In The Beginning
“So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous.”
~ Matthew 13:49
“Adam, that guy from the downtown office is here to see you again.”
Daydreaming out the 52nd story window, the interruption sent my gaze to the doorway of my office. Jennifer was standing there, and she looked amazing. Funny how that was my first subconscious thought. It wasn’t what my new secretary had just said, or who she said was there to see me. My first thought was how hot she looked today. The tight low cut blouse, the short skirt and high heels. As a man that was the first thing that came to mind.
Was that how it was supposed to be, or was there something wrong with me?
Regaining my composure, I managed to look her in the face, bypassing her cleavage in a selfless act of chivalry. “Who?”
“Brooksher, I think? Jim Brooksher. That guy that was here last week and you dodged him; the accountant. He’s back.”
I had to think for a minute, and then I remembered and laughed; “Oh yeah.” I thought about dodging him again, but realized there wasn’t much point in putting off the inevitable; “Alright, send him in.”
As if she was a ventriloquist, her cleavage seemed to say “Ok,” and then I watched her ass as she left; chivalry be damned.
Yeah, there’s something wrong with me.
I fumbled around with the mess on my desk looking for a particular report, and my mind tried to wander back to my daydreams. Work seemed to be the easiest time to think about anything else. Jim Brooksher entered my office, knocking on the door as he passed through it even though it was open. “Adam, I finally caught you.”
“Yep, you sure did. It’s a slow day today.”
“Those are the best kind, right?” Brooksher declared as he sat in a chair in front of my desk. I remained standing, still digging through the piles of crap for the report I knew he’d want to talk about. I gave up looking. “I don’t know. I think I’d prefer to be busy.”
“Tell you what Adam; I’d sure like to get busy with that secretary of yours. What a piece of ass.” Brooksher was looking at me with that weird devilish grin; the same one I’d seen on men’s faces my entire life. I thought about his statement for a few seconds, trying to figure out if it was rude and unprofessional, or just normal. After all, I couldn’t deny those were my thoughts as well. I just smiled but gave no response. Brooksher read me wrong.
“Wait. You hit that already didn’t you?!”
Animals, we’re all just animals.
I just shook my head, realizing men will never change. “No, but you’ll be the first one to know if I do. So are we going over last month’s numbers this morning?”
“Um, first, pictures or it didn’t happen; and second, yes we have to. Corporate is all over my ass to reconcile the expenditures. I’d like to keep my job, you know.”
“Yeah, yeah. Just give me a minute alright?” I could no longer put off surrendering to the urgings of my bladder. “Too much coffee this morning, I’ll be right back.”
“Hurry up. I’d like to get back downtown before lunch.”
I pointed to his waist as I left the room. “Looks to me like you’ve had plenty of lunches already Jim.” I could hear the faint ‘screw you’ as I walked down the hallway to the bathrooms.
The hallway led directly passed the break room, and glancing in I could tell something beyond routine was occurring. A larger group than usual had gathered inside, including Jennifer, all fixated on the television on the wall. There was some pointing, some exaggerated gestures of excitement, and a seemingly unified sense of anxiety and bewilderment. Few bothered to acknowledge my entrance into the room. “What are you guys doing?”
Jennifer turned her head just long enough to make eye contact before quickly turning back to the TV. She spoke with an odd hint of drama. “Come here and look at this.”
“What is it?”
Moving beside her I got my first look at the images on the screen. It was the same news channel we always had on, the familiar stock ticker scrolling across the bottom, making and breaking fortunes. The usual morning anchorman was there with his bad toupee, several video clips appearing on the screen next to his head. The images appeared to be more of a movie promotion than a news event.
They were showing several different cities in Europe engulfed in some sort of chaos or rioting, with people running wild in the streets. I saw people that appeared to be in costumes, dressed like angels with large white wings attached to their backs. I quickly noticed that except for the wings, they were completely naked. It had to be some sort of protest; a bunch of political activists dressed as angels pushing some silly agenda. I’d seen protesters dressed as vaginas before, so this didn’t seem so surprising.
“What the hell is that?”
Jennifer spoke without her eyes leaving the screen, “Watch.”
A moment later I saw one of the angels grab a woman on the sidewalk and forcibly hug her. His wings came forward, wrapping around them both like a cocoon. The woman struggled at first, and then suddenly relaxed as if she had gone to sleep in his arms. The angel seemed to speak a few words, but there was no sound from the camera.
From inside the wings, the woman’s body began to glow slightly as if illuminated from within. A few seconds later her body disintegrated into dust that fell to the sidewalk; a strange wisp of glowing white smoke rising skyward from where her body had been. The angel unfurled his wings and began walking toward a crowd of panicked onlookers. The woman was gone; the only trace of her body a pile of ash now steadily being blown away by the wind and trampled on by other angels.
“Okay, what is this?” I blurted, my words tinged with cynicism. “Some prank, right? Like one of those flash mob things? That guy’s freaking naked.”
Somebody I recognized from around the office, but didn’t really know, offered the only response. “It’s the news, man. People are getting attacked. It has to be some weird terrorist thing.”
A faint but distinct thud and some commotion from down the hall momentarily grabbed my attention. But it was the same sound I’d heard many times before, a bird hitting a window. I paid it little mind as I became more transfixed on the television. As the news anchor babbled about a ‘biblical event’, the camera changed to cell phone footage of a skyline that looked to be Japan, and another from Russia. Both were shaky images of stormy skies, from which more of the angels were coming down from out of the clouds. It was as if they were parachuting, but there were no parachutes. In one video there were hundreds of them, dropping from the sky to walk the streets, grabbing people. One short cell phone clip showed dozens of ash piles scattered around in the road. Another showed hundreds of wispy puffs of smoke rising up into the clouds all over the city.
Anyone grabbed by the angels turned to dust and disappeared. Some gave off a strange golden glow just before a wisp of smoke rose skyward. Others glowed red like fire. In one clip, a reporter approached one of the angels and tried to interview him. She was grabbed herself, and her cameraman ran away; the footage quickly shifting to a shaky view of his sneakers running down the sidewalk.
“What channel is this really? Is this like a Chris Angel thing?” Before anyone answered, the sharp sound of glass breaking filled the hallway.
A window? We’re on the 52nd floor.
Then another window, people screaming, and a strong breeze rushed through the hall carrying the smell of the Hudson River. I had a sudden panicked vision of another terrorist attack on the city. I could see in the other faces the same realization, and after exchanging a few confused glances the break room quickly began to empty.
The first office I came to was mine. Jim Brooksher was standing near the window now, staring out at the skyline in the distance. I stood in the doorway for a moment looking over his shoulder. The weather had changed, and the clear sky that had been there earlier was now heavily clouded and stormy. Several openings in the clouds let through intense golden shafts of sunlight, forming powerful beams that stretched all the way to the ground like spotlights. The fingers of God, I had heard them called; those pretty streams of light that look so beautiful in photographs.
These brilliant beams of lights were now dotted with moving spots; strange little objects descending through the clouds, as if riding the beams. There were thousands of them, and halfway between the clouds and the ground they began to spread out over the city, flying like a huge swarm of bees.
“What is that?”
Jim turned for a second to see me standing in the doorway, and then quickly looked back to the window. “I don’t know. Birds I guess.”
Suddenly several large and unbelievable figures passed by the window, then a few more, then dozens. “Holy shit!” Jim exclaimed, backing slightly away from the glass. “What the fuck!? Those are people!”
I took a few steps into the room, drawn by an irresistible curiosity to get a better view. The same costumed people I had seen on the news were now flying through Manhattan, riding the wind on huge unnatural wings. In the distance were thousands more, following the golden fingers of God like highways to the Earth. It was the most surreal thing I had ever seen in my life.
I heard more glass breaking, and more screams coming from elsewhere in the office. Stepping out into the hallway, I took a few steps towards the large central room that was mostly open space filled with cubicles. Everyone was on their feet, peering over their cubicle walls to see what was happening. Many were running towards the windowed perimeter offices to see the cause of all the commotion.
Jim Brooksher yelled. Not a scream really, but that loud exclamation men make when they are suddenly startled. Turning back into my office, I saw her; a woman, an angel, a terrorist. I had no idea what the hell she was, but she was pressed up against the outside of the window. She was completely naked, all of the usual female parts in place. She was stunningly beautiful. Slim but full breasted, with a face more perfect than any magazine cover model could hope for. She had huge white wings that came out of her back, and with large rhythmic strokes they kept her hovering outside the window, looking directly at Jim through the glass. He stood frozen, momentarily paralyzed by the unbelievable sight before him.
The hair stood up on my neck when she suddenly glanced at me. Her eyes were strangely golden. No colored pupil surrounded by white; just solid golden orbs. When she looked at me, I could feel it inside, as if she wasn’t just seeing me, but reading me, knowing me, seeing into me.
“Jim, get away from the window.”
He said nothing as the figure hovering outside turned her gaze back to him again.
“Jim, move away from the damn window.”
As Jim turned to look at me, the angel gave a strong flap of her wings, pressed hard against the glass, and the window shattered inward. A great rush of air and shards of glass came crashing in. Jim stumbled backwards against my desk as papers blew all around the room. The angel stood before him, just an arm’s length away. He was frozen with fear. Before I could call out to him, the angel grabbed him and pulled him in, embracing him in a hug that almost appeared affectionate. She pulled his head into her bosom as her large wings wrapped around them both, and they stood there for several moments.
Jim squirmed at first; a brief attempt to break away, like a child resisting his mother’s call to take a nap. Then he suddenly relaxed, as if her touch calmed and soothed him. I heard more screams coming from the rest of the office, but I couldn’t turn away from the surreal event playing out before me. I watched as the angel began to speak. Just a couple words; her lips moved and I heard a voice that was almost musical and poetic.
Just two common words that now carried chilling meaning. The angel closed her eyes, and I saw Jim’s body begin to glow. It was a fiery sort of red color, like the coals in a barbeque grill. The smell of burning flesh filled the room, and a second later he turned to ash like an instantaneous cremation. I saw no wispy glowing smoke rise from him like I had seen on the TV. He was just gone, a pile of ash on the floor, bits of him blowing out the 52nd story window.
The angel turned to me, her eyes met mine, and she began to walk toward me, her great wings retracting behind her as she moved further into the room. I was mesmerized, somehow feeling her eyes searching inside me. I heard the sound of the glass crunching under her bare feet as she moved around the desk. Despite the sharp edges of the broken shards, there were no cuts, no blood. She seemed to not even notice.
A gust of wind pushed into the room, blowing some of Jim’s ashes into my face. I heard a woman scream outside the office, and it sounded like Jennifer. It was enough to clear my head, and I turned and ran from the room.
The rest of the office was now in chaos. A strong breeze, breeching in through broken windows, filled the air with flying papers and ashes that now seemed to be everywhere. People were running this way and that, some not knowing what they were running from, most not knowing where they were running to. A line was forming at the stairwell exit door, and a mob waited near the elevators, several people frantically pounding on the call buttons.
In the office next to mine, I saw a pile of ash upon the floor. The window was shattered, and through it I could see the building across the street. It was not quite as high as ours, allowing me to see its roof from our floor, and people were pouring out onto the rooftop from a stairwell door. Looking down I could see broken windows on several floors, with angels flying in and out of the building like bees working a hive.
Glancing back to the roof, a couple of men were pressing their shoulders against the door of the stairwell they had just come up. A dozen other people had run to the edges of the rooftop, looking down with nowhere to go except the street fifty stories below.
The two men were struggling at the door, pressing their weight against it. Something on the other side was pushing its way up. Suddenly an angel flew down from above and grabbed a woman off the roof like a hawk grabs an unsuspecting mouse from a field. The people panicked and scattered to different corners, desperate for somewhere to hide. Another angel flew in, so fast the next person was gone in a blink of an eye. Suddenly the stairwell door burst open, causing the two men to fall backwards. An angel walked out from through the doorway, looked around for a moment, then picked up one of the men and forcibly embraced him.
Seconds later the wind scattered the ash from within its wings, and the angel began walking the rooftop. It grabbed a woman who had frozen with fear, and a man attacked it trying to help her. After being punched several times, the angel suddenly spread a wing outward in a quick sweeping motion, knocking the man off his feet like he was a rag doll. A moment later the woman was gone, a light wispy trail of smoke rising upward from where she had just stood. Seemingly defying the push of the wind, the smoke rose straight skyward until it disappeared into the heavens, driven by some unseen force.
The angel was walking the rooftop again, and the people ran like mice from a cat. A second angel flew in and landed beside the first, and a terrified couple became trapped near the corner of the building. As the angel approached I saw the man panic and jump.
My eyes followed his body down until he was just a dark speck on the sidewalk below. Glancing back to the roof, I watched the woman jump next; the fifty stories dive the only escape from the angel’s grasp. The fall seemed to last forever, until she landed with a grotesque thud in the street. I couldn’t actually hear it, but I knew it had to be there.
The sound of screaming behind me drew my attention back to my own building, and I turned to see an angel walking past me just outside the office door. I froze for a moment, but not wanting to get trapped in the room with a fifty two story leap as my only way out, I quickly moved to the door. I saw the back of the angel following two people into the next office, his wings temporarily catching on the door frame. A large white feather fell to the floor as he passed through. I heard the man yell briefly, then fall silent. The woman sobbed hysterically, and then she began to beg, until she too fell silent. A moment later their ashes blew out through the doorway.
Turning towards the elevator, I saw its doors slide open, and several people rushed in. I ran for it, reaching the doors just in time to shove my arm in and stop them from closing. They parted again, the occupants cursing me for holding them up. One woman was yelling at me in Spanish, while a tall thin man grabbed my arm and pulled me in. Another was frantically pressing the ‘close doors’ button.
“Adam!” Jennifer’s voice came from the back, crammed behind a dozen people. Despite the protests and resistance, I shoved my way back to her as the doors closed and the elevator began to move.
As soon as I said it, I could already see she wasn’t. She was panicked like everyone else. She had that look on her face like someone in a deep sleep suddenly startled awake by a loud bang. She was full of confusion and fear, but she put on a brave façade. I wanted to hold her, but I just sort of nodded and looked around the elevator car.
Looking up, I could see the little floor numbers tick by;
47, 46, 45.
We’re going down. Thank God. I want no part of the roof.
The same people that had been yelling and screaming on the office floor were now deathly silent in the elevator car. No one knew what awaited us when the car stopped and the doors opened.
Thank God? Somehow that doesn’t seem right anymore.
Suddenly a single voice was heard, faintly. A woman praying, reciting familiar words; “Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…” She continued on, verbalizing the entire passage. Halfway through, two other people joined in with her. Another man made the cross symbol, touching his forehead, chest and shoulders, then he kissed some charm he had hanging around his neck. Several other people were furiously assaulting their phones; texting, dialing, desperately trying to get a signal to the outside. The elevator continued down, but no one knew into what.
Without warning the elevator slowed and then stopped, an electronic ding sound warning us that the doors were about to open on the 23rd floor.
Oh shit, here we go.
The doors slid open, and the people in front pushed towards the back, crushing Jennifer and I against the back wall. I felt her grab my hand. A strong wind was blowing past the elevator doors, the smell of the Hudson and a torrent of papers and ash going with it. People were screaming in the distance. Suddenly a woman appeared in the doorway with a small child, screaming and pushing the kid into the elevator.
Several people reached out to grab the woman, until a large white wing came into view. The woman was suddenly jerked back from the door, pulled by an angel. The people in the front were able to pull the child inside as her mother disappeared. A man in the car was desperately pressing the ‘close doors’ button. The praying woman prayed louder. The child cried out for her mother as the elevator doors closed. The car began to descend again.
- 21. 20.
Thank fucking God. Get us out of here. Please.
Jennifer squeezed my hand tighter. I smelled urine. Someone had pissed themselves. The praying woman was now reciting at the top of her voice, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done…” A man yelled at her to shut up. Another woman was crying into her cell phone in Spanish.
- 3. 2.
Here we go.
Jennifer was crushing my hand.
Oh my God…
The doors opened straight into Hell. The lobby was an unimaginable nightmare. People were running, people were hiding, but mostly, people were dying. Angels were everywhere; some holding people in their grasp, others looking for the next human to judge. Piles of ash were all over the floor. Several people in the elevator froze, afraid to exit the car. Others ran out, racing for the doors to the street.
“C’mon, we can’t stay here,” I urged Jennifer, and pulling her by the hand I led her out of the elevator. We followed the perimeter edge of the lobby, avoiding most of the chaos. More than once I almost slipped on the ash, which slid like oil on the marble tiles. As we ran Jennifer intentionally slipped out of her high heels, her bare feet now slapping against the tile.
Ahead of us were the two revolving glass doors that led out to the street. They had become deathtraps. Too many people had swarmed in, pushing against each other, and angels had surrounded them. Like an automatic feeder, trapped people were pulled one by one from the glass compartments, judged, and turned to dust. Several people were looking at us from inside the glass wheel, banging on it, yelling out for help as the wheel slowly turned, bringing them closer and closer to their fate.
I suddenly felt trapped. There was nowhere to go except back to the elevator or into the revolving wheel of judgment. Across the lobby, behind the security guard’s desk, a janitor was fumbling with keys trying to unlock a door. Several people were piled up behind him, urging him to hurry.
The door opened, and the janitor held it while the people behind him shoved in. “C’mon!” I screamed as I pulled Jennifer across the lobby and around the security desk. The janitor was just about to close the door when he saw us.
Wait, wait, wait!
For a split second I could tell he was going to slam the door shut anyway, but a moment of soul searching caused him to wait. “Thank you,” I blurted as I dragged Jennifer through the doorway.
We entered a long hallway that appeared to be a maintenance tunnel. Behind me I heard a woman scream. Turning, I saw the praying woman from the elevator. An angel had grabbed her just as she followed us through the doorway. I could see the angel’s hands pulling on her, one around her waist and the other on her face. I could see his wings wedging into the doorway as she struggled against him, pulling, screaming, trying to get into the hallway with us as the angel pulled her back into the lobby. Before I could react the janitor tried to slam the door shut. The door hit the woman in the face and then caught her arm as it closed. It slammed hard against her elbow, and I could see a small portion of a wing caught in the door near the hinges. Pressing against the door with his shoulder, the man released it suddenly and then slammed it hard again.
During the momentary release the woman’s arm began to pull out into the lobby, but the door caught her fingers in the second slam. One of her fingertips was pinched off and fell to the floor in the hallway. Several small white pieces of feather floated to the floor, landing not far from the bloody fingertip. I could hear the woman screaming on the other side of the door for several seconds, until she suddenly went quiet. Several panicked people were still yelling in the hallway behind me as the janitor locked the door and began pushing all of us down the corridor. Behind us I could hear the screams of the judged from the lobby, and something pushing hard against the door.