To Be Elected
Your mean-lipped turtle mouth snaps:
‘Let’s talk about politics,
do you agree with me?’
Beneath your cold heart I hear
you gather your hard-earnt eggs,
shuffle them out of strangers’ sight.
Your hard-nosed need still shows
itself by sniffing at people
who haven’t kept their eggs so close,
whose shells have been turned over
so they lie now, legs in the air
helpless unless someone rights them.
You are rigid with resentment
that they’re fed just as they are,
when you’d flip them over to forage
for themselves, yet hard cases
are often damaged, can’t stand alone,
not clever and not listened to, like you.
You believe I’m a hypocrite,
lofty principles balanced on
the right way up ease
my inherited shell affords me,
but you bite your lip, stretch to a smile
in your hunger to be elected.
It was clear to Samael that today, like so many of the others, was going to be a disappointment. Even in paradise, it was becoming clear that nothing was perfect. At least the view was spectacular, although that was little consolation. The celestial city stretched out in infinite directions, layered in dimensions no human eye could ever comprehend. You did not simply see the city, you felt it. It was a part of everything, at once the whole of creation and the centre of it. The flow of all life pulsed through it in a rhythm the angels sung to. There were no words that could describe its beauty, its elegance or its purity. Samael had had enough of it.
As Samael came out into the great central plaza, there was a beating of wings and Michael landed heavily just ahead. The Archangel Michael was a strong and proud creature, cloaked in flame and power, a great sword scabbarded at the waist. Before Samael, Michael dropped to one knee.
“Archangel Samael, your presence is required before the Throne.”
“Yes,” replied Samael. “Do you really think I’m unaware of today’s vote?”
Michael looked a little flustered at Samael’s lack of formality.
“Oh get up Michael. If anyone else sees you kneeling you’ll start the rest of them gossiping.”
Michael stood up, glowering. “I was not expecting a member of the heavenly host to be late to such an important vote. We are Archangels, we must set an example.”
“I’m well aware of the importance of the vote. That’s why I’m not rushing,” replied Samael. “Do you really think it is going to play out any differently to the other hundred million times?”
Michael seemed eager to fall to one knee again. “If you were to stand, you know you will have my support!”
“You know very well that is impossible. The one thing we all could agree on was that one of us should be a neutral party to officiate. So I cannot take the Throne, that’s the only thing we’ve been able to decide.”
Michael once more looked crestfallen, but determined to return some formality and occasion to the day, and strode forward across the plaza, a great trumpet in hand. Samael sighed and followed. Michael’s enthusiasm was at the same time both charming and extremely annoying.
They entered the audience chamber together, before the assembled heavenly host. Angels were seated in row after row, organised by choir before a great central dais. The Seraphim sat closest to the dais, the rest behind them in order of seniority and optimism. The Cherubim were next, then the Orfanim, all the way to the Elohim who sat at the back looking like they had much better things to do today.
On the dais sat the Throne, the seat of the Word. From here all creation was laid bare. From here no mortal could hide any secrets. From here the stuff of the universe could be shaped to your desires. Although it had the attention of every angel in the chamber, it stood empty. Today, once more, they had come together to decide who should take it.
The problem has always been that creation rather takes it out of you. The Word had started well, shaping planets and stars from dust and gas. Then the Word crafted the seas and the sky, and made all manner of creatures to populate it. It was a gruelling process, and took six whole days, where a day to the Word was as millennia to any mortal. It was no wonder that on the seventh day the Word had decided to rest. That was over several millennia ago, and the only response the angels had received upon trying to suggest the Word sat once more upon the Throne was “just five more minutes”.
As you might imagine, in the meantime things had got a little out of hand. The angels did the best they could, but there really wasn’t a clear plan, and they had all been made to serve. The Word had unfortunately not provided a ‘to do list’ before taking a long nap. So the angels kept the system going as best they could, but evolution was happening all over the place. Then there was humanity, oh don’t get me started on humanity. You blinked your eyes and they were up to something new.
Michael gave a great blast on the trumpet and all eyes turned expectantly to Samael. Samael took flight across the crowd to land before the Throne and address the gathering. Silence filled the vast chamber like a weight.
“Host of Heaven, we come together once more to determine who should sit upon the Throne until the Word can return. Who is ready to stand for this honour?”
A million angels shuffled in their seats, stared at their feet and them looked up expectantly. Some pushed others forward, who glowered at their companions and then did their best to look as small as possible. Thousands of voices muttered they were not worthy and it was not their place. They would happily serve, joyfully follow any of the others, but could not possibly be the One.
Samael let them squirm for longer than was really necessary before addressing them again.
“If no one stands forward, we shall reconvene, once more, next week.” The tension in the room noticeably dropped. In the entrance across from Samael, all Michael could do was shrug. Samael began to wonder (and not for the first time) if exiling the only angel who considered themselves worthy had really been the best idea.
“You have two choices.” Serious tone.
“Cake or death?” Always a tendency towards flippancy.
“You’re not taking this seriously.” Hint of a smile, masked by exasperation.
“You’re right – I’m not. And you know why? Because this is ridiculous.” Grimace of disgust and impatience.
“You’re the one who wanted to do this, not me.” Wagging finger, below reproachful eyes.
“And you’re trying to help me. I get it.” Begrudging gratitude.
“It’s not like I don’t have better things to do with my time.” Arms crossed, daring further defiance.
“Okay, okay, I’m listening. Lay it out for me.” Placating gesture, attempt at appeasement.
“Well, the way I see it…” Droning on and on, clearly not realising listening was a lie. “So now you just need to decide what to do.” Expectant pause, eyebrows raised.
“I… I elect you to be in charge of the whole operation.” Scrabbling for purchase and a way out of the situation.
“This isn’t about me.” Tone suggests otherwise.
“But you’re so much better at this kind of thing than I am.” Just wanting to abdicate responsibility.
“That’s as may be, but I’m not the one who suggested this in the first place.” Smug, not willing quite yet to give in.
“Oh, come on, you know how much you love being in charge. Plus, you’ll do a much better job than I ever would.” Wheedling, now, unsure of future prospects.
“What would you ever do without me?” Really keen to just take control, but not wanting to admit it.
“So, is that a yes?” Hope breaking through the clouds.
“I suppose so.” Giving in, secretly happy about it.
“You’re the best!” Big grin.
“I know.” Wry smile.