They both got the call at the same time on two very different planes of existence. Orahai, the angel, flew down from Heaven with great haste on a beam of pure white light while Timeron, the demon, took a shortcut up from Hell, and arrived a millisecond sooner than their celestial counterpart in a poof of sulfur-infused smoke.
The angel and the demon sat on opposite sides of Kevin’s ball cap-laden head, each unaware of the other. Their respective bosses summoned them to aid Kevin in making an important moral decision. Moments before, Kevin’s neighbor Clara kissed him and invited him to her home while her husband was away for an extramarital affair, setting off alarms in both Heaven and Hell.
Orahai leaned in, put a hand to their mouth and whispered softly into Kevin’s ear. Their voice was gentle and had a slight sing-song quality to it. “You know the right thing to do, Kevin. Walk away and go take a cold shower, alone.”
The demon Timeron also leaned in next to Kevin’s opposite ear and made their case. “What does it matter? You’re not married. You aren’t the one committing adultery.”
Kevin raised one hand and removed his ball cap and slicked his thick black hair back with the other hand. The angel gripped Kevin’s shoulder to avoid being inadvertently swatted away by Kevin’s meaty mitts. The demon spread their leathery wings and avoided the other hand by floating out of the way.
The residual odor of sulfur wafted over to Orahai, who recoiled as it reached their nostrils, sending them reeling into the air on their feathery wings. Orahai hovered several feet above Kevin and saw the red demon a short distance below, taking them by surprise. There were rules in Heaven about engaging with demons, and the long and short of it was, don’t. As proficient at guiding folks towards the light as the angels were, demons were equally adept at guiding their charges to the dark path. The seraphim feared the minions of Hell could corrupt those from the lower choir of angels, tipping the balance of the universe in their favor.
This was Orahai’s first encounter with a being from below, and the sight of the demon froze them in place while their angel brain took everything in. Their red skin was taut and muscle-y. Where feet on a regular human would be, there were hooves attached to stag-like ankles and shins that ended in knees that were rotated in the opposite direction of theirs, giving them a bird-like quality. Tufts of hair dotted their body at the waist, elbows, and chest. A long sinewy tail flicked about behind them, coming to a leathery point at the end. Their wings were a darker crimson than the rest of their body. They were large, veined, and had small claws on the ends that twitched and grasped outwards with each beat of the wings keeping the demon in the air.
The face of the demon had pronounced horns protruding from their forehead, looking like they poked through the demon’s skin painfully rather than growing from it naturally. Their yellow eyes stared widely in the angel’s direction, clearly assessing them as well.
Kevin settled. The angel and the demon floated back to their respective shoulders on either side of his head. Orahai shook their head and cleared their thoughts of the demon and re-focused on the mission.
“You’re better than this, Kevin. A fling won’t make you happy. What about that girl you like from work?” Orahai whispered.
The shock of seeing an angel from Heaven in the flesh made Timeron retreat inside their mind momentarily. They had seen nothing so beautiful. Not in Hell, and not on Earth. From their radiant halo atop their head to the magnificent span on their feathery wings, to their toned legs. Feet! Oh, how Timeron missed feet.
While the angel hovered above them, Timeron couldn’t help but feel a sereness they hadn’t experienced in forever. The other demons in the pit warned each other about angels. Interacting with one was punishable by torture, although how you make someone stuck in Hell for eternity suffer more than they already do, Timeron couldn’t fathom. But then again, a lot of the rules in Hell seemed to be more about control than logic.
Flashes of the angel’s face kept entering Timeron’s mind. There, under the golden brightness of their halo, sat a mop of blond hair, an oval face with pale, delicate skin, peach lips, and a slightly pointed nose. Their piercing blue eyes were wide with the shock of seeing a demon from Hell not two feet from them, and Timeron probably had a similar expression on their face as well.
Timeron shook the image of the angel from their mind and set back to the task at hand.
“C’mon Kevin,” Timeron said, stepping back by Kevin’s ear, “you know you love how it feels. You never liked Clark, anyway. You could stick it to him by sticking it in his wife.”
Timeron moved to one side and leaned around Kevin’s head to see if they could spy the angel on the other side, only to see them staring back. They gazed back and forth at each other for a minute, sizing up one another, neither wanting to be the one to make the first move.
Kevin walked out to his back porch and sat in a chair by his patio table, lighting a cigarette and staring towards his neighbor’s house, weighing his options. The angel and demon followed, floating from Kevin’s shoulders and landing opposite each other on the patio table. The demon’s hooves made a clip-clopping sound as they landed and found their footing, while the angel’s landing was dainty, like a ballerina landing from a jump on the tips of their toes before planting their weight on the rest of their foot. They regarded each other silently.
“You have beautiful eyes.” The demon blurted out, taking the angel by surprise.
“Oh, thank you. Uh, I really don’t know how to respond to that.” Orahai replied.
If the demon could have turned red with embarrassment, they would have at their sudden outburst. “I didn’t mean to say that.” Then quickly adding. “Did you make me say that?”
The angel relaxed slightly. “Not directly. Sorry, sometimes the inherent goodness that angels represent brings out things in the people they appear to. I didn’t know it would affect demons, though.”
“It’s my first time seeing an angel.” Timeron said.
“Same for me, seeing a demon, that is. Were you whispering in Kevin’s other ear?” Orahai asked.
“Yeah. Trying to convince him to go have sex with that woman. I’m guessing you were trying to get him to do the opposite?”
Orahai straightened up, an air of smugness in their voice. “I was trying to get him to do the right thing.”
“Right and wrong as abstract concepts. They’re not as black and white as you’re led to believe.”
Orahai gestured up and down at the demon in front of them. “Says the demon from Hell. Literally the place where evil dwells.”
Timeron shrugged, their heavy leathery wings bobbing up and down with the motion. “Nobody is good all the time, even angels, I’m guessing.”
“Of course, we’re good all the time. You must be good to be in Heaven.” Orahai retorted.
“So, you voluntarily came down to speak in Kevin’s ear? This is worth your time?”
Orahai shifted uncomfortably and avoided Timeron’s eyes when they replied. “They ordered me to come down here.”
“Exactly. I’m guessing you had your eye on another assignment and didn’t appreciate that another angel probably got it.”
“You’re trying to corrupt me! You’re in my thoughts!” Orahai shouted.
Timeron took a half-step backwards, throwing up their hands defensively, palms outstretched. “Don’t blame me for the envy or jealousy in your heart. We were all human once. Neither one hundred percent good, nor evil. That’s my point. Just because they chose you to go to Heaven or Hell doesn’t mean you’re better or worse than your counterpart. We were just chosen for another calling.”
Orahai took a moment to consider the demon’s words. “I hadn’t thought of it like that.”
“Why would you? Even as humans on Earth, someone conditioned us from birth to assess good and evil in absolute terms. Black and white, cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians. Don’t even get me started on that last one.”
The angel regarded the demon, looking them in their yellow eyes again. “I’m Orahai. Do you have a name?”
“In the pit, I’m known as Timeron.” The demon replied.
“Do you remember your name from when you were on Earth?”
“I don’t. It’s like a static-y song on the radio. I can kind of make it out, but it just won’t cement itself in my brain. You?”
“No. This is the name they greeted me with at the gates when I ascended. I get flashes occasionally of a life on Earth, but I can’t make out who I was in them.”
“What’s it like down there, in Hell?” Orahai asked.
Now the demon was the one to avert their eyes. Quietly uttering only one word. “Pain.”
“Don’t feel sorry for me. I deserved it.”
“But if you don’t remember your life on Earth, how can you know what you did wrong and learn from it?”
“And what? Ascend to Heaven after repenting for those sins? Not exactly a great business model if you’re in the demon business.”
“Good point. You’re pretty smart.”
Timeron raised an eyebrow at Orahai. “For a demon?”
“That’s not what I meant.” Orahai replied.
“Well, thank you.” Timeron said, bowing his horned head graciously.
The angel and the demon took a step towards each other, no longer afraid of any danger the other posed to them.
“What’s Heaven like? Is it really up in the clouds?” Timeron asked.
“Not exactly,” Orahai started, “they hid the gates in the clouds, but once you pass through them, you’re basically in a parallel universe. As for what it’s like there, it’s quiet mostly. Think of it like a big university. There’re the common areas where most people just hang out, and then there are buildings for narrowed groups of things, and within those there are rooms that provide specific experiences.”
“Sounds…organized. Does that mean if you want a milkshake, you need to go all the way to the other side of Heaven to get it? Stand in line behind other angels who might also want a milkshake?”
“You’re there for eternity, so nobody seems to mind. We spend a lot of time on assignments like this one here.” Orahai said, gesturing to Kevin, who had his head leaned back in the patio chair, taking another drag of his cigarette and staring at the night sky.
The angel shuffled their bare feet awkwardly. The demon noticed and rolled their eyes.
“Go on, ask your question.” Timeron said.
“Can I…feel your wings?”
Timeron smirked and stood sideways and extended their wing, offering Orahai a better view of the taut muscle that connected the thin membrane of vein-y leathery skin that made up the main part that allowed them to sail through the air.
The angel stroked the wing delicately, noticing as they did the demon’s tail would twitch slightly when their hands ran over certain parts.
“You have a gentle touch.” The demon said, their yellow eyes rolling into the back of their head as the angel’s fingers tantalized their wing.
“Can I feel your feathers?” The demon asked.
“Sure. Just be careful.” The angel replied, extending their wing out to the demon, who grasped it with their clawed hands. “Ow!” Orahai shouted. “Not so hard!”
Timeron recoiled briefly. “I’m sorry!” They said quickly. “I didn’t mean to. It’s my first time touching an angel.”
“It’s okay. We’re both just built differently.” Orahai observed. “Your body is bulkier and more muscular than mine.”
Timeron ran his clawed fingers over the top of the angel’s wing, then gently moved the tips of their claws over the individual feathers leading down to the tip of the wing.
“That tickles.” Orahai said, chuckling.
“Is that okay?” Timeron asked.
“Yeah, that feels nice, actually.”
The angel and the demon looked deep into each other’s eyes, moving closer together until there was almost no space separating their bodies. Orahai tilted their head towards Timeron.
Suddenly, they were both taken out of the intimate moment when Kevin began having a coughing fit caused by a puff of his cigarette that he inhaled improperly. The angel and the demon immediately tried to back away from each other, but found that Timeron’s curled horns had entangled themselves in Orahai’s halo, locking them together.
“Oh, no.” Orahai said with concern.
Timeron laughed, resting their head against the angel’s. “Okay, stop struggling for a second. I’ll figure this out. I just need to assess the situation.”
Timeron turned their eyes upward to see the angle at which they caught their horn in the angel’s bright circle of solid light.
“Hold on, I think I’ve got it. Stay still.” Timeron ordered Orahai, who was vibrating with anxiety.
The demon delicately placed their hand on the angel’s shoulder to steady them, then moved their body slowly downward and away from Orahai until their horns disengaged from the angel’s halo.
“There you go.” Timeron said, still only inches from Orahai’s face.
“Thank you.” Orahai said, locking eyes with the demon who still had their hand on their shoulder.
They stared at each other as they stood still, tips of their wings touching and slowly grazing each other up and down as they breathed. Neither being wanted to be the first to break the moment they were in.
“Why don’t you two just get a room already? Geez!” Came Kevin’s booming voice directed towards them.
It dumbfounded the angel and the demon for a moment that the human could see them, much less address them.
Timeron was the first to speak up. “Wait, you can see us?”
Kevin rolled his eyes at the two celestial beings. “Yeah, like the whole time once you landed on the patio.”
Orahai thought about it for a moment and looked back at Timeron. “It kind of makes sense.”
“Right. He couldn’t see us before because we were on his shoulders out of his periphery.”
“So, are you two going to kiss or something? All this flirting is killing me.”
Orahai blushed deeply, as did Timeron, although his blushing was considerably less noticeable. They looked at each other again, both leaning in and passionately kissing the other, each embracing the other with their arms and their wings.
Kevin took stock of the scene playing out in front of him, shook his head, and extinguished his cigarette. “I’ll give you folks some privacy.” He said, getting up from the chair and going back inside the house, leaving the angel and the demon to their newfound love.
Kevin never hooked up with his neighbor’s wife, instead focusing his attention on the girl at his work he was interested in. A few years later, they were married and had a child that Kevin would often tell the story to about the angel and the demon that put aside their differences and fell in love with each other on his patio table. Kevin never saw the angel or the demon again, but he wanted to believe that they could continue exploring their love without interference from either Heaven or Hell.