Eyes opened. Green was everywhere, in hundreds of different shades which as yet did not have names. The being which had formed from the nothingness and chaos of creation looked around, at the tall green things and the short green things, and spotted other colours amongst them. Words tumbled into his head to describe the things; those which were tall and green were trees, and those which were short and green were plants. The other colours were yellow and blue and purple and red, and myriad shades between them; flowers, pretty and aromatic, bright jewels amongst the ubiquitous green.
He bent down to examine one of the plants, its trumpet-like yellow head swaying gently in the breeze atop a dark green stem. When he reached out to touch the flower, he saw his own hand, a silvery-white limb which he held up in front of his eyes, turning it to view it from all angles. When a desire to touch the flower crossed his mind again, his hand became… more. It was still silvery-white light, but it had more substance now, and he used his fingers to gently brush the soft petals of the flower, enjoying the experience, the feeling, of it against his skin.
A thought fell unbidden into his mind, a realisation of who he was. I am Michael.
Michael stood up and looked into the distance. This green… these plants… stretched as far as his eyes could see. An endless garden of trees and bushes and flowers and grass, each one a creation, just like him. I am Michael, he thought to one of the plants, a beautiful purple hyacinth. It swayed gently at his words, listening, but it did not reply.
When he understood that he could use his other limbs - his legs and feet - to move, he strode forward, towards a tree, and its name trickled into his mind as knowledge. Hello, Oak, he thought. I am Michael.
But the tree did not answer, and it was too large and rigid to sway to his words as the hyacinth had. Still, Michael was not deterred. There were hundreds and thousands of plants and trees in this expansive garden, so he reasoned that somewhere there must be hundreds and thousands of beings like him, as well. He would look for them, and when he found them they would tell him their names, and they would know each other.
He walked. He had no concept of time, he did not hunger, and he did not tire. For him, those words meant nothing, and he did not even know them. He simply continued forward, looking at the plants and the trees, listening for another voice amongst them. At last he came to a great expanse of translucent dark blue, which moved fluidly and made a gentle sound that he found soothing. He was not surprised when its name fell into his mind, as if it was something he had always known but had forgotten, to be recalled only upon this first meeting. Lake.
He stepped into the lake and felt its cool waters enveloping his skin, the light of his body illuminating the surface. When he was deep enough he stopped, and looked down. A silvery-white being looked up at him from beneath the waters of the lake, and for a brief moment he felt a happiness within him. Finally, he had found another like him. Now he wouldn't have to be alone.
Hello! He thought to the one beneath the water. My name is Michael.
There was no response. The being remained silent. Perhaps, he thought, it could not reply whilst it was enveloped within the lake's waters. Perhaps it needed to be up here, with him, in the place of the plants and the trees.
He reached down with his arms, feeling for the other being, and it reached back, an expression of hope on its face as their hands came close to touching. Down and down he reached, stretching his limbs to their full extent, groping desperately in the water for the other being. But no matter how hard he tried, no matter how far he stretched his arms, he couldn't touch the other. Feeling despair, he finally stood up, and he saw the other being pull away from him, sinking deeper into the water. There was disappointment and loss expressed in its silver eyes, an echo of his own emotion.
Please come back, he thought to it. He reached down with just one hand, slowly moving closer to the being, and it too extended a hand, slowly moving closer to him. At that moment, Michael understood. The being he saw within the waters of the lake was not real; it was merely his own reflection taunting him with its presence. With one last look at his own bright form, he left the water and returned to the garden, where at least the plants and the trees were real, even if they only listened and did not speak.
Though he did not tire, constantly walking became tiresome. He had walked far since he had awoken, and had seen many plants, many trees, none of which could respond to his offer of friendship. When he came at last to a massive redwood tree he sat down beside it, and waited. Perhaps the other beings like him were looking for him, but they kept missing each other because they were on the move. Perhaps if he adopted a more sedentary approach the others would find him here.
For a long time he waited, with only the plants and the trees for company. Sometimes he spoke to them, just to see them dance to his words, and he wondered where they, and the lake, had come from. Had they been created at the same time as him, or were they here before him?
Eventually something happened. In the distance he spied a brilliant light, and it started to move towards him. His first thought was that finally he had been found, and excitement pulsed through him. But the light kept getting bigger and brighter, until he couldn't bear to look at it. As the light rapidly approached he closed his silver eyes and turned his face away, shielding his eyes with his arm, fearful of this bright new thing.
"Look at me," a voice commanded.
"I can't," he replied. "You are too bright for me to look at. It hurts my eyes to see you."
"You can see me now," the voice said. "Trust me."
Against his better judgment, Michael opened his eyes a small fraction. Light entered them, but it was not the same burning, blinding light he had first seen. Now it was more like a warm and pulsing luminescence. Slowly he turned his head and lowered his arm fully. The bright thing was taller than he, larger, and its face flashed rapidly, fluidly changing its appearance. Michael had no names for the faces it took, but he understood that this thing… this being… was wearing the face of Everything.
"Do you know who you are?" the being asked him.
"I am Michael," he replied. "But… who are you?"
"I am God," the being replied. "But you may call me Father. I created you, Michael."
"Why?" he asked, confused. He'd known he must have come from somewhere, but why would a being that could be Everything create a Michael?
"I like to create things," Father replied. He spread arms of yellow light out wide, gesturing at their surroundings. "I created all of this. Tell me… do you know what you are?"
"I… am Michael," he reiterated. It was all he knew about himself.
"That is who you are, not what you are," said Father. "You are my first sentient creation in a very long time. I have called your kind angel."
"My kind?" he asked, and felt a momentary flash of excitement. "There are more of me?"
"Not yet. I had to make you first, to make sure I got it right this time."
"I don't understand," he said. Father's words made no sense to him. What did he mean by 'got it right' and 'this time'?
"You will understand everything, in time," Father assured him. "For the moment, you are my first and only angel. If you turn out as I hope, I will make more of you. Enough to fill this place, so that you will never be alone again."
"And if I don't turn out as you hope?"
"I will make something else."
Michael did not like the sound of that. He didn't want 'something else'. He didn't want to disappoint Father, not if it meant no other angels would be created. He swore to himself that he would do whatever it took to please Father, to live up to his hopes and expectations. He would give Father no reason to doubt him, no reason to stop creating more angels. He would be an obedient and dutiful creation.
"What do you want me to do?" Michael asked his Father.
"For the moment, nothing. Awareness will come to you gradually, and you will know more. I will come to you regularly, and I will teach you. It will of course depend upon your capacity to learn."
"I look forward to learning," Michael said with conviction.
"Good," Father replied, and Michael sensed that he was pleased by his creation's response. "Now, if you've tired of sitting here talking to the plants, you may come with me. I will show you some of the things I made before you."
In his first act of obedience, Michael stood up, and followed his father through the garden.
o - o - o - o - o
Monitoring the passing of time was something that Father taught to Michael, though it was more like 'reminding' than 'teaching'. Michael came to understand that his Father had created him to be aware of certain things, which he had merely to be reminded of to comprehend them fully.
The first thing Father showed to Michael was the universe. They travelled across galaxies and between them, and he became familiar with the plethora of suns which shone brightly in the cold darkness of space. The suns were bright things, brighter than Michael, but not quite as bright as Father. Each of the suns was unique in their size and composition, and no two were exactly the same. Father explained why.
"I don't like to create things which are the same," he told Michael, as they observed the collapsing of an ancient red dwarf. The death of a sun was the ultimate act of destruction, but it was an act which would ultimately fuel creation. From the star-dust of the dead star would be born a new solar system, though it would take millions upon millions of years to form. Nothing truly ended, in Father's universe. "Everything should be unique, and there should never be more than one of any something."
"So… if you create more angels, they will not be like me?" Michael asked, trying to grasp the concept of uniqueness.
"They will be as similar to you as the suns are similar to each other. But they will not be exact duplicates; they will not think quite as you do, or understand as you do, and they will differ in size, shape, appearance."
"I understand," Michael said. He didn't understand, not really, but he thought it was what Father wanted to hear.
They watched in silence as the red dwarf finally succumbed to the intense gravitational forces trying to tear it apart from within. The explosion was devastatingly fierce, a beautiful fountain of super-heated matter and anti-matter spreading itself across the cosmos.
"There is something I want to show you," Father said at last.
Father took them away from the dead star's grave, to another galaxy, far from the place where the red dwarf had exploded. It was a spiral galaxy, rotating faster at its core than at its outer edges, so that its long arms trailed slowly behind it. It was to the inner edge of one of the arms that Father took them, to a solar system containing a yellow star in its centre. There was nothing too remarkable about the system; nine planets of differing sizes orbited the sun, and there was a belt of asteroids between the fourth planet - a small rocky world - and the fifth planet - a large, hot, swirling gas giant.
"There," said Father, as they approached the third planet. It, like the fourth planet, was small and rocky, its surface littered with active volcanoes. Wide rivers of lava poured forth from high vents and tectonic rifts, igneous rocks forming wherever the lava was allowed to cool for long enough for crystals to form. "This is one of my greatest creations yet. I call it Earth," Father said.
Michael was not impressed. This molten spheroid of rock was his one of his father's best works? It was tiny, far less impressive than the sixth planet, a gas giant which had an impressive set of dust rings around it.
"I don't understand," Michael said plainly. "Why are you showing me this? It is just a planet. I've seen millions like it."
"Not like this," Father insisted. "This was my first garden. This is where the plants of Heaven came from."
"This? This is your garden? What went wrong?"
"I had to… remake it," Father admitted. "I want you to understand something, my son. I am not perfect. I made a mistake."
"What kind of mistake?" He did not want to shame his father by asking, but his curiosity was too great to ignore.
"You are not the first sentient being I have created," Father said. "After I made the Earth the first time, I filled it with plants and trees and I created animals for it."
"Animals?" Michael asked, confused. The word was not a familiar one.
"I'll show you those later. But after I created the animals, I decided to create intelligent life-forms to live both on the Earth and in Heaven. The creatures I created, I named Leviathan, but I erred. I made them too cunning, too vicious, too greedy. There was a hunger within them, and they began to devour everything I had created, including each other. They threatened Heaven and Earth, so I was forced to intervene. I locked them away, where they can do no damage.
"There was little left of the Earth to salvage, by that point, so I started again. I wiped the slate clean and reset the Earth back to how it was, when it was first formed. That is why it looks so unimpressive and uninhabitable to you. But give it time, and this world will once again sparkle like a diamond."
Father's words explained a lot. Michael felt that he finally understood. He finally had answers to some of the questions he had not asked Father for fear of what the answers might be.
"That's why you created me alone," he said. "You wanted to be sure I would not be like your Leviathans. That I would not destroy your garden, as they did."
"Yes," Father said, radiating approval that his son had leapt to the conclusion on his own. "Eventually the Earth will become a paradise, just like Heaven. When I have finished shaping the land, once it has settled and cooled, I will create an atmosphere, and make rivers and lakes and oceans. From my garden in Heaven I will take seeds of plants and cast them onto the ground so that they can proliferate. Eventually I will create animals to make the world truly alive."
Michael dwelt on his father's words. This task, he knew, would take a long time. It might take millions of years for the Earth to settle, cool and for his father to create an atmosphere. Truly he must love this little ball of molten rock, if he was willing to invest so much time and effort into it, and for not the first time either. If the Earth was so important to his father, Michael decided, then it was important to him too.
"I would like to help," he offered.
"I hoped you would," Father replied. "There is much for me to teach you. Come, let us return to Heaven, and I'll show you how I made the plants."
o - o - o - o - o
Michael learnt much from God, during those first few thousand years. His father showed him how he had made plants, how to alter the laws of physics to manipulate time and space and matter, how to move instantly from one place to another, how to nudge a planet to stabilise its orbit or send it spiralling out of control, and many other things which he thought might be useful for his son to know.
The Earth continued to remain a hostile place, and though Michael was capable of walking its surface without being harmed by the blistering temperatures or toxic fumes, he preferred to stay in Heaven and watch from afar. During that time he learnt great patience; there were no animals in Heaven, though his father had explained the concept to him in great details, and he was eager to see them on the Earth.
He had grown closer to his father during their time together, and relished every moment they spent together. Father confided to him that he had been lonely for a long time, which was why he had created the Leviathans. Unfortunately they were far too violent to be allowed to roam free, and after locking them away in a place called Purgatory he'd set his mind to creating a different type of sentient being.
The being he had devised - the angel - was intended to be almost the exact opposite of the Leviathans. Starting from scratch, Father had built a being which did not need food, so that it could not hunger as the Leviathans had. Angels, Michael now knew, would never be troubled by physical needs. As beings of energy, rather than matter, they needed no sustenance, nor rest, and they would not succumb to the passage of time, as plants did and animals eventually would.
Sitting beneath his favoured redwood tree - the one where he had first met Father - Michael sensed his father's approach. He looked up from his observation of the Earth, and stared in surprise. God was not alone; there was another being with him. A being of silvery-white light with silver eyes, and wings on his back just like Michael's. Father had created a new angel? He hadn't mentioned anything about this to Michael, but Father did like his secrets.
"Michael," Father said, stopping in front of him with the newcomer. "I want you to meet somebody." He gestured to the smaller angel beside him. "This is Lucifer. He is your younger brother. I made him so that you won't have to be alone when I am away, and so that you have somebody to teach, as I have taught you."
"Welcome, little brother," Michael said, stepping towards the pair.
Lucifer looked up shyly at Father, who nodded in encouragement.
"Hello Michael," Lucifer said.
"Michael, I'd like you to take good care of Lucifer," Father said, giving his youngest son a gentle push forward. "Teach him well, and care for him as I have cared for you."
Michael reached out and put his silvery hand on his brother's shoulder. "I'll teach you everything I know," he promised.
"Thank you, brother," Lucifer said happily.
"I'll leave the two of you to get to know each other," Father said. Then he disappeared.
Michael turned his eyes to Lucifer, studying his little brother. The younger angel was a little smaller than Michael, but also a little brighter. He seemed to possess none of the confusion Michael had displayed upon first waking, and so he guessed that Father had made improvements to his second son, learning from Michael's own creation.
"How much are you aware of?" Michael asked his brother. "How much do you know?"
"I know that I am called Lucifer," the younger angel replied. "And that I am your brother, and we are in Heaven. I know that God is our Father, and he made us to love him. But I don't know what these things are around us, or what exists outside Heaven."
"Don't worry, I'll show you the universe," Michael promised.
Together they left the tree, and Michael did not look back. Finally he had another angel to talk to, someone to care for and teach, as Father had cared for and taught him. Now he would never have to be alone again.