It is often assumed that, in the world of the Celestial everything is perfect. There’s God and then there are angels. But for every St Peter and his border controls, there is Gabriel and his defence forces and Michael and his transport brief. There are seraphs and archangels and so on. There is, in short a pecking order, a hierarchy. And once you’ve sifted through the original angels, the early and latter day saints, the goody two shoes who make their way through the induction and citizenship exams, there are still those who aren’t recognised, whose presence is mostly tolerated, usually ignored and sometimes disparaged but without whom Heaven wouldn’t function.
When Heaven is booming, religious take up is high and the queues at the Gates stretch back beyond morning, with the inevitable shortage of harp strings and gold quills, there is pressure on the sub-angelic cohorts to do their thing. Clouds need building, nectar grown and refined and togas stitched and cleaned. But if gloom descends and waves of secularism wash over the flocks, the take up of places is reduced to a trickle, and unregulated budget-spectres organize group deaths to try and bump up the numbers. It is then the attention of the now underemployed angels drifts to the cohorts and questions are asked. Are there too many? Should there be tougher controls? Should entrants be sponsored by a saint or disciple? Should they be sent to the other place? Indeed occasionally the grumblings are so bad that there have been discussions around Heaven seceding from the multitudes, cutting the ingrates free to wallow in their mortality without even the merest soupcon of a hope of an afterlife. Heaven after all is a finite resource and it has always been understood that the entry requirements should be stiff. The sub-angelic, who pass through unhindered by issues of past behaviour and future repentance are an easy target.
One such was Sub-Angel Colin. He was the happy clappy sort who saw himself as lucky to be helping these beautiful supernatural beings provide their angelic services. He attended daily work allocation and accepted whatever was offered: cloud inflating for the more comfortably formed angels, queue management at the main gates and occasionally working with the flocks of heavenly birds whose feathers were farmed for quills. But today the archangels were away at a conference, St Peter had a meeting with the builders about the delays to the new beatific system of checks and balances and the angel handing out roles seemed disinclined to put Sub-Angel Colin forward for anything. Colin didn’t despair; it wasn’t in his nature. He drifted away, thinking me might find a tub of sunshine and go and spread it on several levels of the unworthy when a voice, familiar from the Heavenly broadcasts but never before directed at him boomed.
Colin checked. No one else seemed to have heard a thing so this Godcall must be for him.
‘IT’S JUST GOD, COLIN. YOU DON’T NEED TO BE FORMAL. WE LIVE IN ENLIGHTENED TIMES, YOU KNOW? EVERYTHING’S UNIVERSAL THESE DAYS. ARE YOU FREE? I’VE A JOB.’
‘Yes. Of course. Anything.’
‘THING IS, I’VE ANOTHER COMMISSION, BIT OF A QUICKIE. A WHOLE WORLD AND EVERYTHING IN IT IN SEVEN DAYS.’
‘Goodness. That’s a tall order. But I’ll do my best.’
‘IT’S ALRIGHT. I CAN DO THE WORLD BUILDING SHTICK BUT I’M GOING TO NEED A GARDEN, A SORT OF HOLDING AREA WHILE THE INHABITANTS ARE PROCESSED. YOU UP FOR THAT?’
‘Inhabitants? Oh what sort? Grottles? Ploins? I heard you’d given up on Scuttlebuckets because of the emissions.’
‘THIS IS A NEW ONE, A BIT UNTESTED BUT THERE’S A LOT RIDING ON IT.’
‘Well we can all do with the work and it’s always exciting when you launch a new model. Can you give me a hint? Multiminded gas cloud? Gelloidal Dipthogists?’
‘IT’S QUITE THE THING, MORE POST-LIFE THAN ANYTHING. BASICALLY THEY’RE BIPEDAL CARBON-BASED APES WITH LARGE BRAINS, FEW INHIBITIONS AND A TENDENCY TO INVENT STUPID WAYS OF KILLING THEMSELVES.’
‘Oh. Sounds rather retro to me. Still you’re the all seeing all knowing omniporous…’
‘DON’T YOU MEAN OMNIPOTENT?’
‘Do I? Anyway you decide.’
‘I HAVE. YOU DO THE GARDEN AND WHEN THEY ARRIVE YOU KEEP THEM AMUSED UNTIL THEIR TRANSPORT HAS BEEN MADE READY. IS THAT UNDERSTOOD?’
‘Any particular format?’
‘OH A STANDARD EDEN I THINK, NOTHING TOO FANCY.’
Colin flicked through the Basic Manual For Garden Making until he found Eden. ‘Can it have a rockery? It says it’s optional.’
‘And fruit trees? Is this one to have fruit trees?’
‘Maybe peaches? Peaches are always popular…’
‘APPLES. LET’S HAVE APPLES.
Colin could barely contain his excitement. He laboured for days and nights and those little spaces in between which no one really understands but are often quite romantic and colourful. If he wasn’t sure he asked Kevin who’d built gardens in the past. ‘Make them soothing and calming. They’ll be innocents. Strictly no sharp thorns and stones and a few large leaves…’
‘You said there were to be apples?’
‘Then you’ll need leaves. Trust me.’
When God delivered them, He and Colin watched as the two innocents began exploring. Colin wondered at their wobbly and dangly bits. Maybe God rushed them; seven days was always tight.
God coughed. ‘I NEED TO DASH. I’M COMPARING LUCIFER’S ROAST LATER AND GABRIEL GETS REALLY ARSY IF I’M LATE.’
‘Mr Luci is coming up?’
‘I KNOW. THE BASEMENT CARETAKER HERE! MRS GOD AND I ARE HOSTING AN IRONIC BARBECUE. I’LL BE BACK MONDAY…’
But he was gone.
Kevin came to keep Colin company, bringing his pet snake, Cyril. They watched the innocents eat apples, go very pink, stare at each other’s dangly and wobbly bits and run off looking for leaves.
‘It won’t end well,’ he said forlornly.
‘Never mind,’ answered Colin. ‘At least I got to build a rockery.’
This was written in response to this month’s #Blogbattle prompt