Friday, January 25, 2013

Cupid Missed v.2

Love is the most destructive force in the universe.
All great struggles in the world come down to an excess or deficiency of love. Wars have been fought in the name of God’s love, which was especially ironic since God would have loved you anyway if you just asked. Every great story is a love story; love between a father and son, or between star-crossed lovers. And look where it gets them. One love story I’m sure you’ve heard, two teenagers in the middle of a family dispute fall in love, and just like that, six people die. Would have been much simpler today, where they could have just eloped to Vegas. Or what about Camelot? A love triangle broke up the Round Table, a tragic reminder never to covet your boss’s wife.
Of course, love is also the most creative force in the universe. That’s the whole trick of it, and most people, even the divine community, forget this. It is such a powerful force that only one person in all of Creation has been granted authority over its use. This, of course, is Cupid. Cupid isn’t his real name, but when the Romans first heard of his stories (getting all sorts of facts wrong), the moniker stuck among the angels, and since the human mind can’t make sense of his angelic name, for sake of brevity we’ll just stick with the nickname. Cupid alone had authority over dispensing the spark of true love, and today he would bestow that great and terrible gift again.
It was a dreary Tuesday morning, and since it was in the heart of London, it was raining. That didn't deter Cupid from his task, however, as he assembled his silver rifle once again. Any task repeated often enough becomes second nature. The mind forms habits to automate simple mechanical processes, to the point that you don't even need to think about what you're doing. So with practiced ease, Cupid screwed the barrel onto the rifle, unfolded the stock, and checked his sights. This freed up his mind for more press matters, reviewing every facet of his target, going over every minute detail.
Bestowing the gift of true love on a soul was not a thoughtless matter. It was a decision that required extensive research, preparation, and planning. His targets all shared certain parameters, some innate capacity for greatness. Some people just couldn't face the kind of truth Cupid was revealing to them; for in the end, to face love was to face truth, and these truths were not always pleasant. Over the centuries, Cupid had found those few who were willing and worthy of his gift. They might go on to write great stories that will move hearts and change minds, or they could become obsessed with an image or idea, working without rest until they found some medium that could capture that image they loved. The greatest poets, painters and sculptures throughout history were often victims of Cupid's influence, as were some of the bravest soldiers and most important political figures from all corners of the world. No matter what path they found, anyone struck by Cupid would shape the future for generations to come.
The individual that Cupid had chosen today was a simple businessman. A banker named Charles who had worked five days a week, plus Saturdays, for the last six years. A man who had no special training or noticeable skills that he knew of, who went out every Friday to the pub and came home to his golden retriever named Buster. Tomorrow, Charles would wake up and think that perhaps he just might go to the opera this weekend. By this time next year, he would be reinvigorating the genre entirely and bringing it to a modern audience. The media would call him Mozart's Grandson and his work would change the course of music for another generation, and the beauty in his songs would in turn inspire dozens more in their own endeavors. Or, of course, he could end up homeless after putting down all of his money to buy a venue to show his first, and last, failed performance. Cupid could not promise success or prosperity, only opportunity.
Cupid knelt beside the corner of the rooftop, adjusting his double pair of wings. The lower set were held tight to his back, while he held the larger upper wings over his head, giving him some shelter from the rain. His halo hummed a light golden color with long, flat pips that circled all but the front quarter of the ring and was skewed to one side, angled downward like the brim of a hat. He brought his rifle up, pressing the stock against his shoulder, and looking down the sights. He had ditched the bow and arrows decades ago, citing their unreliable accuracy over long distances and taking up a more modern implement for his work. He adjusted his aim by the smallest increment, fierce eyes focused on his minuscule target. There was no scope on the rifle; Cupid’s eyes were sharper than any laser sight. As he focused on his target his eyes changed shape, until they were perfectly round and yellow, reminiscent of an eagle eye. Below, Charles was about to board the morning commuter train. Fixing his aim upon his target, he slowly pulled back on the trigger, paused for a moment, then fired.
There was no bang, no loud report. Cupid’s rifle was silent, and in fact the only sound was that of the dart whizzing past, not that any human was paying close enough attention to hear it. The dart flew through the air weaving through a crowded intersection, diving and spiraling around obstacles as if piloted by some miniature aviator. It narrowly passed by three lawyers, two accountants, and a crowd of nine students before making a beeline for Charles the banker. The dart increased in speed, and just as it reached Charles, it sailed right past him and hit a female journalist in the shoulder. The young woman absentmindedly scratched at an itch just below her shoulder, knocking the tiny dart off her jacket, which dissolved into dust before it reached the ground.
Cupid scratched his chin for a moment, then scratched his head with a pensive expression. Finally after some consideration he grunted, “That’s weird. I’ve never hit the wrong person like that before.”
Suddenly, a voice spoke up from behind Cupid, "Everyone misses once every couple thousand years, I'm sure."
Without hesitation Cupid spun around, wings flaring out and knocking the speaker off their feet as a sudden wave of air sent them sprawling backwards. A flash of silver metal and the barrel of the rifle was mere inches from the nose of the angel spread out on the rooftop. Cupid's face had taken on a different visage, and now the face of a massive lion glared down at the angel as he stretched out all four of his massive wings. The image appeared for only a moment before sinking back into his skin as he recognized the angel, "You're Mordecai, that guardian that let his charge jump. Everyone in the Kingdom is talking about you," Cupid folded his wings back, setting the rifle aside and extending a hand to help him back to his feet, "What are you doing? You're not even supposed to be here."
Mordecai accepted his outstretched hand and lifted himself gracefully to his feet, then proceeded to brush himself off as he looked past Cupid towards the crowd below, "Still a good shot. And I'm sure she'll love being in love."
"And what would you know about it?" Cupid snapped, "It's no blessing I gave her. I just sentenced an innocent woman to the worst of fates."
"The worst of fates? Excuse me, sir, but I don't see the problem, people fall in love every day."
“No, little gosling," Cupid spat, words wrapped in sarcasm, "People fall in lust every day. They become infatuated on a regular basis. They even, on occasion, manage to pair themselves with someone they genuinely care for. And they think they make this person happy, and believe that will make them happy, and they will settle for this facsimile of happiness. But what I do, what I give is genuine divine inspiration. True love, the kind that only comes around a handful of times in a millennia. The kind of love that inspires great works, things that will last for generations.” Cupid rubbed his chin again; it was soft and smooth, betraying his rough demeanor with an unfortunately handsome face. When humans thought of cherubs they imagined flying angel babies, an image that any actual cherub would scoff at. However cherubs were naturally youthful and attractive, even for angels, so even though he talked like a grizzled war veteran, Cupid would never look the part. Not that anyone felt the need to point this out, if they wanted to keep their halo.
“So what will happen to her?” He didn’t know every one of Cupid’s few interventions, but he did know that one of his more recent adventures resulted in some grief-stricken widower building the Taj Mahal. It was apparently a big deal.
“She will fall in love. Maybe she’ll fall in love with sculpting and become the next Michelangelo, or find a fascination with painting and-”
“And become the next Pollock?”
“Don’t be stupid. I was going to say Van Gogh.” Turning his back to the guardian, Cupid picked up his rifle and began unscrewing the barrel.
"That doesn't sound so bad. Van Gogh was a brilliant painter."
"Who died young and diseased with paintings that weren't worth the cost of the canvas until long after he was buried." He folded up the stock of the rifle, and began placing its pieces back into the bag, “Or she might fall in love with her work, forsaking any comfort in order to become one of the best journalists in the world. She could uncover corruption and conspiracies around the world, or could end up destitute and alone. Or maybe she would be so unfortunate as to simply fall in love with another person. To give her life completely to someone else, for hope of something so fragile. It is no blessing to be in love." The heat of his anger had cooled, but in its place were smoldering embers that would not die out.
Mordecai shook his head, still unable to fully understand the problem, “You were going to hit someone one way or another. Why is it so bad if it’s her and not whoever you were supposed to get?”
“Because not everyone can handle true love. Some can, and they do great and terrible things. Others can’t. If you are not prepared for it, that kind of love will destroy you." Finished packing up his rifle, Cupid slung the pack over his shoulder as Mordecai considered everything he said.
“Then why did you shoot at all? Why not spare them the pain if it’s so bad?”
Cupid didn't answer right away. He looked out towards the horizon, where the clouds had begun to break up, revealing the early morning sun still low in the sky. The rain had stopped for a while, and as the sunlight pierced the mantle of gray clouds, the morning rays shined off Cupid, each feather on his wings glinting with a metallic sheen. Looking back over his shoulder, he spoke just loud enough for the guardian to catch what he said, "Because, young angel, if we don't have true love in this world, then what is the point of it all?"
It seemed to Mordecai that there was a lot of point in the world even without True Love, especially if it was as troublesome as he was led to believe. He shook his head with a shrug, but did not argue further.
After a brief silence, Cupid cleared his throat and shifted the bag slung over his shoulder and behind his wings, "So you never told me why you were here."
"I'm here because I need your help."
Cupid threw up both hands and all four wings together, "Woah woah woah, is this about your girl? I can't meddle with Speaker affairs, you know that. Kid, I can't help you. Besides, I can't bring the dead back to life so I don't know what use I'll be to your problem.
Mordecai stepped forward pleading, "Please, you must. I already have passage through Purgatory and I found a backdoor into Hell, but I'll need weapons and I have none. No one else in the Kingdom will deal with me. I am going to go to Hell and get back. You may be the only person who could understand what Rachel has been through."
"I can't interfere, Mordecai."
"Eros, please," Mordecai  lowered to one knee, placed his hand over his heart and lowered his head, "If not for me, do it for her."
There was a pause, then a flurry of feathers and a gust of wind, and the sun that had been behind the cherub fell onto Mordecai. When the guardian angel looked up, he was alone.
Cupid was gone.

[Author's Corner]

I wanted to rewrite this piece, expand on it a bit and explore their interaction. I also incorporated it within the larger Salvation narrative; this now has a specific point in the timeline. Mordecai (previously Alec, I'm playing with names) has been banished from the Kingdom and has began to prepare for his journey to Hell. He has come to Cupid for some tactical support. At this time Cupid turns him down, but there will be another scene between Cupid and another high ranking angel that will change his mind, and Cupid will aid Mordecai and join his quest.

Oddly, I don't think I like this version as much. Even though its longer than the first version, I almost think it was a good length before, a little tidbit of story, enough to get an idea across but not bogged down with too much dialogue or exposition. What do you think? Which version do you like better? Also, do you like Alec or Mordecai for protagonists name? I'd love to hear what you think in the comments section below. Either way, thank you for reading.

Also, if the formatting is off, blame Blogger. It looks fine in Edit mode, then loses all of the paragraph indentation when I publish it.