“So why did you come back?” Myra asked me after a long moment.
“Why did you come back? After all this time, why come back now? I don’t think I’m going to believe that you suddenly developed a misplaced parenting gene and decided to pop in to see if you had knocked me up and had a daughter to raise, and I’m sure as hell not going to believe you came back to see me again for another tumble after all these years.”
“Oh don’t be all outraged, Em, I’m pretty sure he’s heard it all before.”
“I have, and more besides. But to answer your question, I didn’t.”
“Didn’t come back. At least, not intentionally. I was just riding along on my way back East, and got hungry. So I pulled in at the next stop. It wasn’t until I walked into the diner that I remembered that this was your place.”
“No! No, I didn’t forget you, I just didn’t remember that this was your place until I walked in. And honestly, if I had remembered, I probably would have kept on rolling. You know, trying not to reconnect and all that.”
“So you stopped because you just happened to get hungry near my exit?”
“Well, not exactly.” This from Michael, who had apparently forgotten my instructions to keep his mouth shut, and had either forgotten or was choosing to ignore the outcome of our last interaction, that last day in the Garden.
You see, Michael was the right hand of the Man. The hand that held the flaming sword, and was in charge of enforcing Dad’s edicts. So when we were tossed out of the Garden, it was Michael that did the tossing. Or at least, it was Michael that started the process. In the end it took several of the archangels to get the job done, and some of them looked a little the worse for wear when it was over. Michael particularly had seen better days. I’m pretty sure I broke his nose in the scuffle.
That may have been the first day of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but my sense of right and wrong was pretty deeply instilled long before, and when he put his hands on Eve and she cried out in pain as he twisted her arm behind her back to remove her from the only home we’d ever known, I reacted without thinking. Further reflection brought me to the conclusion that had I thought before I socked the head of the militant Archangels in the snoot, I would have done the same thing. Every time.
So there was no love lost between Michael and I, and this revelation that he may have had something to do with this uncomfortable reunion (not to mention the repeated slapping of my face) led me to turn, very slowly, and face the immaculately dressed scion of heaven.
“What do you mean, not exactly? And let’s have an answer without any of the standard angelic obfuscation, if you don’t mind too terribly.” I can affect a pretty solid posh British accent of my own when the situation warrants, and I felt like it definitely warranted.
“Wouldn’t dream of it, my boy.” He knew I hated it when he called me that. I always did. “I may have manipulated your hunger pangs a little to bring you to this place. These ladies are very important, and have a very important role to play in what is coming.”
“And what, exactly, is coming, Michael? And what do you have to do with it?”
“Well, Adam, ever since you and Eve left the Garden, things have been moving toward this final confrontation.”
“You’re obfuscating. What confrontation?”
“Just because you’re obtuse does not mean that I am obfuscating. The final confrontation of Good and Evil, Adam. The choice between Right and Wrong, between God and Satan, between Order and Chaos. The Choice.”
“Oh.” I knew this was coming eventually. Dad explained to me back in the Garden that when he gave us free will, he knew that eventually we would have to make a final choice between the Light and the Dark. I always thought the “we” he was talking about was each individual, that everyone made their own choice, but Michael was making it sound like there was one big Choice that was going to happen that would decide the fate of the whole human race.
“Of course there is,” he said when I expressed my thoughts to him. “There was one Choice all those years ago in the Garden, and Eve made it. She chose Chaos, and you were removed from the Garden. Had she chosen us over your friend the Lightbringer, you and all your descendants would have grown and lived in the Garden forever. But she chose poorly, and humanity has suffered for it for millennia. This choice is like that one, and will be made just like that one was, by a random human on behalf of you all.”
Silence hung heavy in the afternoon air as we all contemplated the angel’s words. Michael couldn’t lie, the Archangels never learned how, so what he said was certain to be truth. It might not be the whole truth, since angels certainly knew how to hold things back, but this didn’t feel like one of those times. Of course, I hadn’t had any of my long talks with the seraphim in a few thousand years, so I suppose they could have learned a few new things.
“That’s not fair.” My head snapped around and my eyes locked on Emily, who stood beside the picnic table, eyes glistening as she stared a hole into Michael. “I’m not going to abide by the decision of some person who hasn’t even been chosen yet who knows nothing about me and has no right to make decision that will affect my whole life and the life of generations to come. That’s just not fair and I’m not going to put up with it!”
“My dear girl, not only is it fair, it’s the basis for your entire country!”
Michael laughed. “Your entire idealized existence is run by people who don’t know you and couldn’t care less. This is just more representative governance, dearie, and you will deal with it because no one asked your opinion. Leave the grown-up talk to the grown-ups and go back inside to your dishes. We’ll call you when you’re needed.”
Emily walked up to Michael, looked him square in his sky-blue eyes, and slapped the shit out of him. Then she spun on her heel, marched over to the picnic table and sat there, jaw set, daring anyone to try to make her move. Yep, that’s my kid, I thought.
“You deserved that one, Mikey. Now what’s the deal, really? Somebody somewhere is going to run into Lucky, get tempted, and they’re going to make another Eve-level Choice? I thought we were a little far along the road for that.”
“Oh no, Adam, not at all, not at all. This Choice will be so much more that Eve’s little choice that she may as well be forgotten by history. This Choice will determine the true outcome of humanity. You see, now they’ve seen what Chaos is. They’ve seen the Dark. When Eve made her decision to bite the fruit, you two had no idea what the Dark was. You had no frame of reference, so Eve’s decision was made in a vacuum. A little unfair, really, that she’s taken so much blame for it for so long. After all, it is human nature to want to know what’s behind Door #2. I should know, I helped write that bit.” Michael had to stop to spit a little blood from his mouth halfway through his pretty little speech, which diminished the impact somewhat, but the words sat me on my ass just the same.
“So you’re saying Eve was set up?”
“Eve. Was. Set. Up. The whole thing was planned from the Beginning. She didn’t have a choice after all. She had to take the fruit.”
“Of course not. She could have refused to eat the fruit. Of course, if she had, we would have come up with something else. Eventually you were going to have to leave the Garden. It was the only way you could see the world, after all.”
“So for thousands of years Eve has suffered, thinking that she brought all the evil into the world, that if she had been just a little stronger, or if Lucky had caught her on a better day, or if she hadn’t wandered off alone that morning, that she could have said no and spared the world a wealth of suffering, and now you tell me that if she’d said no you would have just kept on coming until eventually one of us gave in?” I might have been yelling a little by the last bit.
“Pretty much, yes.” The smug smile was what did it. I knew he was trying to push my buttons, and he was always the second best manipulator out of the angelic herd. At that precise moment, however, I didn’t care. I just knew that he had allowed Eve to suffer with the guilt of falling to temptation since the dawn of time, and I was, to put it mildly, pissed.
So I hit him. I swung from the knees, and I punched the leader of the Angelic Host right in the nose with everything I had. Angels aren’t really that different from the rest of us when they choose to take human form. They bleed, even though they can’t die. They can hurt, though, and a shot to the nose stings like a son of a bitch. So when I put everything I had into a roundhouse that connected solidly with Michael’s nose, I felt the satisfying crunch of cartilage under my knuckles and I knew that I’d broken it once again. Damn, that felt good. I highly recommend punching out a pompous archangel once an eon or so, it’s good for the soul.
“Dammit, Adam, that hurts!” He was lying on his back in the dusty parking lot and I liked him a lot better with blood spattering his French Blue dress shirt than I had just a few seconds earlier.
“It wasn’t meant to tickle, you prick. Screw you and your little games, I’m outta here.” I turned on my heel and headed back towards my bike, determined to leave Texas and Michael behind me as quickly as I could.
“Dad.” I stopped. There’s only a couple of words that can stop me in my tracks, but that one’s a lock. “Please don’t go.” I turned, and there was Emily, not looking at me, but looking at me all the same. “Please?”
“Why?” I asked. Like it mattered. She was my kid after all. If she wanted me to stay, I was staying.
“I think this might be important. And I think you might have to do this, no matter how big a douchebag this guy is.” Well, that cut right through it all right there. Sometimes there are things you just have to do, whether you want to or not, whether the people you have to do them with are douchebags or not; sometimes things have to get done. And sometimes you’re the only one that can do them.
“This is gonna suck.” I said as I walked back over to her.
“Probably.” She agreed, and she tossed Michael a dishrag to stop his bleeding nose.
“I’m gonna need some coffee.” I was walking back towards the rear entrance of the diner by now.
“I’ll handle it. The lunch rush is over and you never could make coffee worth a shit.” Myra said as she passed me on the way into the diner.
“Hey! Wait for me!” Cried the warrior archangel as he tried to get his bloody nose to cooperate enough to let him follow us into the diner. To quote one of my favorite philosophers, I had a bad feeling about this.