Portions of this story have been published previously in Possibilities magazine.
The other part of him looked up, and out of the office window to Sullivan Street, where his office had been for 15 years. "Why is the sky turning purple?" he asked no one in particular, in a whisper. It was extremely bright outside, and yes, the sky was purple. It looked perfectly normal to him, but to the other part of him, it constituted something radically different, something portentous. He moved toward the window to get a better look. He noticed, as if for the first time, the row of sentimental nicknacks on the window sill. The little bell, the candle holders, and the tiny ceramic animals. His brow furrowed at this further strangeness, for he could truly not remember ever seeing those things before. Outside, the street was lit with a yellow glow, and the sky was a definite purple; not a grey with a purple cast, but a bright purple. He considered that it might be the result of some kind of Christmas promotion or celebration, and tried to let it go, but it just didn't settle. There was something odd about tonight, he just knew it. He still had a quizzical look on his face as he shut his briefcase, put his coat on and tied its belt around his waist. He liked that cinched down feeling, that secure feeling of protection from the elements, and whatever else might be threatening out there, in life. He thought again of the drive home, of the rows of Christmas lights on the houses, the families gathered around eating or exchanging presents. He felt pretty good, but he still wondered where that ceramic squirrel pen holder had come from. For the life of him, he just couldn't remember ever having seen it before. Shrugging, he turned out the lights, and opened the door. That's when he saw the angel, and it all began to make sense.
"Hi," she said, "Have you been waiting long?"
"Waiting for what?"
"Me. I just got here, and you opened the door. Were you expecting me?"
"No," he said, "I was just going home. To my family." He looked at her, wondering why this didn't seem unusual.
The angel looked softly at him.
"I see," she said. "Are you sure about that?"
"Well, yes," he said, "It's Christmas Eve, isn't it?"
"Yes, and a fine night to be at the office working your heart out, isn't it?"
"Well I've got lots of work to do, you know. And I'll get there tonight in time to open the presents with the kids and I'll take the whole day off tomorrow." This said only slightly defensively.
"We've got to talk," she said. And took his hand, his gloved hand, in hers, and led him down the snow covered sidewalk of Sullivan Street. It was very quiet, he thought, no sirens or busses. The snow crunched under his feet. It felt like the power had gone off, but there was still light everywhere. He looked around, breathed in, enjoying the night. And then there was this odd woman, with whom he felt so comfortable. He could wait a few minutes before he went home.
"Aren't you cold?" he asked her. She had on a hooded sweatshirt and black jeans. He felt overdressed in his heavy suit and overcoat. Lugging the briefcase which suddenly seemed ridiculous.
"Do you really need to carry all that around with you?" she asked. "What do you have in there that you need?" She paused. "On Christmas Eve?"
"Well, there's contracts to be gone over. And technical things that have to do with utility regulation and construction."
"Oh," she said, and smiled. She was patronizing him, much as his wife did when they argued, about his work. Making fun of him, and his very important work. His usual defense was his substantial income. But now he didn't mind. He saw it from her point of view.
"It really is stupid, isn't it?" He laughed, pulling up his briefcase and shaking it around.
She squeezed his hand and asked him, "What would you really like to do?"
He barely heard her, because he was concentrating on the street. It wasn't the same as it had been earlier that day, or ever before. It had gotten steep, and dark, and there was a black canal down at the end of it, that had never been there before. Snow fell softly into the water. Streetlights from the other side reflected in the almost motionless water.
He stopped, and put down his briefcase, and turned toward her. "Where are we?" he asked, suddenly frightened. He looked from side to side like an animal in a corner. "Who are you?" He took a step back. A roar like that of a jet fighter shook the town; the street itself rumbled beneath his feet. He looked at his briefcase sitting on the sidewalk; there in the snow it was suddenly part of some equation that he felt he had seen and known the answer to, before.
"My briefcase." He whispered. He looked at her again. "What's going on?"
"Remember?" she said.
She took his hand, spread the fingers apart and turned it palm up. A few snowflakes settled on his hand, but didn't melt.
"This line here, you see, ends right here." She poked at a particular spot on his hand, and then waved it around the place where they stood, as if they indicated the same spot. She nodded. "Right here." "Right here."
Another series of roars shook the air, and the buildings. As if matter itself was rippling, shredding.
"I see," he said. "That's it, then."
"In a certain way. C'mon." She grabbed him by the wrist, like she would have a little boy, and started down the street, toward the black water.
"Wait," he said, hesitating, pulling back. "I want to see my family. That's what I was missing. Am missing. "
"No," she said forcefully, pulling on his hand.
He stumbled a few steps after her, then planted his feet and jerked his hand away. "Wait a minute. I want to go there. I don't want to go with you. Not yet."
He turned around and started back up the street., not knowing how to get back home.
"You won't make it without me," she said. "You're making a mistake. Another mistake."
He turned around, smiling, still walking. "That's how we learn," he said. As an afterthought, he added, "It's cold. Maybe I'll see you again?"
"Count on it." She crossed her arms. "Chump."
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