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Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Gabriel didn’t sleep, not in any way that could be understood by humans, but he did rest then. It was nothing that could do him any good. It was a catnap stolen by a soldier standing in a trench, the sounds of war exploding all around him, the sound of his own tortured heart echoing within. Gabriel saw faces. He heard voices. He felt G-d burning on his cheeks and the back of his neck. Millions of faces folded on one another until they became one face, the face of the girl, the face of the girl, but which girl? Which one? It didn’t matter. Both girls. One girl. Both girls.

He heard his own voice quietly whisper the prayer,“אלוהים, מברך את הילד הזה שאני שואל אותך לקבל לתוך החן מהמלכותשלך.” Lord, protect this child as she prepares to do your bidding. It was a simple prayer, general and clichéd but it was all he could think to say as he stared down at the girl in her bed, as she clutched at her bed sheets and tried to not cry at the burden they hoisted on her.

She asked only one thing, “Is there no other?”

She’d been fourteen. Too young for this.

Michael responded, “No. It has to be you.” He stood over her with his wings spread wide, majestic and magisterial, as beautiful as a thunderstorm. “It’s an honor,” he said as if honor were all there were in the world.

Gabriel hardly spoke throughout. His face remained stoic but his mind was distant, scanning the horizon for the loss that all this would bring, this latest great plan. He saw the exodus, the scorn, the raising of the boy, and the final catastrophe at the heights of Calvary. He saw further: the girl, now aged, the weight of the years crinkling the skin at the edge of her eyes and yet still the same scared fourteen-year-old child at heart, moaning at the feet of her son as his blood dripped into the dirt. And Gabriel went to her and he ignored Michael’s protests and he struggled against the bonds of the Lord so that he kneeled down next to her. He looked in her eyes and he reached out his hands, took hers in his own, and in that moment he showed her everything that would happen, the birth, the baptism. He showed her the battered corpse of her son hung for the carrion birds, and she tried to pull away but he held onto her hand until the last of it poured into her and the tears streamed down her face. He wanted her to cry all her tears now so she could be strong when the time came. He wanted her to feel all the pain of a lifetime in this one instant so that she could then sleep and when she awoke be free and happy and beautiful the way she’d been intended. He wanted to carry this for her. He wanted to be exploded.

He said: “Lord, protect this child as she prepares to do your bidding.” And then he kissed her forehead and imparted as much of the light of the Lord as he could, then stood. He spread his wings until they covered the whole room, so filled with the fury of millennia of helplessness was he.

He said: “Be brave, Mary. The Lord has not forsaken you, no matter how dark the horizon.” Then he smiled as best he could and turned away from the girl. Michael said his name and put a hand on his shoulder, but Gabriel pushed passed him and stepped to the window sill. He launched himself into the blackness of the night and disappeared. Michael watched him go, then turned to Mary, whispered a prayer and left.