“Right,” Noah replied, shrinking under Death’s withering gaze. He prudently decided to change the subject. “So what’s next? What do we do now?”
“Now we wait,” she replied sternly. “The next step requires one of higher rank than I.”
“Of course. Frantically avoid a grisly death, then sit around waiting for the brass to show up.” Noah feigned a nostalgic tear. “It’s just like being back in the Corps.”
“Must you accompany every situation with a joke?”
“It was a lifelong dream of mine to make people laugh.”
Death’s expression softened slightly. “I don’t suppose I’ll ever get a serious answer of you, will I?”
“You’ve been dodging my questions since we met. You’ve supposedly been watching me for I don’t know how long, you know all this about me, and yet I can’t get you to tell me anything about this place, or even why I’m here.”
Death ran a delicate hand through the hair at her temples. “Please believe me when I say that you will receive complete understanding soon. Be patient.”
“All right then, let’s talk about you.”
“Me?” Death responded, meekly toying with a strand of crimson hair.
“Yes, you. You’re the only friend I’ve got in this place; I’d like to know a little bit about you.”
“What…What would you like to know?”
Noah sighed. “Look, this isn’t an interrogation, I’m just trying to make conversation, since you apparently aren’t allowed to tell me anything useful and the big hat is taking his sweet time. Where are you from? How’d you get this gig? What’re your hobbies? What do you do when you’re not escorting the dead or playing tour guide to cantankerous retired corpsmen?”
“I’m not ‘from’ anywhere, anymore than the ground or the sky comes from somewhere. I didn’t receive this ‘gig,’ I was born to it. There is a need within the universe, and therefore I exist. As for my hobbies, my duties keep me quite busy enough without me dwelling on extraneous concerns. Though I can’t remember the last time I spent this much time dealing with a single man.”
“A workaholic, huh?” Haynes smirked. “Y’know that’s really not healthy.”
“This from a dead man?”
Blinding light blasted from a hole in the sky, and a figure appeared. His skin shone like it was on fire as he descended from the heavens on six alabaster wings. The light in the sky faded, but his radiance remained, clothed in a simple white garment wrapped loosely around his slight frame. He halted his descent just short of touching the ground.
Death smiled at the figure. “Gabriel, it is good to see you again.”
“And you, Lady of the Chill Embrace,” he replied with a voice that somehow sounded like both a thousand trumpets and a gently strummed harp. “How is the candidate?”
“Inquisitive.” Death directed a glare at Noah.
The angel seemed not to notice. “Of course he is. It is to be expected. But it is not for us to wonder at His plan.” He smiled down at Noah. “Noah Haynes, I am Gabriel, First of His Seraphim and Metatron, the Voice of God.”
Now that he was closer, Noah realized how feminine the newcomer was. If his simple garment didn’t leave his chest exposed, Haynes would have had a hard time determining his sex.
“Good to meet you,” Noah responded more nonchalantly than was appropriate. “I assume you’re here for the next step of whatever it is I’m doing.”
Gabriel’s face registered a hint of annoyance. “You are correct in that. I have been charged by the Lord to prepare you for His service.”
“What exactly is it I’m helping God with? I didn’t realize I had any skills that would make me especially useful to Him.”
“Few men do. But with His will as guide even the dullest tool can cut like a razor.”
I think that insult was intentional
“Right, so anyway, what’s next?”
“Next we look at the previous, Noah Haynes. In order to prepare for your future, you must understand your past.”