This was a short story I
wrote for a friend. It ended up published in a
local magazine. I suppose it's more of a
philosophical piece than anything else, but I've
always wondered what sort of sensibilities
something truly inhuman might possess. This
represents one of many attempts to explore the
1998 or thereabout
Nathan was the sort of man you couldn’t help
but despise. It was a natural (if petty)
reaction; he was just too perfect. Part of this
was physical, of course: the even white teeth
and dark, sparkling eyes occupied a face that
could have earned him millions as an actor,
while the body was graceful and strong, almost
rarified in its lack of any inessential flesh.
His mind was quick and sharp, with a depth of
perception and a precision of memory that
astounded everyone who knew him. As if that was
not enough, however, he was also extremely rich,
rich enough to afford several houses around the
world and a wardrobe of hand-tailored suits to
match the charcoal one he wore currently.
He lounged easily in the padded wooden chair,
basking in the smoke and shadows the way a cat
might bask in the sun. The music was loud—
rock’n’roll for the moment, but that would
change— providing a consistent rhythm for the
disparate movements of the dancers as they
worked. One of them, a woman perhaps twenty-one
years of age, had seated herself beside him and
was trying to make conversation. Drawn by the
suit and the scent of money, he thought to
himself, with humor and a touch of bitterness.
He shifted slightly in his seat as he felt
one of the Others pass through the door.
Here? He thought to himself. Ridiculous.
Unless They had suddenly decided to do to this
place as they had to the cities of the plains...
In which case he would oppose them, as he had in
the past. Leaving that (rather unlikely)
possibility aside, there was only one reason why
such a one would enter here. So he turned
slightly, waiting, as the Other approached. To
the girl at his side he still appeared calm and
relaxed, perfectly in control, but a more
observant companion might have noticed a slight
shift in his shoulders and expression, a change
that bespoke tension and discomfort.
“Raphael,” he said, when the Other was close
enough to be acknowledged. Though Nathan spoke
too quietly for the girl at his side to hear,
Raphael stopped and dipped his head. He was cut
from the same cloth as Nathan, and though he was
physically the larger of the two his movements
were almost deferential. Despite their
differences—Raphael had blond, almost golden
hair and bright green eyes, and wore a simple
coat and tie— there was a similarity between
them, if only in their aura of mental and
physical authority. They might have been
“Nathan,” he answered. His voice was calm, but
he seemed more resolute than relaxed. “May I
Nathan smiled, and indicated an empty chair
at his side. “How are things at the Old Home?”
he asked, sarcasm in his tone. “Same as always?
And our father? Is he well?”
Raphael seemed almost to flinch, surprising
him. In the old days Raphael had been one of
their father’s strongest supporters, full of
certainty. Now he had the look of someone deeply
troubled. The change in him was something Nathan
would have gloated over long ago, but now he
found it filled him with sadness and
apprehension. Forgotten, the girl who shared the
table with them fell silent, eyes flickering
back and forth as she listened.
“No,” he replied as he seated himself. “And
that’s the problem.” He glanced at the woman,
then back at Nathan.
Nathan sniffed. “Eve, here, knows better than
to repeat what she shouldn’t,” he said.
Raphael turned to look at her, eyes widening
fractionally, but Nathan shook his head. “Don’t
be a fool,” said Nathan, “It is only a
coincidence of names. Nor,” and he smiled
knowingly, “is it even her true name, though I
doubt she’ll admit that.”
“If I’m bothering you, I’ll go,” said Eve.
“Otherwise, please speak to me, not about me.”
For the first time that evening, Nathan
really seemed to look at her. She shivered, but
did not look away. “Very well,” he told her.
“Please stay. You may be helpful to us.”
She nodded and sat back.
“Now,” said Nathan, looking back at Raphael,
Raphael gave an uncomfortable half-shrug.
“You remember how he is,” he said. “He seldom
speaks to us, and he does not tell us his
Nathan frowned slightly. “He never did. So
“It’s just that recently— or perhaps I only
notice it more, recently— it seems that not only
does he not tell us his plans, but he doesn’t
even tell us enough to do the jobs we were
given. More and more, it seems as though he is
deliberately keeping information from us.”
Raphael’s expression had changed; though still
nervous, he seemed relieved to have put his
doubts into words. “I just thought— well, you
were so close to him, in the old days. Did he
ever say anything, or reveal anything to you?
When you rebelled against him and were exiled,
did you know something that the rest of us did
For a long moment, Nathan was silent. Then he
glanced over at Eve. “Do you believe in God?” he
“Of course,” she replied.
“Have you ever seen him? Has He ever spoken
She gave him a look that said she thought the
question was inappropriate, but she answered:
“No. I’ve never seen him, and I don’t hear
“Very good,” said Nathan. “Now: why do you
believe in him?”
She shrugged, but did not look away. “Why
shouldn’t I?” she asked. “Just because I’ve
never seen something, doesn’t mean it isn’t
there. I don’t know that He exists— I don’t
think it’s ever really possible to be sure— but
I believe He does. The world wouldn’t make any
Nathan looked back at Raphael, his face
Raphael shook his head. “It’s not the same.
We know—” He stopped abruptly, glancing at Eve.
“I’m a Healer,” he said after a moment. “It’s my
function, what I do. In a way, it’s what I am.”
Nathan nodded, understanding. “And yet,”
continued Raphael, “Well, anything I heal has
been harmed at some point. But He won’t let me
address the causes of that harm— only its
effects.” He shook his head, looking pained and
confused. “And so I must wonder— why does He let
it go on? I know it is part of His plan, but
what if His plan is mad? What if He is?”
“How is that different?” asked Nathan. “You
cannot know. You may never truly know. Either
you accept this and keep the faith, as Eve here
has done, or...” He let the words trail away.
“I thought I was rebelling,” said Nathan at
last. “It was a very long time ago. I thought
that His plan was unfair, and in my pride I
judged Him unworthy of our devotion. But I have
had a long time to think on it since then, and I
no longer believe it was so simple a matter. I
rebelled against Him, perhaps, but I have never
escaped His plan. I was the Bringer of Light;
now I am the Adversary. I am still a part of the
plan,” he said quietly, “I have merely changed
my function. As he intended all along, I
Eve looked stunned. Raphael looked
thoughtful. And Nathan... Nathan looked tired.
“I’m sorry, Raphael,” he said after a time.
“I have no special knowledge to offer you. You
have begun to Doubt, as I once did. Now you must
decide what you will do about it. You could ask
“He did not answer,” said Raphael softly.
“I suspected as much,” said Nathan. “There is
a place down here for you, should you choose to
leave Home. If not, well... It was good to see
Raphael smiled. “They were wrong about you,”
he said, getting out of the chair. “You have not
forsaken your function. You are still the
Bringer of Light.”
And Nathan, for the first time in centuries,
returned the smile with a genuine one of his
The parking lot was cold, and bare, and
empty. Raphael stood in silence for the smallest
of moments, just feeling the world around him.
Then he allowed a sense of peace to settle over
him, and in no time at all he was Home.