Sunday, August 10, 2014

Heaven Sent

Heaven Sent

*Story contains M/M relations and violent situations*

Lights flashed past, sound came at him in unintelligible whooshes; faded, rose, faded again. And then the pain hit him – so intense it made him scream out loud and arch his back. He searched out the source of it, the heat, the furious agony, and made it all the way down to his legs before his mind shut the progression down. “No,” it told him. “We aren’t ready to go there yet.” For some reason, that thought seemed more terrifying than the ache.

Then he was moved. Someone, somewhere, for reasons unknown, dared to move his body, and the shriek that left his mouth surprised even him. Washes, waves, liquid fire and pounding… the worst of anything and everything that he’d ever felt to the point he was sure his mind would collapse in on itself. When darkness tried to creep, Doren turned towards the comfort.

“Here...” the voice swam into Doren’s consciousness, tugging him back. “I need you... here.”

Doren tried to focus on the lips that moved above and it dawned on him that he was going to need to make a concerted effort to hear, because his body had shut down all other senses in an attempt to make room for the process of dealing. He was dying, he was sure of it. He had to be. No one could possibly live through so much pain.

A ray of light bloomed in his eyes and he hurt too much to turn away. He let it blind him, let the brightness seep in, did nothing but fall into the clarity and the warmth. Soon the nightmare would stop. This was it – the journey discussed at altar, table and poetry reading alike. Fog moved closer, edging in, slinking slowly; creeping wisps that murmured lures of peace and calm.

“Dooo-rrr-ennn,” the sound came as though sung through a long, winding tunnel. Doren tried to blank his mind from it, return to the soothing temptress, but it came again, louder and more urgently, “Doorenn.”

A click, a shout, a hum of static and spew of sputtered language. Tears trailed endlessly from the corners of his eyes, every muscle danced on lit coals, and when a shuffle of fabric and press of body met him, and the light glared mercilessly into his eyes once more, he began to sob.

“Good, Doren,” that which stood behind the light said. “Keep making sound.”

An angel, Doren surmised. The angel. Death had come and its wings did not fold mercifully as the stories prophesized, nor did the scythe slash quickly. Rather it lifted crooked claws and picked the skin off bones in a sadistic, slow ritual of torture and depravity.

“Doren,” the angel said again, “Can you tell me your last name? How old are you? Do you remember...”

Doren lost its words when something began to touch him. Unable to hold back the sound as agony fired through him again, “Oh, God, fuck!” and the words echoed – more scream than vernacular. “I’m sorry! God, Jesus, fuck! I’m sorry!”

A face hovered, baby blue and soft yellow—pale—but the empathy was so sincere that Doren tried to center on it, as if by seeing the compassion, it would, in some way, help him cope. “It’s okay, angel,” it whispered, and that confused him. Because they were not both angels...

His mind drifted with that for a second...

“You’ve done nothing wrong. Nothing to be sorry for. You’re just hurt, hon.”

But the words made no sense. Because obviously this was his punishment, his reckoning and he had to be sorry, so that he could be forgiven, so that the pain could stop, and he could move forward. Doren fumbled, limb flopping like a desperate, grounded fish, until he could grasp the angel’s hand. “Please,” he begged. “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Please help me. Whatever you need, God, fuck, just please make it stop.”

A palm found his cheek and a thumb wiped tears. “Stay with me, sweetheart. I’ve got you. I promise.”

Discomfort found Doren again, just a small bite, slicing a single fang into the crook of his elbow and racing inside like a stream of white ice and he whined – not over the pain itself, but from the overwhelming concept of ‘more’.

“Just one moment,” the voice shifted and simmered above him, trying to solidify. “Just give it a minute.”

Frigidity forced itself through blood, sluiced along with the stream. Soldier-like in its command, relentless in its pursuit, grabbing hold of howling nerve endings and swallowing them whole – the force did not merely silence, it annihilated. Leaving behind a desert of hollow, empty, nothingness. A complete lack of sensation that seemed, almost, just as bad as the pain it had consumed. It fought to take Doren’s eyes, his tongue, it wrestled him for consciousness. Eyelids drooped.

Behind the veil of sleep waited the fog. He crawled to it, recalling the promise of serenity and its song rose, enticing him closer. This time, however, the fog did not roll smoothly over surface and whisper praise. Rather, grasping fingers reached from the dark, beckoning, clutching, swiping out to steal breath and yank at hair and tatters. Now the grey did not seduce, it demanded. Teeth were bared, milky eyes blinked wetly. ‘Now, now, now,’ voices grumbled around chattering monkeys, gnawing rodents, buzzing insects...

Doren threw his eyes open and cried out – completely soundless.

“There you are,” the angel spoke, breathless, and Doren struggled to place attention. “Thought I lost you for a minute...”

A shuffle, a shift, a clatter as something was set down or picked up, a hesitation... and Doren caught a gasp when the angel hovered above his face. “Can you hear me now?” it asked him, waited, and then again, “Doren, can you hear me?”

Doren was awestruck. Though his tongue lay thick and useless in his mouth, there was more than his ineffectual body that tested his ability to clarify judgement. His angel was beautiful: short blond hair that caught overhead lighting, haloing it into brilliance. Bright blue eyes that brimmed with attentive concern.

“Ems...” Doren tried, failed, swallowed hard, and tried again, “Ems? You?”

The angel frowned, tilted its head and then shook it, not understanding.

Doren almost wept when he tried to lift his hand. Points of shattered glass dove deeper into muscle and awoke the nerves slumbering under their dulled coverings. He did not fight the insistence of his mind to forgo the action. Instead, he merely extended his finger.

The angel followed the direction to the cloth at its chest. “Oh!” it chuckled, brushing long, gloved fingers over the black letters that adorned the white shine. “EMS. Sure, hon, that’s me. Ems is just fine.” The angel slipped away and bright light assaulted sight and sinus. Doren tried to turn his neck, to ease the annoyance, but stiffness held his head in place and straps contained his chest. A whine, a plea, another tear... “Easy,” the angel cooed, and its hands found his forearm. “Just try and lay still, Doren.”

He’d never felt a more soothing touch in his entire life. He did his best to shift lagging eyeballs towards the intent blues above. “Dying?” he asked. “Save m...” and he meant to say ‘my soul’ before speech betrayed him and faltered into silence.

“Doing my best, Doren,” Ems said. “They’ll be here soon, I promise.”

Something fell, or let go, not far in the distance and he saw the angel flinch, cast a worried eye towards the noise. The rich smell of gasoline suddenly hung heavy in the air, burning eyes already aflame, assailing an airway already swollen and raw.

“Ems?” a prayer for reassurance spoken in a single word.

“Keep talking, Doren,” Ems soothed. “Tell me about you. Tell me something. Anything.” The angel shifted closer, leaning over Doren’s torso without touching. “Who are you, Doren? What do you do?”

What? Understanding came at him so slowly it was an effort to put together syllabic rhythm let alone synopsis. “I don’t...”

“Come on,” Ems urged. “Let’s talk. Teacher? Janitor? Mechanic?”

“I...” Doren gasped, struggling to hold on to the vision of the pretty creature, and not fall back into the embrace of the mist. “... fuck up.”

Ems laughed and the sound make Doren think of ice-cream truck bells, happy children, trees swishing in summer breezes. “For a living?”

“At everything,” Doren’s mind answered though his tongue didn’t move.

Professional fuck-up, he remembered. That’s what his dad used to call him. “Son,” Dad would say, “if you could make a living at failing, you’d be a goddamn millionaire.”

There you go, Dad, he thought. This time I really managed to hit the fucking...

“Jackpot,” Doren rasped.

Ems frowned. “You work at the casino? Are you a dealer?”

Too hard to follow, this angel, Doren decided and he closed his eyes. The pain was coming back. Already. One by one the icy blockers that clung to desecrated nerves were losing their grip and slipping away, used up, useless.

“Useless,” Doren mumbled his agreement. The one word that could sum up his whole life; the sentiment, he was sure, they would tap into his headstone very, very soon.

Warm fingers traced Doren’s cheek, once again thumbed tears from his eyes. “I doubt that, Doren,” Ems said. “We all have a use. We all have a place. Even if you can’t see what it is. Trust me,” Ems smiled. “I’m sure you have a very lovely wife or girlfriend who will be thrilled to see you tough this out.”

“No,” Doren began to shiver. “No girl... not... no.”

Ems caught his eye. “A lover then.”

A fresh run of tears met Ems stroking fingers. “Useless.”

“Says who?” Ems eyes were so vivid Doren was sure they were burning right through him. Into all the damp, dark, cobwebbed corners he tried so hard to hide away; seeing everything that Doren kept concealed.


“Why?” Ems insisted.

“Sin,” Doren croaked. “I sin.”


A groan bubbled out of Doren’s lips as the ache in his lower extremities began to reawaken. Embers lit in the edges of his mind – red, yellow, white.

“Come on, Doren!” Ems urged. “Look at me! What do you need to say? What have you done?”

Memories slipped themselves between swells of pain, shuffling together like a deck of cards. Men, too many men—with unremembered faces and empty eyes—the exchanges of money from shaking hands to distracted ones. Hiding in dim corners, anxiously waiting. Desperately searching for something he needed so badly, buying temporary love because he was too damn scared, too damn beaten, to make admission of what he’d been told his whole life, was just so terribly wrong.

“Need...” Doren murmured.

Ems leaned close enough that Doren could feel breath against his own face. “If there’s something you have to say,” Ems said gently, “now would be the time. I’ll listen.”

Just once, Doren thought. It would be so damn nice, fulfilling, to say it aloud just once. And admittance came before repentance; repentance before forgiveness...

“Men...” Doren whispered, and the word tangled with his tongue. Guilt gasped, shame shrieked, and fear roared – all of them jumping to grab at the other end of the tug-of-war Doren fought with. Necessity, however, dug its heels in behind relief, and the two emotions leaned, found purchase, and dragged their way to victory. “I love men.”

Ems eyes flew open, baby blue light drenching Doren’s psyche with warmth. Ems smiled. “That’s your big crime? Your horrible sin? That you’re gay?”

Humiliation washed over Doren, stilted his already stumbling tongue. “I’m sorry.”

Ems watched, smile fading, lips forming a thin line.

From a distance far too close Doren heard a wail, and saw the angel lift its gaze. It was coming – the banshee screaming his conviction, alerting the gates of hell to open. The time for reminiscence had passed. Redemption, if found, would have to be now.

“F-for-forgive me,” Doren begged. “P-please.”

Ems looked down, the frown deepening in its beautiful brow. “Hold on, luv,” Ems said, and Doren felt the press of a comforting grip. “Be strong.”

Doren forced his limbs to comply, even if the movement drove him that much faster towards the end, and grasped the angel’s arm. “You need to save me,” he begged. “Please tell me you forgive me!”

It was a dark look that turned back Doren’s way. “I will not forgive you for that,” Ems snapped. The angel leaned over him, gripped Doren’s chin. “Not because it’s too wrong for mercy... but because there is nothing to condemn in the first place.”

The approaching ghoul grew louder, screaming in mind-shattering continuity, and the words Ems tried to speak thereafter were lost. Doren watched Ems rise, speak quickly. He tried to follow movement as lights flashed – blinding, gone, blinding, gone – red and white, red and white.

“Ems?” Doren called. “Ems?”

Then there was not one angel, there were three. They hovered above, a loud clang to his left, spoken words, no eye contact – panic began to flutter in Doren’s chest.


“On three!” he heard, and strong hands caught him. He cried out at the touches. “God, no!” he screamed, “Please! Ems!?”

“One... two...” He was lifted.

Unfathomable agony. Every piece of every part of him felt like it shattered under the pressure of gravity. Things that should have moved as one, moved as several; things that should have felt solid, felt like glass shards in a towel. Doren screamed.

Instinct reacted for him. As warning gauges registered well past red, overflow valves began to pour and vents rushed with steam, the warnings flashed – catastrophic failure imminent, total core meltdown. The switch was thrown... complete system shutdown.

The fog did not creep this time. It rolled over his terrified mind like thunderstorm sky.


The beeping was surprisingly soothing. Every time his eyes began to flutter open, his senses would pick up that quiet blip, blip, blip and he would be off and drifting once again. Lighting, caught only in the briefest glimpses, had been dimmed. Warmth, serenity, calm.

Doren floated in the bubble that existed between sleep and awake for longer than he should have. What he needed to do, his mind kept telling him, was figure out where he was, and why he was there. Nothing about the occasional, watery glances he’d managed up to that point had been familiar. “And something else,” his mind continued to whisper. “There is more you need to remember. And so very much more you need to do.”

“Well, hello there,” a warm, feminine voice nudged him closer to consciousness. He blinked, tried to focus swimming vision. “Nice to see you awake,” she said.

“What?” Doren asked, and his throat clamped tight, choking him.

“Here.” A cup was pressed to his chin and he sipped cool liquid into the desert of his mouth.

He tried speech again. “What happened? Where am I?”

“Let me get your doctor,” the woman said. “She can answer your questions. And your mother, too.” The… nurse?… smiled. “Good Lord, but that woman will be glad to see your eyes open. She’s been here every day.” A hand found the back of his and squeezed it lightly.

It took seconds for his mother to reach his bedside. But it took another twenty minutes before Doren could convince her to let him go.

“T-boned,” his mother explained. As he’d driven along, minding his own business, content in the belief most humans carried that he was mindful and in control, and, as such, completely safe, another car had missed a red light, driven into the intersection without even slowing down, and slammed into the driver’s side of his car.

“Do you remember the accident?” his mother asked and he shook his head.

“No, but...” he swallowed. Even the pain seemed distant and small. Something though, something would not let go. “I remember an angel...”

An hour later, Doren was nodding with casual disassociation as Dr. Whatever-the-hell-she’d-said, explained his injuries.

According to the doctor, his left side had been ravaged. Femur broken in two places, tibia in one, ankle shattered, pelvis cracked. Four broken ribs, the humerus and radius of his left arm, and twelve of twenty-seven hand bones. His left lung had collapsed; his kidney and brain had both suffered temporary swelling and were fighting off long-term consequences.

“We’re pretty happy with the results,” the doctor said. “Especially with the leg. Angulation and rotation appear to be at a minimum, although you will most likely experience some shortening.” The doctor smiled down at him. “We almost lost you a couple of times. You were lucky. There was a medical team member at the pier on his lunch break. He heard the call and found you by foot. He managed to get you clear of the car and stabilize you with a mobile kit before the ambulance got there.”

The doctor smiled at Doren’s confusion. “Don’t worry,” she patted his arm. “Often trauma does that to short term memory, kind of the brain’s way of coping. You may find you have trouble with certain things for a little while. You may find yourself struggling for words or forgetting how to write certain things. You might even find you have more trouble controlling your emotions or your response to other people’s emotion. If that’s the case, we will hope it’s temporary. We didn’t find any permanent damage in initial scans but then the brain is a funny thing.”

“Can we do this later?” his mother asked. “My Son just woke up. I don’t know if he needs all of these details right now. He needs rest. Please. There will be lots of time for these discussions later.”

“Leave it to Mom,” he thought and something fluttered in recollection... something about having a very lucky lady waiting for him... and an admission of sorts...

“Mom,” Doren said, “There was an angel...”

But the doctor was pausing at the door and turning back to them before Doren could continue the thought. “I wasn’t lying when I said that you’re very lucky, you know. They tell me that it wasn’t three minutes after the team loaded you into the ambulance that the fire started. God only knows what might have happened if the EMS worker hadn’t been there.”

Doren racked his brain. The sound of metal. The smell of gasoline. A worried glance. An EMS worker? “EMS?” he asked.

“Emergency Medical Services,” the doctor confirmed, tilting her head. “Do you remember him?”

The angel—his angel—who hadn’t been an angel at all. Ems. Doren chuckled and winced at the pain it brought it. It was a full thirty-five minutes later that he realised what he’d told the EMS guy. And the recognition of that fact hit him like a sledgehammer. Lying there, dying, he’d finally found the nerve to tell a complete stranger his darkest secret, and his strongest fear.

Doren turned his head and caught his mother’s eye. “Mom?” She glanced over and smiled. She looked tired, haggard even. The days of suspense and drama had not been kind to her. But there was a light in her eyes and relief in her body language and Doren had no doubt that she really was thrilled he had ‘toughed it out’. They caught and held gazes. “Mom,” he started again. “I’m gay.”

His mother’s face softened. She rubbed his forearm and leaned in to kiss his forehead. “I know.”


“Look at you!” the nurse smiled and Doren chided himself for the fifteen-hundredth time that he could not recall her name.

The wheelchair was awkward but it would be home for the next few months. Compartment syndrome had left him with some muscle and nerve damage but the collective outlook was positive. He would not only walk with his left leg again, but would, most likely, walk fairly well. There would be rehab, orthopaedist appointments, and a ton of personal abuse ahead, but all things considered, those were small concessions to make for what could have been a crippling disaster.

His father had not been nearly as supportive as his mother had been with Doren’s admittance. Having spent years drilling his disgust and loathing of such things into his son’s head, not to mention anyone else within earshot, over ‘those kinds of people’, his Dad was not impressed that his own son had ‘chosen’ to ‘fall into’ that ‘lifestyle’. Doren didn’t care. For once in his life he felt free of the lie. The concept of dating, falling in love, just plain old chatting with someone like him, was thrilling beyond comparison. Not having to find excuses to tell well-intentioned family members and friends when they tried to set him up with daughters, nieces and girlfriends would be a welcome reprieve.

“Ready?” his Mom asked, and Doren nodded with a grin. The chair glided smoothly over polished tile, the sun shone bright through finger-speckled glass, and the hospital teemed with the overworked, the overwrought, and the overachievers. Doren’s Mom stopped pushing near the entrance, by the coffee shop manned with the friendly, Italian busybody and the pretty, young chatterbox; again, names that refused to stay with him.

They rushed him, plied him with hugs and kisses and best wishes, and his mother wandered off in search of a bank machine with the promise of immediate return. Doren waited. He watched birds pick at sidewalks and squirrels race through the parking lot. He watched a child fling a paper napkin to the floor in a rage. He watched a bored woman thumb through a magazine. He watched an intern scrabble notes onto a lined pad of paper while his tablemate sipped at steaming coffee. He watched a man in a bright white jacket help a patient through the entrance – and that’s when he stopped, eyes wide.

“Ems,” he whispered. Same jacket, same black lettering—E.M.S.—same striking blue eyes and perfect blonde hair. Stunned, Doren stared. Ems smiled amicably at the gentleman working valiantly to get himself through the door, held it open just a little bit wider, as courteous and patient as a person could be.

Words were exchanged that Doren couldn’t hear, heads were nodded, and Ems was smiling when he looked up. Their eyes caught. Ems simple smile grew, and while it lit Ems face, it sparked a bloom of fire inside Doren’s chest that could have warmed a small country for a day.

Six steps, twelve, eighteen, and Doren gripped the arm supports of the wheelchair hard enough to hurt. “Hello,” Ems said, standing with his hands tucked into his pocket, legs spread and magnificence simply radiating from his body. “Going home?”

Doren nodded. Then he lowered his head and chuckled. “Not an angel I guess, hunh?”

Ems grinned, shook his head. “Not even close.” He pointed at the table. “Can I sit?” Again, Doren resorted to head bobbing while Ems pulled a chair around and seated himself directly in front of Doren’s chair. “You look great.”

Doren chuckled. “A lot better since the time you saw me, no doubt.”

Ems folded his hands, lowered his eyes and huffed an embarrassed laugh. “Actually, I saw you a few times.”

“You did?” And for some reason that thought made Doren’s heart race.

“Ya,” Ems lifted a hand and ran it through his hair quickly. “I peeked in on you. Ran into your Mom a couple of times. Nice lady.”

“She is,” Doren agreed. “Was quite thrilled to see I managed to tough it out.” They exchanged quick smiles.

“We all were,” Ems said, paused and caught Doren’s eye. “You doing all right?”

‘All right’... Doren pondered that for a minute. He was closer to his mother than he’d been in years. His father, however, hated him. He was alive. But in for a world of hurt to gain his mobility and strength back. “I think so,” Doren said finally. “I will be anyway.”

“Good,” Ems said. “I’m Jeff.” He stuck his hand out and Doren reached for it. It was still as smooth and awesome a touch as Doren remembered it.

“Jeff,” Doren rolled the name off his tongue. “I like Ems better.” Jeff’s chest jumped with a nervous snicker. Doren titled his head. “How about you? You doing all right?”

“Me?” Jeff asked, surprised. “I’m great! I’m good. I’m fine… okay.” Once again fingers wound through sunshine-hair. “I’m glad I caught you. But I wasn’t really expecting to see you. I didn’t know you were leaving already though. So… yeah. Good thing. Listen, do you think, um… maybe… you might like to meet for coffee or something? When you’re up and about? Feeling better?”

“Hell, yes!” Doren breathed. “Yes. I would like that very much!” He grinned at Jeff. Jeff grinned back. “Just one thing though. And to be honest, it’s a bit of a deal-breaker. So, you know. Your choice…”

“Oh?” Jeff frowned. “What’s that?”

Doren fiddled with the armrest, “I insist on calling you Ems.”

“Ah,” Jeff nodded. “I can live with that.”

Jeff fumbled for his cell phone, handed it over so Doren could tap his number into it, and then scribbled his own on a napkin. “Don’t lose that,” he teased.

“Never,” Doren promised.

Jeff stood. “I have to go.” He tapped his jacket. “Working. I’ll call though.” Jeff only made it two steps before he stopped and turned back. “Hey, tell me something. You still think you’re a fuck up?”

Doren looked into Jeff’s eyes. At the baby blue that by pure luck, or fate’s hand, had been there at the exact moment Doren had needed it; at the same good fortune that had rebuilt his bones into a semblance of normality. And sent a silent prayer to either God or Lady that sat him here – and brought Ems through the door as he waited.

“No.” Doren said finally. “Fuck ups don’t get guardian angels. I imagine heaven wouldn’t waste its time.”

Jeff nodded. “Good. Talk soon.”

“Ya,” Doren smiled again. “Talk soon.”

The End

Copyright © 2011 AF Henley

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