This week, I finally had a phone call with Robert Blake Whitehall, author of the Ben Blackshaw books, Westtown alum, and my mentor for this project. The whole conversation took roughly an hour, ranging from my interest in writing to a general critique of the story so far. As it turns out, Robert is the perfect mentor for this project. As an accomplished writer (all of his books have exceptional ratings on Amazon), he knows exactly wat he’s talking about when offering advise and opinions. He also knows plenty about CPR and emergency medical training because the main character of his stories is a Navy Seal, which proved to be very helpful for the scene where the angel washes up onto the shore (read my previous excerpts if you don’t know what I’m talking about).
With Robert’s help, I have decided on a final direction for this story.
Warning: spoilers ahead. If you want to read the story when it’s complete, stop reading here.
I must say, I never forsaw this path for my story. Instead of delving into mythology and Zoroastrian legends, it now doesn’t contain a hint of ancient mythology. Instead, it revolves around greater questions: Is God real? If so, which one? Who are we to question God’s existence at all? I address these questions by allowing the angel to remain dead. He washes up on shore, prompting a conversation about what he is and what to do with him. Arash’s religious background comes to light, which has clearly influenced his opinion on whether it is, in fact, an angel, or rather something man-made. Given that he a dedicated atheist, John refuses to accept that this thing that has washed up on the shore is any evidence to a higher power. His medical view of the world is too black and white. You’re dead or you’re not, you’re a scientist or you’re not, and you’re a human or you’re not. There is no grey areas to something so clearly definable as medical science.
As the two doctors move the body into a cave by the shore, both of their religious views and backgrounds come out, forcing them to choose a side; is it an angel or not? Continue reading to find out what happens next.
*Note: I have made some changes and edits. To understand this excerpt, you need to know that the CPR part did not happen. Robert explained that the way I wrote it was medically nonsensical, so this picks up right after they realize what they’ve pulled out of the water. John has just seen the wings, and is completely shocked.
Unsure what to do, I did the only thing I knew how to do. The man (if you could call him that) was lying on his side with his left wing crushed unceremoniously beneath his hip. I shoved him onto his back and began checking for signs of irreversible death. The neck and head were tinged with a faded, sickly green, and thick red veins could be seen underneath the skin of his abdomen. The man had clearly been dead for at least a day and a half, but there was no telling exactly how many hours he had been floating on those great black wings. I stared down at the body for over a minute, utterly confused as to how this could be possible.
“What do you think it is?” Arash asked, his question catching me off guard.
I looked over at my assistant, who was sitting cross-legged on the other side of the body. He had drawn his legs into his chest so he appeared small and afraid, as if he had just seen a ghost, which albeit wasn’t too far from the truth. “I… I’m not sure,” I replied. “It’s not an angel. I don’t know. But right now our priority is to get him off of this beach,”
“If you grab his feet and I carry his head, we can probably drag him back to the clinic.” Arash suggested.
“Arash, are you insane?” I barked. “We can’t let anyone see this. Do you know how much trouble that would cause? We could be accused of killing a man. Or worse, people might think we actually murdered an angel!”
“Why would they accuse us? We didn’t do anything!”
“Oh, don’t be so naive. There isn’t a single person in this town who doesn’t perform salat five times a day. They’ll hardly accept a dead angel without someone to blame.”
“We’re really going to hide this? Do you know what you’re asking right now? You’re asking me to help cover up a potential murder,” Arash said, his voice curling into a snarl.
“It’s just until we figure out what’s going on,” I said as I stood up and dusted the sand off of my legs and chest. “Shapur and Yasmin can take care of the clinic for a couple of hours. The palisades down the shoreline have all sorts of caves, we can hide him in there. Right now, we need to get this off of the beach before the kids from town show up to play in the water at sunrise.”
Arash looked down at the body, clearly unsure whether it would be wise to help. After a moment of indecision, he muttered, “Fine, but if we get caught, it’s on your head.”
“Just grab his shoulders and shut up already. I’ll take his legs.”
Arash fumbled for a moment as he stood up and tried to lift the man’s upper body. The wings kept getting in the way, preventing him from getting a decent grasp on the waterlogged torso. With a grunt of effort, Arash pulled the body up off the ground, and we began walking towards the distant palisades which cast great shadows across the beach over a hundred meters down the glistening sand. The acrid, sickly smell of rotting flesh was beginning to spread, mixing with the salty sea air to produce a smell much like that of rotting eggs.