Angels Visit Mr. Harold Zo
All at once the tour van was light. Mr. Harold Zo awoke and looked around. Quivver and Quake were sound asleep, but the radiance blinded him, his heart pushing blood through his body desperately. A figure dressed in a whirl–leather jacket, feather-spoked hat, dark glasses, and a long skirt that trailed down to its ankles, bound by a studded belt–stood in the source of the brightness. Its hair jutted up like the tip of the craziness iceberg, scraping against the ceiling. Harold found his slotted shades and regarded the figure, the glasses improving his vision for once and not merely his appearance.
“Good evening, Mr. Harold Zo,” it said, “I assume you know what this is about.”
“I am a-a-afraid not,” Zo said. His words kept getting caught at the back of his throat, partially due to nighttime dryness and partially out of astonishment. Though it was warm there, his teeth chattered. Some irreverent pop song was–confound it!–stuck in his head again.
“Please excuse my spectacular entrance, but I thought a man in show business would appreciate it.”
Zo considered. “It was certainly spectacular, though I’m not sure to what purpose. The bus has a door.”
“Never got in the habit of using them. I understand, though, that you had a rather long sojourn in the land of the dead. Is this true?” Mr. Harold shivered and blinked. Heart racing and hands sweating as they gripped the sides of his seat, his body was in a state of minor shock. His mind was surprisingly clear considering the ungodly hour, but it did him little good since he could hardly speak. His earlier eloquence surprised him in retrospect.
He said to the figure, “For awhile, those were the only audiences we could get. Plus it was part of the deal.”
The figure sat on Quivver’s unconscious jacket-covered lump. Let’s just call it an angel, since we’re all perfectly literate here. The light dimmed slightly, and Mr. Harold began to calm down. He was still surprised when he was able to stand up and walk to grab a half-finished water bottle from the seat in front of him, but by the time he returned a few seconds later he was acclimated to this bizarre situation.
The angel smiled cryptically, saying, “It’s about time you got word from us. You’ve been in league with the devil for some time now.”
“That just makes me a rock star,” Harold said.
The angel laughed. “True enough. But just because you’re not unique doesn’t really earn you any favours. Either with critics or with us. Now let me tell you why I’m here. I’m here to tell you that you’re just fine with us. We’re not out to void your deal or take away your skills. As a matter of fact, we’re looking for some advice. Well, first I’m asking for some advice, then we have something to tell you.”
“What advice do you need from me? Unless it’s advice about ruining your academic career or slick guitar shreds. If you’re thinking of putting a band together up there, I could recommend a good bassist I used to know rather intimately.”
Celestial beings, as we know, have a rather stunted sense of humour, owing to their natural perfection. Their taste in clothing is likewise impaired, and they are an eccentric bunch all told. Especially since no one can really tell them what to do. The angel sighed and shrugged his shoulders. “I’m afraid I’ll never understand your sarcasm, though I think I’m getting better at it. The question I have is this: what are some good songs about what you call existential distress? We want to know the weight of the world. It sounds like a good topic for some party jams.”
It should also be noted that angels tend to regard human suffering with a sense of detached amusement, thinking of our affairs as museum pieces, the planets as glass display cases. We’re far from the only life in this universe, of course, but angels tend to like us because, unlike most extraterrestrial beings, we complain so damn much.
“That’s quite enough of the narration,” the angel said, correctly. “Lay them on me. And quickly. We need to have the CD burned and over to my friend’s house in a a few days, and arranging playlists is not an art for the impatient.”
“What songs do you have already?” said Mr. Harold Zo. Sleep weighed heavily on his eyes. His demeanor turned from annoyance to aggravation as the angel continued to talk. Part of it was the voice. It was the disinterested voice of a being without anything to do, no schedule to keep, nothing to do other than dispense random quests to credulous people who thought they would be cast into hellfire if they failed. In reality, the angels probably forgot about them a couple of days after they met.
“Not sure. All I know is that we need two.”
Harold took a crumpled receipt from his pocket, scribbled down two titles, and handed it to the angel, who stuffed it into his enormous studded belt.
“If you don’t look at them, you’re liable to forget why I gave them to you. At least look at them once.”
“Yes, you’ve had dealings with our kind before. Of the more diabolical sort, but still. We all fall from the same tree, as you people say.”
The two songs were:
Harold said, “What about your side?”
“These are fine songs.”
And so they are. Jaimeo Brown and Matana Roberts, two of the true voices, would lend their presence to the playlist in the celestial realm. Probably be forgotten by such capricious ears and fickle, dulled minds. But still their work would ring out.
The angel looked back up at Harold and said, “You should quit being a rock star and focus on saving the world. Why are these people so sad? You should work on that.”
With that, and a colossal boom the angel disappeared, waking up the other two just in time to catch a glimpse of the fashion disaster from heaven exiting the tour van. Harold Zo looked at Quivver and Quake’s startled, uncomprehending faces, their narrow brows and exhaustion-strained eyes.
“Maybe he’s right. Except he’s also a jerk and a clown.”
Quivver rolled her eyes.
“Look at how we dress on stage. Do you think we’re ever right at least once?”
“Even a broken clock…”
“Should we become superheroes or something?”
“Angels aren’t worth listening to, at least not after tiger heaven blew to shreds and made them go all nutso.”
“Still, he was kind in asking my advice. Does that mean I have some kind of musical knowledge?”
“Go back to sleep.”
They all slept. In the morning, they went out searching for Alexius. It was time to start saving the world.