Warriors of Yesteryear

“Back then you knew who your enemy was, but now… Now, it is different. How can I fight what I cannot see?” she begins venting the moment she sits down. We are sitting in a quiet corner of a coffee shop that I use for these sorts of interviews. I pull my pad of paper out of my pocket and flip it open to a new page.

“What or who did you fight,” I begin after motioning for a coffee for the lady, “And why is it different now? How old are you, if I may ask?”

She has a quiet beauty, but also a hardness to her. She looks no more than mid-twenties, yet her fingers and eyes give away that she is probably older. This is the first time I have met her. A friend who knows what I do set up this interview after he met her at a party downtown. All he had said was that I would find it very interesting.

“I am two thousand nine hundred and seventy-one years old, born in King Soloman’s day under the light of the Caliphre Star. We were fighting the pagan gods, of course, and we won. Except for Allah, and Buddaha. But treaties were drawn up–thought Allah seems to be breaking them now–and…sorry, what was the last question?”

I blink and suddenly realise that I am gaping. I shut my mouth quickly. This all came pouring out of her so quickly that I forgot to write anything down.

“Uhm, oh: What is different today?” I ask automatically picking up from where she left off.

“Yes,” she starts, nodding seriously. The waitress brings coffee over, which the lady in front of me glances at distastefully, but then looks up at me and continues, “There are no enemies or pagan gods left to fight these days, yet all of us are losing the battle. To whom? To humanity’s lack of faith, if you ask me. We are fighting the Internet, TV, WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube, MTV, porn and binge series watching, amongst others.”

I get an insane urge to giggle. This attractive woman in front of me believes what she is saying. There is no hesitation implying spontaneous lying, nor any sense of rehearsal or stiffness that implies the lies were practised beforehand. She believes she is telling me her story.

“So, so let’s step back here,” I begin circling back on details that do not make sense, like everything, so far, “How can you be thousands of years old? Why aren’t you dead? You are surely implying that you are an angel? But, then why are you here talking to me?”

She smiles at me. She begins talking like she is explaining something to a child.

“Yes, I am an Angel. I was in the Celestial Army, but I have deserted. That makes me a Fallen Angel, and that is why I have assumed my mortal body and can sit here and tell you everything. The Eleventh Commandment no longer applies to me.”

“But why? Why did you desert?” is the only question I can think of. My pad of paper is completely forgotten, my cup of coffee sits on top of it.

“God and Buddha believe that there are no enemies out there. Allah at least seems angry enough to be trying something, however wrong his strategy is. Thus, at this point of crisis for humanity and divinity, as we get absorbed into technology, I decided that the way to win the war of information was to share it. Do you remember the tale of Prometheus? When humanity was living in cold, damp caves and hiding from the beasts of the night, he shared fire with them.”

“Yes, yes,” I exclaim, though I think I’m just glad to know something that she is talking about, “But Zeus then chained him to a rock where it liver is eaten out daily by an eagle!”

“Yes,” she nods, “Zeus was a real asshole about it all, but gods tend to be. The less humanity knows, then the more humanity needs divinity. So, Zeus was also not that crazy. He was just acting on incentives built into the system to ensure his own divine survival. The problem here is that humanity knows a lot more now. They don’t really need us to cure diseases or make crops grow or fish swim or babies to be born. So the game has changed, but the gods have not. And so we will lose and divinity will disappear to be replaced by something ‘else’…”

The day slipped away as she spoke. It was evening now and the rush hour traffic and hubris of the city softening and morphing into the nighttime buzz. She has not touched her coffee. It has long since become cold while I have drunk a number of them.

I suggest that we go for dinner or a drink, or both. She nods and says the drink is a good idea. We wander down the street to a dingy pub that I frequent and take my favourite booth in the back.

“If only you knew what was at stake,” she continues sipping a neat bourbon, “You humans make such a fuss about animals going extinct, but you care little for the loss of the divine and all their mysteries.”

“Why haven’t you come forward,” I ask dumbfounded, “All of you. Surely if the gods walked among us, the unbelievers could not deny and things would go back to yesteryear ways of worship?”

She shakes her head sadly and drains her bourbon. She flicks her glass at a waitress, who scurries off to find a refill. She has had a couple of them by now. I have too.

“Do you believe that I am an angel?” she asks simply, looking deeply into my eyes. Her eyes are intensely blue and my heart skips a beat.

“Uhm uh,” I stutter, “no… No, I don’t really.” I have to concede to that fierce, beautiful gaze.

“And therein lies the irony, by revealing myself I am no longer divine. By taking my mortal form, I am now mortal. Because I am no longer divine, I cannot prove to you that I ever was. Divinity and mystery are like shadows and sunset. If you shine a light bright enough into either, they simply cease to exist.”

A single tear runs down her cheek at this point. I was so entranced by her that I had not noticed her sorrow. I suddenly imagine what it must feel like to believe that you are a fallen angel, but that no one believes you. It must be tragic, and I reach over and squeeze her hand reassuringly.

She startles at my touch, but then looks up at me and smiles.

“You have a kind heart,” she says, wiping away the tear, “It comforts this old warrior to be around you.”

Later that night, after she has left my room, I lie awake thinking. Thoughts of gods and monsters, men and beasts, and angels and demons all swirl around my mind. I try imagine what sheer agony falling from heaven must entail while remembering her touch…

Eventually, I get up and walk to my apartment window. Far above, the stars are twinkling, and far below countless legions of men are moving. What a surreal day, I think to myself, what a surreal night.

Suddenly, I see a shooting star’s fading form flickering in the night sky above and beyond the city’s pollution. It silently streaks down to disappear into nothing. My heart skips a beat and I cannot help but wonder if it was an angel falling to Earth.