ANGELIQUE-A Free Short Story
All work on this site is covered by copyright 2011-2012. No party may reproduce or use any portion of this without permission.
Billie Sue Mosiman
Copyright @ Billie Sue Mosiman 2012
Angelique watched the dead man’s eyes open. Success! Nisroc was back.
The body was exquisite—muscled with long legs and wide shoulders. The face was Scandinavian, square with a strong jaw and a high, intelligent brow. The eyes were a blue that would rival the deepest, stormiest seas.
Now those eyes, no longer dead and empty, but reflecting intelligence and understanding stared back at her. He looked incredulous.
“Angelique,” he whispered, recognition finally dawning.
“Can you move?”
His face drew in with effort. A crease furrowed between his fine, blue eyes. “I can’t…”
She put a hand on his shoulder and pressed him back. He lay on the wood plank floor of her wagon, a small embroidered pillow beneath his head. She had the thick curtains drawn at the back of the wagon, but she still glanced there every little bit to make sure no one had come to fetch her. It was yet two hours before show time, but sometimes they checked her wagon to remind her the panther was calm or the elephant was tearing up his pen again or the lions were so lethargic they’d fed them raw meat coated with pepper to try to rouse them.
The body she had taken for Nisroc had belonged to the circus high wire walker and special gymnast, a man named Gustav Freedrickson. He had come down with consumption that took but months to wear down his defenses and leave him weakened. Consumption was a scourge racing across most of Europe and Gustav sickened rapidly with a particularly virulent form. He literally coughed himself to death, hemorrhaging his life’s blood in one horrendous, extended spell of spastic lung contractions. Angelique knew he would die and she lusted to own the shell left behind once the spirit absconded. It did not matter the lungs were filled with blood and disease ridden. Once the new spirit took over the entire make-up of the human form would be changed, even down to the molecular level.
She needed Gustav’s body for Nisroc, her most high fallen angel in the ranks she’d left behind when she herself descended to Earth.
Until now she hadn’t needed any of the other angels’ help, but finally it had become imperative. She was, after all, a child. She was tired of training humans to do her bidding, to stand in as her parent or guardian. She wanted a partner, not a puppet. She wanted Nisroc.
“I have to go prepare the animals for the show, but I’ll be back as soon as I can. Just rest here.”
Nisroc nodded, blinking with some confusion. Angelique patted his shoulder, smiled, and throwing back the curtains, leapt down from the wagon.
Dying sunlight pierced through the slight opening between the curtains, but most of the interior lay in shadow.
The beautiful male form that remained prone on the boards of the wagon did not move an inch only because right now he could not move. The supernatural elements of his being busily suffused the human body, permeating the cells, flowing through the bloodstream, animating the heart, the damaged lungs, and filling the brain with new light…
Within an hour Nisroc felt a human strength he had not felt in nearly two thousand years. As disembodied angel there were no sensations of body, only of mind. Now that Angelique had brought him to Earth again, he reveled in the sensations he had only dreamed about for all those long moments lost in the dark alone-and-lonely void. It was almost painful to see the dim light streaming through the parted curtains beyond his feet. The boards under his back felt like rock, hard and pressing against his flesh and bone. His nostrils flared with the mingled scents that assaulted his senses—Angelique’s clothes that stank of her human sweat, dust that was settled over the canvas roof of the wagon, and beyond the wagon, the scent of food cooking, animal dung, wood fire smoke, latrines full of human waste. He swallowed and marveled at the sensation of saliva sliding down his throat. He moved his tongue over his teeth, front, back, and sides, finding them firm and whole and clean. He drew in air and sighed at the beauty of oxygen filling what had been ravaged lungs that even now was in the process of rejuvenation.
He loved this world. He loved life, real life lived in human form. A beating heart, rhythmically drumming to circulate his warm blood, seemed to speak like a lost lover as it reverberated in his ears. It whispered I AM, I EXIST, I LIVE…I AM IN THE HERE AND NOW, REAL. There was nothing compared to this existence. No angel in heaven or cast into the nether regions experienced such fantastic sensations. The mind lived forever, the soul never died, but the body was a magical mechanism that took in all of life and translated it into sensation and that was God’s most gracious gift in all of creation.
Nisroc had hungered for it always, true life. In God’s court there was but mind and spirit. But what He created on this planet was the true bounty--the experience of living man.
Now thanks to Angelique, She Who Ruled the Fallen, he was back. Back in the world!
The very thought propelled him. He came up as if loosened from chains, sitting straight, shoulders back, hips tensed. From this perspective the world seemed to tilt and skew for a moment. He closed his eyes, but the darkness behind his lids scared him, reminded him of the dark from which he’d come, so he quickly opened his eyes, his mouth falling open. He took a deep breath. He looked around.
Angelique was living such a meager existence. Her clothes, lying crumpled on the floor and hung from pegs, were ragged and faded. Her bed was made of rope, woven and tied, swinging from the ribs of the canopy that covered the wagon. She had a small chest, but without looking in it he knew there was little of value there.
Reduced to these circumstances he could understand why she needed his assistance. She had tried for three lifetimes to make it on her own, training humans to care for her. Losing her last human to death threw her again on her own where she’d discovered this job with the traveling circus. Naturally they had not wanted her, hadn’t believed she’d be of use—a ten-year-old waif with worn shoes and holes in her clothes. But she had convinced the Master of the circus that she had supernatural abilities dealing with his few wild caged animals. She could make them bend to her will. The elephant lifted front legs into the air on her command and danced when she made her biding. The lions sat on small stools and roared on cue. The panther, the best performer of all, slithered in a circle, its sinuous muscles moving like snakes beneath its skin. It could leap through a burning ring of hay bales and leap out again unscathed. It would go to its belly and let Angelique climb onto its back for a ride around the circus arena. It could even stand up on its back legs, taller than a man, and scream with a piercing cry, showing teeth that were a child’s nightmare. This panther, under Angelique’s tutelage, had become the star of the show.
In his dark place in the far regions of creation Nisroc had now and again widened his vision in order to see what Angelique was doing. He tried to imagine the scent of the animals, tried to hear the sound of the wind and rain, tried to feel the rest of true sleep, but all he could do was watch and hunger and hope.
Now she had deigned to bring him to her and he was so full of joy and appreciation that he thought he might burst.
He felt an itching on his back and sensed his great wings buried beneath his skin, but only as nubs, tiny buds of flesh that through the strength of his will he could cause to grow. Not now, of course. He had no use for them in this fine body of a man. But he knew they were there if ever he did need them.
He lifted his arms above his head and laughed. LIFE!
Angelique returned to her wagon after the show. The crowds were thinning, families trudging home to London and outlying farms. She carried a bowl of stew made from goat, potatoes, rutabagas, and carrots. Nisroc would need to eat. By now she expected he was able to move, but even though his angel being was renewing the diseased human flesh, he still needed to take sustenance just as any man would. He was now part angel, part human, the greater being angel. She was so excited he was with her. Human guardians were fine for a while, but tended in the end to be such a burden. Nisroc, on the other hand, was like her—nearly indestructible. Some accident might fatally injure the body, even kill it, but being angel made them both so quick, so sensitive to danger, that neither of them needed to worry overmuch about human death. Given the properties they had brought to the body from the angelic realm, it was as if they were a completely different, rare, and superior species.
She stepped onto the rear step they’d made for her small stature on the back of the wagon, drew back the curtain, and saw Nisroc sitting up on the floor, staring at her, tears in his eyes.
“I can’t believe this,” he said. “It’s so…so wonderful.”
She climbed in beside him and handed over the bowl of food. “Eat, you need to bolster your strength.”
He didn’t need to be told twice. He ate like a ravenous dog, hardly chewing before swallowing. When the bowl was empty, he used his fingers to scrub out the residue of stew gravy. “Ummm, so good.”
“As you see, I live in mean conditions,” she said, coming right to the point of why she’d summoned him.
“It’s not a palace,” he agreed. When he smiled he was a beautiful creature.
“You’re to be my father. When around the Others, treat me like your child. Speak to me as an adult guardian. But…” She squinted her eyes and Nisroc lost his smile. “…when we are alone, I won’t tolerate being spoken to without deference. I hope you understand that.”
“Because I can send you back. If I have to.”
Now he quaked, his hands taking on a tremor he couldn’t quite control. “I love it here,” he said.
“I know you do. But the last time here you failed. This time you’ll do exactly as I say or I have no use for you. Understood?”
He nodded, not trusting his voice.
“We’re getting out of this stinking place,” she said, beginning to pack the loose clothes in her chest.
“Where are we going?”
“To the wharf in London to buy tickets on a ship.”
“The New World--though now they call it the United States of America.”
“That sounds wonderful.”
She paused and eyed him. “I’m taking a chance fleeing this soon after your coming. You might not be ready to play your part.”
“Who am I?”
“What? You’re Angelique, Queen of…”
“No! I’m Angelique, your daughter. A child, Nisroc, I’m just a little girl.”
“Don’t forget. Don’t mess this up for us, Nisroc. You’ll buy the tickets. Here…” She held out a soft bag filled with coins. “There’s enough there for our passage, but not much more. It’s taken me months to save it.”
“What will we do once we arrive?”
“Steal, what else? You’re not fit for work, except of the physical kind, and we’re NOT going with a circus, ever again. It’s filthy work, despicable. I hate it. In fact, when we leave I’m opening all the cages and letting the dumb animals free.”
“Is that wise?” As soon as he’d asked the question he knew he’d made a mistake. He could never question her decisions, not ever.
She paused in the stuffing of her things into the small chest. She became as still as a snake eyeing prey, eyes unwavering. Her pupils contracted, morphed into pinpoints of darkness. Just the look of her was terrifying.
“You’re questioning me?”
He hung his head. “I’m sorry, Angelique.”
“Damn you and the reason I needed you. If only I hadn’t been trapped in this miserable child’s body!”
He said nothing and would not look into her eyes.
“Never mind. Just don’t ask so many questions. Just do what I tell you and we’ll be fine. You’ll gradually feel natural in that body and back in this world. Now help me lift this out of the wagon. It’s time to go.”
Nisroc watched from the sidelines as Angelique undid the latches on the cages. It was dark and the only noise came from the wagons where other circus performers readied for their beds and sleep.
First, the panther leaped to the ground and lumbered to Angelique’s side to lick her hand. The lions growled low in their throats, surprised to be free in the night. Then the monkeys were let out and they immediately scrambled off into the darkness. The elephant was unchained from the iron bar attached to the back of the lion cage. It shuffled off, following the monkeys’ lead. Finally came the white wolf, an albino captured in the far north and sold to the circus. It stood at Angelique’s side as if it would never leave until she gave it a command Nisroc didn’t understand. Then it strode off majestic into the night. When all the cages were open and all the occupants gone, only then did Angelique turn to him and gestured that he lift the little chest to follow her.
On the way to the wharves Nisroc did not see even one of the freed wild animals. He had no idea where they’d disappeared, but since the circus was on the outskirts of London, he figured they’d headed away from the city rather than toward it.
He and Angelique found the ship that was bound to leave in the morning for their destination. She had him put the chest down near a shipping crate and then, folding her skirts, she sat cross-legged on the ground. She patted the space next to her and he folded his long legs and sat down. She snuggled under his arm, positioning her head on his wide chest. “Rest a while,” she said. “We’ll get the tickets at sunrise.”
He sat like a statue, his arm around her little shoulders. He felt her breathing slow then grow regular. She slept. He was too excited to sleep. Someone would have to knock him over the head to make him unconscious for he’d never give into it on his own. Not this night, his first night back on Earth, back in a human body, alive. He listened to the near waters of the sea as it lapped against the ships and pilings of the wharf pilings. He smelled the sharp scent of salt water and wet wood. He stared overhead at the night sky filled with stars. The moon had not yet risen. His thoughts recoiled from that vast overhead emptiness. It was where he had come from and he hoped not to go back there for as long as possible. Look at Angelique. She had carried this little child’s body through three hundred years and still it functioned. It did not grow or age, but it still lived just as any other human body lives. With angelic possession her body could go on for a thousand years. And so could his.
A thousand years!
His smile widened and his teeth felt the chill of the night as they were exposed to the slight wind sweeping across his face.
Just spending these few hours in a body was a gift beyond all measure, but the idea he might be able to live hundreds of years overwhelmed him. Tears stood in his eyes, but he refused to shed them. He brought his gaze down from the night heavens to the little girl’s face resting on his chest. She was a beautiful little thing, her skin dark, almost bronze, her hair raven, her lashes against her cheeks long and black and feathery. She was a small exotic beauty. Her little hand that rested on his midsection was perfect, tiny, unwrinkled, and so utterly beautiful. It was not going to be hard to adore her and follow her wherever she wished to travel. She was…angelic.
All night long he thought his wandering thoughts and let himself drown in physical sensations, the way only a newborn might. What a glorious night it was, the best of all nights, the ultimate in his experience so far.
Nisroc handled the buying of the tickets and getting them settled on the passenger ship bound for a new land. They were given a cabin with twin swinging hammocks and a small porthole looking out on the ocean at sea level. Neither of them suffered anything as pedestrian as seasickness, but it seemed Angelique found the cabin claustrophobic so she insisted they spend most of their time on deck.
This was a trial to Nisroc since it meant he stay “in character” while on the deck interacting with crew and other passengers. He was “Father.” Angelique was “Dear Daughter” as in, “Dear daughter, please don’t lean so far over the railing, you might fall overboard.” Or “My dear daughter has missed her mother, but the two of us have learned how to make do the best we can.”
He never failed to miss her silent cues so when on the third day of the long voyage a female child approached them where they sat in deck chairs, he knew there might be trouble. He felt it in the air, felt it on his skin like a cold cloak laid over him. Angelique stiffened in her chair and she darted a dark look his direction. He thought she hissed in displeasure, but he might only have imagined that.
The child kept coming until she stood in front of Angelique. She said, “Hi, my name is Daisy. What’s yours?”
Angelique spoke her name, but as she did so she turned and looked at Nisroc squarely on as if to say DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS.
He cleared his throat to get the child’s attention. “Uh, Angelique’s got a sore throat. She doesn’t feel like playing.” Angelique turned back to glare at the girl, but the other child picked up no clues at all.
“That’s okay, I can just sit down beside you and we can play something easy. See this rock?” Daisy pulled a smooth stone from the pocket of her long skirt. “I found it on the beach weeks ago, during our travels to London. We can play catch with it.”
“No, uh…” Nisroc began, but was interrupted by Angelique.
“Sure, here, let me see it.”
Daisy handed over the favored souvenir to what she hoped would be her friend during the passage. As soon as Angelique had hold of the stone, she drew back her arm and threw it, causing it to arc high in the air and just fall short of making it over the rail into the sea. It slid along the rough boards before halting against the bulwark.
Daisy jumped up with a cry and ran to retrieve the stone. She turned back, tears in her eyes. “You tried to throw it away,” she said.
“Did I?” Angelique’s voice was sweet syrupy with sarcasm. “Oh, Father, did I?” She turned to wink at him.
Nisroc’s lips tightened in disapproval. “You needn’t have done that.”
“You’re mean,” Daisy said, backing away.
“Come here and let me show you magic,” Angelique said sweetly.
Daisy hesitated, unsure of the situation. Maybe she had misjudged the girl, maybe it was just a game.
“Come on, look here.” Angelique gestured her over. “You’ll really like it. It’s something quite amazing.”
Daisy came back slowly, chin to chest, obviously on the defense.
“Let me see your rock again,”
Daisy shook her head. “You’ll throw it away.”
“I won’t, I promise. I want to show you something special.”
Daisy reluctantly gave her the rock.
Angelique closed her little hand over it and immediately opened it to reveal a tiny baby bird. A featherless thing, blind, beak opening pitifully, little ribbed chest heaving.
Daisy’s eyes widened and her mouth opened.
Even Nisroc was stunned. It was obvious Angelique had learned a few tricks during her incarnation.
“Now watch again,” Angelique said, closing her fingers over the baby bird. She opened her hand quickly and there sat the rock on her palm.
“How’d you do that?” Daisy came forward quickly, reaching for the rock.
Angelique closed her fist and Daisy halted, looking up.
Angelique’s face hardened and her eyes narrowed. “I can do that to you, too, if you don’t go away, little girl. I can turn you into a tiny baby bird or a horny old frog or a long-tailed rat running for cover in the holds of this ship. Your parents will never see you again. You’ll die a grisly death of starvation as a tiny bird, or be thrown overboard as a slimy frog or be crushed by a boot as a marauding rat. NOW GO AWAY AND LEAVE ME ALONE.”
Daisy stood frozen. She had heard the threat and now seemed to be processing it. Turn her into a bird, a frog, a rat? Looking into Angelique’s eyes convinced her. She stepped back. Her lips trembled. “You can have it. You can have my rock.”
Then she spun around and ran as hard as she could on the shifting deck to the stairs leading down into the passenger cabins. As the top of her head disappeared below decks, Nisroc turned to Angelique. “Was that necessary? What if she tells her parents and they come complaining about your behavior?”
Nisroc sighed and shifted in his deck chair. He stared out to sea, that endless road of turbulent water and the distant lonely horizon. Puffy clouds drifted over the light blue sky, and the sun stood at its zenith.
Yes, he was human. He had been granted, by this child, by this Queen of the Fallen, another chance at life. Yes, he was banished from God, cast out into the regions that was nothing and nowhere. But how much was he going to have to pay for the privilege of life on Earth? And how much sorrow and despair was his queen going to bestow on her fellow humans before all was said and done? She was not so much evil as dispassionate. Not so much child as old intelligence. And not so much angel as devil.
Was he, too, made of the same stuff, since he was one of the Fallen, one of the Seperated? Was he, too, capable of cruelty, avarice, deceit, and corruption? Or more? Murder? Perhaps even murder.
He did not know. But he suspected he was not the same as Angelique. He was not a Destroyer, that much he knew beyond doubt. He was a sinner, a lost soul, and a condemned being, but he was no Angelique. There was no one in any age, in any realm, like Angelique.
It was the first time since drawing breath that he questioned his existence in the world. Now he knew it was not always going to be a series of exciting sensations, appreciation of the physical body, and joy of living in the world at large. No, it was going to be…
He knew now it would be…
It was going to be…his worst fear. The future felt dark now, full of storm and lightning and destruction. He was going to be a part of it. He was Angelique’s pawn. Would she have really turned the other child into a small, helpless, threatened bird or animal? He knew the answer to that question was yes, absolutely yes. She had cared no more for that child than she would have cared for a spider or an ant. She would have squashed the life from it without hesitation.
This new life with Angelique was going to be bad.
It was going to be…bloody, bloody…
To read more about Angelique and Nisroc, please buy the novel BANISHED. See the page with excerpts from BANISHED on this site.