Alizel watched it, uncertain of what it could mean. Uriel the Principality was on his left, his soft brown eyes and brown shoulder length hair in sharp contrast to his earthy green wings. Uriel’s lips pushed together and his wings gave a slight flutter. It was obvious that he didn’t know any more than Alizel.
Verin was standing on Alizel’s right, his golden sash bunched up as he placed his forearms on the railing. The white V on the sash didn’t stand for his name, but rather signified the rank of Virtue. His flaming red hair shot out from his head at all angles, and his sea-green wings seemed always ready to explode out and head off to the next adventure. Alizel could tell from his expression that Verin wanted very much to know what was going on, but he didn’t know any more than anyone else.
They were at the Portal, the place where the Realm of Spirit intersected with the newly created Realm of Matter. The Portal was a shimmering pool, unconnected with any of the waterways of Heaven, surrounded by a metallic railing that signified the farthest point that angels could go before they risked entering the Realm of Matter. Angels could look through its surface and gaze upon the Realm of Matter, which at this point, was just a small mass. The mass was expanding outward, moving steadily, homogenous as far as they could see, and in reality, not all that interesting.
It had been going on like that for a few minutes. Alizel knew it was important, from the conversations he had he knew that much had been felt by everyone from the lowest Unranked to the highest Seraph. They could feel in His Will that this was an important event, but it was hard to imagine something like this being more important than the latest events in Heaven.
“What do you think it is? It looks like another world.”
“I don’t understand why He needed to create another world,” Verin said, leaning over the rail to look closer. “What’s wrong with this one?”
“Who’s to say He’s going to stop at one,” Uriel spoke up. “Maybe He’s making a hundred, or a thousand?”
The angels had been enjoying their newfound existence for only a short time, each of them had been created in an instant, fully formed and in awe of the Lord God who had created them and Heaven.
“Maybe He just made ours first because it’s the best,” Verin answered, lines of worry creasing his otherwise handsome face.
“Maybe you should stop questioning His motives.”
The voice coming from behind them was light and strong, radiant as a silver mirror reflecting the Father’s glory.
They whirled, apologizing. The figure behind them was tall and sleek, crimson wings bursting from his shoulder blades, aerodynamic and smooth. His cloak was brilliant white, and the fiery S emblazoned on the sash across his shoulder matched perfectly with the color and quality of his eyes. He was tall, yet his long, platinum hair still reached his waist. Not a strand was ever out of place.
“I’m sorry, sir.” Alizel managed to get his apology out first. “But we just don’t know what’s required of us. We are all so very new.”
“Trust in God is all that’s required. The rest will be revealed— even to you— when the time is right.”
With that he smiled and walked away.
When he was safely out of hearing distance, Verin parodied his expression. “‘Even to you.’ Those Seraphim think they know everything. What’s his name again?”
“Luciferel.” Uriel answered quickly.
“He probably doesn’t even know. He just acts like that because he’s so highly ranked. I bet he wouldn’t talk to a Cherub like that.”
Alizel didn’t bother to answer him. He just kept staring at the sphere as it continued expanding outwards into nothingness and creating space for itself. It had cooled significantly in the first few minutes, but he still couldn’t imagine what it would become. They watched it and tossed around theories for a few more hours before shrugging it off and walking away.
Alizel sat down on a perfectly shaped stone on the banks of one of the smaller streams, letting his white wings slide down into the water and feeling the passing liquid tickle and caress his feathers. He thought nothing of taking a moment for introspection — he had no reason to believe that he had anything other than an infinite amount of time. And besides, this was one of his favorite spots.
There were no houses in Heaven, a place needed for safety and rest. Heaven was safety, at the same time both alive and yet so tranquil. There was no need for walls to keep out strangers, and all Heaven was home. In Heaven there was no need of rest, for angels’ bodies continually received energy from the glory of the Father. They did not grow weary or have any desire to stop. Every moment Alizel was bursting with the energy of a thousand possibilities. Rest was not something that he yearned for.
If an angel wanted to, he could find privacy in one of the common rooms or fellowship in one of the thousands of larger buildings designed for groups of angels to relax in easy conversation or praise. The buildings were generally curved so that all of the assembled angels could speak together and yet still gaze upon the Father. No wall could stop His sustaining energy from reaching them, but when given a choice, the angels always preferred to gaze upon Him. The buildings curved as amphitheaters with openings toward Mt. Zion, so that there could be an unobstructed view of the One who was their reason for being.
Alizel spent most of his time praising God, not out of obligation but love. Angels were free to praise the Father privately at any time, and often did so. Yet nothing was more beautiful than when the entire assembled host burst forth into praise at once. Sometimes it was scheduled under the conducting of the Cherub Jehudiel, and sometimes it was spontaneous, but compelling either way. If he heard angels around him begin to sing, then Alizel wanted nothing more than to join in.
How to describe the sound — the purity of each voice, the melody of hundreds of thousands together, the power of the song that roared forth like a tsunami, yet held the gentleness of a single flower petal…. It was a song sung not with the lips but the soul.
Alizel and his friends spent time in nearly every corner of Heaven. They danced in the meadows, swam in the rivers, lounged in the treetops, and sometimes just soared over everything, gliding effortlessly and taking it all in. Pretty much the only place they didn’t go was the throne room of God. Although they worshiped the Lord without ceasing and loved him dearly, sometimes His love for them was almost too strong. Feeling such beauty concentrated into a single room was too much for even an ordinary angel. It seemed only the Cherubim and Seraphim could stand such intensity. Those two orders of angels weren’t like the rest of them. Seraphim seemed more ‘normal,’ almost as if they were just a better version of the other ranks of angels. Cherubim, on the other hand…well, it was almost as if they were a completely different species.
All of the ranks did spend a great deal of time at the Portal, just looking at the Realm of Matter. As it expanded it became more interesting, if only for its differences with Heaven. They took to calling the Realm of Matter “the Universe.” It had a completely different set of physical laws than Heaven. It had one energy like Heaven, but that energy could take many forms. It was the attraction of gravity, and the attraction charge between positive and negative, between matter and antimatter. The energy could be stored as matter or released with the splitting or fusing of tiny particles. Heaven’s one energy, though, only had one form. The Father himself radiated out all that the angels needed to survive. It was food, drink, sleep, light, purpose, and love. Alizel and indeed every other angel craved it, yet were satisfied at every moment. It was the water of eternal life.
One thing that angels did have in common with the Universe was time. Angels didn’t age— they learned from the past, and increased in wisdom, but their bodies stayed the same.
At least… that was true for most angels.
Alizel and his friends were able to watch time passing in that other world, often going down to the Portal to watch it for years in one sitting.
They were always disappointed.
“Is it just going to stay like that forever?” Verin blurted out once, leaning over the railing. “If God created our world in an instant, why is this one taking so long?”
Verin was a good friend, but he never seemed satisfied. Alizel wasn’t sure how, but Verin’s curiosity was different than their friend, Mupiel’s. Mupiel was a blond Unranked angel who questioned everything, always wanting to know why everything happened. Verin always seemed like he needed to make something happen.
“Perhaps it’s supposed to stay that way,” Alizel offered, shrugging his shoulders.
“Oh, yes,” Verin replied, sweeping his hand around at the bright columns, flowing streams, and fiery energy that was home. “God who could make this beauty has nothing better to do than to make a big cloud of particles.”
Alizel had to admit that he did have a point. It didn’t make much sense. “Well, some of them are sticking together,” Alizel noticed, pointing. Although angels couldn’t speed up or slow down time in the new world, they could zoom in or out, seeing the entirety or the insides of the small particles made up of other smaller particles.
“Hallelujah!” Verin cried out, voice dripping with sarcasm. “That world so far exceeds ours that I might as well leave home and fly down there!”
He stood up on the edge of the pool, a slow, smooth grin coming to his face as he looked down on it. He looked around to see if it was safe. No one else was around. “I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt…”
Before Alizel could stop him, Verin shot up into the air, streamlining his body and raising his green wings for the flap that would propel him into a nosedive across the shining surface of the barrier.
A golden and platinum streak arced out of nowhere and slammed into Verin’s body as his wings were in mid flap. The streak hurtled him to the ground and pinned him under the golden armor.
“What do you think you are doing?” the Power bellowed at him. “You know entering the Realm of Matter is forbidden!”
“How… dare you touch me,” Verin stammered, shaking to get the words out. “I’m a Virtue.” It was true; technically he was more highly ranked than the Power sitting on top of him. “Besides, I thought we were to go there.”
Azazel’s armor dug into his chest. Verin winced.
“I bow to no rank. As the guardian of Heaven, I am free to challenge any who dares set foot in the Universe.”
Alizel cringed for his friend. Of all the angels to run afoul of, Verin had to pick this one. Azazel was not someone to get on your bad side. He was head of the Powers, the group of angels that guarded the borders of Heaven. They all wore armor and red sashes with a platinum P emblazoned over their shoulders. With the way that they carried themselves, a piece of cloth denoting their rank was unnecessary.
Up to this point, Heaven had never been under attack, but apparently they even needed to be protected from themselves.
“We are to go there,” Azazel informed, although by the tone of his voice it was obvious that he had not bought Verin’s excuse and did not really respect his authority. “But the time is not yet. The world is too young.”
He still had not relaxed his hold on Verin’s body.
“Do you have any idea what would happen if you went there now?” Azazel growled.
Verin shook his head. “I thought we couldn’t really change that world. Just in the tiniest ways.”
Azazel’s silver eyes hardened. “It’s too early. Even quantum changes now could throw the entire plan off course.”
He sat up, finally relaxing his grip on the Virtue. “Do you want that? Do you want to destroy everything God has worked to make?”
“No… no, sir. I’m sorry, sir. It won’t happen again.”
“Be sure that it doesn’t.” Azazel got up and straightened out his robes under his shining armor. “Next time I will not be so forgiving.”
Then he was gone, almost as quickly as he had arrived. The gardens were bright, the streams flowed and swirled, and peace was in the air. Except for Verin cowering on the ground next to the pool, it was like the whole incident never happened.
Verin put his palm to the ground and pushed himself up to his knees, visibly shaken. He turned to Alizel and raised his eyes without speaking.
Azazel had been so fast, so sure. If there ever were any threats, Alizel felt confident with him leading the defense of Heaven. Alizel shrugged. “At least it looks like they got the right angel for the job.”
Flying high above the majesty of Heaven, Alizel reflected back on how Azazel was responsible for leading the defense of the Realm of Spirit. Only a few angels had jobs. Most were like Alizel, unranked with no profession. It was a bit unsettling at times, wondering about his place. With some of the other orders, everything seemed so clear for them. They knew what they were made for. Alizel had always felt like he had some purpose in life, but just couldn’t figure out what it was. If any of the higher ones knew, they were keeping silent.
They all answered to the Seraphim, the ‘flaming ones.’ Alizel didn’t see them very often, and didn’t really have any clue what they did. Secretive and powerful, they very rarely spent any time with lower ranking angels at all. There were very few Seraphim and it was impossible to mistake them for any other order. They wore their platinum sashes with a crimson S more for pride than for identification. Luciferel was the leader of the Seraphim, and by extension leader of all angels. There had been no election or word from God to confirm his leadership, but it just didn’t seem right that it could be any other way.
The Cherubim were technically next in rank, although sometimes Alizel wondered why they weren’t the highest. They were the most knowledgeable, and some said they completely knew the mind of God. Alizel wasn’t so sure, though. If he ever had a question, they were the ones to go to— if they’d ever agree to talk to him. They seemed genuinely uninterested in the daily life of Heaven and the affairs of its inhabitants. The joke was that it was easy to identify a member of the Cherubim: just look for their white sashes with a golden C…and their four faces and wings.
Following them were the Thrones. Alizel didn’t see much of them either. There were only twelve of them, but Thrones was just a name. He had heard that they had a special task, far above the other angels, but after asking and asking Alizel couldn’t get any closer to it. Mupiel had of course been asking about as well, and no one would tell him either. Their task was a great secret, and Alizel wondered if anyone who was not a Throne knew what it was. At times they looked like the other angels, and at times nothing like them. Sometimes they appeared as two concentric fiery wheels, with eyes everywhere along the rims. Even in a form like the other angels, they still had multiple eyes. Alizel guessed that’s why they always knew so much – they could see everything. The Thrones wore earthy brown sashes with a green T and served as instructors to the other angels.
The fourth order was the Dominions. They never seemed to fit. It was obvious to all that they had some job as they strutted around in their long white albs, purple sashes with a golden D, and their golden belts. The huge buckles had strange shapes on them, shapes like nothing seen in Heaven. They were always off doing their own thing—probably trying to find what their purpose was, Alizel reasoned.
After the Dominions came the Virtues, resplendent in their white albs and golden sashes with a white V. They didn’t know what their job was either, but at least they were honest enough to admit it. Verin, of course, was the most impatient to discover his purpose.
Next were the Powers, with Azazel as their chief. They were the gatekeepers who kept the separation between the worlds fixed. They were always so aloof, standing there in their golden armor and red sashes. Alizel wasn’t ashamed to admit that sometimes the Powers scared him, even more so after the incident with Verin and the Portal.
The lower angels had three ranks of their own. There were the Principalities, whose job it was to watch over a hundred angels, Archangels who watched over ten, and the majority like Alizel, the Unranked. Principalities wore white sashes with a blue P on them, Archangels wore white sashes with a green letter A, and the Unranked wore grey sashes with no letter at all.
Uriel was Alizel’s Principality. Though he watched over a hundred angels, Alizel always felt that he was closer to him than the others. He was like a mentor. No—he was a mentor, at least more than Katel, his Archangel. It wasn’t that Alizel had any problems with Katel, a lithe creature whose purple wings seemed even more colorful next to his short black hair. On the contrary, they had always got along well. It was just that Katel’s indigo eyes always seemed to stop their search just short of something really worth seeing. But was being satisfied with a perfect life really so wrong?
The ranking of the angels was set in stone from the moment of creation, and Alizel often meditated on the different orders of angels and what it might mean. Why were the Powers, who were so strong, near the bottom? They seemed like the closest to the Seraphim in strength and might. He could understand why the Powers weren’t higher than the Cherubim, but did ranking so low mean that protecting Heaven was unimportant? What jobs did the other angels have? And would they ever learn the secret of the Thrones?
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