Arthur sat atop a 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, a shredded inflamed sky, fiery pits from which unimagined horrors emerged, dragging humans into a thinly veiled underworld, while pulling wailing bodies apart like soft cheese. The angels swooping around sweeping up fleeing folk then dropping the poor souls to their howling deaths, was another sure sign, this is it. The day of all days.
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 and he pretty much resented having to exist. In fact he had grown to dislike 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.
Chad. A blonde blue eyed bronzed Adonis, who said little and seemed content to have Marie as his mouthpiece. Arthur had no doubts that made him the perfect package for Arthur’s wife, or ex-wife. Marie wanted adventure and actual sex, plus someone who wouldn't answer back or form opinions. Chad was all those things rolled into an immaculate muscle-bound vessel.
Arthur had wanted to give Chad several pieces of his mind, maybe even a sturdy punch or six to the head. But Chad’s inability to listen or concentrate long enough on Arthur's increasingly flimsy insults or to look remotely threatened, made it difficult for Arthur to convey and expel his utter rage.
Chad's undoubted ability to beat the living daylights out of Arthur if he so chose to express his bile in full, 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 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 or cat to pamper, Arthur was alone in the world and the world stank. The twelve months since had been a blur of failures and various rejections with deeper artichoke layers of misery.
And pot noodles.
So many pot noodles.
When the news media started reporting strange global events, 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 whooshing about the place and getting up to no good.
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, government officials, jars and the homeless (this list is not exhaustive).
As the weeks and months rolled by, the sightings and events escalated. Religious organisations were initially having a field day. Recruitment had never been so good but then too many were dying to keep backfilling.
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 one true faith and that they'd be spared. With celestial being's tearing about the planet there could be no doubt that God was real.
Arthur decided he hated Him anyway, so 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 sense his thoughts, whip on over, and take 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. Angelicana loved her job. Wiping out and cleansing planets and their inhabitants. Though it had its 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. Spitting and shitting out creations left right and centre with no real care. He was a giant ethereal omnipotent unexplainable, so why bother trying, child. He didn’t know when to stop and the angels and demons who had been there right from the start, couldn’t make him.
He got bored 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.
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 drawback was the instruction to save a few. To preserve a sample of the species who would be transported to another planet, inhabited by many other species whose planets and civilisations had suffered the same fate. The God child would watch on with fascination, over 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 the samples. 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, just exclusively for them, as ‘The Chosen.’
They were smug, whimsical and entirely deluded with no insight into themselves.
But they’d do.
First it was playtime. It amused Angelicana, to purge and punish these people who all played judge, jury and executioner on a daily basis while each believing they had the unique insight into God's wishes and will.
She worked in tandem with the demons. They were all agents of chaos, a collective not remotely at odds with one another. The tiresome concepts of good and bad were exposed for what they were, reductive and lacking integrity.
As she dropped another wailing lump of flesh from the night sky and delighted in it's thud onto asphalt, Angelicana opened a 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.
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 of every ruling species, preserved from each planet laid to waste. 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.
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 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...plus 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 enjoying his quick descent towards the ground. A strange glow had caught his eye not far from where he thought he’d land. He always wondered while feeling suicidal, whether he’d have his eyes shut or open after jumping. Now he knew.
He'd glimpsed an ambling Jeremy below, walking at just enough speed so that Arthur would smash successfully into the floor, just behind him. Except the guy had stopped and was looking at the same glow Arthur had spied, with a dumb awestruck expression, mouthing ‘It's 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 wet splattering style.
“Nooooooooo, incoming motherfu...”
Arthur got to his feet and felt cold fury.
He wasn't dead. 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. And cut the attitude. Just be sanctimonious, stupid and extremely 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 shall replace him. It’s your lucky day, for now. Walk through that portal or I drag you in. 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 with utter incomprehension. Billions of stars and planets, all existence and time itself flashed by in a whining sickening blur.
He passed out.
Arthur awoke and found himself on a soft bed of what his eyes interpreted as grass. Its texture was the same but the colour indecipherable. It seemed to change every millisecond.
He raised his eyes to the sky above him. It was deepest purple and like nothing he'd ever seen. Almost a living entity in its own right as it pulsed and hunted space. The air itself was sweet and fresh. Arthur should have felt invigorated while 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.
His view was suddenly blocked 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 an 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 see just over her perfect shoulder, a crowd of people kneeling and kissing the ground, glancing up at him as he was dragged off. One or two in the crowd made scared little gasps upon witnessing him being handled by the angel.
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 furled, unfurled and twisted itself in perpetual motion while forever changing its size.
“My name is Angelicana. Look at your species over there.”
Arthur did as she asked, some were peering over but most 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, especially in my presence. Overwhelmed, staggered, aghast. Basically, losing your mind. 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 should be dead. I was ready to die, happy to, more than happy in fact. 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. Understand? Do you?” she added shaking him like a rag doll.
Arthur let out a thin gasp in acknowledgement.
Angelicana took him deeper into the strange verge. “I am an agent of destruction chosen by God’s own hand. One of my tasks is to save exactly one hundred and forty-four specimens but you landed on and killed the last. You are the replacement. Nobody can know this or we’ll both be finished. God Himself will see to that.”
Arthur nodded casually.
“You are in the presence of divinity, wasted 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. Whoop-dee fucking do. By the way you are incredible, you are like, totally inspiring. As the awestruck over there are demonstrating with all their gnashing and salivating…and I really loved watching you work. Killing all those people. But my personal well of awe ran dry about uh…say twelve months ago. I'd made peace with the end.”
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. Look, those bowing scraping types over there were chosen purely because of their convenience to me. They all likely 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?"
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. Two peas in a rather inconvenient pod. All thanks to a number, a nobody named Jeremy, 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 indignation and Arthur felt guilty, even a little scared. He did still have feelings after all, he noted.
“Look, fine, I’ll behave for the time being. But I don’t want to hang out with that lot for too long. I feel sick just looking at them. So, I’ll play along until you are in the clear and then its goodnight…um, well, to wherever we are. And Hello Death, meet Arthur. Would that be okay by you?”
Angelicana nodded, “For now yes. Remember, you get any questions, direct them to me. They’ll not question me.”
“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 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, what happened to my shoes ?”
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, he communicated this by wheezing 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 he felt his mind infiltrated by her, like she’d erected a cage in there, something to keep his thoughts of rebellion verbally penned in.
“We should get through this, the both of us, for our chances of survival are intertwined. Now, lets go meet The Chosen’s two whacked out leaders. Eh, you’ll probably want to kill them Arthur, I know I did. I mean you specifically will really want to murder them...but anyway, you are bound to me now, so just behave. 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, show yourselves.”
The crowd parted, a woman and man approached with trepidation, holding each other close.
Angelicana beckoned them forwards, before sneaking a strangely apologetic look to Arthur, “Welcome, the ones named...Chad and Marie.”
Arthur threw up in his mouth.