Wingless -- fiction by Asher Lytton
In Elisha Abuyarsky’s heaven, the angel Gavriel has no wings. One day, with a small paper file tucked beneath his arm, he knocked timidly at the great golden door.
“Almighty?” Gavriel paused awkwardly for a response. None came. “I have acquired the file you asked for.” Again, a lengthy pause roared in the hall. Gavriel arranged his suit, tucked a lock of dark hair behind his ear, and waited. He tried the golden knocker once more, with what he hoped was more force. Nothing.
“Alright then, God. Let it be as you will, I will, once again, not see you.” Gavriel sighed. “I’ll slip the file under your door.”
Gavriel examined the papers in his hand briefly.
“Let me just say, I’m very concerned about how long you’ve been silent,” Gavriel continued, summoning courage into his voice.
The sound of Gavriel closing his folder brushed against the prolonged silence. He crouched down and slipped the file beneath the door, before returning resignedly to his own office.
The file he had retrieved was a plain cream colored folder, defined simply with two printed words: Elisha Abuyarsky.
Elisha Abuyarsky yanked at his steering wheel, and his windshield wipers responded. They slashed at the rain more quickly, pushing walls of water this way and that across his windshield. Like shifting borders, the waters and wipers pushed back and forth, falling into familiar patterns of conflict. Each clash of this war echoed in Elisha’s car, drowning the forgotten sound of music that drifted unheard from his radio. He squinted through the parting waters at the vague outlines of other cars racing by on the highway.
The night stars cackled at Elisha's weary, struggling eyes, reinforcing his mistake; homeward bound far past midnight, he had promised himself he would be home by nine. Drunk on more than nighttime, he pressed his foot into the accelerator. The car skidded, through rain, wind, and light, into still more lonely highway. Occasionally, he passed a truck.
He remembered, hours before, knocking confidently and burying his nerves, and Shira had let him in. They had walked up to her room, hand in hand.
He loved her, he really did. She enchanted him. The optimism in her eyes had drawn him in the first time they met, and those eyes were what kept drawing him back, evening after evening. She was his last tether to the world of worship, for she had become an obsession and a secret refuge from his own home.
He could not tell his parents because they already bemoaned the necessity of his attending a co-ed school just to receive a Jewish education in the small town where they lived. If they found out about Shira, he feared they would drop everything and move to a bigger community where they could fully submerge him.
In Elisha’s heaven, behind God’s golden door, the room had transformed since the last time Gavriel had stepped inside. Steel pipes ran under and buckled majestic tiles. The pillars of God’s throne room sprouted gears and tubes, and the great throne of the almighty that still glittered lapis lazuli was tipped sideways and shrouded by a jungle of soaring smoke stacks and sinuous pipes. Smoke puffed unabated from vents into the room, accumulating as a dark smoggy haze that obscured the once unobservable glow that no longer dominated its throne room. God’s sleeping body lay strapped, in all its glory, to its throne, and snaking hoses fed its energy into the racketing, sputtering machinery.
A large, greasy, automated claw reached down from the gear upon which it perched, and grasped Elisha Abuyarsky’s folder from where it lay beside the door.
Elisha couldn’t understand how such a promising evening had turned on its head. One moment Shira’s head had rested on his shoulder as the events of their days had mixed in the room. He had complained about his learning, his parents, and his teachers. They had bounced wild fantasies of flight and confrontation into the air and watched them skip, dance, and burst in yearning. Their words had colored the ceiling with the fleeting vibrancy of paints mixing on the palette in the moment that they are washed away. Tension had briefly eased. Yet the very next moment it had all dispersed into grays as she asked once again to meet his parents for Friday night dinner. He had tried to explain, in the thickening atmosphere of frustration, the impossibility of it all. After all, his parents didn’t know of her existence. They thought learning occupied him every night, and they waited patiently for their son’s heretical streak to pass. But Shira didn’t understand living in his house. He had tried to explain over and over the immobility, the descending cloud of conditionality, and his own panic, to no avail. Elisha’s family was to her, a specter — a cloud of demons, whose complete control over his life was dispersible by reality and love.
Elisha had fled the house with Shira’s call on his heels.
Up in Elisha’s heaven, the gears of life turned relentlessly. Billions of tiny marbles, each inscribed with a unique name, rolled about, zipping this way and that, and gears, levers, and ramps hurled these marbles into the air. Often colliding with each other, they rolled, crashed, and eventually slowed to a crawl or shattered with a bang. Elisha Abuyarsky’s marble sped down a track, as the mechanical claw turned its wheel, and the machinery of life turned cruelly forward.
Elisha Abuyarsky had gone straight from Shira’s house to the closest bar. Along the way, he had tucked his twisted earlocks awkwardly up into a baseball cap and retrieved a fake ID from his backpack.
The chaos of the bar had calmed Elisha, and settling into a corner, he had scolded himself for ever thinking happiness was within reach of his parents’ house. The alcohol had soothed him, although not as much as the people-watching.
Every type of person imaginable had seemed reflected in the faces of the handful of patrons, and that was why Elisha had loved it. It had seemed to teem with weirdos, and the pale, mute, love-sick Jewish teen in the corner had attracted no attention. People with tattoos, people who smoked more than cigarettes, people who laughed loudly, people with green hair, and people with red hair had danced and swayed through the confusion and music around him. Elisha had savored the moments as a stranger. There were things worse in the world than strangeness.
Two hours later, Elisha, not exactly sober, had left the bar.
Shira regretted what she had said. Or at least she forgave Elisha for what he had said. Sitting on her bed, criss-cross applesauce, she stared at the star on her necklace. She closed her eyes and wished that, if there was a God out there, he would communicate the feelings within her to Elisha.
In the throne room of Elisha Abuyarsky’s God, steam belched, and somewhere on earth a plague brewed.
Little Solomon Abuyarsky woke with a start. In a sweat, he sat up in bed and turned on his bedside lamp. Squinting in the bright light, he saw his older brother’s empty bed and, concerned, checked the clock to confirm the late hour. He yawned. Rubbing his eyes, he rose from bed, pulled a nightshirt over his scrawny ribs, and retrieved his prayer book. Then, swaying on his bed, he opened the book and began to pray. He only knew a few of the words for a few of the prayers, but those words he repeated with sincerity. He pictured God’s smiling face something like his teacher’s, or maybe his father’s. The face comforted him and steadied his heart. Then, he got up to pee.
In little Solomon Abuyarsky’s heaven, the winged angel Gavriel received a prayer. He read it quickly: “Solomon Abuyarsky has submitted one prayer. He wishes for a better world. One for himself and one for his brother.”
Gavriel approached God’s door and entered.
On his brilliant throne, God answered Gavriel’s questioning look, “For him I can do much. For his brother, I can do nothing.”
From behind the wheel of his eighteen wheeler, while trying to reconnect his phone's bluetooth, Harper Mulligan saw the car in front of him wobbling.
“Damn drunk drivers.”
On the dark highway, Elisha processed the silhouette of the deer before he saw it. It breathed and felt and lived, and as Elisha’s dark eyes peered at it, he felt small and knew it deserved to live. It stood, frozen in the road, its regal head rigid with fear. As he muttered the words of Shma under his breath, slammed the brakes, and spun one hundred and eighty uncontrolled degrees to a stop before the majestic animal, the headlights of a slow-braking eighteen wheeler briefly illuminated him.
In Elisha’s mechanical heaven, the marble labeled Elisha Abuyarsky collided with that of Harper Mulligan.
Elisha wore no seat belt. His body flew through the windshield in a storm of flying glass. He soared toward heaven and stretched to kiss it, but rain drove his body downwards. Elisha dropped from his flight into the hard asphalt. His body broke bloody.
Harper Mulligan leapt from his truck.
“Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck.”
He stood, framed by his own lights, in the road.
“Mom, I’m going to have to call you back.”
He knelt gingerly beside the body.
“Oh, dear God above.”
Wandering out of his junior year of high school in Atlanta, Georgia, Asher Lytton spends his time between meals editing his school newspaper, reading classic literature like Calvin and Hobbes, and falling down internet rabbit holes about everything from urban planning to dolphin language. In his writing, he draws on authors like Gabriel Garcia Marquez and S.Y. Agnon, classical Rabbinic texts, and his frenetic, aimless high school world. He fantasies about one day publishing a book and/or being a park ranger.