I was a little frustrated. After all, from most of the Bible stories I read as a kid, when angels came bringing 'tidings' of any kind, it was typically good news. I was pretty sure Abraham's wife was told about having a child. Mary was told about Jesus, too. But when Frank Garland gets a message from an angel, it has nothing to do with buns in the oven. It's always bad news.
"There is darkness ahead," Jahaziel said with my voice, and despite the ominous words, my face - which he was rudely using without permission, I might add - remained placid. "Things that were never meant to be undone will fall into discord. Innocence will be crushed. Peace will be vanquished. All that you know and hold dear will be shattered."
'That sounds just dandy,' I sent to him, my thoughts dripping with bitterness. 'You are aware that I just woke up. Couldn't you wait a few hours before dropping the whole "End Times" pep talk onto me?'
"The world will withstand this assault, Frank Garland." The silver eyes in my head dimmed, troubled. "It is you that will not."
The tingling sensation and haziness ebbed, and as I looked in the mirror I saw that the silver irises had returned to their natural brown. I stared at my reflection, and felt the tingling subside. I swallowed hard, and finished shaving.
As I dressed, I considered Jahaziel's words. When it comes to prophecy, angels are pretty much the gold standard. The problem is, of course, that angels - like God, I suppose - work on a different time table than we do. What is soon to come for them might be not days, but years or even centuries to humans. There did seem to be a distinct air of urgency this time around, and I felt the tingle of nervousness creep into my brain. I'd seen some strange things since being chosen by the angel as a vessel, but it hadn't cured my fear of death and pain.
My thoughts were broken by the scent of something burning, and it was at that moment that I stood, my shirt untucked and my belt unbuckled, and remembered what was going on in the kitchen.
I've never read an accurate description of Omaha Beach one day after the Invasion. I've never considered what the locker room of a championship team might look like hours after the celebration. I haven't bothered pondering what is left over in an operating room mere moments after an invasive and bloody surgery.
I was fairly certain, however, that none of these places were as messy as my kitchen.
The garbage can was overflowing, as was the sink. There was a tangy scent in the air, not unpleasant yet somehow not appetizing at the same time. The smoke alarm was hanging open, and to my relief someone had removed the battery. The freezer door hung open, and the lower drawer was pulled out. Something was cooking on the stovetop, and grease hissed and spat.
Standing in the midst of all of this was a massive creature that, from behind, could be best described as a mountain of orange fur.
Abner was muttering softly under his breath in his unintelligible language, and in his huge hand was a copy of 'The Joy of Cooking'. As the carnage baked and fried around him, he was alternating his quite intense gaze between the pictures in the book and the concoctions that he had begun creating. The image in the book appeared to be some kind of quiche. I glanced in the oven and saw an undercooked casserole. In the skillet, there appeared to be a full honey ham.
"Abner, what in the world..." I stopped myself and shook my head bitterly. "Brax!"
The stout little creature bellowed from the living room. "Eez heez chob, not mine! I tell heem to jost tyake it eazy, but he want to myake you goor-may breakfast." Brax sounded very irritable. "Eez heez chob!"
Abner, meanwhile, was looking at me pitifully. His face was like a strange breed of gorilla and unicorn, with a stiff, single horn protruding from his forehead. His eyes glowed somberly. Unlike Brax, Abner hadn't mastered speaking my language, though he seemed more than capable of reading and understanding it.
"It's fine, Ab, it's fine." I patted his massive arm gently, feeling the springy fur between my fingers. "But Brax is right. You aren't a gourmet chef. You could have just made me a bowl of oatmeal. Instant oatmeal," I added hastily.
The behemoth made a grumbling noise in the back of his throat and hung his head. His mournful eyes looked at his culinary failure and he let out a soft, sincere snort. I smiled. Of all of my roommates, Abner was the easiest to get along with. In many ways, he was as innocent as a child and as loyal as a dog. His massive size and frightening features might always scare away anyone that didn't know how peaceful he truly was. Despite my irritation with what he had done, I couldn't find myself staying angry with him.
"I'll grab something to eat at work, it's not a big deal," I assured him. Abner only nodded. "In the meantime, just clean this up. We'll work on cooking together, okay?"
Abner's features brightened at the prospect of being allowed to cook again, even if it meant probation. But he looked at the mess before him dubiously, and offered me a raised eyebrow.
"I'm sure Brax will help you," I whispered.
"Eez heez chob!" Brax shouted. I often forgot how keen his sense of hearing was. Abner grinned sheepishly, exposing a row of sharklike teeth.
"Well, SOMEONE will help you, I'm sure," I replied, rolling my eyes. "I have to go to work. No more cooking without me, okay?"
Abner nodded and gave me a thumbs up.