Dana Bell

The fine gray dust settling in the New York street reminded Andrew of the suffocating pyroclastic flow which had surged down the volcano and buried the ancient thriving city of Pompeii. Now, like then, his fellow Angel's of Death stood waiting to escort thousands of souls home. Some began walking into the smoldering rubble. It was time.
Andrew felt tears begin to singe his blue eyes. He, like the others, hated mass humanity disasters. He looked around, hoping the Search and Rescue unit was still here. He didn't see anyone. The blond-haired Angel of Death had seen many of them earlier. Whispering into the ears of many, telling humans to get out of the buildings, despite reassurances it was safe to return to work. One S&R angel had told him thousands from their unit were all over the New York. "We're trying to make as many people late as possible." She had told him. "Folks are stopping for coffee, unexpectedly having to take their children to daycare, stuck in traffic." She shook her head. "I don't know what is going to happen, Andrew, but its big. I haven't seen God put forth such an effort in a long time." Andrew pushed the memory aside listening. What had he just heard? There, just a few feet away, a heartbeat. He looked around for any rescuer, human or angel. None. Page 2
"What do I do?" he asked prayerfully.
God whispered, "Go rescue my child."
The Angel of Death forced his way past huge chunks of concrete, treacherous shifting debris and looked away from smashed human corpses. He knew, on occasion, he was called to do other things and not always escort someone home. Now, he was being asked to fulfill the mission that would normally belong to Search and Rescue.
He heard coughing and shifting debris. The human heartbeat was steady. Andrew produced heavenly light in one hand and extended his other to the human.
"Grab on," he said simply.
"What?" the voice was gravelly, shaken, almost hesitant.
"Grab on," he said again.
A warm, slick blood-covered hand grabbed Andrew's. The angel gently lifted the man to his feet. Trusting God to lead them out Andrew began the long journey out dodging jagged metal, snapped wood and sharp cement edges.
Now and then, Andrew would pause, hearing another heartbeat. Another survivor! He was joyful. He detoured from the direct route to safety and found a woman.
"Grab on," he told her.

Page 3 The man he'd first rescued helped the woman to her feet and together the three of them continued the journey. Many times, Andrew heard heartbeats and his expanding human chain would stop and aid another person. He wasn't certain how many he finally lead stumbling and weeping through the hellish nightmare and out into the dusky, dust choked street. He found the waiting fireman, police and paramedics and watched with great satisfaction as his rescued fell into their arms and were helped into waiting ambulances. Andrew turned to go. His job was done. As he vanished, he saw his first rescue turn to thank him. He heard, "Thanks.hey, where'd he go?"

This story is inspired by an actual event that happened on September 11th, 2001. It was aired on the special honoring heroes. The rescued man was a fireman who saw a light, heard a voice that said "Grab on." and felt a hand. When he and the chain of people rescued got outside, he turned to thank their rescuer. There was no one there.

First published in OF DREAMS AND SCHEMES #18. Posted here by the author.