ANGELS

by Lorraine Anderson

...far away, for to see,,,

The words had been blowing around his brain for a week now, sometimes the merest spring breeze, sometimes an early spring rainstorm.

...call the angel, we will go...

He sat looking at his baby daughter in her crib. She wiggled and sighed, her small baby face content in sleep. He felt one tear trickle down his face. She didn't know. She wouldn't remember.

He would.

He would remember.

He would remember her mother. Her mother with the blond curly hair and her upturned pixie nose and her gentle laugh and her brilliance, oh God, her light that shone in her laboratory until he was certain the very plants she tended should wither from her luminescence.

... far away, for to see...

Yes, he would remember the baby's mother, the mother, his wife, his sun. He remember her, the little girl, once an annoyance on an alien planet where they were all living, then an ally in calling... who? That time was all a blur... then seeing her on the starship bridge, all of their parents dead, the kindly doctor ushering them away to Sickbay, crying and confused, not knowing why or how their parents died, just that they were gone, and him knowing he was the oldest, he had to protect them... protect her from yesterday, to now and forever.

...hail, hail, fire and snow...

He didn't know how long he had sat there staring at the baby, long after the last visitor had left, long after the door had swooshed shut, long after the last pleasantries had died in the still room. He remembered getting up a few times, feeding the baby, feeding himself, but time had ceased to have meaning. Or perhaps too much meaning. Time was now altogether too stretched and too compressed. Had it only been a week? It was only a week? Or was it a year, or a minute. He didn't know.

Wasn't she in the room only a second ago?

Was there a movement in the corner?

... call the angel, we will go...

The baby's eyes popped open. She wriggled around aimlessly, then her tiny face scrunched, and she made a tiny noise. He observed it from a far distance, in his chair by the crib. She sneezed and made a bigger noise. She looked at him... accusingly?... then her eyes tracked off. Soon, her cries filled the room.

She was crying for her mother.

No, she had killed her mother, she had breeched her mother's life, dear God, and the doctors couldn't save her, and they were too far away, because he had insisted on going on that short trip to the mountains and then their flier had broken down, and...

Killed her mother, just like they had killed their...

No.

He went to his knees by her crib, his big hands clasping the slats. His cried startled the baby out of her wails, then she joined him in his.

...hail, hail, fire and snow...

That was what she was, fire and snow. Fire to fuel his rage, snow to somehow trickled onto his soul and freeze it in stasis.

What was that in the corner?

...we will go...

The marks on the crib seemed to be indelibly marked into his cheek. He stared at the baby fitfully crying, then jerked to his feet, stumbling towards the kitchen.

"No bottled food for my baby," she had laughed, protestingly.

But she wasn't there. He gathered up the baby gently and popped the bottle into her mouth. He sat down in the chair, then stared into space, forgetting the baby was suckling noisily in his arms.

A bright light in the room... a suggestion... of what?

...far away, for to see...

Yes. How easy to do that. He looked down at her. Just one little shake. And all he had left of her mother would be gone forever. No more reminders of her. He looked into the corner. Was something there? No.

Yes. He dropped the bottle out of his right hand, and the hand curled into a fist, and the fist shook up and down, up and down, rhythmically. The shape in the corner nodded approvingly.

...friendly angel, come to...

Just one little shake. Just one little shake. Just one little... He looked unknowing at his right fist, then at the baby in his left arm. Back and forth, back and forth. He couldn't. He could. He couldn't. He could...

The shape in the corner was growing more substantial. The angel was smiling and nodding. Oh, God, the friendly angel, his childhood master, his childhood protector, his childhood devil, the devil who caused the death of his parents. Had caused them to kill their parents.

He had forgotten.

The baby was crying.

He needed to die too.

Which was more pleasant? Which choice was more unpleasant?

The door chimed loudly. With a cry, he flung himself towards the door, opened it, and stumbled into the arms of the man standing there.

"Tommy Starnes... what in the devil...?" The older man glanced into the room and froze at the figure standing in the corner. "You again. Didn't we already banish you once?" He flapped a hand at him. "Go away. We don't need you here." The figure stared at him, open hatred in his face.

"Oh, for..." He turned Tom around. "Look at him. You remember him. He was no solution before, was he? Didn't he kill your parents?"

"No, we did..." Tom said, then shook his head. The "angel" was controlling him! Again, like when he was a young boy. "Yes, that's right," Tom said. "Yes. Yes, he did kill them." He shoved the baby into McCoy's arms, then turned to face the angel. "You killed my parents."

"No," the angel said. "You..."

"No. You did." The voices were clamoring in his brain, and he realized they were children's voices, and one of the children was him, and another was Mary... "You killed my parents. You were so desperate to survive, and you were so evil, you controlled us, made us think we needed you..." He looked at him, wide-eyed. "You never went away. We thought we had killed you, had made you ugly, had killed you like we had our parents, but you were still in each of us, weren't you? Still in the little evil part that each of us keeps inside. You cursed us, didn't you? "nd when Mary died, the part of you in her needed somewhere to go, but you couldn't get into me until I committed more evil." Tom sank to the floor "Oh, God. Go. Go. Go."

The angel had gotten more insubstantial. "You need me to survive..."

Tommy Starnes glared at the angel. "I thought I needed Mary to survive. Now I have her baby. I don't need you! I never needed you! GO. GO. GO!"

The angel winked out. Tom turned his head towards the floor, and sobs shook his shoulders, sobs like he had never ever released before. He felt a touch on his shoulder and shook it off. The touch retreated. He sobbed until he hiccoughed, then fell asleep on the floor.

He woke on the floor and sat up, not understanding where he was. He looked over at his chair. Dr. McCoy was looking at him. "Do you feel better?"

Tom looked inside himself. The words were gone and he was free. He smiled sadly. "Oh, yes, Doctor. God, yes."

"I thought the best medicine was to let you be. Your baby is safe, asleep in her crib." McCoy stood up, stiffly. "Hungry?"

Tom smiled. "Yes." He stood up, then turned towards the Doctor. "Dr. McCoy, how did you know to come by? Why were you here?"

McCoy snorted. "Sheer coincidence, son. I had heard what had happened, and I wanted to see how you were faring." He looked down. "I think of you five... you four as my children, you know." He led Tom towards the kitchen, then turned towards Tom and looked at him closely, but whatever he was going to say he kept to himself. "What are you going to name the baby?" he finally said.

Tom looked back at the crib. The baby was an angel, sleeping. A slight glow surrounded her, like a kiss, then was gone. "Mary. Her name is Mary." He turned back toward the kitchen and toward the future.

END