Merial strolled around the insertion room, his hands clasped behind his back, nodding in approval as his workers silently and efficiently completed their delicate tasks. It was peaceful and serene. The only other sound was the choir song of angel voices practising in the distance.
Merial sat down, checked the job number and jabbed the button which should have deposited the required soul to his station. Nothing happened. He tried again, without success. Gritting his teeth, he slammed his fist onto the button. His workers looked up and stared at him quizzically. Still, no soul appeared.
Sighing he shook his head he stood up. “Continue working. Seems like a jam with the distribution mechanism to my station.”
Merial decided to walk. It wasn't far and it would give his composure time to return.
He entered the massive storage facility - the size of which by human standards - would have been incomprehensible. Rows upon rows of souls neatly stored as far as the eye could see.
There was no roof and the celestial heavens were visible displaying a myriad of galaxies and star systems. Apparently it had a calming effect on the souls.
Merial made his way towards the row designated for his station. As he drew closer his eyes widened in shock. He rushed forward towards the storage units. This was bad. Never before in his centuries of being in charge had this happened.
Somehow two souls had managed to topple onto each other. Merial gently and extremely carefully disengaged the souls. He checked them for damage but apart from a sinister swirling in their core they appeared normal. He would have to report this. His clean record would be tarnished. This was going to be bad. Merial closed his eyes for a moment then reopened them. He was standing outside the throne room.
The hangar-sized doors were made from ivory, inlaid with gilt filigree running along the borders. An intricate carving made from Agar and Sandal wood ran across its width, depicting Angels in full flight. No human could open it. Nor anyone, or anything, with bad intentions.
Merial took a brief moment to compose himself, plucking imaginary lint from his clothes and straightening creases. He took a deep breath; exhaled slowly, and pushed open the massive doors.
There was no fanfare or any real reaction to announce his entrance. The enormous domed ceiling was covered in swirling mother of pearl. Merial knew it was in fact a portal, which in the blink of an eye could point anywhere in the universe, either to take one somewhere or to simply be used as a viewpoint to survey situations across the myriad of planets. The throne was empty. God was sitting behind a round table looking at some scrolls. Universal architects clustered around him. God had a frown on his face.
Oh Jesus. Merial thought.
“Yeesss?” Jesus whispered in his ear.
“I hate it,” Merial said, from the corner of his mouth, “when you do that.”
“I know.” Jesus chuckled, patting Merial on the shoulder.
Merial scanned the room. The usual suspects were present. Smaller seraphim flying to-and-fro carried messages in a steady stream; guardian angels with silver and gilt chest plates stood along the walls. Ornate flared helms covered their faces; deep black irises stared back from their emotionless porcelain faces.
Battle angels hardly, if ever, showed any emotion. It was unnerving seeing something so beautiful cut another angel or human down without a flicker of emotion across their features. It made them even more terrifying. He never knew what mood they were in.
Massive black wings folded behind their backs could unfold lightning-fast, and to be used as a shield or to batter an opponent to a pulp. At their sides hung swords of pure light, able to cut through anything.
Here and there a disciple or two were dotted around talking to a saint. They were dwarfed by the battle angels and even the seraphim were at least a head or two taller than most humans. Contrary to popular belief, humans don’t become angels when they die. You have to be born an angel. Human souls get redistributed. Unless you were a disciple or a saint, then you spent eternity lounging around. Like a retired holiday maker in Florida.
Merial felt a shiver go through him. Uriel was here. He stared at Merial with golden eyes. Uriel was slightly larger than the guardian angels, he was hard to miss.
“Why does he do that?” Merial whispered.
Jesus adjusted his gaze and shrugged. “I don’t think he is staring at you per se. He never blinks. He is the angel of light. The anathema to darkness. The torch bearer of…”
“Yes, yes, I am well aware of all of his titles. It’s just… well, it’s disconcerting is all.”
“Bit tetchy, aren't we? He does love a good stare down.” Jesus replied and they both looked at Uriel, who in turn, looked at both of them.
After a few awkward seconds Jesus turned his head to Merial. “Why are you here?”
“There’s been an incident at the storage facility.”
“What kind of incident?”
“Somehow two of the subjects ended up leaning against each other for a prolonged period of time.”
“Interesting.” Jesus slowly turned his head back towards Uriel.
“The souls have absorbed some of each other’s essence. They will have very similar personalities, including things like humour, likes, dislikes, opinions, tastes, fascinations, and an unhealthy love of rum and dancing, pirates, voodoo and shiny things -”
“ - Sure you didn't leave anything out?” Jesus interrupted.
“This is serious,” Merial all but whined.
“Really? You've come to bother my Father over that?”
“I thought long and hard about it. There are protocols for when this kind of thing happens.
He should be informed.”
“Why? He already knows. Kind of...” Jesus replied.
“What! How?” Merial hissed between his teeth.
Jesus turned to Merial, his head slightly cocked to the side, his brow knitted together.
“Are, you serious?”
“Of course, of course He knows. He is the almighty, all knowing God,” Merial said, in near panic.
“Look, calm down. Yes He knows but it doesn't mean; HE knows,” Jesus winked, “think of Him as a giant computer and search engine all in one. The information is all there ready to be retrieved but until He actually asks himself. Hmmm, what has Merial been up to? He won’t know. Then the information just stays there waiting to be accessed.”
“Hopefully, never.” Merial wrung his hands.
Jesus smiled. “I’ll take care of it.”
“Sure. Why not? I can see it’s upsetting you. I also don’t have anything to do right now and as you can see, He is quite busy.”
Merial looked over to where God was shaking his head at the information contained within the scrolls of construction plans whilst the architects argued over his head.
“Let’s go.” Jesus held the door open for Merial.
Merial took a moment to weigh up his options, and then followed Jesus.
The walk to the storage facility was instantaneous. The benefit of being an angel and the son of God was the ability to travel faster than the speed of light.
“This is it.”Merial said.
Jesus leant down and studied the two souls. Shining golden oblong orbs the size of a bread loaf, they hung suspended in mid-air, small streaks of blue ran through each soul like fine filaments of silk, constantly in flux. Flecks of darker gold spun around deeper inside the souls, throbbing as if they had their own heartbeat.
Jesus straightened. “So what’s the problem? Make them twins. It’s what we normally do.”
“Yes. When we have two bodies which are ready and we are using the same material. Twins look the same and don’t always act the same. These two don’t look the same, but will act the same.”
“So? Make them non-identical twins. Come on, work with me here.”
Merial sighed, rubbing his temples. “We've already been through this. This one is due now. That one is not due for a few years yet. The soul isn’t ready. Different… material… was used… We can’t just chop and change as we please. It messes with the equilibrium. This one already has a body assigned to it. A boy. It’s ready to go now. That’s why I discovered this problem. I was trying to insert the soul but the mechanism was jammed. The other is not due for a few years yet. It’s supposed to be a girl.”
“Really?” Jesus squinted slightly at the second soul.
“Yes. Really. She isn't done yet! What is it with you today?”
Jesus smiled. "Peace, brother."
"What are we to do?”
Jesus straightened and clapped Merial on the shoulder. “Send the boy out now. Send him to Africa. Then wait a few years and send the girl out to Europe somewhere.”
“Are you sure about this? You do realise if these two ever run into each other they will be more than just friends. They’ll be like; a really small gang. An annoying and unstoppable chaotic force of nature. Soul mates.”
Jesus shrugged. “What are the odds?”
“That’s exactly, why, I wanted God dealing with this, He would know all the variables involved.”
“Yes, well that is why He is called the Almighty, besides, what’s the worst that could happen?” Jesus said and then blinked away.
“I have a bad feeling about this.” Merial sighed and signalled to two seraphim.
“Get it done.” He said and then blinked away himself.
He had other work to do and was already running behind schedule. Somewhere down there a bunch of women were screaming about their due dates and why their babies hadn’t arrived yet.
Merial returned to his station. He pushed the button. Accompanied by the sound of silence, a soul appeared on his table. The delivery mechanism was once again working as it should.
He inserted a few thousand more souls and then finished off his shift, taking old souls out for rehousing to new bodies. He stood outside the rehousing facility alone looking off into the horizon. He could see someone, far off in the distance. Just standing there. Staring.
“Sir. We have a situation,” one of the seraphim said next to him.
Merial turned his head slightly but did not avert his gaze from the figure in the distance.
“Tell me. Is that Uriel?” he asked.
The seraphim stepped up next to Merial and stared into the direction he was looking. They both stood in silence for a few seconds. Staring.
“Possibly. I could go and look sir but we really have a problem which requires your attention, as soon as possible,” the seraphim replied.
“I swear, he follows me around. I he does it intentionally. You are aware that Arch angels are all crazy, did you know that?”
“Umm. Isn’t that… uh...blasphemous, sir?” the seraphim replied, looking around nervously.
“No. It’s only blasphemous if you have something bad to say about the holy trinity. It says nothing, nhuuuuthing, about the arch angels,” Merial replied.
He understood the seraphim's caution. Everyone can vividly remember what happened when the Morning Star grew restless and thought himself above his station. The war in heaven was brutal and something he never wanted to experience again. Everything was affected by the war. But it only confirmed his suspicions that Arch angels were all mad. After all, Lucifer had been one.
“Sir please, we are running out of time,” The seraphim said anxiously.
Merial sighed and turned his gaze away from the figure in the distance. “What is it?”
He blinked a couple of times, like he’d been staring at a bright light for too long.
“You know Incident 300180820909? Well. They are about to meet,” The seraphim said.
“What?! How did this happen? I only dealt with that this morning!”
The seraphim shrugged. “Well earth years and time up here, you know how skewed it gets sometimes, sir.”
“Show me,” Merial said.
The seraphim waved his hand in the air and a life-size crystal clear image appeared in front of them. They were in a restaurant surrounded by humans. It looked like a Greek place.
People were sitting around small tables two by two drinking wine and snacking on bread, which they dipped in small bowls of olive oil and Modena vinegar. He missed food. There was no hunger in heaven.
“Which one is which?” Merial asked.
“The tall guy sitting alone with the messed up hair is the one we sent to Africa. The girl about to be shown to his table is the other one,” The seraphim replied.
“Can we stop it?”
“I'm afraid it’s too late. Too many – “
“- variables involved.” Merial ground his teeth together.
“It’s out of our hands,” The seraphim replied.
The boy was sitting at a table looking around nervously. The girl smiled at him and he smiled back. Merial felt an infinitesimal shift in the equilibrium. He suppressed a slight shudder.
Oh Jesus…he thought.