Halo Chapter Eight


Chapter Eight – Phantom

Bethany wakes up very hungover, and the remorse starts to sink in. She’s primarily embarrassed at being seen by Xavier in such a state, but when she hears Ivy and Gabriel talking downstairs she switches to feeling guilty about letting them down. She assumes that they might even have to move immediately to somewhere else. She goes downstairs to face the music.

“How are you feeling?” (Ivy) asked. She sounded neither angry nor disappointed, and that confused me.

Gabriel turned to look at me, his eyes the colour of thunder. But in them I saw only his deep affection for me.
“There’s no need to fret, Bethany,” he said with his usual composure. “Now that we’re human we’re bound to make some mistakes.”

Pray tell: how can anything be the colour of a sound? And this is all very nice, but you aren’t human. You have human forms, but that doesn’t mean you’re human.

Gabriel mixes her up a hangover cure, and Bethany says that she realised later that Ivy could have just healed her hangover, but that they were probably trying to teach her a lesson. The lesson: don’t drink vodka cocktails.

Now, apparently the angels favour a very low-tech setup. They have only a landline phone, no mobile, television or computer. The reason for this?

We thought of technology as a sort of corrupting influence, promoting antisocial behaviour and detracting from family values.

Your thoughts, Captain?

Quite.

And Gabriel hates TV especially, because he saw a reality show and was disgusted by the cruelty and manipulation. OK, so reality shows can be terrible, but they aren’t the only thing on TV, you know. There can be interesting, or inspiring, or informative things on show, and no one’s making you watch the other stuff. It’s not the medium of television itself that’s bad, it’s the mindset that gets amusement from others’ suffering. Trying to change that would be the kind of thing you’d expect an angel to be involved in – if they weren’t so busy doing nothing, that is.

They spend the afternoon ‘lazing on the deck’ reading, reflecting, and playing Scrabble. Isn’t Sloth one of the Deadly Sins? Beth eats some fruit and muses on how the sun looks really bright – you know, important plot stuff. Then Ivy comes in with a newspaper. She’s upset because the lead story is about a bombing in the Middle East where a lot of people have died.

“You know what this means, don’t you?”
“Our Agents over there aren’t doing their job properly?” My voice sounded shaky.
“Can’t do their job properly,” Ivy corrected.
“What could be stopping them?” I asked.
“The forces of darkness are overpowering the forces of light,” Gabriel said gravely. “It’s happening more and more.”

Probably because, if you lot are any judge, the angels in those places have been sitting on their hands while the forces of darkness run amok. Bethany wants to know if there’s anything they can do, but Gabriel says that they can’t abandon their post.

Then they send Bethany out into town to get some groceries. Outside the post office she notices two women and a dog. They are putting a notice up in the window offering the dog to a good home. The older woman, Alice, is moving into a rest home and unable to take the dog. While the younger woman goes into the shop, Bethany goes over to talk to her. Alice isn’t happy about having to leave the dog, and she’s worried about what will happen to him.

As Phantom butted his spongy nose against my hand, I was struck by an idea. Perhaps this meeting was Providence offering me an opportunity to make amends for my recent lack of responsibility. Wasn’t this what I was supposed to be doing after all – making a difference to people wherever I could rather than focusing on my own egotistical obsessions?

Why yes, that’s exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. Adopting the dog is making a very small difference, really the least you could do for this old lady. Anyway, the dog instantly loves her, so that’s ok. She takes Phantom home and Ivy and Gabriel agree that they can keep him, and everyone’s happy.

Then there is a knock at the front door.

Next chapter, the White Knight returns.

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