Turning 15 is a frustrating time in a young girl's life. You've already gone through your Bat Mitzvah, but you're one year shy of being old enough to drive. You're on the bottom of the barrel in terms of high school hierarchy, beginning fresh in high school. Boys suddenly become aware that yes! you are of the opposite gender and that might just mean that you are available to date. Too young to be just a kid any more yet not quite old enough to even try anything remotely adult; Miriam Navis is de
Prolouge: The Annunciation
My name is Miriam Navis. I am fifteen years old and a freshman in high school. I will admit, I’m a bit of a nerd. I love to read, and I know a lot of useless things. I’m a bit tall for my age, kind of boyish, and I’m not beautiful by any stretch of the imagination. I’m afraid of small dogs, but not big ones. I hate novels about vampires. I’ve always been a bit of an agnostic. My favorite color is salmon, I love Ramen noodles, and I’m carrying the antichrist.
Confused? Don’t worry, so was I.
To be honest, I was leaning more towards atheism at the time this all happened. I think I called myself ‘agnostic’ and unsure more for my parents’ sake. If they had known that I didn’t believe in God… well, my doubt was more than enough to disappoint them. Even then, we weren’t Christian. My parents are Jewish, though a bit relaxed in their practice of it. I think the years of trying to force me to go to the synagogue after my Bat Mitzvah wore them out. I figured my duty to the Temple was done once I went through all that hoopla, and my parents could never muster up the courage to force me.
So when I came home and that woman was seated on my bed, my first thought was not of angels. It wasn’t like she was all glowy with some heavenly choir playing on repeat behind her head. She seemed… particularly normal, actually. Frankly, I thought my parents had finally cracked and got me some kind of private psychiatrist or guidance counselor of some sort. I knew she couldn’t be a tutor- no matter what my behavioral deficiencies were I was not a bad student. As stereotypical as it was, I also knew she was way too pretty to be a tutor. Her hair was buttermilk blonde, with a touch of dusty brown at the roots. It fell down to her ribs in waves that weren’t quite ringlets, but were too twisty to be curls. It swayed slightly in the breeze, even though all of my windows were shut and the day had been particularly hot and stagnant.
“Miriam,” she had said; her voice breathy and calm, “I’ve been expecting you.”
I stood in the doorway, not sure whether or not I should go in. Her impossibly blue eyes were as warm and inviting as the smile that was stretching pleasantly across her face, and she sure didn’t seem dangerous. Then again, neither did fudgesicles, and everyone knows how dangerous those are to a woman’s waistline.
“What have you been expecting me to do, exactly?” I asked hesitantly. My feet didn’t seem to want to budge from where they had stuck, frozen at the threshold of my own bedroom. I’ve never been an impractical girl- just because someone beautiful and practically sparkling was sitting in my room smiling their heads off didn’t mean that they had come in my best interest. I could imagine my parents, huddled at the bottom landing of our staircase, waiting to see how this woman would fare against me. What with her air of familiarity and knowing my name I could only assume that it had been they who sent her- how else could she have gotten in? My mind fought wildly to remember whether or not the door had been unlocked when I had come home. Had I had to use my key, like I did every day? Staring at the strange woman, my head was becoming more and more fuzzy. As if nothing else mattered but her being there. I crossed my arms, trying to fight the growing feeling that I already knew why she was here. It was an unmistakable, sickening feeling- like trying to remember something that hadn’t happened yet. My mouth felt dry, and my eyes watery. It was all so confusing. All this for a counselor?
The strange woman laughed dismissively, shaking her massive head of hair with a sound that sounded eerily like the faint tinkling of bells.
“Sit with me, Miriam,” she said, her perfect eyes boring so hard into my own that I could swear she was looking at the back of my brain. It didn’t sound like a command, per say, but more like an unwritten law. When she asked me to sit with her, it was as if my entire life had been building to this moment. Everything I had ever done in life was done in order to sit with this woman. Sounds crazy, right? That’s what I told myself as my frozen feet suddenly unstuck themselves and shuffled towards her. So many questions were bubbling up to the surface of my brain, but one look at her silenced all of them. I found myself lowering myself to the ground by her feet, my head resting against my bed at the level of her knees. I couldn’t bring myself to sit beside her. So I stared at her knees, while I could feel her staring at the top of my head.
“Do you know why I’ve come, Miriam?” she said. It wasn’t a question that was to be answered. It was one of those questions that just hang there, in the air. One of those things that have to be asked because that’s just the way things go. I shook my head, dutifully, ramming my head ever so slightly into the edge of my bed. If this was some kind of dream-hallucination, I wanted to wake up.
“You have been chosen, child, to bear The Man of the Earth, Son of the Morning, the Willful King, who is the Prince That Shall Come,” she announced tranquilly.
My mouth gaped like a dying fish, as I looked up into her beautiful face with shock.
“I am to bear…the Messiah?”
The words sounded foolish coming out of my mouth. Childish and stupid, even. Me, bear the Ruler of Israel? I felt like I was part of some cruel Nativity play. The woman laughed again, shaking her head again with blissful glee.
“Of course not. History does not repeat itself that perfectly, my dear one. No, Miriam. It is your fate that you will raise the Beast, the King of Babylon, who is known to our Father as the Man of Sin, Son of Perdition,” she clarified, just as peacefully.
“None of that sounds good,” I hazarded. I looked up at her from my seated position on the floor, and saw her just shrug.
“In fact,” I continued, the haziness in my mind lifting ever so slightly, “None of this sounds real. How the heck am I supposed to ‘bear’ anything? Contrary to what my father may think, I’m still a virgin. Not by choice, mind you.”
The woman’s mouth pursed, as if she wasn’t surprised but equally not amused.
“Furthermore,” I stammered on, “who are you to be waving these silly titles about? If this is some kind of religious pep talk about how my life could be so much worse and is somehow supposed to turn me back to the Torah, I’m not into the whole radical approach.”
“Your willfulness does not change facts, Miriam,” she pointed out.
“What ‘facts’?” I steamed, shifting to a kneeling position. I was still below her, but I was higher now. I was beginning to think clearly again, though I couldn’t put my finger on why I couldn’t think clearly before.
“You barge into my room, making some general statements about who and what I’m going to bear while saying my name every five seconds and you expect me to what? Be grateful? Immediately know what you mean?”
This seemed to be getting to her, finally. Her prim and proper face was knotting up in what seemed like fierce concentration.
“You are a woman of faith, are you not? You have been learned in the Word of God?” she murmured concernedly.
“If you wanted me to recite Torah to you, lady, you’re about three years too late. All of that went out the window about a month after my Mitzvah,” I spat, standing on my feet now. Standing, the woman was at eye level with my neck. She was glancing about wildly, muttering to herself in some language that I did not understand. I wasn’t good with languages. I barely had a handle on rudimentary Hebrew, much less anything else.
“I was… ill-informed of your current position,” she admitted, faltering for the briefest of moments. She seemed to win some kind of battle with herself, however, and stood to meet my growing challenge.
“No matter,” she pushed on, “We’ll just have to start from the beginning.”
She held out a hand, delicately boned and perfectly manicured on every slender finger.
“I am the Angel Gabriel,” she smiled pleasantly, “It is nice to meet your acquaintance, Miriam Navis.”
I stared at the hand, then to her smile, then back to her hand again.
“The angel Gabriel?” I croaked after a couple of false starts, “Destroyer of Sodom and Gomorrah? Angel of revelation, things like that?”
And the strange woman blushed.
“Stories of my feats have been strongly exaggerated. I am merely a messenger, Daughter of Eve. You have nothing to fear from me.”
Her hand remained outstretched to me, though I refused to take it.
“You expect me to believe that you’re an angel? That an angel of Yaweh thought it would be a good idea to be hanging out in my bedroom?” I looked down at my own hands, and found that they were shaking. For what? For fear of her? Was I shaking in anger? My whole body seemed to be screaming something at me, something that my mind was a bit slow on the uptake in believing.
“I expect the Will of God to be done regardless of what you believe, Miriam,” the self-proclaimed angel replied noncommittally, with another of the slightest of shrugs, “and His Will dictates that you be with child. As of now.”
Without warning, she stretched her hand further towards me, touching my stomach with her first two fingers as light as feathers. Immediately I felt the need to vomit- what felt like the biggest sucker punch had been dealt to my innards, and I instinctually clutched at my stomach. The skin beneath my hands crawled, like it was infested with worms, and glowed a soft golden yellow. I stared up at Gabriel with what must have seemed like murder in my eyes.
“What did you do to me?” I cried, my voice a strangled whisper.
“I did as the Lord commanded. The Nameless One has been placed within your womb,” she explained as if she was telling me the day’s assignments from class.
“The what has what? I’ve been through sex ed, lady, and the only way anything gets placed in anyone’s womb is through sex or disease, neither of which I’ve had,” I protested weakly.
“God needs not follow the laws of Man. What He creates, He can also break,” she intoned, refusing to meet my eyes. I could feel a warmth pulsing within my belly now. My skin had settled, but it hadn’t finished glowing. I looked up at Gabriel with wild, searching eyes and flung my arms around her knees as I fell to the ground.
“You can’t just leave me here like this. I don’t understand. What have you done to me? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?” I screeched.
“The End of Days is near. The antichrist must rise, for the true good to be separated from the true evil,” she explained lamely.
“What kind of angel are you?” I spat back, throwing myself from her as if she was poisonous, “What gives you the right to barge into my life, screw up my body and then just walk out as if it doesn’t matter?” I cried.
Nothing was making sense. Angels weren’t real. This wasn’t real. But as I doubled over in pain on the floor I knew without a doubt that what was happening was real. Something- call it life, call it a parasite, call it magic- was growing in my belly. It was pulsating in my blood in a bad way.
“What am I supposed to do?” I whispered up at her.
“Raise the Antichrist, Miriam Navis. Bring a kind of pain into this world that mankind has never known before. Burn the weeds to save the harvest,” she announced. It all sounded like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo rhetoric, the kind that I sometimes heard when flipping through the channels on my TV late at night, when all of the evangelicals-for-money were on.
She bent down suddenly, making an awkward genuflect in front of my writhing body. Her face reflected an emotion that I had never seen before. It was like… a pitying reverence, like the kind of face that I’d imagine people would make when hearing of the death of a martyr. In one swift movement, she placed her thin hand over my heart, and kissed a mark into my forehead. It both burned and soothed, where she had placed her lips, and I barely had time to register the feeling of it before she vanished. It wasn’t a flashy exit, with any loud noises or flashing lights. She had just… been there. And then she wasn’t. Not even an outline of her form remained. All that stayed as evidence of her visit was the pain deep within my stomach, and the echo of her last words ringing in my ears as the room around me faded into a sweet blackness:
“Give them something to believe in again, Bitter Vessel. Give them the darkness of Truth.”