Friday, May 6, 2011


Chloe sat alone inside the train cabin. She was calmed by the stillness of the night and the silence in the air. She looked outside the window. The station platform was empty and was free of rubbish. She looked up at sky and found it empty: free of clouds, free of stars and without a moon to lend its light. Nothing caught her eye outside. She focused at her faint reflection, outlined by the window.

She was young, no older than nineteen. She had blond hair that was unwashed for three days. Her skin was dry, and her lips were chapped. She had no intention to look pretty. It wouldn't matter. It didn’t matter anymore.

She bit her right knuckle, suppressing the grief that began to swell within her. She closed her eyes, but found herself in a flood of memories. She wanted nothing from it. She strained her eyelids and tightened her lips. She tried her hardest not to see him, not to see Richard anymore. Within the sea of her mind, Richard surfaced. He was smiling and winking at her.

A tear escaped her eye.

Chloe felt the train jerk forward. The sudden motion pushed Richard back into the sea (thank goodness). The train was ready to leave, priming its engines and releasing its breaks. Soon, Chloe was in motion, bound for London. She said good-bye to Paris, leaving it for good.

She turned her head to the rustling doorknob. The sound echoed inside the cabin. Chloe lit up, throwing all her attention to the door. She deluded herself, hoping that Richard would burst through the door. What emerged, however, was a pale man with a green mohawk. The pale man looked at her and noticed her odd expression. He wore a leather jacket peeling from age and attrition. Along with this grungy look, he wore acid-washed jeans and black leather boots. Chloe turned away from him and returned to her reflection.

Chloe felt odd, and she knew why. She felt the hairs on her arms move towards the pale man. She felt her heart beat faster, ready to burst. A buzzing sound hung inside her ear, but soon faded as the pale man threw himself down on the adjacent seat. Chloe stole a glance at the pale man: he was smirking.

“Oy,” the pale man said, “ye an angel or a demon?”

Chloe sighed. She closed her eyes and wished that she could close her ears.

“Please leave me alone,” said Chloe.

The pale man felt the same sensation Chloe was experiencing. It excited him, and he wanted to celebrate. The pale man took his backpack around and placed it on the floor. He unzipped it and took out a bottle of whiskey, newly bought and still unopened. He opened the bottle and dropped the cap on the floor. Chloe heard the liquid swishing inside the bottle. The sound imposed itself on her as the pale man offered her the bottle. She looked at it and ignored it.
“Aye, not the drinking type are ye love? Ye must be an angel then,” the pale man said, drawing the bottle back and taking a drink for himself, “I'm Mort by the way. What's yers?”

Mort didn't expect an answer, and he didn't get one either. He knew that Chloe was either an angel or a demon with no desire for libations. He knew this because of the “presence” he felt earlier from her.

Mort himself was a demon. He immigrated to the living realm, curious of the activities of the living and curious of what made the living go to hell. It was a rule that fallen angels or risen demons lose their powers, but not their immortality.

Mort looked at Chloe, studying her face and looking for a clue to her withdrawal. He didn't have to read minds – reading faces was enough. During his time in hell, Mort had learned how to read faces, and the most familiar to him were pain and agony. Chloe had neither. But it was still familiar; he had seen this expression before from souls who had gone numb from the endless torture. It bothered Mort to see this. Empathy – an emotion he was getting used to – was hard to ignore.

Another thing that Mort needed to get used to was thinking before talking.

“Ye look like someone who's lookin' for a reaper,” Mort said.

Chloe looked at Mort. Her eyes watered, and her tears flowed down her cheeks, forming droplets on her chin. Reapers were the gates, the terminals, for any angel or demon who was tired of living. Reapers were neither from heaven nor hell. They were residents, as well as guardians, of the living realm. Any angel or demon who came to see them would vanish, never to be seen again. Where they went, no one knew. Heaven and hell were closed to these immigrants. But there was one realm left for them – the eternal void.

“Sorry love. Didn't mean to say it,” said Mort.

“Is it that obvious?”

It was. Mort, biting his tongue, thought before he opened his mouth. He turned to the window and pretended to stare at the immense nothingness outside. But there were lights glowing out there – out on the distant plane where towns rested and slept. Mort took a swig from his bottle and realized this: getting plastered on the train wasn't happening tonight – this chick was a buzzkill.

“I'm sorry,” Chloe said, wiping her tears, “How rude of me. I'm Chloe by the way. And yes, I am a fallen angel.”

Chloe extended her left hand to Mort. Mort turned to Chloe and received her hand with his.

“Mort. Just Mort. A risen demon I am.”

There were no animosities between fallen angels and risen demons. Even if Armageddon came, the fallens and the risens would not take up arms and fight against each another. For now, until there is time, the living realm was paradise.

“How old are you Mort?” asked Chloe, parting her hand from his.

“Fifty I'd say. Came here when Jim Morrison died. Always wanted to meet that lad.”

“Oh Mort, you're still young.”

Mort didn't look 50; he looked half that age. And even if he were a hundred-years-old, he would still look the same.

“I was like you,” continued Chloe, “young, restless, hungry for anything new. But we're cursed Mort. Cursed the day we escaped from heaven – or hell.”

Mort knew about this. He stared at the liquor bottle on his right hand. He took another drink and enjoyed his curse as it flowed smoothly and warmly down his throat. An immigration agent – a demon who had lived in the living realm for 300 years – warned immigrants about the “first bite.” The “first bite” was the curse that immigrants had to endure for eternity. Whatever excited them the most would become their curse – their first bite of what life is. Mort would only endure hangovers and involuntary vomiting for days to come – unless he decided to end it all by seeing a reaper.

“What's your curse Mort?”

Mort had a drink inside his mouth, so he couldn't respond verbally. Instead, he brought the bottle up and sloshed the liquid inside.

Chloe laughed and said, “Lucky bastard. You lucky, lucky bastard.”

Indeed. Mort was lucky; his curse was liquor and booze. Mort swallowed his drink and didn't take offense for being called a bastard.

“What curse do ye have love?”

Chloe swore not to say it anymore. She didn't want to talk about her curse, but had a need to share it before she went away. She took a deep breath as if preparing for a dive.

“The most vile and the most painful thing god has ever created: Love,” said Chloe.

Mort remembered a friend, also an angel, who gave him advice. He had told Mort to stay away from Love since it was the deadliest drug an ethereal could get addicted to. And angels were more prone to Love, not because they were goody-goody and pure, but because they were observers and watchers. And after years of observing and watching, some angels would develop “feelings,” which could lead to “falling in love.”

“I'm tired Mort. Tired of loving – and living,” said Chloe, “Anyone who I fall in love with would leave me or would die eventually. But it's grand to be loved Mort, and to be loved back. To breathe their breath as they lie next to you. To feel their skin against yours. To lock eyes while making love – sex with love – nothing else in the world compares to it.”

Her eyes welled up.

“But losing that someone you love,” Chloe continued, “that's the hardest.”

In her 108 years of living, Chloe had thirteen lovers: eight were men, and five were women. The shortest relationship she had was 15 days long. This one died in a horrible car accident. The longest and the most recent relationship she had was 21 years long. Chloe watched her lover wither away while she remained young. This one died of old age. After that relationship ended, Chloe's will to live ended.

"Well love there are more fishies out there, aren't they?"

Chloe shook her head, shaking off the tears from her chin.

"There's nothing out there,” Chloe said, “No more fishies. No more love. Nothing out there anymore for me."

Chloe was ready to meet the reaper, ready to become nothing. Mort sat silent and took a sip of his drink.

“Have a drink love,” said Mort, offering the bottle to Chloe.

Chloe had never drank whiskey in her life; she either drank wine or beer. Whiskey, gin, vodka or anything more acrid than wine and beer was new to her. And she didn't enjoy drinking. She only drank when offered.

Chloe reached for the bottle, kissed its mouth and tilted the liquid to her. It ran through her like acid, burning her mouth and stinging her throat. When it reached her stomach, her chest ignited. It soothed her senses and warmed her skin. Still, it tasted like poison.

Mort giggled and took the bottle away from her. He noticed that Chloe was still a novice at appreciating cheap whiskey. Chloe snickered. She looked at him, suddenly enchanted by him. She caught herself ogling at Mort and stopped. Immediately. She turned back to her reflection on the window, returning to the empty space.

“Thank you Mort, but I'm sorry. And please leave me be.”

“Come with me love,” said Mort. His voice was different now: it was firm, nothing like the voice from earlier. “When we reach London, let's ye and me have a drink somewhere and get shit faced, aye? Drown yer sorrows away with whiskey.”

Mort's idea of love was sex. But even then, he was always too drunk to enjoy sex. For him, sex was nothing to be excited about. Buying a new bottle of booze? Well, that was something to be excited about. But Mort couldn't ignore this “feeling.” This “feeling” made him stare at Chloe like she was the goddess of liquor. It made the hairs on his skin tingle with electricity.

“I can't,” begged Chloe, “Please Mort. Leave me alone.”

Mort realized why Love was a dangerous drug: it made Mort do things he had never done before. Inviting a stranger for a drink was a thing he had never done before. Living, thought Mort, was all about new experiences. Wasn't it?

“Just one drink love. Come with me and have a drink with me. And if ye still feel blue and ready to go, I won't bother ye anymore. What ye say?”

Chloe wanted to say no. It was happening again. She wanted to stick to her plan: to see a reaper who would set her free from this curse. But Chloe was falling for him, and Mort was falling for her. Soon enough, Chloe and Mort would make love. Mort, like all of Chloe's lovers, would lose his immortality and would become flesh-and-blood. Chloe tried to resist him, struggling to end her cycle of heartbreaks. She opened her mouth and said: “Okay.”

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