Arthur sat atop the multi-story car pack watching the chaos beneath him.
Screams filled the night air accompanied by cries of agony and immeasurable fear.
It was judgement day, apparently.
I say apparently, clearly it was. There were subtle clues everywhere.
Burning buildings, shredded sky, fiery pits from which creatures emerged, dragging humans into a thinly veiled underworld while pulling wailing bodies apart like soft cheese.
Through the air angels swooped and swept up runners, lifting them into the sky before dropping the poor souls to their howling deaths.
Arthur, in his rather inebriated narcotic induced state, had come to quite enjoy the whole scene beneath and around him.
He was at peace with the end.
His life had turned to shit anyway and he pretty much resented having to exist and disliked all existence itself. Selfish really, but then he was human.
Twelve months ago, Arthur’s wife had left him for a younger model. A gym instructor named Chad.
Fucking Chad. Blonde, blue eyes, a bronzed Adonis.
Chad was deaf and mute. Arthur had no doubts that made him the perfect package for Arthur’s wife, or ex-wife. Marie wanted a ride, someone who wouldn't answer back, make decisions or have input into anything meaningful. Chad was all those things rolled into an immaculate muscle-bound vessel.
Arthur had wanted to give Chad several pieces of his mind, and maybe even a sturdy punch or six to the head but Chad’s inability to listen or concentrate long enough on Arthur's soured lips, never mind answer back or look remotely threatened, made it difficult to convey his utter rage.
Chad's undoubted ability to beat the living crap out of Arthur if he so chose to express his bile, meant that Arthur had to numbly leave his life behind.
Two weeks after he’d moved out of his home to make room for Chad, Arthur then lost his job, before losing his one remaining pride and joy, his cat Hermit, who was run over by an RSPCA van.
With no family to turn to, Arthur was alone in the world and the world stank.
The twelve months since had been a blur of failures, various rejections with deeper artichoke layers of misery.
And pot noodles.
So many pot noodles.
When the news and media started reporting strange happening’s it sparked a dim far off interest in Arthur. There had been angel sightings across the globe, eye-witness accounts claiming to have seen winged folk with shiny golden halos and sparkling teeth swooping about the skies.
There were accounts of monsters appearing from the shadows and the ground, taking babies and children, dogs, rats (which was a rare positive), trolleys, packaged goods, spare tyres, Tories, important people and tramps (this list is not exhaustive).
As the weeks and months rolled by, the sightings and events became more dramatic.
Religious organisations were initially having a field day. Recruitment had never been so good but too many were dying to keep the numbers swelling.
The Mormons remarkably were wiped out in just two days (yet they mostly went smiling and with good cheer), which really was a miracle considering how far across the globe they stretched.
Scientologists feared the worse, they had to endure a fate much worse than death (not technically possible surely?). A legion of angels and demons infiltrated their residences, mocking them twenty-four hours a day, rolling around laughing at their core beliefs as they quoted from the book of Hubbard before viciously beating them with said book. This process went on for some considerable time.
Religions everywhere ran for cover or begged the Almighty while Atheist’s looked on nervously, some even completing a checklist of which religions had been wiped out and who was left. As they were whittled down, some joined a religion hoping it was the true one. With celestial being's tearing about the planet there could be no doubt that God was real.
Arthur decided he hated Him anyway, fuck him.
The prospect of God had always annoyed Arthur and now that His existence seemed more than probable, he resented the fucker even more. It’s a shit storm to end a mess of a creation that should never have happened. Why create humans with the ability of independent thought but limit them so anyway? Bacteria with some brain power. What a miracle.
So, Arthur sat tonight, forty feet up, taking another drag on another potent something (he didn’t know or care if it was crack or hash or what) before swigging back another dose of whiskey.
Soon he intended to fly himself, just like that angel over there who was laughing loudly and throwing people around like rag dolls. That angel would be incredibly attractive thought Arthur, if it wasn’t for all her growling and wild cackling.
I’ll finish this bottle then jump, he thought to himself, hoping the angel would hear his thoughts and whip on over, taking care of business for him. If I time it just right, perhaps I’ll land on someone unpleasant and take them with me. Then he thought better of it, he wouldn’t want to survive his fall, that would just be beyond inconvenient.
He laughed, took out his penis and urinated onto the madness below.
"I've got so much to give!!?"
These were just some of the responses ‘Angelicana’ heard when she picked out the damned for death. Angelicana loved her job. The wiping out and cleansing of planets and their inhabitants.
Though it had it's downsides.
For one, He always took his recreational creations too far did God.
Earth was just another example of this.
Indeed, the angels and demons had all told God in their mystical celestial way, ‘It’ll all come to no good mate.’
The silly bastard wouldn’t listen though. He was insane of course, spitting, and shitting creations left right and centre with no real care.
He was a giant ethereal omnipotent, unexplainable, so why bother trying, child, who could do whatever he wanted. But he didn’t know when to stop and the angels and demons who had been there right from the start, couldn’t make him either.
He got bored of course with the whole Earth game and had been sleeping for quite some time. When he awoke, he was pissed off with what he saw of this planet and decided to stamp it out all out.
He had spewed up an entire multiverse, and this tiny planet in the great expanse, had run its course.
Angelicana was overjoyed and as a senior ranking angel of chaos, led the armies of destruction.
The only draw back was the instruction to save a few, to preserve a sample of the species. They would be transported to another planet inhabited by many other species whose planets and civilisations had suffered the same fate. Then the God child would watch on with slight fascination, which species would survive (he also got annoyed if too many survived and…well you can guess what came next).
Angelicana was tasked with picking any old religious group at random. It was here in this city; a small congregation of a cult named The One Truth, that Angelicana had settled upon. They believed in Armageddon and a Paradise to follow, for them as ‘The Chosen.’
They were smug, whimsical and entirely deluded.
But they’d do.
First it was playtime.
She worked in tandem with the demons. There was no good or bad or angels and demons in the true sense. They were simply agents of chaos, of an eternal God child creating and destroying for fun and impatience.
As she dropped another wailing lump of flesh from the night sky and delighted in it's splattering thud on asphalt, Angelicana opened the portal.
She watched on as The Chosen were ushered together and towards the portal by The Guides, an order she despised. They were sent to herd people. Glorified fucking ushers who had taken a vow of no violence. They were cowardly entities as far as Angelicana was concerned. God favoured them however due to their ‘funny little faces,’ which always made him laugh. It was important God laughed as an eternal child.
If he didn’t laugh or sleep enough, all existence could cease.
Angelicana did a quick headcount of The Chosen as they headed towards the portal. There were precisely one hundred and forty-four of them. God really liked that number. He was obsessive about it. Had to be precisely one hundred and forty-four. He always had the same number of every ruling species saved from each planet. It was an exact collection.
Nobody knew why or dared to ask but you could guarantee in various scenarios he’d want one hundred and forty-four. He loved cups of tea for instance. But he could never have one cosmic sized cup of tea, but rather one hundred and forty-four smaller cups of tea.
Angelicana smiled with satisfaction as the one hundred and forty-four humans trailed through the portal, disappearing from the dying screaming Earth. God would be most pleased with her.
As always in these matters, if she got it wrong it could mean her death.
The last senior chaos angel who got it wrong and only brought back one hundred and forty-three, was cast outside of the Multiverse. Trapped forever in what was essentially non-existence.
Just as the last of The Chosen, a young man named Jeremy with an extreme weight problem, was making his way to the portal, Angelicana heard a cry, “Noooooooooo…. incoming mother fu..”
Jeremy had just involuntarily performed the function of a landing mat.
Jeremy was dead.
One hundred and forty-four minus one, equals one hundred and forty-three...and a dead angel of chaos
“You stupid man! You got in the way! You slowed down, you… you stupid shit!”
Arthur couldn’t believe it. He was loving his quick descent towards the ground. A strange glow had caught his eye not far from where he thought he’d land. But perhaps that was part of dying, seeing a light. He always wondered while feeling suicidal, whether he’d have his eyes shut or open after jumping. Now he knew.
Then he saw an ambling Jeremy below him, walking at enough pace that he’d smash the floor just behind him. Except the guy had stopped and was looking at that same light with a dumb awestruck expression, shouting ‘Its beautiful!’
Arthur started screaming as he plummeted towards him. This obtuse blob could break his fall, he didn’t want that. No sir. Time was up and he was going out in splattering wet style.
“Nooooooooo, incoming motherfu.”
Arthur got to his feet and felt cold fury.
He was not dead.
He was not even injured.
Arthur started to kick the freshly baked corpse lying on the ground. His accidental saviour.
“Stop that and step through the portal, mortal. But cut the attitude, just be sanctimonious, stupid and very afraid. Then you’ll fit right in.”
Arthur turned around and was faced by the most beautiful and powerful sight he’d ever seen. Angelicana.
“Fuck you,” he replied.
“I need one hundred and forty-four, you just crushed the last count. You can replace him. It’s your lucky day, for now. Walk through that portal or I drag you through. You are not dying today. Motherfu,”
Arthur was shoved through the Portal.
Arthur was transported through time and space; he saw everything and nothing as his stomach lurched at utter incomprehension. Billions of stars and planets, lives lived and unlived, flashed by in a whining sickening blur.
He passed out.
Arthur awoke and found himself on a soft bed of…of, what his eyes interpreted as grass. Its texture was like grass, but the colour was indecipherable. It seemed to change every millisecond.
He raised his head and eyes to the sky above him. It was deepest purple and like nothing he'd ever seen.
The air itself was so sweet and fresh. Arthur should have felt invigorated, wonderful. He should have been overcome with both joy and terror.
But he felt a little underwhelmed and annoyed if he was being honest. Consciousness was not a state he wanted any longer. He still wanted out
His view was blocked suddenly by Angelicana, who stood over him, hands on hips.
“Nice to meet you, I’m Arthur.”
Arthur got to his feet and found his view still blocked by the form of this angel.
“Silly name for an angel, if you don’t mind my saying.”
Angelicana grabbed him by the arm in response and led him away. He could just see behind her a crowd of people kneeling and kissing the ground, glancing up at his being dragged off. One or two in the crowd made scared little noises or gasps.
Arthur was pushed to a near by tree. At least he thought it was a tree, it reminded him of one. It was tall and leafy except the bark was white and lined with what appeared to be drooping eyes looking at nothing and everything. The branches were golden glittering moving limbs that resembled tentacles, while the leaves, they just made no sense to his sight at all. Indecipherable, but beautiful all the same.
Beautiful like the angry angel staring down at him now.
“My name is Angelicana. Look at your species over there.”
Arthur did as she asked, some were peering over but stayed kneeling while looking awe struck, others simply crawled on their hands and knees in circles, mumbling frantically. One chap was vomiting and crying while another frothed at the mouth.
“That is how you should be behaving in my presence. That is how you should be feeling now that you’ve survived your planets end and find yourself……do you even know where you are? Why are you not convulsing or…something?” hissed Angelicana.
Arthur didn’t know where he was but could take a guess it was not Earth. He could also work out that he probably shouldn’t be here based on what he could recall from the angel’s words prior to shoving him through the portal.
“Listen, you’ll have to excuse me, but I’m absolutely hammered and feel I should be dead. I was ready to die but then you came along after I landed on that fat fu…”
Angelicana grabbed him by his neck with minimal effort and silenced him. “You must never mention that again you understand? Do you?”
Arthur let out a thin gasp in acknowledgement.
Angelicana took him deeper into the strange verge of tree like objects so the others couldn’t see (not that it mattered, they were still busy in the condition of awe).
“My name is Angelicana, the agent of destruction chosen by God’s own hand. One of my tasks is to save exactly one hundred and forty-four specimens of your planet’s dominant species. Like I said already, you landed on and killed the hundred and forty forth. So, you are the replacement. Nobody can know this or we’ll both be killed. God Himself will see to that.”
Arthur nodded casually and looked around her at the bowing scraping groupies that were behind them.
“You are in the presence of divinity, hammered or not I find your attitude...perplexing considering the context. Are you fucking stupid or something?” rasped Angelicana.
“Well, that’s a matter of perspective. All I know is that I should be dead. But I’m not. I’m here, its magical and stuff. Whoopdee fucking do. By the way you are incredible, you are like, totally inspiring as those lot over there are showing….and I really loved watching you work, killing all those people and that, but my personal well of awe ran dry about uh…say twelve months ago.”
Angelicana’s expression softened though she was still fighting her rage at this pathetic mortal’s lack of sense along with his sheer aloofness. He could be the death of her.
“I don’t have time for your self-pity or self-indulgence. Look, those bowing scraping types over there were chosen purely because of their convenience to me, exactly the number needed. They all know each other too I suspect, so if they ask you any questions, like who the fuck you are and has anyone seen Jeremy, you refer them to me you understand?”
Arthur looked confused, “Jeremy? Who is Jeremy?”
Angelicana made to grab him again but stopped herself, she knew she’d likely tear him in two. “The one you landed on.”
Arthur giggled, much to Angelicana’s fury. “Oh, come on you have to see the funny side, I really wanted to fucking die yet here I am and here you are too, two peas in a rather inconvenient pod. All thanks to a number, a nobody, named Jeremy apparently, who was part of some stupid cult that you happened to choose because of numerical convenience. Not so convenient now is it?”
Angelicana’s eyes started to burn, they glowed with righteous indignation and Arthur felt guilty, even a little scared. He did still have feelings after all he noted. He was about to comment as much but then thought better of it, dropped to his knees, and hoped his act of simple submission would keep her content for the time being.
“I’ll behave for the time being. But I don’t want to live with that fucking lot for too long. So, I’ll play along until you are in the clear and then its goodnight…uhm, well to wherever we are. Would that be ok by you?”
Angelicana nodded, “For now yes. Remember, you get any questions, direct them to me. They’ll not question me.”
“Ok sure, but what if you are not around when they ask?”
“I’ll always be around,” snapped Angelicana.
“Well they all say that, reminds me of my ex. Dragging me to awkward horrible social events. Don’t leave me on my own with these people I’d say. Sure, she’d promise. Five minutes later I’m alone in the centre of a fucking circus, staring with mock interest at my shoes. I mean what’s on my shoes that could ever convincingly pass as an interesting sight? Why do I do that?” Arthur stopped talking for a millisecond after looking down at his feet “Hang on, I don’t have shoes here in…wherever we are. What happened to my shoes please?”
Angelicana took hold of Arthur and started to apply pressure to his windpipe, she raised her eyebrows in an ‘enough?’ kind of way.
Arthur agreed it was enough, he communicated his affirmation by squeaking through his jammed airways.
Angelicana held out her hand and Arthur went to shake it. “No, for fucks sake. Kiss it and say the words ‘we have an accord Mighty Angelicana, I am bound to you.’”
Arthur did as he was told and upon uttering the words and kissing her hand, he felt his mind infiltrated by her, like she’d erected a cage in there somewhere, something to keep his thoughts of rebellion verbally penned in.
“We should get through this, both of us, for our chances of survival are absolute. Now, lets go meet The Chosen’s two whacked out fucking weird leaders. Uhm you’ll probably want to kill them Arthur, I know I did. I mean you specifically really will want to kill them though, like so much it… but anyway you are bound to me now so you cannot. Quickly, follow, we must present you all to God.”
Angelicana stood in front of the kneeling crowd with Arthur crawling to join them.
He saw that she did indeed look magnificent.
Her powerful stance, heavenly wings unfurled. Angelicana glowed and shimmered with impossible majesty before addressing her audience, “The two leaders of The Chosen step forward please and show yourselves to me.”
The crowd parted as the two approached.
Angelicana beckoned them before sneaking a strangely apologetic look to Arthur, “Welcome, the ones named Chad and Marie.”
Arthur threw up in his mouth.