This Great Society - Creative Writing



Illustration: Rebekah Joy Plett

Joel Bentley: The Angel and the Eel
Illustration: Rebekah Joy Plett

Forced vacation. That was what He had called it. And not just to Earth, but to the pit, as it is known, where she wouldn’t disturb any “spiritual beings.” The bottom of the Atlantic. Down in the darkness where her light would not shine on men. It was not lifeless—although she wished it was. The only life down here belonged to the scavengers, picking clean the last marrow of the bone.
               She drifted down into the mud, completing her descent. Her garments were soiled almost instantly. Still, she folded her wings around her to protect herself from the grime.
               Even in this darkness her eyes could see far: an infinitely crawling starfish, a feast of crustaceans, and a slowly approaching eel.
               “My God,” she blasphemed.
               Like all angels, she hated eels. Hated them with an unheavenly rage. Hated them the way she hated the continual disappointments of mankind. Their kind were insidious, a blemish on God’s creation.
               She tried to hide her light. So great was her distaste of the creature that she rolled in the soot beneath her, covering her face in muck as if it was face paint. She burrowed. But even as she did so, she knew it was futile. Her light could not be concealed.
               The eel swam near, his body squirming through the darkness.
               She closed her eyes hoping in vain that he would pass, but he did not.
               “What’s this?” he hissed. “The LORD’s servant has fallen in the pit?”
               Oh how she loathed that voice! The long “s.” The nasal whine of it. She opened her eyes, blinding the eel in a stream of light.
               “What does that have to do with you?”
               The eel twisted around her, considering.
               “I am the keeper of these depths. If you choose to reside here, you must pay me homage.”
               The angel let out a short, pithy laugh. “Your lies do not fool me.”
               “Laugh all you like, but there are many here who obey my command, and if you do not pay your due, your stay in the pit will not be pleasant.”
               “I do not doubt my time here will be less than pleasant,” the angel scoffed. “But I do not fear your threats. Leave me.” And with the flap of her wings the eel was whisked away on a current.
               Slimy, putrid eel, she thought. He belongs with the tubeworms and parasites.
               She waited. In the darkness there was not much else to do but wait. The body of a sailfish drifted down and in moments the scavengers were upon it. Spider crabs and isopods tore flesh from the remains, having their fill until even the bones sunk down into the mud.
               She waited. A night passed. Except in the pit night never passes. It is a constant, unbearable weight.
               In the long hours she passed the time remembering. The words said. The actions taken. The silence of heaven. It was all she could do. Sorrow filled her, dimming her very glow.
               Then she began to spot them. Dots, in pairs of all colour. Blue, silver, and red. Eyes in the darkness. They multiplied. They grew into a legion. The eel had returned with his loyal subjects. Squid, manta rays, and octopus. Cold, spindly creatures.
               The angel wrapped her wings around her muddied body, bowed her head, and began to pray.


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