The Messengers by John Chrostek

The old city district is infested with decommissioned angels. They scutter about on row home walls, a mass of eyes and teeth in search of orderly violence, but there is no longer any voice speaking permission, no grand directive unfurled from on high to justify their urges. As such they are bored and discontent. Some handle this better than the others. The Sword of Spring and Attic Dust work at the community garden. In cultivating the seasonal growth of crops and flowers they find a safe alternative to domination. They are there from dusk till dawn, the sort of people your eyes never meet directly, shuffling about in the periphery. In the agitated ripple of universal law around them the sin of material existence collects like pollen. The Sword of Spring licks it and the soil off their approximated fingers, sating themselves with the hollow, bitter taste, remembering old genocides.

The Crying One sits on a stone in the park. There is more to cry about than ever but the tears are no longer theirs to release. They paint acrylic landscapes on sheets of cardboard of a great flood cleansing the city and its landmarks. Sometimes they paint tigers. Those are The Crying One’s favorites and they are never for sale.

Some cannot abide to shuffle through the transient hours imitating humans. They thus become concepts, hints of flickering light or feral, biting laws. They cling to passersby walking against a chill and sudden breeze. A woman might notice fate is suddenly working against her. Her mind lingers on old regrets and actions she cannot make amends for. She does not believe in higher powers, but karma she can sometimes feel with a sensory weight. She is wrong. It is not karma’s pressure on her back but Eye Diver, who craves her penitence and fear. It never learned who must feel the sinking or why. There was no need to explain or improve upon their methods before. It was made for this feeling, is this feeling, and so must do what it does.

A man is meeting his lover at a new restaurant. They have been dating for weeks, and it is going quite well. He wants to ask his boyfriend to move in with him. He knows that it is sudden, that it might do more harm than good this early in the cycle, but for the first time in years he feels excited for the future. There is something in his partner’s touch, in his casual silhouette moving down the hall towards the bathroom that makes the darkness of night into vibrant color instead of the absence of light. He is willing to court a little danger to be at peace. He is becoming someone different, someone who speaks their needs into the world and has them met, at least in small proportion. His partner sees him across the taqueria as if he were an open fire, transformative and brilliant. The angel Sea of Light, the wind beneath their wings, waits until it hears a tearful ‘yes’ before departing. The lovers sit in the fading afterglow as the quesadillas arrive, each wondering just what they had agreed to.

Curled up on the uneven bricks of the riverfront, The Slouching Beast craves the taste of sweet momentum. A nearby child plays too close to the guardrails. Like a cat, it cannot abide a thing that teeters too long on the edge without offering a firm and gentle push.

A human being looks into a mirror. The underlying proportions of their body, the algebra of width and length that governs the relationships of flesh no longer adds up. All at once it has become a foreign thing, a deep hole from which to look up at the world. The Sequence is a kiss on the inside of the mirror glass, it is a hot whisper in the marrow of their bones. It suggests that they restructure, the parts, the body, for the harmony of all, convinced it is itself a complete circle and not a spiral boring deep into the wall.

Some angels pay rent in the city. One is a garbage man, rising well before dawn to shuffle the refuse of man onto barges and landfill. Several are lawyers. Silver Blessing paints photorealistic murals of children on industrial buildings with teeth too small for their mouths. These murals glow at night, causing frequent motor accidents at a nearby interstate on-ramp, as by design. They have a day job at a clothing boutique. It is adequately priced but has a horrible collection of jeans.

The angels all believe they remember the voice of their God but none agree on how it sounds. This has given them no reason to doubt. They know what they are. That is their directive, their justification. That is all the meaning that they need.


John Chrostek is the editor-in-chief of the literary magazine Cold Signal. His work has appeared in XRAY, Coffin Bell, Maudlin House, Scrawl Place and more. He is currently living in Richmond, VA.