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Tiers in Heaven

by Lewis

Can you tell us what Gabriel was like?

Oh sure. He was quick to love, slow to anger. His judgement was honest but fierce. Yeah I'd say he was a proper Archangel. Made the proper way. I mean, I guess he was firm sometime, strong. Or his presence implied strength, like he could break your bones with a look. But he never would. It's tragic you know, the whole thing. He was good to me. You should talk to Michael. They were close those two.

Sure he came across as the good, obedient type, but I'd started to hear things you know. Life extensions, illegal blessings, there was that whole confusion around the ‘virgin birth’ that never got cleared up…i can't say...well if there was a DNA test between Gabe and Holy Spirit. It was just stupid rumours. But I told him to be careful, he'd been seen with this Cherub from Sphere 3. Creepy little guy. You should speak to him.

And talk us through the morning of, the accident?

Well it was just a normal day. I went down to the gate, my shift started at 4 so I signed in as normal. Most of us don't live inside the first Sphere you know. That's for the Archs only. But you know someones still gotta cut the grass. I was heading over to the Burning Orchard, we got a strict routine. Gotta keep the balance of growth and burning at all times. Each one takes 300 years to grow. But you'd be amazed how often they get used. Anyway there he was just spinning slowly a few feet of the ground. From the back I thought he was just asleep, he did that sometimes after a few too many Blood of C’s. The Orchard is very relaxing. But then as he turned I saw the front of him. Dear Boss I've never seen anything like it. The eyes. It was like looking through..I cant. I'm sorry.

Look I don't know what your implying, but its not like that. Sure we used to hangout a lot. Theres only 7 of us Archs so yeah me and Gabe were close. He left mine around 3. And then I heard nothing until the bells. Then. Well all heaven was let loose. I didn't even hear about what happened til Raphael told me.

It's tough at the top you know. He's not the first Arch to lose it. I mean every one knows about Lu. I don't know. I'm just saying you hear things. Maybe he wanted out?

So these rumours that you threatened Gabriel?

Me? I hardly knew him. I did a few odd jobs for him now and then. Little stuff you know. You gotta get by out here. That's all. It's tough in 3. But do that? I couldn't do that to anyone.

Me? Look ok we argued. I shouted at him. Sure. But he could be so damn, holier than thou, you know. But I wouldn't hurt ‘him’. Did you see what they did? That was evil pure and simple. We don't get that stuff in Sphere 1. I couldn't do that to him.

The beatification of Gillie

by Dan

Dave never liked Gillie. When she first moved in she left him to bring her stuff in, told him he was wonderful then forgot his name. She made everything about her, so that when Dave used up the last of his own Nutella after Gillie had consumed the whole rest of the jar it became a sign of his selfishness and a cause for her to bang pans loudly round the kitchen.

But she was Milo’s girlfriend and Milo was wild about her so Dave just waited for him to come to his senses as had happened before.

The other housemates, Hayley, a nurse, and Dave’s girlfriend Anna were too busy to care about the attention seeking drama student.

One morning, when the others were out, she came into the kitchen naked and asked Dave to make love to her which he politely declined for reasons outlined above. She flew off the handle and stomped back to her bedroom where she made moaning sounds until Dave was forced to go and ask what was wrong.

“I’ve got a serious illness! Not that you’d care.” She shouted. Dave knew she’d have to go and was working up to handling Milo at the house meeting.

Until the lockdown changed everything.

Of course Gillie was the first to show “symptoms”, meaning the rest of the household had to isolate too. For an ill person she had lots of energy, except during the household deep clean. Within a week everyone was waiting on her hand and foot. Including Hayley who’d broken her arm lifting a 30 stone man onto a hospital bed.

Then things got weird. Gillie started having “visions” in her dreams and the other members of the household stopped speaking to Dave.

Dave could not believe they fell for it.

When he expressed doubt, Anna called him an “infidel” and moved out of his room.

Gillie herself took up residence in the living room where the only telly and games consul was located. From here she dispensed “Visions of the Sleeping Angel” to the rest of the rapt housemates, whilst Dave sulked in the kitchen alone.

He overheard snippets. Every morning The Sleeping Angel (Gillie) revealed her “unbelievable sight” which often involved a burning bush and some “commandments” from the Goddess of the Virus (to all intents also, Gillie).

These included 1) that the pillows from all rooms must be brought to prop The Angel up whilst she watched Sex Education. 2) That all alcohol and Jam tarts be placed under her control. 8 further commandments were written on the kitchen whiteboard. Dave’s own “Gillie -buy more Nutella” was wiped out completely.

When the commandment came to “cast the Infidel into the wilderness” Dave’s remonstrations that he owned the house fell upon deaf ears as the other members of the household dragged him downstairs in his pyjamas.

But as they passed the living room they heard the news announcement from the telly that the Lockdown was finally over. As if woken from a dream the housemates put Dave down and turned to observe “The Sleeping Angel”. To their surprise, instead of a “golden vision of salvation” they witnessed a pretty, slightly overweight, very sheepish looking girl with jam tart crumbs around her mouth. After that things began, slowly, to return to normal.


by Jenny

It’s dark. The air tastes bitter, like burnt toast. And sort of medicinal; tacky and cloying and familiar. Metallic, maybe? Is that it? I’m not sure

It’s so dark I’m still not sure if my eyes are open, but they are stinging and dry and slowly the patterned fabric that’s just a few inches from my face swims into focus. There’s a strange sound, like paper being crumpled somewhere nearby, but apart from that everything is silent. Everything is still.

I turn my head. I can see something glowing green, but I can’t understand what’s wrong with it. I squint and frown and puzzle at it for a good while before realising that _it_ isn’t wrong - I am. The glowing green arrow isn’t pointing downwards, it’s me who’s twisted around into a bizarre position. My neck is bent and painful, my knees are higher than my head, there’s a terrible pain across my abdomen. And there’s that smell again. What was I doing?

It takes me a few moments to figure out which way up is and to decide how to move my legs so that I can make the green arrow point the right way. Eventually, somehow, I manage it and my head swims sickeningly with the effort. The aisle is strewn with spilled rubbish. Apple cores, crisp packets, Coke cans. A child’s shoe and a splayed baby doll, eyes tight shut and blonde curls spread out all around it, like a sleeping angel.

Two of the enormous windows are shattered, but not smashed, the tangled network of cracks spiralling outward into bigger and bigger circles, like a spider web. It’s strangely beautiful and I lift my hand to trace its shape, when I notice the orange, red flickering across the pattern of hairline fractures. Against the deep black of the night sky the contrast is astonishing and I feel in my pocket for my phone to capture it in a photo, but it’s not there.

The realisation doesn’t come quickly, but I feel it approach slowly - I’m aware that something is wrong and that I need to do something, if only I could think what. It’s important, I think. If only it would stay still so I could catch it.

And then it lands. The smell, the pain, the panic. The splintering of glass and the crunch and scream of metal and people. The smoke and the darkness.

I try to stand, but my leg must be broken and I fall to the ground again, my hands hitting the aisle floor, but the panic has washed away that feeling of dazed dreaminess now and I am scrabbling, stumbling, falling, clawing my way across to the opposite windows. They are unbroken and beyond them I can see a small crowd of dazed people. Some of them are bleeding. Some are stretched out across the grass. All of them wear the same numb, shocked expression and none of them look up. To their right a tree is burning.

I lift my fingers to the glass and my scream bounces back at me and hits me in the face. I can feel the flames now, the papery crackle is creeping closer, though I don’t dare turn to look. I can feel the smoke burning my eyes and the tacky, cloying, metallic smell of petrol.

One of the women in the crowd outside looks up and I see her mouth fall open into an O of surprise. She is pointing, she is screaming and they are all looking now. I can see my panic mirrored in their faces and I see the reflection of the flames in their helpless, horrified eyes

An introduction

by Russ

‘Take a picture, it’ll last longer!’

It was one of those phrases people repeat verbatim because they think it sounds sassy, and it grated on Simon every time he heard it. This time was worse because it was applied perfectly, and he deserved it. He offered a weak smile of apology and averted his gaze

His stomach was still fizzing from the shame of being caught when a shadow pivoted across him, giving shade from the thousand watt sun and sending the rest of the world into a bleached glare.

‘Seriously, mate,’ the voice didn’t sound like it was addressing a mate. ‘You can’t just go leering at women on the beach, especially when they’re having a nap!’

It was the sleeping angel Simon had absent mindedly let his sight fall on, only now she was more of a waking demon, sending plumes of sulphur from her nose as she huffed indignation. He hadn’t meant to stare, he just hadn’t been paying attention. That defence sounded weak even in his own head, so instead he looked down and gestured vaguely.

The privacy invaded sun-bather allowed her eyes to be guided down Simon’s body, landing on the sand-clogged plaster-cast which covered his left leg from ankle to upper-thigh providing a protective exoskeleton for the broken bone within.

‘You sayin’ being clumsy makes it okay for you to be a pervert?’

Simon grappled for any sort of answer, seeing a line of teeth cut through the shadows of his prosecutor’s face as he did. At first he flinched, fearing an attack, before the shard of white grew into something rounder, a smile.

‘What did you do then, dick ‘ed?’ the assailant laughed.

The change of tone disorientated Simon.

‘Mis-judged a curb…’ the invalid shrugged, prompting a snort of laughter, sulphur now replaced with something lighter. Next thing he knew, the body infront of him twisted and tumbled, making a controlled landing beside him, close enough that his one uncased leg was now overlaid slightly by the spread knee of his companion, a muted thwump as bum compacted sand.

‘That’s a shit story,’ the sudden conspirator said, matter-of-factly, leaning across with an elbow while simultaneously unlocking the phone cradled between two hands, and beginning to scroll through photographs. After a dozen graceful flicks, the searcher settled on an image, turned the screen to landscape, and slid up the brightness.

The picture snapped Simon’s attention into focus with disbelief. A creased and cracked car rested against a burning tree; a trio of sheep worried in the opposite corner; a woman, this woman, sat in the foreground, one hand doing a poor job of trying to stem blood-flow from a head-wound, the other cradling what… looked like a duck.

‘This... is a story,’ the woman declared.

Simon’s jaw hung open as he absorbed the screen.

The woman nudged him in the ribs, and laughed.

‘My name’s Fi,’ she took one hand from the phone and offered it to Simon. ‘What do they call you, pervert?’

Heaven Sent

by George

The hobnob hovered above the tea, her hand hardly able to steady it. With a clunk it snapped like broken bone and disappeared into the milky depths.

‘Oh dear, will you be wanting another one?’

Valerie sat staring at the carpet in silence.

‘Hm. I’ll get you another one.’

As he bumbled out, she took some time to reflect. In the normal sequence of events she’d arrive at some godforsaken church out in the sticks, cast a forensic spiritual eye over some marmite pooled in the centre of a piece of stale toast and regretfully inform the excited nun or priest that there was nothing doing. Usually nothing sinister, just another example of the plethora of everyday coincidence, the result of condiments past their sell by date.

Today had been different. She racked her brains to think how it could have been done. Pipes along the branches that sprayed petrol on command? Some sort of arboreal spontaneous combustion? She could just about fathom the burning tree alone, but what about the scaly figure it revealed? Valerie shuddered, her tea lapping of the side of her tea cup as she remembered the lithe form hanging in a cocoon of feathers, dripping in golden nectar, crowned with a halo…

‘Chocolate hobnobs’ confirmed Nigel as he came back into the sitting room.

‘Wasn’t sure what biscuits you people would like, I normally have a digestive but given who you work for I thought… well I don’t know what I thought. Something more decadent seemed in order.’

Valerie remained unmoved, staring in silence at the floor. She thought of all the times it had nearly happened, the crying painting in Verona, the jabbering nuns in Montevideo. Could it really be that after all that He would show himself to a protestant in Yorkshire?

‘So, what do you think?’ said Nigel sitting down. ‘Sleeping angel, burning tree, not normal is it?’

Valerie snapped out of her reverie.

‘Pastor, why did you call us? If this is some kind of anti popish dare…’

‘My dear, you may believe we all sit around plotting against the pope and hiding angels in burning trees to get one over on you, but I can assure you we don’t have the time anymore. The simple fact of the matter is that our church isn’t really equipped for this sort of thing. We don’t really do miracles, and certainly not ones this ostentatious. We called the police of course, but they didn’t want anything to do with it either. We were rather hoping you would take it off our hands.’

Valerie sat back in disbelief. Perhaps the Lord made some mistake? Got lost on the way to Rome?

She imagined a helicopter emblazoned with the cross, its pilot clad in cloth of gold, the burning tree and its angelic cargo suspended beneath with chains like rosary beads.

Nigel looked at her forensically, following her trail of thought.

’We could put it on the back of a van for you?’

Golden showers

by James

Think you’re having a bad lockdown? Try sharing a house with your wife and her lover. Justin and Emma have the top floor, the one with both bedrooms, and the big bathroom. I have the middle floor, with the dining room and lounge. Emma said it was only fair, after all, it has the big TV, the thing I loved so much I should have married. And why not? In the eighteen months of this particular relationship never once have I caught my fifty-five inch Samsung legs akimbo beneath a driving instructor.

And not a very good one, at that. If he was better at checking his mirrors they might have twigged it was me following them to that layby where I busted them.

I wonder how he is at digging.

Stay inside when the meteors are showering, that’s the number one rule. It’s not actually against the law, but then why would the government need to make a law to stop it? Go outside when the sky is falling and you’re pretty much a goner, nine out of ten, at least.

I will take those odds, because Justin, the total wimp, will surely have a heart attack when Emma makes him bury my corpse in the garden.

The freshness of the garden air is a song for my lungs. I try a song for the lips too, follow it with a touch of whiskey, and reward is mine a moment later when the sound of hippos mating grinds to a halt and the dormer window of my former marital castle is hauled open. The nude top half of Emma appears, her right arm folded to cover her chest.

She gapes at me as if I’m the imbecile.

I wave the bottle. ‘Come outside, for a drink? Him too. Winner gets the house, yeah?’

‘God’s sake,’ she mutters, and disappears.

One last swallow, and the whiskey is gone. I turn my face to the sky, to the pinpricks of gold that swell as they fall closer. These lazy falling balls of flame glow with eerie beauty then wink into nothing as they graze roof slates and gutters. The first meteor touches down in the neighbour’s garden, grazing the branches of an apple tree and turning them to flame. Perhaps it really is an alien invasion, and they are bombarding us – wipe out what lives but leave the structures intact.

Other globes are beginning to touch down, leaving black circles in the lawn.

Justin yells from above. He is stood with his naked torso shoved through the window. He points a half empty vodka bottle at me.

‘Get the fuck inside. Lunatic!’

These things fall almost vertical, and from below it crowns his head, shining like a halo, before it passes through his body at the shoulders and out through his belly, winking into nothing to reveal the sky right where I should be seeing Justin’s formerly toned abs. By the time I get back up to the patio Justin is already there. Never before have I seen a more beautiful sleeping angel, and that’s with both arms broken at funny angles.

And then it hits me.

Justin, the bastard. I suppose I have to bury him now.