This is for the Bad News Blogfest, and I thought, just for once, that I might try something that isn't designed as out and out comedy. Mostly because my YA Brian Northington novel (31 000 words and counting) is swallowing all the good jokes. Still:
Zack shuffled along, the worn leather of shoes taken from the dead hardly more than paper now against the road. Still at least they went with the suit, though not with the spill of blond hair down past his shoulders. The weight of the sandwich board at his neck was a constant, a certainty in a world that had lost them in one simple, single moment.
He stood outside a small café, the sort of place that had people eating outside in defiance of all expectations of the British weather. Currently, the only two doing so were a delicate looking young woman and her boyfriend, a muscular young man who was looking at Zack with increasing anger. Zack wasn’t sure why. It wasn’t like he had said anything. He never said anything at times like this.
The chalked message on the board was clear enough.
The young man rose from his seat, jabbing a finger towards Zack in a way that made it clear that he wasn’t at all happy.
‘God, I hate idiots like you. “The end is nigh”. You religious types, banging on about the end of the world. It’s getting so you can’t go out without someone telling you to repent. Some of us don’t have anything to repent for, mate.’
Zack gave a solemn smile. ‘I am happy for you.’
If anything, that seemed to make him angrier. ‘All right. You think the end of the world is coming. When? Tell me that, so I can have a good laugh when we’re still here.’
‘It is uncertain,’ Zack hedged.
That got a short laugh. ‘Oh, I thought it might be. It always is.’
‘It could be Tuesday evening. It could be Wednesday morning. It is hard to be more precise than-’
The punch wasn’t really that hard, but it did succeed in knocking Zack over. It is hard enough to keep upright wearing a sandwich board even when someone isn’t hitting you in the face, after all. While Zack lay on his back like an overturned turtle, his attacker stalked off, shouting something to his girlfriend about finding somewhere better to eat.
She didn’t follow immediately. Instead, she knelt by Zack, helping him to struggle out from the contraption around his neck and back to his feet.
‘Thank you,’ Zack said.
‘Yeah… um… I’m sorry about Edward.’
‘So am I.’
‘Um…’ the silence had an awkward quality Zack had heard more than a few times before, ‘really Tuesday night?’
Zack sighed. He closed his eyes briefly, calling. Light spun around him, weaving into two wings at his back, an aurora around his features. When he opened his eyes again, he saw with the ache of the years after the second Fall. He saw every sin, every hope. He knew that, as the young woman looked into the infinity behind those eyes, she saw too.
‘Yes,’ Zackiel said, as gently as he could, ‘really.’