L i f t e d
All I needed to do right then, at that moment, was breathe. I knew nothing bad was about to happen. All I had to do was explain a few things. Personal things. But, I still felt a wave of dysphoria. It felt strange sharing anything with a stranger, especially someone who was writing down everything I said.
“Okay. . .now look up.”
My eyes stayed fixated on the floor, on the small crevices in the dull, grey tiles. I can recall how dim the room was, with just a speckle of light beaming in from a single window. I wondered how old the clinic was.
“Please listen to me.”
I refused. Not me, but my brain refused. I guess it wanted peace and tranquility after everything I had dealt with up to that point.
There was no point, and no need whatsoever to be there. Psychiatrists could never help. They’d just spew comforting lies to cover up the truth, that they were clueless. At a loss.
I looked up for a moment as my mom spoke to the doctor. I noticed on a wall that the doctor had a collection of butterflies pinned up in rows. It sent a chill down my spine.
“Where did you get those butterflies?” I interrupted. Mom gave me a funny look.
“Oh, those ones?” the doctor said, peering over his shoulder at them. “I caught them myself. They’re from the Amazon. My wife and I vacation in South America a lot. Pretty cool, huh?”
I looked back down at the floor. He cleared his throat.
“Are you ready to talk about it?”
I nodded. Slightly. Here goes nothing, I thought.
“This has been going on for awhile, now. I don’t remember when it started, but it’s stuck with me. I have visions. But not different types of visions, like seeing bears and babies. My visions are always similar to each other. I see wings.”
“Could you elaborate on that?” the doctor asked.
I pointed at a butterfly in the collection, the one with brightly colored wings in a shade of blue. A morpho.
“You see that blue one? I saw a boy one day, a little younger than me. He had those exact same wings on his back. He stared at me for awhile.”
“So you see angels,” the doctor supposed, cleaning his glasses. “How many angels do you see?”
“At least five a day. They come in all ages, all races. They even have different kinds of wings. I saw one yesterday with wings like a snowy owl.”
He put his glasses back on. “Do the angels interact with each other? Do they talk to humans?”
I was already feeling overwhelmed. There was so much to explain, but I didn’t feel comfortable. I could sense my stomach tightening with every second.
“I’ve never tried talking to them. I just watch them. Sometimes, two angels will look at one another. Not speak, but study each other’s eyes as if they are having a conversation. They don’t speak to people.”
The doctor must have noticed me looking uneasy because he relaxed his shoulders and feigned a smile. Regardless, I stayed tense.
He studied my eyes a bit, which was understandable. At that particular moment, my eyes were a glaring tint of teal similar to the color of a robin’s egg, light enough to be startling. After another 20 questions and four pages of his documenting, he turned to face both me and my mom.
“Well, it seems your son has all the symptoms of a condition called Cornuary Disorder. It’s very rare. Only 200 people have ever been diagnosed with it. Period.”
My mom looked at me with the most pity I’d ever seen. As a toddler, even until I was nine, it just seemed normal for me to see angels. She thought it was just the imaginary nature any healthy child had.
“There is some good news. Most of the people who had this illness said it went away as they got older, and by the ages of 20-25, the disorder was completely eradicated. For now though, I’m going to prescribe you Ativan.”
I didn’t listen to the rest of what he said about activities to help the visions die down and what not. I knew that session would lead nowhere. I left the building feeling discouraged, and assumed my mom would treat me like a fragile string of thread from then on. But I was also disappointed because I didn’t tell him. I never described what I saw one afternoon in the hospital, 3½ minutes after my grandfather’s last breath. The doctor has no idea an angel surfaced next to his body, picked him up, and carried him away towards the skies.
There was something more to this, more than just hallucinations. I needed to know what was really happening to me.
That night, I remember dreaming about butterflies. Thousands of them, fluttering to the heavens, vanishing into the sun.
This shouldn’t be a bad thing. Veritably, it’s what I wanted...right?
Correct. But it still seems to be happening all too soon. After every venture I’ve taken, every hardship I’ve gone through, I can’t stop searching for answers now. I’m so close to cracking this case right open, and discovering why that angel carried my grandfather away. Nonetheless, there’s no way for me to slow the progress of time. I knew after that trip to the clinic that my days of seeing angels were numbered. Being a nine-year-old, I didn’t worry at all. I was confident in having at least a decade to figure out why I could see the winged beings. I now realize how unmindful I’d been.
Turning nineteen isn’t particularly stressful for many. Yet, each week, my visions get more debilitated, my eye color gets darker, and the number of angels I see is dwindling. Some days, I don’t see them anywhere - none on the streets, in restaurants, in my college. I’m starting to break down. I can’t remember the last time I witnessed an angel, now that I’m reflecting on it. What I do know is if I don’t accomplish my goal within the next few weeks, I’ll live the rest of my life questioning, wondering what I missed out on discovering.
The day feels...unblemished. Sunlight beams across every corner of Orono, leaving me with a sense of cheerfulness. Finally, summer has arrived. I take slow strides, drawing in the warm June air. Not a speckle of clouds are out today. Lots of people are walking their dogs, and there’s a long line at the Dairy Queen. I’ve never been a fan of ice cream.
As I step into downtown, reality settles in. Again there are no angels in sight and I begin to feel like all of this is incoherent. Right when I believe I’m getting somewhere with the angels and what they mean, they disappear. Then again, could their vanishing symbolize something too?
I’m taking theology and, boy, am I glad I decided to. It’s proven to be a key aid in my studies of angelic events. I was never taught about religions as a child, which led to me never having much fascination in it, initially. But after finding out how fluently religions and mythology connect to my visions, I never miss a single class.
Most Christians know about God’s messengers, angels that are explained to be “there but unseen”, and “between heaven and Earth”. Buddhism has devas, winged forces of nature that watch over earthbound beings and approve of those practicing meditation. Though, one main thing that stands out to me is how in all of the religions we’ve covered, angels seem to occupy a kind of astral plane. They visit Earth from that location, primarily to contact humans. Isn’t heaven very much like an astral plane?
I mosey into theology at the same time as approximately 15 other students. I haven’t tried making too many friends in this class, yet I get invited to pubs and movies all the time. I think they like me because of how quiet I am.
“Enjoying the heat?” Professor Copeland says, walking into class. He grabs an Expo marker off his counter and starts writing today’s agenda.
“You better appreciate it while it lasts. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow.”
We didn’t accomplish anything important this time, just went over the simple story of David and Goliath.
I usually go down to the undergraduate library during lunch. Whenever I go, I always find a new area to hide. It’s like a small labyrinth of stories and other quiet people, similar to me.
I journey through the place looking for a seat. It’s packed today. I turn haphazardly, searching aimlessly for a place to sit. Eventually I make my way to the back, rounding one last corner.
For a moment, my awareness of what surrounds me is eradicated.
I see it.
I see her.
Her motionless back and aurous wings, slightly bigger than ones of an albatross, display folded before me. She bears a gown, pigmented with sapphire beads partly covered by her broad, amber curls. This is the first time in countless weeks that I’ve witnessed an angel. I step back, trying to stay calm. Breathe. This is my chance. I will not waste it.
Cautiously, I step forward. My hand extends practically on its own. I was never courageous enough to touch an angel, to make sure they are really here, in physical form. Now that I’m 90% sure this is the last of them I will ever see, I must ask her what happened to my grandfather. I must hold her here until I get some answers. I start to move a bit faster.
Standing behind her, I reach for the right wing. Please be real, I think to myself. At last, I place my fingers onto the tip of her feathers.
A shock, or rather, surge of crashing and indecipherable modulation washes over me. I feel as if I’m vibrating from head to toe. Yet through this entire phenomenon, I can still catch sight of the angel. As Earth itself seems to be succumbing to darkness, I watch her turn. She faces me, eyes wild though remarkably placid.
That was the last thing I saw before my conception of reality altered entirely.
First, there was nothing. Absolute emptiness. I felt confused.
Is this a vision, or a dream? I questioned. I was standing, but immobile. The space around me, which seemed to span for infinity, was pitch-black. There was a sense of aloneness .
Until the angels arrived.
Hundreds of them flocking in a group, entering from the corner of my eye. I recognized some of them. They were going somewhere; I was was sure of it. But where? The encompassing area was only darkness.
Their wings flapped effortlessly at a leisurely pace, as if they were in slow-motion. It was incredible. I observed them in awe as they disappeared over a non-existing horizon.
It didn’t take me long to notice they were each carrying something. Initially, I couldn’t make out what it was they were holding so carefully. It looked like pure fluorescence, glowing blue. Then it came to me.
They were people. Or really, figments of people. On the day my grandfather was lifted by an angel, his physical body wasn’t the one getting taken. It was a version of his body, like his spirit. The angels are taking the spirits someplace.
I was ecstatic to have found out what the angels do. I was happy they meant something, that they had a purpose. Still, I needed answers. Where do the angels take the spirits? Why do they need spirits in the first place?
Instantaneously, I see a crack in the infinite darkness - a white light. It consumes everything, including the angels, and it comes to me, an answer whispered in the flutter of the angels’ wings: the spirits are the matter that feeds the universe. We are stardust. We are creation, itself.
Breathe, I tell myself as I load another body into the hearse. I never see a winged being again, but sometimes I can feel them as I work in the morgue, preparing the earthly bodies for the grave. I know they are there, lifting.