The hum of their talking resounded through the chamber. There were only twelve of them, three Seraphim, four Cherubim, and five Thrones. They were the Council, overseers of the heavens, and the direct link to the one and only.
The meeting was adjourned. In a flutter of golden feathers the Thrones were the first to leave. They were followed by the glowing entities known as Cherubim. All that remained were the three Seraphim.
"We should bring her in." The voice was one of crashing waves. His eyes looked at his two companions.
"We should find her."
It was the same as every day above the clouds. The sky was a beautiful blue and the air was thin and clean. The only difference was the final hymn that was sung as the ceremony convened.
Finally, after three hundred years of teachings she had managed to graduate. Now only nine months until she became a full ranked angel. She wondered what she would be. There was a big chance she would not rise above the rank of ‘Angel’ but she always thought being a Principality would be exciting. Earth was a fascinating place with strange customs. At least as a Principality she wouldn’t spend the days of her immortal life in a boring place like heaven.
She flapped her pure white wings and rose further into the sky, forgetting her previous train of thought. She started to make her way to the hills beyond the city in search of her sister. She skidded to a stop, leaving a trail of cloud in her wake. Before her eyes, the image of three shielded faces appeared. She had only ever seen these celestial beings in textbooks and yet there in front of her eyes were the projections of them. The three Seraphim.
"Athen, we request you at the chamber." Their voices spoke as one, in perfect harmony.
Less than a second later and without an audible response from the newly graduated Angel, Athen was pulled forcefully to the chamber, a trail of white feathers left behind.
One never got used to the instantaneous rate at which you traveled in heaven. The way the air was sucked from your body and for that one moment you barely exist.
After landing in front of the ominous building known as the Chamber, Athen loudly caught her breath. The iridescent figures guarding the door were called Virtues. They were the largest of all ranking celestial beings. Their bodies alone would easily be three or four times the size of Athen’s. The wingless creatures stepped aside for Athen to enter. She folded her wings politely behind her back and entered the seemingly empty room. It was high, with large ceilings that felt to go on forever. Four levels went around the room, one at least ten feet above the other. At the very top in the four corners held four different thrones. One of blue, one of white, one of red and finally one of black. These were where the seraphim spent their days, in those chairs guarding and ruling over the heavens. Three of them were full, only the black sear remained unclaimed.
"Are you Athen the Angel?"
Athen could barely manage a nod. She dared to lift her purple eyes to focus on the three figures in front of her. Their large golden triple wings were fold over each of them as if a shield. The upper part of their faces were covered with a metal helmet each a colour according to their names.
"Your study marks have been extremely impressive." They spoke as one, praising her.
She glowed at the compliment from the shielded figures. Even if she never really tried in school she still felt extremely proud at the recognition.
"You show such promise, which is the reason we would like to entrust this important mission to you." She was completely silent. Even in her mind she was too overwhelmed by the presence of the Council to even speak "Please find the entrance to Hell." An audible gasp escaped her lips. "Do you accept?"
"Of-of course." What right did she have to refuse them? She wasn’t even a fully matured angel yet. Her rank was still unassigned, but they, the Council, was giving her such trust and responsibility.
She was yet again transported out of the chamber into a place near The Gates. She was stopped just a few feet away from them as a small Principality appeared in front of her. The Principality was a small woman, no taller than three feet. Her hair, a peachy pink, was longer than she was tall and her wings the same colour, small on her back. Her eyes were a clear blue. Athen tilted her head in awe, having never seen a Principality before. They were always on missions to Earth.
"You must be Athen. I am Kiel," She floated at eye level with Athen. Her lack of feet unnoticed beneath the long white robe she wore. "Pleased to meet you," The woman said. Athen couldn’t help but feel important. So many higher ranks had been talking to her as if she was someone to be respected. She scoffed silently and listened to her briefing. "This is your wallet. It includes all the things you will need to pass as a human." The wallet was red with white lace and Athen decided it was cute. "Your name will be Athen Darcy. We have arranged living arrangements for your time on Earth, as well as about six months’ worth of human currency and a communication device which is able to reach both me, your commanding officer for this mission, and any person you meet while on Earth."
"Human? Earth?" Why would she be on Earth? Wouldn’t the entrance be somewhere in the fourth dimension? Though she wasn’t complaining, the fourth dimension was an eerie place Athen had no will to be in.
"Experts have found that what you are looking for is located somewhere in Toronto, a densely populated city on Earth.” The large golden gates creaked open loudly. The huge bodies of the Virtues that guarded them stepped aside. "Good luck."
With a look back at the small Principality, Athen walked out of the gates. The briefing was short. She had expected a longer one for her first and such an important mission. The Gates slammed shut behind her and she was sucked as if by a vacuum from her position onto a place completely unknown to her. Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Earth.
She felt light as she walked down the street, even as she carried a large amount of suitcases. It felt strange to be wingless, almost to a point of heartbreak. The weight she knew should be there wasn’t and she wasn’t quite sure if she missed it.
The skin she wore bore little resemblance to her celestial form. Her once long black hair was now a very light blonde, almost white colour. Her purple eyes were now a warm green. Pulling experimentally at the skin, she stretched and felt the limits it had. The light coloured skin felt taught against her as she moved.
The air was thick, making it really hard to breathe. The taste of it was sticky and dirty, and more than anything else it was loud. She wondered why everything was so loud. Their means of transportation, cars she believed, zoomed and puttered around at high decibels. Her ears were ringing as she searched for her lodging.
Breathing through her nose seemed to filter the thick air partially, but along with that relief came a new sense. One that was almost completely lost in heaven. Smell. Her nose was assaulted with scents she was unfamiliar with in large abundance.
"Is this the place?" Humming to herself in thought, she entered the small bakery. It was called ‘A Taste of Heaven’. Athen couldn’t keep the snicker that escaped her, though it did live up to the human expectations of the word. From the white and gold interior to the divine smell it was quiet pleasant. She took a deep breath and her head swam in the intoxicating scents, ones much more pleasant than those she had witnessed outside.
"Hi, welcome to A Taste of Heaven. I’m Ford, how may I help you?" She was only half listening as the warm voice spoke. Athen was trying to get her head around a particularly strong unknown smell. "Excuse me, miss?" A shake of her head brought her back to reality.
"Sorry." The man in front of her was attractive - for a human. Really attractive. He was taller than Athen’s human form by quite a few inches. His skin was smooth and dark, His hair a dark brown was cut short and curled slightly. But the thing that stood out the most to her were his stormy grey eyes. Eyes like that color were unknown to the heavens. He wore an apron over his clothes and the angel found herself blushing at his inviting smile.
"My name is Athen. I am here about the room." Ford’s eyes widened. "I believe I—" Athen fought for the right word. "—emailed you about it." Upon finding it she let herself feel a certain amount of pride. Maybe she could pull of this human thing, even if it was loud for her senses. Ford stepped back, waking himself from the shock.
"Right, of course. Let me just close shop." He flipped the open sign on the door and grabbed Athen’s suitcases. "It’s right this way." Following silently, Athen allowed herself to listen to the rhythmic sound of Ford’s sneaker-covered feet. Unlike everything else in this loud world his steps were nice and relatively silent.
They quietly walked up the flight of stairs. The place was well maintained and clean. The strong and beautiful scent from before clung to every molecule of matter they passed.
"Here we are." Stopping at a door Ford unlocked with a rather ancient looking key, they stepped inside. "As we agreed, seven hundred a month, utilities included." Setting her bags on the floor of the room he turned to her. "I’m usually in the shop if you need me." He paused. "Do you need anything before I go?" His body language was anxious.
"Not right now." Athen was too preoccupied by her inner thoughts to notice Ford’s rather peculiar behavior.
"Oh!" She stopped the man as he went to leave. "Thank you." The man rushed out of the room faster.
Not bothering to unpack her stuff Athen flopped onto the bed, which she remembered from class was for resting. Closing her eyes she let herself relax. The strain of holding up the human skin was already taxing. For the first time since she could remember, Athen fell into a peaceful human sleep.
Why couldn’t she remember what it had felt like to dream? Had she been missing so much as an Angel and never knew what she had forgotten? Even celestial beings had to have once been human. What was she like, who was her family? Green eyes shot open. This was no time to reflect on her afterlife. She was on a mission, and she was determined not to fail.
Dragging herself from the bed, she experienced a lethargic feeling as she got dressed. Was this what they called drowsiness? Or was it laziness? It didn’t matter much. Jumping up and down a few times to help the blood circulate, Athen continued to get ready.
The sun was low in the sky and the air was brisk. The new sensations to her body were invigorating. Especially temperature. There was never a change in temperature in heaven. Never cold, never hot.
Her breath came out in short puffs. It was still early and the streets were empty as she left the bakery. At the slight chance of someone seeing her she did not attempt to catch the mini clouds her breath was making, as tempted as she was; it was a strange phenomenon.
Athen walked all day, not quite sure how she would even be able to know WHEN she found it. The sun had set long ago and the stars were shining brightly. She flopped on a bench exhausted. She was on her way back when she noticed the small glimmers of light in the sky; she couldn’t help but sit and stare. Stars, they were called. Even more magnificent than she’d ever imagined. She sat there until her eyes were closing on their own. Standing up, she continued her walk back to the bakery.
She entered quietly, for consideration to her house mate. She wasn’t quite sure of the time but he was bound to be sleeping. That caused a smile to filter to her face. Sleep, she believed, would probably be her favorite part of being human.
Today, she woke up with the sun. It had been rising earlier than her first day three weeks ago. She was extra sluggish this morning it was as if each day she became more lethargic. Her feet would barely move and her head swam with wooziness, her whole body generally weak. It confused her, what was she missing for this human thing?
She admitted to herself that the search was going aimlessly. She had no clues what so ever. A note book with neat writing laid abandoned on the floor. A hand drawn map of all the places she had looked through so far, and many empty pages to fill. Toronto was a big city after all. No matter where she went she was lost with no way of even knowing where or how she was supposed to find the gate.
A knock alerted her from her previously drowsy state.
"Yes?" She called out experimentally. Though she had spent her days wandering the highly populated city, she still had yet to talk to anyone besides her house mate. And even that was scarce as she hadn’t seen him more than once since her first day.
"Oh good, I’m glad I caught you before you left." The warm voice obviously belonged to Ford, it made goose bumps rise on her skin. Athen, for some reason she wasn’t quite sure of, attempted to fix her hair. "May I come in?" Athen wanted to smack herself: she had made him wait for no reason.
"Yes." She opened her door quickly, startling Ford. "Yeah, come in." She ushered him inside the large room. It was a neat one room apartment, furnished with one table and a couch on one side by the kitchenette and a bed along the furthest wall, a closet flanked her bed side table.
"I brought you breakfast." His voice was tentative in nature.
"Thank you." The room turned awkwardly silent. Athen stared at the plate in Ford’s hand. Her eyes shimmering with wonder.
"You-uh." Ford cleared his throat loudly, taking a seat on the small couch in the room. "You always go out so early and come back so late. We never really had a chance to talk." His voice was more confident. "I just thought it would be less awkward since we live in the same house if we, you know, talked, became friends."
"I’m really busy, but if you don’t mind me leaving abruptly at times, that’s fine. You have until I finish this." Athen’s one tracked mind kicked in. She only had one goal for being on earth. Fraternizing with humans wasn’t one of them. Though in a hurry, she knew if she didn’t eat the food he provided she would seem out of place. She hadn’t eaten food since the mission started. Angels didn’t need to eat, there wasn’t even food in heaven.
"You know in Toronto Saturdays and Sundays are usually days for relaxation." Ford’s smile was mischievous, Athen wasn’t sure if she liked that or not. She rolled her eyes at him in exasperation, there wasn’t time for rest. She only had just less than 9 months of freedom before her rank was assigned, and she had to start working.
Bliss. That was the only word that could describe the sinful flavour that enveloped her mouth. She inhaled deeply through her nose as she chewed. This was the scent that lingered throughout the house.
"What is this?" She asked getting ready to take another bite.
"It’s a chocolate lava cake. I serve them downstairs. They’re a signature to the store. ‘Sinful Delight.’" Ford watched in amusement at Athen’s expression.
"Chocolate…" Athen trailed off licking her lips. She took small bites of the cake with the gooey center, savoring each bite to its fullest. "It’s- it’s, so…"Yet again Athen couldn’t put a word to the new experience. "Mmm." That seemed to fit perfectly.
"I’m glad you like it." Ford smirked in his mischievous way. "So you’ve never had chocolate before?" Athen blinked, was that such an odd thing? For a human to never have chocolate? Wasn’t this delicious treat a delicacy? Could people just buy this anywhere?
"No." She said.
"I’ll have to remedy that. Here, you’re going to love that." Athen then noticed the mug placed in front of her. She could feel the heat that it gave off, and could smell that same remarkable scent. She set her fork beside her plate and took the mug into both hands.
"It’s so good." She gushed before she took another drink. Who would have thought eating and drinking would be such a pleasure. Had she loved this chocolate stuff as much when she was human? A bitter feeling of jealousy filled her; at least demons remembered their human life.
"It’s hot chocolate." Ford was amazed at the expression of pure happiness shown on Athen’s face. It reminded him of why he opened the bakery in the first place. He had grown up in a place with very little innocent pleasures. He just wanted to make people happy.
Chocolate… The flavour stuck to her tongue as she finished the cake and drink Ford had given her. The silence was anything but awkward.
A small clunk alerted them both when Athen put her fork down on the small coffee table. She took a stretch back on the couch and caught a glimpse of the time.
"Oh! I have to go. Thank you so much." She rushed around the confused Ford, hastily ran to the bathroom and got ready. She was losing day light and the city was hard to navigate even in the day time. Not more than two minutes later she was out the door. No more words were exchanged between the two.
It was another useless day, she walked back to the bakery looking down. She couldn’t find a lead on the entrance and it was getting really annoying. The light to the bakery was still on when she got back.
He had waited up, obviously curious about Athen’s strange hours. He looked like he was sleeping lounged on a white chair until his eyes popped open.
"Sorry did I wake you?" Athen asked.
"No, I was just resting my eyes." Ford replied standing up. "Just curious, what do you do when you go out?" Despite being tired Athen felt comfort when she was listening to Ford’s warm voice so she sat to chat.
"I’m on a mission." Oops. She hadn’t meant to say that. She shut her mouth quickly to mull over an excuse.
"Oh, like for your family?" Ford said, his grey eyes glowing in the low lit room.
"Yea! My family sent me to search for something." She smiled, at least this way she wasn’t lying…completely.
"Oh, have your tried the library?" Athen blinked. She tilted her head slowly. Why hadn’t she thought of that? "They have lots of books on Toronto."
"No…" She trailed off, but could she actually find what she was looking for in a library? "To tell you the truth, I have no idea where it is." She nodded to herself. Tomorrow she would look for the library; at least it was a tangible place.
"I can show you tomorrow." Athen blinked, she didn’t expect him to offer her help.
"Thank you." It seemed that was all Athen was saying lately. Ford dragged his chair back before he stood up.
"For now let’s go to sleep. You’re probably tired, you look it." Athen knew she actually wasn’t tired. Her body was weak but mentally she was wide awake. She nodded nevertheless.