Beep. Beep. Beep.
Caron heard the bleeps, but everything was dark. She tried to swallow, but something blocked her throat. Panic washed over her as she tried to breathe. The beeping grew even louder. Jamming her eyes shut, she had the impression she was hiding from an intruder — a killer. The bleeping became the rat-a-tat-tat sound of a gun. Caron pictured everyone running. People screaming. Caron opened her eyes. She was in a white room, attached to a machine with wires and tubes.
“Welcome back Caron.” A tender hand touched her wrist. The beeping slowed. “Try to remain calm. You’ve been injured, and now you’re in a hospital on a breathing machine. Your family is here; your mom and dad, and your sister flew in this morning, too. When you are ready, I’m going to remove your breathing tube.”
A dark-haired nurse smiled at her as she gently removed the tube. “I’ll get the doctor. He wants to talk to you. After that, you can see your family.”
Caron closed her eyes. She heard the nurse leave.
After a moment, Caron opened her eyes. Someone, something, sat on the edge of her bed. She tried to gasp, but the tube threatened to choke her. Closing her eyes, she lay back. When she looked again, the apparition sat beside her. It looked like a spirit with wings that spread out and then refold behind an opalescent robe.
“Are you an angel? Am I dead? What’s happening?”
“You were very brave,” the angel said. “You did what you promised; you upheld your pact. It won’t go unrewarded.” The angel smiled.
Caron couldn’t tell if the angel was old or young. She seemed ageless. Her hair gleamed in a mix of yellow and white strands, and the locks splayed on her shoulders in waves. Her eyes were a piercing blue. If honesty had a color, that clear-sky blue was it.
“A terrible thing happened last night,” the angel began. “You and many others were shot.”
Caron shook her head trying to clear her mind.
“I am here because you have fulfilled your agreement.
“Who are you?”
“I am Amitiel, the Angel of Truth.”
Caron leaned back to rest her head. Was she losing her grip on reality? There was something familiar about the divine being — a déjà vu.
“Before you came here, you were Rhamiel, an Angel of Empathy. We roamed the heavens until the day you heard the cries. A city wailed for the loss of its children. Mothers’ hearts ripped in two. Fathers wanted justice. They had been powerless to protect their children. We watched as a gunman shot several school children. You couldn’t stand the pain and declared you would try to fix it.” The angel closed her eyes as if dreaming then opened them again. “You formed an agreement—a Concordat—vowing to come to Earth, to sacrifice yourself if it would diminish the bloodshed, and perhaps, banish it forever.”
Caron tried to grasp what the angel was saying. She loathed brutality and had stood against it her whole lifetime.
“For some, the Concordat they make means the ultimate sacrifice. Angelic Souls come to Earth, soak up all the goodness they can. They have families who loved them and take jobs in which they serve others. They exchange their life to call attention to the need for a change.”
Amitiel turned away and glided to the window. “The world existed for human-kind to learn. Setting up problems and then finding a solution. Injured angels, like yourself, pledge to survive to tell their stories, speak the truth to people while allowing them the chance to abolish vicious acts.” Amitiel hung her head as her elegant wings drooped.
At that moment, the nurse came back into the room with a doctor. “You’ve been a great patient.” the doctor said. “I want to do some follow-up tests, but before we do, your family is waiting. Are you up for a visit?”
Caron looked around the room. Amitiel had vanished. “I’m ready,” she tried to say, but her throat hurt so much she could only nod.
Her mother was the first to bustle into the room. “We have all been so worried. I am so happy to hold you, my baby.” Caron’s mom said, while gently hugging her daughter around her shoulders and planting a kiss atop her head. Her mother did her best not to cry, but it didn’t work. Tears dropped onto Caron’s forehead.
Caron’s father and sister Lissy followed. Her dad stood at the foot of the bed and ran his hand across her toes. She could tell he remained worried.
Lissy sat on the side of the hospital bed where Amitiel had been. Looking past the scratches on Caron’s face she said, “I think you look as beautiful as ever. You need to tell everyone what happened. Yours is the story of a survivor.” Caron let her sister’s words sink in.
Caron slept for a time after her family left. Her dreams were troubled. Memories of what had happened were jagged and charred.
“Things always happen for a reason.” The words echoed in Caron’s mind. Amitiel was in the corner of the room.
“What about all the sadness, injury, and death?” Caron asked with her thoughts.
“It is all a part your Concordat,” said Amitiel, folding her delicate fingers together.
“I was part of an ambush last night because I agreed to it?” Caron spoke. She used her hands to push herself up from the bed.
“Angels like you, who come to Earth to incur a loss, remind ‘those with’ not to forget ‘those without.’ To show that compassion for those with less open one’s heart to share. When sharing happens, fears diminish.”
“So, what happened to me and the others last night occurred on purpose? So much pain.” Trembling, Caron stopped her thoughts. She couldn’t think of the massacre anymore though her face registered her disgust at horrifying memories she would harness for the rest of her life.
“In the end, if all works as planned, your Concordat may bring an end to some of the chaos. But you know that. It is why you agreed.”
Bowing her head, Caron accepted this truth. She agreed to step upon the earth to survive a mass shooting, save others, and escape to tell her story. Her eyes glistened with wonder and pride. Looking up, she saw Amitiel had departed, but a white feather on the windowsill confirmed everything would be all right.