burst from the brush next to them and shot several metres into the air. The cloud of moisture, warm and fragrant, passed over them. Marie put up her arm to shield her face from the water but found it was unnecessary. The droplets seemed to evaporate before they touched her.
The geyser ceased and the mist it pumped out dissipated into the warm afternoon breeze. In its place stood a man, though an odd man at that. From his face one would’ve thought he was in his twenties, yet his skin was somewhat drawn, revealing every tendon. There were no veins, only a uniform smoothness, exacerbated by his complete baldness. And he pulsated as if luminous energy flowed beneath the surface. Where that energy flowed it caused the skin to change colour. One moment it was a chestnut brown, the next dark like charcoal, then rosy. Finally, it transitioned to peach and even lighter to white before saturating into straw yellow. Then the pattern started again. Though it wasn’t a pattern; the colours mixed and alternated in their cycling. The being was naked, though that didn’t make much difference — he had no genitalia, just more smoothness. Likewise, there was a complete lack of belly button and nipples. The lack of hair, of any sign of uniqueness, the sheer uniformity, was disconcerting.
Don and Marie looked from the newcomer to each other. They didn’t speak a word, though their bulging eyes spoke volumes. Neither knew it but, the thing, whatever he was, reminded them both of a naked department store mannequin. That was, if a store ever had one that was translucent and pulsated with light from the inside. They turned back to the creature.
“Do not be afraid,” it said in a thunderous voice that seemed to come from across the wide valley and from above. It cascaded over them, assaulting their ears.
“Well, tone it down a bit, then,” Marie said.
“What?” it thundered once more and then, realizing what she had said, continued in a normal human tone. “Oh, sorry. It’s much quieter here, you understand.”
“No, not really,” Don said.
“Anyway, do not be fearful. I am an angel of the Lord and I bring tidings from on high.”
“Really? How do we know that? Do you have any ID?” Don asked.
“Don!” Marie said, expecting lightning to strike him down where he stood.
“You want proof?” the angel asked, dumbfounded. “I’m not sure I understand.”
“Well,” Don said, “I’m not doubting you or anything, but… well, that waterspout trick was pretty wild, but I’ve seen better in movies.”
“This is no movie,” the angel said.
“Hmmm, well, there’s an idea. What do you think Marie, are we on some reality show?”
“Christ, Don! Shit.” She turned to the angel, “Sorry…,” and then back at her husband. “Don, look at him! He’s a freakin’ angel. His skin’s glowing and changing colour!”
“Well, I’ve never seen an angel before.” He turned to address the angel. “Hey, where are your wings?”
“Not all angels have wings,” the angel said.
“I don’t know, I think they do.”
“Don!” Marie exclaimed.
“Well, I do know,” the angel said.
“I guess,” Don said, shrugging. “Oh, that reminds me… there used to be miracles. Why don’t we see you anymore? Back in the day, it was angels every day, coming down and telling one prophet or another what to do and such. Then, pfft, nothing.”
“I, er, well,” the angel said, stumbling, unprepared for this reaction to his presence.
“And, since I’ve got you here, where does God stand on gay marriage? And abortion? Oh, and euthanasia? I mean, sure, the pope… well, hey are you even Catholic?”
“I am the harbinger of the heavenly host.”
“Right, but that doesn’t answer my questions.”
“I am not here to answer questions.”
“Then,” Marie asked, “why are you here?”
The angel opened its mouth and then closed it again. It thought a moment and then asked, “Are all humans like you?”
“I don’t know,” Don said, scratching his chin. Finally, he shrugged. “Some are, some aren’t. Why?”
“Well, I was rather expecting you to be afraid and chastened by my presence. That was the way it always was… before.”
“So,” Marie asked, “you have been away a long time?”
“Yes, well, things have been busy the last millennium or so. But your Lord God is back now and ready to take a more active role in your lives.”
“That’s great, I guess,” Don said. “But, really, we’re doing okay.”
“We really are,” Marie said. “Things are not perfect but, you know, getting better all the time. As long as you look at the big picture and don’t judge the state of the world from the daily news headlines. We’ve done pretty well without you.”
“Oh,” was all the angel said.
“Well, yeah,” Don said, “if you look at wars and stuff, I don’t think we’ve had an increase since you left. Probably less.”
“Definitely less,” Marie said, nodding. “Not to mention that we’ve eradicated some diseases, reduced suffering and extended lives. More people are generally wealthier and happier than ever before. We’re still working on it but we’re getting there.”
“Can you fix climate change?” Don asked.
“God can do anything,” the angel said.
“So, will he?”
“Fix climate change?”
“I’d have to check if it’s on his agenda.”
“Don’t we get a say in that agenda?” Marie asked.
“What? No, of course not. The Lord God, king of heaven and earth, need not share his plans with mortals.”
“Well, we have to live here so I’d say he really should, right Don?”
“Yeah, definitely. And if he’s just going to do whatever he wants then, really, why the big ‘I’m back’ announcement?”
“He is your creator! You should honour him!”
“Don goes to mass every week, that seems to be enough for the priest.”
“Yeah,” Don said, “and I am a true believer. I don’t doubt your existence or anything, or that of God. And I’ll keep praying to him, sure. But it’d be nice to see some mutual respect there, you know? Democracy is where it’s at now.”
“You don’t know what democracy is?” Marie asked.
“Of course I do!” the angel said, raising his volume so that a little of the echo came back into it.
“Hey, there’s no need to yell,” Marie said. “We’ve only got mortal ears, remember?”
“Sorry. Existence is not a democracy.”
“Perhaps it should be,” Marie said. Don nodded.
“Do you doubt the power your God wields?” the angel asked.
“No, but might is not right,” Don said. “You should catch up on the last few hundred years of philosophy. We’ve made some great progress.”
“Preposterous!” the angel hollered. “Study human ramblings?”
“Geez,” Marie said, “you could try and hide your contempt for us lowly mortals a little.”
“You are mortal, I am eternal.”
“And that makes you better than us?” Don asked. “Please! Give me immortality and your powers and let’s see what I can do for humanity. Much more than you’ve done, that’s for sure.”
“I will not be ridiculed so!”
“Then leave,” Marie said.
“You are an unbeliever,” the angel said to her, reading her mind no doubt.
“Obviously I can’t say angels don’t exist anymore. But can you blame me for doubting? But, sure, you exist. So, I guess I’m not an atheist now, I’m agnostic. I needed proof and here you are.”
“Faith is not about proof,” the angel said.
“Yeah, well, the universe runs on mathematics and science. Faith is not much of a currency.” She paused, considering. “And if you don’t like it take it up with your boss. He made it that way.”
The angel, a look of disgust on his ageless face — a contortion of the flesh he had never experienced before — took a step back. For a moment Marie thought she was dead, that the immortal was going to strike her down. Instead, he simply melted, sublimating into the air.
They stood there for a couple of minutes, eyes fixed on the spot where the angel had stood. There was no sign that he had ever been there.
“That was odd,” Don said.
“What was?” Marie asked.
“Huh? Oh, I see. Right, nothing odd just happened, nope, not at all.”
“Exactly. But, at least you got your question answered.”
Don thought a moment. “Hey, you’re right! If I had known it was that easy I would’ve asked sooner.”